Monday, September 16, 2019

St. Paul - transformed

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So what is our excuse? 

If Almighty God can transform a Saul into a Paul, if God can "appoint to his service" a mean-spirited, blaspheming man of violence like Saul -- what are we waiting for? Why do we think that God probably has not "appointed" us to serve?
Paul freely says that he is a follower of Jesus Christ not because of his upstanding behavior in the past but because of God's mercy and grace. God understands that Paul "acted ignorantly in unbelief" but is now ready to receive God's forgiveness. Ironically, it is Paul's experience with sin and turning away from God that makes him appreciate the gifts of God's mercy and kindness even more.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

St.Paul - a man of violence

Looks like a guy who doesn't take much shit from anyone (Giotto, St. Paul, 1290s; Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-Old-100).
It just takes a quick glance at Saul's résumé and it tells us all that we need to know. Paul clearly demonstrates leadership abilities. Shortly after Christ's death and resurrection, he was able to galvanize supporters who would help him with activities such as the murder of Christians, the torture of disciples and the slaughter of innocents. He was even willing to be a "hands-on" manager -- if he couldn't find someone else to carry out the job of making the lives of Christians miserable, he was more than happy to roll up his sleeves and get it done himself. 

He was a hard worker who was not shy about sharing his convictions.

He was brilliant at follow-through; his rampage against Christians went from village to village. He believed in the adage, "Any job worth doing is worth doing well."

Saul may not have been much of a public speaker, but he allowed his other talents to prove his worth. He was confident that his reputation would speak for him. People literally trembled at the mention of his name. His goal was to destroy the hopes and dreams of early Christians, and he did his job well. If Saul had gotten a job interview and was asked to describe himself in a few words, he would have freely said, "I am your worst nightmare. I am a man of violence."

Saturday, September 14, 2019

St. Paul - the great persecutor

Paul of Tarsus

As we reflect on the Sunday readings this week we come across St. Paul who has a checkered past. Paul was probably the last guy in the world you'd predict would have a career that would mean leaving his Jewish faith. No one would have foretold that Paul, or Saul as he was known back in the day, would embrace the radical teachings of a controversial Jewish subversive who was executed way back by the Romans. 

Before his conversion, Saul was no candidate for "Christian Employee of the Year." If Saul were among many applicants for the job of being an "example to those who would come to believe in Jesus for eternal life." , he would be least likely to get the job. He frankly admits as much: I was a "blasphemer, a persecutor and a man of violence."  The guy was a "man of violence." Who in their right mind is going to hire him?

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Sunday Word

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We have some excellent readings to delve into this weekend as we prepare for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. It is not too early to read the scriptures and spend some time as we approach Sunday.

This Sunday's letter to Timothy gives us a picture that Paul has a new job. The text says, he has: "Appointed me to his service." Sounds like the apostle Paul has a job.

We might want to spend some time interviewing Paul to see how he managed to get this job as preacher and apostle. This "job" allows Paul to write letters, to travel -- by boat, on a donkey, in an ox-cart or on foot -- to places all over the world, including major cities and the seat of the Roman Empire! He gets to speak to thousands of people, and, as the spokesperson for a new movement, he is able to establish adherents wherever he goes, speaking to the poor as well as the rich, to the humble as well as the proud, and to servants as well as to kings. He visits homes, synagogues and palaces. He even gets to spend some time in jail -- on numerous occasions!

Through it all, he is "judged to be faithful" as he tells everyone about some good news, i.e. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Holy Name of Mary - Patronal Feast of the Society of Mary

Revelation in Ivory
By Br. Philip Nolan, O.P. on September 12, 2019

As grateful as I am that museums preserve Catholic art, I cannot spend time in religious exhibitions without feeling a certain melancholy. Stripped of their original context (church or chapel) and of their original viewers (praying Catholics), these works often fail to evoke in me admiration, let alone devotion.

And yet, as I wandered through the medieval section of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, glancing at old, ornate reliquaries and sadly displaced stained glass windows, I came across a statue of Mary that stopped me where I stood. She was not quite two feet tall, carved in ivory, standing there on a pedestal. A line cut straight down the front of the statue, from the crown of her head to her feet, and on both of her sides there were hinges. The statue stood open like a little triptych—a three-piece altar panel. Inside the statue, the sculptor had carved scenes from Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and in the place where Mary’s heart would be, in the middle of the “triptych,” stood a scene of the crucifixion.

The whole statue serves as a commentary on Luke 2:19: “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” It offers a speculative peek into the interior life of the Mother of the Savior after that first Easter. She now pondered not only the infancy, not only those long, hidden years in Nazareth, but the suffering, the death, and the resurrection of her Son. And the crucifixion, that raw memory of agony, takes center place.

In a sense, she was prepared for those pierced hands and side. François Mauriac, in his Life of Jesus, reflects on those moments in Jesus’ life when he seems to draw apart from Mary—for example, when the twelve-year-old Son disappears for three days, leaving his mother anxiously searching. Normally so close to her,

suddenly he was like a stranger. Mary knew this had to be. . . . Here below, perhaps, he sometimes treated her as he still treats his chosen ones whom he has marked for holiness and who, behind their grilles, in their cells, or in the midst of the world, know all the appearances of abandon, of being forsaken, not without keeping the interior certainty of being his elect and beloved. (11)

The way Jesus loved Mary did not conform to the ways of the flesh. His love for her, as for all of us, led her on the way of the cross. In the Gospels, we catch glimpses of Mary watching her Son, wondering at why he acts as he does. All these moments find their fulfillment in the crucifixion, where God revealed his love to the world. And Mary, whose faith never faltered, gave her heart to be pierced too.

Today we celebrate the Holy Name of Mary. Her name is holy because she is set apart. We can exalt her high position in heaven, her perfect obedience and conformity to God’s will, and her glorious titles. Her heavenly greatness is all the more moving when we contrast it to the somewhat ordinary life she must have appeared to live. But if we asked her to explain, she would point to her Son.

I walked away from this little statue with a new, Marian-inflected appreciation for St. Paul’s paradox: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Sometimes a small piece of ivory, dropped down in the middle of other medieval bric-a-brac, can bear the weight of divine mysteries.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The call

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"In encountering the Lord, some may feel the attraction of a call to the consecrated life or to the ordained priesthood. It is a discovery that can excite and at the same time frighten us, since we feel called to become “fishers of men” in the barque of the Church by giving totally of ourselves in commitment to faithful service of the Gospel and our brothers and sisters. Such a decision carries the risk of leaving everything behind to follow the Lord, to devote ourselves completely to him, and to share in his work. Many kinds of interior resistance can stand in the way of making this decision, especially in highly secularized contexts where there no longer seems to be a place for God and for the Gospel. Places where it is easy to grow discouraged and fall into the “weariness of hope”