Advent is the season when we prepare for Jesus coming to us at Christmas, while the Mass readings for Advent celebrate his coming to us at other times as well.


Sunday, 12/1/13

Today opens the season of Advent. As you know, the word Advent means “He comes.” Through the four weeks of Advent we will be treated to a variety of readings celebrating God’s coming to us. Today’s three readings celebrate three different ways in which he comes to us.

The first reading today, quoting Isaiah from 600 B.C. seems to be a foreshadowing of the heavenly Mount Sinai which will be established as the highest of mountains.

 The second reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans looks forward to the world’s end when Christ will put an end to wickedness.

 The third reading, the Gospel, again sees Christ, coming in glory t the world’s end.

 As the lowest common denominator of all these different comings is the simple truth that God does come to us. He does not remain aloof.

That might not sound like news to you, yet in the ancient world, while most primitive religions believed in a creator, they all embraced myths that had the creator abandoning them because of their wickedness. 

Let me quote a verse from Chapter Six of Genesis that echoes what happened in all the other ancient creation myths  “When the Lord saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil, he regretted that he had made man on the earth.”

Since all primitive peoples believed that communications between them and the creator had been cut off, it came as a wonderful surprise to Jacob in Chapter 28 of Genesis when in a dream he saw angels ascending and descending on a ladder to heaven, carrying up our prayers, and carrying down God’s cures. Yippee! God hasn’t deserted us.

Then, with centuries of prophesies leading up to the event. God came to us in the person of the child of Bethlehem.

And far from that being a one-time-event, Jesus told us, “If you love me you will keep my commandments, and my Father will love you, and we will come and make our dwelling with you.” 

Jesus is asking, "What are you looking for?"



Saturday, 11/30/13

St. Andrew’s earliest appearance was in John’s Gospel. Andrew and John were neighbor boys, sons of fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. On having heard that John the Baptist was baptizing people eighty mils south of them, they got permission from their dads to go down there. They thought they could help the Baptist with the young and the old who were wading out in the Jordan to be baptized by him.

One day when they were out in the river with him, the Baptist pointed to Jesus  passing by as he called out, “Behold the Lamb of God.” 

With an exchange of looks, Andrew and John waded ashore, and they followed after Jesus. But, being bashful country boys, they kept their distance as they followed along. At last, Jesus turned, and he asked them, “What are you looking for?”

I think St. John put that question in his Gospel for you to read. He wanted you to know Jesus was asking you  “What are you looking for?” What do you want to do with the rest of your life? “  Try answering that.

Andrew and John answered Jesus by asking, “Where are you staying?” And, he said, “Come and see,” and “they went and stayed with him.”

That Greek word translated here as “stay” was  mineis. It might be the most frequently used word in John’s Gospel. Sometimes it is translated as “dwell,” and sometimes as “remain.”  

John’s Gospel is all about remaining in Christ. You could say that John’s Gospel is all about Sanctifying Grace by which we remain in Christ, and he remains in us.

Jesus cursed a fig tree that was all blooms, but no fruit. I guess you know what he was telling you there


Friday, 11/29/13

Our Lord’s image of a fig tree bursting into bloom might make you think of other fig trees in sacred literature. For instance, Mark’s Gospel tells about Jesus cursing a fig tree because it as all blooms, but no fruit. I’m sure you know what he was getting at there.

If you dabble in Eastern religions you might recall how the first Buddha Siddartha, Guatamo planted himself beneath a fig tree, vowing, “Though skin and blood and bone dry up, I will not budge until enlightenment comes to me.” As Siddartha stayed sitting there for days, he kept recalling a holy man who over-and-over repeated the words, “Only God is real, I am but an illusion.”

At last, Siddartha decided, “Since I am just an illusion, there is no sense in my wanting enlightenment or anything else.” That had him stopping all desiring, and with that enlightenment came to him. He became the Buddha, or the “Enlightened one.”

Our Catholic saints also cease all desiring, and thus become enlightened. The difference with them is their motivation for ceasing to desire is not that they think of themselves as illusions. No, they stop desiring because the great love they have from God so fills their hearts that they want nothing more.  

Our word "thank"is an old variation of the word "think."Today we think kindly of God and the friends and family he gave us.


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Thursday, 13/28/11

Today we give thanks to God for all his gifts to us.

But, what does giving thanks mean? Is it simply the words, “Thank you?”

Whole industries, supporting many families, are devoted to printing and selling Thank You Cards. But what are they meant to tell the people they are sent to?

It you look up the word “thank” you will see that it is derived from the word “think.” So, to thank someone is to assure them you are thinking of them.

You are thinking of them, not in a vague way, but as the source of your joys. Today you think of God as the source of the love you have received from your family. You think of him as the one who devised your body and your mind. You think of him as the inventor of clouds and trees and baby faces.  You acknowledge your debt to him for all he has given to you and to the rest of us.

The Holy Spirit will remind you of things Jesus said.



Wednesday, 11/27/13

In comparison with the heroism of the early Christians we are forced to see ourselves as less than mediocre. That doesn’t mean that we have any longing to join them in being persecuted. No, we are not adverse to leading our comfortable lives.

We are, however, envious of the intimacy those early Christians had with Jesus.  He promised them that when they were brought before magistrates he would be at their side, supplying them the best possible answers to the accusations made against them.

We might wonder if there is any way for us to tune in on comparable advice from Jesus. I think there is. In the Garden of Olive Jesus told the Father, “Not my will, but thine be done.” At all of our decision-making-times if we could approach God with that same willing obedience, we can get the right answers from him.

Don’t you like what he told us after the Last Supper: “The holy Spirit will lead you to all truth, and he will remind you of what I said.” That last part is important. After you ask God for direction, something that Jesus said will pop into your mind, and it will fit the situation.

You cold hear him say, “Don’t be concerned about what you should wear.” Or, when you are surrounded by people who look like enemies, he might say, “I have many of my people in this place.” Or, “You have but one teacher, for you are all brothers.”

The story of Daniel is a fictionalized account of his interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's dream. It was written four hundred years later.


Tuesday, 11/26/13

In the First Reading King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream in 590 B.C., and Daniel explained the dream.

In the dream the king saw a great statue composed of different kinds of metal. It had a head of gold, which represented the kingdom of the Babylonians. It had a chest of silver that stood for the Kingdom of the Medes. It had a bronze belly standing for the Persians. Its iron legs were the kingdom of he Greeks, and its iron-and-clay feet were the kingdom of Syria where the Greek officers married Arab women. The uncut stone that rolled down, knocking over the great statue stood for the Hassidic Jews who took part in the overthrow of the pagan kingdoms.

There is a flaw in the story in that it presents itself as a prophecy made in 590 B,C. when it was written in 165 A.D..

The people who composed the story in 165 B.C. were like people today who write historical fiction. They did not mean to deceive us. They thought their readers would see they were not to be taken literally. It was only in later ages that fundamentalists can along with the weird idea of taking all their historical fiction as facts.

We have very religious people today who speak often about Jesus. And, feeling that they need to take everything in the Bile as factual, they are Fundamentalists. They refer to every sentence and phrase in the Bible as a “Scripture,” insisting that we take each such phrase as God’s word to us.

That way of understanding the Bible goes against the teaching of the Catholic Church, which tells us that the Bible is made up of forms of literature like poetry, and myths and allegories. We block out what God is telling us in such passages if we insist that they be taken as literally factual. 

The widow's mites were so thin that they fluttered down when you dropped them.


Monday, 11/25/13

The Gospel story of the widow contributing two small; coins has us missing the older English version of the story. In it the widow contributed two “mites.” Simple old words like mites make us  see the Bible as literature.

In St. Mark’s original version of the story what the widow contributed were two leptas, which were brass coins that were so thin that they fluttered down when you dropped them. William Tyndale’s English translate of 1525 called them mites, which were also extremely light brass coins.

St. Paul’s school office has two of the original leptas preserved in a picture frame. A single one can be secured on E-Bay for $185.

The story tells us that God highly appreciates the sacrifices of people who are in need themselves. I have a friend who taught high school English for thirty-seven years. Since retirement he has been volunteering three days a week at the hospital where his wonderful wife passed away. Saturday he was talking to me about thousands of people in our city who give most of their time to volunteering. We are surrounded by generosity and goodness.

Christ is our king because he is the first-born of the dead who will lead his followers into their heavenly kingdom.

Sunday,11/24/13


This. is the day on which we honor Christ as our King.

Recalling how he told us, “My kingdom is not of this world” we must come to an understanding of the unusual way in which he is our king. For that we search for clues in the Scriptures, looking to the readings the Church gives us for the feast of our King. In the First Reading  the people acclaim David as their king because they see him as "bone of our bone, and flesh of our fleesh."  

Our second reading calls Christ “The firstborn of the dead.” In that the Bible follows the ancient idea of kingship. There kingship belongs to the founder of a new race, or to his direct descendent. All the people who later came to live in that land honor that direct descendent, seeing him as their link which related them to each other through their ties to their founder.

Let me describe something similar that I came across in my dozen years in Korea’s farmland.  Korea’s population has an odd way of referring to themselves.  They call themselves, not the Korean People, but the Korean paiksung, which translates as the Hundred-Names. They believe that there were a hundred pioneers who three thousand years ago settled on different parts of their peninsula. They believe that people with the same family name had the same ancestor.

After all these centuries some of the people of the hundred clans are still aware of the man who is the direct descendent of its original founder, of the pioneer who landed of their shore. Once each year they like to come together at his house to deepen their mutual relationship and to honor all the ancestors in their clan. They say to him, as the leaders of the tribes said to David, “Here we are your bone and your flesh.”

We honor Christ the King because he is “The firstborn of the dead.” He is the first of our race to land on heaven’s shore. As the first reading puts it, “He has made us into a kingdom.” 

Today's Preface pictures Christ leading his followers into haven in something like a triumphant ticker tape parade. He presents to the Father his followers who compose a kingdom of peace and love.  

Today is the feast of St. Columban who died in 610.He is long gone , but we still enjoy the faith and learning his monks passed down to us.


Saturday, 11/23/13

Today is the feast day of St. Columban, an Irish monk who died in 615. Sixty-six years ago I took an oath by which I joined the Columban Fathers, and by which I swore to honor the Irish saints on their feast days.

In 600 when Columban left Ireland to found monasteries in France and Switzerland there were no parish churches. There were wide stretches of woods inhabited by bears.

Columban and his monks welcomed woodsmen and hunting people to their monastery chapels, while they employed themselves making copies of the books of the Bible and of the literature of the lost civilizations of Greece and Rome.

Those men who gave up family life to keep faith and learning alive are long gone, but the results of their heroism are still with us; so we tell them thanks on their feast day.

At St. Paul's Parish if we want to honor living saints we could turn to members of St.Caecilia's Circle of our Ladies Guild.


Friday, 11/22/13

We know that St. Caecilia was martyred as a Christian around the year 180. One story, that dates only from the year 500, has it that after vowing to remain a virgin, she was forced into a marriage. Then, on the weddingday she talked her husband into honoring  her virginity; and at that she broke into singing a beautiful song. It is that legend that has her being honored as the patron saint of musicians.

We might benefit from turning our attention away from legendary saints, looking instead for inspiration from people around us who do their best to lead saintly lives. 

Locally, that thought could have us turning our attention to the ladies of St. Caecilia’s Circle at St. Paul’s parish. Up to sixty years ago the dozen Ladies Guild circles at St. Paul’s were designated simply by numbers. Then, in 1953 two numbered circles came together to form St. Caecilia’s.

I became acquainted with this St. Caecilia’s Circle when I came to Sr. Paul’s as pastor thirty years ago. They met once a week to sew gifts to be sold for the parish. And what struck me with admiration was the great quality of the apron, tablecloths, and things like books for toddlers to chew on to get them attached to reading.

The Circle members are getting on now. Vicky is ninety-eight, Lois ninety-six, Gladys maybe ninety-four. I was just talking with Anita Thompson; and she said she had worked as a pharmacist for fifty-six years.

They are all saintly in such ordinary ways as raising kids the right way, not letting drinking or smoking get a hold on them, and drawing genuine happiness out of their being Catholics.

The victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians led to the first Hanukah in 174 B.C.


Thursday, 11/21/13

A lady who had been at Mass Tuesday said she didn’t want to hear any more about the Maccabees. Please, let me bring them up one more time.

In 177 B.C. Antiochus the Syrian king who ruled over Jerusalem owed a huge sum of money to Rome where his sons were held as hostages. With no other way of saving his sons, he raided the temple of Jerusalem where people had banked their savings.

Then, Antiochus, to justify violating the sacred temple, asserted that he merely wanted to replace the useless religion of he Jews with the true religion of the Greeks. His first step had him erecting a great statue of Zeus on the temple’s altar. Next, he dispatched units of soldiers to force every Jew to eat pork that had been sacrificed to the Greek gods.

His soldiers came to the city of Modein where the principal citizen was a Jewish priest named Mattathias. The soldiers offered Mattathas a fortune if he and his five sons would eat a bite each of the sacrificed swine.

Mattathias refused. Then, when he saw a fellow Jew taking a bite of the pork at the altar, he lunged forward, killing that Jew; going on then to ordering his sons to kill the soldiers.

Judas. the third son of Mattathias, became the leader of a widespread revolt against the Syrians. For his fierceness in battle, Judas was nicknamed the Hammer, which in Hebrew was Maccabeus. It was from Judas that the whole family came to be called the Maccabees.

In 174 B.C, three years of defeating the ever-stronger Syrian forces, the Maccabees won out, forcing the Syrian army to retreat from Jerusalem. The Maccabbes then saw to a complete cleaning out of the temple. Their ceremony for re-consecrating their temple was known as Hanukah. It is celebrate each year at Christmas time. 

We come into the world like unpolished stones that must be polished to where we come to resemble God.


Wednesday,11/20/13

Today’s reading from Luke’s Gospel closely resembles a similar passage in Matthew’s Gospel. They both begin the story the same way, with Luke writing, “A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain a kingship.”

Our Lord’s parable is based on the biography of Herod the Great. His family had been half-Jewish officials in Idumea, south of the Dead Sea. When he was twenty-six he travelled to Rome to worm his way into power, and at thirty-four he returned, having succeeded in being appointed King of the Jews. 

Matthew’s account of this story specifies those coins as having been gold “Talents.” It is from this story that our English word talent comes to signify a gift of nature one is born with. (If you check it in Webster you will find that our use of the word is derived from this story in Matthew, Chapter Twenty-Five.)

Matthew’s Chapter Twenty-Five is a Bible passage that is of immense importance to us. It is three parables which Jesus told to give a clear picture of how at the end he will judge us to have succeeded or failed with our lives. The first and the third criteria are ones that readily come to mind.   

The first criteria by which we will be judged will be on whether or not we have “oil” for our lamps, Which means, we must have grace, or die in the state of grace.

The third criteria by which we will be judged will be on whether or not we tended to the cries of those in need. We must be among the sheep on Our Lord’s right not with the goats on his left.

The second major criteria upon which we will be judged is that of whether we have made good use of our natural gifts.

Let me enlarge on that a little. Although each of us is created in God’s image and likeness, we are nevertheless quite different from one another. The reason for that is that each of us is created mirroring a different facet of God. Each if us is like him in an individual way.

That is not quite true. You and I do not all that much resemble God. It is better for us to say that each of us has an unique potential for being like God in an individual way.

Each of us is born as a nondescript unpolished stone. Each of us is born with an allotment of talents to work with. If we have done the best with our talents, at the end each of us will be seen to  resemble God in a unique way. And he will say, ”Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”


There is no salvation outside the Church, but the Church takes in many people who are strangers to us.


Tuesday, 11/19’13

Today’s Mass offers us two fine readings, but somehow they do not move me to speak about them. We have climbed that sycamore with Zacchaeus too many times lately, and the experts assure us that the  reading from Second Maccabees is a fictitious account.

Le me, instead, comment on something I have been reading lately. Through the centuries much has been made of a statement of St. Cyprian in the third century. His statement was, “There is no salvation outside the Church.”

In 1949 Rome condemned Father Leonard Feeney, a popular Jesuit writer, for insisting that there was no salvation possible for anyone who was not an official member of the Catholic Church. Rome was not denying the truth of what St. Cyprian wrote, she was just saying that his statement could not be taken too narrowly: that some non-Catholics could belong to the Church through what we were calling “Baptism of Desire.”

Several of Vatican II’s documents seem to have gone further then that. The document on non-Christian religions states, “The Catholic Church rejects nothing of those things which are true and holy in these religions.” The document on Missionary Activity says, that the efforts in pagan religions “can at times be leading toward the true God.” It says, “Whatever good is found to be sown in peoples’ hearts, or in their particular rites or customs can be brought to the glory of God.”

That last part about their religious rites is most significant. It says that their way of worshipping, though imperfect, still has value. St. Francis Xavier, when he went out to India, organized groups of young Catholic to go around smashing the idols in Hindu temples. Today the Church teaches us to see the limited value in such worship. 

The villain in the story of the Maccsbees is the tenth ruler in a dynasty set up by Alexander's General Seleucus.


Monday, 11/18/13

The first readings this week will be taken from the First and Second Books of Maccabees, although the Maccabees themselves will not appear until Thursday. But, lets begin by seeing the place and times for this history.

Today’s reading opens in the year one hundred and thirty seven of the Kingdom of the Greeks. That was actually the year 175 B.C. 

Here’s how that came about. Alexander the Great conquered all the Middle East between the years 333and 323 B.C. After his death his empire was divided between three of his chief generals, with Antigonis taking Greece, Ptolemy taking Egypt, and Seleucus taking Syria, Jerusalem and Mesopotamia. Seleucus built a capitol city for himself at Antioch, a hundred and fifty miles north of Jerusalem; and in 312 he declared himself king. 

In 177 B. C. the tenth ruler of that dynasty, King Antiochus IV, set about imposing the worship of the Greek gods as the religion of all the peoples of the Middle East.  His Gentile subjects readily obeyed, but he had a harder time with the Jews. He won over most of the young men by building them fine gymnasiums.

He next set up a statue of Zeus on the temple’s altar, and he sent troops to every Jewish town where they set up replicas of the Greek gods, forcing the people to worship them with sacrifices of pork, of which they then ate.

That set the stage for the rebellion of the Maccabees.

We must enlarge our capacity for heavenly happiness.


Sunday, 11/17/13

In the Gospel Jesus was overhearing country people who were marveling over the beauty and grandeur of the temple, with even its walls imbedded with precious stones. He felt forced to tell them that object of their wonder would not last. When the Roman catapults were finished with the temple not one stone would be left in its place above the one below it.

The story is in the Bible to help us fix our sights on heavenly structures that would furnish us with unending happiness. But, I don’t think we are meant to give up on our love for the good things God gives us in this present life. Rather, by making the most of our earthy life, we enlarge our capacity for enjoying heaven. Let me tell of an experience from sixty-five years ago that started me thinking this way.

There was a very old priest who made his home with out seminary teachers, even though he could no longer teach or give a sermon. It struck me as odd that he made at least three visits a day to our library for Theology and Scripture books with which he would shamble off to his room. That thought had halted me half way down our main stairway, when our Scripture Professor stopped next to me, asking what was on my mind.

“It’s that old priest, Father. He keeps studying, when there is no way he can use what he is learning.”

“Well, Thomas, he isn’t just any old priest. He is Doctor Mee. And I once asked him about the same thing that has you puzzling over. Let me tell you what Doc Mee told me.

“Doc Mee explained to me that here below we must fashion a great capacity for enjoying heaven. If we have worked at knowing all we can about science we will be rewarded with a fathoms deep knowledge of science. If we have followed up on music appreciation, we will hear more than the harps up there. If we have gone out of our way for making deep friendships, a throng of friends will gladden our eternity.”

It’s worth a try.

At Mass we must join Jesus in offering ourselves to God as one pleasing gift, one Eucharist.


Saturday, 11/16/13,

If I were dutiful I would enlarge on the lessons from today’s two Scripture readings, but I must beg off. The wording of the first reading is beautiful, but I have no idea as to its meaning. Then, as for abiding by Our Lord’s command that we must pray always, I agree, but I have nothing more to add. So, let me use this open period to repeat some thoughts I have on how we are to hear Mass.

The Last Super was a memorial of the Jewish Passover. There was a special table blessing for such a solemn occasion, and both Luke and Paul refer to Jesus offering  that blessing. Then, with Jesus telling the Apostles to “do this in memory of me,” they understood that they were to use the elements of his table blessing as the pattern for the Masses they would offer.   

In each of our Masses we see them beginning with the first third of that old blessing. Our Eucharistic Prayers always begin with our calling to mind the good things God has done for us. Our Masses then mimic the old table blessing by our calling down God’s Spirit to unite us and to empower us to speak to God.

The third part of that traditional table blessing was called “the pleasing gift.” It consisted of the guests all uniting with the host as one pleasing gift to God. This third part of the traditional blessing amounted to its being a true sacrifice by which the diners all subjected themselves to God’s will. They became a pleasing gift to him.

Now, the Greek name for the Pleasing Gift was the Eu-charis. To enable us to become physically one with him in the Eucharist, Jesus gives us himself in Holy Communion.

Whatever form of prayer we follow when assisting at Mass we should always be offering God a pleasing gift of our love and obedience, united to the love and obedience of Jesus.

We are wondefully made.


Friday, 11/15/13

At times, when you read things written in the past, as part of your getting into their message, you will find it helpful to form a  picture of the person or persons who wrote it.  We could try doing that with today’s beautiful First Reading.

In 150 B.C. Egypt’s Alexandria possessed a treasure trove of ancient manuscripts on both religious and secular learning. Seventy Jewish Scripture scholars had made their homes at that library, setting themselves to the task of turning a loose mass of Hebrew and Aramaic Scripture segments into a single text in Greek. With the Latin for seventy being septuaginta, and their having been seventy scholars working on the project, that first complete Bible was called the Septuagint.

Our six First Readings this week, grouped under the title of the “Book of Wisdom,” were compiled by those same scholars who were laboring away in Alexandria’s great library. Among their neighbors on Alexandria’s narrow lanes there were some who worshipped the stars or the winds as their gods. These Jewish scholars pitied those neighbors. They said such people “were foolish for being in ignorance of God, who from the good things seen did not discern their artisan.

We people of 2013 A.D. go beyond those people of 150 B.C in seeing God’s hand in nature. I keep marveling at the project that won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2012. Two scientists outlined the process by which feelings are transmitted to the cells of the body. They showed how the brain, in being struck by fear of joy, triggers the glands to send out fear or joy hormones. It sends them out to some three trillion cells. Each cell, like so many TV sets, is equipped with a number of ports into which the hormones fit themselves. With each cell participating, a person trembles with fear or dances with joy.  God deserves a share of that Nobel Prize. All that those two chemists did was discover what God had done, and keeps on doing.

"Wisdom" is presented as our opting for happiness over immediate pleasure. As well, Wisdom is the personified voice of God leading us.


Thursday, 11/14/13

For this week’s six days we are readings from the Book of Wisdom. It was a work compiled by Jewish holy men living in Alexandria a hundred years before the birth of Christ. It is a favorite with Catholics, but Protestants do not see it as part of the Bible.

The “Wisdom” of its title has two strong connotations, and when they are brought together, they are a unit that works for making us happy and holy.
      
This work’s first meaning of Wisdom comes from the Old Testament where she was seen as a sister to that Folly that rushes into situations which promise immediate pleasure.  Her sister Wisdom, with always having an eye for ultimate happiness, is willing to put aside promises of immediate pleasure.

This book’s second meaning for Wisdom is that of God’s voice, which we consult in making all our choices.

Both sides of Wisdom come into play when we are choosing what to do with our time or money. We call on the wisdom of God’s voice to clear our mind of deceptive allures. Then, with the light Wisdom provides, we choose the possibly arduous coarse of actions that brings us long lasting joy.

Rightful authority comes from the Lord.


Wednesday, 11/13/13

In the first reading when God’s prophet was scolding the princes for their misuse of authority, we should note that God was not taking authority from them. No, he told them, authority was, “given you by the Lord.”

In Chapter Two of Genesis God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” By those words he declared us to be social creatures who must live in a harmony, and that is unattainable if there is no one wielding authority.

Paul, in the two opening verses of Chapter Thirteen of Romans, said, “Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed.”

We do not humiliate ourselves when we obey a rude cop, or when we follow  politicians, because we are not obeying them, we are only nodding to the authority of God which backs up those so-called superiors.

That lesson comes across in one simple phrase from Chapter Six of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians where he said, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord.” In submitting to any authority we are really paying respect to the Lord.

All truth can be found in Christ.


Tuesday, 11/12/13

The first reading, in speaking of God as Wisdom said, “Those who trust in him shall understand truth.” In a round-about way that sentence reminds us of how St. Thomas Aquinas used the opening chapter of John’s Gospel to explain the essence of Truth.

John wrote, “The Word was with God , and the Word was God, and all things were created through him,” and Thomas gave an explanation for those words. He told us that God always had a perfect mental picture of himself. That mental picture of himself is what John’s Gospel calls the Word.

In saying that all things were made through the Word, John was saying that God, looking at his perfect mental self image, saw all the forms which he would incorporate in creatures. In that mental picture of himself God saw DNA. He saw perfect pitch. He saw what would become your soul and mine.

John, in his Gospel, following on his telling us that the Word became flesh, went on to compare the way Jesus leads us to the Promised Land to the way that the Father led the Chosen People to their physical Promised Land.  We see that Chapter One,  verses 14,  and 17.

14.The Word became flesh and set up his tent with ours; and we saw his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son. 17. Because while only the law was given us through Moses, grace and truth come to us through Jesus.

If you wonder in what way truth comes to us through Jesus, you could Google it. I did, and I read recommendations for finding the truth by reading the Bible. I found that to be too limiting. Since all things were created through the Word, we can count on his being knowledgeable about Literature, Nuclear Science and everything else.  We can find all truth in him.

If we are not living in sin, God's Spirit leads us to make the right choices


Monday, 11/11/13

Our first reading says, “ Think of the Lord in goodness. Into a soul that plots evil wisdom enters not.”

For properly governing our behavior we have the Ten Commandments, the laws of the Church, and the laws of our country; but more basic than those laws we have our own “home rule” which lies with our perception of what we must do.

In our hearts we must decide what is the right course to follow, and in not following it we sin. But we have one great helper in coming to the right decisions, and that is God’s Spirit of Wisdom within us.

Today’s reading from the Book of Wisdom deals with our having access to God’s Spirit for assistance in making the right decisions. It says we have easy access to the Spirit’s direction only in we lead sinless lives. “Into a soul that plots evil wisdom enters not.”

What will heaven be like?


Sunday, 11/10/13

The Gospel gives us the story of Our Lord’s confrontation with one of the Sadducees. They were Jews who accepted only the first five books of the Bible, books which did not go beyond the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And, since those books made no mention of a life after death, the Sadducees did not believe in an afterlife. In an attempt to discredit Jesus before the people, this Sadducee made up a story that made fun of Our Lord’s belief in an afterlife.

Now, the Jews had a custom they called the Law of the Brother-in law. It provided that when a man died without fathering a son to carry on his name, his widow had to bed with his brother until she bore a boy to be called the dead husband’s son.

The scenario the Sadducee made up had a woman, who by being forced to marry a string of six bother-in-laws, ended up with seven husbands in heaven. The Sadducee concocted his story to get the crowd to join him in laughing at Jesus and at a heaven where a woman would be bed hopping between seven husbands.  

In his reply, Jesus eventually made the Sadducee see that he too believed in heaven. He did that by pointing out that the Sadducee, in priding himself at being a follower of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was implicitly showing his belief that those three ancients were in existence somewhere.

But, before getting around to that, Jesus gave us some positive information about our heaven. He said we would be like angels. We have all heard many ill-informed sermons about what heaven will be like, but we have never heard one silly enough to speak of a human or any other creature being born there.

Paul tells us we will know God as he is, and since all beauty and all knowledge comes from God, we will have a busy eternity getting to know God.

Today we honor St. John Lateran, which was the first Catholic church.


Saturday, 11/9/13

Today we honor the first official Catholic church, and with it we honor all our Catholic churches.

Emperor Constantine married one of Rome’s wealthiest women, and she brought him an immense dowry. Part of that dowry was one of Rome’s seven hills: the Lateran hill. Towering over Lateran Hill there stood a royal audience hall. As such, it was called a basilica, following on basilous, the Greek word for a king. The front wall featured a semi-circle alcove where the throne waited for its rightful occupier.

When Constantine became a Christian, he gave the Lateran Basilica to Pope Silvester as his own church, and down to the present it is seen as the pope’s personal church.

People love that reading from Ezekiel in which a stream bursts out from the temple’s east side giving life to trees and fish as it descends to where it turns the ocean into fresh water. We see that as a metaphor for the grace people take with them from church, carrying life for all with whom they come in contact.

I like what a little Pentecostal girl said about our Catholic churches. I had asked all the sixth graders if we should be quiet in church, and that girl answered, “We don’t have to keep quiet in the church I go to, but we have to be quiet in the Catholic church because it is God’s house.” 

We pray for our bishops meeting next week.


Friday, 11/8/13

We could all pray for our United States bishops who will meet in Baltimore from Monday through Thursday next week. They will elect a new president and leaders of six of their twenty permanent committees. Catholic are wondering if they will be softened by the less confrontational stand of Pope Francis in his opposition to abortion, contraception, and gay marriage.

Since it’s founding in 1966 the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference had elected a new president every three years, and fourteen times in a row they elected the bishop who had been vice president for the previous three years.  However, in 2010 they passed over Archbishop Gerald Kikanus of Tuscan Arizona, instead choosing Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York.

Seemingly, a majority of bishops felt that Archbishop Kikanus would not go along with their opposition to the Affordable Health Care Act. As the rector of Chicago’s seminary, Kikanus had been promoted to the episcopacy by Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, who used Our Lord’s “seamless Garment” as a metaphor for our not highlighting opposition to just one or two moral issues.  

Back in the nineties Sidney Simmons, an attorney from St. Paul’s Riverside, and the director of their R.C.I.A., donated two weeks a year to serve as a member of the Advisory Committee that checked over committee reports to be submitted to the full Conference. Archbishop Kikanus, who worked in the same sub-group as Sidney, saw to it that Sidney was elected as chairman of the sixty member Advisory Committee.

The progressive bishops who were outvoted in 2010 now feel they are closer to the mind of Pope Francis. One of them, St. Petersburg’s Bishop Robert Lynch, is quoted as saying the vote to pass over Archbishop Kikanus had left him, “heart broken, mortified and embarrassed.”

If you can’t trust liberals, pray that God will not let them do any harm.