Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 18, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 9:22-25

Jesus said to his disciples: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”

Reflection on the gospel: The text here is rich in implications: Jesus talks about his rejection and then talks about picking up the cross. Being misunderstood and even rejected does not feel good, but when we risk being misunderstood and even rejected for the sake of the gospel, we embrace the gospel and imitate Christ. The elders, chief priests, and scribes, of course, were the religious authorities of Jesus’ day, but Jesus’ vision of the truth led him to reject their leadership and set out on a path that the Father had revealed to him. In an age when many religious leaders are turning to stale and lifeless teachings, we must be bold in our proclamation of the vision that the Father gives us and tenaciously hold to our prophetic mission even as Jesus tenaciously held to his prophetic mission, even if it risks death, yes, death even on a cross.

Saint of the day: John of Fiesole, the patron of Christian artists, was born around 1400 in a village overlooking Florence. He took up painting as a young boy and studied under the watchful eye of a local painting master. He joined the Dominicans at about age 20, taking the name Fra Giovanni. He eventually came to be known as Fra Angelico, perhaps a tribute to his own angelic qualities or maybe the devotional tone of his works.

He continued to study painting and perfect his own techniques, which included broad-brush strokes, vivid colors and generous, lifelike figures. Michelangelo once said of Fra Angelico: “One has to believe that this good monk has visited paradise and been allowed to choose his models there.” Whatever his subject matter, Fra Angelico sought to generate feelings of religious devotion in response to his paintings. Among his most famous works are the Annunciation and Descent from the Cross as well as frescoes in the monastery of San Marco in Florence.

He also served in leadership positions within the Dominican Order. At one point Pope Eugenius approached him about serving as archbishop of Florence. Fra Angelico declined, preferring a simpler life. He died in 1455.

Spiritual reading: The world is not full of evil because of those who do wrong. It is full of evil because of those who do nothing. (Albert Einstein)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 17, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: On this Ash Wednesday, the gospel calls us to reflect on the meaning of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Today’s reading addresses three pillars of religious practice among Jesus’ people, and by extension and adoption, among us who are Jesus’ followers. Those three practices are almsgiving, prayer, and penance. There is a common theme among the three. Yes, Jesus encourages us to give to the poor, pray, and repent, but he tells us to do each of these things in a way that does not draw attention to ourselves. When we do these things to gain the admiration of other people, we have received our reward. Our religious practice is to be a relationship between God and ourselves: it is not to make us look better in the eyes of other people. The passage from Matthew, as we enter into Lent, emphasizes the importance of doing all these things quietly and in a way that only God sees. Let us give freely to the poor. Let us pray continuously in our hearts. Let us do penance for the injuries we do to our relationship with God. But let us make of each of these practices a truly religious practice between God and ourselves.

Ash Wednesday: Ash Wednesday is the Wednesday 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays and the Triduum.) The name dies cinerum (day of ashes) which it bears in the Roman Missal is found in the earliest existing copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary and probably dates from at least the eighth century. On this day all the faithful according to ancient custom are exhorted to approach the altar before the beginning of Mass, and there the priest, dipping his thumb into ashes previously blessed, marks the forehead in the sign of the cross, saying the words: “Remember man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” The ashes used in this ceremony are made by burning the remains of the palms blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. In the blessing of the ashes four prayers are used, all of them ancient. The ashes are sprinkled with holy water and fumigated with incense. The celebrant himself receives, either standing or seated, the ashes from someone else. In earlier ages a penitential procession often followed the rite of the distribution of the ashes, but this is not now prescribed.

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)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 16, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 8:14-21

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: This is a difficult and cramped passage, one that is not easy to understand. It essentially emphasizes the lack of understanding by the pharisees and disciples alike. Neither of them has a true understanding of who Jesus is and what his actions mean. Moreover, they doubt his power. So too it is with us. We often confess his power with our lips but doubt in our hearts its relevance in our lives. Becoming people who trust God is a difficult task, but practice makes perfect, and reliance on God’s power today will bring about great things for us.

Saint of the day: Maternal nephew of St. Joseph Cafasso, Joseph Allamano was born in Castenuovo d’Asti on January 21, 1851. He did his first years of primary school at Valdocco, under the guidance of Don Bosco. At the age of 22 he was ordained priest in Turin. Immediately following the ordination, he was put in charge of other seminarians under formation. At the age of 29, he was appointed as rector of the biggest Marian shrine in the city of Turin, the one dedicated to Our Lady Consolata. At the same time he was charged to lead the newly ordained priests of the diocese.

Fr. Allamano founded the Institute of Consolata Missionaries on January 29, 1901 in Turin. The event was then documented in the shrine bulletin as follows: “The devotion to Consolata will not only be contemplative but also active,” which implied that with the Consolata missions, the Marian shrine acquired a universal dimension. In May 1902, he bade farewell to the first four missionaries who left Torino for Kenya. The first group consisted of two priests and two brothers.

In 1910, Joseph Allamano founded the congregation of the Consolata Sisters. He died in Turin on the 16th February 1926. His remains lie in the church of Blessed Joseph Allamano, adjacent to the motherhouse of the Consolata Missionaries in Torino.

Spiritual reading: Help all without discrimination, friend and foe alike. Everyone is our neighbor. (Blessed Mother Angela Truszkowska )

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 15, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore.

Reflection on the gospel: In the passage that precedes this one, Jesus has fed the 4,000, and yet the pharisees at such a moment come to him asking for a sign. In their spiritual blindness, they refuse to see who Jesus is and what he is doing. Mark frequently tells us about the feelings that Jesus experiences. Here, the Pharisees ask for a sign, and Jesus expresses his exasperation both in what he says (“No sign will be given”) and in what he does (takes off in the boat.) It is the richness and familiarity of Jesus’ humanity that Mark shows us even as he describes the wonderful things Jesus did and said. As we move through our day today, let us strive to know the Lord ever more accurately and acutely in our own hearts and thoughts, putting off our own spiritual blindness and seeking to make the vision of Jesus central to our existence.

Saint of the day: Saint Claude de la Colombière, S.J., who was born in Grenoble, France on February 2, 1641, was the confessor of Saint Margaret-Marie Alacoque. His feast day is the day of his death, February 15. He was a missionary and ascetical writer, born of noble parentage.

He entered the Society of Jesus in 1659. After fifteen years of religious life in the Jesuits, he made a vow, as a means of attaining the utmost possible perfection, to observe faithfully the Rule and Constitutions of his order under penalty of sin. Those who lived with him attested that this vow was kept with great exactitude.

In 1674 Claude was made superior at the Jesuit house at Paray-le-Monial, where he became the spiritual director of Saint Margaret-Marie Alacoque and was thereafter a zealous apostle of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1676 he was sent to England as preacher to Mary of Modena, Duchess of York, afterwards Queen of Great Britain. He lived the life of a Religious even in the Court of St. James and was as active a missionary in England as he had been in France. Although encountering many difficulties, he was able to guide Saint Margaret Mary by letter.

His zeal soon weakened his vitality and a throat and lung trouble seemed to threaten his work as a preacher. While awaiting his recall to France he was suddenly arrested and thrown into prison, denounced as a conspirator. Thanks to his title of preacher to the Duchess of York and to the protection of the King of France, Louis XIV, whose subject Claude was, he escaped death but was condemned to exile in 1679. The last two years of his life were spent at Lyon where he was spiritual director to the young Jesuits, and at Paray-le-Monial, where he repaired for his health. He died February 15, 1682 in France of natural causes. He was beatified in 1929 and canonized in 1992.

Spiritual reading: Perfection consists in doing the will of God, not in understanding his designs. (Claude de la Colombiere, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 14, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 6:17, 20-26

Jesus came down with the twelve and stood on a stretch of level ground with a great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon. And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: I don’t know about you, but this gospel passage always makes me uncomfortable. It is a real challenge to us Christians who live in material comfort.

The passage we read today from Luke’s gospel commences the Sermon on the Plain. It is a shorter but roughly parallel list of sayings with material comparable to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Like the Sermon on the Mount, the Sermon on the Plain begins with the Beatitudes, but while Matthew offers us eight Beatitudes, Luke gives only four but complements these Beatitudes with four woes.

Luke’s gospel is the gospel of material poverty, and the Beatitudes in Luke reflect this. In Matthew’s beatitudes, Jesus speaks about spiritual poverty, that is, an interior freedom that disposes us to do God’s will, a poverty that, in other words, may or may not be material. Luke’s approach is fundamentally different. Jesus in Luke tells the poor to rejoice for their condition, not just because of the blessings that God gives to them because they are poor people but also because the rich have had their reward.

We Americans live in a country that has been immensely blessed. Those of us who live in the middle class may not feel rich, but if we have a little money in a bank account and a jar somewhere in our houses filled with coins, we actually have much more than most of the people of the earth. It is easy to dismiss what we read here in this passage and cling to the notion of spiritual poverty, but I think it should fill us with dread caution to remember how much we have been given and what is demanded of those who have been given much.

Spiritual reading: Our actions have a tongue of their own; they have an eloquence of their own, even when the tongue is silent. For deeds prove the lover more than words. (Cyril of Jerusalem)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 13, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 8:1-10

In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat, Jesus summoned the disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance.” His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?” Still he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They replied, “Seven.” He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to distribute, and they distributed them to the crowd. They also had a few fish. He said the blessing over them and ordered them distributed also. They ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over—seven baskets. There were about four thousand people. He dismissed the crowd and got into the boat with his disciples and came to the region of Dalmanutha.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospels strongly reflect the ritual life of the early Christian community, and we see in this passage clear implications of the Eucharist. The Lord takes loaves, breaks them, and gives them to the disciples: exactly the same actions he takes during the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Note what happens to the people when they receive this bread: they eat and are satisfied. So it is with the Eucharist: we multitudes in this time and we multitudes across the centuries eat this bread, and it satisfies our hearts.

Saint of the day: In the same year that a power-hungry Napoleon Bonaparte led his army into Russia, 1812, Giles Mary of St. Joseph ended a life of humble service to his Franciscan community and to the citizens of Naples.

Francesco was born on November 16, 1729 in Taranto to very poor parents. His father’s death left the 18-year-old Francesco to care for the family. Having secured their future, he entered the Friars Minor at Galatone in 1754. He wished to become a priest, but lacked the education, and was received as a lay brother. For 53 years he served at St. Paschal’s Hospice in Naples in various roles, such as cook, porter, or most often, as official beggar for that community. As Porter and gate-keeper at his monastery’s seminary, he was in constant contact with those in need.

“Love God, love God” was his characteristic phrase as he gathered food for the friars and shared some of his bounty with the poor—all the while consoling the troubled and urging everyone to repent. The charity which he reflected on the streets of Naples was born in prayer and nurtured in the common life of the friars. The people whom Giles met on his begging rounds nicknamed him the “Consoler of Naples.” He was canonized in 1996.

Spiritual reading: Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him….He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me to strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me; still He knows what He is about. (John Cardinal Newman)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 12, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 7:31-37

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” — And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Most scholars of the New Testament believe that Matthew and Luke each had a copy of Mark’s gospel in front of him when he wrote his own gospel. What is unusual about the story we receive today from Mark’s gospel about the healing of the deaf mute is that neither Matthew nor Luke chose to use this narrative when he wrote his gospel.

There are some elements of the story that perhaps suggest why Matthew and Luke did not record this healing in their gospels. Jesus employs six ritual actions with magical connotations for the Hellenistic world in his healing of the man: he takes the man aside, puts hands in the man’s ears, spits, touches the tongue, groans deeply, and commands a healing. These intimations of the behaviors of a Gentile magician to affect a cure might have troubled Matthew and Luke.

But there are elements of the story that Matthew and Luke might have overlooked when they chose to ignore the story. First, Jesus was traveling in the Gentile region of Tyre and Sidon, and so he employs acculturated actions to heal the man since he mimics the behaviors of the Hellenistic magicians. In other words, Jesus enters the culture of the communities where he is to find rituals that are meaningful to the people around him. But even more, he proves himself entirely superior to such magicians he mimics because ultimately, the healing that Jesus works relies not on the ritualistic actions he performs but on his powerful word, “Be opened.”

Baptism_-_Marcellinus_and_PeterBut there is still another way to understand this text, and it is one with implications for us as Christians since Jesus’ method of healing recalls certain ritual actions of the baptismal ceremony. Ambrose, the great late fourth century bishop from northern Italy, provides us the first intimation that the priest, during baptism, placed his hands in the ears of the person being baptized “to open them to the words” the priest says, and a 12th century text from the same tradition refers to the use of spittle in the rite. Indeed, the touching of ears and placement of spittle on the tongue were for long years a part of the baptismal ceremony of the Church, and in the ancient Church occurred during an invocation of the Holy Spirit on the person to receive baptism. The touching of the ears continues in today’s baptismal ceremony.

This gives us a viewpoint to look at this text in a way that fills it up with meaning for our own situations as baptized persons. When the man comes to Jesus in today’s reading, he cannot hear, neither can he speak clearly. Similarly, before the grace of our baptism, we cannot hear the word of God nor speak plainly about the truth of our lives. It is through our baptism, with its gift of the Holy Spirit, that we receive the power to hear the Word of God and proclaim it. With the gifts of Jesus’ healing through our baptism, we, like the deaf man and those who observed the healing, herald the message of the messiah’s entry into human history just as did John the Baptist, the disciples, and the post-resurrection community. Jesus tries to restrain the healed man in today’s gospel from telling anyone, but the more he tries to restrain him, the louder the healed man announces it. Indeed, he was under an internal impulse to proclaim the good news: he simply could not do otherwise than he did. And such too is our own condition: if we really are excited about the gospel, we have little choice but to tell the good news we have received.

Saint of the day: Today we honor a group of martyrs consisting of James Fenn, John Nutter, John Munden, and Thomas Hemerford, who were martyred in 1584 at Tyburn, England and beatified in 1929. While they died during the same persecution and were beatified at the same time, they are not included among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

James Fenn was born in Montacute near Yeovil, Somerset, and was educated at Corpus Christi College and Gloucester Hall at Oxford. He became a school master and married. Upon his wife’s death, he studied in Rheims and was ordained to the priesthood in 1580.

John Nutter was born near Burnley, Lancastershire, and was a fellow of Saint John’s College, Cambridge. He studied for the priesthood at Rheims and was ordained in 1581.

John Munden, a native of Coltley, South Maperton, Dorset, studied at New College, Oxford, became a school master, went to Rheims and to Rome for his ecclesiastical training and was ordained in 1582.

Thomas Hemerford, a native of Dorsetshire, was educated at Saint John’s College and Hart Hall, Oxford. He studied for the priesthood at the English College in Rome, where he was ordained in 1583–just a year before his death.

Spiritual reading: God, deliver me from sullen saints. (Teresa of Avila)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 11, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 7:24-30

Jesus went to the district of Tyre. He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it, but he could not escape notice. Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus came into the world as a person embedded in a time and place with a distinctive culture. For a Jew of his day, interactions with non-Jews were fraught with the peril of becoming ritually impure. In this exchange with the Syrophoenician woman, we see the weight of Jesus’ cultural heritage on his behavior: he declines to help this Gentile woman. But it is not this initial impulse that should impress us; rather, it is Jesus’ willingness to move beyond the boundaries of the familiar into the uncharted territory. Yes, like all of us, Jesus as a human being experienced impulses rooted in the cultural biases of his people, but unlike many of us, he was willing to listen, learn, grow, and transcend the shackles of his heritage to try something bold, new, daring, and radical when viewed from within the prism of his people’s culture. To be able to do this, Jesus needed to cultivate an interior freedom. Jesus’ example is a challenge to all of us to be open, detached, and willing to look at things with fresh eyes that yields to human impulses more fundamental than our cultural perspectives.

Saint of the day: On February 11, 1858, a young lady appeared to 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous. This began a series of visions. During the apparition on March 25, the lady identified herself with the words: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Bernadette was a sickly child of poor parents. Their practice of the Catholic faith was scarcely more than lukewarm. Bernadette could pray the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Creed. She also knew the prayer of the Miraculous Medal: “O Mary conceived without sin.”

During interrogations, Bernadette gave an account of what she saw. It was “something white in the shape of a girl.” She used the word aquero, a dialect term meaning “this thing.” It was “a pretty young girl with a rosary over her arm.” Her white robe was encircled by a blue girdle. She wore a white veil. There was a yellow rose on each foot. A rosary was in her hand. Bernadette was also impressed by the fact that the lady did not use the informal form of address (tu), but the polite form (vous). The humble virgin appeared to a humble girl and treated her with dignity.

Through that humble girl, Mary revitalized and continues to revitalize the faith of millions of people. People began to flock to Lourdes from other parts of France and from all over the world. A statue of the Madonna of Lourdes was erected at the site in 1864. Soon the previous chapel structure was replaced with a pilgrimage basilica. Bernadette Soubirous entered the Monastery of Nevers in 1866 and was canonized a Saint in 1933. Yearly from March to October the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is the place of mass pilgrimages from Europe and other parts of the world. The spring water from the grotto is believed by many to possess healing properties. An estimated 200 million people have visited the shrine since 1860, and the Church has officially recognized 67 miracle healings. Especially impressive are candlelight and sacrament processions. Tours from all over the world are organized to visit the Sanctuary.

Spiritual reading: Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do. (John XXIII)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 10, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 7:14-23

Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”

When he got home away from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, “Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) “But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him. From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In the passage of the gospel we read today Jesus makes clear that it is what is in our hearts that is important. Surely, our religious practice can influence our interior attitudes, but it isn’t these things that make us whole. The unequivocal message of the gospel is that we are to live lives free of hypocrisy. As Jesus says in the Book of Revelation to the church at Laodicea, “I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Saint of the day: Today is the memorial of St. Scholastica. Twins often share the same interests and ideas with an equal intensity. Therefore, it is no surprise that Scholastica and her twin brother, Benedict, established religious communities within a few miles from each other.

Born in 480 of wealthy parents, Scholastica and Benedict were brought up together until he left central Italy for Rome to continue his studies.

Little is known of Scholastica’s early life. She founded a religious community for women near Monte Cassino at Plombariola, five miles from where her brother governed a monastery.

The twins visited each other once a year in a farmhouse because Scholastica was not permitted inside the monastery. They spent these times discussing spiritual matters.

According to the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great, the brother and sister spent their last day together in prayer and conversation. Scholastica sensed her death was close at hand and she begged Benedict to stay with her until the next day.

He refused her request because he did not want to spend a night outside the monastery, thus breaking his own Rule. Scholastica asked God to let her brother remain and a severe thunderstorm broke out, preventing Benedict and his monks from returning to the abbey.

Benedict cried out, “God forgive you, Sister. What have you done?” Scholastica replied, “I asked a favor of you and you refused. I asked it of God and he granted it.”

Brother and sister parted the next morning after their long discussion. Three days later, Benedict was praying in his monastery and saw the soul of his sister rising heavenward in the form of a white dove. Benedict then announced the death of his sister to the monks and later buried her in the tomb he had prepared for himself.

Spiritual reading: Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies. (Mother Teresa)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 9, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 7:1-13

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.) So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:

This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” He went on to say, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said,

Honor your father and your mother, and whoever curses father or mother shall die.

Yet you say, ‘If someone says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’ (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: There are many ways to read scripture. If we read this passage critically, that is, with a scholarly eye to what the author’s choices mean, it teaches us one set of facts. If we this passage for its inspiration, it teaches us another set of facts.

A critical reading of the text tells us something important about the Gospel of Mark. The author of the gospel appears to be Jewish because he is familiar with a Hebrew word and Jewish customs like the purification rituals. But because he is explaining a Hebrew term and Jewish practices to his readers, his audience logically does not seem to be Jewish, since if they were Jewish, there would be no reason to explain these things. Since first century Christians who were not Jews were Gentiles, passages like this one suggest to scholars that the audience of the Gospel of Mark was Gentile Christians.

Of course, the audience of the gospel evident in this passage is an interesting aside. The deeper point of this passage is about the difference between our actions and our hearts. Jesus makes clear that God does not value meaningless performances; God values what we mean by what we do. What we do is not unimportant, but unless we put our hearts into it, God does not esteem it. So love what you do, and do nothing religiously that has no meaning for you. If nothing you do religiously is meaningful for you, look for something that is, or find a way to fill your religious behaviors with meaning. Be transformed.

To illustrate this, let me relate a story about Abba Joseph of Panephysis, one of the desert fathers:

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?” Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”

You see, Abba Lot had many fine pious practices that were a part of his daily routine, but when he asked Abba Joseph what else he could do, Abba Joseph told him to throw his whole self into it. It’s good advice.

Saint of the day: Born in November, 1854 at Cuenca, Ecuador, Miguel Febres Cordero Muñoz, was a member of a prominent family. Born with an unknown disability, he was unable to stand until age five when he received a vision of Our Lady. At age eight, he was miraculously protected from being mauled by a wild bull. In 1863, at age nine, he enrolled in a school run by the Christian Brothers, a congregation that had only recently come to Ecuador. He joined the Brothers in 1868 at age 13.

A school teacher at El Cebollar School, Quito, a position he held for 32 years, Miguel was a gentle, dedicated, and enthusiastic teacher. He wrote his own textbooks, the first at age 17; some were adopted by the government, and used throughout the country. He wrote odes, hymns, discourses on teaching methods, plays, inspirational works, and retreat manuals. Elected to the Ecuadoran Academy of Letters in 1892, he soon after became a member of the Academies of Spain, France, and Venezuela. He conducted religious retreats and prepared children for their First Communion. He served as novice director for his house from 1901 to 1904.

Sent to Europe in 1905 to translate texts from French to Spanish for use by the Order, he worked primarily in Belgium. His health began to fail in 1908, and he was transferred to the school near Barcelona, Spain. He continued to work, but slowly, his health continued to fail, and he died there in 1910. In addition to being a religious role model, Miguel is considered a national hero in Ecuador for his success in so many worthwhile areas.

Spiritual reading: Teach us how to love, and here we come to the sixty-four thousand dollar question: Is loving an emotion? Is love a state? Or is it a Person? It is the person of the Carpenter who spent thirty years in a village of no account. Teach us how to love a Person, because love is a Person. (Catherine Doherty)