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...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

In the midst of danger and destruction

A violent storm.

Fire and earthquakes destroying cities and whole regions.

Today’s readings tell us of these terrible things.

But they also tell us of how faithful people found salvation in the midst of danger and destruction.

In the first reading (Genesis 19:15-29), as utter disaster is about to fall, Lot asks God and God grants him a small place of refuge from fiery catastrophe.

In the Gospel (Matthew 8:23-27), the disciples ask our Lord and He calms the winds and the sea that had frightened them to death.

These moments of salvation did not mean everyone lived happily ever after: Lot’s life would quickly descend into embarrassment and nearly all of the disciples would go on to die horrible deaths.

Yet the disciples remained faithful to the end and by the grace of God would enter into eternal salvation and joy.

Likewise we in our own lives may have storms and disasters (physical and otherwise), but if we remain faithful by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we too may enjoy salvation and eternal joy.

As Saint Paul said in yesterday’s second reading (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18):

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.

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)

Monday, June 29, 2009

That all the Gentiles might hear it

Yet another celebrity died over the weekend: a man said to be responsible for selling a billion dollars worth of inexpensive products by SHOUTING (in a friendly way) on television. May he rest in peace.

Today, on the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, we celebrate two men who literally gave everything they had in order to proclaim the infinitely more valuable message of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In today’s second reading (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18), Saint Paul himself says:

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.

May the Lord give us strength and courage so that the proclamation of the Gospel may be continued in our own lives.

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.

(from an earlier post)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Death and life

During the past few days, the news has been focused on the deaths of two very famous people who are being mourned by millions: one died suddenly, the other after years of medical struggles.

Both died too young.

In the midst of this talk of death comes today’s first reading (Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24) which speaks about death with jarring simplicity.

God did not make death,
nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.

For he fashioned all things that they might have being;
and the creatures of the world are wholesome,
and there is not a destructive drug among them
nor any domain of the netherworld on earth,
for justice is undying.

For God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made him.

But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world,
and they who belong to his company experience it.

God created us to live: ultimately, to live eternally.

Yet, because of sin, humanity is not only out of sync with God, but also out of sync with Creation, so that we do indeed find the earth full of destructive substances and deadly dangers.

Through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the way to eternal life has been opened to us and although we may yet have to suffer physical death and many other things, by His grace we ultimately can be blessed to experience the life and the joy that will have no end.

May we continually repent and be continuously faithful by the grace of Christ.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

“I didn’t laugh.”

This week a man died.

May God have mercy on his soul.

He was a man of great talent, beginning as a superstar prodigy and culminating with phenomenal achievements in song and dance.

He was a man who lived a very sad and strange life.

He was a man who showed signs of dark and dangerous desires.

He was also a man who became laughed at.

Professional comedians worked themselves into a frenzy for hours and hours making jokes about him.

And millions laughed.

Now this man is dead, long before his time.

Now, for many, the jokes are no longer funny.

For many, the jokes never really were deserving of laughter: child molestation is not funny, neither is the long and slow self-destruction of a human being.

There are some today who may find uncomfortable resonance in the protest of Sarah in today’s first reading (Genesis 18:1-15): “I didn’t laugh.”

But the Lord knew that she did.

May we repent of taking pleasure in the tragic flaws of others.

May we do what we can to protect anyone’s tragic flaws from harming the helpless and innocent among us.

May we resolve, with the help of God’s grace, to address our own flaws – tragic or small – and to help others rather than attack or ridicule them.

May God have mercy on us all.

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)

Friday, June 26, 2009

The last laugh

In today’s first reading (Genesis 17:1, 9-10, 15-22), Abraham laughs at what God has to say: that the old man and his old wife would have a baby.

God was not joking. In fact, it would be God who would have the last laugh: Abraham and Sarah would have a baby and God said his name would be Isaac (which means “laughed”).

Many people today laugh at God and his law, both natural law and revealed law.

God, of course, will have the last laugh.

Like Abraham, we may not always understand what God has to say. We may not even understand the full depth of meaning in God’s laws.

May God always give us the gifts of faith and repentance, so that we may find eternal joy in him through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Submitting to abusive treatment?

In the Lectionary translation for today’s first reading (Genesis 16:1-12, 15-16), the angel of the Lord apparently tells a frightened, pregnant woman to “Go back to your mistress and submit to her abusive treatment.”

I am no scholar, but with all due respect to the translators, the latter part of that translation is wrong.

The literal (and traditional) translation is “submit (or humble) yourself under her hand.” Some highly reputable modern translations simply say “submit to her.” Some translate it as “submit to her authority.”

Let us be clear: submitting to a person’s authority or being humble does not – repeat – does NOT require submitting to truly abusive treatment.

It would be inappropriate for a Lector or change this translation “on the fly” at Mass, but celebrants or preachers at Masses today should take care to address this verse and communicate the truth clearly and with great prudence.

It would be very bad for a confused and frightened individual to hear these words and think God wants them to be beaten.

If any of us think we might be in an abusive situation, we must get help – if only to get a “reality check”.

If any of us think that children may be in an abusive situation, we must act to make the children safe.

We must always submit to God’s authority and work hard to understand clearly the paths – unpleasant and otherwise – that he is truly calling us to follow in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Toiled in vain"

Many people in these difficult times have been forced to confront the bitter reality of failure.

In our employment, in our finances, in our relationships, and even in our spiritual lives, we may experience personal failures.

Sometimes these failures are failures of judgment. Sometimes the causes of the failures were truly beyond our control. Thus we must always strive to be as wise and prudent as we can be in our decisions.

Sometimes they are moral failures, for which we must truly repent.

But most of all, we must always remain faithful – most especially when we experience failure.

We must faithfully persevere.

If we are truly repentant of our sins and if we remain faithful, by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, no matter what our failures, the words of the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading (Isaiah 49:1-6) can be ours as well:

Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.

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

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)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Do not give what is holy to dogs

or throw your pearls before pigs,
or they will trample them under their feet,
then turn and tear you to pieces.

Thus says our Lord in today's Gospel (Matthew 7:12-14).

We must tell the Truth, we must share our faith, we must spread the Gospel, but we must be careful.

Sometimes we may open our hearts to people, sharing our faith and what it means to us, and they will make fun of us and use what we say against us and against the Gospel.

Sometimes we may want to challenge people with the truth of our faith and they will tear us to pieces - not because they are right and we are wrong, but because they are more skillful debaters than you or I happen to be.

The example of Saint Thomas More is instructive. A man of faith with tremendous intellect and powerful political skills, he knew his limits and was very prudent. He did not leap into the lion’s den: he left it to God to bring him there. Sure enough, God brought him to a time and place where that which is holy was trampled and St. Thomas himself was rent asunder. Through it all, Saint Thomas gave glory to God and he was rewarded beyond his dreams.

So too we must be careful and faithful: not throwing ourselves or our faith around rashly, but being true to our Lord Jesus Christ and to His Church and letting Him lead us in the witness we must bear for Him.

(adapted from a previous post)

Monday, June 22, 2009

The lumberyard of the eyes

Judge not,
that ye may not be judged.

This first verse from today’s Gospel (Matthew 7:1-5) sometimes appears on signs waved by people protesting against religious conservatives.

“Who are you to judge us?” they say. “Aren’t you being a hypocrite? What about your religious leaders and all those scandals?"

(The scandals never seem to abate, as Our Lord Himself warned us. Lately, for example, many of the Faithful have been distressed by the moral failures of two very prominent Catholics: a telegenic priest as well as a layman who had created an extraordinarily powerful film about Christ.)

"And what kinds of skeletons are rattling in your personal closet?" our opponents say. "You may think you’re holier-than-thou, but you’re not.”

Today’s Gospel is a familiar one, but it is also a challenge that must be wrestled with continually by anyone who is serious about truth and faith and about right and wrong.

When our Lord tells us not to “judge,” he is not telling us to pretend that evil is not evil or to be silent about moral truth.

Most of us understand that judgment belongs to God alone. Only God can judge the state of someone’s soul for only God sees so perfectly, so completely, and so objectively. We cannot even judge ourselves - perfect objectivity and self-knowledge eludes even the best of us (we all have wooden beams and splinters in our eyes).

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

Even so, through Christ’s grace and as part of our response to his call to holiness, we can and must recognize sinfulness, see how we fall short (God knows I do!), strive for greater perfection, and help others along the same path to holiness.

As we do this, as we help each other on the road to holiness, we do not always make this context explicit and thus we might be perceived as judging others or being ‘holier-than-thou’ when we make concrete statements about morality.

Sometimes it is not just a matter of other people’s perceptions: sometimes we truly can be arrogant in our denunciations of other people’s sins and smug (foolishly!) about our own virtue, forgetting that we ourselves are miserable sinners totally dependent on the grace and the mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

On the other hand, we can sometimes be so intimidated by our own unworthiness that we may fail to speak the truth, disregarding both the command of Christ to speak his truth and also the power of his grace.

We are not perfect – not as individuals and not even as a human community – but ultimately it isn’t about us.

We are not involved with my truth or your truth or Joseph Ratzinger’s truth, but God’s holy truth: you and I and even Pope Benedict himself are simply servants of God’s word.

Some of us may be more intelligent (or less), more saintly (or less), or gifted with ministerial or other charisms (or not so much), but the authority and truth of the Gospel comes not from us but from God.

We are all sinners – our eyes are full of splinters, wooden beams, and all kinds of lumber – but we are all called to holiness in Christ and by God’s grace to help each other on the way.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Thomas was a successful lawyer

He rose to become one of the most powerful people in the country.

He was also a best-selling author and hung out with some of the most famous creative people in the world.

And then his boss had a "personal" problem.

For many people, it would have been a minor thing, but Thomas’ boss made it everybody’s problem and wanted everyone to sign off on his “solution.”

Thomas refused, knowing it meant his job and even his family’s economic wellbeing.

It ended up costing Thomas his life.

Sir Thomas More was executed 474 years ago (in two weeks) for not agreeing to King Henry VIII’s actions against the Church in connection with his divorce.

Saint Thomas More was canonized in 1935 and his memory is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

The star of Cambridge

John received his Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctorate degrees from the University of Cambridge. He would be elected to high positions within the University and would hold prestigious professorships. Rich and powerful people would chose him to tutor their children.

John would stay close to many of his students, giving them guidance in their careers and even their personal lives.

When one of his brightest students had a crisis in his marriage, John did his best to help.

Sadly, his former student was already set on divorce... and more.

John remained true to his beliefs and continued to speak about these beliefs openly.

His former pupil was not amused.

He had John killed.

St. John Fisher, formerly of Cambridge University and later Bishop of Rochester (and Cardinal), was executed 474 years ago today by his former pupil King Henry VIII.

(from an earlier post)

Grieving parents

Their only child died when he was only several days old.

The loss was devastating.

They decided to dedicate themselves totally to God. They gave away their wealth and withdrew to the monastic life.

The father, however, was not destined for a quiet life of prayer and solitude. He was pressured to become a priest and later to became a bishop.

As bishop he would serve the people of his diocese for more than 20 years. He became known for his writing, for his holiness, and for his devotion to the saints.

It was no surprise that when he died, he was recognized as a saint himself by everyone, including his sometime pen pal, St. Augustine.

St. Paulinus, native of Bordeaux, died in his adopted town and diocese of Nola (near Naples) 1578 years ago today.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Pardon the interruption

My apologies for the lack of posts the last few days.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

From the heart

God is love.

We experience that love in the Sacraments, in prayer, and in His work of salvation. Our most tangible experience of that love, however, is very often in the hearts of those who love Him.

For most of us, our first experience of this love was in the love we received from our parents, most especially from our mothers. We also experience it in people who are truly kind and holy. We learn about it in the lives of the saints and we try to unite with that love as we join with the saints in prayer.

This experience of love comes in varying levels of intensity and of perfection. Today’s memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary calls to mind the most intense and perfect example of this love, by God's grace second only to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The love in Mary’s heart is a mother’s love at its most intense. The love in Mary’s heart is the love of a true Christian at its most pure.

It is God’s love: based not on human desires but on truth, not selfish but selfless, not a mere show of piety but a concrete love that goes up to God and extends to all His children.

As God loves, as Mary loves, so must we love.

Glory be to God the Father;
glory be to God the Son;
glory be to God the Spirit;
glory to the Three in One.

From the heart of blessèd Mary,
from all saints the song ascends,
and the Church the strain reechoes
unto earth's remotest ends.

("Sing of Mary" )

(from an earlier post)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I implore

that I may ever love Thee more and more

Today the Church celebrates
the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cheerful, private, giving

Today’s readings present us with three qualities that are critical for our lives, as human beings and especially as Christians, but are not easy – especially nowadays.

For many of us, these are times of “cutting back”. It is hard to be generous.

Yet both of today’s readings remind us that we must be people who give.

We live in troubled times. It is hard to be cheerful.

For some of us, our lives of faith are not cheerful either. Isn’t religion supposed to be serious and penitential?

Yet in today’s first reading (2 Corinthians 9:6-11), Saint Paul says this:

Each must do as already determined,
without sadness or compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.

And in today’s Gospel (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says this:

When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.

We live in an age of self promotion. Blow your own horn, we are told, if you want to be successful.

Proper communication regarding one’s work is necessary in the workplace and it is critical for us to give a good example to others, but in today’s Gospel our Lord warns us against looking for the approval of others in our deeds of faith and kindness:

Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.

When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do
in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.

Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.

But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know
what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.

And your Father who sees in secret
will repay you.

When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray
in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.

Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.

But when you pray,
go to your inner room,
close the door,
and pray to your Father in secret.

And your Father who sees in secret
will repay you.

When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.

They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.

Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.

But when you fast,
anoint your head
and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to others to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.

And your Father who sees what is hidden
will repay you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Preaching for money

A common complaint of parishioners (or ex-parishioners) is that the pastor was allegedly always asking for money.

Sometimes the Pastor is just clumsy in his asking. Rarely is there serious inappropriateness. Sometimes the complaint says more about the complainer.

Money is necessary to create and maintain the facilities used by the faithful. It is also necessary for charitable and missionary activities.

The giving of money is also a way in which we express ourselves, especially a way in which we express generosity and love.

Thus, in today’s first reading (2 Corinthians 8:1-9), Saint Paul is asking the Corinthians to imitate the Macedonians in their generosity in helping the Church in Jerusalem.

So he might say to us, for we are not as generous with our money, talent, and time as we need to be (I myself am terribly lacking in this).

We should heed the words of Saint Paul as well as the example of the Church in Macedonia long ago and the example of so many others since then and today.

We want you to know, brothers and sisters,
of the grace of God
that has been given to the churches of Macedonia,
for in a severe test of affliction,
the abundance of their joy and their profound poverty
overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.

For according to their means, I can testify,
and beyond their means, spontaneously,
they begged us insistently
for the favor of taking part
in the service to the holy ones,
and this, not as we expected,
but they gave themselves first to the Lord
and to us through the will of God,
so that we urged Titus that,
as he had already begun,
he should also complete for you
this gracious act also.

Now as you excel in every respect,
in faith, discourse, knowledge, all earnestness,
and in the love we have for you,
may you excel in this gracious act also.

I say this not by way of command,
but to test the genuineness of your love
by your concern for others.

For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that for your sake he became poor although he was rich,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.

Monday, June 15, 2009

High standards

Today’s readings set high standards before us.

I don’t know about you, but I fall often grievously short of meeting these standards.

Perhaps few of us are exemplary in meeting all of these standards.

All of us, of course, are sinners – in desperate need of God’s free gift of forgiveness.

Yet all of us are also called to perfection: called and empowered by God’s grace in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:38-42), our Lord calls us to a high standard of forgiveness and generosity (which we must strive to answer while prudently fulfilling our true responsibilities for the protection and sustenance of others).

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.

And in today’s first reading (2 Corinthians 6:1-10), Saint Paul begins by calling us to accept God’s gift of salvation and then goes on to describe the high standards to which he holds himself in his ministry: high standards to which we too should aspire.

As your fellow workers, we appeal to you
not to receive the grace of God in vain.
For he says:

In an acceptable time I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.

Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.

We cause no one to stumble in anything,
in order that no fault may be found with our ministry;
on the contrary, in everything we commend ourselves
as ministers of God,

through much endurance,
in afflictions,



by purity,

in the Holy Spirit,

in unfeigned love,
in truthful speech,
in the power of God;
with weapons of righteousness

at the right and at the left;
through glory and dishonor,

insult and praise.

We are treated as deceivers
and yet are truthful;

as unrecognized
and yet acknowledged;

as dying
and behold we live;

as chastised
and yet not put to death;

as sorrowful
yet always rejoicing;

as poor
yet enriching many;

as having nothing
and yet possessing all things.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi

Acclaim, O tongue, the mystery
Of the glorious Body
And of the precious Blood
That, in ransom for the world,
The fruit of a generous womb,
The King of nations, shed.

To us given, for us born
From a Virgin pure,
And, brought into the world
To spread the seed of the Word,
He ended His stay
In a wondrous way.

On the night of the Last Supper,
Reclining with his brothers,
Observing the Law fully,
The food prescribed by Law,
This food to the Twelve
He gave with His own hands.

The Word Made Flesh made true bread
Become flesh at His word,
Made wine the Blood of Christ.
And if our senses fail
To strengthen a sincere heart
Faith alone will suffice.

So great a sacrament, therefore,
Let us venerate on our knees
And the old ritual
To the new Rite yield.
May faith supply
What our senses lack.

To the Father and to the Begotten
Praise and jubilation,
Salvation, honor and power
And blessing be;
And to the One who proceeds from Both
Equally be praise.

Pange, lingua, gloriosi
Corporis mysterium
Sanguinisque pretiosi,
Quem in mundi pretium,
Fructus ventris generosi,
Rex effudit gentium.

Nobis datus, nobis natus,
Ex intacta Virgine,
Et in mundo conversatus,
Sparso verbi semine
Sui moras incolatus
Miro clausit ordine.

In supremae nocte coenae
Recumbens cum fratribus,
Observata lege plene
Cibis in legalibus,
Cibum turbae duodenae
Se dat suis manibus

Verbum caro panem verum
Verbo carnem efficit;
Fit sanguis Christi merum.
Et si sensus deficit,
Ad firmandum cor sincerum
Sola fides sufficit.

Tantum ergo sacramentum
Venereumur cernui.
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui.
Praestet fides supplementum
Sensuum defectui.

Genitori genitoque
Laus et jubilatio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedictio.
Procedenti ab utroque
Compar sit laudatio.


S. Thomas Aquinas

(adapted from a post on Toward Contemplation)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Reconciliation versus diplomacy

Most people hate conflict.

Many try to avoid it through various means, including diplomacy.

Diplomacy has its place, but it often papers over differences.

Reconciliation heals differences.

Diplomacy has its place, but it often twists and stretches language.

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:33-37), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ calls us to simplicity and honesty in our speech:

Let your 'Yes' mean 'Yes,'
and your 'No' mean 'No.'
Anything more is from the Evil One.

In today’s first reading (2 Corinthians 5:14-21), Saint Paul speaks of “the ministry of reconciliation...

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting their trespasses against them
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

So we are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us.

We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.

By the grace of Christ, may we be reconciled to God more and more and may we ourselves, by the grace of Christ, exercise the ministry of reconciliation in and through our own lives.

The love of Christ impels us

Caritas Christi Urget Nos” is a favorite expression of a dear friend of mine and rightly so.

Indeed, it is one of the best mottos Christians could choose for living their lives.

Especially since it begins today's first reading (2 Corinthians 5:14-21), perhaps we could adopt that as our motto for today: keeping it in mind at every moment, especially when we are faced with deciding what to do (or not to do).

What is Christ pushing me to do?

What is Christ’s love pushing me to do?

May we always be impelled by the love of Christ.

(from a previous post)

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 Saint Francis of Assisi.

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

(from an earlier post)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Earthen vessels

It is often said that one of the signs of the Church being God’s instrument is that it has survived nearly two thousand years of failures by its human leaders and members.

We are reminded of these failures all the time, it seems. Lately, many have been disheartened by the moral lapses of a prominent young priest who, when caught, leaves the Church rather than repent. Many, many more have been scandalized by the reports of horrific crimes perpetrated on children by priests and religious and by the failure of leaders in the Church to deal with these crimes.

Two thousand years of failures by the very human leaders and members of the Church.

Yet God continues to be present and work in and through this Church.

This has some resonance with what Saint Paul says in today’s first reading (2 Corinthians 4:7-15):

We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God
and not from us.

We are afflicted in every way,
but not constrained;
but not driven to despair;
but not abandoned;
struck down,
but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the Body
the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus
may also be manifested in our body.

May we deal prudently, conscientiously, and faithfully with failures – working to heal their effects and to prevent their recurrence – and may we also find comfort and strength in the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who shines His light and spreads His love in the world through earthen vessels like ourselves.

Tough talk

Today’s Gospel (Mt. 5:27-32) has some very tough talk from our Lord:

"You have heard that it was said,
‘You shall not commit adultery.’
But I say to you,
everyone who looks at a woman with lust
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

”If your right eye causes you to sin,
tear it out and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

"It was also said,
Whoever divorces his wife

must give her a bill of divorce.
But I say to you,
whoever divorces his wife

(unless the marriage is unlawful)
causes her to commit adultery,
and whoever marries a divorced woman

commits adultery."

As the first reading (2 Cor. 4:7-15) reminds us, “we hold this treasure in earthen vessels” – none of us are so perfect that we can sanctimoniously condemn others, yet neither dare any of us fail to communicate the truth of Christ as faithfully as possible.

  • Relationships may become broken on a human level and we need to be compassionate to those living with these painful human realities, yet we must also firmly uphold the sanctity and the commitment of marriage.
  • Plucking out and cutting off body parts for no medical reason is immoral. Nor is it required by our Lord’s words, for the real cause of our sin is not a body part, but our will.

    Even so, if we are stuck in sinful situations, we need to do whatever it takes to break free, within the bounds of morality, discarding those things that may be precious to us and yet are unhealthy for us, for it is better than... the alternative.

  • Finally, we have responsibility not only for our physical actions but also for our intentional thoughts.

    To be sure, we are not responsible for thoughts that come into our minds unbidden, but we are not without responsibility in what happens before and after. It is certainly wrong for us to purposefully hold onto or to act on immoral thoughts. It is also counterproductive to obsess on ridding ourselves of these thoughts.

    (Remember the story of the two monks: a young girl by a stream asks to be carried across. The older monk does so and she goes on her way. Later, the young monk reproaches the older monk who replies, “I left her behind at the stream. You’re the one still carrying her.”)

    It is good to minimize those things and occasions that may feed our imaginations in wrong ways, but it is always best to focus on filling our minds, our hearts, and imaginations with godly things, so that no untoward thought may have a chance.
The words of the Lord are sometimes tough, but we always do well to let ourselves be challenged, so that we may grow more and more fully in his abundant and glorious grace.

(from a previous post)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Be reconciled

Not every day is our best day.

Sometimes we can be a little too stressed and this can affect the tone or even the substance of what we say to other people.

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:20-26), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ calls us to consider our relationships with other people and to seek reconciliation.

I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother, Raqa,
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, 'You fool,'
will be liable to fiery Gehenna.

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.

Job Referral

Joseph’s friend had a history.

It was a bad history – full of hatred and even violence – and so people did not trust Joseph’s friend 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 the right 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 become known as Saint Paul the Apostle.

The memory of Saint Barnabas is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

These commandments

The daily readings at Mass during Ordinary Time are on two different tracks: each stepping through their respective books. Any thematic linkage is usually serendipitous.

Today is something of a serendipitous day, because both of today’s readings touch on the relationship between the old and the new covenants.

In the first reading (2 Corinthians 3:4-11), Saint Paul speaks of the Mosaic covenant as “the ministry of death” and faded glory.

In the Gospel (Matthew 5:17-19), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says this:

Do not think that I have come
to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish
but to fulfill.

Amen, I say to you,
until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.

whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven.

But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.

Salvation comes from God’s free gift of grace through Christ, not through legal or moral achievement itself.

Yet, as Saint Paul reminds us elsewhere, immorality is incompatible with the life of Christ within us.

Thus, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Saint Paul elsewhere teaches moral precepts and the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, does the same.

May you and I be open to God’s free gift of grace, thankful for it, and let it move our lives in the paths of righteousness.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Stand out

Most of us feel comfortable “fitting in”: acting and talking like everyone else.

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:13-16), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ tells us that we must stand out.

You are the salt of the earth.

But if salt loses its taste,
with what can it be seasoned?

It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

In this world of selfishness and sin, “fitting in” makes us worthless.

That does not mean we all have to stand on street corners, loudly proclaiming the truth.

What our Lord calls most of us to is more subtle yet powerful.

You are the light of the world.

A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.

Nor do they light a lamp

and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand,
where it gives light to all in the house.

Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.

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 would always be 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)

Monday, June 08, 2009

“The prophets who were before you”

The teachings of the Church are not always popular.

Not only are they unpopular with people more concerned about selfish pleasure than about right and wrong, the Church and its teachings are also unpopular with a variety of special interest groups – inside and outside government.

But Truth is Truth.

Thus says the Lord in today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:1-12):

Blessed are you
when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely
because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.
Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

We are called to be the prophets of our own day.

It isn’t easy.

Yet always we must be true prophets with true compassion, following in the example of Saint Paul in today’s first reading (2 Corinthians 1:1-7):

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion
and the God of all encouragement,
who encourages us in our every affliction,
so that we may be able to encourage
those who are in any affliction
with the encouragement with which we ourselves
are encouraged by God.

For as Christ's sufferings overflow to us,
so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow.
If we are afflicted,
it is for your encouragement and salvation;
if we are encouraged,
it is for your encouragement,
which enables you to endure
the same sufferings that we suffer.

Our hope for you is firm,
for we know that as you share in the sufferings,
you also share in the encouragement.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Plug into the love

The Trinity, which we celebrate in a special way today, is a mystery.

Scripture has revealed it and Councils have established some definite statements about it, but it remains a mystery.

One of the ways in which theologians have spoken analogously about the Trinity is the Father as lover, the Son as beloved, and the Holy Spirit as the love.

On this Trinity Sunday, we may not be able to understand or even express this mystery adequately, but what we can do is plug into and to immerse ourselves more and more into the love which is God as His adopted children.

As Saint Paul reminds us in today’s second reading (Romans 8:14-17):

For those who are led by the Spirit of God
are sons of God.

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery
to fall back into fear,
but you received a Spirit of adoption,
through whom we cry, "Abba, Father!"

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,
if only we suffer with him
so that we may also be glorified with him.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

All of the above

In today’s first reading (Tobit 12:1, 5-15, 20), the archangel Raphael reveals his true identity, but not before giving a good amount of very good advice.

In the midst of this advice, is this:

Prayer and fasting are good,
but better than either
is almsgiving
accompanied by righteousness.

Prayer is good.

Penitence is good.

But a holy life is more.

Generosity is good.

Holiness of thought, word, and action is good.

In short, with the help of God’s grace, we should strive to do all of the above.

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)

Friday, June 05, 2009

Homecoming in Iraq

Today’s first reading (Tobit 11:5-17) tells us of a joyous homecoming in what is now present-day Iraq.

A son returns to his parents after a difficult journey.

The son brings healing for his father’s blindness.

He also brings money and a beautiful new wife.

For his mother, it was more than enough just to see him home again.

Anna ran up to her son,
threw her arms around him,
and said to him,
"Now that I have seen you again, son,
I am ready to die!"
And she sobbed aloud.

Before she knew the good things he brought, she was heartbreakingly happy just to see him again.

May God give us the grace to be welcoming and joyful at all homecomings.

May all prodigal children be given the wisdom and courage to return.

May all our homecomings be moments of true healing.

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 1255 years ago on this very day.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

They were alone together in the bedroom

The smell of incense was in the night air.

It was their wedding night.

The young man turned to his wife
and whispered a suggestion
about what they might do first.

And then… they did it:

They prayed to God, praising his name and asking for his mercy.

Today’s first reading (Tobit 6:10-11; 7:1bcde, 9-17; 8:4-9a) tells part of a remarkable series of events, but the example of the husband and wife praying together before sleeping together is particularly valuable for us in this flesh-obsessed world.

Sad to say, many of us operate with unhealthy ideas about the human body: either “if it feels good, do it” or “if it feels good, it must be a sin.”

The bedtime prayer of the husband and wife reminds them that they are literally God’s gift to each other, that there should be something much greater and noble than lust in what they do, and that they are under the loving eyes of God.

May husbands and wives always remember to pray together, especially before times of intimacy.

And may all of us remember to pray to God, especially when we are tempted by lust or any other desire that pulls us away from the noble purposes to which God calls us.

(from an earlier post)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

“At that very time...”

In today’s first reading (Tobit 3:1-11a, 16-17), two good people are in the absolute depths of despair: one afflicted with a physical ailment, the other afflicted with serious relationship problems.

In their time of despair, they prayed to God.

At that very time,
the prayer of these two suppliants
was heard in the glorious presence of Almighty God.

So Raphael was sent to heal them both...

We may have reason to feel badly about things – perhaps even very, very badly – but we must never give up hope and most importantly we must always pray to God so that he may comfort us with His grace and lead us safely through our times of trouble in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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.

(from a previous post)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Render to Caesar

the things that are Caesar's

and to God
the things that are God's.

(Mark 12:17 - from today's Gospel)


Sometimes Scripture is comforting.

Sometimes Scripture is uplifting.

And sometimes Scripture sounds disgusting.

Today’s first reading (Tobit 2:9-14) must rank as one of the most disgusting-sounding passages in religious literature anywhere.

Bird droppings soaking into the eyes of a sleeping man... Eeeww! Yuck!

It is very easy to feel extremely sorry for the victim of this freak occurrence: to lose one’s sight in such a revoltingly nauseating manner!

Many of us feel sorry for victims of such unfortunate events – as well we should.

Many of us applaud the patience and courage displayed by those who are incapacitated in one way or another – as indeed such patience and courage should be applauded.

Yet today’s first reading also reminds us of the uncomfortable truth that human beings are not perfect: not even victims of unfortunate events nor people with long histories of virtuous deeds.

In fact, the protagonist of today’s reading is both a victim of a disgustingly unfortunate event (as we hear earlier in the reading) and a man with a long history of heroically virtuous deeds (as we heard in yesterday’s first reading) and yet he snaps at his hardworking wife and makes unjust accusations against her.

Tobit’s wife has a snappy, devastating comeback:

Where are your charitable deeds now?

Being a victim does not in itself confer virtue, nor does the exercise of virtue in itself ensure inerrancy.

We must do the best we can, yet no matter who are, what we have done or what has been done to us, we must never forget our absolute dependence upon the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to overcome difficulties, to be virtuous and even to be heroic.

(adapted from a previous post)

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)

Monday, June 01, 2009

We interrupt this...

In today’s first reading (Tobit 1:3; 2:1a-8), a pious man interrupts his dinner and risks arrest so that someone can be buried with dignity.

How often do you and I interrupt the flow of our day in order to respond with charity to needs around us?

Born in the West Bank town of Nablus...

He went to a number of different schools, but remained dissatisfied.

Then one day he found himself walking on the beach and talking with an old man who spoke about God, about prophets, and about the Holy Spirit.

The young man came to accept Christ and to be baptized. He subsequently used his wide-ranging education to defend Christianity forcefully against a skeptical and decadent world, becoming one of the most widely read Christian writers of the century.

His reputation would catch up with him, however. He was arrested, tortured, and executed in Rome around the year 165.

Justin, one of Christianity's first and greatest apologists, would thus become known as Saint Justin Martyr. His memory is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

What shall we pray for this month?

The Holy Father's general prayer intention for the month of June is:

"That international efforts to help poorer nations bring prompt, concrete results to relieve the crushing burden of foreign debt."

His mission intention is:

"That local Church communities serving areas torn by violence may be supported through the love and help offered by Catholics around the world."