Monday, August 31, 2015
Our responsorial refrain today tells us that “the Lord comes to judge the earth.” This is not just some trite saying, it is true, and it will happen. The Lord will come to judge the earth – and it may be sooner rather than later. But the psalm itself tells us to rejoice and be glad – let all creation exalt - because the Lord comes to bring nations to nothing and to establish his Kingdom in fullness and completeness – where "the King shall rule the world with justice and the peoples with his constancy.”
The first reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians exhorts us to believe that Jesus has destroyed death – because it is true – and that this fact can make all the difference in our lives – it can bring consolation, hope and joy if we but count ourselves among the chosen ones – because we are among them.
In the gospel passage Jesus encounters disbelief, unbelief, by the people of his own hometown – after he reads an amazing passage from Scripture and applies it to himself – thus demonstrating the fact that “faith / true belief empowers” – while lack of it suffocates and destroys the very life of life that cries out for help and hope.
It is our option always to believe – to use the gift of free will that God gave us in order to seek him, and choose him, and find him. May we believe in Jesus today – and reap the fruits of inner peace and joy – no matter what may be going on around us, or how dark it may appear to be.
Sunday, August 30, 2015
Our readings today have to do with “being smart!” In our world, in our day, in our age there seems to be no shortage of “smarts!” Now, probably more than ever, so many people are virtually and remarkably “expert” in a wide variety of topics. No doubt the “search engine of the ages: Google” has contributed to this glut of information. To some degree it is very handy and comforting to know that all kinds of facts and figures, definitions and recommendations are only a click away!
But, at the same time that this torrent of information is now available, there is a very unsettling prospect that incomplete and inaccurate information may abound, and information about what really counts, what really matters, what really is going to contribute to our eternal salvation (which ought to be the first priority of every one of us) is sliding down the priority ladder to a dangerously low level. And even the information that we can get about “eternal salvation” by “Googling it” could have very little real accuracy to it, proper context, or spiritual healthy recommendations from it!
And so the vague idea that “God has something important to tell us” gets drowned out by a great load of pointless, useless and even harmful information. But isn’t that really one of the main reasons we come to church: to hear something different, something more on-track, something more truth-sounding! In fact, if we take a look at our readings today, we see that people have been scanning the news for what they want to hear, rejecting what they don’t like and filing the remainder in a cabinet in the back of the room for ages unending! The people of Israel, for example, knew very well what God expected of them – he was very explicit in dictating his commandments on stone – “the latest form of email” that he could employ at the time; and he told them “do not edit this text at all” – leave it “as is” and you will enjoy my favor, my help and my protection. But as we will see, the people thought they were “smarter than God,” and they edited the text quite a bit, they added a few things here and there, and finally by the time Jesus arrived – the law was so modified and edited that it was hardly recognizable!
In the gospel passage Jesus –bringing up the whole matter in the context of simple discussion about table ablutions – makes clear how far off the mark the people of God had gotten – thinking that impurity comes into a man from the outside – he tells them emphatically that what defiles comes from within a man, from his heart, such as evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance and folly! No question about it! Jesus hits the nail on the head! And the Jews are put in their place!
We are called upon today by St. James to be doers of God’s word and will – just as he gave it, initially in the commandments, expanding it in the Sermon on the Mount and the Golden Rule – leaving it alone after that - and then all will be well – justice and charity will abide in the land and we will be really be smart people in the way that counts: the spiritual way that affects everything we do in the material world!
Such is your life, such is your vocation, O child of God!
You shall never be disturbed if you live a life walking in the ways and commands of the Lord!
Friday, August 28, 2015
St. Augustine of Hippo, was born in Tagaste (modern Algeria, Northern Africa) in 354, of a pagan father named Patricius (who converted on his deathbed, thanks to the prayers of his literally sainted wife, Monica, who was the mother of three sons: one of which was Augustine). While raised a Christian, Augustine lost his faith in youth and led a wild life, living with a Carthaginian woman from age 15 through 30. With her he fathered a son whom he named Adeotadus, which means the gift of God. Augustine taught rhetoric at Carthage and Milan, Italy.
After investigating and experimenting with several philosophies, he became a Manichaean for several years; it taught of a great struggle between good and evil, and featured a lax moral code (since it seemed that the evil outweighed the good, one might as well give in to it – this of course, is not only illogical but theologically inaccurate, and heretical). A summation of his thinking of this time comes from his Confessions: “God, give me chastity and continence – but not just now.”
Augustine finally broke with the Mainchaens and was converted by the prayer of his mother and the help of Saint Ambrose of Milan, who baptized him. On the death of his mother he returned to Africa, sold his property, gave the proceeds to the poor, and founded a monastery. He then journeyed in his vocation from monk to priest, preacher, and then Bishop of Hippo in 396. He founded religious communities, fought Manichaeism, Donatism, Pelagianism and other heresies. He oversaw his see during the fall of the Roman Empire to the Vandals.
For all of his many writings, especially in the area of moral theology and theology in general he was soon named Doctor of the Church after his death in 430. His later thinking can also be summed up in a line from his writings: Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you!
The gospel passage today speaks of humility. Once Augustine experienced the heights of false exaltation in his earlier years of carousing and rabble rousing, he understood clearly the difference between gaining the whole world of insight and understanding and true, unadulterated humility; and once he learned the great lesson, he was eloquent enough to make the lesson palatable to everyone, everywhere, and for all times – by writing it down.
The first reading talks about experiencing the exhilaration and confidence of existing in the love of God, which is a voluntary cooperative venture on both our parts: God, constantly offering his life-sustaining love; us, needing to constantly offer our cooperation with graces given for our good, for our salvation, for the satisfaction of our desire!
St. Augustine, pray for us today; help us to know that it is normal for our hearts to experience a certain kind of persistent restlessness, otherwise we would not want to join you in heaven!
With all our hearts, we seek you, Lord; let us find you in the perfect way, and in the perfect time you have in mind for us!
Thursday, August 27, 2015
St. Monica was born in Tagaste (modern Algeria, Northern Africa) in 322. She was given in marriage to a bad-tempered, adulterous pagan named Patricius. She is the mother of three sons one of whom is St. Augustine of Hippo, whose writings about her are the primary source of our information about her. She prayed constantly for the conversion of her husband (who converted on his death bed), and of her son (who converted after a wild life). Augustine (whose feast day we will celebrate tomorrow) was the spiritual student of St. Ambrose of Milan. After Augustine’s baptism in Milan, he and his mother set out for Ostia, but she died on the way in 387. She was fifty-five. Monica is reported to have said to her son before her final illness that she had fulfilled her life’s purpose in seeing him converted and baptized.
Our readings today are particularly suited for St. Monica. The first reading speaks the beauty of a virtuous wife as the radiance of her home: like the sun rising in the Lord’s heavens. The gospel passage spoke to Monica about the moral resurrection of her own son, Augustine, when Jesus raises the deceased only son of a widow in Nain. The widow, like Monica, asked the Lord in faith to have mercy on her son; Jesus does not refuse a mother’s prayer for her children.
In you, Lord, I have found my peace!
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Jesus is justifiably angry today at the scribes and Pharisees who are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. They supposedly are the leaders of the Jewish religion, but their practice is always so far from their teaching. Why is this? They even recognize the error of their own ancestors’ ways – the religious leaders of old – who likewise judged falsely, and shed the blood of innocent prophets of God’s word. Yet, they do not correct their ways – and Jesus finds this reprehensible – and so he tells them to make good what their ancestors messed up. It is possible. So do it!
Of course, they do not do it, and they remain in their error – and the people have no one to really lead them in truth and sincerity, in authenticity and genuineness.
In contrast, in the first reading today, we have St. Paul encouraging the Thessalonians to live a life worthy of the calling that was given them: to be God’s family, his children, heirs of heaven with Jesus. This is more than possible because they do not have mere human and flawed scribes and Pharisees as guides and leaders, they have the living Presence of Jesus Himself – and so they can tell that when they hear him, when they hear the preaching of the true apostles, they are hearing God and they are accountable and empowered to live out what they hear.
Keeping the word of Christ can make all the difference in the world for us today – because this way, the love of God is made perfect in us – and it emanates and overflows onto others, as indeed it should.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
St Louis (b. April 25, 1214), was son of King Louis VIII and Blanche of Castile. He succeeded his father as King of France and Count of Artois at age 11; his mother ruled as regent until he reached 22, and then he reigned for 44 years. Louis made numerous judicial and legislative reforms, promoted Christianity in France, established religious foundations, aided mendicant orders, propagated synodal decrees of the Church, built leper hospitals, and collected relics. He married Marguerite of Provence at age 19, and was the father of eleven children. He supported Pope Innocent IV in war against Emperor Frederick II of Germany. He was a Trinitarian tertiary, and led two Crusades, and died on one – August 25, 1270. His relics were at the Basilica of St. Denis in Paris, but destroyed in 1793 during the French Revolution. He was canonized in 1297 by Pope Boniface VIII.
St. Louis, King of France was an example of how one could put their faith in God into practice in the real world. He was unlike other kings and regents in that he did what he did – magnificent works of progress and charity – because he loved God; because he was obeying God’s commandment to love others because he had been loved first by God! This Jesus states as the great commandment in the gospel passage.
May we do the same today – may we do good in the world not to get noticed or complimented or praised ourselves – but because we love God and in helping others with this motivation, others will know we are but delivering a very special gift to them from Him!
I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you!
Monday, August 24, 2015
St. Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus (most likely the one also known as Nathanael). Born in Galilee, he was originally a close friend of Philip who brought him to Jesus. He also may have written a gospel which is now lost: it is mentioned in other writings of the time. He may have preached in Asia Minor, Ethiopia, India and Armenia. He was martyred in Albanopolis, Armenia by being flayed alive. His relics are at St. Bartholomew-on-the-Tiber Church in Rome; and in the cathedral in Canterbury, England. His patronage is against nervous and neurological diseases, twitching, leatherworkers, shoemakers, tanners and trappers.
Our gospel passage today is of the calling of Nathanael who is brought to Jesus by Philip. Jesus likes what he sees and knows that he will be a good, holy and honorable disciple to the end; and that he will see the great things of the Kingdom beyond all imagining!
May we persevere like Nathanael/Bartholomew and trust in God’s never-failing help when difficult times come our way: for it is in facing them with faith, and with never-ending hope, that the glory of the Son will always shine afterwards!
Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
We reach the grand conclusion of the great Discourse on the Most Holy Eucharist today, as it is related to us in the Gospel of St. John. This doctrine and reality are central and essential to Jesus whole mission. He came into the world to redeem it and to give it the “key to life.” The Eucharistic presence of his own real Body and Blood in transubstantiated elements of bread and wine is that key! It is not a secret key, nor an invisible key, but it does take something very special in order to see it, use it and operate it: it takes faith, simple faith! Faith being the gift of God and our cooperation with it, which gives the ability to see all things as God sees them, as they really are; and to use them the way he intends for them to be used.
It is quite apparent that many of Jesus’ disciples did not accept the gift of faith, and so they could not use it; and therefore their only course of action was to murmur about his insistence that they eat his real flesh and drink his real blood, and so they walk away confused and probably a bit annoyed that following Jesus around for so long a time ended with this impasse. Jesus then makes reference to how things are seen with the eyes of faith, rather than the human eyes: all things, but especially religious things must have something to do with “Spirit and life” – these things are “super-natural” – these things are the fruit of the activation of a simple and real faith!
And so, Jesus says to those who wander away, then “go, go, but remember I told you that no one can come to me and remain unless it is granted him by my Father,” apparently, for the time being, it has not been granted to you – but maybe, in time; I will pray for you for a time in the future when you will be more pliant to the action of the Spirit in your life.
And you, he then turns to the Apostles and says, do you want to go too? After I have very carefully given you the benefit of countless hours of “private lessons” and practical experience even on difficult matters to understand – do you want to leave me too? But then Peter, speaking for the rest, as he always did said to him: Lord, to whom shall we go (quo vadis?), you have the words of eternal life; we have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God. How relieved Jesus must have been, we can see him smiling at Peter now, and the others, and saying to them: thank you, for your sakes, thank you, and you shall see and hear even greater things in the very near future!
The first reading today, in a sense gives us another decision made for God, rather than against him, a walking away: Joshua, addressing the elders of the tribes of Israel said: decide who you will serve from now on (which way are you going to go?); but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. Any other kind of life, such as the kind the other tribes were involved in, just did not seem right to Joshua – and so he made his choice and God was very pleased. And, because of Joshua’s example, the rest of the tribes chose the Lord too.
Sometimes, it takes a simple straightforward statement in favor of God and his ways for others to activate faith, to “get onboard” – like Joshua, like Peter, like all the Apostles and their successors – and billions of disciples of Christ throughout the ages – we too can influence others to set their sights on heavenly goals, and to modify their earthly sojourn in order for it to end up in the right place at the right time!
Taste and see the goodness of the Lord, and then tell everyone you can about it, and let them know that it is for them too!
Friday, August 21, 2015
On June 2, 1835 Guiseppe Melchiorre Sarto saw the light of earth at Riesi, in the Province of Treviso, in Venice, Italy; on August 20, 1914, he saw the light of heaven; and on May 29, 1954, he who had become to 259th pope was canonized St. Pius X. Two of the most outstanding accomplishments of this saintly Pope were the inauguration of the liturgical renewal and restoration of frequent communion from childhood. He also waged an unwavering war against the heresy and evils of Modernism (the predecessor to our own overarching pandemic of godless secularism), gave great impetus to biblical studies, and brought about the codification of Canon Law. His overriding concern was to renew all things in Christ.
Above all, his holiness shone forth conspicuously. From St. Pius X we learn again that “the folly of the Cross,” simplicity of life, and humility of heart are still the highest wisdom and the indispensable conditions of a perfect Christian life, for they are the very source of all apostolic fruitfulness. His last will and testament bears the striking sentence: “I was born poor. I have lived in poverty, and I wish to die poor,” and so he did deeply engulfed in the poverty of the great Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount!
Jesus certainly handpicked Pius X to feed the lambs of his flock with a shepherd’s care, and as Paul did among the Thessalonians, so did Pius not only share the Gospel with others, but he also gave his life with apostolic zeal. May the Church today remain open to liturgical renewal and sensible further penetration of the Gospel message of her Lord and Master, Jesus Christ; and may she fight bravely the great war of the ever-present cancerous evil infecting society that is called “secularism.”
Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church. Bernard was born to French nobility in Dijon, in 1090. When he was 22, fearing the ways of the world, he, four of his brothers, and 25 friends joined the Benedictine abbey of Citeaux (it had the strictest monastic rule); his father and another brother joined soon after. Three years later Bernard was named Abbot of a new foundation at Clairvaux, a post he would hold for the next thirty-eight years.
At first, and by his own admission, he was too strict on the monks, but later relented. The monastery prospered, establishing 160 daughter houses throughout Europe, and by the time of his death there were 700 monks at Clairvaux alone. What was so appealing to the monastic way of life was the blessed assurance that seeking God alone was not only theoretically possible but also practically fruitful. The great contribution of the monks has always been and always will be hope for the Church and the world, and a source of powerful prayer for all of the world’s ills.
Bernard was also very active in the life of the Church outside the monastery walls; he fought against heresies, and helped interdisciplinary problems within the Church itself, he was advisor to Pope Eugene III who had been one of his monks, he was a famed spiritual writer and preacher who made a great impact on the Western Church: he is rightly called the last of the Western Doctors of the Church.
Every morning Bernard would ask himself, “Why have I come here?”, and then remind himself of his main duty – “to lead a holy life!” He died after having led a very holy and exemplary life on August 20, 1153.
Bernard was truly a dear friend of Jesus referred to in the gospel passage – who was deeply united with his Savior, his Master and his Lord – and he encourages others to seek and find that same friendship! It is available to all!
Remain in my love, says the Lord; whoever lives in me and I in him will bear much fruit.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
The first reading today speaks of the Hebrew people’s insistence on having it their own way (as usual). They wanted a king to rule over them so that they could appear to have equal status with the “other nations, kings and kingdoms” who were their neighbors. And so God did appoint for them a king: Abimelech – but from the very start – with the parable like story that follows in the Book of Judges – he tells them that this and any future king would not be the true type of a king who would one day rule them: the spiritual King descended from the house of David: Jesus Christ the King of the Universe. It would be good for them to keep this in mind. It may be a kind of foreshadowing, but one that need not have happened. What the people insist on, and what God actually designs are two different things in this regard.
In the gospel passage Jesus presents again a logic that is unearthly: it goes against what lower human nature would expect. The ones who work in the vineyard for only an hour will not only be paid the same as those who have worked all day; but they will be paid first. For men this seems unfair; for God it is perfectly reasonable: God can do whatever he wants: he’s God; those who “come lately” to embracing Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life – will get the same fullness of distribution of graces on payment day, Judgment Day, as those who came along at any other time in the long procession of salvation history. All will be full; therefore, timing is nothing in this case: for in eternity there will be no time anyway.
May we cling to God’s living and effective word – Jesus – and thus be able to discern as he does, judge as he does, love as he loves – both when it seems reasonable and when it doesn’t!
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
The “eye of a needle” was the low rounded archways that led into the city of Jerusalem. Camels would have to get on their knees and be pushed through in order to cross through these gates. This was a very difficult task. And so Jesus says it will be easier for a camel to enter the city of Jerusalem, that the rich to enter the new city of Jerusalem in heaven: the rich are those who trust in themselves, their wealth, their opinions, their opinions of themselves and their self-serving orientation to life. Heaven is for the “giver” and not the “getter!” Heaven will be the place where truly everyone gives constantly and infinitely, thereby also meaning it will be a place where everyone gets exactly what they need! The idea is that we get life on this planet to both learn this vital dynamic and to practice it! St. Francis likewise said: it is in giving that we receive – he was right!
Poor little Gideon in the first reading today thought he had nothing to give to God and the cause of helping him establish his Kingdom on earth: but God showed him by a miraculous conflagration of his meat and cake offering on a rock, that he is with him, and always would be with him in carrying out his will against God’s enemies. Gideon built an altar to God on the spot; we already have an altar of the God of Presence and Protection, the God of Guidance and Direction; the God of Love and Compassion: it is in our own hearts! And we will adore the holy host which will reside there for us anew today, in just a few moments!
Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich so that by his poverty you might become rich – in what really matters: faith, hope and love!
Monday, August 10, 2015
St. Lawrence was a third-century archdeacon of Rome, distributor of alms, and “keeper of the treasures of the church” in a time when Christianity was outlawed. On August 6, 285, by decree of Emperor Valerian, Pope Saint Sixtus II and six deacons were beheaded, leaving Lawrence, a deacon as the ranking Church official in Rome.
While in prison awaiting execution Sixtus reassured Lawrence that he was not being left behind; they would be reunited in four days. Lawrence saw this time as an opportunity to disperse the material wealth of the church before the Roman authorities could lay their hands on it.
On August 10 Lawrence was commanded to appear for his execution, and to bring along the treasure with which he had been entrusted by the pope. When he arrived, the archdeacon was accompanied by a multitude of Rome’s crippled, blind, sick and indigent. He announced that these were the true treasures of the Church. He was then led to execution. A colorful legend has it that he was burned on a gridiron where he instructed his executioners to turn him over in time because he was already done on one side; but another more reliable source tells us that Lawrence was simply beheaded like the seven who had gone before him.
Either way: Lawrence has always been known as one of the greatest and most renowned martyrs in all of Church history and a true inspiration for all to spend their lives and to give their selves entirely and completely to the Lord Jesus as his instrument in sanctification and salvation: even if it means death.
The first reading today finds St. Paul, who gave his all, telling the Corinthians that God is able to make every grace abundant for those who have decided to cooperate with him in doing his will and work; and in the gospel passage Jesus assures those whose cooperation involves the ultimate gift of giving one’s life – to any degree – but especially by the sacrifice of physical death – much fruit will result in the world, and for the giver of the gift in heaven.
Blessed Lawrence cried out: I worship my God and serve only him. So I do not fear your torture. God is my rock, I take refuge in him, so I do not fear your torture.
Friday, August 7, 2015
The formula that Jesus spells out in the gospel passage today is not just a metaphor or an analogy. It is to be received as given, to be accepted as the great challenge. To gain all, to gain the full benefits of Jesus life, death and resurrection, disciples my empty all, deny their very selves and thus open themselves to be filled entirely by him. This will involve much joy, but it will also involve much suffering and pain – as did the Passion of Christ. Jesus’ sufferings give credence and meaning to each and every one of ours.
As the people of Israel in the first reading were asked by God to wake up and see the signs and wonders – take heed of what they were hearing in fire and cloud – and know that they were indeed encountering the God who created them, and freed them from slavery because he loved them, so too are we asked to take notice of what the activities of Jesus on our behalf can actually do for us if we give ourselves to them.
Let us always remember all that God has done for his people, all he is doing, and all that he can do – if we denounce our self-centeredness and selfishness and look to him and see his face!
Thursday, August 6, 2015
Since historically this event took place about a week before Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, it was thought of mostly in terms of a Lenten placement. Jesus would soon be going to the Cross – which was his one chief goal and mission in life – he looked forward to it, for it would be for us and for our salvation!
But before he would do that he thought it necessary to do three things: reinforce his teaching about who he really was: his true identity; bolster the faith of those who would be leaders of his new Church that would be launched later on; and lastly to give all members of his Church from then on the blessed and amazing assurance that His glory would also be ours, his resurrection would be ours, his radiant glorified body would be ours one day in the Kingdom.
This is also the second time that God the Father is actually heard using human words: from a cloud, during those moments when Jesus revealed his radiant glory in the presence of Peter, James and John, and also Moses and Elijah, the Father proclaimed: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased! Listen to him!” O yes, we must listen to everything Jesus says in his words and actions! For he is the One True Way, the Truth and Life for which we all yearn! Then our words and actions must resemble his more and more every day.
This feast was celebrated for almost the entire first thousand years in the Eastern Church; it was not until much later, almost the middle of the next millennia that the feast was made part of the General Roman Calendar, by Pope Callistus III in 1457. And now, though it is celebrated in August, it is always the right time to reflect on “the splendor of Mount Tabor” – for it reveals God our Lord, and our future!
The Lord is King, the Most High over all the earth!
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Mary Major / Our Lady of the Snow. The origin of the Basilica on the Esquiline Hill in Rome comes from this legend. In the fourth century, a patrician named John and his wife, who were without heirs vowed to donate their possessions to Our Lady. They prayed that she might make known to them how they were to dispose of their property in her honor. During the hot summer night of August 5th snow fell on the summit of the Esquiline Hill. In obedience to a vision which they had the same night, the couple built a basilica in honor of Our Lady on the spot which was covered with snow. Further legend has it that Mary then as a sign of her favor left her footprints in the snow!
Legend or fact, the Basilica of St. Mary Major, as it was later renamed, came to be as a result of Mary’s intervention somehow, and is now one of the four major Basilicas of Rome – (along with St. Peter’s, St. John Lateran, and St. Paul’s Outside the Walls). It is the first Church dedicated to the honor of Mary in the West, and is said to house the relics of the manger!
The important fact to remember is that Mary is given her due honor and devotion in the City of Rome – the locus of the heart of the Catholic Church on earth. Both the Church and Mary have one common goal: the sanctification of the human race: Mary is truly co-redemptrix along with her Son Jesus. He is the cause of sanctification and salvation, but Mary leads and guides everyone to him to be sanctified and saved. They are a real formidable team who pursues the hearts of all, so that none will be lost in the final analysis.
Hail Mary! Mother of God! Mother of Mercy! Mother of Grace! We are your children too, and we rededicate ourselves to you this day! Pray for us always! Amen!
You are the highest honor of our race!
Tuesday, August 4, 2015
St. John Vianney is a saint of God par excellence. This poor French priest was declared by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 the patron saint of all priests because of the absolute clarity in the saint’s mind of what the mission and life of a priest of Jesus Christ is all about. An amazingly short summary that he gave is this: “The priesthood (the priest) is the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.” This means that that when you see or hear a priest, you see and hear the sacramentally transformed image and icon of Christ’s own self-sacrificially loving heart.
This puts the priest and the people exactly in their proper place in regard to one another. The priest is not superior to them because of this sacramental imaging and focusing: he is rather made humble, kneeling at their feet to wash them, and to serve their spiritual needs: to attend to their sanctification. When he first arrived at Ars, a tiny village near Lyons, the new Cure stopped to ask a young lad the way to Ars: the boy pointed and said: “Why, it is that way, Father.” Fr. John Vianney then immediately responded, “now you come, and I will show you the way to heaven.” This is the ultimate servant duty of the priest to “show all God’s people the way to heaven.”
John Vianney’s entire theology was based on the Cross of Christ on Calvary. He saw the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Sacrament of Penance as inseparable, and ordered one to the other. Both apply the enormous merits of Christ’s agony, and suffering and death. And both actually re-present the events of that day on Calvary. The chief sacrament is Eucharist in which we actually eat and drink the Body and Blood of the Lord unto our salvation and future glory; but the Sacrament of Penance clears the way of grave sin, which inhibits the flow of any grace at all in the Eucharistic celebration. Going to communion with grave sin on the soul is not only pointless but it is also sacrilegious and sinful in its own right. This only makes spiritual and sacramental sense. Vianney invited all men and women to examine their consciences and then following the grace of God’s lead to come to confession.
St. John Vianney was the Confessor extraordinaire: he could read hearts and was the St. Francis of the Confessional: a true instrument of restoring the peace of God to tormented souls: all within a matter of minutes. And it had to be so: as his reputation grew as not only preacher and teacher, but also gentle yet firm confessor, people by the hundreds and then thousands came to him to unburden their lives and confess their sins. By the end of his 40 year ministry in Ars 20,000 pilgrims a year would come to be ministered to by this saintly priest of God: the living icon of the love of Jesus’ Sacred Heart.
We thank John Vianney for being but a simple, humble channel of God’s wondrous sacramental grace: not only in the confessional, but also at his most favorite place, at the altar of God, making present the true and real Body and Blood of his Lord and ours, his healer and ours, his God and ours.
We pray today for priests – all of them – that they may come home to the fact that their lives are meant to image the love of Christ’s Sacred and Pierced Heart. What an astounding vocation, to be God’s-love-for-others-in-the-flesh!
St. John Vianney, pray for us.
Monday, August 3, 2015
It is obvious that we are in the summer “feeding” mode in the gospel passages. So many of them lately have to do with Jesus’ concern for the physical needs of people with no food – who are weak and hungry and out of sorts.
This is a reflection of the first reading today where we see Moses chatting with God about how hostile the starving Hebrew people were – who were not getting enough “food from heaven” to satisfy their needs. They were wearing Moses out with their arguing and grumbling – and he was sick to death of it.
But just as God will once again feed the wayward ones of the ancient past, so will Jesus feed the crowds who gather to listen to him who have no foresight to bring food with them. Again, though, the lesson he wants to teach here is that the more important spiritual food, spiritual bread of his own real Body and Blood were what was really the necessary daily diet for them. How else could he be truly and intimately present to them, to strengthen and guide them?
It was very easy for Jesus to multiply fish and loaves, it is very easy for Jesus to make himself present in the Eucharistic bread and wine. May we always hunger after the true bread from heaven – and find that it satisfies all our needs, all of them.
Sing with joy to God our help.
Sunday, August 2, 2015
Our readings today speak of “hunger and thirst” – the kind of hunger and thirst that all people have – the kind that is just “built in.” We ultimately hunger for truth, fullness, justice, completion, peace, love and joy! And in our hunger and thirst for these things - in our searching - we often find ourselves on the wrong track, looking in all the wrong places, and ultimately unfulfilled, incomplete and far from joy – we are unhappy, and we make everyone around us unhappy!
Jesus came precisely to feed our hunger, to quench our thirst. Nothing man-made can “do the trick,” only something God-made can do it: and so God gave us “food and water” – many times prophetically in scripture - beginning with the manna in the desert, and the water from the rock; but did these not foretell of the time when the Very Bread of Angels would become the Food of Men; and water from a Pierced Heart, the sacramental life of a whole viable and authentic religious way of life?
Jesus in the gospel passage today tells the people to work spiritually for the true bread that gives life to the world – both here and hereafter – and that bread is his very Self: for He is the bread of life: and whoever goes to him will never hunger, and whoever believes in him will never thirst again! This is not a metaphor, it is a fact!
All it takes, as Jesus again says in the gospel passage, is to believe that this is so: to believe that Jesus is God, and that he can be Bread and Drink if he says he is. The grumbling of the disbelief of both ancient times and that of Jesus’ own day had to be laid to rest; and the taunts of disbelief of our own day need to be dismissed. Jesus still is very much who he said he was, and he is who the Church has proclaimed he is for 2000 years – may we this day make our act of faith in him; and may we thank him so very much for continuing to distribute loaves and fish, and refreshing waters to us – who are as in need as is anyone else.
May we become truly holy today, because we have eaten the holy heavenly bread, and then let it affect our every thought and action.
The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
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