Friday, November 30, 2007

Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle

Biographical Information about St. Andrew[1]

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


Reading 1 Romans 10:9-18

We hear in this passage the message that is at the root of the “alter call” in many of the Baptist and Evangelical Christian communities. It appears, unfortunately, in this passage to be an absolute; “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The Church asks for this profession but also expects, as is explicit in other parts of the scripture that actions must accompany the professed faith in Christ. In the first century this was significant and could result in social and economic persecution.

The second section of this selection exalts those who carry the good news to others. Note here how in Semitic fashion, the body part (in this case the feet) that bares the Good News is praised.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 11
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

Psalm 19 is a hymn of praise. In this passage we give praise to God’s gift of the Law which guides us in our daily lives. The hymn also extols the virtue of obedience and steadfastness to the Law and its precepts.

Gospel Matthew 4:18-22

This passage is the account in St. Matthew’s Gospel of the call of the first disciples. Ironically the notes on this section point out that three of the four called, Peter, James, and John, are distinguished by a particular closeness to Jesus. As we celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew today, we should note that other scriptural evidence indicates that he too had a particularly close relationship with the Lord and he was called first among all the Apostles.

The reason that Matthew’s account indicates the disciples left work and family immediately without any explanation may be due in part to Andrew’s earlier encounter with Jesus as a disciple of John the Baptist (
Jn 1;40)


There is a very old joke that says; “One of the bravest men in the history of the world was the first one to drink cow’s milk.” The joke itself begs the question; who was the first to drink cow’s milk? And, if we choose to carry it a bit further; who first domesticated the cow? Think about it, we don’t know the name of the person, without whose inspiration and courage, we would not have beef as part of our diet or milk as a source of nourishment. Given the current dietary aversion to red meat that may have not been the best example but there are others; who first decided that medicinal herbs could help us ward off disease? Not the inventors of Penicillin or even Aspirin surly, some unknown chemist in a darker age tried and found the beneficial effects and carried them forward.

The point here is this, in the history of the world there are many great names we could cite as being the benefactors of humanity. These great people often performed great deed and feats of work to earn their just places of honor. However, if we were to trace the events and inventions that made these same people noteworthy, we would find there are hundreds and thousands more, behind the scenes without whom nothing would have been accomplished.

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle. He also is considered the First Apostle. Although we are not given a Gospel from John today, if we were to look at the first chapter of St. John’s Gospel in verse 40 we would find that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. When John the Baptist first said; “Behold the Lamb of God.” Two of his disciples followed Jesus and spent time with him that day. One of those was Andrew who, after hearing Jesus speak, ran to his Bother and said; “We have found the Messiah! (the Anointed one)” That might explain why, in today’s Gospel, when we hear that when the first disciples were called by Jesus; “At once they left their nets and followed him”.

The example of St. Andrew is an important one for each of us. How many times have we thought when we were performing some act of kindness in God’s name or when we were at prayer; what merit does this act have or, why do I bother? Think of St. Andrew, little is known of him and not much recorded in history yet it was he who told Peter, the Rock upon which the Church was founded; we have found the Messiah!


[1] The picture today is St. Andrew, taken from an antique French Holy Card, Artist and Date UNKNOWN.
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thursday of the Thirty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

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


Reading 1 Daniel 6:12-28

The story of Daniel in the Lions’ Den is one of the great tales from the Old Testament. We find the moral compelling; Daniel’s faithfulness to God and his refusal to abandon his faith and pray to King Darius is rewarded by God. Daniel is thrown into a deep pit where lions are kept. The pit is sealed so he cannot escape. The king is amazed at Daniel’s salvation through an angel of the Lord who came to seal the jaws of the lions so no harm would come to him. So miraculous was this salvific event that the King proclaimed that only the Lord is God and he alone should be worshiped throughout the kingdoms of Mede and Persia.

Responsorial Psalm Daniel 3:68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

The selection from Daniel used as a Psalm Response is once more take from the chant of by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. This long hymn of praise (from verse 24 to verse 90) is used extensively in the Liturgy of the Hours on Feasts and High Holy Days as our united song of praise to the Father

Gospel Luke 21:20-28

The apocalyptic discourse continues in St. Luke’s Gospel. The first part of this section deals with the destruction of Jerusalem (which actually took place in 70 AD). Since this event took place before the Gospel was published, Luke and his community look back upon the event. This provides the assurance that, just as Jesus' prediction of Jerusalem's destruction was fulfilled, so too will be his announcement of their final redemption

The second part of the reading provides a description of the actual events of the end times. The Lord assures his disciples that he will return and those who follow him should not be afraid, even as the terrible signs manifest themselves upon the earth.


Daniel’s faithfulness and Jesus’ assurance that those of us who are faithful will find redemption in him provide the framework for our thoughts today. How can we not be attracted to the story and example of Daniel at this time of year? The analogy is so apt.

Let’s set Daniel’s story in contemporary times: Daniel was a faithful Christian but was ordered by civil mandate that he must refrain from any mention of his God or faith publicly. One Christmas he decided he would erect a manger scene in his front yard. Some members of his community association ran immediately to the ACLU (Americans for Civil Liberties Union) and demanded that they sue Daniel for violating this mandate.

The Judge did not want to try the case because Daniel was a well respected member of the community and he (the Judge) too was a Christian (although a secret one for fear of the ACLU). Because the rules said so, he was forced to bring the case to trial. The attorney for the ACLU roared like a lion. “How dare Daniel insult the non-Christians by erecting the despicable symbol of a post natal family gathering in a farm yard in his front yard, against the rules of his community association?”

But during deliberations, an angel of the Lord came (invisibly) to the jury and influenced them to find that the rules did not prohibit the display of religious symbols. So impressed were the members of the Daniel’s community that a proclamation went out throughout the neighborhood and all of the Christians decorated their yards and put up Christmas trees and God saw all this and thought it was good.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is Daniel in the Lion’s Den by Pieter Pauwel Rubens, 1615

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wednesday of the Thirty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

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


Reading 1 Daniel 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28

In this reading from the Book of Daniel the son of Nebuchadnezzar (actually a crown prince), Belshazzar profanes the spoils of the Temple in Jerusalem at a huge party. In the midst of their revelry the vision of a hand writes words on the wall that none of the court scholars or wise men can interpret. At that point, Daniel is brought in and offered a huge reward to interpret the writing. He declines the reward and tells the prince how the words are interpreted.

The words written, Mene, Tekel, and Peres, according to scholars are Aramaic names for weights and monetary values: “the mina, the shekel (the sixtieth part of a mina), and the parsu (a half-mina).” Daniel’s interpretation plays on these words. Quoting from the NAB Footnotes once more: “Mene, (is) connected with the verb meaning to number; Tekel, with the verb meaning to weigh; Peres, with the verb meaning to divide. There is also a play on the last term with the word for Persians.”

The underlying meaning we take from this story is the vision of the God of Justice who, in the eyes of the faithful, rejects those who reject him and structures built upon such greed will not stand. In the full text of this chapter this meaning is punctuated by the death of Belshazzar who is slain the night of the party.

Responsorial Psalm Daniel 3:62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

The selection from Daniel used as a Psalm Response is once more take from the chant of by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. This long hymn of praise (from verse 24 to verse 90) is used extensively in the Liturgy of the Hours on Feasts and High Holy Days as our united song of praise to the Father

Gospel Luke 21:12-19

The apocalyptic discourse from St. Luke’s Gospel continues as Jesus who has just predicted the destruction of Jerusalem now tells the crowd that this does not mean the end time has come. He predicts the great persecutions that indeed take place. The subject of how the Gospel message will divide families is once more brought in as the Lord informs those present that the persecution will take place within families as well as society at large.


The lesson we take away from these scripture selections must be that the foundation of whatever we build must be securely grounded in our faith values. If we examine what has transpired in the readings from Daniel we see a clear picture unfolding. King Nebuchadnezzar is seen by the early Hebrews as being a destructive force “allowed” to capture and sack Jerusalem and the Temple. Essentially, he is viewed as a punishment for the faithlessness of the people.

His actions, in the view of the authors of Daniel, go too far. The spoils of the Temple of Jerusalem are taken to the king’s son Belshazzar who profanes them by using the Temple’s sacred vessels to toast the graven images worshiped by the Babylonians. God’s hand writes the doom of this kingdom on the wall of the hall in which the celebratory party is being held. Daniel’s interpretation is seen as the judgment of God upon those who hedonistically trample the sacred underfoot for human profit. The Hebrew vision of the God of Justice is fulfilled quickly as this story ends with the death of Belshazzar that very evening, validating the truth Daniel’s interpretation.

The moral we take away from this story is tempered by the New Covenant. When the Lord came, he showed us a new vision of God. Indeed, that was a major purpose in His coming. He revealed a Father who is loving and merciful. Through our new understanding we see Nebuchadnezzar as a godless barbarian whose cruelty and debauchery earned him the rewards of what was sown as do all the servants of the Evil One. But the lesson is not lost on us. We see how important it is to stay firmly grounded in Christ. If we fall prey to human weakness and profane that which is holy, we too walk in the steps of those who tread in darkness.

Today our prayer is that all we accomplish may be held up for God’s greater glory and that with great care, we will keep all that is sacred and holy safe from the poison of sin.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “Daniel and the feast of Belshazzar” by Marie Odile de LaForade Date UNKNOWN

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tuesday of the Thirty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

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


Reading 1 Daniel 2:31-45

In this selection, Daniel interprets the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar. The historical implications are given in the footnote for this section: “The four successive kingdoms in this apocalyptic perspective are the Babylonian (gold), the Median (silver), the Persian (bronze), and the Hellenistic (iron). The last, after Alexander's death, was divided among his generals (
Daniel 2:41-42). The two resulting kingdoms, which most affected the Jews, were the dynasty of the Ptolemies in Egypt and that of the Seleucids in Syria, who tried in vain, by war and through intermarriage, to restore the unity of Alexander's empire (Daniel 2:43). The stone hewn from the mountain is the messianic kingdom awaited by the Jews (Daniel 2:44-45). Our Lord made this image personal to himself; cf Luke 20:17-18.”

For our purposes the supreme authority of God over all civil and political rulers is the moral.

Responsorial Psalm Daniel 3:57, 58, 59, 60, 61
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

The selection from Daniel used as a Psalm Response is once more take from the chant of by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. This long hymn of praise (from verse 24 to verse 90) is used extensively in the Liturgy of the Hours on Feasts and High Holy Days as our united song of praise to the Father.

Gospel Luke 21:5-11

St. Luke’s Gospel, unlike St. Mark’s account of this eschatological discourse, does not place the end times as being “at hand”. Rather he focuses on the Christian Community living the faith from day to day. He tells the disciples of the coming persecutions and bids them to trust in the Holy Spirit who will keep their souls safe from harm.


The combination of scriptures we are given today will be wonderful to really meditate upon since they come from the same literary genre, apocalyptic. We can almost envision the visions of Daniel as he sees the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar, standing in a trance like state before the King, seeing history unfold before him like a production on the Discovery Channel. And when he sees the great rock destroy the statue in the dream, he sees and feels the power of God. He reminds us, the faithful three thousand years in his future, that no geo-political entity has power over the spirit of the faithful. That power belongs to God alone and only to the One True God do we give our praise.

Likewise our Savior in St. Luke’s Gospel sees the Temple destroyed by the Romans some seventy years after his own death and resurrection. It also reminds us that while God’s teaching authority and sacramental power was entrusted to Holy Mother Church, it is her duty and joy to point to a higher power and greater glory in Christ Jesus. Our strength is not the strength of human beings but of the Lord. His resurrection brought the Church, His Bride, into being and his living body, of which we are all a part, proclaims the Father’s greatness throughout the world. Founded upon the great “Rock” St. Peter, it has grown to cover the whole world.

Today we meditate upon the greatness of God, His enduring power and above all his wondrous love. A love so intense that he sent his only Son into the world that though his revelation we might all see the salvation he had planned for us. What greater power can there be than this?

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The Picture used today is The Image and the Stone” by Ted Larson (see Digital Art by Ted Larson)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday of the Thirty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Monday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Dn 1:1-6, 8-20

This reading begins the Book of Daniel, an example of the apocalyptic genre in Holy Scripture. In this selection Daniel, with his three companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah are taken into the service of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, a gentile who has captured Judah.

The young heroes reject the unclean food (in the ritual sense) of the table of the King showing their dedication to Mosaic Law and prosper, becoming healthier and brighter than those who have defiled themselves from the King’s table. The four are established as wise and prudent above their peers and the wise men of the king.

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

The Responsorial Psalm is a song of praise to God taken also from the Book of Daniel. This selection is the hymn chanted by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they stood in the white hot furnace. They were being punished by King Nebuchadnezzar for not worshiping a golden idol he had set up. An angel of God came to them in their plight and kept them from harm even though the furnace was so hot it burned those who tended it. (This is were we miss the verse (7) left out of our first reading where Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were given the Babylonian names of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.)

Gospel Lk 21:1-4

The footnote from the NAB does a good job of setting the stage for this example of Jesus’ teaching on the importance of gifts of the spirit. “The widow is another example of the poor ones in this gospel whose detachment from material possessions and dependence on God leads to their blessedness (
Luke 6:20). Her simple offering provides a striking contrast to the pride and pretentiousness of the scribes denounced in the preceding section (Luke 20:45-47). The story is taken from Mark 12:41-44.”


Our scripture today begins with a fairly long passage from the beginning of the Book of Daniel. This book, which belongs to the apocalyptic genre, was supplied for and was especially popular with both Jews and Christians during times of intense persecution. As we see at the very beginning, Daniel and his three companions are heroic in their adherence to Mosaic Law, risking even death (see the notes on the Responsorial Psalm) rather than betraying that covenant.

In situations of blatant persecution this passage would give its sufferers a practical lesson, immediately recognized, in dealing with their situation. Those of us who are diligent in trying to keep firm to our faith in this secular society can also see the value of their example. Modern society, most especially the media, try to portray societal values that directly contravene what we are taught by our faith. Although we are not tortured or persecuted in a physical way, in many cases our religious positions and resulting actions are often scorned and frowned upon by our peers and colleagues not of the faith. Pressure is there to abandon our faith and accept the practices that would make us more “palatable” to the hedonistic values so prevalent today.

The story of heroic virtue displayed by Daniel and his companions is strengthened by the short Gospel passage from St. Luke. In it we find our Lord praising the poor widow for her gift; the gift that demonstrated that she was more concerned with her love of God and dedication to him than the things of the world.

As we ride out the tide of commercialism that will blitz us throughout our coming Advent celebrations, we than God for these scriptural reminders of what should be most important in our lives. We pray that we live those values faithfully in the coming weeks.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The Picture used today is “The Widow’s Mite” Artist and Date UNKNOWN

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Solemnity of Christ the King

Readings for the Solemnity of Christ the King[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 2 Sm 5:1-3

Within the historical books of 1 and 2 Samuel this is one of the most important events. David is crowed King of Israel. From this anointing comes the later promise of a lasting dynasty (2 Sam 7) from which royal messianism is developed. Within the context of the Feast of Christ the King, the theme of kingship reminds us of were the royal messiah, the King had its roots in human understanding.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

This hymn of praise celebrates the unity of the faithful. Jerusalem is the symbol of that unity while King David is its ruler.

Reading II Col 1:12-20

In the first part of this selection St. Paul reminds the Colossians that it is through Christ that we have redemption through the forgiveness of sins. We are given a place in the light through him who is light.

The second part of the reading is a hymn fragment probably familiar to them that reminds them of the Lord’s preeminence (i.e. first-born of all creation, first-born from the dead, all things hold together in him). As his eternal status is reiterated, his kingship over all creation is recalled.

Gospel Lk 23:35-43

Reference is made in this first part of the Gospel to the most grievous charge leveled against Jesus before Pilot. The Sanhedrin told the Proconsul that Jesus had clamed kingship over the Jews in opposition to the rule of Cesar. We recall that at the head of the Cross was a sign that read “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. In this part of the Passion from St. Luke’s Gospel we hear the jeering of those in leadership because of what they perceived to be the Christ’s ironic fate. Even one of the two criminals begins to take up the insult but is silenced by the other who seems to understand that the kingdom of Jesus is not of this world, but rather the Kingdom of God.


Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. It is the last Sunday of the liturgical year. The authors of the Roman Missal who prayerfully assembled the liturgy and readings for our common worship ended the year’s Sunday celebrations on this particular note suggesting that we have been building towards it for a full year. We have recalled the Lord’s nativity in our Advent and Christmas celebrations. We have remembered Christ’s struggle as our own in our Lenten observances. We have rejoiced in the Easter of our year, celebrating once more as Christ’s own resurrection brought us hope and joy. And in these past months we have looked at the life and teaching of Jesus, building our interior faith in him to this point.

Now we are ready. We proclaim Christ as King. He is King in the line of David as we are reminded in the reading from Second Samuel. He is the promise God made to his people that the Messiah would come and rule forever in His kingdom. He was King before all time, first-born of all creation, one with the Father, in him all things are made, as St. Paul reminds the Colossians.

Finally, we are reminded of the cost of that kingship as we visit Christ on the Cross. His human life is ebbing away while the people whom he came to save curse and jeer him. He recalls his Heavenly Kingdom and invites the repentant thief, who represents all of us, to join him in paradise.

The question we must ask ourselves today is “Are we there yet?” Have we been able to internalize all these lessons to the point were Christ is our King? It will show in our attitudes. It will show in our attitudes toward others. Surely a servant of Christ the King would love each person they met as their King commanded. It would show in our attitudes towards “things.” The attitudes of the King's followers would be less concerned with things than building the spirit within them.

Throughout time, great Kings have had loyal subjects who have followed the example of their King. They have worn his livery in battle, they have laid down their lives for him. Are we there yet?


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “Allegory: Sculpture Working on the King's Bust” by Charles Le Brum, 1670 (est.)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac

Priest and Martyr, and His Companions, Martyrs
(Saturday of the Thirty Third Week in Ordinary Time)

Biographical Information about St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr[1]

Readings for the Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 1 Mc 6:1-13

The historical events published in this selection set the stage for the final battle between the Gentiles of the Seleucid Kings and the Jews. This passage paints a picture of the evil king being thwarted in his plans for domination, recognizing according to the chronicler, that he had wronged the Hebrews he none the less send his forces against Maccabeaus (Judas).

Responsorial Psalm Ps 9:2-3, 4 and 6, 16 and 19
R. I will rejoice in your salvation, O Lord.

Psalm 9 is a song of thanksgiving. In these strophes thanks is given to God for His support in the face of oppression. The enemies are thrown down and the faithful triumph through God’s grace.

Gospel Lk 20:27-40

Christ refutes the Sadducees whose role, because of their rejection of the resurrection, would ironically parallel the evil king in the Maccabees reading. Jesus chides them as “children of this age,” a reference to their simplistic understanding of Mosaic Law.

The final section of this reading is Jesus’ apology on the resurrection as he describes God the Father as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who while they are dead in body are alive in God.


As we look at the whole picture of our celebration this day we see the nearly infinite combinations of scripture and saintly examples that provide us daily with a different lesson. The reading from Maccabees tells us the story of the evil King Antiochus. His attempts to spread his domination of the region by force are stopped in the East as he tries to take Persian treasure. He then learns that the Hebrews to his West, whose cities he had conquered and who’s Temple he had sacked had also risen up unexpectedly and thrown back his armies. The king we are told was so depressed over these defeats that he sank into an illness that would ultimately take his life. He recognized that what he had done was wrong (we remember this is a Hebrew recalling this history) and even so lashes out one more time against them. God strengthens Judas and these designs are turned back as well. God supports his faithful even against staggering odds.

This has happened many times throughout the history of the children of Israel. The psalm response sings about it in earlier times. How God’s salvation is always at hand for those who are faithful to Him and trust in his strength. How many times has he shown this? Yet still there are those who would believe that he does not exist, that his promises are hollow. Look at the Sadducees in the Gospel. They challenge Jesus using their narrow understanding of Mosaic Law.

Unlike some who would use this as a story about divorce, the meaning behind this story is our belief in the resurrection. The resurrection is our great hope and the promise made by God, sealed in the Blood of His only Son. It is the final promise, the ultimate gift, the lasting proof of God’s great love for us.

We couple all of these lessons and place on top of them the example of strength that faith in the promise of the resurrection can give to those who believe. Today we also remember St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions. One hundred and seventeen of these faithful stood in holy testament to God’s love in the face of torture and death. For them the prize of resurrection has been won and they stand with the choirs and angels. For us, the mosaic of lessons is brought together with the lived example of the Saints who have gone before us. They stand in the face of denial with the strength of God at their backs and heroically drive the Spirit forward with their example.

We pray today that we may also have that strength and faith in the face of any obstacles we face.


[1] The picture used is of “Saint Andrew Dung-Lac and His Companions, Martyrs” cited as being found at the Vatican Web site, Author and Date are UNKNOWN
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday of the Thirty Third Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Clement I, Pope, Martyr
Saint Columbanus, Abbot

Biographical Information about Saint Clement I, Pope, Martyr[1]
Biographical Information about Saint Columbanus, Abbot[2]

Readings for Friday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time[3]
Reading from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 1 Mc 4:36-37, 52-59

The battle against the Gentiles who were trying to destroy the Hebrew faith and traditions was started by Mattathias. In this passage it is won by his son Judas (who was called Maccabeus). This final victory in Jerusalem required the cleansing and rededication of the Temple. We hear a feast declared toward the end of the passage. That feast is celebrated by the Jewish people today as Hannukah, also called the feast of Dedication (
John 10:22). Josephus Flavius calls it the feast of Lights.

Responsorial Psalm 1 Chronicles 29:10bcd, 11abc, 11d-12a, 12bcd
R. We praise your glorious name, O mighty God.

This great hymn of praise from First Chronicles directs our thoughts toward the power and majesty of God the Father. It rejoices in His omnipotent reign over all the earth.

Gospel Lk 19:45-48

Following the lament for Jerusalem yesterday, we find the Lord proceeding directly to the Temple in Jerusalem and there displaying his power and zeal for “His Father’s House.” He drives out the vendors who had set up business in the outer precincts so that he would have a purified place to continue is teaching mission.


Both the first reading from the First Book of Maccabees and the passage we are given from the Gospel of St. Luke deal with the same subject.; the purification of the Temple in Jerusalem. Sandwiched in between them is the great hymn of praise from First Chronicles, a song probably sung at some point, in that very Temple.

We reflect upon the struggle to keep our places of worship holy and undefiled. Of all the Christian denominations those of us who believe in the real presence in the Eucharist can best appreciate the sense of violation the Jews must have felt at the taking and defilement of the Temple in Jerusalem. There, in the innermost room, was kept the Arc of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s presence among them. To them it would have been the closest thing to God, a holy relic of the highest order.

When Christ came to us as a true man, he sacrificed himself and left us his body in the Eucharist. To those of us who believe in that great act of love, and who believe His words, that when we gather and re-offer the sacrifice he gave us, that he would return in the form of His Glorified Body and Blood. Once more his essence is among us and we are awed by so great a love. We reverence that wondrous mystery and the holiness it imparts to our sanctuaries and altars where the miracle takes place and above all, the tabernacles that hold the most sacred and Blessed Sacrament.

We can understand how Judas (Maccabeus) felt because we get the same kind of feeling when someone, not of our faith, comes into our sacred spaces and defiles them or is disrespectful of the glorious presence they contain. While we are sure the Lord wished for us to be happy, especially when he was so visibly among us, we also must remember that his presence is also a holy place, one where our worship takes place and our God resides.

We love it when, following the great celebration of the Mass, the congregation stays and enjoys the fellowship of their common faith. We must, however, be careful that this space is always given the respect worthy of the House of God.

Today we pray for the zeal of our Lord for His Father’s House demonstrated by our Savior. We pray that we shall always work to keep it holy, free from unsavory influences that would displease our Lord, of whose presence in that space we are always aware.


[1] The image of Saint Clement I, Artist and Date UNKNOWN
[2] The second image is Saint Columbanus, Artist and Date UNKNOWN
[3] After Links to Readings Expire

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving (Memorial of St. Cecelia)

Memorial of Saint Cecelia, Virgin and Martyr
(Thursday of the Thirty Third Week in Ordinary Time)

Biographical Information about St. Cecelia[1]

Readings for Thanksgiving[2][3]
Readings for the Memorial of Saint Cecelia
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Note: The general calendar calls for this day to be celebrated as the Memorial of St. Cecelia. However, in the Diocese of the United States, the National Holiday of Thanksgiving is given as an option with readings taken from Masses for Various Needs and Occasions III, For Various Public Needs, 26 in Thanksgiving (nos. 943-947) The recommendations from the USCCB are selected from those options in the Lectionary.

For purposes of the Deacon’s Bench, we will post a commentary on both options for the readings and a reflection based on the Thanksgiving options.

(Readings for the Memorial of St. Cecelia)

Reading 1 1 Mc 2:15-29

We are given the story of how Mattathias began his rebellion in defiance of the king’s order for all in that land to become apostate. He demonstrates his fidelity by not only defying the order to sacrifice in contravention of Mosaic Law but kills the first of the Jews in Moderin to attempt to do so. He continues inviting all those in that town who are faithful to the Covenant of Moses to follow him and his family in rebellion against the King.

The desert we are told many of these followers fled to was “the desert: the sparsely inhabited mountain country southward from Jerusalem and west of the Dead Sea. It was an arid region with some perennial springs and a fair amount of rain in winter.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 50:1b-2, 5-6, 14-15
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

“Gather my faithful ones before me, those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” This verse from the second strophe of Psalm 50 captures the theme of the reading from Maccabees above. God supports those faithful to him in their distress.

Gospel Lk 19:41-44

This lament for Jerusalem is found only in the Gospel of St. Luke. It is predictive of the destruction of that city in 70 A.D. by the Romans. The clear meaning here is this event was a result of Jerusalem not accepting Christ the mediator of peace.

(Readings for Thanksgiving Day)

Reading 1
Sir 50:22-24

“Praise and thanksgiving are given to God for his wondrous works, and a blessing is invoked on man that he may enjoy peace and gladness of heart and the abiding goodness of the Most High.” I can’t do any better than this footnote from the NAB.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 138:1-2a, 2bc-3, 4-5
R. Lord, I thank you for your faithfulness and love.

Appropriately, this is a song of thanksgiving to God for having answered our prayers. We, who sing these words, pray also that the Lord will continue to shower his blessings upon us.

Reading II 1 Cor 1:3-9

This is the salutation portion of Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. In typical letter format, he gives thanks to God for the gift of faith given to this community and continues his fervent wish that they (and we) be steadfast in the faith; “He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus (Christ).“

Lk 17:11-19

The Gospel is an indictment of the Hebrews who did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus’ comment; “Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” is a clear indication that this lack of faith will have consequences. Especially when he follows this statement with; “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” This would seem to imply that those who refuse to accept Jesus’ status as the Christ would not receive that salvation.

The footnote from the NAB is instructive and balanced; “[11-19] This incident recounting the thankfulness of the cleansed Samaritan leper is narrated only in Luke's gospel and provides an instance of Jesus holding up a non-Jew (Luke 17:18) as an example to his Jewish contemporaries (cf Luke 10:33 where a similar purpose is achieved in the story of the good Samaritan). Moreover, it is the faith in Jesus manifested by the foreigner that has brought him salvation (Luke 17:19; cf the similar relationship between faith and salvation in Luke 7:50; 8:48, 50).”


Today is the secular holiday of Thanksgiving. It was officially sanctioned as a holiday, first by the State of New Hampshire in 1782 and as a National Holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, in the middle of the Civil War.

Thanksgiving is one of the few secular holidays the Church has fully embraced, for very obvious reasons. While the tradition began as a harvest celebration by a predominantly agrarian community, the fact that its focus is on thankfulness to God is a very Christian ideal. As we see in the scripture above, it is at the very heart of our faith and has been promoted for as long as we have had our Judeo-Christian roots.

Today as our nation goes to parades, watches football games and waits with bated breath for the launching of the giant commercial orgy that precedes the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord, we as a people of faith once more turn to God in prayer. We all have special prayers that we can utter on this occasion. We all have special things that we can give thanks for. I give you this prayer, paraphrased from the reading in Sirach;

And now, bless the God of all, (and His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ)
who has done wondrous things on earth;
Who fosters people’s growth from their mother’s womb,
and fashions them according to his will!
May he grant you joy of heart
and may peace abide among you;
May his goodness toward us endure in Israel (and the whole world),
to deliver us in our days.

Pax and Happy Thanksgiving
[1] The first picture is “Saint Cecilia” by Guido Reni, 1606
[2] After Links to Readings Expire
[3] The second Picture today is “Prayer in the Garden” by Sebastiano Ricci, 1730

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Additional Information about the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary[1]

Readings for Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 2 Mc 7:1, 20-31

This selection from the Second Book of Maccabees provides examples of courage in the face of extreme cruelty based upon belief in the resurrection on the last day. This is one of the important theological ideas expounded upon in the book and provides a framework for our later understanding of the importance of Christ’s sacrifice and promise.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 17:1bcd, 5-6, 8b and 15
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

Psalm 17 is an individual lament. The psalmist sings for God’s help in distress, having been firm in faithfulness, the Lord is called upon for justice. The tone of this song supports the trials of the seven brothers in Second Maccabees above.

Gospel Lk 19:11-28

This selection from St. Luke’s Gospel contains two parables interwoven. The first is the Parable of the Talents (see also
Mt 25:14ff) . The second is Parable of the rejected King. This later parable could have had historical significance since after the death of Herod the Great, his son Archelaus went to Rome to receive the same authority. He was opposed by a delegation of Jews. Although he was not given the title of King he was given authority over Judea and Samaria. This parallel used by St. Luke would have served to stop speculation about the immanent parousia. A second possibility is that the Lord himself was predicting that his impending entry to Jerusalem was not to be a glorious kingship but rather he would have to travel to a far distant place (heaven) to receive that crown.

St. Luke’s version of the Parable of the Talents serves to reinforce the idea that the faithful must be diligent in building up the Kingdom of God through the use of what God has provided. Failure to do so (presuming the immanent second coming and laying down one’s vocation) would result in sever punishment.


We need to say something first about our feast day. The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary has several levels of tradition and implication for the Church. First we hear from Butler’s Lives of Saints where he begins; “Religious parents never fail by devout prayer to consecrate their children to the divine service and love, both before and after their birth.” Following some scriptural examples he concludes:” … the Blessed Virgin Mary was thus solemnly offered to God in the temple in her infancy.” While the event itself is not scriptural, it is clearly a reasonable expectation that one chosen as Theotokis, the Mother of God, would have been dedicated according to law and tradition. For us and for the Church this begins the events that lead to God’s gift of His Only Son, a celebration we have observed since around the 7th century and instituted most recently by Pope Sixtus V., in 1585.

Pope John Paul the Great has given this date and feast special significance as “’Pro Orantibus’ Day, a day for cloistered women religious who are especially dedicated to prayer, in silence and recollection.” Today, the Church will recognize those who pray for us.

St. Luke’s Gospel unites with the Blessed Virgin’s great wish for us, that we might be faithful to her Son and diligent in using the gifts we have been given for his greater glory. Her entire life was a love offering to God. From what we here of her earliest years in ancient documents (See
Protoevangelium of James (c. 150) and Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew (c. 400)) her dedication, and that of her parents to the service first of the Father and then her Son was complete. The first words of her great canticle “My soul magnifies the Lord” sets the example she asks us to follow.

Indeed, just as Joachim, Mary’s father and Anna, her mother, set her aside from her birth for the great purpose God had for her, so we are called to dedicate our gifts and abilities to the Glory of the Father. And we have assistance in our mission to do so. Not only do we have the gift of the Holy Spirit to sustain us in our effort but we have untold numbers of holy women praying for our success and the success of the mission of the Church.

Today we re-dedicate ourselves and our efforts to God and we also pray for those who pray for us as we celebrate “’Pro Orantibus’ Day.

[1] The Picture used today is “The Presentation of the Virgin” by Cima da Conegliano, 1495 (est.)
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tuesday of the Thirty Third Week in Ordinary Time

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


Reading 1 2 Mc 6:18-31

The story of Eleazar given from the Second Book of Maccabees is the companion story to that of the mother and her seven sons (see
2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14). These stories while intended to serve as examples of heroic courage and fidelity to God’s Law were popular with early Christians because they gave a solid theological underpinning to “Martyrology. “

Responsorial Psalm Ps 3:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
R. The Lord upholds me.

Psalm 3 is a lament singing of plight of one attacked and oppressed by enemies on all sides. Faith in the Lord, the singers proclaim is the only salvation and they asks the Lord to come and be their protector. This sense of persecution provides a strong link to the first reading from 2nd Maccabees.

Gospel Lk 19:1-10

Today we hear the story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector and Jesus. While still on his final journey to Jerusalem this encounter takes place in Jericho, on the western edge of Jordan Valley, about 6 miles north of the Dead Sea, north east of Jerusalem. Jesus chooses Zacchaeus’ home for his resting place (an unpopular choice; “…they began to grumble, saying, ‘He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.’”)

Jesus uses this occasion to give us a clear idea of why he came. When Zacchaeus tells him what he as done with his material possessions, Jesus proclaims; “…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” His mission is salvation.


We reflected upon the Zacchaeus story just a few weeks ago (see
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time) and the companion story about the mother and seven brothers from 2nd Maccabees a week later on the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Clearly, the themes of fidelity, faithfulness to the Laws of the Church in the face of extreme opposition and the mission of Jesus to save those who have turned from those laws are important ones.

In that fist reading, we find Eleazar, an old man in his nineties, faced with not only persecution but temptation. In spite of his willingness to immediately face torture for the sake of preserving his fidelity to the Mosaic Law that prohibited the eating of pork, his friends we are told, take up the role of the Evil one. They whisper in his ear – you don’t need to do this. You can go and get some other meat that is OK for you to eat and it will appear that you have done what is commanded by the evil ruler. His friends suggested this.

What a great example for us of how the well meaning of others can lead us away from our goal of holiness and fidelity to our faith. Think of all the examples from our own lives when temptation was presented to us. How many of those times when we either failed the test or came closest to failing was that temptation presented by one close to us? It is in those instances, when what we know what God calls us to do is most difficult, that our temptation to listen to alternatives that lead us away from our faith are most persuasive. The more difficult the effort called for on our part, the easer it is for a person who means well, even a loved on, to offer up an alternative that is easier but wrong.

We pray today that like Eleazar we will be strong in our faith when faced with such temptations (…lead us not into temptation). We also thank God for the gift of Zacchaeus who shows us that even if we do not pass that test, the Lord still invites us to return.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “Zacchaeus” by Niels Larsen Stevns, 1839

Monday, November 19, 2007

Monday of the Thirty Third Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Monday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 1 Mc 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-63

This reading from the First Book of Maccabees describes the introduction of Hellenistic traditions into Israel, the attempt to suppress Hebrew Tradition, desecration of the Temple with idols, and persecution of those who attempt to retain their faith and traditions. The verses selected omit some of the classic Hebrew poetry included in this book and the final verses are actually part of a Hymn of praise for those who resist the attempt by the Seleucid Kings to eliminate Mosaic Law.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 119:53, 61, 134, 150, 155, 158
R. Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands.

David’s lament in Psalm 119 speaks of attempts by the Gentiles to force him to become apostate and recant his faith in the Law. He reiterates his faith and calls upon God for help. Like the first reading from 1 Maccabees, those held in greatest contempt are not the gentiles but the Hebrews who turn away from the Law, violating the covenant.

Gospel Lk 18:35-43

This passage from St. Luke’s Gospel takes place as Jesus is returning to Jerusalem for the last time. The blind man, whom he cures, addresses him as “Son of David”, a clear reference to Christ’s role as Messiah. Understanding his faith, the Lord announces “Have sight, your faith has saved you.” The message being that those who recognize Jesus as the Messiah are saved.


It is so much easier to fit in with those who do not have the religious scruples by which we are bound. At work, at school or even just with friends and family not of the faith, wouldn’t it be easier, and make them feel more at ease if we were not bound by the great covenant we have adopted in Christ Jesus.

Those of us who have made it a point to identify ourselves as Christian or Catholic (“religious fanatics” as we are sometimes called by the secular world) know the difference that can be felt when this is done. A gathering where our faith is not shared can be locally silenced as we approach since the topic being shared might offend our sensibilities.

Yes, the life of a devout Christian can cause discomfort among those who embrace the hedonistic values of our secular society. The results of this discomfort are generally felt by us in a number of ways. First, we will not be the most popular people in a workplace, school, or family environment where our faith is not adopted by a majority of that group. In fact, depending upon the make up of the group and how far they have gone down darker paths, we may be shunned. People who love the darkness do not love the light. Depending upon how closely we are forced to associate, they may even actively persecute the faithful. The less educated the group, the more violent the persecution.

Our reception by less dedicated hedonists, those who may even call themselves Christian may be more subtle. There would likely be polite acceptance in the group but certainly not inclusion in places where they hoped to have “fun”. It is part of our mission as disciples to cause some discomfort to those who need to be called back to the light; as we saw in the Gospel, to open the eyes of the blind.

Scripture calls us to faithfulness. We are given the examples of those who have gone before us and know that it is not an easy path. We know from earliest times, those who love the darkness hate the light and that walking the path of light is dangerous. We ask today to be given the strength to walk in the light and on our journey bring light to those who live in darkness.

We leave today with the final verses of the Canticle of Zachariah which we pray in Morning Prayer:

“You my child shall be called the prophet of the Most High for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of our sins.

In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:76-79


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “Healing of the Blind Man” by Duccio di Buoninsegna 1308-11

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Mal 3:19-20a

Malachi, who writes his prophecy in post-exile Israel before the reforms of Nehemiah and Ezra, is sending a warning to those who have returned from exile. He tells them that (if they do not reform their lives) the day is coming when they will be held accountable. This short passage appears to point at the Messiah (the “sun of justice”) as the one who can forgive them.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 98:5-6, 7-8, 9
R. The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.

Psalm 98 is a song of praise. The Psalmist sees God’s presence in the law and Word as he rules with justice. (The Justice theme links nicely to the first reading from Malachi.)

Reading II 2 Thes 3:7-12

St. Paul addresses a problem with some of the individuals in the Church in Thessalonica. Possibly because of St. Paul’s own teaching on the immanent second coming of Christ (the Parousia) (
1 Thes 2:16; 3:3-4; 5:4-5) but more likely because of a forged letter claiming to be from him (2 Thes 2:2), some members had stopped working for a living. St Paul urges them to stop this behavior (and to stop involving themselves in other peoples business, a side effect of the life style which left them with too much time on their hands) and get back to working for a living.

Gospel Lk 21:5-19

St. Luke’s Gospel, unlike St. Mark’s account of this eschatological discourse, does not place the end times as being “at hand”. Rather he focuses on the Christian Community living the faith from day to day. He tells the disciples of the coming persecutions and bids them to trust in the Holy Spirit who will keep their souls safe from harm.


If we take all of the passages from Holy Scripture we are presented with today and find a common thread running through them it would feel like; “we are being warned that the end is coming, it will be very difficult for the faithful to endure, but in the end God will save those who trust in him.”

We get this feeling from the very beginning in the reading from the book of the Prophet Malachi. He is speaking to the Jews who have returned from the exile. Listening to the prophet criticizing them earlier in his book, they are not listing to God’s Law. He warns them that God will call them to account for their actions and that justice will be served upon them. The final strophe of Psalm 98 enhances this feeling (“He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with equity.”

When we get to St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians we hear him speaking to that Church about people who have anticipated the end times and have stopped working. He tells them that the time has not come and they need to continue to work. Ironically, it is probably from a forged letter claiming to be from St. Paul that they got this idea.

In St. Luke’s Gospel the Lord warns about just that sort of thing. He tells the disciples “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he,’ and 'The time has come.’
Do not follow them!” (Not that anyone needs to be reminded of how true that is, but all you need to do is look in this week’s news “
Russia cult members in cave siege”).

The Lord tells us that, as we wait for our own time to come we must expect that there will be difficult times. We will be persecuted for our belief in Christ and we will be put to the test. That feeling of the end times leads us to the point where we might become worried if it were not for the very last parts of the Gospel passage. The calming voice of the Lord tells us that we do not need to worry about these times. All we need to do is trust in the Holy Spirit and the right words will be given to us. All we need to do is have faith and God will see that no harm will come to us.

The practical lesson for us today must be that we must remain steadfast in our faith. The time when all must face justice will come. We do not know when or where but God has given us the great comfort of His Son who gave us words of peace and left us the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit to guide us, to strengthen us, and to lead us safely to God’s loving arms.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “The Destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem” by Micolas Poussin, 1637

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary

Saturday of the Thirty Second Week in Ordinary Time

Biographical Information about St. Elizabeth of Hungary[1]

Readings for Saturday of the Thirty Second Week in Ordinary Time[2]
Reading from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Wis 18:14-16; 19:6-9

This selection from the Book of Wisdom speaks first of the bondage and death the Hebrews suffered in Egypt. In the second section we hear an account of the exodus through the Red Sea and of the gratitude of those delivered.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 105:2-3, 36-37, 42-43
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done!
or: R. Alleluia.

This passage from Psalm 105 focuses on the part of the exodus story that deals with the final plague in Egypt. Praise and gratitude flow from those who have seen God’s great works of salvation.

Gospel Lk 18:1-8

This is the first of two parables on the need for prayer found in St. Luke’s Gospel. In this selection the Lord tells the disciples of the need for persistent prayer so they do not fall victim to apostasy. He assures them that God, the Just Judge, will listen to their prayers and come speedily to their aid in times of need.


It would be easy to understand the parable about the widow demanding a just ruling as meaning that we need to somehow convince God of the worthiness or our prayer. Parables like all analogies sometimes are misleading. If we interpreted this story’s characters as God being the judge and the widow as being us, we could certainly get that impression. However the Lord would never cast his Heavenly Father in such a role.

The widow in this story represents the powerless in society. They must depend upon an unfeeling society for justice. That unfeeling society is what is represented by the judge. The Lord tells us he “neither feared God nor respected any human being.” When we think about the identity of this character it is an accurate description of our secular system.

The story continues that the widow was persistent in her call for justice from the judge. In other words she did not give up hope even in the face of what seemed to her, constant rejection. We are told she was looking for a just decision, indicating that what she was asking for was not requested out of greed or intended to inure her adversary. Rather, like the powerless of any age, she sought what was fair. Finally, in God’s time, her request was granted.

The real moral in this story is that we need to remain steadfast in our hope for God’s help in our need. We must recognize that, like the widow, our prayer must be worthy of God’s assistance. Our motives must not be selfish (“I pray I win the Lotto today so I can pay of the credit card bills I ran up this year.”) or malicious (“God, would you strike that person down for stealing from me?”).

God sees into our hearts and hears our constant plea. He answers those prayers, although sometimes in ways we do not understand. The important lesson from the Lord is that we must be diligent in our prayer and constant in our communication with the Father. It is only this way that we can get to know Him and his will for us.


[1] The picture used today is The Renunciation of St. Elizabeth of Hungary by James Collinson 1850
[2] After Links to Readings Expire