Francis Ligouri could be the patron saint of people suffering from rheumetism.


Friday, 8/1/14

Today we honor St. Francis Ligouri, who was born of the nobility of Naples in 1696. Until now I had known nothing about him other than that he was the founder of the Redemptorist Fathers, who are highly respected and liked men. They are noted for giving parish missions, and all other priests appreciate their willingness to help out.

Francis, the oldest of seven, was a successful young lawyer who grew impatient with the seamy side of public life in Naples. The priests at the Oratory of Philip Neri allowed him to move in with them while he studied for the priesthood, but his father blocked him from joining the Oratorians. Francis then became a priest of the Naples diocese where his bishop left him free to devote himself to helping and educating tens of thousands of poor Neapolitans
With young men who were drawn by the wonderful work he was doing he funded the Redemptorist Order. Then, after repeatedly refusing an appointment as bishop of Naples, Francis accepted consecration as bishop of a nearby diocese of extreme poverty.

Francis could be the patron saint of those suffering from rheumatism. He was so bent over, that he had to drink with a straw.

Jesus gives himself to us in the Mass so that we might be physically one with him in the Pleasing Gift, the Eucharist.


Sunday, 8/3/14

This miracle of feeding five thousand with just five loaves is the only miracle told in detail in all four Gospels.

A strange thing is that the sequence of Our Lord’s actions is the same in four accounts: he took, he blessed, he broke, he gave. Rightly or not, churchmen feel that in writing these Bible accounts, the writers  simply followed the sequence they had been following for years in their Sunday Masses.

I have been away for three days, so forgive me for filling in here with thoughts on the Mass that I have talked about before.

Twenty years ago a fine priest who has since passed on asked me to give a talk on the Eucharist at a weekend retreat. I told him I had things I’d like to say, but he insisted that my talk should follow closely on a book on the Mass which he gave me to study.

The book insisted that the Mass be seen as following closely on the prayers offered by Jesus at the Last Supper. Jesus followed the three parts of a traditional table blessing.

For the first part the table blessing the host urges the people to recall the great favors they had received from God.

For the second part of the blessing the host begs God to send his Spirit on the diners to unite them and to empower them to speak to God.

For the third part of the traditional blessing the host asked the diners to join him as parts of a pleasing gift to God. The pleasing gift would consist in everyone subjecting themselves to God’s will.

 The Greek word they used for pleasing gift was Eucharist. Both Luke and Paul told us that it was just when they were arriving at that third part of the table blessing that Jesus took bread, broke it, and gave it, saying, “This is my body.”

The reason that it was just at that time that  he gives his body and blood to us is so that we might be not only mentally one with him in the Pleasing Gift., but that we be  physically one with him as part of the Pleasing Gift, of the Eucharist.  

Jesus gives himself to us in the Mass so that we might be physically one with him in the Pleasing Gift, the Eucharist.


Sunday, 8/3/14

This miracle of feeding five thousand with just five loaves is the only miracle told in detail in all four Gospels.

A strange thing is that the sequence of Our Lord’s actions is the same in four accounts: he took, he blessed, he broke, he gave. Rightly or not, churchmen feel that in writing these Bible accounts, the writers  simply followed the sequence they had been following for years in their Sunday Masses.

I have been away for three days, so forgive me for filling in here with thoughts on the Mass that I have talked about before.

Twenty years ago a fine priest who has since passed on asked me to give a talk on the Eucharist at a weekend retreat. I told him I had things I’d like to say, but he insisted that my talk should follow closely on a book on the Mass which he gave me to study.

The book insisted that the Mass be seen as following closely on the prayers offered by Jesus at the Last Supper. Jesus followed the three parts of a traditional table blessing.

For the first part the table blessing the host urges the people to recall the great favors they had received from God.

For the second part of the blessing the host begs God to send his Spirit on the diners to unite them and to empower them to speak to God.

For the third part of the traditional blessing the host asked the diners to join him as parts of a pleasing gift to God. The pleasing gift would consist in everyone subjecting themselves to God’s will.

 The Greek word they used for pleasing gift was Eucharist. Both Luke and Paul told us that it was just when they were arriving at that third part of the table blessing that Jesus took bread, broke it, and gave it, saying, “This is my body.”

The reason that it was just at that time that  he gives his body and blood to us is so that we might be not only mentally one with him in the Pleasing Gift., but that we be  physically one with him as part of the Pleasing Gift, of the Eucharist.  

St. Ignatius Loyola was a Spanish knight who switched his allegiance to Christ.


Thursday, 7/31/14

Today is the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola. He was born nine years after Martin Luther, living ten years past him. He was an unlettered Basque knight who at age thirty suffered a severe leg wound that left him lying in a dark room for two years. While  nursing his leg, he had turned to readings and prayers that changed him into a different kind of knight, one who was ready to go forth fighting for the cause of Christ.

He then sat in the back of school rooms, studying with children as he slowly  prepared himself for admission to the University of Paris. There he drew around him a group of idealistic scholars who under the guidance of Ignatius, formed themselves into the Lord’s militant company. It was their approval by the Holy Father that transformed the Company of Jesus into the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits.

Ignatius had shepherded each of his followers through an intense thirty-day spiritual boot camp, solidifying their determination to fight in God’s army. (At seventeen I passed through thirty silent days in that same Ignatian retreat. I worked   my way through the prescribed hour-long meditations four times each day.)

That Company of Jesus, once fully formed, vowed to set out to recover Jerusalem; but after repeatedly failing to find passage, they changed their vow to one of fighting spiritual battles in complete obedience to the popes.

Since the popes back then were also civil rulers of their own country, the early Jesuits became distasteful to monarchs of countries that had interests contrary to those of the popes.

In the last two centuries however the Jesuits of Ignatius have become less political, and more studious. Pope Francis, our first Jesuit pope, is the best example of the marvelous force for good that the followers of Ignatius have become.

The trouble with amassing this world's wealth is that one ends up dying desolate.


Wednesday, 7/30/14

Jesus spoke of a wise men exchanging all this world’s riches for the joy of living in God’s friendship.

You might remember a Persian poem advising us to make the opposite choice. One quatrain of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khaayyam tells us:

Some for the glories of this world,
And some sigh for the Prophets Paradise to come,
Oh, take the cash, and let the credit go,
Don’t heed the rumble of a distant gun.

The trouble with amassing this world’s wealth, and availing of all its pleasures, is that one ends up dying desolate.

Michelangelo dramatized that desolation with one figure in his depiction of the Last Judgment that he painted above the altar in the Sistine Chapel. Halfway down his mural he has a slightly overweight near-naked man being hauled down to hell by a joyful green demon. The eyes of the damned fellow cry out his horror that everything should have come to this.

To get a sharper picture of Martha we poke through what the Bible tells us about her.


Tuesday, 7/29/14

Today we take up that friendly relationship between Martha and Jesus, and we poke  through what the Bible tells us, wanting to come up with details that sharpen our mental picture of  Martha,  and incidentally of Jesus.

The Bible shows Martha to be a person on whom Jesus could pay a surprise visit, bringing with him a dozen hungry companions.  So, she was a highly capable person, but not a sickeningly sweet one either. She complained loudly about her sister not helping her with that crowd.

Now, Martha recognized that her brother Lazarus had a greater claim than she did on the love of Jesus. She did that by the note she sent him which said, “Master, the one whom you love is ill.”

After the arrival of Jesus on the scene, Martha, by calling Jesus “Lord,”  acknowledged the limits of her friendship with him. She went on then to exhibit unlimited faith by adding, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

She then went on to show that her sister’s  intimate relationship with Jesus gave rise to no jealousy.  She ran to Mary, saying, “The master is here, asking for you.”

Finally, when they all had come to the tomb of Lazarus, and Jesus said, “Take away the stone,” Martha’s practical nature came out . She said, “Lord, there will be a stench. He has been dead for four days now.”

Jesus saw seeds for lessons everywhere.



Monday, 7/28/14

We had these parables two Sundays ago. Let me repeat my remarks from then.

Jesus, while growing up with Joseph and Mary, had been fascinated with the changes that time brings about with seeds and grains.

Then, later as an adult, he became aware of the many ways that the lives of people underwent similar changes. Today he gives us two parables that grew out of the similarities he'd seen.

As a child he might have marveled over how a mustard seed while being smaller than all other seeds, at full growth could be alive with yellow flowers. And he could have been struck by a similar change that took place when one kind word from his mother put Nazareth’s biggest crab to humming a sweet song.

Watching his mother kneed bread dough, and watching her put lumps of it into their pans, he might have asked why she didn’t fill the pans. And after she told him to wait to see what the yeast would do, he did wait, and he was delighted to see tanned inches of the dough pushing over the sides and ends of their pans.

Christians with urges to lead full religious lives in convents or monasteries could do well to listen to what Jesus was telling them with his parable of the yeast. It is better for these people to be like yeast, mixing fully with ordinary people, raising them up with kindness and truth. 

We should be ready to explain our beliefs.


Sunday, 7/27/14

Today’s readings urge us to gain a full understanding of our faith.

The first reading tells a story about Solomon. In what sounded like a fairytale, God granted him one wish. It could be for riches, power, fame, or whatever, but Solomon asked only for understanding. Pleased with that, God gave Solomon wisdom as well.

In the Gospel Jesus said, “Every scribe instructed in the kingdom is like the head of a household who brings forth from his storeroom both the new and the old.” There, Jesus advises us to be widely read in things of the past and things of the present. We then would have the right answers in any situation that arises.

Let me tell you my experience with being ready to explain my beliefs. Forty-two years ago I came to Jacksonville to teach high school Literature, but instead I was put teaching the freshman Religion course. The school supplied me with a textbook that was childish and out of date, so I complained about it to the priests in charge of the school.

 He came back at me with the question: “Well, just can you teach them?”

That question became a challenge to me. In his First Letter St. Peter repeated that challenge, saying, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.

So when I got a parish that needed me to teach middle school Religion classes, I went on to read enough of the Bible and History to equip myself for speaking about our faith.

Beefing up on your beliefs would be rewarding for you too.  You could be that wise scribe with a storeroom from which you could readily bring forth the right old things and new.

There are no tricky shortcuts to salvation.


Saturday, 7/26/14

Jeremiah in the first reading spoke against one of the shortcuts people take rather than lead genuine religious lives. He said you can be saved “only if you reform your ways and your deeds.”

Specifically, Jeremiah was speaking against one religious shortcut that had become popular in his time. People, while giving up on spending prayer time in the temple, had come to trust in the value of knocking on the temple gates. The practice had them knocking three times while saying, “The temple of the Lord.  The temple of the Lord. The temple of the Lord.”

From time to time we Catholics come up with shortcuts to salvation. The first one I can think of is receiving Holy Communion on nine consecutive First Fridays. (That is a fine practice, but it does not guarantee our salvation.) I heard about a gangster who was assured he’d go to heaven if he never took off his Green Scapular. Things didn’t look good for him when he died after his surgeon took off his scapular.

Yesterday, the Feast of St. James, had thousands of people visiting his tomb in Basque country, assured that being there on the Feast of James would get them into heaven.

No, Jeremiah tells us that the trick of being saved is to reform our ways, to deal justly with our neighbors, and to be kindly toward aliens.  

Let's congratulate every James on this his feast day.


Friday, 7/25/14

Today is the feast of St. James, brother of St. John. Put to death by Herod, it happened that one brother was the longest living Apostle, while he, James, had the shortest life.

This is the feast day of everyone named James. It invites you to remember the good men bearing that name. Pray for them on their feast day.

For me, the first to come to mind is Father Jim Corry, who is still doing well in Ireland. I was privileged to serve with him at St. Paul’s for twenty years. His room was around the corner, down the hall, and two closed doors between us; but still I could hear his hearty welcome to anyone who phoned him.  Another priest from his order, Billy Butler, often called him, and I delighted in his thundering welcome, “Billy, I can’t believe it. It’s Billy!”

Jim and I were quite opposite in many ways. He had his own extra prayers he added at Mass, and I guess I had more peculiarities than he did. Husbands and wives, take note! Jim and I got along beautifully by letting each other be different.

Another James who immediately comes to my mind is Jimmy Stewart. There was much about him that helped make America a fine country. As a boy, he was a fan of Lindbergh. The week Lindbergh was to fly the Atlantic, Jimmy stayed home from Princeton, using the window of his father’s hardware story to show the flight, he had  the Atlantic and the Eiffel Tower there. 

I was on vacation in Kyoto Japan in 1957 when I saw an advertisement for the movie “The Spirit of St. Louis.” I was almost alone in the theater, sitting in the cockpit with Jim and Lindy, waving to the people in our fly over of Dingle Bay.

James Stewart joined the Army as a private, but his flying experience pushed him up into the Air Corps. From the day he joined he never gave another movie interview. In the bombing raids over Germany all the pilots wanted to be in his wing, because he was the most skilful and safest man to work with. Happy feast day, James! We know you are again up there above the sky. 

After I get started on this a good number of fine men named James came calling on me. I’m sure it is that way with you to. Happy Feast Day, James, one and all!

Let's show appreciation for God's gifts of seeing, hearing, thinking.


Thursday, 7/24/14

In the Gospel Jesus says, “Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears because they hear.”

That reminds us to thank God for our sight and our hearing. I often chat with a niece of mine who has been blind for twenty years. She and her crowd see blindness as no great hardship, but they have great pity for the deaf. More than any of us sighted people, they appreciate their gift of hearing.

When it comes to thanking God for his gifts, we should show special appreciation for our minds. We had a great 98 year-old lady here, Louise Clark, who made much of that.  (She was on of four ladies from St. Paul's who was president of the Jacksonville's Women's Club.) Once she asked me to come along when she was addressing the Club.

Refusing the mike, she strode out like Casey Stengle, the one time coach of the Yanks and the Mets. Extending her clenched fists, she called out, “Thank God for your minds. I do. Every day I thank God for my mind!”

Forgetting how we lose consciousness through hours of sleep, we cling to the delusion that we are in control of our lives. The other day I was with a man going into a surgery that he might not come out from, and he said he could see one good thing coming from it. It made him see that his life was God’s gift, and he was earnestly begging God not to take it back quite then.. 

Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet.


7/23/14

Today we begin readings from the Prophet Jeremiah who was a reluctant prophet. When called on he said, “Ah, Lord God. I know not how to speak.”

At the restaurant this morning a group put two tables together, and after much laughter, they asked one man to offer the blessing, and he was not reluctant.

That put me in mind of a talk I once had with an Irish priest who in 1942 had a parish in China. It was beyond the westward spread of the Japanese Empire, and in April of 1942 some of Jimmy Dolittle’s B-25’s set down near him after their surprise raid on Tokyo.

The crewmen headed west on foot, bumming food and blankets from missionaries. Anyway, my friend Father Peter Toal was there then; and he said the crewmen preferred Catholic missions because the prayers before meals didn’t take forever.

In calling Jeremiah to be a prophet, God touched him on the lips. You may have heard my comment on that. The Hebrew word for a prophet was nabi, which was the child’s name for his mouth. A prophet then, was a person who lent the use of his mouth to God for speaking the truth.

Another thing you may remember me saying was that each of us can be called to be prophets. Following on pouring on of the water in Baptism, the priest reminds us that we have been baptized into Christ. And, anointing us with sacred chrism, he consecrates us for a sharing in Christ’s role as priest, and in his role as prophet. As priests we all share in sacrificing ourselves with Christ in the Mass. As prophets we can be called upon to speak out, proclaiming God’s truths.  Jeremiah 

Today we honor women who love Jesus dearly.


7/22/14

Today we honor that Mary Magdalene who went by that name because she came from Magdala, one of those fishing villages on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.

I have always taken pains to make it clear that Mary Magdalene was not the sister of Martha and Lazarus who had anointed the feet of Jesus with precious nard, drying them with her hair. Perhaps, though, with both women representing the same kind of love, it is not necessary to tell them apart.

The Bible features stories featuring that warmer type of love that women give to the Lord.

Mary Magdalene, searching for Jesus who had been removed from the tomb, echoes the concern of the Shulamite woman in the Song of Songs. She had said, “I will seek him whom my heart loves.” And Mary Magdalene further imitated that woman, who when she found her beloved, “Took hold of him and would not let him go.”

Mary Magdalene showed similarities with the Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at the well. That woman’s loving heart had seen Jesus as her Lord.

When the Beloved Apostle John stood by the cross of Jesus, there were three women there as well. There was his mother Mary, there was her cousin, who was also Mary; and there was also Mary Magdalene. That was three women to one man. Maybe women outdo men three to one in loving the Lord.

God requires of us to do what is right, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with God.


Monday, 7/21/14

The prophet Micah has been assuring us that God put each of us on this earth to do his work, and that gave rise to our asking: what does God require of us.

In today’s reading Micah replies that God requires only that we do the right, that we love goodness, and that we walk humbly with out God. So, let’s take them one at a time.

First, then, how do we go about doing what is right? Well, we can’t always be doing great stuff. No, God requires us to lead lives that do ordinary things well. That means, we watch what we eat, we put in a good day’s work, we get enough sleep, and we are friends with everyone. God will certainly call on us to do important works, but we will be up to them only if we keep ourselves in shape: having the energy and the clear minds and the help of others that will be needed when God asks us to do something big.

Next, we must love goodness. We must love and support it in those around us who are doing their best, we must love the goodness in candidates for office who are trying to do what is right.  

Third, we must walk humbly with God. Each of us is limited entirely to what we see and hear with these eyes and ears, to knowing only what we personally feel. Those limitations trick each of us into the delusion of seeing ourselves as the center of its own world.

Walking humbly with God requires us to stop following our own faulty compasses. Of course, made in God’s image and likeness, we are above God’s other creatures. But during our hours of sleep we follow our crazy dreams around, and with our last breath we will accept the fact that we are not in charge. How much better for us would it be if right now we stop fooling ourselves, if we decide on walking humbly with the Lord.

Jesus makes us aware of the way the lives of people undergo changes like those we see with grains.



Sunday, 7/20/14   

Jesus, while growing up with Joseph and Mary, had been fascinated with the changes that  time brings about with seeds and grains.

Then, later as an adult, he became aware of the many ways that the lives of people underwent similar changes. Today he gives us three parables that grew out of the similarities he'd seen.

As a child he might have marveled over how a mustard seed while being smaller than all other seeds,  at full growth could be alive with yellow flowers. And he could have been struck by a similar change that took place when one kind word from his mother put Nazareth’s biggest crab to humming a sweet song.

It’s possible that growing up, Jesus had actually witnessed a field of grain in which a spiteful neighbor had strewn the seeds of weeds. He might even have seen that neighbor chuckling at home over getting even with his rival.

Then, perhaps Jesus had heard Joseph saying that to avoid wrenching up the wheat with the weeds, it would be better to let the weeds and wheat grow together till harvest time. I can imagine Joseph winking as he told the boy Jesus that the weeds in our midst would come to no good end.     

Watching his mother kneed bread dough, and watching her put lumps of it into their pans, he might have asked why she didn’t fill the pans. And after she told him to wait to see what the yeast would do, he did wait, and he was delighted to see tanned inches of the dough pushing over both sides and ends of their pans.

Christians with urges to lead full religious lives in convents or monasteries could do well to listen to what Jesus was telling them with his parable of the yeast. It is better for these people to be like yeast, mixing fully with ordinary people, raising them up with kindness and truth. 

The poor have the Lord on their side.



Saturday, 7/19/14

Our readings today favor the little men and the poor. The Gospel sees Jesus as the promised Messiah who would not cry out, would not make his voice heard. He would not be like the politicians and owners of insurance agencies whose faces are constantly beamed at us through hugely expensive TV commercials.

The prophet Micah of the first reading was a poor man of the eighth century before Christ. From his hills above the Dead Sea he gazed west over family holdings that had been gathered into the vast fields of the wealthy. He promised vengeance from the Lord on merchants who schemed at taking over the fields of the poor.

Those merchants remind me of a man with whom I once shared a cab in the Korean countryside. Having taken the day-long bus trip into see our bishop about marriage dispensations, I was disappointed twenty miles short of my parish when the bus diver announced he would go no farther that Saturday evening.

Standing around, looking to hitch a ride on any army vehicle going south, I was approached by a stranger who said, “Father, would you pay half the cost of a cab to our town?”
 
Having half the fare, I got into the cab with the man, and I asked him how he knew me. He said he was a grain merchant in my town, and for years he had watched me passing by his place. He went on to explain that none of his fellow merchants ever went to church for the reason that they grew wealthy by cheating customers.

He didn’t use the word “cheating” since he was talking in Korean. He did admit to boosting the price on grain when it grew scarce. For him and his merchant class, amassing more wealth than their competitors was their their favorite sport.

Today as well we have wealthy dealers like those people. They play a game in which they keep score with millions. Micah warns them the Lord is going to blow his whistle on their game.

The Bible said the sun went back, but it didn't.


Friday, 7, 18/14

The first reading tells the story of how around the year 720 B.C. when Judah’s King Hezekiah was about to die, Isaiah told the king  that God was giving him fifteen more years of life. When the king said that was hard to believe, Isaiah said he had a way of proving that God was behind that promise. He would make the sun and its shadow go back ten feet on what it had progressed. And then he made it happen.

In 1630 when Galileo published a paper stating that the sun stayed unmoved at the center of the solar system while the earth moved around it Cardinal Bellarmine condemned Galileo for denying the Bible’s teaching that the sun moved.

In 1992 the Church, having come to understand that the Bible was not meant to be taken as a scientific text book, apologized to Galileo for condemning him. 

(I have recently written my take on the history of Christianity. Let me quote what I wrote about this passage from Isaiah, Chapter 38.)

Galileo had life-long friends among the influential cardinals, but they could not stand by him when he went against passages of Scripture such as Isaiah, Chapter 38, where the sun is described as moving backwards.

“So the prophet Isaiah invoked the Lord who made the shadow retreat the ten steps it had descended.”

For maintaining that Scriptures need not be taken in a literal sense, Galileo quoted St. Augustan; but Rome was not then ready for such interpretations.

In 1633 when the Inquisition condemned his presentation of the heliocentric theory Galileo accepted the Church’s decision, recanting his “heretical” assertions. Still, the Church put him under house arrest for his last five years. He used that seclusion to do good original work in kinetics and other fields. 

The story shows us that we must humbly agree with the Magisterium even when the Magisterium is wrong.

The way of the just is smooth.


Thursday, 7/17/14

Isaiah tells us, “The way of the just is smooth.”

 We all want a smooth life for enjoying good things as they come along.

Sitting back for a few moments why don’t you list the kinds of hindrances to your living a smooth life. I come up with four. They are hatreds, addictions, regrets, and frustrations.

Hatreds might be eliminated if we can accept the philosophical principle that in taking wrong and hateful measures the person always acts for what appears to be right. Our opting only for what seems right is as automatic as gravity.

Addictions are tough obstacles to the smooth life. Doing away with them takes major efforts, support from friends, and a foretaste of what the good life could be.

Regrets.  Feeling that weak people need to be forgiven, and admitting that I am such a weak person helps. Silently doing favors for those I have sinned against helps.

Frustrations are bits of unhappiness caused by being blocked. My friends have all heard my story about laughing at frustrations.

My story is about having an Irish nun in the front seat with me when I was pounding the steering wheel in my frustration over the traffic’s not letting me turn into a main road. It sounds insignificant, but Sister’s advice on dealing with frustrations has been one of the most useful things I have ever heard.

Referring to that flow of traffic, Sister Lawrentia said, “You can’t be angry about this. This is what is.” Life is smooth if you can just accept what is. 

The way of the just is smooth.


Thursday, 7/17/14

Isaiah tells us, “The way of the just is smooth.”

 We all want a smooth life for enjoying good things as they come along.

Sitting back for a few moments why don’t you list the kinds of hindrances to your living a smooth life. I come up with four. They are hatreds, addictions, regrets, and frustrations.

Hatreds might be eliminated if we can accept the philosophical principle that in taking wrong and hateful measures the person always acts for what appears to be right. Our opting only for what seems right is as automatic as gravity.

Addictions are tough obstacles to the smooth life. Doing away with them takes
major efforts, support from friends, and a foretaste of what the good life could be.

Regrets.  Feeling that weak people need to be forgiven, and admitting that I am such
a weak person helps. Silently doing favors for those I have sinned against helps.

Frustrations are bits of unhappiness caused by being blocked. My friends have all heard my story about laughing at frustrations.

My story is about having an Irish nun in the front seat with me when I was pounding the steering wheel in my frustration over the traffic’s not letting me turn into a main road. It sounds insignificant, but Sister’s advice on dealing with frustrations has been one of the most useful things I have ever heard.

Referring to that flow of traffic, Sister Lawrentia said, “You can’t be angry about this. This is what is.” Life is smooth if you can just accept what is. 

No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son reveals him.


Wednesday, 7/16/14

In the Gospel Jesus said, “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father, except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

St. Justin, who was baptized around the year 100 told a story about his  coming to know God. Justin was a Greek philosopher whose studies had brought him to believe that there was only one God, and that God was all good and all wise.

Walking along the beach one day, Justin fell in with an old Christian who quizzed him about Plato and Aristotle’s belief in the one God. The old man complimented Justin on his wonderful understanding of the Almighty, but then he told him, “You know so much about God, but you do not actually know him. For that you will need to give yourself over to Jesus, who alone can bring you into experiencing God personally.”

Moved by the old man’s conviction and his sincerity, Justin gave himself over to a thorough preparation for Baptism. Later then, he opened a school for Christian learning near the Forum in Rome.

One individual to whom the Son revealed the Father was John, the Beloved Disciple. One way to get to the Son for help in knowing him and the Father is by using John’s words to for your prayer time. One by one take the opening phrases in John’s Gospel.

In the beginning” That has you imagining God alone before he created anything.

“Was the Word” So, the Word was there before creation. Hmm?

the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

To get some grasp on that, I go to what I remember of the explanation given by St.
Thomas Aquinas. He believed that God always had a mental picture of himself, and that picture was so complete that it was the Father’s “brainchild.”

And the Word was so satisfying to the Father that he never let it waver or leave. He loved it so completely that their love took on a personality of its own.

And, since love cannot be contained, God, used the forms he saw in his Word as models for creation. 

At our Masses Jesus gives his body and blood to us so that he might be physically one with us in one Pleasing Gift to the Father.


Tuesday. 7/15/14

In giving out Holy Communion last Sunday I came to a man who hesitated in putting out his hand, leading me to suspect that he wasn’t Catholic, and that he hadn’t done that before. I went ahead, giving him the host. Now, since I have nothing worthwhile to say about today’s readings, let me go back to three quick thoughts I had at the moment I gave that man Communion.

First, I thought that while the church tells us not to give Communion to a non-Catholic, it does not tell us to deny Communion to one whom we suspect of not being Catholic.

Second, I thought that man’s soul might be cleaner and holier than mine. Those two thoughts are what would occur to any one us. My third thought was unusual.

My third thought was that Jesus might have been anxious to be united with the man.

That thought takes me back to a line of thought I have been harping on lately, namely the thought that our Mass must be seen as rooted in the table blessing Jesus offered at the Last Supper. That blessing had three parts.

At the first part of the blessing, the host asked the guests to recall the favors they had received from God. At the second part of the standard table blessing he asked them to join him in asking God to come and be in their midst.

At the third, the key and culminating part of the table blessing, the host asked the diners to submit their wills to God so that they might join him in becoming one pleasing gift to God. (The Greek word for “pleasing gift” was Eucharistae.)

At the Last Supper it was at that third part of the blessing that Jesus took bread, broke it, and gave it to the disciples. Writing in Greek, both Paul and Luke wrote that it happened eucharistesas, or when Jesus came to the Pleasing Gift.

Our Lord’s reason for giving himself to the disciples precisely then was that he wanted them to be physically united with him in one Pleasing Gif to the Father.

The reason Jesus gives himself to us at the culmination of the Mass is that he wants us to be physically united to him in one Pleasing Gift, in one Eucharist.

Getting back to that doubtfully Catholic gentleman to whom I gave Communion last Sunday, my third reason for giving him Holy Communion was that Jesus might have longed to become physically one with the man.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha was a Mohawk lass.


Monday, 7/14/14

Today the Church honors Kateri Tekakwitha, our first Native American saint. I don’t agree with some of Kateri’s attitudes, but it takes all kinds to make a heaven, and maybe I am wrong about it.

The outline of Kateri’s life saw her born in 1656 as the child of a Mohawk chief and a captured Algonquin mother. Most of our Catholic stories from those decades come from the French Jesuits who settled with the Huron nation, the enemies of the Mohawks, who were part of the Iroquois nation that traded with the English and the Dutch.

Kateri was four in 1660 when the European-brought Smallpox took off her parents and sisters, leaving her scarred for life. Afterwards she always wore a towel around her head to hide her disfigurement.

She was seventeen when her Mohawk people made peace with the Jesuits. That brought her and her young lady companions into reading about the saints of the Egyptian desert.

Those were the ancients who outdid each other in performing acts that punished the flesh to strengthen the soul. Kateri, baptized at age nineteen on Easter of 1775, was formally given the name of Catherine, after Catherine of Sienna. From then on she intensified her acts of penance, punishing the body to strengthen the soul.

My views, for what they are worth, do not go along with that. I like to point out that  the ancient Greek Plato taught that our souls were created before our bodies. It had  his followers eeing our bodies as the prisons for our souls. That led those desert saints to afflicting their bodies to make them free their souls,

From the Middle Ages on our Church has preferred the views of Aristotle, who taught that bodies and souls are created together. That leads us to see that holiness is achieved when we have healthy souls in healthy bodies.

Kateri thought otherwise, and after she died at twenty-four, her friends saw proof for Kateri’s approach in claiming that the Smallpox disfigurement of her face had given away to unblemished beauty. 

The readings speak of God's word, meaning the impulses he showers on us, urging to do what is right and to see what is true.


Sunday, 7/13/14

The readings today are about the word of God. By that they do mot mean the words of the Bible, which can be called the word of God. Rather, by his word they refer to the impulses God is constantly sending us. They are impulses that urge us to do the right thing, and they are impulses that open our minds to the truth. The old catechism name for such impulses was Actual Graces.

The Gospel describes four different ways in which we respond to God’s impulses. At times, like a hard-beaten path, our hearts have too much going on to attend to God’s impulses. At times, like the shallow layer of earth over the rock, we enthusiastically hear the word, then forget it by doing nothing to let it take root. At time our vices and addictions squeeze out any healthy impulses. But, thankfully, we cherish God’s word, letting it have bounteous effects in our lives.  

The second reading speaks of how there are costs in responding well to God’s word. It brings on suffering in this time, but such suffering is nothing in comparison to the great rewards that come from paying heed to God’s word.

The first reading is a favorite with many people. Where the Gospel compares God’s word to the seed the sower went out to sow, this reading from Isaiah is more forceful and beautiful. God showers us with impulses towards doing what is right and towards understanding what is right. And these impulses, these actual graces, are as plentiful as the rain drops. Even tohugh you and I don’t respond to God’s promptings, he keeps on prompting until he gets someone to do his work.

In teaching the Seventh Grade each year, in coming to this Chapter 55 of Isaiah, I’d hold up a dollar bill, saying it would go to the first person who could memorize this passage. But, where our Lectionary gives us only verses 10 and 11, I had them start back at verse 8. The whole thing goes like this:

8. For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor or your ways my ways, says the Lord.

9.As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways,
and my thoughts above your thoughts.

10. For just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down,
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to him who sows
and bread to him who eats,

11. So shall my word be
that goes forth from, my mouth;
it shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will.
Achieving the end for which I sent it.

In Isaiah's vision of God in heaven, he saw him as living temple that was the model for Jerusalem's temple.



Saturday, 7/12/14

Our first reading today introduces us to Isaiah, the greatest of the prophets. For our convenience he lets us know that he had his introductory vision in 752 B.C., the year King Uzziah died. 

The vision adjusted itself to Isaiah’s preconceived views of what heaven was like. The Jews, musing over the heaven-sent precise dimensions for building their temple, had concluded that their temple had to be an exact copy of the temple where God lived in heaven.

In the vision God went along with what Isaiah considered to be God’s dominant characteristic, namely that he was remote from everything created. So, the angels had to avoid looking at him, and the words we translate as “holy, holy, holy,” really meant, “Aloof, aloof, aloof.”

Isaiah’s reaction to the vision tells us that although we can go along, living happily with our mediocre ways, if we are thrust into the presence of God’s perfection, then our awareness of our imperfection would send us scurrying to hide our filth. While needing to utter words of praise to God, we would be overcome by all the filth our lips have uttered. We would need to have our lips cleansed

The angel’s searing the lips of Isaiah should put us in mind of the calls of Jeremiah and Ezekiel to their roles as prophets. For Jeremiah the Lord touched his lips. With Ezekiel the angel had him eat a scroll with God’s words.

The name the Jews had for a prophet was “nabi” which was the same as a child’s name for is or her mouth. They thought of their prophets as men who lent their mouths to God to speak his words.