The Week of Sept. 24-29, 2018

Monday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Proverbs 3:27-34   +   Luke 8:16-18
September 24, 2018

“Take care, then, how you hear.”

Today the First Reading at weekday Mass begins to come from the Book of Proverbs.  As proverbs tend to be pithy, their nature resembles that of Jesus’ parables.  Hearing the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel passage, we can imagine that He is speaking to us when He says:  “Take care, then, how you hear.  To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.”

Surely Jesus isn’t talking about money or possessions?  Jesus is talking about our spiritual life, and the grace inside of us:  “To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.”

Now who is it who would take away grace from our souls?  It’s not God.  It’s ourselves.  We drain ourselves of grace—so to speak—each and every time that we sin.

Here we can turn to the Book of Proverbs for an example.  Even though at Mass we hear from a whole section of verses put together, the Book of Proverbs is actually made up of proverbs that are often only one verse long.  These proverbs are meant to be taken just one at a time, for our reflection and prayer:  maybe at night, as we’re getting ready for sleep.

For example, in the Book of Proverbs today we hear:  “Quarrel not with a man without cause,  /  with one who has done you no harm.”  When we don’t follow these words, we sin, and we lose God’s life—His grace—because we have not followed His Word.  If there is such a person with whom we’ve quarreled, today is the day to ask that person for forgiveness, and to pray for that person and his spiritual growth, with the same care and concern that you have for your own spiritual growth.

Tuesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Proverbs 21:1-6,10-13   +   Luke 8:19-21
September 25, 2018

“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”

Today’s First Reading is from the Book of Proverbs.  A “proverb” is a very short saying—often only one sentence long—that reveals some little bit of wisdom.  Almost every culture in the world, and throughout time, has its own proverbs.  In our own country, one of the Founding Fathers—Benjamin Franklin—spent a lot of his time creating proverbs for the first Americans to reflect on:  such as, “A stitch in time saves nine”, or “A penny saved is a penny earned.”  These proverbs, if we reflect on them, can help us be smarter in the way that we lead our lives in this world.

The proverbs that we hear in the Bible, though, come from God.  These proverbs are not just about helping us lead a better life in this world:  the Book of Proverbs also helps us get to the world to come, which is Heaven.

The proverbs of the Bible are bite-sized.  When we hear from the Book of Proverbs at Mass, we’re hearing a whole bunch of proverbs at once.  The simplest way to gain spiritual profit from the Book of Proverbs is to take just one proverb—usually just one sentence—and repeat it, over and over, in our heart, mind and soul.

Today, we might take the very last sentence of today’s First Reading:  “He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor  /  will himself also call and not be heard.”  What does this mean?  Is this proverb talking about you?  Who are the poor in my midst, and what can I do to help them?

We should turn this proverb over in our soul, keeping in mind the words of the Lord Jesus in today’s Gospel passage:  “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”

Wednesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Proverbs 30:5-9  +  Luke 9:1-6
September 26, 2018

… He sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

The word “apostle” literally means “one who is sent”.  But the reason for being sent can vary, and this reason therefore qualifies the type of apostolic ministry.  For example, today’s Gospel passage comes from the ninth chapter of Luke, which is 24 chapters long.  Here, the apostles are not being sent to proclaim the Resurrection, because Jesus has not died yet!  At the end of the Gospel, the Apostles will be sent to proclaim the Gospel and thereby build Jesus’ Church.

In today’s Gospel passage, however, the Twelve are being sent for a simpler mission.  Jesus “sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”  This two-fold mission is interesting.  How does it relate to the mission that the Apostles will begin to carry out on Pentecost?  Is proclaiming “the Kingdom of God” the same thing as proclaiming the Gospel?  Why does Jesus here give the Apostles power to heal the sick, but not to raise the dead?

Although a book could be written trying to answer these questions, reflect today on the way in which you yourself have been sent by God in the past, and may be sent for a new mission today or very soon.  At any point on one’s earthly journey, the Lord can surprise you with a new request.  Like the Hebrews at the first Passover, we must be ready to move as the Lord asks.

St. Vincent de Paul, Priest
Ecclesiastes 1:2-11   +   Luke 9:7-9
September 27, 2018

Nothing is new under the sun.

In our First Reading today, we continue to hear from the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament.  But we are not still hearing from the Book of Proverbs.  We hear today through Saturday from the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes is probably best known for its opening verses, from the very first chapter, from which we have heard today.  The writer of this book, who is named Qoheleth, is talking about the uselessness, or vanity, of things in this world.  We hear:  “Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities!  All things are vanity!”  This sounds like a reading for a Monday morning, maybe.  We might figure, from hearing today’s passage, that this Book of Ecclesiastes is a pretty depressing book.  Why would God want a book like this in the Bible?

You might guess that not all twelve chapters of Ecclesiastes are like the first one.  Qoheleth is trying to make a point, much like the point that we try to make ourselves during the season of Lent.  When you give up pop or candy all during Lent, are you saying that pop and candy are bad?  Are pop and candy evil?  We know that they’re not, but on the other hand:  can pop and candy get you to Heaven?

This is the question that the Wisdom Literature of the Bible concerns itself with:  which things can help us get to Heaven, and which things cannot?  The things in this world that cannot help us get to Heaven are vain:  they are vanities, as Qoheleth says.  They may have some meaning and value, but in the end, that meaning or value is going to pass away.  So, Qoheleth wants us to ask ourselves:  if we have the things of God over here, and worldly things—vanities—over there, which group of things should we give more attention to each day?

Friday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Ecclesiastes 3:1-11  +  Luke 9:18-22
September 28, 2018

There is an appointed time for everything….

Today’s First Reading is one of the Old Testament options for a Requiem Mass.  The first two-thirds of the passage are striking, as the phrase “a time to…” is proclaimed repeatedly.  Taken together, all these descriptions of times in a man’s life stand in contrast to the immortal life than one enters after his death.  This passage can stir something profound in the hearts of those attending a Requiem Mass.  They may leave the church pondering how the “times” of their own earthly lives fit into a larger picture.

The first sentence of today’s Gospel passage shouldn’t be overlooked in this regard.  “Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with Him.”  This might seem like an odd statement, perhaps even contradictory.  But from the larger canvas on which all four Gospel accounts are drawn, we see several portraits of Jesus as one who prays intensely, at length, in solitude, and often.  That His disciples were with Him doesn’t mean that they were all engaged in prayer together, but that they had the occasion to witness Jesus in this intense, solitary prayer with His Father.

The point of this first sentence within the context of today’s Gospel passage, however, is heard in what Jesus says next.  “Who do the crowds say that I am?”  After they offer the view of the crowds, Jesus asks, “But who do you say that I am?”  After they give their own view, Jesus offers His view of His own identity.  This portrait of Himself as the “Suffering Servant” who will be raised on the third day was most likely the content of His prayer moments earlier.  There is no doubt about Jesus accepting this call from the Father.  But the disciples’ reactions show that most of them could not accept Jesus as someone called to suffer, much less accept such a call themselves.  We might make an examination of conscience, asking if we ourselves are like these disciples.

Sts. Michael, Gabriel & Raphael, Archangels
Daniel 7:9-10,13-14  +  John 1:47-51
September 29, 2018

“…you will see Heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

About a month from now, the Church will celebrate All Saints’ Day, when we spend time thinking about the “lives of the saints”.  But it’s sort of difficult to read up about, and learn about the lives of today’s saints since they haven’t led “lives” in our normal sense of the word.  Furthermore, their lives are still going on as always.  Still, these three saints—the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael—are a very important part of our Catholic prayer and belief.

These archangels—among the most important of all the angels—are messengers who carry the most important messages from God to human beings like us.

St. Michael, in the beginning, was the one who had to fight against the devil, and force him out of Heaven as punishment for turning against God.  At the end of time, it will be St. Michael who will lead all the good angels in battle against the fallen angels in league with the devil.  But in between the beginning and end of time, Michael protects all those who call upon him, to defend them in the day of battle, which is any day when we face temptation, and are tempted not to love God completely, or tempted not to love our neighbor as our self.

St. Gabriel, by contrast , goes to the heart and center of history, with the most important message that God ever wanted delivered.  It was Gabriel whom God chose to deliver the message to Mary that she should be our Blessed Mother, because God’s own Son should be born from her, that Son destined to be the Savior of all mankind.

In these archangels, we honor three models for the vocation to which God has called all of us through the Sacrament of Baptism.  In word and action, we—like the angels—serve God, and bear His messages to others, all of which are about the sort of love with which God loves us.

Even when we have sinned, God continues to love us, and wants us to draw closer to Him through Jesus.  But when we pray and realize how great God’s mercy towards us is, we are called to take that same message to others, and let others know of God’s love for them.  Even more, we are called to offer forgiveness to others:  to be God’s messenger of love and mercy by forgiving others in the same way that God has forgiven us.