Monday, September 15, 2014

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

(I Corinthians 11:17-26.33; John 19:25-27)

Reading the passion of Jesus in John, we don’t find any tears.  It is hard not to imagine a mother weeping for a dying son, but that is not how this gospel depicts the scene.  In truth the account does not mention what Mary or the others are doing.  It focuses on Jesus as the one who even in death directs all the action. 

Jesus presents his beloved disciple to his mother and his mother to him.  This is the Church’s beginning.  Indeed, the scene can be truthfully called “another Pentecost.”   In just a moment the gospel will specify that Jesus hands over his Spirit.  There is none there to receive it but these two and the two other women who love Jesus dearly.

We have joined this communion of love.  Whether or not there were tears at the cross, there are moments of sorrow in our lives.  We “weep with those who weep” to give them comfort.  But more than that, we rejoice with everyone because the same Jesus is delivering us from our sins.  He is shaping us to be like himself so that when we die, we will know his glory.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 9:16-19; Luke 6:39-42)

In Frederico Fellini’s film memoir Amarcord all the townspeople including a blind man go to the bay to welcome a luxury liner.  When the vessel comes into sight the blind man feels the excitement of the crowd and exclaims, “I can see it! I can see it!”  The people have conveyed to him not just the appearance of the liner but its magnificence in the bay on a balmy summer night.  In the gospel today Jesus exhorts his disciples to prepare themselves to give similar testimony.

Faith, we may say, is a new way of seeing. It transcends our limitations. Like the blind man "seeing" the luxury cruiser, faith allows us to perceive what is invisible to the eye.  It tells us that we are loved with greater intensity than we can imagine.  It assures us that our struggle to follow Christ has eternal value.  Somehow we must convey these realities to those who think that only what their hand can touch has existence.

We give testimony to faith by both saying and doing.  Publicly thanking God for the benefits we receive reminds others of His existence.  Forgiving others’ faults testifies to His love.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thursday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 8:1b-7.11-13; Luke 6: 27-38)

Both St. Paul in the epistle and Jesus in the gospel today speak of love.  Neither makes the claim that it is easy, much less delightful.  Paul would have his readers sacrifice what they have a right to for the sake of a skittish soul.  He suggests that they fast from meat if one in their numbers is an animal lover.  Jesus typically goes a mile farther.  His followers are to allow others to take from them without making compensation!

Something should be said about the precise meaning of these passages.  The Church has people who are scandalized over small things like buying milk on Sunday.  Following Jesus literally, one might conclude that she should leave her house unlocked.  But there can be no doubt that love tries the soul.  As Dorothy Day both pointed out and lived: “…(L)ove in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. 

It would be a worthy exercise for us to list the people whom we know.  Then next to each name we should write what sacrifices we made for that person.  If the sacrifices are costly, we can say that we are fulfilling today’s gospel mandate.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wednesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(I Corinthians 7:25-31; Luke 6:20-26)

The man could not stop gambling.  He had been in the casino some while.  He lost all that he could afford to lose and much more.  Then he dipped into his savings.  Soon the money reserved for taxes was bet and lost.  He felt he could still beat the system.  Of course, it beat him.  He went home broke, worried, and angry at himself.  This scenario holds for other kinds of compulsions as well as gambling.  People often lose what is very important in attempt to achieve some elusive satisfaction. In the first reading today St. Paul warns the Corinthians not to allow sex to be their downfall.

Paul knows that sex is not intrinsically evil.  He does not condemn it, but he expresses his reservations about it candidly.  If one can live without it, the apostle advises, he will probably be happier in the end.  Believing that Christ is to return soon, Paul does not mention having children.  All that really matters is to prepare oneself for that great event by living righteously.  It is paramount that the person not lose herself in the pursuit of pleasure.

Although even yet Christ has not returned, we still will experience a shortage of time if we spend it profligately in vain pursuits.  Sex, of course, is a prime suspect.  Other potential pitfalls are alcohol, gambling, and even acquiring electronic gadgets.  These pursuits need not be judged as evil in themselves.  But if they take control of good judgment, they will detour us from Christ.  That would be a pity because Christ brings the lasting happiness that our hearts desire. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2014

Memorial of Saint Peter Claver, priest
(I Corinthians 6:1-11; Luke 6:1-11)

You’re poor and in jail.  You did not commit the crime you are accused of.  But you are hardly perfect.  The district attorney tells you to confess to the crime.  He says that you’ll be given a reduced sentence – ten years with the possibility of parole in seven.   Otherwise, he threatens, he’ll put you away for twenty-five.  Without money to hire an effective lawyer, you accept the offer.  Believe it or not, such a scenario is not unusual in America today.  Evidently something similar took place in St. Paul’s Corinth.

Paul writes the Corinthians not to take their cases to public court. He knows that many corrupt officials adjudicate there.  Better, he says, to have a hearing among the community where one can expect fairness.  After all, these are people who have repented of any previous wrong-doing.  They not only know right from wrong but have a sense of the heart yearning for justice.

Some wise people believe that the American penal system is broken.  It penalizes excessively the poor and allows the rich to get away with murder.  They advise a radical restructuring.  To contribute to a solution we should be honest in everything that we do.