Monday, October 31, 2011
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Sunday 31 A. "Now, O priests, this commandment is for you": performing good works of love whether seen or unseen
There are realities in God that always remain invisible to us even if we enjoy their physical proximity. Angels, for example, have spirits as do we but do not have bodies as we do, therefore whether here or in heaven we have to believe they exist and are present even though we cannot detect them except through the power of faith.
There are, however, "unseen" things that are thus because they are happening at a place and a time different than the one we are inhabiting at any given moment. The Lord speaks of these kinds of things in the Gospel today when he excoriates with severity the religious leaders of his day who "performed religious works to be seen."
For many years some of us have believed that religion has to be sort of like Missouri: "Show me or I won't believe it". Some priests have tried to make their poverty "seen" by getting rid of their robes and celebrating Mass with a stole only.
Others in the Church substituted pottery vessels for gold and silver in the celebration of the holy Eucharist in the hopes that the poor Christ whom they thought would be better "seen" through this sign would lead people to believe more fully in, and have more solidarity with, the poor Lord of the Gospels who had "nowhere to rest His head".
Saint Francis of Assisi whose feast we celebrated this month, perhaps more than anyone else, speaks compellingly of the poor and was a sign to the world of the Gospel mandate to love and serve the least among us. But by this same genius, Francis taught that poverty was for us, not for God, and called for the very finest materials, vestments and sacred vessels to be used in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in order that God's heavenly glory may be more fully seen in this world. To this day one may see in Italy the beautiful chalice Deacon Francis used in the celebration of holy Mass.
The priests of Jesus' day take it on the chin in our Gospel reading: "do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you," he preaches to the crowds in their regard, "but do not follow their example". The Lord condemns the public piety of the scribes and pharisees that lacks the internal, unseen, spirit of God's love which justifies every "work" that is performed whether seen or unseen.
In the first reading, the priests receive a commandment: they are instructed to listen to God and to take His glory "to heart"; simply, to keep His commandments, the greatest of which is to love Him with all that they are and have. In this way they would be capable of bringing God to His people and of bringing God's people to Him.
As we observe "World Day for Priests" on this last Sunday of October, let us show our thankfulness for our priests and bishops by praying always for them, that they may be able to take the Word to heart, to possess the grace of Christ's love, so as to always give this richest treasure to God's holy people by all that their vocation calls them to do, the good things both seen and unseen. In this way, when we call them "Father", we will do so as Christ calls us to in the Scriptures, for the reason that these earthly Fathers of ours reflect the true and eternal paternity of God, our heavenly Father.
In photos: Above, Chalice sculpture in Assisi at Santa Maria degli Angeli Church. Immediately above, Father Brian Converse, Diocese of Norwich, blessing the animals for the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality other names would be futile. To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity's rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew,
James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew,
Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus,
Simon who was called a Zealot,
and Judas the son of James,
and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
You were transfigured on the mountain, and your disciples, as much as they were capable of it, beheld your glory, O Christ our God, so that when they should see you crucified they would understand that your Passion was voluntary, and proclaim to the world that you truly are the splendor of the Father.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Saturday, October 22, 2011
With the ubiquitous cell phone which can take photos and movies wherever and of whatever without much time to consider their appropriateness we are offered a front row seat to even the most dangerous of situations from far away minutes or seconds after they happen. But do we need to know and to see everything? How do we assess the impact good or bad upon us with the availability of so much information of such wide variety? And how are our lives, our dignity, our humanity affected by the wholesale imbibing of the images we are offered via our phones through the internet, television and in other ways.
October is Respect Life month. The Church asks us to focus during this period every year on the gift of human life and the ways in which we can proclaim its sacredness, defend and preserve life. Respect is the tribute love pays to the good. When we truly love human life then we proclaim its goodness in word or action, recognizing the image of God the Creator also in those who have greatly obscured this Image in themselves, even through lives of great evil and sinfulness.
"Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy. If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church's role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims." (CCC 1930)
"You shall not molest or oppress"... "you shall not wrong" any human being. The Church speaks for God when she teaches the love that respects the sacredness of every human life, from conception until natural death, in all its stages and conditions.
Respect for every human life simply flows from our own sense of dignity as each created by and in the image of God. And this respect never conflicts with the demands of justice for those who have greatly wronged or violated the human dignity of their neighbors. And respect for human life also guides our use of images, teaching us to shun anything that turns a person into an object for lust, or curiosity or exploitation.
The memorial is celebrated today in the Archdiocese of Washington on the occasion of the dedication of the new Blessed Pope John Paul II college seminary as well as in the dioceses of Rome and Poland.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Images hold a very powerful allure in our world. People want to be what they see in fashion photography so they buy the clothing; they want to look like the people they see in diet advertising so they buy the diet plan; they want to look like people in workout videos so they buy the supplements. And also we see the manipulation of images in order to win friends and influence people. You can delete or un-tag any photos of yourself on Facebook, for example, that you don't like or even substitute someone else in your place.
When our use of images begin to replace reality for us we are abusing them and we are placing ourselves in danger of turning ourselves, our dreams and our future over to something that does not and never will be real. And we may be obscuring or rejecting the image of God that is present in each of us and in everyone.
From José Antonio Pagola:
"The question that some Pharisees put to Jesus, in collaboration with the Herodians, was evidently aimed to trap him: 'Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?'
"If he said that it was licit, Jesus would be discredited before the people who would turn against him, and become easy prey for the Pharisees. If he said that it was not licit, he could be accused of being an agitator of the people against the Romans – who had flocked to the streets of Jerusalem for the Easter celebrations. Any such provocation could result in a rebellion against Caesar.
"Without getting into any argument, Jesus just asked them, 'Let me see the money you pay the tax with.' And he added, 'Whose head is this, whose name?' They replied: 'Caesar’s Tiberius, son of the divine Augustus.' Jesus, with that simple question, left them speechless.
"Jesus, then, drew his own conclusion: if that image belongs to Caesar, 'Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.' Return the coin to Caesar, as a symbol of his political power. You have been using the coins as barter in all your business transactions. Just follow those rules.
"Jesus, however, is not subject to the Emperor of Rome, rather 'seeking the kingdom of God and his justice', and so he adds something that nobody had asked him: “Very well, give back to God what belongs to God.” That coin had the image of Tiberius, but every human being bears the 'image' of God and so belongs to Him. Never sacrifice humans to any power. On the contrary, protect them."
Saint Teresa of Avila, whose feast we celebrate in these days, teaches about the most important image of all: Jesus Christ, the real image of the living God. The safe route for prayer, she taught, is to contemplate the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ. And when we do this faithfully we can truly love ourselves for we will unfailingly see the image of God in each of us and in everyone. In in Jesus Christ, the true image of God, we will see our future and our dreams come true.
"The vocation of humanity is to show forth the image of God and to be transformed into the image of the Father's only Son. This vocation takes a personal form since each of us is called to enter into the divine beatitude; it also concerns the human community as a whole." (CCC 1877)
Let us go forth to meet Christ in the Eucharist and partake of Him into whose image we are thus transformed! Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep's clothing.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Sun 28A. "My God will fully supply whatever you need": the Mass is the wedding feast of the Lamb for which we are clothed by God's grace
"My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?"
"Is this Gospel about clothes?" you ask. If by that you intend, rather, "Is this Gospel about something superficial?" the answer is "no". The Gospel is never superficial. But you knew that; which is the reason why you asked, "Is this Gospel about clothing?"
In another place in the Gospels the Lord instructs us that we are not to be concerned about what we are to wear, what we are to eat, how we are to live. These are passing concerns and should not take the place of more important priorities. The Lord teaches this not to make us disregard these things, for we surely need them, but is telling us that in order to gain our freedom in Him we must not allow ourselves to be consumed by concern about worldly matters or about money so that He can take the central role in our lives as Lord and God who loves us providentially and will take care of our needs.
The needs God has mind above all are our most important needs: for love and life. We need love to live and we need life to love. God provides both in such abundant measure that they are overflowing: in God love and life are without beginning and without end.
The Mass is a wedding banquet, the banquet of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, "who takes away the sins of the world". Many churches have a stained glass window of the Lamb of Revelation placed above the altar, as we do, for this reason. The Paschal Lamb is offered here again and again every time Mass is offered, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world and who sits upon the throne in heaven to prepare a place for us. Thus this parable about the wedding banquet points to and teaches us about holy Mass.
The mountain upon which God will provide a feast of rich food and choice wines is connected with destruction of the "veil" of death that affects all peoples in the first reading. The salvation that Christ brought for the first time on Calvary broke the bondage of death through the forgiveness of sins. But that freedom He won for us must be offered as grace to the whole world until the end of time. For this reason the "banquet" of the Mass is celebrated as a gift from Christ by the priest and people until the end of the world and, in particular, every Sunday.
The Church speaks for God when she invites us to the banquet of Life, in particular on Sundays, gravely obliging us to observe the law of God by attending holy Mass. The Church speaks for the love of God when she "makes" us come in from the highways and byways, the busy-ness of our lives. Here at holy Mass the death and Resurrection of the Savior are most intensely celebrated and so here we most need to be.
Now, about clothing. Are clothes important? Let me share with you what others have taught me about that. When a Catholic family goes home after Mass and changes into a suit and tie or a dress in order to come back in the afternoon on the same day to attend the baptism of Christian friends, or when people shun their most casual clothing in order to dress for the celebration of a wedding Mass and banquet or for a funeral, they teach us that how we array ourselves is important because it expresses the love in our hearts and the desire to honor others.
And our children know this as well. That is why if we always wear our most casual clothing for Mass but then change into something "better" for other events, our children will learn very well what we are teaching them by our actions: that holy Mass is not the most important event of our week or of our lives. When they are older they may stop attending Mass if they have come to believe that they have other, more important, things to do with their time. So, clothes are important. Especially because how we dress expresses the disposition of our heart and mind which is at the center of our being.
An episode from the annals of Church history will help us to illustrate. Joan of Arc led the French successfully into battle against the English. Betrayed by some of her countrymen she was brought up on charges of heresy, once captured by the forces on the English side, and tried for heresy by the English bishops, one of the reasons for which being that she wore men's clothing into battle. It did not occur to anyone that there was no such thing as women's battle dress in those days!
Though young and uneducated in theology, as were most women of her day, Joan's episcopal inquisitors had the temerity to ask her nonetheless, "Are you in a state of grace?" doubtless with the intention of entrapping her, the better to secure a conviction. None but the Holy Spirit could have inspired her to respond as she did: "If I am, may God keep me there. If I am not, may God bring me there." Tragically, even this brilliant response did not save her from condemnation and burning at the stake. Her later canonization vindicated her, however, and today her sterling character and unswerving loyalty to God teaches us to desire as she did to persevere in grace until the end. Saint Joan's outer garments did, indeed, point to her inner holiness as a soldier of Christ.
"The marriage", says St. Gregory the Great "is the wedding of Christ and His Church, and the garment is the virtue of charity: a person who goes into the feast without a wedding garment is someone who believes in the Church but does not have charity." Accepting the invitation means not only entering the banquet hall of the Church. One must also be properly attired in the wedding garment of Christ's grace, the charity in which we must persevere as we engage in worship, in work, in recreation, in service. The sincere response, the "yes" of an interior life of charity, is given by God through forgiveness of sins in Baptism, accepted by interior conversion, restored through Confession after serious sin and built up in the Eucharist.
Grace is the wedding garment which is the Lord's concern in the parable today. If we believe in the Church, in all that God teaches and attend Mass this is still not enough. If we dress in our very best clothing and attend Mass every Sunday that is good, but something more is needed: the life of grace which is to do all these things with divine love. The grace of God's love is called charity, and this is the wedding garment which the Father places upon us, first in Baptism to grow more radiant all of our lives through the graces of the Eucharist.
"My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Is clothing important? Yes: the garment of grace in which we are attired by God and every opportunity to outwardly express the joy and beauty of His goodness, in word and action and in all the ways we can prepare ourselves to express to celebrate holy Mass.
God fully supplies whatever you need: "Tell those invited: "Behold, I have prepared my banquet, ... everything is ready; come to the feast."' We celebrate the true banquet of the Lamb, the wedding feast of heaven in this and every Mass. Rejoice together with God, at His altar-table, in His generous and merciful love which lasts forever: "To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen."
Friday, October 7, 2011
-- St. Louis de Montfort from The Secret of the Rosary.
Instructions on the prayer of the Holy Rosary.
(Art: Fra Angelico, Period Vicchio di Mugello 1400-Rome 1455, Coronation of the Virgin, Tempera on wood, 112x114. Painted around 1435, it was mentioned by Vasari in his description of Sant'Egidio. At the Uffizi since 1948.)
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
In his mercy God has not forsaken sinful man. The punishments consequent upon sin, "pain in childbearing" and toil "in the sweat of your brow," also embody remedies that limit the damaging effects of sin. After the fall, marriage helps to overcome self-absorption, egoism, pursuit of one's own pleasure, and to open oneself to the other, to mutual aid and to self-giving.
Monday, October 3, 2011
When someone asks him, "Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?" Jesus replies: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets." The Decalogue must be interpreted in light of this twofold yet single commandment of love, the fullness of the Law:
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Sunday 27A. "The God of peace will be with you": Christ yields the fruit of peace, evidence of God's love, for all through the vineyard of the Church
She found upon inquiring, however, that it was a certain teaching of the Church that the priesthood could be conferred only upon men. Therese did not respond to this news with anxiety but rather with authentic faith. She did not leave the Church in anger when she became aware of this difficult teaching. Neither did she found her own "church" so that she could have things as she wanted. She continued to live as a faithful daughter of the Church and to discern her vocation.
She later became a cloistered Carmelite religious, living a strict regimen of prayer, community and poverty closed within a convent for the rest of her life. God heard her yearning for greatness and she imitated Him by becoming a great saint, perhaps the greatest of the 20th century, dying a sacrificial death at the age of 24 by offering the pain of her tuberculosis for the missions and for the sanctification of priests.
Today, on October 1 throughout the world and every year on this date, the Church celebrated the feast of Saint Therese of Lisieux, now a doctor of the Church for her teaching on the "little way" of faith. No man or woman, she taught, no matter how insignificant he or she may believe themselves to be, is denied greatness in God who pours out the infinite graces of love through Christ in the Church for all. Even the smallest and least noticeable things can be done with great love. Therese found the greatness that she desired in and through the Church, bearing fruit in a life of holiness rewarded by eternal union and joy with God in heaven. Her "little way" of holiness, "to be love in the heart of the Church", our mother, gave her the happiness of serving the Lord she had mistakenly sought in a gift He did not intend for her.
It is the fruit of love that God seeks from all of us, no matter our vocation. The Church is the vineyard of the Lord in which all of us find this fruit which brings great peace here and now as a foretaste and promise of eternal life.
All of us are called to find our own roles within the Body of Christ. All of us are called to pursue God's will with the same assurance as this very young woman, insignificant in the sight of the world whether as priest or religious, married man or woman, or consecrated single.
"Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God."
Through the power of Christ's death and the love and Resurrected life he confers in the fruit of the Eucharist, His Body and Blood, this young woman has become so great as today to move millions to love and serve the Lord in the Church, the heart of which is the love of Jesus Christ, great enough to embrace and sustain us all.
"whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
Keep on doing what you have learned and received
and heard and seen in me.
Then the God of peace will be with you."