We should stretch out our roots to the living waters.

Thursday, 2/29/18

The rich man in the Gospel, living only for himself, and turning away from the Lord, is like a barren bush in a desert waste.

While the poor man Lazarus, having Abraham at his side, is like a tree planted by living waters that stretches out its roots to water.

Once, I had the idea of illustrating this lesson by placing two potted plants at the opening in the communion rail.  One of them would be like the barren bush enjoying no change off season, but the other would stretch out it's roots to the Lord, with never fading leaves.

Wanting to find such an uneven pair of plants, I browsed the back yard of the nursery store  on Herschel Street. The new young clerk there assured me he could find what ever I was searching for; but when I told him tI needed the two kinds of plants to illustrate a homily, he said I had better get help from his boss.

Our clergy should not lord it over people.

Wednesday, 2/28/18

Toda's Gospel simply reinforces the message of yesterday's Gospel; namely that a true minister of Jesus must be one who willingly suffers with Jesus.

At first, the disciples of Jesus thought tat he was going to establish a powerful new kingdom. The mother of two of them came to Jess, asking for her sons positions of wealth and strength in his kingdom.

Clovis, the king of the nation of the Franks, wishing to honor his priests, put them on a level with his nobility. That was fine, except that by putting them on a high station it came to be seen as his putting them far above common Christians. But jesus said, that his true ministers needed to see themselves as the servants of all.

We priests should not lord it over people.

Tuesday, 2/27/18

Our Gospel today warns us against our seeing ourselves as superior beings who need to be treated with the highest respect. That is a danger we priests must avoid. Church History tells us how we might mistakenly see ourselves as superior.

In the year 315 Emperor Constantine gave Christianity a privileged place in his empire. But when he died in 337 his son Constantius abandoned Christianity in favor of Arianism, a religion that honors Christ as a good man, but not as the Son of God.

By the year 460 the Arians had overtaken almost all of Europe, but Christianity was saved when a new nation, the Franks, overran central Europe, and their king married a Christian girl who persuaded the Frank nobility to be baptized as Christians.

Now, the Franks had a strange social structure that saw all dignity as descending on their king and those relatives who share in the kings inheritance.

Now, the priests and bishops were not blood relatives of the king, sharing in his inheritance, but to give them real dignity, the king had each of them come before the nobles while professing, "I have an inheritance, my inheritance is the Lord."

That gave them the right to lord it over common people, and some of them still exercise that right; but its goes against what Jesus said, "You know that those who exercise authority among the Gentles lord it over them, but it cannot be like that wit you. You must serve the rest."

The measure with which you measure will be measured back to you.

Monday, 2/26/18

My eleven years in a primitive Korea town introduced me to the same life styles as those in the Gospel stories.

Our Korean stores had no prepackaged foods. For measuring a pint of grain the store keeper had a two inch deep wooden box that was seven inches on each side. A quart measure might be ten inches on a side, and four inches deep. After filling such a measure, the dealer would run a ruler over the top, brushing aside the surplice.

It was not unusual to run up against shop keepers who had false bottoms to their measures, fixing it so that you received only three quarters of a measure when you have paid for a full measure.

The Gospel sets aside the storekeeping where actual wooden measures were used. If you are generous with others they will be generous with you are generous with God, he will be generous with you.

Jesus was given a foretaste of heaven to strengthen him for giving his life on the cross.

Sunday, 2/25/18

Our Lectionary tells us that today's Gospel is from Mark, Chapter nine, verses two to ten. However,  our Lectionary may be at fault in leaving out the first part of verse two. In telling us that Jesus took Peter James and John with him, it leaves off Mark having written that this happened "after six days."

What had happened six days before was that for the first time, Jesus foretold that he was going up to Jerusalem where the leader would bring about his disgraceful death.

You will remember that when Peter said he would not let that happen, Jesus said, "Get behind me, Satan."

Anyway, Mark wrote this Gospel story to show us that Our Lord's imminent death made him so sad that he needed to be alone with the Father on the mountain.

In the imagination of Peter, James, and John there was a wide sheet separating heaven from earth, and they saw that sheet stretched down so that the fame of Jesus was engulfed in heavenly glory.

Jewish tradition held that Elijah and Moses were the only two mortals already in heaven, so Peter, James and John imagined they were seeing those two wander over to chat with Jesus.

This transfiguration of Jesus into heavenly glory was also meant to tell Peter, Jame and John that heaven was waiting for them. It was meant to tell us the same thing.

Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.

Saturday, 2/24/18

Our Gospel today concludes Chapter Five of Matthew's Gospel, a passage that echoes Chapter Twenty of Exodus.

In Chapter Twenty of Exodus Moses summoned the heads of the Israelites up to the height of Mt. Sinai, going on then to issue the Ten Commandments of the Old Law. In Chapter Five of Matthew's Gospel Jesus called the Apostles to his side high on a hill. Then he issued the Beatitudes that embodied the spirit of the New Law.

The Pharisees were saying that Jesus was abolishing the Law and the Prophets by his eating with non-Jews, and by his disregarding the prohibitions they had added to the Law of Moses. But Jesus,  in Chapter Five of Matthew's Gospel insisted that far from abolishing the Law, he was actually fulfilling it. The Law said "You shall not kill," but fulfilling that, Jesus said we should not be angry with brothers. The Law said "You shall not commit adultery," but Jesus completed the Law by saying "You shall not lust."

In the end, our English translators quoted Jesus as saying we should be perfect as our heavenly Father is" But, since being as perfect as God is an unreasonable aim, Our English texts would do better to translate Matthew's word directly as "You must strive to be well rounded."

If the wicked ma turns away from his wickedness, doing what is right and just he shall be saved.

Friday, 2/23/18

Our first reading is from the words of Ezekiel who spoke to the captives serving in the Babylonian captivity. The people were feeling ashamed over their inability to keep all the rituals of their religion; and Ezekiel speaks to them of a simpler form of religion more pleasing to God.

Those exiles, while they were still in Jerusalem, had often heard their leaders speak of how God rewards many generations of just men, while he punishes many generations of evil doers. Their Jewish leaders used a simple saying to back up their contention that the children and grandchildren of evil men share in their punishment. Their saying was:

The fathers have eaten sour grapes and their children's teeth are set on edge."

In today's reading Ezekiel tells us that God rewards a person's goodness, and he punishes only the evil of a man's own actions.

To be Roman Catholics we must remain in unison with the bishop of Rome.

Thursday, 2/22/18

St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage in 250 published a teaching that from the time of St. Peter any church wanting to be accepted as part of the Catholic Church had to be in union with Rome. That contention has not always been universally accepted. There have been rocky times.

Although Emperor Constantine at the Council of Nicea had defended the belief that Jesus was the Son of God, his son Constantius, who came to rule in 337 rejected the findings of the Council of Nicea. His younger brother, Constans, kept the western half of the empire in union with Rome.

From 1309 to 1377 the popes, seated from Rome, pulled the Church from Avignon, France/

Then, in 496 the whole nation of the Franks, under king Clovis, were baptized. And, that Frank bishop, Remigius, without reference to Rome, was sn as the leader of the Christian nation.

The First Vatican in 1870 awarded the pope with universal jurisdiction throughout Catholicism, but from the time of St. Peter the jurisdiction of other apostles in their churches has been recognized.

The Bible's story of Jonah was an inspired work of fiction.

Wednesday, 2/21/18

In the year 420 B.C. the Jewish people resolved to please God by breaking off their ties to non-believing peoples. For a while, it worked well for them as they withheld themselves from pagan marriage customs. However, they went so far in avoiding strangers, that they forgot that foreigners were also God's children.

When they had gone too far in avoiding foreigners, God inspired a humorous Jewish story teller to make up the story of Jonah who hated all non-Jewish people.

In this story God ordered Jonah to go through the great city of Nineveh, calling out, "Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed!"  Now, Jonah, who hated the people of Nineveh, was looking forward to that destruction. However, to his extreme disappointment, the people of Nineveh, from the king on down, did penance, and received God's pardon for their many sins.

Our Church gives this story today to let us know that however great our sins have been, if we are sorry, doing penance, God will forgive us.

"My thoughts are not your thoughts" says the Lord.

Tuesday, 2/20/18

The first reading today gives us verses 10 and 11 of Isaiah 55, But, for the full beauty of it we should begin our except with verses 8 and 9.

8. For my thoughts are not your thoughts; nor are 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, 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.

You must do what I do, because I am the Lord.

Monday, 2/19/18

In ancient times servants and serfs were required to wear garments similar to what their master wore. Wearing such look-alike garments was known as dressing in livery.

In our first reading today, God ordered Moses to remind the people;e of their obligation to do what he does.

God says we must be holy because he, the Lord, am holy.

You must not swear falsely because I would not. And, I am your Lord.
You should not defied your neighbor, or withheld wages, or curse the deaf, because I would not to much thing, and you must imitate me, because I am the Lord.  

Jesus saved us by his death to sin.

Sunday, 2/18/18

Our Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent each year tells the story of Jesus for forty days going out to the desert to be tempted.

We should see the connection between this story and the incident that took place when Jesus was being tested in the Garden of Olives. You will remember that Jesus then said, "Father, if it is possible, let this trial pass by me; but not as I will, but as Thou will it."

Sweating tears of blood, Jesus forced himself to say, "Not as I will, but as you will."

We all know that Jesus saved us by dying for us, but his death itself was not of great value. There were two thieves who died with him; and their death was only of value to the the soldiers who divided the dead mens' garments.

What was it that made the death of Jesus so valuable? Romans, 6:10 gives us the answer. It there says, "His death was a death to sin."

Jesus conquered sin by never once, from his forty days into desert to his final minutes on the cross, never giving in to the temptation to sin.

The Apostles only administered Baptism on Holy Saturday.

Saturday, 2/17/18

The Apostles had a little handbook they followed in administering the seven Sacraments. We could call that handbook "The Teaching of the Apostles," but it was commonly referred to by the Greek word for "teaching" which was "The Didache."

Now, although writers through the first five centuries often referred to the Didache, every copy of it was lost, leaving us in doubt as to just how the Apostles administered the Sacraments.

Then a century ago a copy of the original Didache turned up in central Africa, and it told us some surprising things about how the Apostles administered Baptism and Confirmation. It said that they were only conferred on Holy Saturday.  

It said that the Apostles saw the Baptism pool as representing the tomb of Jesus. They saw going down into the pool as an expression of our willingness to die to sin with Jesus.

St. Paul referred to this in verses 3to 5 in Chapter Six of his "Letter to the Romans."

"Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father we also might live in newness of life."

The Apostles believed that the baptized, by dying to sin, opened a place in their hearts for the Holy Spirit. The newly baptized, on their way to the Easter Eucharist, were met by the bishop who put the Oil of Chrism on their foreheads. The Chrism represented the Holy Spirt taking over that part of the new Christian's soul that was free from sin.  

The Church's early saints depended on Plato, while later nee depended on Aristotle.

Thursday, 2/15/18

In the First Reading Isaiah told us that God wants us to pursue holiness not by fasting and and undergoing stiff penances; but rather by helping those in need.

The saints in our church's early centuries were famous for their extreme penances. St. Anthony cut himself off from all human contacts, living on scraps people threw his way.  A saint named Simon for twenty years isolated himself on the top of a stone pillar.

Our saints from later centuries, men like Francis of Assisi, would eat a fine meal if it  were put before him. You might not want to go along with this, but the difference between holiness in the early church and later church was somewhat philosophical. It was the difference between Plato and Aristotle.

Plato believe that our souls were created before our bodies, and our bodies are prisons from that our souls must overcome.

The writings of Aristotle were lost for a thousand year. He believed that our bodies and soul are created together at the same instant. For Aristotle holiness came from healthy minds in healthy bodies.

The Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes.

Blessed is the man who follows
not the counsel of the wicked.

Nor walks in the way of sinners,
Nor sits in the company of the insolent,

But delights in the law of the Lord,
And meditates on his law day and night.

He is like a tree planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,

And whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does prospers.

Not so the wicked, not so;
They are like the chaff which the wind drives away.

For the Lord watches the way of the just
But the way  of the wicked perishes.

We must be sincere with God.

Wednesday, q/14/18

In the Gospel Jesus asks us be honest about our praying, our fasting, our helping the poor. He wants us to be sincere, and not doing good things for show.

The word sincere really shows us how we must be. Back when people bought little images of their gods they often were cheated. The Latin word for wax was cherum, so the Latin for "without wax" was sincere.

Sometimes the molders of those images of the Roman gods, after pouring plaster into their molds, would find bubble holes here and there in their statuettes.  When that happened the crooked statuette molders would fill the holes with wax, then paint over them.

A perfect image, without clay, was called sincere. You are sincere when you pray from the heart without just making a show of your piety.