The Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time [C] Amos 6:1,4-7 + 1 Timothy 6:11-16 + Luke 16:19-31 September 25, 2016
“When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.”
Brothers and sisters spend a fair amount of their childhood trying to be different from one other: to distinguish themselves. Knowing this, my own parents gave the same middle initial to all five of their children. In fact, they gave the same middle name to both their daughters: Marie; and the same middle name to each of their three sons: Michael.
In religion class when I was a boy, whenever we were asked to study one of our patron saints, I always chose my first name. Maybe I didn’t want to learn about the patron saint that I shared with my brothers. Not until I was older did I become grateful to my parents for giving me St. Michael the Archangel as one of my patron saints. Continue reading →
The Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time [C] Amos 8:4-7 + 1 Timothy 2:1-8 + Luke 16:1-13 September 18, 2016
“You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
Father Hasenpfeffer made it a practice to visit his parish school each week. One day he walked into the Fourth Grade, where the children were studying the fifty states. Father asked how many of the states they could name, and they were able to come up with about forty of them. He told the students that when he was a schoolboy, he could name all of the states from memory.
A little boy in the second row raised his hand and said, “But Father, back then there were only thirteen.”
+ + +
Of course, I myself am not nearly as advanced in age or wisdom as Father Hasenpfeffer. But the older I get, the more I find myself wanting to simplify my life. Or to use another image, the more I want to carry out some pruning. Continue reading →
The Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time [C] Exodus 32:7-11,13-14 + 1 Timothy 1:12-17 + Luke 15:1-32 September 11, 2016
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
Now that we’re past Labor Day, the school year is in full swing. Instead of their fond memories of summer play, students once again are having to focus on homework and the dreaded test. That reminds me of a story about an eight year-old girl who didn’t like school very much, and liked taking tests even less. One evening her mother was kneeling with the girl at her bedside as she offered her night prayers, one of which went like this: “Now I lay me down to rest. / I pray I pass tomorrow’s test. / If I should die before I wake, / That’s one less test I’ll have to take.”
We all have tests to take. Children sometimes look forward to the day they graduate from school, knowing that they’ll never have to take another test. But they don’t understand that adult life is full of tests: they just come in different shapes and sizes than the ones we got in school. Continue reading →
The Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time [C] Wisdom 9:13-18 + Philemon 9-10,12-17 + Luke 14:25-33 September 4, 2016
“…when things are in Heaven, who can search them out?”
In the middle of a forest, two hunters were suddenly confronted by a huge, mean bear, followed by Mama Bear and Baby Bear. In their fear, all of the hunters’ attempts to shoot the bears were unsuccessful. Finally, the hunters turned and ran as fast as they could. They reached the edge of a very steep cliff. Seeing no way out, the first hunter got down on his knees, raised his arms, and exclaimed, “Dear God! Please make these bears ‘religious’!”
The sky darkened. Lightning flashed across the sky. Just a few feet short of the hunters, Papa Bear came to an abrupt stop, fell to its knees, looked up into the sky and folded its paws together. Mama Bear and Baby Bear followed suit, and the three bears began praying in whispered voices. Continue reading →
The Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time [C] Sirach 3:17-18,20,28-29 + Hebrews 12:18-19,22-24 + Luke 14:1,7-14 August 28, 2016
“Humble yourself the more, the greater you are….”
In the Catechism’s discussion of the Tenth Commandment—forbidding the coveting of thy neighbor’s goods—humility is mentioned. You might wonder what humility has to do with not coveting thy neighbor’s goods. To illustrate the connection, the Catechism quotes the fourth-century saint Gregory of Nyssa.
In one of St. Gregory’s writings, titled “On Blessedness”, he states that Jesus:
“speaks of voluntary humility as ‘poverty in spirit’; the Apostle [Paul] gives an example of God’s poverty when he says: ‘For your sakes He became poor.’”
One of the most important points that St. Gregory makes here is that humility is a kind of poverty. This is key to pondering today’s Scriptures: humility is a kind of poverty. Continue reading →
The Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time [C] Isaiah 66:18-21 + Hebrews 12:5-7,11-13 + Luke 13:22-30 August 21, 2016
“God treats you as sons.”
I’m sure during the course of growing up that I gave my sisters many reasons to call me a “nerd”, but one of them had to do with the start of school. For those of you who don’t have school-age children, you’ve surely noticed that the start of school is upon us by the bright, smiling faces seen this past week on the faces of youngsters when you pass them on the sidewalk. Our young people are tired of staying up late at the lake, or watching movies. They cannot wait to hit the books once again: to be filled with the knowledge and virtues that will make them upstanding citizens in our fine nation. Or maybe not.
When I was growing up, my sisters just shook their heads at me when—every August—I begged our mother to go shopping for school supplies. Each year as summer wound down, I would walk up to our grade school every morning, hoping that that would be the day that classroom assignments would be posted in the window telling who my teacher would be. One year when I got home from this walk and announced with enthusiasm who my new teacher was, one of my sisters asked our mother if I was adopted. Continue reading →
The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time [C] Jeremiah 38:4-6,8-10 + Hebrews 12:1-4 + Luke 12:49-53 August 14, 2016
“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin….”
Those words remind me of growing up with two older sisters. If I ever did something wrong, I was immediately “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” who reported to Mother every burden and sin of mine. But having two “deputy mothers” wasn’t the only challenge connected with my sisters. Another came to mind recently as I heard some children talking about the start of school.
When I was a boy and a new school year would start, I would have the same experience. My teacher would ask my name, and when I told her, without fail the teacher would say, “Oh! You’re Angie and Janelle’s little brother!” Continue reading →
The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [C] Wis 18:6-9 + Heb 11:1-2,8-19 + Lk 12:32-48 August 7, 2016
“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much….”
When Jesus says these words about us, two questions immediately pop up. And they’re intertwined. First, what has Jesus entrusted us with? Second, what therefore will be required of us?
Each of us, naturally, has been given the gift of life. You’ve probably seen the bumper sticker that says, “Smile: your mom chose life!” In our day and age, this is not a gift that we ought to take for granted. But still, when we thank God each day for the gift of life, what exactly are we giving thanks for? Continue reading →
The Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [C] Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23 + Colossians 3:1-5,9-11 + Luke 12:13-21 July 31, 2016
“[Y]ou have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
In 1998, while in my first assignment as a priest, I was invited to attend a conference in Oxford, England about Cardinal Newman. Newman taught at Oxford as an Anglican priest, but during his years there he studied his way into the Catholic Church. In later life, he said, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.”
Since this would be my first trip to Europe, I decided to see as much as possible. But when my plane landed in England, I did not head straight to Oxford. The first site I visited wasn’t the great monastic Ealing Abbey, or the cell where St. Thomas More was imprisoned by Henry VIII. Eventually I did visit all those sites, but not first. Continue reading →
The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B] Genesis 18:20-32 + Colossians 2:12-14 + Luke 11:1-13 July 24, 2016
“What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?”
When my younger brother and I were little, we got into a fight one day while playing football. In the midst of this fight my two front teeth were chipped, and they still are today. So I always think of brother whenever I brush or floss. It’s odd: the connections that stick in our minds.
But discord is part and parcel of life in this fallen world. The great British writer G. K. Chesterton once said that Original Sin is the simplest Christian dogma to prove: all you have to do is pick up the newspaper (or in our day, click on a news app…). Continue reading →