Monday, February 27, 2017
+ The readings for today are an excellent choice for two days before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. “To the penitent God provides a way back, he encourages those who are losing hope, and has chosen for them the lot of truth.” What excellent thoughts for us to ponder as we, Catholic Christians, find ourselves steeped in the muck and mire of national and world politics, and with a leader who seems to have no clear grasp of what truth, accountability and responsibility for the sacred human lives of others is even about.
And so, it is up to us to stand up to him and his cohorts by being shining examples of what right priorities, right choices and right consequences is about: it is about giving up and abandoning selfish, egotistical, self-centered thoughts, words and deeds – and returning to the source of truth, justice, beauty, goodness and life: to God, his Son by the working of their Spirit of Love.
This is the time to return to the Lord, to make any new offenses few, to hate what God hates, to loathe what he loathes: lying, deception, cunning, cheating, and any form of anarchy or dictatorship of mind or body or spirit.
While we are alive in this world: we can make a difference in the positive energy put forth to banish the negative: we must praise and glorify God in all our works, words and deeds of goodness.
We are called to become poor in spirit, even poor in material possessions and obsessions (as the young man in the gospel was called to do in order to follow Jesus more perfectly) – and we too shall be able to spend this Lent fine-tuning our commitment to discipleship, our commitment to life, love and our place in the global family of man!
Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
+ Our readings today get to the heart of what concerns us as human beings: feeling secure, being cared about, being loved, being appreciated, and being provided for. We all have these basic needs: after all we are “strangers in a strange land”; earth is not our “home,” and the yearning and longing that is in our heart for something more satisfying, more permanent, more complete proves it. This desire is placed in us by God himself, for he does not want us to get too comfortable on our pilgrimage; he wants to keep us reaching for and moving towards him.
The very short first reading today from the Prophet Isaiah summarizes it nicely: sometimes we feel abandoned and alone: “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” (How often have we thought or said these things?) But what follows is a classic reply by God: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? (which is an inconceivable thing, just mentioned for drama). Even should she forget (which is highly unlikely) I will never forget you.” God will never forget us, because his love brought us into existence and sustains us; and it is his desire to sustain us by the life of the Church – inaugurated by the death and Resurrection and ascension of his Son – Jesus.
The second reading talks about the attitudes that the disciple of Christ – a member of the Church ought to have: to be non-judgmental about the motivation of the heart: for it will all come out in the end: when the Lord comes, he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and manifest the true motives of our hearts – and then everyone will receive what he deserves from God.
And of course, in the gospel passage we have the magnificent positive attitude that a disciple of Christ ought to have: that of utter, complete and absolute trust, both for the day and for the morrow! One who believes that Jesus is Elder Brother, also believes that God is loving and providential Father who will “give us our daily bread” – all that we need to make it from morning to night – one day at a time. Therefore, being concerned about tomorrow is a sign of disloyalty to God, and in a sense sinful.
When we think that we must manage each and every aspect of our lives: when we think that we are the center and others, including God, revolve around us: then we are sadly and sinfully mistaken. But when we give God everything to manage, make him the center of our lives, then all of our days and nights will be filled with joy and peace – and we will be children pleasing to him – and there is nothing he will not do for us when we ask!
This gospel passage was instrumental in St. Francis’ full conversion to life in Christ – and in the ultimate formation of his Order of Friars Minor. May it be an instrument for our own continuing conversion to the Lord, our own search for perfection, our own act of faith and love in Jesus and his Father.
Rest in God alone, my soul!
Friday, February 24, 2017
+ The lineup of reading today at mass is not necessarily coincidental. And because this is a Friday a third element is not foreign to the lineup. The basic idea for the day in the preeminence of friendship. The Book of Sirach tells us: “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds on finds a treasure.”
This reality and elemental relationship was present in the Garden of Eden at the beginning. Adam and Eve were first created by God to be companions, to be helpmates, to be friends. It was after this fundamental relationship was established did got carry it one step further, to the equally fundamental, and irrevocable relationship of marriage.
In the estimation of God, only friends ought to marry. This is the ideal. However, in practice, throughout the ages, this was and is not always the case. Marriage has been the base of political manipulations, business alignments, and military advantage. But this does not negate the reality of the ideal, nor limit the effort that needs be taken in creating marriage, between a man and a woman, unions in the present and future.
And then once the marriage has been lawfully, and for Christians, sacramentally, contracted and freely entered into – it ought not be disconnected, or the union torn apart – for this would be injurious in the long run to both parties involved, if only psychologically.
But on this Friday we can also take a look at the essence of friendship as being an act of the will, an act of the heart, an act of love. Friends-first are attracted to the goodness of the heart of other, because these hearts are first of all, giving and basically caring, tender and true. The greatest example of all is the self-sacrificially giving, tender, compassionate, heart of God himself, who sent his Son to rescue his wayward and doomed children – to reconcile them, and invite them to life everlasting in a kingdom prepared for them, for us!
And so, we celebrate on this Friday the loved to Pierced Sacred Heart of Jesus who gave everything, unconditionally for us and our salvation. And we thank him profoundly, humbly and meekly – and beg him to teach us more and more every day how to conform our minds to his, our bodies to his, our hearts to his: so that we can live fully the human life he has imagined for us both here and in eternity, and so that we can build up the community of our brothers and sisters in the world around us, who are waiting and depending on our gifts to them, just as we rely on their gifts of friendship, love and family connectedness from them.
What God joins together as friends, as spouses, as colleagues, as community members, as business associates, as citizens of a country and world, let us not break apart, dismantle or put asunder!
Thursday, February 23, 2017
+ St. Polycarp of Smyrna was a disciple of St. John the Apostle who converted him. He was also friend of St. Ignatius of Antioch. He fought against Gnosticism which stated that it was only necessary to know God in order to gain heaven. He became Bishop of Smyrna (in modern day Turkey). He was a revered Christian leader during the first half of the second century. The Asia Minor churches recognized Polycarp’s leadership and chose him representative to Pope Anicetus on the question of the date of the Easter celebration. Only one of the many letters written by Polycarp has survived, the one he wrote to the Church of Philippi, Macedonia. At age 86 Polycarp was to be burned alive in the stadium in Smyrna, but the flames did not harm him and he was finally killed by a dagger, and his body burned. The Acts of Polycarp’s martyrdom are the earliest preserved reliable account of a Christian martyr’s death! He is considered an Apostolic Father.
The warning of the angel to the Church in Smyrna, from the Book of Revelation of the first reading, tells of tribulation and trials that the devil will inflict on the chosen ones so that they may attain to the crown of life. It tells that the death of the body is nothing to be concerned about; but only the second death in which eternal placement is assigned. This is where the Christian needs to be victorious.
The gospel passage certainly speaks of ill-treatment that is the lot of the disciple of Christ: no slave is greater than his master: they persecuted me, they will persecute you; they did not keep my words, except for some, they will not keep your words, except for some. But do not worry: your reward truly will be great in heaven.
May we be faithful disciple of Christ this day, in a country that needs the witness of those bearing truth, and goodness, and justice and peace is desperately needed! – as we pray that our nation is kept safe from encroaching tyranny. St. Polycarp, pray for us.
Into your hands, O Lord, we commend our spirits.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
+ This feast of the Chair of St. Peter commemorates three things: of highest importance, it celebrates the faith of St. Peter which is the very foundation and focal point of the whole Church: the Church was built upon the profession of faith made by Peter when he proclaimed: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. He made this proclamation prompted by the Holy Spirit – and it is this very divine intervention that confirms the supernatural basis of what Church is. Peter then is “chief believer” and all who belong to Christ through baptism, follow his lead.
The feast also commemorates Peter’s subsequent leadership over the rest of the Twelve whom he leads and guides, strengthens and nurtures after the exhortation of Christ who wants a solid and unified college of men in charge of the flock that would gather down the ages. This leadership is symbolized in the very chair that Peter sat in to teach, rule and guide the church, and it symbolizes the authority and unifying element that resides in the office of pope. Currently, Francis Bergoglio occupies that seat.
And lastly, the feast commemorates the local bishop’s unifying role and leadership in the diocesan setting. The cathedra or chair that he presides from in his cathedral symbolizes a direct relation to the chair of Peter in Rome, and his office and responsibility ought to be given the same respect as that of its European counterpart. In a real way, the celebrant’s chair in any parish church or chapel (which can be occupied by the local bishop at any time) is also meant to be symbolic of a representative of Christ’s action and presence in the world today! May we all give it such reverence and respect.
Let us then today, on this feast of faith, this feast of unity, this feast of commitment, rededicate ourselves to the roles given by our states in life and places in the Mystical Body of Christ for its good and its growth!
You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church;
the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
+ St Peter Damian was a stern figure, like St John the Baptist, who seems to be specifically raised up to call lax men and women to repentance and the narrow path of virtue. He was raised by his brother who was archpriest of Ravenna, who saw to it that Peter was well educated. The youth was more interested though in a life of penance and helping the poor. He soon found himself living a hermit’s life and being taken under the wing of a couple of saintly Benedictine monks.
Peter lived a Benedictine hermit’s life then, but was soon called upon to take the role of Abbot among the hermits when the present abbot died. As abbot he founded five other houses of hermits. His chief care was to foster in his disciples the spirit of solitude, charity and humility. Many of them became great lights of the Church.
Peter also was called upon by the holy see to help in many matters which troubled the pope. His writings appear to be strict and vehement but this because he was trying to enforce the observance of morality and discipline, especially among the clergy and monks. He severely rebuked the Bishop of Florence for playing a game of chess.
He fought simony and upheld clerical celibacy, he encouraged a common life for the secular clergy. During his last trip as papal envoy in 1072, Peter caught a fever and lay dying. While monks gathered around him singing the Divine Office he died. His preaching was most eloquent, his writings voluminous, he was declared doctor of the Church in 1828.
The true teachings of the Lord could flow into and out of St Peter Damian because he acquired the discipline of cooperation to grace – to remain attached to the “vine which is Christ.” Apparently, he did so with great vigor because some very strong and useful preaching and teaching came forth from him – at a time in history when it was precisely needed. In this day and age – great channels of courage and moral fortitude are needed as well. Christians have the moral obligation to help steer the ship of civil government when it is dangerous waters, by their calm and peaceful shining of the light of truth and charity towards all. May we cooperate with grace today, as Peter Damian did, so that God can use us as he wills, for our own good, that of our loved ones, our countrymen and our world.
Remain in my love, says the Lord; whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.
Monday, February 20, 2017
+ Again today, we have timely readings for this mass. It would be very easy to get caught up in the notion that we are living in “impossible times.” On this President’s Day, of all days, the presidency and entire White House presence both in Washington, DC, the country and the world seems to be in great disarray and the legendary ideals and principle to honesty and fair play as put forth by our first President, George Washington, seems to be far from the minds and hearts of the current administration.
These are very disturbing times, yes, but impossible, no!
And the reason is that, as Jesus tells us in the gospel passage: “Everything is possible to one who has faith!” And this is not just some pious platitude from a motivational speaker: it is TRUTH as espoused by very TRUTH MADE FLESH – Jesus the Christ, the Redeemer, the Friend of Mankind.
Another way of saying this: is that wisdom, the gift that needs to be energized and promulgated at this time to all who live in this country, is greater than all of the world’s agonies. When “wisdom builds herself a house” in the minds and hearts of God-fearing men and women, then real truthful, good, honest, just and compassionate results can abound – and the country and the world can be transformed.
In the gospel passage, Jesus tells us that certain kinds of ills can only be rooted out by prayer: prayer is what we do as Christians, as Catholics, as disciples of Christ. Jesus already knows that he wants to grant our requests but he wants us, nevertheless to pray, that it happens.
Let us do as he says, and effect a true change in the mind and heart of many of our congressional representatives as well as the president and his cabinet – for the good of the states, for the good of the country, for the good of the world.
We must never forget that God is in control, everything is in his hands, and that the true ruler of rulers and king of kings and presidents is Jesus the Christ who won that right by vicious, barbarous, murderous death on a tree!: this is how we treated the Greatest Immigrant of them all who emigrated from Heaven to save our sorry souls!
Sunday, February 19, 2017
+ Our gospel passage today reminds us that Jesus came to be the fulfillment of the Law of God; fulfillment and not replacement: the essence of God’s ordering of things would always be in effect, because they are from the very essence of creation as given by God. But until God could come himself – in person – in the Person of Jesus – to fully explain it and demonstrate it: a more rudimentary sort of expression of it would have to suffice. And so we have the commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai and others that came from God’s interaction with the Patriarchs and the Prophets. It has always been clear where the right path was: but a fuller expounding on details simply had to wait.
Our gospel passage today is very compelling: it illustrates Jesus’ divine power over the law: he cites many examples on how “just keeping the law” had been okay in the past: but now the time has come for him (who truly is the only one who has the authority to do it) to introduce these words: “but I say to you:” – offer no resistance to one who is evil, be extravagant in your generosity – love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father – be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. And as it says in the Book of Leviticus in the first reading: Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy! And prove it by loving your neighbor as yourself!
This is a tall order: but because Jesus commands it: the grace will always be there to accomplish it, this he promises. We must remember, as St. Paul tells the Corinthians: we are temples of God, having the Spirit of God dwelling in us, thereby making us possessions of Christ and of his Father! What a company we are a part of! May we thus be always wise in the things of God – who is not only our Father, but also our goal – and not of the things of this world that will bring us ruin!
May we continue to strive daily to keep the word of Christ, so that the love of God will be perfected in us: and we will be pleasing children to our heavenly Father – and he will show us his kindness and mercy with great abundance!
God bless us, and be with us each day of our life, no matter what the future might hold.
Friday, February 17, 2017
+ Again today, as for many consecutive days, we have profound and timely readings for this mass. Whenever we hear today’s gospel reading one thought certainly comes to our mind and that is: will we, any of us, all of us, be the “last ones standing” and not taste death until they see that the Kingdom of God has come in power?
This passage has been read for and from ages past, and so far, it has been fulfilled and yet not quite fully – God comes in power every single day – for those with the eyes and ears of faith to be able to see and hear him. Many can testify to his activity in their own lives, and the lives of their loved ones.
But one day the fullness of the Kingdom will be revealed and the power of God will overwhelm its enemies and build up its allies to unparalleled heights of justice, peace, joy and eternal fulfillment.
Scripture tells us of a final battle that will occur between good and evil, truth and lies, beauty and ugliness, compassion and self-seeking consumption – when the Enemy shall enter into the minds and hearts of those willing to be led astray – like sheep to the slaughter – by means of tinkling bells, sweet smells and mesmerizing language and tone of voice.
For those, however, willing to deny themselves, their self-centered, egotistical tendencies, and their unbridled natural proclivities – those willing to take up their cross in life, whatever God determines it to be for us – that is always right sized and not overwhelming – these will be victorious over the Enemy and his lies, falsehoods, and deceptions – and they shall be able to lead the flock aright by the Light of the World that has been given to us for this very purpose: Jesus, who is Light, Love, Redeemer, Ruler and Friend.
And, of course, the first reading today cannot be overlooked or dismissed: it is the explanation of why lies, deceptions, falsehoods, fake news and the array of inexplicable language coming out of Washington DC these days exists: because at one point brash and defiant mankind wanted to make itself a god, and master over the universe: to build a tower that would reach heaven to finish off the project and demote the real God of the Universe to a negligible pawn.
Of course, the transfixed inhabitants of planet earth were thrown into a disarray and disorder of communication that would be the best offense of all that God could set in place so that a universal agreement of lies could not take root – and all men would not choose eternal punishment over eternal bliss and the Beatific Vision that awaits those who know and believe that they are not God.
And so the confusion of language, resulting from the desire in Babel to go it alone, and build a tower to heaven for the wrong purpose: the purpose of displacing God: persists to today – and only those who seek in silence, the true of real communication with God and his will – will prevail – find peace, hope and joy – and eternal life!
The gospels are crystal clear, the words and actions of Jesus are as plain and easily understandable as day, the guiding light of the teaching authority of the Church is impenetrable: God is our Rock, our Refuge and our Safety!
Thursday, February 16, 2017
+ Again today we have profound and timely readings for this mass. Yesterday we spoke of the tree of life, the tree of the cross as the sign of God’s penetrating presence and transformative power of love. It was love that brought about the reconciliation of man with God, and the restoration of peace and prosperity.
And it was the blood of Christ which was its price.
And so the new sign of the unending covenant is the Blood of Christ poured out from his pierced sacred side! There is no greater source of power in the entire universe as this physical manifestation of self-sacrificial LOVE!
The first reading today speaks of blood, in saying that “if anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God has man been made.”
In an interesting side note: in this same reading from the Book of Genesis we see God rendering not only plants, but all animals as suitable and recommended food for man – according to his tastes and appetite.
And in another interesting side note: God says from you, yourself, I will demand an accounting of how you regarded and treated yourself, and I will demand it from every animal, and from one man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting for human life. And he was certainly referring to each and every human life, from conception to natural death.
We do not know the exact day and hour that this accounting will take place – but if we wisely read the signs of the times – we should not be surprised if it happens at any time, at any moment actually – especially, when we read the sign that announces the arrival of the one and true “antichrist” in our midst: the one who feeds on chaos, confusion, lies, deceptions, cover-ups and anarchy.
Let he, let she who has ears to hear, hear and take heed. For the day of the Lord is at hand!
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
+ Our readings today are magnificent. There is a sign of hope always offered and rendered to mankind – this being God’s response to the sin of our first parents against his love, care and beneficence.
Even when the punishment of God must be justly carried to an extreme, still there is a sign of hope, a sign of renewal, a sign of life.
The “plucked-off olive branch” of the first reading from the creation narrative of the Book of Genesis first reading, was the sign, in the world engulfed with the floods of water, of a living tree, which meant that the floodwaters were receding and that life on earth could begin again.
God always is in favor of a restart, a regeneration, a renewal for those willing to cooperate in the rebuilding process.
A connection to the gospel passage can be found here: in that when Jesus heals the blind man, the first thing he sees is “people looking like trees and walking.” This intermediary step in the healing process always puzzled me, but the author of a homily aid that I consulted today cleared things up for me when he says that the seeing man first saw what we will see on Good Friday: the man Jesus carrying his cross as if he were a tree walking. This is a new and amazing insight.
The sign of the tree, therefore the sign of Jesus walking in our midst carrying his tree of sacrifice, is the promise of New Life on earth.
When we see a crucifix from now on let us harken back to this of Divine Love, Divine Understanding of the Human Situation, Divine Forgiveness, Mercy and Compassion. Let us see the wood of the tree and thank God for his love, his plans for our welfare, and his invitation to eternal life.
To you, Lord, we will offer a sacrifice of praise!
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
+ Sts Cyril and Methodius were the “Apostles to the Slavs” and along with St. Benedict of Nursia were declared patron saints of all of Europe by Blessed Pope John Paul II. They were born of Greek nobility in 829; their family being connected with the senate of Thessalonica. Their mother may have been Slavic. They studied at the University of Constantinople. Constantine went on to teach philosophy there. He then became a deacon, priest and then librarian at the church of Santa Sophia; later he became a monk, taking the name Cyril.
In 861 he was sent by the emperor to convert the Jewish Khazars of Russia, a mission that was successful and which allowed him to learn the Khazar’s language. In 863 he was sent with Methodius, his brother, to convert Moravians in their native tongue. They developed an alphabet for the Slavonic language based on the Greek language that eventually became known as Cyrillic. After initial criticism for their use of it, the brothers achieved approval of the Liturgy in the Slavonic language. Cyril was just days away from becoming a bishop, but died shortly before the consecration ceremony.
Methodius, on the other hand, did become a bishop and achieved many apostolic victories such as extensive evangelization in Moravia, Bohemia, Pannonia and Poland. He baptized St. Ludmilla and Duke Boriwoi. He became Archbishop of Velehred (in the modern Czech Republic), but was deposed and imprisoned in 870 due to the opposition of German clergy with his work. He was often in trouble over his use of Slavonic in the liturgy, some claiming he preached heresy; but repeatedly he was cleared of charges. He translated the Bible into the Slavonic languages.
Just as St. Paul in the first reading knew that he was sent to be a light to the Gentiles, so too did Sts. Cyril and Methodius feel that same call and mission. And when the light that you are is the direct reflection of the Light of Christ himself – your light will go very far – as did the message and preaching of these two apostles to the Slavs. The gospel passage shows Jesus sending out a “further seventy-two” “two by two.”
It is heartwarming to see how some of those sets of two can even have been blood brothers! May we all feel our common family membership in Christ today – and know that we are still called today to go out in pairs or small groups, or even by ourselves, to proclaim the Light of the Gospel and to lead all who are willing to the Light of God’s Face!
The Lord sent them, but he also sends me to bring glad tidings to the poor and to proclaim liberty to captives.
Monday, February 13, 2017
+ We have very profound readings today at mass.
We begin to read now of the events of “fallen mankind” after the sin of Adam and Eve. The offspring of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, in their attempt at giving to God what was his due: thanksgiving for what was among the first crops of the land, and raising of animals to serve man’s needs, they ran into the first of the effects of the sin of their parents: envy, jealousy, pride – and since apparently Abel’s sacrifice to the Lord was somehow more pleasing to God – which was God’s prerogative to judge so – murder was cataloged as the first grave sin against the newly set-up human scenario for planet earth.
And Cain slew his brother Abel – out of rivalry, jealousy and envy – and anger at God for choosing Abel gift over his own.
The rest as we say is history: it is the history of fraternal rivalry, bickering, envy, jealousy and yes, even sometimes, murder.
The result was that the murderous Cain is banned from the soil, to become a restless wanderer on the earth. This, in part, explains an inherent restlessness in the hearts and souls of a great many people on the earth, even today.
Now, to prevent others from killing Cain on sight, the Lord puts a mark on his—a protective sign. And he is protected he is not killed.
Ages later, the “sign from heaven” that the Pharisees seek has already been given in the Incarnation. The flesh of Christ in our midst is the sign that saves us from our murderous ways.
And to carry this a step farther: we, ourselves, because of our baptisms, and incorporation into the Mystical Body of Christ, are the visible manifestation of Christ’s body on earth today: our lives, our countenances, our actions, our words need to reflect that fact: so that the tide of murderous activity, the tide of anger, and chaos, and miscontent can have some hope of being reversed:
the Incarnation of Christ is carried on in us – may we, strengthened by the Holy Communion we will receive – make a difference in the world today – if only with the people God places here and now in our midst.
Offer to God a sacrifice of praise, and good works!
Sunday, February 12, 2017
+ In our readings today we see the clarification of what is means to live a holy life. Jesus tells his disciples that unless their righteousness – their search for the true and good meaning in life – surpasses the false search conducted by the Pharisees: they will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Just “keeping the commandments as given” by Moses is not enough; just following prescriptions and minutia is not enough; what is needed is “a heart directed towards the spirit behind the laws,” which is indeed the Spirit of Christ’s heart, who fulfills all of the laws.
The Law of Moses was meant to be an excellent starting point: but “life in Christ” was always meant to be the main point: the point of true virtuous and right living. The Spirit of Jesus is the Holy Spirit of love and joy and peace and healing and justice and beauty and truth. However these can augment any of the laws of Moses, must be given preference.
Jesus gives an example in the gospel passage: he says: you have heard it said: you shall not kill; whoever kills will be liable to judgment. BUT I SAY TO YOU – I who have the authority to expound on this law – whoever is even angry with his brother will be liable to judgment. You have heard it was said, You shall not commit adultery. BUT I SAY TO YOU – I who have the authority to expound on this law – everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
In all of the commandments – the first reading from the Book of Sirach tells us – there is a definite choice to be made: between fire and water, between life and death, between good and evil. With the wisdom that comes from God – His Holy Spirit – may we always make a right choice that will further us along the path to salvation!
Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!: in its fullness!
Friday, February 10, 2017
+ St. Scholastica (b. 480), is the twin sister of St. Benedict of Nursia – founder of the Benedictine Order. Their mother died in childbirth and so these two found their consolation from “Mother Church” and the “motherly advice” that she had to offer. Benedict was the first to found a group of monks who agreed to live under his comprehensive Rule; Scholastica soon founded an order of nuns to live also by his Rule. The chief characteristic of the Rule is to find out what is God’s will and to do it with all your heart! This plays out in an enclosed life of prayer, study and work (service).
Benedict and his sister Scholastica used to meet annually in an abandoned farmhouse, to discuss holy things (her convent was only four miles from his at Monte Cassino). During one visit it seemed that Benedict wanted to end the meeting and go home; but Scholastica asked him to stay longer! He refused, so she said a quiet (but obviously powerful prayer to God) and suddenly a violent thunderstorm emerged from nowhere and kept Benedict in place for the rest of the night. Scholastica then quipped: “I asked a favor of you and you refused it. I asked it of God, and he has granted it.” Three days later, Scholastica died, and Benedict, in his cell, is said to have seen her soul rising to heaven in the form of a dove. She was buried in the tomb that Benedict had prepared for himself, and to which he later joined her (in 543).
While Mary and Martha of the gospel passage seemed to be on different pages; Benedict and Scholastica were exactly on the same page, book and chapter – the Holy Scriptures of God. May we today delve into the mysteries of love – love that our first reading tells us is ever strong, ever powerful, ever safe – as we pray, study the Scriptures and then put this love into action to see if it is what it purports itself to be! I doubt we will be disappointed in its effectiveness – for it can bring thunderstorms where there is fair weather, and can warm the coldest heart!
Young men and women, praise the name of the Lord.
Thursday, February 9, 2017
+ It is interesting in our first reading today from the book of Genesis how God creates animals first to be a companion to the man that he created, and then only after the man was still lonely he created woman to complete him and to take away the loneliness.
Loneliness is hell. Companionship with ones like ourselves, though in complementary ways, is paradise.
In the gospel passage Jesus evokes an unusual response of insight and faith by the woman whom he quite frankly insulted by comparing her to a dog. But perhaps both knew that that comparison was not as harsh as it sounds today: after all animals were still held very much in high esteem at the time this scene took place.
The woman knew she was being tested in order to obtain from the Lord what she needed not for herself, but for another; and so Jesus rewards her by granting her request and holding her up for admiration in a lesson of deep humility for all ages.
When the Lord tests us – may we read correctly into the situation – may we not jump to conclusions, as humans seem to be programmed to do – and may we then enjoy the generous response of the Lord as he grants our requests that come from our hearts, especially when we pray them for other people: people in great need, people who need hope in their lives, people who need peace in their lives.
How blessed are those men and women and children who fear the Lord! – in the best and most productive sense!
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
+ Sometimes the readings of the day are timely and noteworthy, our readings today are such readings – in the light of what is going on in this country in which we live, and move and have our being – a country that is being tested quite emphatically in elementary U.S. Government history and practice.
In the first reading we see how God tested the man and woman he created in his image and likeness telling them: according to his goodness and plan for their happiness, he gave all of creation to them to cultivate, nurture, care for and enjoy the fruits of – all except for one tree in the garden, one source of knowledge and power than he wanted to reserve for himself – for our own good.
But the man and the woman were deceived by the doubletalk, and “fake news” of the serpent and believed his lies about God – and thus they partook of a power and good that was reserved originally for God himself, and alone: the knowledge of good and evil: because with that knowledge comes responsibility and accountability. God did not want to concern mankind about these everyday decisions because he simply wanted him to be happy and carefree in a garden of paradise that would never end.
Well, we know what happened, not only did man mistrust God and disobey him, but they did indeed get the knowledge of good and evil that they were now directly responsible for the right use of – and accountable to God for exactly how it is used – but now without the vital Light of God’s grace and wisdom to know how to use it wisely, prudently and compassionately.
The evidence of the malice that was unleashed that day – even though Christ the Lord came and vanquished the Enemy, the Snake, the Satan who caused the rift – is the day to day battle with the mortally wounded Evil One who, though defeated, still wants to take down with him everyone he can on the Last Day that is surely on its way.
And the evidence that evil still persists is quite simply, and eloquently found “in what comes out of a man’s mouth, which reflects what lies really and truly in his heart” – the words, and consequent actions of men and women convict them of being in league with the enemy, or they exonerate him or her and prove that they are on the side of the Vanquisher, the Great Warrior, the Redeemer! – Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
And so, looking at what is going on in our nation’s capital today – is there evidence of “irrational, malicious, lying, divisive, uncharitable, speech” which produces “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly?” – or any other number of procedures and policies that undermine the “spirit of brotherhood, and mutual care and nurturing” that is the right of every person, along with the freedom to pursue life, freedom and happiness?
The word of God is truth, the WORD MADE FLESH is truth incarnate, and he lives verily and truly in the minds and hearts of his disciples who are now on the front line of what just might be the Final and Last battle that we have heard so much about – but never thought would happen on our watch.
Consecrate us, O Lord, and arm us, to be your servants and your cohort against the wiles of the wicked one!
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
+ In our gospel passage today Jesus chastises the Pharisees and scribes: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me… You nullify the word of God.”
And what a travesty and blunder this is: it is precisely that Word of God which brings forth creation – and sustains and nurtures it along.
“Then God said” – these are enormous words with far-reaching consequences: especially when they are directed and apply to us.
Today, let us beg for the grace to leave behind our preconceptions and faulty “traditions” and to have God remake – recreated, through his very Word and words, our minds and hearts again and again in his own image and likeness.
And then we shall be who God has in mind for us to be – and we will set the world ablaze with good words and works of our own!
O Lord, our God, how wonderful you name in all the earth!
Monday, February 6, 2017
+ St. Paul Miki (d.1597) and his companions were the first martyrs of the Far East. The Japanese ruler Hideyoshi initiated a persecution of Christians, when he became alarmed by the success of Francis Xavier’s mission, which had begun in 1549. To strike terror in the hearts of Christians, the ruler ordered that twenty-six Christians to be cruelly physically tortured and then be crucified and pierced with lances on a hill outside of Nagasaki on February 5, 1597. Those martyred included Paul Miki, a Jesuit priest/ scholastic, two Jesuit lay brothers, six Franciscans of whom four were Spanish; the fifth was from Mexico City (Peter Baptist, who later was named Mexico’s first saint, who is also the patron saint of Japan); the sixth was from Bombay.
The other seventeen included sixteen Japanese laypeople and one Korean. Among them were catechists, interpreters, a soldier, a physician, and three boys. At the end, they were marched 600 miles to their crucifixion, so they could be abused by, and be a lesson to, their countrymen; they sang the Te Deum on the way. Paul’s last sermon was delivered from the cross: this is part of what he had to say:
The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason that I die. I believe that I am telling the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ's example, I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.
- Saint Paul Miki
- Saint Paul Miki
Our readings today tell of “being sent” like the Apostles to bring the good news everywhere, and to every land. The Lord Jesus, the One who sends, already knows where he wants us to go, what he wants us to do, what we must endure, and the extra graces that we will need to accomplish his will. All we need do is to cooperate fully with our vocation – and we will be pleasing to him, and we will help the reign of God to grow!
The first reading reminds us that if Christ not only becomes our model in life, but actually our life’s vital principle: if we truly melt our lives into his, then we can endure anything, meet any opposition and come out victorious as he came out victorious, no matter the sufferings involved.
For it is true: those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing! [Through the red cross of suffering to the gold cross of victory!] This is always true!
Sunday, February 5, 2017
+ We have just come from the Christmas Season – where Jesus is revealed and proclaimed as the True Light of the World. The darkness of sin and all of its ramifications was rampant; only those who held on to the hope given them by the faith of Abraham could even survive the centuries of waiting for the arrival of the true Messiah, the true Redeemer, the true Light for all Nations: Jesus Christ!
And now that he has come, and the darkness is indeed shattered for those who want it to be: there is still work to be done: for many deliberately choose to remain in the darkness, to think it does not apply to them, to “take their chances” with their eternal placement, to almost in a sense to “dare God” to treat them any way other than mercifully after a rebellious and carefree life. This is not a good thing: God is indeed merciful, but as we stand in the presence of God when we are judged: it will be we ourselves who will condemn ourselves for our carelessness, our foolish behaviors, our vincible negligences – and not God!
And so Jesus invites us very clearly and deliberately to live out our baptismal calling to be Light and Salt for the earth; to make a difference wherever we go, especially as we look out for and take care of one another, and as many in the world as we can, especially in this day and in this age. We are his hands and feet and heart now. We must not let him down. Then we can look forward eagerly to our day of humble reward, for “just doing our Christian duty” of sharing our bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, clothing the naked when we see them and not turning our back on our own.
For when we do these things: we are actually and really doing them for Jesus himself: and he will be very pleased, and the world will be transformed!
God bless you!
Thursday, February 2, 2017
+ Our feast today, of the Presentation of the Lord and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was introduced into the Eastern Empire by Emperor Justinian I, and is mentioned in the Western Church in the Gelasian Sacramentary of the 7th century. It commemorates the purifying of the Blessed Virgin according to the Mosaic Law, 40 days after the birth of Christ; and the presentation of the Infant Jesus in the Temple. It is also known as Candlemas Day, as candles are blessed in commemoration of the words of Holy Simeon, who received the Child and his Mother, and declared this Christ Child to be “a light for revelation for the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.” In this regard, candles, for use in church for a year, are blessed, and at the principal Mass in a church, there is a procession with lighted candles to represent the entry of Christ, the Light of the World, into the Temple of Jerusalem.
Our readings today tell us to seek the Lord of Light in two places: in the Temple of our churches and chapels (it is recommended that we make regular and frequent visits to be with him there); and also in the eyes of those we help in God’s name. If he is not to be found in one place, he won’t be found in the other for us. And finally, may we live our days in peace because like Simeon we have received the Lord into the temples of our hearts, may we honor him there, pray to him there, and ask his help to act like him always, and in every place.
You Lord, are a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel, and us!
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
+ In our gospel passage today the people “take offense” at Jesus because they are not able to figure him out according to their own measure—he does not fit into their categories.
This is part of the trial that God the Father allows toward his Son.
But this “discipline” will bring forth “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” for us if we abandon our inadequate preconceptions and “strive for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
We can use the same dynamic is our consideration of the people in our life, in our day. Let us not rush to judge them until we can determine the foundation and true ground of their motivations and reasoning.
When the motive and reason for doing things is to seek, find and present what is essentially and really true, good, beautiful and just – this will become quite evident as a “peaceful fruit of righteousness” and there will be a natural inclination to engage in a constructive and productive dialogue with that person. And good works will abound.
The converse is also true, when motives and reasons are specious and not well thought-out, and the ramifications of words and actions are not measured in the arena of public life where they will be executed and enforced, then there will be naturally confusion, chaos and ambivalence that will produce not peace but agitation, and there will be a natural inclination to disengage from such persons and their immature pursuits.
Let those who have ear to hear, listen – and act with all charity and good intentions from the heart!
+ Our readings today are about unity and community, or a more contemporary way of saying it would be: participation . Jesus makes it ...
+ We celebrate the Feast today of the Cure of Ars. John Mary Vianney was born to a farm family in Lyons, France in 1786. In his youth he tau...
+ St. Clare of Assisi became a friend of St. Francis of the same town after hearing him preach. Her father was a count and her mother a coun...