Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.
They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. For they had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus challenges expectations about greatness when he says the one who desires to be the greatest is not the one who lords it over others but the one who makes himself the servant of all. In the world where Jesus lived, not entirely unlike our own, a child was not a symbol of innocence but instead, a symbol of powerless and a person devoid of any social status. When Jesus calls a child to himself and says that, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me,” he is not calling us to love the innocent; he is calling us to love the poor and the powerless.
Saint of the day: Venerable Felix Varela was born in Havana, Cuba in 1788, and died in the United States. The grandson of Spanish Lieutenant Bartolomé Morales, he studied to become a Roman Catholic Priest in San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary in Havana, the only seminary in Cuba. He also studied at the University of Havana. At the age of 23 he was ordained in the Cathedral of Havana.
Joining the seminary faculty within a year of his ordination, he taught philosophy, physics, and chemistry and became an acclaimed teacher of many important figures in Cuban history. Varela joined in a petition to the Spanish Crown for the independence of Latin America and also published an essay which argued for the abolition of slavery in Cuba. For such ideas, the government sentenced him to death. Before the government could arrest him, however, he sought refuge in Gibraltar and later emigrated to the United States, where he spent the rest of his life.
Varela was the founder of the first Spanish-language newspaper in the U.S., publishing many articles about human rights, as well as multiple essays on religious tolerance, cooperation between the English and Spanish-speaking communities, and the importance of education. He published other newspapers in Spanish, including El Habanero and El Mensajero Semanal, and also published The Protestant’s Abridger and Annotator in New York.
In 1837, he was named Vicar General of the Diocese of New York, which then covered all of New York State and the northern half of New Jersey. In this post, he played a major role in the way the American Church dealt with the flood of Irish refugees, that was just beginning at the time. His desire to assist those in need coupled with his gift for languages allowed him to master the Irish language in order to communicate more efficiently with many of the recent Irish arrivals. He was later named a Doctor of Theology by St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland.
Nearly sixty years after his death in St. Augustine, Florida in 1853, his body was disinterred and returned to Cuba to be laid to rest in the University of Havana’s Aula Magna. If canonized, he would be the first Cuban-born person to be honored on the altars of the Catholic church.
The Cuban government has created an award bearing his name, entitled the Orden Félix Varela, which is given to those whom the government deems to have contributed to Cuban and worldwide culture.
His name is currently associated with a project proposed by the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba, named Proyecto Varela, which was announced to the Cuban people on government-owned TV and radio stations in Cuba by United States President Jimmy Carter. In 1997 the United States Postal Service honored Varela by issuing a 32-cent commemorative stamp. Because of his experiences, many in the Cuban American exile community identify with him. He was named Venerable in 2012.
Spiritual reading: If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love. (Juliana of Norwich)
As Jesus came down from the mountain with Peter, James, John and approached the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them. Immediately on seeing him, the whole crowd was utterly amazed. They ran up to him and greeted him. He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit. Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.” He said to them in reply, “O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? Bring him to me.” They brought the boy to him. And when he saw him, the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions. As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around and foam at the mouth. Then he questioned his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” He replied, “Since childhood. It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.” Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering, rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it, “Mute and deaf spirit, I command you: come out of him and never enter him again!” Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out. He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, “He is dead!” But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up. When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private, “Why could we not drive the spirit out?” He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Prayer is about faith: Everything is possible to one who has faith. But it isn’t about perfect faith; even the imperfect faith of the petition, I do believe, help my unbelief, is all that Jesus needs from us. When we pray, God wants us to be authentic. God does not require us to be more faith-filled than we are; God asks us just to be willing to ask that we be more faith-filled.
Saint of the day: The first bishop of the Diocese of Getafe, the Servant of God Francisco José Pérez y Fernández – Golfin was born in Madrid, Spain, on February 12, 1931, to D. Julio Pérez Aubá and his wife Dª María Luisa Fernández-Golfín Guerrero de Portanova. Having lived through the Spanish Civil War in Barcelona and Madrid, he joined the Catholic Action, and after finishing his higher studies, entered Seminary in Madrid. Ordained to the priesthood on May 26, 1956 at the Cathedral of San Isidro, he was successively named Parish Priest of Alpedrete and Curate of Los Negrales. In 1962, he became Spiritual Director at the Seminary of Madrid, a post which he occupied until 1973. In the meantime, he also served as Professor of Religious Formation at the Escuela Técnica de Ingenieros de Caminos and obtained a Degree in Dogmatic Theology from the Universidad Pontificia de Comillas.
Requesting another position to assist his elderly parents, Cardinal Vicente Enrique y Tarancón assigned him to Saint George parish in 1973. The following year, he obtained a Licentiate in Moral Theology. In December 1983, Archbishop Ángel Suquía Goicoechea named him episcopal victor. At 54 years of age, he was appointed auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Madrid and was ordained bishop on May 11, 1985. Noted for his pastoral wisdom, Bishop Golfin was named in 1993 the first bishop of the newly created See of Getafe. On February 24, 2004, Bishop Golfin suffered a fall as a result of an unexpected heart attack and passed away at age 73. Universally loved among his people and priest, Bishop Golfin always emphasized the centrality of love. He assisted many young people to discern what God called them to do, and people remember him for his humor, overflowing joy, and personal holiness. The cause for his beatification opened in 2010.
Spiritual reading: Prayer is not sending in an order and expecting it to be fulfilled. Prayer is attuning yourself to the life of the world, to love, the force that moves the sun and the moon and the stars. (Br. David Steindl-Rast)
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Perfection is not what we think it is. It is not making a set of rules and then perfectly and unerringly carrying out the letter of those rules. That is legalism, an attitude and outlook which Jesus condemns as the worst kind of imperfection. Perfection consists in boundless, non-judgmental love made real in human affairs by our capacity to love those who do us harm or reject us. It is not the avoidance of sin that makes us perfect; it is love of even our enemies that makes us like the Father.
But unconditional love of even enemies is not a passive activity. Jesus taught nonviolence. This passage in the gospel of Matthew makes that clear enough, and his entire life, particularly his behavior at his arrest and during his passion show that Jesus saw the way of nonviolence as fundamental to life in communion with God. Jesus teaches nonviolence, but he does not teach rolling over and playing dead. Rather, he encourages a way for those in a position of powerlessness to recover and retain their dignity when powerful people attempt to denigrate them. Each of the situations that this gospel passage describes requires an oppressor to make a choice. If I as a powerless person am hit but turn my other cheek to the one who hit me, the oppressor must choose whether to continue the assault. If someone wants to sue me for my possessions, and I offer to give more than he asks, the litigant has to negotiate with me as an equal about what he is willing to take. If someone compels my service for a mile, and I have no choice in the circumstance, I reclaim my dignity at the end of the mile by giving them more than they have the right to compel from me.
When Jesus teaches us to not offer physical resistance, he does not teach us to be punching bags in the face of oppression. He instead teaches us to grab the moral initiative, confront violence with creativity and imagination, resist humiliation, seek the transformation of the oppressor, and claim our dignity as human persons.
Spiritual reading: The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian. (Brennan Manning)
Homily for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time , Year A 2014
Any one of you who has ever had anything to do with AA or ALANON will recognize the saying “one day at a time”. Well Jesus’ take on this is “…[D]o not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will bring troubles of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Similar advice – given 2000 years ago. Yet our tendency is to worry and fret and project into the future, usually with a worse-case scenario. Jesus spends a good deal of time today trying to convince us that all we need is an attitude of “striving for the kingdom of God”, and striving to be righteous. These are the things in the last three Sundays Jesus has been describing to us in his teaching. So today’s readings are a fitting conclusion to all the things we have talked about in the last few weeks. Today is the last day of Ordinary Time until after Easter season, and what we get is a look back at the issues and directives and suggestions that Jesus has been giving to us. A kind of Cliff notes review.
So let’s begin.
One of the things we talked about was the goodness of God, the compassion, the mercy of the Creator. We noted that many of us think of the Hebrew Covenant God as strict, vindictive and cruel, but we saw that instead God was actually, in the culture of that time, a merciful, loving and forgiving God. In today’s First Reading from Isaiah, we have a very short reading which serves to point out the all-encompassing love between a parent and a child as a metaphor for the all-consuming love of God to God’s creatures. The beautiful image of the nursing mother protecting her child with compassion is how we should see God, Isaiah says. Then, the beautiful, awe inspiring line: Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. And in fulfillment of that promise, God sent a Son to free us from our sins and faults.
The psalm today puts into words what should be our response to this wonderful knowledge that God will never forget us: “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.” God is worthy of our trust and that should be one of the most freeing things in our lives.
Now in St. Paul we review the concept that we are not to judge people – it is not our position to judge, it is God’s, and God will not judge or punish until the time of our death or when Jesus comes again. Then God “will bring light to the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.” Then God will let everyone know the truth. But even then, Paul is not trying to scare people or lay a guilt trip. Paul says that each one will receive commendation from God. Paul is seeing the glass as half full, not half empty. It is a positive approach to our final judgements.
Lastly, in the Gospel Jesus continues to show us how we strive to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect. In the context of this reading, Jesus is asking us to choose the one whom we wish to serve. The obvious answer is, of course, God, but Jesus explains why we have to make that choice. The image he uses is the choice between God and wealth. Jesus sees our need to become wealthier and wealthier as an addiction that makes us servile to it. Wealth will be our master; it will control us. But Jesus says that you can’t serve two masters, and he gives good reasons why you can’t. You will end up hating one or the other and devoting all your time to the other.
But it isn’t enough for Jesus to say, then choose God over money, but he makes a case that all transitory things are just that – they fade and die away. God, the One you should serve, takes care of all the needs of all creatures. Seeking after wealth, in the form of money, drink and clothes will never last, and in fact, Jesus says they are not even needed. God will provide. He asks us to look to nature and see if God doesn’t take care of all those needs. And if God takes care of the needs of creatures like little birds, how much more will God take care of the needs of the created humans, loved so dearly.
Then Jesus gives us the positive spin which would mean much more to the poor peasants of Jesus’ time. You have value! You shouldn’t worry! God will always take care of you.
The Gentiles or non-Jews who don’t know God, do worry about all these things, but we have a heavenly Parent – like the nursing mother in Isaiah – who will take care of our basic needs.
And how will God do that? Is this just romantic pondering while thousands actually do go hungry around the world today! That is where I think we come in. As members of Christ’s body, we continue the work of the Lord. We are Jesus’ hands here on earth. We feed the poor, give drink to the thirsty and clothe the naked just because we know that it is righteous to do so, as we read a few weeks ago and that we need to continue God’s work on earth. That is why it is so important that as a community, as the Body of Christ, we continue to do the work of God who is within us through our Eucharist.
This explains so many things – why we have trust in God, why we spurn getting addicting to anything outside of God that could take the place of God, why we need to to charitable works, and why we need not judge other people.
And this is the review of the Good News we have been reading during this Ordinary Time , and it is truly good for us to recall it!
Bishop Ron Stephens
Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese
Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA
[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 - Teaching the Church Year”]
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, the disciples no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.
As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant. Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He told them, “Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things, yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The theme of the gospel readings over the last several days has been the question of who Jesus is. Just as the blind man received sight only slowly in a passage several days ago, the revelation of Jesus to his disciples does not come all at once, but only step-by-step. Peter proclaims Jesus messiah, but even Peter does not understand that the messiah has a cross to carry before he could claim the full glory that Jesus manifests in today’s gospel in the Transfiguration. The truth is that even the apostles never fully appreciate the depth of the revelation of God’s presence they experience in Jesus until Pentecost with its gift of the Spirit. Like the apostles, we live in the depths and breadth of a great mystery–but lost in minutia and passing concerns. It is only through the gift of God that we slowly unravel the deepest meaning of what we experience as we move through our lives and the world.
Saint of the day: Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski was born in 1913 in Poland. A priest, he died in Dachau on February 23, 1945. He is the patron of Polish scouting. He joined Scouting on March 21, 1927. Stefan served as Patrol leader and later as Troop Leader and during his years in the High Seminary of Pelplin Diocese he was an active member of its Scout Club. He also was an active member of the Marian Congregation and from the age of nine, Stefan had been an altar boy. During his years in the seminary of Pelpin he was active in the Temperance movement. On March 14, 1937 he was ordained a priest in Pelpin. In the following years he served as a priest in Pelpin and Torun’. While working as a priest he continued his studies on the university of Lwów. In Torun’ he was responsible for the parish press. In 1938 he became leader of the Old Scouts and chaplain of the scout district Pomerania. Arrested by the Gestapo on October 18, 1939, he was imprisoned in the German concentration camps Stutthof, Grenzdorf, Sachsenhausen and Dachau where he died. Working with the typhus patients in the camp, he himself contracted the disease and died of it. On June 7, 1999 Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski was beatified.
Spiritual reading: Have we ever kept quiet, even though we wanted to defend ourselves when we had been unfairly treated? Have we ever forgiven someone even though we got no thanks? Have we ever been absolutely lonely? Have we ever tried to love God when we are no longer being borne on the crest of the wave of enthusiastic feeling? Let us search in our life. If we find such experiences, then we have experienced the Spirit. (Karl Rahner)
Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
He also said to them, “Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the Kingdom of God has come in power.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In an earlier time, Christians had a great reverence for suffering and undertook acts, such as wearing sack garments and undergoing flagellation, that in our time and through our cultural prism seem hard to understand or appreciate. In the last several decades, a revulsion has taken root among many modern Christians at any notion of suffering as an element in our spirituality precisely, I think, as a reaction against such unhealthy excesses. But it is hard to imagine a spirituality that is authentically Christian which has absolutely no room for suffering. One full quarter of the gospels treats the passion and death of Jesus, and the Master himself advises that anyone who wishes to come after him must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow him. Jesus does not say we have to go out and look for crosses like perhaps earlier penitents did. Suffering is not an end in itself, but it the unavoidable outcome of true discipleship. The acceptance of suffering in Christian life always exists in the context of self-sacrificing love. Jesus says whoever wishes to save his life will lose it. In saying this, he is issuing a challenge that anyone who wants to follow him must be ready to give their lives in love for others, and this often entails putting our own needs second. Those who fail to love–those who make every effort to avoid suffering by preserving their lives and hanging on to what they have–will ultimately lose everything.
Saint of the day: The Servant of God Francis Xavier Ford as born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Austin Brendan Ford and Elizabeth Rellihan Ford. He attended Cathedral College in Elmhurst, Queens. While studying there, he felt a call to respond to the vision of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America. Upon completion of his high school studies, he was accepted by the Society. When Ford reported to the Maryknoll seminary in Ossining, New York, on September 14, 1912, he became the first student of the fledgling Maryknoll Society. He was the first person to matriculate in this institution. He was ordained on December 5, 1917, and became one of the first four American Catholic priests to arrive in China in 1918.
In 1918 Ford began to serve in the Province of Canton (Guangdong), in southern China, and in 1921 opened the first Maryknoll mission in China. He was consecrated a bishop on September 21, 1935. During 20 years of serving in Kaying, Ford increased his flock from 9,000 to 20,000, and built schools, hostels, and churches. When World War II started, Kaying was surrounded by Japanese troops. Nevertheless, the bishop remained at his post, relieving war refugees in distress. The victory of Chinese Communist Party in October 1949 marked a major shift in the fate of the Catholic missions in China. In December 1950 the Communists placed Bishop Ford under house arrest and charged them with espionage. Though never tried, Ford was taken from his home four months later and publicly paraded, beaten and degraded in some of the cities in which he had done mission work since 1918. In one town, a Communist-orchestrated mob beating was so intense that even Ford’s Communist guards fled. Though knocked to the ground repeatedly, Ford continued to walk calmly through the crowd until his guards returned. In another town, his neck was bound with a wet rope which almost choked him as it dried and shrank. Another rope was made to trail from under his gown like a tail.
Ford died in a prison in Guangzhou on February 21, 1952. Bishop Ford is the cousin of another Roman Catholic Maryknoll martyr, Sister Ita Ford, M.M., who was tortured, raped and murdered in El Salvador by members of a military death squad along with fellow Catholic missionaries Maura Clarke, M.M., laywoman Jean Donovan, and Sister Dorothy Kazel, O.S.U., on December 2, 1980. She had previously worked with the poor and war refugees as a Maryknoll Sister missionary in Bolivia and Chile.
Saint of the day: Prayer begins at the edge of emptiness. (Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel)
Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.” Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: This passage follows immediately upon the passage where Jesus gradually gives sight to the blind man, the man’s sight improving little by little, a process metaphorically suggesting the disciples’ and our own slowness to recognize who Jesus is. In this passage, Jesus asks who the people say he is, and the disciples imply that though the people perceive something special, their eyes have not opened fully. But Peter’s eyes are wide open, and he understands exactly who Jesus is, even if he misunderstands Jesus mission. These verses from today’s gospel are an invitation to each of us to open our eyes and come to know who Jesus is.
Saint of the day: Francisco Marto (June 11, 1908–April 4, 1919) and his sister Jacinta Marto (March 11, 1910–February 20, 1920), together with their cousin, Lucia Santos (1907–2005) were the children from Aljustrel near Fátima, Portugal who reported witnessing three apparitions of an angel in 1916 and several apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1917.
The youngest children of Manuel and Olimpia Marto, Francisco and Jacinta were typical of Portuguese village children of that time. They were illiterate but had a rich oral tradition to rely on, and they worked with their cousin Lucia, taking care of the family’s sheep. According to Lucia’s memoirs, Francisco had a placid disposition, was somewhat musically inclined, and liked to be by himself to think. Jacinta was affectionate if a bit spoiled, and emotionally labile. She had a sweet singing voice and a gift for dancing. All three children gave up music and dancing after the visions began, believing that these and other recreational activities led to occasions of sin.
Following their experiences, their fundamental personalities remained the same. Francisco preferred to pray alone, as he said “to console Jesus for the sins of the world.” Jacinta was deeply affected by a terrifying vision of Hell reportedly shown to the children at the third apparition. She became deeply convinced of the need to save sinners through penance and sacrifice as the Virgin had reportedly instructed the children to do. All three children, but particularly Francisco and Jacinta, practiced stringent self-mortifications to this end.
The siblings were victims of the great 1918 influenza epidemic which swept through Europe. Both lingered for many months, insisting on walking to church to make Eucharistic devotions and prostrating themselves to pray for hours, kneeling with their heads on the ground as instructed by the angel who had first appeared to them.
Francisco declined hospital treatment and died peacefully at home, while Jacinta was dragged from one hospital to another in an attempt to save her life which she insisted was futile. She developed purulent pleurisy and endured an operation in which two of her ribs were removed. Because of the condition of her heart, she could not be anesthetized and suffered terrible pain, which she said would help to convert many sinners. On February 20, 1920, Jacinta asked the hospital chaplain who heard her confession to bring her Holy Communion and give her the Anointing of the Sick because she was going to die “this very night”. He told her that her condition was not that serious, and that he would return the next day. A few hours later Jacinta was dead. She had died, as she had often said she would, alone: not even a nurse was with her.
Spiritual reading: Those who are not prepared to take up the cross, those who are not prepared to give their life to suffering and rejection by others, lose community with Christ, and are not disciples. Discipleship is commitment to the suffering Christ. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
For those of us who are older, we can think back to times when communication and entertainment at home consisted of a radio and possibly a record player. Later there was television with small fuzzy black and white pictures which presented a picture to the whole world such as it was. A decade or so later came color television followed by all the progressions up to the present age of instantaneous news and contact throughout the whole world.
Today’s gospel gives us a similar look at the past and an understanding of the progress we should be making in our journey of loving God and neighbor. Jesus starts by quoting the biblical “ an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. This phrase has so often been quoted to justify so many things over the ages for the need for punishment, revenge to the death penalty. It is easy to forget this prescription was written for a small nation or federation of twelve tribes comprising the Jewish nation. The times were very harsh and the demands made on people were severe and at times odious. This phrase was never meant to prescribe what was to be done, but rather meant to rein in extreme actions by limiting the harshness and extremeness that revenge could take. Like all other things, God prepared the way but humanity was a progression, a work in progress, as they say today. The harshness and violence of ancient times has progressed somewhat today, and that progression is what the sermon on the mount is about.
Loving God and neighbor(which Jesus tells us includes all of humanity) is what it is about. Jesus was here moving from the black and white era of love and morality to the next era which is growing and calling on us today. The measure of our lives is much more complicated than a set of yes or no rules, black and white pictures to behold. We must measure ourselves today on how our love affects first oneself and secondly the other person and those other effected. Facing evil, turning the other cheek, tolerating injustice, or working to change bad or evil things are hard and often gut wrenching things to do. Removing selfishness from our actions is not always easy. Changing people isn’t either. God looks over all of us hoping the best for the bad as well as the good. His patience is perfect, in contrast to our imperfection. His understanding far surpasses ours. Yet Jesus calls us to perfection.
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” part of the Sermon has so often been used to justify the opposite of the very love it calls for. Far from calling for punishment it calls for love and forgiveness. If someone is evil or disruptive we are charged to love and handle it in a loving way. But the question arises whether we should employ those harshest limits that Christ referred to when he said to love your enemies and those who hate you. Would a person today buy a black and white TV? Well then I ask, are the moral prescriptions of over 3000 years ago with all the antagonisms of place and time and mindsets of culture really what we want to espouse today? Today, they talk of executing people in a way that it doesn’t look brutal. Yet ripping a soul from a body is brutal however you do it. In many ways, humanity has progressed, but I think today as we pause and pray, Christ’s law of love gives us much to think and pray about.
When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida, people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked, “Do you see anything?” Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.” Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly. Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: There is a metaphorical quality to the healing narrative that we read in today’s gospel. The blind man does not see all at once. Opening his eyes and being able to see clearly only happens bit by bit. In the gospels, like the blind man, Jesus’ disciples come to understand who Jesus is (that is, to see him clearly) only slowly. For them, as for us, coming to see Jesus more clearly, following him more nearly, and loving him more dearly are gradual processes. Sometimes they come slowly; sometimes, quickly. But then as now they always materialize when we seek them.
Saint of the day: Father Romano Bottegal was a Cistercian Hermit who was born in Italy in 1921. He was the youngest of six children of a very poor family. In July 1938 he made a perpetual vow of chastity and consecration to Merciful Love. From an early age he was attracted by the monastic life, but realized his calling only after ordination to the priesthood in 1946. He entered the abbey of Tre Fontane in 1946 and professed solemn vows in 1951. In 1964 he was granted special permission to lead an hermetical life in Jabbouleh in the Lebanon. From 1969 to 1973 he led an hermetical life in Israel and Lebanon. Several times his hermitage was looted and even burned. One night he was arrested by Syrian soldiers. Father Romano believed that the best apostolate among the Muslims was a life of poverty, prayer, and work. He ate only wheat, boiled rice, and bread. He consecrated the majority of the time for prayer and meditation on the word of God. The inhabitants of the region considered him holy and his example challenged them to wonder how they could live a life so poor and austere. They were sure that God would bless them with his presence. In 1976 he began his life as a recluse. Stricken with tuberculosis and exhausted by privation, he died on the February 19, 1978 in Beirut. He was 56-years-old. He is buried in the Cathedral of St Barbara at Baalbeck. Near his hermitage stands today a contemplative convent which continues the work he began. He was declared venerable in December 2013.
Spiritual reading: Treat everyone you meet as if he or she were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness, and understanding you can muster, and do so with no thought of reward. Your life will never be the same. (Og Mandino)
The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” They concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread. When he became aware of this he said to them, “Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?” They answered him, “Twelve.” “When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?” They answered him, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
Reflection on the gospel: The two passages that precede this one treat the miracle of the loaves and the Pharisees’ request, despite the evidence of their eyes, for a new sign. When Jesus enjoins the disciples to guard against the leaven of the Pharisees, he encourages the disciples to have hearts that are open and full of wonder at all the signs that surround them that God, indeed and after all, loves them and has taken care of their every need.
Saint of the day: Born in Zamora, Michoacán, Mexico in 1864, Francisco Orozco y Jimenez was the son of José María Orozco Jimenez Cepeda and Mariana Quiroz. He was baptized by his uncle, a priest of the parish of La Luz de Guanajuato. He lost his mother when he was nine-years-old. He left for Rome at 12 to study for the priesthood. He received the highest grades in philosophy among his classmates at the Gregorian University. Ordained a priest in 1887, he taught in seminaries and received a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of Mexico in 1896. He knew Italian, Portuguese, French, Spanish, English, and two Native American languages, Tzotzil and Cachiquil.
At 38-years-old, Orozco was ordained a bishop at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1902 and became bishop of Chiapas. He oversaw the construction and restoration of churches and chapels in his diocese, rebuilt the local seminary, opened an orphanage and a hospital, and invited various religious orders to come and serve in the parishes of his diocese. He had substantial personal wealth which he inherited and made a large donation to the city of Chiapas to purchase electrical lights and provide public services. Throughout his life, he gave away so much money that he died a poor man.
Orozco became archbishop of Guadalajara in 1913. Religious persecution by the government of Mexico began in 1914 and led Orozco to flee to the United States and Rome. He secretly returned to Mexico in 1916 under an alias to continue working among his people. The government captured and exiled him in the summer of 1918., but he returned 15 month later. The government expelled him once again in 1924 but allowed him to return the following year. Shortly after President Calles promulgated his harsh anti-Catholic laws in February 1926, government workers broke into Orozco’s home and stole valuable possessions. By October, the government ordered his arrest, and the bishop had to flee and hide, suffering poverty, privations, and sickness. Still, the archbishop never ceased to minister to his people personally and by letters. At the end of the Cristero Rebellion in 1929, the archbishop came out of hiding only to have to flee the country when the government broke the treaty and slaughtered those who opposed the government. He visited Rome and preached and lectured widely in London and the U.S. He snuck back in Mexico in March 1930 but only ventured back to his diocese in August 1934 as he felt his life beginning to slip away. He remained in hiding as he moved from place to place to serve the people of the diocese. He suffered a heart attack on February 3, 1936 and died on February 18. The entire city of Guadalajara came to the cathedral to pay their respects.
Spiritual reading: Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. (Carl Sagan)