Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Day

(Sirach 50:22-24; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Luke 17:11-19)

A number of years ago a worker in a Central American country fulfilled his promise to the Virgin Mary.  He had asked her intercession for the success of his country’s soccer team in the World Cup playoffs.  The team had done well for a small country winning games against two European competitors.  Making a pilgrimage on foot to the national shrine of the Virgin was this man’s way of saying “thanks.”  We are given a holiday today to do the same.

And that is another reason to be thankful.  Employers, spurred by government mandate, are paying us without our having to do any work.  As if it were a Sunday, we have a large swath of time to give thanks.  We pray, rest, and enjoy the company of friends all in the spirit of thankfulness.  Every day holds many reasons to thank God.  The wise person does not retire without doing so.

The gospel indicates that God takes notice of our giving thanks and our not doing it.  It tells us that Jesus asks the one leper who thanked him why the other nine he cured didn’t.  More significantly, the passage emphasizes that Jesus rewards the one who does with salvation.  We can say that our recognition of God as our benefactor is crucial.  It will save us from the punishment due for our sins. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Daniel 5:1-6.13-14.16-17.23-28; Luke 21:12-19)

The writing on the wall has been decipherable for some time now.  Yet many still refuse to pay attention.  The sexual revolution begun in the 1960s has caused more misery than could have been imagined.  Children born without fathers to protect them, women and men contracting diseases, and the felt need to destroy emerging life are all pathologies attributable to the frivolization of sex.  Sexuality is God’s gift to humans for both personal and social development.  Humans have turned it into an entitlement for egotistic pleasure.

In being both blind to the writing on the wall and abusive of their bodies as sacred vessels, humans today duplicate the story of the Babylonians in the first reading.  The latter should have been conscious of what they were doing when they robbed the Jerusalem temple of its sacred objects.  But they were greedily oblivious.  They might realize that the peculiar writing on the wall can be nothing but a message of doom for their rapaciousness.

We should want our young to shun present ideology that seeks to control the consequences of sex rather than to respect its creative power.  In teaching how to discipline their sexual drives we are providing them a road map of both moral integrity and human happiness.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions, martyrs

(Daniel 2:31-45; Luke 21:5-11)

Perhaps no experience in United States history has been as sobering as the Vietnam War.  It was clear that this country meant to save South Vietnam from a Communist takeover.  It certainly expended tremendous human and material resources to achieve that goal.  However, the Vietnamese Communists prevailed.  The American people should have learned that they are not invincible.  Much like the temple that Jesus contemplates with his disciples in today’s gospel, they will not exist forever.

This does not mean the end of hope.  In the reading Jesus tells his disciples that they are not to be deceived.  They must be vigilant in holding onto the truth that he has taught them.  That truth may be summarized in the paradox that in order to gain one’s life, one must lost it.  In other words, people have to serve one another if they are to thrive. 

The Vietnamese martyrs offer an example.  Many died during the persecutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Yet the Vietnamese today exhibit a vibrant Catholic tradition today.  Both in their native countries and in the U.S. they excel in commitment to God, family, and nation. Now with their inclusion the United States may rededicate itself to justice and goodwill among nations.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Monday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Daniel 1:1-6.8-20; Luke 21:1-4)

Babette’s Feast is a short story and later movie that tells the story of the sacrifice of a widow.  The woman lost her family and livelihood as a chef in a political insurrection.  She comes to live with two matrons who lead a small Protestant congregation.  The woman wins the lottery and spends all her award to prepare a lavish banquet for the community.  The feast transforms everyone present; their ordinary pettiness turns into gracious magnanimity.  All come to see life as radiating God’s goodness.  The widow in the story is seen as an image of Christ.  She also reflects the widow of today’s gospel.

The poor widow contributes her last pennies to the Temple in an obvious demonstration of devotion.  The scene prefigures Jesus’ own sacrifice on the cross which will take place in a few days.  “How will she live?” one wants to ask. She does not worry, however, because she knows that God provides for those who love Him.  She will thrive just as Jesus does in the resurrection.

As we approach the great Christian feasts at the end of the year, we should keep both widows and certainly Jesus in mind.  We are wise to see the bounty that we share as part of God’s gift.  And we need to ask how we may give ourselves to Him in thanksgiving.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(I Maccabees 4:36-37.52-59, Lucas 19:45-48)

Although the Books of Maccabees do not have a place in the Jewish Bible, they contain some of the greatest testimony to the Law and the Temple.  Today’s passage from the First Book of the Maccabees relates the founding event of the Jewish feast of Hanukkah. 

In the reading Mattathias Maccabeus’ son Judas declares an annual celebration for the Jews.  He has just led a successful uprising against the foreign rulers.  With the war exacting its terrible price the whole nation has learned the value of religious freedom.  

Although the situation is not really comparable today, the bishops of the United States are concerned about religious freedom.  They regard some government rules regulating medical care as conflicting with traditional Catholic morals.  They rightfully will not allow Catholic hospitals to perform abortions or sterilizations.  And they cannot justify supplying medical insurance that subsidizes contraceptive services.  Hopefully the Church will not have to close its hospitals or stop purchasing insurance for employees.  Yet that is one alternative in its ongoing dispute with the federal government.