today's other readings are Psalm 107 and Mt. 22: 34-40 It's a good thing our first reading was never read to us in grade school during our religion classes. I have no doubt what the class reaction would have been either, "Cool" or else "That's gross and creepy". For some, it might have been the stuff of nightmares. But if nothing else, the story would have caught our attention. Ezekiel prophesized during the time of Israel's exile in Babylon. After repeatedly turning their backs on the warnings of the prophets such as Jeremiah to reform their ways and turn back to God, they refused. And so Babylon came along, destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple, and took the cream of Israeli society into exile. Today’s reading is about God’s promise to breathe new life into the “dry bones” of a defeated, exiled nation. As the word of God is spoken through the prophet, a defeated people rise up to renewed life. Israel's history of salvation had been one of repeatedly turning their backs on God. But God had created them, guided them, supported them. And God would save them though when they repented. The many stories of how God would restore them is a constant reminder that God never gives up on us, even if we give up on Him and ourselves. Even when we fail to respond to grace, God is still merciful.
today's other readings are Ez. 36: 23-28 and Psalm 51 I'm too busy too busy to pray, too busy to go to church, just too busy. How many times have I heard that from people in the past when I invite them to come and be part of the parish. Just too busy. Today's parable is a strong challenge to such thinking. The king invites many to the feast, and soon, everyone is invited. But so many are so busy - they decline the invitation. And there is someone who stumbles in to the feast, but is not properly prepared for it - it's like he has tried to "crash" the gathering. He was so caught up in so many things that he wasn't truly prepared to be part of the celebration. Jesus concludes by saying, "Many are called, but few are chosen". Some scripture commentators have said that a better translation would for chosen would be "choose to come". Jesus issues a warning for those who refuse the call. So please do accept the call to come and follow Him, in anticipation of the eternal feast in Heaven.
today's other readings are Ez. 34: 1-11 and Psalm 23 The Parable of the Vineyard Workers is one of those parables that prompts a sense of unease by all who dutiful and good. To which our Lord Jesus says, "Good - that's what I want". What is going on here? First let us remember that it was shared with good people who resented Jesus’ outreach to sinners. They could not understand why God would love sinners as much as those who had been obedient all their lives. They could not understand how God would allow those one to be welcomed to the Kingdom of Heaven while they had been working all day in the heat of the sun for the promised full wage. Why should latecomers and slackers enjoy the same full pay they had earned - why should they get the same reward? This Parable of the Vineyard Workers continues to challenge our logic and sense of fairness. Only when we look at ourselves honestly do we realize that every single one of us are slackers, lost sheep, prodigal sons and daughters, and latecomers, will we be able to our thinking that somehow we have earned a bigger slice of heaven then those slackers. For our God is a God of mercy and compassion far greater than we possess or can conceive. For this we should give thanks, rather than being resentful. How great is our God.
today's other readings are Ezekiel 16 and Isaiah 12 Broken marriages, for better or worse, have become much more common in my lifetime. They can be found in almost every single family. The challenges and pain and sadness of such broken marriages litter our society, affecting not just the couples but their children and families. And those who are part of such marriages need to be treated with care and compassion by others. In today's Faith ND there is a very good reflection on today's gospel given by Juan Gasperi, whom, I would estimate based on the date of graduation, would be in his early 70s. I share with you the link Gospel Reflection from Notre Dame (nd.edu)
Today’s readings are Ez. 12: 1-16; Psalm 78 and Mt. 18: 21 - 19:1 Quality, not quantity. At first glance the question of Peter of how many times to forgive seems to be based on quantity. If there is no limit, then sinners may create great chaos knowing that they will be continually forgiven. But Jesus is speaking about the quality of mercy, a mercy that needs to be always given. Jesus clearly intended forgiveness to be a way of life, an essential characteristic of any follower of His. For forgiveness is not just about the sinner; it is also the forgiver. The one who forgives is meant to “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.” From the smallest apology to the most challenging confession, we grow in holiness each time we forgive or ask to be forgiven. And it doesn't matter how many times it may take, for mercy is a lifetime lesson that only God-given graces can accomplish in us.
today's readings are 2 Corinthians 9: 6-10; Psalm 112 and John 12: 24-26 Today the Universal Church celebrates the feast of the Deacon and Martyr, St. Lawrence. Lawrence lived in the 3rd century, and well know for his work with the poor of Rome. One day, when confronted by a Roman official to hand over the treasures of the church to the civil authorities, Lawrence asked for a bit of time to do so, which was granted to him. One can only imagine the shock of that official when Lawrence presented to him hundreds of poor and sick people to that official, telling him that these were the treasures of the Church, those for whom the Church was privileged to serve. The Roman official was not amused by Lawrence's wisdom and cheek, and so ordered Lawrence to be tortured and then killed by laying on a heated grate over a fire. Lawrence's rather unique sense of humour was with him, even in his last moments, as he asked his torturers to turn him over as he was "quite done on one side". With faith and humour Lawrence is a classic example to all of us, as he served God and God's people both in life and in his death. His life was foreshadowed by St. Paul's words in our first reading, "Each of you must give as you have made us your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver". Truly Lawrence cheerfully gave his time and talents and yes even his treasure for the glory of God and for the benefit of all. St. Lawrence, pray for us!! P.S. the image above is "St. Lawrence distributes alms to the poor" by Fra Angelico (1395-1455)
today's readings are Wisdom 18: 6-9; Psalm 33; Hebrews 11: 1-2, 8-19; and Lk. 12: 32-48 Faith. The foundation of the spiritual life. Faith is a gift from God, meant to be cherished, nourished, and shared. It is spoken about, sung about, yet is often unappreciated and misunderstood. Today, I would like to share some thoughts about faith. Faith has countless definitions. For example, as we heard in our 2nd reading, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. According to St. Augustine, “Faith is to believe what we do not see”. The theologian W. T. Purkiser said, “Faith is not jumping to conclusions. Rather faith is concluding to jump”. For me, faith is real, yet not tangible. Faith is personal, but also something we share. Faith inspires us to do and say things that we would never think we are capable of. Faith compels us to believe. Faith is what brings us together in worship. Faith is also knowing. That’s not the same as proving, certainly not in the way that you would solve a math problem. You don’t prove faith – you believe it, you feel it, and deep down in your heart, you know it. By faith we know God. Almost 40 years ago, before I began my studies for the priesthood in St. Augustine’s Seminary, I took a course on medieval philosophy, during which we considered St. Thomas Aquinas’ five proofs for the existence of God. Being a Professional Engineer at that time, I was impressed with the logic of Aquinas’ 5 proofs. And while I still appreciate them to this day, they are not important to my faith and my belief in God. Because through faith, I have come to know God. I feel God. I feel His presence in the world of nature. I experience His presence in the Sacraments of the Church, such as this very mass we are in the middle of. By faith I know God, as do you. But this leads to a problem. I have some very important people in my life who have little or no faith. And when I try to talk to them about faith, at times I feel like I might as well speak a different language with them. Because they don’t understand, they don’t know. And I how wish they knew. All I can do is pray for them and try to set an example of faith for them. Our 2nd reading from the Letter to the Hebrews presents Abraham and Sarah to us as models of faith. One can read about the stories of their lives and their faith in Chapters 11 through 25 in the Book of Genesis. One day, Abraham, an illiterate shepherd, living in a far away country, having made a pretty good life for himself, suddenly hears a voice, and he decides that it must be the one true God. Where did he get that strange notion? Scripture called it faith. He trusted that it was God. Then that Voice tells him to leave the only life he had ever known, to pack up whatever he could and go with his wife Sarah to a new land. But he’s 75 years old! And he went, even though he did not know where he was going, which, as it turned out, was about 900 km away. Some people would have said that Abraham, in his old age, was crazy to do so. But he trusted in the promise of God – and Scripture called it faith. For her part, Sarah, in her old age, had given up on ever having a child. And when the news came to her that she would - her first reaction? She laughed. Impossible at her age! But once she got used to the idea, she trusted, and then conceived. And Scripture called it faith. And once the child of their dreams, Isaac, was growing into a young man, God asked Abraham to sacrifice him – the very one, as God had told Abraham, who would produce descendants as numerous as the stars. Trusting in God, Abraham tried to do so, but then the angel of God intervened. Madness? No, Scripture called it faith. Doing all that God had asked of them, they then died. They never saw all the promises made to them completely fulfilled. But they were okay with that - because they had faith. They knew what awaited them on the other side – heaven. Because of their faith, they took risks; they trusted God. They knew it was the right thing to do. Therefore, to this day we sing their praises. I’d like to share another story of faith. 20 years ago, I went to the famous shrine of Lourdes, in the south of France. In one area of the shrine, you find the waters of the spring that St. Bernadette uncovered in 1858 through the instructions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For many years the waters of that spring have been used for healing baths for people who suffer from all kinds of illnesses. Countless miracles have happened at Lourdes. While I was there, I spent 3 hours one day, watching the hundreds of people who lined up to go into the baths. To be honest, if any miracles happened, I didn’t notice. But I witnessed incredible faith shown both by those who were ill and those who accompanied them. I will never forget what I saw, what I felt. For it was real – and it was faith. Whenever I remember what I witnessed at Lourdes, I can’t help but recall a featured piece about the countless number of people who travel to Lourdes each year on the tv news show 60 Minutes. In that piece many pilgrims joyously shared their stories of faith and hope with the interviewer, Harry Reasoner. Mr. Reasoner was deeply moved by his experience of those he interviewed. Summarizing what he had witnessed at Lourdes, he concluded the segment with a simple yet profoundly true statement: “For those who have no faith, no explanation is possible. For those who do have faith, no explanation is necessary”. Thank you, God, for the gift of faith.
today's readings are from Nahum, Deuteronomy 32 and Mt. 16: 24-28 The first opportunity I had to visit Rome was in 1998, with my former high school teacher and now dear friend, Fr. John Vetere (who still helps out at Nativity for our Parish Reconciliation evenings). Fr. John, being the priest and teacher that he is, made sure that I had a good introduction to various important religious sites of Rome. And it was mandatory that we had to visit the 4 Major Basilicas of the city: St. Peter's, St. John Lateran, St. Paul's outside the Walls (which is literally outside the old walls of the city of Rome), and St. Mary Major, better known for its Italian name Santa Maria Maggiore. I remember Santa Maria Maggiore quite well, not only in my visit in 1998 but in subsequent visits. The oldest and most important church in Rome dedicated to our Blessed Mother, it has been a place of prayer for me and for countless other Catholics. Today, we celebrate the dedication of this Basilica, I have a few links to share with you to read more about it, including a link describing Pope Francis' first day of his papacy which included a visit to Santa Maria Maggiore: FaithND - Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major Pope Francis eschews trappings of papacy on first day in office | Pope Francis | The Guardian Santa Maria Maggiore - Wikipedia
today's other readings are Jeremiah 31: 31-34 and Psalm 51 From hero to zero. That is my first reaction to what happens to Peter in our gospel. It begins with a question from Jesus - "Who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter, after witnessing and reflecting upon all that Jesus has said and done up to this point, gives his answer. And for this, he is told that he will be the rock upon which Jesus will build His church, and he will be given the keys to heaven. Wow! What an honour! But then, Jesus turns to the disciples and tells them the truth of what will happen to Him in Jerusalem. Peter says a big no to that idea. And for this he is called Satan. Ouch! As I said, from hero to zero. When I reflect on my own call to follow Jesus, Peter comes to mind. Sometimes I am able to say and do good things for the glory of God and benefit of others. But I am also capable of sin. But that sin, those stumbles, do not define me or stop me. For like Peter, I try to mend my ways, but the help of the sacrament of reconciliation, pick myself up and keep trying to follow the One who is the Truth and the Life.
both of today's other readings come from Jeremiah 31 Not that a woman's life is ever easy, but the women of Biblical times had particularly challenging lives, as they lived in an extremely patriarchal society in which women were meant to be seen, and not heard. Fortunately we are blessed throughout the Bible, especially in the gospels, of the stories of women who did not care what society taught. If there was a need, then they would make a way. Today's unnamed woman faced an additional obstacle. She was also a foreigner, a Gentile. But her need is great, having a daughter who is possessed by a demon. She makes her voice heard. And she is persistent, even when she is initially dismissed by Jesus. There is much speculation as to why Jesus initially speaks to her as He does. Some think that He was actually fascinated by her and His response is a test to see how badly she wants her daughter cured. Her response is brilliant - and Jesus is delighted. Thus the girl is cured. Thank God that this woman's story was recorded for us to treasure. Thank God for her example as well. May the examples of all the holy women in the Bible inspire us.