Gospel reading of the day:
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: We read today the beautiful and terrible story of Jesus and the rich young man. As believers, the gospel passage we receive today ought to trouble us deeply. Even as we experience the outcome of a painful recession that has adversely affected and caused many people great anxiety and crushing problems, we by-and-large are far more comfortable than even the rich of another age. It should not be difficult for us to put ourselves in the man’s place and all of us to think of ourselves as the person in dialogue with Jesus in this narrative.
The man clearly has endeavored to live a moral life. He approaches the Lord with reverence, falling on his knees, and calling Jesus, “Good teacher.” Yet there is a certain self-centeredness in what the young man asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” His question is about a prize that he desires for himself. Jesus’ response is instructive. He quotes every commandment that concerns relationships with other human beings. Given the young man’s response, he must have been pleased to hear what Jesus says up to this point, since he reports he has done all these things from his youth. But Jesus is not done; he has one more thing to say, “Go, sell everything you have, and give it to the poor.” Jesus speaks to the radical nature of the commitment we need to give the gospel; the young man is crestfallen and walks away very sad, for he had many possessions.
What the gospel tells us is that it is not sufficient for us to live a moral life: we must be companions of Jesus, and being companions of Jesus requires extraordinary acts of self-renunciation. Many of us are generous and readily give of our surplus, but reaching down deep into our substance, reducing our personal comfort to raise the comfort of people who have less than we do: this is something a lot fewer of us actually do. Even so, it is exactly what Jesus says the Good News requires of us and the thing precisely necessary to inherit eternal life.
Very few of us actually satisfy this mandate. And as the passage from Mark attests–with God nothing is impossible–this failure leads us to the mercy of God, but if the passage does not leave us troubled, I don’t believe we have read it correctly.
Saint of the day: Daniel Brottier spent most of his life in the trenches—one way or another. Born in France in 1876, Daniel was ordained in 1899 and began a teaching career. That didn’t satisfy him long. He wanted to use his zeal for the gospel far beyond the classroom. He joined the missionary Congregation of the Holy Spirit, which sent him to Senegal, West Africa. After eight years there, his health was suffering. He was forced to return to France, where he helped raise funds for the construction of a new cathedral in Senegal.
At the outbreak of World War I Daniel became a volunteer chaplain and spent four years at the front. He did not shrink from his duties. Indeed, he risked his life time and again in ministering to the suffering and dying. It was miraculous that he did not suffer a single wound during his 52 months in the heart of battle.
After the war he was invited to help establish a project for orphaned and abandoned children in a Paris suburb. He spent the final 13 years of his life there. He died in 1936.
Spiritual reading: God does not desire more of you than that you should go out from yourself, insofar as you are burdened with your nature, and let God be God in you. The slightest image you have of yourself is as big as God; it holds you away from your whole God. To the extent that such an image enters you, God must yield, and to the extent that this image goes out, God enters in. (Meister Eckhart)
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.
Spiritual reading: Our faith begins at the point where atheists suppose it must be at an end. Our faith begins with the bleakness and power which is the night of the cross, abandonment, temptation and doubt about everything that exists! Our faith must be born where it is abandoned by all tangible reality; it must be born of nothingness, it must taste this nothingness and be given it to taste in a way that no philosophy of nihilism can imagine. (H.J. Iwand)
Gospel reading of the day:
People were bringing children to Jesus that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then he embraced the children and blessed them, placing his hands on them.
Reflection on the gospel reading: This gospel passage records that the disciples, apparently to prevent Jesus from being bothered, try to keep children away from him. But Jesus invites the children to come to him for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. Jesus isn’t speaking just of literal children; he speaks of all those who are openhearted, gentle, simple, teachable, and trusting. It is to all the children, by age and disposition, that Jesus offers his invitation to come to him that we may be embraced and blessed by his touch.
Saint of the day: Paula of Saint Joseph of Calasanz was born in 1799 in Spain. A member of a large and pious family in a small seaside village, her father died when Paula was 10 years old. She worked as a seamstress and lace-maker and helped raise her siblings. She also helped in her parish with other children.
At age 30, still single and devoting herself privately to God, she and her friend Inez Busquets opened a school in Gerona to provide a good education mixed with spiritual guidance. The school was such a success that she was able to found a college in May 1842, and another school in 1846. To staff and manage the schools, she founded the Daughters of Mary (Pious School Sisters) in February 1847 and took the name Paula of Saint Joseph of Calasanz. Paula served as its leader. These schools have now spread to four continents. She died in February 1889 of natural causes.
Spiritual reading: Christianity has all too often meant withdrawal and the unwillingness to share the common suffering of humankind. But the world has rightly risen in protest against such piety . . . . The care of another – even material, bodily care – is spiritual in essence. Bread for myself is a material question; bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one. (Jacques Maritain)
Jesus came into the district of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds gathered around him and, as was his custom, he again taught them. The Pharisees approached him and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him. He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?” They replied, “Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Our kind Lord was a perceptive social critic who keenly looked into the ways of our communities and recognized the consequences of human legislation. God entered the world as a person localized in a concrete space at a given moment in human history, that is to say, when God became incarnate, God became enculturated. In the place and time where Jesus lived, the Law as it came down from ancient times allowed a man to divorce his wife. Quite unjustly, most women needed a man to survive economically, and a woman who was neither young nor a virgin had little value outside of her original marriage. When a husband divorced his wife, he condemned her to a life of poverty and ostracism.
For precisely this reason, that is, the cost of divorce to women, Jesus condemned divorce as he embraced the feminism appropriate to his culture. Of course, the conditions that existed in Israel in Jesus’ day no longer persist in our own, so the solutions to injustice that Jesus commanded no longer necessarily apply in our own day. But what does persist is the example of a life set up in opposition to injustice. If we were to model ourselves on the pattern of our dear Lord’s own life, we would look at this land at this hour and commit ourselves to a radical rejection of all those things in our own place and time which lead to poverty and ostracism in the lives of those with whom we live in these hot mazes that we together traverse. Modeling ourselves on Jesus, we would become radical social critics who look at all the sources of oppression, marginalization, and denigration, and reject them: and as we bar each lane that leads to death, we would affirm the myriad paths that lead to life in this land on this day. And we would know that the land and the hour that follow this one may command of us different solutions. Jesus is our only law.
Saint of the day: Sebastian of Aparicio’s roads and bridges connected many distant places. His final bridge-building was to help men and women recognize their God-given dignity and destiny.
Sebastian’s parents were Spanish peasants. At the age of 31 he sailed to Mexico, where he began working in the fields. Eventually he built roads to facilitate agricultural trading and other commerce. His 466-mile road from Mexico City to Zacatecas took 10 years to build and required careful negotiations with the indigenous peoples along the way.
In time Sebastian was a wealthy farmer and rancher. At the age of 60 he married. His wife’s motivation may have been a large inheritance; his was to provide a respectable life for a girl without even a modest marriage dowry. When his first wife died, he married for the same reason; his second wife also died young.
At the age of 72 Sebastian distributed his goods among the poor and entered the Franciscans as a brother. Assigned to the large (100-member) friary at Puebla de los Angeles south of Mexico City, Sebastian went out collecting alms for the friars for the next 25 years. His charity to all earned him the nickname “Angel of Mexico.”
Sebastian was beatified in 1787 and is known as a patron of travelers.
Spiritual reading: One must pass through the desert and spend some time there in order to receive the grace of God; it is there that one empties oneself, that one drives away from oneself everything which is not God and that one empties completely the house of one’s soul in order to leave all of it to God alone. (Charles de Foucald )
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
“Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor? Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage today at its root cautions us to live exemplary lives because what we do for one another is what we do for the Lord. We are to avoid injuring one another, even the interior lives of other people. Jesus calls us to make a radical commitment to his way of life; the life of a Christian, he tells us, is the way of compassion and peace.
Saint of the day: A nobleman born in 1200, Luke Belludi was brought into the Franciscans by Saint Anthony of Padua and Saint Francis of Assisi. Anthony’s companion in his travels and preaching, Luke tended him in his last days and took Anthony’s place upon his death. He served as th guardian of the Friars Minor in the city of Padua.
In 1239, Padua fell, nobles were executed, the mayor and council banished, the university of Padua closed, and the church dedicated to Saint Anthony left unfinished. Luke was expelled, but secretly returned, visiting the tomb of Saint Anthony to pray for help. One night a voice from the tomb assured him that the city would soon be delivered; it was. Luke was elected provincial minister, and furthered the completion of the great basilica in honor of Anthony. He died about 1285.
Spiritual reading: May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in. (Mother Teresa)
At that time, John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Today’s gospel addresses the relationship between non-Christians and Christians, and the message that the passage implies may not be altogether flattering to us who have accepted the baptism of the Lord. The disciples in this passage from the gospel tell Jesus they encountered a man who was exorcising devils in Jesus’ name. This man was not a disciple of Jesus, and the disciples report they told him to stop his use of Jesus’ name because he was not one of them. There has been a history of triumphalism among Christians, and perhaps the account we read today is the first record of that history.
Human goodness surrounds us, and I have found courageous kindness everywhere in my life, both among people who believe in Jesus and those who do not. Jesus corrects his disciples for believing only those who are numbered among his followers can do good things. Jesus knew, and all of us can witness, that human beings, whether or not they are Christians, are quite capable of much good. God speaks in every human heart, whether or not that heart is attached to a mind that confesses Jesus, and we do well to recognize and celebrate God’s achievements among believers and non-believers alike.
Moreover, we who subscribe to the Lord’s way of life often do not live it. How much do we become a scandal for non-believers? In America in recent decades, many of us Christians have demonstrated such unbridled intolerance that we have made the word Christian synonymous with bigoted and closed-minded. How can we claim to carry Christ’s gospel to the world when our arrogant dogmatism repels the very persons we profess we would attract.
We must proclaim Jesus Christ with a mind open to goodness wherever it is to be found. Most of us live lives that can carry the gospel to nonbelievers only through the attractiveness of our lives, so is it not better that we should live lives that actually do attract people?
Saint of the day: Fr. Ludwik Mzyk came from a miner’s family. His father was a foreman. Ludwik, the fifth of nine children, was born in Pland on April 22nd, 1905 into a deeply religious family. Ludwik was an altar boy from his childhood and showed interest in religion and the Church. He discovered his missionary vocation during parish retreats run by a missionary from Nysa. He revealed his desire to his parents but they did not approve of it. His relatives supported him. Together with his eventually convinced parents they secured a place for Ludwik in the minor seminary of the Divine Word Missionaries at the Holy Cross House in Nysa. Ludwik arrived in Nysa in1918. His father died when Ludwik was still in secondary school. In order to help his mother financially Ludwik, together with his brother, worked in a mine during his summer holidays. After he left Nysa, he entered the novitiate and eventually took vows. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1932 and completed a doctorate in theology at the Gregorian University in Rome in 1935. After a brief time in Austria, he returned to Poland where he became novice master of a new novitiate for the Divine Word Missionaries.
When the war began almost all the inhabitants of the house were evacuated to eastern Poland. He himself stayed in the house. He welcomed with joy all those who returned after a couple of weeks. His calm positively influenced the young. The situation at the beginning of the occupation remained almost unchanged. The Nazis rarely visited the house. However, learning about forced displacement of the population and arrests, the superiors thought about sending the novices back home. Unfortunately, there already were problems with changing addresses. Fr. Ludwik tried different ways to safeguard the future of the novices. He got in touch with the SVD in Austria, Germany, and Rome trying to find a place for them. He even proposed to move the novitiate to Bruczków where the novices could work on the farm to earn their living. However, traveling was banned. Gradually it became clear that although educated in Austria and Germany he did not know how to deal with the Germans as occupants. He made one serious mistake in his contacts with the Gestapo. Talking with one of the officers, and being unaware that he was Gestapo, Fr. Mzyk said that he preferred to negotiate with the army than with the Gestapo, because he trusted the former more. That event had a decisive influence on his future. Using that conversation as a pretext, the Gestapo arrested him on January 25th, 1940. Another priest who returned later to Chludowo reported how cruelly Fr. Ludwik was treated during the loading of the truck in Poznan. He said: “Your Master is a true angel.”
All the information about the martyrdom of Fr. Mzyk was taken from the reports of eye-witnesses, prisoners of Fort VII in Poznan’. Frs. Sylwester Marciniak wrote: “I met Fr. Mzyk in the cell No.60 in Fort VII in Poznan’ on February 1st, 1940. There were 28 others in that cell with him, mostly students. They all starved… The guards entered the cell day and night and beat them without any reason. Fr. Mzyk fulfilled all orders scrupulously and warned everybody not to do things that were forbidden… It was evident that he prayed all the time.”
On February 20, 1940, apparently sensing the end might be near, Fr. Mzyk asked a fellow priest for absolution immediately before he suffered a vicious beating. After the beating, Fr. Mzyk was ordered to stop at the gate and was shot him in the back of the head. Fr. Ludwik Mzyk was beatified in 1999 as one of the 108 Polish martyrs.
Peace! The February 2011 issue of The Contemporary Catholic is now available. I hope you enjoy the thoughts and can use them as you prepare for Lent.
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.
They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. For they had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
Reflection on the gospel: There is a theme in Jesus’ teaching of receiving the weakest among us as we would receive Jesus. In the Matthean description of the judgment, Jesus says that whoever feeds the hungry, gives drink to the thirsty, clothes the naked, gives shelter to the homeless, visits the sick, visits prisoners, buries the dead, that whoever does these things for another, does them for Jesus. In today’s gospel passage, Jesus says whoever receives a child, receives Jesus, but not just Jesus, but the one who sent Jesus. Jesus is able to so completely identify with the other that both the injuries and the blessings she or he sustains, the Lord sustains. When we remember this, our gifts to the wounded we encounter become much easier for us to practice. Let us then surrender ourselves to the discipline of seeing the Lord in each one we encounter, not just even but most especially the weakest ones God puts in our path. This best serves us not as an allegory or an ideal but as a way of life that we enact from day to day.
In two week, we will enter into Lent. In this season of baptismal renewal, people often give up little things as a form of repentance, but it would be better I think to make a discipline of service to those among us who have less than we do, to make for instance a practice of giving a dollar each day for 40 days to a homeless person on the street, than to mortify ourselves through eschewing, say, chocolate. Me, I say, if the choice is between not eating chocolate and not serving the poor, eat chocolate and serve the poor.
Saint of the day: Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski was born in 1913 in Poland. A priest, he died in Dachau on February 23, 1945. He is the patron of Polish scouting. He joined Scouting on March 21, 1927. Stefan served as Patrol leader and later as Troop Leader and during his years in the High Seminary of Pelplin Diocese he was an active member of its Scout Club. He also was an active member of the Marian Congregation and from the age of nine, Stefan had been an altar boy. During his years in the seminary of Pelpin he was active in the Temperance movement. On March 14, 1937 he was ordained a priest in Pelpin. In the following years he served as a priest in Pelpin and Torun’. While working as a priest he continued his studies on the university of Lwów. In Torun’ he was responsible for the parish press. In 1938 he became leader of the Old Scouts and chaplain of the scout district Pomerania. Arrested by the Gestapo on October 18, 1939, he was imprisoned in the German concentration camps Stutthof, Grenzdorf, Sachsenhausen and Dachau where he died. Working with the typhus patients in the camp, he himself contracted the disease and died of it. On June 7, 1999 Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski was beatified.
Spiritual reading: Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. (M. Scott Peck)
As Jesus came down from the mountain with Peter, James, John and approached the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them. Immediately on seeing him, the whole crowd was utterly amazed. They ran up to him and greeted him. He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit. Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.” He said to them in reply, “O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? Bring him to me.” They brought the boy to him. And when he saw him, the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions. As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around and foam at the mouth. Then he questioned his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” He replied, “Since childhood. It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.” Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering, rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it, “Mute and deaf spirit, I command you: come out of him and never enter him again!” Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out. He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, “He is dead!” But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up. When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private, “Why could we not drive the spirit out?” He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” is a prayer that is useful to each of us. All of us sometimes get over our heads with situations which baffle us. Whenever things get beyond our abilities, like the possessed boy was for the disciples, we need to pray. When we ask for help in our unbelief, it results in more belief, in joy, and restoration. God will meet our need in God’s time. God’s ways are not predictable, but God answers prayers like, “Help my unbelief.”
Saint of the day: Born in about 1561 at Horsham St. Faith’s in Norfolk, England, Robert Southwell was an English Jesuit priest and poet. He was brought up in a Catholic family and educated at Douai. From Douai, he moved to Paris, where he was placed under a Jesuit father, Thomas Darbyshire. In 1580, he joined the Society of Jesus after a two-year novitiate passed mostly at Tournai. In spite of his youth, he was made prefect of studies in the English college of the Jesuits at Rome and was ordained priest in 1584.
It was in that year that an act was passed forbidding any English-born subject of Queen Elizabeth, who had entered into priests’ orders in the Roman Catholic Church since her accession, to remain in England longer than forty days on pain of death. But Southwell, at his own request, was sent to England in 1586 as a Jesuit missionary with Henry Garnett. He went from one Catholic family to another, administering the rites of his Church, and in 1589 became domestic chaplain to Ann Howard, whose husband, the first earl of Arundel, was in prison convicted of treason. It was to him that Southwell addressed his Epistle of Comfort. This and other of his religious tracts, A Short Rule of Good Life, Triumphs over Death, Mary Magdalen’s Tears and a Humble Supplication to Queen Elizabeth, were widely circulated in manuscript. That they found favor outside Catholic circles is proved by Thomas Nash’s imitation of Mary Magdalen’s Tears in Christ’s Tears over Jerusalem.
After six years of successful labor, Southwell was arrested. He was in the habit of visiting the house of Richard Bellamy, who lived near Harrow and was under suspicion on account of his connection with Jerome Bellamy, who had been executed for sharing in Anthony Babington’s plot. One of the daughters, Anne Bellamy, was arrested and imprisoned in the gatehouse of Holborn. She revealed Southwell’s movements to Richard Topcliffe, who immediately arrested him. He was imprisoned at first in Topcliffe’s house, where he was repeatedly put to the torture in the vain hope of extracting evidence about other priests. Transferred to the gatehouse at Westminster, he was so abominably treated that his father petitioned Elizabeth that he might either be brought to trial and put to death, if found guilty, or removed in any case from that filthy hole. Southwell was then lodged in the Tower of London, but he was not brought to trial until February 1595.
There is little doubt that much of his poetry, none of which was published during his lifetime, was written in prison. On the 20th of February 1595, he was tried before the court of King’s Bench on the charge of treason and was hanged at Tyburn on the following day. On the gallows he denied any evil intentions towards the Queen or her government. He was hanged at Tyburn, and became a Catholic martyr on February 21, 1595.
Spiritual reading: My heart is transformed by the smile of trust given by some people who are terribly fragile and weak. They call forth new energies from me. They seem to break down barriers and bring me a new freedom. It is the same with the smile of a child: even the hardest heart can’t resist. Contact with people who are weak and who are crying out . . . is one of the most important nourishments in our lives. When we let ourselves be really touched by the gift of their presence, they leave something precious in our hearts. As long as we remain at the level of doing things for people, we tend to stay behind our barriers of superiority. We ought to welcome the gift of the poor with open hands. Jesus says, “What you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.” (Jean Vanier)
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 as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
“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 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: It seems to me that the counsel we receive from the Torah, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, strikes most of us, even from the earliest age, as the most natural justice. Yet the words that Jesus speaks to us in today’s gospel call us to love in just the way that God loves, without condition. This is not a romantic love. Rather, it is a love that esteems the other and wishes for the other the very best. We ignore God, and God loves us, esteems us, wishes us the best. We dishonor God, and God loves us, esteems us, wishes us the best. We rail against God, and God loves us, esteems us, wishes us the best. Jesus calls us to love those who ignore, dishonor, and rail against us: Jesus calls us to esteem them and wish them the best. This passage calls us to be like God is, to love even until we suffer for it. Perfection is not, according to this passage, what we have thought it is; perfection is loving even those who do not love us.
Spiritual reading: Those who are not prepared to take up the cross, those who are not prepared to give their life to suffering and rejection by others, lose community with Christ, and are not disciples. Discipleship is commitment to the suffering Christ. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)