Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

(I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Luke 4: 16-30)

After his election as pope, Jorge Bergoglio was beseeched by a fellow South American cardinal not to forget the poor.  The new pope explained afterwards that he chose the name Francis, the poor little one, because he had every intention of assisting the poor.  Today the world has to say that solidarity with the poor is the hallmark of Francis’ papacy.  In this way he is much like Jesus in the Gospel of Luke.

Today we begin daily readings from the third gospel.  Like political candidates often do when beginning a campaign, Jesus has returned to his home town to outline his purpose.  He quotes the prophet Isaiah saying that the Holy Spirit has anointed him to “bring good news to the poor.”  Jesus will fulfill this intention throughout the gospel.  His solidarity to the poor is most beautifully in his observation at the Temple in Jerusalem.  A poor widow has just put all she had in the Temple treasury.  Like her, Jesus will sacrifice his life on the cross to redeem humans.

We must not forget the poor.  They need what so many of us have in abundance – resources to live with dignity.  Many of them have precisely what we need – a simple faith that looks to God for deliverance.

Frdiay, August 28, 2015

Memorial of St. Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Church

(I Thessalonians 4:1-8; Matthew 25:1-13)

In the 1920s the University of Chicago pioneered a course of studies in the humanities called the “Great Books.”  Since then students in scores of universities have pored over the classics of western civilization like Plato’s Dialogues and the New Testament.  Criteria for the list of great books include relevance to the modern era, value in being reread numerous times, and treatment of questions humans continually ask themselves.  It should not surprise us to learn St. Augustine’s works will be found on every list of “Great Books.”

After Augustine converted to Christianity and became a priest and later a bishop, he settled in the city of Hippo.  There he studied, preached, and wrote prodigiously.  His collected works would overflow any bookshelf.  He did not seek fame or fortune for his efforts but gave his life as God’s servant to the people he shepherded.

Today’s gospel speaks of the necessity of having lamps burning brightly.  It is a matter of being seen.  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells his disciples that they are “the light of the world.” Here the virgins hold lamps.  In both cases Jesus intends that his disciples perform good deeds in God’s name so that the world might know of His love.  Augustine in his extraordinarily gifted way did just that.  He humbly contributed to the wisdom of the ages and faithfully guided those under his pastoral care.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Memorial of Saint Monica, holy woman

(Thessalonians 3:7-13; Matthew 24:42-51)

The Dominican laity of a church in California have named St. Monica as the patron of their chapter.  The members are largely parents of grown children some of whom stopped going to church.  They appeal to St. Monica because she prayed for years that her gifted son Augustine would embrace the faith.  They may see as well Monica acting as Jesus’ true disciple according to today’s gospel.

Jesus admonishes his disciples to be vigilant.  He wants them to both look for the critical needs of the poor and to beseech God for help in meeting those needs.  Those who do so become his “faithful and prudent servant(s)” whom he will reward upon his return.

Augustine was not economically poor, but his errant ways made him a kind of spiritual pauper.  Monica sought as the fulfilment of her life’s mission that he be enriched with Christ.  We likewise find in Christ a spiritual treasure that makes our lives worth living.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wednesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

(Thessalonians 2:9-13; Matthew 23:27-32)

In today's reading from the Letter to the Thessalonians St. Paul treats his readers as if they were his own children.  Aware of wonders they may have regarding their eternal destiny, he reminds the Thessalonians that it is not his idea but God’s revelation.

Such wonder, which is a kind of doubt, plagues postmodern people as well.  Why should they believe that God has come to earth to give them eternal life?  Young people express this suspension of belief by calling themselves “cultural Catholics.”  They mean that they grew up in a Catholic environment but are not committed to everything the Church teaches.

We have to be aware that our theology fits together as one piece.  Our belief in the resurrection, for example, coheres with a selfless way of living.  To think that we can pick and choose among beliefs and practices is either to live illogically or to recognize our own self-deception. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

(I Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 23:23-26)

Matthew begins his description of the public ministry of Jesus with the Sermon on the Mount.  In it Jesus utters the beatitudes, a word usually translated as blessed but may be rendered as happy.  Now at the end of his ministry in Matthew Jesus delivers another sermon.  This time, however, he announces not blessings but woes, seven of them as a matter of fact.  The two of today’s gospel are found in the middle.

Jesus condemns the Pharisees for being fastidious about small things and permissive about large matters.  He says they pay their tithes not only on the crops of grain but on the smallest herb in their garden.  Meanwhile they overlook the need for justice and mercy.  They are like the bankers on Wall Street who appear to be upstanding men but who created a financial crisis eight years ago that drove many people bankrupt.  Then Jesus uses the analogy of a cup that is clean on the outside but putrid on the inside to further denounce the Pharisees.  He is accusing them of unclean hearts even as they dress as righteous men.

Not all the Pharisees were hypocrites.  Many, in fact, like the apostle Paul legitimately strove for goodness.  But as religious movements become puritanical, hypocrisy finds substance to feed upon.  We must take care that it does not happen to us.  A daily examination of conscience and constant conversation with the Lord should keep us free of this contamination.