Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes. When he got out of the boat, at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him. The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain. In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him, crying out in a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!” (He had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”) He asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “Legion is my name. There are many of us.” And he pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory.
Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside. And they pleaded with him, “Send us into the swine. Let us enter them.” And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned. The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town and throughout the countryside. And people came out to see what had happened. As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion, sitting there clothed and in his right mind. And they were seized with fear. Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened to the possessed man and to the swine. Then they began to beg him to leave their district. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead, “Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.” Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.
Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage that the Church gives to us today shows Jesus full of power releasing someone from his madness and restoring him to health. When the townspeople see what Jesus has done, they are afraid and ask him to go elsewhere. So it is with us: sometimes when the power of God is made manifest in our lives we become of afraid of what God is going and draw back. It is important to understand the source of our fear and persevere even when we are afraid of the changes that God is bringing into our lives.
Saint of the day: Today’s example of faithful trust in God’s care, John Bosco, was born in 1815 in Piedmont, Italy. His father died when the boy was 2 years old, and as soon as he was old enough to do odd jobs, he did so for extra money for his family. Bosco would go to circuses, fairs and carnivals, practice the tricks he saw magicians perform, and then present one-boy shows. After his performance, while he still had an audience of boys, he would repeat the homily he had heard earlier in church. He worked as a tailor, baker, shoemaker, and carpenter while attending college and the seminary. Ordained in 1841, he became a teacher and worked with youth, finding places where they could meet, play, and pray. He would teach catechism to orphans and apprentices. A chaplain in a hospice for girls, he wrote short treatises aimed at explaining the faith to children and then taught children how to print them. He founded the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) in 1859, priests who work with and educate boys, under the protection of Our Lady, Help of Chistians, and Saint Francis de Sales. He founded the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians in 1872, and the Union of Cooperator Salesians in 1875. He died in 1888 at Turin, Italy. Thousands attended his funeral.
Spiritual reading of the day: The chief thing is to take the burden on one’s shoulders. As you press forward, it soon shakes down and the load is evenly distributed. (John Bosco)
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.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel we read today is Matthew’s account of the Beatitudes, verses which open the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount contains the essence of his teachings and both evidences and demonstrates Jesus’ character. Jesus uses the Beatitudes to introduce his followers to what constitutes true happiness, which is entirely unselfish, loving of others, and trusting of God in our lives. What we hear in the gospel today is about forming attitudes toward life that represent a fundamental break with the way that we usually think, feel, and act in the world.
Jesus teaches that we are blessed when we are poor in spirit: that is, God blesses us both in when we are materially poor and when we are broken internally. We are blessed when we mourn: God blesses us both because we have hearts open to being broken, and we are blessed because we live in communities where there are people to console us when we ache. We are blessed when we are gentle: God blesses us when we consistently act courteously and with kindness. We are blessed when we hunger and thirst for righteousness: God blesses us when we have hearts that fiercely commit to justice. We are blessed when we are the merciful: God blesses us when we show mercy to others. We are blessed when we are pure of heart: God blesses us when we desire God and God alone. We are blessed when we are peacemakers: God blesses us when we smooth divisions and promote harmony both among people and between people and nature. We are blessed when we are persecuted for the sake of righteousness: that is, when we stand up fearlessly to evil, God blesses us. We are blessed when we are insulted and persecuted because we follow Jesus: it is in our witness to Jesus that we testify to the truth we have found.
So these are the things that Jesus calls us to, and these are the qualities of Jesus’ followers: poverty, vulnerability, gentleness, justice, mercy, dedication, harmony, conviction, and witness.
Spiritual reading: The effect of true love is the reciprocal communication of all good things between the persons who love each other; whence it follows that charity cannot exist without sacrifice (Spiritual Exercises by Ignatius of Loyola)
On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Over and over in the gospel, as in today’s reading, Jesus tells us not to fear and asks us to trust. Our vocations as disciples of Jesus, women and men who follow his path, call on us to give our concerns and troubles to the Lord. Let us make no mistake about this passage from the gospel. It was an entirely reasonable emotional reaction to the situation where the apostles found themselves to be afraid of the storm. But Jesus already had shown the apostles his power, and his rebuke of them for their lack of faith also reflected evidence they had from their own lives.
When I imagine the future, it may be that I imagine disasters will engulf me and swallow me whole. In those moments of temptation, why is it with all the evidence of my life that God has followed me at each step that I should imagine a future that does not enjoy the presence of God? We may be buffeted by the strong winds that blow through our lives, and we may fear we will perish because of them, but our faith instructs us to live in the peaceful certainty that the God who cares for us today also will care for us tomorrow. When life roughs us up, let us make our way to the Lord to ask for help just as the apostles made their way to the Lord on the boat to seek his aid. God is faithful, so let us be, too: peace be to you; be not afraid.
Saint of the day: Gildas the Wise was born around 500 and died about. 570, although some scholars believe he may have died as early as 554. Gildas may have been born in the lower valley of Clydeside in Scotland. He is often called “Badonicus” because he was born in the year the Britons defeated the Saxons at Bath. He may have married and been widowed, but he eventually became a monk at Llanilltud in southern Wales, where he was trained by Saint Illtyd together with Saint Samson and Saint Paul Aurelian, though he was much younger. Well-known Irish monks, including Saint Finnian, became his disciples. He made a pilgrimage to Ireland to consult with his contemporary saints of that land and wrote letters to far-off monasteries. He seems to have had considerable influence on the development of the Irish church.
Around 540 he wrote the famous work De excidio et conquestu Britanniae with the purpose of making known “the miseries, the errors, and the ruin of Britain.” The work laid bare and severely criticized the lives of Britain’s rulers and clerics, blaming their moral laxity for the triumph of the Anglo-Saxon invaders. Although the fierceness of its rhetorical invectives has been criticized the wide scriptural scholarship that it reveals is uncontested. It also shows that he was knowledgeable about Virgil and Ignatius. This work was cited by Saint Bede.
He is considered to be the first English historian. He lived as a hermit for some time on Flatholm Island in the Bristol Channel, where he copied a missal for Saint Cadoc and may have written De excidio. Gildas made a pilgrimage to Rome and on his return founded a monastery on an island near Rhuys (Rhuis or Morbihan) in Brittany, which became the center of his cult. Though he lived for a time on a tiny island in Morbihan Bay, he gathered disciples around him and does not seem to have cut himself off entirely from the world; he did travel to other places in Brittany. He is said to have died on the isle of Houat, though this is uncertain.
The De excidio, which very influential in the early Middle Ages, may not have been written entirely by Gildas. Some of it may have been a forgery shortly after his time. The work serves as an example of the classical and early Christian literature that was then available in England. Gilda’s writings were used by Wulfstan, archbishop of York, in the 11th century in his Sermon of the Wolf to the English people during the disordered reign of Ethelred the Unready.
The chronology of Gildas’s life has been disputed. Some say that the lives of two men of the same name have been confused. Some early Irish martyrologies commemorate his feast as does the Leofric Missal (c. 1050) and Anglo-Saxon calendars of the 9th through 11th centuries (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Gill, Farmer, Walsh, White).
Spiritual reading: Make sure you practice this very interesting mortification: that of not making your conversation revolve around yourself. (The Forge by Josemaria Escriva)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
He said, “To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Scripture scholars agree that the core of Jesus’ teaching was the proclamation of the kingdom of God. Here we have two parables that suggest to us how Jesus understood God’s kingdom arises among us. The first of the two parables talks about the growth of wheat stalks: we may not know how the process occurs, but we believe and behave like it will occur, and it does in fact occur just the way we expected. The second of the two parables describes how the arrival of the kingdom of God starts very small only subsequently to loom as very great. What shall we take away from these two parables? First, God is faithful, and God will act. We may not know how, but we can believe and behave like God will lead us, and God will not disappoint us. Second of all, we can trust that small things will lead to great things (not unlike Jesus’ own ministry to tiny backwater towns in a backwater region of the Roman Empire that has spread to the four corners of the earth.) The coming of the Kingdom of God in our lives, then, is mysterious, reliable to the point of predictability, and immensely productive. You can count on it.
Saint of the day: Joseph Freinademetz was born in 1852, the fourth child of Giovanmattia and Anna Maria Freinademetz in Oies a section of the town of Badia in the southern Dolomites, which was then part of Austria and now part of Italy. He studied theology in the diocesan seminary of Brixen and was ordained priest on July 25, 1875. He was assigned to the community of San Martino di Badia, not far from his own home.
During his studies and the three years in San Martino, Freinademetz continually felt a calling to be a missionary. He contacted Arnold Janssen, founder of the mission house Society of the Divine Word in Steyl, a village in the south-east of the Netherlands. With the permission of his parents and his bishop, he moved to Steyl in August 1878, where he received training as a missionary.
In March 1879 he and his confrere John Baptist Anzer boarded a ship to Hong Kong, where they arrived five weeks later. They stayed there for two years. Freinademetz was based in Sai Kung until 1880 and set up a chapel on the island of Yim Tin Tsai in 1879. In 1881 they moved to the province South Shantung that they were assigned to. At the time of their arrival, there were 12 million people living in this province, of which 158 had been baptized.
Freinademetz was very active in the education of Chinese laymen and priests. He wrote a catechetical manual in Chinese, which he considered a crucial part of their missionary effort. In 1898, he was sick with laryngitis and tuberculosis, so Anzer, who had become bishop, and other priests convinced him to go to Japan to recuperate. He returned but was not fully cured. When his bishop had to leave China for a journey to Europe in 1907, the administration of the diocese was assigned to Freinademetz.
There was an outbreak of typhus in this time, and he helped wherever he could, until he himself became infected. He returned to Taikia, South Shandong, where he died on January 28, 1908. He was buried in Taikia, at the twelfth station on the Way of the Cross.
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to his disciples, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lamp stand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.” He also told them, “Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus calls us to be light in the lives of people who surround us. It is not enough that we live good lives; we are called to be people who actively manifest the values of the gospel in the lives of our family, friends, coworkers, associates, and acquaintances. Like light, we are to fill up the spaces we inhabit and illuminate everything (and everyone) in our paths.
Saint of the day: Angela Merici was born in northern Italy in about 1470. Her life was a pilgrim journey for a way to fulfill God’s plan for her. Her search began when her family life experience planted a seed of desire for God. It was fueled by two profound spiritual experiences in her early life. The first was an understanding of the eternal peace being enjoyed by her beloved, recently deceased, sister; it left her with profound faith in a God whose “dazzling face . . . contents every afflicted heart.” The second experience showed her that she, and others like her, were to live a consecrated lives “in the world.”
Angela has the double distinction of founding the first teaching congregation of women in the Church and what is now called a “secular institute” of religious women. As a young woman she became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis (now known as the Secular Franciscan Order), and lived a life of great austerity, wishing, like St. Francis, to own nothing, not even a bed. Early in life she was appalled at the ignorance among economically-challenged children, whose parents could not or would not teach them the elements of religion. Angela’s personable nature and physical beauty complemented her natural qualities of leadership. Others joined her in giving regular instruction to the little girls of their neighborhood.
She was invited to live with a family in Brescia (where, she had been told in a vision, she would one day found a religious community). Her work continued and became well known. She became the center of a group of people with similar ideals.
She eagerly took the opportunity for a trip to the Holy Land. When they had gotten as far as Crete, she was struck with blindness. Her friends wanted to return home, but she insisted on going through with the pilgrimage, and visited the sacred shrines with as much devotion and enthusiasm as if she had her sight. On the way back, while praying before a crucifix, her sight was restored at the same place where it had been lost.
At 57, she organized a group of 12 girls to help her in catechetical work. Four years later the group had increased to 28. She formed them into the Company of St. Ursula (patroness of medieval universities and venerated as a leader of women) for the purpose of re-Christianizing family life through solid Christian education of future wives and mothers. The members continued to live at home, had no special habit and took no formal vows, though the early Rule prescribed the practice of virginity, poverty and obedience. The idea of a teaching congregation of women was new and took time to develop. The community thus existed as a “secular institute” until some years after Angela’s death in 1540.
Gospel reading of the day:
On another occasion, Jesus began to teach by the sea. A very large crowd gathered around him so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land. And he taught them at length in parables, and in the course of his instruction he said to them, “Hear this! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain. And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.” And when he was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned him about the parables. He answered them, “The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.” Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown. As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once and takes away the word sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who, when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy. But they have no roots; they last only for a time. Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: After an introduction that shows Jesus as a man of action who moves about the small towns of Galilee, healing the people and showing great power, Mark commences a number of parables. As a teaching instrument, Jesus makes his point in his parables by taking ordinary circumstances in life to tell a story that makes a deeper point. The parable of the sower is just such a case. Jesus teaches that through everything, God is building up the Kingdom. Even if in one place or another, God’s efforts seem to be partly or completely ineffective, the ultimate outcome of the entire project is an immense success. Expressed simply, the parable tells us that God will ultimately win, and we can be confident that all the setbacks the Kingdom seems to experience will not prevent God’s final victory.
Saint of the day: Timothy (d. 97?): What we know from the New Testament of Timothy’s life makes it sound like that of a modern harried pastor. He had the honor of being a fellow apostle with Paul, both sharing the privilege of preaching the gospel and suffering for it.
Timothy had a Greek father and a Jewish mother named Eunice. Being the product of a “mixed” marriage, he was considered illegitimate by the Jews. It was his grandmother, Lois, who first became Christian. Timothy was a convert of Paul around the year 47 and later joined him in his apostolic work. He was with Paul at the founding of the Church in Corinth. During the 15 years he worked with Paul, he became one of his most faithful and trusted friends. He was sent on difficult missions by Paul—often in the face of great disturbance in local Churches which Paul had founded.
Timothy was with Paul in Rome during the latter’s house arrest. At some period Timothy himself was in prison (Hebrews 13:23). Paul installed him as his representative at the Church of Ephesus.
Timothy was comparatively young for the work he was doing. (“Let no one have contempt for your youth,” Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:12a.) Several references seem to indicate that he was timid. And one of Paul’s most frequently quoted lines was addressed to him: “Stop drinking only water, but have a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent illnesses” (1 Timothy 5:23).
Titus (d. 94?): Titus has the distinction of being a close friend and disciple of Paul as well as a fellow missionary. He was Greek, apparently from Antioch. Even though Titus was a Gentile, Paul would not let him be forced to undergo circumcision at Jerusalem. Titus is seen as a peacemaker, administrator, great friend. Paul’s second letter to Corinth affords an insight into the depth of his friendship with Titus, and the great fellowship they had in preaching the gospel: “When I went to Troas…I had no relief in my spirit because I did not find my brother Titus. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia…. For even when we came into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way—external conflicts, internal fears. But God, who encourages the downcast, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus…” (2 Corinthians 2:12a, 13; 7:5-6).
When Paul was having trouble with the community at Corinth, Titus was the bearer of Paul’s severe letter and was successful in smoothing things out. Paul writes he was strengthened not only by the arrival of Titus but also “by the encouragement with which he was encouraged in regard to you, as he told us of your yearning, your lament, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more…. And his heart goes out to you all the more, as he remembers the obedience of all of you, when you received him with fear and trembling” (2 Corinthians 7:7a, 15).
The Letter to Titus addresses him as the administrator of the Christian community on the island of Crete, charged with organizing it, correcting abuses and appointing ministers of the gospel.
Spiritual reading: You, eternal Trinity, are a deep sea: The more I enter you, the more I discover, and the more I discover, the more I seek you. You are insatiable, you in whose depth the soul is sated yet remains always hungry for you, thirsty for you, eternal Trinity, longing to see you with the light in your light. (Catherine of Siena)
Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The passage from Mark’s gospel that we read today is one of the alternative endings to the gospel. Jesus, after his resurrection, appears to the apostles and commissions them to go out and teach the whole world about his coming and his way of life. If we read between the lines, it says to us that if we are willing to trust God, extraordinary things will come to pass in our lives and the lives of people whom we encounter. It is a message that fits well the feast of Paul’s conversion, which we celebrate today. Because Paul trusted God’s inspiration, he was able to follow Jesus, taking the gospel into the whole world. Extraordinary things did come to pass, not just for Paul, but also for the countless numbers of men and women who through the centuries have come to know Jesus because Paul responded so completely to Jesus’ commission.
Saint of the day: Today is the celebration of the call of Paul the Apostle. Paul likely was born on the early first century. The Acts of the Apostles records that he was a citizen of Tarsus, an important Roman city in what is now modern day Turkey. Part of the Jewish diaspora, Paul himself says that he was a Pharisee, and Acts suggests he studied the rabbinic law in Jerusalem. Both Acts and the Pauline letters suggest that Paul persecuted the sect of Jews who believed that Jesus was the messiah. Likely in the late 30s on the road to Damascus to preach against the new sect, Paul had a profound experience. Acts at three places describes the experience, and though the accounts conflict in their details, we know that Paul himself said that he was the last of the apostles to see the risen Jesus, and that it was on account of this that he called himself an apostle. Christians have termed the experience a conversion, but Paul never ceased seeing himself as a Jew, and conversion may overstate the case. The feast might be better styled, “the call of Paul,” for through it, Paul experienced the need to spread the Gospel to the very ends of the earth, and it is quite possible that his missionary efforts extended even to Spain. Paul likely died in Nero’s persecution, probably either in 63 or 67.
Spiritual reading: I assure you, brothers, the gospel I proclaimed to you is no mere human invention. I did not receive it from any man, not was I schooled in it. It came by revelation from Jesus Christ. You have heard, I know, the story of my former way of life in Judaism. You know that I went to extremes in persecuting the Church of God, and tried to destroy it. But the time came when he who had set me apart before I was born and called me by his favor chose to reveal his Son to me, that I might spread among the Gentiles the good tidings concerning him. Immediately, without seeking human advisers or even going to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me, I went off to Arabia; later I returned to Damascus. Three years after that I went up to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas, with whom I stayed fifteen days. I did not meet any other apostles except James, the brother of the Lord. The communities of Christ in Judea had no idea what I looked like; they had only heard that “he who was formerly persecuting us is now preaching the faith he tried to destroy,” and they gave glory to God on my account. (Paul in the Letter to the Galatians)
On the 23rd of January we celebrate the founding of the Catholoic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA). Perhaps this is a good time to consider what church really means. I must first warn you that you are dealing with a church with a very strange God and an even stranger people. This is a God who calls us out of ourselves and while you are too small to understand this, your parents and others will help you understand its importance. The Christian community in which we are members is also strange because we freely take on the responsibility for others.
Perhaps it is best to talk about the church as a mnemonic.
Cis for Christ who is not only the head of the church he is its core and its body to which we are members.
H is for healing, the process Christ uses to mend our hearts and souls in a riven world.
U is for us, for Christ comes not only to us as individuals but to as a community. Christ uses us to make his kingdom a reality.
R is for Real. We need to be real, to be authentic in our approach to our faith, to live it out not just play lip service.
C is for community, for this triune God is community to which we strive to emulate. Community is where we live out the message and become more than ourselves, where the whole becomes greater than the collection of individuals.
H is for help. Our role in church is to help Christ by being is eyes, ears, hands and heart to a struggling world.
St Charles of Brazil was one of those individuals who, born to position and wealth, came to understand what it meant to know Christ, let Christ heal him, Use him to make a difference, become a real, authentic Christian standing up for the poor and fighting injustice, building and sustaining a community of faith and allowing that community to reach out to help bring Christ to the world.
The founding of CACINA in the US 62 years ago marks a point in time when a new part of the faith journey began. However, we cannot be simply a group of believers who pay lip services to our faith nor can we become a social service agency however laudable that may be.
There was an old woman who lived in a hut who strove to reach the Buddhist Nirvana. She was known for her holiness and many came to seek her advice. She was asked what her life was before she was enlightened and what it was now. Without pause the old woman related that before enlightenment she would rise every morning, fetch water, chop wood, make a meal and clean the hut. After enlightenment, she would rise every morning fetch water, chop wood, make a meal and clean the hut. Being a Christian does not exempt us from the daily tasks but requires us to do them with the same diligence as always.
We should use this happy feast to remind ourselves to Christ’s heart and hands and lips to a troubled world. Together we are church in the best sense of the word.
Gospel reading of the day:
The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house. Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
Reflection on the gospel: In today’s gospel, the scribes from Jerusalem, Jesus’ most determined opponents, accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan. In fact, a grammatical form in the text suggests it was an ongoing line of attack. Jesus, showing himself to be a master rhetorician, argues persuasively that the scribes’ proposition is absurd on its face: if Satan’s house is divided against itself, Satan’s reign is at an end. Jesus goes on to charge the scribes with obstinacy in the face of so much evidence his ministry comes from God and warns them that resistance to such clear evidence represents an ultimate insult against God. So it is in our lives that we must attend to the myriad ways the Lord presents himself to us and resist temptations to put ourselves in opposition to the miracles of God’s action in our lives.
Saint of the day: Born in Savoy in 1567 to a well-placed family, Francis de Sales’s parents intended that he become a lawyer, enter politics, and carry on the family line and power. He studied at La Roche, Annecy, and Clermont College in Paris. He pursued legal studies at the University of Padua and became a Doctor of Law. He returned home and found a position as Senate advocate.
It was at this point that he received a message telling him to “leave all and follow me.” He took this as a call to the priesthood, a move his family fiercely opposed. However, he pursued a devoted prayer life, and his gentle ways won over the family.
Francis became a priest and assumed the position of Provost of the diocese of Geneva, Switzerland, a stronghold of Calvinists. A preacher, writer, and spiritual director in the district of Chablais, his simple, clear explanations of Catholic doctrine, and his gentle way with everyone, brought many back to Catholicism.
He became the Bishop of Geneva at age 35. He traveled and evangelized throughout the Duchy of Savoy, working with children whenever he could. He was friend of Saint Vincent de Paul. He turned down a wealthy French bishopric and helped to found the Order of the Visitation with Saint Jeanne de Chantal. He was a prolific correspondent and has been named a Doctor of the Church. He died on December 28, 1622 at Lyons and is buried at Annecy.
Spiritual reading: Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew. (Saint Francis de Sales)
When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled:
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.
From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.
Reflection on the gospel reading: When Jesus called people to repent, he was not merely asking them to reject the wrongs they had done in the past. It was something much greater than that. The good news that Jesus preaches is about a radical change of attitude. Embracing the kingdom of God (or “heaven” as Matthew styles it) is not merely about a trajectory to the afterlife but much more immediately about changing the direction of our lives to establish God’s reign on earth: it means feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, taking care of the sick, being present to captives, rejecting hypocrisy. Embracing the good news, that is, to be a Christian, is about our acts of courtesy, kindness, justice, and love that manifest the presence of God’s kingdom in the world. All of this, of course, has great relevance to how we live our lives here and now as people who are responsible to one another.
But this passage of the gospel documents that the proclamation of the kingdom of God has a history of changing lives that goes right back to the very beginning. The second part of the gospel passage is about the reaction of four men to Jesus’ teaching: giving everything up in total trust to follow Jesus. Said another way, the history of the gospel is its power to change lives and redirect the course of events. It is a history that begins with Peter, Andrew, John, and James, and it is a history that continues to this very moment as each of us in our own turn opens ourselves to understand the implications of Jesus’ teaching in our lives.
Spiritual reading: But when once Christ had called him, Peter had no alternative he must leave the ship and come to Him. In the end, the first step of obedience proves to be an act of faith in the word of Christ. But we should completely misunderstand the nature of grace if we were to suppose that there was no need to take the first-step, because faith was already there. Against that, we must boldly assert that the step of obedience must be taken before faith can be possible. Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe. (The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer)