1st Sunday of Advent, Year C (November 29, 2015)
2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C (December 6, 2015)
Immaculate Conception (December 8, 2015)
3rd Sunday of Advent, Year C (December 13, 2015)
4th Sunday of Advent, Year C (December 20, 2015)
Christmas (December 25, 2015)
Holy Family (December 27, 2015)
Mary, Mother of God (January 1, 2016)
Epiphany (January 3, 2016)
Baptism of the Lord (January 10, 2016)
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (January 17, 2016)
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (January 24, 2016)
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (January 31, 2016)
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (February 7, 2016)
Ash Wednesday (February 10, 2016)
1st Sunday of Lent, Year C (February 14, 2016)
2nd Sunday of Lent, Year C (February 21, 2016)
3rd Sunday of Lent, Year C (February 28, 2016)
4th Sunday of Lent, Year C (March 6, 2016)
5th Sunday of Lent, Year C (March 13, 2016)
Palm Sunday of Lent, Year C (March 20, 2016)
Holy Thursday (March 24, 2016)
Easter (March 26-27, 2016)
Divine Mercy Sunday (April 3, 2016)
3rd Sunday of Easter (April 10, 2016)
4th Sunday of Easter (April 17, 2016)
5th Sunday of Easter (April 24, 2016)
6th Sunday of Easter (May 1, 2016)
Ascension / 7th Sunday of Easter (May 8, 2016)
Pentecost Sunday (May 15, 2016)
Holy Trinity Sunday (May 22, 2016)
Corpus Christi Sunday (May 29, 2016)
10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (June 5, 2016)
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (June 12, 2016)
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (June 19, 2016)
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (June 26, 2016)
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (July 3, 2016)
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (July 10, 2016)
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (July 17, 2016)
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (July 24, 2016)
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (July 31, 2016)
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (August 7, 2016)
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (August 14, 2016)
Assumption of Mary (August 15, 2016)
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (August 21, 2016)
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (August 28, 2016)
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (September 4, 2016)
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (September 11, 2016)
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (September 18, 2016)
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (September 25, 2016)
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (October 2, 2016)
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (October 9, 2016)
1st Sunday of Advent, Year C (November 29, 2015)
The Lord says though the prophet Amos, “Woe to the complacent,” to those warm and well-fed, comfortable on their couches without concern for others. Indeed, Scripture says, “whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1st John 4:20) You know of Jesus’ concern for the needy. Though he was rich, dwelling in the comfort of the Trinity, our Lord came to earth and became poor for your sake, so that by his poverty you might become rich. (2nd Corinthians 8:9) The rich man in Jesus’ parable could not have been unaware of the man lying at his door. Apparently, the rich man even knew his name: “Father Abraham… Send Lazarus…” But the rich man came to deeply regret his indifference toward this neighbor.
You know a Lazarus as well. He’s not sleeping on your doorstep, but you probably know his name. He (or she) may be well-known to you or only an acquaintance. Maybe Lazarus goes to your church, or hasn’t come for years. Maybe Lazarus lives just down the street or in a nursing home far away. Your Lazarus is in great need, but probably not for food or shelter.
St. Teresa of Calcutta, who cared for many Lazaruses in India’s slums, said, “The spiritual poverty of the Western World is much greater than the physical poverty of our people.” The poorest of the poor are in our midst. Knowing this, I ask that you to earnestly pray to the Holy Spirit, that He may reveal your personal Lazarus to you, so that you may lovingly attend to that person as Jesus would have you do.
St. Thérèse Martin (1873–1897 AD) was born in France into a devout, Catholic family. All five daughters entered religious life and both parents (Louis & Zélie) went on to be canonized in 2015. Thérèse received special permission to join the Carmelite convent in her hometown of Lisieux at the young age of 15. She would live and pray and work there in obscurity until her death from tuberculosis at the age of 24.
After her passing, the publishing of her spiritual autobiography, “The Story of a Soul,” was phenomenally successful and there were widespread reports of prayers being answered through her intercession. St. Pope Pius X (1903-1914) privately described her as “the greatest saint of modern times” and she was canonized in 1925. Her feast day is October 1st.
Despite her greatness, Thérèse experienced everyday difficulties like our own. Amidst these she sought to do small things with great love; calling this her “Little Way” to holiness and Heaven. This is one episode St. Thérèse relates in her (highly-recommended) autobiography:
“The practice of charity, as I have said, dear Mother [Mother Agnes, that is, her biological sister, Pauline, who was prioress at the time,] was not always so sweet for me, and to prove it to you I am going to recount certain little struggles which will certainly make you smile. For a long time at evening meditation, I was placed in front of a sister who had a strange habit and I think many lights [spiritual insights] because she rarely used a book during meditation. This is what I noticed: as soon as this sister arrived, she began making a strange little noise which resembled the noise one would make when rubbing two shells, one against the other. I was the only one to notice it because I had extremely sensitive hearing (too much so at times.) Mother, it would be impossible for me to tell you how much this little noise wearied me. I had a great desire to turn my head and stare at the culprit who was very certainly unaware of her ‘click.’ This would be the only way of enlightening her. However, in the bottom of my heart I felt it was much better to suffer this out of love for God and not to cause the sister any pain. I remained calm, therefore, and tried to unite myself to God and to forget the little noise. Everything was useless. I felt the perspiration inundate me, and I was obliged simply to make a prayer of doing it without annoyance and with peace and joy, at least in the interior of my soul. I tried to love the little noise which was so displeasing; instead of trying not to hear it (impossible), I paid close attention so as to hear it well, as though it were a delightful concert, and my prayer (which was not the Prayer of Quiet) was spent in offering this concert to Jesus.”
September 22nd is the day for beginning a nine-day novena to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, also known as “the Little Flower,” leading up to her October 1st feast day. Below is a novena prayer that you may use:
O Little Thérèse of the Child Jesus, please pick for me a rose from the heavenly gardens and send it to me as a message of love. O Little Flower of Jesus, ask God today to grant the favors I now place with confidence in your hands…
(Express your personal prayer intentions.)
St. Thérèse, help me to always believe as you did in God’s great love for me, so that I might imitate your “Little Way” each day. Amen.
After completing this novena, do not be surprised if you find a rose.
#1: The previously-dishonest steward is merely writing-off his own commissions. Likewise, we must forgive our debtors’ debts (or sins) so that we may be shown mercy. (Matthew 6:12) But why would his commissions be 20% for one debt and 50% on another? Perhaps the dishonest steward is actually covering his thievery’s tracks. Which brings us to…
#2: The steward is giving away what belongs to the rich man, his boss. Likewise, everything that we possess belongs to God, but we win favor though sharing these blessings with others. Both Mercy and Generosity win welcome into eternal dwellings, for Jesus says ‘whatever you do for the least of these you do it for me’ and ‘the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.’
#3: What would have become of the dishonest steward without his decisive plan and action? Disaster. Likewise, we must be intentional about our own religious/spiritual growth. “The children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” What excuse do we have? More importantly, what is our plan?
The martyrdom of the Virgin is set forth both in the prophecy of Simeon and in the actual story of our Lord’s passion. The holy old man said of the infant Jesus: “He has been established as a sign which will be contradicted.” He went on to say to Mary: “And your own heart will be pierced by a sword.”
Truly, O blessed Mother, a sword has pierced your heart. For only by passing through your heart could the sword enter the flesh of your Son. Indeed, after your Jesus – who belongs to everyone, but is especially yours – gave up his life, the cruel spear, which was not withheld from his lifeless body, tore open his side. Clearly it did not touch his soul and could not harm him, but it did pierce your heart. For surely his soul was no longer there, but yours could not be torn away. Thus the violence of sorrow has cut through your heart, and we rightly call you more than martyr, since the effect of compassion in you has gone beyond the endurance of physical suffering.
Or were those words, “Woman, behold your Son,” not more than a word to you, truly piercing your heart, cutting through to the division between soul and spirit? What an exchange! John is given to you in place of Jesus, the servant in place of the Lord, the disciple in place of the master; the son of Zebedee replaces the Son of God, a mere man replaces God himself. How could these words not pierce your most loving heart, when the mere remembrance of them breaks ours, hearts of iron and stone though they are!
Do not be surprised, brothers, that Mary is said to be a martyr in spirit. Let him be surprised who does not remember the words of Paul, that one of the greatest crimes of the Gentiles was that they were without love. That was far from the heart of Mary; let it be far from her servants.
Perhaps someone will say: “Had she not known before that he would not die?” Undoubtedly. “Did she not expect him to rise again at once?” Surely. “And still she grieved over her crucified Son?” Intensely. Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.
It has been said that there are two kinds of people in this world: sinners who think they’re saints, and saints who know they’re sinners. Every saint has a past, and every sinner can have a future. We all have been the Prodigal (or wasteful) Son at various times in our lives. Whether for years, for days or hours, or just for moments, we have each strayed from and returned to our Father-God who delights to have us back. When we are being tempted to sin, we are being tempted to leave our Father’s house and no longer keep his company. In sinning we say, even if in a small way, “You may not be dead, but I want it to be as if you were. Give me an inheritance now. I can have an easier time, or a more enjoyable time, misusing your stuff than I can have by remaining with you.”
The Prodigal Son took his father’s things and went off to a distant country. The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of this World are countries distant from each other, and yet they exist side-by-side. Sinners and saints live side-by-side together here below, but the difference between them is vast. A life of sin may be easier for awhile. The Prodigal Son enjoyed sensual pleasures and was free of his duties, like working in the fields with his older brother. But sin soon leaves us spent and depleted, as in drought and famine. If honest with ourselves, we sense our dire need.
At first, the Prodigal Son attempted his own coping-mechanisms short of repentance. He hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the pigs. (For Jews, tending ritually-unclean pigs would be one of the most degrading things a person could do.) The Prodigal Son longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. (His boss provided for the swine better than for him.) A sinner’s life is slavery. It’s unsatisfying, it’s unhappy, and they feel unloved. This does not excuse away the bad and harmful things they do, but hurting people hurt people. And knowing this, we can feel compassion for sinners.
Coming to his senses, realizing how much he has lost, the Prodigal Son decided to go back home. He knew his unworthiness, so he prepared a speech to persuade his father to show mercy. But his Father needs no persuasion. While his son was still a long way off, the father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. I imagine the father saw him from a long way off because he often looked to that road hoping his son would return. This day, he did. The father ran to his son—even though in that culture a dignified men would not run. Men might walk or let others come to them, but this father ran to his son. Then the father restores his son, with robe, sandals and ring, and declares a feast.
The son had decided to leave and decided to return home. The decision to dwell in the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of this world is our choice. We are free, to wander or return, because God’s offer of grace (including his invitation to the sacrament of reconciliation) is always there. Though we wander in sin, averting our eyes from God, we can never escape his sight. Psalm 139 says, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in the underworld, there you are.” And when we turn back to him, he runs to us, as the same humility we saw in the Incarnation. And then the celebration begins. As Jesus says, “There will be more joy in heaven [and among the angels of God] over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”
As St. Paul declares in our second reading, “This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Every saint has a past, and every sinner can have a future. In this Year of Mercy, let us each trust in God’s mercy, respond to his mercy, and practice mercy as Jesus would have us do.
By St. Mother Teresa, in 1983
Jesus is the Word made Flesh.
Jesus is the Bread of Life.
Jesus is the Victim offered for our sins on the Cross.
Jesus is the Sacrifice offered at the Holy Mass for the sins of the world and mine.
Jesus is the Word – to be spoken.
Jesus is the Truth – to be told.
Jesus is the Way – to be walked.
Jesus is the Light – to be lit.
Jesus is the Life – to be lived.
Jesus is the Love – to be loved.
Jesus is the Joy – to be shared.
Jesus is the Sacrifice – to be offered.
Jesus is the Peace – to be given.
Jesus is the Bread of Life – to be eaten.
Jesus is the Hungry – to be fed.
Jesus is the Thirsty – to be satiated.
Jesus is the Naked – to be clothed.
Jesus is the Homeless – to be taken in.
Jesus is the Sick – to be healed.
Jesus is the Lonely – to be loved.
Jesus is the Unwanted – to be wanted.
Jesus is the Leper – to wash his wounds.
Jesus is the Beggar – to give him a smile.
Jesus is the Drunkard – to listen to him.
Jesus is the Retarded – to protect him.
Jesus is the Little One – to embrace him.
Jesus is the Blind – to lead him.
Jesus is the Dumb – to speak for him.
Jesus is the Crippled – to walk with him.
Jesus is the Drug Addict – to befriend him.
Jesus is the Prostitute – to remove from danger and befriend.
Jesus is the Prisoner – to be visited.
Jesus is the Old – to be served.
To me – Jesus is my God.
Jesus is my Spouse.
Jesus is my Life.
Jesus is my only Love.
Jesus is my All in All.
Jesus is my Everything.
Jesus, I love with my whole heart, with my whole being.
I have given Him all, even my sins, and He has espoused me to Himself in tenderness and love.
Now and for life I am the spouse of my Crucified Spouse.
The fruit of Silence is Prayer.
The fruit of Prayer is Faith.
The fruit of Faith is Love.
The fruit of Love is Service.
The fruit of Service is Peace.
—St. Mother Teresa
This Monday, I dialogued with Muslims, Jews, and Unitarians in an online comments section. How’d it go? A Muslim man accused me of an “unforgivable sin” for espousing Trinitarianism. (I thought: “If that’s literally true, then that makes me less inclined to become Muslim. I mean, why bother?”) But the commenters were generally thoughtful and kind.
The blogger who hosts the website had written, “The Jews had no idea of the Trinity. Their faith was centred in the Shema: a unitary monotheistic confession. Jesus clearly affirmed that very same unitary monotheism in Mark 12:29. [“Jesus replied, ‘The first (commandment in the law) is this: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord is one!”] How is it that Christians today have abandoned their rabbi on this point?” I felt moved to reply and what follows is based upon my responses.
Faithful Jews recite the Shema prayer each morning and evening, quoting Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Is the oneness professed in this passage of God’s word irreconcilable with Trinitarian belief?
In declaring that “the Lord is one,” the Hebrew passage employs the word “echad” for “one.” Echad is often used to mean singularity, but sometimes the same word denotes a unified entity. For instance, in the Garden, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one (echad) flesh.” And again, at the Tower of Babel, “If now, while they are one (echad) people and all have the same language, they have started to do this, nothing they presume to do will be out of their reach.”
God could have selected a different word to be inspired for this passage, but the one He chose allows a providential flexibility. Echad permits the unified oneness of the Persons of the Trinity without requiring this reading from the Jewish generations who came before Christ. So, contrary to the blogger’s claim, when Jesus quotes the Shema it is not clear that He is affirming the very same unitary monotheism assumed by his ancestors. Interestingly, the “oneness” of God taught in Deuteronomy 6:4 leads to the conclusion that we ought to love God with the unified oneness of three aspects of ourselves. The immediately following verse reads: “Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.”
A Unitarian (a Christian who asserts God’s unity and rejects the doctrine of the Trinity) found this last observation interesting and asked me to recommend a book that makes a great case for the Trinity. To him, I replied:
I would suggest approaching the Holy Trinity in the same way the first Christians came to this knowledge; through Jesus of Nazareth. Some dismiss the Christology of John’s Gospel as later theological development, but even the Gospels thought to be written earlier show Jesus doing and saying things only God could rightly do (e.g., forgiving sins, declaring himself lord of the Sabbath, demanding an absolute total commitment to himself, etc.) A book I recommend that explores this is Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 “Jesus of Nazareth (Part 1)” In it, Benedict spends a good deal of time discussing Rabbi Jacob Neusner’s book, “A Rabbi Talks with Jesus.” The central issue that prevents that rabbi from believing in Jesus is the same scandal that led Jesus to his death: his revealing himself as God.
To objections at Christians detecting in the Shema something which no Jews had previously held–indications of the Trinity–I answered:
In the course of the Jewish Scriptures, we can see God developing humanity along; from polytheism to monotheism, from polygamy to monogamy, from blood vengeance to “an eye for an eye.” That the LORD was not just one god among the many gods–but the only God, was a revelation His people learned over time. (For example, Moses must ask of God in Exodus 3:13: “If I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what do I tell them?”) When Jesus comes He extends the revelation further; “Love your enemies,” “What God has joined let no man separate,” “The Father and I are one.” My point is this: To argue Christian beliefs cannot be true because they were not previously known among Jews is like saying there cannot be only one God because this was not clear to the Patriarchs; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel.
One Muslim asked whether the Old Testament prophets who did not know about the Trinity would therefore be worshiping an incomplete God. I answered:
All analogies touching on the Trinity fall short, but imagine being introduced to a friendly and engaging man at a dinner-party. In the course of your conversation you learn that he is a doctor, married, and has three kids. Now these things were true about the man from the first moment you knew him but you came to know him more fully with time. Likewise, God has always been a Trinity of Persons; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; acting, speaking, and revealing throughout history. Abraham and the prophets’ understanding of God were not as filled-out as in later generations, but they did indeed know and love and worship God. Of course, the parallel I’m trying to draw is not that God is one person wearing three different hats like that doctor-husband-father (which is the heresy of modalism.) I’m noting how Abraham and the prophets could enjoy true relationship with the Holy Trinity without yet knowing of that doctrine.
Consider the interesting episode of Abraham’s three visitors in Genesis 18: “The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oak of Mamre… Looking up, he saw three men standing near him.” Now two of this trio are later called angels (Genesis 19:1) but more precisely these are “messengers,” and the Son and the Holy Spirit do indeed serve the Father this way, revealing God the Father and his will among men. Did Abraham perceive in his guests what Christians suspect in retrospect, that this was a manifestation of the Holy Trinity? Likely not, yet Abraham could still commune in God’s presence.
I think something that trips people up about Christianity is imagining God the Father as the sole Divine Person in the Old Testament, with the Son and the Holy Spirit only appearing later in the New. However, if the Trinity is true it has always been true, and the three Persons (possessing the same Divine Essence the prophets praised) have been active in the affairs of mankind throughout history. Christians reflect back on the Jewish Scriptures and see the Persons of the Trinity at work together. Our Nicene Creed professes that the Holy Spirit has “spoken through the prophets.” Look at the episodes where a “messenger” speaks in the divine first-person (e.g., Genesis 22:12, Judges 6:16 & 13:21-22) I would say Abraham and the prophets’ experiences of God were Trinitarian even if they did not fully grasp it then. I believe the same is true for all today.
St. Paul asked “that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority.” To what purpose? “That we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.” The Roman ruler at that time was the Emperor Nero and his later persecutions of the Church proved the timeliness of Paul’s request.
When I was in seminary, some of my peers predicted bloody persecutions against the Church in America, but I have always thought that our trials would be more subtle; not martyrdoms, but diminishments, exclusions, and humiliations. No law will forbid Catholics from being public officials, business owners, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, therapists, teachers or any other occupation, but the law could require each of these to act in ways contrary to our Faith. People increasingly-dubious that our churches and religious institutions serve society’s good and could cripple them by stripping their tax-exempt status, and they would do so with the approval of their own consciences. Some people, like those the Lord denounces through Amos the prophet, care most about their pocketbooks, but we are called to always keep our Faith first in our lives, and we will, no matter what.
Jesus says “the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones,” and Psalm 146 says, “Put no trust in princes, in mortal men in whom there is not help… [but] blessed is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD, his God.” So no matter who wins election this fall, let us pray to the Lord that religious freedom may be preserved in our time so that we may lead quiet and tranquil lives in all devotion and dignity.