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Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:38-42

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 to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage that the Church offers us today is about the dignity of Jesus’ followers. The notion that we should fail to offer resistance might at first thought seem a sign of weakness, and it is certainly contrary both to our basic impulses and the wisdom of the world. Does not great provocation and injustice call on us to offer active resistance to injury? To strike when we have been hit; kick back, when kicked; bite, when bitten? But Jesus invites us to something both greater and deeper: to not live at the level of those who harm others even when natural justice affords us the right to inflict hurt in return for hurt. Our resistance then, as Christians, is to witness to the dignity of the human person by the strength implicit in our silence before provocations by those who yield to

Saint of the day: Joseph the Hymnographer was born in about 810. He was the most prolific of the Greek hymn writers. A native of Sicily, he was forced to leave his island in 830 in the wake of an invasion by the Arabs, journeying to Thessalonica and then to Constantinople. He abandoned the Byzantine capital in 841 to escape the severe Iconoclast persecution, but on his way to Rome he was captured by pirates and held for several years in Crete as a slave. Finally escaping, he returned to Constantinople and founded a monastery. For his ardent defense of the icons, he was sent into exile in the Chersonese. Joseph is credited with the composition of about one thousand canons. He died in 886 of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: There are people who suffer terrible distress, and they cannot tell anyone of it, and they go about full of suffering. But if you meet them with a kindly countenance, you may lighten their load with your joy. And it is no small thing to cheer another. (Martin Buber)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 7:36-50

A certain Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what 88 - The Parable of the Two Debtorssort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said.

“Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?”

Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: On this 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we have today a passage that appears uniquely in Luke’s gospel. The passage depicts a dichotomy in the visions of the moral life, ethical life as a response to divinely mandated legislation and ethical life as a relationship with God. In Simon’s view, the woman who presents herself to Jesus is defiled by her history of sin, but in Jesus’ view, what happened before is not important: all that matters is her relationship with God right here and right now. God does not legislate rules for our behavior; rather, God continually loves us into existence and calls us to respond with joy and acceptance of this gift which we each have received. All of us rely on the saving work of Jesus to gain access to the Father’s presence.

feather on the breath of GodSpiritual reading: Underneath all the texts, all the sacred psalms and canticles, these watery varieties of sounds and silences, terrifying, mysterious, whirling and sometimes gestating and gentle must somehow be felt in the pulse, ebb, and flow of the music that sings in me. My new song must float like a feather on the breath of God. (Hildegard of Bingen)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the Evil One.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel reading for the day is about our personal integrity and the reliability of our word. Say, “Yes,” when we mean, “Yes,” and, “No,” when we mean, “No.” Our vocations as Christians are to live and speak truthfully. Jesus tells us that we do not need to make oaths, because our integrity is a sufficient guarantee of what we promise. This does not mean that we need to tell everyone everything, but it does mean that whatever we say and do is trustworthy.

Saint of the day: Stephen Bandelli was born in 1369 in Italy into a noble family. Little is known of his early years except that he applied for admission to the Dominicans in his hometown and received the habit while still very young. Stephen earned a degree in canon law and a master’s degree in theology, and lectured at the University of Pavia. He was a man of superior intellect and a careful student. Tradition holds that he was “another Saint Paul,” and that his sermons were effective in bringing many Christians to a more fervent life and many sinners back into the fold. Aside from this, tradition holds that he was prayerful, penitential, had a spirit of poverty, was charitable, and was a model religious. When Stephen died in 1450, he was buried in the Dominican church of Saluzzo.

Spiritual reading: Beg our Lord to grant you perfect love for your neighbor. If someone else is well spoken of, be more pleased than if it were yourself; this is easy enough, for if you were really humble, it would vex you to be praised . . . Comply in all things with others’ wishes, though you lose your own rights. Forget your self-interests for theirs, however much nature may rebel. (Teresa of Ávila)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:27-32

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

“It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus’ teaching on divorce is quite hard, but for various good scholarly reasons it does seem that he was opposed to divorce and remarriage. If we look at scripture as a set of propositions without any greater context, we would have to conclude that divorce and remarriage are forbidden.

But in fact, Jesus lived in a time and a place with a concrete set of circumstances, and even the teaching on divorce is not as easy to understand as we might first think it to be. Women in Jesus’ time relied on their husbands for their well-being, and though a man could divorce a woman, a woman neither could divorce a man nor resist the divorce. In Jesus’ time, if a man divorced his wife, the woman, without any economic power, much more often than not descended into the deepest poverty without hope of recovery.

It seems quite possible that our Lord when he condemns divorce was reflecting on the social and cultural circumstances of his day. His preoccupation with the plight of the poor no doubt led him to conclude that divorce forced women into untenable situations. Given the situation of the day, he challenged a system that forced powerless women into poverty.

Of course, in our time, women have the right to divorce, and they have economic power. The social and cultural system is different, and therefore, the moral obligations must fit the needs of our own situation.

Saint of the day: All we know of Barnabas is to be found in the New Testament. A Jew, born in Cyprus and named Joseph, he sold his property and gave the proceeds to the Apostles, who gave him the name Barnabas. He lived in common with the earliest converts to Christianity in Jerusalem. He persuaded the community there to accept Paul as a disciple; was sent to Antioch, Syria to look into the community there; and brought Paul there from Tarsus. With Paul, he brought Antioch’s donation to the Jerusalem community during a famine and returned to Antioch with John Mark, his cousin. The three went on a missionary journey to Cyprus, Perga (when John Mark went to Jerusalem) and Antioch in Pisidia, where they were so violently opposed by the Jews that they decided to preach to the pagans. Then they went on to Iconium and Lystra in Lycaonia, where they were first acclaimed gods, then stoned out of the city, and then returned to Antioch in Syria.

When a dispute arose regarding the observance of the Jewish rites, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem, where at a council, it was decided that pagans did not have to be circumcised to be baptized. On their return to Antioch, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark on another visitation to the cities where they had preached, but Paul objected because of John Mark’s desertion of them in Perga. Paul and Barnabas parted, and Barnabas returned to Cyprus with Mark; nothing further is heard of him, though it is believed his rift with Paul was ultimately healed. Tradition has Barnabas preaching in Alexandria and Rome, the founder of the Cypriote Church, the Bishop of Milan (which he was not), and has him stoned to death at Salamis about the year 61. The apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas was long attributed to him, but modern scholarship now attributes it to a Christian in Alexandria between the years 70 and 100; the Gospel of Barnabas is probably by an Italian Christian who became a Moslem; and the Acts of Barnabas once attributed to John Mark are now known to have been written in the fifth century.

Spiritual reading: It is for the prodigal son that the Father lays out his banquet. If the son had lived economically, he would not have thought of returning. (“Prodigal Sons” by Simone Weil)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus unfolds in the Sermon on the Mount his treatment of the fundamental characteristics of Christian life. In the section that precedes this, we read the Beatitudes where Jesus called us to compassion, gentleness, justice, and clear-sightedness. In the passage, he called us to a lively faith lived in relationship with others. In yesterday’s reading, he called us to faithfulness and constancy. And here in the reading from today’s gospel, he calls us to forgiveness and reconciliation.

All of these patterns of Christian life address who we are as people who are connected to other people. Compassion, gentleness, justice, witness, faithfulness, and reconciliation all are about how we live with others. Christian life ultimately and primarily is a set of relationships through and in which we discover the Lord. And that discovery presupposes a particular way we live with one another.

Saint of the day: Edward Joannes Maria Poppe was born in Temse in 1890 as the third child and eldest son of a baker. He studied at the college of Sint-Niklaas from 1905 until 1910, where he was a member of De Klauwaerts, a Flemish student association in the Flemish Movement of before World War I.

Although his father died in 1907, he was able to continue his studies and to go to the seminary in 1910 to become a priest. He studied Thomism at the Catholic University of Louvain. Influenced by the works of Louis de Montfort, he became devoted to the Blessed Mother. In 1913, he moved to the Great Seminar of Ghent, where he became a member of Filioli Caritatis, a group of young priests aiming for priestly sanctity.

When the war started in 1914, Poppe was called to arms, but fell sick in Bourlers, part of Chimay. After strengthening again in Temse, he went to the seminar of Mechelen, which stayed open. Finally, on May 1, 1916, he was ordained a priest. His motto was “Accendatur” – “May the fire be kindled,” referring to Luke 12:49.

Poppe became the parish associate pastor in Sint-Coleta, a poor laborers’ parish in Ghent. He started a communion bond for the youngest children, introducing them to many aspects of Christianity. Poppe also chose to live in severe poverty and to be like one of his parishers.

Exhausted, due to his way of living and his weak health, he was transferred to a monastery in Moerzeke. Mostly confined to his bed, he wrote numerous texts for the “Eucharistische Kruistocht” (“Eucharistic Crusade”) of the Averbode Abbey, often appearing in the popular youth magazine Zonneland.

When his health slightly improved, he was appointed as spiritual leader of the military school in Leopoldsburg in 1922. A cardiac crisis in 1923, when visiting his mother with Christmas, made it impossible for him to return to Leopoldsburg, and he again was confined to the monastery of Moerzeke. He died there on June 10, 1924.

Spiritual reading: The one who is always alone is worthy of God, and to the one who is always at home is God present, and in that one who stands always in the present does God the Father bear the Son unceasingly. (Meister Eckhart)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The evangelist Matthew wrote his gospel for Jews who had come to believe that Jesus was the messiah. These Jewish believers were anxious that what they were doing was not a rejection of Judaism. This passage from the Sermon on the Mount seeks to reassure these early Jewish believers in Jesus that what they were doing was not a replacement but an upgrade of their earlier practice. In this passage, Jesus tells us that he came to reveal the deepest spirit of the law, and it is in obedience to the spirit of the law that we shall find our way into the presence of God. Its presence in our Lenten renewal is a reminder that our Christian life is ever to deepen into the bedrock of our existence as we recommit ourselves to our baptismal promises.

Saint of the day: Saint Ephram lived in the fourth century, having been in about 306. Poet, teacher, orator and defender of the faith, Ephrem is the only Syrian recognized as a doctor of the Church. He took upon himself the special task of opposing the many false doctrines rampant at his time, always remaining a true and forceful defender of the Catholic Church.

Born in Nisibis, Mesopotamia, he was baptized as a young man and became famous as a teacher in his native city. When the Christian emperor had to cede Nisibis to the Persians, Ephrem, along with many Christians, fled as a refugee to Edessa. He is credited with attracting great glory to the biblical school there. He was ordained a deacon but declined becoming a priest (and was said to have avoided episcopal consecration by feigning madness!).

He had a prolific pen and his writings best illumine his holiness. Although he was not a man of great scholarship, his works reflect deep insight and knowledge of the Scriptures. In writing about the mysteries of humanity’s redemption, Ephrem reveals a realistic and humanly sympathetic spirit and a great devotion to the humanity of Jesus. It is said that his poetic account of the Last Judgment inspired Dante.

It is surprising to read that he wrote hymns against the heretics of his day. He would take the popular songs of the heretical groups and, using their melodies, compose beautiful hymns embodying orthodox doctrine. Ephrem became one of the first to introduce song into the Church’s public worship as a means of instruction for the faithful. His many hymns have earned him the title “Harp of the Holy Spirit.”

He preferred a simple, austere life, living in a small cave overlooking the city of Edessa. It was here he died around 373.

Spiritual reading: God does not seek God’s own benefit. In everything God acts only out of love. Thus, the person who is united with God lives the same way – she or he is innocent and free. She or he lives for love without asking why, and solely for the glory of God, never seeking personal advantage: God alone is at work in them. (Meister Eckhart)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 8, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Implicit in the message of Jesus in today’s passage taken from the Sermon on the Mount are two themes. They are the need to keep the message fresh in our lives and the imperative to be examples to others of what it means to be a Christian.

In his first analogy, Jesus compares us to salt, and when he specifically mentions its savor, he warns us not to lose our zest. Knowledge and love of God and understanding of the implications of the gospel for our lives are not fixed and unchanging bodies of knowledge and affection. With God, there is always more to understand, and with God, there is always more to love. The temptation for Christians is to get stuck in a single definition or framework and stop growing through exposure to new challenges. Jesus warns us to avoid this trap.

It is not enough, however, that we continue on some self-satisfied journey of personal self-improvement, content to have an experience of religion that might boil down to, “me and Jesus.” We are to be cities on hills and lights on lampstands: our Christian charism is specifically our relationships to others as their companions and servants. Jesus’ second warning today is that we be people for others, that we proclaim the gospel not just in what we say but also what we do and that we live the gospel in a way that others can see.

Saint of the day: A disputed election as archbishop of York and a mysterious death. Those are the headlines from the tragic life of today’s saint, William of York.

Born into a powerful family in 12th-century England, William seemed destined for great things. His uncle was next in line for the English throne—though a nasty dynastic struggle complicated things. William himself faced an internal Church feud.

Despite these roadblocks, he was nominated as archbishop of York in 1140. Local clergymen were less enthusiastic, however, and the archbishop of Canterbury refused to consecrate William. Three years later a neighboring bishop performed the consecration, but it lacked the approval of Pope Innocent II, whose successors likewise withheld approval. William was deposed and a new election was ordered.

It was not until 1154—14 years after he was first nominated—that William became archbishop of York. When he entered the city that spring after years of exile, he received an enthusiastic welcome. Within two months he was dead, probably from poisoning. His administrative assistant was a suspect, though no formal ruling was ever made.

Despite all that happened to him, William did not show resentment toward his opponents. Following his death, many miracles were attributed to him. He was canonized 73 years later.

Spiritual reading: God does not seek God’s own benefit. In everything God acts only out of love. Thus, the person who is united with God lives the same way – she or he is innocent and free. She or he lives for love without asking why, and solely for the glory of God, never seeking personal advantage: God alone is at work in them. (Meister Eckhart)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 7, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.
Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel of Matthew presents to us today the Beatitudes, the heart of Jesus’ teaching, and a pattern of life that we might take as the essence of how we as Christians should move through the world. In each beatitude, Jesus commences his teaching with the notion that the ones who have this quality are blessed, that is, they possess both good fortune and happiness. The Beatitudes call us to lives of gentleness, justice, compassion, and clear sightedness. Moreover, the Beatitudes speak to our conditions of weakness, that when we suffer a material, psychological, or spiritual deprivation, then are we blessed. When we have cause to mourn, we also shall have the grace to know that others love us even as they comfort us in our mourning. When we are persecuted and we stand by our principles despite our pain, then we receive the blessing to know of our own integrity in the face of adversity. Whatever value the 10 Commandments may have in the lives of Christians, the Beatitudes are indeed Jesus’ declaration of what Christian life means.

Saint of the day: Antony Mary Gianelli was born near Genoa, Italy, in 1789. As a youth Antony was conspicuous for his gentle docility, industry, and intelligence. A generous benefactress made it possible for this middle-class boy to study in Genoa. He so distinguished himself in his seminary studies that he was allowed to preach while he was still only a subdeacon. Even then his eloquence drew crowds. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1812 by special dispensation because he was not of canonical age for ordination. He engaged in pastoral and educational work as a parish priest, gave numerous missions, and became known for his preaching and as a confessor besieged by penitents. He became archpriest of Chiavari in 1826. Before he was 40, he had founded a congregation of priests (in 1827), Missioners of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, and one of women (in 1829), Sisters of Santa Maria dell’Orto (‘of the Garden’), who were devoted to teaching poor children and caring for the sick. These sisters spread to the United States and Asia. In 1838, he was appointed bishop of Bobbio, where he ruled wisely until his death on June 8, 1846. Because he was a man of extraordinary virtue and prudence, he gained the support of his priests.

Spiritual reading: What God requires of the soul is the essence of self-surrender. The free gifts he asks from us are self-denial, obedience and love. The rest is his business. (St. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 6, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 9:11b-17

Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured. As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”

He said to them, “Give them some food yourselves.” They replied, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.” Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty.” They did so and made them all sit down.

Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.

Reflection on the gospel reading: It is a good thing on this feast of Corpus Christi to proclaim that we believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. But the devotion to the Real Presence in the Eucharist over and against the other modes of the Real Presence in the Eucharistic assembly curiously points to areas where we Christians continue to have need for conversion.

We rightly see in the bread and the wine the the Lord’s presence, but in the children that fidget in front us at church and in the strange homily that knocks at the stone in our hearts, we perhaps grow annoyed or even anxious. Our blindness to Christ in the assembly, our deafness to Christ in the Word, and our resistance before Christ in service evince the continuing need for our conversion. May a prayerful and meditative attentiveness to the implications of our Eucharistic faith on this wonderful feast lead us to recognize Christ in all the ways Jesus extends to us the offer of his presence.

Spiritual reading: We cannot love God unless we love each other. We know him in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone anymore. Heaven is a banquet, and life is a banquet too – even with a crust – where there is companionship. We have all known loneliness, and we have learned that the only solution is love, and that love comes with community. (Dorothy Day)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 5, 2010

christensen_-_widows_mite_theGospel reading of the day:

Mark 12:38-44

In the course of his teaching Jesus said to the crowds, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.”

He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage that we read today contrasts two kinds of religious people. In the first part of the passage, Jesus describes the scribes who, learned in the Law of Moses and theological questions, live ostentatiously, entirely conscious and protective of their privileged positions in the society of other believers. In the second part of the passage, Jesus comments on the poor widow, who without ostentation, gives of everything she has to support the work of the Temple.

This text comes at the end of Jesus’ public ministry and introduces the account of the Lord’s passion and death. In a way, it sums up everything that has come before. Throughout the gospel to this point, Jesus has decried the falseness of religious people who act outwardly as though God were important in their lives but in their hearts suffer from pride and arrogance. He repeatedly has taught that those who are small in the eyes of the world are great in the eyes of God. In Jesus’ attack on the scribes and his praise of the widow, the passage encapsulates Jesus’ teaching. Moreover, the widow’s willingness to surrender everything she has for God anticipates Jesus’ own sacrifice and willingness to suffer the loss of everything to achieve God’s purpose.

A side note is worth considering. Christians rightly have seen in the widow’s sacrifice something estimable. After all, her heart taught her to give completely and trust that God would provide. But it is possible that the passage has another lesson to teach. The wealthy with great fanfare give fortunes of donations to the Temple without eating into their capital. It is at least possible that their example led the widow to do something imprudent, to give all she had to survive, and a part of the corruption of the wealthy was their leading the widow to do something which injured her.

Saint of the day: Boniface was born around 673-680 at Crediton, Devonshire, England. Educated at the Benedictine monastery at Exeter, England, he became a Benedictine monk at Exeter. A misissionary to Germany from 719, he was assisted by Saints Albinus, Abel, and Agatha. Boniface destroyed idols and pagan temples, and built churches on the sites. He became a bishop and the archbishop of Mainz. He reformed churches in his see and built religious houses in Germany. Among the people he ordained to the priesthood was Saint Sola. He founded or restored the dioceses of Bavaria, Thuringgia, and Franconia. He evangelized in Holland, but was set upon by a troop of pagans, and he and 52 of his new flock, including Saints Adaler and Eoban, were martyred. He died June 5, 754.

In Saxony, Boniface encountered a tribe worshiping a Norse deity in the form of a huge oak tree. Boniface walked up to the tree, removed his shirt, took up an axe, and without a word he hacked down the six foot wide wooden god. Boniface stood on the trunk, and asked, “How stands your mighty god? My God is stronger than he.” The crowd’s reaction was mixed, but some conversions were begun.

One tradition about Saint Boniface says that he used the customs of the locals to help convert them. There was a game in which they threw sticks called kegels at smaller sticks called heides. Boniface bought religion to the game, having the heides represent demons, and knocking them down showing purity of spirit.

Spiritual reading: Forgiveness creates an obligation for which there are no exceptions allowed. Love is a fire which goes out if it does not kindle others. Thou hast burned with joy; kindle those who come near you with the same, lest thou becomest like a stone, hard and cold. You have received much; you must also give. (Giovanni Papini)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 4, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 12:35-37

As Jesus was teaching in the temple area he said, “How do the scribes claim that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said:

The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies under your feet.’

David himself calls him ‘lord’; so how is he his son?” The great crowd heard this with delight.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus in today’s passage demonstrates his sense of irony. The messiah, of course, is David’s son, and a father does not ascribe lordship to his son, but David in the psalm does just that when he calls his son, the messiah, Lord. Moreover, this passage represents a rare instance where Mark’s gospel hints at Jesus’ divinity, because the Greek word used for lord, that is, kurios, typically replaces an equivalent term in Hebrew used to describe God. In any event, we see that Jesus has the capacity to use a teaching moment to entertain his listeners. This is a very human thing, to be amusing, and our Lord shows here that he has this ability, too. So by his teaching, there is a hint at divinity and a demonstration of humanity.

We are engaged in serious business, this project of being alive, but it includes the many pleasures of our diversions. Let us pray to God that we may make light of our project in the midst of the seriousness of it, that we never take ourselves so seriously that we fail to find the humor in ourselves and the rest of the whole thing, as well.

Saint of the day: Edfrith of Lindisfarne was a monk of the seventh and eighth centuries. Edfrith’s life is obscure prior to his becoming bishop in 698. He studied in Ireland and was well-trained as a scribe, an artist, and a calligrapher because it seems almost certain that he alone wrote and illuminated the Lindisfarne Gospels, which can now be seen in the British Library.

His masterpiece was dedicated to Saint Cuthbert and would have taken at least two years to complete. He welcomed the new text of the Gospels and the new layout, both of which came to him from Italy via Wearmouth-Jarrow. He provided evangelist portraits as a creative artist in a field of Mediterranean expertise, but he also excelled in insular majuscule script and Irish geometric and zoomorphic decoration of extraordinary delicacy and accuracy. The fusion of all these elements in one work is a tribute to Edfrith’s well-rounded education and the merging of Roman and Irish elements in Northumbria about 35 years after the Synod of Whitby.

The manuscript would have been enough to ensure Edfrith a place in art history; nevertheless, he was also a good bishop. Most of his memorable actions, however, are associated with Saint Cuthbert. The anonymous Life of Cuthbert was dedicated to Edfrith and he commissioned Saint Bede to write his prose Life of Cuthbert. He restored Cuthbert’s oratory on the Inner Farne Island for the use of Saint Felgild. He may also have been the recipient of a letter from Saint Aldhelm. He died in 721.

Edfrith was connected with Cuthbert even in death: He was buried near his tomb. His relics, together with those of Saints Aidan, Eadbert, and Ethelwold, were taken with Cuthbert’s in their wanderings through Northumbria from 875 to 995, when they reached Durham.

Spiritual reading: The Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings. (“God’s Grandeur” by Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 3, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 12:28-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Reflection on the gospel reading: At the center of Jesus’ teaching is his proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom of God. In today’s gospel, Jesus links a total love of God to a love of our neighbor and love for ourselves. By telling the scribe that he is not far from the kingdom of God when the scribe connects love of the kingdom and love of neighbor, Jesus tells us that the reign of God is near when we move toward God through our love of our neighbor. It has been said that the meaning of life is in the giving and receiving of love. If this is so, true discipleship lies in giving and receiving love, that absolute availability to the needs of another that forfeits, forgets, and finishes itself in love’s object.

Saint of the day: Kevin or Coemghen/Caoimhin (the Fair-begotten and Principal Patron of Dublin Archdiocese) is said to be have been born in 498 into a family which belonged to the Dál Messe Corb, a noble Leinster people who lived in what is now West Wicklow. The story of his life is not felt to be reliable as there is little contemporary material available.

He is said to have been baptized by a St. Crónán and educated by St Petroc, a Briton, during that saint’s stay in Ireland. He studied for the priesthood in Cell na Manach (Killnamanagh). After Bishop Lugidus ordained him priest he left Killnamanagh and set out to find his own hermitage. On arrival in Glendalough (Valley of Two Lakes), in Co. Wicklow, Kevin chose the area of the upper lake and settled on the south side of the foot of that lake in what is now known as St. Kevin’s Bed, an artificial cave about 30 feet above the level of the lake and which was originally a Bronze Age tomb. Kevin lived the life of a hermit there with an extraordinary closeness to nature, his companions were the animals and birds all around him. He lived as a hermit for seven years wearing only animal skins, sleeping on stones and eating very sparingly.

Disciples were soon attracted to Kevin and a settlement was established enclosed by a wall, called Kevin’s Cell and Reefert Church, situated nearer the lakeshore. All this expansion probably would not have pleased Kevin who never really wanted to change his hermit’s life.

Subsequently he founded the famous monastery of Glendalough, the parent of several other monastic foundations. Eventually, Glendalough, with its seven churches, became one of the chief pilgrimage destinations in Ireland. In time it grew into a renowned seminary of saints and scholars.

By 540 Saint Kevin’s fame as a teacher and holy man had spread far and wide. Many came to seek his help and guidance.

In 544 Kevin went to the Hill of Uisneach in County Westmeath to establish a league of brotherly friendship with other holy abbots – Saints Columba, Comgall, and Cannich. From there he proceeded to Clonmacnoise, where St. Ciaran had died three days before. Having firmly established his community, he retired into solitude for four years and only returned to Glendalough at the earnest entreaty of his monks. Until his death about 618 Kevin presided over his monastery in Glendalough, living his life by fasting, praying and teaching. Legend says he lived to the venerable age of 120.

Spiritual reading: The more we live with people in a community, the more we must look to ourselves and regard the beam in our own eyes. The more we live with a babbling crowd, the more we must practice silence. “For every idle word we speak we will be judged.” (Dorothy Day)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 2, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 12:18-27

Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and put this question to him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers. The first married a woman and died, leaving no descendants. So the second brother married her and died, leaving no descendants, and the third likewise. And the seven left no descendants. Last of all the woman also died. At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be? For all seven had been married to her.” Jesus said to them, “Are you not misled because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like the angels in heaven.

As for the dead being raised, have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God told him, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are greatly misled.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus tells us in this passage that God is the God of the living. Based on God’s love for life, Jesus argues for the resurrection and the continuity of our existence even after the end of this particular bodily existence. The question of the circumstances of the resurrection has interested various theologians from the ancient world up to today. A group of theologians has argued that perhaps the resurrection actually occurs in some way concurrently with death. In any event, Jesus clearly teaches here and elsewhere that the story of our lives does not end when our existence on earth concludes. And the Lord is most emphatic in this teaching: he tells the Sadducees in today’s reading not just that they are mistaken in their disbelief in the resurrection, but that they are greatly mislead.

Saint of the day: Erasmus was also known as Elmo. He was the bishop of Formiae, Campagna, Italy, and suffered martyrdom during Diocletian’s persecution of the Christians. He once fled to Mount Lebanon during the persecution and lived a life of solitude there for some time, being fed by a raven. After the emperor discovered his whereabouts, he was tortured and thrown in prison. Legend claims that an angel released him and he departed for Illyricum, eventually suffered a martyr’s death and was one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. Legend records that when a blue light appears at mastheads before and after a storm, the seamen took it as a sign of Erasmus’s protection. This was known as “St. Elmo’s fire.”

The blue electrical discharges under certain atmospheric conditions have also been seen on the masks or riggings of ships. Erasmus is also invoked against stomach cramps and colic. This came about because at one time he had hot iron hooks stuck into his intestines by persecutors under Emperor Diocletian. These wounds he endured with fortitude. He was martyred by disemboweling in 303 at Formiae, Italy.

Spiritual reading: Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation. (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 1, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 12:13-17

Some Pharisees and Herodians were sent to Jesus to ensnare him in his speech. They came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?”

Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.” They brought one to him and he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Caesar’s.” So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were utterly amazed at him.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Today’s gospel passage points to a preoccupation of Jesus, his concern with hearts that are true. More than once, the gospel tells us Jesus sees the hypocrisy of the people around him. There are lots of things that the gospel could have told us interested Jesus: whether people wore nice clothes, were attractive, were tall or short. None of these things apparently concerned Jesus. What concerned him was whether people meant what they said and said what they meant, whether they said, “Yes,” when they meant, “Yes,” and, “No,” when they meant, “No.” There are other lessens we can draw from this passage, like Jesus’ position on our relationship to government or Jesus’ sharp and probing intelligence, but what preoccupied our Lord in the exchange was his questioners’ fidelity to their hearts, that their outsides and insides matched in some way. If we wish to make a home for Jesus in our hearts, let them be true and sharp places that reflect on our faces and in our words the good that we nurture inside us.

Saint of the day: All the voices around Justin clamored that they had the truth he sought so desperately. He had listened to them all since he first came to Rome to get his education. They each shouted that they held the one and only answer but he felt no closer to the truth than when he had started his studies. He had left the Stoic master behind but the Stoics valued discipline as truth and thought discussion of God unnecessary. He had rejected the Peripatetics who seemed more interested in money than discussion. The Pythagoreans had rejected him because he didn’t know enough music and geometry, the things that would lead him to truth. He had found some joy with the Platonists because the contemplation of ideas gave wings to his mind, but they had promised wisdom would let him see God and so, where was God?

There was one place that Justin always escaped to in order to get away from these shouting, confusing voices and search out the quiet inner voice that led him to truth. This place was a lonely spot, a path that seemed made for him alone in a field by the sea. So sure was he of the isolation of his retreat that he was shocked one day to find an old man following him.

The old man was not searching for truth but for some of his family. Nonetheless they began a discussion in which Justin identified himself as a philologian, a lover of reason. The old man challenged him — why was he not a lover of truth, a lover of deeds. Justin told him that reason led to truth, and philosophy led to happiness. This was certainly an interesting thing for Justin to say since he had not found the truth in the study of reason or happiness in his quest among the philosophers! Perhaps the old man sensed this for he asked for Justin’s definition of philosophy and of happiness.

In the long discussion that followed, Justin spoke eloquently to the old man’s searching questions but even Justin had to admit that philosophers may talk about God but had never seen him, may discuss the soul but didn’t really know it. But if the philosophers whom Justin admired and followed couldn’t, then nobody could, right?

The old man told him about the ancient prophets, the Hebrew prophets, who had talked not of ideas but of what they had seen and heard, what they knew and experienced. And this was God. The old man ended the conversation by telling Justin to pray that the gates of light be opened to him.

Inflamed by this conversation, Justin sought out the Scriptures and came to love them. Christ words “possess a terrible power in themselves, and are sufficient to inspire those who turn aside from the path of rectitude with awe; while the sweetest rest is afforded those who make a diligent practice of them.”

Why hadn’t Justin known about Christianity before with as much as he had studied? He had heard about it, the way other pagans of second century Rome had, by the rumors and accusations that surrounded the persecution of Christians. The fearlessness of their actions made him doubt the gossip, but he had nothing else to go by. Christians at that time kept their beliefs secret. They were so afraid that outsiders would trample on their sacred faith and desecrate their mysteries that they wouldn’t tell anyone about their beliefs — even to counteract outright lies. To be honest, there was good reason for their fears — many actors for example performed obscene parodies of Christian ritual for pagan audiences, for example.

But Justin believed differently. He had been one of those outsiders — not someone looking for trouble, but someone earnestly searching for the truth. The truth had been hidden from him by this fear of theirs. And he believed there were many others like him. He exhorted them that Christians had an obligation to speak of their faith, to witness to others about their faith and their mysteries.

So Justin took his newfound faith to the people. This layman became the first great apologist for Christianity and opened the gates of light for so many others. He explained baptism and Eucharist. He explained to the pagans why they didn’t worship idols and why that didn’t make them atheists. He explained to the Jews how Christians could worship the same God but not follow Jewish laws. He explained to the Greeks and the philosophers how philosophy did not take into account the dignity of humankind. He wrote long arguments known as apologies and traveled to other lands in order to debate publicly. His long education in philosophy and rhetoric gave him the skills he needed to match his opponents and the Holy Spirit gave him the rest.

It is not surprising that Justin was arrested during the persecution under Marcus Aurelius. Along with four others (Chariton, Charites, Paeon, and Liberianus) he was brought before the Roman prefect, Rusticus, to be accused under the law that required sacrificing to idols. When Rusticus demanded that they “Obey the gods at once, and submit to the kings,” Justin responded, “To obey the commandments of our Savior Jesus Christ is worthy neither of blame nor of condemnation.”

When Rusticus asked what doctrines he believed, Justin told him that he had learned all the doctrines available during his quest but finally submitted to the true doctrines of the Christians, even though they didn’t please others. (An understatement when he was under danger of death!)

When Rusticus asked where the Christians gathered, Justin gave a response that gives us insight into Christian community and worship of the time: “Where each one chooses and can: for do you fancy that we all meet in the very same place? Not so; because the God of the Christians is not circumscribed by place; but being invisible, fills heaven and earth, and everywhere is worshipped and glorified by the faithful.”

When Rusticus asked each of them if they were a Christian, they all responded the same way: “Yes, I am a Christian.” When Rusticus tried to put responsibility for this on Justin, they responded that God had made them Christians.

Just before Rusticus sentenced them he asked Justin, “If you are killed do you suppose you will go to heaven?” Justin said, “I do not suppose it, but I know and am fully persuaded of it.”

Justin and his fellow martyrs were beheaded in the year 165 and went to be with the Truth Justin had longed for all his life. He is often known as Justin Martyr and his works are still available.

Spiritual reading: Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime. (Martin Luther)