“Get Behind Me” — 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

August 31, 2014

Gospel: Matthew 16:21-27

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.  Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”  He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

In Hebrew, “satan” means “adversary.” Peter is not the devil, but in opposing the Father’s true will for the Messiah, Peter is acting as an adversary and an obstacle to Jesus. Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, during the temptation in the desert, Jesus told the devil, “Get away, Satan!” Later, in describing the Last Judgment, Jesus tells the unrighteous goats on his left, “Depart from me, you accursed…” Yet to St. Peter, Jesus says, ‘You are my friend, so get behind me… Stay close to me, but follow my will.’

“Late Have I Loved You…”

August 28, 2014

Saint Augustine in his Study by Botticelli, 1480In “The Confessions,” the first autobiography in Western history, St. Augustine of Hippo tells of his sinful youth away from the Lord prior to his conversion. In perhaps its greatest passage, Augustine pens these words to God:

“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!  You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.  In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.  You were with me, but I was not with you.  Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all.  You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.  You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.  You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.  I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.  You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

Neat Things About “A Man For All Seasons”

August 21, 2014

“A Man For All Seasons” was 1966’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture, and it is my all-time favorite movie. This YouTube video I made presents a number of interesting things you never knew about this wonderful film. I invite you to watch, “like,” and “share” it.

 

Enduring Deprivation — Monday, 20th Week of Ordinary Time—Year II

August 18, 2014

Readings: Ezekiel 24:15-23, Matthew 19:16-22

The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, by a sudden blow I am taking away from you the delight of your eyes, but do not mourn or weep or shed any tears. Groan in silence, make no lament for the dead, bind on your turban, put your sandals on your feet, do not cover your beard, and do not eat the customary bread.” That evening my wife died, and the next morning I did as I had been commanded.

Then the people asked me, “Will you not tell us what all these things that you are doing mean for us?” I therefore spoke to the people that morning, saying to them: “Thus the word of the LORD came to me: ‘Say to the house of Israel: Thus says the Lord GOD: I will now desecrate my sanctuary, the stronghold of your pride, the delight of your eyes, the desire of your soul. …  Your turbans shall remain on your heads, your sandals on your feet. You shall not mourn or weep, but you shall rot away because of your sins and groan one to another.”

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich HofmannWhat does Ezekiel in the first reading have in common with the young man in today’s gospel?

A young man approached Jesus and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” … Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

The Lord asked the rich young man to give up something precious to him, and the Lord took away something precious from Ezekiel. What if Ezekiel had rebelled after his loss, refusing to do anything further in the Lord’s service? People sometimes react to tragic loss in this way. What if that rich young man who went away sad never changed his mind? Divine callings often entail hardship, but consider the greater loss of never fulfilling the purpose of one’s life.

Every good thing, every person or possession, has come to us from God, and his desire for us is our supreme good. Therefore, the Lord is worthy of trust, even if we are stripped of what is dearly precious to us. As the suffering Job observed,

“Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb,
and naked shall I go back there.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD!”

Driving Devotions

August 17, 2014

Rearview RosaryHow can your ordinary travel bring you closer to God and greater personal holiness? Here are some Catholic devotions you and your family can practice while driving down the road:

  • When you embark, you can invoke your guardian angel to protect you on your journey.
  • When passing a Catholic Church, you can make a sign of the cross to bless yourself and honor the real presence of the Lord inside of the tabernacle.
  • When passing a cemetery, you can say a prayer for any buried there who are still in Purgatory.
  • When you hear a siren, you can pray for a safe and happy resolution to the emergency.
  • When driving alone, you can invite Jesus or Mary to sit beside you to share a prayerful conversation.

A Glorious Lady in Heaven

August 15, 2014

Like Dante’s Divine Comedy, C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce takes a first-person tour of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. Dante had a next-worldly guide in the Roman poet Virgil, while Lewis had the Scottish author George MacDonald. While on the Plains of Heaven, Lewis beholds the following (redacted) scene:

Some kind of procession was approaching us, and the light came from the persons who composed it.  First came bright Spirits, not the Spirits of men, who danced and scattered flowers. Then, on the left and right, at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand, and girls upon the other. If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever again grow sick or old. Between them went musicians; and after these a lady in whose honor all this was being done. And only partly do I remember the unbearable beauty of her face.

“Is it?…  Is it?” I whispered to my guide.

“Not at all,” said he. “It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of.  Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.”

“She seems to be… well, a person of particular importance?”

“Aye. She is one of the great ones.  Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.”

“And who are all these young men and women on each side?”

“They are her sons and daughters.”

“She must have had a very large family, Sir.”

“Every young man or boy that met her became her son – even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.”

“Isn’t that a bit hard on their own parents?”

“No.  There are those that steal other people’s children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives. It is like when you throw a stone into a pool, and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end? Redeemed humanity is still young, it has hardly come to its full strength. But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life.”

Ezekiel’s Consolation — Tuesday, 19th Week of Ordinary Time—Year II

August 12, 2014

Readings: Ezekiel 2:8-3:4; Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14

The Lord GOD said to me: “As for you, son of man, obey me when I speak to you: be not rebellious like this house of rebellion, but open your mouth and eat what I shall give you.” It was then I saw a hand stretched out to me, in which was a written scroll which he unrolled before me. It was covered with writing front and back, and written on it was: “Lamentation and wailing and woe!”

He said to me: “Son of man, eat what is before you; eat this scroll, then go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth and he gave me the scroll to eat. “Son of man,” he then said to me, “feed your belly and fill your stomach with this scroll I am giving you.” I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. He said: “Son of man, go now to the house of Israel, and speak my words to them.”

How can a message of “lamentation and wailing and woe” taste sweet in the prophet’s mouth? Ezekiel found the message sweet because it meant God was neither blind nor indifferent to the evils in his midst and that these evils, one way or another, would not continue forever. Either sincere conversion or painful events would soon check his people’s wickedness. This was the prophet’s consolation. Jesus says:

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?

Guardian Angels by JHS MannIn the parable of the Lost Sheep, we focus on the lost sheep’s consolation while forgetting the ninety-nine’s desolation. The flock may fare just fine, but they will find the experience quite unsettling. Jesus tells us:

Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

It is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.

For forty years, the people of our land have intentionally and legally ended the lives of roughly one million unborn children annually. What would the opposite of receiving Jesus look like, if not this? Jesus warns us:

See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.

This represents a warning, because God’s angels are fearsome and righteous creatures. Let us earnestly pray for our country’s conversion to a culture of life. Yet we too share Ezekiel’s consolation, for one way or another, this evil in our midst will not go on forever.

Jesus in the Storm — 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

August 11, 2014

walking-on-water-by-aivazovsky-1890I do not think that the apostles wanted to get into that boat. Jesus made them do it.

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.

Why would they not want to go? Peter, Andrew, James, and John were previously fishermen working on this Sea of Galilee. They could recognize an approaching storm. The apostles did not want to be on the sea that night, but they obediently went.

[After sending away the apostles and the crowds, Jesus] went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.

Why did Jesus dismiss them without himself? Jesus wanted to be alone to pray after hearing about the killing of his relative and friend, John the Baptist. (Even Jesus needed dedicated times for prayer.) But there was another reason: Jesus wanted the apostles to experience one of the most memorable, most difficult, most amazing nights of their lives. After battling against the winds and waves from evening through the hours before dawn, the apostles were exhausted physically and emotionally. Then…

During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

The apostles have been casting out demons with Jesus for a long time. Perhaps they fear that this angry storm has been the work of a demon who is coming toward them in visible form on the water to finally kill them. In fact, the source of their greatest fear is actually their salvation. Jesus says, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Jesus says, “Be not afraid,” more frequently than anything else. And it is not a suggestion, it is a command. When it feels like a the hurricane blows above, and an earthquake shakes below, and fire surrounds you, it can be difficult to hear God’s tiny whispering sound. However, the Lord is always close. People are afraid of many things: Loss and poverty, loneliness and suffering, disease and pain, dying to ourselves and dying from this life. What are you most afraid of?

After [Jesus and Peter] got into the boat, the wind died down.

Jesus says, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Like the Apostles, if any distress comes to you, the Lord has permitted this for your good. “Be not afraid.” Jesus comes to meet us in the storm. He does this because meeting Jesus in the storm is among the most memorable, most amazing, and most powerful experiences of our lives. As we see with Saint Peter, these difficult experiences make us more like Jesus. In everything, Jesus is near and telling us, “Be not afraid.”

Three Crosses Line Break

No creo que los apóstoles querían entrar en ese barco. Jesús les hizo hacerlo.

En aquel tiempo, inmediatamente después de la multiplicación de los panes, Jesús hizo que sus discípulos subieran a la barca y se dirigieran a la otra orilla, mientras Él despedía a la gente.

¿Por qué ellos no quieran ir? Pedro, Andrés, Santiago y Juan eran anteriormente los pescadores que trabajan en este mar de Galilea. Podían reconocer una tormenta que se aproxima. Los apóstoles no quieren estar en el mar esa noche, pero obedientemente se fueron.

Después de despedirla, [Jesús] subió al monte a solas para orar. Llegada la noche, estaba él solo allí. Entre tanto, la barca iba ya muy lejos de la costa y las olas la sacudían, porque el viento era contrario.

¿Por qué Jesús despedirlos sin él? Jesús quería estar a solas para orar después de enterarse de el asesinato de su pariente y amigo, Juan el Bautista. (Incluso Jesús necesitaba tiempos dedicados para la oración.) Pero había otra razón: Jesús quería que los apóstoles de experimentar una de las más memorables, más difíciles, más increíbles noches de sus vidas. Después de luchar contra los vientos y las olas de la noche a través de las horas antes del amanecer, los apóstoles estaban exhaustos física y emocionalmente. Entonces…

A la madrugada, Jesús fue hacia ellos, caminando sobre el agua. Los discípulos, al verlo andar sobre el agua, se espantaron y decían: “¡Es un fantasma!” Y daban gritos de terror. Pero Jesús les dijo enseguida: “Tranquilícense y no teman. Soy yo”.

Los apóstoles han sido echando fuera demonios con Jesús durante mucho tiempo. Tal vez tienen miedo de que esta tormenta enojado ha sido obra de un demonio que ahora viene hacia ellos en forma visible en el agua para finalmente matarlos.
De hecho, la fuente de su miedo más grande es en realidad su salvación. Jesús dice: “Tranquilícense y no teman. Soy yo”.

Jesús dice: “No temas,” con más frecuencia que cualquier otra cosa. Y no es una sugerencia, es una orden.  Cuando parece que un huracán sopla encima, y un terremoto sacude a continuación, y el fuego le rodea, puede ser difícil de oír el murmullo de una bias suave. Sin embargo, el Señor siempre está cerca. La gente tiene miedo de muchas cosas: la pérdida y la pobreza, la soledad y el sufrimiento, la enfermedad y el dolor, muriendo a nosotros mismos y muriendo algún día. ¿Qué es lo que más miedo?

En cuanto [Jesús y Pedro] subieron a la barca, el viento se calmó.

Jesús viene para encontrarnos en la tormenta. Él hace esto porque un encuentro con Jesús en la tormenta es una de las experiencias más sorprendentes, más memorables y más poderosos de nuestras vidas.  Como vemos con San Pedro, estas experiencias difíciles nos hacen más como Jesús. En todo, Jesús está cerca, y nos diciendo, “Tranquilícense y no teman.”

Pope Paul VI Has Died

August 6, 2014

Thus begins my new blog presenting the day-to-day happenings in the papacy of His Holiness, Pope John Paul I.

The First Principle and Foundation

July 31, 2014

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.

And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created.

From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it.

For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.

-St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises #23

Travelers & Merchants — 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

July 30, 2014

Readings: 1st Kings 3:5, 7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-46

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.

What do these two analogies or parables of Jesus about the Kingdom of Heaven (or Kingdom of God) have in common? Both tell about men who find something precious and sell everything they have to possess it. These short stories are quite similar, but how do they differ? (There must be some significance to these differences otherwise Jesus would not have given us both images.)

Jesus does not give us many details, but in my imagining the first story goes like this: A traveler is walking a dusty road that he has walked many times before, but this time, as he is looking to one side at nothing in particular, a golden glint catches his eye from the adjacent field. Out of curiosity, he investigates and discovers a wooden crate full of gold coins which has been uncovered by recent plowing. Putting the coins back inside and fixing the lid, he reburies the treasure and joyfully goes to sell all that he has in order to buy that field. “Why doesn’t he simply carry the crate away?” Because that would be stealing and true happiness cannot be obtained through wickedness. One does not come to possess the treasure of the Kingdom of God through evil means.

Pearl MerchantIn the second story, a pearl merchant comes upon a high-priced specimen in a marketplace. Its price is, let’s say, one hundred thousand dollars. Many people have admired it before, but the merchant has an expert and discerning eye. He sees that this pearl is worth ten times more and he shrewdly sells everything he owns to possess it. To onlookers, he looks crazy (“Selling everything for just one pearl?”) but he knows what he is about. Those who forsake all else to possess the Kingdom of Heaven may likewise be thought foolish by some, but the wise one recognizes the pearl’s true value.

Both the traveler and the merchant find precious treasure, but one difference between them is that the merchant knew what he was looking for and actively sought it, while the country traveler did not. Some people seek out the true, the good, the beautiful, the eternal things. They seek God himself, and those who seek, find. Others do not seek the higher things of God, yet our humble Lord has been known to blindside them with the truth of his reality and love. So what do these parables mean for us here, who have already come to know Jesus Christ and his Church?

An important aspect to finding and possessing your treasure in the Kingdom of God is knowing and embracing your vocation. The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word “vocare,” which means “to call.” Your vocation is your life’s calling from God. Your vocation is the means by which God intends for you to become holy and a blessing to all.

Some people find their vocation like the traveler on the road—stumbling upon it without having sought it. I think this is true for many marriages. A man and woman can be drawn to each other, fall in love and delight in each other, and decide to spend their lives together without discerning God’s purpose for their lives. Yet, since “we know that all things work for good for those who love God,” (as St. Paul says in our second reading) the Lord still guides them according to his purposes. If you are in the sacrament of marriage your vocation is clear: your mission in life is to become the best spouse and parent you can be and to help lead them to heaven. You need not travel to a mountaintop monastery in a distant land to find your vocation and become a saint. Your vocation, your means to holiness, is as ordinary and close as a field or marketplace, yet your treasure is found there. Your vocation is sitting beside you.

Other vocations are usually discovered only with discernment, by searching like the merchant. One does not become a priest, a religious, or a dedicated single person without a firm decision to offer one’s life entirely to God. These people also find sanctity and bless others in the greatest way through their God-given callings. If you have not yet discovered your vocation, remain close to God in prayer and faithfulness, and he will reveal his will to you.

In our first reading, the Lord appears to Solomon in a dream and says, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon, the new, young king, feels overwhelmed by his office. “I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” Solomon’s request for wisdom to benefit the kingdom pleased the Lord, so God granted him great wisdom and all the gifts he had not asked for as well. As Jesus says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” Pray to God for the wisdom to know your vocation and to embrace it (like the traveler and the merchant) with the investment of everything you are. In this way, you will come to possess the Kingdom’s precious treasure.

Theological Gifts & Obligations — Tuesday, 15th Week of Ordinary Time

July 15, 2014

Gospel: Matthew 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! … For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

In the visitation of Jesus Christ, Chorazin and Bethsaida had advantages that no people before them had ever enjoyed. The Word of God was before them, but they did not accept him. Incarnate love was among them, but they did not embrace him. The hope of the world was in their midst, but they did not change their ways.

Consider how much more understanding we have of Christ and his teachings than they, how much we have experienced the love of Christ and his people, how many prophesies of Christ we have seen fulfilled. How much more cause do we have to respond to him with faith, hope, and love; how much more of an obligation. As St. Bonaventure said:

“Three things are necessary to everyone regardless of status, sex, or age, i.e., truth of faith which brings understanding; love of Christ which brings compassion; endurance of hope which brings perseverance. No adult is in the state of salvation unless he has faithful understanding in his mind, loving compassion in his heart, and enduring perseverance in his actions.”

As Seen in St. Kateri — Monday, 15th Week of Ordinary Time—Year II

July 14, 2014

Readings: Isaiah 1:10-17, Matthew 10:34-11:1

Today’s readings reflect three truths of Christian discipleship:

The first reading from Isaiah shows us that we must do good if we are going to worship of God:

Though you pray the more, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good.

The first half of the Gospel shows us that we will sometimes need to leave good things behind in order to follow Christ:

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me… and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.

The second half of the Gospel encourages us that no good thing that we do or sacrifice will go unrewarded by the Lord:

And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple–amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.

These three truths of Christian discipleship are reflected in the life of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. She practiced penances to root out her sins and train herself in goodness. After her Catholic baptism, she was rejected by her own kin. And when she died, it is reported that the small pox scars she bore from childhood faded away, pointing to her spiritual beauty and her heavenly rewards hereafter.

Well-Equipped Missionaries — Thursday, 14th Week of Ordinary Time

July 11, 2014

Gospel: Matthew 10:7-15

Jesus said to his Apostles: “As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ … Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick.”

Why were the Apostles sent without second tunics? Because they were not supposed to sleep outside, but to dwell with the people they met. Why no sandals or walking sticks? Because there was no need to travel far to find people who needed their message. Why no bags or money for their belts? Because they were to trust in God to provide.

Perhaps we imagine a missionary as a priest who works in a far away jungle evangelizing people of a different language and culture than our own. However, we are all called to be missionaries; to proclaim that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand by our words and deeds. There is no need to travel to distant lands. Your mission field is the people in your midst. Do not be afraid, but trust in God to show you these opportunities and to help you to take them.

Peter & Judas — Wednesday, 14th Week of Ordinary Time—Year II

July 11, 2014

Judas Iscariot and the chief priests and elders at the temple, their money on the floor.Readings: Hosea 10, Matthew 10:1-7

The names of the Twelve Apostles are these: first, Simon called Peter,  … and Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus.

What was the difference between Peter and Judas? Both were full-fledged apostles (although the Gospels always list the twelve apostles with Peter first and Judas last, much like how the Lord’s Prayer begins with “our Father” and ends with “the Evil One/evil.”) Was the difference that Peter believed Jesus was a good man and Judas did not? No, for Judas said after betraying Jesus, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” Was the difference that Judas was a sinner and Peter was not? No, for at one of their first encounters, Peter “fell at the knees of Jesus and said, ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.'” In the Passion, Judas betrayed Jesus and while Peter denied him three times beside the charcoal fire in the high priest’s courtyard. The vital difference between Peter and Judas was in their ultimate responses to their sins.

Judas fled and fell into utter despair. Like those in our first reading who “cry out to the mountains, ‘Cover us!’ and to the hills, ‘Fall upon us,’ Judas welcomed dark oblivion. After the resurrection, when Peter was fishing in his boat, Jesus appeared on the shore. Though Peter was lightly clad, he did not run and hide like Adam and Eve in shame, but swam to Jesus enthusiastically. At that second charcoal fire, Peter professed three times that he loved Jesus.

Let us follow Peter’s example rather than that of Judas and encounter Jesus in the confessional. For those who love Christ, hope in Christ, seek Christ, and run to Christ, will find his mercy.


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