Friday, September 30, 2016

Memorial of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

“Saint Therese of Lisieux”  artist and date are UNKNOWN

Commentary on Jb 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17
In these verses we find Job’s final repentance and salvation from the burden placed upon him. In reward for his faithfulness, he is given twice what was taken away in property, in family, and in lifespan. 
He first answers two challenges.  “To the first (v. 3) Job replies by confessing that he did speak without knowing all the facts, that is, without appreciating the harmony with which creation is imbued, the awesome fact that even seemingly useless and destructive things have their part to play. This is a sort of ‘sapiential' response. To God's second appeal (v. 4). Job's reply is full of faith: he acknowledges that God has manifested himself in person: now he has seen him with his eyes (v. 5), as Moses and the prophets saw him, Job feels consoled, and he is moved to repentance now that he has actually met God.”[4]
In the final blessing (v.12-17), Job has all he had lost returned to him and more. “…the Fathers see Job as prefiguring Jesus; this applies also to the restoration of his fortunes: "Job recovered both his health and his wealth. In the same way, the Lord, through his resurrection, brings not only good health to those who believe in him, but immortality; and he restores the whole kingdom of nature, as he himself assured us when he said: Everything has been given to me by my Father. New children are born of Job to replace those who died. Similarly, the holy apostles are sons of the Lord in the same line as were the prophets of old. Job is filled with happiness and in the end rests in peace. And the Lord is blessed forever, as he was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be" (St Zeno of Verona, Tractatus, 1, 15).”[5]
CCC: Jb 42:2 275; Jb 42:3 299
R. (135) Lord, let your face shine on me.
Psalm 119, in this section, is an individual lament asking for God’s support in times of difficulty. From this, the longest of the psalms, the strophes ask for the psalmist to be strengthened in the truth, and given wisdom that comes from the law. The use of v. 71 (“It was good for me to be afflicted, in order to learn your laws”) provides a clear reference to the suffering endured by Job, and God’s final gift of salvation. (Job 42:1ff)
Gospel: Luke 10:17-24
Commentary on Lk 10:17-24
The return of the seventy (two) gives rise to the prayer of Jesus (expanding Mark 6:30), who turns the victory of the disciples into a means to glorify the Father. The Lord gives thanks that God has seen fit to reveal his identity, and pass on his power to these disciples of his. Jesus tells them of the positive effect of their mission saying: “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky.” This is reminiscent of Isaiah 14:12; the evil one is defeated. The thought is concluded: “…do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” This warning is a caution against becoming fixed on external signs, but exhorts the Christian to look to the positive effect on the spirit (cf 1 Corinthians 12).  The Gospel follows this with Jesus’ hymn of praise, also found in Matthew 11:25-27, and concludes the passage by telling the disciples that they are given a privilege beyond prophets and kings (see also Matthew 13:16-17). They are seeing God’s plan fulfilled in Jesus.
CCC: Lk 10:17-20 787; Lk 10:21-23 2603; Lk 10:21 1083
The Gospel tells us – the hard part of God’s plan is already done!  The Lord has come; fulfilling all that was written in the Law of Moses and predicted by the Prophets.  He has defeated the evil one: I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky.” (Note – that’s past tense)  Death and sin have been conquered and the gates of heaven flung open.  Through the Apostles, led by St. Peter, the authority of the Lord is passed to us.  All we are asked to do is wield that authority in his name.
Ok, so it’s not that simple.  Even though the authority was given, not all of us have accepted the fact that we can cast the defeated enemy down.  We are not confident that our spiritual strength is sufficient to overcome the effects of Satan (even though beaten) in the world.  But all is not lost. We can rise to the challenge.  It is within our grasp to do so.
We submit that it is like a child who is learning to ride a bike.  As long as they are sure the parent is there beside them holding them steady as they learn to ride, they are fine.  But as soon as they look back and see that mom or dad’s hand is no longer on the bike holding them up, they fall.  We need to be confident; confident that, even though invisible, the Holy Spirit is there holding us up.  We need to recall that the Lord has assigned heavenly messengers to keep us safe, giving us God’s own armor against evil.
Today we pray for confidence.  We ask God to give us strength to do his will, and the wisdom of the disciples, who saw and heard what the ancients did not, and recognize Jesus is Lord.

[2] The picture is “Saint Therese of Lisieux”  artist and date are UNKNOWN
[4] The Navarre Bible: “Wisdom Books”, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, © 2003, pp 152
[5] ibid

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Memorial of Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church

“Saint Jerome” by Guido Reni, 1635 
Commentary on Jb 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5
The exchanges between Job and the “three friends” have concluded.  Now God himself speaks to Job:  “…he speaks of his wisdom and power, which are altogether beyond the capacity of Job, who therefore should never dare to demand a reason for the divine actions. Out of the storm: frequently the background of the appearances of the Lord in the Old Testament; cf Psalm 18; 50; Nahum 1:3; Hebrews 3.”[4]
Other versions of scripture translate the word as “whirlwind.” “The theophany "out of the whirlwind" would alone have made this plain; it was a whirlwind that took Elijah up to heaven (2 Kings 2:1,11) and it figures in the eschatological appearances of the Lord (cf. Ezekiel 1:1-3; 15; Zechariah 9:14); even if God had made himself silently present, Job would have had his desire fulfilled: he would have met the Lord. But by responding to Job with words, God is bestowing on him the same sign of favor as he gave to the patriarchs and to Moses, with whom he spoke face to face. In this way the sacred writer shows how very worthy a person Job is.“[5]
Job’s response to God (in Job 40:3-5) is his final admission that he is incapable of understanding God’s ways.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 139:1-3, 7-8, 9-10, 13-14ab
R. (24b) Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
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. It recognizes that God’s spirit is in all his creation, and, by its existence, knowledge of God’s spirit is omnipresent.
Gospel: Luke 10:13-16
Commentary on Lk 10:13-16
This selection is a continuation of the instructions being given to the seventy (two) who are being sent out. The Lord instructs them to issue a call to repentance to those who reject the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. The punishment of these unbelieving communities will be severe, as their rejection of the call to holiness is a rejection of Christ himself, “and whoever rejects me [Jesus] rejects the one who sent me."
CCC: Lk 10:16 87, 858
What do the wisdom of Job and the exhortations of the Gospel tell us as we hear them proclaimed?  In the Book of Job, we approach the climax of Job’s story.  God speaks to him asking if he [Job], like the creator, has knowledge of all that is created.  He challenges Job to have faith, to consider all the power and majesty of what the Lord has laid before him.  God points out, not just physical creation, but also that his justice will defeat the wicked in the end, and the faithful shall be vindicated, although this is not comprehensible by human standards (any more than our complete understanding of creation).
We jump forward now to Jesus’ instructions to the seventy (two).  Like the wicked in God’s discourse with Job, whose “…light is withheld, and the arm of pride is shattered,” the unbelieving communities to whom these disciples are sent “…will go down to the netherworld.”  Like the wicked mentioned in Job’s discourse, those who hear Christ’s Gospel and reject it will not participate in God’s mercy.
From a very pragmatic perspective, this makes perfect sense.  Think for a moment about what a believing person receives automatically from their faith in God and Christ.  Immediately they recognize that, while they may not understand all of God’s actions, nor even Christ’s will for them, they are recipients of God’s consolation.  God is with us, Christ supports us, and the Holy Spirit infuses us with strength.  What confidence and peace that gives the believer as the world rages with uncertainty.
For those who reject God, and who look to their own strength to secure themselves, they will certainly fall prey to despair.  Walking alone into the lion’s den will bring death, coming with God’s support and strength, even in the face of terrible danger, will bring victory.
And for those who do not believe, what are we to do about them?  We are called, as the seventy (two) were called, to love them and reach out to them.  God sent Christ so that all peoples of all nations might know his love for them, and receive his invitation to join in his heavenly banquet.  We must never cease inviting them to join us, but not as a demand. Jesus did not demand acceptance, but offered an invitation to salvation.  Just as we would offer a seat in a life boat to those on a sinking ship, we should call to them. “Follow the Lord, he shows the way.”
Even as we take those instructions to heart, we are warned by the Gospel that there will be many who refuse.  Today we pray for them, the ones who hear and reject the priceless offer.  May our continuing invitation persuade them in the end, and may they join us in the glory of God’s love.

[2] The picture used today is “Saint Jerome” by Guido Reni, 1635
[4] See NAB footnote on Job 38:1
[5] Navarre Bible and Commentary, Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels

“The Three Archangels with Tobias” 
by Francesco Botticni, 1470
 Additional information about Saints MichaelGabrieland Raphael
Reading 1:
First Option: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Commentary on Dn 7:9-10, 13-14
In this vision from the book of Daniel, we see the symbols for God the Father, “the Ancient One,” seated on the Throne of Judgment (symbolized by fire), with all the faithful before him. Then comes “One like a Son of Man." This reference is a messianic vision. Jesus took that title upon himself in fulfillment of scripture (in addition to John 1:51, see also Mark 14:62, Luke 22:69 and Matthew 26:64 all of which reference the attendance of heavenly powers).
In the context of the Feast of the Transfiguration, this image is consistent with that seen by the disciples in the Gospel.
CCC: Dn 7:10 678; Dn 7:13 440; Dn 7:14 664
Second Option: Revelation 12:7-12ab
Commentary on Rev 12:7-12ab
This selection from the Book of Revelation is of that same eschatological prophetic genre as that found in Daniel 7:9ff. Here, St. John envisions the battle for heaven, joined by the forces of God led by St. Michael who is victorious.
The vision makes clear that those who were thought to be from God but who opposed the “anointed one,” Christ, were influenced by Satan, and in the Devil’s defeat by the blood of the Lamb, God’s victory is assured and the truth will prevail.
CCC: Rv 12 1138; Rv 12:9 391, 2852; Rv 12:11 2853
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 4-5
R. (1) In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.
This song of praise offers thanksgiving for the visible support of God, here attributed to angelic action. The hymn attributes this saving help to an all-merciful God to whom all glory and honor are due.
CCC: Ps 138 304; Ps 138:2 214
Gospel: John 1:47-51
Commentary on Jn 1:47-51
Word of mouth attracts Philip to discipleship, and he in turn invites Nathanael. The symbolism in this passage is noteworthy, especially when Jesus describes Nathanael as “a true Israelite.” 
There is no duplicity in him: "Jacob was the first to bear the name "Israel" (Genesis 32:29), but Jacob was a man of duplicity (Genesis 27:35-36). Jesus tells Nathanael “"Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree." The fig tree is a symbol of messianic peace (cf Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10).[4] 
So in essence, Jesus is saying that Nathanael was resting in Messianic Peace, inferring from that state that he had faithfully followed Mosaic Law, and had a genuine love of God. Jesus goes further than Nathanael’s faith in the final verse, telling him that he, Jesus, is the Anointed One: “…you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Archangels. (In addition, my ordination class and I celebrate our 32nd  anniversary of Ordination.) Just so we are all on the same page we can listen to the words of Pope St. Gregory the Great who defines what angel means:
“You should be aware that the word ‘angel’ denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels.”(from a homily by Pope Saint Gregory the Great)
The three Archangels, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, are the only ones named in scripture and each has a distinct role (as can be seen from the links provided above). The fact that these three Spirits have had a direct involvement with mankind is the reason we celebrate their feast today. We see in their intervention God’s fingers affecting the course of human events. Deep within each of us, there is also the wish that, at some point in our lives, an angel would speak to us, directly, personally, with clarity. The angel would tell us what God wants from us, or what he wants us to do.
It is interesting today that, on this the feast of the archangels, the church gives us the story of Jesus’ encounter with Nathanael, rather than one of the encounters with the archangels. In this Gospel Jesus has identified the young man as someone without duplicity, that is, innocent of worldly demeanor that would portray him as something he was not. The way Nathanael speaks when he says, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel,” makes us wonder how one, not of the twelve, had such an instant and deep understanding of Jesus’ identity. Could it be that this was a messenger from God? None of the commentaries assume this is the case.
Still we wonder if this innocent young man, without prompting, identified Jesus, and if he was an angel in human form. If that were true, it would mean that God may send his spirits, as Pope St. Gregory the Great has called them, to us, and we might not recognize them as anything but people. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2.
There is nothing theological in this reflection. It is just a hope that God might one day send an angel to us, so that we might understand at last and clearly what he wants from us. Since we have speculated above that God may indeed send his angels to us in human guise, we must be constantly vigilant that one of our daily encounters may turn out to answer our prayer.  It should also serve another purpose since God frequently gives us opportunities to hear his voice through others we meet in our daily lives.
Certainly the more common intervention of the Holy Spirit can be seen, although usually in retrospect and not always clearly. The overriding principle here is we must always be open to that kind of guidance, and be constantly vigilant, knowing that God intercedes in our lives and we must watch for it.

[1] The picture is “The Three Archangels with Tobias” by Francesco Botticni, 1470
[4] See NAB Footnote on John 1:43-51