December 1, 2017

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Daniel 7:2-14  +  Luke 21:29-33

His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away….

Today’s First Reading from Daniel follows naturally from last Sunday’s celebration of Christ the King.  There are few queens and kings in the world today who truly rule as monarchs, and the peoples of many nations (such as the United States) reject the very idea of having a queen or king.  Indeed, in modern Western thought, government is “by the people”, and all elected officials hold power only through consent of the governed.  While such ideas hold merit when it comes to civil government, problems arise when they are applied to the spiritual life and to the life of the Church.

In Daniel’s vision, the “son of man” “received dominion, glory and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion”.  The word “dominion” comes from the Latin word “dominus”, meaning “lord” (either human or divine).  Older Catholics are familiar with the phrase “Dominus vobiscum” (“The Lord be with you”).  The English word “dominate” is a cognate.

Secular Western culture rejects all ideas of domination, even in the spiritual life.  There are many “brands” of religion and spirituality that reject even the notion that God should be seen as a “lord” who has “dominion”.  At the heart of many modern religions and spiritualities is the idea enshrined in a modern U. S. Supreme Court decision that each human being has a right to create her or his own view of reality, including the definition of life itself.  Whatever the origins of such ideas, they cannot be reconciled with the Bible, whose God is, at one and the same time, both a loving Father and a providential Lord.

St. Andrew

St. Andrew, Apostle
Romans 10:9-18  +  Matthew 4:18-22
November 30, 2017

And how can they hear without someone to preach?

There are many things about a man entering the seminary that are misunderstood.  One important point, that many people are not clear on, is that a man enters the seminary in order to continue to discern the calling that the Lord has made to him.  He does not enter the seminary because he has already made a decision to be a priest.  The Lord calls out to every young man, “Come after me….”  What differs from one man to another is the phrase that follows “Come after me….”  For some, the words that follow are “Be my faithful disciple, and serve me through the wife and children I will gift you.”  To others, Jesus says those words by which we hear him calling Simon and Andrew:  “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  The prayer that a man offers while in the seminary asks the Lord for help in clarifying just which call it is that the Lord has made to him.

“Fishers of men.”  This is a metaphor, of course:  one that speaks to Simon and Andrew, whose lives as adults had been given to the livelihood of being fishermen.  Regardless of the livelihood which they had chosen for themselves, the Lord’s words mean “Come after me.  I chose you to be the servants of my Church.”  No matter the Christian, and no matter the vocation to which the Lord calls him or her, the root of each vocation is service.

November 29, 2017

Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Daniel 5:1-6,13-14,16-17,23-28  +  Luke 21:12-19

“By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

So many people grow fearful thinking about a cataclysmic end of the planet, even though the vast majority of mankind will never face it.  Perhaps you’ve seen one of those movies where there’s a dramatic end to life on the planet Earth as we know it.  Movies like that can draw a great deal of attention, and sell a lot of tickets and popcorn.  Nonetheless, it doesn’t matter if you die from an ice age covering the whole continent, or from old age in your own home:  death is death.

We reflect on this sobering truth at the end of each Church year:  in November, we pray to the saints in heaven, and for the faithful in Purgatory, and the Church reminds us of the “last things”:  heaven, hell, death, and judgment.  All this give us perspective.

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus declares to His disciples, “By perseverance you will secure your lives.”  What does this mean?  Every day, God calls us to offer Him our lives in faith, and to live for others.  That’s how we can reach the hour of our deaths in God’s sight.  When all is said and done, there are two types of persons.  There are those who say in the end, “Heavenly Father, thy will be done.”  Then there are those to whom the Father says in the end, “My child, thy will be done.”

November 28, 2017

Tuesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Daniel 2:31-45  +  Luke 21:5-11

“…there will not be left a stone upon another stone….”

Everything that’s built by human beings can be destroyed.  That’s why something like the Great Pyramids of Egypt are so awesome:  not simply because they are colossal, but because they have—to an amazing extent—survived the ravages of time.  By way of contrast, you could think of one of the large cities on the West Coast of our own country:  from the air, as you fly into the area, you can be filled with awe.  Yet an earthquake could destroy everything in the area in a matter of minutes.

Through the prophet Daniel, God wanted King Nebuchadnezzar to know that his kingdom, so dear to him, could and would undergo destruction.  Other kingdoms would take its place, but they, too, would last only a time.  This prophecy of Daniel foreshadowed the words of Jesus, when he spoke of the Temple of Jerusalem:  it, like everything built by human beings, would be destroyed.  These are not the sorts of things to place our hope in.

But Daniel also prophesied that God would set up a kingdom that would not be destroyed.  There was no way that Daniel could understand this prophecy, but through Daniel, God was speaking about the Church:  not church buildings (even Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome will some day fall), but the Church herself, made up of “living stones”.  Those who place their faith in Christ the King, and live in Him as members of His Mystical Body, will have eternal life.

November 27, 2017

Monday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Daniel 1:1-6,8-20  +  Luke 21:1-4

“…she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”

We live in a society in which values that are contrary to the Gospel are canonized.  A person’s value is measured in economic terms.  The poor are shunned as worthless.

God has a different set of values from those of our society.  When Jesus saw the wealthy putting large amounts of money into the collection box of the Temple, He was not impressed.  It was not as if the wealthy should not have given large sums, but Jesus was looking for something else.  He saw that something else in the poor widow who donated only two small coins.  He explains to us what He saw:  “[The wealthy] have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”

It was the generosity of the widow that mattered, not the money she gave.  We are called to be generous people, unselfish in all our relationships with others.  God does not value us for giving our money; or, for that matter, for giving our time and talent.  God values us for the generosity from which our giving flows.  Generosity flows from the love that we receive in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

Christ the King

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe [A]
Ez 34:11-12,15-17  +  1 Cor 15:20-26,28  +  Mt 25:31-46
November 26, 2017

For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

If a poll were taken this month asking, “Do you like the fact that it’s now getting dark in the late afternoon?”, most of us would quickly respond, “No!”  Yet we know that the descent of darkness and diminishing days are a natural part of the year’s cycle.  As Winter approaches, the leaves on our trees are dying, animals need shelter, and even the power of the sun seems to weaken.

Death and life go hand-in-hand.  That is what we celebrate on this feast of Christ the King.  The feast of Christ the King is the last Sunday of the Church year.  The liturgical year itself dies this week, and we will gather next Sunday to start a new liturgical year.

Change is what life’s about.  We as individuals change physically, mentally, psychologically, and spiritually during our lives on this earth.  Not only do we ourselves change, but our surroundings change as well:  the face of the earth changes with the seasons.  This relates to the observation of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman: “In a higher world it is otherwise; but here below, to live is to change, and to be perfect is to change often.”  This Sunday focuses on what for each of us will be the most important change of our existence:  the change from living in this world to living in some place either above or below this world.

On this last Sunday of the Church Year we celebrate the Last Judgment, when Christ will call all the peoples of all the nations throughout the course of history, and judge each of them, one by one.  How long do you think that will take?  If you ever thought the line for confessions during Holy Week was long, just imagine what this line is going to look like!  And if you’ve ever been nervous standing in line waiting for confession, just imagine how nervous you’ll be standing in line waiting to be judged on account of your entire earthly life!

As we wait in that line, that line might be so long that we’ll think that we’ll never reach the front:  that our time will never come.  This is much the same way that many of us lead our lives on earth:  as if we will never die, and never be judged.

We are fortunate that we have the words of Christ to give us some sort of idea about what this judgment will look like.  Did you ever have a teacher who announced upcoming quizzes or tests without giving any idea what material you were going to be tested on?  Not knowing makes the experience all the more difficult.  But Jesus makes it very clear:  whether or not we will be admitted into the Kingdom of God depends upon whether or not we allowed God into our little kingdoms while we lived here on earth, loving Him with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, and serving Him both in Himself, and in the persons of our neighbors.

St. Catherine of Alexandria

St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin Martyr
I Maccabees 6:1-13  +  Luke 20:27-40
November 25, 2017

And they no longer dared to ask Him anything.

In today’s Gospel passage, Our Lord tries to make clear to the Sadducees the meaning of the Resurrection.  We too, however, even if we understand and believe in both the Resurrection of Our Lord and the promise of resurrection that God offers to all who die, perhaps may need to realize what type of claim the Resurrection places upon our Christian faith.

To believe in the Resurrection is to believe in the future fulfillment of God’s grace.  It is to understand that the suffering of the present is as nothing compared to the future glory to be revealed in Christ Jesus.  It is to guard in God’s name what has been entrusted to us until that final Day, which for each of us is the day of one’s death.

We never find Our Lord going into great detail about the nature of the afterlife.  There are two practical reasons for this.  First, the glory which will be the reward of God’s elect is too far beyond our comprehension.  Second, our only hope for sharing in that glory is to persevere in running the race which God has set before us, to stir into flame the gift of God each of us first received at our baptism, a flame in which we are purified like gold in the furnace.

St. Andrew Dung-Lac, et soc.

St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest & Martyr, et soc., Martyrs
I Maccabees 4:36-37,52-59  +  Luke 19:45-48
November 24, 2017

And every day He was teaching in the temple area.

Lots of people in Jesus’ day were fed up with the materialism and commercialism that had crept into the practices of the Temple in Jerusalem.  This place, the Temple, was the holiest place in the entire world for Jews.  One of the obligations of a good Jew in the time of Jesus was to go to Jerusalem at the time of Passover, and offer a sacrifice in the Temple:  those who were wealthy offered an entire ox or sheep; those with less means offered turtledoves.  And so there grew up a very large market during the time around Passover, a system within which many abuses developed.  Jesus undoubtedly had many people cheering for Him as He told off the Jewish officials and the money-makers in the Temple.

But how many people cheered for Him on that occasion when the Jews asked for a sign from Jesus, and He replied, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”?  Probably some were baffled.  Likely, some became angry at Jesus:  here He had purified the Temple, and now He wanted to destroy it?  The Scriptures go on to tell us that Jesus’ own disciples only came to understand His words after His Resurrection, so we only imagine what those who did not know Jesus well thought of these words.  For ourselves, Christ is the Temple, of which we are parts through the Church.  We need to purify ourselves as Jesus cleansed the Temple, so that we might offer right sacrifice there.

November 23, 2017

Thursday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time [I]
I Maccabees 2:15-29  +  Luke 19:41-44

“If this day you only knew what makes for peace….”

As the Church year draws to an end, Jesus in the weekday Gospel passages is drawing near to His own end in Jerusalem.  There is something a little anachronistic about this.  After all, it’s during Lent that we Christians liturgically observe Jesus drawing closer to His end, an end which culminates in the liturgies of the Sacred Triduum.

However, the end of the Church year—as it focuses on the end of human history itself—helps us realize that Jesus’ end is meant to be our end.  Further, the Risen and Ascended Lord Jesus will judge each of us at the end of time.  So today’s Gospel passage helps us orient our lives to our own end.

This passage is quite melancholy, not only because of Jesus’ tears, but also because of His words.  “If this day you only knew what makes for peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.”  This sentence alone would offer many hours of meditation to one willing to ponder it.  But as Jesus continues to speak, He directs our attention more specifically towards Himself.  That this peace He speaks of is Jesus Himself becomes clear when He notes that the immanent destruction of Jerusalem is due to it not recognizing “the time of [its] visitation.”  Jesus visited God’s People that they might have eternal life, and they put the author of life to death outside Jerusalem.  Each of us shares in this rejection of Jesus by his own sins.

Saint Cecilia

Saint Cecilia, Virgin Martyr
II Maccabees 7:1,20-31  +  Luke 19:11-28
November 22, 2017

“…from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Those who think of Jesus as a “teddy bear” are challenged by the last sentence of Jesus in today’s Gospel passage.  These words conclude a lengthy parable, which St. Luke the Evangelist prefaces with a clear explanation of the motive for the parable:  Jesus “proceeded to tell a parable because He was near Jerusalem and they thought that the Kingdom of God would appear there immediately.”

The “king” speaks and acts harshly.  He refers to himself as “a demanding man”, but his greatest demand comes at the end of the parable.  Of his enemies he declares, “bring them here and slay them before me.”  The question is to whom this character in the parable refers in real life?  Can he possibly symbolize Jesus or God the Father?  The king’s demand is reminiscent of practices found in the Old Testament.  God Himself seems in the Old Testament to demand the murder of innocents.  Surely such ideas have no place in the teaching of Jesus?

However, the parable’s own inner logic suggests that the servants did have a choice.  This points to the choice that each servant of God has to follow Him or not.  At the end of each person’s life is a fork.  One branch leads to eternal life and the other to eternal death.  This is where the Kingdom of God comes to its fulfillment.