Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

Biographical Information about St. Ignatius of Loyola[1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola[2]
Reading from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Ex 33:7-11; 34:5b-9, 28

The excerpts from the Book of Exodus paint a picture of Moses relationship with God. It is clear from this and previous readings about Moses that he had a unique relationship with the Lord and was able, as he is in this passage, to intercede on behalf of the people. The construction of the meeting tent described in this passage is taken up in later scripture. In our sequence of readings the Ten Commandments are restored to the people as Moses fasts. We note the duration of his fast is of the same duration as Christ’s fast in the desert following his Baptism by John.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 103:6-7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Psalm 103 echoes in gratitude the story from Exodus and the relationship of Moses to God the Father. Though we are unworthy, God shows us love and compassion.

Gospel Mt 13:36-43

Jesus dismisses the crowd who in this instance represent the unbelieving of Israel. The remainder of this passage is directed at instruction of the disciples. His explanation of the parable of the weeds clearly shows the intent of the story in both the judgment of the wicked and the need for patience by the faithful.


Today we reflect about the road we travel as Christians in a sometimes hostile world. We recall our beginnings with the Children of Israel to whom God gave the Prophet Moses. With his unique relationship with the Father, he was the first intercessor. Even in those ancient times we see the recognition that we, that is our human nature, tend to turn away from God and walk easier paths.

Those ancient ancestors were given Moses to follow and he did what God intended. He showed the people how much God cared for them and because of his effort some listened. Others of that “stiff necked people” did not care for him or the words he spoke. They were, as the Lord tells us in the parable of the weeds, the children of the evil one, sown there by the enemies of God.

We were given Christ, the only Son of God as our eternal leader. Unlike Moses, even though he died, Jesus is still with us, leading us on right paths. Perhaps the Lord finally caved in and said “Ah, these children of mine, they will always need me to guide them. They can never find the path on their own.” He showed his disciples the way to the Kingdom of God and expected them to show others.

Down thought the millennia our forbearers have waked that uneven and difficult road. Some were like the shining lights the Lord described. One of them, St. Ignatius of Loyola we remember today. He, more than many, showed us a path to inner peace so important to keeping our feet on the right physical path. Today we are reminded of a small part of his direction on building our own inner strength:

“The first prelude is the composition, seeing the place. It will be here to see with the eye of the imagination the synagogues, towns, and country places through which Christ our Lord preached. The second, to ask the grace which I want. It will be here to ask grace of our Lord that I be not deaf to His call, but prompt and diligent to fulfill His most holy will.”St. Ignatius from his spiritual exercises.

[1] The picture used is Miracles of St. Ignatius by Pieter Pauwel Rubens, 1615-20
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Monday, July 30, 2007

Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Peter Chrysologus, Bishop, Doctor

Biographical Information about St. Peter Chrysologus[1]

Readings for Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Ex 32:15-24, 30-34

In this passage from Exodus, Moses has gone up Mt. Sinai and has been absent for some time. In their ignorance, the people are afraid that they have no leadership in the wilderness and have Aaron make for them an image of God (most scholars agree that the Calf was intended to be an image of God rather than a false God. Graven images of God were forbidden.).

God’s response to Moses intercession is that those who committed the sin would be punished on the Day of Judgment.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 106:19-20, 21-22, 23
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

King David, the psalmist, reflects upon the action of the people in the story from Exodus just given. He gives praise to Moses for interceding on the part of the people and preventing God from destroying them for their foolishness.

Gospel Mt 13:31-35

The Lord continues his descriptions of the Kingdom of Heaven using two parables. The parable of the mustard seed and the parable of yeast have the same point. What appears to be small grows to miraculous size. What has been insignificant is vastly important, what cannot be seen is unknowingly immense.


If we take the scripture all together today we cannot help but come to the idea that God is unknowably immense and unfathomably merciful. The Lord, in the Gospel of Matthew, tells us that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, or yeast. These smallest of particles have huge results. It is impossible for us to wrap our minds around God’s infinite creation and the life he has promised for the faithful.

In the Exodus reading we hear the story of the Children of Israel, fearing that Moses had been lost or destroyed on the holy mountain, turned to the superstitions of the pagans and persuaded Aaron to make an image of God. This is done in violation of the covenant they had already made with the Lord. A covenant that forbids them to create images that represent God and could therefore be used to indicate that God could somehow be controlled by the people.

There were, as in all covenants, promises made by both sides. In return for following the precepts set before them, God promised them his salvation. He promised to lead them to a place where they would have safety and peace, free from the cruel bondage of Egypt. But when Moses, who had been the Prophet of God and their leader is gone for longer than they suppose he should be, they forget the signs and wonders, they forget the covenant and return to more comfortable practices.

There is a lesson for us clearly spelled out in this ancient encounter with God. We must constantly remember God’s wondrous saving persons are with us. They are so immense our minds cannot grasp their omnipotent presence. Let us not forget and return to the idols of pride and self importance that can be so comforting to us. We are called to be a people who cling to the New Covenant, recalling constantly that is only through Christ and with Him that we accomplish any good thing.


[1] The image is of St. Peter Chrysologus, artist is UNKNOWN
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings for Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Gn 18:20-32

While the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is not specifically known (the account from Genesis says homosexuality, Isaiah lack of social justice, Ezekiel disregard for the poor, and Jeremiah general immorality) we find Moses interceding for the innocent who reside in those cities. The Lord agrees to spare them if there are 10 innocent people from those towns.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 138:1-2, 2-3, 6-7, 7-8
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.

Psalm 138 is a song of praise. In this selection we find an individual hymn thanking God for salvation.

Reading II Col 2:12-14

St. Paul refers to the “death of baptism”. He is referring to the process where the baptized die to their sins and rise as a new creation. Paul also talks about “… obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims” this is a reference to breaking or transgressing against Mosaic Law and the proscribed punishments for such violations.

Gospel Lk 11:1-13

The focus of this passage from the Gospel of Luke is prayer. First we are given the Lord’s Prayer from Luke’s Gospel which differs somewhat from the same prayer offered in Matthew’s Gospel (
Matthew 6:9-15). We are taken further in this case to be reminded that God answers prayers. He does this, first as a parable, and then in a litany of assurances.


The readings today speak of the efficacy of prayer and our call to be a people of prayer. This call starts as we hear in St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, with our baptism in Christ and the resulting death to sin, rebirth to innocence in the Holy Spirit and the grace provided in that resurrection. As a new creation, Christ tells us in the Gospel of St. Luke, we are called to be people of prayer.

Do we ask, “Lord teach us to pray? “ No, because that question is already answered. In scripture today it is answered three times! First, we hear Moses in what is perhaps one of the first intercessory prayers as he talks to God’s messengers who are sent to investigate the prayerful cries against Sodom and Gomorrah. He pleads with God to spare the innocent and his prayers are answered. (Note – his prayer is not answered in the way he thought it would be. Moses thought that if there were innocent people in those cities the Lord would spare the city. Instead he told Lott and his family to leave and destroyed the cities none the less.)

The second prayer form scripture gives us today is song. Psalm 138 given for us today is a beautiful example of how we praise God in song. For those in Holy Orders and in vowed religious life, the Psalms are sung (said) at least twice a day in the prayer of the Church – the Liturgy of the Hours. This prayer form offers up in a very real way the words of our ancestors echoed through all the ages of the Church, a song of praise and thanksgiving constantly floating up to our Heavenly Father as each successive region takes up the chant.

Finally, in the Gospel, the Lord offers us the Lord’s Prayer. We note it starts with a blessing of praise to the Father – Holy is His Name. We pray that the Kingdom of God might come to us here on earth so we may live in the purity and joy of the Heavenly Kingdom. We then ask God for our needs, both spiritual and physical as we reference bread for our bodies and bread for our souls in the Eucharist. Finally we ask for forgiveness and the strength to forgive others as Christ has done and we pray most fervently that we not be required to face the same test as our savior.

This compact prayer that we utter most frequently (and in many cases without thinking) is the template upon which the Lord tells us to speak with God. Most important in the Gospel passage is the assurance from God’s only Son that our prayers will be answered. That promise is our great hope and the hope of all the faithful. Today, may our prayers rise up to God and his grace flow back to us. As a people of prayer may we always have faith in the gentile Father who hears our call and answers.


[1] After Links to the Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is “Decent Toward Sodom” by Marc Chagall, 1931-39

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saturday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Saturday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Ex 24:3-8

Following the presentation of the precepts of the Law, Moses gets consensus from all of the people whom God has brought out of bondage, the Children of Israel (Jacob) that they will follow the law handed down to them. Moses erects pillars, one for each tribe and makes a sacrifice to seal the covenant and sprinkles the people with the blood of the covenant sacrifice.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 50:1b-2, 5-6, 14-15
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.

Psalm 50 recalls the sealing of the covenant with sacrifice. It gives praise to God remembering his promise to the faithful that He would be with them as long as they kept the precepts of the covenant.

Mt 13:24-30

Jesus tells another parable, about the harvest this time. Here we see his reference to the “good seed” and “bad seed”. The good seed here, since this is references as an analogy to the Kingdom of God, represents those who remain faithful to God’s laws and precepts. The “bad seed” represents those converted by God’s enemy who choke off the good seed and, in the eschaton, will be condemned to hell.


Jesus today gives us a story about those who are faithful vs. those who are not. We hear in the first reading from Exodus, Moses getting the promise of the children of Israel that they would follow all of God’s laws (actually more than a promise – committing to a covenant, a binding contract with God).
These two stories are clearly linked for us and the message becomes very clear. We have been given God’s precepts. They have come to us through his word and through the Church which he founded on this earth that we might continue to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit through her. We choose each day to be either faithful to those precepts, or to turn our backs upon them. We choose each day if we will be good seed or bad.

It imagery used in the parable is really exquisite because if one looks at a field newly planted and sees all the new growth, it is difficult to tell which is good and which is bad until the plants mature and their identities become clear. It is by their fruit that we recognize them as good and bad. Similarly it is by the outcomes we affect each day that we know if what we have done is good or bad. That is not always easy to know. In some cases we do not know ourselves unless we examine our intentions. If what we do is our of love for ourselves and others, we have been the good seed. If on the other had our motives were selfish or hurtful, even if they appear on the surface to be good, we have fallen.

We are reminded today that in the end, we will stand before the high judge and he will look upon us and decide if we are good or bad seed and this decision will be made based upon our promises, kept or broken. Let us pray for the wisdom to make good choices.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The image is Moses Forbids the People to Follow Him, by James Tissot, 1896 -1900

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Ex 20:1-17

In today’s first reading we are given the Exodus version of the delivery of the Ten Commandments by Moses. While the division into Ten Commandments is somewhat uncertain, we believe that verses 1-6 is one commandment while verse 7 is two (see also
Deut 5:6-21).

Responsorial Psalm Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

Psalm 19 is a song of praise. In this selection we praise the Law of God as being a path to salvation, more valuable than “purest gold.”

Gospel Mt 13:18-23

Our Gospel from Matthew is the explanation of the “Parable of the Sower”. This explanation is given to the disciples as St. Matthew’s way of explaining it to his broader audience.


Coupled with the gift of God’s Law given in the reading from the book of Exodus, we pause to reflect on the amazing imagery of the “Parable of the Sower.” The reason this parable is so rich for us is that not only do we look at it and see our selves as the seed (and the various circumstances of its growth) but we can also see our selves as the sower. We can even look at ourselves as the soil in which the seed falls.

If we see our selves as the seed we concern ourselves with accepting God’s word in our hearts so we can put out deep roots. When we do so we cannot be snatched away, the sun cannot burn us and the weeds cannot choke us. As see the only way for us to do that is by constant care and attention. We water ourselves with the sacraments, we feed ourselves with the word of God and our roots become our prayer.

If we see ourselves as the sower we must have the attitude of Christ, he knew that the life giving words he spoke would not generally fall on receptive ears (hence the reason for the parable in the first place). He (and we) must accept that we have a task to do as the sower. We must put the seeds of God’s love out there in that vast field that is the world and trust God to watch over it.

When we see ourselves as the soil, ah, that is something we can control. We can easily see the seeds of faith in others. Some times that faith has germinated and we will be the rich fertile soil that helps it grow. Other times it has not even germinated, we encourage it providing examples and nurturing. Some times we see it choked by weeds and we do our best to move that seed to a more wholesome environment. And sometimes we see the seeds parched due to lack of nourishment and we do our best to provide it. The hardest part of the parable of the sower is being the soil.

Today let us pray that we have the strength to be that seed in good ground. Let us ask God to help us be good sowers of his love. And finally we ask God to make us the best possible soil, encouraging those around us to grow and helping them build the roots of prayer that will sustain them.


[1] After Links to the Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is Sower with Setting Sun by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Memorial of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne

parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Biographical Information about
St. Joachim and St. Anne[1][2]

Readings for the Memorial of Sts. Joachim and Anne[3]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Ex 19:1-2, 9-11, 16-20b

The story of Moses leading the people out of bondage in Egypt is continued in this passage as God tells Moses what signs he will perform for the people in order that they may be made holy and faithful followers.

Responsorial Psalm Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56
R. Glory and praise for ever!

This passage from the book of Daniel is a selection from the song sung by the three brothers who were cast into the furnace because they would not renounce their faith in the One True God. We use it as a song of praise for all he has done for us.

Gospel Mt 13:10-17

From the NAB footnote: “Since a parable is figurative speech that demands reflection for understanding, only those who are prepared to explore its meaning can come to know it. To understand is a gift of God, granted to the disciples but not to the crowds. In Semitic fashion, both the disciples' understanding and the crowd's obtuseness are attributed to God.”


Tradition holds that Jesus’ grandparents, Joachim and Anne, were told separately by messengers from God, angels, that their daughter was with child. It is consistent with the notification of Joseph and Mary, the human parents of the Lord that this mechanism was employed. God was fiercely involved in the conception of the Lord through the Holy Spirit.

To most people of the day, however, this flurry of heavenly messengers would have seemed far fetched had it been widely known at the time. We must assume that Joachim and Anne did not go to their neighbors and tell them, guess what, my daughter is pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

What we are given, surrounding the conception of the Lord is a remarkable group of saints who provide us with examples of not only obedience but perception and acceptance of God’s plan in their lives. Like Mary their daughter and their son in law Joseph, they heard the messenger of God and accepted, lovingly, the role God had chosen for their family.

In today’s Gospel from St. Matthew we hear the Lord tell the disciples “…blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear”. That ability, to see God’s plan for us and hear the Lord’s response to our prayer is what we ask for today. For us, life is God’s parable and it is up to us to see in it the messages he places in it for us. Like Joachim and Anne, we must see and understand if we are to fulfill God’s plan for us.


[1] The first painting is St. Anne, by Albrecht Durer
[2] The second painting is The Annunciation to Joachim by Bartol O DiFredi, 1383
[3] After Links to the Readings Expire

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Feast of Saint James, Apostle

Biographical Information about St. James[1]

Readings for the Feast of St. James[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 2 Cor 4:7-15

On the feast of the first Apostle to be martyred we hear St. Paul speaking to the Corinthians about suffering and death in the human existence of this life, in spite of living in the faith. The image he uses, fragile earthen pots, speak of God’s instruments being easily broken but none the less effective (the image of small terracotta lamps in which light is carried is mentioned elsewhere).

Responsorial Psalm Ps 126:1bc-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6
R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.

Psalm 126 is a song of praise. It rejoices here in the return of the captives placed in servitude during the Diaspora.

Gospel Mt 20:20-28

The sons of Zebedee, James and John, are pushed forward by their mother who (naturally) wishes them to achieve places of honor in the Kingdom of God. Jesus uses this event to speak first of his own passion and then about Christian leadership. The Servant Leader, as Jesus describes, leads through example.


Grim determination, that is the sense we feel from today’s readings. We hear first from St. Paul that the lot the Christian must follow is not an easy one. The Lord did not walk an easy path and it is one we are asked to follow. Yes, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, and yes, we live in a time and place when blatant persecution is less prevalent. But the path is one that only the spiritually strong may take.

The mother of James and John, the “Son’s of Thunder” as they were called, brought them forward to Jesus in the Gospel of St. Matthew today. She wanted them to have places of honor with this great teacher and holy man to whom they had attached themselves. It must have been to Christ like a person binging him two pieces of coal and asking him to make them diamonds. The act of transformation destroys the physical form and the Lord’s reaction, almost in sorrow, shows that he knows what must become of them.

St. James will be the first of the twelve to die. History tells us he is beheaded by order of King Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great (Acts 12). He was the flash powder, burning brightly in Jerusalem and being extinguished. We remember him today especially as one who opened the path for us.

As we walk the difficult path today, we thank God for the support we are given and the determination of those who forged the path in the early years when death was often found quickly as a consequence of proclaiming Christ and Him crucified. We ask for some part of that strength today.


[1] The Picture is titled St. James the Elder by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1861
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

And Saint Charbel Makhlouf, Priest

Biographical Information about Saint Charbel Makhlouf[1]

Readings for Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Ex 14:21—15:1

The first reading today continues the Exodus story where it was left, with Moses opening a way through the sea for the Israelites. When the Egyptians try to follow, God delays them using the same column (pillar of fire) that had been leading to Israelites to confuse and panic the armies ni pursuit.

In the end Moses closes the way through the sea while Pharaoh’s army is still in the midst of the sea and no one survives. This wonder strengthens the faith of the Israelites in God and in Moses. Moses’ response is to begin the Psalm/Prayer we see in the Psalm Response below.

Responsorial Psalm Exodus 15:8-9, 10 and 12, 17
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.

The Psalm/Prayer used today continues the prayer of Moses started yesterday. It gives thanks for the favor God has shown to the people and marvels at His great power.

Gospel Mt 12:46-50

In this important selection from St. Matthew’s Gospel Jesus emphasizes the importance of the family of faith over the biological family. His initial indication that the disciples are his family is clarified by the statement “…whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother."


Today’s Gospel focuses our reflection on the importance of the faith community to which we belong. Jesus makes a very sweeping statement. He says that his family is not limited to his biological family, “his mother and brothers”, but rather those who join him in doing the will of the Heavenly Father.

Without getting into the sociological issues surrounding the development of group structures, we look at our own sphere of friends. If we are lucky this “sphere” includes individuals who feel like extended family. They share major parts of our values and faith (lacking a faith community, that generally falls to either life experiences or shared passion (e.g. people with whom we work or play)).

Even though it is stated parenthetically above, our true passions tend to yield our closest bonds of friendship. If we are deeply committed to our faith community, we generally find our closest friends are those who share that commitment. By the same token, if our passion is golf, our closest friends will be other golfers. If work is our life’s passion, our closest friends will be our co-workers. The larger numbers of links between us, the closer the ties become.

We ask ourselves; what importance do the bonds of friendship we forge have in our faith lives? The answer is, they are huge. The outward sign of our faith is rooted in our behaviors. Our behaviors tell the world what is important to us. If we dedicate our energies to forging friendships with individuals whose behaviors are hedonistic or self-destructive, what does that say about our own passions? If we devote our energy to improving our skill at some sport and ignore other aspects of familial or spiritual duty, what does that say about our commitments?

We do not recommend, as part of our reflection, the complete and myopic focus on our spiritual pursuits unless one feels called to either the Priesthood or Religious life. In those vocations, that kind of dedication will not twist one’s commitments out of balance. However, we do recommend a close look at where our closest bonds are formed and if there is not some shared commitment to faith values, there may be room to rebalance our lives in that direction.


[1] The picture of St. Charbel Makhlouf is from a holy card, artist is UNKNOWN
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Monday, July 23, 2007

Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Bridget of Sweden, religious

Biographical Information about Saint Bridget of Sweden[1]

Readings for Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Ex 14:5-18

The great exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt is complicated as Pharaoh has a change of heart and sends his armies to bring them back to servitude. Seeing their hopeless fate and lacking faith in God they cry out against Moses. God prepares a mighty sign for both the people of Israel and the Egyptians as he asks Moses to lift his staff and part the waters of the sea so the people can walk through.

Responsorial Psalm Exodus 15:1bc-2, 3-4, 5-6
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.

This poem from Exodus celebrates God’s wondrous act of salvation as it recalls what takes place in the first reading.

Gospel Mt 12:38-42

In this passage from Matthew’s Gospel the Scribes and Pharisees demand a sign even though the Lord has been performing cures and exorcisms in front of them. Jesus reply tells them in no uncertain terms that no sign will be given to them. Using a reference first to Jonah, then to the covenant of Moses and finally to the wisdom of Solomon, he calls them unfaithful (literally adulterous) in their failure to understand that he is sent by God and his mission.


How many times in our own prayer have we asked God “for a sign” so that we might be convinced that He has heard us and is present to us? It may not have been in the same spirit as the Scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel passage today. In spite of all the cures he has performed, they believe that Jesus is agent of Satan. Jesus understands their doubt and sees in their hearts the obstinacy of Pharaoh as he pursued the Children of Israel through the sea.

Nothing he can do would change their conceptions of him. It is a case of “don’t confuse us with the facts “situation. He says as much as he uses examples from history. He tells them in no uncertain terms that he is more than a prophet like Jonah and more than the wisdom of Solomon. They will not believe – they too will follow a damned path that will ultimately give glory to God in spite of themselves.

Now we come back to ourselves. We ask for signs as well, seeing the glory of God’s creation and the marvels he has worked in our own history of salvation, we ask for more signs. If we cannot see the love of God in what he has already done for us, how can we expect anything the Lord is likely to do in our lives to convince us any further?

Like wise, when we encounter others who challenge the very existence of God, what proofs can we offer beyond what God has already done in their lives that would convince them further? It ultimately comes down to faith. If we do not want to believe there is a loving God who sent his Son into the world so that we might have peace in this life and salvation in the next, there is little anyone, even God can do to change our minds. We are cut off by our own choices.

Today we reach out with confidence to that same God who performed great wonders for our ancestors who none the less failed in their belief. We ask God for the strength to walk with him today and be at peace, knowing that he is with us and will open the way before us if we look with faith upon that way.


[1] Holy Card picture of St. Bridget, Artist is UNKNOWN
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Gn 18:1-10a

We encounter Abraham after he has already begotten Ishmael through Hagar, Sarah’s slave. We see him now encounter God in the form of a traveler with two messengers (this is revealed later). After extending them hospitality, God tells Abraham that Sarah, his wife will bear him a son within a year. Because Sarah has been barren and is now past child brearing years, this prediction and ultimate event are miraculous.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 15:2-3, 3-4, 5
R. He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

Psalm 15 is a Jewish form of examination of conscience. In this selection the poem asks first about lying, then committing violence against his neighbor, and finally about usury, making money by lending to the poor instead of helping without charge as Mosaic Law demands.

Reading II Col 1:24-28

"As the community at Colossae was not personally known to Paul, he here invests his teaching with greater authority by presenting a brief sketch of his apostolic ministry and sufferings as they reflect those of Christ on behalf of the Church (NAB)".

Gospel Lk 10:38-42

In this encounter with Martha and Mary in St. Luke’s Gospel we see two distinct messages. First, the importance of the role of women and Jesus’ attitude toward them. Second we see the importance of listening to the word of God "Mary has chosen the better part".


Scripture today presents us with and interesting dilemma. In the first reading we hear of the importance of hospitality in Jewish Law. We see Abraham rush to meet the travelers who are not identified immediately yet we discover later are actually Yahweh and two of his messengers (we could reflect upon this fact alone based on the old adage "When a guest comes, Christ comes."). It is clear from the first reading that the act of not just welcoming strangers but feeding them and seeing to their comfort was important.

That importance is not diminished in the Gospel from Luke. Jesus comes to the house of Martha and Mary and, like Abraham, Mary immediately begins seeing to his needs, preparing food and serving him. Martha’s sister Mary, however, takes an unprecedented place reserved for the Lord’s disciples, at the master’s feet. Martha complains to Jesus that her sister is not participating in the Mosaic Law’s requirement that hospitality be shown to strangers.

We note that Jesus does not say that the law requiring hospitality is not necessary. Rather he tells Martha that her sister Mary has chosen the better of the two roles. Mary has chosen the listen at the master’s feet while Martha continues for follow the older tradition of hospitality. This tableau does not end there. For the audience of the time, the role Mary assumed was reserved for men. In not only telling the reader it was acceptable for Mary to ignore her sisters demand for help with the serving, but saying that she had chosen a better part, the equality of women in the faith community was emphatically displayed.

For us the messages in scripture guide our actions. We, as disciples of Christ understand the importance of listening to the words of Jesus, placing that action above simply doing what society expects. We hear and understand that within our faith community and indeed in our dealings with all others, there is no place for bigotry. There is not place for attitudes that one group, be it gender, race or age demographic, is more deserving of special treatment than another. From top to bottom our view must be that all are equal in eyes of God.

Living up to these standards is not easy. Even St. Martha struggled with her role of service. We are called to follow the New Covenant and as such must constantly strive to overcome our human biases. Today we pray for the strength to do all that is requred.


2. The picture used today is Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, by Tintoretto 1570-75

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Laurence of Brindisi, Priest, Doctor


Skipping forward again in the story of the Exodus, following the tenth plague, Pharaoh has released the people of Israel and they are now leaving Egypt under Moses’ leadership. As they were instructed in the rules for Passover, the bread is unleavened and their parting is hurried.

R. His mercy endures forever.

Psalm 136 gives thanks for God’s intervention for the people in bondage in Egypt. It recalls the events and signs God performed to facilitate their freedom from slavery.

After challenging Pharisaic Law and declaring the "Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath" the Pharisees now see Jesus as a threat to their hold over the people. Jesus backs away from this intended violence and in doing so fulfills the "Suffering Servant" role in the Book of Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1-4). This passage emphasizes his meekness and extends his mission to the gentiles.


The sense we receive from the first reading from the Book of Exodus is one of intense vigilance as the descendants of Jacob (Israel) prepare to flee Egypt. There is a tinge of anxiety in the air as their hasty departure is emphasized by little things like unleavened bread.

This same anxiety is felt in the Gospel of St. Matthew as Jesus backs away from the Pharisees who are angry and afraid of him following his challenge of their juridical practices. The debate referenced in this passage ("The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.") would have been to attempt to come to consensus that he had blasphemed when he told them that "...For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath".

This is the type of reaction that can always be expected when a person (or in the case of the first reading, a group) challenges the status quo. It seems, even today, the first reaction by those challenged is fear, fear that their power over the individual or group may slip and they will loose status. It is seen as a win-loose situation.

As we follow our call to take Christ into the world, it is wise for us to remember that, as lovingly and as gently as we prod our brothers and sisters, there will be angry resistance at times. We must also recognize, especially in today’s society where Christianity is acceptable and even the preferred set of societal values, this resistance may not always be apparent. Anger and resentment can be hidden. Our reminder today is that when we challenge people to follow God’s call to conversion, we will need to be cautions about the repercussions.


1 The Picture today is St. Laurence of Brindisi, Artist is UNKNOWN

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

And Saint Apollinaris, Bishop, Martyr

Biographical Information about Saint Apollinaris[1]

Readings for Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time[2]
Reading from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Ex 11:10—12:14

In this reading from Exodus we have jumped forward to the end of Moses’ contest of wills with Pharaoh. The first nine plagues have been visited upon Egypt and still the Pharaoh will not allow the people of Israel to leave. Now God gives instructions to Moses and Aaron about what later will be the Passover Feast. This is done in preparation for the repercussions from the slaughter of the first born of Egypt.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 116:12-13, 15 and 16bc, 17-18
R. I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.

This selection from Psalm 116 recalls the Passover ritual referring to the “cup of salvation”. The psalm rejoices in God’s saving works in releasing the people from their bondage.

Gospel Mt 12:1-8

Following the comment by Jesus in yesterday’s Gospel about having those burdened by the Law come to him, we find a practical example as the Pharisees attack the disciples because they picked some grain to eat on the sabbath. In Pharisaic Law that act is considered work and is forbidden on the Lord’s Day. The Lord reinterprets their Law, sighting the First Book of Samuel (
1 Sam 21:2-7) and Leviticus (Lev 24:8). The implication of his final statement in this passage is clear to us. “The ultimate justification for the disciples' violation of the sabbath rest is that Jesus, the Son of Man, has supreme authority over the law.” (NAB)


When ever we hear about Jesus reinterpreting the Law of Moses or Pharisaic Law we are forced to recall that in the Church today, similar laws, rituals and traditions exist. Our natural tendency is to apply this same rationale when these restrictions on our behavior become too inconvenient,

Let’s say, for example, that we are on a trip or family vacation and we are in an unknown town on Sunday. We could look around our vicinity and if we see no immediate signs of a Catholic Church we could make the argument that we tried but were unable to attend Mass thus granting ourselves at least rational absolution from the requirement that we attend Mass on Sunday.

In this example, of course, our logic is flawed. We did not make an earnest attempt to locate a Church and if we had known we were going to be in this place on a Sunday earlier, we could have made inquiries and gotten appropriate directions. The Laws that Jesus reinterpreted were so restrictive that reasonable activity was prohibited. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath and his work was permitted.

No we must be very careful when we decide to play “Jesus” with the Laws and Precepts of the Church. They contain provisions for most situations that would require practical accommodation. The key for us is to remember that it is the Lord we serve on a daily basis and that if we follow his Law scrupulously we cannot go wrong.


[1] Icon of Saint Apollinaris, artist UNKNOWN
[2] After Links to the Readings Expire

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Ex 3:13-20

The first reading from Exodus continues Moses interview with God at the burning bush on Mount Horeb. Moses first tries to get God to give a name that he can use to tell the leaders of the people of Israel who it is that sent him. God’s response is a non-response, “I am who am.” Existing without a proper name, God is beyond control of mankind.

He continues his instruction telling Moses that the king of Egypt (Pharaoh) will not simply allow the people of Israel to leave. He promises to smite Egypt and in response the people will be sent away.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 105:1 and 5, 8-9, 24-25, 26-27
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.

Psalm 105 is a hymn of thanksgiving. In this passage we find linkage to the first reading as in the first strophe we see a call to invoke the name of God, first given above. The song continues to remember the story of Moses’ call to go to Egypt.

Gospel Mt 11:28-30

In this passage, unique to St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus invites those burdened by the yoke of Pharisaic Law to believe in Him. Obedience to the word of Christ is much easier than the complex rules of the Law under scribal interpretation.


“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

What a gracious invitation from Jesus. Scripture scholars tell us that the reference in this passage is to the burden of Pharisaic Law with all its complex requirements that made it difficult even to go about one’s daily business without violating some minute requirement. This, say those who study the ancient texts, was the original purpose for the statement.

For those of us who walk in the world and hear the simple words “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” say much more, don’t they. They invite us to place all of life’s burdens at the feet of Christ. His invitation tells us he will take away the fears and sorrows, the anxiety and dread we feel and leave in their place, peace.

It is so simple an offer. We can almost feel it being made as he hung upon the cross for us. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” He takes way the intense guilt we feel, he washes us from all the ways in which we have turned from him and leaves us light and pure.

What is the catch our skeptical inner voice may ask? The catch is that we must open our hearts and accept that invitation. We need to put the burdens down, not cling to them as we often do. We must lay our hatred, our jealousy, our greed, and our fear at his feet. If we can do that, his tender yoke is indeed no burden at all and we will have peace.

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is Christ the Consoler by Ary Scheffer, 1637

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Ex 3:1-6, 9-12

We jump forward in the life of Moses to his call from God on Mount Horeb. The image of the burning bush attracted him and God calls the reluctant servant to return to Egypt as his instrument. The purpose, Moses is told, is to lead the “Children of Israel out of Egypt”.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 103:1b-2, 3-4, 6-7
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

This psalm of thanksgiving recalls God’s saving works. The third strophe links the verse to the call of Moses from the first reading.

Gospel Mt 11:25-27

The footnote on this selection explains this passage very well. In part it reads; “While the wise and the learned, the scribes and Pharisees, have rejected Jesus' preaching and the significance of his mighty deeds, the childlike have accepted them. Acceptance depends upon the Father's revelation, but this is granted to those who are open to receive it and refused to the arrogant. Jesus can speak of all mysteries because he is the Son and there is perfect reciprocity of knowledge between him and the Father; what has been handed over to him is revealed only to those whom he wishes.”


For many of us the image of Moses at the burning bush springs into our mind picturing Charlton Heston in the movie classic the Ten Commandments. For those of us considering a broader involvement in ministry, the reluctance of Moses in this story also resonates. Frequently when we feel nudged to do something out of our comfort zone in God’s name, we find our selves asking God the same question Moses did “Who am I that I should go…”. It is exactly for these times the story is perpetuated in Holy Scripture.

If all of the images we are given for heroic figures in scripture were bold, wise, hansom, and self assured how could we understand that God calls us all? Think about those God called – not just in the Moses story but throughout salvation history and the Holy Scripture. Who among all those called by God fit into the hansom, willing, bold, or wise category? The only one that springs to mind off the top of my head was King David and look what God did to him before he was done.

No, God has a habit of calling the unwilling, the ordinary, the weak, and humble to his service. How else could he demonstrate the great love he has for the weak and downtrodden? He calls them because of their flaws so that His great work can be accomplished. It is like the marshal arts master that drives a straw through a wooden plank. God takes the outcast and raises them up as mighty prophets; he takes the victims and makes them victorious.

Every time we try to master a new skill we need to learn the language of that skill. Whether it is a technical skill like engineering or an artistic skill like music, there is a language that is needed to understand the subject and the actions that take place within that discipline. The same is true in our understanding of the things of God. Today, once more, we are given an example of God’s language. The weak are the strength of the people. God uses the least significant to perform the most significant acts. Salvation is accomplished not though a prince of a king, but a servant and an outcast.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire:
[2] The Picture today is Moses before the Burning Bush by Domenico Feti, 1613-14

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Ex 2:1-15a

In response to the Egyptians killing of all new born male babies, Moses mother places him in a basket and hides him in the river. There discovered by the daughter of Pharaoh, he is ultimately adopted by her.

It is clear from the beginning he knows of his birth right as he sides with the Hebrews against the Egyptians. We leave him hiding from Pharaoh in Midian.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 69:3, 14, 30-31, 33-34
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.

Psalm 69 is an individual lament. It echoes the fear of Moses as he hides in Midian from Pharaoh’s punishment.

Gospel Mt 11:20-24

This passage follows the parable of the “Children in the Marketplace” in which the Jesus accuses those who have heard the words of both John the Baptist and himself of not being willing to hear that they must turn away from sin and repent.

In this passage he goes further chastising the towns in which he has performed great signs. As in the parable that proceeded it, this selection speaks of the punishment reserved for those who refuse to hear the word he has spoken and continue to ignore the law and prophets. Their fate, he tells them will be worse than that of Sodom.


We can see in this Gospel passage the very human frustration Christ felt as he reflected upon the impact his ministry had made on the people of the towns he had visited. He has concluded a trip in which he has performed great signs which he has attributed to God and to the people’s faith in God and still they turn their backs on the Law of Moses. They have heard neither Jesus nor his cousin John the Baptist call them to turn away from their hatred, their greed, and their hedonism and embrace the path to the Kingdom of God. Yet they ignore their calls for conversion of heart.

Is it any wonder, as we hear Jesus today condemn those places to infamy on the last day, that he is frustrated? What more does he need to do to get them to understand that this is not just a simple request; it is their only hope of salvation? Perhaps, his human mind might be hoping, if they will listen to his words and turn away from what they are doing he will not have to go down to Jerusalem and offer the ultimate sacrifice to establish the new covenant. Alas, he must feel as he pleads, the Father’s plan is inevitable. Like the plan he had for Moses and Joseph before him, the servants and prophets of God must always suffer at the hands of those they serve. So it must be for God’s only Son as well.

We ask ourselves as we hear this frustrated outburst by the Lord, what message is there for us? Have we seen the works and wonders of God and continued to turn away from His call? Have we heard the voice of St. John the Baptist calling in the wilderness but kept our eyes focused on the delights of the flesh or the comfort of the body? Of course we have. No one is without sin except Jesus himself (and his mother). We have all fallen prey to the temptation of the Evil One at some time or another.

Today we hear the message once more – repent and turn from sin. Return to Jesus the Son and to God the Father with all your heart. It is never too late to come home.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is “Finding Moses” by Gioachino Assereto, 1640

Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

And Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Information about Our Lady of Mount Carmel[1]

Readings for the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Ex 1:8-14, 22

Last week we concluded the story of Joseph in Genesis. The salvation history of the Jewish people continues in Exodus with their fall into slavery under the Pharaoh’s of Egypt and the great infanticide that leads Moses to his fate.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 124:1b-3, 4-6, 7-8
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.

This lament turns to praise as the hymn remembers the saving effort of God. It anticipates the end of the slavery described in Exodus.

Gospel Mt 10:34—11:1

The final remarks of Jesus to the Apostles as they go out to preach and heal are given in this passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel. He reminds them that even though the word they spread reflects God’s love, they will be received by many badly, dividing households and families.

He goes on to tell them that those who will fully accept him and his word will undergo persecution because of him and, even if they loose their lives on His account, they will be saved. The reward given to those who accept this word and follow in his way will be great in heaven.

This discourse, recalled many years after Christ’s death and resurrection has the advantage of seeing the persecution of those who spread the word and embodies a fuller understanding of the meaning of Christ’s teaching.


“…whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.”

When these words are spoken in the context of sending his Apostles into the world, they refer to the resistance, in some cases physically harsh resistance, to the conversion process.

If we go to Mass on a particular day and later in that day find that it is not convenient or in our best interests to hold our faith in Jesus uppermost in our minds are we worthy of him?

If we profess a faith in Christ, but when we are asked to do something that is contrary to His teaching we cave in, are we worthy of Christ?

And if we deny our faith through cruel actions and turn our face from God’s love, are we worthy of Christ?

Thank God we are not held so rigorously to that standard that we are eternally judged according to it. Thank God we can participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and feel the mercy of God’s love. Thank God we have the ability to say “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you. But only say the word and I shall be healed.”

We have recalled God’s mercy, but that does not mean we should not continue to strengthen our resolve to follow the path of the Apostles more closely each day. We are called to that same Apostolate. We are invited down that difficult path. God’s mercy will forgive us when we fail, but it only works if we are trying. That is our prayer today, that God gives us strength to carry our cross and be worthy of Him who gave everything that we might have life.

[1] The picture today is “Our Lady of Mount Carmel” by Pietro Novelli, 1641
[2] After Links to the Readings Expire

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Dt 30:10-14

This section of the book of Deuteronomy is part of Moses’ last discourse. In this passage he is referring to Mosaic Law which has been chronicled earlier in the book. The gist of his challenge to the people is that the Law, which in turn is an integral part of fulfilling the covenant with God, also established earlier in the book, is not difficult to keep. It is in most cases something they are already doing (“…already in your mouths and in your hearts”)

Responsorial Psalm Ps 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.

Psalm 69 is a lament. In this passage the song asks God for help in dire straights and expresses trust that the prayer will be answered.

Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

Psalm 19 is a hymn rejoicing in God’s creation. In this passage we find a strong link to the first reading from Deuteronomy as the poem praises the Law handed down through Moses.

Reading II Col 1:15-20

The footnote from the NAB does a nice job of placing this selection within the context of today’s celebration: “As the poetic arrangement indicates, these lines are probably an early Christian hymn, known to the Colossians and taken up into the letter from liturgical use (cf
Philippians 2:6-11; 1 Tim 3:16). They present Christ as the mediator of creation (Col 1:15-18a) and of redemption (Col 1:18b-20). There is a parallelism between firstborn of all creation (Col 1:15) and firstborn from the dead (Col 1:18).”

Gospel Lk 10:25-37

In this passage from St. Luke’s Gospel, we find Jesus being challenged by a person referred to as a “scholar”. It seems clear that this man has a good idea of how Jesus is likely to respond to his initial question about what he must do to inherit eternal life. As soon as the man tells Jesus what the law says, the scholar asks for still more clarification asking “And who is my neighbor?”

The illustration Jesus uses in answering him does clarify the answer and at the same time uses a cultural tension to heighten the lesson. First he says a Priest of the Jewish Temple passes the victim of robbery by, one who is most scrupulous in observing the letter of the Law, next a member of the priestly class, a Levite does the same. The one who helps the victim, presumably a Jew, is a member of the Samaritan culture, antagonists of the Jewish people. In this way the Lord provides a moral lesson along with an explanation of the Law.


For the past week in the daily Mass readings we have been hit time and again with the notion that we are called to be disciples and we are sent into the world to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Today we are given an outstanding example of how we are to accomplish that mission.
In the first reading from Deuteronomy, we hear Moses exhorting the Hebrew people to follow the Law laid down for them. He tells them it is not an impossible thing to ask. Rather it is easily within their grasp – they can feel the rightness of it in their hearts.

As sort of an introduction to the Gospel, we hear St. Paul in his Letter to the Colossians calling Jesus the “Mediator of Creation”. It is he who will define for us the will of God the Father and explain what we must do to follow His will.

This great introduction flows into the story of the Good Samaritan, a story it turns out, that is a refinement of our understanding of the Great Commandment. It helps us understand that it is all mankind that we are joined to in God. The Lord did not just make us Jews, or Christians, or Pagans, or Islamic, or Buddhist, or even atheists. We are all one in the eyes of God and as such our obligation as Disciples of Christ is to help those in need regardless of their creed or lack thereof.

Our Great Commandment is reiterated today. It is an exclamation point on this past week’s injunction to go into the world with the Good News. Strengthened with God’s grace and bolstered with his word we only need to act on our convictions.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is “The Good Samaritan” by Johann Karl Loth, 1676