June 23, 2017 – Friday in the 11th Week of the Church Year

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Scripture Readings for today’s Solemnity

Dueteronomy 7:6-11   –   Psalm 103   –   1 John 4:7-16   –   Matthew 11:35-30

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

 These words from today’s Holy Gospel are the invitation to all of us to find our rest and fulfillment in Jesus. That seems to mean that if we really come fully into the Lord’s presence we will find, even here on earth, something of perfect rest. Still, it’s important for us to remember that we can’t find that “green pastures” kind of rest unless we are known by the Good Shepherd. If we look at the lives of almost any of the great saints we can see that they were able to do incredible works with almost a tireless stamina. They were, in a way, able to do this because they first centered their lives on the Love of Jesus. I can’t help but think of saints like St.Francis Cabrini who, in days when travel was anything but easy made all those trips back and forth from Europe to the US. And, she, herself, was deadly afraid of travel over water! St. Katherine Drexel is another example of one who first established her relationship with Jesus and was able to see through His eyes the needs of Native Americans – the poorest and least cared for people of her time. Our own St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena were able to undertake serious travel – often by foot – in order to share the vision that they had of the Love of Christ. I have to wonder how St. Catherine ever managed to even survive since she was the 28th child in her family!

The only answer to how holy men and women are able to do such incredible works can only be their focus on the love and presence of Jesus in their lives. Today’s Solemnity gives us another invitation to put our focus and attention on the Sacred Heart of Jesus whose heart was pierced for our salvation. I still have fond memories of my growing up years in Catholic grammar school where we paid special honor to the First Friday’s Mass. I can still sing that old hymn, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, font of love and mercy, to thee we cry thy blessings to bestow…” There’s something key in the words to this hymn: “font of love and mercy” It tells us that we first have to come to Jesus if we want to be ambassadors of HIS love and mercy. Most of us get this backwards thinking that doing good works will eventually lead us closer to God. We have to “seek the Good Shepherd” first and then He will lead us into the green pastures. THEN we are able to go out into the world – sharing what we have received in seeking closeness with Jesus. All those holy men and women, down through the ages, weren’t able to do, what many would think impossible, because they were clever. They did it because they first found strength and life from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, “font of love and mercy!” Amen!

June 22, 2017 – Thursday in the 11th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Thomas More (February 7, 1478 – July 6, 1535)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

2 Corinthians 11:1-11   –   Psalm 111   –   Matthew 6:7-15

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be hard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (The opening words of today’s Holy Gospel according to Matthew)

 One of St. Thomas Aquinas’ familiar quotes is, “In the middle is virtue” and this is what we need here. In today’s Holy Gospel Jesus warns us not to be like the pagans (or the Pharasees) with their long lists of prayer requests. Still, on the other hand, we are not called to be Quakers who just sit quietly waiting for the Spirit to “quake” or “stir” us.

 

Our Father in heaven knows what we need even before we ask and these three “petitions” seem to be key to our understanding of this prayer: “give us; … forgive us;… lead us;…”

In the first place we need to acknowledge our dependence on God to, above all, give us life! Not just bread, but every breath that we struggle to breath. And this first petition is immediately followed by the one that draws us out of ourselves and into the world that is wrapped in sin and darkness and will only see the light of God’s love when we ask for and give forgiveness.

So we can easily see that we begin by acknowledging our dependence on God for everything we need. Then we step back from the altar – like the tax collector – and say those words that lead us to Holy Communion, “O Lord, I am not worthy … but only say the word… and I will be brought back into your love.

 It’s then – and only then – that we are led out as disciples – freed from temptation and evil to bring the Light of Christ into the world.

The reason that many of us don’t experience success in our evangelizing is that we’ve skipped the first two important steps. The Dominicans have the Four Pillars of our spirituality, which I harp on all the time: Payer; Study; Community and then Ministry. Interesting that it so closely follows the scheme of the Lord’s Prayer: “give us; … forgive us… lead us…!” Amen!

June 21, 2017 – Wednesday in the 11th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Aloysius Gonzaga (March 9, 1568 – JUne 21, 1501)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

2 Corinthians 9:6-11    –    Psalm 112    –    Matthew 6:1-6, 16 – 18

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them:” (Matthew 6:1)

 This quote above reminded me of something that happened many years ago, in the days when we ate our meals in silence. It was on Good Friday, and one of the enthusiastic novices – desirous of keeping a good “fast” – had arranged for the server to bring him a small loaf of bread – instead of the otherwise simple meal that the rest of us were having. But the server was a bit overly-flamboyant in the way he brought the bread to this brother; he held the dish out in front of him, at eye level and paraded down the center of the refectory and solemnly placed it in front of the brother who then ripped of a chunk of the bread, eating it in a very crude manner.

The Novice Master, seeing this stopped the reading and ordered the servers to bring that brother some of the same food that the rest of us were eating.

I guess that that brother hadn’t read the next line in this scripture reading, “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing … and your Father who sees in secret will repay you”

 It’s a difficult balancing act to strive to do well – for the sake of goodness – without drawing attention to oneself. It’s a good thing that I do these “reflections” in the early morning hours, before the light of day, when no one is up yet or stirring about. Even with this “safeguard” in place I still find that for every two steps forward, I seem to fall back three! But I usually get there anyway, because in most cases I was heading in the wrong direction! Another reminder that “God writes straight with crooked lines!”

 Today’s Responsorial Psalm is worth taken notice: “Blessed is the one who fears – (change that word to a better translation) who stands in awe of the Lord” then read each verse slowly so that the promises of this Psalm will give you a deeper insight into how best to follow the Lord. Amen!

June 20, 2017 – Tuesday in the 11th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Paulinus of Nola (354 – June 22, 431)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

2 Corinthians 8:1-9    –    Psalm 146    –    Matthew 5:43-48

The words of Jesus in today’s Gospel are not the easiest for us to swallow: “…love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you!”  That’s not an easy task since we tend seek those who love us rather than looking for trouble. I can remember several occasions when brothers would peek into a TV room – to see who was there before going in. Or asking at dinner time, who’s sitting at this table before sitting down. Gee! We’re not going on a date! It’s just our evening dinner!

I’m going to go back to the quote from St. Ephrem that I commented on some-time back: “It is you, oh good one, who created Adam even though you knew that he would be ungrateful and go astray: you fashioned him, nonetheless, so that you might make him victorious.” This reminds us of God’s infinite love and mercy. So much so, that we must entertain the possibility that the most hardened, despicable, evil person – Hitler, ben Laden, – you name him – might be able to receive God’s love and forgiveness sometime, maybe before they die. That tells me that I just might have a chance to enter into God’s presences one of these days. Think about it! Amen.

June 19, 2017 – Monday in the 11th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Romuald (c. 950 – June 19, 1027)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

2nd Corinthians 6:10 – 10   –   Psalm 98   –   Matthew 5:38 – 42

“Give to the one who ask of you, and do no turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”(the closing words from today’s Holy Gospel according to Matthew)

 This part of St. Matthew’s Gospel probably isn’t a favorite for many of us. It was especially difficult when I was a missionary in Africa.  It was made all that much more difficult when I would walk in downtown Nairobi with a cross prominently hanging around our 

This passage of Matthew’s Gospel is a continuation of what we heard on last Friday where we were told to cut off our hand if it was a cause of our sinning. How do we make sense of these dramatic admonitions? Where does the admonition to be “prudent stewards of the gifts God has given us” come in?

Becoming poor, just to be poor doesn’t really do anything for either us or those we are called to serve. So it would seem to be a matter of degrees: how much are our “things” – coats, shoes and money – treasures that we hoard? Do we use the blessings that God has put into our lives to build up those who are in need. When Jesus talks about the “hundred-fold promise” we have to remember that it’s “in the Kingdom to come!”

 If we look at the pattern that Jesus showed us in the Gospels we won’t see Him opening up a “welfare system.” Rather, we’ll find the Beatitudes and our task to heal and bring the light of hope to a people walking in darkness. If I give away all my clothes I’ll just freeze in the night. If I give people hope and a purpose for living I’ve given them something that will last. Amen!

June 18, 2017 – Solemnity of Corpus Christi – “The most holy body and blood of Christ.”

Click on this “link” to read about today’s Solemnity

Click on this “link” to read today’s Holy Scriptures

Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a – Psalm 147 – 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 –   John 6:51-58

“St. Paul says, ‘the cup of blessing … and the bread that we break is it not a participation in the body and blood of Christ?” (1st Cor 10:16-17)

 Today’s celebration has its origins in the feasts of Holy Week when on Holy Thursday we remember the Last Supper and the gift of Jesus’ very life to the Church for all ages. However, the Holy Week Liturgies move quickly from the Institution of the Holy Eucharist to Good Friday and Holy Saturday and the Easter Vigil and there’s often not enough time to let it all settle in. Thus, these celebrations of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday and today’s Solemnity of Corpus Christi are given a reprise so that we might enter in to the deep mysteries of our Catholic Faith at a time when we can thoroughly absorb its fullness.

In many places there might be outdoor processions and other Eucharistic devotions which are a great witness to our faith that Jesus is truly with us, sustaining our inner life through His gift of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. However, it is always necessary that we don’t only participate in huge processions and celebrations but, rather, seeing that this gift of Christ’ Body and Blood is acknowledged in a one-to-one relationship that is on-going even in times when we are alone and feeling abandoned. Jesus’ words to His disciples, Who do people say that I am?” are important for each of us because He goes on to say, “But YOU! Who do -YOU say that I am? (Mark 8:29) It’s good for us to be in huge, outdoor processions, which are a great sign and witness of our faith. But in the end we’re going to be asked that same question: “But YOU? Who do YOU say that I am?”

This is why I love my early morning time before the Blessed Sacrament. I’m alone in our little house chapel in the first light of day. There aren’t any other friars astir and the city hasn’t really woken up yet. In that quiet space I can come before my Lord who sustains my spiritual life. I honestly don’t think that I could write these daily reflections – as easily as I seem to do – if I wasn’t so focused on this gift of Jesus’ presence in the Blessed Sacrament. There’s a little bit of St. Peter in all of us and that’s why we enter into that same dialogue: “Do you, Daniel, love me as a friend?” And we respond, “Yes, Lord you know that I love you like a friend.” Jesus repeats the question and then finally asks, “Do you love me (using the form of the word which means as in “lay down your life?” And we, like Peter, sometimes can only say, “Yes, Lord. I love you like a friend” The beauty of this dialogue lays in the fact that Jesus is always willing to meet us “where we’re at” in the hopes that we will one day be in that place where we can say, “I will lay down my life for You!  This will only happen if we have regularly entered into to that quiet, intimate relationship with Jesus based on and nourished by the Holy Eucharist. And we respond: Amen!

June 17, 2017 – Saturday in the 10th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Joseph Cafasso (January 15, 1811 – June 23, 1860)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

2 Corinthians 5:14-21   –   Psalm 103    –    Matthew 5:33-37

“Bless the Lord, O my soul; … As far as the east is from the west, so far has he put our transgressions from us.(Psalm 103:1 & 12)

 In the first scripture reading for today’s liturgy, St. Paul gives us a reminder that when we are with God, “all things are new; the old things have passed away.” (II Cor.5:18) God is the ever-present “now” and not the stagnant “was.”

Go back to the beginning of today’s first scripture and read it slowly. One line or phrase at a time and let the words expand. The word, “reconciliation” appears several times in both a sense of receiving and giving which should give us some hope and a reminder of a popular secular phrase, “what goes around comes around.”

 We can’t just sit around bemoaning that God is not real to us without our getting up and going out to make Him real to someone else. You want to be happy? Begin by making those around you happy. You want to be successful? Start helping others to get up and active. You can see where I’m going with this so keep going on your own. As you do this keep that phrase from Psalm 103 in front of you. The one at the beginning of today’s reflection. He’s the God of the ever-present NOW and His mercy and forgiveness is unending. Amen!

June 16, 2017 – Friday in the 10th Week of the Church Year

 

Saint for the day: John Francis Regis (January 31, 1597 – December 30, 1640)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

2 Corinthians 4:7 – 15    –    Psalm 116    –    Matthew 5:27-32

“Beloved: We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. (II Corinthians 4:7)

 As I continued reading today’s first Scripture from II Corinthians the first thought that came to mind was our practice of celebrating “The Way of the Cross” during Lent. I’ve always believed that this devotion is like an “outline” of our life in following Jesus. From the quote, above, St Paul goes on to say, “We are perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the Body the dying of Jesus – and then, the most important part – so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

 Whenever I’ve led this devotion in our parish I try to point out that we never do it in segments. We would never think to say that today we’ll do the first three “stations” and some other time we’ll do a few more. The fact that we do this devotion as a “packaged deal” should be apparent to us and give us the courage that St. Paul is struggling to communicate to his followers.

Whenever you feel that life is becoming to difficult and you wonder how much God can dish out to you, pick up one of those little “Stations Booklet” and all you have to do is read the titles of each of the 14 “Stations” and remembering that there is an “implied” 15th Station: The Resurrection! Just for today, don’t focus only on this Gospel, trying to figure out what you have to “cut off” in your life. Focus on the “journey of Jesus” and see how he never gave up. And just as there is that “implied” 15th Station there is also an implied “pre-1st Station: the agony in the garden where Jesus, Himself, cries out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

 Homework for today: just pick any one of the “Stations” that you can remember and let the power of Jesus’ last journey give you the courage to go on. Amen!

June 15, 2017 – Thursday in the 10th Week of the Church Year

 

Saint for the day: Marguerite d’Youville (October 15, 1701 – December 23, 1771)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

2 Corinthians 3:15 – 4:1, 3-6   –   Psalm 85   –   Matthew 5:20-26

In today’s Holy Gospel Jesus says, “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)

 The first thing we need to ask ourselves is, “what IS ‘righteousness?’” and why did Jesus single out the scribes and Pharisees as an example of what we shouldn’t be?

I think the answer might be that the S & P’s were “all show and no go.” They gave the outward appearance of being holy but they were like “whitened sepulcehers” that were in constant need of be re-painted and made to look good from the outside.

In the first Scripture for today’s liturgy St. Paul says, “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ. (II Cor.4:6)

The important point that we have to remember is that “we are not the light, nor the source of the light but more like a lens which transmits and directs the light to those around us.”

Another way of looking at this is the story of the little girl who, when asked what a saint was, replied – thinking of the stained glass windows of saints in her church – said, “they’re the ones who let the light in.” That’s an interesting concept for us to think about.

So, what’s our ‘bottom line’ for today? We are called to follow Jesus by allowing His light to enter our lives. But we’re not supposed to take the light and hide it under a bushel-basket (not an original thought) but, rather, to let it shine out to those around us who might be in areas of darkness.

 The important point that we have to remember is that “we are not the light, nor the source of the light but more like a lens which transmits and directs the light to those around us.”

So, what’s our ‘bottom line’ for today? We are called to follow Jesus by allowing His light to enter our lives. But we’re not supposed to take the light and hide it under a bushel-basket (not an original thought) but, rather, to let it shine out to those around us who might be in areas of darkness.

Lots of things to think about today but a good place to start. Amen!

June 14, 2017 – Wednesday in the 10th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Albert Chmielowski (August 20, 1845 – December 25, 1916)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

2 Corinthians 3:4-11   –   Psalm 99   –   Matthew 5:17-19

“Jesus said to his disciples; ‘whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 5:18)

 Today’s Holy Gospel could be a problem for some if they take this passage without considering all of Jesus’ teachings. It’s important for us to “look back” but only in so far as we do this to see where we are going. Whenever I hear people bemoaning the state of the Church in these times and they say to me, “I wish we could go back to the way it was,” I stop them in their tracks and ask them to be specific: “How far would you go back?”

 Going back – or un-doing the fabric of faith that has been woven for our journey TO the Kingdom will do nothing to make our life of following Jesus any easier.

The ending of today’s Holy Gospel – “… whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven” seems to be our “key.” What is the “commandment” that Jesus gives us? We go back to the Last Supper where we hear Jesus say, “I give you a new commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.” And note that Jesus says this in the context of washing the feet of His disciples! I don’t think it was accidental that Jesus gave His best show of what it means to follow Him by washing feet of His disciples. Many of us would rather jump ahead to ministries of eloquent words rather than have to wash feet.

Many of us can “talk up a good show” but Jesus doesn’t seem to be looking for that. If you want to be great in the Kingdom become the servant of all.” Amen!