Sunday, June 29, 2014

Saturday of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle A - June 28, 2014

(Saturday of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time)
Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
June 28, 2014      8:30am

This morning I want to point out two details in this familiar passage from the Gospel of Saint Luke.

First, when Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the temple, Mary says, “Your father and I have been looking for you.”
And Jesus responds, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Jesus very gently but very definitely takes the name father from Joseph and gives it to God.
So apparently, here, at what was probably his first Passover in the temple, Jesus begins to get a breakthrough.
He begins to get some awareness or consciousness that he has a special and even unique relationship with God as his Father.
He begins to get some realization that he is in a unique way the Son of God.
It is a dramatic moment.

The second point that I want to note relates to Mary. 
The passage says that “Mary kept all these things in her heart.”
Mary’s wisdom was a combination of head and heart.
She has the right sense of Jesus’ duty toward them as parents.
But Mary also operates from her heart.
She listens to her inner self, her intuitive sense, to that point within her where the divine and human spirit meet.
It is here in her heart that she begins to understand more the words spoken to her by the angel telling her that she was to bear a son and that he will be Son of the Most High.
Mary operates out of head and heart both and it is this that gives her wisdom.
It is this that opens her to the full reality of God and of Jesus and of her own role in God’s plan.

This is why we celebrate in our Catholic tradition the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Cycle A - June 27, 2014

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
June 27, 2014      8:30am

Today’s feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus reveals something very warm about Jesus and God.
The Scripture readings convey this very well.

Saint John in the second reading speaks of the love of God for us.
God’s heart, the Sacred Heart is one of complete love for humanity – so much so that God sent His only Son into the world.
This reading brings a fuller and even corrected understanding to the first reading, the Old Testament passage.
On the one hand, that passage speaks beautifully of God’s faithfulness and covenant with his people.
But on the other hand, it also speaks of God destroying those who do not keep his covenant.
With the coming of the fullness of revelation in Jesus, we would say that God – who is love – does not destroy, but that we injure ourselves when we ignore or disobey the way of Jesus.
That is a big and important distinction in the way we understand God.
The Sacred Heart, full of love, keeps drawing us to himself and wanting only what is good for us and never injures, much less destroys us.
That is the way of perfect love.

And the other insight I want to highlight is again from our second reading
Saint John says: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he has loved us.”
So God has taken the initiative in loving us.
And in loving us, the Sacred Heart has planted the love of his heart in us, and now we are to accept that and live out of that.
So, things that we do for the well-being of others, our compassion or empathy, our generosity with the poor – these are actions flowing from God’s love within us that has transformed us and moved us to live in this way.

That is the power and effect of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Wednesday of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle A - June 25, 2014

Wednesday of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time
June 25, 2014      8:30am

One of our current Catholic writers cites three traits for good ministers.
These are characteristics needed in priests and all those doing ministry for the Church and in the name of Jesus.

First, they lead us to more charity.
So, even in the face of some evil or wrongdoing, they do not just condemn darkness and put down those perceived as being responsible for it.
Instead, they lead us to charity – to respect for others no matter what and to lifting up the good.

Second, true spiritual leaders lead us to Jesus.
They do not draw attention to themselves especially in a self-righteous way.
Instead, they lead us to the words and ways of Jesus in a humble way, recognizing that they and all of us are imperfect and in need to keep growing to be more like Jesus.

And third, true spiritual leaders lead us to service of others.
They do not focus just on words and statements of faith.
Instead, they lead us to care for those in need and to compassion for those who are hurting.

Today, Jesus cautions us about false prophets.
The word prophet means a spiritual or religious leader.

If we look at the qualities needed in a true and good spiritual leader – leading us to charity, to Jesus and to service – that will help us to discern the quality of spiritual ministry and or religious leadership and to stay on a holy and healthy path.

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Cycle A - June 24, 2014

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
June 24, 2014      6:30am

Today’s readings make it clear that John the Baptist was called before birth by God.
God selected him to prepare the way for his Son, for Jesus.
Of course, while God called John, John also needed to respond and cooperate.
I am thinking that we can summarize John’s response in two words: renounce and announce.

First, John renounced the normal comforts of human life.
He saw beyond the passing pleasures of this world.
He saw something more important, something of infinite and eternal value that would bring us real happiness.
So John renounced all normal comforts and lived a really austere life.
His doing this opened his heart and mind and spirit to the wonderful message that God was bringing to this earth.
Obviously, we are not called to renounce things in the way that John did.
Maybe our renouncing is more like not filling up our lives with so many possessions and activities and concerns.
Maybe our renouncing is more like keeping space for God and our relationship with God, and for prayer, reflection and Mass.

So John renounces, and then he announces.
He announces the coming of the kingdom of God in Jesus.
And, as is so typical of holy people, John does this with humility.
He humbly says, “Behold, One is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.”
This humility is also an essential trait for us in announcing.
Maybe with this virtue, we announce not by saying anything, but simply by living with a reverence for God and a respect for all that God has made.
We announce by living with our focus beyond ourselves.

So, renounce and announce – this was the life of John the Baptist and a good pattern also for our lives.

Monday of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle A - June 23, 2014

Monday of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time
June 23, 2014      8:30am

I find it important to look at today’s gospel in the context of Saint Matthew’s entire gospel.
If we do that, I think there are three lessons here for us.

First, Matthew uses the term “hypocrite.”
That word originally meant a mask that a person would wear to pretend to be something or someone he or she was not.
For us, it might be like a Halloween costume.
In this passage, Jesus is cautioning us not to pretend to be better than we are or to be better than the next person.

Then, in that context, Jesus tells us not to judge one another.
Here the word judge has the meaning of condemn.
So we are not to condemn one another as bad or evil persons.
We are not to treat others as objects to be judged, but rather as persons to be treated as we ourselves would want to be treated.

Finally, today’s passage is in chapter 7 of Matthew’s gospel.
In chapter 18 Jesus gives us guidelines or a process for addressing another person whom we think is doing something wrong.
So, while we are not to judge other persons, we do need to judge behavior as right or wrong, as good or bad.
We do need to call one another to live according to the way of the Lord.
But, of course, we are to do that without condemning the person and with the care that the Lord showed to the sinful persons of his own day.

We are to do it respectful of their own conscience and aware that they, like us, are on the journey of life – a journey with the Lord and to the Lord, and that they and we are never fully there, never perfect.