Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 341

Although the two readings at daily Mass during Ordinary Time are not usually deliberately connected (they are usually snippets of ongoing continuous passages spread over several days or even weeks), if one reads them with the mind of the Church connections do seem to emerge. Today is a good example.

The first reading from Sirach personifies the Wisdom of God and speaks of her "subtleties." (Wisdom is personified as "she" because it is a feminine word in Greek: "Sophia.") In the Gospel, the Wisdom of God is revealed as indeed a person, the person of Jesus Christ, and His Wisdom is subtle. The key to the Wisdom of God is faith. Faith is the way not only to know but to experience the Wisdom of God, which is not abstract but concrete, even personal, and powerful.

Like so many of us, the man whose son is possessed answers Jesus: "I do believe, help my unbelief!" And how do we feed our faith in order to strengthen it, to make it more powerful and effective? Prayer: "This kind can only come out through prayer."

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Going on retreat

I am going to take a break from posting. A very busy week caught up with me, and I am going to be on retreat next week anyhow.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Optional Memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita, virgin Lectionary: 331

"the things that come out from within are what defile"

We had a delightful homily in the college chapel here yesterday given by one of the young deacons emphasizing the goodness of all that God created. How, indeed, could it be otherwise? Any yet, so often we want to blame the bad that we do on things "out there" rather than locating the evil in the choices of our hearts. This is the puritan instinct. The Pharisees suffered from it, and Jesus in the Gospel today calls them out on it. I am very afraid that as the one in charge of discipline in the college, I am guilty of it too, at least at times. I would like to be more like St. Philip Neri whose only rule for his Oratorian community was charity.

The devil is going to play on this tendency by tempting Adam and Eve to concentrate on the commandment about the tree rather than on the obedience of their hearts. All the more so do we have to have the humility to accept the truth about our fallen and sinful selves that Jesus teaches us today:
"From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, malice, greed, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evil come from within and they defile."
We need a new interior creation. We need to ask God to "create a clean heart" in us. Then everything around us regains it goodness too!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 330

"God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them."

It is fun to see people on fire with the Gospel! Last night at dinner one of the seminarians breathlessly (and loudly) recounted to us the encounter of Jesus with the Pharisees over paying taxes. Suddenly, this exchange was new and exciting to him. He especially loved how Jesus turned the tables on the Pharisees: that He out-smarted them. It is great fun indeed!

When the seminarian paused at the end to draw breath, I asked him: "and whose image is on you and therefore to whom do you belong?" Well, he loved that even more!

We are his. He made us and gave us everything that is us. I had the opportunity to point out later in the evening during a formation conference that the notion that we somehow belong to ourselves or make ourselves is so contrary to experience as to be delusional. You don't have to believe in God to know that you have nothing to do with your own origin and being. It comes from somewhere else. And yet, our world believes this delusion. How else can the givenness of male and female, for example, be denied, except by denying reality?

Yesterday I mentioned that bad art is bad because it isn't real. Isn't God a good artist, both in His creation and His telling of it? I am getting breathless like my young seminarian friend just thinking about it.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Memorial of Saint Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs Lectionary: 329

Today we celebrate the martyrs of Japan. The church honors the witness of these martyrs. There is a movie out which explores other facets of this historical period, including the witness of those who did not undergo martyrdom but instead accommodated themselves with the demands of the Japanese authorities I confess that I have had some too pointed conversations about the movie Silence in the past weeks, especially for someone who has not seen the movie. I make no claims about the quality of the movie. It sounds like it is a deep treatment of its subject. I was cautioning against seeing it as any sort of religious inspiration. For religious inspiration we need to see and understand how martyrs do what they do. I really don't need any more understanding of compromise. I am already an expert at that. How is it that martyrs do what they do? I believe that we need deep and penetrating examinations of sanctity. It's not easy, and any film or portrayal of a saint's life, much less a martyr's, that suggests that it is easy is bad art. It is not real.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 73

"Jesus Christ, and him crucified."

To know nothing except Jesus Christ, and him crucified, offers no answer to the shouting going on everywhere in the world and in the Church today. And yet this knowledge of the crucified means to know just about everything that matters to the human heart. The meaning of man and the love of God are equally revealed on the Cross.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Saturday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 328

"He began to teach them many things."

Docility is not a highly prized characteristic these days. In our days, it sounds weak and passive. What it really means is "teachable." Docility is therefore not merely a characteristic but a virtue, as we come before Jesus. Lord, teach me...

'nough said.