Gospel reading of the day:
When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” He said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over–twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Of course, we all know that there are many stories in the gospels. A lot of them, like John’s account of the transformation of water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana, we read in just one gospel. Some other stories appear in two gospels, and others in three gospels. But there is no miracle story but this one concerning the feeding of the multitudes that appears in its fullness in all four gospels. It would seem that when Christians in the first decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection gathered together to talk about the things that Jesus did and taught, they must have repeated this particular story very often.
Doubtless, there are lots of reasons for this. One may be simply their surprise, unknowing, and awe before what Jesus did. Sometimes we repeat stories over and over to try and figure out what happened. None of the four gospels actually says that Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, though the fact that the story appears in all four gospels seems to suggest that the early Church believed he did perform exactly such a miracle. When early Christians talked about the event, it may have been a way to try and figure out exactly what did happen. Clearly, they didn’t know exactly what happened, because none of the accounts explains the “mechanics” of it.
Another reason for the popularity of the tale doubtless was the natural and relentless human interest in food. We all have to eat, and here in a time of scarcity in human history was a story about the bounty of God. Jesus steps into a situation of need and resolves it, not unlike when the wedding feast ran out of wine, he stepped in to supply wine to mitigate the want. But he doesn’t do it with meager provisions; instead, he satisfies all the hunger of everyone present, and the superabundance leaves an excess after each person already is full.
Another reason the story may have fascinated the members of the early Church was its deeper meaning. By the time that the evangelists wrote the gospels, the Church had come together every Sunday for 30 or 40 to 70 years or more to celebrate the Eucharist in the breaking of the bread. As it reminisced about what Jesus did to feed the multitudes, the Church saw in this event an anticipation of their own liturgical practice. Notice how closely the words of this passage, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, conform to the account of Jesus’ actions at the Last Supper and the narrative we recite in the Eucharistic Prayer. It would seem almost indisputable that when the Church struggled to understand the meaning of the feeding of the multitudes, its members believed the event instructed them about the meaning of the way they already had worshiped for several generations.
As we reflect on this gospel passage today, various conclusions are possible for us. At one level, the account reminds us that through our stories, God has given us a tool to understand. At another level, it reminds us that events often mean different things to different people who interpret the meaning of an event in various layers. But much more directly, it reminds us that God knows what we need and will satisfy it in ways that fill us with wonder. We can be confident that God is fulfilling God’s promise to be present to us as we make our way.
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:
Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus and said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.”
Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, for John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people, for they regarded him as a prophet. But at a birthday celebration for Herod, the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests and delighted Herod so much that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests who were present, he ordered that it be given, and he had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who took it to her mother. His disciples came and took away the corpse and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Matthew narrates that Herod Antipas believed Jesus to be John the Baptist’s reincarnation: that John’s spirit had returned to punish him. Almost as an aside, Matthew recounts how Herod came to kill John, that he executed John in an act that demonstrated his moral weaknesses. Matthew almost invites us to compare John’s death to Jesus’: a weak leader, be it Herod or Pilate, cravenly collapses before his better instincts to execute a person who witnessed to the truth, be it John or Jesus. Matthew in today’s gospel sets before us the examples of expediency and authenticity almost as an implicit question about what we shall choose for ourselves.
Saint of the day: St. Leopold Bogdan Mandic, who lived between 1866 and 1942, was a Croatian-born Franciscan priest and noted confessor who spent most of his priestly life in Padua, Italy. On May 12, 1866, in Croatia, a twelfth child was born to Peter and Caroline Mandic. He was named and baptised Bogdan, ‘the God-given-one’. Although physically frail, from his youth he showed signs of great spiritual strength and integrity. At the age of 16 years, Bogdan left home for Italy to attend the Seraphic School where he was taught by the Capuchins at Udine and was also an aspirant to the order. Life was not easy for him there, since he was physically malformed and still delicate in health.
At the age of 18, Bogdan entered the Capuchin Order as a novice at Bassano del Grappa and took the religious name of Brother Leopold. After his Profession of Vows at 23, he embarked on a course of clerical studies first at Padua and then at Venice. Finally, he was ordained in Venice at the age of 28.
In the mid-1880s, Bishop Joseph Juraj Strossmayer began an ecumenical movement which focused on unity in diversity, consecrating the cathedral of Djakovo i Srijem (Bosnia) “for the glory of God, church ecumenism, and the peace and love of my people.”Father Leopold dedicated himself to the same end.
Refusing to renounce his Croatian nationality during World War I, Leopold was forced to go to southern Italy, where he spent one year in an Italian prison. He wanted to be a missionary in Eastern Europe, torn apart by much religious strife, but was denied by his superiors because of his frailty and general ill-health (In addition to physical deformities, Father Leopold suffered from stomach ailments, poor eyesight, and arthritis.)
For 34 years he heard confessions. He was always quick, serene, affable, available for any sacrifice for the good and service of others. Wherever he was assigned over the years, Leopold was greatly admired and loved by the people. Father Leopold gave tremendous encouragement to many people, especially those despairing of hope because of an enslavement to sin.
Father Leopold also had a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary whom he referred to as “my holy boss.” He was known to pray the rosary quite often and celebrated the Eucharist daily at the side altar in the Little Office of the Virgin Mary. He would then visit the sick in nursing homes, hospitals, and homes all over Padua. He visited the Capuchin infirmary to comfort the sick friars, giving them words of advice and reminding them to have faith. He was an outspoken on issues with children and was especially fond of expectant mothers and young children. He did great work in setting up orphanages for children without parents.
Father Leopold suffered from cancer of the esophagus, which would ultimately lead to his death at age 76. On July 30, 1942, while preparing for the liturgy, he collapsed on the floor. He was then brought to his cell, where he was given the last rites. Friars that had gathered at his bed sang “Salve Regina,” and when they got to the words, “O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary,” Leopold died.
During the bombing of World War II the church and part of the friary where Leopold lived were demolished, but Leopold’s cell and confessional were left unharmed. Leopold had predicted this before his death, saying, “The church and the friary will be hit by the bombs, but not this little cell. Here God exercised so much mercy for people, it must remain as a monument to God’s goodness.” Beatified in 1976, he was canonized in 1983, hailed as the “Apostle of Unity.”
Spiritual reading: I am like a bird in a cage, but my heart is beyond the seas. (St. Leopold Bogdan Mandic)
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.)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to the disciples: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
“Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Today’s gospel brings to an end the collection of parables in Matthew’s 13th chapter. The parable of the net talks about the end times, and it gives us counsel to live lives worthy of Christ and the gospel. The net, Jesus tells us, will gather up both the good and the bad, and like a fisherman does after the catch, the good and the bad will be separated. A life lived inside the reach of net of the gospel is our best impulse.
Saint of the day: Pedro Poveda was born in Linares, Spain on December 3, 1874. After he was ordained priest in Guadix in 1897, he exercised his first apostolic ministry among poor cave dwellers. He organized a livelihood program for adults and established a school for children. He gave himself to human and social advancement of poor and marginalized people.
In 1906, he was assigned as canon in the Marian Sanctuary of Covadonga. While in Covadonga, he became aware of the importance of education and the emerging trends, so he dedicated himself to solving the problems that confronted Christian education at that time. He wrote to the university sector of Madrid where women were just beginning to take an active part in the academic life of the universities.
When the Civil War broke out, he was identified as an enemy by those who wished to dechristianize the schools. When told by his persecutors to identify himself, he said, “I am a priest of Christ.” On July 28, 1936, he was shot to death for his faith and for the cause of Christian education.
He was beatified on October 10, 1993, together with Victoria Diez, a member of the Teresian Association. This association has schools around the world, including countries like Brazil, where it is the most popular school in this country. He was canonized on May 4, 2003. His work is continued by the many men, women, and youth on the four continents where the Teresian Association is.
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)
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 find it and doesn’t rest until he achieves 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. Our encounter with Jesus can occur in many ways, but once we have met him, we understand in our hearts that he is to be preferred to every other thing.
Saint of the day: This is the memorial of Blessed Alphonsus Pacheco, S.J. and Blessed Anthony Francisco, S.J. Alphonsus Pacheco was born in Minaya, Spain in 1549. His family was one of the old families of Castile. He attended the Jesuit College at Belmonte and at 18, he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Villarejo de Fuentes and later studied at Alcala. He wanted to go to the Japanese mission but his request was turned down because his superior thought he could do more good in Europe. In 1574, Fr. Alessandro Valignano came to Alcala to recruit volunteers for the Far East missions. Alphonsus made known his desire to imitate St. Francis Xavier but his provincial refused. Fr. Valignano kept him in mind although he could not change the provincial’s decision. However, when one of the forty, a religious brother, fell ill, and Fr. Valignano immediately wrote to the provincial requesting for a replacement for the sick brother and mentioned Alphonsus Pacheco as a possibility. The provincial withdrew his prohibition and instructed Alphonsus to go as he interpreted this request as God’s choice.
Alphonsus arrived in Goa in September 1574 and was ordained and made assistant to the rector at St Paul’s college, a position he held for three years before he was made assistant to the provincial. He returned to Europe to oversee the Goanese mission affairs and two years later he returned to Goa with 13 new missionaries, including Anthony Francisco. Fr. Pacheco was appointed superior of the Salsette mission until Fr. Acquaviva relieved him in 1583.
Anthony Francisco was Portuguese and was born in Coimbra and studied at its famous university. He was so inspired by the martyrdom of Fr. Ignatius de Azevedo and his companions in 1570 that he entered the Society in 1571, so that he too could go to the missions. He arrived in Goa with Fr. Pacheco in 1581 and continued his theological studies at St Paul’s college and was ordained in 1582. Fr. Francisco was assigned to the Moluccas but as a result of his ship being wrecked shortly after leaving Goa, he was appointed to the mission at Orlim on the Salsette peninsula. His active missionary career lasted only a few months.
When Fr. Acquaviva arrived in Salsette to take over a mission superior, Fr. Pacheco served as his guide and introduced him to several of the missions. The four Jesuits spent the night of July 24 at Fr. Francisco’s mission at Orlim after the conference of Jesuits at Verna. The next morning, after they celebrated Mass, the group headed southward for Cuncolim to begin the visitation of all the villages in Salsette. There in Cuncolim on July 25, 1583, the five Jesuits were martyred. The first to die was Fr. Acquaviva, followed by Fr. Berno and Br. Arunha. When Fr Pacheco saw the hostile villagers massacring his companions, he boldly face the assailants and said, “Strike me, it is I who have destroyed your idols.” Immediately a lance pierced his breast. Extending his arm in the form of a cross, he prayed, “Lord, you were pierced with a lance for me. I ask you to pardon those who have wounded me and to send them to other missionaries to lead them to heaven.” As he was praying another lance pierced his throat and Fr. Pacheco died saying the name “Jesus.” The last to fall was Fr Francisco; his head was split open and his body riddled with arrows. All the five Jesuits were between thirty and thirty-five years of age. Their bodies were recovered from a well where they were thrown into and taken back to the mission in Goa. They were beatified in 1893.
Spiritual reading: He is the power of God. He is the reason. He is God’s 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 humanity is, Christ was willing to be, that humanity also may be what Christ is. (St. Cyprian)
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: 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)
The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.” Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Our God is a tricky God. God is quite prepared to use the ways we think about things, fulfill our concepts, but entirely explode them so that in the end, the reality of what we receive from God totally fulfills and defies our expectations.
We have a teaching in this gospel passage that exemplifies this observation about God’s behavior. At the time that Jesus lived, messianic expectations ran very high, and the notion that the messiah would be a worldly though righteous king, a king on the model of David, was common. When the mother of James and John comes to Jesus and asks him that her sons may sit at Jesus’ right and left, her model of Jesus’ kingship is the model of one who makes his authority felt. Jesus, however, uses the moment to teach.
The kingship Jesus shows to us is the kingship of one who comes not to be served but to serve, one who offers a cup we otherwise might wish to avoid, one who offers a cross to carry, one who offers his life as a ransom that others might live. And so it should be with us: that if we should wish to be first, we should make ourselves the last and the servants of everyone else.
Saint of the day: Today is the feast of St. James. James the son of Zebedee and his brother John were among the twelve disciples of Our Lord. They, together with Peter, were privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, and the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and to be called aside to watch and pray with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane on the night before His death.
James and John were apparently from a higher social level than the average fisherman. Their father could afford hired servants, and John (assuming him to be identical with the “beloved disciple”) had connections with the high priest. Jesus nicknamed the two brothers “sons of thunder,” perhaps meaning that they were headstrong, hot-tempered, and impulsive; and so they seem to be in two incidents reported in the Gospels. On one occasion, Jesus and the disciples were refused the hospitality of a Samaritan village, and James and John proposed to call down fire from heaven on the offenders. On another occasion, the one recorded in the gospel we read at the beginning of today’s install of “Carry the Gospel with You,” they asked Jesus for a special place of honor in the Kingdom and were told that the place of honor is the place of suffering.
Finally, about AD 42, shortly before Passover, James was beheaded by order of King Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great (who tried to kill the infant Jesus), nephew of Herod Antipas (who killed John the Baptist and examined Jesus on Good Friday), and father of Herod Agrippa II (who heard the defense of Paul before Festus). James was the first of the Twelve to suffer martyrdom, and the only one of the Twelve whose death is recorded in the New Testament.
James is often called James Major (that is, “the greater” or “the elder”) to distinguish him from other New Testament persons called James. Tradition has it that he made a missionary journey to Spain, and that after his death, his body was taken to Spain and buried there, at Compostela (a town the name of which is commonly thought to be derived from the word “apostle,” although a Spanish-speaking listmember reports having heard it derived from, “field of stars,” which in Latin would be campus stellarum). His supposed burial place there was a major site of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, and the Spaniards fighting to drive their Moorish conquerors out of Spain took “Santiago de Compostela!” as one of their chief war-cries. (The Spanish form of “James” is “Diego” or “Iago”. In most languages, “James” and “Jacob” mean the same thing. Where an English Bible has “James,” a Greek Bible has IAKWBOS.)
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: “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. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
“Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Some who read this blog will know that when I was a young man, I spent a part of my life in the Society of Jesus. The General Superior of the Society in those days was Pedro Arrupe, who has since gone to God. His life was redolent with meaning he found in his love for Jesus, and the Church is now investigating his cause for canonization. The Servant of God Pedro Arrupe once wrote:
Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.
This the message of today’s gospel: the person who finds a treasure in the field, the person who searches for a fine pearl, both of them fall madly in love with something, and it affects everything they do. If we let ourselves fall in love with God in a quite absolute and final way, we never will be the same again: God will seize our imaginations and affect everything we do.
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
(Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day”)
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: Saint Phocas, sometimes called Phocas the Gardener or Phocas of Sinope, is venerated as a martyr by the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. He lived in the third century and died a martyr at the start of the fourth around 303. Christian tradition states that he was a gardener who lived at Sinope, on the Black Sea, who used his crops to feed the poor and also aided persecuted Christians. During the persecutions of Diocletian, he provided hospitality to the soldiers who were sent to execute him. The soldiers, not knowing that their host was their intended victim, agreed to his hospitality. Phocas also offered to help them find the person who they sought.
As the soldiers slept, Phocas dug his own grave and also prayed fervently. In the morning, when the soldiers awoke, Phocas revealed his identity.
The soldiers hesitated and offered to report to their commander that their search had been fruitless. Phocas refused this offer and bared his neck. He was then decapitated and buried in the grave that he had dug for himself.
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.
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)