September 27, 2017 – Wednesday in the 25th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day Vincent de Paul (1580 – September 27, 1660)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ezra 9:5-9 – Tobit 13:2 … 7-8 – Luke 9:1-6

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me and sent me to preach the good news to the poor, to heal the broken hearted and clothe the naked.”

 The above verse – today’s entrance antiphon – is the perfect scripture verse for today’s saint who’s name is synonymous with so much of the Gospel of Luke which we are hearing in these day. I even took it a tad further by adding, “and clothe the naked.” Who hasn’t about the Saint Vincent de Paul Society who’s entire ministry is to clothe the poor and needy?

 Jesus said to the disciples, “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic.”(today’s Gospel)

Most of us are pretty selective about how we “hear” the scripture passages that are presented to us in our daily liturgies. We often land on what we take to be the most outrageous part and forget the context of the passage.

All that being said, my first reaction to today’s Gospel is that this passage is not one of my favorite scriptures because I only hear and land on one part – “… and let no one take a second tunic” – and don’t hear the opening words where Jesus gives his disciples power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases…

 The “second tunic” theme stems from my early days as a Dominican when the Prior, while looking through the rack of clean habits for his – noticed that I had two habits hanging there. Since he knew that I had one habit on he told the Superior of the brothers, “Daniel has too many habits. Make him get rid on at least one!”

So, 50+ years down the road am I still only thinking about that episode and not taking the Gospel as a whole? Every time we hear scripture passages we’ll always hear “flag words” and go off on a tangent thus forgetting the important part of the message: the ending of today’s Gospel: “Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and curing diseases everywhere.”

 When Jesus tells the disciples, “take nothing for the journey…” he’s not only speaking of material things but he wants them to rely on their interior belief that He is the Messiah and savior of the world and it is that convection – not what they are wearing or not wearing – that will give them “power and authority over demons…”

 Bottom line: let nothing – neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, or something like a second tunic – be more important than your awareness of who Jesus is for you and what he is asking of you. The psalm verse that I had printed on my vow card, “One thing I ask of the Lord, and this I seek, to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” is a reminder to me of what is most important to me. All those other things – walking stick, sack, food, and especially the second tunic – will pass away but the love that God has for me – and I for Him will endure. Amen!

September 26, 2017 – Tuesday in the 25th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Blessed Pope Paul VI (September 26, 1897 – August 6, 1978)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ezra 6:7-8, 12b, 14-20 – Psalm 123 – Luke 8:19-21

We hear in today’s first ready from Ezra about the “chosen people of God” rebuilding the temple of the Lord. In the Gospel Jesus says, “my mother & brothers are those who hear the Word of God and keep (or follow) it.” What is the “word of God?” Perhaps the “Shema Israel, “To love the Lord with your whole heart, mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself.” In love God created us & in love gives us freedom to act. He doesn’t say, “I have chosen you & I will beat my word into you…” And thus we are free to hear God’s word and either devour it or spit it out. And when we wander away and chase after words that tickle our fancy, God, like a gentle mother or father takes us back and sooths our ills. How patient is this God of ours. Remember … you are dust and into dust you shall return. But blessed dust.   ( I just wanted to get that in as a corollary of Fr. Richard Rohr’s quote: “We’re called to be God’s … but God’s who have to use the restroom –“ if you get my drift)

All this, not withstanding, should give us the certain hope that if we just listen to the briefest Word of God we shall be brought back “into the depths of His tent and set high upon a rock – safe and secure from all harm” (Psalm 27 one of my favorites should be part of our prayer: “One thing I ask of the Lord and this I seek to dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life.” This verse was on my 1st Vows Holy Card in 1961. I hope you can take the time to read through the entire psalm. It’s quite beautiful. Amen!

September 25, 2017 – Monday in the 25th Week of the Church Year

Saints for the day: Louis Martin & Zelie Guerin Deaths: 1894 & 1877

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ezra 1:1-6 – Psalm 126 – Luke 8:16-18

“Journeying: becoming the ‘People of God.’” / “Let your light shine so that all may see.”

We begin in the book of Ezra but only for a couple of days so let’s get the most out of it while we can. Ezra is fulfilling the prophesy of Jeremiah to assemble all the people as one to go to Jerusalem and build a ‘House for the Lord.”

At first, the words of the Lord, “Who are you to build me a house?” come to mind. Still we leave our places of comfort and security and ‘go out on the road’ to begin our journey to the Lord. For all ages and in every time we are the people on the way. And Jesus continues this admonition when he tells us over and over, “Come, follow me.”

Then, in order for us not to be left in the dark he says, “I am the Light of the World” so that we will not stumble in darkness. Paul will later say, “fan the flame of faith that you have been given so that you may become – even as you are on the way – the ‘People of God.”

We are admonished to let that light shine for all in the household to see. We don’t just let it shine in order for us to be seen as great people but, rather so they might see the wonders of God all around us. Many of us ‘old-timers’ remember one of our ‘childhood songs,’ “This little light of mine;   I’m gonna let it shine…” Even now, we are told to put that light on a lamp stand so all in the room may see. Not under the bed but out where it gives light for all to see. Even when we feel that we don’t have much of that light we still set it up and in doing so, the end of this Gospel is fulfilled: to the one who has, more will be given; but to him who has not (eg doesn’t let the light shine) even that will be taken from him and given to the one who has more. Harsh words? Yes. But words that we must hear. They are reminiscent of the parable of the talents: “don’t just sit there; do something even if it’s just a very little and you’ll see what God will do for you. Amen!

September 24, 2017 – 25th Sunday in the Church Year

Blessed John Henry Newman – February 21, 18011801 -1August 11, 1890

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy”

Isaiah 55:6-9 – Ps 145 – Philippians 20 – 24, 276 – Matthew 20:1-6a

“Open our hearts, O Lord, to listen to the words of your Son.” (Today’s Gospel Acclamation.)

My first reaction upon hearing this parable of the workers in the vineyard is one of unfairness. Even though the 1st workers agreed to the usually daily wage they feel cheated when the last ones who only worked on hour get the same pay. Even as a small child I thought that it wasn’t that I – as a cradle Catholic who had to live under all those old fashioned rules – should get the same reward as an “eleventh-hour” convert! It was more a thought of my having had to follow all those rules and this “Jonny-come-lately” just coasted in under the wire. I know that this sounds like a confession but I’m sure that I’m not the only one who had these kind of thoughts. What we all have to remember is the fact that in God there is no thought of everything being equal. It never will be like that. It’s as if God can look at each and every individual in such a way as to do it as if there wasn’t anybody else to think about. God can do this with everyone all at the same time and treat all with absolute fairness. Amen!

September 23, 2017 – Saturday in the 24th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day; Pio of Pietreccina (May 25, 1887 – September 23, 1968)

Today’s “saint,” is better known as Padre Pio a visionary who healed many people in his lifetime. Be sure to “click” on the above “link” to read more about this present-day saint.

Scripture readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 Timothy 6:13 – 16 – Psalm 100 – Luke 8:4-15

“Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs.” Matt. 5:3 

In our first reading for today we hear Paul exhorting us to ‘hold fast to the faith that we have received’ and always give glory to God who is all in all. (my own ‘loose translation.’)

The Gospel gives us the Parable of the seed which we often hear – and probably need to hear over and over again – in order to see how we fit in to all the categories mentioned. Again, we have to be careful not to think, “well, this applies to me, but certainly not that or that.” Most of us, if we were honest, would be able to see that we are all of those examples at one time or other in our life and journey following the Lord.

So, there are many ways for us to gain some insight into our “spiritual journey” that we might more closely follow the Lord. The seed that falls on stony ground reminds me of the passage in Ezk (11:19) where he says, “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.” How many times have we heard people say to us, “Don’t be such a hard-ass! Lighten up a little! Have a heart” So, we ask ourselves, “How have I kept a ‘hardened heart’ in my dealings with those around me and even with my relationship with God?”

In the same way we can see how we have let those around us trample us into the ground by not walking proudly on the road that the Lord has placed us. Or have we allowed “weeds of the world” to choke the life of Christ out of us.

One of my commentaries today suggested that we use Paul’s ‘check-list’ in Galatians 5:23 f to see how we are doing in our Xtian walk. This is where Paul gives us the attributes of the HS: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, self-control, etc. to which we need to ask ourselves: “how – or am I – loving, joyful, peaceful, etc.

One of the commentators said that she keeps this list taped to her bathroom mirror so that she can go through it on a daily basis. Good idea!

The ‘Bottom line’ here seems to be that we need to realize that we wane in and out of our relationship with God and are in constant need to renew that in order to keep it fresh. We’re never there until we’re there so this is a life-long process. “Hang in there, buddy, we’re not there yet!” Amen!

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!