CACINA

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 20, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 9:18-24

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.” He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone.

He said, “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, nut whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel we read today raises the question of identity. Jesus asks the question of who he is. This question, who am I? is basic to the human equation; it is by answering this question that we understand what we believe, what we value, and how we are related to one another.

Throughout Luke’s gospel, the evangelist consistently records that the Lord prays before every major event in his ministry. Identity’s importance for Luke, who is the author of this passage, is made clear by Luke’s report that Jesus takes time to pray before he asks the question, Who am I?

The narrative we read gives three sets of answers. It goes from complete misunderstanding of who Jesus is by the people, to partial understanding by Peter, to the surprising and unexpected self-revelation by Jesus. The people think that Jesus seems to be someone significant but someone other than a prophet in his own right. Peter, who labors under the impression of a worldly messiah, gets it right in part–Jesus is the Christ–but Jesus still needs to clarify what it means to be the messiah.

Jesus defines his identity as one who suffers, is misunderstood and rejected, but is willing to do what is necessary to achieve what is right. In this he states his belief in a preference to truth to anything else, affirms the value of self-denial, and defines his relationship to us as someone willing to sacrifice himself to demonstrate his love and thus safe us from an annihilation of selfishness.

Spiritual reading: Let us abandon ourselves unreservedly to God; let our thought concern itself only with following the way which God through all eternity has marked out for us and which we now are treading. (Abandonment to Divine Providence by Pere Jean-Pierre de Caussade, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 19, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 6:24-34

Jesus said to his disciples: “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: I once many years ago read that the people who live in the Himlayan Mountains, who of course are good mountain climbers, employ what might be considered a spiritual practice in their mountain climbing. When they move up a mountainside, they do not look up. The reason that they don’t look up is that they believe the one who does, has to climb the mountain twice, once in his or her mind and then once in reality.

This insight is precisely the insight that Jesus shares with us in today’s gospel as we continue our journey through the Sermon on the Mount. The one who thinks continually about the future and is anxious about his or her needs at a future date lives the anxiety of those moments both in anticipation and on the day the cause for anxiety materializes. It is better that we live, as members of Alcoholics Anonymous recommend, one day at a time. Today has enough to keep us busy.

Saint of the day: Romuald was born in Ravenna, Italy in about 951. He was Italian nobility who spent a wild youth. Acting as second, he witnessed his father kill another man in a duel, and sought to atone for the crime by becoming a Benedictine monk at Classe, Italy.

He served as abbot from 996 to 999. A wanderer, he established several hermitage and monasteries in central and northern Italy. He tried to evangelize the Slavs, but met with little success. Romuald founded the Camaldolese Benedictines and spent the last fourteen years of his life in seclusion at Mount Sitria, Bifolco, and Val di Castro. He was the spiritual teacher of Saint Wolfgang. He died June 19. 1027 at Val-di-Castro, Italy of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: Loving your neighbor means living in voluntary poverty, stripping yourself, putting off the old Adam, denying yourself, etc. It also means non-participation in those comforts and luxuries which have been manufactured by the exploitation of others. While our brothers and sisters suffer, we must be compassionate with them, suffer with them. While they suffer from lack of necessities, we will refuse to enjoy comforts.

These resolutions, no matter how hard they are to live up to, no matter how often we fail and have to begin over again, are part of the Vision. And we must keep this vision in mind, recognize the truth of it, the necessity for it, even though we do not, cannot, live up to it…though in our execution we may fall short of the mark over and over. St. Paul says it is by little and by little that we proceed. (“Meditations” by Dorothy Day)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 6:19-23

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel today reminds us that our values shape our perspectives. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be, reminds us that what we treasure orients us, and If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness reminds us that our basic orientation in life shapes how we see things. If we value money, money will be the filter that shapes our perspectives. On the other hand, if we value God, union with God will shape our perspectives. In the verse that immediately follows the gospel narrative we read today, the Lord counsels us that we cannot serve two masters: we must choose among the possibilities, and that choice will give us the path that we shall follow. Scripture tells us that we have been made little less than gods, and gods of course create. What we are to become is an act of our divine creative power, instilled in us by God. Let us value what is right that we may choose to become what is best.

Saint of the day: Born in 1126 at Germany, Elizabeth of Schonau was a Benedictine abbess who was a gifted mystic. She had her first vision in 1152 and was known for ecstasies, prophecies, and diabolical visitations. She became abbess in 1157. Her cult was never formalized, but she is listed as a saint in the Roman Martyrology. Her brother, Ethbert, a Benedictine abbot, wrote her biography and recorded her visions in three books. She died June 18, 1164 at Bonn, Germany.

Spiritual reading:

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked anything.
‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here’:
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’
‘Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down, says Love, ‘and taste My meat.’
So I did sit and eat.
(“Love” by George Herbert)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This is how you are to pray:

‘Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.’

“If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Today’s gospel reading tells us that God already knows what we need before we ask God for anything, so why should we pray at all? Soren Kierkegaard once observed that prayer was not something that changes God but something that changes ourselves. Modern science, of course, can offer us nothing to explain God, but it has taught us much about how the material world changes, and our ability to see into the brain as it engages in various activities tells us much about what prayer actually does do. We know as scientific fact that prayer changes our brains and makes us better people.

The practice of meditation engages the social circuitry of the brain. Meditation attunes us to other human beings. It connects us to our shared humanity. It allows us to read and understand the emotions of other people: it makes us more compassionate. We can feel the pain of other people and want to take action to ameliorate it. The Lord’s prayer, then, captures the very essence of the neurological implications of a life spent with daily meditation. It is fundamentally a “we” prayer. The we of our reliance on God as a parent common to us all; the we that acknowledges God’s greatness; the we that submits to God’s will; the we of our shared need for food, forgiveness and compassion, being spared, and being saved from evil.

In this gospel passage, Jesus emphasizes the need for mercy: how can we expect mercy if we fail to show mercy? And just as Jesus clearly understood and science now confirms, meditation is exactly the road that opens us, in compassion and with mercy, to experience our shared humanity.

Saint of the day: Adam Chmielowski was born on August 20, 1845 in Poland to a wealthy aristocratic family. He initially studied agriculture in order to manage the family estate. Involved in politics from his youth, he lost a leg at age 17 when injured while fighting in an insurrection. In Krakow, he became a popular, well-known and well-liked artist. His interest in politics and art made him keenly aware of the human misery around him. A gentle and compassionate soul, he felt called to help those in need. After years of reflection, he understood that this desire was how God was calling him to service and Himself.

A Franciscan tertiary, taking the name Albert, he abandoned painting and began a life of working with and for the poorest of Krakow. In 1887, he founded the Brothers of the Third Order of Saint Francis, Servants of the Poor, known as the Albertines (named for him) or the Gray Brothers (after their rough gray habits). In 1891, he founded the women’s congregation of the Order (Gray Sisters). The Albertines organized food and shelter for the poor and homeless.

Albert preached that the great calamity of our time was that so many refused to see and voluntarily relieve the suffering of their miserable brothers and sisters. The “haves” lived away from the “have-nots” in order to ignore them and leave their care to others.

In 1949, Karol Wotlywa, later elected bishop of Rome, wrote a well-received play about Albert; the work was filmed in 1997, released as Brother of Our God. Albert was the spiritual teacher of Blessed Maria Bernardina Jablonska. He died December 25, 1916 at Krakow, Poland, of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays. (Soren Kierkegaard)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 16, 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: 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’ own 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 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.

Saint of the day: The Carthusian Martyrs were a group of monks of the London Charterhouse, the monastery of the Carthusian Order in central London, who were put to death by the English state from June 19, 1535 to September 20, 1537. The method of execution was hanging, disemboweling while still alive, and then quartering. The group also includes two monks who were brought to that house from the Charterhouses of Beauvale and Axholme and similarly dealt with. The total is of 18 men. At the outset of the “King’s Great Matter,” (the term that described Henry VIII’s decision to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn) the government was anxious to secure the public acquiescence of the monks of the London Charterhouse, since for the austerity and sincerity of their mode of life they enjoyed great prestige. When this attempt failed in this, the only alternative was to annihilate the resistance, since a refusal engaged the prestige of the monks in the opposite sense. The Church remembers today several of those Carthusians who willingly embraced death before they would betray the consciences.

Spiritual reading: Dear Lord, I do not ask to see the path. In darkness, in anguish and in fear, I will hang on tightly to your hand, and I will close my eyes, so that you know how much trust I place in you. (Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel that we read today is a radical position utterly contrary to the wisdom of the world and even many religions. Love, in psychological terms, is joy in the presence of a person accompanied by acceptance of that person. It is easy to feel joy and acceptance in the presence of people who feel joy and acceptance in our presence, but to experience joy and acceptance in the presence of our enemies and persecutors is an an extraordinary thing. It is not a thing we can do naturally; it is the experience of people who are plugged into the life of God. What is difficult for us is easy for God, and the nearer we draw to God through daily prayer and meditation, the more the perfection of the Father flows into us and makes possible for us what otherwise would be unnatural and even impossible.

Saint of the day: Born at Pibrac (near Toulouse), France, in 1579, Saint Germaine was the daughter of Laurent Cousin, a farm worker, and his wife, Marie Laroche. Her mother died while she was still an infant. A sickly child, she suffered scrofula among other conditions, and her right hand was deformed. Her father and his second wife treated her badly. After her stepmother’s children were born, Germaine was kept isolated from her siblings. She slept in the stable or in a cupboard under the stairs and was poorly fed on scraps. At the age of nine, Germaine was put to work as a shepherdess, which is not a terrible business for one who liked to pray.

Germaine was very devout, however, and refused to miss Mass. If she heard the bell calling the faithful to Mass while she was tending the sheep, she set her crook and her distaff in the earth, declared her flock to be under the care of her guardian angel, and went to church. Her sheep never came to any harm during her absences, even though ravening wolves inhabited the nearby forest of Boucône.

Germaine was so poor that it is hard to imagine she would have the resources to exercise the corporal works of mercy. Yet love can always find a way. She was always ready to lend a hand to anyone needing it, especially the children whom she would gather in the fields to teach a simple catechism. She shared what little food she received with those poorer than herself.

The neighbors laughed at her religious devotion and called her ‘the little bigot’; Germaine took it all in good humor. Once in the winter her stepmother accused her of stealing bread and pursued her threateningly with a stick. When Germaine opened her apron, summer flowers tumbled out. The neighbors and her parents were awed and began to treat her as a holy person. Her parents invited her to rejoin the household, but Germaine chose to continue living as before.

At 22, she was found dead on her straw pallet under the stairs. She died in 1601. Documents attest to more than 400 miracles or extraordinary graces through the intervention of Saint Germain. They include cures of every kind (of blindness, both congenital and resulting from disease, of hip and spinal disease), and the multiplication of food for the distressed community of the Good Shepherd at Bourges in 1845.

Spiritual reading: Just as bees are driven out by smoke and their honey is taken away from them, so a life of ease drives out the fear of the Lord from a man’s soul and takes away all his good works. (The Desert Fathers)

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)