The Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time [A] Lev 19:1-2,17-18 + 1 Cor 3:16-23 + Mt 5:38-48 February 19, 2017
Perfectionism vs. Jesus’ call to be perfect
In a newspaper essay, a writer humorously bemoaned the fact that we Americans are bad at taking advice. The author, well past middle age and by his own admission not in great physical shape, gives several examples of his unwillingness to follow well-intentioned advice. For example, he writes: “My wife is always telling me that yoga will help relieve the pain in my lower back. She is almost certainly right. Yoga would probably be an immense help to my aching lower back. But I am never going to a yoga class.”
He gives another example in describing a neighbor’s visit to his home. He writes that this neighbor, while “inspecting the vast record and compact disc collection that takes up a large part of my living room… suggested that I load all my CDs onto a server to clear away the clutter. He also said that I should convert my LPs to MP3 files[,] and get wireless speakers installed in every room. I said thanks, those are really great suggestions. But I am never going to do any of this stuff.” Continue reading →
The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time [A] Sir 15:15-20 + 1 Cor 2:6-10 + Mt 5:17-37 February 12, 2017
“Rather, we speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden….”
1. IBM’s super-computer: intelligent, smart or wise?
Some years back, IBM challenged champions of the TV game show Jeopardy to match their wits against a computer—called “Watson”—that the company had programmed to play that game. Almost ten years earlier, an IBM computer called “Deep Blue” had beaten the world chess champion, and ever since, the company had been looking for another way to pit its computing power against human wits. When two Jeopardy matches were held, IBM’s Watson beat its two human competitors, winning one million dollars in the process.
Did this victory prove that computers are superior to human beings? Well, that depends on what skill it’s important in life to be superior at. Is it important to be able to recite pieces of trivia? Is it important to be able to ring a buzzer faster than others? Do these things matter to someone on his deathbed, as his life flashes before him? Continue reading →
The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time [A] Isa 58:7-10 + 1 Cor 2:1-5 + Mt 5:13-16 February 5, 2017
“… your light shall break forth like the dawn….”
Two summers ago I crossed off one of the items on my “bucket list”. The goal that I accomplished that summer was to travel during the week that Summer starts up to Alaska: far enough north to spend 24 hours without it getting pitch black.
There’s something about light that’s simply divine, and I mean that literally. Painters and poets alike know this, and reveal this through their artistry. If you were to put, side-by-side, two Renaissance paintings—one of them of the three Persons of the Trinity in Heaven, and the other of satan and other fallen angels in hell—you could be sure that the painting of Heaven would be filled with brilliant hues of white and gold, and maybe just the lightest shade possible of blue, while the one of hell would feature lots of black and dark shades of red and brown. Likewise, when the Italian poet Dante describes the Inferno that is Hell, he verbally paints a dark portrait of the blindness that comes from the absence of God. On the other hand, Dante illuminates our understanding of the Beatific Vision of God in Heaven by illustrating in verse those words that we profess in the Creed: that God the Son is “light from light, true God from true God”. Continue reading →
The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time [A] Zeph 2:3;3:12-13 + 1 Cor 1:26-31 + Mt 5:1-12 January 29, 2017
“He began to teach them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit….’”
John Crosby, who teaches at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, tells the story of two elderly rabbis, sitting on a bench in a park, conversing about their impending deaths. One of them expresses great anxiety about the judgment that God will pass on his life. So his friend, trying to understand his anxiety, asks, “Is it that you fear that God will ask you at the Judgment why you have not become another Moses or David?” And his friend replies, “No, I don’t fear that God will hold me to that standard. What I fear is that God will ask me, ‘Why did you not become the person I created you to be?’”
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In the release time program in Garden Plain, I visit classrooms on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Over the past few months I’ve been talking with the older grades about the Bible, and how the Bible is put together. One of the first things to explain is that the Bible is not a single book, but a library. Just as a library has many different types of books in it, so also the Bible. When you visit the library and take off from different shelves a cookbook, a collection of poems, a presidential biography, and a science fiction novel, you don’t read each of those books the same way. If you open a cookbook expecting it to read like a science fiction novel, you’re going to end up with a very strange supper. Continue reading →
The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time [A] Isaiah 8:23—9:3 + 1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17 + Matthew 4:12-23 January 22, 2017
There are two different reasons why a person might need courage.
The first reason would be that he’s the sort of person who looks for trouble: an aggressive person. We all know people like this, who love conflict.
The second, very different reason that a man might need courage is because trouble has found him. This is a man who is content to be peaceful and quiet, but who—for whatever reason—finds himself thrown into conflict. There, he has to make a basic decision: fight or flight. If he is a Christian, this is where he needs the virtue of prudence: to choose, in this particular setting, the better course. Continue reading →
The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time [A] Isaiah 49:3,5-6 + 1 Corinthians 1:1-3 + John 1:29-34 January 15, 2017
“Here am I, LORD; I come to do your will.”
During the middle of January we here in Kansas expect winter weather. But many years ago, a small town on the Plains saw a snowstorm unlike any other. Schools were closed for several days.
On the first day back at St. Mary’s Grade School, Sister Wilhelmina asked the students whether they’d used their time off constructively. Little Elizabeth nodded and replied, “I sure did, Sister. I prayed for more snow.”
Our Scriptures today offer some insight about how, like little Elizabeth, we might pray better. Continue reading →
The Epiphany of the Lord Isa 60:1-6 + Eph 3:2-3,5-6 + Mt 2:1-12 January 8, 2016
“‘We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’”
Today the Church celebrates the Twelfth Day of Christmas. This Sunday, of course, is not—according to the calendar—the twelfth day of the Christmas Season. It’s the fourteenth. The reason for this is that—like the Ascension—the feast of the Epiphany was moved from its traditional place in the church calendar of January 6th to the closest Sunday, in order to reduce the number of Holy Days of Obligation, in order—so our bishops tell us—to make the lives of ordinary Catholics “easier”.
Whether our lives need to be easier or more filled with grace is a good question, but the feast of the Twelfth Day is a feast of reflecting on the gift of grace that flows from Bethlehem. In the Gospel today we see the gifts of the three kings from the east. But these three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, of course, are responses to the Gift—with a capital “G”—named Jesus, who was gifted to mankind by God the Father. It’s the reflection on all four of these gifts that leads members of the Church in the East (both the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Eastern Catholic Churches) to give Christmas gifts not on December 25, but on January 6, the Twelfth Day of Christmas. Continue reading →
The Epiphany of the Lord Isa 60:1-6 + Eph 3:2-3,5-6 + Mt 2:1-12 January 8, 2017
“Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.”
As we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany and look at the manger scene, we see three wise men arriving. We see three kings who were willing to sacrifice of themselves in order to find a newborn King. Their sacrifice—one that each of us should imitate—reflects the One they were seeking. Or in other words, they were willing to sacrifice so greatly, because they believed in the greatness of the One they were searching for. Each of the wise men was willing to leave his kingdom—where everyone bowed down before him—in order to find a king greater than himself. Each of the wise men was willing to give up his riches in order to find an even greater treasure. Continue reading →
St. John Neumann, Bishop 1 John 3:11-21 + John 1:43-51 January 5, 2017
“Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’”
It might seem odd that, on a weekday of Christmastide, the Gospel passage illustrates a scene from the life of Jesus as an adult. However, the Gospel narratives of St. John—like those of St. Mark—begin with Jesus already an adult. Today’s Gospel passage, however, does come from the first chapter of John’s Gospel account, in which John narrates “preliminaries” in the unfolding of Jesus’ ministry. Continue reading →