“God on earth, God among men, not in the fire and to the accompaniment of trumpets, not on the smoking mountain…giving laws, but communing in bodily form, gently and kindly, with those like himself. God in flesh…so that, related to us by his flesh, he can lead all mankind back to God.”
Thursday, December 31, 2020
“God on earth, God among men, not in the fire and to the accompaniment of trumpets, not on the smoking mountain…giving laws, but communing in bodily form, gently and kindly, with those like himself. God in flesh…so that, related to us by his flesh, he can lead all mankind back to God.”
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
For us Christians, darkness ends when we see in our brothers and sisters, in everyone, especially the poor, the very presence of Jesus himself. This is the true celebration of Christmas – to proclaim our faith in the Emmanuel, the God-who-is-with-us, the God-who-is-in-each-and-everyone of us. The question for us this Christmas is not only “who is Jesus for us?” but “where is Jesus in our fellows?” He is Emmanuel!
Monday, December 28, 2020
Sunday, December 27, 2020
Saturday, December 26, 2020
Can there be Christmas Joy in a time of pandemic? In many homes and communities, including some of our own, we have seats and spaces now empty, reminding us of loved ones we have lost this year. There would be no Christmas parties because money has been sparse due to loss of jobs and economic contractions. Because of travel and movement restrictions, the elderly would sorely miss the visits and embrace of their loved ones. Protective masks would hide the brilliant smiles of people singing carols, like “lights hidden under a bushel basket” which could not fully illuminate these dark December nights.
Friday, December 25, 2020
Some of our fondest memories of Christmas are from our childhood, when Christmas trees seemed to tower over us, when a few pieces of candy seemed like an abundance of sweet things in our little hands.
When we grew older, we realized that Christmas is not just about feasting on delicious food, but sharing food that feeds the hunger of our bodies and satisfies the hunger of our souls for fellowship and friendship; that Christmas is not about exchanging material gifts, but about the gift of presence, of time, of conversations, of simply being together as our Brothers, with family and friends.
Thursday, December 24, 2020
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Monday, December 21, 2020
“Every work that we do should be a part of the Christ forming in us which is the meaning of our life, to it we must bring the patience, the self-giving, the time of secrecy, the gradual growth of Advent. This Advent in work applies to all work, not only that which produces something permanent in time but equally to the making of a carving in wood or stone or of a loaf of bread. It applies equally to the making of a poem and to the sweeping of a floor.”
Sunday, December 20, 2020
“Christ must be born from every soul, formed in every life. If we had a picture of Our Lady's personality we might be dazzled into thinking that only one sort of person could form Christ in himself, and we should miss the meaning of our own being.
Nothing but things essential for us are revealed to us about the Mother of God: the fact that she was wed to the Holy Spirit and bore Christ into the world.
Our crowning joy is that she did this as a lay person and through the ordinary daily life that we all live; through natural love made supernatural, as the water at Cana was, at her request, turned into wine.”
Saturday, December 19, 2020
Friday, December 18, 2020
Thursday, December 17, 2020
“Most people know the sheer wonder that goes with falling in love, how not only does everything in heaven and earth become new, but the lover himself becomes new. It is literally like the sap rising in the tree, putting forth new green shoots of life.”
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
The seed, Christ said, is the word of god Sownin the human heart.
The advent, the seed of the world's life, was hidden in Mary.
Like the wheat seed in the earth,
the seed of the Bread of Life was in her.
Like the golden harvest in the darkness of the earth,
the Glory of God was enshrined in her darkness.
Advent is the season of the secret,
the secret of the growth of Christ,
of Divine Love growing in silence.
It is the season of humility, silence and growth.
This time of advent is absolutely essential to our contemplation.
If we have truly given our humanity to be changed into Christ,
It is essential to us that we do not disturb this
time of growth.
It is a time of darkness, of faith.
We shall not see Christ's radiance in our lives yet;
It is still hidden in our darkness;
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Monday, December 14, 2020
I am your reed, sweet shepherd, glad to be.
Now, if you will, breathe out your joy in me
And make bright song.
Or fill me with the soft moan of your love
When your delight has failed to call or move
The flock from wrong.
Make children's songs, or any songs, to fill
Your reed with breath of life;
But at your will, lay down the flute,
And take repose, while music infinite
Is silence in your heart; and laid on it
Your reed is mute.
~ "The Reed of God" by Caryll Houselander
Sunday, December 13, 2020
Saturday, December 12, 2020
Friday, December 11, 2020
Thursday, December 10, 2020
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
"I must also pray, she said, for the conversion of sinners. I asked her many times what she meant by that, but she only smiled. Finally, with outstretched arms and eyes looking up to heaven, she told me she was the Immaculate Conception. During the fifteen days she told me three secrets, but I was not to speak about them to anyone, and so far I have not.”
Monday, December 7, 2020
Sunday, December 6, 2020
Saturday, December 5, 2020
Friday, December 4, 2020
Thursday, December 3, 2020
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
Tuesday, December 1, 2020
Monday, November 30, 2020
Sunday, November 29, 2020
Thursday, November 26, 2020
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Thursday, November 12, 2020
This past Friday, Governor Cuomo’s new COVID-19 restrictions went into effect in the state of New York. The state believes that the increase of cases is particular to certain areas of life: bars, restaurants, gyms, house parties. Because of the colder weather leading people to gather indoors, where the virus can spread more easily, the state decided to put the new restrictions in place to avoid a second wave. Throughout this pandemic, governments and individuals have been precise and firm in preventing exposures to the virus, willing to sacrifice many aspects of life for the sake of bodily well-being.
One of my favorite spiritual writers is St. Alphonsus Ligouri: bishop, theologian, philosopher, Patron Saint of Vocations, and a Doctor of the Church. A single line in his book, Preparation for Death: Considerations on Eternal Truths, gives a succinct, yet complete, summary of what we see during this global pandemic:
“When there is question of the body, men speak rationally; but when the soul is concerned, they speak like fools.”
This pandemic has shown that as a culture, we are spiritual fools.
To clarify, I am not saying that implementing health precautions to prevent a COVID-19 resurgence while reopening our society is necessarily wrong. However, the fact that corporeal well-being has received such an intense priority in our culture over that of the soul reflects a greater crisis. We are body and soul; physical health is an important and integral part of human life. However, our culture seems to be indifferent to the words of Christ:
“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matthew 10:28)
Corporeal well-being is important, but not of the highest importance. Illness ultimately is temporary. The secular world has pushed off eternal questions, only focusing on the reality of this life. This is a serious problem: living with corporeal well-being as our priority is a prescription for misery. Because secular culture is only concerned with the flesh, their only ultimate concern is, and can only be, the unavoidable reality of death (Romans 8:6). From this, the necessary reaction is chaos and fear. One doesn’t need to observe the current state of affairs for long to see the truth of that claim.
Many are beginning to realize that when we severely limit this life in the name of saving it, something about our human experience is undermined. Saving this life is not our ultimate purpose, it is impossible to do so. We are wired for something deeper in our human experience: eternity. The beauty of this life is our ability to freely work towards our ultimate purpose: the salvation of our soul, being unified with God – who is the source of all being. St. Alphonsus Ligouri says:
“The peace of a soul that is united with God surpasses all the pleasures that the senses and the world can give.”
We don’t need to, nor should we, disregard corporeal well-being. However, we need to realize that bodily health is ultimately meaningless when concern for our eternal souls is abandoned.
An active awareness in this life of eternal matters puts our corporeal struggles and joys in their proper perspective. The greatest possible danger is the destruction of our soul. While the virus can destroy the body, it cannot destroy the soul. A life of sin, which is contrary to our soul’s deepest desires, can. Sin “blinds the understanding, and deprives the soul of reason” (St. Alphonsus Liguori). While the secular culture may not grasp this reality, we people of faith do. We understand that “although we are in the flesh, we do not battle according to the flesh” (2 Corithians 10:30).
We should use the experience of this pandemic for reflection: do we avoid the dangers of sin with the same intense effort that our culture avoids COVID-19? Do we avoid near occasions of sin as intensely as our culture avoids being exposed to the virus? Are we as persistent in going to confession to cleanse our soul as our culture is about using hand sanitizer? Are we ready to eliminate things from our life that make us sin as willingly as our culture eliminates things deemed to be COVID-19 risks? Are we more careful to not fall into mortal sin than our culture is with getting the virus?
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, more important than the salvation of our souls. Getting into heaven is not a walk in the park, Christ makes it very clear that it is difficult to do so (Matthew 7:13-14). Ultimately, as the Venerable Fulton Sheen said, “Sin, in its fullness, is the rejection of Christ.” The secular culture has gone above and beyond, sacrificing almost every aspect of life, for the sake of preventing exposure to COVID-19. We must recognize not only our ability, but that it can also be necessary for us to go to similar measures to avoid sin (Mark 9:43-45). We should tremble more at the possibility of falling into mortal sin over being infected with this virus. None of us are perfect, all of our souls need attention and care. Let’s have the same precision and intensity with our souls as we have with COVID-19: don’t be a spiritual fool.
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
We ask for healing for the veterans who have been wounded, in body and soul, in conflicts around the globe.
We pray especially for the young men and women, in the thousands, who are coming home from Iraq with injured bodies and traumatized spirits.
Bring solace to them, O Lord; may we pray for them when they cannot pray.
We ask for an end to wars and the dawning of a new era of peace,
As a way to honor all the veterans of past wars.
Have mercy on all our veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq,
Bring peace to their hearts and peace to the regions they fought in.
Bless all the soldiers who served in non-combative posts;
May their calling to service continue in their lives in many positive ways.
Give us all the creative vision to see a world which, grown weary with fighting,
Moves to affirming the life of every human being and so moves beyond war.
Hear our prayer, O Prince of Peace, hear our prayer.
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Saint Martín de Porres was noted for tireless work on behalf of the poor, establishing an orphanage and a children's hospital. He maintained an austere lifestyle, which included fasting and abstaining from meat. His devotion to prayer was notable even by the pious standards of the age. Among the many miracles attributed to him were those of levitation, bilocation, miraculous knowledge, instantaneous cures and an ability to communicate with animals.
St. Martin de Porres became the patron saint of hairdressers because hairdressing was one of the duties he performed for his brothers in the friary.
Check him out, doesn't he look like the guy who played Jesus in Madonna’s Like A Pray music video?
St. Martin de Porres was born at Lima, Peru, in 1579. His father was a Spanish gentleman and his mother a black freed-woman from Panama. At fifteen, he became a lay brother at the Dominican Friary at Lima and spent his whole life there-as a barber, farm laborer, and infirmarian among other things.
I wonder what I have to do to get canonized as a modern day saint?
“Since I have the chance now, there is something I very much want to say to you. I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some of the future saints of the twenty-first century.
What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness.
Perhaps some of you have never thought about this before. Perhaps some of you think being a saint is not for you. Let me explain what I mean. When we are young, we can usually think of people that we look up to, people we admire, people we want to be like. It could be someone we meet in our daily lives that we hold in great esteem. Or it could be someone famous. We live in a celebrity culture, and young people are often encouraged to model themselves on figures from the world of sport or entertainment. My question for you is this: what are the qualities you see in others that you would most like to have yourselves? What kind of person would you really like to be?
When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best. I am asking you not to pursue one limited goal and ignore all the others. Having money makes it possible to be generous and to do good in the world, but on its own, it is not enough to make us happy. Being highly skilled in some activity or profession is good, but it will not satisfy us unless we aim for something greater still. It might make us famous, but it will not make us happy. Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key to it is very simple – true happiness is to be found in God. We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.
Not only does God love us with a depth and an intensity that we can scarcely begin to comprehend, but he invites us to respond to that love. You all know what it is like when you meet someone interesting and attractive, and you want to be that person’s friend. You always hope they will find you interesting and attractive, and want to be your friend.
God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. As you come to know him better, you find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life. You are attracted to the practice of virtue. You begin to see greed and selfishness and all the other sins for what they really are, destructive and dangerous tendencies that cause deep suffering and do great damage, and you want to avoid falling into that trap yourselves. You begin to feel compassion for people in difficulties and you are eager to do something to help them. You want to come to the aid of the poor and the hungry, you want to comfort the sorrowful, you want to be kind and generous. And once these things begin to matter to you, you are well on the way to becoming saints.”
--Pope Benedict XVI
Greeting to Catholic Pupils of the United Kingdom
St Mary's College, Twickenham
17 September 2010
Monday, November 2, 2020
The prayers of All Saints Day highlight our belief that we continue to be in relationship with those who have gone before us, marked with the sign of faith. It is not only a matter of our honoring the holy lives these brothers and sisters led but also of acknowledging that they who are already with the Lord continue to be concerned for us and our welfare.
That the very work of God can be manifest in our lives calls us to the responsibility of living in a way that the love of God be transparent in our deeds and relationships. Finally, our prayer on All Saints Day reminds us that when we share at the altar of the Lord's table we have a foretaste of the banquet the saints share forever in the reign of God.
The church calendar sets aside many days to honor the most famous of saints. November 1 is the day for us to remember and honor those saints whose lives made headlines not in the daily papers but in the hearts of those they served and touched. All of us know such saints in our own lives - some who have gone home to the Lord and some who are still with us.
Happy All Saints Day to all!
Sunday, November 1, 2020
known, loved and served.Religious life is to Christianity what Christianity is to humanity. It is as imperishable in the Church as the church is imperishable in human society. For this reason, it would be futile to pretend to re-establish Christianity without the institutions which permit men to practice the evangelical counsels. However, it would be difficult and inopportune to try to revive these institutions today under the same forms they had before the Revolution. But no form is essential to the religious life. One can be a religious under a secular appearance. It will be less offensive to the misguided. It will be more difficult for them to be opposed. The world and the Church will be even further edified. Let us then form a religious association by pronouncing the three vows of religion, but without name or costume. Nova bella elegit Dominus (The Lord had chosen new wars); and let us put the entire plan under the protection of Mary Immaculate, to whom her Divine Son has reserved the final victories over hell.Let us be, my child,... let us be, in our humility the heel of the Woman.
(From Blessed Chaminade's Letter of August 24, 1839 Letter to the Retreat Masters.)
Saturday, October 31, 2020
When you think of Halloween, what comes to mind? For a lot of people, Halloween has become synonymous with candy, costumes, scary stuff, witches, ghosts and pumpkins. But do you know the Christian connection to the holiday?
The true origins of Halloween lie with the ancient Celtic tribes who lived in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. For the Celts, November 1 marked the beginning of a new year and the coming of winter.
The night before the new year, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, lord of the dead. During this festival, Celts believed the souls of the dead, including ghosts, goblins and witches, returned to mingle with the living. In order to scare away the evil spirits, people would wear masks and light bonfires.
When the Romans conquered the Celts, they added their own touches to the Samhain festival, such as making centerpieces out of apples and nuts for Pomona, the Roman goddess of the orchards. The Romans also bobbed for apples and drank cider, traditions which may sound familiar to you. But where does the Christian aspect of the holiday come into play? In 835, Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration for all the martyrs (later all saints)from May 13 to November 1. The night before became known as All Hallows' Even or holy evening. Eventually the name was shortened to the current Halloween. On November 2, the Church celebrates All Souls Day.
The purpose of these feasts is to remember those who have died, whether they are officially recognized by the Church as saints or not. It is a celebration of the "communion of saints," which reminds us that the Church is not bound by space or time.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that through the communion of saints "a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things" (CCC #1475).
Friday, October 30, 2020
Halloween reminds us that we are mortals, formed of the earth. None of us is God; none of us is immortal. We have limited time on Earth, as creatures of flesh and blood and bone, to take the path of service to God. Horror movies can be scary, but there's really nothing more terrifying than the path of evil.Most important, Halloween points us to All Saints' Day. It is, after all, All Hallows' Eve. Halloween reminds us that "we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses", a heavenly congregation of faithful servants of God who have gone before us. On Halloween, we should remember that the barrier between the physical and spiritual is really quite thin -- thin in the sense that we can easily see the examples of the graceful and loving relatives, friends, and colleagues who have entered everlasting life with God.
On All Hallows' Eve, let's not focus so much on the living dead -- zombies that pop up on movie screens. Instead, let's remember the dead who are still living as saints of God, and as inspirations to us.
Thursday, October 29, 2020
Our theme for the junior retreat has been Community. While it is a relatively short retreat I was somewhat amazed at how quickly the junior retreatants are able to articulate the theme. Certainly they understand what we have been trying to instill on a day-to-day basis in school. And while they are on retreat, they articulate our philosophy very well.
Yesterday they shared during their discussions and the homily some of these one-liners :
There are two important tables for us on retreat. The Eucharistic and dining table. Both are important.
Our lives are about relationships.
We have come as strangers and now we are friends.
Communication is never easy, but it is very important.
Community is not an easy thing to create.
It is easier to be a part of a group, than to stand alone.
We prayed, cooked, ate and had a long diner celebration in a night filled with laughing and stories. They talked about their relationships, their friends and their families.
Whatever the configuration of families or community, it is central to our lives. In today’s brief, two-line gospel we listen as a woman calls to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” Jesus’ responds, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”
What struck me about the Gospel today is that Jesus is surprising us with a change of focus. He is not discounting his own mother and their close relationship, but he is telling us that our own relationship with him can be blessed to the degree we let it be a relationship of hearing and keeping his word. Our fidelity to him blesses us with a family relationship with him.
By extension, that also means that we are invited to be family with those beyond our immediate family relationships. We include others because we have been included by Jesus.
Both inside and outside our families, we are called to reach out to others who need us as a way to really unite to Jesus and his mission on earth. What does Jesus want from us? A deeply personal relationship. Jesus isn’t looking for us to read more about him or discuss the theology of his ministry. Jesus longs for a close and personal family relationship with us as we speak to him about our lives and lean on him for support in times of need. Blessed by his love, we hear the call from this love to keep his word by loving as he has loved us.
Today Jesus imvites us to leave that family table and reach out to those who need us as we join with Jesus in his mission. Pope Francis has called us to be families of inclusion, dialog and service for all.
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
The priority of consecrated (religious) life is] prophecy of the Kingdom, which is non-negotiable. The emphasis should be on being prophets… To be prophets, in particular, by demonstrating how Jesus lived on this earth, and to proclaim how the Kingdom of God will be in its perfection. A religious must never give up prophesying. Prophecy makes a noise, uproar, a mess… Prophecy announces the spirit of the Gospel.
The witness [of religious life] that can really attract is that associated with attitudes which are uncommon - generosity, detachment, sacrifice, self-forgetfulness – in order to care for others. This is the witness, the martyrdom of religious life.
Wake up the world! Be witnesses of a different way of doing things, of acting, of living! It is possible to live differently in this world.
The above excerpted from “Wake Up the World! Conversation with Pope Francis about the Religious Life
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
There's nothing wrong with being happy. The pursuit of happiness can even be a godly activity. But to know happiness in its fullness, we need to keep God in the equation.
Look at it this way: When the Good Samaritan helped the injured man by the road, God certainly evaluated his work as good and upright, and the Samaritan also reflected God. But chances are, the Samaritan felt good about what he had done as well. He likely experienced pleasure that he had really helped someone in need and had pleased God. He may have been inconvenienced by the help he gave, but that doesn't mean he was being self-sacrificial. He loved his neighbor as he loved himself, and self-love is part of happiness. Thus, the Samaritan was happy in all three senses that Wesley identified.
Here's something else: Almost certainly the Levite and priest who passed by the injured man without helping didn't arrive at their destination as happy men. They had no doubt come up with some sort of justification for their decision to pass by on the other side, but such justifications don't yield self-love. They support selfishness (which is different from self-love), but they don't result in a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction.
As we learn to enact the kind of self-love the Good Samaritan showed, our happiness deepens. And, in effect, we are rejoicing in the Lord, as Paul recommends in today's text. When Paul told the Philippians to "Rejoice in the Lord always," he wasn't recommending a worshipful ritual, but urging his readers to feel the genuine delight that comes from living and acting God's way.
Happiness, the Bible teaches us, is a feeling that comes from doing what pleases God.
Monday, October 26, 2020
They want a couple of prime cabinet posts in the messianic administration of Jesus, sitting in the seats closest to the very regent of God. Nothing would make them happier than having people look up at Jesus and his Dream Team, marveling at how great they are.
But there are a couple of problems with being great. The first is a life of illusion, and the second is a state of confusion.
The illusion is that you are more invincible, powerful and righteous than you really are.
The confusion is that you do not know the true meaning of greatness.
History teaches that greatness is often linked to a life of illusion, one which causes people to believe that they are more invincible, powerful and righteous than they really are.
Jesus addresses in the gospel of Mark. "You do not know what you are asking," says Jesus to the aspiring great ones, James and John. "Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" Jesus senses that they are confused about what they are getting into, and he makes clear that the path to glory goes straight through the wilderness of suffering.
Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, asks Jesus -- the cup of my blood, shed on the cross for the forgiveness of sin? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with -- the baptism of dying and rising, one in which suffering and death always precede joy and new life?
John and James reply, "We are able." The two come across as supremely confident, but you have to suspect that they don't know what they're talking about. They're still confused about the path that lies ahead.
Jesus doesn't shoot them down. Instead, he nods in agreement. "The cup that I drink you will drink," he promises; "and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized." He knows that they are walking the way of the cross, which will lead to suffering for all and to death for some.
James and John. Both suffered. One was martyred. They drank the cup and experienced the baptism.
But as for positions of honor, Jesus says: "to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant." Jesus can promise suffering, death and new life to all who follow him in faith, but the granting of special places in the kingdom of heaven? That's God's call, because God is in control.
Sunday, October 25, 2020
Saturday, October 24, 2020
Saint Paul asks: “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”
The answer, of course, is a ton of stuff. Paul even lists some of them: “hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword.” All of these things were very real possibilities for the Christians in Rome of the first century. Self-identifying as a Christian often meant a loss of rights, the inability to conduct business in the marketplace, a loss of economic well-being, the possibility of being reduced to abject poverty, and even the possibility of losing one’s life, or watching loved ones lose theirs.
What’s at stake for us when we identify ourselves as Christians? We may gain the respect and admiration of others, but chances are we’ll be considered a bit odd, or off. We may be linked to fringe religious groups that we really don’t have any connection to. It’s not easy in our culture to proclaim our faith boldly.
But, even though “God be for us,” there are plenty of storms that come our way that serve to challenge, to weaken the bridge we’re crossing. We’re fearful of relationship problems, we’re concerned about health issues, we’re caught in battles of sobriety, sanity, depression and despair. We worry about terrorism, global warming, prices, crime rates and even road rage. This is a bridge that is critical to our well-being — even our salvation.
This bridge must be a bridge that can stand strong in the storm. And it is. Because God is for us. Many things may be against us, but the bottom line is: Nothing can prevail against us!
This is a bridge that is long enough. Walk this bridge and we’ll make it to the other side. Nothing, Paul writes, “will be able to separate us from the love of God.”
Friday, October 23, 2020
Jesus answers with words that were familiar to every Jew, words that were recited every morning and evening as a prayer. The "Shema" was so important that pious Jews took the commandment to "bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" literally. Little scrolls containing the words of were worn on the foreheads of pious Jews in leather boxes called phylacteries and attached to doorposts in little containers called mezuzahs. It was a command to be carried, worn and touched.
But even more than that, it was a command to be lived. In a sense, the words on the scroll were unnecessary because they were prayed and recited daily. The irony of the "test" is that those standing in front of Jesus in their phylacteries had the text in paper and ink and yet they did not realize that in their desire for religious correctness they were allowing it to disappear.
Indeed, Jesus tells the crowds to listen to the teaching of the Pharisees but not to do as they do "for they do not practice what they teach." Of all the commandments in their scrolls, Jesus says, this commandment is "the first and greatest" -- not just to be taught, but to be lived. Even if the words on the scrolls disappeared, this commandment remains permanent.
The second commandment is "like" the first: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" . This commandment wasn't just to be worn on the forehead, but it was to be kept in the heart and obeyed through the hands. For Jesus, love of God naturally works its way outward in love for neighbor, and love for neighbor can be an expression of love for God. If you put these two commandments together, says Jesus, you will boil down all the words of "the law and the prophets." The words printed by the water-jet printer may disappear every 24 hours, but the words of Jesus will never disappear.
Thursday, October 22, 2020
We don't really know if Jesus ever put pen and ink to paper. No record exists that he ever wrote anything or kept a library of his own. We do know, however, that Jesus was immersed in Israel's Scriptures in a way that did not require him to carry a Torah scroll with him or keep a filing system. The text never disappeared from his memory, and the words that he spoke were so important that among tons of paper and gallons of ink ever used in history, they are the most important -- so much so that precious ink is still used to show them to the world. And perhaps none of those words are as important as those spoken by Jesus known to history as "The Great Commandment."In Matthew's Gospel, this passage appears in a series of rapid-fire questions from the religious authorities who are grilling Jesus in the temple. The Pharisees maintained huge libraries of commentaries about the Torah and believed themselves to be experts in the law as it appeared on ink and paper. When they heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, another religious literate group, they gathered together and had a lawyer among them ask Jesus a question designed to "test" him.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
There's a pop-Gospel song entitled, "If You're Happy, Notify Your Face." Not a well-known song among the contemporary Christian songs. The first stanza goes like this:
If you're happy, notify your face,
Take that frown off and put a smile in its place;
If you love Jesus, well, show it to the human race,
If you're happy, notify your face.
The song is catchy and cute, but, in reality, our facial expression is affected by the whole range of things we experience. Do you know people whose natural facial expressions when at rest looks like smiles? If projecting happiness is a Christian obligation, then those people have an edge on the rest of us because they don't need to think about notifying their faces. But, of course, their usual expressions are merely the result of how the muscles in the face function. These same people might tell us that their lives aren't happy at all. On varying occasions, we might even see their faces projecting pain, upset and anger. Most of us find it impossible to be happy all the time. Life is just too complicated for that.
Author Thomas Kelly tells of a well-known Christian of an earlier era, John Wilhelm Rowntree (1868-1905), who began to lose his sight, and went to a doctor. After examining Rowntree, the doctor told him that nothing could be done; he was soon going to go completely blind. Afterward, outside the office, Rowntree stood holding onto a railing to collect himself, when he suddenly felt the love of God wrap around him and he "was filled with a joy he had never known before." Under the circumstances, that was hardly happiness at all, but it was the powerful presence of God. And certainly that radiates a quality of joy!
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
But if truth be told, a more appropriate mantra for this generation is: "It's all about me." In fact, Web sites abound making that very claim. Type in "It's all about me" and you'll find thousands of self-declarative, self-proclaiming, self-expressing netizens professing "It's all about me" - whoever "me" might happen to be.
Ebay, the online auction site, encourages "about me" pages because "Your About Me" page is a great way for people to understand who you are. You describe who you are - or if not who you are, then maybe how you see yourself, or wish yourself to be. You create a Web site which defiantly declares, "It's about me! It's all about me! Me, me, me, me! Notice me! See me! Here I am! I matter! Read about me! Know me!"
Jesus is well aware of the destructive nature of the "all-about-me" mentality. That's why he warns that his followers must be willing to deny themselves before they can be counted as true disciples. He understood that the only thing that stands between God and me, is me. I'm in my own way. Every time I try to walk alone I trip over myself.
This getting-out-of-the-way is what makes Peter's proclamation about Jesus so remarkable, so extraordinary, so inconceivable. For a moment, perhaps for the first time in his life, Peter gets out of his own way. For a moment Peter stops thinking about himself. He stops putting "me" first. In a flash of insight he understands, if only for that instant, that it isn't "about ME" - it never was and never will be. In effect, Peter proclaims, "It's all about you, Jesus!"
It's about Peter's becoming smaller inside himself and allowing Jesus to become bigger inside him. John the Baptist had the same insight when he said about Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease."
Monday, October 19, 2020
The eight Jesuits--Jean de Brébeuf,Noël Chabanel, Antoine Daniel, Charles Garnier, René Goupil, Isaac Jogues,Jean de Lalande and Gabriel Lalemant--are some of the most heroic and noble men in the church’s calendar of saints. They worked in the wilderness, among people with whom they had little in common other than their common humanity, far from their homelands, sometimes together, sometimes apart, always bound to the Lord, in “New France,” in the 17th century.
His life, like the lives of all the North American Martyrs, has much to teach us about working and living among those who are different from us, the inevitability of difficulties even for the most devout of souls and the necessity of faith at all times.
When he returned to New France in 1635, he was cheerfully welcomed by his Huron friends. Immediately he and Antoine Daniel, another Jesuit, began their work in earnest. (They were one of several Jesuits working in the region at the time.) Near a town called Ihonotiria, near current-day Georgian Bay in Canada, Fathers Brébeuf and Daniel began teaching the people about Christianity. They were later joined by two other French Jesuits, Charles Garnier and Isaac Jogues.
With the arrival of their new companions, though, a smallpox epidemic broke out among the Jesuits, which spread to the Hurons, who had no immunity whatsoever from the illness. The missionaries cared for the sick and baptized thousands of Hurons. But because they had baptized those who were dying, the Hurons concluded that baptism brought death, and so many of the Hurons began to turn against the "Blackrobes." Brébeuf then moved to Sainte-Marie, a center for the Jesuits in the area.
Then a new danger arose. Rumors (false ones) circulated that Jean was in league with a sworn enemy of the Hurons, the Seneca clan of the Iroquois. So he prudently moved to another site, Saint Louis. On March 16, the Iroquois attacked the village and took the Hurons, who were mainly Christians, along with Jean and another Jesuit, Gabriel Lalement, prisoner. He knew that the possibility of martyrdom was imminent.
Jean de Brébeuf's torture was among the cruelest any Jesuit has had to endure. (You might want to avoid this next paragraph if you're squeamish.)
The Iroquois heated hatchets until they were glowing red and, tying them together, strung them across his shoulders, searing his flesh. They wrapped his torso with bark and set it afire. They cut off his nose, lips and forced a hot iron down his throat, and poured boiling water over his head in a gruesome imitation of baptism. They scalped him, and cut off his flesh while he was alive. Finally someone buried a hatchet in his jaw.
After 14 years as a missionary, Jean de Brébeuf died on March 16, 1639. He was 56. At his death his heart was eaten as a way for the Iroquois, who were stunned by his courage, to share in his bravery. Eight other Jesuits were martyred around this same time, and are now referred to as the North American Martyrs.
May they pray for us and be our examples of patience, fortitude and faith.
Excerpt from James Martin, SJ