Sunday, September 30, 2007

Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Readings for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Am 6:1a, 4-7

The Prophet Amos warns his own people in the south through his criticism of the rich and complacent people of the northern kingdom. The Assyrians have already started their aggression and it is clear that their neighbors have not headed this threat. The broader message is to remain vigilant and faithful.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 146:7, 8-9, 9-10
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!

This is a song of praise and thanksgiving that rejoices in the saving work of God. The reference to raising up “…those who were bowed down;” has a strong link to the Gospel story today. Praising God’s blessing on the faithful may also point us at St. Paul’s letter to Timothy that follows.

Reading II 1 Tm 6:11-16

St. Paul exhorts Timothy to the absolute faithfulness demanded by his position. He concludes this exhortation with what appears to be part of a liturgical prayer from the period.

Gospel Lk 16:19-31

Jesus directs the story of the beggar Lazarus to his pharisaic audience. The metaphors used indicate that the “rich man” could easily symbolize the wealthy in their ranks (In the oldest manuscripts, the rich man is named Dives – an abbreviated form of Nineveh). The Lord points out how the roles of the poor in this life may be reversed with the wealthy in the next life.

The conclusion of the parable reminds his audience that this is not the first time they have been given this warning (pointing us to the reading from the Prophet Amos above.).

Reflection:

We should be constantly reminded that we live in one of the wealthiest societies on earth and as such, the Parable of Dives and Lazarus should be one of great import to us. We suspect that if the Lord came to us in judgment today, he might say “I see that you have been somewhat generous with your wealth, but your motives are suspect.”

The Gospel call to love one another has a special focus on the poor. As we were reminded recently, the poor can be classified that way for reasons that go beyond the monetary. There are those who are poor in spirit; the old and forgotten, the homebound and chronically ill. Mother Theresa, when she visited this country a number of years ago, said she had not seen real poverty until she visited us. Here she found the true poverty of the spirit in the lonely. We do not have to look to the developing world to find the poor.

And what does the Lord demand of us? We who are rich; rich in spirit, full of the knowledge of God’s love, overflowing with the friendship of Jesus in the faith community that is his risen and living body, we are called to share what we have been given. In a land were monetary wealth is so prevalent, it is too easy to write a check. We are called to reach out with something much more valuable, our time and ourselves.

The story of Lazarus and Dives we are given again today should remind us that the very comfort of our pews should be a warning. If we are filled to overflowing with life and love, we need to share that abundance with those who have less. If we do not know how, we should seek out a mechanism that allows us to do so. At a very minimum we should pray constantly for the less fortunate, that God in his mercy will give them comfort and peace in this world and the next.

Pax

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The Picture today is Dives and Lazarus by Veronese Bonifacio, 1540

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels


Information about Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael[1]

Readings for the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1
Dn 7:9-10, 13-14

This reading from Daniel (of the genre of eschatological prophetic visions) describes the throne of God who sits in judgment. Approaching this throne comes “One like a son of man”, to us a clear reference to Jesus who took that title upon himself in fulfillment of scripture.

Or
Rev 12:7-12ab

This selection from the Book of Revelations is of that same eschatological prophetic genre as the first option from Daniel. Here St. John envisions the battle for heaven, joined by the forces of God by St. Michael who is victorious.

The vision makes clear that those who were thought to be from God but who opposed the “anointed one”, Christ, were influenced by Satan and in the Devil’s defeat, by the blood of the Lamb, God’s victory is assured and the truth will prevail.


Responsorial Psalm Ps 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 4-5

R. In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.

This song of praise gives thanksgiving for the visible support of God here attributed to angelic action. The hymn attributes this saving help to an all merciful God to whom all glory and honor are due.

Gospel
Jn 1:47-51

There is much more here than just Nathanael’s profession of faith. When Jesus see’s him approaching he announces “Here is a true Israelite.” (one who sees God). The statement and the dialogue that follows contrasts Nathanael’s innocent faith (without duplicity or deceit) with the historical guileful character of Jacob. All of this gives the profession “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

Reflection:

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Archangels. Just so we are all on the same page we can listen to the words of Pope St. Gregory the Great who defines what that means:

"You should be aware that the word "angel" denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels." (from a homily by Pope Saint Gregory the Great)

The three Archangels, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, are the only ones named in scripture and each has a distinct role as can be seen from the links provided above. The fact that these three Spirits have had a direct involvement with mankind is the reason we celebrate their feast today. We see in their intervention God’s fingers affecting the course of human events. Deep within each of us is the wish that, at some point in our lives, an angel would speak to us, directly, personally, with clarity. The angel would tell us what God wants from us or what he wants us to do.

It is interesting today that, on this the feast of the archangels, the church gives us the story of Jesus’ encounter with Nathanael rather than one of the encounters with the archangels. In this Gospel Jesus has identified the young man as someone without duplicity; that is, innocent of worldly demeanor that would portray him as something he was not. The way Nathanael speaks when he says “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” makes us wonder how one, not of the twelve, had such an instant and deep understanding of Jesus’ identity. Could it be that this was a messenger from God? None of the commentaries assume this is the case.

Still, we wonder, if this innocent young man, without prompting, identified Jesus and if he was an angel in human form. If that were true, it would mean that God may send his spirits, as Pope St. Gregory the Great has called them, to us and we might not recognize them as anything but people.

There is nothing theological in this reflection. It is just a hope that God might one day send an angel to us so that we might understand at last and clearly what he wants from us. Since we have speculated above that God may indeed send his angels to us in human guise, we must be constantly vigilant that one of our daily encounters may turn out to answer our prayer.

Certainly the more common intervention of the Holy Spirit can be seen, although usually in retrospect and not always clearly. The overriding principle here is we must always be open to that kind of guidance and be constantly vigilant, knowing that God intercedes in our lives and we must watch for it.

Pax

[1] The picture is “The Three Archangels with Tobias” by Francesco Botticni, 1470
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday of the Twenty Fifth Week in Ordinary Time


Saint Wenceslaus, Martyr
Saints Laurence Ruiz and his Companions, Martyrs

Biographical Information about St. Wenceslaus
Biographical Information about St. Laurence Ruiz and Companions[1]

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

Commentary:

Reading 1 Hg 2:1-9

The Prophet Haggai continues his prophecy regarding the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem with two additional statements. First, the second building of the Temple should be even grander than that built originally by Solomon. And second, that God is with them in this great work and will find the means to support it financially.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 43:1, 2, 3, 4
R. Hope in God; I will praise him, my savior and my God.

Psalm 43 is an individual lament. We hear a tone in these strophes that supports the situation in which the Jews of Haggai’s time found themselves – facing resistance to the great work they were to complete. The hope of God’s support is expressed in the final strophe.

Gospel Lk 9:18-22

As is frequently the case in St. Luke’s Gospel, we find the Lord at prayer. When asked by the Lord about the attitude of the people, the disciples answer much like the councilors of Herod did yesterday (
Lk 9:7-9) with identities of John the Baptist and Elijah. St. Peter answers for the group when asked about Jesus’ identity pronouncing him the Messiah.

Reflection:

We get another day to answer the question first posed by Herod in the Gospel yesterday and again posed to us today, this time by Jesus himself. "But who do you say that I am?" Today St. Peter answers on behalf of the faithful and the Church he later lead; "The Messiah of God."

The Messiah, what was St. Peter saying? The modern dictionary gives us some attributes and definitions. First among them is “expected deliverer (especially by the Jewish people)”. In addition we find the following; “One who is anticipated as, regarded as, or professes to be a savior or liberator.” In Hebrew and Aramaic it is translated “the anointed one” and in Greek it was written as “Khristos”.

Without getting to academic here, we find it interesting that the first entry for “Messiah” in Roget’s Thesaurus is;
Main Entry: Jesus Christ
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: Son of God
Synonyms: Christ, Good Shepherd, Jesus, King of kings, Lamb of God, Lord, Lord of lords, Messiah, Prince of Peace, Redeemer, Savior, Son of Man “
[3]

So now we have confirmed that St. Peter has identified Jesus as the Christ (Khristos), the Messiah, the one who has come to lead a people out of domination or bondage. But this was not just a historical reference. The idea of a Messiah had been part of the Judeo-Christian tradition from the time of the Prophets, before Rome and before Babylon. What was the Messiah’s purpose?

It is becoming clear to us as we see the nature of the divine person of Jesus. He came to lead us out of the bondage of sin and death to the Father who in His love for us has opened the gates of heaven and offered eternal life.

Pax

[1] The Picture of St. Laurence Ruiz is taken from a holy card, artist and date UNKNOWN
[2] After Links to Readings Expire
[3] Source: Roget's New Millennium™ Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.3.1) Copyright © 2007 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Memorial of Saint Vincent DePaul, Priest


Biographical Information about St. Vincent DePaul, Priest[1]

Readings for the Memorial of Saint Vincent DePaul[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Hg 1:1-8

The Prophet Haggai was a contemporary of Ezra whose chronicle we have been hearing this week. Here the Prophet calls on the people to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem that was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. His message is think of God before yourselves.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 149:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.

Psalm 149 is a communal song of praise. This passage rejoices in God’s kingship and invites the faithful to celebrate his saving works.

Gospel Lk 9:7-9

This passage from St. Luke’s Gospel begins a section that assembles incidents from the life of the Lord. In this introduction, King Herod asks the question “Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” Confusion about Jesus’ identity will be clarified in the subsequent passages as his divinity is revealed.

Homily:

In a recent conversation a question was asked “How could we possibly earn what God has given us?” The answer is we cannot earn it. How could we place a price upon it? The gift of God’s Son and the eternal life that flows to us through him is the answer to King Herod’s question in the Gospel today. Scripture will make that crystal clear.

Our challenge comes out of that holy identity we claim to recognize and believe in. We cannot earn the gift the Lord has given us through our actions alone, but our actions proclaim our faith. We believe that we are justified, that is accepted into God’s grace, through actions and faith. Through these two elements, the interior and the exterior, we proclaim to the world that we follow Jesus who is the Christ.

It is believed by some Christian denominations that one is justified by faith alone. But how can faith exist if actions do not follow? Today we are called to answer Herod’s question, “Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” With our lips we can answer; “Jesus is the Lord”, with our hearts we respond; “who commanded us to love one another”, with our actions we make it clear to the world that the answer lives in us as we live in the world.


Pax
[1] The icon of St. Vincent de Paul by Br.Robert Lentz ofm
[2] After Links to Readings Expire:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wednesday of the Twenty Fifth Week in Ordinary Time


Saints Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs

Biographical Information about Saints
Cosmas and Damian[1]

Readings for Wednesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Ez 9:5-9

This passage from the Book of Ezra is a prayer of atonement. It recalls the unworthiness of the Jews in all of their sinful acts and praises the mercy of God who brought them back to Jerusalem and Judah.

Responsorial Psalm Tobit 13:2, 3-4a, 4befghn, 7-8
R. Blessed be God, who lives for ever.

This hymn of praise from Tobit recalls the Diaspora and the Restoration of Israel. Echoing the prayer of Ezra, it recalls that it was through God’s mercy that these things were accomplished rather than the merit of a sinful people.

Gospel Lk 9:1-6

From the NAB footnote on this selection we hear “Armed with the power and authority that Jesus himself has been displaying in the previous episodes, the Twelve are now sent out to continue the work that Jesus has been performing throughout his Galilean ministry:” They are to rely completely on the Lord, being part of the world but set apart from it.

Reflection:

We hear from St. Luke’s Gospel the story of the sending of the Twelve. We ask ourselves a very fundamental question; what were they sent to do? The Gospel tells us that “…he sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (A reference here to the brother’s Cosmas and Damian whose memorial we celebrate today) The “heal the sick” part is actually the easy part to understand. What does it mean to proclaim the Kingdom of God? It’s a good question.

The Church’s understanding of the Kingdom of God can be best understood in the following passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the Lord’s Prayer is examined:

2819 "The kingdom of God [is] righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." The end-time in which we live is the age of the outpouring of the Spirit. Ever since Pentecost, a decisive battle has been joined between "the flesh" and the Spirit.

Other places in scripture support the view that the Kingdom of God, in its fullness is our home in the eternal life of heaven. Proclaiming the Kingdom of God, therefore, is to recognize that to prepare for that homecoming we must make changes in our lives and attitudes. Our residence there requires that we become perfected by the Lord’s standards. Would any of us, after all, wish to come into the Lord’s presence at the end of our time on earth wearing the garment we fashioned in our earthly lives? It is the Lamb’s High Feast we attend upon our entrance there.

This insight has shaped our faith’s understanding of the process of entering into the presence of God, into the Kingdom of God, at the end of time. Our process of complete perfection is only possible when we go through a transformation. That process we recognize as Purgatory.

The Kingdom of God that we, like the twelve, are called to proclaim is an intense reminder. We tell others that citizenship in that kingdom requires our effort in this life and atonement in the next before we reach that final place of light, meeting the Father face to face. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer today, let us remember what a bold request we make when we say; “Thy Kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.”

Pax

[1] The icon is of St.s Cosmas and Damian, artist and date are UNKNOWN
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tuesday of the Twenty Fifth Week in Ordinary Time


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

Commentary:

Reading 1 Ez 6:7-8, 12b, 14-20

This passage from the book of Ezra reports the completion of the great work of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. Following Mosaic laws, Israel reestablished the infrastructure of the faith community and celebrated the first great feast, Passover.

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

Psalm 112 is a song of thanksgiving centered upon returning to the Temple in Jerusalem (Mosaic Law required such a trip three times). The song rejoices in the visit to the holy place, the seat of King David.

Gospel Lk 8:19-21

In this passage from the Gospel of St. Luke Jesus identifies his family as the family of faith as opposed to just his blood relatives. St. Luke’s treatment of this topic is softer than that found in St. Mark’s Gospel (
Mark 3:31-35), probably because Mary had already been introduced as the model of fidelity to the Lord.

Reflection:

If one looks at the history of the United States it is easy to point out which areas of the country were settled by which ethnic populations. With a broad brush we can see the Spanish influence in Florida and California with the names of towns like St. Augustine and San Francisco. We see the French influence in Louisiana (named for King Louie) at New Orleans, likewise settlements of Germans, Dutch, English, Irish, Polish, Portuguese, Chinese, African, Scandinavian and any mixture of these nationalities. They came with their customs and language and set up communities where these were maintained.

With the rapid evolution of transportation and communication technologies these ethnic enclaves have eroded and there are only pockets where the traditions of “the Old Country” are strongly held. The same has been true of the family unit. In the early years of the country, a primarily agrarian society stimulated large family units with strong local bonds to the land. This perpetuated the ethnic traditions held by the matriarch or patriarch. These bonds have also been eroded as first the industrial revolution and now the information age have dispersed the family across the country and around the world.

The Gospel anticipated this event to some degree. Scripture realizes the need for strong ties of love and kinship and the need to hold true to values established by ancient law and tradition. It is only as a community that we can understand much of what is communicated through scripture since it was written to and about the community of faith, not just an individual’s relationship with God.

Just as the Lord stated that “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” So we are called to be a family of faith. Truly we cannot understand the Lord standing alone. He did not come just for one but for all and his family, his adopted brothers and sisters must act together, as he asked, by loving one another to be admitted into the eternal life he promised. Today our prayer must be that we each be counted among the members of our faith community as builders of that family. Our pledge is to make it stronger through our participation and prayer so that when we meet the Lord we can announce “Lord, I am your family.”

Pax

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is “The Holy Family with the Infant St. John the Baptist in a Landscape” by Denys Calvaert, 1590s

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday of the Twenty Fifth Week in Ordinary Time


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

Commentary:

Reading 1 Ez 1:1-6

The beginning of the Book of Ezra tells the story of the Hebrew return from exile and the instruction to build a temple in Jerusalem. From the beginning it is clear that this effort was communal. Along with Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Chronicles, this book is the first in the Hebrew canon.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 126:1b-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6
R. The Lord has done marvels for us.

Psalm 126 is a communal lament. It recalls the restoration of Israel after the exile and the difficult work necessary, the event referred to in the first reading from Ezra.

Gospel Lk 8:16-18

In this saying of Jesus from St. Luke’s Gospel the disciples are enjoined once more to share what they are given with the world. The metaphor, in this instance, sees the light multiplying it self and the greater the understanding of the light the more responsibility of the one to which that gift is given for passing it on. Contrasted with the disciples are the unbelievers who will not accept the light.

Reflection:

The image of light in darkness is one familiar to the practicing Christian. The gift of illumination is one prayed for constantly since it is the only way we can understand what we are called to do and be. It is our actions, the result of the interior illumination, that are shown to the world. It is our actions that flow from that light the Lord speaks of when he says “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed”.

In the case of the disciples the light (of Christ) was spread throughout the civilized world. Those who lived in darkness and hated the light tried to extinguish the light. They killed those disciples (except St. John) and on numerous occasions tried to kill all those who had inherited the light from them.

But the light continues, it buns brightly in those who receive it and enlightens others in their words and actions. It will not be denied an outlet, no matter how hard the one who caries the light tries to hide it, it will become visible. It is with great joy that we who love and live the light see it arise in places unexpected, in people we thought were devoid of the light. It is with greater sorrow that we find darkness where we expected to find light, in those who speak the words but whose actions betray the darkness inside.

That is the true nature of the Light of Christ. It is not in the words alone. It is only revealed when it is acted upon. It only illuminates when it is handed on to others. Then the amazing thing happens. The light we hand on comes back to us and we see yet more clearly. That was what the Lord meant when he said “To anyone who has, more will be given”.

Each one of us is given that light in Baptism. The flame of faith is lit off the Easter Candle, the new fire, the light of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. In some that candle is not encouraged to keep burning. Through lack of care, it is snuffed out. Who would hold up an unlit candle in the darkness? It is only the candle lit with the flame of faith that lights the path. Let us pray today that we pass on that light faithfully and extend the flame where the fire has died.

Pax

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is Lily of the Light and Morning Star, Philipp Otto Runge, 1808

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Readings for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Am 8:4-7

The Prophet Amos holds the faithful to a higher standard than the shrewd business people who lead them. He reminds them that the Lord will had them to account if they deal badly with the poor and the weak.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8
R. Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.

The special place the poor have in God’s eyes is echoed in this song of praise from Psalm 113. In the final strophe of the passage the promise of God’s support and salvation is promised, linking nicely to the reading from Amos above.

Reading II 1 Tm 2:1-8

St. Paul instructs Timothy and his followers on the communal prayers of the Church. He makes it clear that every one is to be prayed for from the King to the servants. His intentions make it clear that he came to bring the Gentiles the good news and that there should be unity in Christ.

The final verse is an instruction on the posture of communal prayer “every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.”

Gospel Lk 16:1-13

The common practice at the time this parable was told was for the steward to receive interest or commission on the amounts owed to their masters. There for, in this account, when the dishonest steward reduces the amount owed to his master, he is really just retrieving the actual amount owed – hence the master’s praise. The lesson taught by this story is that we be prudent with material wealth.

Or
LK 16:10-13

The focus of this alternate reading changes from the prudent use of material wealth to one of trust and dedication. The Lord defines trustworthiness as a character trait, if present it will be there in large and small matters and if absent, it will be absent in all instances as well.

Concluding both readings is the statement “You cannot serve God and mammon." A third conclusion of the story, wealth in this statement is cast as a god. We can have but one.

Reflection:

We listen to the whole body of scripture today which is one of those very practical messages that tells us how we live as God’s children in the secular world. We begin with the Prophet Amos who is reminding his audience over seven hundred years before Christ that if they deal shrewdly with the poor and hoard their wealth, God will remember their acts of greed when they come before him in judgment. This is supported by the Psalm which praises God and reminds us that our acts of generosity to the poor echo God’s own plan, that all may have dignity before him.

Next we come to St. Paul instructing Timothy at the Church of the Ephesians. His cornerstone theme is embedded in this passage. All Christians are one in Christ. This means that we are to serve one another and that no one should suffer when there are resources within the community to prevent it. Material wealth is shared with those less fortunate.

If we hear this message clearly in the first three examples today, the Gospel message from St. Luke becomes almost anticlimactic (although in the longer form of St. Luke’s Gospel we are given three conclusions, not just one). The first of these is actually a bit of a warning. The story in the parable of the dishonest steward demonstrates that caution must be exercised when dealing with those in the secular world in maters of material wealth. (The implication is that we should not have to worry about that when dealing within the community of faith.)

The second conclusion is that trust is a matter of character (and should be the hall mark of Christian character). If a person is trustworthy, they may be trusted in large or small matters, temptation will not dissuade them from their honest and faithful trust. If, on the other hand, a person is not trustworthy even small trusts will be violated.

The final conclusion summarizes the lesson today. One may not serve two masters, God and wealth. If our prize is eternal life then our eyes must be fixed firmly on God. Yes, we use the gifts he has given us to make our way in the world. We also make sure that our brothers and sisters are helped along the way. But our efforts are for God’s glory not for the sake of accumulating wealth. Wealth is its own prize and the rewards end with this life.

We have a good reminder of a very practical aspect of Christian values today. Let us pray that our efforts reveal God’s glory and our own wealth help those in need. Let us remember that in all things we are children of the light and greed has no place with us.

Pax

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is Mammon by George Fredrick Watts, 1884-85

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Saturday of the Twenty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time


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

Commentary:

Reading 1 1 Tm 6:13-16

This passage from St. Paul’s first letter to Timothy is part of the Apostle’s instruction about his student’s need to dedicate himself completely to the work of ministry. That is the commandment he speaks of – the requirement to keep God first in his life. The passage concludes with what appears to be a liturgical profession of faith in the Savior.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 100:1b-2, 3, 4, 5
R. Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.

Psalm 100 is a song of praise sung by the assembly. It affirms God’s saving grace given to His sons and daughters through all generations.

Gospel Lk 8:4-15

Jesus uses the rich analogy of the seed (of faith given in Baptism) to show the various courses of faith in human endeavor. Because our selection gives not only the parable but the Lord’s explanation of its meaning the only historical not we will make is that, at that point in history in that region, when planting a field, the seed was sown first and then the field was plowed.

Reflection:

Much has been said about the parable of the Sower (even in this space) and much can be extracted from that wonderful parable. It reminds us so quickly that regardless of our station in life or place on the path of faith we can always wander off into the weeds or rocks and fall pray to the elements around us.

This week we heard the story of a young lady. She was brought up in a good home, although one that suffered the fate many have suffered in this modern age, that of divorce. Shortly after that unfortunate event occurred, the young girl, now 9, began to rebel against the faith. Her mother remarried, but the young lady grew up with her faith as almost an afterthought in her life.

She graduated from high school and went away to college, a “Catholic” college in Chicago and enrolled in a Social Work program. She felt drawn to serve others, you see. Her first years were like most college students, a search for acceptance and a place in the new cultural environment. This young lady found her way into a “Women’s Studies” program. How and why she was drawn there is not important. What is important is not that she was drawn there, but what she encountered there.

The faculty and staff of this program advocate in their personal lives a homosexual lifestyle. (Please note, this is not a condemnation of Women’s Studies” programs in general.) Although to this point, our young subject’s life had been somewhat typical for an attractive young lady (numerous boy friends, some more serious than others), her new friends and teachers began to show her how wrong her beliefs had been and how narrow her understanding of human sexuality.

Roughly a year after entering the program (over her parent’s concerns – they are paying the bills). She announced to them that she was going to enter into a homosexual relationship with an older woman with whom she had formed a relationship. Her conservative parents are understandably devastated. They have tried various inducements (they even tried to force her out of this situation by cutting off support) but she is convinced this is where she is accepted.

What is the moral here? The parents are good people and tried to bring their daughter up in a loving home. They are active in the parish (not activists but practicing). They see the results of a weak faith being plunged among weeds that have now completely changed their daughter’s moral outlook. Oh, and the priest who called from the university to address their concerns told them that the institution needed to be open to all lifestyles if it was to be an effective learning institution.

Seeds are hearty but delicate things. They can grow in almost any medium. But without having the lesson taught by St. Paul – the faith must be a priority – they can grow in unintended and undesirable ways, falling pray to those who would USE them, telling them that their lust is love.

Pax

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is The Sower by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, 1880

Friday, September 21, 2007

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist


Biographical Information about St. Matthew[1]

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

Commentary:

Reading 1 Eph 4:1-7, 11-13

St. Paul enjoins the Church at Ephesus to holiness and unity. Though one baptism we are united in Christ and through Christ to God the Father. He goes on speaking of the unity of different parts of the living body of Christ, the Church, saying that different gifts were given. He begins the list of gifts with those of spiritual leadership; Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. These have been called to service to others.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 19:2-3, 4-5
R. Their message goes out through all the earth.

Psalm 19 is a song of praise with the earth’s elements proclaiming the greatness of God who created them. In all that is, the handy work of God is proclaimed. Placed as it is on the feast of St. Matthew, this passage with its antiphon reminds us of the great work of spreading the Gospel of Christ.

Gospel Mt 9:9-13

This passage is the call of St. Matthew into discipleship. His profession as customs worker or tax collector would have stimulated controversy among the Scribes and Pharisees and the presence of others of the same type at the meal described would have caused ritual impurity. Their question, therefore, would have been construed as a critical remark. The Lord responded metaphorically and punctuated his response with the observation that those who were critical of his associations did not understand the scriptures they professed to represent.

Reflection:

Tradition holds that St. Matthew, following his call and wanderings with the Lord, “…was also amongst the Apostles who were present at the Ascension, and afterwards withdrew to an upper chamber, in Jerusalem, praying in union with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:10 and 1:14)
[3]. He was not mentioned prominently in even his own Gospel, although we do have the account given today of his call and response. Other historical accounts have him staying around Jerusalem for about 15 years and finishing his Gospel then going off to ancient Ethiopia (which is not present day Ethiopia) where he was martyred (not real clear on how that happened either).

What we are given, however, is that of the disciples called by the Lord, Matthew (Levi) was the one who gives hope for those who are marginalized. As a custom agent, he served the civil government under Herod Antipas and was not accepted by the Pharisees (that is an understatement, traditionally they were shunned). Think of them as you might think of an IRS agent (not that I have anything against people who work for the IRS, this is just a metaphor (gosh, I hope I don’t get audited)). That is why, when Jesus was invited to dinner following Matthews call, he was eating with “tax collectors and sinners.” These were probably the friends of Matthew, his colleagues. Jesus then proclaims his prophetic statement; “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Jesus was the great unifier. He took upon himself the sins of all of us. From some he takes a greater burden, but all contribute to it. And look where that particular sinner went once he chose to follow the Lord. He followed the Lord on his journeys through the region. He was with him in the upper room where he blessed and broke bread that was his body for the first time. He was with him in the garden when they took him. He was there, in fear, in the locked room when the Lord came and said to them “Peace be with you.” And for all of us, he recorded those events so we would know, and have faith.

Matthew is a great hope for us all. If he was considered by the religious of the day to be unworthy of a place in the assembly of the faithful and he was one of the first called by the Lord; then how much more merciful will he be toward us? If Matthew, Levi, the tax collector, was blessed with the gifts of evangelization; how much more will the Lord give us if we ask him?

Yes, today we celebrate the feast of one of the Twelve. When we long to have been there when Jesus walked the earth as man, let us remember the fate of those who were “lucky enough” to be called. Like all his contemporaries, Matthew picked up his cross and followed the Lord to his death. God willing our end will be less brutal and the path easier. It is, however, the one we are called to follow.

Pax

[1] The picture today is St. Matthew and the Angel by Simone Cantarini, 1645-48
[2] After Links to Readings Expire
[3] The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Memorial of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, Priest and Martyr,


and Saint Paul Chong Hasang, martyr, and their companions, martyrs

Biographical Information about St. Andrew Kim Taegon[1]
Biographical Information about St. Paul Chong Hasang

Readings for Thursday of the 24th Week of Ordinary Time[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 1 Tm 4:12-16

In this selection from St. Paul’s Letter we hear the evangelist instructing St. Timothy on his pastoral duties and conduct. St. Paul urges him to use his God given gifts to their fullest and to set an example for his congregation. Timothy is reminded that what was conferred upon him through the imposition of hands by the presbyterate, the Holy Spirit will lead he and those he serves to salvation.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 111:7-8, 9, 10
R. How great are the works of the Lord!

We continue with Psalm 111, a song of praise. Creation and salvation flow from the Heavenly Father and his faithful rejoice in his promise.

Gospel Lk 7:36-50

This passage from St. Luke’s Gospel gives us an excellent example of the relation between forgiveness and love. Jesus uses the radical actions of the sinful woman to demonstrate the extreme pardon the Lord will bestow on those who love him. He contrasts this with the luke-warm acts of love demonstrated by the Pharisee who should expect even less in return.


Homily:

Love and forgiveness; that is the message we take from the Gospel today. Jesus is clearly moved by the sinful woman’s actions of washing and kissing his feet. He understands that her tears are those of repentance and recognition of her past failings. In stark contrast he also has with him Simon the Pharisee in whose home he is dinning. Simon is satisfied that he is doing God’s will in offering hospitality to Jesus and is offended that the Lord should allow this sinful woman to approach him in his home.

Love and forgiveness; the Lord sees the love both of these people have for him as we might see the level of water in a cup. The woman expresses the full measure of love overflowing in her tears while the Pharisee has barely wetted the bottom of that vessel. Who, the Lord asks in his parable, will receive the greatest reward in the end?

Love and forgiveness; that message comes to us. How do we respond to those with whom we have contact, especially those closest to us? Do we ask for forgiveness from those we have wronged, expressing our love for on another as Christ demanded? Or do we hide in the darkness, too proud to admit that we were wrong? Do we extend our forgiveness to others, even without being apologized to, when we are wronged? Or do we harbor the anger and ill will, letting it fester within us?

Love and forgiveness is the lesson we take from the Gospel and the one so eloquently expressed by the noble Saints whose memorial we celebrate today. They gave up their lives for the Gospel and like the Lord himself blessed their tormentors as they went from this life to the next. Can the message today be any clearer?

Pax

[1] The pictures of Saints Andrew Kim Taegon and Paul Chong Hasang are from Holy Cards, artists and dates are UNKNOWN
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wednesday of the Twenty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time


Saint Januarius, Bishop, Martyr

Biographical Information about St. Januarius[1]

Readings for Wednesday of the Twenty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 1 Tm 3:14-16

St. Paul has apparently planned a trip to Ephesus to visit Timothy. His intent in sending this part of his message is to ensure the care he must take over preserving the mysteries of Christ in the Church. Christ appeared in human flesh, was vindicated by the Holy Spirit and revealed to the Angels as God’s Son.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 111:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
R. How great are the works of the Lord!

Psalm 111 is a song of praise. The hymn professes God’s greatness, revealed in creation and revered by all that live and have being.

Gospel Lk 7:31-35

St. Luke gives us a difficult parable (also found at
Matthew 11:16-19). Jesus had just been criticized for eating with Tax Collectors and “sinners”. His reaction here indicates that those who reject his behavior are themselves behaving like children makeing fun of others. The unbelieving or critical group he tells us have rejected John the Baptist and are now rejecting him, but history would prove their identities ( “…But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”).

Reflection:

St. Paul writes to Timothy in the first reading “…you should know how to behave in the household of God” essentially reminding him how difficult it is to maintain that mystical faith so necessary to understand God’s gift of his only Son. We see that same faith challenged in the Gospel as Jesus’ critics attack him for associating with those who were considered “out of favor” by the Pharisees and scribes. They don’t grasp the reason for the missions, first of John the Baptist who came as a herald of the Messiah, and second of Jesus himself.

We can hear the frustration the Lord must have felt because of the lack of understanding displayed by those who should have known the Lord’s intent the best. Are we guilty of the same lack of understanding? Have we missed the point and forgotten the mystery of God coming to earth in the form of a man? Did we gloss over the reason the Holy Spirit was left to us and out grow the angels who heralded His birth and supported him at his passion?

The caution we hear today is valid. We must constantly remind ourselves that we do not understand all that God has planned but that He did leave us the Holy Spirit to help and guide us. We are reminded today that Jesus, who is the Christ, came to us that we might have an example of God’s love, personified and mortal so that we might see his intent in a real way. And through our acceptance of his model, we might take that same love to others and so pass on what we have been taught.

Today we are given a lesson in manners by St. Paul and a reminder of who it is we follow by St. Luke’s Gospel message, recounting the actions of our Lord when he encountered disbelief from those who should have known better. These lessons we take to heart today as we try once more to proclaim God’s Kingdom through our actions and display the Love of Christ, His Son, by our love for one another.

Pax

[1] The picture today is The Martyrdom of Saint Januarius by Girolamo Pesce, 1679
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday of the Twenty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time


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

Commentary:

Reading 1 1 Tm 3:1-13

St. Paul gives instructions in this passage on the character of Presbyter-Bishops (episkopos) and Deacons (diakonos) in the early Church. Both are required to be faith filled and moderate in their habits. Bishops additionally are to have the ability to teach and reputations and temperament respected both inside the Christian community and out.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 101:1b-2ab, 2cd-3ab, 5, 6
R. I will walk with blameless heart.

Psalm 101 is a pledge of faithfulness. The strophes used today tie nicely back to the Timothy reading in describing the character and temperament of those elect who walk the path of service to the Lord.

Gospel Lk 7:11-17

The NAB Footnote does a good job of describing this passage and the link to the cure of the Gentile yesterday. “In the previous incident Jesus' power was displayed for a Gentile whose servant was dying; in this episode it is displayed toward a widowed mother whose only son has already died. Jesus' power over death prepares for his reply to John's disciples in
Luke 7:22: "the dead are raised." This resuscitation in alluding to the prophet Elijah's resurrection of the only son of a widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-24) leads to the reaction of the crowd: "A great prophet has arisen in our midst" (Luke 7:16).”

Reflection:

The reading from 1 Timothy and the support provided by Psalm 101 provides us with inspiration today. The character of those called to discipleship is outlined in some detail and we are struck by the fact that it as necessary and that the character elements identified could be absent and a person could still keep Mosaic Law.

The character elements identified which include chastity, moderation, and temperament are values we all need to strive toward. We suppose that a person could have fits of temper and lash out at people and still love God, but what of the great commandment? How can we love one another yet cruelly lash out at another? Yes, we would not have violated any Mosaic Laws but we would have failed in the eyes of Christ.

What about the drinking part? Could we fall into the abuse of alcohol and still not violate Mosaic Law. A state of drunkenness would make it difficult but nothing is said about over-indulgence in the Decalogue. But again we fail in front of the Lord who tells us that we are to uphold the dignity of all persons. The Church has refined this instruction in the following passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1809 Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will's mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: "Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart."72 Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: "Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites."73 In the New Testament it is called "moderation" or "sobriety." We ought "to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world."74

To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one's heart, with all one's soul and with all one's efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).75”
[3]

What this comes down to is that our conduct, not as Bishops, Priests, or Deacons but as disciples of Christ, must be as St. Paul says “irreproachable”. That is our goal because it drives us toward the model Christ left us. For those of us called to serve as Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, we are held to an even higher standard so that our example of a lived faith might inspire those who follow to Glorify God through their own shining example.

Pax


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used is The Triumph of Virtue over Vice by Paolo Veronese, 1554-56
[3] The references cited in the quote above are: 72 Sir 5:2; cf. 37:27-31.73 Sir 18:30.74 Titus 2:12. 75 St. Augustine, De moribus eccl. 1,25,46:PL 32,1330-1331.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday of the Twenty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time


Saint Robert Bellarmine, Bishop, Doctor

Biographical Information about St. Bellarmine[1]

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

Commentary:

Reading 1 1 Tm 2:1-8

St. Paul instructs Timothy and his followers on the communal prayers of the Church. He makes it clear that every one is to be prayed for from the King to the servants. His intentions make it clear that he came to bring the Gentiles the good news and that there should be unity in Christ.

The final verse is an instruction on the posture of communal prayer “every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 28:2, 7, 8-9
R. Blessed be the Lord, for he has heard my prayer.

The psalmist, in this selection uses language describing the posture of prayer echoed in the Letter to Timothy above “…lifting up my hands toward your holy shrine.” The holy shrine for the Christian is Christ who rules the Kingdom of Heaven. The song continues, as a lament, asking for God’s salvation.

Gospel Lk 7:1-10

The story of the healing of the Centurion’s servant is used to demonstrate that even death is subject to the will if Christ. The Centurion’s speech, through the messenger expresses this thought and communicates the humility of one who recognizes God’s authority.

Reflection:

The faith of the Centurion, a person not even of the Hebrew faith, in the divinity of Jesus serves as an example of the power of prayer. We note in this passage that the Centurion did not come to Jesus himself, but rather he sent messengers. Perhaps he was worried that his intrusion into the presence of one so holy might contaminate the Lord, or maybe he did not want to leave his beloved servants side during his apparently fatal illness.

We recognize that the messenger used by the Centurion must have been convinced of the sender’s sincerity. The Lord saw into people’s hearts like we see into a pond of clear water. When he saw that the messenger was communicating a sincere faith, the healing power of Christ flowed back through that channel of faith and the servant who was ill became well.

Whatever the reason, his plea was delivered by someone else. This encounter with Christ through an intercessor seems to tell us that we do not have to be in the actual presence of the Lord if our faith in him is firm and unwavering. We pray constantly to the Father through Jesus who is our Lord and Savior. We pray, as St. Paul instructed, lifting up “holy hands” to the Lord. We also ask those whose faith has already been proven to intercede for us, like messengers standing in the presence of Christ.

Today we ask especially for the assistance of St. Robert. One who gave his life to the service of the Gospel and the Church. He is the patron of catechists and we ask him that our efforts on behalf of the Lord today instruct others to God’s greater glory. We pray that the messengers we send the God reflect an interior faith worthy of our Saviors attention and favor.

Pax

[1] The picture of St. Robert Bellarmine is by an UNKNOWN artist, date is also not known.
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings for the Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Ex 32:7-11, 13-14

Moses has gone up to Mount Sinai to receive the Law. When he did not come down quickly the people became restless and implored Aaron to fashion for them a golden calf that they might have an object for their worship. In the passage we hear today, God has seen what the children of Israel have done and wishes to wipe them from the face of the earth. But Moses intercedes for them and God relents for his sake.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19

R. I will rise and go to my father.

Psalm 51 is a communal lament. In this selection we implore the Lord to be merciful and patient. We ask God to strengthen in us the grace of our baptism.

Reading II 1 Tm 1:12-17

“Present gratitude for the Christian apostleship leads Paul to recall an earlier time when he had been a fierce persecutor of the Christian communities (cf Acts 26:9-11) until his conversion by intervention of divine mercy through the appearance of Jesus. This and his subsequent apostolic experience testify to the saving purpose of Jesus' incarnation.” (NAB Footnote)

Gospel Lk 15:1-32

Jesus uses the criticism by the Scribes and Pharisees as a teach moment. He uses parables to drive the point home that God rejoices in the return of those who have turned their backs to him in sin. The parable of the Prodigal Son is a special reinforcement of Jesus’ love for those who repent. It is a reassurance that all who repent will be welcomed back.

Or Lk 15:1-10

The shorter version of the Gospel omits the parable of the Prodigal Son and gives us the stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin. The emphasis is the same as the longer version but with less drama.

Reflection:

In the very early Church, before Sacramental Theology had become as well developed as it is today, our understanding of forgiveness and reconciliation were less formal. These stories, the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son were the standards by which forgiveness by the Lord was understood.

The story of the prodigal son strikes a deep chord with many of us as we see our own selfish actions as very much like those of the foolish son. We understand the Father’s love in the story and we are heartened by the fact that even our sinfulness will be forgiven if we are repentant.

Our response to the stories should be one of humility. How fallen our nature is that the Son of God should find it necessary to paint so clear a picture of God’s loving forgiveness. From the time of Moses, even before, to the time of Adam and Eve in the original sin, we have failed to live up to the standard of perfection shown to us by God’s Son.

Our pledge must be that, even though we are reassured knowing that no matter how many times we turn away from the Lord we will be welcomed back in repentance, we must strive to live up to the example of Christ. He is our model and like his example shows, we to must forgive others at whose hands we take harm. The story of the prodigal son not only shows up our own failings but gives us an example of forgiveness to follow.

Today we rejoice, celebrating once more the great love of God the Father who through His Son has destroyed sin and death and provided us with the grace offered in Reconciliation. We ask also for his strength that we might give God glory as we forgive others. Our challenge is great today. We hope in Him that offers us a new spirit and a new heart.

Pax

The picture used is The Return of the Prodigal Son by Harmenszoon van Rijn Rembrandt, 1636

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

Information about the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

Readings for the Memorial of Our Lady of SorrowsReadings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 1 Tm 1:15-17

This pastoral statement from the First Letter of Timothy states the fundamental truth that Jesus came into the word to save humankind from the death of sin and bring us to everlasting life. The conclusion is another statement of faith there is only one true God and he deserves all glory and honor. Presented on this memorial, the statement clearly points, as does his Blessed Mother, to the primacy of Christ.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 113:1b-2, 3-4, 5 and 6-7

R. Blessed be the name of the Lord for ever.

Psalm 113 is a song of praise. In these strophes we rejoice in all of God’s creation and his loving mercy for the poor.

Gospel Jn 19:25-27

Here is Jesus’ last address to his mother. The Lord, nearing the end of his life commends the care of his mother to the disciple whom he loved (presumably St. John). Seeing her Son dying upon the cross is one of the seven sorrows the Blessed Mother endured in faith.

Or Lk 2:33-35

In this passage we hear Simeon’s prediction, a man, we are told earlier, who “was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel”. Simeon was told by the Holy Spirit that he would not pass away until he had seen the Messiah. He has declared that this promise has been fulfilled and then turns to Mary and makes the prediction about the nature of Christ’s ministry and the nature of the sorrow she will endure, “and you yourself a sword will pierce”

Reflection:

The life of the Blessed Mother was filled with the joy of the gift of her Son and with the sorrow resulting from the actions of the faithless people he came to save. In the story about the prophecy of Simeon in the temple which coincided with the Lord’s presentation at the Temple, we hear the first prediction in Mary’s life of what was to come. She must have been concerned before that time, knowing as she did that her son came to fulfill the prophecy of the Messiah and that oracle was filled with suffering.

We celebrate this part of her life, not because it is glorious, but rather because of how she reacted to what came to pass. Our Mother could easily have laid herself down in abject sorrow. She could have rent her garments and shouted at God the father at the injustice. She could have turned away from God completely, blaming him for the events that followed. Certainly other women have done worse with much less provocation. But Mary, who accepted the child of the Holy Spirit into her virgin womb, did none of these things. On the contrary, she accepted these further burdens and in the face of her own intense pain, she glorified God the Father of their Son.

We thank God, today, for the gift of Mary, Mother of God and Mother of us all. We praise her for her example of strength and steadfast faith in the face of the cruel inhumanity and injustice she was forced to suffer for us all. We ask for that same strength as we face the sorrows of our life on earth.

Pax

The picture today is The Seven Sorrows of the Virgin by Albrecht DΓΌrer, 1496