August 28, 2016 – 22nd Sunday of the Church year

Saint for the day: Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

(Click on the following “link” for today’s scripture readings)

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082816.cfm

Sirach 3:17-18 … 29  – Psalm 68  –  Hebrews 12:19-19, 22-24  –  Luke 14:1, 7-14

Jesus says, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”(today’s Holy Gospel according to St. Luke)

 I tend to favor the Sunday liturgies because the scripture readings are more deliberately selected to compliment the theme of the day. During the week the scripture readings are moving along on two independent cycles and may or may not easily fit together.

But today, the opening words of the first reading from Search; “My child, conduct your affairs with humility…” and the opening line from the Responsorial Psalm; “The just rejoice and exult before God” lead us right into the Holy Gospel where we hear Jesus saying, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

We don’t have to be rocket scientists to get the gist of what the Church is trying to tell us today. We’re back to the basics and to a clear understanding of what it means to be “humble!”

But, before we go any further let’s put aside any notion that “humility” implies some kind of groveling, breast-beating, “poor me” attitude. I know that I’ve said it many times before but here it is again: that word “humility” has its roots in the Latin word “humus” – meaning earth or earthly.

To be truly “humble” means we know something about ourselves and who we are in the eyes of God. (Remember, you are dust and into dust you shall return.) It is our ability to honestly stand before our God, knowing that we are totally dependent on His love and mercy and that all of our “goodness” is rooted in Him. This is what “fear of the Lord” really means: that we can stand before our God in awe of the fact He has invited us into His presence where HE desires to exalt us.

If you come before God in this sense of true humility, you will always be exalted far beyond your means. But you can’t “fake it!” Honestly knowing who we are in the eyes of God and that our goodness and worth originates from HIS goodness in us will enable us to hear Him say, “My friend, move up to a higher position.” Amen!

August 27, 2016 – Saturday in the 21st Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Monica (331-387)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy”

1 Thessalonians 3:7-13    –    Psalm 90    –    Matthew 24:42-51

 “Be vigilant at all times and pray, that you may have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.” (Today’s Gospel Acclamation)

“Watch and stay awake ‘cause you know not when the master might return.” Our journey is one that lasts our entire life. For some of us that might extend into our ‘senior years’ or it might come to an end suddenly when we least expect it. Therefore, we make the journey with an awareness that the step into the Kingdom is just around the corner. Yet it can’t be such a huge step away since Jesus tells us that the “Kingdom of Heaven is within.” This means that it is not ‘up there,’ or ‘over there,’ but right in front of us. If Catherine of Siena can say, “it’s heaven all the way to heaven” then it must mean that we are very close to those gates.

When Jesus says, “watch and be prepared” we must take that to mean that our entire life needs to be directed toward making that step into the Kingdom as if it were just the ordinary, next step in our ongoing journey.

This puts us in a kind of dilemma that means we must keep going while, at the same time, aware that our next step might be our final ascent into the Kingdom. We don’t just sit down like a bump on a log and wait for the rapture. We continue going but going with the assurance that we are ultimately going to Heaven.

I have to ask myself: did my brother, Lew, know that he was going to come down the stairs for dinner and drop dead? And even if he didn’t or did know what difference would it have made. If one of us knew that by such and such time this afternoon we would die what difference would we make of our last day?

So, bottom line: we live each day as a gift of God trusting that He will guide us on our journey with the full knowledge that our next breath could be our last. “One thing I ask of the Lord: this I seek; to live in the House of the Lord all the days of my life.” Psalm 27. I had this verse printed on my holy card on the occasion of my First Profession of Vows, May 20, 1961. May this still be my daily prayer, O Lord. Amen!

August 26, 2016 – Friday in the 21st Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Teresa of Jesus Jornet Ibars (1843-1897)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 Corinthians 1:17-25    –    Psalm 33   –    Matthew 25:1-13

“Be vigilant at all times and pray, that you may have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.” (Today’s Alleluia verse)

 Today’s “saint,” Teresa of Jesus Jornet Ibars, is the founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor. She should be an example to all of us in that she had an early desire to join a community of religious but was turned down for one reason or another. Her example for us, however, is the fact that she never gave up her desire to live in a religious community of dedicated women. When she wasn’t welcomed in any existing religious community of the times, she did not give up but, founded a new community to take care of those who were abandoned by society. Today her religious community exists all over the world and is known as The Little Sisters of the poor. Her community is one of the few groups of sisters that was able to live as contemplatives with an active ministry of caring for those in the world who had no means to take care of the sick poor. I can remember way back in my grammar school days seeing the sister’s black van come up to our parish rectory to beg support for their ministries. In a way she is a success story but still in need of our prayers and support since the good works that the sisters do are always under the watchful eye of various government agencies that often insist on extraordinary rules to be followed.

As we pray today’s liturgy with the familiar story of the “wise and foolish virgins” with their dimming oil lamps we all need to pray that the Lord will give us the grace necessary to be every-ready to meet Him when He comes. We are reminded in today’s first scripture reading from Corinthians that, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God!” May this power enable all of us to every-ready to meet the Lord when He comes and to give us enough of His Grace and enough oil for our lamps. Amen!

August 25, 2016 – Thursday in the 21st Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Louis of France (1226-1270)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 Corinthians 1:1-8    –    Psalm 145    –    Matthew 24:42-51

Jesus says, “Stay awake for you do not know the day on which your Lord will come.” (the opening words of today’s Holy Gospel)

Someone asked a holy man, “If you knew that the Lord would be coming in the next couple of days, what would you do differently today?” To which the holy man responded, “Nothing!”

We’ve recently come through readings from the Old Testament focusing on the journey of the “Chosen People” who wandered in and out of God’s favor. Sometimes, this theme can seem old and repetitive and there is a tendency for us to yearn for something new and different. Yet I think that we need to be reminded that there is nothing that we can do to lock out God’s ongoing desire to have us in His loving embrace. We cannot think that some sin or failure on our part is beyond God’s ability to forgive.

I cannot help but to think of one of my favorite OT quote from the Book of Search 2:1-2: “My child, if you aspire to serve the Lord be prepared for an ordeal! Be steadfast and do not grow weary.”

 At his coronation as king of France, today’s “saint,” Louis IX bound himself by oath to behave as God’s anointed, as the father of his people and feudal lord of the King of Peace. He was different from his predecessors in that he actually interpreted his kingly duties in the light of faith. Would that some of our political leaders around the world today would have more sense of the good of those under them as Louis IX had. Being a saint is no easy deal but that is what we are called to and how St. Paul refers to his communities: Beloved Saints!

Still there is always a tendency in all of us to go back even if that meant back into some kind of slavery. But, if there is anything that keeps repeating itself in the Scriptures it is the theme of the journey. We’re always on our way to the Promised Land. We all know that, so there is no reason for us to be surprised that Jesus might just be outside the door right now. What do I need to do differently in order to hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant … enter into the joy of your Lord!  Amen.

August 24, 2016 – Wednesday in the 21st Week of the Church Year

 Saint for the day: Bartholomew, Apostle

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Revelation 21:9-14    –    Psalm 145    –    John 1:45-51

“May God, who has granted you to stand firm on apostolic foundations, graciously bless you through the glorious merits of the holy Apostle Bartholomew.” (The Solemn Blessing for today’s feast) 

Most of us will probably pass from this world with little or no honors having lived very ordinary lives. This reminds me of one of my main “principles of life:” to have done at least one significantly positive act of kindness to at least one person along the way of our journey throughout life.”

 If we can have been the result of causing just one person to alter their path for the better, it will have been enough reason for us to have been born – even if our journey was filled with difficulties. And you can push this back to our parents birth and their parents … etc., etc! I remember Fr. Raymond Brown telling us once that “by the time the Gospels were written down the Church had probably forgotten all the names of the apostles and that’s why we have this discrepancy over the name of Bartholomew/ Nathanael. Whatever, what we do have is a church built on the faith of those earlier followers of Jesus. And that faith is solid as rock and is the basis of our belief here and now in the 21st C.

God doesn’t call us to success but to faithfulness. Even if we look back to yesterday’s feast of Rose of Lima we have to admit that what comes to us out of the 16th C is probably a composite of the essentials of her life. With this in mind we might well look at our own lives and try to guess what they might write about us years after our death. Hopefully this might cause us to re-think how we live our lives right now in order to know that we are on the right path in our journey to the Kingdom.

The ‘bottom line:’ can we say, like Bartholomew/Nathanael, “you are the Christ, the son of the living God.” No matter what they call us the only important thing is that we can recognize Jesus speaking with us and that the conversation makes us say, “where not our hearts burning within as He spoke with us.” And in the end, we might pray, “Lord, let me be a strong rock in the foundation of your Church in my world, today and not a stumbling block to anyone. Help me to build up rather than tear down; to be able to name you as Lord of my life now and forever. And let us not forget what we say when we come to Holy Communion: “… but only say the word and I shall be healed.” And that “word” is always, “come follow me.” Amen!”

August 23, 2016 – Tuesday in the 21st Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Rose of Lima (1586-1617)

Scripture readings for today’s Liturgy:

2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, 14-17   –   Psalm 96   –   Matthew 23:23-26

“Here is a wise virgin, from among the number of the prudent, who went forth with lighted lamp to meet Christ. (Today’s Entrance Antiphon)

The image of today’s young, Dominican saint, Rose of Lima, whose life in an impoverished family was the eventual road to her own sanctity is in sharp contrast to the scripture warnings we receive in today’s Liturgy. Jesus is still coming down hard on the Scribes and Pharisees who always appear to “talk the talk” without “walking the walk.” For them it seems that they spent more energy worrying about their external image than on what is really happening in their lives.

In today’s Holy Gospel Jesus chides the S & P’s about paying tithes on mint and dill while neglecting the needs of those who are less fortunate than they. Jesus calls them hypocrites in that they project one image of themselves as diligent followers of Judaic Law while neglecting the greater needs of the community. While we all have to be careful about pointing fingers at this or that group, we still have to be reminded that we have to be careful that we don’t think that we have mastered the problem of falling away from the “way that leads to salvation.”

Today’s saint, Rose of Lima seems to have known at an early age that God was calling her to a higher level of service and it seems to have paid out. When I was in Peru some years back, I was amazed to learn how her dedication to follow the Lord led to her own holiness through the simple desire to be totally dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ. She didn’t just bask in the glory of the Lord, but put into actions all that the Lord Jesus desires of all of us. She took care of people who had no one else to care for them and thus found the “fast track route” to oneness in Jesus. St. Rose of Lima, pray for us.   Amen!

August 22, 2016 – Monday in the 21st Week of the Church Year

 

Today’s Feast: Queenship of Mary

The celebration of today’s feast occurs on the “octave day” of the Solemnity of Mary’s Assumption into heaven and has a long-standing tradition dating back to the 4th century. “Click” on the above “link” to read interesting facts as to how this celebration developed in the Church.

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

2 Thessalonians 1:1-5, 11-12   –   Psalm 96   –   Matthew 23:13-22

“At your right stands the queen in robes of gold, finely arrayed. “ (Today’s Entrance Antiphon)

 In ancient times, we see that in the Old Testament, the mother of a king had great influence in court so it was natural to give this distinction to Mary, the mother of our “King,” Jesus. This title occurred in a period when some of our most known Marian hymns were written: “Hail, Holy Queen” and “Hail, Queen of Heaven.”

On this feast of the ‘Queenship of Mary’ we look at the Gospels to see how the early Church recognized and presented her as the ‘Arc of the Covenant’ – the Mother of God.’

In the ‘Infancy Narratives’ Mary is presented to us as the trusting ‘handmaid of the Lord’ with her ‘let it be done to me according to your word.’ Then, the only other ‘words’ we hear from her are when she, Joseph and Jesus get separated after the Temple visit: “your father and I have been worried …” and at the Wedding at Cana: “…do whatever He asks.”

Worry over losing Jesus and confidence that he will change our water into good wine are two facets of our relationship with Jesus: staying in constant awareness of who and where Jesus is in relation to our journey through life and the realization that his presence with us changes everything. The ordinary becomes spectacular and his words, “… I must be about my father’s business” which means bringing US to that place where God can touch us and make us whole.

Mary knew what Jesus’ ‘business’ was and that is why she was able to say, “do whatever he asks you.” When the disciples tell Jesus ‘your mother and brothers are looking for you.’ He tells them, “…my mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and follow it.” And in so many of the encounters with Jesus along the way the word that we so often hear is, “What do you want of me?” Today, we must hear that question and be prepared to answer, “Lord that I may … be healed, be able to see, walk; be a part of your life” … you name it but we must answer with faith and trust that God will respond and His response will dramatically change our lives. “Be it done unto me according to your word.” Do we have that same faith and trust in God to answer as Mary did? Again, we probably also need to say, “Lord I believe! Help my unbelief.” Amen!

August 21, 2016 – The Twentieth Sunday of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Pius X (1835-1914)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 66:18-21   –    Psalm 117   –     Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13   –   Luke 13:22-30

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

Today, before you even look at the scriptures appointed for this 21st Sunday of the Church Year, click on the “link” above for today’s “Saint Pius X” who made dramatic changes for the Church during the time of his pontificate at the start of World War I. One of his comments was, “I was born poor, I lived poor, I will die poor.” He was embarrassed by some of the pomp of the papal court and said, “look how they have dressed me up.” He was the pope who changed the age for making Holy Communion available to youths.

In today’s Gospel Scripture the Pharisees – the self-righteous ones – want to hear Jesus say that they will be among the elect who are invited in through the narrow gate. But we know that the key to “righteousness” is found when we go outside of our self-centeredness and help others find their way through that narrow door.

That’s why I suggested that you read the brief account of the life of St. Pius X. His concern was for the poor and, always came back to his basic desire to take care of those who many would think weren’t able to pull themselves up by their own boot straps! When it comes to “salvation” We have to remember that we don’t gain it by eliminating the competition but rather by bringing them in.

The trouble with our world today is that too many of us – usually under the guise of religion – take it upon ourselves to determine who is right and who is wrong. Our prayer today might be the words of Matthew 25:34ff)….”Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or homeless or in need …?” The answer to that question is a surprise to some of us:   “When you did it for one of these ‘little ones you did it for me! Come, enter in!” Amen!

 

August 20, 2016 –Saturday in the 20th Week of the Church Year

 

Saint for the day: Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153)

Scripture readings for today’s liturgy:

Ezekiel 43:1-7    –    Psalm 85    –    Matthew 23:1-12

“Filled by the Lord with a spirit of understanding, blessed Bernard                         of Clairvaux ministered streams of clear teaching to the people of God.” (today’s entrance antiphon)

Today’s reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel continues the story the how the Lord goes to great lengths to lead us from our wandering ways back to the place where we can once again know His blessings. In some sense He is pre-paring the way for the birth of Christ. And, as in the case of most all of the ancestors of Jesus, it is not always a rosy, even path.

In the Gospel, Jesus strikes out against the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees for seeking their own glory on the backs of their followers. Since these words of Jesus appear so many times in the Gospels we have to realize that the problem still exists in the Church today. If we look at the list of the fruits of the HS (Gal 5:23ff) we see “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness gentleness, self-control (and I think that I’ve gotten almost all of them from memory.) These attributes are the foundation of all of our ministry. One commentator told us, “If you don’t love the people that you meet in your ministry, for God’s sake don’t try to preach to them!”

A powerful but true statement. I have often told young friars (especially those newly ordained) “love the people you are sent to. And preach to them about why the Jesus you meet in the Gospels commands you to do this!”

St. Dominic saw that the asceticism of the Albegensians (against the life-style of the local clergy) was the main reason they attracted so many followers. But we have to seek authentic love based on that which we have been given by Christ.

But that doesn’t mean that we are “home free” and these readings from the Old Testament books remind us of this over and over again: the journey is not the “yellow brick road” of la-la land but one that presents us with many choices both good and bad. And this is the crux: St. Paul tells us that “we have all fallen short of the Glory of God.” But God can still work in and through our sinfulness if we but trust in His mercy and forgiveness. St. Paul, again, “it is in my weakness that I am strong.” Just look at the lives of any of the saints to see what they went through in their following of Jesus. It DOES work. Amen!

August 19, 2013 – Friday in the 20th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: John Eudes (1601-1680)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy”:

Ezekiel 37:1-14    –    Psalm 107    –    Matthew 22:34-40

“Queen of the most holy rosary, pray for us that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”

This morning, as I was pondering today’s liturgy, I was trying to let my mind wander a bit in order to make some sense out of the scriptures given for today’s liturgy. The verse, quoted above from the closing prayers of the Rosary popped into my head. Just as we make our way round the beads of the rosary our prayer begins to come to life just like the old, dry bones. All the mysteries of our redemption and salvation are strung together as we become transformed and changed to lead a more perfect life centered on God’s love and mercy. Whenever we pick up our rosary we hold in our hands little beads that have no power on their own until we allow the Holy Spirit to re-create us into the new life promised. Gradually, as we make our way from decade to decade, we begin to come to life in the spirit. In today’s Holy Gospel, the Pharisees try to trap Jesus by forcing him to choose which of the many laws is the most important. And he, rightfully so, quotes the “Shema Israel” which is the prayer that every dedicated Jew knows by heart: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind … and your neighbor as yourself!” The point of this “dry bones reading” from the Book of the Prophet Eekiel is given in order that we may come to a belief that prayer and our following Jesus can always be resurrected and brought back to life no matter how dry or lifeless we might think our spiritual lives are. The power of the most holy rosary comes to us when we allow the mysteries of Christ’s redemption and salvation to become real for us. The repetition of the “Hail Mary’s” lifts us above the dry, deserted lands of our day-to-day lives and begins to transform us into the mysteries we celebrate. Today’s Holy Gospel – short and sweet – gives us the “bottom line” of our faith: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart … and your neighbor as yourself.” Amen!