Saturday, May 31, 2008

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Information about the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary[1]

Readings for the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Zephaniah 3:14-18a

This reading from the Book of the Prophet Zephaniah is part of a hymn of joy sung by the remnant restored to Zion. It comes at the end of the oracle as the faithful worship God their savior.

Romans 12:9-16

St. Paul gives a litany of instructions to those who wish to remain faithful to Christ’s teachings. Placed on the Feast of the Visitation we see the attributes St. Paul calls for manifested in purest form in Mary, the Mother of God.

Responsorial Psalm Isaiah 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6
R. Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

This canticle from the Prophet Isaiah emphasizes the peace and confidence of his servant in the salvation of God.

Gospel Luke 1:39-56

The Gospel selection from St. Luke gives us the story of Mary’s journey from Nazareth, over the mountains to Hebron, south of Jerusalem, to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was also with child. Elizabeth’s greeting gives us substance for the “Hail Mary” and Mary’s response is the great Canticle of Mary which exemplifies her faith and faithfulness, appropriate for the Mother of Jesus who is the Christ.


Every evening those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours join millions around the world in remembering the words of Mary, the mother of Jesus. We recall her example of faith to which the whole Church aspires. When we pray the Canticle of Mary each evening prayer the first words, as we make the sign of the cross, seem to fill us up; "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord."

We can feel her emotion as we say; "My spirit rejoices in God my savior." And the truth of: "He has looked with favor on his lowly servant." The song is so filed with quite grace and confidence in God that it imparts that same feeling to those of us who echo its words down through the millennia.

And on this day when we celebrate the first meeting of Jesus and John the Baptist (that is the baby in Elizabeth’s womb) we see already in Mary her perfect obedience to God’s will. Notice the purity of it. It is not subjugation; she maintains her individual humanity in all its sweetness. But it is the selflessness that allows her to give genuine thanks and praise to her almighty Father; "He has shown the strength of his arm..." and it does not sound like pious prattle as we hear from some (sometimes it feels like those words are too big) but sincere gratitude and praise.

If we could reach the faith of Mary our Mother, we would find in-dwelling peace that Jesus came to give us.. And we would find glorious serenity that places all of the cares and sorrows of our world in the hands of God and lets our spirits soar.

Ah, but that is hard. Mary, graced with a character so pure of sin that even original sin never spoiled that exemplar of Gods love and fidelity, was given such a special place and grace that her cousin Elizabeth cried out; "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

What can we do? All that we have found that gets us close to her peace and serenity is that marvelous Canticle. We look forward to it each day and find ourselves praying the first few lines during the day when we feel the work we have accomplished is indeed to the greater glory of God. And there is a reason Elizabeth’s words begin the most common prayer of our faith; "Hail Mary, full of grace...” The words bring us comfort and remind us of the beauty, obedience and sincere worship.

Today we celebrate the gift God gave us in the example of Mary, Theotokos, the Mother of God whose perfect act of love and obedience gave us our Savior.


[1] The image used today is “The Visitation” by El Greco, 1610-13
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Friday, May 30, 2008

Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Additional Information about the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart[1]

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


Reading 1 Deuteronomy 7:6-11

This passage is taken from Moses second address to the people of Israel. He has just explained that the people of the lands which they occupy (Canaan in this case) must be held at arms length and they must not intermingle their cultures or relationships. The selection presented is the rationale for that injunction; the members of God’s covenant are sacred to the Lord and the precepts of that covenant are not to be threatened by people not bound by it.

The intense love of God for his people is made clear in this reading with specific mention made to the Heart of God “…the Lord set his heart on you and chose you”. This directly supports devotion to the Sacred Heart of His only Son especially: “It was because the Lord loved you”.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 10.
R. The Lord's kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.

Psalm 103 is a song of praise to God for his mercy. It recognizes both God’s mercy and our need, as sinners, for it.

Reading II 1 John 4:7-16

Love as we share in it testifies to the nature of God and to his presence in our lives. One who loves shows that one is a child of God and knows God, for God's very being is love; one without love is without God. The revelation of the nature of God's love is found in the free gift of his Son to us, so that we may share life with God and be delivered from our sins. The love we have for one another must be of the same sort: authentic, merciful; this unique Christian love is our proof that we know God and can "see" the invisible God.

Gospel Matthew 11:25-30

In this chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel Jesus has been challenged by the scribes and Pharisees about the need to follow the Law of Moses scrupulously. In response Jesus tells them that rather than being guided by those who consider themselves “learned” and “scholars of the law”, God has revealed himself most clearly to those who are innocent (“childlike”). He then proceeds to reveal himself as God’s Son, to whom all power and authority has been given.

The passage concludes with an invitation “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” While popular interpretation perceives this as and invitation to the promise of eternal life, in the context of this monologue it was an invitation to throw off the heavy yoke of the Pharisees interpretation of the Law, coming instead to Jesus whose burden is light.


We being our thoughts of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in an odd place, remembering our first days in college (in ancient times). Anxious to start on our curriculum of studies in biochemistry, we went to the advisor for the department, a brilliant young doctor of chemistry. He immediately reviewed the options for first year students and said “You don’t need freshman biology, let’s sign you up for zoology, and you certainly don’t need plain geometry and trigonometry – you should take calculus, and by all means we should skip freshman inorganic chemistry and go straight to organic chemistry.” Not knowing any better we did as instructed and it almost killed us. Study should be fun, not terrifying.

What does this have to do with the intense love of God expressed by our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus? In our Gospel reading today we are invited by the Lord to accept his yoke; “For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." He was contrasting his simple commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you” to the complex and difficult rules the Pharisees applied to authentic worship as defined by Mosaic Law.

Here is the ironic part; Jesus the Christ; the Only Son of God, is love personified. He comes, one might say, “hard wired” to react out of love of others in all situations. What he does instinctively requires of us who struggle valiantly to follow him, tremendous discipline and faith. It is like the brilliant young advisor who looked at difficult courses and thought them too easy for his new charge.

Our comfort is this, that this day we contemplate not so much how we have failed to love as Christ loved us, but rather his unfathomable love for us. If we think about how intensely our parents love us, and then understand that the Lord loves us even more completely, we begin to get an understating of that blessing that engulfs us. So beyond our comprehension is this immeasurable gift that we look to the Saints to describe their God-given visions of the warmth that comes from that ultimate source.

Today we pray once more that the Lord will help us love as he does, without judgment, without reserve in perfect acceptance of all we meet. We thank him for his example and ask for the strength for follow it, especially with those who most need to feel its warmth.


[1] The picture used today is “St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus” by Corrado Giaquinto, 1765
[2] After Links to Readings Expire
[3] NAB footnote

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thursday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

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


Reading 1 1 Peter 2:2-5, 9-12

St. Peter uses Old Testament imagery to encourage his audience. He begins with “…you have tasted that the Lord is good” borrowed from
Psalm 34:8 and continues with the cornerstone image from Isaiah 28:16. He tells them to simply follow God’s call, letting themselves be built (not an active image but passive) into what God wishes.

The footnote from the NAB captures more cross-references in the concluding verses; “The prerogatives of ancient Israel mentioned here are now more fully and fittingly applied to the Christian people: "a chosen race" (cf
Isaiah 43:20-21) indicates their divine election (Eph 1:4-6); "a royal priesthood" (cf Exodus 19:6) to serve and worship God in Christ, thus continuing the priestly functions of his life, passion, and resurrection; "a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6) reserved for God, a people he claims for his own (cf Malachi 3:17) in virtue of their baptism into his death and resurrection. This transcends all natural and national divisions and unites the people into one community to glorify the one who led them from the darkness of paganism to the light of faith in Christ. From being "no people" deprived of all mercy, they have become the very people of God, the chosen recipients of his mercy (cf Hosea 1:9; 2:23).”

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

We have the beginning of Ps. 100, a song of praise. In this section we praise God because He created us. We praise God because he continues to guide us. It affirms God’s saving grace given to His sons and daughters through all generations.

Gospel Mark 10:46-52

In St. Mark’s story of the cure of the blind man (see also
Matthew 20:29-34 and Luke 18:35-43) it is the way he addresses Jesus that becomes the focus. We are told he address him as “Son of David”. This is the messianic title applied by Jewish tradition to the one who comes to “heal the blind and the lame and set the prisoners free” Isaiah 42;6-7). In response to the blind man’s request “Master, I want to see”, in an almost casual way Jesus tells him his faith has saved him and the blind man sees. Not surprisingly the now sighted man follows Jesus.


Students who will be assisting the blind are frequently required to spend an extended period (perhaps a couple days) blindfolded, completely without sight or light, to help them understand what it feels like for their future charges. There are few things in life we would miss more than our ability to see. While those physically without sight have learned to compensate for their lack of sight with other senses and aids, those of us who see today would be in a pretty sorry state if tomorrow we woke up and the world was dark.

Most are probably thinking, “Yes, I know Jesus did the blind man a huge service by restoring his sight.” And of course you would be right. But let us look at this action metaphorically for a moment. Let us assume that it is not physical sight that was restored but the light of truth that was given. Perhaps what the blind man received was not just the ability to perceive the world around him, but the ability to understand what God wanted for him. Just as a sighted person can see danger and avoid it, so the enlightened person can see spiritual danger and avoid it. Recall, St. Peter even mentioned this in his letter; “…keep away from worldly desires that wage war against the soul”. The ability to see and avoid these dangers comes from our spiritual sight, sight only the Lord can give.

The very good news is that he offers this gift to us freely. It is enhanced through sacramental grace, like corrective lenses or laser eye surgery, we see more clearly as a result of the special grace given in the sacraments. Today as we recall how Jesus gave sight to the blind, we pray that he will continue to shed his light on our path so that we might not stumble as we walk with him.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is “Christ Healing the Blind Man” by Eustache Le Sueur, c. 1650

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wednesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

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


Reading 1 1 Peter 1:18-25

Following St. Peter’s call to holiness, he reminds the five churches that they were saved from their sin by the perfect sacrificed of Christ (the Blood of the Lamb) who was raised from the dead so they might have hope in the resurrection to eternal life.

The passage concludes, again with a call to actions that reflect the grace they are given in Baptism (“…You have been born anew”). This rebirth is not just through water but the Word (Logos) which is eternal and is food for the soul (“…from imperishable seed, through the living and abiding word of God”).

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.

Psalm 147 is a hymn of praise. In this second section of the song, the Lord is praised for sending food that sustains the people. The final strophe also rejoices that the Law was handed on to them through Jacob.

Gospel Mark 10:32-45

This Gospel passage starts with the third prediction of the Passion in St. Mark’s Gospel. The sons of Zebedee take this opportunity (thinking the time for Christ to come into glory) to ask for places of honor when he assumes his place. The Lord responds with the metaphors of “drinking the cup he will drink” and “being baptized with the baptism with which he will be baptized” symbolic of his passion and death. When the brothers respond in the affirmative, Jesus predicts that they will follow him in martyrdom but that only God can give them the places of honor they request.

When the disciples become upset at James and John, Jesus uses the opportunity to explain “servant leadership”. Unlike secular leaders who autocratically order their subjects about, the servant leader comes to lead by example and service to those being lead. He concludes by describing his own role “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


The theme today is a familiar one, a comforting one. It has been stated simply “Love one another as I have loved you.” It is explicit in St. Peter’s letter as he speaks to those early Christians. He reminds them that their salvation, their path to eternal life was made possible only through the perfect sacrifice offered by Jesus. We are freed from our failure to love by the perfect love of Christ who offered himself up as the Passover Lamb whose blood consecrates those who believe in him.

In the Gospel we first are reminded (actually for the third time in St. Mark’s Gospel) that Jesus, when he finally arrives in Jerusalem, will be handed over to the Chief Priests who will take him to the gentiles where he will be undergo his passion and death. This demonstration of love is completely missed by his disciples who insist on continuing to think of leadership and their own gain from associating with Jesus a popular holy man.

Others may have thought it, but James and John, the brothers, were the ones who asked for places honor when Jesus came into his kingdom (not their mother as in
Matthew 20; 20ff). Jesus loved them and it was probably with profound tenderness that he asked them; “Can you drink the chalice that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And when they answered and said they could, again in love, the Lord, seeing how their own lives would end said “The chalice that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized”. They would also be put to death for the sake of the truth – God loves us.

This message of love is so basic for us, so central to who Jesus is and was, that we sometimes look past that motive to its impact on the world. It is that transformative power of love that he uses to direct his disciples. It is with love they are to lead and from love that they will offer their lives, confident that they too will share in the ultimate gift of that love, eternal life.

Like the blanket we could not part with as children the fundamental message of Jesus comes to us once more. We pray today that we can live up to that call and promise, loving all we meet as Christ loves us.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “Christ Predicts His Passion” by Hesdin of Amiens, 1450-55

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tuesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop

Biographical Information about St. Augustine of Canterbury[1]

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


Reading 1 1 Peter 1;10-16

The Apostle here continues to exhort the five churches to respond to the call to holiness. A call brought to them by the Apostles who were filled with “the Spirit of Christ”. It was this Holy Spirit that motivated them as it had motivated the prophets of old in their understanding of the salvation to come.

The passage concludes with very practical instructions about their behavior, instructing them to avoid their former way of life “…do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance” but rather be holy as God is holy quoting Leviticus (see
Leviticus 11; 44).

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

Psalm 98 is a song of praise and thanksgiving. We see in this selection how God is praised for the strength he lends his people and the salvation he brings to those who are faithful. The psalm rejoices in God’s salvation. The Lord has revealed his compassion toward the people and they sing his praises in response. As the Hebrews saw this as salvation for the people of Israel from its enemies, we see the deeper expression of God’s love as he sent his Son for salvation and justice for the whole world.

Gospel Mark 10:28-31

Following the exchange with the rich young man and the rest of the crowd, St. Peter brings up the fact that the disciples had given up everything to follow Jesus. The Lord responds telling them they will receive a reward “a hundred times more” and “eternal life”. The last statement “But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first” is thought to have been added to reconcile the fact that some called first outlived some early Christians.


Did you notice the touch of irony in the scripture we have today? In the Gospel we are hearing about how St. Peter (and his friends), who gave up everything to follow Jesus, react when the crowd was muttering “Then who can be saved?” Jesus had already said that was only possible for God the Father and now St. Peter says, in effect, what about us? “We have given up everything and followed you.”

The Lord reassures them (although if we look at the language it is somewhat problematic). It is his concluding remark that strikes us “But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first

It is ironic because of the first reading from St. Peter’s first letter. He is speaking once more to the five churches in infant Christianity. Do you remember where and when he is writing this letter? He is in Rome. Many of his fellow Apostles have already gone on before him, following Christ in martyrdom. Scholars believe that his letters were published just before his own death. Tradition holds that Peter himself, when told he was to be crucified, asked to have that horrible punishment performed on his person upside down because he did not fell worthy to so closely imitate his Savior’s death.

The Savior's words and examples were surely burned into the minds and hearts of his Apostles. St. Peter enjoins those first Christians to remain firm in their commitment to Christ. It is the same message that Jesus has just given to the crowd of which St. Peter and the eleven had been apart. The message he had difficulty in accepting is the same message he gives a generation later.

Truth is truth from age to age. Today we are asked to remember our pledge to follow the Lord. We recall that this will not be an easy path and we will be challenged on many fronts to “Be holy because I am holy.” Today we follow all the saints in that struggle.


[1] The picture used today is “St. Augustine of Canterbury” – taken from Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 6.
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, Priest

Biographical Information about St. Philip Neri[1]

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


Reading 1 1 Peter 1:3-9

St. Peter writes to early churches (this letter is thought to have been composed while St. Peter was in Rome and published to them between 64 and 67 AD shortly before his martyrdom at the hands of Nero). This passage is the beginning of the first section of his letter dealing primarily with the gift and call of Christ in Baptism.

In this passage, although Baptism is not mentioned, we see the allusion to it, first with “…who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope” and then later with “…you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of faith, the salvation of your souls”. These gifts of hope and faith, presented in Baptism, give the Christian their indelible character.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 111:1-2, 5-6, 9 and 10c
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.

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. The final reference to God’s imperishable covenant (“…he has ratified his covenant forever) links nicely to the baptismal references above.

Gospel Mark 10:17-27

The story of the rich young man presented today in St. Mark’s Gospel is an ideal teaching moment for Christ. After he has heard that the young man has carefully followed Mosaic Law (summarized in the Decalogue the Lord mentions), Jesus tells the young man he has only one more step to take. Selling all he has and giving the proceeds to the poor is too much for the rich young man who leaves downcast.

Jesus uses this example to emphasize first that love of God must come first and before possessions, before the accumulation of wealth. Those listening were also down hearted and say “Then who can be saved?”

Jesus then makes his second point. No one earns salvation from God! Only the Lord alone can grant it and nothing is impossible for Him. “For men it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”


Our faith has a remarkable range of textures of emotion. In the Letter of St. Peter we see encouragement to Christians under pressure (“In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials”). They are encouraged to rejoice in the faith they have been given. In this letter we feel the zeal of St. Peter, coupled with his love and understanding (the flavor of this understanding is empathy). He knows (has known) the persecution they have encountered and will encounter. He asks them to remember the joy they have discovered in the promise of salvation given in Baptism. He reminds them of the great hope in the promise they share. In this exchange we are given zeal and excitement for the faith and concern out of love for their continued struggle on the path to salvation.

In the Gospel we have another set of emotions. First we see the young man who approaches Jesus with youthful pride. He knows he has been faithful to the Law of Moses. His question to the Lord; “…what must I do to inherit eternal life?” demonstrates his belief that he is very close to being on the path. Jesus certainly sees this in him and makes sure where he is – Jesus knows! “Jesus, looking at him, loved him…” Jesus loved him for trying but had to point out the missing piece – humility and commitment.

When he told the young man he must give up his material wealth, remember, the young man was wealthy, meaning he had spent his energy on success as defined by the secular world (another source of pride) the young man was disappointed. He thought he could gain the great prize, win the great race while maintaining his comfortable lifestyle.

The Lord’s comments had the needed impact on the young man. It also had an impact on those casual followers who were present. It would be as if, during the course of Mass, the Priest announced that no one could receive communion unless they went out, sold all they owned and joined a religious order, taking vows of poverty. The sound of crickets would be the only ones heard the following day. The people of Jesus day heard that message with the same kind of impact, (astonishment we are told). Their emotions must have echoed those of the rich young man. Among themselves they said “Then who can be saved?”

Jesus ignores their immediate concern and drives home a very important point. Christian followers cannot “earn” salvation. There is not enough money, enough energy, or enough time to pay so great a price. It is God’s offer, presented in love by the personification of love, Jesus.

We marvel as we look at the range of emotions our faith has offered us today. Zeal for Christ and his offer of salvation is one. Another is the love and concern for those undergoing trials for the faith. There is disappointment which should evoke humility in us as we empathize with the rich young man whose only sin was he placed too much trust in wealth. And finally we have gratitude because God has offered us the gift of eternal life and as part of the offer, provided us with the means to achieve (not earn) it in Christ Jesus.


[1] The picture today is “St. Philip Neri” artist and date are UNKNOWN
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Additional Information about the Solemnity of Corpus Christi[1]

Readings for Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a

This reading is taken from the second address of Moses to the Hebrews. This section of the address can be called “an appeal to remembrance” since Moses is recounting all that God had done for them since they were lead out of Egypt. The focus of these verses is on the feeding of the people with manna (see
Exodus 16; 4-16). Jesus also quoted this passage “…not by bread alone does one live” (see Matthew 4:4). Beyond manna, Moses also recalls the saraph staff (see Numbers 21; 5-9), and water drawn from the rock at Horeb (see Exodus 17; 2-6).

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.

Psalm 147 is a hymn of praise. In this second section of the song, the Lord is praised for sending food that sustains the people. The final strophe also rejoices that the Law was handed on to them through Jacob.

Reading II 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

Although this is part of a comparison being brought between Christ’s sacrifice and idolatry, what is given here expresses the unity forged through the Eucharist, the only true sacrifice. The Blood of Christ and the Body of Christ shared in communion unites us spiritually and physically and we become that living Body of Christ on earth, the Church, through Jesus.

Gospel John 6:51-58

The “Bread of Life” discourse continues and the Lord escalates his language. The people who had come to him because they had been fed with the five barley loaves just cannot make the leap from bread made from wheat or barley to the Bread of Life offered as true food and drink for the spirit. Even when he uses Manna as an example of real food they still do not see that the Son of God offers them his resurrected body as their meal and they are repulsed – especially because of the language he uses (Jesus uses the word gnaw not just eat in the original texts.)


1323 At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.[3]

This definition from the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the “why” of our celebration of the Eucharist. St. John’s Gospel describes what that meal truly was. Rather than trying to express this in our own words we once again rely on the Catechism to do that;

1374 The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend."201 In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained."202 "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."203

All of this understanding comes from millennia of prayer, reflection, and reliance on the Holy Spirit. Faith-filled people throughout our history have gazed in awe at the Most Holy Sacrament and have been transformed by it as it was transubstantiated for us. It started as simple bread and wine and through Christ’s promise becomes the bread from heaven and the blood of our Savior, poured out for us.

There are those who do not believe in the miracle that occurs. There are many, even those who say they take what is written in the Holy Bible literally, who cannot accept that Jesus, who tells the people “For my flesh is true food”, left us his remarkable essence to unite us with God.

Today we celebrate the gift once more. We pray for those who struggle with their faith and are unable to accept the wondrous gift. Today we find ourselves in awe of the love of Christ which is beyond all understanding. And today we once more we approach the Lord’s Table in abject humility; amazed that one so perfect could embrace us in such a way.


[1] The picture used today is “The Institution of the Eucharist” by Joos van Wassenhove, 1473-75
[2] After Links to Readings Expire
[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church number 1323
[4] Footnotes refer to the following:
201 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III,73,3c.
202 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1651.
203 Paul VI, MF 39.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Saturday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

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


Reading 1 James 5:13-20

St. James offers a treatise on the power and need for prayer in the Christian Community. In the first instance he addresses the power of healing, giving strong scriptural support for the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick (“…He should summon the presbyters of the Church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.”). This practice was also mentioned in Mark (see
Mark 6:13) as the Twelve anoint the sick on their missionary journey.

Next the author promotes the confession of sins as part of this process (“If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven”) and as a practice in general as part of the process of coming before God in prayer. The concluding verses (19-20) speak of reconciliation of those who have sinned and come back to the way of truth and the grace given to those who lead them back.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 141:1-2, 3 and 8
R. Let my prayer come like incense before you.

Psalm 141 is an individual lament. This part of the hymn supports the power of prayer and the need for God’s grace provided in answer to these pleas. The faith of the just will not be rejected and the salvation of God will be given to those who ask.

Gospel Mark 10:13-16

This picture of Jesus demonstrates that those who had seen his works and heard his words saw in him greatness. They brought their children to him instinctively that they might receive the grace empowered by his touch. This activity made his disciples indignant that their master should be pestered by these little ones. The Lord, however, used this as a teaching moment and told the crowd that only complete dependence upon God’s support would allow them salvation (“…for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”).


We must, given the direction offered by Sacred Scripture, contemplate the need and power for prayer in our lives. If we think about this relationship we hope to establish with God our Father and His Son, Jesus we can use as a worldly model the relationships we build on earth.

When we wish to get to know someone well, we speak with them. We ask them questions we hope that by speaking with them we can uncover who they are, where they were from, how and were did they grow up, what do they like and dislike. The more intensely we want this relationship, the deeper and more intensely we talk to them, spending hours conversing about all manner of things.

With members of our own families, much of this discussion is not necessary since we share a common history and life. Much of what we need to know we have learned through long association. The love we have for these family members is stimulated by our common desires, our common experiences, and the deep understanding we build with them over time.
A child so knows the mind of their loving parent that the worst thing they could contemplate is disappointing that parent through actions they know would be against their wishes. Likewise the child knows, without question, that if they are in trouble, that parent will do every thing in their power to rescue them from that situation. And if that child falls ill, the loving parent does whatever they can to see the child of their love return to health.

The analogy comes so easily. If we wish to know God, to build that relationship with Him, prayer is our best approach. Much of who God is and what he likes and does not like, we discover in the Sacred Texts of the Bible. The deeper we delve into that treasure chest of past experiences of God, the better we understand how to know Him in our lives.
But God was not a “Historical Figure”, he is a living God who loves and cares for us. It is this present and living Trinity that we want to know. So we talk to Him. We tell him we love him, we honor him because he deserves honor, and when we are in need, we ask for his help. We ask, confident as the child with a loving parent, that he will do all he can to save us from our difficulty. He may show us the way, he may open a door, and if all that is not enough and he wishes to demonstrate his love more visibly, he may offer up a miracle. They are more common than we know.

Today we pray to know our Loving Father better. We thank him for all he has done for us and in a special way, we pray for all those who are sick that through the Sacrament of Anointing, they might be restored to health and oneness with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today “Christ Healing the Blind” by El Greco 1567

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

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


Reading 1 James 5:9-12

Just prior to this excerpt from the Letter of St. James is an exhortation to patience. There is also a clear expectation that the Parousia is at hand. The author then points to the example of the prophets, especially Job to keep God foremost in their minds especially during trying times reemphasizing Christian patience. He concludes with a prohibition against “oath taking”, a means by which the Jewish community circumvented the binding force of the law and avoided using God’s name in vein.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 8-9, 11-12
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Psalm 103 is a song of praise to God for his mercy. It recognizes both God’s mercy and our need, as sinners, for it.

Gospel Mark 10:1-12

This passage gives us the scriptural support for the Church’s view of the “Sacrament of Matrimony”. The Pharisees question to Jesus and their response to his; “Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her." shows the Mosaic Law they are referring to (
Deuteronomy 24:1) dealt with a contractual relationship. Jesus, in quoting Genesis (see Genesis 1:27 and 2:24) speaks instead of the spiritual bond which joins husband and wife. This bond cannot be broken (“…what God has joined together, no human being must separate.").


Understanding the reading from the Gospel of St. Mark is critical for us if we are to understand the Church’s view of the Sacrament of Marriage. In the past the view was popularly held that the Church forbade divorce entirely because of the statement “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

The historical difficulty here is the clear reference earlier in the passage stating; “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” The key idea there is that God has joined them, not man, not a civil contract that can be ratified by a Justice of the Peace or a civil judge. What God has joined in marriage is an unbreakable bond. It is a covenant that includes God the Father and is seen as a living symbol of Christ and his bride, the Church. If this bond is present, it cannot be broken.

Does this mean that all marriages witnessed by the Church include this sacramental bond? We do our very best to insure they do, but the Sacrament of Marriage is a lived sacrament. The Church does not “administer” the Sacrament of Marriage as it does Baptism or the Eucharist.

The Church, through its marriage preparation programs tries to insure the sacramental bond is present. But, it is like a scientist using a very powerful microscope to look at the molecular structure of some material. Is he able to see the chemical bonds that hold the material together and make it the compound it appears to be? No, he cannot see the bonds but, depending upon how the material reacts under different circumstances (especially when he tries to take it apart) the bonds demonstrate their existence even though they are invisible to the human eye.

The civil contract of marriage can be easily broken. It is just like any business contract. There are terms and conditions and there are remedies in civil law. The only cost is legal fees. If the civil contract is nullified in what was presumed to have been a sacramental marriage, does that mean the sacramental bond that was presumed to have existed at the time it was validly witnessed in a Church was also nullified? No! That is why there is a Tribunal in each diocese. To make sure that the sacramental bond was never present. If present, it cannot be broken, if not present, the civil bond was all that bound the couple in the first place.

This whole view is widely misunderstood, even within the ranks of the faithful and we need to, whenever we encounter these misunderstandings, correct them. Jesus said; “What God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Thank God for his unfailing love for us.

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture today is “Wedding Feast at Cana” by Rufilio Manetti, 1620

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thursday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Rita of Cascia

Biographical Information about St. Rita of Cascia

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


Reading 1 James 5:1-6

The author reminds the audience of the importance of building up spiritual riches rather than secular wealth. This passage could be a commentary on the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (see
Luke 16; 19-31). The transitory nature of wealth is decried (“…Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded”) and God’s coming justice for the poor is predicted (“…the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.”)

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 49:14-15ab, 15cd-16, 17-18, 19-20
R. Blessed are the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!

Psalm 49 (a “Wisdom Psalm”) echoes, in these strophes the hellish fate of the unjust rich. Like Ecclesiastes (see
Ecclesiastes 1;2ff) and the letter of St. James (above), the psalmist explains that the wealth of this earth cannot be taken into the next.

Gospel Mark 9:41-50

In this passage, Jesus finishes his warning to the disciples against jealousy and intolerance toward others. Having said that those who call people to faith in him, even if they do not walk with the disciples are friends, he speaks of those who would lead the people away from him, again using the “Little Child” as a symbol of the weak in spirit and the poor. Those that do so, or who are tempted to do so, should resist such temptation at any price or they will find an eternal punishment waiting for them.

The final verse speaks of salt using the analogy of purifying and preserving food. The word of Christ will have the same effect e.g. purifying and preserving the believer.


The Letter of St. James and the Psalm certainly are in synch with each other pointing out that the values of the faithful must be placed on spiritual things rather than material wealth. Even the Gospel chimes in speaking about the consequences of getting it wrong as the Lord talks about avoiding temptation (“…If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire”).

There are those who would say that Holy Scripture, properly used should always be “uplifting”. Today, instead we get a reality check. When we hear that God will deal harshly with the unjust rich, those who covet their wealth and ignore the plight of those less fortunate, we are forced to examine our own circumstances. We, who live in the richest nation on earth must constantly be vigilant not to allow wealth to become the motive for what we do. As scripture points out, there are unpleasant consequences.

It is easy to fall into that trap of serving wealth instead of God. Our society praises those who are able to gain great wealth. Likewise society tends to turn a blind eye on those who abuse that wealth and the power that comes with it. Our children are exposed to these misguided values (“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea”).and it is sometimes tempting to rationalize that by focusing on the accumulation of wealth, we can do more good with the money we hoard.

Look at the transcripts from the recent exchange between corporate executives of the oil companies and the Senate Energy Committee. When asked how they could continue to justify huge profits while the people are suffering because of high gas prices; their response was that they are forcing the country to become better at conserving those energy resources. Even a firm believer in the free enterprise system would agree that sometimes things get out of hand.

The Gospel mandate is clear. While we are called to use the gifts God gives us to provide for ourselves and our families, we must constantly be on guard against allowing our search for prosperity override the need to express God’s love to those with less. Our prayer today is a simple one; God help the prosperity of the work of our hands for your greater glory and may what we do help those less fortunate, that they too might know their loving Father and His Son, Jesus.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “St. Lawrence Giving the Wealth to the Poor” by Palma Giovane, 1581-82

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wednesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Christopher Magallanes and his Companions, Martyrs

Biographical Information about St. Christopher Magallanes and his Companions, Martyrs[1]

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


Reading 1 James 4:13-17

St. James points out the need to submit humbly to God’s plan rather than being arrogant in human strength. He exhorts the people to pray for guidance in all things and tells them that when His will is revealed, to go against it falls into sin (“…for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is a sin.”)

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 49:2-3, 6-7, 8-10, 11
R. Blessed are the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!

Psalm 49 is a “Wisdom Psalm”. In this selection strophes focus on the folly of those who trust in temporal wealth. All the riches one can posses cannot ransom them from God’s judgment. In the end, the psalmist says, all die the wise and the foolish alike and the wealth of the world stays in the world.

Gospel Mark 9:38-40

This short section from St. Mark’s Gospel provides an important attitude in Jesus’ teaching. He warns the disciples about jealousy and intolerance toward others who use the Lord’s name but are not traveling with them. “For whoever is not against us is for us.”


It is said that the proof that God has a sense of humor is that he allows mankind to make plans. It is interesting to see St. James pointing out that, for the Christian it is important to pray about life decisions and to listen to God’s plan. He contrasts this with those who believe that it is through their own will their goals will be accomplished.

This same theme is carried out in Psalm 49. The psalmist says “Why should I fear in evil days when my wicked ensnarers ring me round? They trust in their wealth; the abundance of their riches is their boast.” Those who trust in their own ability to amass wealth will find, in the end, and empty heart and the treasure they build up on earth will stay on earth. What did they sacrifice to attain what they seek? Look at the wealthy who live for their wealth. It controls them and directs them. It happens to all of us.

Think for a moment about the “things” you have. Let’s take for instance a car. A car is a wonderful thing. It takes us were we want to go. It can go great distances and provide us with comfort and safety. If we look at the car, as many do as a status symbol, way beyond transportation, it can take control over our lives. It needs to be scrupulously maintained if it is to project the image of the vain owner. It needs to be protected from dings and dents, maintained by top mechanics, and even though it looses much of its value in the first two years of ownership, many who own such vehicles trade them in at the time when they have lost that big chunk of value.

All of this costs money and money comes through labor or shrewd dealings. It takes time and effort. Supporting this “thing” requires the owner to devote a portion of their time to earning the money to have it. The more “Things” one has, the greater the portion of time necessary to fund them. Since time is something there is only so much of, the more time necessary for supporting “things” the less time is available for other activities. Family suffers, friends suffer, and God suffers. Is it any wonder wealthy people are frequently the loneliest people in the world?

There is a good reason most religious orders require a vow of poverty. The distraction of physical wealth can devastate the soul. Today we pray for God’s guidance in all that we do. We pray also that the “Things” we own do not own us and that we can always put them aside and keep God, who gives us treasure in heaven, first in our lives.


[1] The picture used today is “St. Christopher Magallanes” from the Vatican web site, Artist and Date UNKNOWN
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Bernardine of Siena, Priest

Biographical Information about St. Bernardine of Siena

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


Reading 1 James 4:1-10

There is a nice summary for this reading in the NAB footnotes: “The concern here is with the origin of conflicts in the Christian community. These are occasioned by love of the world, which means enmity with God (4). Further, the conflicts are bound up with failure to pray properly (cf
Matthew 7:7-11; John 14:13; 15:7; 16:23), that is, not asking God at all or using God's kindness only for one's pleasure (James 4:2-3). In contrast, the proper dispositions are submission to God, repentance, humility, and resistance to evil (James 4:7-10).”

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 55:7-8, 9-10a, 10b-11a, 23
R. Throw your cares on the Lord, and he will support you.

Taken in total Psalm 55 is an individual lament. In theses strophes, the evil and deceit of the Psalmist’s friends has cased a desire to flee society, to rise above the strife (see also Jas 4;1-10 above). In the concluding strophe the psalmist expresses his faith that God will support the just against all attacks.

Gospel Mark 9:30-37

The passage from St. Mark’s Gospel begins with the second prediction of the passion Jesus is to face. The disciples, characteristic of St. Mark’s description, do not understand and begin to debate among themselves who will be greatest. Jesus tells them directly that their role (and by extension the role of all Christian disciples) is one of service. He probably uses the example of Children to represent the “anawim”; the poor in spirit, the most vulnerable of the Christian faithful.


We find an interesting relationship between the injunction by St. James for Christian unity and the instruction given to the disciples to be servants of each other by Jesus in St. Mark’s Gospel. St. James recognizes that strife in the Christian community comes from members who accept the values of the secular world. He specifically mentions worldly goods (“You covet but do not possess.” And “You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”) The passions for wealth, for power, for sex drive the unwary and because these passions in the secular world are satisfied by subjugating one person to another, conflicts arise.

St. James concludes this section with a statement that directly links to the Gospel from St. Mark (“Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.”). In the Gospel story, Jesus and just his closest friends set out from the region of Caesarea Philippi and began a “journey through Galilee”, headed for Capernaum. For a second time Jesus talks about his passion, death, and resurrection (recall the first time this happened was shortly after the transfiguration and St. Peter’s profession of faith that Jesus was the Messiah).

St. Mark’s picture of the disciples is not a very flattering one. They persistently do not understand what is apparent, even to early readers of the Gospel. In this case they must be thinking “Well if our teacher is going to his death and will be in heaven, we must be going with him so who should be number one when we get there?” They were probably citing personal attributes that would make them superior leaders. It was a very secular argument; one that might be heard in executive wash rooms as business leaders debate who will be next in line for promotion.

St. James may have recalled these words of Jesus as he penned his own letter. Jesus, who has gotten the sense of what they were discussing even though they were too embarrassed to tell him, tells the disciples that who ever would lead the flock must serve it. Unlike to leaders of the secular world who say “Do this…” or “Go there…” the words of the servant are “Follow me…” and “How can I help…”. It is a difficult thing to put down the world and pick up Christ. It is a complete change of heart – it is conversion.

Today we pray that our hearts might be changed that our servant leadership might bring others to Christ and that through our humble service Christian unity might be obtained. Our hope is that the Lord will be honored and served and that our service and humility will lead others to follow and find peace.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] This sketch for “Christ rebuking his disciples by calling the little child”, by Charles Robert Leslie, 1858

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

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


Reading 1 James 3:13-18

St. James takes up the topic of “True Wisdom” in the same way he had treated the role of teacher in the previous section. The qualities of Christian Wisdom are cited (see also
Gal 5:22-23)and contrasted with secular wisdom (see also 2 Cor 12:20)

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 15
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.

Psalm 19 is a song of praise that provides a litany that celebrates the virtue of adherence to the Law of God. Through acceptance of the Law, God provides salvation

Gospel Mark 9:14-29

St. Mark’s Gospel focuses on the inability of the disciples to cast out an unclean spirit that was afflicting a boy. The Lord attributes this inability to their lack of faith in God and prayer for His help (“This kind can only come out through prayer.”)


We reflect today on the contrast between good and evil, the world of the flesh and the world of the spirit. We have both natures and there is a constant battle raging silently within us. It is like the constant struggle of our immune system with the bacteria and viruses in our environment. We do not see or hear that struggle as the body’s defenses war against those diseases that try to infect us, but that war rages.

It turns out that the analogy of the war between the immune system and disease is a good one to use as we look at the battle between flesh and spirit. When the body’s immune system is healthy it is generally a result of a few things. First, our parents passed on antibodies to us when we were born. These natural defenses protected us from many of the common illnesses as we grew up. To help the body’s natural defenses, we were inoculated against some of the most dangerous infections, polio, measles, small pox, etc.. We also needed boosters on some of these so we would stay protected. In addition to all of this immunity, we check in with physicians regularly to make sure something more sinister has not managed to get past our immune system and take root. In addition to checking for these maladies, the physician may also recommend general instructions about life style and diet to bolster our natural immunity and make us feel better.

In spite of all this there are times when we get sick and need strong medicine to help us control the effects of the illness. We may even need antibiotics to help kill the organisms invading the body. Between the body’s immune system, the vaccines that help it against specific diseases, and physicians who keep an eye on things and prescribe stronger medicine when we do get sick, most of us stand a pretty good chance of living long and healthy lives.

Let’s look at that battle now as one between sin and death vs. righteousness and life. The natural immunity given by our parents is the basic instruction we receive about right and wrong, good and bad as we grow up. This knowledge, obtained and reinforced through discipline and example, protects us from many basic ills. They are assisted and we are inoculated with our first “Shots” through the sacraments of Baptism (that’s a big one). Later as we grow we are given a booster (Confirmation) and along the way periodic checkups (Reconciliation). As any parent knows, proper diet and exercise are necessary so we receive the Eucharist and are taught to pray and other disciplines of the faith are encouraged.

Just as the body fights disease, the spirit, strengthened by faith and sacrament fights against the evil the world sends. Ironically, like disease, these attacks generally come through the mouth, eyes and ears. But, with God’s help, most are defeated. Still as we go through life we are susceptible to these attacks and must not neglect diet exercise and good medicine (Sacred Scripture, prayer, and sacramental grace) to keep us healthy. Our semi-annual checkups (call them physicals (actually spirituals)) during Lent and Advent help us make sure nothing sinister and undetected has managed to get started.

This is obviously rich ground to explore but for today it is enough that we recognize this silent battle that rages within us and are careful to maintain the lifestyle that keeps us safe. If that is neglected in the physical part of our analogy the result is the body dies. In a spiritual sense, if we die it is eternal, a death we do not even wish to contemplate.


[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used is “Jesus Casts our Unclean Spirit” by Gustave Doré, 1865