Mark, in the first of the four Gospels, used eight chapters to show that Jesus was the promised Savior. Then, he used his final eight chapters to show that he saved us by suffering.



Sunday, 2/1/15

Our Gospel today is from the first chapter of the Gospel according to Mark.

Mark, as a boy, following Jesus about, had been a hundred percent convinced that he was trailing behind the Messiah promised to Moses. But coming to forty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Mark was more an more hearing people say that Jesus could not be the Messiah, because he suffered and died a criminal’s death.

Before Matthew, Luke or John got the idea of doing it, Mark decided he needed to put into writing the divine impact Jesus had on them all.

He divided that written testimony into two equal parts. Through his first eight chapters Mark brought us along with him and the Apostles as they were convinced over and over that Jesus was the Messiah. Then, at the end of Chapter Eight he recorded how Peter, speaking for all of us, said, “You are the Messiah.”  

With that point nailed down, Mark used the second eight chapters of his Gospel to show us that the suffering of Jesus, far from being a cause for people to disregard him, should put them in awe of him. It was his bravely accepted that suffering and that ignominious death that Jesus saved us. It was with every ounce of his courage that he fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that stated,

While we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted, he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins.

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted, and opened not his mouth, like a lamb led to the slaughter.”

Today’s reading from Mark’s Chapter One treats us to the early evidence that showed Jesus to be our Savior. Jesus taught with authority from heaven. He was recognized by the demons to be the Holy One of God. He drove out those demons by a single word. And, if we read on a few more verses, we will witness his heavenly powers curing every manner of physical and mental ailment.

The faith God demands of us is not so much believing the Bible as it is being God's "faithful servants."


1/31/15

Our first reading today comes from Chapter Eleven of the Letter to the Hebrews. This long chapter is a testimonial to what Israel’s heroes accomplished by faith. The chapter lists the faith-inspired deeds of David, Samson, Gideon, and many others, but let us limit ourselves to what Abraham and Moses accomplished by faith.

By faith Abraham gave up the security of his homeland for a land a way off in the mist. By faith Moses gave up the luxury of the Pharaoh’s palace to go seeking a promised land.

Like them, we must have faith in earning a promised land. Now, the Bible does not make it sound easy. Listen to what St. Paul wrote in Romans, 8:14. “In hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?”

There are two parts to the faith God demands of us. One part of it is believing him, but the more important part of having faith in God is trusting him. The “faithful servant” dear to God is not just the man or woman who believes the Bible. More importantly, the “Faithful servant” is the man or woman whom God can trust to stay on the journey. “Keep right on to the end of the road, keep right on to the end.”

You and i should walk humbly through God's immense, mysterious world.



1/30/15

Our Lord spoke of the miraculous growth of crops from the seeds a farmer casts on the ground. He said God brings about the transformation while the farmer sleeps. Even after taking college courses on the way those seeds multiply it is hard for us to picture.

Once, talking to the parish ladies, I said scientists gage our universe to be 96 billion light years in width, with a light year being the distance a beam of light traverses in a year going at 186,ooo miles a second.

To that, Gladys While said, “We do not want to hear such things. It’s just two big for us.”

It’s not just outer space that is beyond our comprehension. Gladys doesn’t often get out from her nursing home, but on a busy day if you or I get out and move about in this large city of ours we might brush against a thousand new people.

Each person has his or her own world. Each would have hundreds of relatives and friends. Each, of the strangers we brush by was formed by the coming together of a male and female seed, while being created in God’s image,. Each of them has either a tortured or a benign personal relationship wit God.

As Gladys put it, “It’s just too big for us.” And, that realization should force us to walk humbly in God’s world. 

Our gatherings should have a warm wholesomeness that sends people off happy.


2/29/15

In the first reading we are told, “We should not stay way from our assembly,” rather, by attending we “must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works.”

At times we all feel a need for encouragement and appreciation. Well, Jesus, in the Gospel tells us, “The measure with which you measure will be measured to you.

When the Bible speaks of measures, older people and people from other countries are heartened by memories. We recall friendly country storekeepers in their white aprons. In scooping up the grain or peanuts we purchased they would get the measure right,. Then they’d dig in for another scoop just for “Good measure.”

Our gatherings should have a warm wholesomeness that sends folks home smiling, and  quite ready for another day.

St. Thomas Aquinas told us that God is Truth, so that in finding truth we find God.

1/28/15

My brother and sisters were being taught by Dominican nuns when I was brought to be baptized, and those nuns asked my parents to name me Thomas, after Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican priest.

When I was eighteen, and our seminary course brought us to studying the Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, I was struck by his referring to God as pure Goodness, Beauty and Truth. From that I came to feel that whenever I came on goodness in people, beauty on Nature, or truth in science i was coming close to God.

With my plenty of free time, two years ago I was able to read through Dante's Divine Comedy. People often talk about the first third of the Comedy, the Inferno; but they might find more of interest in the third part, the Paradiso.

There Dante, arrived in heaven, met with Beatrice, his saintly muse. He told her that the wonderful things in heaven seemed vaguely familiar to him. Beatrice explained that familiarity in there words.

"All thing among themselves possess an order, and this order is the form that makes the universe like God."  

On another matter, for the Catholic Church to recognize anyone as a saint, that person's supporters had to prove that the candidate for canonization had brought about three miracles. Each of those miracles would consist of a suspension of the laws of nature that bought about a cure.

Now, in John's Gospel we read how everything in nature was made in God's image. So, instead of the Church canonizing saints whose prayers brought about the suspension of Nature's laws, couldn't the Church canonize the scientists who revealed the God-like orderliness hidden in Nature's laws? 

The Church could have a special kind of canonization for scientists like Copernicus who discovered God's wonderful plan for setting the heavenly bodies in synchronized motion, or for Watson and Crick who showed us  how God cleverly enfolds 2500 genes in every one of your body's cells, thus enabling you to live a healthy life.


   

We must show our love for Christ.


Tuesday, 1/27/15

The readings today deal with endearing ourselves to Christ by keeping his commandments. In the Gospel he said, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” And, in Chapter Fifteen of John’s Gospel, Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.”

Is it just me, or do you too sometimes worry about not really loving Jesus the way you should? Does he ever seem centuries back in time for you? Do you ever feel left out of it when you hear people singing, “Jesus, my Jesus, you are my Lord?”

If you suffer from a lack of warm feelings for Jesus it might help you to recall that St. Paul almost never spoke about Jesus in his lifetime. He spoke only of the risen Jesus, whom he always referred to as “Christ.” “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”

Hold on to this belief: that when you speak to Christ in the quiet of  your heart, he hears; and he answers you by making you recall something he said in the Gospels.

We could show our love for God the way Jesus did in the first reading, when he said, “A body you prepared for me. Behold, I come to do our will, O God.” God doesn’t seem to need any gushy displays of sentimental love.

We must show our love for Christ.


Tuesday, 1/27/15

The readings today deal with endearing ourselves to Christ by keeping his commandments. In the Gospel he said, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” And, in Chapter Fifteen of John’s Gospel, Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.”

Is it just me, or do you too sometimes worry about not really loving Jesus the way you should? Does he ever seem centuries back in time for you? Do you ever feel left out of it when you hear people singing, “Jesus, my Jesus, you are my Lord?”

If you suffer from a lack of warm feelings for Jesus it might help you to recall that St. Paul almost never spoke about Jesus in his lifetime. He spoke only of the risen Jesus, whom he always referred to as “Christ.” “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”

Hold on to this belief: that when you speak to Christ in the quiet of  your heart, he hears; and he answers you by making you recall something he said in the Gospels.

We could show our love for God the way Jesus did in the first reading, when he said, “A body you prepared for me. Behold, I come to do our will, O God.” God doesn’t seem to need any gushy displays of sentimental love.

Our gifts are given to us to be used in God's service.




Monday, 1/26/15

My nephew’s son and his daughter had their weddings just a month apart, and I wrote to them, asking them to consider two verses from the New Testament. I think they are verses that all of us could take to heart. Here they are.

In First Corinthians, Chapter 4, verse 7 we read,

“What do you possess that you have not received? But you have received it, why are you boasting?              

Our bodies, minds, and educations, came to us from God through our parents who dumped it in our laps.

Then, Matthew, Chapter Five tells us God entrusted our bodies and minds to us to be used in helping the needing.

“You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth.”  

So, let’s get out there, and spread that salt and that light.

Our gifts are ours to be used in God's service.




Monday, 1/26/15

My nephew’s son and his daughter had their weddings just a month apart, and I wrote to them, asking them to consider two verses from the New Testament. I think they are verses that all of us could take to heart. Here they are.

In First Corinthians, Chapter 4, verse 7 we read,

“What do you possess that you have not received? But if you you have received it, why are you boasting?              

Our bodies, minds, and educations, came to us from God through our parents who dumped it all in our laps.

Then, Matthew, Chapter Five tells us God entrusted our bodies and minds to us to be used in helping the needing.

“You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth.”  

So, let’s get out there, and spread that salt and that light.

Why Francis is more likable than the preceding popes.


Sunday, 1/25/15

(In place of a homily I will here print an article I am just finished writing.)

Thirty years ago when Pope John Paul II visited Manila there were four million at the gathering to greet him. He had an impact on people that one theologian at Vatican II described: “Wojtyla makes a great impression. He has an imposing personality that radiates power. He has a prophetic force that is both calm and incontestable.”

John Paul’s personality made him a tough act to follow, but now, Francis, while totally different from John Paul II, is keeping pace with him. On his visit to Manila last weekend, six million people crowded in to see him.

Here in America, we hear people saying things like, “I just like him.” And when pushed for a reason, they might say, “Well, that other one had those scarlet papal slippers, but Francis, he just wears shoes.”

Let’s go all the way back to Pope John XXIII. In 1959, feeling that the Roman Catholic Church had become very Roman, but not very catholic, he tried making it catholic by calling in twenty-four hundred bishops from a hundred different countries. Asking them to give time to prayerful deliberations, he asked them to bring the church into line with what it would be if Jesus were in charge.

 Working in daily sessions from September to December, in 1962 through 1965, those bishops composed sixteen documents that spelled out what they thought should be God’s approach to education, to the Bible, to non-Christian religions, and to a dozen other major matters.

The last of the sixteen documents was to be on the Church’s proper relationship to the modern world, and when the draft document was circulated in the summer of 1965, the bishops from Latin America, Africa and Asia favored it, while most of the European bishops did not.

The future popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, each published articles objecting to it on the grounds that it departed from the Council of Trent’s teaching that we are initially estranged from God by our being born with Original Sin on our souls. The new document’s difference from Trent was clearly the case with a sentence in its paragraph 19.

The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God, and this invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being.” 

Now, although most of the European churchmen shared the objections of the two future popes, it was three Europeans theologians who had most clearly differed from Trent on the matter of Original Sin. The three had the very French first names of Maurice, Henri, and Yves. Let me first introduce Maurice Blondel.

At nineteen, in 1880, Maurice was accepted for graduate work at the Sorbonne where he did research in the Philosophy of Action. (That is the field that tries to identify the impulses that move one from inertia to action.) Publishing his “L’Action” in 1890, Maurice successively defended its contention that every human action is initiated by one's automatically reaching for the Creator. However, the Sorbonne’s faculty, while granting him the top grade for scholarship, denied him a teaching certificate on the grounds that his thesis was “too Catholic.”

That left Maurice and his young wife Rose close to starvation for four years before the small college at Aix, north of Marseilles, gave him a teaching position. He was there in 1910 when by a sad quirk the Church he had stood up for came to judge his scholarly books to be guilty of Modernism. Pope Pius X put them on the Index.

We turn next to Henri de Lubac. Born in 1896, he was just finishing college in 1914, when he was inducted into the infantry. There, in 1917, he had a German bullet graze his skull, leaving him with recurrent pains until his death in 1991.

In 1919 Henri was accepted at the Jesuit seminary that a secular France had caused to be relocated to England. There, he came upon a hand-written copy of “L’Action,” Maurice Blondel’s thesis about humans automatically reaching up for God. 
  
Then, when his head pains interrupted his third year of studies, and his superiors sent him to Marseilles for a rest cure, Henri took a day trip up to Aix, where the seventy-year-old Maurice Blondel had recently completed a survey of early Christian writings.

The two scholars hit it off immediately, discovering that no writings from the time of the Apostles spoke of us as being born in sin. From his collaboration with Blondel, Henri de Lubac began theorizing that while humans from the beginning of their existence reach up to God, it was actually in response to God reaching down to them.

We turn now to Yves Congar, the third of our Frenchmen. Yves was born in the Ardennes in 1904. Then, in 1914 when troops of the Kaiser carried off his father, his mother set a ten-year-old Yves to writing a daily account of life under the German occupation. The journal he completed at the Armistice in 1918 set the pattern for the thousand-page Vatican II journal he would write between 1960 and 1965.

Yves, ordained a Dominican priest in 1930, and set to teaching Theology, took every opportunity to attend group meetings with Protestants, and that led to his publishing “Divided Christendom, a Catholic Study.” As well, independently of Blondel and Lubac, Congar took to writing French translations of early Christian writings; and that led to his questioning the importance Trent gave to Original Sin.

When the Germans invaded France in 1940, Yves, serving as a chaplain, was taken to a Nazi prison camp from which he led four dramatic, but unsuccessful escape attempts. His bravery won him France’s Cross de Guerre. (Henri de Lubac, who published an underground newspaper during the Nazi occupation, received the same decoration.)

After 1945, Maurice Blondel, Congar and de Lubac got together, and they coined the word “ressourcement.” By it they stipulated that for any teaching to be truly Christian, it had to be rooted in Christianity’s Apostolic times. With their historical research leading them to challenge the belief that all humans are born with Adam’s sin, trouble lay ahead for them. Then, in 1946 Henri de Lubac challenged the  accepted teaching on Sanctifying Grace with the publication of his “Supernaturale.”

The Catholic Church from the time of Pope Leo XIII, had demanded that Philosophy faculties in Catholic institutions should follow the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas. And, although Aquinas had not specifically taught that we are born with Original Sin, the professors of Aquinas’s Dominican Order maintained that it was clearly implied in his teachings. Such scholars were known as “Neo-Thomists,” and their theory was called Neo-Thomism.

(In my seminary course in 1950 we followed Neo-Thomism in philosophy and theology; and our professors spoke with awe when they mentioned its chief  exponent, the Reverend Garrigou-lagrange, Rector of Rome’s Angelicum.)

Maurice Blondel died in 1949, escaping Rome’s formal rejection of the theories of their “Ressourcement Trio.” That rejection came in 1950 when Pope Pius XII had Father Garrigou-Langange ghostwrite the encyclical “Humani Generis.” Here is some of what it said.

Some are presumptive enough to question seriously whether theology and theological methods, such as with the approval of ecclesiastical authority and are found in our schools, should not only be perfected, but also completely reformed.

Disregarding the Council of Trent, some pervert the very concept of original sin.

We charge the Bishops and the Superiors General of Religious Orders, binding them most seriously in conscience, to take most diligent care that such opinions be not advanced.”

The Holy Office instructed Rome’s Apostolic Delegate in France to have Congar and de Lubac’s superiors remove them from their teaching posts, while removing their offending books from the shelves. That sent Congar studying abroad, while de Lubac found a quiet room where he spent ten years doing research. When a friend asked him if he were bitter, this is what he wrote in reply.

While these shocks trouble my soul to its depths, they are powerless against the great and essential things that make up every moment of our lives. The Church is always there, in a motherly way, with her Sacraments and her prayers, with the Gospel that she hands down to us intact, with her Saints who surround us; in short, with Jesus Christ, present among us, whom she gives us ever more fully when we  suffer.  

Then, after the death of Pope Pius XII in October 1958, the new pope whom the cardinals elected was none other than Giuseppi Roncalli, the former Apostolic Delegate to France, the one who had delivered the ban on Congar and Lubac. This left the two of them wondering about how they stood now that Cardinal Giuseppe Roncalli was elected pope as John XXII.

Two months into his pontificate, John XXIII called for the opening of Vatican II. That set  Congar and Lubac to exchanging letters chasing down rumors about what was to come next. Then, out of the blue, each of them received an invitation to serve as a special theology consultant to the council.

Roncalli, in his years in Paris, had secretly admired the writings of Lubac and Congar, but he had felt bound to obey Rome’s Curia. Now, though, his sense of obedience went into reverse, binding him to do what God wanted.

 In the final years of Pius XII, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, the Prefect of the Holy Office, had been the power behind the throne. He was the one who had banned Lubac and Congar from teaching and publishing. Then, in 1960 Pope John XXIII put Cardinal Ottaviani in charge of preparing a schema defining the nature and the scope of the Catholic Church. In that role, Ottaviani wrote to Lubac and Congar, asking each to write an account of what they had to contribute to the new document.

Henri de Lubac, having a bad time with his old head wound, asked Congar to make a full exposition of the theological views they shared. Then, after Yves had submitted his paper, Ottaviani invited him for a private talk. Congar described them sitting “knee to knee” expressing their views. Ottaviani praised Congar for his theological acumen, while adding that there were three heresies on every page Congar wrote.

Coming out from that interview, feeling thoroughly chastised, Congar had a chance meeting with a bishop from Chile. The man assured him that most Latin American bishops, ignoring the ban of Lubac and Congar’s books, were sharing their views.

That welcome assurance was a foretaste of four years of council sessions at which the views of the Curia were to be swamped by those of the world’s bishops. It ended with their demanding that both Congar and Lubac being named cardinals.

More than Maurice Blondel or Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar always had deep respect for Protestants, and even for those with no clear belief in God. For that reason he was uncomfortable with Catholics who felt that humans could only be close to God after a good Confession. During the Vatican II sessions, he met daily to solicit the views of the Observers.

Sadly, after Vatican II’s bishops were scattered, the Curia was free to again make our church more Roman than catholic. We saw that in 2011 when the beautiful English of our four Eucharistic Prayers was pushed aside, replaced by clumsy word-by-word translations of the texts used in Rome.

Even Jesus had trouble getting along with relatives.


Saturday. 1/24/15


Today’s Gospel is almost the only place we read about Our Lord’s wider family connections. We read how they did not at all understand or appreciate him. Our knowing that Jesus, even Jesus, had trouble with relatives could have us resolving to do what we must to straighten out our family connections.

Some of us are at odds with family members because of how we shared what was coming to us. Others of us are at odds over alcohol or financial difficulties. Some of us may be at odds over our religious practices. Whatever the difficulty, we should use prayers and common sense to straighten it out.

The commandment about honoring father and mother extends to honoring family members. We honor them by extending our understanding to seeing things their way. 

The prophet Jeremiah gave voice to the misery Jesus would feel in his time.


Friday, 1/23/15

Our first reading contains a lengthy quotation from Chapter 31 of the Book of the Prophet  Jeremiah, and we might use this an excuse for looking back on the unusual career of Jeremiah.

In 650 B.C. Jeremiah was born of a family with rich lands near Jerusalem, and he had always longed for an easy life of chatting with other well-to-do men.

But God had other plans. He called on Jeremiah before he was twenty, and Jeremiah said, “I know not how to speak. I am too young” but God touched Jeremiah’s lips, putting his words into the reluctant young man’s mouth.

The people remembered how God had promised David that his house and his kingdom would last forever. To remind themselves of how God had promised to care for them even when they led lived of sinfulness; the people each day, as they passed by the temple, would knock three times on its door, repeating the formula, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.”

 God told Jeremiah to take his stand at the temple door, telling everyone God was displeased with them. And this turned the people into loathing Jeremiah. Hating his isolation, Jeremiah complained, “You duped me Lord, and I let myself be duped. All the day I am an object of laughter. Everyone mocks me. I say to myself I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning I my heart. I grow weary holding it in.

The Lord had Jeremiah tell the people that if they did not release their slaves, and turn their lives around they would be slaves in Babylon for seventy years.

Detesting Jeremiah for his warnings, the people dropped him into a cistern where he sunk waste deep into the bud. Leaving him open to the spittle of passers by.

After that, the people were all carried away to Babylon. And Jeremiah, left in the ruins of Jerusalem, filled page after page in the Book of Lamentations with his groaning.  

The once-and-for-all offering of Jesus is repeated in each Mass.


Thursday, 1/22/15

In our first reading we see:

“He has no need, as did the high priests,
to offer sacrifice day after day,
first for his own sins and then for those of the people;
he did that once for all when he offered himself.”

The life of Jesus was one total offering of himself in loving obedience to the Father.

His one, perfect, on-going offering was formally expressed at the Last Supper, when he offered his body and blood, saying they were being offered then. That total self-offering was to be finalized the next day on the cross.

While taking part in our Mass that repeats the Last Supper, we can sense the rising up of his precious being; and in taking Communion we can rejoice in having our obedient self-offerings becoming part of his.

Jesus was angry over people's lack of sympathy for the man with the withered hand.


Wednesday, 1/21/15

Jerusalem in Our Lord’s time was ruled by its Jewish religious leaders, and they had the authority to sentence a man to death for his pretending to be equal to God, or for is failing to keep holy the Sabbath.

The small print those leaders added to the Ten Commandments made it a capital crime to practice healing on the Sabbath. With that in mind, it is quite possible that the man with the withered hand was a plant whom the Pharisees brought to the synagogue that Sabbath, knowing that with his kind heart Jesus would cure him.

Seeing how the Pharisees had no concern for the sadness in the man’s heart, Jesus became angry with them and with anyone lacking sympathy for the handicapped.

Let me tell you about a boy with a withered hand. Calvin couldn’t play any of our games, so, looking for friends; he learned a string of Country-Western songs, hoping we would like them. But back then, we all turned up our noses over what we called Hillbilly music. Anyway, with his hand like a flipper, nobody liked looking at him.

This brings up the whole matter of ways for you and me to deal with people who are too fat or too dumb, or very smelly. They are beloved children of God, and he wants us to be kind to them.

We could look for each one’s best feature, showing our admiration for it, or we could just extend a hand, asking, can I be your friend? 

The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath."


Tuesday, 1/20/15

The Gospel tells a story about the Pharisees accusing the Apostles of violating the Sabbath by rubbing the husks off of handfuls of grain. Chapter Twenty of Exodus speaks of God giving the Ten Commandment to Moses, and the Jews rightly saw the commandment about keeping the Sabbath holy to mean they were to abstain from manual labor.

But, as Jesus pointed out, “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”  We see this spelled out in Chapter Twenty-three of Exodus where we read God’s reason for imposing the Sabbath on landowners. 10. “For six days you may do your work, but on the seventh day you must rest, that your ox and your ass may also have rest, and that the son or our maidservant and the alien may be refreshed.”    

So, those of us who get plenty of rest the other six days of the week need not feel obligated to be idle on Sundays.

What is more, with Jesus saying that church rules are made to help, not hinder, we should feel free to skip Mass in order to look after a sick person.  

Jesus had to learn obedience,


Monday, 1/19/15

The first reading today speaks of the priesthood, then, it goes on to speak of how Jesus fulfilled the role as a priest.  

Speaking of priests in general, this passage from “The Letter to the Hebrews” said that a priest must be as human as the humans he represents. While the priest prays for forgiveness for their sins he also prays to have his own sins forgiven.

Moving on to Jesus, the reading tells us that although he was sinless, in every other way he was the same as us, the people he represents. No other passage in the New Testament goes as far in describing the human side of Jesus.

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered..

So, even Jesus had to force himself to be obedient. My, my! What an idea!

When he was made perfect . . “ Goodness gracious! We never thought of him as anything short of perfect.

What this means in that instead of seeing Jesus as always being way up there in the clouds, we should think of him as being a sympathetic shoulder for us to cry on when people behave badly to us, and when our own desires are hard to control. 

Pope Francis believes that non-baptized people can get to heaven.



Sunday, 1/18/15

Pope Francis is receiving such a grand welcoming in the Philippines this weekend, that instead of my referring to the Sunday morning readings, I would like to speak about how Francis offers an outlook different from that of the last two popes.

The last two popes were active contributors to the finest documents produced by Vatican II, but at the time they argued against the inclusion of the paragraph 19 of the final document. It reads:

The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. The invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being.” 

Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict were then bishops Wojtyla and Ratzinger, and like most European theologians, they believed that humans could not converse with God until their Original Sins were removed by Baptism.

The opposite view that was adopted by the majority of Vatican II’s bishops was that Jesus, by taking on our humanity in Mary’s womb, restored all humans to friendship with God.

At the very middle of the Twentieth Century the Roman Curia silenced three Frenchmen who had come to the strong defense of that view. One of those three was a layman named Maurice, a second was a Jesuit named Henri, and the third was a Dominican named Yves.

Each of the three, independent of the others, had taken on shelves of early Greek and Latin Christian documents, rendering them into modern French. Together, they coined the word ressourcement. By it they asserted that to be genuine Christian teaching, doctrines need to have their source in what was taught by the Apostles and the Church's first generation.

The layman Maurice Blondel for his doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne in 1880 used solid principles of Philosophy to prove that for every type of human actions it is a reaching for God that causes one to overcome inertia.

The future Jesuit Henri, while fighting as an enlisted man in the four years of World War One, had a German bullet graze his skull. Later, when he was a seminarian, his Jesuit superior sent him to the south of France to look for relief from the pain of his wound.  On that leave he met up with Maurice, and they became collaborators. Where Maurice use he Philosophy to prove that man naturally reaches for God, Henri used his Theology to prove that God reaches down to each of his humans.

Father Yves Congar, a four-year Nazi prisoner, followed Maurice and Henri in saying all unbaptized humans are capable of winning heaven by good lives.

Rome’s main theologians, since the Council of Trent, had seen a strong difference between the baptized and the non-baptized. That is what I learned in the seminary course on Sanctifying Grace that I studied between September and December of 1950. On my Christmas vacation at home that year, I told my father that the good deeds of non-baptized people were incapable of earning a heavenly reward. My dad said, “Na! I don’t believe that. Heaven isn’t just for old biddies who mumble their prayers. No God rewards all good men and women.”

Maurice Blondel died in 1949, but Henri de Lubac and Yves Congar were alive in 1950 when Pius XII issued the encyclical Humani Generis which roundly disapproved of the views held by the three. Rome ordered Henri and Yves to be removed from their professorships and to have their books banned.

However, Rome’s Apostolic Delegate to France who had the job of silencing the two was Bishop Giuseppi Roncalli who secretly disagreed with his Roman superiors. And three months after he was elected pope in 1958 he called for convening Vatican II, and he appointed Henri and Yves to be special advisors to the bishops at the council.

Although many European bishops disagreed with our trio’s interpretation of Catholic Doctrine, a large majority of bishops from around the world agreed with them. Their strongest support came from the South America that was to give us good Pope Francis. 

St. Anthony, whose life spanned two early centuries, was the inspiration for all convent and monastic life.


Saturday, 1/17/15

This is not the feast of St. Anthony of Padau, a twelfth century Franciscan who helps you find your keys and glasses. No, today we honor St. Anthony the monk, who lived from the middle of the third century to the middle of the fourth century.

A wealthy young Alexandrian, Anthony distributed his wealth to the poor, but desirous of growing very close to the Lord, he took to living alone with God in an abandoned Roman fort on the Red Sea.

Subsisting there on scraps of food that admiring Bedouins flung over the wall to him, Anthony made it a daily practice to pray the Psalms aloud.

In 315 when Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity,  he constituted each bishop as a Roman official, and he favored Christians for government advancement. For the heroic children of early martyrs the Gold rush was over, and the bums rush was on.

With Christian gatherings being crowded out by job seekers, a number of men and women, following the example of Anthony, took to the Egyptian desert to be alone with God. Hearing Anthony praying the Psalms, these new hermits began doing the same; and hermitages sprung up all over the desert.

One of those newer hermits, Pachomius, began meeting with the other hermits, reminding them that Jesus had said, “In this will all men know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one an other.” The others, seeing the need to be together for practicing mutual love, began moving in together, asking Pachomius to right a rule for them to follow.

Pachomius had a sister Mary who then became the nucleus of the world’s first convent.

At times, when an anti-Christian Arian descendent of Constantine took over the eastern half of the Roman Empire he would send Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria into exile in the desert. Athanasius, deeply fascinated with those first monasteries and convents, wrote a detailed book on their way of life, calling it simply “The Life of St. Anthony.”

That volume was the inspiration for St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St. Benedict, and his twin sister Scholastica, and for millions since their time: men and women who seclude themselves from the world, chanting the Book of Psalms.

When Anthony was dying after a hundred years, he still possessed the fresh skin of a boy.  

The paralytic craved to be foriven for the excesses that had brought paralysis on him.


Friday, 1/16/15

Today we have one of the most delightful stories in all four Gospels; and we can do no better than to picture it from the beginning.

There were four men in Capernaum who had been part of the crowds on a previous Sabbath evening when Jesus cured all the sick people who came to him. They had a buddy who was completely paralyzed, and so they were on fire with the scheme of bringing him to Jesus.

The trouble was that Jesus had become so popular that when the four brought their buddy on a stretcher, not only was the synagogue packed, but people were ten deep surrounding it.

The four friends of the paralytic were not lacking in resourcefulness. Pushing their stretcher through the crown, they forced their way up a stairway to a roof garden above the synagogue. Then, with no worry about the laws against such behavior, they one by one removed the floor tiles, and from below them, the ceiling tiles of the synagogue.

We still have the foundations of that synagogue. It as a little bigger than a good-sized classroom, and it had a divider down the middle, separating the men from the women.

Jesus was standing, addressing the assembly, as the dust and straw began showering the people in the front rows. As the man on his canvas descended on its four ropes, Jesus had the composure to continue with his words to the assembly.

Then, he looked the paralytic in the eyes. Perhaps Jesus there saw deep remorse for the sins of youth that had brought the paralysis on the man. Responding to that, Jesus said, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”

For the four friends those five words were an unsatisfactory reward for the trouble, and for Our Lord’s enemies those words were great evidence they could use against Jesus in charging him for acting like he was God.

To silence both groups, Jesus told the man to hop down, to fold up his stretcher, and to carry it home. The joyous man made his way out, with everyone touching him.

Don't let spiritual leprosy harden your hearts.



Thursday. 1/15/15

In the first reading the Holy Spirit tells us, "harden not your heats.” And, that brings up the fearful possibility that our hearts could be irrevocably hardened.

If we presume that God, being so go and patient, will put up with our bad behavior  endlessly, we have another thing coming. That would be mocking God, and the Bible says that God will not let himself be mocked.

If such a hardness could exist, it could be comparable to a progressive stage of the leprosy spoken of in the Gospel.

I spent my twenties and thirties in Korea when leprosy was common there. And three different associations I had with lepers stand out I my memory.

The first leper I knew was a boy named Gregory. I attended his wedding, then a year later I heard that terminal leprosy had separated him from his young life.

My second strong recollection of the lepers come from a day when a bishop asked me out to the mud flats where thousand of lepers made their home. What made the biggest impression on me that day was that in hearing confessions of the lepers for three hours I found that they were just ordinary people like us.  

My third association I had with lepers come from the wandering beggars. With medication having halted their disease they were left with shiny skin and stubby fingers which they used to threaten people. People would rather give money than be touched.

Coming back to what the Spirit tells us about not becoming hardened, we must see that if we let it go on  much further we might end up with  permanent spiritual leprosy.

Jesus saved us by fully resisting a hundred thousand temptations.


Wednesday, 1/14/15

The readings today speak of the beautiful humanity of Jesus. The first reading explains that Jesus had to be fully human for him to represent all of us in making up for our sinful lives.

In the Gospel we see his humanity being unable to say no to the needs of other humans. Then, at the end of the long day, on finding sleep not enough to bring his strength back, he rose, and going out to the hills, he sought refreshment from his Father.

Returning to the first reading, we read, that Jesus might represent us because, “He was tested through what he suffered.” This thought is repeated with added strength in Chapter Four of “The Letter to the Hebrews” where it says, “He was tempted in every way the we are.”

The Catholic translators held back from saying Jesus was tempted. They water it down by saying he was tested. However, it was only by his resisting temptations that he saved us. As we read in verse ten of the Sixth chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Jesus saved us by dying to sin. He saved us by fully resisting a hundred thousand temptations to sin. 

Mark wrote his Gospel to show that Jesus is the Savior, and that he saved us through his suffering,


Tuesday, 1/13/15

On weekdays this year we will be following Mark’s Gospel, and for getting his message day by day, you might be helped if you can discern  Mark’s purpose in composing this Gospel. Mark wrote at a rebuttal to those who said Jesus could not be the Messiah because he was crucified. But, unlike St. Luke and St. John, Mark did not spell out that reason for writing his Gospel. 

St. Luke gave us his reason. "Since many have undertaken to compose a narrative of the events fulfilled amongst us. . . I too have have decided . .  to write it down in an orderly sequence." 

St. John, at was at the end of his Gospel told us his purpose. "Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life."

 With St. Mark we must note how his sixteen chapters clearly break into neat halves. The first eight chapters build up the case for recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. Then, at the midpoint of his Gospel, at the end of Chapter Eight, all the piled up evidence of the first eight chapters forced Peter to say, “You are the Messiah.”

With Peter, as the spokesman for all of us, having come to see the truth, the second half of Mark’s Gospel begins immediately with Jesus asserting that he was going to save us not by conquering, but by refusing to be conquered. And he begins his second half by saying, “Whoever comes after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

 Today’s Gospel begins the first eight chapters that show Jesus to be the Messiah. First, the man with the unclean spirit crises out, “I know who you are, the Holy one of God.” Next, Jesus drove out the devil by the power of his command. Then, the people marveled that he spoke with the authority of one who knew God well.