CACINA

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 30, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 8:5-17

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)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 29, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 8:1-4

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.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 28, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 7:21-29

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.

Pedro PovedaHe 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)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 27, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 7:15-20

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)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 26, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

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.

Spiritual reading:

I called through your door,
“The mystics are gathering
in the street. Come out!”

“Leave me alone.
I’m sick.”

“I don’t care if you’re dead!
Jesus is here, and he wants
to resurrect somebody!”

(Rumi)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 25, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 7:1-5

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)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 24, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

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)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 23, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 6:24-34

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)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 22, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 6:19-23

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)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 21, 2012

Reflection on the gospel reading:

Matthew 6:7-15

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.

“This is how you are to pray:

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)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 20, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us that the way we pray is the way we live. Prayer should be grounded in our daily life, the daily experience of ourselves. We are invited to a prayer of the heart which leads to a life of the heart. The passage from Matthew emphasizes the importance of doing prayer, giving, and self-denial quietly and in a way that only God sees. No one should even know we are praying, sharing, or doing without things. Once we draw attention to ourselves doing these things, they have lost their real purpose, that is, is to bring us closer to God and the ways of God.

Saint of the day: The celebration of the Irish Martyrs includes hundreds who are remembered for giving their lives for the Catholic faith in Ireland between the years 1537 and 1714. A huge number of priests and lay people suffered much in Ireland during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and that of her immediate successors, as well as during the era of Oliver Cromwell. However, the details of their endurance in most cases have been lost. Religious persecution of Catholics in Ireland began under Henry VIII, when the English Parliament adopted the Acts of Supremacy, which established the king’s supremacy over the Church, independent of the Pope. In England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland bishops, priests and lay people who continued to recognise the pope were tortured and killed. Further legislation laid down that any act of allegiance to the pope was to be considered treason. Many Catholics were imprisoned on this basis.

The list of Irish martyrs alone is very long and happened over several reigns. They began, as mentioned, under King Henry VIII (died in 1547) but continued under Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603), James I (1603-25) and Charles I (1625-49). Then under Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth (1649-59) and followed by the Restoration (Charles II, William of Orange, Queen Anne, 1660-1714). In 1714, King George I came to the throne.

There was a long delay in starting the investigations into the causes of the Irish martrys for fear of reprisals. In addition, investigation was hampered by a lack of records which were either destroyed or not drawn up, because of the danger of keeping such evidence. Following Catholic Emancipation in Ireland in 1829 when the Catholic religion could again be freely practised, the cause of Oliver Plunket was taken up. This resulted in a whole series of writings covering the period of persecution; Plunket was canonized in 1975. Seventeen martyrs were beatified in 1992, and it their memory of faithfulness to conscience we celebrate today. They are known as Dermot O’Hurley, Margaret Bermingham Ball, Francis Taylor and their fourteen companions. Among them are Patrick O’Hely, bishop (d. August 31, 1579); Wexford Martyrs (d. July 5, 1581); Patrick Cavanagh, Matthew Lambert, and fellow sailors found guilty of aiding in the escape of Viscount Baltinglass; Conor O’Devany, bishop (d. February 11, 1612) with Patrick O’Loughran, priest; Terence Albert O’Brien, bishop (d. October 31, 1651); and William Tirry, priest (d. May 12, 1654). The photograph above is of the Rock of Cashel, the scene of the martyrdom of hundreds of Irish Catholics.

Spiritual reading: The saints participate in God, not only do they participate, but they communicate Him. (Gregory Palamas)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 19, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel reading, Jesus asks us to go beyond our natural and instinctive defensiveness and negativity when people dislike, scorn, or belittle us. Jesus invites us to move outside of ourselves and put ourselves in the positions of others, seeking to understand what they are feeling and thinking which motivate them to behave as they do. Are they having a bad day, or perhaps they’re sick? Maybe it’s something more fundamental, like a culture that influenced them when they were younger, or some traumatic event which continues to foster knee-jerk destructive defensive postures. When we start to feel and think from the position of the other person, in the way that Jesus recommends here, it becomes much easier for us to pray for the well-being of the individual and genuinely hope for the persons’s personal equilibrium and happiness. Moreover, when we identify with the perspective and plight of others, who are doing the best they can with the cards they have, Jesus tells us we become like God who indiscriminately makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

Saint of the day: Blessed Thomas Woodhouse was ordained during Queen Mary’s brief reign, and first appeared in history as an ordinary Lincolnshire parish priest and rector. He served there for less than a year before Elizabeth came in, and then ended up earning his bread as a tutor in Wales. He was arrested May 14, 1561, while saying Mass, which in England in those times was an act of treason, and was sent to the Fleet Prison. He remained there for twelve years, living on charity since prisoners had either to pay for food and keep while imprisoned or starve. The jailers’ fondness of Father Thomas kept him fed.

He was generally a model prisoner, but he consistently did as he thought best and could not be stopped. He converted his fellow prisoners to Catholicism. He said Mass for them regularly, despite rules and watchers. He wrote letters whenever it seemed good to him. He even preached to people outside the prison, by writing little messages calling people to repentance, then tying them to stones and throwing them through the windows or over the walls.

One nasty London year, the Fleet was evacuated to the head jailer’s country home, because of plague. It was during Lent, and Father Woodhouse got upset that the jailer was eating meat and not fasting on Fridays. He told the jailer sternly that he could not and would not remain in a house that did not keep Lent. The jailer thought he was joking; but the next morning, Woodhouse was gone. He remained missing until someone thought to check the empty prison. Sure enough, there was Fr. Woodhouse, quietly keeping Lent in his familiar cell.

Fr. Woodhouse kept up with current events, and it seems that he heard all about the good work being done in England by the brave Jesuit missionaries. He got so excited that he wrote to the French head of the Society of Jesus, asking to be admitted despite his obvious inability to fulfill the normal requirements at that time. Apparently, the Jesuits were touched by this, and sent him a letter back admitting him to their company. This made him very happy and proud, but he was too humbled by the honor to inform anyone but his confessor.

Not long after this, Fr. Woodhouse seems to have decided that it was time to step up his twelve-year campaign to get martyred. Obviously, the jailers were too nice. Someone else would have to be tried. It was time to get Ignatian. So he wrote a very kind, very earnest letter where he pointed out the obvious nullity of Elizabeth’s rule and all schismatic behavior. Then he hired one of the laundresses (whom he described in his famous letter as “a hot Protestant” and hence nobody to be punished or pursued) to deliver the letter to the house of Lord Burghley, Elizabeth’s treasurer, and then go right away again.

The letter got Lord Burghley’s attention, but mostly seems to have amused him. It seems probable that he only had Fr. Woodhouse called for questioning for amusement, or to see if he might name any other Catholics. But the interview deteriorated when the priest very nicely insisted on calling Lord Burghley by his surname, Cecil, because the noble title had been granted by someone who wasn’t really queen.

Father Woodhouse was on his way to a martyr’s crown, and nobody was going to stop him. There were some interviews designed to find him too crazy or stupid to kill, but Woodhouse quoted the Church Fathers and argued his theological points with great clarity. When the crowd on his way to Tyburn was a little too sympathetic, he sweetly went his own way by insisting on praying in Latin, and thus got them mad at him again. In the end, the executioners (who sometimes mercifully allowed a man to die of hanging before he was quartered) were so annoyed by his behavior that they insisted on keeping him alive, right up to the point his heart was ripped out while still beating. But Father Woodhouse died happy on June 19, 1573, as the first Jesuit ever martyred in England.

Spiritual reading: God is the cause of virtue, and a living knowledge of God is realized when the person who has truly recognized God changes his inner state so that it conforms more closely to the Spirit. (Maximos the Confessor)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 18, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:38-42

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: There is a throw away line in the Sermon in the Mount that I think often gets short shrift among Christians. Jesus says in today’s gospel,”Give to one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.” Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus emphasizes that true believers must do more than just keep the rules: they need to live by a new set of values. God’s values transform them in a way which fosters a life of service characterized by selfless love. I often hear Christians say they decline to give the homeless money because they might spend it on alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. But Jesus in this passage does not invite us to do a needs assessment. He doesn’t give us permission to make an exception to the prohibition against judging other people. He does not tell us to decide whether someone is worthy or unworthy of a gift or a loan. He says simply, give when someone asks for a gift and lend when someone asks for a loan. That’s it. Jesus doesn’t say, give exactly what they ask, and Jesus doesn’t say, lend in exactly the way they ask to borrow. But I think he does say that there are no exceptions to giving something and lending something when another human being presents her or his need to us.

Saint of the day: Venerable Matt Talbot was an Irishman born in 1856 who died in 1925. From his early teens until age 28 Matt’s only aim in life had been liquor. But from that point forward, his only aim was God. Matt Talbot was born May 2, 1856, the second of twelve children born to Charles and Elizabeth Talbot. In Matt’s early years he knew little security or stability. Compulsory school attendance was not in force, and Matt never attended any school regularly. In age without A.A., he found a spiritual solution to his alcoholism.

At the age of twelve Matt got his first job; it was in a wine bottling store and that is when his excessive drinking began. One evening when he was 28 he went out and found a priest, went to confession and “took the Pledge” for three months. Many times he felt he would not be able to hold out for three months, but within the year he renewed the pledge for life, never touching alcohol again (41 more years). His resolve was maintained by a new life of much prayer, daily Mass, hard work and much penance. Matt Talbot collapsed and died of heart failure on June 7, 1925. Penitential chains were found on his body after his death.

After Matt’s death his reputation for holiness became widespread, and by 1931 the first inquiry into his life had begun. The decree on his virtues was issued October 3, 1975.

Spiritual reading: By degrees, the spirit of Christ will take the place of our spirit – a way of thinking, feeling, judging, loving, willing, doing, and suffering, a mental outlook which is extremely cramped and superficial since it is materially dependent on our physical temperament, on our heredity, on the influence of our surrounding circumstances and on the ideas of our time and locality. It is this spirit which must slowly yield to the spirit of Christ, to His way of looking at things, of judging, feeling, loving, acting, and suffering. (Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange OP)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 17, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”

He said, “To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Reflection on the gospel reading: If you consider the context in which Jesus spoke these parables or think about the context in which the Church originally retold them, something wonderful and amazing has occurred which calls us to move beyond our own weak faith. In the two parables, Jesus is essentially saying that the spread of the gospel and its victory are absolutely certain. We can trust that the message will take root and ultimately produce a great harvest. When the parables were first told, Jesus was walking on dusty roads on the remote edge of what the world considered important, and there was absolutely no way to credibly predict an itinerant preacher who made his way through the backwater villages of a poor and oppressed nation would offer a message that resonated throughout the earth. And when Mark recollected these parables and wrote them down, the struggling Church lived in small and scattered communities, surrounded by hostile elements ready to destroy it. Yet look what has happened. The early Christians would scarcely believe how the gospel as reached all corners of the earth. Yet here we are, afraid the good news might somehow die in our own time. Jesus calls us today to trust his parables: the gospel will triumph in a complete and total way. Our optimism for the Church can be complete.

Spiritual reading: And never can Christians rest within time. As long as the world exists, the Christian must always search for new progress and new improvement, for more justice and brotherhood on earth, and for a deeper and more complete realization of the Gospel here below. For him there can never be enough. It is always imperative to do more. (Jacques Maritain)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 16, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the Evil One.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In Numbers (30:3), the Law of Moses provides, “When a man makes a vow to the LORD or binds himself under oath to a pledge,* he shall not violate his word, but must fulfill exactly the promise he has uttered.” Jesus in this part of the Sermon of Mount again moves into the deepest spirit of the law. For he says that people ought not to make oaths at all. The gospel reading for the day is about our personal integrity and the reliability of our word. Say, “Yes,” when we mean, “Yes,” and, “No,” when we mean, “No.” Our vocations as Christians are to live and speak truthfully. Jesus tells us that we do not need to make oaths, because the Christian should be a person of known integrity whose word is entirely sufficient. This does not mean that we need to tell everyone everything, but it does mean that whatever we say and do is trustworthy.

Saint of the day: The Carthusian Martyrs were a group of monks of the London Charterhouse, the monastery of the Carthusian Order in central London, who were put to death by the English state from June 19, 1535 to September 20, 1537. The method of execution was hanging, disemboweling while still alive, and then quartering. The group also includes two monks who were brought to that house from the Charterhouses of Beauvale and Axholme and similarly dealt with. The total is of 18 men. At the outset of the “King’s Great Matter,” (the term that described Henry VIII’s decision to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn) the government was anxious to secure the public acquiescence of the monks of the London Charterhouse, since for the austerity and sincerity of their mode of life they enjoyed great prestige. When this attempt failed in this, the only alternative was to annihilate the resistance, since a refusal engaged the prestige of the monks in the opposite sense. The Church remembers today several of those Carthusians who willingly embraced death before they would betray the consciences.

Spiritual reading: Dear Lord, I do not ask to see the path. In darkness, in anguish and in fear, I will hang on tightly to your hand, and I will close my eyes, so that you know how much trust I place in you. (Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 15, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:27-32

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

“It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: When Jesus looked into the Law of Moses and read texts such the command in Exodus, “You must not commit adultery,” and the command in Deuteronomy to hand a woman a bill of divorce to dismiss her, he understood these words within a vision of the world which believed the body is the soul in backward form. Duns Scotus, the great Irish theologian from the ninth century, reiterated this perspective with his teaching that the body is the echo of the soul. For Scotus, as for the most learned thinkers of his epoch, the body mirrored the soul, and the soul mirrored God.

When most people read today’s gospel passage, they understand Jesus to be coming to tell us that we have failed: we have objectified each other sexually; we have committed ourselves to unlawful relationships. But Jesus comes to announce the good news. Our failures are not good news: they are something we already know, and there is certainly nothing we find particularly good in them. Jesus is not denouncing here our failures; rather, he is calling us here to recognize something deeper about who we are.

Jesus invites us in this passage to reflect on the sacredness of the human person. He calls us back to a sense of the dignity of each person, both spiritually and physically, as an image of God. We are not toys, and in the kind of relationship to one another which God designed for us, we live into the mystery of each other in the deepest respect.

Saint of the day: An unexpected encounter with St. Francis of Assisi in 1213 was to forever change—and enrich—the life of Count Orlando of Chiusi. On the day a festival was being organized for a huge throng, St. Francis, already well known for his sanctity, delivered a dramatic address on the dangers of worldly pleasures. One of the guests, Orlando (also known as Roland) was so taken by Francis’ words that he sought out the saint for advice on how best to lead a life pleasing to God.

A short time later, Francis visited Count Orlando in his own palace, located at the foot of Mount La Verna. Francis spoke again of the dangers of a life of wealth and comfort. The words prompted Orlando to rearrange his life entirely according to the principles outlined by Francis. Furthermore, he resolved to share his wealth by placing at Francis’ disposal all of Mount La Verna, which belonged to Orlando. Francis, who found the mountain’s wooded recesses and many caves and ravines especially suitable for quiet prayer, gratefully accepted the offer. Orlando immediately had a convent as well as a church built there; later, many chapels were added. In 1224, two years before the death of Francis, Mount La Verna was the location where Francis received the holy wounds of Christ.

In return for his generous gift, Orlando desired only to be received into the Third Order and to have St. Francis as his spiritual director. Under Francis’ guidance, Orlando completely detached himself from worldly goods. He zealously performed acts of charity as a Christian nobleman. After his happy death, Orlando was laid to rest in the convent church on Mount La Verna.

Spiritual reading: What do men and women want first of all? What do they need first of all? They need to be loved; to be recognized; to be treated like human beings; to feel respected in each and every value that they bear within themselves. For that it does not suffice to tell them: “I love you.” Nor does it suffice (far from it!) to do some good towards them. It is demanded to exist with them, in the most profound sense of the word… to BE THERE. (Jacques Maritain)