The Week of Oct. 1-6, 2018

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin & Doctor of the Church
Job 1:6-22  + Luke 9:46-50
October 1, 2018

“Whoever receives this child in My Name receives Me….”

During Christmastide we are used to thinking of Jesus—the divine Word made Flesh—dwelling among us as an infant.  But today, near the start of Autumn, Jesus counsels us to receive Him as a child.  Clearly, then, spiritual childhood isn’t just for Christmas!

To receive Jesus as a child means that the one who receives Jesus becomes a child him- or herself.

Spiritual childhood is a common theme in the literature of the Catholic masters of spirituality.  Of course, pondering this theme first requires a distinction between the childhood of fallen human nature and the childhood of what we might call either the “original human nature” or the “redeemed human nature”.  What does this distinction mean concretely?  We can picture this distinction by comparing two different images:  on the one hand is a two-year-old who refuses to go to sleep; on the other, the child resting peacefully upon his mother’s chest.

In addition to what Jesus says in today’s Gospel passage, we can use a Scriptural image to help us picture the spiritual childhood to which the Christian is called.  Consider Calvary, where Jesus entrusts Mary and the Beloved Disciple to each other’s care.  This Beloved Disciple, child of Mary, is our icon for spiritual childhood.

The Holy Guardian Angels
Job 3:1-3,11-17,20-23  +  Matthew 18:1-5,10
October 2, 2018

“…their angels in Heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Our Guardian Angels shed light upon the path that we must walk.  When our struggles each day seem too great, they extend a ray of hope down upon us from God.  They allow us to see the face of Our Crucified and Risen Lord, who having shared in our suffering helps us share in His Resurrection, even in the midst of suffering.

Our Guardian Angels guard us from the snares of our enemies.  As the Devil tries time and again to convince us that his way—easier and broader than God’s—is the way that will bring us happiness, our guardians remind us that the Way of the Cross is the only path to the Father.

Our Guardian Angels rule us as we slip from the narrow path.  As we fall prey to the temptations of the Devil, our guardians do not abandon us.  Sharing in the boundless love of our Savior, they do not fail to stand by us even then.  They convince us, as they nurse our consciences back to health, that the Cross is the only true remedy for our constant falling away from God.

Our Guardian Angels guide us by bidding us to share in the sacraments of the Church.  For all their power, our guardians entrust us to the care of Holy Mother Church, since in her care we most truly belong.  For the Church is their Mother, too.  All the angels are fellow members of the Church, and as the Church’s children we imitate the words of Jesus when like little children we recognize and thank those who are our guardians.

Wednesday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Job 9:1-12,14-16  +  Luke 9:57-62
October 3, 2018

“I will follow you wherever you go.”

The two most important moments of your life are now and the hour of your death.  Likely we’ve known others who live as if death will never arrive, living only for “now”.  The spiritual goal is constantly to relate the two to each other:  that is, now, and the hour of your death.  The world around us, especially schools that want to churn out what they call “achievers”, seeks by contrast to relate every now to goals that one plans for:  goals to be realized next week, next month, next year, or upon retirement.  Those are all short-sighted if they’re not set within the larger context of one’s death.

In fact, everything we do now, or don’t do now, bears on that hour of our death.  By everything we do or don’t do, we choose whether to follow Jesus.

If you are firmly resolved to prepare your self for the hour of your death, you will be firmly resolved in the “now” of every moment to follow what God is calling you to do.  Here we have to be mindful of the way in which God dwells in the present moment.  The need of a human person in the here and now often upsets our well-laid plans.  But Jesus often presents Himself to us in the present moment in the guise of those in need.

In other words, God’s will is the thread that links the pearls of each now of your life, along with the hour of your death.  These are pearls of great price, so don’t squander them.

St. Francis of Assisi
Job 19:21-27  +  Luke 10:1-12
October 4, 2018

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few….”

The Church often quotes verses from today’s Gospel passage in her promotion of vocations.  However, these seventy-two to whom Jesus speaks are appointed and sent for a specific reason.  They are sent “ahead of” Jesus, not in His name or in His person.  They are sent “in pairs to every town and place He intended to visit.”  They are “advance teams”, if you will.  In the general sense in which they are sent ahead of Jesus, we can consider these 72 as symbolizing all baptized Christians.  What Jesus says to them speaks today to each Christian.

Jesus offers many brief sayings in today’s Gospel passage.  All are loosely joined together.  Many can be singled out and meditated upon for a long period of time.  Take this proclamation of the Lord:  “behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.”  It’s not difficult for a Christian disciple to use these words as a justification for self-righteousness in the face of any opposition, justified or not.  Nonetheless, that possibility doesn’t nullify the meaning of Jesus’ words.  At our best, we disciples are “lambs among wolves”.  We might wonder, if that’s our best, then what’s the worst?

While each Christian might be tempted to turn away from the “vocation” to be a lamb, perhaps we can take solace in two simple Gospel truths.  Our Lord and Savior is the Good Shepherd [John 10:11] as well as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world [John 1:29].

Friday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Job 38:1,12-21;40:3-5  +  Luke 10:13-16
October 5, 2018

Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer You?

Sometimes religion is thought to be a quite humorless affair.  Those who practice a religion are thought to be sour in temperament.  The Bible itself is thought to be cold, harsh, and humorless.  The reality of the matter is far different.

The Sacred Scriptures contain many instances of humor.  Admittedly, this humor is not always easy to catch.  Our First Reading today, from the Book of Job, is an example of the subtle, almost ironic humor that often appears in the pages of Scripture.

Job has just finished asking God why he has had to suffer, almost demanding that God explain Himself.  God’s reply is not quite mockery, but it does attempt, very subtly, to put things in perspective:  Job in relation to God; creature in relation to Creator.  From the midst of a storm, itself a sign of God’s power over nature, the Lord rhetorically asks Job:  “Have you entered into the sources of the sea, or walked about in the depths of the abyss?”

Certainly God is putting Job in his place.  Job very likely wouldn’t have seen humor in God’s irony.  But we shouldn’t forget how the Book of Job ends.  The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his earlier ones.  The last words of Job in the book are spoken in response to God.  After all the trials he undergoes, he says to God:  “I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know.”

Saturday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Job 42:1-3,5-6,12-17  +  Luke 10:17-24
October 6, 2018

“…you have revealed them to the childlike.”

It’s rare for Jesus, in any of the four Gospel accounts, to speak directly to God the Father.  Because of this rarity, we ought to privilege those verses where we get to “overhear” Jesus address His divine Father.  We might even consider these verses as models for our own prayers, inasmuch as through Baptism we are adopted children of God the Father.

First, we ought to note the context of Jesus’ words to God the Father.  The 72 disciples have returned to Jesus rejoicing that demons are subject to them because of Jesus’ name.  However, Jesus tells them not to rejoice because of such power over demons, but to rejoice instead because their names are written in Heaven.  Jesus is subordinating the disciples’ ministry—as important as it is—to the relationship that each has with the One Jesus teaches them to address as “Our Father, who art in heaven”.

Also, it’s important to note that St. Luke the Evangelist immediately prefaces the words of Jesus to God the Father with the observation that Jesus “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit”.  This is significant because St. Luke, more than the other three evangelists, stresses the role of the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.  Here, the words by which Jesus praises the Father are spoken “in the Holy Spirit”.  As the Holy Spirit is the love of God the Father and God the Son for each other, so by the Holy Spirit each adopted child of God finds the inspiration to pray to God more fervently and authentically.