Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

Memorial of Saint Martha

(Jeremiah 14:17-22; John 11:19-27)

When the father of the boy possessed by a demon exclaims to Jesus, “I do believe; help my unbelief,” he expresses the faith of most every Christian.  Even Martha, a close friend of the Lord, shows a fault line in her belief as in today’s gospel.

Martha makes a declaration of faith as bold as Peter’s in the first three gospels.  She calls Jesus “’…the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.’”  But she fails to realize the meaning of her statement.  When Jesus says that her dead brother will rise, she considers it a reference to the vague end of times.  She does not recognize that the Jesus standing before her is new life itself.  Not understanding the full meaning of her words, Martha will worry about mundane things like the smell of decomposing flesh when Jesus orders her brother’s tomb opened.

Although we may take comfort in knowing that we are not alone in posing questions of faith, it is important to move beyond this point.  Full faith will make stronger and more attentive to others’ needs.  It will assure that we do what is right in trial and keep us squarely on the road to the fullness of life.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 13:1-11; Matthew 13:31-35)

Walking through a shopping mall, both men and women are allured by the lingerie shop.  The window display arouses such interest that all wonder what can be inside.  Of course, the apparel is meant to increase the intensity of desire of a husband for his wife.  In the first reading today the prophet Israel uses such an image to describe the relationship between God and Israel.

The loin cloth described in the passage was to be worn by men to cover their genitals.   In public the loincloth was worn under a tunic, but whether in private or in public it signifies intimacy.  The prophet himself states this meaning: “As close as the loincloth clings to a man’s loins, so had I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord.”  The tragedy that Israel abandons God for the fetishes of their neighbors is symbolized by the loincloth being buried and rotting.

God has created humans as sexual beings so that they might relate to one another.  Genital sexuality is reserved for a man and a woman to solidify their union.  It becomes the proper environment for raising children and thus for fulfilling God’s plan for creation.  Quite unfortunately, humans often distort this blueprint by making pleasure the purpose of sexual fulfillment.  Like Jeremiah‘s rotting loincloth, such practice cannot last long.  We look to Jesus, who reinforces the original teaching on sexuality in Genesis, as our advisor in these affairs.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Feast of Saint James, apostle

(II Corinthians 4:7-15; Matthew 20:20-28)

In an old television drama the father of a teenage basketball player comes in a room bragging about his son’s performance the night before. “Twenty-seven points,” he gloats, “How about that kid of mine?”  Nobody seems interested in listening to him, however.  His son hogged the ball, and the team lost.  In the gospel today the mother of James and John sounds a bit like this proud father as she recommends her sons to Jesus.

Jesus does not chastise the brothers for desiring higher offices.  He does not call their ambition a sin or tell them that they should be ashamed.  What concerns him is the possibility that the brothers seek the positions to call attention to themselves.  Jesus advises the twelve that leaders are not to take advantage of their followers.  He puts himself as an example: as he – the Son of Man destined to judge the world – does not seek his own welfare but the good of all, so must they, his disciples, follow suit.

James learned the lesson well. He became the first of Jesus’ twelve apostles to give witness to their master with his life.  Today we honor him both by our prayers and, more importantly, by our imitation of his sacrifice that gives glory to Jesus.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thursday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 2:1-3.7-8.12-13; Matthew 13:10-17)

The storyteller is a very popular motif of New Mexican sculpture.  The image is usually an indigenous woman with children clinging to her from every side.  Her mouth is open as she relates a tale of her youth.  Curiously, however, the children are not paying much attention to the storyteller’s words.  Rather they seem more intent on frolicking. In today’s gospel Jesus has similarly just told a large crowd a story that is called a parable.  The people likewise did not heed what he was saying.

The disciples now question Jesus about why he uses parables if the people are not going to catch his meaning.  He answers that the people do not understand his parables not because the stories are inscrutable but because the people themselves do not appreciate who is speaking to them.  From all Jesus has done among them – his multiple healings and expulsions of devils – they should realize that he is the one whom God has sent into the world.  Not believing in him, his parables become no more for them than cartoons of our culture for children to watch on Saturday morning.

Parables are rich in meaning.  Like the deposits of gas and oil beneath the earth’s surface they can be mined again and again for high yields of truth.  But to take full advantage of them we must recognize that their source, Jesus, is not like any other storyteller.  No, he is the Son of God sent to us to reveal the wisdom that yields eternal life.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 1:1.4-10; Matthew 13:1-9)

The woman was confused about what to say.  Her granddaughter had just confessed that she wanted to move in with her boyfriend.  Then the younger asked her grandmother whether she would disown her if she did such a thing.  Such a scene of conflicting values is reminiscent of the era of the prophet Jeremiah who is featured in the first reading today.

Jeremiah lives in the southern kingdom of Judah in the seventh and sixth centuries before Christ.  The time of his calling as a prophet, which today’s reading reports, is particularly jaded.  Manasseh, the nation’s king, has allowed the presence of Assyrian idols in the Temple area.  Now God commissions the young Jeremiah to speak his truth to the people.  It would be a tough assignment for a seasoned prophet.  It is no wonder then that Jeremiah tries to shy away from the challenge. 

Not only young people are living together outside marriage.  Elders as well, whether to avoid the emotional or the legal entanglements of marriage, are opting for the sinful relationship.  We certainly should not show approval for the practice.  In fact, we should express our concern –with as much prayerful care as prophetic boldness – that the couple is offending our Creator and Redeemer.