The stories in the Bible teach us truth, but they are not always factual.


Wednesday, 7/1/15

Today’s two Bible readings are confusing. 

In the first reading God told Abraham that, following the wishes of his first wife, Sarah, he should send off his other wife Hagar, along with their firstborn Ishmael, furnishing them with only a few pieces of bread and a goatskin of water. It doesn’t seem to us that God would be that heartless.

Then, it is hard for us to accept the Gospel story where Jesus sent a throng of evil spirits into a flock of sheep who promptly committed suicide.

After Martin Luther rejected the pope’s authority, he started people believing that the Bible was our ultimate authority as what is and isn’t true. We agree with Luther on that. We too believe that the Bible tells us the truth, however, we do not believe that the Bible gives us factual accounts. At times it teaches us the truth through different literary form.

Like the childhood narratives of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel and in Matthew’s Gospel contradict each other. Luke had his parents going back to Nazareth after the presentation of Jesus in the temple when he was forty days old. Matthew had his parents taking the infant to Egypt for several years before they went to settle in Nazareth for the first time. Matthew and Luke chose to follow different myths and parables that were going around. 

In reading the Bible we must be able to distinguish factual accounts with those in which the truth comes to us clothes in a fable, a parable, or a myth.  

Our Holy Father's latest Encyclical is the most important Christian happening since Vatican II.


Tuesday, 6/30/15

People are becoming aware that this last encyclical of Pope Francis is not just another batch of holy words from Rome. They are seeing it as the biggest Christian event since the Second Vatican Council.

Its introduction made mention of how God in Genesis gave mankind dominion over the world of nature. As truly central to this encyclical is our Pope’s pointing out that for too long, we have been using our dominion over nature as our license to exploit the world for financial gain. But, what God meant by giving us dominion over nature was that he was entrusting nature to us to be kindly cared for

You are given a hint at the scope of this encyclical if you look through the fifteen pages of  footnotes the Holy Father appended to his encyclical. 

Sadly, the thoroughness of the encyclical is its drawback.  We can easily be captured by an inverse snobbery that scorns footnotes.  The corporations that want to go on exploiting nature for their financial gain pay millions to down- home sounding spokesmen who make fun of intellectuals.  

Shouldn’t we join our Pope in following Francis of Assisi who saw the world of nature as his little sister? Shouldn’t we follow him in taking as our top priority that of protecting our sister earth from ruin?  

The Holy Father's recent encyclical is the biggest thing in Christianity since the Second Vatican Council.


Tuesday, 6/30/15

People around us are becoming aware that this last encyclical of Pope Francis is not just another batch of holy words out of Rome. It is the biggest Christian event since the Second Vatican Council.

Its introduction made mention of God in Genesis giving mankind dominion over the world of nature. As truly central to this encyclical is our Pope’s pointing out that for too long we have been using our dominion over nature as our license to exploit the world for financial gain. But, what God meant by giving us dominion over nature was that he was entrusting nature to us to be kindly cared for

You are given a hint at the scope of this encyclical if you look through the footnotes the Holy Father appended to his encyclical. The footnotes alone take up fifteen pages.

Sadly, the thoroughness of the encyclical is its drawback.  We can easily be captured by an inverse snobbery that scorns footnotes.


Shouldn’t we join our Pope in his love for Francis of Assisi who saw the world of nature as his little sister? Shouldn’t we follow him in taking as our top priority that of protecting our sister from ruin?The Pope's recent encyclical is the biggest Christian even since the Second Vatican Council 

This is the Feast day of St. Peter and Sr. Paul.



Monday, 6/ 29, 15

On this feast of Peter and Paul please pardon me for reminiscing about two young Korean men named Peter and Paul.  They celebrated their feast day together sixty-one years ago by giving a party. They were inviting guests to the new house they had built for themselves.; and I, as a 26 year old priest, was there because I had helped them in hauling  stones up from the river and in slapping the mud walls together. 

Of the thirty of us priests ordained together in 1952, the only other one still alive is Father Frank Mannion; and Frank happened to be visiting me that 29th of June in 1954. We joined twenty other Catholic guests, squatting against the walls in that eight by eight room; and we played a game in which each called out the next Korean number in succession while clapping his or her hands. The tricky thing was that if it was your turn when we came to seven, instead of their word for seven, you had to call out “bope!” And, instead of seventeen and twenty-sevn, you called out, “Bope, bope!”

Frank got it wrong three times, and everyone gleefully told him the penalty was that  he had to sing a song. That got me worried, because Frank, a studious man, never would sing with us priests when we were partying. But I needn’t have worried.

Frank was in seventh heaven squatting in that corner. It was the kind of missionary life he had dreamed of.  He sang, “There are some folks who say that I’m a dreamer; and I’ve no doubt there’s truth in what they say; but sure a body’s bound to be a dreamer, when all the things he loves are far away.”  

Jesus is so lovable.



Sunday, 6/28/15

In this Gospel the kindness of Jesus reaches out, drawing us closer to him.

We share in the appeal he had for those people of Capernaum who crowded up to him before he could even get out of the boat. He was delivering his beautiful words when he was approached by Jairus who wanted him to drop everything to come see about his daughter.

Not minding the interruption, he left the crowd he had warmed up, and he meekly followed Jairus.

His goodness and strength were so obvious that the hemorrhaging woman felt that even a touch of his robe would do away with a disorder for which a dozen years of doctoring had been ineffective. (For the chief priests, her flow of blood made her so unclean that for Jesus to have touched her would have made him unclean.)

When she was made whole, Jesus kindly assured the lady that it had been her faith, rather than his power that had cured her.

When they got to the house of the dying girl they found it surrounded by people sending up howls as they banged on pans. Such a crowd always gathered to scare off evil spirits who gather to snatch the souls of the dying.

Mark then did something for which we love him. That is, he gave us the actual words uttered by Jesus as he grasped to girl’s hand. In their Aramaic language Jesus said, “Talitha koum.” Or, “Little girl. Arise.”

Then, to help Jairus and his wife adjust to their surprise, he gave them something to occupy them. He told them to get the girl something to eat. Isn’t he lovable?

This story about Abraham welcoming guests with such kindness is the Bible's chief lesson for our need to be hospitable with strangers.


Saturday, 6/27/15

This story of Abraham turning weary travelers into honored guests was the Bible’s main lesson on our need to be hospitable to strangers.

In spite of the heat, Abraham ran out to greet the strangers. Then, instead of presenting himself as a kindly host, he bowed, and he insisted that it would be very kind of the strangers to accept his hospitality.

Then to show how much he appreciated their becoming his guests, he went overboard in preparing a huge quantity of food: a tender young steer, and bushel baskets of fine dinner rolls.

While Abraham as a worthy host, showed no doubt over the promise of a son in his extreme old age, it made his old wife Sarah laugh. The tribal story tellers would have pointed out a connection between Isaac, the future son’s name, and “eesack” an old Hebrew word for laughing. 

At the beginning of this story there were three guests, while at the end there was only one, and he seemed to be the Lord. They had a commandment against making images of the invisible God. So, being afraid of presenting God in any way, they made up this confusing story.

Did we ever treat black people like lepers?


iday, 6/26/15

The leper in today’s Gospel was probably Jewish, but he was not allowed to enter the temple or a synagogue. To warn people off, he was bound to call out, “Unclean, unclean.”

We never treated black Americans so badly, but we treated them badly enough. Back in the early nineteen-forties when an anti-lynching bill was proposed in Congress, President Roosevelt, for fear of losing Southern votes, refused to support it,

Once, when I was twelve, and my mother took me to the park, I was surprised to see black people at a nearby table. I gasped when a black mother started nursing her baby. My mother explained it, saying, “They are just different from us.” She meant that in a kindly way, but nothing could have been more cruel.

When Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” we take it he was saying love your neighbor as much as yourself; but maybe he meant for us to love the neighbor as though he or she were ourself. Maybe he was telling us to practice an empathy by which we would identify ourselves with the common humanity of the other. It would be hard for a twelve-year-old boy to identify himself with a lady with her blouse open; but maybe Jesus would have wanted him to try.

 We didn’t have a car when I was twelve. Eight of the ten of us who sat together for dinner all came home on the same bus. We knew the school or the place of business of the other passengers. We felt at home on the bus with them.

For my first thirty-five years in this city I didn’t once ride the bus. They seemed to be only for black people. However, for the past eight years, since I grew too old to drive safely, I have been riding the bus. I have come to recognize the people riding the same bus. I know what schools they go to, and I know where they work. I feel more at home with them than I do with the occasional white person who is forced to take our bus while their car is under repair.

Have black people been treated like lepers?


Thursday, 6/25/15

A friend reminded me of a time when for Lent I gave up telling my old Korea stories. But this isn’t Lent, so let me tell an old story about how I helped build a house on rock in June of 1974.  

I had been sent out to a rectory on a bluff right over the sea. The priest before me laid a strong concrete foundation that was a rarity there. The police station right below our hill was built on sand.

When I arrived there I made friends with a young man named Peter, and with another boy named Paul. Refugees from North Korea, they shared their nine by nine room with their radio repair business and with their young wives.

When their business earned enough money for it, they bought eight ten-foot-long four by fours; and they borrowed a cart for hauling foundation boulders up from our creek bed.

I was helping them dig the postholes for those stones. Then, I got into helping more, when Peter had to take his wife Theresa south to her parents’ house to have their baby. I had helped Paul finish off the roof when we were struck by a major typhoon.  

That house built on stones held firm, and our rectory lasted through the howling night. However, half our hillside slipped, avalanching the police station out into the deep waters of our harbor.

With the roads and bridges all gone, we heard nothing of Peter and Theresa. Then, after two weeks, they struggled into town. Theresa’s family’s house had been washed away, but she came carrying a son born while she clung  to a pine tree high on the mountain side.

We need to build our lives on good habits that hold fast through life's storms.


Thursday, 6/25/15

A friend reminded me of a time when for Lent I gave up telling my old Korea stories. But this isn’t Lent, so let me tell an old story about how I helped build a house on rock in June of 1974.  

I had been sent out to a rectory on a bluff right over the sea. The priest before me laid a strong concrete foundation that was a rarity there. The police station right below our hill was built on sand.

When I arrived there I made friends with a young man named Peter, and with his friend Paul. Refugees from North Korea, they shared their eight by eight room with their radio repair business and with their young wives. They longed to have two eight by eight rooms with a small sunken kitchen at one end.

When their business earned enough money for it, they bought eight ten-foot-long four by fours for uprights; and they borrowed a cart for hauling foundation boulders up from our creek bed.

I was helping them dig the postholes for those stones. Then, I got into helping more, when Peter had to take his wife Theresa south to her parents’ house to have their baby. I had helped Paul finish off the roof when we were struck by a major typhoon.  

That house built on stones held firm, and our rectory lasted through the howling night. However, half our hillside slipped, avalanching the police station out into the deep waters of our harbor.

With the roads and bridges all gone, we heard nothing of Peter and Theresa. Then, after two weeks, they struggled into town. Theresa’s family’s house had been washed away, but she came carrying a son born while she clung  to a pine tree high on the mountain side.

In celebrating the baptism of John the Baptist we rejoice over the greater things it portended.



Wednesday, 6/24/15

Today we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist. St. Luke’s account of the occasion tell of the rejoicing of the hill country over God’s giving a child to such aged, devout parents.

The Latin account of the Gospel we studied in the seminary brought the scene to life for us. Where our English account has old Elizabeth rejecting the name Zachariah by saying, “By no means, he will be called John.” For that “by no means” the Latin sounded more like the quacking of an old lady. It had her saying, “Nequaquam!”

The Baptism of the Baptist is a great holiday for the whole province of Quebec, and I was there once to feel a joy that echoed the original rejoicing at his birth. I met my favorite nun for breakfast at the Hotel Frontenac; and, spreading out our Scrabble board between our bacon and eggs, we were visited by a stream folks celebrating the feast in their Sunday best. Sister Larry and I didn’t have enough French between us to explain what Scrabble was all about.

The joyousness of this feast is actually a joy over the prospect of the coming of the Savior into our world. It is meant to stir up our true appreciation for Jesus humbling himself to come to us as our brother human.

Let's take a look at both readins.


Tuesday, 6/23/15

Let’s take a brief look at both readings.

The First Reading comes from a thousand years before men learned how to write in Hebrew. That was a thousand years after Abraham, so we wonder if these stories about Abraham or factual.

Well, Archaeology has unearthed evidence that Abraham’s people settled where Genesis says they did; so, there is some truth in the Genesis accounts.

But there are differences in the way those old stories were handed down by different branches of Abraham’s decedents. For instance, Chapter 37 of Genesis carries two contradictory accounts of how his brothers came to send Joseph off to Egypt. Both contradictory accounts couldn’t be right, but both could be wrong.

With the Second Reading, Matthew’s Gospel presents Jesus as having given us these sayings all together while he was preaching from the Mount; but the saying  are scattered in Luke and Mark.

The way Matthew puts them together here reminds me of the way Google put together the most popular sayings of Will Rogers. Let me say something about Will Rogers and his popular sayings.

Will was a Cherokee Indian whose tricks in swinging a lasso got him on the stage in Ziegfeld’s Follies back in the 1920’s. His rope tricks were entertaining, but what held his audiences were the comments he made while slinging a rope, and Google has gathered his sayings, the way Matthew gathered the sayings of Jesus. Let me quote some of the down home sayings of Will Rogers.

We are all ignorant, but on different subjects.”   

“If we closed down the colleges it might get everyone studying the way Prohibition got everyone drinking.”

“What keeps our politicians in office is the short memories of the American people.”

“Diplomacy is the art of saying, 'Nice doggy' while you are reaching for a rock.”  

I can’t help overhearing the conversations at neighboring restaurant tables, and I can guess what news analysts the people listen too. It reminds me of a Will Rogers comment from back before TV. He said,:

All I know is what I read in the newspapers.” 

Stop judging, that you may not be judged.


Monday, 6/22/15

Jesus tells us, “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.”
    
Wasn’t he going too far there? When people are in the wrong, haven’t we the duty of pointing out their error?

Maybe not.

At the Second Vatican Council the Church told us that if an individual, following his or her conscience, comes to believe what we see to be untrue, we should not judge them wrong. Here is what the Church said about that in paragraph two of its “Declaration on Religious Freedom.”

The Vatican Council declares that he human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individual or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his beliefs.”

Another way of putting it is to say, we should “Give everyone the benefit of the doubt.”

Since all our judgments’ are based on the facts as we see them, we are free to lay the true facts before others. We should be grateful to those who politely laid the facts before us when we were persistently very wrong.
  

The new encyclical of Pope Francis asks us to regard our environment with the love we would give to a younger sister whom we would protect from ruin.


Sunday, 6/21/15

The Church suggested that priests today should speak about the new encyclical from Pope Francis. Since Papal encyclicals are all known by their opening Latin words, it is common to open an encyclical with a phrase that hints at the encyclical’s message.

So, when Pope John XXIII wrote an encyclical on world peace, for its opening phrase he used the words, “Pacem in Terra” or “Peace on earth.” Likewise, in 1891 when Pope Leo XXIII radically broke with the past in writing about the rights of laborers, for that he opened his encyclical with the Latin phrase, “Rerum Novarum” or
“Of new matters.”

Commentators today are comparing this encyclical of Pope Francis to that one of Leo  XIII written 124 years ago. No papal document since then has been more of a bombshell.

But, the name of this new encyclical is puzzling. It is “Laudato Si,” and that isn’t even Latin. It is half the opening line of a canticle of St. Francis Assisi, and it was written in Italian. Our Pope’s family, the Bergoglio clan, emigrated  from Italy to Brazil in the last century, and they brought with them a deep love for the poetry of Francis Assisi.

The Canticle from which Pope Francis borrows his title was called  Laudabo Si, mi’ Signore  or “I praise you, Lord.” The canticle beautifully praises God for giving us this green earth as our companionable sister  through life.

In Chapter One of Genesis, God gave mankind dominion over the earth. Our Pope’s encyclical faults our industries for taking that God-given dominion to be an entitlement for us to exploit our environment for quick gain.  As opposed to that, this encyclical, following on this canticle of Francis Assisi, regards our environment as a precious younger sister whom we must protect from ruin.

Our Pope's new encyclical calls on us to save Sister Earth from ruin.


Saturday, 6/20/15

In May of 1891 Pope Leo XIII issued the encyclical “Rerum Novarum,” outlining Labors’ God-given right to living wages. That was a controversial encyclical, but Pope Francis’ encyclical this week might be more controversial. For it he borrowed a title from a canticle composed by Francis Assisi.

The encyclical’s title, “Laudato Si” is borrowed from Francis Assisi’s canticle “Laudabo Si mi  Signore,”, “I praise you, my Lord.”

Pope Francis, in the encyclical’s introduction, referring to the earth as our Sister, spoke of the ruin coming on our Sister. He then developed his theme through six chapters that went like the following.

Chapter One outlines the causes for her ruin. Chapter Two quotes from the Bible’s concern for the environment. Chapter Three laments over humanity’s failure in protecting Sister earth. Chapter Four calls attention to the economic aspects of  caring for Sister earth. Chapter Five outlines ways for us all coming together to save Sister earth. Chapter Six shows the linkage between ecology and spirituality.

By doing good things here below we store up treasures in heaven.

Friday, 6/19/15

Jesus told us to store up treasures in heaven. Catholics believe we can do that. We say we gain merit. Martin Luther, however, felt that we were so thoroughly sinful,  that it is only by clothing ourselves in Christ's goodness that we can be saved.

From my seminary days I have two memories of fine men who strove to store up treasures in heaven. One memory is of a very old priest who was known as Doctor Mee. He couldn't teach or preach anymore, but he kept slipping into our library, bringing books back to his room.

One day, in thinking of the futility of Doctor Mee going on with his studies, I stopped on the stairs, wondering about it. Another priest, coming on me standing halfway down the steps, asked me what I was thinking about. When I told him it was about Doctor Mee studying when he could no longer teach of preach; surprisingly enough, he told me he had wondered about the matter, and it prompted him to ask the old man.

Father Mee told him that he felt his capacity for enjoyment in heaven could be expanded by all that he questioned about while he was alive.

My other memory of a man storing up heavenly riches concerned Billy Mayor. He was a big boy with a great backhand. When I was eighteen, and away at the seminary, Billy wrote me that in June he was going to become a Trappist monk, and he hoped I would be home soon enough for us to have a final tennis game.

We played, with Billy beating me; then we lied down on the lawn with Billy downing a beer. I told him that a big eater like him would be starved in a monastery. He said, "They have great bread and cheese."

So I told him, what happens when you get tired of just bread and cheese. And Billy looked at me, wondering if I had learned anything in the seminary. Then he said, "Why, Tom, that's when the merit starts."


Some reasons for being happy as Catholics.

Thursday, 6/18/15

When a friend asked me what I liked about being a Catholic these four thoughts came to me.


A. I like being associated with the solid men in our heritage.
B. I love what Aquinas said about God being pure Goodness, Beauty, and Truth.
C. I like meditating on the phrases in Chapter One of the Gospel according to John.
D. I love the Mass as a way of sacrificing ourselves with Jesus at the Last Supper.

A. I like sharing the heritage of Purcell of Cincinnati, and Gibbons of Baltimore.

In 1830 Archbishop Purcell, came to Cincinnati as an oddity. With the Protestant city being swept by their Second Great Revival, they invited a fiery Reverend Alexander Campbell to a week-long public debate with Purcell. Afterwards, the local papers reluctantly gave the victory to Purcell. 

Then, Cardinal Gibbons, as archbishop of Baltimore led the Catholic Church in America from 1877 to 1934. Teddy Roosevelt called him, “The most venerated, respected, and useful citizen in America.”

H. L. Menken, who made his living out of pointing out religious frauds, of Gibbons wrote: “He was a man of the highest sagacity. There is no record of his leading  the Church into a bog. He had Rome against him often, but he always won in the end, because he was always right.”    

B. Next, I love what Aquinas said about God’s Goodness, Beauty and Truth.

Thomas Aquinas said that since God is pure Beauty, and Goodness, as anyone increases in beauty and truth he or she becomes increasingly God-like.

Then, since God is truthfulness, the closer we come to the truth in any science, by that much we come closer to God.

C. I like meditating on the phrases in Chapter one of the Gospel of John.

The old Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary became wearisome for me. So, in the mornings I came to use the eight Beatitudes and the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit as Rosary mysteries. Then, on evening walks I use fifteen phrases from Chapter One of John’s Gospel. Here are the first four phrases.

1. For “In the beginning was the Word” I think of how when there was nothing but God, he had a mental picture of himself. That picture remained substantial and steady. It became his “brain child.”

2. For “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” God loved that mental picture he had of himself, and that picture, the Word, loved him.

3. “All things came to be through him” might have you thinking of God as a watchmaker who fits together the billions of cells in my body, along with the millions of atoms in each cell. He keeps them in running order. (That makes me feel that God is multi-task enough for him to tend to the prayers of each of us.)

4. The fourth phrase from that first chapter of John’s Gospel is, “In him was life, and the life is the light of the world.” Just as all the energy in our solar system comes from the sun, so all the mental energy that each of us expends is light from his life.

D. I love the Mass I offer each morning.

At the last Supper, Jesus offered the traditional three-part table blessing that was a miniature sacrifice.

1. First part: he asked the diners to recall the favors God had showered on them.

2. Second part: he asked them to be aware that they were in God’s presence.

3. In the third part he asked the diners to join their selves with him as part of one pleasing gift to God. (The word Eucharist is Greek for “pleasing gift.” And their self-giving took the form of a complete submission to God’s will.)

It was at that point, when he was asking us to join him as part of the pleasing gift, that he gave us his body and blood. He did that so that we might be physically as well as mentally part of that same pleasing gift.

We should do good only to deepen our ties with God.



Wednesday, 6/17/15

When Jesus tells us not to make a public display of our praying or our good deeds, he is telling us avoid being hypocrites; but he gave us a more important reason for keeping our goodness secret.

He said that it is when doing good that only the Father can see, that we are fully rewarded. It is only the good that we do for him alone, that our good acts deepen  our intimacy with him.

But, if we do not let others see the good that we do, how can we be the salt of the earth, and how can we let out light shine, (as Jesus instructed us to do in his Sermon on then Mount?)

In Shakespeare’s “Henry V” play, after the English defeate a superior French force at Agincourt, Henry forbade his men from taking any credit for the victory. He had them over and over sing the refrain: “Not to us, Lord; Lord not to us; but to the name, but to your name, give glory.” “Non nobis Domine, Domine non nobis; sed nomine, sed nomine, tuo da gloriam “

They drilled that into themselves until they came to see that of their selves all they could do poop. 

Jesus did not tell us to be perfect. He told us to be complete, or well rounded.


Tuesday, 6/16/15

 In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us to be loving, forgiving, chaste, and kind. Then, according to our English translation he concluded by saying, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

However, that is not exactly what St. Matthew quoted Jess as saying. Matthew did not write, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Writing in Greek, the word Matthew quoted Jesus as saying was we should be teleioi. That word means “complete,”or “well rounded.”

If you or I strive to be perfect, we might fall into pride, like the little girl who has done so well in school that she cries out, “Mother, mother, mother, pin a rose on me.”

When a religious superior: an abbot or abbess, tells his or her novices to strive for perfection, their young ones could become too absorbed in themselves, rather than in prizing the goodness of others.

God wants us to be well rounded Christians, laughing, mourning, praying, or singing: just whatever the occasion calls on a well rounded person to do. 

As dying, and behold we live.


Monday, 6/15/15

Paul wrote that his thoroughly Christian living had turned his values topsy-turvy. As examples of that, he said the following.

When his life was sorrowful, he found himself rejoicing.
When his life was poor, he felt rich.
When he was dying, he was most alive.

That last observation reminds me of an Irish priest in Burma’s forests during World War Two.

With Ireland remaining neutral during the war, the Japanese military let Father roam free.  Working alone for four war years, he brought the Sacraments to many villages. Then, when American planes were shot down, he was able to hide our men, then smuggle them out to India. 

Later, in writing about those experiences, for a title he borrowed St. Paul’s words: “As Dying, and Behold We Live.”

A similar topsy-turvy way of living is open to us. By following Christ, we too can turn our sorrows into joys, our poverty into wealth, and our deaths into life.
   

Jesus compared his first group of believers to seeds that would marvelously fill the earth. More marvelous is the way the Creator devised DNA the seed of all life.


Sunday, 6/14/15

The Gospel today turns our attention to seeds, with Jesus comparing a handful of seeds to the original handful of Christians from whom God would bring forth a family of Christians that would fill the world.

In our time we have come to know of a greater miracle that God has imbedded in all seeds.

It was in 1868 that a German scientist found that all vegetative and animal life is composed of identical DNA molecules, with each molecule being constructed of millions of atoms. 

Then, in 1953 Watson and Crick were able to map the structure of all DNA molecules. They described their assemblage as being twisted, parallel strings pairing off the same four basic atoms.

The different grouping of DNA molecules give existence to varying chromosomes that result in different life forms.

Jesus asked his Galilean farm folk to marvel at the way each seed sprung to life while they, the farmers, slept. That of course was marvelous, but in our time we can appreciate the greater miracle by which God, like a heavenly watchmaker, has devised, then fitted together the seeds of all life for the variety of all his creatures.

Americans don't overdo taking oaths, but we do overdo our dependance on advertising.



Saturday, 6/13/15

Jesus said, “Let your ‘Yea’ be yea, and your ‘Nay’ be nay.”

In telling us to be straight forward, Jesus was saying we have no need for backing up our assertions with oaths.

In some cultures taking oaths on everything is a practice that’s overdone. We Americans don’t have that fault. However, we are strong on another way of bending the truth. There could be harm in the way we let advertizing dominate our newspapers, televisions, hospitals and houses of congress.

With the likes of “Snuffy Smith” and “Pickles,” our newspaper treats us to real art and wit. However, in needing full page advertisements for paying their wages, our papers shrink their comics to where we need a magnifying glass to make them out.

The television networks also need to pay their wages. They do that by playing host to strings of commercials that are like cockroaches infesting the sports and dramas programs.

We might wonder if the commercials that lead us in suing the medical people are helping us when their litigations send our medical insurance skyrocketing.  

Our Supreme Court with its “Citizens United Decision” has also given dominance to commercialism.  Since congress men and women cannot win reelection without that wide electorate reached only by expensive advertizing, the possible influence of their commercial sponsors could make us query, “Are their “Yeas” and “Nays” only in our common interests?”

The Heart of Jesus could not have given us more!


Friday, 6/12/15

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart.  My friend Sister Laurentia tells me that when she was growing up in Ireland there were homes without plumbing, but there were no homes without their big picture of the Sacred Heart with its red glowing oil lamp beneath it.

I wanted to find the scholarly significance of the soldier’s opening Our Lord’s side, causing it to flow with blood and water, so I checked with Father Ray Brown’s two volume commentary on John’s Gospel.

Father Brown devoted twenty-eight small-print pages to telling us what the great saints and scholars have written about blood and water flowing from Our Lord’s side. Some of them say that since only a living heart could cause blood to flow, the blood must have been emptied from the pericardium. Others say that the symbolism demands it be from the heart itself. They don’t seem to know anymore than we do.

With those heartless soldiers swinging their sledges at the legs of Our Lord’s companions, it was such was such a gruesomely embarrassing death scene for him, that we have to see that his love for us could not have given more.


St.Barnabas taught us that a Christian must be kindly.


Thursday, 5/11/15

Today we honor St. Barnabas, the companion of St. Paul on his first missionary   journey. His name was actually Joseph, but because of his exceptionally kind nature, the Apostles had nicknamed him Barnabas, which means, “Son of consolation..”

After the Apostles in Jerusalem heard that many Gentiles in Antioch had become interested in Christianity, they decided that Barnabas would be the ideal man for them to to send up there to welcome them. 

About ten years before that, the Pharisee Saul had become a Christian, turning to calling himself Paul rather than Saul. He came to Jerusalem to introduce himself to he Apostles, and afterwards, then, he had returned to his father’s house in the Turkish town of Tarsus.

Barnabas had been impressed by Paul back then, so when he was up on his way up to Antioch, he took a side trip to Tarsus, enlisting Paul as his partner in welcoming non-Jews into the Church.  

Later, when the two of them set out together on their first missionary journey, they took St Mark along with them; but Mark, still quite young, got homesick, and turned around and went home.

Later, when Barnabas and Paul were setting out on their second journey, Mark apologized, and wanted to come along. When Barnabas wanted to take him, and Paul refused; Paul and Barnabas split up. Paul just didn’t have Barnabas’s easy-going kindness.

A few years ago, our long-time diocesan director of education, Pat Tierney, was retiring. When I asked a number of teachers why they were fond of her, most of them said it was because of her openness to their problems. In the classrooms there are twenty-five students opposed to the one teacher. It is wonderful for her to have someone to listen to their side. Fittingly, Pat retired on the feast of St. Barnabas.

Jesus came, not to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them.



Wednesday, 5/10/15

With twenty-eight chapters, Matthew’s Gospel is the longest of the four, and one sentence in today’s Gospel holds them all together. That sentence has Jesus telling us he had come, not to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them.

It was thirty years ago that I came to know a lot about Matthew’s Gospel. I was very comfortable with Luke’s Gospel, having taught with it for two years in high school, and I had intended to use my old notes to teach a seventh grade course in our grade school.

To make a show of being democratic, I asked the seventh graders which Gospel we should follow. A little Lutheran boy named Raymond spoke up, saying, “We want to do Matthew’s Gospel,” and the other kids, with nothing to do before lunch time, all came in with, “Matthew’s, we want Matthew’s Gospel.”

Then, in reading through expert commentaries on Matthew’s Gospel, I found that it was written as a defense against Jewish leaders who said that Jesus had gone against Judaism’s cherished traditions. There are two sides to the defense that Matthew set up.

For one thing, Matthew described over an over how Jesus did things that the Prophets said the Messiah would do. He fulfilled their prophesies.

For another thing, Matthew showed how, while keeping the law of Moses in place, Jesus then developed it further. Moses had said, “Thou shalt not kill,” then Jesus added, “You should not even be angry with others.” Moses had said, “Thou shall not commit adultery.” Jesus, going further, said. “You should not look lustfully.”

We must pass on our Christian salt and light.



Tuesday, 5/9/15

Jesus told us we are the sale of the earth, and he tells us we are the light of the world, and we must let our light shine before all.

As Christians, how can we act like the salt of the earth and the light of the world, when Jesus said, “He who exalts himself will be humbled”?

Well, there are ways of being as nourishing as salt, and of shedding light, without being showoffs, and while giving the credit to others.

Above all, you must let people know that you are only one link in passing on the wisdom of the past.  In Chapter Four of his first Letter to the Corinthians, verse seven, Paul said, “What have you that you have not received, and if you have received, why do you glory as though you hadn’t?”

Let me repeat. You are just one link in a long, long chain of good, learned people through whom God is channeling his wisdom into the world. By saying you are the light of the world and the salt of the earth, Jesus is saying you must not let down all your wonderful ancestors and teachers by being too lazy to behave like a reliable link in that long chain,

The Sermon on the Mount is a vivid comparison between the Old Law and the New Law.


Monday, 5/8/15

In today’s Gospel, Matthew related the opening lines of the Sermon on the Mount that inaugurated the New Law. The scene was carefully constructed to echo God’s imparting of the Old Law to Moses on Mount Sinai.

As it was with Moses and the tribal leaders back then, Jesus brought the Apostles up on the mountain with him, while the people staid below. To demonstrate that he was the law-giver, Jesus had the people stand, while he alone sat.

Our English translation says, “He began to teach them, saying . . . . “ That is slightly different from what Matthew wrote, which was, “And opening his mouth he began to each them.” By putting it that way, Matthew captured the people’s feeling of suspense, as though they were saying, “Look, the Son of God is opening his mouth. What will; come out?”

Then, where the Old Law delivered on Mt. Sinai began with the negative warnings we call the Ten Commandments, the one-liners that open the New Law are the positive pleas for goodness that we call the Beatitudes.