Saturday, December 31, 2016

Commemoration of St. Sylvester, pope Lectionary: 204


It's the last day of the year. The first reading speaks of the last hour. The Gospel is what we used to call the Last Gospel because it was read at the end of every Mass. It was there to remind us of who Jesus really is: God made man. I need to remember Him at every moment of every day. I need to be looking for Him, loving Him, serving Him, listening to Him, imitating Him always.

We are out of time today, at least for 2016. For 2017 and forever, let's live with a focus on eternity rather on time. 2016 has been a year in which many of us have been distracted by temporal things: our national election, for example. Our saint for today shows us how to focus on eternity. His papacy straddles a time of huge transition: from the end of Christianity being on the margins of the Roman world to being accepted into it by Constantine. And yet St. Sylvester, the pope, does not seem to have been altered much by this alteration. The Christian life remains the same. It remains the same in all circumstances of this world. For the children of God, Heaven is home.

In the time that we have, let us do good for our brothers and sisters. I had an experience yesterday that is helping me to put many things into perspective. It was on the simple level of loving and serving people in need. I will leave it at that. Those are the deeds that matter for eternity.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Lectionary: 17

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/123016.cfm

"Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another...And be thankful."

These simple but oh, so difficult virtues the Church puts before us on the Feast of the Holy Family. Let's begin here as children in the family of God. And let's not move on until these virtues really are habitual with us.

I was at the home of a family I love and have known for a long time on Christmas evening. One of the sons is in college. He has a big personality and would barge into a very relaxed family conversation around the dinner table. And he would use slightly crude expressions trying to be funny. I found myself saying to him, "this is your family. Don't talk that way." Of course, it wasn't my place to say that, but I couldn't stop myself. It was so out of place in a setting of love and respect.

That has got to be the way it is among us in the Church, God's family. The Church has to be a place where people feel love and respect, that is, where they can feel at home. There is not much of that in our world, even in our homes. From these true safe spaces, the Christian life can flourish. This is true human formation.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Commeoration of St. Thomas Becket, martyr Lectionary: 202

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/122916.cfm

The days following Christmas are surprisingly full of saints. Usually the Church clears the calendar around a major celebration, but for Christmas these feasts and commemorations of saints have become part of the Christmas celebration itself, even a relatively minor one like that of St. Thomas Becket. This actually makes sense, if we take the Incarnation seriously. Jesus' humanity exalts our humanity and makes human sanctity possible. Of course, it works!

Once again we see how swords and violence pursue the followers of Christ. St. Thomas Becket was martyred by fellow Christians in a Christian kingdom. This should give us pause about having too much confidence in the powers of this world. The Church is always on pilgrimage in this world. We do not belong here. I realize that I am way too at home here and that I need to become more detached. It is a lesson that I am learning in a small way by my new assignment in Ohio. Having come home to Tennessee for the Christmas break, I have immediately become re-immersed in so many things. I see the wisdom of Bishop Choby in sending me to the seminary, not that it is anything like an exile! But it is a place on the move. We come together for a purpose, in this case, priestly discernment and formation; and then we move on. It is a good lesson.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs Lectionary: 698

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/122816.cfm

In what sense can the Holy Innocents be called martyrs? They did not do anything or say anything to profess faith in Jesus. I think technically they are martyrs because they were killed out of hatred of the faith embodied in the person of Jesus Christ, whom they resembled so closely that His enemy could not tell them apart from Him. They were killed because they were so like Jesus, in this case, in their physical form. So again today we have saints who resemble Jesus in one facet of his humanity.

Do you see what the Incarnation has done to humanity? He has become so like us that it is impossible to distinguish us from Him. Remember this today with everyone you meet. The vulnerable, including the unborn and the unwanted, are especially identified with Him, just like the Innocents. Hatred or indifference of them is hatred and indifference of Him.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Feast of Saint John, Apostle and evangelist Lectionary: 697


Yesterday, we saw St. Stephen as the icon of the suffering Christ. Today St. John can been seen as the virginal Christ. The term "virgin" is applied to John in the Liturgy of the Hours. This is a way that St. John is particularly configured to the Lord Jesus. When people ask me about the reason for priestly celibacy, I reply that Jesus was celibate and so the priest, who is supposed to be configured to Christ the head of the Mystical Body, shares in his celibacy. For St. John, it is even more explicitly a sharing in His virginity. This is part of the secret of the power of St. John's love.

Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr Lectionary: 696

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/122616.cfm

Sorry for the sporadic posting. I am just a lot less connected over the break. It's great!

If you listen to the story of St. Stephen's martyrdom, it sounds so much like the Passion of Our Lord: the same accusation of blasphemy, the asking of forgiveness for the tormentors, etc. St. Stephen has become another Christ, especially in this respect. We will be seeing this conformity to Christ as the source of holiness in the saints of this awesome week. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) Mass During the Day Lectionary: 16

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122516-day.cfm

"Suddenly you were somebody." This is a quotation from the French poet Paul Claudel. I encountered it in a small book, The Presence of God, by Anselm Moynihan, O.P. I believe this experience happened at Christmas Vespers in Notre Dame in Paris, which Claudel had attended for an aesthetic experience. Instead, he had a personal one.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone who comes to Mass this Christmas would have the same experience because Christmas is one of those times where the Catholic Church really does exclaim: "here comes everybody!"

For some reason, I often turn to poetry in my reflection for a Christmas homily, and by now it is often the same poems. This year I went back to a favorite, Ex Ore Infantium by Francis Thompson, who also wrote The Hound of Heaven. (Being trained in the New Criticism, I should say that this does not really matter, except it does!) Thompson was a opium addict and had a mess of a life. And yet...and yet. In this poem, he speaks with the voice of a child talking to the child Jesus. The child narrator of the poem really is speaking to somebody.

In our sad, dark world, in Thompson's addicted and chaotic life, in whatever you are dealing with, Jesus is somebody. Talk to Him. He will show you how to suffer (or rejoice) through it redemptively with Him. This is the Good News of the Incarnation. We do not need to wait for an ideal world. God comes into this world, making it more than ideal. This is the secret of Christian (and Christmas) joy: God is with us. And according to St. Thomas Aquinas -- see I can use theology and not just mushy poetry! -- joy is found in being united to the beloved. And we don't have to do it. He does it. He unites us to Himself. Take it from St. Luke in the Gospel for the night or from St. John in the Gospel for the day. It is all the same..

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Saturday of the Fourth Week in Advent - Mass in the Morning Lectionary: 200

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122416.cfm

God will do it. Be at peace.

Friday of the Fourth Week in Advent Lectionary: 199

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122316.cfm

Finally, O Emmanuel! God is with us!

This is the answer. This is the desire fulfilled. God with us. God one of us.

This is the newness for our tired, old world. The virgin conceives. This is something new. God tells us to be still: "I am with you." The Blessed Virgin shows us how to do this: from the Annunciation to foot of the Cross. Let us imitate her stillness and her faith.

Thursday of the Fourth Week in Advent Lectionary: 198

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122216.cfm

for the O Antiphons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Antiphons
(Sorry for falling behind. Just what I warned the seminarians about has happened to me since returning home for the Christmas break. My routine has been upset. For a break it has been busy so far, but I am getting in the swing of it now!)

I think that the O Antiphon for today speaks for our world today. Here is the whole text:

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, 
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: 
veni, et salva hominem, 
quem de limo formasti.

O King of the nations, and their desire, 
the cornerstone making both one: 
Come and save the human race, 
which you fashioned from clay.

Again the reality of salvation appears in this antiphon. Jesus is the king we desire, all of us; but we resist His kingship. We desire Jesus because He is the prince of peace and all those other wonderful things that Isaiah has prophesied all Advent. But we in the West turn to comfort and license instead of Him. Many within Islam turn to violence. Others in the world seek power. None of it satisfies our desire.

In reality, our desire is already fulfilled. Gratitude and thanksgiving open us to this joy of fulfilled desire. Stop worrying about the "not yet" and enjoy the "already."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Advent Lectionary: 197

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/122116.cfm

for the O Antiphons, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Antiphons

O Oriens -- O Morning Star

Jesus will be light: the light, as the morning star is actually the sun just as it is rising.

I am struck so much by the darkness of fallen humanity. Wake up everybody! We don't have to look to Aleppo to find darkness. On the sports page this week, I found incredible darkness that nobody seemed to be concerned about. It was contained in the flap about the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers and the two-bit bowl they are going to. Ten of the players on the team are accused in a sexual assault. I will not describe the accusation, but nobody seems to be denying the basic facts of the situation. These facts portray a depraved scene that should never occur among human beings. With this as the backdrop, the actors are quibbling about a bowl game as if that were the important matter.

I won't go on about the darkness, except to say that it is far darker than anyone seems to be ready to admit. When barbarities are unleashed, there is nothing to check them. That is the point of Aleppo: destroy everything in order to win.

Jesus is the light. We Christians must be light.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Advent Lectionary: 196

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/122016.cfm

"O Clavis David" -- "O Key of David" identifies Jesus as our savior from death and damnation. The gates of heaven have been shut since the fall. Jesus in His suffering, death, and resurrection will open them and bring up the souls of the just to heaven. This is the same key entrusted to Peter. God continues the plan of salvation through the agency of Peter and his successors. This is why we need to be in communion with the successor of Peter. It's a matter of salvation. I am reminded of a parishioner at the little Irish parish I served in the country. The non-Catholics in the town used to call the Catholics "Irishmen." This lady ran the dry cleaning business in the town. One of her customers came in one day and asked her: "Irishman, what would you do if you weren't a Catholic?" She shot right back: "I'd become one as soon as I could." Well, that's not ecumenically correct, I guess, but it's the right answer. We can leave it to God how He will save those outside the Church, but we know how He does it in the Church. I'll stick with that!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Monday of the Fourth Week in Advent Lectionary: 195

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121916.cfm

Jesus is God. This is the point of yesterday's antiphon. Jesus is also man. His humanity is empahsized in the title today: "O Radix Jesse" -- "O Root of Jesse." God will continue and fulfill the method of His plan of salvation by working through the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ. Salvation is not something that God does to humanity but with humanity. Jesus has ancestors. Jesus is a man. He will save us and glorify the Father in the sufferings of His sacred humanity. This is something we can all share as members of His Mystical Body. So today and everyday remember the words of Sr. Catherine di Ricci (and many other pious and wise souls): "Offer it up." Then you too are a branch of the Jesse Tree, living the story of salvation.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Advent Lectionary: 10

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121816.cfm

I am going to hold off on the readings for today until later because they really are goods texts for "O Emmanuel." We don't hear the "O Antiphon" at Mass today because it is Sunday, but it will appear at Evening Prayer tonight: "O Adonai."

This title literally means "O Lord" or even more generically "O Leader." But that is not much of a claim for Jesus, and this title actually makes the claim that Jesus is God. "Jesus is Lord" is equivalent to saying "Jesus is God." How is that?

When God revealed His name to Moses at the burning bush, He used a four-letter (in Hebrew) word. It is a form of the verb "to be." We don't know exactly what it is because we don't have the vowels, which are the jots and squiggles around Hebrew letters. They were never supplied for this word because it was never pronounced, except by the High Priest within the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement where nobody else could hear him. Instead, when reading the text where the "tetragrammaton" (four letters) appear, Jews would substitute "adonai" when pronouncing the text. So "Lord" stands for "God," and not just generically but as His name.

This is why the title "O Adonai" is so important. It tells us that Jesus is God. He is the Wisdom of God come in the flesh.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Saturday of the Third Week in Advent Lectionary: 193

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121716.cfm
see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Antiphons
http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/prayers/the-o-antiphons-of-advent.cfm

Today we enter what I call "deep Advent." Among the liturgical characteristics of these days are the "O Antiphons." These are the antiphons for the Magnificat at Evening Prayer from December 17-23. They begin with the exclamation "O," followed by a title of Jesus from the Old Testament. They all also contain an imperative "veni," that is, "come." (The familiar Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" is a metrical version of these antiphons -- and is therefore most appropriate only now, in deep Advent.) For those of you who do not pray the Liturgy of the Hours, these antiphons are imported into the Mass in the Alleluia verse before the Gospel during these days.

The first of these antiphons, the one for today, is "O Sapientia" -- O Wisdom. This first title is an interesting choice, as it is a late one. We find the personification of the Wisdom of God fully portrayed for us in the Book of Wisdom, one of the latest books of the Old Testament. God is gently pushing His people to prepare for the concept of the Holy Trinity. From the early days of His call of Abraham and the establishment of His people, God had emphasized that God is one. Not only do his people have only one God, but they come eventually to see that there is only one God of the whole universe. That is one of the benefits of the exile in Babylon. In these latter days, God begins to reveal the communion of love that exist within Himself in the personification of His Wisdom. This will be fulfilled in the prologue of John's Gospel, with "Word" substituting for "Wisdom" and ultimately becoming flesh.

Any sort of wisdom will come in the person of Jesus Christ. Knowing comes first.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday of the Third Week in Advent Lectionary: 191

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121616.cfm

We have come to the end of preparation and prophecy. The forerunners have run their course. From here on in to Christmas it is all about Jesus and the immediate revelation of His coming. It is the fullness of time.

I think that we come to points like this in our lives. The seminarians have just finished exams. It's like that. The semester ends. The exams come. It is the time to perform. Or not. God prepared everything for the coming of Emmanuel. It is a crisis. A decision.

I think that I had one of those this week. I took a mini pilgrimage on Tuesday morning. A lot of prayer and some spiritual direction in a holy place. I think that God brought me to a point of decision to be more faithful in my humanity, in my discipleship, in my priesthood. He showed me a better way. I am trying to accept. It is good.

We don't like the test, but it proves us. Now is the time.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Thursday of the Third Week in Advent Lectionary: 190

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121516.cfm

Jesus gives St. John the Baptist the greatest compliment that anyone ever received: John is the greatest man who ever lived. And yet the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he. I don't think that Jesus is taking back His compliment to John, rather he is clarifying it. He did the same thing about His mother. When the woman cried out in the crowd saying, "blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed," He replied, "rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." This does not diminish the Blessed Virgin's blessedness but clarifies it. John's true greatness lies not here but in the world to come.

In the first reading, Isaiah calls blessed those who are among the most destitute: women who never had children or who were cast off by their husbands. This blessedness is based on the faithfulness of God. "For a brief moment, I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back." John is in this position in prison. Jesus Himself will say, "My God, my God, why have to abandoned me?" And yet there is blessedness.

Those who were baptized by John go on to follow Jesus, even tax collectors. John will not be the least in the Kingdom of God!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church Lectionary: 189

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121416.cfm

St. John of the Cross is actually "my" John. In the old calendar, his feast was the day after my birthday. That is about the only connection that I can plausibly come up with. I don't have much of a Carmelite approach to the spiritual life. I don't even understand it very well. Way over my head and way too deep for the likes of me. Nevertheless, St. John of the Cross is my patron saint. It would take a master of prayer and asceticism to know what to do with a mess like me so I am glad that he's got me to pray for!

There is one quotation from St. John of the Cross that I do have some understanding of: "Adonde no hay amor, ponga amor, y sacara amor." (Sorry, I don't know how to do accents!) It's better in Spanish, but here goes in English: "where there is no love, put love, and you will draw out love." The quotation makes a very clear point about love. Love is a choice that can be commanded: put love! And love is fertile.

Do it. Just do it. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Memorial of Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr Lectionary: 188

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121316.cfm

The parable of the two sons in today's Gospel is one that I have always cherished. I find so much comfort in the fact that God does not judge by first impressions. The son who finally gets around to going out into the vineyard after first refusing is the one who has done the father's will, not the one who said yes but never went. Great first impression, but...

Today, however, in reading the parable I see myself more like the son who said yes but failed to follow through. I am a priest sort of like the ones to whom the parable is addressed. Even though tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom before them -- and me, I am going to change my mind and believe! There is this chance that the Lord gives.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Lectionary: 690A

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121216.cfm

What more can be said of the Virgin of Guadalupe that has not already been said? Well, nothing from me anyhow. A strange silence has fallen on me. She had so little to say, other than to pray. I need to listen to her more. Pray more. Be more silent.

Third Sunday of Advent "Gaudete" Lectionary: 7

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121116.cfm

Sorry about the delay in posting. Yesterday was one of those days!

Usually, I reflect on Christian joy on Gaudete, but this time I am going to stick more closely to the readings. We look at St. John the Baptist again, this time in prison. I believe that in sending his disciples to Jesus to ask who He is, John is trying to connect his disciples to Jesus and to detach them from himself. He continues to decrease so that Jesus will increase. John well knows that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is. This is the fulfillment of the type of Jonathon and David.

I think that Jesus pays John a very quiet compliment, much like the way He draws attention to the true blessedness of His mother as the one who hears the Word and keeps it perfectly. John is so deeply in the kingdom of heaven as to be completely oblivious to his human greatness as he sits in Herod's prison. He has come to eternal greatness in temporal humiliation. He completes it himself, stripping away his disciples and transferring them to Jesus.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Saturday of the Second Week in Advent Lectionary: 186

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121016.cfm

We are getting a diptych of St. John the Baptist today and tomorrow in the scripture readings. We see the passion of St. John the Baptist: "they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased." In his suffering John resembles Jesus: "so also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands." The external differences between John and Jesus we heard about yesterday are superficial whereas the true comparison is in suffering. 

The cross is what Christianity has to say to the world. Nobody ever wants to hear it so we had better live it instead. Rejoice in suffering. It makes you like Jesus more than anything else. It contains within itself the power to save. That is true of no other human reality.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Optional Memorial of St. Juan Diego Lectionary: 185

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120916.cfm

I believe that the readings today follow a standard pattern for Advent: prophecy in the first reading, followed by fulfillment in the Gospel. The prophecy today is of a leader to lead God's people. The tragedy in the Gospel is that when the leader arrives, the people do not follow.

As with all of these prophecies, what God promises to those who believe is so great. The saint we celebrate today shows God's faithfulness to His promises. St. Juan Diego, the son of a conquered people, has indeed been vindicated because he was willing to follow. He showed docility not only to the Blessed Virgin but also to the bishop who was skeptical of his message. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Lectionary: 689

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120816.cfm

The Immaculate Conception is a dogma that proves often to be a final stumbling block for separated Christian brethren who might otherwise consider entering the Catholic Church. I know that it was, for example, in my case. I wish that I could share with you a profound theological reason for my coming to believe in the Immaculate Conception, but I don't have one. In my case, I simply came to accept the Church's authority. I got to the point of asking about the Immaculate Conception: who is more likely to be right, me or the Church? That pretty much settled it for me. Over time, I became familiar with the standard apologetic arguments for the Immaculate Conception and even some theological ones, but I didn't really wrestle with the matter. It is a tough one because it is so relatively recent historically and because it seems to deny Jesus as the universal redeemer of mankind. There are probably plenty of other theological objections that I am simply to simple to grasp.

I did have an opportunity to engage with a group of very sincere evangelicals who were studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church in great detail. This study was not in preparation for entering the Catholic Church but was an effort on their part systematically to study orthodox Christian teaching. They thought the Catechism was the best they could do for a text. I was not attending regularly, but I did happen to be there for the presentation of the Marian dogmas. That was Providential. I did not say much. The pastor who was leading the study was doing a very good job of presenting the Catechism. At the end, he asked what everyone thought. He was asking if could they see the argument not whether they accepted the argument.

One young man spoke up. I had been at the study often enough to know that he was one of the more critical voices in the group to the Catholic line of thought -- critical in the true sense of the word, not merely argumentative. I was ready to hear his critiques. This is what I heard instead. He said that to him it seemed to come down to this question: could God preserve a human being from sin? It seemed to him that the answer was that God certainly could do this. Therefore all that remained were the details of why and how.

I was absolutely astonished. Indeed, "blessed are you who believed."

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church Lectionary: 183

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120716.cfm

OK -- I have to eat my words or at least balance them. In today's readings, God goes all soft on us. After what I said yesterday! I believe it was Fr. John Hardon who said that one of the most important words in Catholic theology is "and."

Talk about paradoxes: "they will run and not grow weary." "My yoke is easy, and my burden light." It is sort of like the Red Queen (I think) in Alice Through the Looking Glass who says things like you have to run just as fast as you can to stay where you are. But these are blessed and merciful paradoxes.

It is not all tough love. There is also tenderness and compassion. Thank God!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Optional Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop Lectionary: 182

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120616.cfm

"Comfort, give comfort to my people."

It its origin, "comfort" is a strong word. It is now something weak. Those of you who know me, know how much I dislike the complaint, "I'm not comfortable with that." I think it is just about the wimpiest thing that can be said. I don't like a comforter on a bed either. It's too poofy. Give me a nice heavy quilt instead.

The comfort in the scriptures today is identified with the Good Shepherd. The shepherd who seeks out the lost, lifts him on his shoulder and brings him home. It is precisely the strength of the shepherd which gives comfort. No body wants a wimpy shepherd. God doesn't want to make you feel better. He wants to save you. "Here is your God. He comes with power."

St. Nicholas was such a tough shepherd. Just ask Arius.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Monday of the Second Week in Advent Lectionary: 181

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120516.cfm

One of the great blessings of my childhood was the love of my maternal grandmother. She moved to live next door to us and eventually we added on to her house so that we lived in the same house with her. She was a fascinating woman. Born in 1901 in the Purchase of western Kentucky, she went on the receive a master's degree from the University of Michigan. That is just one of the improbable things about her. She seemed very old to me in my childhood, and she was sickly. But she had a great imagination, and she captivated me with stories and plans. We both were early risers. She would tell me stories, and we would plan trips that we both knew we would never take. I could go on and on about her.

I am reminded of her today by the power of imagination for good. I have already mentioned this Advent the role of prophecy to keep imagination alive in the spiritual life. "Realistic" pastoral vision is so deadly. We must always be dissatisfied, in one sense, by the way that things are in favor or the way that they should be. Look at the friends of the paralyzed man in the Gospel today. They don't take "no" for an answer. Since they can't get in by the door, they decide, "let's try the roof!" And you know, it works.

I have to admit that imagination must to submitted to intellect and will to keep things in order, but the imagination can fire the intellect and will to greatness and boldness. "That's the way things are" is not an adequate answer. It might be one that in prudence one settles for -- for a while. But things are going to change very much for the better. Go ask Isaiah.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Second Sunday of Advent Lectionary: 4

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120416.cfm

St. John the Baptist appears in the Gospel today. He exhibits self mastery, bravery, and honesty. These are virtues that were especially associated with authentic masculinity. They are not much in evidence today. If these virtues do appear, they are usually feared and reviled. But we need them.

Before St. John the Baptist ever uttered a public word, he devoted himself to years of formation in asceticism. I think that it is likely that he had lived in the desert since he was a young man in his teens: in the desert in silence with God, praying, fasting, and struggling to grow in virtue.

His public mission is in preparation for the manifestation of Jesus. Repentance must come first which consists not in sweet words but in hard deeds. I think that we could do with more of the spirit of St. John the Baptist in the Church and in particular in the seminary. Young men from our culture are not ready to announce the coming of the Lamb of God to others until they have turned a honest eye on themselves and repented.

Advent needs to regain this spirit of St. John the Baptist. We rush to celebrate Christmas in excessive partying without any vigilant watching and waiting for Him. What would St. John the Baptist have to say of our presumption? We need to say it to ourselves first: "Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance."

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest Lectionary: 180

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120316.cfm

Today we celebrate St. Francis Xavier. He was St. Ignatius of Loyola's friend and companion in the founding of the Society of Jesus. He sets the model for the great line of Jesuit missionaries. He was absolutely convicted of the need to proclaim Jesus Christ everywhere. He's right. Let's leave aside the question of whether it is possible to be saved without Baptism. That brings up a sort of minimalism that runs something like this: "well, since people can theoretically be saved without Baptism, then I am off the hook as far as evangelizing goes." But what about the fullness of the life of grace found in the sacraments and the other channels of grace offered to us through the Church? "Oh, well, that's just too bad for them. I certainly can't be troubled to do anything about it. It would be uncomfortable for me actually to talk about my faith with conviction." St. Francis Xavier wanted everyone to share in everything the Church has to offer.

While in India, he was overcome by the sheer number of people who could be reached, if there were but missionaries to reach them. He went on a rant about wanting to go to the universities of Europe, especially his alma mater, the University of Paris, and shouting out: "You have more learning than charity!" It is a matter of charity, the highest virtue, to evangelize. He wanted the students of Europe to get their noses out of books and get to the mission field! He would not have bought the line, dubiously attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, to preach always and to use words only when necessary.

I think we could use a good dose of St. Francis Xavier's zeal!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday of the First Week in Advent Lectionary: 179

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/120216.cfm

"Do you believe that I can do this?"

Jesus asks this question of the two blind men who have asked to be healed. What does their belief have to do with it? Is Jesus suggesting the power of positive thinking? Not at all. He is the one who will heal: Jesus Christ. Do they know who He is?

There is a pattern in the readings that continues in the first weeks of Advent: a prophecy in the first reading followed by its fulfillment in the Gospel. In the first reading today, for example,  Isaiah says, "out of the gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see." In the Gospel, Jesus heals two blind men. These wonders will not be accomplished for their own sake but for a renewal of faith: "When his children shall see the work of my hands in his midst, they shall keep my name holy; they shall reverence the holy one of Jacob, and be in awe of the God of Israel."

When Jesus asks the blind men if they believe that He can heal their blindness, He is asking more than it seems. He is asking if they believe that the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled in Him and that the Holy One of Jacob is before them. It is His identity that He does not want them to spread about. The fact that they are no longer blind would be hard to hide.

Do we have this faith? Not faith that some wonder can be performed but rather faith that Jesus is God with us.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thursday of the First Week in Advent Lectionary: 178

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/120116.cfm

"Jesus said to his disciples: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of heaven."

Wait just a minute here. Didn't St. Paul say yesterday that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved?

So which is it? Both! There is no salvation without calling on the name of the Lord and then doing the will of the Father in the Lord's name. It would be taking the Lord's name in vain to fail to act on His words.

This is what the Church does with Sacred Scripture and Tradition. She interprets revelation authentically for her children so that we are not confused or led astray. Build your house solidly on that rock!

UCat Dominicans -- not the one in the middle!

Newly named Br. Cyprian and newly professed Br. Pachomius, O.P. at St. Gertrude's, Cincinnati, Ohio, August 15, 2017

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