September 26, 2016 – Tuesday in the 26th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Vincent de Paul (1576-1660)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy;

Job 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23    –    Psalm 88    –    Luke 9:51-56

Be sure to click on the above “link” to read about Vincent de Paul.   Most remarkably Vincent was by temperament a very irascible person – even his friends admitted it. He said that except for the grace of God he would have been “hard and repulsive, rough and cross.” There’s something in his story that might help us get a better handle on what it means to follow Jesus. His background fits very well with today’s Holy Gospel that has the disciples asking Jesus if they should call down fire from Heaven to wipe out the people that don’t think or believe the same way. St. Vincent says of himself that he originally thought to be a priest in order to provide himself a comfortable life. Obviously, he must have had another insight moved by the pressing needs of poor, tenant farmers. He eventually founded a religious congregation, “The Priests of the Missions” to preach to country people. He’s also responsible for helping found the Sisters of Charity – the nuns who used to wear the big, sail-like headdress. And most of us know that he founded societies to provide all kinds of help for the poor. Almost every Catholic Parish has a “St. Vincent de Paul Society. This all follows Jesus words throughout all of his ministry to take care of those who have no means to help themselves. In today’s world we don’t have to search far and wide to find those who have no one to help them with just the basic needs of life. St. Vincent de Paul: a man who took Jesus at His words. I can almost hear Jesus saying, “Wherever did you get the notion that I wanted you to call down fire on anyone who didn’t think the same as you?” “When you did it for the least of my people you did it for me.” The balls in our court! Go and do likewise! Amen!

September 26, 2016 – Monday in the 26th Week of the Church Year

Saints for the day: Cosmas & Damian (died c. AD 287)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Job 1:6-22    –    Psalm 17    –    Luke 9:46-50

“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matt 6:33)

On first glance this verse quoted above doesn’t seem to have worked for poor, old Job. He started out “having” everything and ended up having nothing. “Yet, in all of this Job did not sin, nor did he say anything disrespectful of God.” (Luke 9:50)

In today’s Gospel Jesus takes a little child – who in that culture and time was a “nothing” and had no status or rights whatsoever. Probably the clothes on the child’s person was all they had. And it’s this image that Jesus gives us who seek to be great.

Today, on the feast day of Sts. Cosmas and Damian – martyrs for the faith – we can gain some insight into what it means to be a follower of Jesus in the “laying down of your life for the sake of the Gospel.

This Gospel, and the reading from the Book of Job remind us, once again, of what is really essential in our Christian Journey. When we hear these scripture readings we can see that we are called to be countercultural and the world’s notion e.g. “clothes make the man!” isn’t what makes us acceptable in the sight of God.

So, our bottom line here has to be based on our understanding of what’s most important in our relationship with God. I’m sure that lots of TVangelists who sport a “prosperity gospel” wouldn’t focus on these scripture verses very often. The little child that Jesus presented in today’s Gospel had nothing but the clothes on his/her back. Yet if that child had died on the spot it would have been welcomed into the Kingdom with all the fanfare given to someone like Job. Our status in God’s eyes is not based on what we have or possess but rather on who and what we are all about. St. Theresa had a saying that might fit in here. She said, “See a pin on the floor and pick it up, you might save a soul in purgatory. Amen!

September 25, 2016 – 26th Sunday of the Church Year

 

Saint for the day: Finbar (550-620)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Amos 6:1, 4-7    –    Psalm 146    –    1 Timothy 6:11-16    –    Luke 16:19-31

“Blessed he who keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. (Psalm 146)

The above verse is the beginning of today’s Responsorial Psalm and it might be good for you to go back and read all the verses that are given for today’s Liturgy. Take your time as you read it to let each statement sink in. I think that sometimes we’re so focused on trying to remember our response that we don’t really hear the words that we are supposed to be responding to! This psalm might be where Jesus got the essence of His “Beatitudes” and the outline for His job description of what His disciples were to do as they went out.

The other thing that we might need to take particular attention to is this familiar parable in today’s Holy Gospel. We’ve all heard it many times and “familiarity can breed contempt” leaving us with a “ho-hum” response: “Been there! Heard that. Move on!”

You might need to go back and read today’s 2nd scripture from 1st Timothy which hints at the “Shema, Israel” – the Greatest Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul; and your neighbor as yourself.”

Once again we’re being reminded that we don’t have to go far from home to find someone in need of God’s healing love. Most of the time they’re laying right on our doormat and, sadly, most of us just step over them – as if they weren’t even there – on our way to do some supposedly “good deed for Jesus!” Think about it! “Slow me down, Lord! Amen”

September 24, 2016 – Saturday in the 25th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Martyrs of Chalcedon (died 394)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ecclesiastes 11:9 – 12:8    –    Psalm 90    –    Luke 9:43-45

“Rejoice, O young man, while you are young and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth.” These words from the beginning of our continuing reading from the Book of Ecclesiastes quickly turn sour as one hopeful reality after another is dashed. Even the chirp of a bird is silenced and the broken pulley falls into the well and we are given the last words of the author, Qoheleth, “Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity!” Then, in the middle of all of this doom and destruction, the psalmist gives us this verse: “In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.” It’s almost like saying, “enough! Give us some hope that we can hold on to!” And what does Jesus give the disciples when they are “all amazed at his every deed?” He tells them that he will be handed over [to death] but they were prevented from really understanding the meaning of what He was saying.

If we try to put all of this into some level of understanding vis-a-vie our own lives it should bring us to an awareness – like the “Martha/Mary encounter” – “that only one thing in important and Mary has chosen the better part” e.g. to be close to Jesus and to listen to His every word – with understanding. If we are really honest in our efforts to follow Jesus it will always lead us to some form of the Calvary Hill. Some kind of “death to self” in order to move through that to resurrection glory. In this sense we are different from the disciples in that we know the whole story and should be able to know what we have to do in order to continue our journey to the Kingdom. If we turn around the “Vanity of vanities” theme and let that represent all the things that we think are important we’re more likely to be enlightened in the sense of knowing what Jesus is talking about when He says, “The Son of Man is to be handed over …” Don’t ever be frightened by Jesus telling you that He is willing to be handed over and that some kind of “death to self” is going to be required of each of us. That “death to self” might be as easy as reaching out to someone in some kind of need. It might be only a word of encouragement for someone who thinks that they aren’t worthy of God’s love and forgiveness.   Try it.   It’s not as hard as it seems. Amen!

September 23, 2016 – Friday in the 25th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Padre Pio (1887-1968)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11    –    Psalm 144    –    Luke 9:18-22

“There is an appointed time for everything and a time for every thing under the heavens.” (the beginning of today’s first scripture reading.)

The above scripture verse is probably most known because of the song made popular by …. Was it Peter, Paul and Mary? … or one of the many 60’s era folk singers? However, it begins on a pretty common and well-understood level, “a time to be born and a time to die” and quickly switches to the more controversial, “a time to kill, and a time to heal.”

There are some who would want to edit this verse on the basis that there should never be a time to kill. But this would change the reality of what happens in life. I’m sorry that I have to say we’re not living in some “utopia” or “la-la land.” We’re still part of the chosen people of God on our way to the promised land and we still have to go through the “dark valley” where there are people who are bent on killing. I think that this scripture reading reminds us that we have to be vigilant at all times and we have to be aware that it is always possible for us to veer from the chosen path.

Today’s Gospel brings us back to a reality check. Jesus asks those two questions that we’ve recently heard, “Who do people say that I am?” and then, “But YOU. Who do YOU say that I am?”

There is a time for us to make response to that question. Maybe part of the answer might be found in the traditional “Morning Offering,” prayer: “…O, God, I offer you all my prayers, works, joys and sorrows of this day – in union with the entire Church…”

If we say this prayer with heart-felt meaning we are saying that we will follow Jesus – all the time. Not just the good times. But even in the tough times. We have to be willing to stay at the foot of the cross if we want to meet the resurrected Jesus at the gate of the tomb. “There’s a time for everything under heaven…” Amen!

September 22, 2016 – Thursday in the 25th Week of the Church Year

 

Saint for the day: Thomas of Villanueva (1488-1555)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ecclesiastes 1:2-11    –    Psalm 90    –    Luke 9:7-9

“”I am the way and the truth and the life, says the Lord; no one comes to the Father except through me.” (Today’s Alleluia verse.)

We don’t get much of a chance to “chew” on from the Book of Ecclesiastes. Just today and Saturday but this scripture reading from the first chapter is familiar to us and that’s what sparked my going back to my favorite quote.

It’s not from scripture but resounds with what we’ve just heard. It was voiced by one of the black Baptist ladies that I worked with at the Anchor Rescue Mission in San Francisco in the late 60’s. I was helping serve the meal to the 80 or so “guests.” It was my first time dishing out the hearty stew and I asked “sister” Bernice Cunningham “How do I know how much to serve each person so that we don’t run out?” She told me, “God will take care of that. You just serve each one with enough.” But that’s not the quote that I want to focus on. What she said later, when we were just about finished is the one that has stuck with me all these years.   While I was still serving the stew the first people were already finished and coming back with their trays. One person had not eaten all of the stew and in one swift move sister Bernice Cunningham grabbed the bowl, dumped it back into my pot and said, with a twinkle in her eye, “fifty years from now ain’t nobody gonna know the difference!” That’s my quote for the day!

Today’s very short Gospel hints that Herod was “curious” about who and what Jesus was all about but he didn’t follow through. Rather he expended his energy snuffing out anyone who was a threat to his position. And, more than fifty years later the only thing we remember about him is that he was a tyrant and brutal ruler.

On the other side, the Church always gives us examples of saints like Thomas of Villanueva to help us see what is really important in our life’s pursuits. Amen.

September 21, 2016 – Wednesday in the 25th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Matthew: Apostle and Evangelist (d. c 41)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13    –    Psalm 19    –    Matthew 9:9-13

“Gifts given for the building up of the Body of Christ;” And, “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” (Words from today’s Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew.)

The two above quotes are familiar enough to us that we might just “ho-hum” them and move on. But if we take a moment to “parse them” we might get the deeper, fuller meaning.

All our gifts and abilities are given to us, not that we might appear better than someone else but for the express purpose of “building up the Body of Christ – the Church.” There were many people who followed Jesus and sought to imitate the “works” He did, not in order to heal and build up, but, rather to appear to be like Jesus with the same power he exercised. We must always seek “the giver” and not just the gifts.

Then we look at the quote from today’s Gospel, “it is mercy that I seek and not sacrifice” and we might just try to find out what that’s all about. But let us not forget the fullness of what Jesus actually says: “go and learn the meaning of, ”it is mercy that I seek and not sacrifice.” So we are forced to take apart that quote and find the deeper meaning that Jesus wants us to have.

It’s almost like saying, “don’t just follow the ‘laws’ without some interior change of heart. These words of Jesus were certainly timeless in the sense that the Church that I grew up in had lost this meaning. We, like the S & Ps of Jesus’ time, were fixated on ‘the letter of the law’ at the expense of the spirit. We see something of that even today with the way people circulate those “chain letters” on the internet with the promise, “Send this to everyone on your mailing list and see what ‘miracle’ God will do in your life.”

The S & Ps at the time of Jesus were fastidious in keeping all 613 “laws” and never broke the Sabbath Law yet they had no mercy. They fasted fastidiously but turned their backs on the sick who were in need of a doctor to heal them.

Matthew put his life on the line by leaving his lucrative tax collector’s post to follow Jesus. As we celebrate this feast can we see what we have to leave behind in order to follow Jesus who has shown us mercy so that we might bring that mercy to the people around us. What “treasure” do we have to leave behind in order to find that “pearl of great price?” “Where your thoughts go in your idle moments: there is your treasure.” Let us see what the Lord is asking of us today and see if we can “leave all and follow him?”   Amen!

September 20, 2016 – Tuesday in the 25th Week of the Church Year

Saints for the day: Korean Martyrs: Andrew Kim and Companions (Mid 17th Century)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Proverbs 21:1-6, 10-13    –    Psalm 119    –    Luke 8:19-21

“Lead me in the path of your commands, for in it I delight. And I will keep your law continually, forever and ever.”(Today’s Responsorial Psalm)

Today, all three of the scripture selections have wonderful wisdom and it’s hard for me to find just one verse that conveys the message that we need to hear.The last verse of the first reading from the Book of Proverbs echoes familiar words that Jesus often used in his preaching: “He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will himself also call and not be heard.” In today’s responsorial psalm almost every verse resounds words from the Gospels and especially today when we hear Jesus say, “My close kin and family are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” This one verse seems to be the crux of the entire Gospel and we do well to try to understand what Jesus means when he says this. We need to be able to grasp what those words, “hear the word of God and keep it” mean. We don’t have to be some highfalutin scholar to look around any part of our world today to see what a misunderstanding of these words is doing in every corner of our world. Tribal, or kin loyalty has gotten way out of line and brought about the exact opposite result of what Jesus preached and did in his short ministry.

Go back and slowly read through each of the three scripture passages for today’s liturgy with the underlying thought of what it means to hear and keep God’s word. What do you hear God saying to you? Is He telling you to go out and kill and maim anyone who doesn’t think the way you do? Is He telling you to wipe out the property and livelihood of anyone who doesn’t dress the way you do?

I can almost hear God saying, “Where ever did you folks get the notion that I need you to defend or stand up for ME? Didn’t you hear me call out, ‘Come to me all who are thirsty, naked, homeless (here you can fill in the rest of the list) … and I will comfort you.”

 This is the essence of the scriptures that we are hearing today. Let us all pray that there would be an end to all the violence going on in our world today and that we would come to a deep understanding of what it means to be “kin of Jesus.” Amen!

September 19, 2016 – Monday in the 25th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Januarius (died c. 305)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Proverbs 3:27-34    –    Psalm 15    –    Luke 8:16-18

“In the beginning … God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And so it was!” (Gen 1:3)

Today the Church gives us scripture readings that are rich in imagery and packed with words of life to help us on our journey.

Today’s first reading from the Book of Proverbs is straightforward and it’s easy to see where Jesus got some of his own admonitions. “Give and it will be given unto you. Full measure and packed down…”(Luke 6:38)

The Responsorial Psalm is almost like an outline of the Gospels and you would do well to take some time meditating on this Psalm 15.

All that being said, I finally land on the Gospel and that’s where I’ll give just a brief comment. Jesus is talking about “light.” The Scripture verse that I quoted at the beginning of today’s reflection are the very first words that are attributed to God in the Bible: “And God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And so it was.”

We all know the importance of light. Who was the “wise-acre” who said, “A day without light is night!” The scriptures are filled with images of light, which often are associated with the divine presence of God. When Moses went up the mountain the Israelites could see the “theophany” of God. The lightening flashes of God’s presence before Moses.

When Jesus took Peter, James and John up the Transfiguration Mountain the blinding light of the reality of God’s union with Jesus was displayed. At the resurrection of Jesus it is reported that a blinding light knocked down the guards at the tomb. And when it comes to followers of Jesus down through the ages saints are depicted with “halos” indicating that the light of God, through the resurrected power of Jesus is present in their lives.

I find it amusing that I’m talking about “light” all the while sitting here in the dark chapel of our house in the early hours of the morning. I only have the light of one candle on the altar and the glow from my laptop computer screen. Yet in some ways I am reminded that it’s the light of Christ within me that is breaking forth from the darkness of the early morning. Sometimes we need to be comfortable with darkness in order to know the brilliance of light. I often tell folks to try getting up early in the morning before the first light of day and to imagine that they are coming to the tomb to find Jesus. If you do this I’m sure you will be richly rewarded to see how bright it can be even in the darkness. Amen!

September 18, 2016 – 25th Sunday of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Joseph of Cupertino (1603-1663)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Amos 8:4-7    –    Psalm 113    –    1 Timothy 2:1-8    –    Luke 16:1-13

“I am the salvation of the people, says the Lord. Should they cry to me in any distress, I will hear them and I will be their Lord for ever.” (Today’s Entrance Antiphon.)

Today’s Scriptures are not easily grasped: Amos has a strange account of the apparent evil generation of his time trying to weasel out of the wrath of God that was impending. The same situation is repeated in the Gospel with the story of the wicked steward. Maybe what we need to hear today is: “Don’t get yourself into a corner – outside of God’s presence in your life and you won’t have to try to make it look good – as if you hadn’t done anything wrong. This whole theme seems to hearken back to that old “Catholic Practice” of putting more emphasis on how far we can stretch the cord tying us to God before it breaks completely. So, it’s better to work on how close can I get to God rather than finding ourselves outside and then expending all our energy trying to get back into His favor. In the end we need to check our position on a regular basis to be sure we haven’t deluded ourselves. Not an easy task since we all fall short of the Glory of God over and over. It’s like when I get lost trying to find my way to some unfamiliar town in the southern part of California. I have to tell myself, “Don’t keep going in this direction which you seem to know is wrong.” Just stop; re-evaluate where you are; and then admit that you made a mistake – and go back. Turn around. It’s the classic notion of repentance. Metenoia. Turning around. Don’t wait until you see the sign, “Welcome to Mexico” to figure you made a wrong turn somewhere. Amen!