When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” He said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven, but the children of the Kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.” And at that very hour his servant was healed.
Jesus entered the house of Peter, and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, the fever left her, and she rose and waited on him.
When it was evening, they brought him many who were possessed by demons, and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick, to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet:
He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.
Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel, we have a series of healing stories. First, Jesus heals the centurion’s servant. Jesus then heals Peter’s mother-in-law. Finally, Jesus heals all the sick people they bring to him at the end of the day. These various healing stories, coming one on upon another, show how freely Jesus heals. In the first case, someone who is not sick pleads for someone who is sick but at a distance. In the second case, Jesus himself goes to a person who is sick. In the third case, people bring to Jesus those who are sick. In the initial narrative, the stranger pleads with Jesus. Then Jesus heals the relative of his friend. Afterward, Jesus heals crowds. In all of these cases, Jesus heals with neither conditions nor boundaries: People ask for others; people ask for themselves; people don’t ask. It doesn’t matter: Jesus is lavish, profligate, even wanton in his healing. Indeed, we might say and we ought always to remember that Jesus is the prodigal healer.
Saint of the day: Today is the feast of the first martyrs of Rome. I find it amazing that only a dozen or so years after the death of Jesus, there was a flourishing Christian community. The explanation for this population probably reflects the frequent travel that occurred between Jerusalem and the capital of the empire and the fact that there was a large Jewish population in Rome. Probably as a result of controversy between Jews and Jewish Christians, the Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome in 49-50 A.D. Suetonius the historian says that the expulsion was due to disturbances in the city “caused by the certain Chrestus” [Christ]. Perhaps many came back after Claudius’s death in 54 A.D. Paul’s letter was addressed to a Church with members from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds.
In July of 64 A.D., more than half of Rome was destroyed by fire. Rumor blamed the tragedy on Nero, who wanted to enlarge his palace. He shifted the blame by accusing the Christians. According to the historian Tacitus, many Christians were put to death because of their “hatred of the human race.” Peter and Paul were probably among the victims. Threatened by an army revolt and condemned to death by the senate, Nero committed suicide in 68 A.D. at the age of 31.
Spiritual reading: Think what the world could look like if we took care of the poor even half as well as we do our bibles! (Dorothy Day)
Gospel reading of the day:
When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I will do it. Be made clean.” His leprosy was cleansed immediately. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one, but go show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage we read today has a wonderful simplicity. Society shunned lepers in Jesus’ day, and when the man into today’s gospel approaches Jesus, he calls on him as one who has experienced the utter annihilation of his personhood: he is abjectly broken, completely dismissed, and entirely avoided in his world. In this state of total abandonment, the leper comes to Jesus and says Jesus can help him if he wants to. Jesus simply says, “I do want to help you.” Today’s gospel passage is the mystery of the cross and resurrection: it is an assurance both that we can trust God and that through trust in God in even the worst circumstances, God extends to us new life.
Saint of the day: Reverence for the two great apostles, Peter and Paul, goes back to the earliest year of Christian faith. Peter and Paul are the solid rock that founds the Church. They are at the origin of her faith and will forever remain her protectors and her guides. To them the Church owes her true greatness, for it was under God’s providential guidance that they were led to spread the gospel, a gospel for which they gave their lives.
Peter (d. 64?). St. Mark ends the first half of his Gospel with a triumphant climax. He has recorded doubt, misunderstanding and the opposition of many to Jesus. Now Peter makes his great confession of faith: “You are the Messiah” (Mark 8:29b). It was one of the many glorious moments in Peter’s life, beginning with the day he was called from his nets along the Sea of Galilee to become a fisher of men for Jesus.
The New Testament clearly shows Peter as the leader of the apostles, chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him. With James and John he was privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the raising of a dead child to life and the agony in Gethsemane. His mother-in-law was cured by Jesus. He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus’ death. His name is first on every list of apostles.
And to Peter only did Jesus say, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:17b-19).
But the Gospels prove their own trustworthiness by the unflattering details they include about Peter. He clearly had no public relations person. It is a great comfort for ordinary mortals to know that Peter also has his human weakness, even in the presence of Jesus.
He generously gave up all things, yet he can ask in childish self-regard, “What are we going to get for all this?” (see Matthew 19:27). He receives the full force of Christ’s anger when he objects to the idea of a suffering Messiah: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Matthew 16:23b).
Peter is willing to accept Jesus’ doctrine of forgiveness, but suggests a limit of seven times. He walks on the water in faith, but sinks in doubt. He refuses to let Jesus wash his feet, then wants his whole body cleansed. He swears at the Last Supper that he will never deny Jesus, and then swears to a servant maid that he has never known the man. He loyally resists the first attempt to arrest Jesus by cutting off Malchus’s ear, but in the end he runs away with the others. In the depth of his sorrow, Jesus looks on him and forgives him, and he goes out and sheds bitter tears. The Risen Jesus told Peter to feed his lambs and his sheep (John 21:15-17).
Paul (d. 64?). If the most well-known preacher today suddenly began preaching that the United States should adopt Marxism and not rely on the Constitution, the angry reaction would help us understand Paul’s life when he started preaching that Christ alone can save us. He had been the most Pharisaic of Pharisees, the most legalistic of Mosaic lawyers. Now he suddenly appears to other Jews as a heretical welcomer of Gentiles, a traitor and apostate.
Paul’s central conviction was simple and absolute: Only God can save humanity. No human effort—even the most scrupulous observance of law—can create a human good which we can bring to God as reparation for sin and payment for grace. To be saved from itself, from sin, from the devil and from death, humanity must open itself completely to the saving power of Jesus.
Paul never lost his love for his Jewish family, though he carried on a lifelong debate with them about the uselessness of the Law without Christ. He reminded the Gentiles that they were grafted on the parent stock of the Jews, who were still God’s chosen people, the children of the promise.
In light of his preaching and teaching skills, Paul’s name has surfaced (among others) as a possible patron of the Internet.
Spiritual reading: Faith is like a dark tunnel: God gives us the Light to take one step at a time. The Light is not given to see the end of the tunnel. (Walter Ciszek, S.J.)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
Reflection on the gospel reading: We come to the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus tells us that we can rely on what he has spoken to us. His teachings are so perfect that they will protect us in even the most hazardous circumstances. They are so true that we fail to conform ourselves to his words at our own peril. All we need do is very simple to state but very hard to live: let his words penetrate our lives so that Jesus’ teaching abides in the core of our beings and radiates outward through all of our actions.
Saint of the day: Pedro Poveda Castroverde was born December 3, 1874 at Linares, Spain. Raised in a pious family, he felt an early call to the priesthood. He entered the seminary in Jaen in 1889, then the seminary of Guadix, Grenada. He was ordained on April 17, 1897.
He taught at the seminary, continued his studies, and received his licentiate in theology in Seville in 1900. He ministered in Guadix to a group of people so poor they lived in caves. He built a school for the children, and provided vocation training to the adults.
He was transferred to Madrid, and was named a canon of the Basilica of Covadonga, Asturius in 1906. His time in Guadix had impressed Pedro with the need for education for the poor. He prayed on the topic, and wrote on the need for professional training for teachers. In 1911 Pedro founded the Saint Teresa of Avila Academy, the foundation of Institución Teresiana. He joined the Apostolic Union of Secular Priests in 1912, wrote on the need for more teachers, and opened teacher training centers. He returned to teaching at the seminary at Jaen, served as spiritual director of Los Operarios Catechetical Centre, and taught religion at the Teachers Training School. In 1914 he opened Spain’s first university residence for women in Madrid. In 1921 he was transferred to Madrid and was appointed a chaplain of the Royal Palace. In 1922 he was appointed to the Central Board Against Illiteracy, and he continued to work with the Teresian Association; it received papal approval in 1924, and later spread to Chile and Italy. Martyred in the Spanish Revolution, he was shot by firing squad on July 28, 1936 at Madrid, Spain.
Spiritual reading: Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being. (Albert Schweitzer)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: It’s easy to dress things up. We all have skills to pretend we are things which we know we’re not, and we even have skills to pretend we are things which we think we are but God knows we’re not. Jesus here applies this knowledge to the works of religious leaders. The subtle theme here reminds us of a theme we saw yesterday. Even if we are not to prejudge, we are to be attentive to the facts we observe on the ground. If we see people who promise they represent the gospel but their lives don’t produce the outcomes of gospel values, Jesus tells us to use our common sense. Jesus loves the real, and he invites us to do the same, using caution and prudence to assess the evidence before our eyes. As St. John tells us, “Test every spirit.”
Saint of the day: Today is the memorial of the martyrs of the eastern Church killed by the Communist regimes. The Ukrainian Church is the largest of the eastern rite Churches in union with the western Church. It has five million faithful. The Ukrainian Catholics, religious and lay, suffered intense persecution from the Russian communists, especially under the cruel dictator Joseph Stalin and his savage enforcer, the “Butcher of Ukraine,” Lazar Moses Kaganovich, chairman of the Soviet Presidium. Stalin’s collectivization of the people’s farms and confiscation of their grain from 1932 to 1933, led to the forced starvation of ten million Ukrainians. This was done as a punishment for the rise in Ukrainian patriotism and the emergence of a powerful nationalist movement that arose about a decade after the Bolsheviks took over. Kaganovich, who had already spearheaded the murderous purges in Russia, posted armed guards at all the grainaries to prevent the Ukrainian people from access to their own harvest and when starving people tried to reach the border in search of food they were gunned down. The West ignored the crisis, preferring to believe the USSR propaganda that there was a famine. Only one pro-Soviet American reporter, Walter Duranty of the New York Times, was allowed into Ukraine at the time. In that paper he denied the genocide calling it “partial crop failures.” Sometime after receiving the Pulitzer Prize for journalism, he later admitted, according to British Diplomatic Reports, that “as many as ten million” may have perished.
Reasonable estimates put the percentage of murdered Ukrainians in that two-year period at a quarter of the population, roughly ten million. Most of the victims were poor children. When the granaries were re-opened in 1934, the people were reeling in shock and despair. Before the genocide, the Catholic Church was flourishing in Ukraine, or at least it appeared to be. There were many vocations to the religious life, especially in Lviv, Ukraine’s cultural center, where seminaries and monasteries thrived. After and during the horrific two-year ordeal many lost faith in God, but others accepted the chastisement as a purification and the seminaries and convents began to rebound. The suffering under the yoke of Communism was not over, it would last for another sixty-four years (except for the Nazi occupation from 1941-1944), until the nation achieved its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Genocide wasn’t enough, Stalin still wanted absolute control over all of Ukraine. In 1939, he sent his Red Army into western Ukraine; prior to this it was the eastern part of the country that took the brunt of his sadistic brutality. There was now only one major force in his way, the Catholic Church. Half of the Catholics in Ukraine had been deported and dozens of priests executed. The Orthodox Church, under the Moscow Patriarchate, cooperated with the Communist Party and kept its worship private. The Catholic Church (i.e., the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church) continued its mission as mandated by Christ to teach, preach, administer the sacraments wherever needed, and evangelize. In 1939, the order came down from Stalin to intensify the persecution of the Catholic Church in western Ukraine and liquidate it by terror if its leaders could not be bought outright. Everything the Church owned was confiscated — convents, schools, hospitals, the Catholic press, and many Catholic churches were burnt to the ground. It was during the height of the persecution, in 1941, that the Nazis drove the Communists out of Ukraine. With Germany’s defeat in World War II, the Communists re-consolidated their hold in Ukraine, half the Catholic clergy were sent to prison, and one-fifth were exiled; the Orthodox took over all the Catholic churches and all Church properties were seized by the atheistic state. In recognition of this vast cloud of witnesses who died for the faith in this period, 28 martyrs were beatified in the Ukraine on June 27, 2001.
Spiritual reading: Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them. (Mother Teresa)
Matthew 7:6, 12-14
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.
“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the Law and the Prophets.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In yesterday’s gospel, we received the teaching not to judge, and today’s passage suggests we ought not to throw our pearl’s before swine. While it is true that we are to avoid passing judgment, Jesus tempers this saying with the observation that we must not be blind to what we observe. It is important to make an assessment of other people’s reactions, since correcting those who will not receive correction is futile. It is true, as we read yesterday, that we cannot prejudge anyone. But it is also true that we can’t force faith in Jesus down the throats of people who do not want to receive it.
Saint of the day: Born in Fiumicello di Campodarego (Padua) on November 22, 1863 and baptized Giacinto Bonaventura, Andrea Giacinto Longhin became a Capuchin at Bassano del Grappa August 27, 1879. That is when he took the name Andrea. After making solemn profession in October 1883 and completing theological studies in Venice, he was ordained priest in June 1886. From 1888 to 1902 he was dedicated to the formation of the young friars in the Province. He was elected Provincial Minister 1902.
He was eventually appointed bishop of Treviso and was outstanding in his dedication to the catechesis of the young and the pastoral care of his clergy. He was advocate of the poor, of workers, and of the farmers. During World War I, he exercised special care for everyone, especially refugees, soldiers, the wounded, and the clergy. After the war, he encouraged the work of reconstruction, not only of churches but of Christian life and was strong in his defense of the faithful against anti-Christian ideologies. His apostolic efforts were recognized by the people, clergy and fellow bishops.
Struck down by illness in October 1935, he suffered for nine months. He died June 26, 1936. From November 5, 1936, his remains were entombed in Treviso Cathedral. The initial processes concerning his reputation for holiness were held in Padua and Udine from April 1964 until June 1967. The decree to examine his writings was issued in December 1971. His cause was introduced in December 1981. The apostolic process was carried out in Treviso between June 1982 and June 1985 and in December 1998 his heroic virtue was recognized. He was beatified in 2002.
I called through your door,
“The mystics are gathering
in the street. Come out!”
“Leave me alone.
“I don’t care if you’re dead!
Jesus is here, and he wants
to resurrect somebody!”
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage today comes from the beginning of the seventh chapter of Matthew, the last chapter of the Sermon on the Mount. This passage talks about judging others, but its heart is Jesus’ passion that we be authentic, which requires that we avoid all hypocrisy. Each of us fails. Our own failures, if we attend to them, might be instructive. Everyone has a hard journey, and everyone is doing what they can do in the moment with the cards they have been dealt. Our own failures, if only we will listen to them, call out to us, not to feel guilt or shame but to live compassionately. The hypocrisy of judging is ultimately a failure on our parts to love. For if we love, we will understand based on our own experience just how hard it is to live our humanity with complete integrity. In this way, authenticity is the necessary foundation for love.
Saint of the day: Jutta of Thuringia lived in the 13th century. The patroness of Prussia, she began her life amid luxury and power but died the death of a simple servant of the poor.
Virtue and piety important to Jutta and her husband, both of whom were nobles. The two were set to make a pilgrimage together to the holy places in Jerusalem, but her husband died on the way. The newly widowed Jutta, after taking care to provide for her children, resolved to live just for God. She disposed of the fine clothes, jewels, and furniture that characterize noble life, and became a Secular Franciscan, taking on the simple garment of a religious.
From that point she became a woman for others: caring for the sick, particularly lepers; tending to the poor, whom she visited in their hovels; helping the crippled and blind with whom she shared her own home. Many of the townspeople of Thuringia laughed at how the once-distinguished woman now spent all her time. But Jutta saw the face of God in the poor and felt honored to serve them.
About the year 1260, not long before her death in about 1264, Jutta lived near the non-Christians in eastern Germany. There she built a small hermitage and prayed unceasingly for their conversion. She has been venerated for centuries as the special patron of Prussia.
Spiritual reading: Three things can lead us close to God. They are painful physical suffering, being in exile in a foreign land, and being poor by choice because of love for God. (Jutta of Thuringia)
Luke 1:57-66, 80
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.
Reflection on the gospel reading: On this Nativity of John the Baptist, we remember that God is gracious, for this is the meaning of the name that Elizabeth and Zechariah gave to their child. Elizabeth and Zechariah had passed the time in their lives when children typically were born to people, and this was a source of embarrassment, no doubt, to Elizabeth in a culture that placed great stock on a woman’s ability to bear children. How often does God come into our lives at times of bareness and abandonment to instill life in us in some way that we could not have anticipated? God is gracious because God enters our lives in unexpected ways to make possible what we believed to be impossible. In this case, of course, not only did Elizabeth and Zechariah receive a child when they had despaired of the possibility, but the child they received was one marked by God for a special mission and a deep holiness. When God acts in our lives, God sometimes does not merely surprise us but also outdoes our every expectation. God is gracious.
Spiritual reading: I believe that, essentially, the ultimate disposition to the reception of that infused knowledge that is wisdom can be resumed in one word: death to all that is not God. (René Voillaume)
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: Jesus speaks today about trust. A persistent temptation in the world has been to trust in money, power, and prestige. Today’s gospel is evidence that it was a phenomenon in Jesus’ time as much as it is one in our time.
We are funny creatures with odd priorities. We spend years worrying about how to acquire money, power, and prestige, often ignoring our health, spirituality, and relationships, and then when we wind up wrecked in some way, through sickness, despair, or isolation. We turn then to the money, power, and prestige we’ve acquired to fix the problems we created by ignoring our health, spirituality, and relationships in the first place. This is the practical effect of Jesus’ warning it is impossible to serve God and mammon.
Then there is the problem of living in the moment, a spiritual axiom which attends all the great spiritual traditions. All traditions agree that the secret to holiness is attention to the present moment: paying attention to what God has placed in front of us right here, right now. If we live our lives with our minds forever on some future moment, we perpetually ignore the present one. And when the future we have attended to arrives, it doesn’t matter, because we’re not present to it. Our minds at that moment are on the horizon. So we reach the end of our lives without ever really having lived.
Jesus calls us to trust God’s providence. God is right here. God is present to you in this moment. God does not forget you. God is often (but not always) slow, but God never fails. The gospel passage we read today asks us to dare to trust that God really is real and really does take care of us from moment to moment, if only we will have the eyes to see. So do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Saint of the day: Joseph Cafasso was born in 1811 at Castelnuovo d’Asti in the Piedmont, Italy, of peasant parents. He studied at the seminary at Turin, and was ordained in 1833. He continued his theological studies at the seminary and university at Turin and then at the Institute of St. Franics, and despite a deformed spine, became a brilliant lecturer in moral theology there. He was a popular teacher, actively opposed Jansenism, and fought state intrusion into Church affairs. He succeeded Luigi Guala as rector of the Institute in 1848 and made a deep impression on his young priest students with his holiness and insistence on discipline and high standards. He was a sought-after confessor and spiritual adviser, and ministered to prisoners, working to improve their terrible conditions. He met Don Bosco in 1827 and the two became close friends. It was through Joseph’s encouragement that Bosco decided his vocation was working with boys. Joseph was his adviser, worked closely with him in his foundations, and convinced others to fund and found religious institutes and charitable organizations. Joseph died on June 23, 1860 at Turin and was canonized in 1947.
Spiritual reading: My Lord told me a joke. And seeing Him laugh has done more for me than any scripture I will ever read. (Meister Eckhart)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus today invites us to take a long loving look at the real. He calls us to reflect on how we see life and whether our perspectives match the deep down things which are the really true. Jesus in this passage is telling us that our core perspectives about reality will guide the ways we live our lives.
The world believes money can solve any problem, even though the evidence is plain that it cannot–it believed it in Jesus’ time, and it believes it now, despite evidence then and now it simply isn’t true. In the first part of the passage, Jesus asks us to let something other than worldly security shape our inner landscape.
In the second part of the passage, Jesus is saying that what we value will determine how we see things. Our principles, values, and beliefs are the lens through which we see the world. We then find the evidence and examples to prove our point of view. People who cannot see beyond money, status, power, or fame truly exist in darkness, because this vision creates the way they relate to other human beings and material things. It is about looking good at all costs and creating an illusion that they have power over people and events.
The poet Mary Oliver asks a question which is relevant to today’s gospel passage. That question is, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Are we going to spend it trying to look like we have it together, creating the illusion that we’re in control? Or are we going to be like Jesus, who lived on the margins, lived for others, tore down idols, and risked being misunderstood, rejected, and broken to reveal the truth about who he really is–and who you and I really are.
Saint of the day: Today’s saints are among the first martyrs of the English Reformation in the 16th century. They were different in background and temperament but united in choosing God’s values over worldly temptations.
John Fisher came from humble circumstances, but was naturally gifted. He rose steadily to become chancellor of the University of Cambridge, a post he held until his death. He was also named Bishop of Rochester by King Henry VIII, a post he accepted with reluctance because he was uncomfortable with power.
When the new theories of Luther swept Europe and England, Fisher preached vigorously against them in the churches and the university. He wrote four volumes of refutations against the German monk, and even influenced the king, who wrote a small treatise in defense of the faith. However Fisher’s friendship with King Henry foundered on the issue of the king’s marriage. The king wanted it dissolved. Bishop John upheld the sanctity of marriage and the supremacy of the Pope and contested the king’s views in Parliament and in the university. The king had him imprisoned and later put to death.
Thomas More was a lawyer by training and a scholar by temperament. His rise to public life was rapid: first as under-sheriff of London, then as a member of the king’s privy council, and finally at the age of 50, as Lord Chancellor of England.
Thomas was an accomplished writer. His book Utopia, on an imaginary country where everything works well, made him the friend of many learned people, among whom was the scholar Erasmus who called him, “a man for all seasons.” The king, Henry VIII, was a personal friend.
Nevertheless this personal friendship dissolved into hostility when the king could not get what he wished: an annulment from the Pope from his marriage, in order to marry the younger woman his heart desired. Henry declared himself head of the Church in England and demanded that all loyal subjects take an oath of allegiance to him. Thomas refused, was imprisoned, and later executed.
Both John Fisher and Thomas More were among the highest placed in the land. Yet on a matter of principle, they chose their conscience over the demands of their sovereign. Their example encourages us to choose God’s ways even at the cost of life itself.
Spiritual reading: David wasn’t thinking of being king when he was tending sheep; he was just doing what God sat before him. (John Fisher)
Reflection on the gospel reading:
Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
“If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: There are many implicit messages in today’s gospel. One certainly is that God lives, is near us, and is real: that God not only is conscious of us but cares for us. Another message is that prayer is a relationship, and a big part of the job in this relationship is yours and mine, that is to say, a big part of the job is ours: we approach God as a community which God has gathered together. A third implicit message in today’s gospel is that not only is it okay to ask for specific things, it is specifically what Jesus teaches us to do: Jesus endorses in this gospel narrative that one of the benefits of prayer is thinking through a vision and framing it as a specific intention. If we want change but can’t even be bothered to articulate what, exactly, we are seeking, how will it ever occur? A fourth implicit message is that the Lord will not forsake us: what would be the point of a prayer if God would not hear it? So as Jesus says elsewhere in the gospels, Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.
Saint of the day: Born in 1568 in Italy, Aloysius Gonzaga was an Italian noble who grew up in a castle; he was the son of a compulsive gambler and cousin of Blessed Rudolph Acquaviva, a Jesuit martyr who died in India. He trained from age four as a soldier and courtier. He suffered from kidney disease which he considered a blessing as it left him bed-ridden with time for prayer. While still a boy himself, he taught catechism to poor boys. He received First Communion from Saint Charles Borromeo who was his teacher, confessor, and parish priest. At age 18, he signed away his legal claim to his family’s lands and title to his brother and became a Jesuit novice. He was a spiritual student of Saint Robert Bellarmine who was Aloysius’ confessor and who worked for his canonization after he had died. Aloysius tended plague victims in Rome in the outbreak of 1591. He died June 20-21, 1591 at Rome of plague and fever. He is buried under the altar of Saint Ignatius Church, Rome.
Spiritual reading: Have that tender care that expresses itself in the little things that are like a balm for the heart….With our neighbors go into the smallest details, whether it is a question of health, of consolation, of prayerfulness, or of need. Console and ease the pain of others through the tiniest of attentions. Be as tender and attentive towards those whom God puts on our path, as a brother towards brother or as a mother for her child. As much as possible be an element of consolation for those around us, as soothing balm. (Charles de Foucauld)