September 22, 2017 – Friday in the 24th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Lorenzo Ruiz & Companions (1600 – September 29 or 30, 1627

Scripture readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 Timothy 6:2c-12 – Psalm 49 – Luke 8:1-3

“Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.” (Today’s Alleluia Verse.)

Most people love to ‘misquote’ this phrase from I Timothy and say, “money is the root of all evil” when, in fact the real quote should be, love of money is the root of all evil. Otherwise today’s Gospel about the women who followed Jesus and “provided for Him out of their own resources” would be contradicting I Timothy.

Also, in this fist reading, Paul paraphrases his listing of the results of not being led by the HS which he mentions in Galatians, 5: including envy, rivalries, insults, evil suspicions, and mutual friction. I have often pointed out the ‘attributes’ of the HS (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.) as a good measure of how we are doing in our efforts to honestly follow Jesus.

In today’s Gospel Luke tells us that there were many women who followed Jesus and “provided for his needs out of their own resources.” So we should be able to see the thin line which separates – being able to provide for ones needs from a greedy ‘love of money.’

This is not an easy principle to follow as most of us ‘professional religious’ know full well. What do I actually need in order to survive in this world? I’m not called to give away all my clothes and go and sit naked on a cliff waiting for the ‘second coming’ and expecting someone else to take care of me.

I’m sure that there were many people that Jesus encountered on his travels that were poor and destitute yet He told his disciples to “go and rent an upper room and set it up for our ‘last supper.’” Maybe we would be like Judas and say, “why don’t we give this money to the poor rather than spend it on ourselves?”

Bottom line: it’s not how much money we have or spend but, rather, whether or not what we are spending is being spent out of charity and not selfishness.

The question of how we relate to our “vow of poverty’ has been with Religious Orders from the beginning and will probably stay with us to the end. In the beginning St. Dominic travelled everywhere on foot. Today, the Master of the Order flies all over the world to make his visitations. We don’t have to look closely to figure out how much money it will cost the Western Province to ‘host’ an hopefully Future visit. But, on the other hand, he can’t travel on foot so the money is spent. We are called to provide for his needs and this we do lovingly in order to sustain our oneness in the Order. Amen!

September 21, 2017 – Thursday in the 24th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Matthew, Apostle & Evangelist (c. 1st Century)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

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

“Gifts given for the building up of the Body of Christ;” – “I desire mercy not sacrifice.”

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. Try it, but read slowly.

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 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 ‘trade’ 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 and 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, 2017 – Wednesday, in the 24th Week of the Church Year

Saints for the day: andrew-kim-taegon-paul-chong-hasang-and-companions (1846 – 1839 -1867)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 Timothy 3:14-16 – Psalm 111 – Luke 7:31-35

“Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life, you have the words of everlasting life.” (today’s “Alleluia” verse before hearing the Holy Gospel.”One of the most serious stumbling block to spiritual growth might be Matt 5:48 “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” which comes across as a monumental task if we are honest about our own self-reflection. Even a truly honest person can only see dimly as in a mirror and there is the chance that, like the children we might pout and give up trying to do the right thing. “You didn’t play according to my rules & I’m going to take my marbles and go home!”

But all these petty ways will pass away. All our striving to get to the top of the mountain is seen as incompatible to the Gospel of love. It’s like trying to get to the top of a caterpillar pillar. The top is never attainable. If we replace the word “love” with “self-giving” and follow the words of Jesus, “If you loose your life in this world you gain it in the Kingdom.

It’s not about getting all the marbles or winning. It’s about working so that the “other” can win – or be lifted up or be perfected. Self-giving never ends. We will not be judged by how much we accomplished in this world but by how much we helped others to get ahead. Short, but sweet: Amen!

September 19, 2017 – Tuesday in the 24th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Januarius (lived c. 300)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1Timothy 3:1-13 – Psalm 101 – Luke 7:11-17

“A great prophet has arisen in our midst” Today’s Alleluia Verse.

In the Gospel we are given yet another example of Jesus’ power over death as he raises the dead son of a widow. My first thought at reading this Gospel is that it resounds with the Elijah story about almost the same thing. Sometimes, when we can ‘see through’ an example in the Gospels many are want to throw out the entire episode and therefore lose something very important. I’m never bothered by these kinds of connections since I can see how even the “memory of the life and events of Jesus” are connected to the entire revelation of God’s power over sin and death.

I am reminded of Fr. Martin de Porres Walsh and his oft repeated line, “Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story!” The “good story” is the fact that Jesus came to show us that we are “on the way” to something greater and that this life’s events are minor in comparison to the fact that Jesus will ultimately bring us into the kingdom where there will be no more weeping. Our problem in all of this is that we get too attached to “this life” and forget that are baptism claims us for the life to come and not for this passing world. That’s why so many of the TVengelists are so off the mark in preaching a ‘prosperity gospel’ and giving folks the notion that they can have it all right here and now while not listening to the words of Jesus, “Do you not know that your lives are passing away?” (or some such words)

I always say, “even Lazarus who was raised from the dead after three days must have died again! I don’t see any mention of him later in the Gospels and we never hear anything about his experience of being dead. Why? Because that’s not the point! The point is that we all will face the moment when we die and our life must have some reflection that “life is changed, not ended” and there is little reference to what it’s like – on the other side – because we simply cannot comprehend what life with God is like. In the movie, “Charlie St. Cloud” when Sam, the younger brother dies suddenly, he is allowed to appear to his older brother, Charlie., and they have some few days of still being together.   All of a sudden Sam is finally allowed to move totally into the Kingdom and he tells his older brother – who up to now has been able to see him – that “you can’t see me, now, Charlie, because you simply wouldn’t be able to comprehend what I’m like now that I’m totally on the other side.” That’s why Lazarus never said anything about having been dead! It’s just more than we can ask or imagine. Amen! (today’s reflection is one of my favorites which is why I have given it another run.) Amen!

September 18, 2017 – Monday in the 24th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Joseph of Cupertino (June 17, 1603 – September 18, 1663)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 Timothy 2:1-8 – Psalm 28 – Luke 7:1-10

“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof … but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”(Luke 7:6)

 These words, taken from today’s Holy Gospel are very familiar to most of us because they were recently changed in the renovation of the language used in our Liturgies. Remember, we used to say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come unto me: but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

 I know that many people were put off by changes like this, which often weren’t clearly explained. I don’t think this change was made just so the words of this Gospel passage would be followed more clearly. I think we need to look for some deeper meaning.

By changing come unto me to come under my roof we’re asking the Lord to make his abode with us. We’re not just meeting Jesus out there on the road – in a passing sort of way – but, rather, asking Him to come into where we live day in and day out.

The other change was from saying; “I shall be healed” to “my soul shall be healed.” This tells us that physical healing isn’t the only thing that we need. We also need change in the core of our being – our soul –, which is the “God-likeness” part of us.

So, what’s our “bottom line” in this matter? The saying, “familiarity breeds contempt” comes into play and words that we say often in our prayers and liturgies can easily lose their real meaning if we’re not careful. So, just for today, as you are approaching the altar for Holy Communion let those familiar words slowly sink in: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof … that’s true! But He still wants to come to us and make his abode with us and so we respond with the words, “only say the word and my soul will be healed.”

And this is the word that He says:“Come unto me all you who are burdened and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Amen!

September 17, 2017 – The 24th Sunday in the Church Year

 

Saint for the day: Robert Bellarmine (October 4, 1542 – September 17, 1621)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Sirach 27:30 – 28:7 – Psalm 103 – Romans 14:7-9 – Matthew 18:21-35

“The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.” (Today’s Psalm Response to Psalm 103)

 Today might be called, “Forgiveness Sunday” and we are brought face to face with the real fact that our forgiveness is so often “conditional” and therefore not true “forgiveness” at all.

The Gospel parable paints a vivid picture of true forgiveness by making the two examples so drastically different. It’s millions and millions on the one hand up against a few coins on the other.

On the whole, none of us are very good at following the example of this Gospel. Most of our “forgiveness” is very conditional and we hold on to it with a vengeance. Yet God, who sees through our rouse, still is willing to forgive us. If we were honest and looked at those areas in our own lives where we feel that we have forgiven another (or been forgiven for something that we have done) I think that we would realize how limited our forgiveness really is.

What can we do? The first step is to be honest with ourselves and look closely at the way we have given and accepted forgiveness. Bad things happen to all of us and we do bad things to others yet God is willing to take us where we’re at and draw us back. Do we not owe it to this loving and forgiving God to at least meet Him halfway. The words of the “Confiteor” – come to mind, “for what I have done and for what I have failed to do…” “Let go of past hurts. It does nothing to our good to hold on to some past – usually forgotten event – for us to hold out. “Let Go and Let God” enter into all those areas where we feel we have been hurt and we’ll see the other side of the coin as well. That’s when true “forgiveness” comes into our life. Amen!

September 16, 2017 – Saturday in the 23rd Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day:Cornelius (died: 253)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 Timothy 1:15-17 – Psalm 113 – Luke 6”43-49

“Blessed be the name of the Lord for ever (Today’s Responsoral Verse)

If we begin our reflection by first looking at the ‘images’ that are presented to us we might be able to draw out of that some good thoughts about our journey to the Kingdom. What do we have? Good trees – bad trees; abundant fruitfulness or baron-ness; house building on good foundations like rock and not on shifting sands.

My first thoughts on the tree image are that it is not just an open and shut case: eg you’re not producing any worthwhile fruit so away with you. We can see many examples of how patient God is with us by His pruning and care to see that we have good soil to grow in and how much He desires us to produce much fruit. Look at what He was able to do with Paul!

When I thought about the house-building image with the warning not to build on the shifting sands but on the solid rock I had the notion that sand is really solid rock that has lost its integrity. When we loose our “integrity” we begin to fall apart. Having much acquaintance with coastal living I have seen many instances where good, solid homes were built on the shifting sands only to slide into the ocean.

So how do we regain our “solidness” if we sense that we are ‘falling apart?’

Paul had to be knocked to the ground in order for him to begin ‘pulling his life back together.’ Again it’s not, “you did such and such therefore away with you into the outer darkness!” God is always willing to ‘go the extra mile’ with us in order to return us to our true identity. He prunes the parts of us that are not necessary and puts a little old-fashioned fertilizer around us which helps up grow into the person He desires. Like Paul, we might be blinded for a time and unable to see what the Lord is doing in our lives but we must still trust that He is with us and so desirous of our ultimate good.

It is the Lord who takes our brokenness – like the grains of sand that have lost their integrity to be solid rock – and re-forms us to be bearers of good fruit. Amen!

September 15, 2017 – Friday in the 23rd Week of the Church Year

 

Today’s Memorial: Our Lady of Sorrows

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-13 – Psalm 16 – John 19:25-27 or Luke 2:33-35

“Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary; without dying you won the martyr’s crown beneath the Cross of the Lord.” (Today’s Alleluia Verse.)

 The connection that a mother has to her child is rooted deep in her being and is one that the father – or any man – will never experience in the same way. After my airplane crash in 1970, my mother told me that on the day of the crash she had gone into her sewing room and found that a picture of me had fallen off a shelf. Even before even knowing about the accident, she picked it up, wiped it gently with her apron saying, “Oh, Lord. Take care of my son.”

Mary “took care” of Jesus from his infancy and growing up years probably not fully knowing what His destiny was all about. She probably said – like my mother would have said – “Be careful, son. Don’t get yourself in trouble by threatening the “powers that be.” We have to be careful to not put too much “divines” on Mary when it comes to her understanding her son’s “mission.” Her sorrow had to be overwhelming as His body was placed in her arms. It is inconceivable for us to think that she would have thought, “Oh, now I see what all this is/was about.” Her heart was at the breaking point and she had to go through that pain – like all of us do – to get to the other side of resurrection. This moment of sorrow is not the end for any of us. Amen!

September 14, 2017 – Thursday in the 23rd Week of the Church Year

Today’s Feast: The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Numbers 21:4b-9 – Psalm 78 – Philippians 2:6-11 – John 3:13 – 17

“We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your Cross you have redeemed the world.”(Today’s Alleluia Verse before the Holy Gospel.)

This is a test! Quick! What is the most well-known Scripture verse which is proclaimed by a large banner at almost every sporting event – certainly in the US? If you said, “John 3:16” you get a gold star and move to the head of the class.

Today’s feast gives us the fullness of this verse and ties the OT reading from the Book of Numbers – about the Israelites getting caught up in snake worship during their wanderings in the wilderness – with this Gospel verse: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Every year at the Easter Vigil the church gathers in darkness around the Paschal Candle – a symbol of the powerful “light of [the resurrected] Jesus” and hears the Easter Proclamation the –“Exsultet” – the great hymn of praise that has an interesting phrase that might tell us something about today’s feast. Right in the middle of statements about the victory of light over darkness and redemption from sin we hear, “Oh, happy fall of Adam which brought about our redeemer.”

What a strange paradox but one that tells us something powerful about our Christian journey.

We know about the Israelites 40 year wanderings in the wilderness when they seemed to be going in circles and getting caught up in all kinds of false idols – including today’s reference to snake worship. But this is not just a story about some people from ages past. This is a reminder of our own story. If we were honest we’d have to admit that we, too, just like those Israelites, wander in and out of God’s loving favor and mercy.

When I entered the Dominicans on this date in 1959 we were just beginning what was called “The Black Fast.” If my memory is correct meals were simple and often meatless from this date until Easter. Today’s feast reminds us – John 3:16 (you should know that verse by now) – and that it means if I was the only person in the world God would still have sent His son to redeem me! And no matter what kind of wanderings I fall into, the saving grace of Jesus death on the Cross-resurrects me to the possibility of living anew in His Grace.

So, don’t give up when you stumble and fall – apparently – out of God’s love. Make the “sign of the Cross” – slowly and with intense devotion – and know that God never tries us beyond our ability to reach out to re-connect with Him through his son, Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Amen!

September 13, 2017 – Wednesday in the 23rd Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: John Chrysostom (c. 349 – September 14, 407)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Colossians 3:1-11 – Psalm 145 – Luke 6:20-26

“Beloved: If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1)

The reading from Colossians goes on and warns us to put away everything that is not of Christ. The list is the opposite of what we will hear in today’s Holy Gospel which is Luke’s rendition of Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount.”

St. Paul tells us all the things that we shouldn’t be and then St. Luke gives us the encouragement of what we will be. But this is not to be taken in monetary terms as if following Jesus is like winning the lottery.

At our Baptism we were clothed in a new, white garment and given a lit candle and admonished to keep the garment clean and the candle lit. Maybe it would be better if we used the terms, keep your garment pure and your candle bright but not in the sense of protecting or hoarding but in the sense of going out of ourselves as ambassadors for Christ. God doesn’t just give us His love and presence to keep us warm and cozy but that we go out of ourselves to share the blessings we have received with those around us.

Yesterday, I went into the Church thinking I might practice playing the organ and ran into a young women who was looking at the stained glass windows. I stopped and talked with her about some of the beauty of this Church. One thing led to another and pretty soon she was in tears! She lost her meager job; felt alone in a strange world; and wondered what God was doing to her.

I tried my best to give her courage using things like, “sometimes when God seems to have closed one door he opens another – better way for us.” But the most important thing I could give her was not to give up and a promise that I would pray for her.

I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again but the important thing that happened in that brief encounter was that I was able to share with her a ray of hope. That seems to be the essence of what today’s liturgy is all about. Try to let the words of that familiar hymn, “Make me a channel of your peace.   Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope…” be your prayer for today and see what happens! Amen!