Homily October 28, 2012 Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on October 23, 2012

To truly understand today’s gospel, we have to see it in the context of the last several Sunday gospels which are taken from chapters eight through ten of Mark’s gospel. It is a section where Jesus is revealing his Kingdom to his disciples and what that kingdom would be. Three times he spoke of his passion, death and resurrection. First, when he asked his disciples who he was, and then at the Transfiguration, and again on the road in Galilee when the rich young man showed up.. But interestingly, around his revelations of Himself as a Messiah who would suffer, die and rise, it was a revelation much different from what his disciples expected from the Son of David and the Kingdom to come, whose nature Jesus told them would be serving rather than ruling or lording it over others. He framed all this between the healing stories of two blind men recovering their sight.

Today’s blind man, Bartimaeus, is at the side of the road and makes a nuisance of himself by calling out for “mercy” and “pity” But more than that, he not only calls out the name Jesus, but also his heritage, his title “the Son of David” . It is a recognition of Jesus as Messiah. It is a call of recognition that summoned Jesus to call him and ask “what do you want from Me?” It is interesting that Bartimaeus said he wanted to see which is more than just having sight, but is also wanting understanding or if you will faith rather than just sight. Jesus recognized that faith and told him to go that it had saved him. But he chose to become a follower and joined the disciples.

And so today, we are called for the fourth time by Mark over the last several weeks to see and proclaim Jesus as Lord and his Kingdom as real. As he stopped and showed his own service to the blind man, he calls us as well to serve. We have not seen the wonders and miracles that his immediate disciples saw, but still much has been given us in testimony and more importantly in the imposition of His Spirit received in Baptism and Confirmation. His Life and Spirit continues on even today in this world, broken and ever more seeking God even though it seeks but fails to see because of its own blindness. More than ever we need to help administer God’s pity and open the eyes of those we meet to what faith in Jesus is and where his kingdom lies. We do this one person at a time, but only if we make ourselves be like Christ to others even as imperfect as we may be.

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Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 12:35-38

Jesus said to his disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: There is an echo in this passage from Luke of Matthew’s account of the Bridegroom’s coming and the preparedness of the virgins. We all know that the Lord comes at unexpected times and in unexpected ways. This passage of the gospel calls us to be prepared to meet the Lord whenever he appears in our lives, always ready to encounter the Lord at his arrival.

Saint of the day: Saint John of Capistrano was born in 1386 at Capistrano, Italy. The son of a former German knight, his father died when John was still young. He studied the law at the University of Perugia and worked as a lawyer in Naples, Italy. He served as the reforming governor of Perugia under King Landislas of Naples. When war broke out between Perugia and Malatesta in 1416, John SaintJohntried to broker a peace, but instead his opponents ignored the truce, and John became a prisoner of war.

During his imprisonment he came to the decision to change vocations. He had married just before the war, but the marriage was never consummated, and with his bride’s permission, it was annulled. He became a Franciscan at Perugia on October 4, 1416. He was a classmate of Saint James of the Marches and a disciple of Saint Bernadine of Siena. A noted preacher while still a deacon, he commenced his work in 1420. An itinerant priest throughout Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia, he preached to tens of thousands. He established communities of Franciscan renewal. John wrote extensively, mainly against the heresies of the day.

After the fall of Constantinople, he preached Crusade against the Muslim Turks. At age 70 he was commissioned to lead it and marched off at the head of 70,000 Christian soldiers. He won the great battle of Belgrade in the summer of 1456. He died of natural causes in the field at Villach, Hungary a few months later on October 23, 1456, but his army delivered Europe from the Turks.

Spiritual reading: We may, perhaps, imagine that the creation was finished long ago. But that would be quite wrong. It continues still more magnificently, and at the highest levels of the world. (The Divine Milieu by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say angoisseto myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage addresses our relationship to money. Many of us in America in this age spend a great amount of time concerned about our finances, and in a time of economic distress, money may cause us even more anxiety than at other times. The heart of this teaching, however, is that money does not endure: God calls the rich man a fool for having spent his life on material comfort and not on what matters ultimately to God. As Saint Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthians, three things endure, faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these things is love.

Saint of the day: Peter of Alcantara was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended.

103f. St Peter of Alcantara bestBorn into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.

Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: “To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara.”

In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.

As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares.

Spiritual reading: The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of one who is naked. The shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of one who is barefoot. The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor. The acts of charity you do not perform are so many injustices you commit. (Saint Basil the Great)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 10:35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus asks a question this week that we will hear him ask again next Sunday, “What do you wish me to do for you?” Just as Jesus addressed this question to his followers James and John, he addresses this question to us. Many of us will respond to the Lord with what it is that we need now, whatever it may be: a job, the next mortgage payment, whatever urgent need immediately presents itself. But such needs, while important and unavoidable, do not go to the core of who we are as people who have received the Lord’s baptism.

As this passage opens today, Jesus has just made the third prediction of his suffering and death, and yet James and John ask him for the privilege of sitting at his right and left. It is clear that they have not understood what the Lord said. They still imagine an earthly messiah, one who will enjoy political glory, one who will restore David’s throne and throw off Roman oppression. They have missed the point of Jesus’ life and ministry, and by implication, the point of their lives and ministries.

So Jesus tries again: he replies that insofar as he can honor their request, their lots will be to share in his suffering: they will drink the cup he drinks and be baptized with his baptism. One of the Church’s ancient traditions, in fact, suggests James and John did do just that, being martyred in a persecution in Jerusalem in 44.

The answer to the question of, “What do you wish me to do for you,” in the light of the gospel then, is, “Will you, Lord, let us drink from the cup from which you drink and be baptized with the baptism by which you are baptized.” It is only in our pouring ourselves out for the gospel, in whatever charism God has given us, that we realize the import of Jesus’ question for our own lives.

Spiritual reading: I must write about prayer because it is as necessary to life as breathing. It is food and drink. (“On Pilgrimage – July/August 1973″ by Dorothy Day)


Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 12:8-12

Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.

“Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus in today’s gospel talks about witness. If we witness to Jesus, Jesus says he will witness to us. But if we fail to witness to Jesus, the chance remains to reconcile with the Lord. It is only when we set ourselves up in absolute opposition to the truth, that is, when we sin against the Holy Spirit, that all hope for reconciliation perishes. This gospel’s moral is that we should pray to persevere in witness to the truth that we have received in baptism: the truth who is Jesus.

Saint of the day: Maria Bertilla Boscardin knew rejection, ridicule, and disappointment. But such trials only brought her closer to God and more determined to serve God.

Born in Italy in 1888, the young girl lived in fear of her father, a violent man prone to jealousy and drunkenness. Her schooling was limited so that she could spend more time helping at home and working in the fields. She showed few talents and was often the butt of jokes.

In 1904 she joined the Sisters of St. Dorothy and was assigned to work in the kitchen, bakery, and laundry. After some time Maria received nurses’ training and began working in a hospital with children suffering from diphtheria. There the young nun seemed to find her true vocation: nursing very ill and disturbed children. Later, when the hospital was taken over by the military in World War I, Sister Maria Bertilla fearlessly cared for patients amidst the threat of constant air raids and bombings.

She died in 1922 after suffering for many years from a painful tumor. Some of the patients she had nursed decades earlier were present at her canonization in 1961.

Spiritual reading: Above all, always see Jesus in every person, and consequently treat each one not only as an equal and as a brother or sister, but also with great humility, respect, and selfless generosity.
(Charles de Foucauld)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 12:1-7

At that time, so many people were crowding together that they were trampling one another underfoot. Jesus began to speak, first to his disciples, “Beware of the leaven–that is, the hypocrisy–of the Pharisees.

“There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops. I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. I shall show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna; yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one. Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus says in the fifth chapter of Matthew’s gospel, May your light so shine before men that they may see goodness in your acts and give praise to your heavenly Father. It is exactly this transparency of the Christian who lives the gospel that Jesus infers today when he condemns the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and says that every secret we have held in the darkness will open eventually before the light. We should endeavor, then, to be people through whom the light of God shines.

Saint of the day: Born into a wealthy family in Orleans, France in 1607, Saint Isaac Jogues was enrolled by his parents in the Jesuit school there and became a priest of the Society of Jesus in 1636. Longing to work with the Huron Indians in the foreign missions, Isaac requested and received the assignment to go to Quebec, Canada almost immediately after ordination. The Jesuits had established missions there s the first missionaries in Canada and the upper United States after French explorer J. Cartier discovered this land in 1534. For six years he was very successful and effected many conversions among the Hurons traveling between Nova Scotia and Maryland. But in 1642 a band of Iroquois, who were the natural enemy of the Hurons, captured Isaac along with Rene Goupil and another group of Jesuits. Rene was martyred but Isaac and his companions allowed to live though they underwent hideous and inhumane torture which included mutilation. Isaac’s fingers were severed and he was left to die in the wilderness but the Dutch rescued him and he was able to return to France in 1644. However he longed to be a martyr and finally secured a transfer back to Quebec in 1646. Once they had arrived Isaac and new companion Saint Jean Brebeuf set out for Iroquois country for a peace treaty had been signed. But warmongers among the Mohawks intercepted the missionaries and cruelly tomahawked them and scalped them from the neck up at Auriesville, New York on October 18 and 19, 1646. Isaac died on the 18th and Jean the next day. Over the next three years five other missionaries would join Isaac, Rene, and Jean on the list of the eight Jesuit martyrs: Noel Chabanel, Anthony Daniel, Charles Garnier, John de Lalande, and Gabriel Lallemant. Exactly ten years after Isaac’s death a young Indian girl was born in the same village where Fr. Jogues was murdered: her name, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. Isaac Jogues and his companions are known as the Martyrs of North America and patron saints of Canada.

Spiritual reading: My confidence is placed in God who does not need our help for accomplishing his designs. Our single endeavor should be to give ourselves to the work and to be faithful to him, and not to spoil his work by our shortcomings. (Isaac Jogues)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 10:1-9

The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’”

Reflection on the gospel reading: When Jesus commissions the 72 disciples to go and prepare the towns where he was to visit, he offered a description of Christian mission. Jesus said that the harvest is plenty but the laborers are few; we tend to think this comment refers to the need for priests and ministers, and that is true to an extent, but Jesus is extending to all of us a call to reap the harvest he has sown. The call to prepare the way for Jesus’ coming is universal. Jesus says our vocations to minister will not always be easy. We are to travel light on this path and be flexible in accepting the hospitality that is offered to us. Our mission is to carry peace with us and to heal the sick, and when others reject what we bring them, we are to leave them to their own devices with the hope that they one day will recollect our counsel that the kingdom of God is at hand.

Saint of the day: Luke wrote the Gospel according to Luke, an account that addressed wealthy Gentile who converted to Christianity. Based on reference to a certain Luke in the Pauline letters and certain Pauline themes in the gospel, scholars have speculated that Luke’s gospel might depend upon the teachings and writings of Paul. Certainly, Luke’s own experiences, his love of the poor, his interest in the universality of Christ’s message, his respect for women, and his sense of compassion all color the account of Christ’s life that he wrote. Luke also wrote a second volume, the history of the early church recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. The gospel and Acts were intended to form a single work, and only through the interpolation of John’s gospel between the two accounts have Luke and Acts become thought of as separate books. Tradition suggests Luke was martyred for Christ. Luke’s Greek is excellent; in the New Testament, only the Letter to the Hebrews uses better Greek than Luke’s. The preponderance of evidence would suggest Luke was a Greek pagan who converted to Christianity. Paul refers to Luke the physician, and tradition has identified Paul’s Luke with the Luke who wrote the gospel. Legend has that he was also a painter. Luke may have traveled with Saint Paul and evangelized Greece and Rome with him, personally attending the shipwreck and other perils of the voyage to Rome.

Spiritual reading: In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken, after giving instructions through the holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.” (The Acts of the Apostles by Luke the Evangelist)

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 11:42-46

The Lord said: “Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others. Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces. Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.”

Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The Pharisees have gotten a bad rap as history has looked backward in the light of the gospels. In fact, in many ways, the Pharisees were religious innovators whose reforms saved Judaism from annihilation when the Romans destroyed the temple and sent Israel into a worldwide diaspora. Many Pharisees were very decent, godly human beings. When Jesus inveighs against the Pharisees in the gospel, he does not condemn a class but a certain group with a certain attitude: it is an attitude that is altogether too human, and one that can afflict any of us, Catholic, other Christian, or non-Christian. It is an attitude that finds comfort in strict adherence to the rules but does not attend to the love of God and neighbor. It is an attitude that places obligations on others that we ourselves don’t intend to bear. Hypocrisy is the vice the Lord most detested and mercy, the one the Lord most extolled.

Saint of the day: Ignatius of Antioch (also known as Theophorus) (ca. 35 or 50-between 98 and 117) was among the Apostolic Fathers, the third Bishop and Patriarch of Antioch, and possibly a student of John the Apostle. En route to his ignatius_of_antiochmartyrdom in Rome, Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of very early Christian theology. Important topics addressed in these letters include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.

St. Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch after Saint Peter and St. Evodius (who died around AD 67). Eusebius records that St. Ignatius succeeded St. Evodius. Making his apostolic succession even more immediate, Theodoret reported that Peter himself appointed Ignatius to the see of Antioch.

Besides his Latin name, Ignatius, he also called himself Theophorus (“God Bearer”), and tradition says he was one of the children Jesus took in His arms and blessed. St. Ignatius may have been a disciple of the Apostle John.

St. Ignatius is one of the Apostolic Fathers (the earliest authoritative group of the Church Fathers.) He based his authority on being a bishop of the Church, living his life in the imitation of Christ.

Epistles attributed to St. Ignatius report his arrest by the authorities and travel to Rome:

From Syria even to Rome I fight with wild beasts, by land and sea, by night and by day, being bound amidst ten leopards, even a company of soldiers, who only grow worse when they are kindly treated. —Ignatius to the Romans.

Along the route he wrote six letters to the churches in the region and one to a fellow bishop. He was sentenced to die in the Colosseum, to be eaten by lions. In his Chronicle, Eusebius gives the date of his death as AA 2124 (2124 years after Adam), which would amount to the 11th year of Trajan, i.e., 108 AD. His body lies entombed under St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Spiritual reading: I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God. (Letter to the Romans by Ignatius of Antioch)

Homily October 21, 2012 Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on October 16, 2012

As we see in today’s reading, the disciples of Jesus are still struggling with the concept of Christ’s Kingdom. James and John, the two brothers, ask for the favored spots next to Jesus when he comes into his kingdom. We must remember that in the mind of the disciples, their model of a kingdom resembled the Roman empire or looked back to the days of Solomon and David.

Jesus had a different kind of kingdom in mind. He asks if they are willing to drink the cup he will drink, and the baptism he will endure. Of course, they affirmed that they could and Jesus said that they would drink and be baptized in his suffering, but the places they sought were not his to give. Once again the apostles were indignant.

Jesus again had to remind them that his kingdom was different. His kingdom is not based on authority or lording any power over others, but rather it is based on service to others, love of others if you will. Service and love of those in need is what Jesus was about. What kind of person are we if we pass up someone who needs our attention.

John’s gospel tells us God is love, and it is one of the most basic truths. If each of us looks into his or her self, at the very core of their own humanity, we find that there is love. It is something we knew and experienced in one way or another from the womb through childhood to the present time. So, if God is love, then one place we can absolutely reach him is from the very inmost part of our humanity, the part that makes us human. We need not reach out or seek out God for prayer or guidance, but rather we need to make our self more present to our own humanity where God is all ready embracing us with his love. It is there he will meet us. This is the kingdom of God’s all-embracing love that Jesus speaks of that his disciples kept failing to see. Service and love not power and authority are the marks of Jesus’ kingdom. Only after Christ’s death did they start to understand. However the frailty of humanity clouds over even today what Jesus meant by his kingdom and following him. Last week it was “sell what you have and give to the poor”. The fundamental doctrine of Jesus’ kingdom is service and love for those in need. We need to be present to all those we meet in a real way whether they be physically poor or a fellow human with some kind of need, as Jesus was present as he walked through his homeland. The love and service he offered to those he met and later in his suffering and death, far surpasses what we imagine ourselves giving, but give we can if we only see God’s presence in others and the intrinsic reward that comes from giving and love. The real place of honor in the kingdom is in our arms reaching out with God’s love between them.

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 11:37-41

After Jesus had spoken, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home. He entered and reclined at table to eat. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal. The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The Pharisees get such a bad rap in the scriptures that we have a sense they lived obviously corrupt lives. But this is not true; from all outward appearances, they actually were very good people who were trying to find a way to make their religion accessible to the people. What is troubling about the Lord’s condemnation of the Pharisees is that the Pharisees probably were a lot like us. But appearing good is not enough; Jesus is not interested in appearances. Under the Pharisees’ perfectly organized, neat, and tidy lives Jesus saw people brimming over with pride and self-righteousness. Under the surface of the Pharisees’ fastidious observance of religious rituals, rules, and regulations, Jesus could see all the conditions which injure the spirit: pride, intolerance, greed, and the lust for power.

The Pharisees in fact were so outwardly good, that Jesus’ condemnation of them almost makes it all seem hopeless. The Lord, however, proposes a very simply way out of all of the interior spiritual conditions which compromise us. He says in today’s gospel, Give alms, and everything will be clean for you. Alms are money. Jesus is saying that if you want to clean up the interior mess, give money to the poor. In the face of all our attitudes which imperil us, it is our concern for the poor, expressed in very simple material actions to alleviate their suffering, which will clean up our spiritual mess. Concern for the poor is Jesus’ program for our salvation.

Saint of the day: Gerard Majella is the patron of expectant mothers. He was born at Muro, Italy, in 1726 and joined the Redemptorists at the age of 23, becoming a professed lay brother in 1752. He served as sacristan, gardener, porter, infirmarian, and tailor. However, because of his great piety, extraordinary wisdom, and his gift of reading consciences, he was permitted to counsel communities of religious women.

gerardIt seems that God had given him, in particular, the special power to help mothers in need. In life and since his death, he has helped so many women who have prayed to him during labor that he earned the nickname the “Saint of Happy Deliveries.” Many mothers from all over the world have even named their child Gerard after him in gratitude, and have adopted him as their patron in the joys and fears of childbirth.

This humble servant of God also had the faculties of levitation and bi-location associated with certain mystics. His charity, obedience, and selfless service as well as his ceaseless mortification for Christ, made him the perfect model of lay brothers. He was afflicted with tuberculosis and died in 1755 at the age of twenty-nine.

Spiritual reading: To love God much, always united to God, to do all for God, to love all for God, to conform myself to his holy will, to suffer much for God. (Gerard Majella)