Thursday, July 31, 2008

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest


Biographical Information about St. Ignatius of Loyola[1]

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

Commentary:

Reading 1 Jeremiah 18:1-6

The oracle of Jeremiah has been dwelling with the source of life in God and the importance of repentance. In the story of the visit to the Potter God symbolically demonstrates the absolute power of God to reshape civilization (to destroy and remake).

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 146:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6ab
R. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.

Psalm 146 is from the wisdom tradition. Here we are given a vision of God’s salvation. His saving power (envisioned in the oracle of Isaiah and fulfilled in Jesus the Christ) lifts up the poor and down trodden and heals those afflicted with every sort of malady.

Gospel Matthew 13:47-53

Jesus concludes his discourse about the Kingdom of Heaven with a final parable about the fisherman’s net. He then makes reference to the disciples' (and their successor's) role as “Christian scribes” or teachers of the Kingdom of God. In his description he refers to the “new and the old” being brought out. This reference is to the new teaching from Jesus and the old from the Law and Prophets.

Homily

We are given a perfect example to examine the deeper meaning of the parable of the Net today. In the reading from the book of the Prophet Jeremiah, we see in the analogy of the potter, God’s ability to reshape mankind (he speaks specifically of Israel but the important idea to understand is he is taking about destroying and remaking a society, not destroying mankind at an individual biological level). If we read the next six verses we see that God does not take this step on a whim but rather considers reflection, repentance, and conversion. The message, however, is clear, God has the power to tear down and build up until, like the potter he reaches a form pleasing to him.

In the Gospel of Matthew, we hear Jesus speaking to is disciples about the Kingdom of God. In this passage he refers to their role as scribes or teachers. Indeed this is what they became, spreading the Lord’s words of salvation, his promise of the Kingdom throughout the world. These words reshaped the world’s understanding of God. They tore down the old perceptions of God as simply a God of Justice and vengeance and, through the story of Christ, God’s Son, showed the face of God’s inestimable love. He continues even now to use his word to reshape the world.

The most ancient and authentic words those “Christian Scribes” left us are contained in Holy Scripture which we study fervently. The precepts contained in those pages are most authentically captured by the Teaching Magesterium of the Church. It is the legacy of Christ, Himself, who appointed Peter, the first Pontiff, as keeper of the Keys to the Kingdom. It has been faithfully passed down to us like a tool in the potter’s hand. The tool has been molding clay, reshaping the world.

The shaping tool changes over time like those who have gone before us (we remember today especially St. Ignatius of Loyola) we are given the guidance of the “scribes” teaching us from the books of the Law and Prophets in the Old Testament (the old we bring out) and the twelve and those who chronicled the story of Christ in the New Testament (the new vision of God’s Kingdom). We thank God today for His guidance and pray for the strength to be his tool working to bring the world to a shape pleasing to him.

Pax

[1] The picture used today is “Ignatius of Loyola” Artist and Date are UNKNOWN
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time


Saint Peter Chrysologus, Bishop, Doctor

Biographical Information about Saint Peter Chrysologus

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

Commentary:

Reading 1 Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21

This selection continues the Prophet Jeremiah’s lament. In these verses the prophet is having a crisis of faith in his own mission. He cries out first that he wishes he had never been born (since he was called from the womb to his mission -
Jeremiah 1:4-5). Because he constantly challenges the social traditions that are evolving, because he calls for the people to reform themselves and predicts God’s punishment if they do not, he is outcast (“I did not sit celebrating in the circle of merrymakers; Under the weight of your hand I sat alone because you filled me with indignation.”)

In response to his lament, the Lord calls Jeremiah to continue his prophetic work. First Jeremiah himself must repent from his own rebellious way and return to ritual purity (“If you bring forth the precious without the vile, you shall be my mouthpiece.”) The Lord pledges unfailing support for the prophet’s mission and ultimate victory over God’s foes. (“…for I am with you, to deliver and rescue you, says the Lord.”)

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 59:2-3, 4, 10-11, 17, 18
R. God is my refuge on the day of distress.

Psalm 59 is a lament which alternates prayers for salvation with petitions to punish the enemies of the faithful. The plea for salvation in the psalm strikes a counterpoint to the lament of Jeremiah who is isolated because of his call to serve the Lord.

Gospel Matthew 13:44-46

The parable of the Buried Treasure and the parable of the Pearl have the same point. One who understands the Kingdom of Heaven and sees its worth, places obtaining that promise before all else and sees it. It is the primacy of Christ’s teaching that guides the disciple in all things.

Reflection:

We are struck at once with the irony that exists between the lament of the Prophet Jeremiah and the parables from St. Matthew’s Gospel. We hear Jeremiah’s anguish because he is outcast. We hear his loneliness because every hand is turned against him. It is the loneliness that comes from being outspoken in a just cause. He experiences the enmity of people he loves because God has called him to be a “voice” of conscience for the people.

The message of Jeremiah to his contemporaries is a call to turn away from the easy course of secular integration and to become a people set apart. As we listen to him cry our “Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth!” we can hear a little boy telling his mother – “I wish I had never been born.” And his mother would ask “What happened? Why are you so sad?” And the little boy would answer – “Some other boys were doing something bad on the playground and I told them if they didn’t stop it they were going to get into trouble. I kept warning them, and they hated me, especially when a teacher finally came along and gave them all detention. They will never be my friends. I wish I had never been born.” Of course this analogy trivializes the prophet’s lament but it is an emotional equivalent we can understand.

Against the cries of the prophet, that following God’s call had caused him isolation and enmity with his friends and neighbors, we hear the parables of the Pearl and the Treasure. We are called to set our pursuit of the Kingdom of Heaven above all else in our lives. In short we are called by these examples down the same path as Jeremiah. Placing the call and the consequence of the call on the same day is a clear indication that if we are doing it right, Christianity, lived in a secular society, will be difficult and it will cost us friends. Even today (the little boy analogy plays well in this circumstance) when we become a light to the world, we will find those who hate the light.

Today our prayer is that we can do all we can to obtain the pearl of great price, even at the cost of unpopularity and isolation from people we care about. Like Jeremiah, we hear God’s promise; ”I will free you from the hand of the wicked, and rescue you from the grasp of the violent.”

Pax

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “Jeremiah” by Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1511

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Memorial of Saint Martha


Biographical Information about St. Martha[1]

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

Commentary:

Reading 1 Jeremiah 14:17-22

This reading is part of the Prophet Jeremiah’s great lament for the destruction and death that has come to Judah. He uses the metaphor of a young woman morally wounded to describe the damage to the land and people. The concluding verses constitute a plea for mercy and a confession of past sins (“We recognize, O Lord, our wickedness, the guilt of our fathers”). The implication being the destruction visited upon them was a consequence of their sin. The Prophet’s final plea recognizes the one True God who is all powerful.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 79:8, 9, 11 and 13
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.

Psalm 79 is a communal lament. Continuing the lament of Jeremiah above, these verses plead with God to forgive the people of the sins they have committed. They see in their destruction and defeat the punishment of God of these past offenses and issue a plea fro mercy.

Gospel John 11:19-27

Within the story or the death and resurrection of Lazarus we see the very human emotions of Jesus they range from confidence in his relationship with the Father at the end of the story to the all too human grief and fear as he expresses his concern at what this revelatory event has cost his close friends, Martha and Mary, as they see their brother die. The encounter describes Martha’s fear and remorse change to faith as she makes her profession of faith (“I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God”) This exchange of fear for faith seen in the witnesses is the same conversion the Gospel attempts to initiate in the Christian faithful in response to these events.

Or
Lk 10:38-42

In this encounter with Martha and Mary in St. Luke’s Gospel we see two distinct messages. First, we see the importance of the role of women and Jesus’ attitude toward them. Second we see the importance of listening to the word of God "Mary has chosen the better part".

Reflection:

St. Martha’s role in the life of Christ resonates with those who have chosen to take an active role in service to the Church. Whether that role is in the form of lay or ordained ministry, active participation means we have chosen to assist with the labor involved in ministering to God’s people. When we choose that role, we frequently (especially over time) take ownership of the tasks and when disruptive forces come along or when it seems we have taken on more than our share we assume the Martha persona we see in the Gospels.

To place it in the form of analogy, Martha’s sister Mary represents the congregation we serve. They sit at the Lord’s feet without all the turmoil and distraction of the tasks necessary to serve the guests in which Martha (representing those of us who serve) is involved. There are times when we long for that peaceful place at the Master’s feet; there are times when we would like to go to them and say “Would you mind helping? There is much work to do here.”

It is at these times when we must remember that other role that Martha had in the life of Christ. When Mary and the other mourners were sitting with their brother Lazarus who had died, it was Martha who met the Lord (SHE MET THE LORD!) and spoke with him. Not only that but after she chastised him (completely out of place to complain to the Lord, right – we would never do that), it was Martha who was honored to make the great profession of faith. What an exalted role she played in Christ’s life.

The life and ministry of St. Martha should be a constant reminder to all of us who work for Christ in our time on earth. There will be times when we too become tired and frustrated; when we pray for a little help in doing what we have set our hearts to do for God. Like St. Martha, we are very human and prone to these outbursts. Let us pray that when our work is done and we at last are face to face with the Lord, we too many be allowed to proclaim to the heavens and earth “I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God the one who is coming into the world.”

Pax

[1] The picture used today is “Christ in the House of Martha and Mary” by Johannes Vermeer, 1654-55
[2] After Links to Readings Expire
[3] Note – the first reading from Jeremiah and the Psalm with its response are taken from the proper of the season (Tuesday of the 17th Week in Ordinary Time # 403). The Gospels from John and Luke are taken from the proper of the day (Memorial of St. Martha #607).

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time


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

Commentary:

Reading 1 Jeremiah 13:1-11

The oracle of Jeremiah uses the metaphor of the loincloth to describe the fallen nature of the people of Judah. The loincloth, unwashed and hidden, represents the people, unrepentant and fallen away. The loincloth worn as an undergarment was the clothing worn closest to man’s most intimate parts and therefore most personal. Jeremiah uses this relationship to describe the Lord’s consideration and love for Israel which was intense (“…to be my people, my renown, my praise, my beauty”) whose fall therefore was so grievous to God (“But they did not listen.”)

Responsorial Psalm Deuteronomy 32:18-19, 20, 21
R. You have forgotten God who gave you birth.

This passage from Deuteronomy is taken from the last discourse of Moses, a section called the Song of Moses. The great leader laments that the people have turned away from the God who saved them. The song echoes God’s anger at the people who turn their backs and worship foreign gods.

Gospel Matthew 13:31-35

The Lord continues his descriptions of the Kingdom of Heaven using two parables. The parable of the mustard seed and the parable of yeast have the same point. What appears to be small grows to miraculous size. What has been insignificant is vastly important, what cannot be seen is unknowingly immense. The parables of the “Mustard Seed” and “Yeast” (see also
Mark 4:30-32 and Luke 13:18-21) emphasize that from the smallest of beginnings with the proclamation of the word, the Kingdom of God expands to encompass all peoples.

Reflection:

The entire theme of the day is colored by Jeremiah and his vision of God’s lament. He describes God’s love with a rather gritty metaphor, that of a loincloth. We can tease that image apart and see that it has a dimension and depth that at first blush we might overlook.

Think about underpants – that is the purpose the loincloth served. In this case God told Jeremiah to “Go buy yourself a linen loincloth”. He then tells the prophet to wear the cloth but not to wash it. When we understand that this loincloth represents God’s chosen ones, the act of not washing the underwear is symbolic of a people who are not washed – they become dirty. When the image is of a loincloth, they become dirty with not just the dust of the journey but with bodily filth that left unwashed will fester the skin and chafe the loins.

Once the loincloth is put on, the Lord commands Jeremiah to “Take the loincloth which you bought and are wearing, and go now to the Parath.” The Parath is the name given to the Euphrates River in Old Testament times, roughly six hundred miles from where Jeremiah was in Palistine. A journey of that distance was undoubtedly symbolic as well. In this case the contamination of the people (i.e. the false gods, the violations of Mosaic Law, and introduction of values contrary to tradition) was perceived to flow from the Assyrians whose roots were in the Euphrates Valley.

When we think about the state of a loincloth, unwashed after such a journey, buried for the time it would take for Jeremiah to make that journey twice, the state of that undergarment would indeed be rotten. This was no doubt a commentary on how deeply the people had fallen into sin.

This deterioration of the relationship between God and his people is the tragic point that God laments through Jeremiah. That same refrain is also demonstrated in the Song of Moses, used as the psalm response today. Human kind constantly refuses to accept God’s love.

The shock value of this ancient parable is still there. In light of God’s later gift of his Son, and the revelation of the depth of his love for us through that action, we see even more clearly how our unrepentant nature causes grief in the loving parent (our Heavenly Father) who wants only good and wholesome things for us.

The Gospel makes it explicit. What we turn our backs on is nothing less than the Kingdom of God which has now encompassed all peoples of all nations. The invitation that started with a small and insignificant nomadic people (in terms of world population) has now been extended (like yeast in dough) to include the whole world.

And still God’s offer is rejected. Even people once faithful turn away. But as fickle as we can be, God is always faithful. His had is always extended and he invites us to wash ourselves clean and come back to him. It was for this reason that he sent his Son Jesus and for that gift we are truly thankful.

Pax

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “Jeremiah Buries the Girdle” by Rom de Hogge, published in 1908

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


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

Commentary:

Reading 1 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12

King Solomon is in the process of uniting the Kingdom of Israel’s worship in the construction of the Temple. It is still unfinished at the point where this dream occurs. Solomon has just offered a huge holocaust (“…a thousand holocausts”) and in response God offers to grant him a request. Because Solomon, in humility, asks for “understanding” rather than a selfish boon, God grants him an understanding heart.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130
R. Lord, I love your commands.

Psalm 119, the longest of the psalms, in general is a hymn in praise of the Law. It is not legalism, but rather a love of doing what is right in the sight of God. In these strophes, the psalmist proclaims his faithfulness to the law in the face of his adversaries and waits for final salvation.

Reading II Romans 8:28-30

The Evangelist outlines the Christian vocation as God intended it to be. Because Christ existed eternally those called to him were carefully chosen or elected from the beginning of time to be called to salvation.

Gospel Matthew 13:44-52

The commentary on the three parables is placed below in the “Shorter Form” commentary.

The question Jesus poses to his disciples following the parables requires an understanding of the structure of the Christian community at the time of Matthew. That is will described in the following: “The church of Matthew has leaders among whom are a group designated as "scribes" (
Matthew 23:34). Like the scribes of Israel, they are teachers. It is the Twelve and these their later counterparts to whom this verse applies. The scribe . . . instructed in the kingdom of heaven knows both the teaching of Jesus (the new) and the law and prophets (the old) and provides in his own teaching both the new and the old as interpreted and fulfilled by the new. On the translation head of a household (for the same Greek word translated householder in Matthew 13:27), see the note on Matthew 24:45-51.”[3]

Or Shorter Form
Matthew 13:44-46

The parable of the Buried Treasure and the parable of the Pearl have the same point. One who understands the Kingdom of Heaven and sees its worth, places obtaining that promise before all else and sees it. It is the primacy of Christ’s teaching that guides the disciple in all things. The third parable in this group speaks of the eschaton, or end times. Those who have remained faithful in their pursuit of the Kingdom of God will be saved. Those who have chosen evil over good will suffer eternal death.

Reflection:

Oh that we all could have been granted the boon given to Solomon. We would always be able to discern the proper action, we would always make the right choices, and we would always be in accord with God’s plan for us. But that is not the case. Even though we may pray for it constantly, God does not wish to take away the freedom he gave us to choose our own course.

The parables we are given today shows us what we should do. The person who finds a buried treasure should do everything in their power to posses it. The same is true with the analogy of the pearl. If we follow the parables; that is state their meaning in clear language God’s desired response to them becomes clear.

Let us look at buried treasure. First we understand that the treasure is our understanding of what it takes to reach God’s Kingdom (both on earth and in the eternal sense). God’s Kingdom on earth is achieved through a harmony with the whole of God’s creation. That harmony is only possible if we put on Christ. His love for all people gave him such peace that God’s expressed hope for his children from the beginning of time was revealed through him. The way for us to achieve God’s Kingdom on earth, therefore, is to emulate the mind and heart of Christ as best we can. Now that we know where the treasure of God’s Kingdom can be found, like the parable says, attaining that stated goal becomes the point, the goal of all we do. The parable says “…out of joy (he) goes and sells all that he has and buys that field”. We understand the object of the parable.

The same basic meaning is true for the Parable of the Pearl. The pearl, like the treasure, drives all of our actions on this earth toward our goal of attaining the Kingdom of Heaven. We do this because striving to achieve it on earth places us on a path to achieve eternal peace in heaven.

We pledge ourselves once more then to do all we can to emulate Christ who places us on the path to the insurmountable joy embodied in the love of God. Through the one who is love we find the peace and contentment possible only by sacrificing hedonistic pursuits for those which build the spirit and build treasure in heaven. We once again wish Solomon’s gift might be ours in some small measure.

Pax

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “Hell” (detail view) by Hieronymus Bosch, 1500-04
[3] See footnote from the NAB on Matthew 13:52

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Memorial of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne


Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Biographical Information about
Saint Joachim and Saint Anne[1]

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

Commentary:

Reading 1 Jeremiah 7:1-11

In this passage, the Prophet Jeremiah, once more speaking with God’s voice, issues a call and a warning to the people who come the Temple that they must reform – repent – turn away from the evil, blasphemy, and callousness many have fallen into (“if each of you deals justly with his neighbor; if you no longer oppress the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place, or follow strange gods to your own harm”). It is only if they do this that God will continue to remain with them. “The temple of the Lord will not serve as a place of refuge for the Jews against their enemies if they fail to reform their evil ways.”
[3]

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 84:3, 4, 5-6a and 8a, 11
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!

Psalm 84 was used to celebrate pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem (3 times a year). Used here it recalls Jeremiah’s oracle that the temple would not be a refuge for the wicked nor the great gift his presence was for the faithful.

Gospel Matthew 13:24-30

Jesus tells another parable, about the harvest this time. Here we see his reference to the “good seed” and “bad seed”. The good seed here, since this is references as an analogy to the Kingdom of God, represents those who remain faithful to God’s laws and precepts. The fact that the householder does not permit his slaves to tear out the weeds for fear of killing the wheat as well is a warning to the disciples not to judge or attempt to alienate themselves from those with whom they have contact who reject the word. The “bad seed” represents those converted by God’s enemy who choke off the good seed and, in the eschaton, will be condemned to hell.

Reflection:

How many times have we seen politicians devoutly attending religious services and later found out they had done despicable things that ran totally contrary to their professed faith? Here in Southeast Michigan we are currently bombarded with information about the Mayor of Detroit who is charged with numerous counts of perjury of obstruction of justice. His extramarital exploits are at the heart of his problems and when confronted with these charges he chose to respond from a church in Detroit. It is believed by most people who have followed the story that this individual is the worst kind of hypocrite, preying on those he pledged to serve.

Jeremiah’s words most directly apply to people like him and any others who try to shield themselves from public ridicule by hiding themselves in a community of faith. Hypocrisy is one of the favorite targets of the God of Justice, and his Son for that matter. It is one of the great gifts of the Church that we are allowed to be repentant and it is clear, even from the time of Jeremiah that those who had transgressed God’s law were allowed to make amends and return to God’s favor. When the Jesus came, he provided two forms of grace for those who wish to follow him. First the initial cleansing in Baptism whereby all previous sins are washed clean and a new beginning is made. Once that initial adoption is made our recourse is to the Sacrament of Reconciliation where our repentance is accepted and God’s love is expressed.

Does that mean that the Church is not an inviting refuge for those who are enthralled with sin outside her walls? No, on the contrary, the safety of God’s love is viewed by the evil, the bad seed in Christ’s parable, as being our weakness. Those who care nothing for human dignity find it amusing that we gullible Christians would show them Christ’s love when they would take everything we have if they could. To those who have had evil sown in their hearts, the fires of the harvest chaff are waiting.

Our challenge is first to constantly turn away from sin and, through sacramental grace, realign ourselves with Christ. Second, we recognize that as wheat we grow up among the seed sown by the evil one but even that can be turned to good, so we must never stop trying to invite those around us, in spite of the risk of disappointment, to come back to the Lord with all their hearts.

Pax
[1] The picture used today is “The Annunciation to Joachim and Anna” by Gaudenzio Ferrari, 1544-45
[2] After Links to Readings Expire
[3] NAB footnote on Jeremiah 7:1-15

Friday, July 25, 2008

Feast of Saint James, Apostle


Biographical Information about St. James[1]

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

Commentary:

Reading 1 2 Corinthians 4:7-15

On the feast of the first Apostle to be martyred we hear St. Paul speaking to the Corinthians about suffering and death in the human existence of this life, in spite of living in the faith. The image he uses, fragile earthen pots, speaks of God’s instruments being easily broken but none the less effective (the image of small terracotta lamps in which light is carried is mentioned elsewhere).

The point the evangelist makes contrasts our mortality with God’s omnipotence and power; our death in the flesh but life in the spirit of Christ. With such a spirit at work within us, we must, like St. Paul spread that news to others (“…we too believe and therefore speak”).

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 126:1bc-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6
R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.

Psalm 126 is a lament. The strophes used rejoice in the return of the captives placed in servitude during the Diaspora. The sense of being overflowing with thanksgiving is reminiscent of St. Paul’s address to the Corinthians above.

Gospel Matthew 20:20-28

The sons of Zebedee, James and John, are pushed forward by their mother who (naturally) wishes them to achieve places of honor in the Kingdom of God. Jesus uses this event to speak first of his own passion and then about Christian leadership. The Servant Leader, as Jesus describes, leads through example.

Reflection:

Asking us to be servant leaders is one of the most difficult things the Lord has called us to be. There is a constant internal struggle between our desire to remain humble, like the Lord, and our need to speak out forcefully, as St. Paul does.

How do we strike that balance? When are we being “bossy” and when is our righteous zeal appropriate? Or when are we being too meek and diluting the message? We have all experienced individuals who believe it is their mission to get everyone in the world to believe (and worship) exactly as they do. To them it does not matter if the person(s) they are speaking to have similar experiences of God or similar cultural foundations. They are like bulls in a china shop, frequently doing more harm than good.

We have also encountered those who try to be too inclusive. They want everyone to be happy so they do not challenge any beliefs or actions. The result of their efforts at unity result is a meaningless message that allows sin to fester.

If we think about how the Lord went about announcing the Kingdom of God, it was not that way. He was not necessarily gentle, although he could certainly be that way in one-on-one situations when his sensitivity for the situation required it. He also was not timid, although he knew when to keep silent (think about his trial before the Sanhedrin – nothing he could have said would have made the situation better). He could be zealous as we see when he drives the money changers from the Temple. But that zeal is for “His Father’s House”, the Lord did not hate the money changers but the tradition that had grown up clearly disgusted him to a point of almost violent action.

What he asks us to be is difficult, this servant leadership. How can we learn to strike the right balance? First, we must come to a fundamental conversion of heart. Our motivation must be that God’s Kingdom must come first and the need for his love to be expressed has to be behind all of our actions. How hard is that? That means our own petty motives must become secondary; our own egos must be subordinated to Christ. This very attribute is what makes the Apostles such great role models. The mother of James and John must be forgiven. She wanted what every mother wants for their children – she wanted them to be happy and successful in their pursuits. The Lord knew this, of course, so when he answered he spoke to the disciples teaching them as he always did.

He gave us a fundamental lesson as well. When we go into the world, though our tasks may be dictated for us, we must go with but one mission; that all we do must be for God’s glory. When we try to lead others to Christ we must do so not as an army commander giving orders but as a waiter offering the most delicious meal. We have our work cut out for us.

Pax

[1] The Picture is titled St. James the Elder by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1861
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thursday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time


Saint Charbel Makhlouf, Priest

Biographical Information about Saint Charbel Makhlouf[1]

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

Commentary:

Reading 1 Jeremiah 2:1-3, 7-8, 12-13

The oracle of Jeremiah recalls first the how the chosen people were saved. “Following me in the desert”; is a reference to the exodus and subsequent sojourn in the desert. But once they arrived in the land promised they turned away from God, even adopting the pagan practices of the indigenous peoples. (“The prophets prophesied by Baal”)

This part of the oracle concludes by saying the people have rejected the living water that is God’s favor (“…they have forsaken me, the source of living waters”) and they have turned to false gods (“They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water.”)

Responsorial Psalm Psallm 36:6-7ab, 8-9, 10-11
R. With you is the fountain of life, O Lord.

Psalm 36 is of mixed genre, having elements of wisdom and lament. In these strophes we hear the psalmist thanking God for his infinite mercy. The metaphor of God as the source of living water is captured in the second and third strophes supporting Jeremiah’s oracle above.

Gospel Matthew 13:10-17

“Since a parable is figurative speech that demands reflection for understanding, only those who are prepared to explore its meaning can come to know it. To understand is a gift of God, granted to the disciples but not to the crowds. In Semitic fashion, both the disciples' understanding and the crowd's obtuseness are attributed to God.”
[3] The quote from Isaiah supporting this statement is Isaiah 6: 9-10.

Homily:

Today the oracle of Jeremiah coupled with St. Matthew’s Gospel reminds us of our own fallibility as we once more grapple with our attempt to follow Jesus and the realization of how often we simply forget that mission and only later realize our failure.

Jeremiah, speaking with God’s voice laments about how his precious possession, the people of Israel, who faithfully followed him in their desert wanderings turned away from him once they reached the Promised Land. It is like a child who was promised a reward if they would only behave during a family gathering. When the parents gave them their reward early because they were doing such a great job, the children immediately forgot about their promise and misbehaved.

God laments through Jeremiah because the people he loves, in turning to false gods have reached out for an empty cup – a broken cistern that holds no water. They have turned from life to death and God, the loving parent weeps for their choice.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples how blessed they are because God has made the offer of life to them and they perceive it properly. It is his love for all God’s children that Christ asks us to communicate to others.

Think again of the parent who sees their children going in directions that will harm them. With older children (those who have learned everything there is to know) many times all we can do is tell them, plead with them to take another path. When they do not listen, all we can do is pray for God’s mercy and that when they find the cistern empty they will return to the living water.

We pray for ourselves as well. How often do we turn away from the life giving fountain that is God’s love to follow that which seems fairer but is not wholesome? Blessed indeed are we who see and hear God’s voice and follow. His loving mercy has saved us once more.

Pax

[1] The picture today is “St. Charbel Makhlouf” Artist and Date are UNKNOWN
[2] After Links to Readings Expire
[3] footnote from the NAB on Mt 13:10-17

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time


Saint Bridget of Sweden, Religious

Biographical Information about Saint Bridget of Sweden[1]

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

Commentary:

Reading 1 Jeremiah 1:1, 4-10

This is the beginning of the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (the two verses omitted set a span of time in which he was active that is contradicted later in modern manuscripts). It is clear that the author sees the call of the prophet from before his birth (see
Isaiah 49:1, 5; Luke 1:15; Gal 1:15, 16. I knew you: I loved you and chose you. I dedicated you: I set you apart to be a prophet.)

In spite of protesting that he was not yet of age (he was less than thirty years of age), God tells him that he (the Lord) will overcome all obstacles (“To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you”). The passage culminates with formal statement of his prophetic mission to tear down (those who follow false paths) and to build and plant (uphold the Kingdom of God).

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 71:1-2, 3-4a, 5-6ab, 15 and 17
R. I will sing of your salvation.

Psalm 71 is an individual lament. In this section we hear a profession of faith in the saving power of God. In the third strophe we also find a link to the “Servant of the Lord” in Jeremiah and Isaiah. In both cases the servant is known by God and prepared for his service from the womb.

Gospel Matthew 13:1-9

St. Matthew’s Gospel begins the third great discourse of teachings on the Kingdom of God through parables. We hear that Jesus is teaching from a boat which would provide a natural amphitheater with the ground sloping to the shore. Here the Lord presents the parable of the “Sower”. Jesus follows the unvarnished parable with a deeper explanation to the Disciples (Matthew 13: 18-23). As a historical note, at that point in history in that region, when planting a field, the seed was sown first and then the field was plowed.

Reflection:

After the brief pause to reflect on those who have influenced us in our faith, we come back to the mission we are handed and our preparation for it. We have reflected at length about the Parable of the Sower since it has been used extensively. We are always finding new ways of understanding the complexity of the story since we can assume the role of the sower, the seed, or the environment into which the seed is sown.

Today, however, we are introduced to the Prophet Jeremiah and his call and response. Placed as it is with the parable of the sower, it is as if we are told; “See, you are called to play an important role in my plan. Which part will you play?” Our part in God’s plan may be one that requires us to place our selves at risk (Like the prophets, the Apostles, and the Lord himself) or it may be a more supportive role (like Mary, the virgin mother of Christ, Mary Magdalene, or the great contemplatives of the faith). It may be something in between and it may even change over time. We are called, after all, to constantly build up spiritual treasure for ourselves. Sometimes God tells us to go out and spend it.

The point of Jeremiah’s example is that we may not understand what God is calling us to do or to be for the world. We do know, like Jeremiah, that we were called before we were born to be the adopted sons and daughters of God. A call first fulfilled in our Baptism, our dedication, our first call to be set aside for God’s purpose. Also like the prophet, we may resist what God calls us to be. Look at the mission He gave Jeremiah: “To root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant.” His was not a passive role, yet, like us God promises to stand with us and support us as we work for his greater glory.

Today, let’s take time to reflect and pray about what God has called us to be. What barriers are we to tear down or what seed are we to plant? Let us pray that our ears are open that we might hear and follow.

Pax

[1] The picture today is “St. Bridget of Sweden, Artist and Date UNKNOWN
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Memorial of Saint Mary Magdalene


Biographical Information about St. Mary Magdalene[1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene[2][3]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Commentary:

Reading 1 Micah 7:14-15, 18-20

This passage begins with a prayer of Micah. He asks that the people (likely a remnant returning to the region following their exile in 537 B.C.) might be given back their historical lands and live in peace. Following the two verses not used in which the prophet proclaims that all surrounding nations will be in fear of the power of God, he continues with a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s mercy and forgiveness (“…and will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt? You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins”).

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 85:2-4, 5-6, 7-8
R. Lord, show us your mercy and love.

Psalm 85 is a national lament. The psalmist, in these strophes, recalls with thanksgiving that God has returned the people to their land and restored the inheritance of Jacob. The song asks for forgiveness and mercy from God who alone grants salvation.

Gospel John 20:1-2, 11-18

This selection provides St. John’s account of the first meeting between Mary Magdalene and Jesus following the Lord’s crucifixion. In this account we get a distinct picture that the ascension had not been completed but the Lord is waiting to deliver his final instructions.

There is debate about when the Lord ascended to the Father. Clearly his last earthly appearance was fifty days following the resurrection. Most scholars believe Jesus ascended immediately following his meeting with Mary depicted here. His return and actions from this point to the Ascension (
Acts 1:1-11) were to accomplish the gift of the Holy Spirit he had promised.

Reflection:

“We should reflect on Mary's attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tell us: "Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved."

-from a homily by Pope Saint Gregory the Great

There was a study done by the Harvard Business School some time back in which its alumni were asked how they learned to manage effectively. Ten percent said they learned from their academic experience, twenty percent said they learned by trial and error, twenty percent said they learned from their peers, and fifty percent said they learned from how they were managed. Most of those in academia find those numbers to be uncomfortable but those in business generally accept this as fairly accurate.

This study has broader implications for those who practice the faith. We suspect that if a study were done regarding what aspects of our life had had the greatest impact upon our own faith development the numbers would come out roughly the same but might be stated; Ten percent came from our academic training. Twenty percent by trying things we came up with on our own (developing our own discipline of faith). Twenty percent might have come from observing our friends and colleagues lived experience of the faith (Oh, the Saints would have fallen into this category as well) and finally fifty percent would have come from our experience fostered by our parents, their influence was probably the greatest single factor in our lives.

Ultimately, the faith we express is a gift from God; given without cost or merit. We learn that it is our responsibility to grow and nurture that faith to make it strong. Regardless of where the encouragements and examples come from, we must build upon the gift (initially given in Baptism) so that when it is tested (and we know it will be), like Mary Magdalene, we will be able to persist even when all others seem to have given up hope. As another predecessor in the faith told us in the beginning; “Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved."

Pax

[1] The picture used today is “Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene” by Lavinia Fontana, 1581
[2] Note – the first reading from Micah and the Psalm with its response are taken from the proper of the season (Tuesday of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time # 396). The Gospel from John is taken from the proper of the day (Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene #603).
[3] After Links to Readings Expire

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time


Saint Laurence of Brindisi, Priest, Doctor

Biographical Information about Saint Laurence of Brindisi[1]

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

Commentary:

Reading 1 Micah 6:1-4, 6-8

We hear in these verses from the Prophet Micah a lament by God against the impious of Israel. His complaint (often read as part of the Stations of the Cross) reminds the listener first of the great love God has shown in delivering the people from cruel bondage in Egypt. The prophet switches to the voice of the people to ask what it is that will please the Lord, listing greater and greater sacrifices culminating in the sacrifice asked of Abraham – the sacrifice of the supplicant’s fist born. The passage ends with God’s response; for the listener to repent from evil and love what is good; closing with the phrase made popular in song “…and to walk humbly with your God.” This is one of the best expressions of the prophetic teaching on religion, the preparation for such New Testament passages as
James 1:27.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 50:5-6, 8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

Psalm 50 is a “covenant lawsuit”, that is a lament against those who have violated God’s law and the covenant made with Him upon which it was based. Echoing the charges leveled against Israel by the Prophet Micah (above) the psalmist condemns empty ritual and sacrifice not reflective of external actions and internal faith.

Gospel Matthew 12:38-42

In this passage from Matthew’s Gospel the Scribes and Pharisees demand a sign. even though the Lord has been performing cures and exorcisms in front of them. Jesus reply and tells them in no uncertain terms that no sign will be given to them. Using a reference first to Jonah, then to the covenant of Moses and finally to the wisdom of Solomon, he calls them unfaithful (literally adulterous) in their failure to understand that he is sent by God and his mission.

Reflection:

“…to walk humbly with your God.”

These words reach out from the Prophet Micah and grab us. We are all servants (defined as “One who expresses submission, recognizance, or debt to another”) of the Lord. As such we are required to do what is asked of us by our Lord and Master. In other words his will becomes our command.

We have all seen at least theatrical representations of domestic servants. There are numerous examples of the actions of individuals from old classic movies like Sabrina to the more modern representation of Alfred, Batman’s butler. In these representations we notice a couple of things. First we note that the servant never presumes to place their own will in front of their employer’s instructions. While they are working, they attempt to comply completely with the one to whom they have pledged their allegiance. Loyalty, unflinching and self deprecating service is one of the hallmarks of these personas.

The second thing we notice in these portrayals is that the good servant anticipates the needs and wants of their employer. They know the person for whom they work so well that they can provide for what their master wants in every circumstance without explicit orders. They operate as an extension of their employer; often behaving as if the employer was present with them.

We use these examples because we are reminded once more that we are to “walk humbly with our God.” As his servants we must listen carefully to his instructions (If we are “domestic servants” or servants in the house of God, these instructions are very explicit.). We must always put God’s will in front of our own, even when such obedience is not in our personal best interests. That is were the “humbly” part comes in. We are called, through our faith, to serve others because that was and is the mission of the one we serve. Our only boast (as St. Paul would say) must be in the elevation in standing of the one we serve, not our own.

Finally, we must get to know the Lord. We must do our very best to learn his mind so we may anticipate his desires in all things. We do this through reading his written instructions (the Word of God), listening to his spoken instructions (in prayer); and lastly, learning from other, more experienced and wise servants (the saints and Holy Ones who have gone before us). For those of use who serve through the Catholic Church this also means we listen to the Servant of the Servants of God, the Pontiff who, with the apostolic successors of St. Peter, the Bishops, provide leadership in difficult and turbulent times.

Alas, the life of a servant is difficult. There is so much to learn and so much to do when our Lord is the salvation of the world. Thankfully we are not alone and it is Jesus who is Lord and not us. All we are to do is to walk humbly with him.

Pax

[1] The picture today is “Saint Laurence of Brindisi” Artist and Date are UNKNOWN
[2] After Links to Readings Expire

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


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

Commentary:

Reading 1 Wisdom 12:13, 16-19

The Wisdom author provides a unique insight into the Old Testament perception of God’s power and mercy. The passage begins with a statement that God is the only god there is no other to which He answers; to whom He must justify his actions. His will is the source of Justice and because God is capable of destroying what he created, the fact that he chooses not to is proof that he is ”lenient”.

The author tells the people that when God’s primacy is challenged by unbelieving people He reveals his might. Those who do have faith in him are expected to be confident and outspoken in praise of God (“…you rebuke temerity.”). The passage concludes with a testimony of God’s mercy for in his omnipotence he shows clemency to those who err and in that compassion gives hope to the people for repentance and forgiveness.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16
R. Lord, you are good and forgiving.

Psalm 86 is a lament. The psalmist sings of a life afflicted and asks God to give his servant relief. The song indicates the faithfulness of the singer, even in times of distress. The theme of forgiveness and mercy are confidently expected for those who believe and trust in God.

Reading II Romans 8:26-27

St. Paul’s dialogue has been explaining to the Romans that the glory Christ will be shared by those who believe in him and the sufferings of the present life are preparatory to future redemption. It is through the Holy Spirit that this interior will is communicated to God in prayer. Even imperfect intent is received because of the intercession of the Spirit and because of God’s love and mercy.

Gospel Matthew 13:24-43

In the first parable (unique to St. Matthew’s Gospel) we see the metaphor of the field used to describe the whole of mankind. The fact that the householder does not permit his slaves to tear out the weeds for fear of killing the wheat as well is a warning to the disciples not to judge or attempt to alienate themselves from those with whom they have contact who reject the word.

The parables of the “Mustard Seed” and “Yeast” (see also
Mark 4:30-32 and Luke 13:18-21) emphasize that from the smallest of beginnings with the proclamation of the word, the Kingdom of God expands to encompass all peoples.

Or Shorter From
Matthew 13:24-30

The shorter form focuses specifically on the parable of the “Weeds” and excludes the explanation of the parable in Matthew 13: 26-42. While the longer form provides a broader view of the Kingdom of God, the shorter form focuses on the consequences of belief or rejection of the “Good News”.

Reflection:

“Don’t play God.” That is the message the Lord gives us in his first parable. There are other times when Jesus tells his disciples not to be judgmental. The most notable is “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove that splinter from your eye,' while the wooden beam is in your eye?” (
Matthew 7: 1-4). The parable of the Weeds is a bit more complex but with a similar injunction which, of course, also applies to us.

As we have been told time and again over the past several weeks, we are called to be an apostolic people. We have been given so much. The Lord has shown us his love and mercy. He has told us that this love is given without cost and without merit. This same beneficence is reiterated in the reading from Wisdom today. God alone has power over all that is; that moves and breaths and has life. It is through his mercy that we are able to have life and hope. His unconditional love is made clear in the fact that we are given free will; we can accept God’s Word and believe in him or we can chose the other path.

It is because of this offered choice that the parable of the Weeds was necessary. If God had chosen, he could have made us such that we would come into being completely obedient to him with absolute faith. We would be like Angels, always worshiping and adoring God, ever faithful in our words and actions. But as a creation made in His image and likeness, with free will, we are governed only by our understanding of God’s existence and our faith in his continued presence, in-dwelling as the Holy Spirit, omnipresent in his creation, and specifically present in the Eucharist we share.

Yet we grow up in the world as members of a global community. Many of those we encounter do not share our faith in Christ and have rejected his word. These individuals are potentially “…the children of the evil one”. And the key word describing them is “potentially”. We are not God! We do not know their hearts. Only God may presume to see clearly which are the true enemies and those who are simply misguided. Our command is the same for all – “Love one another.” Jesus makes it even more explicit when he says “Love your enemies.” It is in this way that the wheat may be cultivated even as it grows among the weeds. It is this way we can nourish one and even the by-product of that nourishment may help the weeds become more like the grain desired by our Heavenly Father.

Today we pray always that we always are able to express the love of God to those we meet and that we also remember that judgment of others is reserved to God who created all things.

Pax

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used is “Landscape with the Parable of the Tares among the Wheat” by Abraham Bloemaert, 1624

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time



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

Commentary:

Reading 1 Micah 2:1-5

The second chapter of the book of the Prophet Micah opens with a denouncement of the evil rich who seek to steal the land of the poor. The practice, also mentioned in Isaiah was prevalent in Judah. A person’s inherited land was, under Mosaic Law, supposed to be exempt from these schemes (
1 Kings 21:1-4) however the greedy were violating this precept.

The punishment the Prophet mentions relates to the initial division of property among the Israelites when they came into the land, lead by Joshua. Boundaries were established for each person and tribe (see
Joshua 13-21). Those who are found guilty of stealing land will have not place in the final reckoning (e.g. the Kingdom of Heaven).

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 10:1-2, 3-4, 7-8, 14
R. Do not forget the poor, O Lord!

Psalm 10 (generally linked with Psalm 9) is considered a thanksgiving hymn. The strophes used in this selection, however, reflect a lament against the wicked that prey upon the poor and faithful. By their actions they reject God and consider him unable or unwilling to stop their actions. The concluding strophe reflects the hope of the faithful because of God’s mercy and salvation will vindicate them.

Gospel Matthew 12:14-21

After challenging Pharisaic Law and declaring the “Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” the Pharisees now see Jesus as a threat to their hold over the people. Jesus backs away from this intended violence and in doing so fulfills the “Suffering Servant” role in the Book of Isaiah (
Isaiah 42:1-4). This passage emphasizes his meekness and extends his mission to the gentiles.

Reflection:

A few days ago the news commentator Paul Harvey made the statement “Just remember, each time you choose to walk to the corner for the newspaper or a cup of coffee instead of driving, an oil speculator who is betting on $200 a barrel will have to eat peanut butter and jelly for lunch.”

The obvious implication is that those who speculate on commodities (and not just oil) understand that they are causing hardships on the end consumer. This is not a critical blast at capitalism, but rather an indictment of greed that is the constant temptress of those whose vocation places them in positions where they have great sums of money at their disposal. Part of the system rewards these brokers regardless of the consequences of their actions if they create more wealth for their patrons. They are like the greedy ones mentioned in the reading from the Prophet Micah in the first reading: “Woe to those who plan iniquity, and work out evil on their couches; In the morning light they accomplish it when it lies within their power.“

The U.S. news in the past weeks has been full of reports about the consequences of the actions of people who trade in big money. It has not just been in the meteoric rise in oil prices but also in the collapse of the mortgage industry as a direct result of abuses and greed by individuals who saw the possibility to become wealthy at the expense of others. And what was that possibility? It was an opportunity for a large number of people to buy homes they previously could not afford or to live even further beyond their means. Again, this is not a criticism of individuals now being forced into foreclosure. Many were duped by unscrupulous lenders who saw an opportunity and did not care about consequences.

What this current situation demonstrates most eloquently is the value of humility and meekness shown by the Lord and the danger of placing material wealth before the desire to please God with our actions and concern for the poor. While many were indeed duped into their situations, many others were placed their through their own greed (“I can get a bigger, better house and impress my peers while building more wealth for me.”). The situation as it exists for millions in this country is an indictment secular values.

Today we pray for those who suffer because of others who find greed a way of life. We ask God to help us bring hope and consolation to those who find themselves in difficult situations. We also pray that we can always be vigilant and never fall into the trap so often laid for the unsuspecting.

Pax

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “The Women Evicted” by B. Pighein, Date UNKNOWN

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time


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

Commentary:

Reading 1 Isaiah 38:1-6, 21-22, 7-8

The story of Hezekiah serves as an example of God’s care for those who are faithful. Hezekiah is dying but God hears his prayer and sees his faithfulness and grants him an additional 15 years of life. (Since the death of Hezekiah is recorded in 687 B.C. this must have been in 702 B.C.).

Responsorial Psalm Isaiah 38:10, 11, 12abcd, 16
R. You saved my life, O Lord; I shall not die.

This selection coincides with the first reading and is called the “Canticle of Hezekiah”. Hezekiah, embassy of Merodach-baladan, sings of his fatal illness (“To the gates of the nether world I shall be consigned for the rest of my years.”) and his gratitude to the Lord for his miraculous cure.

Gospel Matthew 12:1-8

Following the comment by Jesus in yesterday’s Gospel about having those burdened by the Law come to him, we find a practical example as the Pharisees attack the disciples because they picked some grain to eat on the sabbath. In Pharisaic Law that act is considered work and is forbidden on the Lord’s Day. The Lord reinterprets their Law, sighting the First Book of Samuel (
1 Sam 21:2-7) and Leviticus (Lev 24:8). The implication of his final statement in this passage is clear to us. “The ultimate justification for the disciples' violation of the sabbath rest is that Jesus, the Son of Man, has supreme authority over the law.” (NAB)

Reflection:

When ever we hear about Jesus reinterpreting the Law of Moses or Pharisaic Law we are forced to recall that in the Church today, similar laws, rituals and traditions exist. Our natural tendency is to apply this same rationale when these restrictions on our behavior become too inconvenient,

Let’s say, for example, that we are on a trip or family vacation and we are in an unknown town on Sunday. We could look around our vicinity and if we see not immediate signs of a Catholic Church we could make the argument that we tried but were unable to attend Mass thus granting ourselves at least rational absolution from the requirement that we attend Mass on Sunday.

In this example, of course, our logic is flawed. We did not make an earnest attempt to locate a Church and if we had known we were going to be in this place on a Sunday earlier, we could have made inquiries and gotten appropriate directions. The Laws that Jesus reinterpreted were so restrictive that reasonable activity was prohibited. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath and his work was permitted.

No we must be very careful when we decide to play “Jesus” with the Laws and Precepts of the Church. They contain provisions for most situations that would require practical accommodation. The key for us is to remember that it is the Lord we serve on a daily basis and that if we follow his Law scrupulously we cannot go wrong.

Pax

[1] After Links to Readings Expire
[2] The picture used today is “The Disciples Pluck Corn” by Edward Armitage, c. 1865