We could use the Beatitudes for mysteries of our rosary.

Thursday, 11/1/12

There is a double meaning in each of these Beatitudes which opens with the words “Blessed are the . . . “ One meaning refers to the saints in heaven. Those blessed ones are in heaven because in life they were poor in spirit, meek, etc.

The second meaning of the Beatitudes is that you and I will be blessed and happy if we are poor in spirit, meek, etc.

We should make use of the Beatitudes to school ourselves in being what God wants us to be. One way of making use of them would be to substitute the eight Beatitudes for mysteries of your rosary.

For the first mystery you say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” then, while saying the Our Father and the ten Hail Mary’s, you check yourself on being poor in spirit. You ask yourself if you are greedy, or if you should be more generous with your time and money.

For the second mystery you say, “Blessed are they who mourn,” but instead of mourning for the dead, you ask yourself to give thought to people you know who are suffering. You make that decade of your rosary a prayer for those people in pain. I read a few words on prayer written by a fine Irish priest who was shot by the Japanese in the Philippines. He wrote, “Your prayer goes straight to God, and with that, within the soul of someone struggling with pain, enters God’s grace, a torrent on the desert places of the soul.”

For the third mystery on the Beatitudes you check yourself on meekness. Is there any meekness surviving in your ego?

And so you go through the Beatitudes, realigning yourself with Christ. It makes for a nice thirty-minute morning walk.

We honor our parents in the Lord by recognizing their authority as coming from God.

Wednesday, 10/31/12

Reminding us of the commandment that we honor our fathers and mothers, Paul added the phrase, “in the Lord.” To honor our parents in the Lord means that we accept their authority as coming from the Lord.

In the second chapter of Genesis when God looked at his first human he immediately said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” With that statement he was telling us that he created us as social animals. We can only survive by working in union with one another. From that it flows that when differences of opinions arise, as they inevitably will, someone must have the right to speak decisively. So, we can say that God established roles of authority at the moment of his creation of our race.

We might not like what our parents or our bishops, or our bosses on the job decide on. We might not even like them, but we must go along with their directives because their authority comes from God. As Paul put it in Chapter Thirteen of his Letter to the Romans, “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed.” 

The wording of the commandment requires us to honor our parents. Specifically, to honor means to put the kindest interpretation on their behavior the way we naturally give the kindest judgment on our own actions.

As for when we are excused from obeying, it is safe to follow the old rule that “We must obey in all things but sin.”

We must honor all persons created in God's image.

Tuesday, 10/30/12

Paul tells us that wives should be subject to their husbands, but he also told us that a woman brings shame on herself by praying with her head uncovered (1Cor. 11/5). At times Paul and Moses simply repeated the rules that were in effect in their days. With Moses we see this in Exodus 21. That chapter says that a Hebrew slave must be released after six years of servitude, however in verse 4 we read, “If a master gives a slave a wife and she bears him sons and daughters, the woman and her children shall remain the master’s property.” That was Egypt’s regulation not God’s.

We are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. With twenty-five hundred bishops coming together for three-month-long sessions four years in a row, and with their prayerfully debating every aspect of Catholic practices and beliefs, there is little on which we should fault them or their   decisions. However, many  who were raised on the stricter principles of the Council of Trent choose to sing, “Give me that old time religion. It’s good enough for me.”

Returning to the questions as to whether or not women must be subject to their husbands and wear hats when they pray, one dominant teaching of Vatican II frees them in both cases. That is Vatican II’s emphasis on the dignity of persons as persons.

There was no individual document that drew attention to the dignity of each person created in God’s image. No, all 16 documents taken together are an Emancipation Declaration from the feudal attitudes that classed humans as royalty or serfs, as shepherds or sheep. One sentence that repeats Vatican II’s greatest theme is in the Declaration on Christian Education that states, “All men (humans) of whatever race, condition or age, in virtue of their dignity  as human persons, have an inalienable right to education.”    

You are God' chosen ones, holy and beloved.

Monday, 10/29/12

Our first reading from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians tells us that as Christians we are members of  one family, God’s family; and we should treat each other as beloved brothers and sisters.

In another of his letters, in his Letter to the Colossians, Paul developed that theme of our need to be good family members. When a couple grtting married asked me for a good passage for their wedding  I often recommended this one.

“Because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. If one has a grievance against the other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace to which you were called in one body.”

I want to see.

Sunday, 10/28/12

Instead of looking for a moral in the story of the blind man named Bartimaeus, and instead of comparing his physical blindness to our spiritual blindness, we should just enjoy what happened with Bartimaeus.

There is no city in the world that lies as far below sea level as Jericho. A man living in Jacksonville used to talk about what an unpleasant place Jericho was. Peter owned an automobile agency in Jerusalem before the Jews took over, and he hated  driving tourists down to Jericho. It was always hot there, and the big flies were on everything.

So, we should picture Bartimaeus spending his life in a favorite spot in the dust of that roadside. He’d be forever brushing aside the annoying flies. On this day he felt the throngs of people pushing by. He heard them talking excitedly, and it had him shouting out his questions, “What’s going on? Who are they talking about?”

The lame beggars sharing his bit of roadside would have told him it was Jesus, the prophet that the whole country was talking about. Now, although begging for help was all that Bartimaeus was good for, he was blessed with a real mind and an eager personality; and he seemed to have come to the conclusions that this Jesus was actually the promised Messiah, the descendent of King David.

Knowing that this was the only chance that would come his way in this lifetime, at the top of his voice he called out, “Son of David, have pity on me!” His calls were so loud and incessant that people objected, saying things like “Shut that beggar up!”

But things changed, because Jesus, stopped everyone, and he said, “Call him over.” The people, amused at what was happening, told Bartimaeus, “Here’s your chance. He is calling you over.”

Bartimaeus jumped up, and throwing back his cloak, he stumbled wildly through an opening the crowd was making for him.

Jesus addressed him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Master, I want to see!”

“Your faith has saved you. Go hour way.”

But Bartimaeus did not go his way. He followed Jesus up the road toward Jerusalem, becoming a well-known disciple.      

Jesus doesn't want us to weep over our past sins. No, he wants us to do better from now on.

Saturday, 10/27/12

In Our Lord’s parable the fig tree that bore little or no fruit could stand for you or me. It would, if in spite of our good families and fine educations we have  contributed very little to the welfare of God’s people. Perhaps you and I are on that extra year of trial, and if we don’t do some real good this years God will do away with us.

It is unfortunate that our English language Bibles quote Jesus as saying, “If you do  not repent you will all perish.” To repent mans to blame yourself for past failings, and that was not what Jesus said we had to do. The word the St. Luke used for what Jesus said was metanloia, which means “turn one’s thinking around.” As Our Lord tells us in his  parable about the fig tree, he was not asking us to weep over our past failings, no, he was telling us to turn lour lives around to do better in the future. 

Jesus told us to read the signs of the times.

Friday, 10/26/12

In the Gospel Jesus asked how it could happen that men who were shrewd about knowing what way the weather was going, could not, “know how to interpret the present time?”

When Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago he was sharing that concern of Our Lord. His one word motto for the council was Aggiornamento which was Italian for bringing things up-to-date. He was against the Church sticking to what she had said in the past after it had been proved that what she had been saying was wrong.

Let me give an example of our sticking to mistakes. From the time of Nero, Christians had believed that Moses, back in 1250 B.C. wrote the first five books of the Bible in Hebrew. However, in recent times science has clearly shown that it wasn’t until a century after Moses that a copper mine foreman in the Sinai Peninsula used cut-down hieroglyphics to form the very first Hebrew alphabet.

But, rather than change what she had always said, up until 1950 Rome forced our Scripture teachers to go on teaching that Moses wrote those books in Hebrew. One cynical old professor told me, “You have to say that Moses wrote those books, but it is alright for you to say that five other guys named Moses wrote them.”

The most conservative of our popes ruled from was 1830 to 1846. Gregory XVI would not allow trains to run through the Papal States, nor would he allow gas streetlights. That reluctance followed on his having been raised to believe that God put people of noble blood here to rule over us. He was thirty-four in the year 1893-1894 when French commoners guillotined sixteen thousand nobles. Every day through his remaining fifty-three yeas his imagination was haunted by those awful murders.

What made him so conservative was his conviction that France’s common people had been poisoned by the growing wealth of their shopkeepers. That belief of his turned him against anything leading to a prosperous economy. In his 1832 encyclical Mirari Vos he condemned freedom of conscience, freedom of the press, questioning of the authority of kings and nobles. He wrote, “Nothing of things appointed ought to be diminished, nothing changed.” 

Our local poet, Sidney Lanier, drew the courage to endure from the way the marshes of Glynn County triumphed over every kind of storm.

Thursday, 10/25/12

Paul’s mention of the length and the breadth of Christ’s love puts me in mind of a local poem. A hundred and fifty years ago Sidney Lanier, an ex-Confederate officer, was faced with death from tuberculosis at age thirty-nine. Coming to the edge of the wide marshes of Glynn County just north of here, he saw them as Christ-like in the way they suffered from winds and tides, but survived. Here are a few lines from his long poem. 

Somehow my soul seems suddenly free

From the weighing of fate and the sad discussion of sin,

By the length and the breadth and the sweep of the marshes of Glynn.

Ye marshes, how candid and simple and nothing-withholding and free
Ye publish yourselves to the sky and offer yourselves to the sea!

Tolerant plains, that suffer the sea and the rains and the sun,

Ye spread and span like the catholic man who hath mightily won

God out of knowledge and good out of infinite pain

And sight out of blindness and purity out of a stain.

As the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod,

Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God:

I will fly in the greatness of God as the marsh-hen flies

In the freedom that fills all the space ’twixt the marsh and the skies:

By so many roots as the marsh-grass sends in the sod
I will heartily lay me a-hold on the greatness of God:

Oh, like to the greatness of God is the greatness within

The range of the marshes, the liberal marshes of Glynn.

God plans to bring all creation together in Christ.

Wednesday, 10/24/12

In his Letter to the Ephesians Paul exulted in the fact that God had chosen him and the Apostles to make known the great mystery underlying all creation: namely, that it is God’s will to bring all of creation together in Christ.

One wonders how that could be. We might ask, “Since Jesus lived and died two thousand years ago, what grand influence could he have on all the non-Christian infants to be born in Mongolia and Uganda?”

However, if we start at the other end of creation we can see some connection. I mean, John’s Gospel identified Jesus as the Word of God through whom all things came to be. John there implied that no living person comes to be except through the Word.

So, all of us, even the yet-to-be-born Mongolian and Ugandan babies, we were all together in Christ at the beginning of creation. How, though, can we be together at the end of creation?

I don’t know, but the Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin spoke of all creation eventually converging; and in line with St. John calling Christ the Alpha and the Omega, de Chardin hypothesized that by a reverse type of evolution all creation would converge at what he called the Omega point.

Paul said his revelation concerning God bringing us all together in Christ was a mystery, and perhaps we will need to leave it at that.

Christ Jesus is the capstone who from heaven holds the edifice together.

Tuesday, 10/23/12

The week before last when we had readings from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians we read how after his conversion, he spent fourteen silent years ruminating on the mysteries of his faith. Today’s reading from his Letter to the Ephesians leads us to an appreciation of those years of prayerful thought.

Here he describes the church as “built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.”

It took those years of prayer and deep thought to distill so much truth in so few words.

The Church is “built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets.” That links the Old and New Testament as a single source of our indebtedness to Divine Revelation.

Secondly, it affirms the contention of the French bishops at Vatican II, when they insisted on Ressoucement, or the need even for the Magisterium to be true to its roots in Christ and the Apostles.

Without Paul explicitly saying it, his image has us all individually serving as stones in the wall of the church building

The truly beautiful element in his image is, “with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.”    

There he sees the church structure as an arch. The stones laid on each side are slightly wider on their outside, so that the sides of the wall curve in toward each other. Then, when they are just short of falling inward, the capstone, shaped like a slice from a rim, is wedged in between the rising sides, locking them in place.

Paul doesn’t name that capstone Jesus who passed from this world, but he calls it Christ Jesus who from heaven actively holds the church edifice together. 

The rich man was a fool for letting his wealth keep him from enjoying harvest time.

Monday, 10/22/12

Most of our Gospel stories concerned people living on the land, so that even today people living from harvest to harvest are more at home than we are with Gospel stories. We are at home with TV schedules, Wal-Mart sales, and  political ads. We need to shake off our modern preoccupations to get the point of Our Lord’s parables. 

His parable today deals with harvest time, the time of the year when folks can say goodbye to fourteen-hour work days, when they can drink a little and sing a lot, especially at their weddings. Shakespeare caught the spirit of it in the line, “The only pretty ring time, when birds do sing, hey ding a ding ding.

But the rich man in today’s parable lacked the storage space he needed for his great harvest, so he put off enjoying the harvest while he got busy building more barns. He told himself that after he had finished all his work he would be able to say, “You have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink and be merry.”  

What did God say to that? He said, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you!”

Why did God call the man a fool? He had to serve his wealth, rather than making his wealth serve him. He was a fool for letting his wealth prevent him from sharing in the happiness that even the poorest were rolling in.

It’s very wrong to think of God as a killjoy. Jesus frequented wedding banquets and harvest feasts. Many of our best memories are of family parties. We can be sure that Jesus was with us in spirit at those good times. 

Jesus told his disciples to not lord it over people.

Sunday, 10/21/12

Jesus told the Apostles, “Those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt, but it shall not be so among you.” 

The Church has not always heeded Our Lord’s caution against lording it over people. I served under a bishop who demanded that he be addressed as “My Lord,” and when he visited our parish all the people had to assemble to kneel and kiss his ring. His reason for demanding those things was that he thought the Church wanted it. He was not a proud man.

That Bishop Tom Quinlan, to be able to continue serving his people, stayed behind when the Reds invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. All through the next winter he plodded north on a death march that took the lives of two thirds of the American soldiers who were his companions. One survivor called him, “The bravest man I ever knew.”

A bit of church history from the year 500 explains how people came to address any Catholic bishop as “My Lord.”  For two centuries before that the barbarians who overran Europe had embraced the Arian Religion. As Arians they read only a doctored version of the New Testament. It regarded Jesus as just a good man, not the Son of God. The Arians had all but wiped out Christianity when Clovis the king of the Franks, a new nation from the east came along. He married a Catholic girl who talked him into getting all his people baptized Catholic. It happened at Rheims on Christmas of 496.    

The Catholic priests ran into a problem with the Franks. Like all the new nations the Franks followed Feudalism. Feudalism had a primitive social framework. Under it everyone with an inheritance possessed a noble name, an estate, and serfs; while anyone without an inheritance was a serf, and he slept with the pigs. The bishops and priests had no inheritances, but they didn’t  like being classed as serfs. What they did was they rigged up a ceremony for the year 500. With the nobles all assembled, one by one each bishop and priest came before them, making the same announcement: “I have an inheritance. My inheritance is the Lord.”

The word they used for an inheritance was klerk, and because each of them used that word, people took to calling them “clerks.” The acceptance of them as clerks brought about a total restructuring of Feudalism. Where it had been only nobles and serfs, now it was nobles, clerics, and serfs.

One problem remained for the bishops and priests. The nobles demanded that since the clerics, like the nobles, were high above the serfs, they needed to be revered. Like the French say, “Noblesse oblige.” So they became the reverend, the very reverend, the most reverend. This introduced a conflict into their souls, because our Master had told them to not make their importance felt.

For the Church to survive the centuries when Feudalism was the only acceptable thing, the priests and bishops had to adopt Feudalism. Now, that we have come into a liberal age it might be necessary for priests and bishops to adopt, if not democracy, at least republicanism.

The Church is Christ's bride.

Saturday, 10/20/12

For the rest of this month our first readings will be taken from what is called Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. However, although Paul had labored in Ephesus for two years, the letter makes no mention of that, and there are no greetings to his many friends there. So, people who know the Bible well tell us that the Letter to the Ephesians is actually a beautiful essay on the nature of the Church itself.

This Letter makes no mention of the government of the Church or of the countries to which it has spread. Rather, Paul looks on the Church as the bride of Christ. He  speaks of the benefits that come to us all. In today’s reading he expresses the desire that our eyes may be opened to the riches that are ours as Christians. He wants us to become aware of “the riches of glory in his inheritance among his holy ones.”

Sometimes we hear about people who have thoughts of leaving the Catholic Church because they differ with what church officials are saying on some topics. Paul’s Letter the Ephesians tells such people that the Church is a mysterious hidden union between Christ and his chosen ones. The Church is not its politics.

We need never fear if we keep God at home in our souls.

Friday, 10/19/12

Today’s readings had me thinking of an old song that said, “I’m just a poor, wayfaring stranger, a traveling through this land of woe.”

I feel like that at times, but the point I want to make is that most people, even though they do not know that song, are looking for help in traveling through this land of woe. We are overwhelmed by the world’s vastness and by the difficulties that come  out of nowhere. Most people feel they need to look for outside help.

The Pharisees, whom Jesus criticized in the Gospel, tried to gain help from God by making themselves into models of virtue for lesser people to follow; and Jesus said that wasn’t working for the Pharisees.

I have a slight acquaintance with the man in the Gospel who has five sparrows that he would sell for a few pennies. One day in the years before Korea revived from its war, I was stuck standing for three hours on a very crowded bus. The way I was wedged in had me staring down at a seated gentleman who was holding a stiff strand of straw out before him.

I was impressed with the neat vest and jacket his women had fashioned for him out of a U.S. Army blanket. The straw he was holding out in front of him was threaded through the stiff little nostrils of three small birds. I knew enough of customs to guess that he planned on selling the perfect birds to someone who was laying out a ceremonial meal for their departed ancestors. Some strangers traveling through this land of woe seek for help by honoring their ancestors.

St. Paul spoke of the way we Christians look for outside help. He said we are, “Sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.”  

Our Theologians, in explaining what Paul meant, speak of Uncreated Grace and Created Grace. Our more familiar way of putting that is that Uncreated Grace is God dwelling in our souls. Created Grace is the Sanctifying Grace God pours out in our soul.

  We wayfaring strangers need never fear if we keep God at home in our souls.

St. Luke was the only Non-Jew to write in the Bible.

Today is the Feast of St. Luke who was the only non-Jew to give us a book of the Bible. Actually, he wrote two books, his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. People who know good writing tell us that Luke was the New Testament’s finest writer. He subtly slips himself into the story in Chapter Sixteen of the Acts of the Apostles. He had been describing the journeying of St. Paul and his companions. In verse 8 he wrote, “They crossed through Mysia and came down to Troas.” Then, picking up the story two verses on he wrote, “We sought passage to Macedonia.”

He stayed with Paul from then on. In Paul’s final days, as a prisoner in Rome, he wrote to Timothy saying, “I have no one here with me but Luke.”

Joining Paul only ten years after the Resurrection, Luke never saw Jesus. For writing his Gospel he had to ask people for stories. He made that clear in the opening verses of his Gospel.

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I have decided after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence.

His account is special in that he tells us of the women who spent so much time helping Jesus. It is wonderful for the parables of mercy that Our Lord told the people. Like, he alone saved for us the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son.

When St. Ignatius of Antioch was a child he sat on Our Lord's knee.

Wednesday, 10/17/12

On October 17 each year we recall the heroism and the teaching of St. Ignatius of  Antioch. That was a city two hundred miles north of Jerusalem. Ignatius followed St. Peter and one other as Antioch’s bishop, and it is said that when Ignatius was a child he sat on Our Lord’s knee.

Around the year one hundred there was a public Roman occasion in Antioch to which Ignatius was invited. All went well until each of the dignitaries was obliged to take part in burning incense to the Roman gods. The governor, seeing it as a small show of patriotism, begged Ignatius to sprinkle on a little incense, but he refused. The matter was necessarily reported to Emperor Trajan, and he reluctantly decided that the refusal was tantamount to treason, and Ignatius had to be brought to Rome to be thrown to the lions.

Ignatius was bound to the mast of a coastal schooner which slowly made its way from port to port to Rome. At each of seven ports the Christians came down and visited with him, and when Ignatius reached the port of Troas he penned letters back to the Christians in those seven ports. He wrote as well to John’s disciple, Polycarp; and he sent a letter ahead to the Christians in Rome.

All nine of his letters are valuable to us in that they show us how Christianity was carried on the generation after the Apostles. His Letter t the Christians in Rome is touching in that he begged them not use I any influence to save his life. He saw himself as raw grain that needed to be ground by the teeth of the lions to become  flour worthy to become part of the Bread which is Christ. 

Jesus showed Margaret Mary his heart, saying, "Behold this heart that has loved so much, and has been loved so little in return."

Tuesday, 10/16/12

Yesterday we celebrated to feast of the very human, very intellectual, St. Teresa of Avila. Today we celebrate the feast of a nun who was in many ways the opposite of St. Teresa.

While Teresa was put in a convent to curb her worldly ways, Margaret, a century later, was saintly from early childhood. Until she fell ill at the age of nine, Margaret worked at pleasing God by denying herself pleasures and by afflicting her body in punishment for the sins of men.

On a much, much lower level a priest friend and I mirror the differences between Margaret Mary and Teresa. Margaret Mary was a mystic, enjoying visions of her Savior so often that as a child she assumed that everybody was having such private meetings with Jesus. My priest friend likes talking about mystical experiences, while I prefer my religion coming to me through Scripture and Tradition.

My priest friend is very strong on devotion to the Sacred heart, while I shy away from displays of red anatomy. I am no authority, so what I feel in this matter really doesn’t matter at all, but I will go along with St. Margaret Mary and her mystic followers in one thing. I believe that Jesus showed her his heart, saying, “Behold this heart which has loved men so much, and has been loved so little in return.” It does make me feel the need to return that love.

Jesus showed Margaret Mary his heart, saying it has loved much, and has been loved so little in return.

St.Teresa of Avila was a great personality.

Monday, 10/15/12

Today is the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, one of our Church’s greatest personalities. Born in Spain in 1515, she was one of ten children. With the Inquisition having  questioned her grandfather about his Jewish roots;, her father; to establish his orthodoxy, had purchased a title, and he forced his family to carry themselves with great shows of devotion. That was hard on Teresa’s mother who was a secret reader of romances. That mother died when Teresa was fifteen, and her father, suspecting Teresa of having been in to something with his departed wife, put her into a Carmelite convent. It was tough on Teresa, but she found it more congenial than life with her father.

When she slipped into a coma in her late twenties, Teresa heard the others talking about digging her grave. When she came out of that, she made a strong effort at learning prayerful contemplation, but she was not successful at it. Later she wrote, “I tried as hard as I could to keep Jesus Christ present within me, but my imagination was dull, with no talent for coming up with the right thoughts”

When she turned forty she met up with a priest who scolded her for the poor approach she was making to prayer. That had her binding herself to spending an hour at a time kneeling in silent prayer. She later wrote about how she would shake her hourglass to get the grains of sand to move through faster. But she stuck to it, and she came to a secure knowledge that she was truly in the Lord’s presence.

Silent prayer became the most important thing to her. She began wanting a convent life where the others were not just passing there time amusing themselves. She was in her early fifties when she met the young Carmelite priest, Father John of the Cross. Together they petitioned the head of the Carmelite Order to let them found monasteries and convents where souls could pursue mental prayer free from conversations and other distractions. While they went about making contemplative foundations, each of them penned invaluable writings on the secrets of reaching union with God in prayer,

If you have never achieved an exalted form of prayer, you can at least enjoy the fact that others have, and that you still might. There used to be a popular song named, “There Are Such Things.” It went like this, “Have a little faith and trust in what tomorrow brings. You’ll reach the stars, because there are such things.”

We must dispose of some degree of our selfishness so we can follow Jesus.

 Sunday, 10/14/12  

A young man ran up to Jesus, asking, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

We picture that young man as being at a crossroads where he must pick out the role to play in life. In telling him to sell what he had, to give to the poor, and to follow him, Jesus was asking the young man to choose a profession or a line of work in which he could be said to be following Jesus.

But, what if we are not young, but well on our way? What about us? What if we already had so many irons in the fire that we can’t be seen as being at a crossroads?

Well, at whatever stage we may have reached, we are still at a crossroads. Like they say, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” While still meeting our many obligations, we are always at a place where we can figuratively sell all to follow Jesus.

I must confess to being selfish. Am I wrong in saying each of us is born selfish, and remains somewhat selfish? Each of our hungry-little-hearts craves for more recognition, more appreciation, more compliments. For any of us the advise that we sell what we have to follow Jesus could mean that we should systematically put clamps on our self-love, we should strive to free our hearts for the service of other people and for causes dear to the Lord. 

When what the Bible and our elders tell us leaves us uncertain we must seek God's voice through earnest prayer.

Saturday, 10/13/12

Jesus said those who hear the word of God and observe it are blessed. His statement  was brought on by a woman in the crowd crying out, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed.” Her words implied that it was the family Jesus came from that made him such a worthy person. In his saying no to that, Jesus was putting aside the attitudes of tribal-minded people who saw some families as good, and others as bad.

Instead, he was saying that each of us will be judged to be either blessed or evil on our own merits. He went on to lay down two requirements for anyone to be blessed in God’s eyes. The first requirement is that one hears the Word God, the second is that one observes that word of God.

As to the first, how does one hear the word of God? His word does not come as an audible voice the way God’s voice was said to have come to the boy Samuel as he lay sleeping at the shrine in Shiloh. No, it comes to one through the words of the Bible and the words of one’s elders. But it often happens that we hear conflicting directives from them, and that leaves us uncertain. That often happens, and when it does, we must seek his voice through earnest prayer.

Like Abraham, we all can be justified by faith.

Friday, 10/12/12

The basic message in Paul’ Letter to the Galatians is that we are saved by faith, and not by observance of the Law. There is a story about what prompted Paul to make that argument.

Although the religion of those Jews living in Jerusalem had always been centered on carrying out proper temple worship, the religious life of Jews in the Diaspora needed another bond to keep them Jewish. What the rabbis settled on as the proper mark of their religious fidelity was the observance of the Law.

This “observance of the Law” meant more than keeping the Ten Commandments. It  meant observance of another ten thousand prescriptions that the Scribes had added to the Law over five centuries. Their Law library contained many volumes that detailed what activities violated the law against work on the Sabbath. There were as many volumes detailing what foods and spices were and were not kosher.

 Jesus once said not even the doctors of the Law were able to observe all the Law’s restrictions. I don’t mean to mock those sincere people, but I have read that it was morally upright for them to find legal ways around their laws. Let me mention something I heard about Sabbath Day journeys. A religious Jew was allowed to walk no more than a thousand yards from his property. But some clever ones got around that by buying square inches of property at a thousand yard intervals all over the city. That let them walk all day without going a Sabbath Day’s Journey from their property.

Paul brings up Abraham. Abraham lived five hundred years before Moses received the law. But he was saved by faith, not the law. Genesis 15:6 says that Abraham was justified by his faith in God.  If Abraham the Great was justified without observing the Mosaic Law so could any one else be so saved.

Our Eucharistic Prayers grew out of Our Lord's table blessing at the Last Supper.

Thursday, 10/11/12

With my nieces and nephews in mind, I plan to turn my Thursday homilies into explanations of some surprising turns in Church History. The surprising turn I’ll treat with today demonstrates the way our Eucharistic Prayers were derived from the solemn Grace at Meals Jesus offered at the Last Supper.

At the Last Supper Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me.” That was such a brief directive that we wonder how the parts of our Sunday Mass derived from it. The answer is that the Mass is a development of the full Grace at Meals that Jesus spoke at the Last Supper. That formal Jewish Grace at Meals was called the Brakha.

The Brakha was a succession of three prayers. The first part, in Greek was called the Anamnesis, or “calling to mind.” It had the host asking the diners to recall God’s favors. The second part, the epiclesis, had the host calling down God’s spirit to unite the diners, and to empower them to speak to God. In the Eucharistesas, the third part of the Brakha, the diners responded to God’s favors by making themselves into pleasing gifts to God. (The words eu charis mean “pleasing gift.”)

Our English translations of Matthew, Mark and Luke’s Gospels say that Jesus took up the bread “after the blessing,” but St. Paul’s account and the Consecration at our Masses say that Jesus took up the bread “after giving thanks.” But both versions translate the same Greek word. It was Eucharistesas or the third part of the Brakha. So, Jesus took up the bread after finishing the Brakha.

Now, there was one rule the host had to follow in leading the diners in the Brakha.
That rule stated that to insure his sincerity the host always had to use his own words in blending the three parts of this grace at meals.

In our present day Masses the priest uses Eucharistic Prayer One, Two, Three, or Four. They seem to be quite different, but if you examine them one by one, you will see that each of them blends the three parts of the grace that Jesus used at the Last Supper. The priest calls to mind God’s favors. He calls down his Spirit, and he asks people to make themselves into pleasing gifts to God.

The Acts of the Apostles, in speaking of Christians at their Lord’s Day ceremony, referred to the rite as “The breaking of the Bread.” But by the end of the first century, that third part of the Brakha, the Eucharistesas, had taken over as the Christians’ name for the entire rite. In a little handbook called “The teaching of the Apostles,” or in Greek, the Didache, we read,

“On the Lord’s Day, after you have come together, break the bread and offer the Eucharist, having first confessed your offences, so that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one who has a quarrel with his neighbor join you until he is reconciled, lest your sacrifice be defiled. For it was said by the Lord, ‘In every place and time let there be offered to me a clean sacrifice.’”

Note, that three times the rite is referred to as their sacrifice. St. Augustine wrote that the sacrificial aspect of the Mass consisted in each diner making him or her self into a Pleasing Gift to God.

Next Thursday we will take up surprising things that happened with the Mass between the years 150 and 600.