Friday, June 29, 2007

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles


Biographical Information about Saints Peter and Paul[1]

Readings for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary: (Today I borrow the commentary from Fr. Tom Welbers at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Berkley, California)

Reading 1 Acts 12:1-11

The liberation of Peter from prison echoes many events of Jewish history (the deliverance of Joseph, Gn 39:21-41:57; the three young men, Dn 3; and Daniel, Dn 6) that consciously reflect the paschal liberation (Ex 12:42). Peter now undergoes the same trial and deliverance as his Master and in his own person becomes a sign of God’s deliverance of his people.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.

This psalm, in the words of one being unjustly persecuted, echoes hope for deliverance and freedom. Response: "The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him."

Reading II 2 Tm 4:6-8, 17-18

Paul is writing from prison at the end of his life. The only deliverance he can expect is death, and he confidently proclaims that it is the greatest deliverance of all. The death of the Christian who has lived and worked in union with the death of Christ through baptism is true release to freedom and glory.

Gospel Mt 16:13-19

This passage is often used as a proof text for the primacy of the Pope. It may well be that, but to stop there is to set aside rich insight into our own participation in the mission of the Church. The "power of the keys" is rightly understood as referring to the authority of Peter and his successors in the ministry of leading and unifying the Church, but it also provides us with an image of the mission of the whole Church, ourselves included. The Church is the doorway to God’s kingdom. Each of us as a member of the Church has the power to unlock that doorway — to welcome all we meet, by our spirit of love and forgiveness, into association with us in the kingdom. But we can also close the door of the kingdom to others, excluding them by our attitudes of superiority, prejudice, selfishness, or negligence. As Christians, we have the power to open or to lock the door of God’s kingdom. By our own words and actions we cannot help but exercise this power — one way or the other.

Reflection:

Today we celebrate two Apostles, one who traveled with Jesus and was the leader of the disciples during the life of Jesus on earth, the other a persecutor of the disciples until he himself was chosen by the Lord as an instrument. Two very different backgrounds but called together for a common purpose, building the kingdom of God on earth.

How different were their calls to that single purpose. Peter, Simon the fisherman who left his profession to follow Jesus, called almost it seemed by accident as his brother, who was a disciple of John the Baptist, told him one day “We have found the Messiah”. From that day until the terrible night in the courtyard outside the house of Caiaphas when he denied the Lord, he was a frequently reluctant student. We hear the Lord, in today’s Gospel, take that flawed student, now renamed and recreated through the Holy Spirit, and give him the keys to the Kingdom and establish him as our first Vicar of Christ.

Paul (Saul), on the other hand, was a traditional Jew, brought up and educated to become a member of the Sanhedrin. We first encounter him as he approves of the stoning of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church. Was he unwittingly promoting the faith even then? His zeal for Hebrew orthodoxy made him the perfect instrument of the Temple in Jerusalem. He was sent to eliminate these “Christians” who flaunted their authority by saying the Messiah had already come.

They sent Paul to Damascus, but a funny thing happened on that road. The Lord, from his home at the right hand of the Father, reached down and snatched Saul, now Paul from the hands of the Temple leadership and created his own tool to take God’s word to the world. Paul’s oratory training would be put to good use as he first challenged the Jews in Antioch and then all round the region, debating the pagan Greeks and Romans and establishing churches throughout the region. Christ took this flawed and sinful man, filled with hate for God’s children, and turned him into a force that lovingly invited the world to come to Christ.

Our celebration today is of St. Peter, first Pontiff of the Church and St. Paul, the great Evangelist. Even more, today we celebrate the Church looking in and reaching out. We thank God for taking unlikely instruments and making them forces that shook the world. In our awe, we ask him to take our humble efforts and continue their noble work.

Pax

[1] The engraving today is of “St. Peter and Paul” by Diego de Astor, 1608
[2] After Links Expire

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Memorial of Saint Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr


Biographical Information about St. Irenaeus[1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Iraneus[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Gn 16:1-12, 15-16 or 16:6b-12, 15-16

The story of Abram continues today and in it we find God’s promise of offspring for Abram kept but in a surprising way. Not through his wife did God give Abram his fist son, but through Hagar, Sarai’s maid servant. Here ironically is the beginning of Islam as well. Out of Ishmael comes the Prophet Mohamed and the prophetic statement by the Lord’s messenger “his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him;” seems to be coming to pass in out generation.

In the alternate short form of this reading the decision by Sarai, Abram’s wife to give her maid, Hagar, as concubine to her husband is omitted, as is the combative reaction of the two women toward each other once Hagar becomes pregnant.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 106:1b-2, 3-4a, 4b-5
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

Psalm 106 is a song of thanksgiving. In this selection the singer thanks God for his saving mercy and favor to his chosen people.

Gospel Mt 7:21-29

This is the final section of the first of five great discourses of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. In it he broadens his attack on false prophets to include those who perform acts in his name but lead lives of sin. He uses the analogy of the house built upon sand and the house built upon rock to indicate that those how have a deep faith and act out of that faith have a strong foundation and can stand against adversity; while those who give the faith lip service and for others to see but do not have that deep faith will fall. He will not even recognize them when they come before him in final judgment.

Reflection:

Today we marvel or at least wonder about the story in the first reading. Our news if full of war and hatred that stems from the enmity between the descendants of Ishmael and the descendants of Isaac, Abram’s son out of Sarai, his wife. We wonder if the words of the author of Genesis are being fulfilled or are partly the cause of this conflict. It seems as if the angel’s words are coming true in a middle east in flames. While many say it is President Bush’s fault, the fire was burning long before he or his father lead our armed forces into the region. The current rounds of bloodshed have now been burning since 1948 when, in atonement for the persecution of the Jews in World War II, the modern nation of Israel was established and the displacement of the Palestinians in the region was started. We leave that whole history to those who know it but it does seem that what is taking place was almost inevitable.

The Gospel story we heard today was another reminder that we who proclaim faith in Christ must develop a strong faith foundation if we are to stand against adversity. Each day we go out into the world, whether it is to work, school, or just to do errands. In that secular world we are challenged to apply the principles of or faith to the life situations we face. This is especially true if we are in an environment where our friends or co-workers do not share our values and invite us to follow a path contrary to our moral precepts. If our foundation is strong, built upon rock as the Lord might say, we can comfortably decline that path. If, on the other hand, we have not strengthened that foundation we bow to the pressure and fall into darkness.

While it is super important to build that strong foundational faith while we are young and with our own young, it is equally important that we continue to fortify that foundation with regular doses of grace. Even the strongest foundation will wash away if neglected. The sea of inequity is persistent and powerful. Today let’s take a shot of grace and be thankful to those who helped us to build our own foundation.

Pax

[1] The image “St. Irenaeus” is by an UNKNOWN artist
[2] After Links Expire

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time


And Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop, Doctor

Biographical Information about St. Cyril of Alexandria[1]

Readings for Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time[2]
Reading from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Gn 15:1-12, 17-18

Abram, as we have heard earlier in the week, was promised the land he is in as a possession. In this section we find Abram complaining that he has no heir and therefore all he has will pass to his servant. In response God tells him that he will be given offspring and then has Abram offer a sacrifice using the covenant formula. It is sealed by fire passed between the halves.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.

In this section of Psalm 105 the covenant of Abram is remembered in song. We rejoice in God who has remembered his promise (indeed, for us, he has forged a new covenant in Christ, our Paschal Sacrifice).

Gospel Mt 7:15-20

In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns against people claiming to be God’s messengers but whose message goes against God’s commands. Jesus uses an analogy of the fruit produced by various plants as a way to test the authenticity of those who come in God’s name. He tells them that the product or result of the words offered by a self proclaimed messenger will identify them. In his time, this was probably another warning about the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees who placed self serving demands upon the people.

Reflection:

Earlier in this decade a great tragedy occurred in Waco Texas at the compound of a religious group called the Branch Davidians. A charismatic leader named David Koresh was able to convince a large group of people that he was from God and was leading them to God. The fruits of his teaching tell us what he truly was. On November 18, 1978 in a place commonly known as Jonestown in Guyana, a charismatic religious leader named Jimmy Jones lead 913 men women and children to mass suicide claiming that he was leading them to God. The fruits of his teaching identified him clearly.

If we believe the waning from the Lord can be lightly taken because we have two thousand years of history and understanding to fortify us against teachers who might lead us down the wrong path, all we need to do is look at recent history. If we believe that, because we have Saints like St. Cyril of Alexandria who fought the battles with the
Nestorian Heresy, we are free from those who would twist the word of God to their own purposes then look at the present day. Look at the on-going saga of Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda. He is building a financial empire based in Miami predicated upon the idea that he himself is the incarnation of God and people believe him!

The words of Jesus come rushing upon us today. We are reminded that we base our hope and trust on those whose fruits are clearly seen. The Church, for all her faults, is an on-going force for good in the world. Her message of the Risen Lord, justice for the poor and love for all mankind is what we look at and see the finger prints of God. Let us take the time to inform our selves and inform those we love about the truth so they too may avoid the many false prophets who come seeming good but whose fruits proclaim them as messengers of darkness.

Pax

[1] The modern icon used of St. Cyril of Alexandria is by an UNKNOWN artist
[2] After Links Expire

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time


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

Commentary:

Reading 1 Gn 13:2, 5-18

The blessings of the Lord follow Abram and Lot as they return to the north from the Negeb. With prosperity comes crowding of the herds so they agree to move apart with Lot moving toward the east (near Sodom) and Abram staying in Canaan. God again tells Abram that the land is for him and his decedents.

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

Psalm 15 is a didactic song instructing the faithful to follow God’s precepts and explaining that these actions lead to God’s support and grace.

Gospel Mt 7:6, 12-14

This selection contains three popular saying of the Lord contained within the body of the Sermon on the Mount. The “pearls before swine” saying has been somewhat problematic for scholars. It probably refers to proclaiming the Gospel to those who reject it most strenuously – the scribes and Pharisees. This is followed by a shortened passage exposing the “Golden Rule”. The passage concludes with the analogy of the “narrow gate”. The narrow gate refers here to following the precepts of the Lord and keeping the discipline of the faith. These precepts form a boundary for actions – “How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.”

Reflection:

How many times in the psalms have we heard the psalmist lament that his enemies encamp around him. He looks to the left and to the right but does not find help for his cause. That is the sort of image the Lord gives us with his description of the narrow gate. The Church has faithfully provided precepts and laws that guide the actions of the faithful and provides a compass for making moral decisions in our daily lives. The path is straight forward but it is narrow.

How often do we step off the edge? How frequently do we find ourselves saying “Well, just this once I can skip Mass” or “I can’t fast when I am required to attend a business lunch.” Or perhaps it is less clear cut. Perhaps it’s walking past the person in need because “I know I should help that person, I just don’t have the time right now.” Or even more problematic – “I know my brother is in rough financial shape but loaning him money would mean I could not play golf this month.” That is when the edges of the narrow path become harder to see.

We reflected yesterday about separating our love for the person from our detestation of the evil committed. Today we are reminded that our lives are a series of choices. We can choose to follow the narrow path, bounded by God’s injunction that we love one another and love Him, or we can follow a much broader path where we only love ourselves and do only those things that are good for us.

Today let us pray that our eyes are clear as they see the path before us. We ask God for the strength to stay firmly on the path, the narrow path that leads to eternal life. Though enemies surround us and temptations reach for us from all sides, we ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to keep us rooted in our love for Christ and our eyes fixed firmly on Him.

Pax
[1] After Links Expire
[2] “Temple of Preah Khan” Photo provided by http://www.downtheroad.org/ the Ongoing Global Bicycle Touring Adventure

Monday, June 25, 2007

Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time


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

Commentary:

Reading 1 Gn 12:1-9

In the first reading from Genesis we find the beginnings for God’s interaction with Abram. In the previous chapter Abram’s father had come east out of modern day Iraq (Ur of the Chaldians) and now God commands him with his nomadic family unit to go into Palestine and then south to the desert like region south, the Negeb. Along the way Abram sets up altars for sacrifice in thanksgiving and prays to God for direction.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 33:12-13, 18-19, 20 and 22
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

The blessing given to the nation Abram was promised by God to become in the first reading is celebrated here with this song of praise. The psalm rejoices in the active help God gives to his chosen people.

Gospel Mt 7:1-5

The beginning of the seventh chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel finds Jesus teaching his disciples about being judgmental. They are told to first look at their own transgressions before judging others.

Reflection:

At the beginning of our scripture today we find Abram (not yet Abraham) being chosen by God to bring faith to the land. The Lord tells him in a vision that he will support Abram and his family. It sounds almost like Jesus blessing given to Simon Peter but it is very different. While Abram hears God tell him “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” Jesus tells Peter “What you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, what you loose on earth you will loose in heaven.” (Mt 16; 19ff)

God, in both cases establishes a foundation upon which the faith is spread and in doing so identifies a chosen people, in the latter case, those who follow the only Son of God. With this revelation scripture tells us not to be cocky about our heritage. The Lord warns the disciples not to be judgmental. In essence he is saying that all have failings and all have done things that were not pleasing to God.

This teaching moment provides us with an understanding of Jesus response to people and how he could love, unconditionally, those who hated him. He, who is without sin, detests sin but loves the people who have fallen prey to it. That is the key to following the Lord, to attack sin but to love people, even though they have sinned. That is exactly what the Lord does through out his ministry. We never find him attacking a person. We see him denouncing a practice or, in the case of individuals, forgiving a sin once repented. Never do we find him attacking or even criticizing an individual. It is the one difference that sets him apart from every other human being ever born of woman.

So, we ask, how do we develop a mentality that automatically sets us on the path of Christ? How do we develop this ability to respect the person but detest the sin they have committed? That is the sixty four thousand dollar question (a reference here to an very old quiz game show; “The Sixty Four Thousand Dollar Question” taken off the TV air waves when cheating was discovered). Difficult, but once we understand that this is key to our Christian attitude we can begin separating our feelings and segregating our dislike from an attachment to a person to a dislike for the action. It is cliché, but written reminders help; such as “Attack problems not people” or “Hate the sin, love the sinner”, or even the WWJD bracelets of a number of years ago.

We have been chosen and we are to behave in such ways as to demonstrate that fact. This is a good way to start.

Pax


[1] After Links Expire
[2] The picture today is “Abraham's Journey to Canaan” by Pieter Pietersz Lastman, 1814

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist


Mass during the Day

Readings for the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Is 49:1-6

In this passage, the beginning of the second of the four “Servant of the Lord” oracles, the Prophet Isaiah speaks of his own call to servant hood. Because this selection is used on the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist, we see in Isaiah’s words the calling to which John was beckoned.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15
R. I praise you for I am wonderfully made.

In support of the miracle of creation, Psalm 139 reminds us that like us St. John was formed and created in the womb as a gift from God to Elizabeth, his mother. He came, known by God and God’s only Son.

Reading II Acts 13:22-26

St. Paul, speaking to Jews who were being called to deeper faith in Christ, reminds them that the prophecy that the Messiah would come from the lineage of King David had been fulfilled. He speaks of St. John the Baptist as herald of that event by recounting his (St. John’s) prophetic speech on the occasion of Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan.

Gospel Lk 1:57-66, 80

We hear the angel’s announcement to Zachariah fulfilled in St. Luke’s account of the birth of St. John the Baptist. The naming of the child “John” broke tradition and by acceding to the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement, we see the child set on a course directed by God and dedicated to him.

Reflection:

We wonder, out loud, today if John the Baptist understood his role in our salvation. He was, after all the pathfinder, the one who paved the way for the Lord. His life so closely paralleled that of Jesus it is remarkable that more people did not mistake him for the Messiah.

From before his birth he knew Jesus. Although no scripture records it, we can easily speculate that these cousins knew each other growing up. I mean if Margaret and Mary were as close as scripture implies, they must have spent time together and their sons must have been together from time to time as they grew. Although, given that Joseph took Jesus to Egypt right after he was born for a period of time, they were probably not best friends early on.

But did John know? Did he suspect that his cousin Jesus was the one, before they met at the Jordan that day Jesus went into the water? We will never know for sure. We do know that after Jesus began his public ministry, John sent his own disciples after Jesus. And that Jesus and John had parallel ministries, although John was focused on repentance while Jesus went much further with forgiveness.

But John was the voice. He was the one who cried out in the wilderness that the Kingdom of God was at hand. It was he who publicly announced the messiah. It was he who prefigured Christ, even in death. It is truly good that we celebrate his birth on this day.

And were does that birth take us? As we recall the events leading up to Johns birth, how his father Zechariah, a priest, was caused to be mute by the angel Gabriel for not believing, until the day of St. John’s birth and naming. We hear the words of his profession each morning as those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours unite with him in praising God. While his prayer is omitted in today’s Gospel, we feel his faith as he names his son John. We remember the life that son was to follow, one of obedience that led to his outspoken proclamation of Christ’s coming.

His example shines for us. Perhaps we are not able to be so bold as he was. Perhaps we cannot go out and call to those who have turned their backs to “Repent” and return to the Lord. But we are given his example to guide us as well as that of Jesus to whom we aspire. Let us be strengthened by the same Holy Spirit that filled him and, by our words and actions, be another voice, today, crying out in the wilderness.

Pax

[1] After Links Expire
[2] The picture used today is “Birth of St. John the Baptist” by Tintoretto, 1563

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Saturday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time


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

Commentary:

Reading 1 2 Cor 12:1-10

St. Paul describes, in rather convoluted terms, an out of body experience where he was taken to heaven and in which he was given “Ineffable things:” privileged information that could not be repeated. The Apostle uses the Christ-like response to physical and rhetorical challenges by saying that through his weakness and humility comes the power of Christ to resist.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:8-9, 10-11, 12-13
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Once again Psalm 34 supports St. Paul’s declaration of strength through the power of God. The psalmist sings of God’s salvation and how He raises up the lowly. It becomes an invitation to the people to become instruments of God.

Gospel Mt 6:24-34

As if the point about placing things of God before material things was not clear enough, Jesus continues is sermon, being very clear about what must be placed first in the life of his disciples. Here the word Mammon is used, an Aramaic word meaning wealth. The Lord does not deny that people need the physical things of the world (i.e. food, clothing, and water) but tells them that if they have faith in God and pursue the things of God’s Kingdom, the heavenly Father will provide for them. He goes further to say that if they are constantly focused on these things, they will not extend their lives even a little.

Reflection:

It’s almost as if the Lord did not like the humor posted yesterday. Today we return to the subject of what we must focus on in our lives. The key instruction in scripture comes in the last paragraph of the Gospel “But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness”. If we do this, we are told, then all our physical needs will be attended to by God and more even than that.

Let’s think about that for a minute. It is important that we try to capture an image of what this must be like in its absolute application. Let us suppose that all that we did we did solely for God’s glory and we did not worry about getting paid so we could pay the mortgage, put food on the table, pay the utilities, make the car payment, oh, and save money (or spend it) so our children could go to college. If we concerned ourselves only with that one thing, how well would we accomplish that which God has given us gifts to accomplish? What ever we do, we do for only God’s glory and if we thought about it in those terms and were driven to excellence by our insurmountable love for God, our performance would be nothing short of incredible.
Guess what? If our performance of tasks, again using God’s gifts which we have discerned, is incredible, then those who profit from those gifts will be grateful. Their gratitude will extend itself to us and, through the Father’s influence, the things He knows we need. Those blessing will come to us.

Our difficulty, of course, is two fold. First, it is easy to say that the daily work we do is done ONLY for God’s glory. We might think it and pray it the first thing in the morning as we go off to the office, factory, store or school. But once there, it becomes labor, hard work and our focus and motivation becomes the task for the sake of the task or for how much compensation we will see from our employer. If these things were done with constant prayer and the love of God before us, would not our whole outlook change. We would be constantly cheerful; concerned only with pleasing the Father and the gifts he ahs given us would bear fruit like never before.
The second problem is if something goes wrong in our lives and financial pressures begin to mount our focus on doing God’s will becomes distracted to getting more money (mammon). Once off track it’s hard to get back on.

Today we are reminded once more that we must keep the Lord squarely in front of us as we strive to make our lives pleasing to Him. Let us redouble our efforts to do so.

Pax

[1] After Links Expire
[2] The picture used today is “Behold the Lilies” by Leslie Wilson, 1943

Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time


And Saint Paulinus of Nola, Bishop
And Saints John Fisher, bishop, and Thomas More, martyrs

Biographical Information about St. Paulinus of Nola
Biographical Information about Saints John Fisher and Thomas More[1]

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

Commentary:

Reading 1 2 Cor 11:18, 21-30

St. Paul continues his criticism of false teachers in Corinth with a list of his sacrifices for the Gospel message. Of these hardships suffered he says “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” Presumably, those who are contradicting St. Paul in Corinth cannot make such claims of dedication to the ministry of Christ.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
R. From all their distress God rescues the just.

As if in response to the list of St. Paul’s struggles to bring the word of God to others, Psalm 34 sings a song of salvation at the hands of the Lord. It tells of the God’s love for those who serve Him.

Gospel Mt 6:19-23

Jesus concludes his sermon with a caution about placing importance on “treasures on earth.” In this context, St. Matthew’s Gospel also recalls the Lord’s analogy using the as a symbol of seeking one’s desires. Here we see that if what we seek is of darkness (material wealth) as contrasted with seeking the light (spiritual wealth) how dark will that spirit inside us be?


Reflection:

After a few days reflecting on our life of prayer, scripture now directs us back to the material world and asks the question once more; “What is important to you?” St. Paul for his part gives a litany of his sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel. Although it must be taken in context, he is using those sufferings as demonstration of his own worthiness as a purveyor of the faith in contrast to those false teachers who have apparently sprung up in Corinth while he was out in other parts of the world. Still, given his contributions and the record of his life and death, we cannot doubt his utter devotion to the Savior. We cannot see in him any passion but for Christ Jesus.

The Lord in his on-going sermon from St. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that our principle passion in life must be for spiritual wealth not earthly things. The old adage “You can’t take it with you” springs to mind (as does a really good joke about a dying wealthy man, his doctor, his priest and his lawyer but that will have to wait). Yet perhaps humor can serve us here. Try this one.

There was once a very good and very wealthy man who died and went to heaven. When he arrived at the pearly gates, St. Peter looked in his book and saw all the good things the man had done and invited him in. As the man walked by, St. Peter noticed a look of great sorrow on his face. He said to the man “Mr. Jones, I don’t understand your depression. You had a wonderful life on earth, filled with good deeds and great wealth and today you are ushered into heaven. Why are you sad?”

The man said in reply “St. Peter, I know I should be happy and I always knew I could not take my wealth with me but I fear I will miss it. I wish I could have brought up just one souvenir of my earthly success.”

St. Peter again consulted his book and thought for a moment. He turned to the man and said “You know, I think you can be allowed to go back and bring just a small memento of your earthly life, nothing big like a yacht, but just a reminder.”

Poof! The man disappeared and poof he was back. He was holding a small shoe box that was clearly quite heavy. St. Peter could not resist and asked the man what he had chosen to bring back. With his face reddening somewhat the man opened the box lid to show St. Peter four bars of gold bullion. Whereupon St. Peter looked up in surprise and exclaimed “You brought pavement?”

Pax

[1] The First Picture of “St. John Fisher” artist UNKNOWN, the second is “St. Thomas More” by Hans Holbein (the younger) 1527
[2] After Links Expire

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, religious


Biographical Information about St. Aloysius Gonzaga[1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga[2][3]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 2 Cor 11:1-11

In the first part of this selection we hear St. Paul being somewhat ironic as he chastises the Church in Corinth about listening to false prophets and those teaching an unorthodox vision of Christ. He goes on to ask them if they reject the message because it was brought to them free of charge and refers to his support coming from other Christian communities while he stayed in Corinth.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 111:1b-2, 3-4, 7-8
R. Your works, O Lord, are justice and truth.

Psalm 111 is a hymn of thanksgiving. In this selection we find the singer giving thanks for God’s guidance and His works of creation and salvation.

Gospel Mt 6:7-15

The Gospel passage from St. Matthew today actually jumps back and fills in a gap in the reading from yesterday. Today we go back and pick up right after Jesus was telling the disciples to pray in private. He continues his instruction saying to pray clearly and goes on to give Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer.

Homily:

Our Gospel today gives us a more refined version of the Lord’s Prayer than the one represented in St. Luke’s Gospel. The family prayer of the Church is one we use reflexively. We use it in our devotions to Mary in the Rosary. We will use it in Mass today. It is the most repeated prayer in all Christian denominations and sects, used by Protestants and Evangelicals (in two forms, one saying “trespasses” the other saying “debts”). It is used by the Eastern Rite Churches and even by the smallest fringe elements of Christianity.

While it is so commonly and frequently used, not many of us who use it pray it from the heart. It is so well know to us that we repeat it without thinking about the words we are praying. Since whole books have been written about this prayer and have used its phrases as chapter headings we will not go into any sort of exegesis in this space. Instead we suggest a simple exercise, today, whenever and however many times we use the Lord’s Prayer, let’s slow it down and really think about the words we are praying. And while we are at it, let’s through in another piece, let’s think about how the life of St. Aloysius Gonzaga responded to that prayer.

He gave up a life of leisure and wealth to serve the poor and the infirmed, dying of the plague whose victims he was tending. He was so devoted to the Lord that he is remembered by the Church as one of the great religious Saints.

A number of years ago a young parishioner named at St. Thomas in Ann Arbor, Eric Liepa, passed away. Eric had been trying to enter priestly formation, having felt a call to the vocation very strongly. Due to health reasons (he suffered from a rare disease that affected his immune system) he was rejected. While still attempting to find an order that would accept him he died. He was about the same age as St. Aloysius. In my homiletic remarks at his funeral, I proposed that, had he been able, his words to his family might have echoed those of the letter from St. Aloysius to his mother as he lay dying of the plague. Even though it makes this post longer than usual, I offer that letter, used in the Office of Readings, for your contemplation today:

A letter from St Aloysius Gonzaga to his mother

May the comfort and grace of the Holy Spirit be yours for ever, most honored lady. Your letter found me lingering still in this region of the dead, but now I must rouse myself to make my way on to heaven at last and to praise God for ever in the land of the living; indeed I had hoped that before this time my journey there would have been over. If charity, as Saint Paul says, means to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who are glad, then, dearest mother, you shall rejoice exceedingly that God in his grace and his love for you is showing me the path to true happiness, and assuring me that I shall never lose him.

The divine goodness, most honored lady, is a fathomless and shoreless ocean, and I confess that when I plunge my mind into thought of this it is carried away by the immensity and feels quite lost and bewildered there. In return for my short and feeble labors, God is calling me to eternal rest; his voice from heaven invites me to the infinite bliss I have sought so languidly, and promises me this reward for the tears I have so seldom shed.

Take care above all things, most honored lady, not to insult God’s boundless loving kindness; you would certainly do this if you mourned as dead one living face to face with God, one whose prayers can bring you in your troubles more powerful aid than they ever could on earth. And our parting will not be for long; we shall see each other again in heaven; we shall be united with our Savior; there we shall praise him with heart and soul, sing of his mercies for ever, and enjoy eternal happiness. When he takes away what he once lent us, his purpose is to store our treasure elsewhere more safely and bestow on us those very blessings that we ourselves would most choose to have.

I write all this with the one desire that you and all my family may consider my departure a joy and favor and that you especially may speed with a mother’s blessing my passage across the waters till I reach the shore to which all hopes belong. I write the more willingly because I have no clearer way of expressing the love and respect I owe you as your son.

Pax
[1] The picture today is “The Gonzaga Family Worshipping the Holy Trinity” by Pieter Pauwel Rubens, 1604-05
[2] Note – the link provided at the USCCB web site to the first reading is incorrect it should read 2 Cor 11; 1-11. The text posted is correct.
[3] After Links Expire

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time


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

Commentary:

Reading 1 2 Cor 9:6-11

This is possibly part of a second letter, written after Titus was sent from the churches of Macedonia to initiate a collection for the Church in Jerusalem. Here St. Paul reminds the Corinthians that they should be generous as the Heavenly Father is generous and have faith that he will supply their needs as a consequence of their own gifts.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 112:1bc-2, 3-4, 9
R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.

The theme started by Paul above is supported in this hymn of praise with “Light shines through the darkness for the upright; he is gracious and merciful and just.” The psalmist also encourages the faithful to give generously to the poor.

Gospel Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

The Lord continues the sermon we have been hearing for the past two days. In this selection the Lord specifically addresses the pious acts of charity, prayer, and fasting. He tells us that when we do these things, do them for God to see not other people. We are to do what is right for God’s glory not our own, not so that others will place us in high esteem because of our piety or generosity.

Reflection:

For the past few days we have heard about St. Paul’s efforts to collect funds to send to the Church in Jerusalem which, according to accounts in Acts of the Apostles, was undergoing a famine. For the past few days, the psalmist has been praising acts of generosity in the name of God and telling us how the Lord rewards those who give to the poor.

Today, once more, the topic is raised, this time in all three of the scripture selections and we can no longer ignore the message being sent. Giving of our wealth to the Church is important. It is an area that is a tender spot with many. Money is frequently the source of family and marital tension. Giving to the Church or to other charitable concerns, except at tax time, often makes us uncomfortable.

The famous line was used today “God loves a cheerful giver.” It strikes to the heart of how we view our faith. How important is it for us to follow the Lord? Is it more important than buying a new driver so the golf game will improve? Is it more important than dinner out at a nice restaurant? Is it more important than buying stake rather than hamburger? Let’s face it. Many times we look at our budget and the line item that comes last is “Charitable Contributions”. While, hopefully, we are following the Lord’s command and not making contributions for others to see but privately, we are often like the rich in the story of the Widow’s Mite who gave from their excess rather than their need.

It is something we must all do, examine our priorities and understand that it is not the amount that is important but the importance of what we give is to us. It is a measure of our Love for God that we give to those in need, for His glory, not our own. While I’m sure my pastor would be proud of this post, it was not placed here to enrich the coffers of the Church but rather for our own salvation. The measure we use will be used on us as well.

Pax

[1] After Links Expire
[2] The picture used today is “St. John the alms-giver” by Titian, 1545=50

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time


And Saint Romuald, Abbot

Biographical Information about Saint Romuald, Abbot[1]

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

Commentary:

Reading 1 2 Cor 8:1-9

St. Paul writes to the Corinthians about the generosity of the churches of Macedonia. He has started a collection to relieve the mother church in Jerusalem that was in the middle of a famine (
Acts 11:27-30). He clearly felt this act of charity strengthened the unity of the whole Church and was encouraging the church in Corinth to follow that example. He sends Titus to them with two companions to begin the charitable act there.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 146:2, 5-6ab, 6c- 7, 8-9a
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!

In this hymn of praise we find support for the charitable acts being requested by St. Paul above. Beyond the actions of man, God saves those who are faithful to him.

Gospel Mt 5:43-48

In this passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel the Lord continues to reinterpret Mosaic Law. Today he goes after the closed community. He tells the disciples, consistent with the instruction to “turn the other cheek”, to love not just those who love us but those who are our enemies as well. He points out that to do less than that is human nature but our calling is to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect.

Reflection:

Scripture today continues to remind us of our “Christian ethic” and how it differs from that of secular society. Yesterday we were told not to retaliate when we are wronged, today we are told to love those who wrong us. If we say in our prayer “But Lord, that is too hard. I cannot love one who has hurt me.” The Lord answers from scripture saying “Do not the pagans do the same?”

We are called to a higher standard, and Jesus knows how to help us. Let us think of an analogy here. Once upon a time I was quite active in archery. I practiced as often as I could and became proficient with the bow. I had reached a plateau and could not seem to improve. My goal was to be able to place five arrows in a row on a paper plate from fifty yards. As hard as I tried, I could not achieve that goal. The archery professional where I bought my supplies told me how to take the next step. He said, put a circle the size of a paper cup in the middle of the paper plate and shoot for that. Within days of doing that I was consistently placing all my arrows on the plate.

The Lord places in front of us a target that we can never hope to hit. He says “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” By doing our best to achieve that goal we will at least progress beyond our normal behavioral practices. Many of those who have gone before us have taken this goal so seriously that they have achieved great gifts of grace as a result of their efforts. We memorialize one of those saints today as we remember St Romuald. After getting off on the wrong foot in his youth, he went on become a Benedictine Monk and founded numerous monasteries around Italy.

Today let us keep the Lord’s voice constantly in our ears as he tells us “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In tying for the big prize, perhaps we will achieve something that will give others a chance to praise the Father we serve for his greatness.

Pax
[1] The Picture used today is “St. Romuald” by Fra Angelico 1441-42
[2] After Links Expire

Monday, June 18, 2007

Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time


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

Commentary:

Reading 1 2 Cor 6:1-10

St. Paul’s main message in this passage is to encourage those of the faith to remain steadfast as he and his companions have done. He describes nine different trials they have encountered (“afflictions, hardships, constraints, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts) and provides a litany of seven contrasting negative external perceptions with positive internal spiritual realities.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 98:1, 2b, 3ab, 3cd-4
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.

With Psalm 98, we sing a hymn of thanksgiving for God’s saving presence. In this passage,we have the sense of St. Paul’s confidence in the face of resistance.

Gospel Mt 5:38-42

In this passage, we continue to contrast Mosaic Law with the Christian ethic. Jesus quotes from the Law of Moses the rule that was intended to limit the extent of retaliation extracted by individuals who had been wronged. The Lord rejects physical retaliation completely (“…turn the other one to him as well.”) He goes further with four additional examples saying that the Christian is not to resist litigation but to offer more than is asked, offer more service than what is asked, loan to others who wish to borrow. With these examples the Lord shows how it must be between those who follow him to the Kingdom of God.

Reflection:

The message from scripture today is one that we never like to hear. St. Paul tells us in his Second Letter to the Corinthians that he and his companions had faced many trials as they attempted to spread the word. In the Gospel from St. Matthew the Lord tells us that while our Jewish predecessors could extract proportional revenge for acts of injustice, we are called to a higher standard. We are to “turn the other cheek”.

This one short statement; “Turn the other cheek” has characterized the pacifistic image of the devout Christian in modern times. It is Christ’s response to the Mosaic Law “an eye for and eye”. Yet, how many times have we heard that old law quoted by those who wish to rationalize their behavior as being justified? As if to add emphasis to what he was saying, Jesus went further with additional examples. St. Paul in his letters clearly caught the sense of this vision of mutual love and unity. Can you imagine a society in which an injured party came to the perpetrator demanding reparations and was offered twice what was asked for? Can you imagine a society where a person in need could walk next door and ask to borrow an article or food or money and be given that loan with no questions asked?

All of these examples assume an attitude on the part of the one expected to act or react. That attitude is unconditional love for the other person. When that attitude is truly present, all of the examples the Lord presented are possible. Without the attitude of mutual love and respect it seems ridiculous.

How then do we respond to “turn the other cheek” and the other examples of the Christian ethic? As always we must start with those we find it easy to love unconditionally, our family and closest friends. Ironically, it is with that group that we find it most difficult not to respond to hurt with hurt. It is actually easier for us to go the “extra mile” or to give our cloak as well as our tunic than to turn the other cheek.

Today let us vow that we will at least “turn the other cheek”. We can pray for the wisdom to follow the rest of the Christian ethic demanded by the Lord, but at least we can try not to hit back verbally (physically is never an option) against those we love today.

Pax
[1] After Links Expire
[2] The Picture today is “Small Passion: 17. The Flagellation” by Albrecht Dürer, 1511

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time


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

Commentary:

Reading 1 2 Sm 12:7-10, 13

Nathan the prophet comes to King David who has, in the previous chapter arranged to have the husband of Bathsheba killed in battle so he could marry her. In this passage the Lord reminds David of all the blessings he has bestowed upon him. Faced with this charge we hear David’s simple admission and repentance. In response, the prophet tells David “"The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die.” David is forgiven, but the consequences of his sin remain.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11
R. Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.

Keeping to the theme of confession and repentance, Psalm 32 proclaims our gratitude to God who alone can forgive our sins.

Reading II Gal 2:16, 19-21

In this selection of St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, the Apostle contrasts actions that are in accord with the precepts of Mosaic Law against the interior life of faith that justifies us before God in Christ. The difference the Apostle pointed to here says that just because a person acts in accordance with the Law does not mean their faith and actions toward others places them in grace – in this instance St. Paul explains that interior faith is more important that outward acts of piety.

Gospel Lk 7:36—8:3 or 7:36-50

In St. Luke’s story about the Pardoning of the Sinful Woman, we are shown contrasting attitudes and their associated rewards. The Pharisee clearly does not believe he is a sinful person and looks with disdain on the woman who humbly washes the Lord’s feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. The Lord tells the story of the two debtors to illustrate his point that the magnitude of sin forgiven stimulates a corresponding level of gratitude and love in return.

Reflection:

Our faith has a wonderful mechanism built in. We are called at least once a week to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in which we partake of the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus. Before we received the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, we are to insure that we are in a state of grace. That means we have evaluated what we have done in the previous week and if there are thoughts or actions that have removed us from being in God’s Grace, we are to reconcile ourselves to Him through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Our scripture today reflects the idea of Reconciliation and the fact that everyone needs to come to God for forgiveness. In the reading from Second Samuel we see how Kind David, blessed with so many gifts from God became greedy and caused the death of Uriah so he would not be violating Mosaic Law when he took his wife as his own. It was exactly this kind of behavior St. Paul pointed at in his Letter to the Galatians when he said “We who know that a person is not justified by works of the law”.

In the Gospel, the Lord goes to the house of the Pharisee, Simon for a meal. It is clear from Simon’s condescension that he views the sinful woman who comes in repentance that he (Simon) views himself as a righteous person, not requiring God’s forgiveness. Jesus uses the analogy of the debtors to show him that while some debts are larger than others, all are sinners and require God’s forgiveness.

With that message clearly expressed by the Word of God today, let us reexamine our own state and rejoice in God’s loving forgiveness provided through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Pax


[1] After Links Expire
[2] The Picture used today is “Jesus anointed by the sinful woman” by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1851-60

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary


Information about the Immaculate Heart of Mary[1]

Readings for the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 2 Cor 5:14-21

This passage from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians has a distinctly initiative flavor. First he speaks of dying with Christ, becoming one with him in the spirit. This occurs in the sacrament of Baptism. The whole idea of being reconciled to God in Christ is inherent in the Sacrament of Confirmation and concluded in the Eucharist. These of course are the three sacraments of Christian Initiation.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

This song of praise rightly focuses our attention on our love of God on this day when the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary so forcefully asks us to reciprocate to the His love for us which we celebrated yesterday with the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Gospel Luke 2:41-51

Placed today on the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the story of the young Jesus in the temple is a fitting example of the love Mary had for her son. Especially when we hear “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart” we can feel the love Mary has for her son and get the sense that she cherished her time with him.

Reflection:

Yesterday’s celebration of the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is joined appropriately with today’s Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Yesterday we rejoiced in the love our Savior has for us. Today, his Mother, our Mother, Mary, reminds us that he expects to be loved by us in return. Even as we know that we can never earn the love of Christ, that we can never receive it on our own merits, we know that our love of Jesus must be made clear.

Today we reflect not just in prayer by in a very pragmatic way about how we can accede to Mother Mary’s fervent hope and example. She demonstrated for us how that love could be shown. She was the first to believe in him. Her actions most closely echoed his command to love one another. She clearly loved the Lord with such intensity and passion that her heart was pierced at his death as Simeon had predicted.

We cannot hope to rival the love of the Theotokos, the Mother of God, in her love for her Son. We may have difficulty finding the intense emotional attachment to the Lord she showed us so naturally. But we can demonstrate our love for Him through our actions.

Think for a moment about how others know we love our parents or our siblings or even our close friends. We do things for them that please them. We spend time with them and we behave in ways that make them happy, sharing our joy and our sorrow.

Using that simple model, that is how we show our love for Jesus. That is the beaconing call of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We do things that please the Lord, we praise His Father (he always enjoys that), and we act in ways that tell others “Oh, they must be Christians”. We serve others, because the Lord’s life and His Mother’s were dedicated to serving others. And we spend time with the Lord, as much time as possible. We talk with him in prayer, not just to ask for things like a spoiled child or and ungrateful friend, but talking to him about the things we have been able to accomplish with his help and about our joys and sorrows. Finally we spend time with him physically in his gift of the Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration. Is this not the way we act with those we love?

Scripture tells us that Mary, Most Holy loved the Lord like no one else could and in her Immaculate Heart we see that example, clear for us to follow. Let us today be revitalized by that plea and embrace the Lord with our actions.

Pax


[1] The image is of “The Immaculate Heart of Mary” artist is UNKNOWN
[2] After Links Expire

Friday, June 15, 2007

Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus


Information about the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus[1]

Readings for the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus[2]
Reading from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Ez 34:11-16

The prophet presents the allegory of God, the shepherd. In this oracle the vision is God the Father, like a shepherd, will gather the people of Israel from the foreign lands to which they have been driven and bring them back to “the mountains of Israel”.

The tenderness shown by the good shepherd toward the sheep is especially poignant on a feast day were we celebrate the intense love of Christ for the people of the world.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Perhaps the most popular psalm in Holy Scripture, the 23rd Psalm used here supports the image of the Good Shepherd used in Ezekiel above. This passage reinforces the role of the shepherd not just as protector but as leader.

Reading II Rom 5:5b-11

In this selection of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, the apostle speaks of how the love of Christ is for not just those who are righteous but for those who are sinners as well. His love of all mankind (exemplified today as the Sacred Heart of Jesus) was demonstrated vividly as he laid down his life so we might be reconciled to God.

Gospel Lk 15:3-7

The Gospel of St. Luke gives us the parable of the Lost Sheep, linking the metaphor of the good shepherd from Ezekiel with the love of God for those who are lost to sin. This parable along with the parable of the lost coin and the prodigal son gives insight into the special love of Christ for those who are lost but through repentance are found.

Reflection:

Jesus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony and his Passion, and gave himself up for each one of us: ‘The Son of God. . . loved me and gave himself for me.’ He has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, ‘is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that. . . love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings’ without exception. " (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 478)

How do we understand a love so intense, so complete, so all encompassing that even as our lover died on the cross of our hatred, his sorrow was not for himself but for those who committed the heinous act? How do we respond to a love so pure that our lover returned from heaven so that we would not be left without guidance?

The metaphor of the Shepherd who protects, guides, and heals his sheep is the barest shadow of the loving image of our Lord and Savior whose Sacred Heart we revere today. Our only response can be to link our hearts to his through prayer:

Lord, we beseech You, let your Holy Spirit kindle in our hearts that fire of charity which Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, sent forth from His inmost heart upon this earth, and willed that it should burn with vehemence. Who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.

Amen.


[1] The image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus used today is by an UNKNOWN artist
[2] After Links Expire

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Thursday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time


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

Commentary:

Reading 1 2 Cor 3:15—4:1, 3-6

St. Paul continues his apologetic to the Christian converts in Corinth who were either being attacked by the unconverted Jewish population or who were still struggling with the Christian doctrine. Here he makes reference to the veil placed between the Torah and the people. The book is just words but the Holy Spirit of God transforms the words into actions which bring glory to God. Those who cannot understand or come to faith in the Gospel reject it because they have chosen to do so and that path leads to death (of the soul).

Responsorial Psalm Ps 85:9ab and 10, 11-12, 13-14
R. The glory of the Lord will dwell in our land.

Psalm 85 is a song of thanksgiving. In this selection we hear praise for God’s salvation, for the saving works and the gift of the fruits of the earth.

Gospel Mt 5:20-26

In our reflection yesterday we spoke of Jesus reinterpreting the law. In this passage from Matthew’s Gospel we see that clearly. Here Jesus takes the law “You shall not kill” and moves it to the next level. He tells us that even anger brings a judgment from God. Here he traces the logic from thought to vulgar or abusive words to violent action. Where the Jewish Law forbids the action, Christian law forbids the antecedents as well.

The passage continues with the remedy for this action and a foundation for the sacrament of reconciliation. He instructs us to be reconciled with a person with whom we have bad feelings before coming to the altar. The consequences, he warns, are judgment and punishment.

Reflection:

It has been a couple of months since the great celebration of Easter and therefore even longer since the intense introspection of the Lenten Season. Today we are reminded that it is not just our actions that identify us to others but our attitudes as well.

We suppose that, unless we were perfect as Christ is perfect, there will always be an upwelling of anger as the events of our lives unfold. Actually when we become aware of how and how often these feelings are provoked, we come to appreciate how serine the Kingdom of Heaven must be. But what do we do about the here and now?

Even though we do our very best to remain outwardly calm in the face of provocative acts there will be times when our actions betray us. When we speak words in anger, directed at either another person or even a thing. It is at these times we must take ourselves firmly in hand and make sure we do not go any further. We must immediately run back to the Father for forgiveness. That does not mean we have to get to Confession that day. But it does mean that our prayer must include a request for forgiveness.

The real damage to us comes when we do not recognize that this attitude of anger is not going away. Anger of this sort, frequently a result of deep hurt caused by someone close to us, can fester like a cancer; it destroys the peace of Christ which should be something we bask in. It colors our actions and attitudes. It is this anger, especially, we need to reconcile and expose in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is also frequently something we might be embarrassed to bring forward. We must remember that our Lord sees our deepest secrets and hurts. We take it to the Confessional so that we can be reassured of God’s love and fell the peace that comes from that healing sacrament.

Is it time for a deep dive into a perfect act of contrition? Let us make sure, today, that we do not foster the anger that keeps us from Christ and enter confidently into his loving embrace.

Pax

[1] After Links Expire
[2] The picture used today is “Last Judgment” by Raphael Coxcie, ~1570