Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Being a follower of Jesus is not a passive activity: whatever God may initiate in our lives, we have to actively pursue the kingdom in the choices we make from day to day and moment to moment. Jesus says in this passage that Christian life is not just letting God happen to us: if we do nothing, we will reap nothing. The message of the first two servants’ experience is that we must live the kingdom’s values, and the account of their actions and what happened as a result of them is an assurance that living a kingdom life will lead to rewards. The experience of the third servant is perhaps the experience of the one who at the end of the Sermon on the Mount cries out, “Lord, Lord.” This third servant certainly believed in his Lord’s power, but he still did nothing, and his failure to live out the vocation his Master had given him–“to do the will of the Father,” as Jesus puts it in the Sermon on the Mount–ended in disaster for him. God does not demand that we succeed, but God does demand that we act.
Saint of the Day: The Servant of God Marcello Candia was the third of five brothers, born on July 27, 1916 near Naples, Italy in a rich family from Milan. Marcello’s father had many industrial factories in Naples, Pisa, and other cities. Marcello’s father was not a very devout believer. He was a very honest and hard-working man and loved his wife (a very devout Catholic) very tenderly. Marcello was very close to his mother. From her mother Marcello inherited a simple but staunch faith combined to a great love and solidarity for the needy and faithfulness to prayer. Marcello’s mother died in 1933, at the age of 42 when Marcello was 17.
Marcello was a very bright student at Pavia University, where at 23, he graduated in Chemistry. He continued his studies and got a degree in Pharmacy and Biology as well. In 1943, Marcello met the Franciscan Capuchins in Milan, who led him to social activities in support of the needy. In 1950, Marcello met two Italian missionaries from Brazil, who greatly influenced him: a Capuchin Father Beretta and a PIME Father Pirovano, the future bishop of Macapa, Brazil. These two missionaries opened Marcello’s eyes to the needs of the poor and sick in Brazil. Marcello decided to work with Fr. Pirovano. He started making his first contacts and made several trips to the Amazon region to have a first look at the place where he would live as a missionary. But that same year, Marcello’s father died and he was left with the heavy responsibility of conducting the huge family business. His missionary dream had to be postponed. On the night of August 22, 1955, another tragedy seemed to shatter definitely his dream. A huge fire destroyed his factory and caused immense damage to the adjacent area. Marcello had to deal with hundreds of legal implications and had to start all over again to rebuild the industry, make it running properly before he could leave for Macapa.
It was only in 1965 that Marcello could make the final decision of selling everything and going to Macapa (against the advice of most of his friends). Once on Brazilian soil, Marcello had to face many difficulties. His best friend and supporter, Bishop A. Pirovano was no longer in Brazil; he had been called back to Italy. Many missionaries did not understand Marcello’s plans. At 50, he found it very hard to learn Portuguese. Even some local government officials became suspicious of the intentions of this Italian business man. He was even accused of mishandling money. Among all sorts of misundarstandings, Marcello began putting all his energies, talents and wealth at creating his immense web of works of mercy: first a huge hospital at Macapa, then a Leprosy Center at Marituba, followed by 14 other centers and two Carmelite convents for contemplative prayer.
Marcello’s health deteriorated quickly. In 1967 suffered a first heart attack, followed by four more. Finally, Marcello Candia died, not of heart attack but of cancer, on August 31, 1983 in a hospital in Milano. His cause was introduced in 1990, and the formal investigation into his virtues was completed and turned over to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in 1998.
Spiritual reading: God is a being beyond being. This is why Saint Augustine says that the most beautiful thing which a person can say about God consists in that person’s being silent from the wisdom of an inner wealth. So be silent and do not flap your gums about God. Nor should you want to know anything about God, for God is above all knowledge. (Meister Eckhart)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: One of the greatest sources of unhappiness in the world is distraction. We are distracted from what we are doing, from the person we are with, from the present moment. The cure for distraction is attention. If I have a problem and go to my friend to seek advice, I tell my friend what is happening and ask my friend to give me attention. That’s the most important thing my friend can do for me in that moment. When people give us their attention in such circumstances, they give us the gift of self.
When we receive attention, we are receiving a loving gesture: the gift of self is a gift that is rich and rewarding for both the giver and the receiver. Attention is the essential quality of all human relationships. We pay attention to people whom we love. Five of the virgins in today’s gospel are distracted–they are not attuned to the Bridegroom; their distraction suggests that they have preferred something else to the Bridegroom, that they have fallen out of love with him. Attention means focus–being fixed on the work before us. When the five virgins pay attention to the arrival of the Bridegroom, they are loving him, and their love readies them to greet the Bridegroom upon his arrival.
Saint of the day: Blessed Alfredo Ludovico Schuster was born on January 18, 1880 in Rome, Italy. He entered the Benedictine monastery of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls when he was 11 and was ordained a priest in 1904. He served his own community in various offices until he was elected abbot in 1918. He taught at several pontifical institutes, served as consultor to the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and held other high offices. He was appointed Archbishop of Milan in 1929 and subsequently became a Cardinal. Bishop Afredo gave priority to catechesis and promoted the role of the laity in the parish and in Catholic Action. He denounced Fascism and its racist ideology and refused to participate in a ceremony that involved Mussolini. He championed the cause of the poor during World War II, founded the Institute of Ambrosian Chant and Sacred Music and the Ambrosianeum and Didascaleion cultural centers. Above all, he proposed holiness as a goal for all, and the only means to human happiness. In 1954 he withdrew to Venegono Seminary, where he died on August 30, 1954 with an encouragement to become holy on his lips. He was beatified on May 12, 1996.
Spiritual reading: The spiritual life can only be lived in the present moment, in the now. All the great religious traditions insist upon this simple but difficult truth. When we go rushing ahead into the future or shrinking back into the past, we miss the hand of God, which can only touch us in the now. (Cynthia Bourgeault)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.
“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so. Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with drunkards, the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: This reading from Jesus’ sermon about the last things suggests that the Lord is coming at a time we cannot know and that the wise policy is to live our lives in anticipation of the day and hour of the Lord’s return, a time that is hidden from us. There are different ways to learn from this passage. Of course, we can understand this reading in the context of the Lord’s second coming at the end of time, but isn’t one of the lessons of Christian life that the Lord is ever at hand. Living our lives in anticipation of Jesus’ return is not just living for the end. It is also living for the moment, for we know from our experience that the Lord is in our midst at every instant. Lives lived in courteousness, kindness, justice, and love are lives lived not to encounter the Lord at some remote hour but to open ourselves to find him right here, right now.
Saint of the day: Blessed Euphrasia of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, C.M.C., was an east Indian Carmelite Religious Sister of the Syro-Malabar Church, one of the uniate churches. She was born Rosa Eluvathingal on October 7, 1877, in the village of Kattoor, near the city of Thrissur in Kerala, India. Her parents were Cherpukaran Antony and Kunjethy Eluvathingal, who were wealthy landowners. She was baptized on October 25, 1877 in the Mother of Carmel Church in Edathuruthy Her mother was a devout Catholic, who taught her to pray the rosary and to participate in the Mass. From the stories that her mother told her, especially about St. Rose of Lima, after whom she had been named, Rose grew up with a strong desire to practice a virtuous life, to suffer for Jesus, and to be holy, and to do all this in a quiet, hidden manner. This all took deeper root when, at the age of nine, Rose experienced an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which led her to make a commitment never to marry, and to commit her entire life to God.
As she grew older, Rose desired to enter the Sisters of the Mother of Carmel, the first indigenous congregation of Religious Sisters in the Syro-Malabar Church, who follow the Rule of the Third Order of the Discalced Carmelites. She was opposed in this by her father, however, who wanted to arrange a marriage for her with the son of some of the other prosperous families in the region. She spent the next two years in prayer, fasting and acts of penance, to the degree that she was seriously ill for much of this period. Seeing her resolve, her father finally relented, and himself accompanied her to the convent.
Rose entered the Carmelites in 1888 at their convent in Koonammavu, at the age of ten. When she reached her maturity, she was received as a postulant in 1897, taking the name Sister Euphrasia of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and was admitted to the novitiate of the congregation in January 1898. The constant ill health she experienced, however, threatened her life in the convent, as the Superiors considered dismissing her because of it. Sister Euphrasia soon had a vision of the Holy Family, at which point the illness she had long felt ceased. Sister Euphrasia made her solemn profession in May 1900. She was appointed as the Novice Mistress of the congregation in 1904 and served in this position until 1913, addressed as Mother Euphrasia. She was appointed Superior of the Sisters’ convent in Ollur in 1913, where she was to live the rest of her life, serving as Mother Superior until 1916. Despite these duties, she endeavored to lead a life of constant prayer and of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, constantly trying to atone for the sins committed against him, becoming known by many people as the “Praying Mother.” Mother Euphrasia spent much of her day in the convent chapel before the Blessed Sacrament, to which she had a strong devotion. She also nourished a great love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary, as a result of which, she would promote devotion to the Eucharist and to the Rosary to all those with whom she came into contact. Mother Euphrasia died on August 29, 1952 in Ollur, Thrissur, Kerala, India of natural causes. She was beatified in 2006.
Spiritual reading: A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God. (Thomas Merton)
As we look around us, we see all kinds of stores and shops and places to eat. If you think about it, we spend a lot of time and money and space in our concern about feeding and sustaining ourselves. All through history this has been evident, and it is a reality among every species. As human beings we have taken eating a meal to a very important act of living. So much we do is centered around eating whether it be an important decision-making meeting, or the interlude between business sessions, or a dinner or banquet for some stated occasion. Even in the family home,there are formularies followed by each family much in line with the schedules of the particular family. In fact, when all are present, a certain ritual develops in each household. Part of ritual or form would be the seating of all the participants. From the gospel, we see that this was certainly a concern in Jesus’ time. Meals and dining were a statement, a way of life, a way of asserting status. Everyone was invited for a reason, a benefit for the giver of the dinner in some way. Reciprocation was always a part of these reasons. The host would certainly be expressing his status in the community and his familiarity with the others he invited.
While Jesus accepted the invitation as he often did in his lifetime, we see today the little twist he puts on the occasion and offers his own prescription for remedy of the faults of the system. He points out that many rush for the prime seating, only to find that more distinguished guests are there than them. He points out that if we had the proper humility, we wouldn’t presume we were owed the places of honor and should simply be seated. It shouldn’t be a false humility, but the realization that in reality the places of honor are passing and not important in light of the fact that in reality we are all the same except for perhaps that moment. He even goes so far as to say that the poor, the hungry, the deprived, the lame and others without food should be invited. Repayment or reciprocation should not be our motive. The coming together and sharing will be rewarded in the time of resurrection.
One final thought of the reading of the banquet in today’s reading. When we come to Mass, I think sometimes we forget that originally Jesus was the host at a final meal. We forget that the disciples were gathered around eating and drinking when Jesus introduced a whole new meaning to eating and drinking. Anew food and drink, His own Body and Blood. At this table there is only one host and all share equally in the food and drink. This table excludes no one and should be inviting all to partake. We must realize that we can exalt ourselves by extending this invitation.
Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In excoriating the deceit of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus notes that even as they plot to kill him they congratulate themselves that if they had lived in the days of the prophets for whom they erected elaborate burial places, they would not have participated in the prophets’ assassinations. Kingdom values are about honesty and integrity of life–saying yes when we mean yes and no when we mean no–recognizing and acknowledging our strengths and weaknesses alike.
Saint of the day: Teresa Bracco was born on February 24, 1924 in the village of Santa Giulia (Diocese of Acqui), Italy, to Giacomo Bracco and Anna Pera, two humble and devoutly Catholic farmers. From an early age she showed signs of great piety, particularly a love of the Eucharist and a tender devotion to the Virgin Mary. After a long day of tiring work, her father would lead the family in reciting the Rosary. Teresa learned to pray by following her parents’ example. The formation she received at home was strengthened by the catechesis given by an exceptional parish priest, Fr Natale Olivieri, who gave her many religious books to read but, most importantly, inspired her by his holy life. At school, Teresa’s teachers marveled at her exemplary conduct. As a young girl and throughout her adolescence she was often found in church with her eyes fixed on the tabernacle, immobile and almost ecstatic in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. She spared no sacrifice to nourish her love for Christ in the Eucharist, rising early in the morning and walking over a kilometer to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion. She spent the rest of her day in work and prayer, fingering her rosary when her tasks allowed it. One of her most striking virtues, however, was her modesty in speech and dress. She instinctively fled from trivial conversations. One witness said: “She was different from the other girls”. At the age of nine, she saw a picture of the then Ven. Dominic Savio in the Bollettino Salesiano, with the caption: “Death rather than sin.” She exclaimed: “That goes for me!” She cut out the picture, pasted it on a card and hung it over her bed. It remained her favorite object of devotion for the rest of her life.
In the autumn of 1943 guerrilla warfare intensified in the Acqui region. The mountains and woods afforded many hiding places for partisans and draft resisters. On 24 July 1944 a fierce clash occurred between partisan forces and German troops on the road between Cairo Montenotte and Cortemilia. The next day the Germans returned to collect their dead: they burned farms, looted homes and terrorized the people. They extended the round-up to the entire area and on August 28, 1944 reached Santa Giulia, which they thought was as a stronghold of the partisans, even though the latter had moved elsewhere. They seized three girls, one of whom was Teresa. A soldier, perhaps a non-commissioned officer, took her to a deserted place in the woods. Indomitable, Teresa tried to run from the thicket in the hope of getting help from a nearby family. But the soldier grabbed her and threw her to the ground. She resisted the savage aggression with all her might, but the enraged man throttled her until she choked. He shot her twice with his revolver and to vent his rage, crushed part of her skull with his boot. Teresa had fulfilled her intention: “I would rather be killed than give in.” She was beatified in 1998.
Spiritual reading: Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold, Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee. Thou wast with me when I was not with Thee. Thou didst call, and cry, and burst my deafness. Thou didst gleam, and glow, and dispel my blindness. Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace. For Thyself Thou hast made us, and restless our hearts until in Thee they find their ease. Late have I loved Thee, Thou Beauty ever old and ever new. Thou hast burst my bonds asunder; unto Thee will I offer up an offering of praise. (Augustine of Hipppo)
Jesus said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. But these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Spiritual practices can sometimes have the appearance of performance art. Jesus doesn’t hold back on his expression of disgust at scrupulous religion which is only skin deep. But Jesus in this gospel passage does not counsel abandonment of the exterior practices. I think it’s because Jesus understood that we are what we do. A spirituality which is disembodied, that is, a spirituality which does not include outward physical actions, is hard to maintain. There is no unmediated experience of the divine, and as embodied beings we need to cultivate an embodied spirituality. It is worth noting that Jesus does not condemn a heartfelt attention to the rigors of religious practice. But what he does ask of us is that whatever our external practices, we pay the greatest heed to the demands of justice, love, and integrity. Religious activities without interiority are lifeless, but spiritual intentions not realized in physical signs are phantasms.
Saint of the day: Son of an Argentine of German descent, Sara Altgelt Tornquist, and Alexander Shaw, of Scottish descent, the Servant of God Enrique Shaw was born in Paris on February 26, 1921. In 1923, his family returned to the country of origin. His mother died when Enrique was four, but her husband realized Sara’s wish for his religious upbringing. Enrique studied at the Colegio de La Salle in the city of Buenos Aires, where he was an outstanding student. In early 1936, he entered the Naval Academy despite initial opposition from her father, who wanted him to prepare to run the family business. He was among the best students in his the Academy and was Argentina’s youngest Academy graduate to become a Navy officer.
From a young age he began reading all kinds of books, especially in economics, politics, philosophy, history, and science. In late summer 1939 in the library of the Ocean of Mar del Plata, he found by chance a book by Cardinal Suhard on the role and responsibilities of Christian life. There he encountered for the first time the social doctrine of the Church and experienced a deep conviction about what should be his way of life. He always called it his “final conversion.”
He left the Navy with the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade and, back in Argentina, joined as executive of Rigolleau Cristalerías. In a short time he became Director General. During those years, he was forming a spirituality related to his vocation of Christian businessman. He joined the Catholic Action and the Christian Family Movement. He married Cecilia Bunge in 1943. In 1945 he was sent by the Navy to the Chicago State University in the United States to study meteorology. But it was in that year, when his family was established and growing, he finally realized that God asked him for specific ministry; a priest, seeing his profile, persuaded him to carry the gospel to the businesses that belonged to his family.
In 1946 the bishops sought to create an active organization for entrepreneurs to grow in Christian commitment. In 1952, Enrique founded the Christian Association of Business Executives and served as its first president. An intense evangelization aimed at entrepreneurs in Argentina as the result of it ensured. In 1957, cancer was discovered. Thereafter, Enrique began to fight the disease, but this did not prevent him from giving conferences and lectures, editing publications, and preparing his diary and many manuscripts. In 1958, he helped create the Catholic University of Argentina and became a member of the first Board of Directors. He participated in the founding of Caritas and the Serra Club. He also became president of Catholic Action. His increasingly fragile health deteriorated in 1962, but he maintained to the end his work as a business leader. He died on August 27, 1962 at age 41. The investigation into whether his virtues were heroic commenced in 2001.
Spiritual reading: Jesus will say over and over again in his encounters with sinners and his disciples, “Today salvation has come to this house,” and the psalmist sings out, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it.” Today is this day, every day, any day.Today we can start. Today everything can start. There is only today with God. (Megan McKenna)
Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’ Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’ You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it; one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it; one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus calls us to a religion of the heart that is authentic and transparent. He calls us to carry the good that is inside us into the world, not as some mere show or spectacle designed to gain the respect of other people but so that our light may shine before other that they may see our good works and give glory to our heavenly Father.
Saint of the day: Maria Troncatti was born in Cortegno Golgi (Brescia) on February 16, 1883. She grew up happy and hardworking in her numerous family, dividing her time between the farm and caring for her little brothers and sisters, in the warm and loving atmosphere created by her exemplary parents. She regularly attended catechism in her parish, where she developed a deep Christian spirit and opened her heart to the values of a religious vocation. She waited till she reached adulthood before asking to be admitted to the Institute of the Salesian Sisters. She made her first profession in 1908 at Nizza Monferrato.
During the First World War (1915-18) Sr. Maria took a course in health care in Varazze and worked as a Red Cross nurse in the military hospital. This experience was to prove very valuable in the course of her long missionary life in the Amazon forests of Ecuador. She left for Ecuador in 1922 and was sent to work among the Shuar people where, together with two other Sisters, she began the difficult work of evangelization. They faced dangers of every kind, including those caused by the beasts of the forest and by fast flowing rivers that had to be waded through or crossed on fragile “bridges” made from creepers or on the shoulders of the Indians. Macas, Sevillia Don Bosco, Sucúa are some of the “miracles” of Sr. Maria Troncatti’s work that still flourish. She was nurse, surgeon, orthopedist, dentist, anesthetist. But, above all, she was catechist and evangelizer, rich in the wonderful resources of her faith, patience and fraternal love. Sr. Maria died in a tragic air crash at Sucúa on August 25, 1969. Her remains lie at Macas, in the Province of Morona (Ecuador). She was beatified in 2012.
Spiritual reading: One good thing that silence and waiting has taught me is that our lives are always usable by God. We need not always be effective, but only transparent and vulnerable. Then we are instruments, no matter what we do. (Richard Rohr)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from. And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The question of what happens to us when we die occurs to all of us. The Christian answer has always been that we ultimately wind up in heaven or hell. There has been a certain reluctance in some Christian communities to speak of hell, and many very thoughtful believers have denied it exists. The question that makes an obstacle for most Christians who deny hell is how a loving God could condemn a soul to misery for eternity. I think I would be in this camp, except that the idea of hell is something that Jesus repeatedly mentions throughout the gospels. Jesus taught there is a hell and that people go there.
The great Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner, who died in 1983, proposed the idea that when we die, we sum up our existence before God. In the moment of death, we have decided who we are and what we are in relationship to God. Rahner taught that God does not judge and condemn us but rather, at the moment of death, invites us to come. It is we who decide whether or not to do that. If our lives have left us open to the invitation, we go to God; if our lives have been a series of rejections of intimacy with God, then God respects our freedom to not come. The gospel passage today starts with the question, “How many will be saved?” Because Jesus says people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south, perhaps his answer was essentially, “Many will be saved.”
Spiritual reading: If we want to be spiritual, then, let us first of all live our lives. Let us not fear the responsibilities and the inevitable distractions of the work appointed for us by the will of God. Let us embrace reality and thus find ourselves immersed in the life-giving will and wisdom of God which surrounds us everywhere. (Thomas Merton)
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: We Christians believe that God is love, and for this reason, love is the creative force that forms and binds everything that exists. God asks us to live fearlessly this call to love. John of the Cross once wrote that in the evening of our lives, God will judge us on love alone. It is our prayer of the everyday that when we come to the evening of our lives, and we are judged on love alone, we will not be found wanting. As Joanna Macy once wrote, “The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.”
Saint of the day: Sr. Maria Alfonsa of the Child Jesus–Elena Bruno at birth–was born in Tarquinia, Italy, April 10th, 1937. She was a vivacious girl who grew up with her father, mother, and six siblings. She fell in love with a young man who her father thought was inappropriate and was sent to live with her aunt. During this period, she had a mystical experience where she heard the Blessed Mother encourage her to enter religious life. When Elena announced to her family that she was entering religious life, their reaction was unanimous outrage. Her brother responded, “Better dead!” And her father refused her permission. Elena prayed fervently for her father to have a change of heart. One night, he had a dream of a huge, powerful man who told him, “Let her go. She does not belong to the world.” Her father then gave full consent to Elena’s call. On November 30th, 1956, Elena entered the community of the Handmaids of Reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. When she pronounced her vows on December 30, 1957, she was given the name Sr. Maria Alfonsa of the Child Jesus.
In February 1960, she was sent to the United States as a missionary. In Steubenville, Ohio, Sr. Alfonsa helped with the humble chores around the house and in the pre-school run by the sisters. In 1961, Sr. Alfonsa began experiencing pain in the joints of her hands. Her health deteriorated to such an extent that in 1967 she was hospitalized and diagnosed with the serious chronic disease: rheumatoid arthritis. She and her sisters began a novena to the Founder of the Community, Monsignor Anthony Celona. On the ninth day of the novena, Monsignor Celona appeared to her over her bed. He told her, “You will be a saint.” Then he slowly waved his hand over her body. As he did so, a light began to radiate from her bones. She saw her own body as it would be in glory. Believing she had been cured, she fell asleep. However, the next morning she awoke in even more pain than before.
Her superiors decided the best way to help her was to have her return to Messina, and on June 7th, 1968, Sr. Alfonsa left the United States and returned to Italy. She spent the rest of her live in a wheel chair offering up all her sufferings with a smile for her mission which she had left in Steubenville, for her community, and for the holiness of priests. She would spend all day before the Blessed Sacrament praying in the back corner of the church. She called herself the Secretary of the Eucharistic King. Visitors would come to her throughout the day and ask for her prayers and advice. Sr. Alfonsa was always available to anyone and everyone and never betrayed her own sufferings which were her constant companions. Each year her disease grew progressively worse. Yet Sr. Alfonsa remained faithful and joyful in her sufferings to the last moment of her life. Very few people could understand her pain and there was nothing that was really able to minimize the pain. Sr. Alfonsa died on August 23rd, 1994. On June 21st, 2002, the process for the beatification and canonization of Sr. Alfonsa was officially opened. After years of examination, the Servant of God, Sr. Maria Alfonsa’s life was declared heroic and virtuous.
Spiritual reading: Stop the words now. Open the window in the center of your chest, and let the spirits fly in and out. (Rumi)