A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Monday, June 30, 2008

The limits of self-reliance

It is good to do good and to do it well.

It is good to develop the skills and the strengths we have received from God.

But today’s first reading (Amos 2:6-10, 13-16) reminds us that all of our human skills and strengths and talents, in the end, are not enough.

Flight shall perish from the swift,
and the strong man shall not retain his strength;
The warrior shall not save his life,
nor the bowman stand his ground;
The swift of foot shall not escape,
nor the horseman save his life.
And the most stouthearted of warriors
shall flee naked on that day,
says the LORD.

May we be prudent and faithful and do the best we can, but may we rely ultimately on the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

At first, they were not really noticed

but soon there were more and more of them.

At first, they all looked like the other immigrants from the Middle East, but soon normal-looking people were found to have converted to this religion and were setting themselves apart from the mainstream of society.

They became the subject of rumors, ridicule, and investigations.

Then, a horrific criminal act laid waste to the center of the great city, killing many.

The focus quickly fell upon these outsiders.

They and their leaders were rounded up. Many were tortured and many were killed.

These first Christian martyrs of the Church of Rome remained true to their faith, rejoicing to share in the salvific sufferings of Christ, and helped stoke the fires of a spiritual awakening that would flourish when the empire that had sought to crush them was itself dust.

Today the Church celebrates the memory of the first martyrs of the Church of Rome.

(from an earlier post)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

How will ours end?

Today is the beginning of the Pauline year: a year declared by Pope Benedict in commemoration of Saint Paul the Apostle.

Today’s second reading (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18) present us with the ending of Saint Paul’s life as he himself contemplates it and as he reflects on the life of ministry that he has lived.

The ending of our own lives – yours and mine – may or may not be near.

How would we sum up our lives if, God forbid, they should end right now?

May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ give us the grace to take the opportunity of this day and this year to make the changes that need to be made in our lives, fulfilling our responsibilities and our vocations, so that when the Lord calls us home we may be able to look back on our lives as Saint Paul did.

I am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.

I have competed well;
I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.

From now on
the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day,
and not only to me,
but to all who have longed for his appearance.

The Lord stood by me
and gave me strength,
so that through me
the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.

And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat
and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom.

To him be glory forever and ever.

The Holy Apostles Peter and Paul

The ancient Latin phrase resonates in magnificence, with a feeling of awe and power like the majestic columns of a mighty cathedral: Sanctos Apostolos Petrum et Paulum - the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

Their origins were humble and they were slaughtered by the ruling regime almost as an afterthought, their deaths scarcely noted by the chroniclers of the day, but their work, their words, their blood, and their lives -- by the power of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ shining through them -- became the foundation of Christendom itself. Now the city that had crushed them is dominated by their monuments.

O Roma felix! Duorum Principum es consecrata sanguine!

God would raise up other great saints, and He continues to do so, but even the greatest but stand on the shoulders of these giants. There would have been no Gregory the Great or John Paul the second without Peter the Rock. There would have been no Thomas Aquinas without Saul of Tarsus.

They were human beings like us and not without flaws, but none could be mightier. They held nothing back: once they were sent forth, they laid everything on the line for Christ, every day of their lives – all their hearts, all their strength, all their talents, their freedom, and even their life's blood – everything went for Christ. They were exalted, yes, but only because they served humbly, lovingly, and forcefully.

If we’re looking for role models in our lives as we seek to make a difference in this world, we could not do better that the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, whose memory is celebrated on this day: the beginning of the Pauline year - the special commemoration of Saint Paul.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

God, dead children, and blame

The words from the book of Lamentations in today’s first reading (2:2, 10-14, 18-19) are extremely hard.

The words begin by ascribing anger and destruction to God and they go on to describe the most pitiful deaths of infants and children.

They faint away like the wounded
in the streets of the city,
And breathe their last
in their mothers’ arms.

The blame for the deaths of these children lies fully at the feet of their nation’s leaders who forsook both prudence and faithfulness, leading to the destruction of Jerusalem and the ravaging of the land by the armies of Babylon.

Such stupidity, irresponsibility, and disrespect would make anyone angry, even God, as this reading reminds us (although the wrath of an infinitely just and merciful God should not be confused with the wrath of human beings).

The inspired writer also knew that it was the army of Babylon that physically tore down Judah’s fortresses, but he also knew (and so he writes) that God let all of it happen: both the stupidity and the resulting destruction.

Why did God let it happen? Why did he let these children die because of the sins and geopolitical blunders of their parents and their leaders?

The obvious answer – because of his gift of free will – may not feel comforting or at all satisfactory, even though it is true.

The ultimate answer, the full answer, the comforting answer can only be found in the infinite will and wisdom and love of God.

Sinful and finite, our taking the path to that wisdom and the embracing of that will may sometimes be hard, even with God’s grace, but it is the only way that leads to peace and to the recognition of the infinite good that may be found beyond all tears.

Pour out your heart like water
in the presence of the Lord...

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, be merciful to me – a sinner.

Turkish Religious Leader in France

The city of Lyons experienced a great influx of immigrants from what Westerners today call Turkey.

The immigrants brought their religion with them and caused a great deal of suspicion and friction.

The authorities cracked down and many were martyred, including the man who had led the immigrants for a quarter of a century.

He was the bishop. His name was Irenaeus.

He had served well, rebuilding the local church community and writing powerfully against the recycled pagan mysticism known as Gnosticism that was enjoying popularity inside and outside the Church.

Irenaeus' greatest work Adversus Haereses is still widely read. He also played a critical role in Scripture scholarship.

St. Irenaeus died in 202 and his memory is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Burke to Supreme Earthly Tribunal

The Holy Father today named Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke, up to now Archbishop of Saint Louis, Missouri (USA), as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.

The Holy Father named Cardinal Agostino Vallini, who had been the Prefect, as his Vicar for the Diocese of Rome (replacing the retiring Cardinal Camillo Ruini).

A world dissolving in ashes

In yesterday’s first reading, the people of God and the holy city of Jerusalem were utterly devastated.

In today’s first reading (2 Kings 25:1-12), it gets even worse.

He burned the house of the LORD,
the palace of the king, and all the houses of Jerusalem;
every large building was destroyed by fire.

Then the Chaldean troops

who were with the captain of the guard
tore down the walls that surrounded Jerusalem.

Then Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard,
led into exile the last of the people
remaining in the city...

It is difficult for us to put ourselves fully and emotionally in that total disaster. How would we feel to have everything in our lives, including all the things that we consider sacred and all the things were consider absolutely secure, to be destroyed and turned to ash.

The opening words of the Dies Irae come to mind:

Dies irae, dies illa
solvet saeclum in favilla...

"A day of wrath, that day --
The world will dissolve in ashes..."

But no matter what terrible things may befall us, our hope in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose from the dead, is stronger still.

Recordare Jesu pie,
quod sum causa tuae viae,
ne me perdas illa die.

"Remember, O dear Jesus,
That I am the cause of Thy journey.
Do not lose me on that day."

The new bishop was greeted with protests

Many were upset with this African gentleman becoming the bishop and the disagreements grew very heated.

The bishop's earliest decisions did not help matters. One of the decisions he made in the interests of protecting his flock would be denounced as a gross violation of justice.

He was personally a holy man. He was also very intelligent and he meant well, but his impulsiveness sometimes betrayed him.

Nonetheless, the Pope thought he was just the man to handle a very high-profile controversy. Sure enough, the controversy was not resolved pleasantly, but the bishop's dramatic defense of the faith was admired by the Church everywhere.

Cyril, bishop of Alexandria in Egypt and Doctor of the Church, is said to have died on this very day in the year 444.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The end of all earthly safety

It is the ultimate nightmare.

The military forces of the nation have been defeated.

The capital city has been overrun.

The holiest of places has been seized and ransacked by violent men of another religion.

And the people have been rounded up and carted away to slavery.

This nightmare is recounted in today’s first reading (2 Kings 24:8-17): the fall of Jerusalem, the beginning of the Babylonian Captivity, the greatest catastrophe to devastate the People of God in Old Testament times.

May God forbid that any of us should ever suffer anything as catastrophic in our own lives.

But, even more, may God give us the grace to endure any evil that may befall us and to live secure in spirit and faithful in all things no matter what.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Go back and read

In today’s first reading (2 Kings 22:8-13; 23:1-3), the book of the law has been found in the temple and is read to the King and then all the people of Jerusalem.

It is a pivotal moment: when they realize how far they have fallen and when they resolve to embrace the ways of the Lord in a new and fuller way.

Perhaps this is the time for such a moment for you and me.

Perhaps this is the time when we go back and, for example, read the Gospel according to Saint Matthew at one sitting, or begin a program of reading the entire Catechism bit by bit and day by day.

This can be a time of special grace for us.

A time to go back and read.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at a Catholic Mom Climbing the Pillars.


Today’s Gospel (Luke 1:57-66, 80 – omitting the Benedictus) gives us different examples of family life, good and not so good.

On the one hand, there is family-based pressure that attempts to discourage following the will of God.

On the other hand, the family is the environment in which Saint John the Baptist grows and becomes “strong in spirit.”

Wife, husband, parent, child, sister, brother, close relative, or family friend, what kind of family life do you and I foster?

And they made signs to his father...

...inquiring what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, "His name is John."

And they all marveled.

And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God....

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people,
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke
by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies,
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to perform the mercy promised to our fathers,
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath which he swore to our father Abraham,
to grant us that we,
being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him
all the days of our life.

And you, child,
will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord
to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
through the tender mercy of our God,
when the day shall dawn upon us from on high
to give light
to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace."

(Luke 1:62-64, 67-79)

Today the Church celebrates the birth of St. John the Baptist

(from an earlier post)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Clearing our eyes

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 7:1-5), our Lord gives us this warning:

Stop judging,
that you may not be judged.

For as you judge,
so will you be judged,
and the measure with which you measure
will be measured out to you.

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?

How can you say to your brother,
‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’
while the wooden beam is in your eye?

You hypocrite,
remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

God has revealed what is right and what is wrong: it is not a human invention or human preference.

We must always speak truthfully and effectively about what is right and what is wrong, while explicitly and continually examining and purifying ourselves by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we may all come to see clearly and perfectly the truth and the love and the glory of God.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Whom God destroys

One of the things our Lord says in today’s Gospel (Matthew 10:26-33) may strike as strange those who have a cartoonish idea of God as revealed in the New Testament.

Be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.

Let us be clear: our Lord is not telling us to fear the devil, our Lord is telling us to fear God.

Yes, our Lord goes on to speak of God’s care and love for us, but that does not contradict our need to fear God (with the loving fear of a child rather than the alienated fear of a slave).

When we sin, when we turn away from God, we dive head-first toward Gehenna.

It is only the love and the mercy of God that holds us back from falling into that eternal destroying.

If we persist in struggling against God, if we keep pushing away from his mercy and truth, then we truly risk slipping from the one power keeping us from everlasting doom.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, be merciful to me – a sinner.

Dangers and courage

After September 11, everything changed.

So they said then, but it did and it didn’t.

For a time, people banded together and many gathered in churches and other places of worship to seek comfort, guidance, and strength.

But in a little while, the political unity of those days would fracture and most people pretty much ended up going back to their old ways.

Except for the enemies of religion in general and Christianity in particular.

For decades they had been hewing with the axe of a twisted interpretation of the Constitution to suppress the “free exercise” of religion.

For years they had been more subtly stabbing with the dagger of political correctness to stifle the religious expressions of individuals in everyday life.

Now they had a new weapon: people of faith could be accused of being religious fanatics, just like the ones who flew airplanes into buildings and killed over three thousand people.

(Never mind, of course, that atheists and other enemies of religion have been responsible for the murder of tens of millions of men, women and children during the course of the past several decades, usually in groups of millions within a handful of years.)

Now popular singers can call for the banning of organized religion, comedians can have television shows ridiculing and denouncing faith, government agencies in North America and Europe can prosecute Christians for expressing their beliefs, and mainstream media websites can have atheists as some of the most prominent commentators in their “Faith” section.

It is not an easy environment for faithful Christians. The words of the prophet Jeremiah in today’s first reading (Jeremiah 20:10-13) resonate strongly:

Yes, I hear the whisperings of many:
"Terror on every side!
Denounce! let us denounce him!"
All those who were my friends
are on the watch for any misstep of mine.
"Perhaps he will be trapped;
then we can prevail,
and take our vengeance on him."

But the message of today’s readings is not to lament or to seek refuge in a “bunker mentality”.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ makes this very clear in today’s Gospel (Matthew 10:26-33):

What I say to you in the darkness,
speak in the light;
what you hear whispered,
proclaim on the housetops.

And do not be afraid
of those who kill the body
but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one
who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

Living and expressing our faith can sometimes be awkward, sometimes it can be dangerous, and we must exercise prudence and discernment, but we need to be clear in our own mind about what the greater dangers are.

Expressing our faith in word or deed may cause problems for a time, but failing to express our faith in word and deed may have an infinitely greater downside.

Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.

But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father.

In this sometimes difficult world, may we cling to the Lord and may we find our refuge and strength in him.

But the LORD is with me,
like a mighty champion:
my persecutors will stumble,
they will not triumph.

In their failure
they will be put to utter shame,
to lasting, unforgettable confusion.

O LORD of hosts,
you who test the just,
who probe mind and heart,
let me witness the vengeance you take on them,
for to you I have entrusted my cause.

Sing to the LORD,
praise the LORD,
for he has rescued the life of the poor
from the power of the wicked!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Betrayal and faithfulness

When he was a child, his life had been saved by the High Priest , who would care for him for years before engineering the coup that would make him King while still a very young man.

That was what we heard in yesterday’s first reading.

In today’s first reading (2 Chronicles 24:17-25), after the death of the High Priest, the King turns against God and kills the High Priest’s son who had remained boldly faithful to God.

What follows is that God turns against the King who is defeated and wounded in battle and then murdered by his own servants.

This account of treachery and apostasy makes an excellent introduction to what our Lord says at the beginning of today’s Gospel (Matthew 6:24-34):

No one can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.

May you and I always rise above this world’s obsessions with power, popularity and pleasure and remain faithful, loyal and devoted to God by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The young man was truly gifted

His family was well connected. He himself was very bright and highly motivated.

A successful career in the military and politics seemed assured (when he was four, they said, he was sometimes found already marching in uniform).

And then God touched his life.

From the age of seven onward, he devoted himself to the Lord. Even when he was bedridden by kidney disease a few years later, he considered it a blessing because it enabled him to concentrate even more on prayer.

Despite his father's opposition, he renounced his worldly goods and entered the Jesuits. He excelled at his studies and was considered one of the order's most exemplary young men.

In his fourth year of theological studies, an epidemic struck the city. Even though his own health was not the best, the young man was tireless in caring for the stricken.

Sure enough, his own health failed. He lingered on for three months before the Lord finally called him home at the age of 23.

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga died around midnight 417 years ago today.

(from an earlier post)

Friday, June 20, 2008

"Where your treasure is"

Today’s first reading (2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18, 20) tells us of a complicated and violent time in ancient Jerusalem, including a Queen who murders nearly all of the royal family in order to hold onto power and who is herself executed when the survivor emerges from a hidden childhood in the Temple and is proclaimed King.

Thus we have the example of someone who commits great evil for the sake of earthly goods (that are ultimately taken away).

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 6:19-23), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gives us a much better way:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and decay destroy,
and thieves break in and steal.

But store up treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor decay destroys,
nor thieves break in and steal.

For where your treasure is,
there also will your heart be.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"We live only in our life"

In the midst of today’s first reading (Sirach 48:1-14), during a long exaltation of the memory of the prophet Elijah, we hear this sentence that may strike us a little oddly:

For we live only in our life,
but after death our name will not be such.

This sentence is not found in every manuscript nor every translation (although it is in the Vulgate).

nam nos vita vivimus
tantum post mortem autem non erit tale nomen nostrum

Taken in full context, this verse speaks bluntly of the finitude of our earthly life.

It is a reminder that we need to use well NOW – right now – whatever life God has given us on this earth.

On this one life – and most importantly, on the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – eternity depends.

Accomplice to murder gets hard time

His job was to be the lookout when the other man was being murdered, but he never forgot the sight of the dead man’s body and he felt the blood on his own hands.

He repented, walked away from his life of easy pleasures and sought balance in a hard life of prayer.

Other men with blood on their hands would be moved to join him in this most austere monasticism: including a very high-profile politician and even his own father.

St. Romuald, Benedictine monk and founder of monasteries, died of natural causes 981 years ago today.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pick up the mantle

Great people die and pass from this world.

It is good to mourn, but it is even more important to do what we can to rise to the occasion and continue the legacy of greatness.

A great example and metaphor for this – the mourning and the continuing - can be found in today’s first reading (2 Kings 2:1, 6-14) as Elijah is taken from this world before Elisha’s eyes.

Elisha gripped his own garment and tore it in two.

Then he picked up Elijah’s mantle...

We all know people of greatness, especially people of faith, who are no longer with us and have passed from this world.

May we pick up the mantle, fulfill our responsibilities, and do the work that God calls us to do.

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at just another day of Catholic pondering

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The repentance of Ahab

In today’s first reading (1 Kings 21:17-29), the infamous King Ahab repents, his repentance is recognized by the Lord, and his punishment is withheld.

Tragically, Ahab would go on to disregard the word of the Lord yet again, with fatal results, and the dogs would indeed lick up his blood.

Repentance is a necessary thing, but may God give you and I the grace to persevere in repentance and to follow his will now and in all the days to come.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Heroic generosity

Being a Christian, in the minds of many, is all about being nice.

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:38-42), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ reminds us that being a Christian is more than just being nice: it calls for extraordinary, even heroic generosity.

You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

But I say to you,
offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one to him as well.

If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand him your cloak as well.

Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go with him for two miles.

Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back
on one who wants to borrow.

We must be prudent, especially in fulfilling our God-given responsibilities, but as followers of Christ, we need to show ourselves to be heroically generous.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The call of the unworthy

Today many people are celebrating Fathers’ day, remembering and cherishing their earthly fathers.

The theme of today’s readings, especially today’s Gospel (Matthew 9:36-10:8), is divine vocation.

At the sight of the crowds,
Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.

Then he said to his disciples,
“The harvest is abundant

but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.”

This passage applies most obviously to fulltime ministerial vocations and it is very important for us to keep a special focus on those whom God is calling to the priesthood.

We should also keep strongly in mind vocations to the permanent diaconate and to the consecrated life. Respect should also be given to the vocation to a devout, chaste single life.

Yet we must also remember, especially on this Fathers’ Day, that God calls most of the flock to the sacrament of Matrimony and the vocation of parenthood.

It is perhaps one of the greatest fundamental problem of our culture today that people – even good Christians – forget that marriage and parenthood are vocations. They are not simply lifestyle choices nor are they rights that trump all other considerations. Too many people today look on marriage and parenthood merely as prizes to boost their self-esteem and some even will pervert and destroy anything that gets in the way of their desired prize.

It is critically important that those who are called to marriage and parenthood should cherish them as the gifts from God they are.

It is sometimes challenging to live marriage and parenthood as vocations in today’s world not only because the world tries to portray them as lifestyle choices rather than vocations, but also because of the publicity given to disastrous examples of marriage and parenthood: from wacky celebrities to the local perpetrators of domestic violence and child abuse.

This also applies to the celibate vocations, especially priesthood, since the terrible crimes of sexual abuse by clergy have been so well known in recent years.

Today’s readings, however, remind us that God’s vocation needs to be answered, even though others may have followed that same path with evil results.

There is no greater example than in today’s Gospel, the center of which is Christ’s calling of the Twelve Apostles – the greatest of the ministers of his Church – and yet one of those twelve, Judas Iscariot, would commit the most grievous of evils.

Although the betrayal by Judas was no doubt disheartening to the others, the dignity and the power of apostleship remained. The eleven went on with their great work and another would take the place left by Judas.

Neither were the Apostles discouraged by their own imperfections: especially their leader, Saint Peter.

The words of Saint Paul in today’s second reading (Romans 5:6-11) give us the perspective we imperfect people need.

For Christ, while we were still helpless,
yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly.

Indeed, only with difficulty
does one die for a just person,
though perhaps for a good person
one might even find courage to die.

But God proves his love for us
in that while we were still sinners
Christ died for us.

How much more then,
since we are now justified by his blood,
will we be saved through him from the wrath.

Indeed, if, while we were enemies,
we were reconciled to God
through the death of his Son,
how much more, once reconciled,
will we be saved by his life.

Not only that,
but we also boast of God
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have now received reconciliation.

We are unworthy.

We are not perfect, but God is.

May we answer God’s call and live fully – each and every day – the vocation he has given us.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Make words meaningful

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:33-37), our Lord warns against the swearing of oaths:

You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
Do not take a false oath,
but make good to the Lord all that you vow.

But I say to you, do not swear at all;
not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
nor by the earth, for it is his footstool;
nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.

Do not swear by your head,
for you cannot make a single hair white or black.

But our Lord goes beyond “Don’t do this”:

Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’
and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’

Anything more is from the Evil One.

What our Lord is telling us is that we need to make our words themselves meaningful, without having to resort to religious or other kinds of hyperbole.

Sadly, especially in this day and age and most especially online, people can throw around all sorts of words, without much thought or concern.

But words can and should mean something.

To use the old expression, we should say what we mean and mean what we say.

Today the major news outlets in the United States and many others are mourning the death of Tim Russert (requiescat in pace): a television network news executive, political analyst, and interviewer. As an interviewer, Russert was notorious for holding interviewees accountable for their words, even words of the distant past.

May you and I choose and use our words well, so that we may give glory to God and share more effectively the truth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Islamic-Catholic Liaison Committee statement

"With the help of God, the Islamic-Catholic Liaison Committee held its fourteenth meeting in the Vatican, on 11-13 June 2008, correspondent to 7-9 Jumada the 2nd 1429 H. The Catholic Delegation was headed by H.E. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Vatican City, while the Islamic Delegation was headed by H.E. Prof. Dr. Hamid bin Ahmad Al-Rifaie, President of the International Islamic Forum for Dialogue, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The theme was 'Christians and Muslims as Witnesses of the God of Justice, of Peace and of Compassion in a World Suffering from Violence'. The topic was treated from a religious point of view according to the teaching of our two religious traditions. Both sides agreed on the following points:

1) "From the inherent dignity of each human being stem fundamental rights and duties.

2) "Justice is a priority in our world. It requires, beyond the implementation of the existing legal provisions, the respect of the fundamental needs of individuals and peoples through an attitude of love, fraternity and solidarity. There can be no true and lasting peace without justice.

3) "Peace is a gift from God and also requires the commitment of all human beings, and particularly believers, who are called to be vigilant witnesses to peace in a world afflicted by violence in many forms.

4) "Christians and Muslims believe that God is compassionate and therefore they consider it their duty to show compassion towards every human person, especially the needy and the weak.

5) "Religions, if authentically practiced, effectively contribute in promoting brotherhood and harmony in the human family.

"The participants were honoured to be received by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who encouraged them to continue their endeavours for tje promotion of justice and peace."

Auxiliary retires

The Holy Father has accepted the retirement of the Most Reverend Alexander James Quinn as Auxiliary Bishop of Cleveland.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Return visit

"This morning, Friday 13 June 2008, George W. Bush, President of the United States of America was received in audience by His Holiness Benedict XVI.

"In order to respond to the cordiality of the welcome received by the Supreme Pontiff during his recent visit to the United States of America, the audience followed a special protocol.

"The Holy Father greeted President Bush - who was accompanied by his wife Laura and by Mary Ann Glendon, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See - at the entrance to the Tower of St. John located in the Vatican Gardens.

"His Holiness and the President of the United States then went to the study on the upper floor of the tower for a private meeting, while Laura Bush and Ambassador Glendon remained with Archbishop James Michael Harvey, prefect of the Pontifical Household. Subsequently they were joined by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone.

"During the cordial talks, the Holy Father firstly reiterated his gratitude for the warm and exceptional welcome he had received in the United States of America and at the White House during his visit there in April, and for the president's commitment in defence of fundamental moral values.

"The discussions them turned to the main themes of international politics: relations between the United States of America and Europe, the Middle East and efforts for peace in the Holy Land, globalisation, the food crisis and international trade, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

"At the end of the meeting, and following the exchange of gifts, Benedict XVI and President Bush took a brief stroll in the Vatican Gardens to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes where they were joined by Mrs Bush and the entourage. There, the Choir of the Sistine Chapel sang two hymns."

(Statement by the Holy See Press Office)

Looking for fireworks?

Many among us sometimes feel at least a little disappointment that we do not have the spectacular experiences of God about which we read in Scripture.

In today’s first reading (1 Kings 19:9a, 11-16), the prophet Elijah has been going through a tumultuous time in his life and he seeks refuge in the Lord, fleeing to the place where God had revealed himself to Moses so spectacularly, but Elijah’s experience is different.

The word of the LORD came to him,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by.”

A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD—
but the LORD was not in the wind.

After the wind there was an earthquake—
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.

After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

May the Lord always give us the grace to recognize his presence and to discern his voice.

The toughest crowd for a preacher...

...is a crowd of other preachers.

A good number of priests were present that day. Many of them were very educated.

But nobody had been assigned to preach the sermon and now that they were all gathered together, nobody wanted to preach. "I haven't anything prepared," was the common excuse.

No doubt many of them felt intimidated at the thought of speaking off-the-cuff in front of such a highly educated (and likely critical) assembly.

Embarrassed and desperate, the meeting organizer turned to a quiet young priest who had recently come from Portugal.

The young man was so quiet, they were not sure how intelligent he was (besides, he was a foreigner).

But there was a holiness about him, so the organizer took a gamble and told him to preach whatever the Spirit of God might put into his mouth.

Very soon, everyone else's mouths would be hanging open in astonishment.

Word quickly reached the founder of Anthony's religious community (the community was very new - less than 20 years old at the time) who then assigned Anthony to teaching and preaching.

Anthony would become widely known as a powerful preacher, a worker of miracles, and even a Doctor of the Church - fulfilling very well the assignment that had been personally given him by St. Francis of Assisi.

St. Anthony died in Padua, Italy, at the age of 36 on this very day in 1231.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Reconcile now!

We have sinned against God.

We have also sinned against others.

We know whom we have offended, even though we may try to put it out of our minds.

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:20-26), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ warns us to be reconciled now!

Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.

Settle with your opponent quickly
while on the way to court with him.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released
until you have paid the last penny.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, be merciful to me – a sinner.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Set them apart

The last two verses of today’s first reading (Acts 11:21b-26; 13:1-3 – yes, that does skip an entire chapter, which recounts a relief mission to Jerusalem) gives us a fascinating, but perhaps frustrating glimpse into the life of the early Church.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting,
the holy Spirit said,
"Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul
for the work to which I have called them."

Then, completing their fasting and prayer,
they laid hands on them and sent them off.

It is a wonderfully evocative scene, but it can also add fuel to the fire of ecclesiological controversies.

The frustration (and the fuel for controversy) can be found in the lack of certain details. Did the Holy Spirit communicate miraculously out of the open air? Or was it a prophetic utterance? Was it a sudden consensus? Or, to use a term found elsewhere in the New Testament, was it the presiding spirit of the church there?

Who laid hands on Barnabas and Saul? Was it everyone in the congregation? Was it an ordination or just a blessing or “praying over”?

The answer that one gives to these questions and one’s interpretation of these verses may be linked with one’s view of the Church, of Church structures, and of Church leadership.

People with a “grassroots” view of Church may tend to depict this scene as a wholly communitarian and egalitarian dynamic: everyone in the community discerned and everyone in the community ordained.

Other people, with a different view of Church, might look at these verses and depict them as a slight spiritualization of a much more ordinary ecclesiastical scene.

Whether one is an ecclesiological conservative or an ecclesiological liberal, there are important things for all of us to remember:

First, the scene begins with worship and fasting.

Our life should be centered on worship and worship should provide the ground from which we make our decisions in the spirit.

Also, detachment (exemplified by fasting) is an important element of discernment.

Second, decisions in the spiritual life and in the Church ultimately come from the Holy Spirit: not from the will of individuals or groups.

Third, not everyone can do everything: diversity of ministries is a key element of our Christian life. We as Christians are not only set apart from the world, but we as individuals are set apart – while remaining in communion and in unity of faith, love, and truth – to unique tasks and sometimes even life paths in the Lord.

Fourth, even though we may each be set apart by the Lord, we are nevertheless connected closely to the community as a whole. Even hermits come from the community and lift the community up in prayer.

Liberal or conservative, may we worship, pray, fast, discern, walk the paths set for each us, and say in communion with each other in the name and the truth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Joseph’s friend had a history

It was a bad history – full of hatred and even violence – and so people did not trust him when he had supposedly “seen the light.”

But Joseph stood up for his friend and because the people in charge trusted Joseph, they accepted his friend on his word.

After a while, Joseph’s friend moved back to his hometown and the two of them lost touch.

Some time later, Joseph was on a business trip and he discovered something truly wonderful: a tremendous opportunity. He immediately thought of his old friend as just the man for the job, so he tracked his friend down and the two of them got to work.

Joseph was right: his friend was perfect for the task. In fact, Joseph’s friend would prove incredibly successful and would become known as one of the greatest men who ever lived.

Joseph, also known as Barnabas, would always be esteemed as a great Apostle (although not one of the Twelve) and he would die gloriously for Christ.

But his greatest contribution to Christianity may have been what he did for his friend Saul, who would be known as St. Paul the Apostle.

The memory of St. Barnabas is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at Living Catholicism. Thanks, Jay!


Food problems have been in the news lately: not just the threat of salmonella-laden tomatoes, but actual riots by people in deadly fear of hunger.

In today’s first reading (1 Kings 17:7-16), a widow and her young son are running out of food and preparing for death.

They find their salvation in sharing the last of their food with a stranger, who turns out to be a man of God.

You and I may not be on the brink of starvation, although we may have serious worries and even fears about sustaining ourselves and our families.

While always exercising prudence and discernment, may we follow the example of the poor widow and not be afraid to share with others in need.

Monday, June 09, 2008


Right now, in some places in the world, people are struggling with floods.

Also right now, in some other places in this world, people are struggling with drought.

In today’s first reading (1 Kings 17:1-6), the people of Israel are in the beginning of a three year drought.

But even in this time of drought, the Lord cares for his servant, Elijah the prophet.

The care he receives is not exactly world class dining - food delivered by ravens and water from a desert stream – but it is enough.

We all experience periods of emotional, spiritual and other kinds of personal drought at various times.

May we always ask the Lord to sustain us during these times and enable us to persevere with the sufficiency he gives us.

The Syrians slipped across the border...

...escaping from the authorities and establishing themselves in places they could quietly continue the work they said God wanted them to do.

One of them would be scarcely seen by the local population, but he was always hard at work to spread his doctrine: writing poetry, establishing a school, and writing about the truths of the Christian faith.

Saint Ephrem, Deacon and Doctor of the Church, is said to have died on this very day in the year 373.

(from an earlier post)

New Bishop in Newark

The Holy Father has named as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Newark Monsignor Manuel A. Cruz, a priest of that Archdiocese and up to now Archdiocesan Director of Hospital Ministry.

Bishop-elect Cruz was born in Havana, Cuba in 1953 and came to the United States in 1966. He attended Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, from 1972 to 1976 where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy. From 1976 to 1980, he pursued theological studies at Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange, obtaining a Masters in Sacred Scripture.

Ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Newark May 31, 1980, he served as Parochial Vicar of Holy Rosary parish in Elizabeth (1980-1982) and the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart (1982-1995). He has been Chaplain at Saint Michael’s Medical Center since 1995 and Archdiocesan Director of Hospital Services since 2003 and Vice President of Mission and Ministry for Catholic Health and Human Services since 2005.

From 1995 to 2001 he was a lecturer with the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Newark. He has held the title of Adjunct Assistant Professor since 2001. He is a member of the Society of Neuropathology of New York and a member of the Ethics Committee at Saint Michael’s Medical Center.

He was named a Chaplain to His Holiness December 7, 1999. He speaks English and Spanish.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The call of Saint Matthew

As Jesus passed on from there,
he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed him.

(Matthew 9:9 - from today's Gospel)

Live in hope, die in despair

A cruel slap in the face.

A deep and unexpected stab in the heart.

A terrifying rebuff from eternity itself.

That is what today’s first reading (Hosea 6:3-6) may sound like, especially to those of us who find resonance in the words that begin this chapter:

In their affliction, they shall look for me:

How many times have we done the same? How many times, when life has taken a bad turn, have we sought help and comfort from the Lord?

"Come, let us return to the LORD,
For it is he who has rent, but he will heal us;
he has struck us, but he will bind our wounds."

Perhaps we too may sometimes blame God (wrongly, generally speaking) for the evil we suffer even as we express confidence in his mercy.

"He will revive us after two days;
on the third day he will raise us up,
to live in his presence."

We wish that we could express confidence in the Lord so beautifully

"Let us know, let us strive to know the LORD... "

The hesitation in this expression is striking, as if they are tempering their confidence (let us know) with intellectual humility (let us strive to know the Lord) or realizing the effort required. (Older translations structure this part of the verse differently, but a number of well-regarded translations structure this sentence the same way as the Lectionary).

"...as certain as the dawn is his coming,
and his judgment shines forth like the light of day!
He will come to us like the rain,
like spring rain that waters the earth."

Ah! Again, beautiful, beautiful words…

How eloquently they reach out to God for the warm breath of his mercy.

But God replies with a sigh of exasperation and what comes from the mouth of the Lord is cold justice.

What can I do with you, Ephraim?
What can I do with you, Judah?
Your piety is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that early passes away.
For this reason I smote them through the prophets,
I slew them by the words of my mouth…

They looked to God for help and find death instead.

They lived in hope, but died in despair.

So it may seem, but, of course there is much more to this.

As human beings, struggling with our own troubles and striving to live as people of faith, we look at the words of today’s first reading and see ourselves.

We look at words, but God sees into the heart and none can hide from his gaze, as they themselves should have known.

His judgment shines forth like the light of day!

Their fair-sounding words could not conceal their faithlessness.

Your piety is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that early passes away.

Even their request for help is presumptive and not only lacking in penitence, but actually blaming God!

Come, let us return to the LORD,
For it is he who has rent, but he will heal us.

Their hope was a false hope and their presumption the flip side of deadly despair.

They effectively slapped the face of God; the stab in the heart was their own; and their own feet walked them into the pit of despair.

It is not enough just to go through the motions or speak nice words of turning to God.

For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice,
and knowledge of God rather than holocausts.

We must be penitent not just in word and ceremony, but in heart, deed, and attitude and remember that God’s forgiveness, healing, and mercy are his gift, not our right.

May our hope be true hope, founded on God's truth, God's grace and true penitence, so that we may live always the life of Christ.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, be merciful to us sinners.

Fulfill your vows to the Most High;
Then call upon me in time of distress;
I will rescue you, and you shall glorify me.

(Psalm 50:14b-15)

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Irreligious myths

As we listen to today’s first reading (2 Timothy 4:1-8), we hear much that resonates with our experience of the world today.

For the time will come
when people will not tolerate sound doctrine
but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity,
will accumulate teachers
and will stop listening to the truth
and will be diverted to myths.

That last word might strike some as a little out of sync with today’s world, if we think only of religious myths. After all, it seems impossible that anyone today may turn away from Christianity to the worship of Zeus.

While it does happen that people may fall away from Christ and embrace a non-Christian religion (may God have mercy on them), there are also strong temptations in today’s world for people to fall away from Christ and embrace irreligious myths: from existential hedonism to the unscientific tenets of scientism to the subtly illogical beliefs of atheism.

Irreligion, false religion, and heresy have always afflicted the world, but there has never been a time when the world has more needed the word of God and the saving truth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thus, what Saint Paul wrote in today’s first reading, he writes to us:

I charge you in the presence of God
and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead,
and by his appearing and his kingly power:
proclaim the word;
be persistent
whether it is convenient or inconvenient;
through all patience and teaching.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Seeking refuge in the power of God's Word

The words of today’s first reading (2 Timothy 3:10-17), written a little less than two thousand years ago are ominious, yet today’s first reading also has powerful words of hope.

In fact, all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus
will be persecuted.

But wicked people and charlatans
will go from bad to worse,
deceivers and deceived.

But you,
remain faithful to what you have learned and believed,
because you know from whom you learned it,
and that from infancy
you have known the sacred Scriptures,
which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation
through faith in Christ Jesus.

We have seen the increasing pollution of today’s culture: "wicked people and charlatans", indeed, going "from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived".

We have seen the persecutions against Christians and Christian lifestyles: blatant and violent in some “developing” countries, subtle yet increasingly explicit in many of the most “advanced” countries of the world.

But we also know the unshakeable comfort and power in God’s word through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Whenever we are afraid or in trouble, may we embrace and cherish the word of the Lord, repeating what is said in today’s Psalm (including the omitted verses - 119:157-168):

Though my persecutors and foes are many
I do not turn from your decrees.

I view the faithless with loathing,
because they do not heed your promise.

See how I love your precepts, LORD;
in your kindness give me life.

Your every word is enduring;
all your just edicts are forever.

Princes persecute me without reason,
but my heart reveres only your word.

I rejoice at your promise,
as one who has found rich spoil.

Falsehood I hate and abhor;
your teaching I love.

Seven times a day I praise you
because your edicts are just.

Lovers of your teaching have much peace;
for them there is no stumbling block.

I look for your salvation, LORD,
and I fulfill your commands.

I observe your decrees;
I love them very much.

I observe your precepts and decrees;
all my ways are before you.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, be merciful to me – a sinner.

The easy path

There were not many opportunities for a young man in that time and place, but church affiliation often seemed the easiest path to a comfortable life.

That was the path Norbert took. He hooked up with a local church community, obtained a cushy position, associated himself with people in important positions, and proceeded to enjoy all the pleasures he could get his hands on.

That was when the lightning struck.


It was the nearest of misses and Norbert lay flat on his back for nearly an hour by the side of the road.

When he recovered, he realized that that he needed to change his ways. He devoted himself to prayer and penance. Finally, he became a priest.

It was not an easy path. Some were skeptical of his "conversion." Others were contemptuous and spit in his face at his first Mass.

Nevertheless, Norbert stuck to this path. He founded religious communities and eventually became a bishop. He worked diligently not only to reform his own life but also to help other churchmen become more faithful to their own vocations, even in the highest corridors of power in Rome.

Norbert died on this very day in 1134 at the age of 53. He was canonized in 1582.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Stick to the Word

Today’s first reading (2 Timothy 2:8-15) gives great reminders to all who discuss their faith, especially those in the blogosphere.

When we discuss matters of faith and religion, sometimes we get involved in controversies about relatively small matters (but seem “fun” on some weird level) and sometimes we shrink away from asserting the core truths of Christian faith (e.g., because of political correctness).

Saint Paul makes it clear regarding Christ and the word of God:

The word of God is not chained...

This saying is trustworthy:

If we have died with him
we shall also live with him;
if we persevere
we shall also reign with him.
But if we deny him
he will deny us.
If we are unfaithful
he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny himself.

Remind people of these things
and charge them before God
to stop disputing about words.
This serves no useful purpose
since it harms those who listen.

Be eager to present yourself as acceptable to God,
a workman who causes no disgrace,
imparting the word of truth without deviation.

The mighty oak and the god of thunder

The great tree was sacred to Thor and the people regarded it with awe and great reverence.

Then it was chopped down.

The man responsible was a Bishop: personally sent by the Pope to bring the German people to Christ.

He used the wood to build a chapel, where a cathedral now stands.

Boniface worked tirelessly, preaching the Gospel and organizing the Church.

Then, while administering Confirmation in what is now Holland, Boniface was murdered by pagans 1254 years ago on this very day.

(from an earlier post)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at just another day of Catholic pondering.

God did not give us a spirit of cowardice

Christianity is not for wimps.

Wimps drift along with the flow of the people and the culture around them.

Wimps are pulled here and there by their impulses, urges, and whims.

Saint Paul makes it very clear in today’s first reading (2 Timothy 1:1-3, 6-12):

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power
and love
and self-control.

So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

He saved us
and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works
but according to his own design
and the grace bestowed on us
in Christ Jesus before time began,
but now made manifest
through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus,
who destroyed death
and brought life and immortality to light
through the Gospel...

Every good thing... and more

In today's Gospel (Mark 12:18-27), our Lord says something very interesting about marriage:

When they rise from the dead,
they neither marry nor are given in marriage,
but they are like the angels in heaven.

This may be disappointing news for some married people, who are distressed at the idea they will no longer be married to the love of their lives in heaven.

The truth is, of course, that none of us shall be disappointed in heaven. It is important to remember, however, that heaven very much transcends our earthly frames of reference. That is the fundamental point that our Lord is making here: heaven is not just Our "Earthly Life - Part II" - it is a fundamentally different reality.

Personally, I think that the bonds of love that we experience in this life will be transformed and that while the earthly, flesh-bound concepts of marriage will no longer apply, these transformed bonds of love will be even deeper and more wonderful than we can imagine in the eternal bliss of heaven.

Purify me, Lord Jesus, and let me flow with your love in this world, so that I may rejoice in you forever in the Father's kingdom.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The error of the unprincipled

In the United States on this day, the last Presidential primary elections are being held.

Coincidentally, today’s Gospel (Mark 12:13-17) presents us with our Lord’s famous words concerning political matters (as more traditionally translated):

Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's,
and to God the things that are God's.

Many people, of course, can still get confused about the things that are Caesar’s and the things that are God’s, especially as Caesar involves himself more and more in every aspect of human existence.

Moreover, politics invariably is a field where people easily detach from their principles for the sake of expediency and “influence”.

The words of today’s first reading (2 Peter 3:12-15a, 17-18) are thus especially relevant:

Therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned,
be on your guard

not to be led into the error of the unprincipled
and to fall from your own stability.
But grow in grace
and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To him be glory now and to the day of eternity.


He had a thing for teenage boys

And since he was in a position of authority and great respect, he was accustomed to having his way with the boys and young men under his "protection."

One of his assistants protested and tried to save the young men: he was gotten rid of.

Charles took the assistant's place, knowing full well what had happened to his predecessor, but he too stood firm.

He told the young men about the truth of the Christian faith and that they should not give in.

The king went out of control with rage. He ordered the deaths of Charles and the others who resisted his advances and embraced Christ.

The memory of St. Charles Lwanga, who died in 1886, and the other martyrs of Uganda is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from a previous post)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Giving God his due

Today’s Gospel (Mark 12:1-12) offers us the Parable of the Tenant Farmers, clearly symbolizing the mistreatment given to the prophets of old and ultimately the death of Christ.

But this parable is not just an analogy about salvation history, for we too are tenants, living in God’s creation.

Do we give God his due in word and deed, in obedience and loyalty?

Or do we resist, even to the point of attacking God's messengers?

May we keep ourselves open to God throught our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and give him what we owe him.

Into the woods

Some said that the two ministers were taken into woods outside the city, that it was there that they were told that they would be killed, and that they accepted their deaths with joyful faith.

The exact details may never be known with certainty, but the faith and the martyrdom of these two men, named Marcellinus and Peter, would be celebrated from the beginning of the fourth century to this very day.

(from an earlier post)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

What we do with God’s words

Today’s readings remind us that the word of God is not just something to be read or heard.

Today’s Gospel (Matthew 7:21-27) begins with our Lord’s warning about giving mere lip service to God’s word. No matter how effectively and powerfully we may wield God’s word (or even the precious name of Jesus), it avails nothing if we do not reflect God’s word in our hearts and in our lives.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

“Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?
Did we not drive out demons in your name?
Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’
Then I will declare to them solemnly,
‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’”

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine
and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.

“And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

The second reading (Romans 3:21-25, 28) reminds us that this is about more than just doing the good things God’s word bids us do, but that rather we are...

…justified freely by his grace
through the redemption in Christ Jesus,
whom God set forth as an expiation,
through faith, by his blood.
For we consider that a person is justified by faith
apart from works of the law.

The first reading (Deuteronomy 11:18, 26-28, 32) begins by exhorting us with unique symbolism:

“Take these words of mine into your heart and soul.
Bind them at your wrist as a sign,
and let them be a pendant on your forehead.”

There are some who follow this last part with a strange literalness: wearing little boxes of Scripture on their wrist and forehead.

The symbolic meaning of this verse is, of course, much more powerful.

The word of God should be manifest in all the works of our hands and we should come to know God’s word like the back of our hands.

The word of God should always be at the front of our minds and our fidelity to God’s word should be as obvious as if it were written on our foreheads.

Finally, today’s first reading ends by presenting us with an ultimate choice:

“I set before you here, this day, a blessing and a curse:
a blessing
for obeying

the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin on you today;
a curse
if you do not obey

the commandments of the LORD, your God,
but turn aside from the way I ordain for you today,
to follow other gods...”

May we choose the way of blessing: in our minds, in our hearts, in our words, and in our deeds.

What shall we pray for this month?

Pope Benedict XVI's generral prayer intention for June is:

"That all Christians may cultivate a deep and personal friendship with Christ so to communicate the strength of his love to every person they meet."

His missionary intention is:

"That the International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec may lead to greater understanding that the Eucharist is the heart of the Church and the source of evangelization."