When Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side. A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” He got into a boat and his disciples followed him.
Reflection on the gospel reading: July 31 is the Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. I attended a high school that the Jesuits ran, and when I finished high school, I entered a novitiate of the Society of Jesus, later took vows, and began a course of studies that would have led to the Roman Catholic priesthood. I remained in the Jesuits until I finished philosophy six years later. Even now at 51, a fifth of my life was spent in the Jesuits’ instruction, and I recognize the great influence they had on me and everything I have become. Even now, all these years later, I still count myself as one of Ignatius’s sons.
One keystone of Jesuit spirituality is indifference, and it is a theme in the gospel passage that I selected to celebrate Ignatius’ feast today. “Indifference” in Ignatian spirituality is absolute openness to the will of God without consideration of the price. So when the scribe approaches Jesus and says he will follow the Lord wherever he goes, Jesus makes it clear that the cost of true discipleship is the willingness to let go of everything for the sake of the kingdom. And when the disciple asks Jesus to let him bury his father, Jesus asserts that the service of the kingdom always is now. When we are indifferent in the Ignatian sense, we have no preferences for one course of action over another but always seek God’s will for the moment and empty ourselves to pursue God’s will.
Saint of the day: Ignatius was born in 1491 in Loyola, Cantabria. He spent his early years at court and as a soldier. Later he was converted to God and undertook theological studies in Paris where he attracted his first followers. Afterwards in Rime, he joined them together as the first members of the Society of Jesus. He exercised a devoted apostolate both by his written works and in the training of his disciples for their renewal of the Church. He died in 1556 in Rome.
At the heart of Jesuit spirituality are the Spiritual Exercises. These exercises are crucial to the formation all Jesuits, but they also provide a handbook for retreat masters and spiritual directors to guide anyone who is under their care. The result of Ignatius’ own experience of conversion, the Exercises are particularly suited to help people individuals to reach sufficient detachment and freedom from inordinate passions when they are trying to make a good choice about their state of life or to achieve some serious reform of character.
These spiritual exercises involve a program in several steps. The full-length version of an Ignatian retreat would involve about a month of praying for four or five distinct hour-long periods each day whole otherwise keeping strict silence, but there are also abridged versions for use on three-day and week-long retreats. The first week invites the person making these exercises to confront sinfulness and to accept God’s mercy. The second week puts the focus of one’s prayer on the public life of Christ, while the third week considers Christ’s passion. In the fourth week, one meditates on Christ arisen and in glory. In addition, there are special exercises at crucial junctures during the exercises where one is invited to hear the call of Christ the King and to ponder the various degrees of humility with which one might be willing to serve Christ.
A particular instruction in the Exercises allows people whose lives do not permit them to go off and make the Exercises to make them over a much longer period of time. The Jesuits at Creighton have put the Long Retreat on the web. It requires commitment, but you can find a way to make Ignatius’s famous Exercises in the midst of the helter-skelter of your own life.
Spiritual reading: Principle and Foundation–Human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by means of doing this to save their souls. The other things on the face of the earth are created for the human beings, to help them in the pursuit of the end of which they are created. From this it follows that we ought to use these things to the extent that they help us toward our end, and free ourselves from them to the extent that they hinder us from it. To attain this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, in regard to everything which is left our free will and is not forbidden. Consequently, on our own part we ought not to seek health rather than sickness, wealth rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, a long life rather than short one, and so on in all other matters. Rather, we ought to desire and choose only that which is more conducive to the end for which are created. (Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius of Loyola)
A Prayer of Ignatius of Loyola: Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. All I have and call my own. Whatever I have or hold, you have given to me. I restore it all to you and surrender it wholly to be governed under your will. Give me only your love and grace and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get all this?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house.” And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.
Reflection on the gospel reading: In the gospel passage that we read today, Jesus preaches in his own community. The people are very impressed with what he teaches, but because they know his family, they cannot accept who Jesus is. And precisely because the Nazarenes would not open their hearts to Jesus, Jesus would not work wondrous things for them. It is as the psalms say, “Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you.”
Saint of the day: Peter Chrysologus was born at Imola in 406 and died there in 450. His biography, first written by Agnellus in the ninth century, gives but scant information about him. He was baptized, educated, and ordained deacon by Cornelius, Bishop of Imola, and was elevated to the Bishopric of Ravenna in 433. There are indications that Ravenna held the rank of metropolitan before this time. His piety and zeal won for him universal admiration, and his oratory merited for him the name Chrysologus. He shared the confidence of Leo the Great and enjoyed the patronage of the Empress Galla Placidia. After his condemnation by the Synod of Constantinople (448), the Monophysite Eutyches endeavoured to win the support of Peter, but without success.
A collection of his homilies, numbering 176, was made by Felix, Bishop of Ravenna (707-17). Some are interpolations, and several other homilies known to be written by the saint are included in other collections under different names. They are in a great measure explanatory of Biblical texts and are brief and concise. He eloquently explained the mystery of the Incarnation, the heresies of Arius and Eutyches, and the Apostles’ Creed. He dedicated a series of homilies to the Blessed Virgin and John the Baptist.
Spiritual reading: My life is big enough not only to hold in some way, in this context of goodness, all the world’s pain and misery, but to be able to do something about it. The quality of my life, its love, making present God’s love, can and does raise it all. In this I rejoice. A holistic view is broad, expansive, deep, rich–very rich and full. It is the only view worthy of a human, of a Christian, a true child of God, an empowered co-redeemer with Christ. (A Place Apart by Fr. M. Basil Pennington, OCSO)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: My grandmother was an extraordinary person who lived her life in service to her family. There was never a person in need who came to her who did not walk away without something to mitigate at least a part of that need. She was quite devout, too. My grandmother confided to me once that she had a real sympathy for Martha in the narrative that Luke tells us today. “Mary has chosen the better part.” My grandmother retorted with real irony in her voice, “She sure the heck did.”
Today is Martha’s feast. The lovely Marthas, like my grandmother, who people our lives have made possible a world that would not exist without their efforts. Without the people who step into the breach to prepare our meals, clean our homes and offices, and tend to our many needs, the world of learning and reflection, the place that Mary occupied, could not exist. So when we hear today’s gospel, it is an invitation to be not only thankful but considerate of all those who have borne the heavy lifting of toil that has made possible the flights of speculation that have filled our world with meaning. Today is Martha’s feast, and it is the feast of every Martha in our lives. Do something nice today for the Marthas in your life.
Saint of the day: Martha was the sister of Mary and Lazarus; scripture reports that all three were the friends of Jesus. Only Luke 10:38-42 and John 11, 12 mention Martha. John represents Mary, Martha, and Lazarus as living in Bethany, but Luke seems to imply that they lived, at least at one time, in Galilee. Luke does not mention the name of the town. The words of John (11:1) seem to imply a change of residence for the family. It is possible, too, that Luke has displaced the incident referred to in Chapter 10. The likeness between the pictures of Martha presented by Luke and John is interesting. The familiar interaction between the Lord and the family that Luke depicts, John echoes when he tells us that, “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister Mary, and Lazarus” (11:5). Again the picture of Martha’s anxiety (John 11:20-21, 39) accords with the picture of her who was “busy about much serving” (Luke 10:40); so also in John 12:2: “They made him a supper there: and Martha served.” But John has given us a glimpse of the other and deeper side of her character when he depicts her growing faith in Jesus’s divinity (11:20-27), a faith which prompts the Lord to announce, “I am the resurrection and the life.” The Evangelist suggests the change that came over Martha after that interview, “When she had said these things, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying: ‘The Master has come, and he calls for you.’”
Spiritual reading: The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire. (“The Evolution of Chastity” by Père Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.)
Jesus said to his disciples: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus in today’s gospel offers two brief parables about the kingdom. In the first of these parables, someone allegorically finds the kingdom by stumbling upon it; in the second of these parables, someone sets out with single-minded determination to possess it. In these parables, Jesus tells us that conversion can occur in many ways, but once it occurs, an individual understands in her or his heart that the kingdom is to be preferred to every other thing.
Saint of the day: Pedro Poveda Castroverde was born December 3, 1874 at Linares, Spain. Raised in a pious family, he felt an early call to the priesthood. He entered the seminary in Jaen in 1889, then the seminary of Guadix, Grenada. He was ordained on April 17, 1897.
He taught at the seminary, continued his studies, and received his licentiate in theology in Seville in 1900. He ministered in Guadix to a group of people so poor they lived in caves. He built a school for the children, and provided vocation training to the adults.
He was transferred to Madrid, and was named a canon of the Basilica of Covadonga, Asturius in 1906. His time in Guadix had impressed Pedro with the need for education for the poor. He prayed on the topic, and wrote on the need for professional training for teachers. In 1911 Pedro founded the Saint Teresa of Avila Academy, the foundation of Institución Teresiana. He joined the Apostolic Union of Secular Priests in 1912, wrote on the need for more teachers, and opened teacher training centers. He returned to teaching at the seminary at Jaen, served as spiritual director of Los Operarios Catechetical Centre, and taught religion at the Teachers Training School. In 1914 he opened Spain’s first university residence for women in Madrid. In 1921 he was transferred to Madrid and was appointed a chaplain of the Royal Palace. In 1922 he was appointed to the Central Board Against Illiteracy, and he continued to work with the Teresian Association; it received papal approval in 1924, and later spread to Chile and Italy. Martyred in the Spanish Revolution, he was shot by firing squad on July 28, 1936 at Madrid, Spain.
Spiritual reading: The soul always remains with its God in the center. Let us say that the union is like the joining of two wax candles to such an extent that the flame coming from them is but one, or that the wick, the flame and the wax are all one. In the spiritual marriage the union is like what we have when rain falls from the sky into a river or fount; all is water, for the rain that fell from heaven cannot be divided or separated from the water of the river. Or, like the bright light entering a room through two different windows; although the streams of light are separate when entering the room, they become one. (The Interior Castle by Saint Teresa of Avila)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus dismissed the crowds and went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the Kingdom. The weeds are the children of the Evil One, and the enemy who sows them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.
“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Christians always have reflected on the meaning of Jesus’ teaching within the context of their own situations. The Gospel of Matthew was written in the 70s or 80s, and the writer of the gospel probably records a reflection on the parable of the good and bad seed that reflected the situation of the writer’s community. There is good textual reason to believe this. While the original parable seems to suggest that the church is home to both saints and sinners, this explanation of the parable makes the parable into an allegory of the end times. No matter which interpretation we apply, however, there is clearly good and bad seed, and we can pray that when the Lord calls us, he will judge us the good seed.
Saint of the day: Blessed Rudolf Aquaviva and his Companions were Jesuit priests. He was the son of the Duke of Atri, related to the family of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, and nephew of Claudio Aquaviva, the fifth general of the Jesuits. He was admitted at the age of eighteen, in 1568, and after being ordained priest at Lisbon was sent to Goa, in India. Father Aquaviva was one of the two chosen for the mission at Fatehpur Sikri, near Agra, and he worked till 1583 in strenuous efforts to convert Akbar and his subjects but had no success. He was then put in charge of the Salsette mission, north of Bombay. He and four companions, Father Pacheco, Father Berno, Father Francisco, and Brother Aranha, together with other Christians, set out for Cuncolim, the heart of Hindu opposition in that mission, intending to choose there a piece of ground for a church and to plant a cross there. They were met with armed force by the villagers. Blessed Rudolf and Blessed Alfonso were killed praying for their murderers, and the other two priests were likewise slain immediately. Blessed Francis was left for dead, but found living the next day; he was given a chance to venerate an idol, and on refusing was tied to a tree and shot with arrows.
Spiritual reading: Why can we not be content with an ordinary, secret, personal happiness that does not need to be explained or justified? We feel guilty if we are not happy in some publicly approved way, if we do not imagine that we are meeting some standard of happiness that is recognized by all. God gives us the gift and the capacity to make our own happiness out of our own situation. And it is not hard to be happy, simply by accepting what is within reach, and making of it what we can. But if we do this, and I find that I do, we still wonder if there is not something wrong. Are we getting something if there is not something wrong. Are we getting something that others cannot have (a private and personal happiness!)? Obviously my happiness is not somebody else’s – until I share it. And in sharing it I am happier than I was before. (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds. “The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.”
He spoke to them another parable. “The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.”
All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables, to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:
I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world.
Reflection on the gospel reading: At the center of Jesus’ teaching was the proclamation of the kingdom of God. Jesus used parables to explain the nature of God’s kingdom, and in today’s gospel, Matthew records for us two short parables that explain a couple of the kingdom’s facets. In the first parable, Matthew likens the kingdom to a mustard seed that becomes a great plant: that is, the kingdom starts small and insignificant, but its eventual reach will permit multitudes to dwell in its branches. In the second parable, when Jesus speaks of yeast, he suggests how easy it is to miss the kingdom’s growth. To understand the parable’s meaning, consider that yeast causes dough to rise imperceptibly. Jesus is saying here that people who observe the in-breaking of the kingdom of God at a given moment may fail to understand the impact that the kingdom has over time. Just as yeast will make dough rise, however, we can trust the kingdom will grow given the passage of time.
Saint of the day: In the Scriptures, Matthew and Luke furnish a legal family history of Jesus, tracing ancestry to show that Jesus is the culmination of great promises. Not only is his mother’s family neglected, we also know nothing factual about them except that they existed. Even the names Joachim and Ann come from a legendary source written more than a century after Jesus died.
The heroism and holiness of these people, however, is inferred from the whole family atmosphere around Mary in the Scriptures. Whether we rely on the legends about Mary’s childhood or make guesses from the information in the Bible, we see in her a fulfillment of many generations of prayerful persons, herself steeped in the religious traditions of her people.
The strong character of Mary in making decisions, her continuous practice of prayer, her devotion to the laws of her faith, her steadiness at moments of crisis, and her devotion to her relatives—all indicate a close-knit, loving family that looked forward to the next generation even while retaining the best of the past.
Joachim and Ann—whether these are their real names or not—represent that entire quiet series of generations who faithfully perform their duties, practice their faith and establish an atmosphere for the coming of the Messiah, but remain obscure.
Let nothing disturb thee,
Nothing affright thee;
All things are passing;
God never changeth;
Attaineth to all things;
Who God possesseth
In nothing is wanting;
Alone God sufficeth.
(Lines Written in Her Breviary by Teresa of Avila)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.”
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.
“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
Reflection on the gospel reading: We have two accounts, one in Luke and one in Matthew, of Jesus’ disciples asking the Master to give them a prayer. In the passage from Luke that we have on this 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus’ disciples approach him and ask him to teach them to pray. Jesus replies with the Lord’s prayer, a more spare and perhaps more accurate form of the Lord’s prayer than what we find in Matthew’s gospel.
The prayer, as Luke records it, has various characteristics that teach us much about praying: reliance on God as a parent common to us all, acknowledgment of God’s greatness, an aspiration for God to establish God’s reign, and a request for the things that sustain our lives: food and the graces of forgiveness and compassion toward others, and being saved from evil. Food is the only request made for individual physical needs; everything else is about our relationships with God and others.
In this rendering of the Lord’s prayer and the paragraphs that follow it, Jesus teaches us that the way we pray and what we ask for says a lot about who we are and who we are in relationship to God. If we pray constantly, as Jesus advises elsewhere in the gospels, we can learn about what best serves as the appropriate object of our prayer. And as we deepen our dependence on God, by entering into the spirit of the Lord’s prayer, we will learn to ask less for the things we want and more for the things that God desires of us. In a subtle and wonderful way, this passage from Luke suggests then that the ultimate goal of prayer is to foster a more perfect relationship between us and God.
Spiritual reading: He is the power of God. He is the reason. He is His wisdom and glory. He enters into a virgin; being the Holy Spirit, He is endued with the flesh. God is mingled with man. This is our God, this is Christ, who, as the mediator of the two, puts on man that He may lead them to the Father. What man is, Christ was willing to be, that man also may be what Christ is. (St. Cyprian)
Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds. “The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel, Jesus tells a story of bad seed being sown among good. The servants in the house of the owner of the field wish to pull up the bad seed, but the master counsels to wait and see which seed produces what. In the same way, many of us perhaps are tempted to throw out from among the community of believers those who do not conform to our vision of the church, but Jesus in the parable counsels us to wait and let God be the judge. None of us can exercise God’s right to say what is worthy of saving and what is not. All of it ultimately belongs to God.
Saint of the day: Born in about 1544 in England, John Boste was educated at Queen’s College, Oxford from 1569 to 1572. He was a Fellow at Queen’s College. He converted to Catholicism in 1576 at Suffolk, England, resigned his position at Oxford, and studied in Reims in 1580. He was ordained on March 4, 1581 and returned to England the following month as a missionary to the northern counties, often disguised as a servant in the livery costume of Lord Montacute. He assisted in his mission by Blessed John Speed and became the object of an intense manhunt.
John Boste was betrayed by Francis Ecclesfield near Durham on July 5, 1593 at the home of one William Claxton, and arrested. He was sent to the Tower of London where he was crippled by being tortured on the rack. Sent to Durham in July 1594, he was tried for the treason of being a priest. One of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, he died by being hanged, drawn, and quartered on July 24, 1594 at Dryburn near Durham, England.
Spiritual reading: Divine action is always new and fresh, it never retraces its steps, but always finds new routes. When we are led by this action, we have no idea where we are going, for the paths we tread cannot be discovered from books or by any of our thoughts. But these paths are always opened in front of us and we are impelled along them. Imagine we are in a strange district at night and are crossing fields unmarked by any path, but we have a guide. He asks no advice nor tells us of his plans. So what can we do except trust him? (Abandonment to Divine Providence by Pére Jean-Pierre de Caussade, S.J.)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Hear the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the Kingdom without understanding it, and the Evil One comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus makes clear in his explanation of the parable of the sower of the seed that the fate of the seed lies at the core of the parable’s meaning. As the sower spreads the seed, it falls in four different places. When the seed falls on the path, the birds descend and eat it. Jesus explains to his disciples that this seed comes to naught because Satan, represented by the birds, swiftly destroys it. The passage suggests many of us reject Jesus because the Devil intervenes against the word before we can act upon it. When the seed falls on rocky ground, it fails to lay down deep roots and withers quickly under the sun. Jesus suggests that the fate of this seed points to those of us who at first hear the word with enthusiasm but who, when tried, quickly fall away. This section provides us with a negative model to assess our own faithfulness in the face of trials. When the seed falls among the thorn bushes, it does well until the thorns rise up and choke it. The allegory suggests that many of us receive the word only to succumb to the lure of wealth and other passions. As Jesus instructs his disciples, many hazards can prevent the word’s taking root in our lives.
Just as the parable of the sower relates three failures, it also recounts a tremendous success. The seed that falls on good ground points to those of us who hear the word, welcome it, and bear fruit, “a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” Even by modern agrarian methods, the harvest of this seed is astounding, suggesting the extravagant goodness of God in return for a positive answer to the word. The parable then assures us that despite unavoidable failures by some people, in a secret, mysterious, and paradoxical way, the gospel achieves astonishing and continual success in bringing people to God.
Saint of the day: Born in 1302 or 1303 in Sweden, Bridget of Sweden was the daughter of Birger Persson, the governor and provincial judge of Uppland, and of Ingeborg Bengtsdotter. Her father was one of the greatest landowners in the country, her mother was known widely for her piety, and the family had descended from the Swedish royal house. Bridget was related to Saint Ingrid.
Bridget began receiving visions, most of the Crucifixion, at age seven. Her mother died around1315 when the girl was about 12-years-old, and she was raised and educated by an equally pious aunt. In 1316, at age 13, she wed prince Ulfo of Nercia in an arranged marriage. She became the mother of eight children including Saint Catherine of Sweden; some of the other children ignored the Church.
A friend and counselor to many priests and theologians of her day, she was the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Blanche of Namur in 1335, from which position she counseled and guided the Queen and King Magnus II. After Ulfo’s death in 1344 following a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, she pursued a religious life, for which she was harassed by others at the court. She eventually renounced her title of princess to become a Franciscan tertiary and later, a Cistercian. A mystic, visionary, and mystical writer, she recorded the revelations given her in her visions, and these became hugely popular in the Middle Ages.
She founded the Order of the Most Holy Savior (Bridgettines) at Vadstena in 1346. It survives today, though few houses remain. She and her daughter Catherine were pilgrims to Rome, Italian holy sites, and the Holy Lands. She chastened and counseled kings and bishops of Rome, urging them to return to Rome from Avignon. Encouraged all who would listen to meditate on the Passion and on Jesus Crucified. She died July 23, 1373 at Rome, Italy and is buried in 1374 at the Vadstena, Sweden convent she founded.
Spiritual reading: Unfortunately, in seeing ourselves as we truly are, not all that we see is beautiful and attractive. This is undoubtedly part of the reason we flee silence. We do not want to be confronted with our hypocrisy, our phoniness. We see how false and fragile is the false self we project. We have to go through this painful experience to come to our true self. It is a harrowing journey, a death to self—the false self—and no one wants to die. But it is the only path to life, to freedom, to peace, to true love. And it begins with silence. We cannot give ourselves in love if we do not know and possess ourselves. This is the great value of silence. It is the pathway to all we truly want. (M. Basil Pennington)
Gospel reading of the day:
John 20:1-2, 11-18
On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”
Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he told her.
Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel of John identifies its origin with the Beloved Disciple, but who among the followers of Jesus loved Jesus more than did Mary Magdalene. Though all of Jesus’ male disciples abandoned the Lord while he suffered on the cross, Mary stood by the side of Jesus’ mother to share the grief and without fear of the authorities. On the first day of the week, when the Sabbath concluded, it was this woman who went first to the tomb at the earliest hour the Law permitted to anoint the Lord’s broken body. She it is who finds the tomb is empty, and she it is. who as an apostle to the apostles, runs to announce the empty tomb to Peter and John. Though Peter and John walk away from the tomb after they see it is empty, she does not. She stays. And it is to her, for her love, single-heartedness, and devotion, that the Lord gives the reward of revealing his resurrection. Her place in the gospel story is unique.
Saint of the day: Today is the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene. Mary was given the name “Magdalene” because, though a Jewish girl, she lived in a Gentile town called Magdale, in northern Galilee, and her culture and manners were those of a Gentile. She was present at Our Lord’s crucifixion, and with Joanna and Mary, the mother of James and Salome, at Jesus’ empty tomb.
After Jesus’ body had been placed in the tomb, Mary went to anoint it with spices early Easter Sunday morning. Not finding the body of the Lord, she began to weep, and seeing someone whom she thought was the gardener, she asked him if he knew where the body of her beloved Master had been taken. But then the person spoke in a voice she knew so well: “Mary!” It was the risen Lord. He had chosen to show himself first to Mary Magdalene, a woman in a time when women’s rights were held in little regard and a Jew from a Gentile community.
There is a tradition about Mary as a repentant sinner that has gotten a lot of mileage over the years. Here is a nice explanation of Mary Magdalene’s “career” as a “soiled” woman:
Spiritual reading: If the only prayer you say in your entire life is, “Thank You,” that would suffice. (Meditations with Meister Eckhart by Matthew Fox)