Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

Monday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

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

Readings and Commentary:

Reading 1:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,
about those who have fallen asleep,
so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose,
so too will God, through Jesus,
bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord,
that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord,
will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord himself, with a word of command,
with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God,
will come down from heaven,
and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive, who are left,
will be caught up together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air.
Thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Therefore, console one another with these words.
Commentary on
1 Thes 4:13-18

This passage from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians reassures the Church at Thessalonica that those who have already passed from this life to the next will not be forgotten in the resurrection that will take place at the second coming of Christ. Rather they will be raised with him – first. Then those faithful followers still alive will be taken up to heaven.

It is important to understand, when reading this passage that it is clear St. Paul expected the Parousia – the second coming, to occur during his own lifetime. This passage would emphasize the need for preparedness and vigilance, a common theme in the Gospels published later.

Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 96:1 and 3, 4-5, 11-12, 13

R. (13b) The Lord comes to judge the earth.

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth.

For great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
awesome is he, beyond all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are things of nought,
but the LORD made the heavens.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth.

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth.

Before the LORD, for he comes;
for he comes to rule the earth.
He shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with his constancy.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth.
Commentary on
Ps 96:1 and 3, 4-5, 11-12, 13

This song of praise exhorts the people to praise the Lord for his wondrous works of creation. The reason for this exhortation is that God will come to rule the earth with his justice. In this passage we see the forerunner of the understanding of the New Jerusalem – the Heavenly Kingdom.

Luke 4:16-30

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll,
he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And all spoke highly of him
and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
They also asked, “Is this not the son of Joseph?”
He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb,
‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place
the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’”
And he said,
“Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Indeed, I tell you,
there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah
when the sky was closed for three and a half years
and a severe famine spread over the entire land.
It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,
but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
Again, there were many lepers in Israel
during the time of Elisha the prophet;
yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.
But he passed through the midst of them and went away.
Commentary on Lk 4:16-30

In this passage from St. Luke’s Gospel we find the Lord back in his home town of Nazareth. He reads from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah and then tells those present that he has come to fulfill the oracle he proclaimed (“he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind”). These were clear references to the miraculous works he had already performed in other parts of the country. The Lord saw that they were expectation that he would perform signs there as well but the lack of faith would prevent him. Those congregated knew him form boyhood and did not believe he was the Messiah or even a prophet.

In response to this unbelief, Jesus brought out two examples from the stories about the Prophets that demonstrated that those unworthy of God’s grace were ignored in favor of more worthy subjects. This caused the wholesale uprising against him and he left them. In the eyes of those former friends and neighbors, Jesus had committed blasphemy, punishable by death. But, because they were uncertain given the power and authority they had witnessed, none dared lay a hand on him. “He passed though the midst of them and went away.”


The episode in Jesus’ ministry we see depicted in St. Luke’s Gospel when Jesus goes to the place were he grew up is a foretaste of where his mission will lead him. He comes home, not to a hero’s welcome, but to anger and near tragedy. The story is analogous to a common business cliché that defines an “expert” as someone who comes from out of town and carries a brief case. The implication is that a person who is in your midst cannot be an “expert,” that level of knowledge must reside outside the local area.

The situation in Nazareth, on a human level, was understandable. The Son of Mary and Joseph returns home. Rumor of his exploits may have reached them. He had become a Rabbi, a teacher of the faith. He wandered around (consorting with all kinds of people) and was now coming back to his friends and neighbors. We can imagine some of the men (and women) of Nazareth talking to each other before he arrived. “He’d better not try to put on airs around us. We know him and his family.”

When he is invited to speak at the Synagogue he tells them that the boy they watched grow up and the young man who had learned the carpenter trade at the elbow of Joseph, was a great prophet – even quoting from Isaiah at them – like he was something special. They were sorry for Joseph and Mary but he had to be stopped so they took him out of town with the idea of killing him for his blasphemy. It was permitted, in fact it was their obligation, probably condoned and encouraged by the local Rabbi.

But there was something else at work. The words he spoke and the way he said them – this was different. Never mind that they had heard the book of Isaiah before. Others had always used future tense –looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. Jesus taught with authority, as if the Prophet had come back to life in him, making the words real and present. It stirred them inside. It frightened them. While their rational minds said “We know this young man.” In the backs of their minds the truth was screaming at them – here is something new, the likes of which have never been seen before. And they stopped what they were doing, staring at him in fear and hesitation. Seeing this reaction, Jesus pushed through them without resistance and left the area. No doubt he was saddened by the reaction but probably not surprised.

For us, this reaction of those who knew Jesus is seen as the greatest lost opportunity of all time. Yet don’t we find in ourselves that same incredulous rejection of Christ’s presence in those around us? Don’t we often fail to see the Lord present in those we encounter; especially members of our own families?

The lesson we receive today from St. Luke’s Gospel is that we must be constantly vigilant, looking for the Lord not just in prayer, not just in the sacraments, but In the people we meet. We must listen for the Word of God at all times and in all peoples because we do not know the hour or the day of his coming.


[2] The picture is “Jesus Rejected” UNKNOWN; Illustrator of Jerome Nadal's 'Evangelicae Historiae Imagines', 1593
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

Readings and Commentary:

Reading 1:
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8

Moses said to the people:
“Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees
which I am teaching you to observe,
that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land
which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.
In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin upon you,
you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.
Observe them carefully,
for thus will you give evidence
of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations,
who will hear of all these statutes and say,
‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’
For what great nation is there
that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us
whenever we call upon him?
Or what great nation has statutes and decrees
that are as just as this whole law
which I am setting before you today?”
Commentary on
Dt 4:1-2, 6-8

This passage from Deuteronomy marks the end of the historical part of the book and the beginning of Moses’ presentation of the law and statutes. He addresses the whole people telling them that unless they follow the statutes which he is about to present, they do not receive what God promises the faithful, in this case the land of milk and honey. While the promise of Moses was the inheritance of the literal (the land), God’s later promise was of a kingdom not of this earth.

Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5

R. (1a)One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

Whoever walks blamelessly and does justice;
who thinks the truth in his heart
and slanders not with his tongue.
R. One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

Who harms not his fellow man,
nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
by whom the reprobate is despised,
while he honors those who fear the LORD.
R. One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

Who lends not his money at usury
and accepts no bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
shall never be disturbed.
R. One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
Commentary on
Ps 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5

This selection records the response of the Temple representative when asked what virtues are appropriate in the eyes of God. The response lauds the person who follows the “Law”, specifically the Hebrew laws that warn against slander or false accusations. In the second strophe it honors the person who does no violence against another. And finally, in the last strophe, we are told that the person who does not charge interest on a loan (usury) is also uplifted.

Reading II:
James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27

Dearest brothers and sisters:
All good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.
He willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you
and is able to save your souls.
Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:
to care for orphans and widows in their affliction
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Commentary on
Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27

This section of St. James letter continues his discourse started following the introduction about the value of trials and temptations. The one who follows the path of sin finds death while the one who overcomes temptation and remains faithful to the “Father of lights” will find life – the “kind of first fruits of his creatures.”

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
—For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. —
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:

This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”
He summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.
“From within people, from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”
Commentary on Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

We begin the seventh chapter of Mark’s Gospel with an encounter with the Pharisees. Jesus’ disciples are not following strict pharisaic laws regarding ritual purification and the Lord, who is their teacher, is taken to task for it.Jesus responds indignantly quoting
Isaiah 29:13 and pointing out that it is the Pharisees with their man made laws who are sinning against God. Jesus then takes that first command of God to man in the Garden and interprets it. He also stands Jewish Law that declares some foods to be unclean. The focus he makes is that the food that enters the body cannot destroy it but actions and words that contravene God’s Law will.


We pose this question: in the following two examples, which person is a good Christian? In the first example we have the person who attends Mass every Sunday, follows the precepts of the Church scrupulously and prays the Rosary daily as well. Outside of these practices, however, they are focused completely on making life for themselves as comfortable as possible. Some would call them hedonistic and certainly uncharitable. In the second example, the person rarely attends Mass, is lax in virtually all of the precepts of the faith. However, their lives are dedicated to serving others. They give of themselves and their material goods unselfishly and go out of their way to help others.

Again – which is the good Christian?

It is, of course, a trick question. The true answer is neither are really good Christians. In the first example, the person who is scrupulous about the discipline and precepts of the Church might be seen as pillars of the Church by Sunday Church-goers. In appearance they do all the right things but without actions outside the community that reflects an interior attitude, these pious actions are empty. In St. Mark’s Gospel story, Jesus is referring to the critical Pharisees as falling into that category. He quotes the Prophet Isaiah and says “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” St. James also supports this view. He tells the early Church in his letter “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.”

The second example is also has a serious problem. Yes, they are “doers of the word” as St. James said, however, in not fulfilling their basic obligations they have placed themselves above the Law God gave us. If we say, as many do, that what is truly important is how we act toward others; how we live Christian values, then we have thrown away an important aspect of what the Lord calls us to do and be. Arguing with a close friend about this very subject not to long ago, he made this argument – that the best “Christian” he know was Gandhi. He missed the difference between being “moral” and being Christian.

One who lives a life that expresses the values of our faith but does not participate in the faith life of the community is not necessarily even Christian. What makes one Christian is the belief that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. It does not matter how many people they help or how “good” they may be in all other aspects of their lives. Without that belief, they are not on the path to eternal life. They have not accepted the offer and are not necessarily going to enjoy the reward.

It may seem at times that selections from Sacred Scripture force us to understand the unique way in which God chooses to reveal himself in Christ. Moses speaks to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy telling them “…you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it” (referring to the Law). This is important based upon what happens in the Gospel story where Jesus encounters a group of Pharisees who observe that the Lord’s disciples are not scrupulous in following “Pharisaic Law” (which the group asserts is an accurate interpretation of how Mosaic Law is to be expressed). This passage has been interpreted by some as exempting us from scrupulously following what the Church demands in terms of discipline. It does not! What it does do is forces us to understand that what we do in the Sacrifice of the Mass must be expressed also in our lives outside the walls of the church.

What Jesus advocates in St. Mark’s Gospel is a balance between the stark demands of Moses and the pragmatic application of St. James. We must both adhere to the discipline of the our faith and express its intent in our lives if we are to be counted as followers of Christ in fullness.


[2] The picture is “Jesus Explains Traditions” UNKNOWN; Illustrator of Jerome Nadal's 'Evangelicae Historiae Imagines', 1593
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Memorial of the Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist

Memorial of the Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist

Additional Information for the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

Readings for the Memorial of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist*[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:

Reading 1:
1 Thessalonians 4:9-11

Brothers and sisters:
On the subject of fraternal charity
you have no need for anyone to write you,
for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.
Indeed, you do this for all the brothers throughout Macedonia.
Nevertheless we urge you, brothers and sisters, to progress even more,
and to aspire to live a tranquil life,
to mind your own affairs,
and to work with your own hands,
as we instructed you.
Commentary on
1 Thes 4:9-11

St. Paul is apparently satisfied with the level of charity shown between the members of the faith community at Thessalonica. He does relate that charity to an expression of love for one another and encourages all to work for the well being of the community regardless of their station. There was a tendency among some to take advantage of Christian charity and live off the generosity of other. The Apostle calls them back and tells them they must “work with your own hands” (see also
1 Thessalonians 5:12-14).

Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 98:1, 7-8, 9

R. (9) The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.

Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.

Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the world and those who dwell in it;
Let the rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy.
R. The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.

Before the LORD, for he comes,
for he comes to rule the earth;
He will rule the world with justice
and the peoples with equity.
R. The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.
Commentary on
Ps 98:1, 7-8, 9

Psalm 98 is a song of thanksgiving. This selection gives thanks for God’s creation and reminds the community that all things are subject to Him and all the world rejoices under his rule.

Mark 6:17-29

Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison
on account of Herodias,
the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married.
John had said to Herod,
“It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
Herodias harbored a grudge against him
and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so.
Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man,
and kept him in custody.
When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed,
yet he liked to listen to him.
She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday,
gave a banquet for his courtiers,
his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee.
Herodias’ own daughter came in
and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests.
The king said to the girl,
“Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.”
He even swore many things to her,
“I will grant you whatever you ask of me,
even to half of my kingdom.”
She went out and said to her mother,
“What shall I ask for?”
She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”
The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request,
“I want you to give me at once
on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was deeply distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests
he did not wish to break his word to her.
So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders
to bring back his head.
He went off and beheaded him in the prison.
He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl.
The girl in turn gave it to her mother.
When his disciples heard about it,
they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
Commentary on Mk 6:17-29

The story of St. John the Baptist life from St. Mark’s Gospel gives a concise picture of St. John’s end. Especially here we note the similarities between the passing of St. John and the passion of Jesus in
Mark 15:1-47 . The rationale in both cases was the anger and guilt felt at the truth proclaimed; in the case of John the guilt of Herodias, in the case of Jesus, the Jewish leaders.


What a crushing blow the death of St. John the Baptist was to Jesus as well as his own disciples. The Voice as he is frequently called, having completed all that God had asked from him preceded Jesus in death as he had preceded him in all things except holiness.

The Baptist came into the world, a promise from God, predicted by the prophets – the voice crying out in the wilderness; calling God’s creation to prepare for the coming of his great gift, the Messiah. He cried out as did the prophets out of whose mold he was created, fearlessly and unceasingly decrying the sinful nature of humankind. Also like the prophets he pointed at the sins of the powerful and for speaking the truth, he gained the hatred of Herodias who ultimately found a means to engineer his execution.

How cruel that blow was to Jesus. We are told in St. Matthew’s Gospel * When Jesus heard of it, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.” (Matthew 14:13). He testified on several occasions what a great man he was and we know of his familial relationship. Yet St. John himself recognized his role in God’s great plan and in his famous profession (
John 3 25-36) said “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”

St. John’s martyrdom reminds us of his great love for God and for our Lord, Jesus. His steadfast faith, fearlessly crying out to those on a path to death calls to us as well. He reminds us that social justice is not God’s justice and social morals are not our morals. What is acceptable under secular law is not necessarily acceptable under the higher calling to which we are called. With all of the voices of the saints whispering in our ears, St. John the Baptist, the Voice, calls loudest; “‘prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”(Luke 3:4)


* On the Memorial of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist the Gospel from the Proper of the day (#634) is used. The first reading and Psalm Response are taken from the Ordinary for the day #430.
[2] The picture is The Beheading of John the Baptist by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1610
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Memorial of Saint Augustine

Memorial of Saint Augustine,
Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Alternate for the Proper for the Memorial of St. Augustine

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

Readings and Commentary:

Reading 1:
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Brothers and sisters,
we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that,
as you received from us
how you should conduct yourselves to please God–
and as you are conducting yourselves–
you do so even more.
For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

This is the will of God, your holiness:
that you refrain from immorality,
that each of you know how to acquire a wife for himself
in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion
as do the Gentiles who do not know God;
not to take advantage of or exploit a brother or sister in this matter,
for the Lord is an avenger in all these things,
as we told you before and solemnly affirmed.
For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness.
Therefore, whoever disregards this,
disregards not a human being but God,
who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Commentary on
1 Thes 4:1-8

In this passage from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians the Apostle exhorts the community of faith to increase their attention to sexual morality. He reminds them that they are called to a higher standard of behavior than the pagans who are, by his inference, hedonistic and promiscuous in this regard. He also tells them that if they ignore this standard they are not just ignoring him (Paul) but God who sent him.

Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 97:1 and 2b, 5-6, 10, 11-12

R. (12a) Rejoice in the Lord, you just!

The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many isles be glad.
Justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!

The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the LORD of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!

The LORD loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful ones;
from the hand of the wicked he delivers them.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!

Light dawns for the just;
and gladness, for the upright of heart.
Be glad in the LORD, you just,
and give thanks to his holy name.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
Commentary on
Ps 97:1 and 2b, 5-6, 10, 11-12

This song of thanksgiving rejoices in the casting down of the idol worshipers linking itself to the first reading as St. Paul chastises the practices of the pagans. The tone of the song upholds those who adhere to God’s Law.

Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Commentary on Mt 25:1-13

St. Matthew’s Gospel gives us the parable of the Ten Virgins continuing the Gospel theme of preparedness and vigilance. In this story the idea of vigilance is expanded to include being prepared. The wise virgins brought oil for their lamps while the foolish ones did not. The oil is interpreted by some scholars to refer to good works.


As we celebrate the memorial of St. Augustine scripture continues the vigilance theme from St. Matthew’s Gospel and the action which suggests itself in response to that call is to love one another – that comes from St. Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians. The Apostle makes clear the kind of love he is speaking about.

Today we are again told in the Gospel to remain vigilant and prepared. This time, however, the St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians deals with sexual morality among the members of the community of faith. He nicely differentiates between love and lust, calling the community to look for sacramental love in entering into the married state, not simply physical infatuation.

His instruction, while clearly something to which couples who are contemplating marriage should listen carefully, contains a broader message as well. In a secular society that seems to find sexual promiscuity acceptable and something rejoiced over and encouraged by the media, we are called to a higher standard. The modern day pagans worship the God’s of hedonism, lust, self indulgence, and greed, we are called to worship the one true God who tells us that victory does not mean beating another person or winning some monetary prize but in serving others and loving our neighbor. Success does not mean driving a big car but bringing others to Christ.

If one reads the Confessions of St. Augustine who was born in the fourth century (354-430) it is clear that these temptations of the flesh have always been with us. The good news is that the invitation to holiness, as St. Augustine’s life testifies, is always being extended. The journey may be interrupted but there is always a way for ward, a way toward the light. True Christian hope has its roots in that invitation and promise. St. Matthew’s parable is a reminder for those of us who procrastinate. While the invitation is always open, we don’t know the day or the hour when we will be called to explain our response to it.

And when the bridegroom does return in the dead of night and looks to us to see if we are prepared, will our good deeds be sufficient to give light to the lamps of our souls? When the Lord comes will he see the love of one another or the lust of the pagans? We pray for the former in a special mention of the Lord’s Prayer today that emphasizes the plea to be freed from temptation and delivered from evil.


[2] The picture is “Last Judgment and the Wise and Foolish Virgins” by an UNKNOWN Flemish Master, 1450s.
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Memorial of Saint Monica

Memorial of Saint Monica

Alternate Proper for the Memorial of St. Monica

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

Readings and Commentary:

Reading 1:
1 Thessalonians 3:7-13

We have been reassured about you, brothers and sisters,
in our every distress and affliction, through your faith.
For we now live, if you stand firm in the Lord.

What thanksgiving, then, can we render to God for you,
for all the joy we feel on your account before our God?
Night and day we pray beyond measure to see you in person
and to remedy the deficiencies of your faith.
Now may God himself, our Father, and our Lord Jesus
direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase
and abound in love for one another and for all,
just as we have for you,
so as to strengthen your hearts,
to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father
at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.
Commentary on
1 Thes 3:7-13

St. Paul speaks to the Thessalonians in a conversational tone. He first thanks God for their faithfulness in the face of difficulties. He then offers a prayer asking God to increase their love for each other and others using one of the Lord’s sayings (Love one another as I have loved you.)

Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 90:3-5a, 12-13, 14 and 17

R. (14) Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
You turn man back to dust,
saying, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are as yesterday, now that it is past,
or as a watch of the night.
R. Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
R. Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
And may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours;
prosper the work of our hands for us!
Prosper the work of our hands!
R. Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
Commentary on
Ps 90:3-5a, 12-13, 14 and 17

Psalm 90 is an individual song of thanksgiving. In this section the psalmist reflects on God’s immenseness and asks for God’s continued presence in support of all activities.

Matthew 24:42-59

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this: if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant,
whom the master has put in charge of his household
to distribute to them their food at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so.
Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.
But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’
and begins to beat his fellow servants,
and eat and drink with drunkards,
the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day
and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely
and assign him a place with the hypocrites,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
Commentary on Mt 24:42-59

This discourse from St. Matthew’s Gospel follows his reflections about the end times and the need for vigilance. The Lord speaks to those who followers and especially the leaders of the community he leaves behind as he tells them they will not know the time when they will be called to the Kingdom of Heaven. In the second section he tells his followers that those who are found to be vigilant will be rewarded at the end of all things while those who have fallen away will be punished.


Following the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church is the most difficult thing we do. Some might argue that it should not be so, that our faith should be a “feel good” thing and should be made easy. I do not doubt their sincerity but the discipline embodied in Sacred Scripture and its doctrinal expression by the Church makes following the path difficult (The “Way” as it was called in the very early Church at the time of Acts of the Apostles). In the Gospel today, the Lord tells us that constancy is not optional.

To emphasize the point of how difficult the path is to follow we give you a quote. Actually it is a quote of a quote from Spe Salvi by Pope Benedict XVI who sited St. Augustine, son of St. Monica whose feast we celebrate today (his memorial is tomorrow). As he reflected upon his mission this is what he wrote:

The turbulent have to be corrected, the faint-hearted cheered up, the weak supported; the Gospel's opponents need to be refuted, its insidious enemies guarded against; the unlearned need to be taught, the indolent stirred up, the argumentative checked; the proud must be put in their place, the desperate set on their feet, those engaged in quarrels reconciled; the needy have to be helped, the oppressed to be liberated, the good to be encouraged, the bad to be tolerated; all must be loved”.

“The Gospel terrifies me”
– St. Augustine

When we accept this role or if we simply agree to follow the precepts of the Church in our daily lives (all the issues St. Augustine identifies occur within us as well), we are faced with a daunting task that is only made possible because of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit and the sacramental grace provided along the way.

Today let us pray that we be given the strength to overcome our unruly hearts, to embrace the Father with confident love, and to remain constantly vigilant – “…for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”


[2] The picture used is “Last Judgment” by Raphael Coxce, c. 1600
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.
[4] Sermo 339, 4: PL 38, 1481

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wednesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Wednesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

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

Readings and Commentary:

Reading 1:
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery.
Working night and day in order not to burden any of you,
we proclaimed to you the Gospel of God.
You are witnesses, and so is God,
how devoutly and justly and blamelessly
we behaved toward you believers.
As you know, we treated each one of you as a father treats his children,
exhorting and encouraging you and insisting
that you walk in a manner worthy of the God
who calls you into his Kingdom and glory.

And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly,
that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us,
you received it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God,
which is now at work in you who believe.
Commentary on
1 Thes 2:9-13

St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that they received from him, not the words of man, but the word of God. He also speaks of the love with which he delivered the message and finally how he rejoices in their ongoing faith.

The Apostle did not confine this Gospel to any one group but delivered it broadly to the community. “’Those well-timed words, whispered in the ear of your wavering friend; the helpful conversation you managed to start at the right moment: the ready professional advice that improves his university work; the discreet indiscretion by which you open up unexpected horizons for his zeal. This all forms part of the 'apostolate of friendship'" (St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way, 973).’”

Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 139:7-8, 9-10, 11-12ab

R. (1) You have searched me and you know me, Lord.

Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence where can I flee?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I sink to the nether world, you are present there.
R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord.

If I take the wings of the dawn,
if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
Even there your hand shall guide me,
and your right hand hold me fast.
R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall hide me,
and night shall be my light”–
For you darkness itself is not dark,
and night shines as the day.
R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord.
Commentary on
Ps 139:7-8, 9-10, 11-12ab

Psalm 139 is an individual meditation on the omnipresent God who is in all places for all time. The song rejoices that God is always with us, even in the darkest of times.

Matthew 23:27-32

Jesus said,
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside,
but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.
Even so, on the outside you appear righteous,
but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You build the tombs of the prophets
and adorn the memorials of the righteous,
and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors,
we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’
Thus you bear witness against yourselves
that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets;
now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”
Commentary on Mt 23:27-32

This passage concludes St. Matthew’s treatment of the “Seven Woes” with the final two exhortations against the scribes and Pharisees. In the “Sixth Woe” Jesus derides the leadership for false piety. While their acts of worship would make them seem upright and faith-filled, their interior agendas are sinful. Their professed faith is not echoed with actions – especially with charity.

The “Seventh Woe” attacks the pride of these leaders who engage in pompous piety. “In spite of honoring the slain dead by building their tombs and adorning their memorials, and claiming that they would not have joined in their ancestors' crimes if they had lived in their days, the scribes and Pharisees are true children of their ancestors and are defiantly ordered by Jesus to fill up what those ancestors measured out. This order reflects the Jewish notion that there was an allotted measure of suffering that had to be completed before God's final judgment would take place.”
[5] Theologically, verses 29-32 provide strong support of Maccabeean Purgatory.


The Gospel causes us to examine the relationship of our external image with our internal core. In Jesus’ on-going criticism of the scribes and Pharisees he chides them for performing acts of worship for the sake of appearance rather than out of true devotion to the Lord. This false piety is pretended so that others in their community will support their image of righteousness and give them credibility in the assembly of the faithful. It is their base of power and the roots of their authority.

When Jesus attacks this characteristic he becomes a real threat to the religious power structure of the region which, while having its administrative authority usurped by the Roman occupiers, still wields great influence. Because it purports to have significant control over the local populations, it can pressure the official government to act (as we see when Jesus is later arrested).

We are forced to consider this question – Why does Jesus attack those who lead the Jewish people? Why does he not instead go after the Romans who are pagan in their beliefs and without question, oppressive to the people? It is because his kingdom is not of this world. He does not concern himself with the Romans because they claim authority in the physical realm while the scribes and Pharisees claim to have authority over the gates to God’s Kingdom. That kingdom is the one over which Jesus is Lord.

This is an important distinction for us because it helps us set our own priorities. What needs to be most important to us in our lives of faith is that part of us which is destined to live eternally with our Father in Heaven, our soul. We must be constantly safe-guarding that element of our being and working to keep it as free of sin as possible. We are called to hold that faith closely to our selves building it up through prayer, the Word, and sacramental graces.

Does this mean that we need not concern ourselves with the physical world around us? Absolutely not! Our internal faith, if it is genuine, will be reflected in all of our actions. What we truly believe must color everything we do. What the Lord objected to in the scribes and Pharisees was that their actions that seemed pious while in public worship were not supported by their actions outside that arena. Our true faith will be expressed in all facets of our lives.

Today our prayer is this; that our interior spiritual strength and faith in Jesus will continue to increase and it will shine out, like the light of a flame passes through clear glass, bringing the warmth of Christ to the world.


[2] The picture is “Jesus Upbraideth the Scribes and Pharisees” by Matthys Pool and Arnold Houbraken, Published 1728
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.
[4] Letters of St. Paul , The Navarre Bible, Four Courts Press, 2003, pp 513
[5] See NAB note on Matthew 23:29-32

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Proper for the Memorial of St. Louis IX of France
Proper for the Memorial of St. Joseph Calasanz

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

Readings and Commentary:

Reading 1:
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

You yourselves know, brothers and sisters,
that our reception among you was not without effect.
Rather, after we had suffered and been insolently treated,
as you know, in Philippi,
we drew courage through our God
to speak to you the Gospel of God with much struggle.
Our exhortation was not from delusion or impure motives,
nor did it work through deception.
But as we were judged worthy by God to be entrusted with the Gospel,
that is how we speak,
not as trying to please men,
but rather God, who judges our hearts.
Nor, indeed, did we ever appear with flattering speech, as you know,
or with a pretext for greed–God is witness–
nor did we seek praise from men,
either from you or from others,
although we were able to impose our weight as Apostles of Christ.
Rather, we were gentle among you,
as a nursing mother cares for her children.
With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you
not only the Gospel of God, but our very selves as well,
so dearly beloved had you become to us.
Commentary on
1 Thes 2:1-8

In speaking of his previous stay with the Thessalonians, St. Paul emphasizes both the content of the Gospel message and the need to present it gently and with full sincerity. He concludes this selection reminding them of the deep affection with which he holds them.

Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 139:1-3, 4-6

R. (1) You have searched me and you know me, Lord.

O LORD, you have probed me and you know me;
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.
R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord

Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know the whole of it.
Behind me and before, you hem me in
and rest your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
too lofty for me to attain.
R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord.
Commentary on
Ps 139:1-3, 4-6

Psalm 139 is a hymn of meditation upon God’s presence in our lives. The selection carries the awe that one so great could love one so insignificant.

Matthew 23:23-26

Jesus said:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier things of the law:
judgment and mercy and fidelity.
But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.
Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You cleanse the outside of cup and dish,
but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup,
so that the outside also may be clean.”
Commentary on Mt 23:23-26

This reading from Matthew continues the dialogue of the “Seven Woes”. In this selection we hear how the Pharisees have extended the law of tithing down to the smallest of crops - herbs. The implication is they are lost in the minutia of the Law and have forgotten lager faith issues. The same reference is made when he says “Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!”

The final part of this section is concerned with “a metaphor illustrating a concern for appearances while inner purity is ignored (see also Mark 7:4)”.
[4] There is a strong reference here to the lack of self-control shown by these leaders.


“But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.
Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!”

Like so many little gems in scripture this one lesson falls into our laps today. It is a reminder that we must not become so focused on one element of our faith that we loose sight of the need for a holistic view.

In 1984, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin published a document on “
A Consistent Ethic of Life”. He referred to this ethic as a “Seamless Garment” in reference to Jesus “seamless garment” for which the guards cast lots at his crucifixion. Putting it simplistically, the Cardinal stated that for us to authentically follow the teaching of the Church on the dignity of life, we must support that dignity at all stages of life and under all circumstances.

A short time later at a fairly conservative parish I delivered a homily on pro-life in which I summarized the Cardinal’s teaching. In that homily I said that if one is pro-life and opposed to abortion, one must also be pro-life and reject capitol punishment.

To my great surprise I was almost physically accosted by members of the Respect Life Committee following one of the Masses. They rhetorically asked me if I was trying to destroy their ministry by forcing people to link their objection to abortion with objection to capitol punishment. When I tried to explain, they would have none of it. They had their ideas about the greatest evil in the world and nothing anyone said was going to change their minds.

I use this anecdote to illustrate the point made today in the Gospel. These people were so focused on one narrow aspect of an issue they had overlooked the bigger issue and fundamental tenet of our faith – love one another. They were not willing to expand their respect for life to include those who had committed grave sins against society, and had resorted to straining gnats while swallowing camels.

The Lord calls us to view our faith lives holistically. We apply the fundamental principals to our lives in all circumstances, not just those that are convenient. While we all have special interests within the faith, we must never focus on them to the exclusion of all others. We should never focus on the minutia and ignore the huge issues confronting us.


[2] The picture is “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees” by James Tissot, 1886-94
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.
[4] See NAB footnote on Matthew 23:26

Monday, August 24, 2009

Feast of Saint Bartholomew

Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle

Biographical Information about St. Bartholomew[1]

Readings for the Feast of Saint Bartholomew[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:

Reading 1:
Revelations 21:9b-14

The angel spoke to me, saying,
“Come here.
I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain
and showed me the holy city Jerusalem
coming down out of heaven from God.
It gleamed with the splendor of God.
Its radiance was like that of a precious stone,
like jasper, clear as crystal.
It had a massive, high wall,
with twelve gates where twelve angels were stationed
and on which names were inscribed,
the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.
There were three gates facing east,
three north, three south, and three west.
The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation,
on which were inscribed the twelve names
of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.
Commentary on
Rv 21:9b-14

God shows St. John the New Jerusalem, Christ’s heavenly kingdom. The Evangelist has borrowed much of his description from Ezekiel (Chapters 40-48). He is taken to a high mountain (
Ezekiel 40 2-3) and sees the heavenly vision as God’s presence transforms his kingdom into a radiant fortress. St. John’s description supports images of evangelization (see 2 Corinthians 4:6). The repeating number 12 (twelve angels, twelve tribes, twelve names) alludes to the perfect continuity between God’s relationship with the Old Testament peoples (Ezekiel 48:30-35 and Exodus 28:17-21) and the Church (Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:29-30). He concludes his vision providing an analogy; the preaching of the Apostles (and Prophets) is to the Church as a foundation is to an edifice (see Ephesians 2:20).

Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 145:10-11, 12-13, 17-18

R. (12) Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.

Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.

Making known to men your might
and the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.

The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Commentary on
Ps 145:10-11, 12-13, 17-18

Psalm 145 is a hymn of praise. In this selection we hear the singer rejoice in the image of God’s Heavenly Kingdom as its very existence announces God’s glory to the world. He supports his faithful servants and blesses their efforts.

John 1:45-51

Philip found Nathanael and told him,
“We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law,
and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
But Nathanael said to him,
“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,
“Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him.”
Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
Nathanael answered him,
“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Do you believe
because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?
You will see greater things than this.”
And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven opened and the angels of God
ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Commentary on Jn 1:45-51

St. John’s Gospel gives us the story of the call of Bartholomew (Nathanael). The symbolism used in the story is rich in the Hebrew tradition. When Jesus comments; “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him,” he is referring to Jacob who first was called Israel but tricked his father Isaac, receiving his blessing above Esau and therefore considered duplicitous. “True son” would relate him to Abraham.

Next we hear the Lord respond to Bartholomew when he asks “How do you know me?” with the statement “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” The fig tree is a symbol of Messianic Peace. In this statement Jesus identifies himself as the Messiah. Bartholomew understands and immediately responds in faith “Rabbi, you are the Son of God…”


St. Bartholomew’s Feast places us in a bit of a quandary. Based upon references elsewhere in scripture, we believe that St. Bartholomew and Nathanael was the same person. Other sources still say his original name was Jesus and he changed it to avoid any possibility of confusion.

From a spiritual perspective his image is both inviting and seems almost a warning. As one of The Twelve, he received the respect and admiration due one of the original members of that tiny group that remained faithful and spread the knowledge of Christ throughout the world. At the same time, the images we have of him are rather gruesome. He is said to have been flayed alive (skinned) and the most famous image of him, painted by Michelangelo in the "The Last Judgment" (Sistine Chapel), shows him holding his own skin.

The readings tell us he was brought to Christ by another one of the twelve, Philip and that Jesus immediately accepted him saying; “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” an apparent reference to Jacob, the brother of Esau who, through a ruse, stole his brother’s blessing and was labeled as duplicitous (
Genesis 32:29). Being straightforward as he was St. John tells us that Bartholomew challenged Jesus saying; “How do you know me?”

Jesus answered with a reference to having seen Bartholomew lying under a fig tree. This, according to the notes on this passage, refers to a symbol of messianic peace. In other words Jesus saw Bartholomew (Nathanael) as a person who had already experienced the peace of the kingdom as transformed by the Lord. Is it any wonder then that once this revelation had been made another followed from the lips of Bartholomew saying; “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” (In other words, Bartholomew labeled Jesus as the Messiah!)

Where does the image of Bartholomew take us? That largely unknown Apostle, who, tradition has it, carried the Gospel to Asia Minor, Ethiopia, India and Armenia; friend of Philip, and martyr, is one more example of faith to inspire us. Why should we expect each of the Twelve to have become famous? Jesus, their example and ours, valued humility, placing the Father always first. Is it surprising that one of his closest friends would choose to have the Lord’s name remembered instead of his own?

Today we actually get a great lesson from the Apostle, Bartholomew. Let us all pray that, at the end of our lives, the Lord’s name will be thought of as people remember us.


[1] The picture used is detail from “The Last Judgment” by Michaelangelo, Saint Bartholomew holding the knife of his martyrdom and his flayed skin. 1535-1541
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.