Gospel reading of the day:
After Jesus left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon. Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever, and they interceded with him about her. He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them.
At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to him. He laid his hands on each of them and cured them. And demons also came out from many, shouting, “You are the Son of God.” But he rebuked them and did not allow them to speak because they knew that he was the Christ.
At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place. The crowds went looking for him, and when they came to him, they tried to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.” And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
Reflection on the gospel reading: When Jesus left the synagogue in Capernaum, he went to the house of Simon, whom Jesus called Peter. Peter’s mother-in-law was ill, and Jesus’ disciples asked the Master to heal her. He did so, and Peter’s mother-in-law immediately arose in good health to serve the community assembled there. There are two important lessons here. First, Peter’s mother-in-law served the household in which the Lord was present not because she was a woman but because she was a human being in a group of people who followed the Lord. Second, we tend to think of the restoration of health as a blessing for the individual, but it is in reality a blessing for the whole community, because when an individual is made whole again by God, God gives that individual the capacity to serve the community. We are made for the Lord, and this includes our health, so as long as we live and breathe, we are the Lord’s for his work.
Saint of the day: Raymond Nonnatus, born in 1204, was a saint from Catalonia in Spain. His surname (Latin: Nonnatus, “not born”) refers to his birth by Caesarean section: Raymond’s mother died during childbirth. He is the patron saint of childbirth, midwives, children, pregnant women and priests who want to protect the secrecy of confession. He became a member of the Mercedarian Order, founded to ransom Christian captives of the Moors of North Africa. He was ordained priest in 1222 and later became master-general of the order. He traveled to North Africa and is said to have surrendered himself as a hostage when his money ran out. He suffered in captivity. A legend states that the Moors bored a hole through his lips with a hot iron, and padlocked his mouth to prevent him from preaching. He was ransomed by his order and in 1239 returned to Spain. He died at Cardona, sixty miles from Barcelona, either on August 26 or on August 31, 1240. Many miracles were attributed to him before and after his death.
Spiritual reading: Gradually too, I learned to purify my prayer and remove from it all the elements of self-seeking. I learned to pray for my interrogators, not so they would see things my way or come to the truth so that my ordeal would end, but because they, too, were children of God and human beings in need of his blessing and his daily grace. I learned to stop asking for more bread for myself, and instead to offer up all my sufferings, the pains of hunger that I felt, for the many others in the world and in Russia at that time who were enduring similar agony and even greater suffering. I tried very hard not to worry about what tomorrow would bring, what I should eat or what I should wear, but rather to seek the kingdom of God and his justice, his will for me and for all mankind. (Walter Ciszek, S.J. who spent 15 years in a Soviet prison for doing missionary work.)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee. He taught them on the sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out in a loud voice, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down in front of them and came out of him without doing him any harm. They were all amazed and said to one another, “What is there about his word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” And news of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region.
Reflection on the gospel reading: When Jesus teaches in Capernaum’s synagogue, he “astonishes” the congregation because he teaches with authority: Jesus does not rely on the authority of the teachers of the law but teaches on his own authority since he enjoys a direct relationship with God. Moreover, he amazes the people of Capernaum because he confirms the power of his words through the power of his deeds: even the unclean spirits recognize he is from God and obey his commands. Luke tells us that both his words and deeds cause his fame to spread far and wide. As Christians, Jesus is the model and pattern of our lives. We are people who occupy a time and place; God gives to each of us authority over certain spheres. Let us use the power which God has entrusted to us as vehicles to witness to something beautiful for God by making better the world that surrounds us.
Saint of the day: Saint Margaret Ward was executed during the reign of Elizabeth I for helping a priest to escape from prison. Her date of birth is unknown, but she was born in Congleton, Cheshire. Hearing that Fr. William Watson was confined at Bridewell Prison, she obtained permission to visit him. She was thoroughly searched before and after early visits, but gradually the authorities became less cautious, and she managed to smuggle a rope into the prison. Fr. Watson escaped but hurt himself in so doing and left the rope hanging from the window. The boatman whom Ward had engaged to take him down the river then refused to carry out the bargain. Ward, in her distress, confided in another boatman, John Roche, who undertook to assist her. He provided a boat and exchanged clothes with the priest. Fr. Watson got away, but Roche was captured in his place, and Ward, having been Fr. Watson’s only visitor, was also arrested.
Margaret Ward was kept in irons for eight days, was hung up by the hands, and scourged, but absolutely refused to disclose the priest’s whereabouts. At her trial, she admitted to having helped Fr. Watson to escape and rejoiced in “having delivered an innocent lamb from the hands of those bloody wolves.” She was offered a pardon if she would attend a Protestant service, but she refused. She was hanged at Tyburn on August 30, 1588, along with Edward Shelley, Richard Martin, Richard Flower, and John Roche. Ward, Shelley, Martin, Flower, and Roche were beatified in 1929. Margaret Ward was declared a saint in 1970 as one of the Forty English Martyrs.
Spiritual reading: You have got your Mass, you have got your Altar, you have…your Tabernacle. Now go out into the highways and hedges…and look for Jesus in the ragged, in the naked, in the oppressed and sweated, in those who have lost hope, in those who are struggling to make good. Look for Jesus. And when you see him, gird yourselves with his towel and try to wash their feet. (The Jesus Prayer: The Ancient Desert Prayer That Tunes The Heart To God by Frederica Matthews-Green)
August 29, 2011/ Memorial of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist
Remembering the murder of St. John, I am reminded of the question he sends to Jesus from the dungeon: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” (Mt. 11:3). In Seasons of Celebration, Thomas Merton turns the question to us:
“(W)e are not always too happy about asking John’s question, since it implies a questioning of ourselves, of our life, of our part in history, of the very meaning of the mystery of Christ in His Church. . .Is this presence something ‘purely spiritual’? If it is so ‘spiritual’ that it has absolutely no visible or meaningful effect in contemporary society, we might as well admit it has no meaning that our contemporaries are likely to be interested in. . .(D)o they have a right to ask of us this perilous question: ‘Are you the Kingdom of Christ Who is to come, the Prince of Peace, the Just One, the Messiah who comes to bring unity and peace to the divided world of Man (sic)?’ Do they have a right to see in us some evidence of the presence and action of Christ, some visible manifestation of the Pneuma? Surely it is not impertinent of them to ask to be shown what we claim is present in us. And this claim is not a matter of esoteric and perilous theologies. . .(Christ) came most readily and most willingly to those who had most need of Him, that is to the unfortunate, the sinful, the destitute—those who were ‘empty’”
So the question I must ask myself on this day of memorial is, how willing am I to empty myself, even in the slightest, so that others may begin to be fed and filled, not only with material sustenance, but also with the Bread of Life?
Fr. Larry Hansen
Gospel reading of the day:
Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias’ own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore many things to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
Reflection on the gospel reading: About John, of course, Jesus said that no greater man had been born of woman. And in John, whose passion we recall today, we see the typology of the life of the Lord, a Lord whose sandals’ thongs John said he was not fit to loosen. As an angel does with Jesus’ birth, an angel announces John’s birth. While the Lord is born miraculously to a virgin, John is born miraculously to an older woman. The pattern of Jesus’ ministry to announce the inbreaking of the kingdom of God mirrors the pattern of John’s ministry to announce repentance to Israel. And John’s unjust murder, the subject of today’s reading and feast, prefigures our Lord’s unjust murder. Of course, there are many elements in our lives that cannot fit the outlines of the narratives of either Jesus or John, but we can choose to live as they lived, close to the call we, like they, receive from the Father, lives lived out empowered by the grace of the Holy Spirit of God.
Saint of the day: Shortly after he had baptized Jesus, John the Baptist began to denounce Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. Herod had divorced his own wife and taken Herodias, the wife of his half- brother Philip and also his own niece. John the Baptist declared, “It is not lawful for you to have her,” so Herod threw him into prison.
Not only did Herod fear John and his disciples, he also knew him to be a righteous man, so he did not kill him. Herodias determined to bring about John’s death. From prison John followed Jesus’ ministry, and sent messengers to question him (Luke 7:19-29). One day Herod gave a fine banquet to celebrate his birthday. His entire court was present as well as other powerful and influential Palestinians. Herodias’s daughter Salome so pleased Herod when she danced to entertain the company that he promised her whatever she would ask–even half of his kingdom. Salome asked her mother for counsel and was told to request the head of the Baptist (Matthew 14:1-12).
Because of his pride Herod, though deeply sorry, could not decline the request; thus, as Saint Augustine says, “an oath rashly taken was criminally kept.” He sent a soldier of the guard to behead John in prison. Thus, the “voice crying in the wilderness” was silenced. The head was placed on a platter and taken to Salome, who gave it to her mother.
When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they took away his body and laid it in a tomb, probably at Sebaste in Samaria, where he was venerated in the 4th century. His tomb was desecrated by Julian the Apostate. John’s relics are claimed by many places, but it is unlikely that they are authentic. His cultus is ancient in both the East and West, because intercession to Saint John was believed to the coming of Christ in the soul, just as it was in history. There are a vast number of medieval churches in England dedicated to Saint John. He is the patron of the Knights Hospitallers, whose principal work was to guard the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem and protect pilgrims
Prayer the Church’s banquet, angel’s age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;
Engine against th’ Almighty, sinner’s tower,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world-transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted Manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
The land of spices; something understood.
(“Prayer” by George Herbert)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Peter is easy to love, because he is so completely human and familiar, strong and insightful in one moment, weak and vacillating in the next. In last week’s gospel, he makes a profession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. In response, Jesus blesses him, telling him that no mere human had revealed this knowledge to him. But in today’s gospel, which follows immediately upon last week’s story, Peter follows his act of faith with a statement that causes Jesus to condemn him. It is quite probable, when Peter said, “God forbid,” to the notion that Jesus must suffer and die, that Peter was expressing his love for Jesus by expressing his wish that Jesus never have to endure the kind of pain he described. After all, what Peter said is a manner of speaking that is quite familiar to friends who wish each other well. But Jesus will have none of it; he tells Peter that he is not thinking the way that God thinks. Jesus makes clear that God’s ways are not our ways. In last week’s reading, Jesus told Peter that he was a rock, but with the best of intentions, Peter has suddenly made of himself a stumbling stone, an obstacle that would trip Jesus up. What Peter says annoys Jesus because, as close as the disciples are to him, they have obviously yet to put on “the mind of Christ,” as St. Paul styles it. When we have the mind of Christ, we do not see our lives in terms of the self-preservation and comfort that is characteristic of Peter’s wish for the Lord’s personal safety and well-being. When we have the mind of Christ, we offer ourselves, our ambitions, our comforts, and even our lives for the other. Having the mind of Christ means that we are so completely free that we can sacrifice our freedom to go where we would rather not go, living for others for the sake of the kingdom.
Spiritual reading: I hold that every poor man, every vagrant, every beggar is Christ carrying his cross. And as Christ, we must love and help him. We must treat him as a brother, a human being like ourselves. If we were to start a campaign of love for the poor and homeless, we would, in a short time, do away with depressing scenes of begging, children sleeping in doorways and women with babies in their arms fainting in our streets.
There are many sufferings to heal. Christ stumbles through our streets in the person of so many poor who are hungry, thrown out of their miserable lodgings because of sickness and destitution. Christ has no home! And we who have the good fortune to have one and have food to satisfy our hunger, what are we doing about it? (St. Alberto Hurtado, S.J.)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage we read today makes very clear that God expects a lot from us. Building up the kingdom, being an elemental part of Christian community, actively participating in creating a just civil society: these are all vocations we have received through our baptism. The implication of this gospel passage is that we must give thought to the gifts that God has given us that we may recognize how we are to give back to the world.
Saint of the day: In 331 or 332 Monica was born at Tagaste, in what is modern day Algeria, into a dedicated Christian family of good social standing. As a young woman, she married Patritius, a non-Christian, who was a modest landowner and a city counselor in Tagaste. Monica sought to live her ideal of a Christian wife and mother with courage of soul, warmth of faith, strength of hope, keenness of intellect, constancy of prayer and meditation on the Holy Scripture, together with a sensible approach to the ups and downs of family life. She succeeded in bringing about the conversion to Christ of both her husband and Augustine, “the son of so many tears,” at whose baptism she was present with a heart brimful of joy. On her way back to Africa with Augustine and his friends, she died at Ostia on the Tiber outside Rome some time in the month of October 385. She was 55-years-old. It was about two weeks before her death that mother and son experienced the rapture of the “ecstasy of Ostia,” in which “for one brief moment, with a sweep of their hearts, they reached up to Wisdom, the Maker of all things, and left with him the first fruits of their spirits.” In the 12th century, her liturgical celebration was fixed for May 4, kept by the Augustinians until 1998. The Universal Church, however, keeps her feast on August 27, the day before her son’s feast day. St. Monica’s remains are venerated in the church of St. Augustine, Rome.
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: We live in the already but not yet, the time when the kingdom of God already has broken into human history but a time when it is not fulfilled among us. The parable we read today certainly reflects our need to remain vigilant and prepared for the Bridegroom’s coming at the end-of-time. But we do well to remember that the Bridegroom is also here among us right now. He is with us, before us, behind us, in us, beneath us, above us, on our right, on our left; in our lying down, our sitting down, our arising; in the heart of everyone who thinks of us, speaks of us, sees us, and hears us. He is everywhere we turn, in the outstretched hand, the broken body, the growl of an empty stomach. Are we like the wise virgins prepared to encounter him everywhere he appears in our day-to-day lives? Or are we like the foolish ones who do not lay aside time to cultivate a discerning heart ready to understand the Bridegroom’s presence in all the ways he manifests himself to us as we make our way in our journey?
Saint of the day: Blessed Thomas Percy was a English martyr, born in 1528. Earl of Northumberland from 1537, Thomas initially enjoyed an excellent relationship with Queen Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603). Thomas also served Queen Mary (r. 1542-1587). Queen Elizabeth bestowed the Order of the Garter on him in 1563. He then became involved in the Rising of the North and fled to Scotland but was sold to Queen Elizabeth for two thousand pounds. For three years he languished in a prison, refusing fervently to abjure his faith in return for his freedom. Thomas was finally beheaded at York.
Spiritual reading: Let’s resolve to take action. Even if our activities be modest, that doesn’t matter. But let our decision to make the divine graces visible be more energetic and more loving – let our lives be not be spent merely in tempest. (Joy Out of Sorrow, Mother Marie des Douleurs)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.
“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so. Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with drunkards, the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Our readings from the gospel of Matthew are coming to a close. They continue for a couple of more days, and then after we read from Mark on Monday an account of John the Baptist’s martyrdom, we move on to read and reflect on the gospel of Luke starting on Tuesday. But today, Friday, and Saturday, we have certain selected Matthean passages from Jesus’ sermon about the last things.
The reading today overtly suggests that the Lord is coming at a time we cannot know; the subtext is that the wise policy is to live our lives in anticipation of the day and hour of the Lord’s return, a time that is hidden from us. There are different ways to learn from this passage. Of course, we can understand this reading in the context of the Lord’s second coming at the end of time, but isn’t one of the lessons of Christian life that the Lord is ever at hand. Living our lives in anticipation of Jesus’ return is not just living for the end. It is also living for the moment, for we know from our experience that the Lord is in our midst at every instant. Lives lived in gentleness, kindness, and mercy are lives lived not to encounter the Lord at some remote hour but to open ourselves to find him right here, right now.
Saint of the day: Louis was born in 1214 and became King of France when twelve years old. His mother, the half-English Blanche of Castile, was regent during his minority, and an influence while she lived. In 1234 he married Margaret of Provence, sister of Eleanor the wife of Henry III of England (not the couple from A Lion in Winter–that was Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine: this is two generations later).
Louis worked for the political unification of France, yielding Limoge, Cahors, and Perigeux to Henry in exchange for Henry’s renunciation of all claims to Normandy, Anjou, Maine, Touraine, and Poitou (Treaty of Paris, 1259). He yielded French claims to Rousillon and Barcelona in exchange for the yielding of Spanish claims to Provence and Languedoc (Treaty of Corbeil, 1258). He largely eliminated the feuding and wars among French nobles and vassals that had ravaged France before his time. He protected vassals from oppression, and required their lords to fulfill their obligations. He reformed the system of taxation. He reformed the courts, so that every man in France, regardless of his station, had a far better chance of receiving justice than had previously been the case. He promoted the writing down of the law, so that it was clear what the laws were, and made major strides toward eliminating trial by combat in favor of trial by jury. (Trial by combat decided the guilt or innocence of the accused by a combat between the accused and the accuser, either personally or by proxy, with God being called on to uphold the right. Trial by ordeal required the accused to prove his innocence by, for example, walking across a bed of hot coals. Both were hold-overs from pre-Christian Frankish Law, and were vigorously denounced by many clergy, but took a long time to die out.) His reputation for integrity was such that foreign monarchs regularly asked him to arbitrate their disputes.
He founded a hospital for the poor, sick, and blind, known as the Quinze-Vingts (the Fifteen Score, originally for 300 inmates). His reign co-incided with the great era of the building of Gothic cathedrals in France. Robert de Sorbon, the founder of the Sorbonne (University of Paris) was his confessor and his personal friend, and Thomas Aquinas was a frequent guest at his table. (Once, it is said, Thomas dropped out of the conversation, lost in thought, and then suddenly struck the table with his fist and exclaimed, “That is a decisive argument against the Manichees!” Louis at once called for writing materials, so that Thomas could record the argument before he had a chance to forget it.)
He fought in two Crusades, both of which were total failures. In 1248 he led an army to the island of Cyprus (about 35 N 33 E), and was there joined by 200 English knights. In 1249 they proceeded to Egypt and took the city of Damietta, but discipline broke down and Louis was unable to keep the soldiers from looting. Disease ravaged the camp, and in 1250 the army suffered a disastrous defeat at Mansurah and Louis himself was taken prisoner. His Arab captors were quick to recognize in him a mixture of military valor and personal holiness, and were accustomed to kneel when speaking to him. He and his handful of surviving companions were released on the surrender of Damietta and the payment of a large ransom. He sailed to Palestine, visited the few Holy Places that were accessible, and returned to France in 1254. In 1270 he joined another crusade, which landed in Tunis, where he immediately caught typhoid fever and died on 25 August. His biography, by a friend and comrade in arms, the Sieur Jean de Joinville, is available in English in Chronicles of The Crusades, Penguin Paperbacks.
Spiritual reading: This vision of the supreme Being also stirs up in the soul a love corresponding and proportionate to its object, for it teaches us to love everything which receives existence from the supreme Being. It likewise teaches us to love everything which has being, that is, every creature, rational and non-rational, with the supreme Being’s own love. It teaches us to love rational creatures, especially those we know are loved and cherished by him. When the soul sees the supreme Being stoop down lovingly toward creatures, it does the same. (St. Angela of Foligno)
Gospel reading of the day:
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: We celebrate the feast of Batholomew, Apostle. The notion that Batholomew and Nathaniel are the same apostle is a relatively late development in Christianity, traced to the ninth century. Whether or not Batholomew and Nathaniel were the same person, the gospel passage that the Church gives us to read today does permit some observations about Jesus and the reaction of people to him.
Over and over again throughout the gospels, we see that Jesus excited interest in people. In an age without telephone, television, radio, or Internet, news had to travel by word of mouth, and the scene that the gospel presents to us today well must have been how news about Jesus traveled in the towns and villages where Jesus preached.
Philip tells Nathaniel that Jesus is the son of Joseph of Nazareth and wonders whether Jesus might be the one foretold in the Law and the Prophets. Nathaniel, without having met Jesus, expresses a bias against Jesus because of the place where Jesus grew up. We know such reactions to people are common even in our time: it requires no explanation to understand Nathaniel’s line of reasoning.
But even so, when Nathaniel encounters Jesus, he is impressed. Jesus says a few words that, while mysterious to us, were quite compelling to Nathaniel. In an instant, Nathaniel is won over.
Jesus had a short ministry. But in a brief period of time, he stirred sufficient conviction in a small group of followers that they dedicated the rest of their lives to talking about what they had heard, what they had seen with their eyes, what they looked upon and touched with their hands concerning the Word of life. Who Jesus was must have been quite compelling to people who were disposed to hear his message and believe in his signs, and doubtless, given the interest he stirred, a chance encounter with him frequently was all the evidence someone needed to rearrange their entire lives. Such was the power of the man then even as now. We too can pray ever more deeply to hear, see, and touch the mystery given to us in the preaching that has come down to us from the apostles, that it enliven in us prodigies of faith, hope, and love.
Saint of the day: The name “Bartholomew” appears in the New Testament only on lists of the names of the twelve apostles. This list normally is given as six pairs, and the third pair in each of the synoptic gospels is “Philip and Bartholomew.” John gives no list of the Twelve, but refers to more of them individually than the Synoptics. He does not name Bartholomew, but early in his account (John 1:43-50) he tells of the call to discipleship of a Nathaniel who is often supposed to be the same person. The reasoning is as follows: John’s Nathanael is introduced as one of the earliest followers of Jesus, and in terms which suggest that he became one of the Twelve. He is clearly not the same as Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Thomas, Judas Iscariot, Judas (not Iscariot, also called Lebbaeus or Thaddeus), all of whom John names separately. He is not Matthew, whose call is described differently (M 9:9). This leaves Bartholomew, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon Zelotes. Of these, Bartholomew is the leading candidate for two reasons:
(1) “Bar-tholomew” is a patronymic, meaning “son of Tolmai (or Talmai).” It is therefore likely that he had another name. “Nathanael son of Tolmai” seems more likely than “Nathanael also called James (or Simon).”
(2) Nathanael is introduced in John’s narrative as a friend of Philip. Since Bartholomew is paired with Philip on three of our four lists of Apostles, it seems likely that they were associated.
We have no certain information about Bartholomew’s later life. Some writers, including the historian Eusebius of Caesarea, say that he preached in India. The majority tradition, with varying details, is that Bartholomew preached in Armenia, and was finally skinned alive and beheaded to Albanus or Albanopolis (now Derbent) on the Caspian Sea. His emblem in art is a flaying knife. The flayed Bartholomew can be seen in Michelangelo’s Sistine painting of the Last Judgment. He is holding his skin. The face on the skin is generally considered to be a self-portrait of Michelangelo.
Spiritual reading: One thing is certain, whoever honestly wants to love God already loves him. (The Need and Blessing of Prayer by Karl Rahner, S.J.)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. But these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus clearly was concerned about human authenticity; hypocrisy repelled him. In today’s passage, he condemns the devout of his day for their petty preoccupation with the demands of ritual and law even as they failed at introspection, compassion, and faithfulness. It is worth noting that Jesus does not condemn a heartfelt attention to the rigors of religious practice. But what he does ask of us is that whatever our external practices, we pay the greatest heed to the demands of justice, love, and integrity.
Saint of the day: Saint Philip Benizi de Damiani was born August 15, 1233 in the Florentine district of Oltrarno, the day the Blessed Virgin first appeared to the Seven Founders; Philip was born into a noble family. He was educated in Paris and Padua where he earned a doctorate in medicine and philosophy. He practiced medicine for some time, but in 1253 he joined the Servite Order in Florence. He served as a lay brother until 1259, when his superiors directed him to be ordained. Philip soon became known as one of the foremost preachers of his era, becoming master of novices at Siena in 1262 and then superior of several friaries and prior general of the Servites against his own wishes. in 1267. Reforming the order with zeal and patience, he was named as a possible candidate to become pope by the influential Cardinal Ottobuoni just before the election to choose a successor to Pope Clement IV. This possibility was so distressing to Philip that he fled and hid in a cave until the election was finally over. He attended the Council of Lyons which brought about a brief reunion with the Orthodox, worked to bring peace between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines in 1279, assisted St. Juliana in founding the third order of the Servites, and in 1284, dispatched the first Servite missionaries to the Far East. He retired to a small Servite house in Todi, where he died on August 22. He was canonized in 1671.
Spiritual reading: You are afraid that your love for God is not true love, that you do not love God at all. Well, I urge you be quite at peace on this point . . . . . If the soul longs for nothing else than to love its God then don’t worry and be quite sure that this heart possesses everything, that it possesses God himself. (Letters by Padre [St.] Pio)