St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin
Zechariah 8:20-23  +  Luke 9:51-56
October 1, 2019

   He resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem….   

Jesus sets out for Jerusalem.  The name “Jerusalem” literally means “city of peace”.  It’s there that Jesus will be condemned to death for our sins, and from there led to Calvary, a hill just outside the city limits.  Calvary is the only way that leads to our destination:  the Father’s city of eternal peace, the heavenly Jerusalem.

As Jesus heads resolutely to Jerusalem, the City of Peace, He knows that His vocation is to bring peace to each human person.  Peace is often, unfortunately, not commonplace in our earthly lives.  You and I may not face the sort of persecution that the martyrs faced, but we never seem to have peace as we would wish.  Nonetheless, Jesus at the Last Supper said, “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you”.  So where is this peace in our lives?

Every day God calls us to follow Him.  If we worthily receive the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Jesus in the Eucharist, He will strengthen us at every “now” of daily life.  He wants us to accept the spiritual strength we need to cultivate the virtues of human life.  These virtues allow the flourishing and flowering of authentic peace in our lives.

St. Therese

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin & Doctor of the Church

St. Jerome, Priest & Doctor of the Church

St. Jerome, Priest & Doctor of the Church
Zechariah 8:1-8  + Luke 9:46-50
September 30, 2019

   “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 is the child nursing peacefully with his mother.

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.  We consider Calvary, and Jesus entrusting Mary and the Beloved Disciple to each other’s care.  This Beloved Disciple, child of Mary, is our icon for spiritual childhood.

St. Jerome

St. Jerome, Priest & Doctor of the Church

The 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]

The 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
Am 6:1,4-7  +  1 Tim 6:11-16  +  Lk 16:19-31
September 29, 2019

“When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.”

As we gaze on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, if we only look at the two title characters, we miss something important.  We miss the Rich Man’s five brothers.  Turn your attention to these five brothers, and—just for a moment—away from the mercy for which Lazarus and the Rich Man beg.

We know very little about these five brothers.  We could presume that these five are like their brother in wearing fine clothing and dining sumptuously.  But we’re not told that outright.  The only details that we hear are that they’re still on earth, and that they need to repent.  Their brother in the netherworld tells us these two facts.

We see, then, that these five brothers represent us.  When Jesus first preached this parable, He was speaking to the Pharisees.  Jesus meant for the Pharisees to see themselves in those five brothers.  Yet like the Pharisees, you and I need to repent, and still have time on earth to do so.

The Rich Man failed to care for Lazarus during their earthly lives.  Jesus makes clear through this parable that both those in real need—such as Lazarus—and those who neglect the needy—such as the Rich Man—meet with God’s justice after death.  Lazarus is “carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham”, while the Rich Man in “the netherworld [is] in torment”.

Here we see how Jesus’ parable drives our focus towards the Rich Man’s five brothers still on earth.  It’s commendable that the Rich Man while in eternal torment would have such a selfless thought:  not wanting his brothers to end up like him.  Nonetheless, Jesus’ point is not the Rich Man’s selflessness after death, but the pointlessness of the Rich Man’s good deed.  The five brothers already have “Moses and the prophets”.  They have what they need to direct their lives towards Heaven, but their lives are still empty, because they don’t recognize their need to give.

God has built into your heart—into your “spiritual DNA”, if you will—this need to give.  This need to give lay dormant in the heart of the Rich Man in Jesus’ parable.  The need to give pulsed in his heart as he dressed finely and dined sumptuously each day.  This need to give is just as real as your need for healthful food, your need for clothing and shelter, and your need for rest.

The difficulty in the Rich Man’s life is that he allowed his needs to be shaped by his wants.  The Rich Man had an authentic need for food and drink, just as you and I, and Jesus and Mary and the saints, and every human being has.  This need is built into us by God in order to serve the physical needs of our bodies, so that through healthy bodies, we as persons can serve the needs of other persons.  This need is not there in order to be tickled by the tasty and the tempting.

The need for food and drink is very simple.  But we often change it into something that God did not design it to be.  That’s not to say that there’s something wrong with—for example—Thanksgiving dinners, or a dinner celebrating a wedding or a First Holy Communion.  But there is something wrong when one dines “sumptuously each day”:  when the tasty and tempting are one’s “daily bread”.

When we are complacent like the persons that Amos is preaching against in the First Reading—when we allow our needs to be shaped by our wants—we become tired and weak.  If we are weak and tired then it’s not possible to fill the bill that Saint Paul describes in the Second Reading.  St. Paul is preaching to his disciple Timothy when he encourages Timothy to live for God and neighbor, and not for himself.

Likewise, just as Moses, the prophets, and even a dead man rising to life again could not help the Rich Man’s brothers until they recognized their need to give, so all the gifts in our lives cannot help us reach Heaven until we recognize our need to give them away.

+     +     +

click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this liturgical Sunday (4:16)

click HERE to read the homily of Monsignor Charles Pope for this Sunday

click HERE to watch the homily of Archbishop Charles Chaput for this Sunday

+     +     +

click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2016 homily for this Sunday

click HERE to read Pope Emeritus Benedict’s 2010 Angelus address for this Sunday

click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s 2004 Angelus address for this Sunday

OT 26-0C

Saturday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Saturday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Zechariah 2:5-9,14-15  +  Luke 9:43-45
September 28, 2019

   “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.”   

Today’s Gospel passage, from fairly early in Luke’s Gospel account (in chapter 9 of 24 chapters), helps us to focus squarely on Jesus, even if His words here confuse the disciples.  You and I have the advantage of hindsight, of course, in knowing “the rest of the story” of the Gospel.  We know perfectly well what Jesus is referring to when He predicts that the “Son of Man is to be handed over to men.”

Still, we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back for being unlike the disciples portrayed today.  Consider the setting of today’s Gospel passage.  We need to recognize Jesus’ deliberateness in choosing the moment that He did to speak the words that He did:  it was “[w]hile they were all amazed at His every deed” that Jesus foretold His Passion.

What is the relationship between these two:  Jesus’ amazing deeds and His Passion?  Did Jesus foretell His Passion when He did to bring the disciples back down to earth, similar to the occasion of His Transfiguration?  Was Jesus wanting to minimize the significance of His amazing deeds, or at least to help the disciples realize that they were not the ultimate reason for His presence in their midst?  Reflect on these questions in the light of your own desire for God to work amazing deeds in your life, and your reluctance to share in the “handing over” of Jesus that He foretells today.

OT 25-6

St. Vincent de Paul, Priest

St. Vincent de Paul, Priest
Haggai 2:1-9  +  Luke 9:18-22
September 27, 2019

   Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him.   

The first sentence of today’s Gospel passage shouldn’t be overlooked.  “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 times a portrait 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 in His suffering, or in their own suffering as His disciples.  We might make an examination of conscience, asking if we ourselves are like these disciples.

St. Vincent de Paul

Thursday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Thursday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Haggai 1:1-8  +  Luke 9:7-9
September 26, 2019

   Consider your ways!  You have sown much, but have brought in little….   

Today’s First Reading consists of the first eight verses of the Book of Haggai.  While this book is found many books later in the order of the Old Testament canon than Ezra and Nehemiah, thematically the three of them are joined.  Haggai is one of the minor prophets of the Old Testament, and the book bearing his name is second to last in the Hebrew canon.

Where in Ezra and Nehemiah God had demanded that His Temple be rebuilt, in Haggai God recognizes that His people’s response has been to declare that “The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.”  Such bare-faced rejection of God’s Will is what God asks Haggai to confront.

God’s people were using misfortunes as justification for delaying the building of the Temple.  In the face of this, God points out that misfortunes point all the more to the need of the people to trust in His will, and to follow His commands.  We might reflect today on whether we’ve used misfortunes in our own lives as a way to get around—or as we tell ourselves, just to delay—our compliance with what God has asked of us.

Add. 42497

Wednesday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Wednesday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Ezra 9:5-9  +  Luke 9:1-6
September 24, 2019

   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.

OT 25-3

Tuesday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Tuesday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Ezra 6:7-8,12,14-20  +  Luke 8:19-21
September 24, 2019

   Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.   

Today’s First Reading, like yesterday’s, proclaims the might of God’s providential Will in the context of God’s people rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile.  Today’s passage from Ezra concludes by describing the dedication of the Temple and the priestly sacrifices offered.

Reflect, though, on today’s Responsorial Psalm.  Both yesterday’s and today’s Responsorials can be heard in light of the return from exile described in their First Readings.  Today’s Responsorial refrain is “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.”  The most obvious interpretation of this refrain within the Scriptures of yesterday and today is to imagine this verse being sung by the priests preparing to offer the Passover sacrifices.

However, as Christians you and I can see in these sacred events and places great foreshadowings.  One of the four ancient senses in which Christians have interpreted Scripture is called the “anagogical sense”, which simply means that people, places and things from long ago can point forward through time all the way to eternity as we may experience it in Heaven.

For example, the ancient Jewish Temple foreshadows Heaven itself, or more specifically, the inner life of the Trinity which is the life of Heaven.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, offers Himself eternally to the Father in Heaven, and so the Passover sacrifice points to this “part” of the experience of Heaven.  We as Christians are called to live the vocation God gave us at Baptism by offering sacrifices of thanks, not so much in imitation of the sacrifices in today’s First Reading, as in imitation of the Lamb of God whose self-sacrifice on Calvary revealed to us the love to which God invites us in Heaven.

OT 25-2

The Descent of the Holy Spirit by Louis Galloche [1670-1761]

St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest

St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest
Ezra 1:1-6  +  Luke 8:16-18
September 23, 2019

“‘…he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.’” 

Tomorrow and the next two days, the First Reading comes from the Book of Ezra.  To put this book into context within the Old Testament and within salvation history, at least two things ought to be kept in mind.

First, the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are sometimes considered a single book because their focus is so similar.  They fall within the latter half of the Old Testament section commonly called “the historical books”.  The period of history these books deal with is sometimes called “the second Exodus”, not from exile in Egypt but from the Babylonian exile.

Second, the return of the Chosen People to the Holy Land at this time was different from the Mosaic Exodus in that His people were returning to a land that had previously built up.  Chief among their works of reconstruction was the rebuilding of God’s Temple in Jerusalem.  This is one focus of the First Reading today and tomorrow.

Specifically, today’s First Reading—the opening six verses of Ezra—relates how the Persian king Cyrus was the instrument of God’s will.  This point might move us to reflect on the breadth of God’s holy Power amongst pagan culture, a reflection that might offer hope for our own day.

St. Padre Pio

Saint Padre Pio, also known as St. Pius of Pietrelcina, O.F.M. Cap. [1887-1968]