Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Memorial of Saint Jerome

Priest and Doctor of the Church

Biographical Information about St. Jerome[1]

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


Reading 1: Job 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23

Job, the faithful servant of God, has lost all his possessions, his family and has been personally afflicted. In these verses he begins his first soliloquy. Without asking for salvation by God, Job laments his desperate state beginning by questioning even why he was given the first gift of life (see parallels in
Jeremiah 20:14-18, 1 Kings 19:4 and Sirach 23:14). The important element of this lament is the question itself “Why”- for what reason. Going further in vs. 20-23 the question is broadened to include all who are born into suffering and harsh servitude. In this early part of the Book of Job there is bewilderment on Job’s part – divine justice has not yet been introduced.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 88:2-3, 4-5, 6, 7-8
R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.

Reminiscent of Job, Psalm 88 is an individual lament. The psalmist cries out a having been afflicted and deserted by his friends. As the singer calls for God to attend his prayer in the first strophe, he considers his descent to death in those that follow.

Gospel: Luke 9:51-56

This passage from St. Luke’s Gospel marks the beginning of the Lord’s final journey to Jerusalem. Just as his Galilean ministry began with a rejection by the people of his home town, this passage sees him rejected by the Samaritans. Jesus rejects the suggestion by his disciples to call down heavenly retribution. In doing so he disassociates himself from the image of Elijah (see what could be thought to be a parallel story in
2 Kings 1:10, 12). The final journey begins as it will end, with rejection.


Taken as a whole, the readings today are really depressing. First Job, having lost everything, his possessions, his family, and even his health asks the rhetorical question; “Why was I even born?” That same tone is taken up in Psalm 88 as the singer pleads with God to hear that desperate prayer. Finally, in the “Good News”, Jesus begins his ominous last journey to Jerusalem with a (not unexpected) rejection by the Samaritans. What joyous, pragmatic advice can we deduce from these readings?

If this day were taken alone, out of context, our faith would indeed suffer a bout of depression. But even as we reflect upon the hardships of Job and the rejection of Jesus, we know how things will turn out. Job has his fortunes and health restored and Jesus, though he dies, rises to new life. But how could we rejoice in these final outcomes had not we first been plunged into the despair of life’s realities faced by our heroes?

These difficult situations and points of extreme conflict serve as times of consolation for us. They are in actuality gifts of hope. Job, whose fall was far worse than any most of us will ever experience, demonstrates a faithfulness that, even faced with complete disaster, was not broken. His example in the face of dire consequences is one of fidelity we are called to emulate. Jesus rejection by the Samaritans likewise teaches us that even the most joyous news can be rejected by those who are blocked from seeing truth by forces about which they are ignorant.

Rather than being depressed by these stark events today, we should take hope from them. We know how their stories end and how ours, if we remain faithful, will end as well. Rejoice in our misfortunes this day; we are in very good company.


[1] The picture today is “St. Jerome” by Federico Fiori Barocci, 1598

Monday, September 29, 2008

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


Reading 1:
Daniel 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.

Revelation 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:
Psalm 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 assigns this saving help to an all merciful God to whom all glory and honor are due.

John 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.”


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 there is also 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.


[1] The picture is “The Three Archangels” by Marco d’ Oggiomo, c. 1490
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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


Reading 1: Ezekiel 18:25-28

The theme of this section of Ezekiel is “The Lord’s way is just.” In these verses the prophet presents and apology of the fairness of the Law saying that those who sin against God die but those who turn from sin and repent live. This argument stresses individual responsibility and the ability of the faithful to choose life or death, fully informed.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Psalm 25 is an individual lament. The sinful psalmist prays that “Your ways” be made know. This request directs us to repentance and ultimately justice. These strophes repeat the repentance forgiveness theme.

Reading II: Philippians 2:1-11

Contained in this selection from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians are two specific instructions to the community. He begins exhorting them to unity and harmony (see below) and then continues with the Kenotic (emptying) Hymn which focuses on humility. Christ empties himself of the complete divinity that is his essence and accepts the human condition. As true man he suffers the ultimate humiliation of death (on the cross). The second section of the hymn focuses on God’s resulting actions of exaltation. The Christian sings to God’s great glory in Christ proclaiming him Lord and Savior.

Philippians 2:1-5

St. Paul tells the community in essence “If you want to console me in Christ, complete my joy by paying attention to the advice I am now going to give you.”
[3] He then tells them that what they should strive for is unity with Christ (en Christō) which would bring harmony to the community. He defines the “mind of Christ” in a sense; “…solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy” then telling them they should be also of that mind but in humility.

Gospel: Matthew 21:28-32

This passage is the first of three parables concerning the judgment of the people of Israel. This parable could be taken simply as the difference between saying and doing (see also
Matthew 7:21; 12:50). Presented as it is as a question to the Jewish leaders, they are forced to admit that the son who did the father’s will was the one justified. Jesus then clarifies his meaning by setting the analogy of the two sons against religious leaders, who disbelieved the message of St. John the Baptist and the sinners (tax collectors and prostitutes) who did. This characterization does not mean that St. John led a righteous life but pointed to how one might be lead. Ultimately that parable tells the Jewish leaders that those they look down upon are achieving the inheritance of God before them because of their acts of repentance and devotion.


Ezekiel and St. Paul set us up for the Gospel from St. Matthew. Ezekiel tells us that those of us who repent of our human rebellion against God will find life. In essence he tells us that the door to happiness and life is always open but we must turn away from sin. St. Paul then exhorts us to not just turn from sin but to embrace the mind of Christ who provides solace in love coupled with participation in the Holy Spirit and living lives of compassion and mercy. He follows this with the great Kenotic Hymn reminding us that Christ did this in humility “…taking the form of a slave”.

To all of this, as we pull the Word apart, we are saying “yes, yes! That is what I must do. Thank you Ezekiel, thank you St. Paul.” Then we come to the Parable of the Two Sons from St. Matthew’s Gospel. On the surface we see Ezekiel’s theme brought to life as Jesus uses the parable to tell the Jewish leaders how they have missed the boat by rejecting the repentance preached by St. John the Baptist.

We applaud Jesus for taking those hypocrites to task. Then we think about those two sons. We ask ourselves; “Which of them most closely resembles me?” Have I said to my Heavenly Father – Yes, I am here to do what you ask; but then fail? Or have I been brought to obedience through my errors and sins, as so many of those saints before me? There lies our trap, our conundrum. If we chose the latter answer and say we have found the right path – that we are walking the “Way”’, have we missed the point of the Kenotic Hymn whose attitude St. Paul tells us to adopt? Jesus emptied himself of all pride and, in spite of his perfection in love, allowed us to humiliate him and kill him, hanging him upon a tree.

Yet, on the other side, if we admit that we have said “yes” to the Father but not fulfilled our duty to him do we desperately need to undergo the conversion of heart necessary to put on the mind of Christ? Or are we acting out of the humility we are called to and indeed on the right path?

Of course the answer is that as hard as we try we shall never be able to completely personify the perfect love and ultimate humility of Christ. He may have emptied himself of pride but that was part of his perfect nature, a nature reflected dimly in us in a way befitting God’s creation. Our challenge as Christians is to work constantly toward that perfect goal. We do so firstly by never taking pride in the good we accomplish. It is Christ’s glory we proclaim not our own. Secondly, we recognize, through acts of contrition, that we have failed to answer our call but that God’s mercy is there for those who ask for it.


[2] The picture used today is “The Eberhard Brothers” by Johann Anton Alban, Ramoux, 1822
[3] cf St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Philippians

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul


Biographical Information about St. Vincent de Paul[1]

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


Reading 1: Ecclesiastes 11:9—12:8

Qoheleth reflects upon the passage of life and enjoins the young to enjoy their youth but follow God’s law because, in the end, they will be held accountable. He goes into an account of the loss of pleasure as death approaches and once more announces that all human efforts are vanity in the face of God’s plan and power.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

(Psalm and response are repeated from 2 days ago; Thursday of the Twenty Fifth Week in Ordinary Time) The psalm in its entirety is a communal lament. The strophes in this selection reflect on the mortality of humanity and the brevity of human life. (It is also an example of the human understanding that God’s immortal view of time is not like ours.) The sense of human mortality links nicely to the first reading as does the questioning nature of the strophes.

Gospel: Luke 9:43b-45

Jesus begins this second announcement of his coming passion using language that would have evoked a sense of the holy as his words (literally; “lay these words within your ears.”) would be reminiscent of
Exodus 17:14b. “…meaning; Think seriously about what you have seen and heard, for my life is moving determinately to a violent death. handed over: From Isaiah 53: 12 (LXX) the fourth song of the suffering servant.”[3] The fact that the disciples “…should not understand it” was not seen as a defect of belief on their part, but rather as necessary (not yet time) in the plan of revelation.


We struggle sometimes with the question; “How much of what happens in our lives is planned, preordained, and how much is cause and effect?” It is clear, reading the words of Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes, that he believes much of what transpires is eminent – that any struggle against the inevitable is futile (vanity). While Qoheleth speaks from the perspective of God’s “unknowable” plan, Jesus, in St. Luke’s Gospel” sees the path ahead of himself clearly. Like the Chess Master, the Lord sees the “end game” laid out before him.

For us what is important about Jesus’ foreknowledge is that it is one more proof of his divinity. Remember, this is not the first time he has related these future events. He does it this time making clear reference to historical predictions as he uses language that must feel to his audience as if the great Prophet Isaiah was speaking to them. But, according to St. Luke, this reference did not make things clear. Rather the opposite. Perhaps it was because they were afraid or perhaps it was because they did not want to understand that the Lord was not speaking figuratively or like Daniel, in visionary terms, highly symbolic, but literally. What ever the case or purpose, they did not grasp what was to come.

We also struggle with what the Lord tries to tell us. We pray, we read the Word of God, we meditate upon what has happened in our lives and try to create a pleasing path forward through our own attempts to follow Jesus’ example. Yet we do not know what God has planned for us or how that plan might be made known.

What is clear to us is that God made us in His image and likeness. In doing so he gave us free will to make decisions, to choose our path for good or ill. While, in His omnipotence, the Lord knows our choices in advance, He does not choose for us nor force a path upon us. He accepts our choices as part of his creation. He loves us unconditionally and always gives us a way back to him when we choose incorrectly.

Today we take exception to Qoheleth. Our lives are not in vain and, while our life on earth is indeed finite and we will return to God; “And the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the life breath returns to God who gave it.” What we do with that life can be rich and beautiful as God intended and we can choose a path of peace thanks to His Only Son – Jesus.


[1] The picture used today is “St. Vincent de Paul” artist and date are UNKNOWN
[3] See Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall, Inc., © 1968, 44:92.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday of the Twenty Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Saints Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs

Biographical Information about Sts.
Cosmas and Damian[1]

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


Reading 1: Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

This famous passage from Ecclesiastes begins by emphasizing that there is a correct order of events dictated by God (see also
Proverbs 15:23, 25:11). The sequence of events in human life (birth, death happiness and sadness) are ordered and ordained by God alone (timeless), mankind cannot change time. As a consequence, the faithful should enjoy what comes to them as a gift from God.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 144:1b and 2abc, 3-4
R. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!

Psalm 144, taken in its entirety, is difficult to classify as it opens with a lament, seen in the strophes given today but concludes in thanksgiving (v. 12-15). Supporting the theme of the powerlessness of mankind and human frailty, these first verses present a plea of humility to an all powerful creator.

Gospel: Luke 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. (see also commentary on Mt 16:13-20)


The episode describing Jesus walking with his disciples and asking them who the people say he is has been repeated several times in this past year both in weekday liturgies and Sunday Mass readings. This is no accident. The question is important for the disciples and for us.

Today’s iteration of this story was actually set up by and can be contrasted to this same question asked by King Herod in the previous verses. When Herod asked his advisers they gave essentially the same answers as the Lord’s disciples when first asked. It is clear from these two sets of responses that, at the time he walked the earth as man, Jesus was known to be something very special.

“They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah;” These first two responses are significant in that Elijah’s return, according to Hebrew tradition, would announce the coming of the Messiah. Many contemporaries of St. John said he was Elijah returned. St. John the Baptist, in addition to prefiguring Christ, served the same role as Elijah in his time. By associating Jesus with these two figures, the Gospel sets St Peter up for the revelatory statement: “The Christ of God.” Christ – the Anointed One, the Deliverer, the Messiah!

This identification for us is anticlimactic. We already profess Jesus as the Christ – the Only Son of God. But saying it with our lips is not nearly as important as knowing it in our hearts. When we feel that relationship emotionally as opposed to knowing it logically something important changes in how we think and act. We have been taught from our earliest memories (those of us born into a Christian family) that Jesus is the Messiah – Born of Mary on Christmas; died on Good Friday; Risen on Easter. We know these facts like we know that parts of the North American Continent were once British colonies.

Asking ourselves Jesus’ question; “But who do you say that I am?” we must look to our hearts and find there the answer. Not a fact but something more – faith must inform us because only faith can reveal the answer. Jesus tells St. Peter as much in St. Matthew’s version of this story when he said “…flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.”

Today we depend upon faith to answer for our heats as Jesus once more turns to us in scripture asking that remarkable question; “But who do you say that I am?” We pray our hearts respond in a way pleasing to him and in doing so motivates us to be true followers as well as believers.


[1] The icon is of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, artist and date are UNKNOWN

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday of the Twenty Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

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


Reading 1: Ecclesiastes 1:2-11

The book of Ecclesiastes is concerned with the purpose of human existence. In these introductory verses the author, Qoheleth (thought to be Solomon by some scholars), reflects upon the timelessness of creation and the continuity of human activity (“Nothing new under the sun. [on earth]”). This futility leads later into the unknowable nature of God’s plan.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17bc
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

The psalm in its entirety is a communal lament. The strophes in this selection reflect on the mortality of humanity and the brevity of human life. (It is also an example of the human understanding that God’s immortal view of time is not like ours.) The sense of human mortality links nicely to the first reading as does the questioning nature of the strophes.

Gospel: Luke 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.


In our constant struggle to understand God’s will for us we often feel the desperate emotion expressed in the first readings from Ecclesiastes; “Even the thing of which we say, ‘See, this is new!’ has already existed in the ages that preceded us.” We see the events unfold in the Gospel and say to ourselves; “I see what this means.” Or “This must apply to my life this way.” Only to find later, especially when reading works of the Patristic Fathers, that our revelation was nothing new and the question we had answered for ourselves had been answered more thoroughly thousands of years before.

The great advantage we have over poor Qoheleth, the author of Ecclesiastes, is that Jesus came to reveal more perfectly God’s intent. While the ultimate plan of God remains unknowable, our intended role in that plan is revealed in part by the way Jesus lived his human life and commanded his disciples to act. In turn, those Apostles took what Jesus gave, recorded it in sacred scripture and passed it on through people of deep faith so that we might understand more clearly our own role in God’s eternal plan.

Is that role perfectly clear? In all but extraordinary cases, the answer is no. Our role in God’s plan, the part He intends for us to play, is revealed only slowly and sometimes only in retrospect. For our part, we are cast in a role something like Herod in the Gospel from Luke today. We want to understand who Jesus is (in our lives), how we need to apply what he asked of us. Unlike Herod who is driven by intense guilt over having ordered the death of St. John the Baptist in a lust filled moment, we seek Christ knowing his divine nature, with faith in his infinite love and mercy.

We pledge this day to continue to seek what Jesus calls us to be. Understanding our great flaws and weakness, we nonetheless apply ourselves to discipleship as best we can. We have faith that in the final judgment we will be shown the love and mercy we deserve from the one who came so those flaws and weaknesses might be washed away and we will enjoy the promise our Savior came to make.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “Herodias’ Revenge” by Juan De Flandes, 1496

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wednesday of the Twenty Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

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


Reading 1:
Proverbs 30:5-9

This passage from Proverbs, part of the oracle of Agur (likely the name of the oracle rather than a person) focuses on humility and trust. Trust in God; make the lived Word of God your protection from pride and sin. This is followed with an exhortation never to forget that it is through God’s bounty all things come. The oracle prays that great wealth and abundance never come lest the recipient forget God and worship the bounty given.

Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 119:29, 72, 89, 101, 104, 163
R. Your word, O Lord, is a lamp for my feet.

Psalm 119, in this section, is an individual lament asking for God’s support in times of difficulty. From this, the longest of the psalms the strophes ask for the psalmist to be strengthened in the truth and given wisdom that comes from the law.

Luke 9:1-6

“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:”
[3] They are to rely completely on the Lord, being part of the world but set apart from it.


We ask this question; if nothing we own has a hold on us how much better disciples would we be? Today, secular society places such emphasis on having “things” that we see people from whom those things are taken completely broken mentally, even to the point of taking their own lives. Today we see Jesus sending his disciples into the world and we note he tells them not to take anything with them.

We consider for a moment why he did this. If they have nothing; if they are completely dependent upon the good will of others for their sustenance, they will certainly be humble (we at this point marvel at the Lord’s humility – him to whom all things from all time belong yet so humble.). Nothing will hold them back from doing the right things. No robber can threaten them; no angry mob could take anything from them. The treasure they carry is in their hearts and souls.

We hear an echo of the need for humility in the reading from Proverbs. The oracle says “…give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need; Lest, being full, I deny you,” Great wealth, great bounty, distracts the faithful if it is allowed to do so. Consider for the moment what many of us consider a basic necessity – our house or home. With homeownership comes responsibility. One must dedicate time to upkeep, to maintain the house; the roof, the paint, the utilities and appliances within the house. All of these things require time, effort, and money that must be made in some occupation.

There is a good reason religious brothers and sisters take vows of poverty. They pray that nothing may tempt or distract them from service to God. For most of us, poverty is an accident if it occurs and we are somewhat encumbered by “things”. Our challenge is to maintain an attitude where the things we need to contribute to our own upkeep do not distract us to the point were we become arrogant or consumed by the material world. Our prayer today is that we might focus our efforts on God’s glory and not simply the things of the world.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “The Twelve Sent Out” by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1851-60
[3] see NAB footnote on Luke 9:1-6

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Memorial of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina


Biographical Information about St. Pio (Padre Pio)[1]

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


Reading 1: Proverbs 21:1-6, 10-13

This list of wisdom saying is part of the first collection of sayings of Solomon. These verses are a loose collection of sayings that support various elements of the Law of Moses. The underlying theme is that God’s will is expressed by the faithful through the Holy Spirit operating within them and that the development of this spirit of holiness is more desirable than material wealth.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 119:1, 27, 30, 34, 35, 44
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.

Psalm 119 is a hymn in praise of the law and those who keep it. While at times within its structure it takes the form of an individual lament and at others a song of praise, the strophes presented in this reading emphasize its main theme – praise for the Law of Moses and those who follow it.

Gospel: Luke 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.


“Whoever makes a fortune by a lying tongue is chasing a bubble over deadly snares.”

It is always difficult to pick a singe idea to reflect upon when confronted with a lengthy reading from the book of Proverbs. It is made more difficult because of the rather controversial reading from St. Luke’s Gospel (Controversial because many Protestant Scripture Scholars would point to this passage, along with its corollary from St. Mark’s Gospel, as proof that Jesus had siblings out of Mary whom we name “Ever Virgin” and hold to the belief that this reference was to Jesus’ extended family (cousins etc.)). But rather than focusing on the inclusive nature of Christ’s ministry implied by the Gospel, we focus today on an obvious ethical instruction plucked from the middle of the Proverbs reading.

It seems very obvious what this phrase means. The person who lies to achieve material wealth will ultimately fall (die the true death that awaits those condemned to the pit). This proverb has two moral imperatives. First it focuses on one's aims in life. The person who thinks the purpose in life is to achieve wealth will never have enough. If that pursuit dominates the person, wealth becomes the golden idol that violates God’s commandments on several levels. Single minded pursuit of wealth, greed, may be responsible for more death, destruction and misery than any other retreat from grace. We are not usually a huge fan of U-Tube but in this case the persuasive nature of greed is beautifully captured by this link to an interview with the popular economist Milton Friedman (
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWsx1X8PV_A). We see in this interview how easily secular values equate greed with the industry even the faithful must exert to support themselves and their families. According to this popular figure, greed is not only OK, but necessary for survival.

The second axiom contained within our short parable is the exhortation against lying. Telling a mistruth, duping some poor soul out of his meager portion is perfectly acceptable to the greedy and exhorted by secular values. Is not “Buyer Beware” the by word of commerce?

For those of us trying to follow Christ in this world of greed, where taking advantage of the less fortunate, the powerless, and the poor is perfectly acceptable behavior in many circles, is a difficult thing. We must not be pressured into falling into the deadly snares so ignored by those who would lead us into spiritual destruction.


[1] The picture today is “Padre Pio” Photographer and Date unknown
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Monday, September 22, 2008

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


Reading 1: Proverbs 3:27-34

The book of Proverbs provides us with these supports and clarifications to the Law of Moses. These verses stress service to God through kindness and service to one’s neighbor. Going further the author enjoins the faithful not to envy the wicked but to abhor that which God has deemed wicked – those who act in arrogance or wickedness will not find friendship with God but will feel his punishment.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 15:2-3a, 3bc-4ab, 5
R. The just one shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord.

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

Gospel: Luke 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.


There are a number of reasons to reflect upon God’s word recorded in Sacred Scripture. Chief among these is to get to understand the mind of Christ and the will of God. This effort increases our faith and brings us peace in this life and eternal joy on the next. A second and equally compelling reason to delve in to the Bible is to be able to understand how we are expected to act in responding to Christ’s commandments and the will of God as we go about our daily lives.

We meditate upon these passages and recall how we have either failed to respond appropriately or have succeeded in bringing Christ glory through our actions on his behalf. In St. Luke’s Gospel today Jesus tells his disciples that they must take the “good news” into the world; that what they have been given is not some private knowledge or some secret to be guarded. They are called to tell anyone who will listen, likening the word to light in the darkness a fire that will light the night.

Coupled, as it is today with the Proverbs injunction to serve our neighbors; dealing fairly with them and forgiving them for any transgressions, the act of taking God’s word to the world means acting upon what we have learned. In a very pragmatic way we are called to be light to the world through how we interact with the world in which night constantly tries to rule. Just as living in Christ’s light is difficult for us, so the struggle between love and hate is constantly being waged in the world around us.

The message for us today is one of the basics; we are called to be a light for the world. Reflecting upon the great love that stimulated this call, how can we not respond with all our hearts? We pray especially that our actions will be that light and those who meet us today will see it and be enflamed by the love we show them.


[1] After Links to readings Expire
[2] The picture today is “Lamp on a Stand” by Johann Christoph Weigel, 1695

Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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


Reading 1: Isaiah 55:6-9

This passage is taken from what is known as “Deutero-Isaiah”, that part written after the Babylonian exile. Using words common to the Old Testament (see Amos 5:4, Hosea 20:12, and Psalm 9:11), the prophet exhorts the people to return to God. The essential paradox of God’s presences is explained; “God is transcendent yet near enough to help; man is helpless yet expected to act energetically, the ways of God are exalted yet required of man.”[3]

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
R. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.

Psalm 145 is a hymn of praise and thanksgiving. The linkage to Isaiah’s exhortation to seek the Lord actively is echoed in the final strophe “The Lord is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.”

Reading II: Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a

St. Paul writes during his imprisonment an in these verses contemplates his own martyrdom. While death is seen as a return to Christ which the Apostle desires, his mission and continued service is seen as being united with Christ’s life on earth. This passage concludes with an exhortation to the Philippians that they might live lives worthy of Christ.

Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16a
The parable of the Laborers Hired Late continues the dialogue from Matthew’s Gospel in which the same moral was expressed “the last will be first, and the first will be last.” The inference here changes slightly. He broadens the scope to imply that those called later to faithful service would receive the same reward as those first called expanding the gift to all who come to believe.


Scripture today gives a unified call to come to faith in God and Christ. Taken out of context one might believe the Gospel parable of the Laborers Called Late, might be seen as an invitation to procrastinate in responding to that call. After all, why commit to the difficult path our faith requires if those who turn to an easier path and come late to faith will receive the same reward as we who strive to follow that path through most of our lives?

There must be reasons beyond the promise that comes at the end of the journey. One of these is shown in St. Paul’s ethical debate about whether he should embrace death so he can be with Christ sooner or if he should stay the course on earth, continuing his zealous efforts to proclaim the Gospel. His conclusion – God’s gift of life is to be cherished in spite of the fact that at its conclusion the faithful receive the bliss of the heavenly kingdom.

What then is it that makes life worth living? It is clearly not the excesses of the hedonistic drives society seems to embrace. This lifestyle and world-view lead to spiritual death. If wealth is what is to be pursued, there will never be enough and even when great wealth is accumulated those who achieve it find it an empty promise, a hollow shell with no life, no warmth; no peace. No, life does not find fulfillment in “things”.

Neither does life find fulfillment in labor, even labor for a worthy cause. Fulfillment comes from an inner peace and inner peace comes from the satisfaction of knowing that one is valued, supported, and protected by God. That nothing can take that peace from us while we remain in that living relationship. And when we enjoy that peace in communion with others similarly motivated and infused, the resonance of their peace enhances our own.

That spiritual peace and the joy that flows from it is what motivates us to take up the mind of Christ as soon as we can and maintain it throughout our lives. While those that come late may receive the same reward, we who stay on the path longer derive greater joy in the promise fulfilled.

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The Picture Used Is “Parable Of The Laborers In The Vineyard” By Harmenszoon van Rijn Rembrandt
[3] Jerome Biblical Commentary, © 1968 Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 22:49

Memorial of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon

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


Reading 1: 1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49

St. Paul anticipates an argument that might be posed by those who do not believe in the resurrection. He uses two analogies to describe what kind of form or essence will be assumed. The first analogy if the seed that must be planted in the ground in order to grow into “new life” The second analogy is that of the creation of the first earthly being Adam and comparing that physical form to the first born of the dead in Christ who had both earthly form and became the “New Adam” in the resurrection.

St. Paul is eloquent in describing the difference from the earthly form and the resurrected body. Where the earthly form may be flawed, the spiritual body in the resurrection will be perfect. St. Paul envisions a resurrected body with the qualities of glory, power, and spirituality which is a creation in God’s heavenly image.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 56:10c-12, 13-14
R. I will walk in the presence of God, in the light of the living.

Psalm 56 is an individual lament. The psalmist expresses unbounded faith in God who will protect and lift up his faithful. The signer’s own fidelity wins salvation from God who rescues him from death. Placed against St. Paul’s description of the resurrected body, these strophes reflect the salvation of that resurrection as the faithful walk with God.

Gospel: Luke 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.


When we combine the reading from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians with the Parable of the Sower in the Gosple of St. Luke we are painted a question that must guide our spiritual journey. What is described in the analogy of the seed is not truly death, although it may have been described so by the authors of biblical times; but rather a metamorphosis. The seed that falls to the ground is not dead as it falls but inert life. It is life potential contained in a protective shell that waits for the right conditions to germinate and flourish.

The irony of this analogy is that in our earthly lives, much like the plant that creates the seed, we manufacture the outer shell of what will become the pod that contains our life potential, our eternal spirit when the body we wear in this life dies. That shell we create is the imperfect husk of sin that must be worn away before that pure life that God created may be released to blossom in heaven.

When St. Paul and Jesus spoke of the journey of seeds; calling and rising, they saw the pure life that God created that could be full of glory, “…the image of the heavenly one.” It is this potential to which we must apply ourselves. The Lord tells us how to avoid creating a shell so thick that our wait for germination in heaven must be a long one. He tells us that listening and following with our hearts may lead us quickly to him. That process; like the pupa that transforms into the beautiful butterfly is the path we must choose.

[1] The picture used today is “The Korean Martyrs” Artist and Date are Unknown
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Januarius, Bishop, Martyr

Biographical Information about St. Januarius[1]

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


Reading 1: 1 Corinthians 15:12-20

St. Paul continues his apology on the resurrection from the dead he began in
1 Corinthians 15:1-11. He uses a circular argument to say if there is no resurrection then Christ did not rise and your sins are still upon you. If there is no resurrection then your faith is hollow, God’s very existence is challenged, and there is no life beyond physical death. The circle is completed as he concludes this section with “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 17:1bcd, 6-7, 8b and 15
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

Psalm 17 is an individual lament. The psalmist sings for God’s help in distress, having been firm in faithfulness, the Lord is called upon for justice. Faith in God’s salvation will follow those who keep firm to God’s commands.

Gospel: Luke 8:1-3

“St. Luke presents Jesus as an itinerant preacher traveling in the company of the Twelve and of the Galilean women who are sustaining them out of their means. These Galilean women will later accompany Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem and become witnesses to his death (
Luke 23:49) and resurrection (Luke 24:9-11, where Mary Magdalene and Joanna are specifically mentioned; cf also Acts 1:14). The association of women with the ministry of Jesus is most unusual in the light of the attitude of first-century Palestinian Judaism toward women. The more common attitude is expressed in John 4:27, and early rabbinic documents caution against speaking with women in public.”[3]


We have an interesting combination of messages today. First, we are back to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and we cannot help but think that that place must have been in turmoil given the basic level of instruction he needs to give them. In this passage he continues to address the fact that some of the new Christians in Corinth are of a Greek school of thought that does not believe in the
resurrection of the body. It is easy to simply gloss over this reading, pointing out the very basic nature of Paul’s logic on the subject. But, when we go to the link to the resurrection provided earlier, we discover; “"No doctrine of the Christian Faith", says St. Augustine, "is so vehemently and so obstinately opposed as the doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh".[4]

From a logical and scientific perspective we can understand his statement. In retrospect we may have been too harsh in our criticism of the Christians in Corinth. When we examine our faith closely, looking especially at the Creed, we find that there is a statement of belief; “And we look for (I look for) the resurrection of the dead” What gets us into trouble is when we start to think, as people do, about the mechanism, or physical manifestation of that resurrection.

We ask ourselves; when the resurrection comes, if we are going to be put back into our body, the body we now wear, for eternity, we might question if that is a good thing. When we come back we want a body un-afflicted by age, defect, or disease. Not one that is worn out, broken or deformed. And what about people who have been born handicapped, disfigured or have lost limbs? Will they be forced to live their lives in a state if infirmity? Getting into the perceived reality of the resurrection of the body is problematic taken logically. Yet, as a doctrine of faith, we must accept that we believe in the resurrection of the dead (all of the dead, not just those receiving salvation.).

To become comfortable with this precept let’s get first to the logic of our dogmatic belief:

§ As the soul has a natural propensity to the body, its
perpetual separation from the body would seem unnatural.

§ As the body
is the partner of the soul's crimes, and the companion of her virtues, the
justice of God seems to demand that the body be the sharer in the soul's
punishment and reward.

§ As the soul separated from the body is
naturally imperfect, the consummation of its happiness, replete with every good,
seems to demand the resurrection of the body.

Where does that take us in our belief? We believe that Jesus, the first fruits of the dead (as Paul says) was the pattern for what may come. Yet, while he was taken bodily to heaven, he was transformed. While the stigmata were present, they did not cause him pain. When he entered the locked room, his resurrected body was not stopped by the door and we did not hear about him “climbing through a window”.

What that resurrection of the dead means physically or even paranormally is a mystery. It must be taken on faith. But what is sure, what we believe is that, at the return of the Lord, the dead will rise from their graves and stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Those found worthy will find eternal life in Heaven. Our prayer today is that we may stand among them.


[1] The picture used today is “Saint Januarius” by Michelangelo Merisi di Caravaggio, c. 1600
[2] After Links to Readings Expire
[3] See NAB footnote on Luke 8:1-3
[4] In Ps. Ixxxviii, sermo ii, n. 5
[5] General Resurrection, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XII, Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company, Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thursday of the Twenty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

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


Reading 1: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

St Paul delivers an apology (a defense) on the basic tenant of the faith that Christ died for our sins and that there was a physical resurrection witnessed first by the apostles and then by many of Jesus’ followers. He then professes his own witness, marking himself as least among the Apostles (because of his earlier role a emissary or the Sanhedrin, persecutor of the Church). It is supposed that this chapter is directed at refuting those who believe there was no physical resurrection.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 118:1b-2, 16ab-17, 28
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

Psalm 118 is a song of thanksgiving emphasizing the fidelity of God. The final strophe gives a reminder that God’s only Son was rejected and, in the resurrection, revealed to all the word that he is the cornerstone of all creation.

Gospel: Luke 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.


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. Our prayer today must be the Lord’s Prayer and our emphasis placed on “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Our hope is that His perfect mercy overlooks our failures in this regard.

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is “Banquet at the House of Simon” (Detail), Bernardo Strozzi, 1629

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wednesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Robert Bellarmine, Bishop, Doctor

Biographical Information about St. Robert Bellarmine[1]

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


Reading 1: 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

St. Paul shifts his focus from the diversity of the different functions within the Body of Christ (which is the Church) to the gifts common to those enlightened by Christ. First among these gifts is love which informs all reason, directing the Christian to the love of Christ.

“In speaking of love, Paul is led by spontaneous association to mention faith and hope as well. They are already a well-known triad (cf
1 Thessalonians 1:3), three interrelated features of Christian life, more fundamental than any particular charism. The greatest . . . is love: love is operative even within the other members of the triad, so that it has a certain primacy among them. Or, if the perspective is temporal, love will remain (cf "never fails,") even when faith has yielded to sight and hope to possession.”[3]

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 33:2-3, 4-5, 12 and 22
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Psalm 33 is a hymn of praise in which God as creator is celebrated. In this selection the just are invited to share the Lord’s salvation and are promised his protection. The psalm rejoices in the active help God gives to his chosen people.

Gospel: Luke 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 making 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 the true identities of Jesus (and St. John) “…But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”


Have you ever wondered if, in the early Church when persecution by either the Roman leadership or the Jewish hierarchy was ongoing, Christians could be identified simply by the way they acted in their daily lives? We read St. Paul’s letters instructing various churches and we read the Gospel with Jesus explaining that his behavior and that of St. John the Baptist was misconstrued and reviled by non-believers. It seems that hiding the faith of a Christian should be very difficult when placed in a group of individuals ruled by their passions and need for personal gratification.

This question leads us to ask the same about ourselves. There was a joke a while back that expressed this idea pretty well:

It seems there was a man driving through town during rush hour. Right behind him, tail-gating, was a woman. Driving very aggressively she followed him through a couple intersections and finally he came to a traffic light that turned yellow as he approached. Although he could have accelerated through the intersection he chose to stop for the light.

Immediately the lady behind started laying on her horn, screaming curses out the window, and gesturing with her hands in a manner unbecoming a lady. As the tirade continued, a police officer who had been behind her walked up to the car and asked her to step out. There he promptly handcuffed her, called to have the car towed and took her to the police station for booking. After she had spent about two hours in the holding cell following that procedure, the arresting officer came to the cell and said “Sorry for the delay ma’am, you may go now.”

The woman was infuriated and demanded that the officer explain why she was stopped, booked and detained like a criminal. The officer replied; “Well ma’am, when I pulled up behind your car and saw the bumper sticker that said “What would Jesus Do”, the chrome fish symbol with the word Jesus inside, and the vanity plate that read RU SAVED, and then I saw you in that car screaming obscenities and making those gestures to the driver in front of you, I naturally assumed that the car must have been stolen.”

It’s a really good story and we can all get a good laugh out of it until we ask ourselves if we have not behaved in ways similar to the lady who was arrested. If we were really good at living the way St. Paul told his friends at Corinth to live we would not need bumper stickers identifying us as Christians. If we lived the love of Christ we would be instantly recognizable as followers of the one who was mocked and derided by those of his own faith when he walked the earth as a man.

Our challenge is to keep trying to live up to that standard. To be motivated by our love of others from the moment we wake to “Lord, open my lips that my mouth may proclaim your praise” to the last prayer of the day; “Lord, grant me a restful night and a peaceful death.” If we can keep that ideal in front of us – hold it out like a lamp in the darkness, others will absolutely see the light and be attracted to it. But the Lord’s warning must also ring in our ears: “‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’” Those who hate the light will deride us. Those who wish to justify their own selfish behavior will want us to conform ourselves to the model they project and if we do not their guilt will cause them to dislike or even hate us.

Today we are given great direction – St. Paul tells us that faith, hope, and love must be our attitudes. We know this will mark us in the world but today we pray for the courage to live as Christ commands us and as the saints show us.


[1] The picture of St. Robert Bellarmine is by an UNKNOWN artist, date is also not known.
[2] After Links to Readings Expire
[3] See NAB footnote on 1 Corinthians 13:13