Tuesday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Tuesday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Deuteronomy 31:1-8  +  Matthew 18:1-5,10,12-14
August 13, 2019

   “See that you do not despise one of these little ones….”    

For you to be one of God’s “little ones” means to live your life in Christ, and at the same time to allow Christ to live His life in you.  This simply means having the relationship between Jesus and His Father live in your own heart and mind.  This is something mystical, and so difficult to describe in language.  Nonetheless, it’s part and parcel of being a Christian.  It’s not just for cloistered monks and nuns.

By contrast, it’s not as if an ordinary Christian first reads from the Bible about Jesus and the Father, and then says, “Gee, I’d like to have that kind of relationship with God the Father.  I think I’ll try to imitate Jesus.”  You cannot enter a relationship by means of imitation.  To think that one can is to put the cart before the horse.

To think that one can is to ignore the truth that at your baptism, the two events of being adopted by God the Father and becoming a member of the Mystical Body of Christ are part and parcel of each other.  Both are accomplished at the same time by God the Father’s love.  In other words, it’s not so much that Jesus is our “older brother” spiritually, whose relationship with the Father we admire and then try to imitate.  Rather, it’s as members of Christ’s own Mystical Body that you and I share in the sonship of Jesus.

To ignore all this—to put that cart before the horse—is to forget that any relationship between a father and child is based on the primacy of the father’s love.  We don’t focus upon this enough in our time of meditation.  Especially in a culture like ours, children are at risk of believing that it’s their accomplishments that earn them their earthly fathers’ and God’s love.  But the Beloved Disciple in his first epistle reminds us of that key truth of the spiritual life, that “in this is love:  not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us, and offered His Son as an expiation for our sins” [1 John 4:10].

OT 19-2

Monday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Monday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Deuteronomy 10:12-22  +  Matthew 17:22-27
August 12, 2019

   “Give that to them for me and for you.”   

Jesus sometimes worked grand spectacles through His miracles.  But as impressive as they are, spectacles were not the norm for Jesus.  More frequent is what, in the life of St. Thérèse the Little Flower, was called the “Little Way”.  Though the Little Flower coined the phrase, the Little Way is the Way of Jesus.

His way is one of simplicity and humility that often goes overlooked by those seeking spectacles.  It is a way that is ignored by those who are looking out for themselves, instead of others:  by those who justify their actions by claiming that they’re just doing what everyone else is doing, walking down the broad path, instead of trying to walk the narrow way that following Jesus demands.

The simplicity and humility of Jesus in today’s Gospel offers a very good meditation for today.  Jesus is not obligated to pay the tax that is demanded of Peter, but Jesus explains—“that we may not offend them”—that He will pay the tax anyhow.  The miracle by which Jesus accomplishes this almost goes unnoticed, because it’s not the point.  Jesus’ point is to teach by humility, to teach by doing what is not necessary, but which can lead others to see that Little Way that—after a long journey through a life of service in this world—does lead to the great vision of eternal life with God and His saints.

OT 19-1

The 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]

The 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
Wis 18:6-9  +  Heb 11:1-2,8-19  +  Lk 12:32-48
August 11, 2019

   “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much….”   

When Jesus says these words about us, two questions immediately arise.  First, what has Jesus entrusted us with?  Second, what therefore will be required of us?

Each of us, naturally, has been given the gift of life.  You’ve probably seen the bumper sticker that says, “Smile:  your mom chose life!”  In our day and age, this is not a gift that we ought to take for granted.  Still, when we thank God each day for the gift of life, what exactly are we giving thanks for?

Human life has two parts to it:  body and soul.  Like the lower forms of animals, we have bodies that are subject on the one hand to hunger and physical pain, and on the other hand to the pleasures of good meals and the process of physical healing.

However, unlike the lower animals, we humans can find meaning even in bodily suffering and pain.  Yet we can discover this meaning only through our souls.  The human soul is the means through which we can, if we choose, rise above being merely an animal.  “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much….”  God has entrusted each of us with a human soul, and that’s not a gift to be underestimated.

“In the beginning”, “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness….’”  In those words, we hear how much God has entrusted us with, in giving each of us a human soul.  The human soul is given to a person at the moment of his or her conception:  that moment when the human body starts to exist from the gifts given by the father and the mother.  But while the human body comes from a child’s parents, the human soul comes directly from God at that moment of conception.  So what about that soul:  what kind of gift is it that God gave each of us at the moment of conception?

If there’s a single word that sums up the power, the meaning, and the aim of the human soul, it’s the word “transcendence”.  The human soul allows man to transcend himself.  There’s nothing more boring, numbing, and deadly than to live for oneself.  Unfortunately, the message of the world around us is to do just that:  to live for oneself.  But Christ calls us to live for others.  The powers of the human soul, when animated by God’s grace, allow us to live for others and to rejoice in doing so.

Here is what God requires of us:  to transcend ourselves in living for others, both the others who are our neighbors, and the Other who is God.  Living for others means loving those others.  This is a high bar, of course, that God has set for us.  Everything that’s sinful in us inclines us to live for ourselves, because living for ourselves is so much more comfortable.  But God did not make us for comfort.  If you doubt that, look at the crucifix.  As a saint once said, “The crucifix is the true answer to every heresy.”

The fathers of the Church at the Second Vatican Council declared that “it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear.”  In other words, “Look at the crucifix.”  If you want to know what it means to be human; if you want to know what man is meant for; if you want to know the antidote to human misery, selfishness, and frustration with the meaningless of living the good life of comfort:  look at the crucifix.

The soul is a vessel of grace.  Grace is the power of God’s life that makes us strong enough to clear that very high bar that God has set for us:  the bar of living for others instead of for ourselves.  “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much….”  God has entrusted each of us with soul and body in order to offer those up each day for others.  The crucifix shows us how.  The Eucharist gives us the strength to do so.

click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this liturgical Sunday (5:55)

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

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

+     +     +

click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2016 Angelus address for this Sunday

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

click HERE to read a commentary of St. John Paul II on this Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm

OT 19-0C

Adoration of the Trinity by Vicente López Portaña [1772-1850]

St. Lawrence, Deacon & Martyr

St. Lawrence, Deacon & Martyr
2 Corinthians 9:6-10  +  John 12:24-26
August 10, 2019

   …whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.   

In the year of Our Lord 258, Saint Lawrence offered the wealth of the Church to those who had nothing of their own.  Lawrence was the chief deacon—the arch-deacon—of the Diocese of Rome.  Part of the responsibility of a deacon is to proclaim the Word of God, to look after the material goods of the Church, and to care for the poor, and so as the chief deacon of a diocese as large as Rome, Lawrence held a great deal of responsibility.

He was called to act upon all these roles one day when Pope Sixtus II was put under civil arrest (Christianity still being an illegal religion).  Not long after, the pope was martyred, and Lawrence knew that he would be one of the next Christians the Empire would come after.  So Lawrence sought out the poor, widows, and orphans of Rome, and gave them all the money he held, selling even the sacred vessels of the Church.

The civil prefect of Rome called Lawrence before him and demanded that he produce the treasure of the Church.  Lawrence then gathered together the blind and the lame, the leprous, the widows and orphans, and lined them up before the prefect’s villa.  When the prefect arrived, Lawrence simply said, “Here is the treasure of the Church.”  The prefect not only did not understand Lawrence’s words.  He also did not understand Lawrence spending his life in the service of such people.  It’s unlikely, in fact, that the prefect cared, since four days after the death of the pope, Lawrence was martyred as well, on August Tenth.

Saint Lawrence understood that the true wealth of the Church lays in the manner in which our lives touch the lives of others.  In our own lives as Christians, one of the most important challenges we face is to realize to what extent—both for good and evil—our lives are connected to the lives of others.

St. Lawrence - Fra Angelico

St. Lawrence Distributing Alms by Fra Angelico [1395-1455]

 

Friday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Friday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Deuteronomy 4:32-40  +  Matthew 16:24-28
August 9, 2019

   “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”  

Our souls need nourishment and healing before we spend our selves trying to solve the problems of our own lives and those of the world.  We must be willing to admit, first of all, that we are sinners, and that our sins seriously wound our souls.  Our souls need not only the nourishment of prayer, but the healing that comes from the forgiveness of our sins.  After all, it is in this regard that Jesus is our Messiah, our Savior.  God the Son became human not to save us from the Caesar, or from the IRS, or from our neighbors:  Jesus died to save us from the snares of the Devil.  God the Son became human not to take away our worries, financial debts, or arguments with others:  Jesus died to take away our sins.

Once we regain this perspective in our lives, we realize how truly we need Christ’s help.  Yet at the same time, we hear Christ’s words to his disciples in today’s Gospel passage:  “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

Christ has died for us on the Cross, but we must join in His saving work.  We must do penance.  We must organize the time and energies of our lives so that they draw others closer to God.  In our speech, in the patience with which we do things and deal with others, through our charitable deeds, we can deny our sinful selves and become more like Christ.  In doing all this, we should never underestimate or believe that we can imagine what graces God will bestow upon us through our acting by means of His grace.

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Today is the optional memorial of
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, O.C.D.

St. Dominic, Priest

St. Dominic, Priest
Numbers 20:1-13  +  Matthew 16:13-23
August 8, 2019

   “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”   

Today’s Gospel passage is well-known for revealing Jesus’ intention of founding His Church on the rock of faith, personified both in the individual Simon Peter, and in the office of the papacy.  What sometimes is overlooked is what immediately follows.  These latter verses also reveal something important about the Church, about the office of the papacy, and about the men who hold that office.

When Jesus “began to show His disciples that He must” suffer and be killed, the newly appointed Peter begins to “rebuke” Jesus!  The word “rebuke” is not a soft one.  But Jesus immediately and forcefully corrects Peter, revealing to us that Peter’s office does not pertain to the personal concerns, insights or doubts of him who holds the office.  Nor is the officeholder of the papacy unable to err.

Peter’s error here counters the profession of faith that he had made, after which Jesus named him “Peter”.  Jesus at that point praised Peter’s confession of faith, and pointed out to him something key by stating:  “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father”.  Contrast these words with what Jesus says following Peter’s scandalous rebuke:  “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do”.

This contrast between the divine and the human is heard in the juxtaposition of Peter’s confession of Jesus and Jesus’ rebuke of Peter.  Peter’s confession is of Jesus’ divinity.  But Peter is rebuked because he refuses to accept Jesus’ humanity as the means of Jesus’ mission.  Each of us needs to accept Jesus’ mission of offering His Body and Blood on the Cross.  Through this mission, Jesus will fully offer divine life to those of us who place our faith in Him.

St. Dominic (2)

Saint Dominic de Guzmán
Priest & Founder of the Dominican Order

Wednesday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Wednesday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Numbers 13:1-2,25—14:1,26-29,34-35  +  Matthew 15:21-28
August 7, 2019

   “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”   

When the Israelites entered the Promised Land after the Exodus, they met up with the Canaanites, whom they considered to be wicked and godless, a race of people that they should exterminate.  This outlook persisted until the time of Jesus.  In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus explains that this outlook cannot be held by His followers.

The woman in the Gospel passage is a Canaanite.  She had enough faith in Jesus to ask Him to release her daughter from a demon.  But then Jesus says a shocking thing to the woman:  “It is not right to take the food of the sons and daughters and throw it to the dogs.”  These words do not represent Jesus’ own thoughts, but we see—because of the response that Jesus draws out of the woman, and because of Jesus’ action in reply—the lesson that Jesus has for His followers.

In the midst of our culture today, Jesus says to us, “Love is not exclusively for those who are dear to us.”  Jesus teaches that we must love those we may consider enemies, and pray for those who persecute us.

OT 18-3

The Transfiguration of the Lord [C]

The Transfiguration of the Lord [C]
Daniel 7:9-10,13-14  +  +  2 Peter 1:16-19  +  Luke 9:28-36
August 6, 2019

   And behold, two men were conversing with Him… [speaking] of His exodus….   

Suffering is part and parcel of following Jesus.  He teaches us this lesson through His Transfiguration.

There’s a simple contrast in today’s Gospel passage.  Peter stands in contrast to Jesus.  Peter says, “Master, it is good that we are here”, while Jesus does not reply.  In fact, the evangelist does not quote Jesus at all in this passage.  Not that Jesus doesn’t speak in this passage:  we’re told that Jesus was conversing with Moses and Elijah, but we are not allowed to overhear their conversation.

Did Peter hear the conversation among Jesus, Moses and Elijah?  It doesn’t seem so.  Had Peter heard them, it’s not likely that he would have said what he did:  “Master, it is good that we are here”.  Peter certainly perceived the glory of Jesus, His changed face, and the brilliance of His white clothing.  But had Peter heard the conversation of Jesus and His prophets, it’s unlikely that Peter would have said what he did.

Jesus, Moses and Elijah “spoke of Jesus’ exodus that He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.”  This exodus is not from the power of a pharaoh, or from the persecution of pagan prophets, but from the power of sin and death.  You and I know the rest of the story:  that Jesus accomplished this exodus on Calvary.  We know that through His sin and death, you and I might have life to the full.  Had Peter understood all this, he may have turned away from following Jesus.

Suffering is part and parcel of following Jesus.  If we shy away from suffering for the good, we remove ourselves from Jesus’ presence.  Only by remaining in the presence of Jesus can He lead us to the glory of the Father.

Transfiguration - Titian

Transfiguration by Titian [c. 1488 – 1576]

Monday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Monday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Numbers 11:4-15  +  Matthew 14:13-21
August 5, 2019

   …His heart was moved with pity for them….   

Being compassionate, Jesus was certainly concerned with the physical well-being of the people who had come to hear him preach.  Just how deep Christ’s compassion was is made obvious when we consider again something the first verse of this passage tells us.

Jesus is told about the hunger of the crowds right after He had heard of the death of John the Baptizer, and had withdrawn by boat to a deserted place by Himself.  If we were to take time to imagine this, we could very clearly see just how human Christ was, responding in grief and perhaps anger at the death of His own cousin.  He withdrew from others to be alone.  And yet, even at this point in His life, the needs of others pressed upon Him.  His response was that of God himself:  he turned away from Himself, and towards those in need.

Jesus was certainly concerned with the physical well-being of the people who had come to hear Him preach.  But He knew the people in the crowds better than they knew themselves.  Christ had a much deeper concern for their spiritual well-being.  He had reminded them that their ancestors, whom God had fed in the desert by sending bread in the form of manna, had died.  His divine Father, Jesus told them, had sent Him to be their spiritual bread:  a bread which would allow them to live forever.  If they would eat this bread by accepting him and following his commandments, they could enter into God’s eternal kingdom of love.

St. Mary Major Basilica

Today is the Optional Memorial of the
Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major