January 20, 2017 – Friday in the 2nd week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Sebastian (birth: c. 256 – death: January 20, 287)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Hebrews 8:6-13    –    Psalm 85    –    Mark 3:13-19

In Hebrews we continue to hear about the “New High Priest of the New Covenant” and now Mark relates the call of the apostles. The first covenant was given to Moses on the mountain and so Jesus “goes up the mountain” to pray and to select His chosen “inner circle” of leadership for the soon to be Church. He goes up “to pray.” The concept of the mountain-top where God can be met is mentioned all throughout both the old and new testaments and often contains references with a connection to the Old & New Testaments. “Moses and Aaron were with Him at the transfiguration.“ What is the New Covenant that Jesus passes on to the Apostles? The responsorial Psalm 85 gives us a hint at what it might be: “Kindness & truth shall meet Justice & peace shall kiss.” We don’t have to be rocket scientists to know how to do that. Isaiah says, “This is the sacrifice that I desire: to set captives free, to give sight to the blind, to lift the yoke of oppression from the shoulders of those oppressed. We are called to do this with the “fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal 5:23 ff) We are not to say “But who shall I send?” Since we have already been chosen & sent. “Here I am Lord. I come to do your will.” (Psalm 40) Amen.

January 19, 2017 – Thursday in the 2nd Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Fabian (c. 200 – January 20, 250)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Hebrews 7:25 – 8:6    –    Psalm 40    –    Mark 3:7-12    –

“Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death and brought life to light through the Gospel.” (Today’s ‘Alleluia Verse’ before the Holy Gospel.)

 It’s another cold morning here in San Francisco and it looks like we’ll be having more rain. Of course, I’m toasty warm here in my room with all the ordinary “perks” of heater and electricity to power my computer. There must be a lesson here for me to learn. One of my favorite psalms – 27 – begins with, “One think I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to enjoy the sweetness of the Lord and to consult him in his Temple.”

When ‘Martha, Martha’ cried out to Jesus He said, “Mary has chosen the better part (sitting at his feet and listening) and it shall not be taken from her. (Luke 10:41-42)

In today’s Holy Gospel the crowds are so large – people wanting to “hear” Jesus – that He got into a boat to keep them from crushing him. I have to ask myself, “What is most important to me? How many people throughout the world don’t have anywhere near the luxuries that I take for granted? And here I am “crying” ‘cause I had to put a sweatshirt on to keep warm.   “Only one thing is necessary…” and I’m reminded, once again, to not take for granted some of the luxuries that are readily at my disposal. How many of us need to be reminded of this same fact? Something to think about especially when one or another of those “perks” is taken away. Amen!

January 18, 2017 – Wednesday in the 2nd Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Charles of Sezze (October 19, 1613 – January 6, 1670)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17    –    Psalm 110    –    Mark 3:1-6

“Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom and cured every disease among the people.” (Today’s ‘Alleluia Verse before the reading of the Holy Gospel)

We often ‘poo-paw’ these stories of early saints and Martyrs as being a kind of ‘crazy’ way to follow Jesus. But, today’s saint, Charles of Sezze, seems to have known that he was being called to be a “lay brother,” in the Franciscan Order with a special gift of taking care of the poor who came to the door of the friary where he lived. Be sure to follow the “link” to his story to see how took to heart the words of Jesus in the Gospels to have a special care for the poor and homeless.

In today’s first reading from the letter to the Hebrews, we hear about Melchizedek in the Old Testament who had no beginning or end which makes him a kind of “pre figure” of Christ. And so often their hagiographers begin by saying, “Almost nothing is actually known about this saint…” The same might be said about Melchizedek ‘who had no beginning or end.’ In the end, both Melchizedek & the saints are “figures’ of Jesus who, as the ‘Word of God’ always was and always will be.” Almost nothing is known about the early life of Jesus and most of what we celebrate in liturgy throughout most of the year is put together from OT prophesies and beliefs of the early church community. Today’s “saint,” Charles somehow heard the words of Jesus in regard to taking care of the poor and homeless which he did for most of his life. We don’t know much about Melchizedek but we know that he was King of Salem – without any beginning or end. He is a pre-figuring of Jesus, our true King of Kings who brings real peace into our world. But not without having to pay a price – the shedding of His blood. Like so many of the Saints who shed their blood rather than deny their faith in God we must seek to have that kind of commitment to God rather than being like the S & P’s who only had the following of the Law – often at the expense of neglecting the person in need. Do we let the law become a God for us and blind & deafen our senses to the real needs of those around us? We can never love perfectly in this world. We will always fall short of the full glory of God. But what we can do is open our eyes & ears to this world around us and do the best we can to lift up and heal the hurt people that we encounter along the way. To the S & P’s the healing of the withered arm of the man in the Temple – which was done on the Sabbath, broke the law and was not allowed. Yesterday, Jesus reminded us that the Sabbath was meant for man and not the other way around. Amen!

January 17, 2017 – Tuesday in the 2nd week of the Church Year

 

Saint for the day: Anthony of Egypt (251 – 356)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Hebrews 6:10-20    –    Psalm 111    –    Mark 2:23-28

 “I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart in the company and assembly of the just. Great at the works of the Lord, exquisite in all their delights.”

The Scripture readings that we are given – day in and day out – in our liturgies have a common thread: to remind us to fan into faith the gifts that we have been given. We are constantly reminded to renew our baptismal promises and to know what it means to follow Jesus.

In many ways we are just like the people whom Jesus encountered as he made his way throughout the countryside. The S & Ps, who were the backbone of Jewish tradition, had forgotten the essence of what God was all about. They had slipped into a kind of legalism that made God like some kind of heavenly bookkeeper who kept a ledger sheet on each person, counting the number of steps that they took on a given Sabbath Day or who and what they spoke about. In the end of today’s Gospel Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

What we have to be careful about when we read that passage is the fact that it’s too easy for us to say, “well, we’re certainly not like those Jews in the time of Jesus” but there are still ways in which we have failed to keep holy the Sabbath Day.

 In my growing up years, as a young boy, I remember that it was hard to find a store that was opened for business on a Sunday. Nowadays shopping centers and malls are the most crowded on Sundays and for many people there is no difference between Sundays and other days of the week.

All of us need to find ways to re-kindle a rhythm to our days so that we can give fit honor to God who, Himself , rested on the seventh day. We can do this and we just have to be careful not to become fanatical about it. We’ll have to buck the system and go against the grain but it is so necessary for us to be sure that we have not left God out of the cycle of our lives. Try to think of ways in which you can keep holy the Sabbath day by making that day special for the Lord. Amen!

January 16, 2017 – Monday In the 2nd week of the Church Year

Saints for the day: Berard & Companions (died January 16, 1220)

“Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will!” (Psalm 40)

 Be sure to follow the “link” above to read about today’s first Franciscan Martyrs which fits in well to our task of knowing what is entailed when we set out to follow Christ. When we take seriously that highlighted quote, above, we are really making a promise to follow the Lord with all our heart, mind, and soul. It reminds me of the question the disciples asked Jesus, “Master! When did we see you hungry and feed you; or naked and clothe you …?” (Matthew 25:37) It’s yet one more reminder that our task as disciples of Jesus is to be sensitive to those around us who are in any kind of need. It’s interesting to note that we won’t find many scriptural references detailing how we should conduct huge, stadium revivals but you will find many scriptural quotes that almost always focus on seeing the needs of an individual and doing the simplest of tasks to lift that person up from the pain they are experiencing. I’m always reminded of the simplicity of this kind of encounter with the many homeless people who come into our church to stay out of the rain and inclement weather. I tell them that they are welcome to come in out of the cold but I don’t let them stretch out to sleep on the pews. I know some of them by name and I try to remind myself, that, “there, but for the grace of God could be ME!” One of the “regulars” thanked me for not being rough with him when I asked him to sit up and pretend like he was praying. You’ll be surprised to see how easy is to be nice to someone who, most of the time, isn’t even treated as a human being. Not many of us will be asked to put our lives at risk like today’s Franciscan Martyrs but we are all asked to at least try to see the Christ likeness in those around us who are most in need of a kind word of help. Amen!

January 15, 2017 – 2nd Sunday in the Church Year

Saint for the day: Paul the Hermit (c.233 = c. 345)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 49:3, 5-6   –   Psalm 40   –   1 Corinthians 1:1-3   –   John 1:29-34

“Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.” (Today’s Responsorial Verse.)

 With today’s Liturgy we’re pretty much finished with the “Christmas Cycle” and the verse highlighted, above, should give us an idea of what we are heading into. We’re no longer spectators at the events in Bethlehem and we are being called to pack up and get on the road. It might be good for you to go back and slowly read today’s “Responsorial Psalm” which really does outline what we are to do now that we have encountered the Christ: “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.” We get only about six weeks to grasp what all is entailed in this “following of the Lord.” Then, we’re dropped of on Ash Wednesday to make our journey to Calvary. It’s just another reminder to us of why Jesus broke into our poor world. I know I’ve said it many times but it’s always worth a reminder: the image of the newborn baby Jesus, with his arms stretched out to welcome us fits so nicely into the Christmas Cycle. But we have to remember: the reason that He was born into our world was so that he could stretch our His arms on the Cross for our salvation. On the way, many of us will be faced with all kinds of smaller crosses as we seek to follow Jesus. This is why the “prosperity Gospel preachers are missing the point. Jesus didn’t come to give us material security but to show us the way to heaven. And He promises to be with us at all times especially when we are leading others to Him and lifting up the fallen and those in need of mercy. We don’t have to strive to be saints, just try being nice to the every-day folks who cross your path and do just one little act that lets them know that there is someone who cares for their wellbeing. If you do this – one day at a time – by the time you get to Ash Wednesday you’ll probably already be on the road to glory. Amen!

January 14, 2017 – Saturday in the 1st week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Gregory Nazianzen (c. 325 – c. 390)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Hebrew 4:12-16    –    Psalm 19    –    Mark 2:13-17

“Let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19)

 The Scriptures that are given to us today seem to still e following that theme of “the heart” as needing to be softened in order to follow Jesus unreservedly. That verse from Psalm 19 which is part of the responsorial psalm for today reminds me of Fr. Richard Rohr’s oft repeated saying, “Where your thoughts go in your idle moments … there is your treasure!”

 Oops! Caught again! But let us not forget the ending words of today’s Gospel, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

The scribes and Pharisees spent their entire lives dividing people into little groups of “haves” and “have nots:” – those who religiously followed all 613 laws of the Jewish tradition (along with all the conditions that they had added to them) and those who did not. There hearts were hardened and there was little room for God’s love of the poor and the sick to enter their lives. There focus was more on keeping out anyone who was not following the law rather than seeking out those most in need of God’s love and mercy.

In Jesus’ short, three-year public ministry He did just the opposite: He went out of His way to find those most in need of healing and forgiveness. Today we are once again reminded not to stand outside looking in at those gathered around the “table of the Lord” – in judgment – and forgetting those words of St. Augustine, “there, but for the grace of God, go I.”

Today, God is once again calling us to follow him. We have to get up from whatever we’re doing and be willing to trust that He will not abandon us but bring us into His banquet where we can be healed. Remember those words that we speak just before receiving Holy Communion: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul will be healed.” Amen!

January 13, 2017 – Friday in the 1st Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Hilary of Poitiers (c. 315 – c. 368)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Hebrews 4:1-5, 11    –    Psalm 78    –    Mark 2:1-12

Today the Church remembers a 4th century saint, Hilary of Poiters. Be sure to follow the “link” to his interesting story as a bishop in the changing times of his era. What a difference when we get to today’s Gospel with the story of the paralyzed man being lowered through the roof to be healed by Jesus. Take a moment – if you haven’t already done so – to click on the link to the story of St. Hilary’s life. He and the paralyzed man in today’s Holy Gospel are miles apart from each other in terms of background and status but there might still be something for us to learn from both of these characters.

What is that familiar saying? “No man – or woman – is an island unto themselves” Rich or poor, we all depend on others in some way or other. In God’s eyes, monetary status is not what brings us into the healing – or growing – presence of God/Jesus. In fact, we know that Jesus, himself, will say “how hard it will be for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God”

 My Western Dominican Province has a legendary character, Blessed Jedidiah of Cle Elum (a lumbering town in Washington state) who sought entrance into the Dominicans way back in the 1800’s. He arrived at the novitiate with just the clothes on his back and a small bindle stiff on his shoulders. But he was a few days early and they told him that he wouldn’t be able to stay just yet. With that he stated his now famous personal mantra, “I ain’t never asked nothing from nobody,” and went off to camp in the marshes of Benicia until the day he could enter as a novice.

The fact that he’s a “blessed” is based on his dramatic conversion wherein he discovered that if he clung to his “motto” he would never achieve true holiness. The reality In all our lives is that we are all dependent on others whether we are rich or poor. It will be those around us – the friends of the paralyzed man – who will help us get to Jesus where we can experience his healing presence. Bl. Jedidiah had to come to the understanding that he needed others to lower (or lift) him into Jesus’ presence. All of us need a few friends who will lead us to Jesus. None of us can make it totally on our own. “Therefore, let us strive to enter into His rest.” Amen!

January 12, 2017 – Thursday in the 1st Week of the Church Year

 

Saint for the day: Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620 – 1700)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Hebrews 3:7-14    –    Psalm 95    –    Mark 1:40-45

“If today your hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Today’s ‘Responsorial Verse.)

 What is a “hardened Heart?” And in what ways do we not hear His voice? In the Ot the Prophet says, “I will take from you your stony hearts and give you hearts of flesh.” A totally “Hardened Heart” is the end of life as we know it. Fleshy hearts are full of – and the reason we have – life. It’s back to basics: there is something within us that needs to change. It’s not enough for the leper to be healed on the outside, he must also be changed within. The problem – or dilemma – then is: how “fleshy” must our hearts be? How many saints reportedly died when their hearts burst? There would appear that their hearts kept expanding as they loved more the work they were doing. It’s quite the opposite of the person who shrivels up and becomes hardened – angry at the world & God for one reason or another. The process of changing from a “hardened way of living” to a “fleshly pursuit of God” must be gradual. The leper was healed instantaneously but that healing needed to be incorporated deep in his life or he would still die of a hardened heart. Sticking with the “ocean theme” of yesterday and reflecting how gently God tries to keep our shores clean by sending in gentle waves that caress the sands – four times each day – in an attempt at keeping our shores pristine. I see something of the timeliness of God: every day trying to clean up what somebody else has messed up. Geez… people! Meet me halfway. How willing are we to ask God to heal us? Do we just want the outside to look good or are we willing to let God gently transform us- wave by wave, little by little – until our hearts are softened and we are rally living. Amen!

January 11, 2017 – Wednesday in the 1st Week of the Church Year

Saint of the day: Blessed William Cater (c. 1548 – 1584)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Hebrews 2:14-18    –    Psalm 105       Mark 1:29-39

“Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. (today’s Holy Gospel according to St.Mark)

We’re still in the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel and we can see that crowds of people are following him with their sick and hurting people who are in need of his healing touch. “The whole town was gathered at the door.” Most of us who feel called to follow Jesus in some way or other would probably stay around thinking, “how could I turn my back on people in need?” Yet Jesus gives us a very important lesson that we need to pay attention to. If He, who is God Incarnate, could do all things and heal everyone with a sweep of His holy arm, pauses to go off to a deserted place to pray … who do we think we are to skip this important part of our following of Him? If the entire town was crowding around our door step most of us would stay there trying our best to meet the needs of all those people. Yet the example that Jesus gives us is that we need to keep our focus on God – through prayer – in order to have the where-with-all to carry out the mission of healing sick and hurting people that knock at our door. Sadly, though, the first thing that most of us drop when the demands of ministry become great is our prayer. I think I just mentioned this the other day but I always remember the time I encountered a young man when I was on my way to our Evening Prayer. He said, “Brother, I just need to talk to someone … I’m really in a bad spot.” When I told him that I was on my way to prayer he immediately shot back, “…Oh, yes. Go. We need you to pray. My problem will last and I can see you later. But please, go and pray for me!”   Prayer is the first “pillar” of our Dominican Spirituality yet it is often the first thing to get dropped. If Jesus, who is God, realized that he needed to fortify himself with prayer how much more do we mortals need to follow his example? Amen?