St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest
Leviticus 25:1,8-17  +  Matthew 14:1-12
July 31, 2021

His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who took it to her mother.

On August 29, the Church celebrates the Passion of St. John the Baptist, and on that memorial we hear his passion narrative according to Saint Mark.  Today’s Gospel Reading offers us this narrative according to St. Matthew the Evangelist.

Jesus does not appear in today’s Gospel passage.  His name is mentioned twice.  Focus on the latter instance, where His name is in fact the last word of the passage.  This is fitting.  In terms of the life and Passion of St. John the Baptist, Jesus is the last word.

John is often considered the last of the Old Testament prophets.  Like many prophets, he was killed because of his witness to God’s Word.  The uniqueness of John’s life and Passion lay in how they intertwined with those of the Word made Flesh.

You and I, as Christian disciples, have been baptized into the role of prophet.  It is part of our baptismal commitment to profess the truth of the Gospel no matter what the cost to us.  At times we profess this Truth through our actions; at other times, through our words.  How often do we count the cost first before deciding whether to speak the Truth?  It’s certainly necessary to exercise the virtue of prudence is proclaiming the Truth.  But we need to ask St. John’s the Baptist’s intercession if we’re ever tempted to refrain from the Truth because of fear.

OT 17-6

Friday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Friday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Leviticus 23:1,4-11,15-16,27,34-37  +  Matthew 13:54-58
July 30, 2021

“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place ….”

The last sentence of today’s Gospel passage presents something of a conundrum.  No matter how we interpret the fact that Jesus “did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith”, we are challenged.

Some might interpret these words to mean that Jesus’ power to work miracles was constrained by the lack of faith of those in His hometown.  More sensible, however, is to see Jesus’ lack of miracles as a prudent choice on His part.  It doesn’t require faith on the part of people for God to work miracles.  It requires faith on the part of people for God’s miracles to bring about their primary goal.  God’s goal when He completely cures someone who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer is not to give that person immortal life on earth.  His goal is to bring the one cured and those around him to a greater practice of love for God and neighbor, so as to give them immortal life in Heaven.

We are challenged, then, to admit where we lack faith in our own lives.  We are challenged to allow the miracles that God works to bear fruit in our lives.  We are challenged not to live for ourselves, but for others, beginning with the Other who calls us to share in His life of love.

OT 17-5

The Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]

The Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]
Exodus 16:2-4,12-15  +  Ephesians 4:17,20-24  +  John 6:24-35
August 1, 2021

“I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Any Scripture passage that you pray over will echo many others in Sacred Scripture.  Take Jesus’ statement in today’s Gospel passage:  “I am the Bread of Life”.  Open your mind to the whole of Sacred Scripture.

Every passage in Scripture where “bread” is spoken about, or “life” is spoken about, relates to these words of Jesus.  There are hundreds of such examples in the Bible.  But start simply within the same book and chapter of the Bible from which this sentence comes, and then move outwards, like the ripples in a pond after a stone falls down into its center.

Saint John the Evangelist refers to “bread” not only in John 6.  Like the other three evangelists, he precedes his account of Jesus’ Death with an account of the Last Supper.  It’s not a coincidence that at the beginning of John 6—which we heard last Sunday—the evangelist notes that “The Jewish feast of Passover was near” [John 6:4].  Jesus chose this sacred time of the year to teach His disciples that He is “the Bread of Life”.  In a later year of Jesus’ life, He chose this sacred time again in order to institute the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  St. John wants those listening to his Gospel account to reflect on how everything Jesus says in Chapter Six strikes a chord with Jesus’ teaching at the Last Supper.

What Jesus prays to the Father in John 17 flows from what Jesus had taught in John 6.  Praying to the Father at the Last Supper about you and all His other disciples, Jesus says, “I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me” [John 17:22-23].  This is the end goal.

But then, remember the ripples in the pond.  Move outwards.  Consider the other three Gospel accounts, the other books in the New Testament, and then the books of the Old Testament.  Many Old Testament events relate to Jesus proclaiming, “I am the Bread of Life.”  The most powerful come from the Book of Exodus, and relate to Israel’s Passover from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised land.

Today’s First Reading is from Chapter 16 of Exodus.  The Israelites are only one month past their escape from slavery in Egypt.  But to them, there seems to be no end to their wandering.  They begin to tell themselves that they were better off as slaves in Egypt, complaining to Moses and Aaron:  “Would that we had died… in the land of Egypt, as we… ate our fill of bread!”

However, in response to their ingratitude, the Lord not only does not punish them.  The Lord mercifully says, “I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.  Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion”:  that is, their “daily bread”.  What the Lord begins that day to give them is a bread to satisfy physical hunger.  But He is clearly working something deeper at the same time.

This “daily bread” is meant to give the Israelites hope.  Yet though the Lord gives this bread to the Israelites daily for almost forty years, He does not do so perpetually.  This “daily bread” continues only until they arrive at the Promised Land.  Then it ceases, because the Lord has something greater yet in store for them.

Through this we understand better Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel passage.  Jesus says to you today, “Do not work for food that perishes but for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”  The Son of Man gave you this food—“the Bread of Life”; that is, Himself—at the Last Supper.  He gave you “the Bread of Life” on the day of your First Holy Communion, and He offers Himself up for you at each celebration of Holy Mass, to strengthen you for the long earthly pilgrimage to the end goal of Heaven.

Sts. Martha, Mary, & Lazarus

Sts. Martha, Mary, & Lazarus
Exodus 40:16-21,34-38  +  John 11:19-27 [or Luke 10:38-42]
July 29, 2021

Click HERE for the new propers for today’s feast.

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.”

On this revised feast of Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, the Gospel Reading must come from the feast day.  The other readings may come from the day in Ordinary Time, which the feast supersedes.  However, there are two options for the Gospel Reading on this feast.

The first option offers a bit more flattering portrait of Martha.  The occasion is the death of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary.  Martha goes out to meet Jesus, while Mary sits at home, which is an interesting contrast to the sisters’ respective roles in the other Gospel Reading for the feast.  Martha’s words to Jesus express not only her love for her deceased brother, but also for Jesus, as well as faith in Jesus.  Yet Martha is missing something.  When Jesus declares to Martha, “Your brother will rise”, she does not understand fully what Jesus means.  Jesus is promising that her brother will return to her, not on “the last day”, but on that very day when Jesus and Martha are speaking.  It’s to Martha’s credit that when Jesus makes more clear His intention, Martha makes clear her faith in Jesus.  This faith in Jesus, who is “the resurrection and the life”, is a model for our own faith.

The second option for the feast’s Gospel Reading is perhaps the better-known Gospel story about Martha.  Martha is overshadowed by her sister Mary, the latter being an example of putting “first things first”.  Nonetheless, perhaps the example of Martha in this passage is more like most of us Christians.  To identify with Martha in this passage is to humble ourselves and to recall that our good works are empty if they don’t proceed from a faith that’s nourished by the Word of God.

Martha and Mary

Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Exodus 34:29-35  +  Matthew 13:44-46
July 28, 2021

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.”

Jesus offers us two brief parables today, both metaphors describing “the Kingdom of Heaven”.  Either parable and its imagery would suffice for a day’s meditation.  Perhaps we could meditate, though, upon common threads between the two.

In the first parable, the treasure is buried.  In the second, the pearl of great price is sought by a merchant.  In both cases, the object of great value and meaning has to be discovered.  But there’s a difference between the two.  While the treasure is out of sight, presumably the pearl is in plain sight, yet like a needle in a haystack as it rests amidst many other items in the market.

In the first parable, we don’t know whether the person who finds the treasure was looking for it, or chanced upon it.  In the second parable, Jesus tells us that the merchant was actively “searching for fine pearls”.  The differences and possible differences between these two parables allows us to apply them to various situations in real life.  After all, sometimes an individual seeks the Faith for many years before receiving it as a gift from God.  Others, like St. Paul on the road to Damascus, are struck by what seems a bolt from the blue.  Nonetheless, for all, faith in Christ and life in Christ are a treasure worth all that we have to give.

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Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Exodus 33:7-11;34:5-9,28  +  Matthew 13:36-43
July 27, 2021

   “Whoever has ears ought to hear.”   

In today’s Gospel passage Jesus offers a point-by-point explanation of the parable that He preached in the passage proclaimed a few days earlier in the cycle of Ordinary Time weekdays.  The evangelists rarely offer us examples of Jesus explaining a parable, so today’s passage is insightful not only in terms of the parable’s content, but also in terms of Jesus’ method of using parables.

We might wonder, to start with, what the significance is of the evangelist telling us that it’s after “Jesus dismissed the crowds” that “His disciples approached Him” to ask for an explanation of the parable.  This is an important distinction that the evangelist didn’t have to note for Jesus’ explanation to make sense.  Perhaps the evangelist is highlighting the importance of petitioning God for deeper insight into His revealed Word.

Jesus explains the meanings of seven persons or things from the parable.  This allegorical explanation of the parable is important because it’s in accord with the method of interpreting Jesus’ parables commonly found in the writings of the saints in the patristic and medieval periods of Church history.  This method is often rejected today by scholars who offer their own theories about the interpretation of parables.  It’s important to note that among those whom modern scholars criticize are not only canonized saints whose holiness is proven, but also—as we hear today—Our Lord Himself!

OT 17-2

Sts. Joachim & Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Sts. Joachim & Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Exodus 32:15-24,30-34  +  Matthew 13:31-35
July 26, 2021

“But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it ….”

If you work on a computer, you know how many things one can do with them.  They can help us with our homework, with our finances, with preparing a talk, with sending messages and pictures to our loved ones by email.  The list seems endless.

The more we get used to working with computers, the more we get used to doing what the professionals call “multi-tasking”:  that is, trying to do several things at once.  With computers, this means printing one thing, sending an email, downloading a file, and so on and so forth, all at once.  With computers, the more you can multi-task, the smarter you are.  Or so the theory supposes.

Jesus is saying something very different in today’s Gospel passage.  The parable that He tells us has a simple point:  we need to focus on God in order to love Him.  In a way, Jesus’ parable reminds us of what Jesus said to Martha when He visited the home of Martha and Mary.  Martha and Mary were very different sisters.  Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, listening to His words, while Martha was multi-tasking all over the house.  Mary focused her attention on Jesus, while Martha did not.

Your soul is like a field.  Jesus wants to sow good seed in your soul so that, at the end of your life in this world, He can find a rich field of grace to harvest.  But the parable that Jesus tells us shows that even though Jesus takes good seed everywhere He goes, some fields—some souls—are better than others.  The good soul, ready to accept the seed of God’s Word, is the soul that focuses on God.  This is the person who prays daily to God, asks His help, and knows that God will forgive all sins.  When we look at the crucifix, and pray to Jesus, focusing on His love for us, we see the One who will lead us to life forever with Him in Heaven.

Sts. Joachim and Anne

La Educación de la Virgen by Diego Velázquez [1599-1660]

for the optional Scripture readings for Sts. Joachim & Anne, click HERE

Saturday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Saturday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Exodus 24:3-8  +  Matthew 13:24-30
July 24, 2021

“Where have the weeds come from?”

“Let them grow together until harvest,” the sower in Jesus’ parable says, referring to the weeds and the wheat.  Modern farmers may not follow the sower’s advice, but the parable is clearly meant to teach a lesson in spirituality, not agriculture.

Jesus begins the parable by clarifying that He is describing the “Kingdom of heaven”.  Some speculate whether the “Kingdom of heaven” and the “Kingdom of God” that Jesus often describes in parables are synonymous with Heaven itself, or with the Church on earth, or with both.  The history of the Church on earth makes it clear—to anyone whose hopes for Heaven are at all lofty—that there’s a significant difference between Heaven and the Church on earth.  Perhaps, then, the kingdoms that Jesus describes through His parables are ideals to be striven for?

Whether we answer any of those questions or not, we can derive spiritual principles from the parables that any sincere Christian will want to make her own.  Regarding today’s parable, the sincere Christian will naturally ask whether he is one of the weeds or one of the tares of wheat.  At different times we may be one or the other.  If we’re constantly complaining about “others” in our lives—”those weeds”—then we likely need to make a good examination of conscience.

One purpose of the parables is to give our daily life focus:  as the old maxim puts it, “to begin each day with the end in mind”.  In other words, we ought not live each day for the sake of each day.  We ought to live each day for the sake of the eternal Day that lies just beyond the hour of our death, when our Lord will, with divine circumspection and justice, separate the weeds from the wheat.

OT 16-6

Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Exodus 20:1-17  +  Matthew 13:18-23
July 23, 2021

“But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it ….”

If you work on a computer you know that how many things one can do with them.  They can help us with our homework, with our finances, with preparing a talk, with sending messages and pictures to our loved ones by email.  The list seems endless.

The more we get used to working with computers, the more we get used to doing what the professionals call “multi-tasking”:  that is, trying to do several things at once.  With computers, this means printing one thing, sending an email, downloading a file, and so on and so forth, all at once.  With computers, the more you can multi-task, the smarter you are.  Or so the theory supposes.

Jesus is saying something very different in today’s Gospel passage.  The parable that He tells us has a simple point:  we need to focus on God in order to love Him.  In a way, Jesus’ parable reminds us of what Jesus said to Martha when He visited the home of Martha and Mary.  Martha and Mary were very different sisters.  Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, listening to His words, while Martha was multi-tasking all over the house.  Mary focused her attention on Jesus, while Martha did not.

Your soul is like a field.  Jesus wants to sow good seed in your soul so that, at the end of your life in this world, He can find a rich field of grace to harvest.  But the parable that Jesus tells us shows that even though Jesus takes good seed everywhere He goes, some fields—some souls—are better than others.  The good soul, ready to accept the seed of God’s Word, is the soul that focuses on God.  This is the person who prays daily to God, asks His help, and knows that God will forgive all sins.  When we look at the crucifix, and pray to Jesus, focusing on His love for us, we see the One who will lead us to life forever with Him in Heaven.

Jesus sowing seed 2