Providing the Word of God.

February 28, 2017


The Price of Happiness

Reading 1 – SIR 35:1-12

To keep the law is a great oblation,
and he who observes the
commandments sacrifices a peace offering.
In works of charity one offers fine flour,
and when he gives alms he presents his sacrifice of praise.
To refrain from evil pleases the LORD,
and to avoid injustice is an atonement.
Appear not before the LORD empty-handed,
for all that you offer is in fulfillment of the precepts.
The just one’s offering enriches the altar
and rises as a sweet odor before the Most High.
The just one’s sacrifice is most pleasing,
nor will it ever be forgotten.
In a generous spirit pay homage to the LORD,
be not sparing of freewill gifts.
With each contribution show a cheerful countenance,
and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy.
Give to the Most High as he has given to you,
generously, according to your means.

For the LORD is one who always repays,
and he will give back to you sevenfold.
But offer no bribes, these he does not accept!
Trust not in sacrifice of the fruits of extortion.
For he is a God of justice,
who knows no favorites.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 50:5-6, 7-8, 14 and 23

R. (23B) To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Gather my faithful ones before me,
those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
And the heavens proclaim his justice;
for God himself is the judge.
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Hear, my people, and I will speak;
Israel, I will testify against you;
God, your God, am I.
Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,
for your burnt offerings are before me always.”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Offer to God praise as your sacrifice
and fulfill your vows to the Most High.
He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me;
and to him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God.”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

Alleluia – see MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 10:28-31

Peter began to say to Jesus,
‘We have given up everything and followed you.”
Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters
or mother or father or children or lands
for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age:
houses and brothers and sisters
and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.
But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

Reflection

Once there lived a dog. He was very hungry. He wandered here and there in search of food. He got a juicy bone from a butcher’s shop. He felt very happy. He took the bone and ran away. He reached on a bridge of a river. He saw his own shadow in the water. He thought that there was another dog with a juicy bone in his mouth. His mouth watered and he wanted to snatch that bone from him. He started barking on him and as he opened his mouth, the bone fell down from his mouth in to the river.

That has to be one of my favorite and earliest stories I have ever hears, probably for the first time as a young child. As an adult, it makes perfect sense to me now when it comes to not only greed but the unhealthy attachment to possessions and money. Today in the Scriptures for this last day before the Great Season of Lent, we have this theme brought front and center for our attention.

“Give to the Most High as he has given to you, generously, according to your means.” (First Reading)

Here, the generous person is to be  so passionate for spiritual riches and insight power that he literally sleeps well at night and enjoys peace during the day. At some point, every person must ask themselves, “How much wealth do I really need?”

The problem with an unexamined life is that wisdom is lost in the shuffle and the fight for having things and control lead one away from the very purpose and meaning of life. It also tends to drown out the desire for what is good, holy and good to be a solid, complete and integral human being. It turns the whole world into a conquest rather than a matter of conscience, a party rather than a privilege.

The other side of the danger of greed and avarice is what it does to the soul. The more we want things that will not last the less we long for and look for the things of Heaven, that is, time and space our for spiritual lives. We become more like animals that survive in the proverbial “dog-eat-dog” world where the only value a person has is measured by dollar signs and bottom lines.

 

“Desire for true happiness frees man from his immoderate attachment to the goods of this worlds so that he can find his fulfillment in the vision and beatitude of God.” (CCC 2548)

“The promise of seeing God surpasses all beatitude (supreme happiness). In Scripture, to see is to possess. Whoever sees God obtained all the goods of which he can conceive.” (St. Gregory of Nyssa)

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hared, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

(St. Francis of Assisi)

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February 27, 2017


Impossible vs. Difficult

Reading 1 – SIR 17:20-24

To the penitent God provides a way back,
he encourages those who are losing hope
and has chosen for them the lot of truth.
Return to him and give up sin,
pray to the LORD and make your offenses few.
Turn again to the Most High and away from your sin,
hate intensely what he loathes,
and know the justice and judgments of God,
Stand firm in the way set before you,
in prayer to the Most High God.

Who in the nether world can glorify the Most High
in place of the living who offer their praise?
Dwell no longer in the error of the ungodly,
but offer your praise before death.
No more can the dead give praise
than those who have never lived;
You who are alive and well
shall praise and glorify God in his mercies.
How great the mercy of the LORD,
his forgiveness of those who return to him!

Responsorial Psalm – PS 32:1-2, 5, 6, 7

R. (11A) Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
For this shall every faithful man pray to you
in time of stress.
Though deep waters overflow,
they shall not reach him.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
You are my shelter; from distress you will preserve me;
with glad cries of freedom you will ring me round.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.

Alleluia – 2 COR 8:9

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 10:17-27

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?
No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother.”

He replied and said to him,
“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
At that statement, his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
“How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the Kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words.
So Jesus again said to them in reply,
“Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
“Then who can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God.”

Reflection

Riches were traditionally seen as a sign of God’s favor. Jesus sees things differently: the power of God and reliance on him alone are the only way to win God’s approval. As for those who are rich it will take a miracle to get them into the kingdom of God. The miracle will not consist of getting them in with all their wealth but by getting them to give it up by sharing it with the poor.

Peter takes up what Jesus has said. ‘What about us? We left everything and followed you.’ It is as if he were asking, what’s in it for us? Jesus replies, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – but not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life. Many who are first will be last, and the last first.’

In other words, those who make great sacrifices for Jesus will be rewarded both in this life and in the world to come. Unlike the rich young man, Jesus’ disciples will enjoy a great social and religious fellowship in the here-and-now as well as in the age to come. But Jesus (or Mark) strikes a realistic note: all this will involve persecutions – just as it will for Jesus. Jesus is proclaiming a great reversal of the world’s values: the poor, the marginalized, the outcasts will have precedence over the rich in God’s kingdom.

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February 26, 2017


person kneeling in front of cross

Humility as the Cure for Worry

Reading 1 – IS 49:14-15

Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my LORD has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9

R. (6A) Rest in God alone, my soul.
Only in God is my soul at rest;
from him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed at all.
R. Rest in God alone, my soul.
Only in God be at rest, my soul,
for from him comes my hope.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed.
R. Rest in God alone, my soul.
With God is my safety and my glory,
he is the rock of my strength; my refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, O my people!
Pour out your hearts before him.
R. Rest in God alone, my soul.

Reading 2 – 1 COR 4:1-5

Brothers and sisters:
Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ
and stewards of the mysteries of God.
Now it is of course required of stewards
that they be found trustworthy.
It does not concern me in the least
that I be judged by you or any human tribunal;
I do not even pass judgment on myself;
I am not conscious of anything against me,
but I do not thereby stand acquitted;
the one who judges me is the Lord.
Therefore do not make any judgment before the appointed time,
until the Lord comes,
for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness
and will manifest the motives of our hearts,
and then everyone will receive praise from God.

Alleluia – HB 4:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of God is living and effective;
discerning reflections and thoughts of the heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MT 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

Do Not Worry: “Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” (First Reading)
Do Not Worry: “Trust in him at all times, O my people! Pour out your hearts before him.” (Responsorial Psalm)
Do Not Worry: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow.” (Gospel)

Over 70 times, the words “humility ” and “humble” appear on the pages of the Sacred Scriptures. Given that the word “love” is echoed over 500 times, we can safely assume that humility is an essential spiritual tool and gift for all of us on the journey to Heaven. It certainly is clear that humble people are also intrinsically aligned with truth and justice and they readily exude happiness:

Let’s start our reflection by exploring what exactly humility is. Well known and well-read author John Piper submits the following as to the five truths about humility as revealed by God:

1. Humility begins with a sense of subordination to God in Christ. 
2. Humility does not feel a right to better treatment than Jesus got. Therefore humility does not return evil for evil. It is not life based on its perceived rights. 
3. Humility asserts truth not to bolster ego with control or with triumphs in debate, but as service to Christ and love to the adversary. 
4. Humility knows it is dependent on grace for all knowing and believing. 
5. Humility knows it is fallible, and so considers criticism and learns from it. But humility also knows that God has made provision for human conviction and that he calls us to persuade others. 

Humble people know that we are in front of a great mystery which God has placed in front of each and everyone of us. Life is not just about a series of human encounters which exist on every psychological level of effectiveness, but rather about being prepared daily for the Resurrection of Jesus in our lives when we die and beyond:

“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?” (Gospel)

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February 25, 2017


Reading 1 – SIR 17:1-15

God from the earth created man,
and in his own image he made him.
He makes man return to earth again,
and endows him with a strength of his own.
Limited days of life he gives him,
with power over all things else on earth.
He puts the fear of him in all flesh,
and gives him rule over beasts and birds.
He created for them counsel, and a tongue and eyes and ears,
and an inventive heart,
and filled them with the discipline of understanding.
He created in them knowledge of the spirit;
With wisdom he fills their heart;
good and evil he shows them.
He put the fear of himself upon their hearts,
and showed them his mighty works,
That they might glory in the wonder of his deeds
and praise his holy name.
He has set before them knowledge,
a law of life as their inheritance;
An everlasting covenant he has made with them,
his justice and his judgments he has revealed to them.
His majestic glory their eyes beheld,
his glorious voice their ears heard.
He says to them, “Avoid all evil”;
each of them he gives precepts about his fellow men.
Their ways are ever known to him,
they cannot be hidden from his eyes.
Over every nation he places a ruler,
but God’s own portion is Israel.
All their actions are clear as the sun to him,
his eyes are ever upon their ways.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 103:13-14, 15-16, 17-18

R. (see 17) The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him,
For he knows how we are formed;
he remembers that we are dust.
R. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.
Man’s days are like those of grass;
like a flower of the field he blooms;
The wind sweeps over him and he is gone,
and his place knows him no more.
R. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.
But the kindness of the LORD is from eternity
to eternity toward those who fear him,
And his justice toward children’s children
among those who keep his covenant.
R. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.

Alleluia – SEE MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 10:13-16

People were bringing children to Jesus that he might touch them,
but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them,
“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them,
for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Amen, I say to you,
whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child
will not enter it.”
Then he embraced the children and blessed them,
placing his hands on them.

Reflection

“He created in them knowledge of the spirit; With wisdom he fills their heart; good and evil he shows them.” (First Reading)

We begin yet another week with Lord Jesus close at our side. We ask Him never to leave us but also to show us how to stay focused and humbled as we move forward. A possible answer comes to us from the first reading from the Book of Job. He was the one as you remember who seemingly lost everything and yet gained a renewed love and trust in the Lord. Even in the face of horrible ruin and disaster, he never lost faith.

“And his justice toward children’s children among those who keep his covenant.” (Responsorial Psalm)

This quote from the Responsorial Psalm today also reinforces this heart-felt and rock-solid attachment to the Lord Jesus who clearly has been know to try and test our faith. The goal is sure and simple. Do not give up and do not despair. The best is yet to come.

“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these..” (Gospel)

And while we wait in hope, Jesus give us the most awesome example of peace and strength: a child. This is true greatness. A child trusts and loves with completeness and wholeness. A child has a deep joy that no one can take from him or her. Children know that they are loved and hang on to that for dear life. And a child knows exactly what it means to serve. Consider what William Barclay has to say about this passage:

There are so many wrong motives for service.

(i) There is the desire for prestige. A. J. Cronin tells of a district nurse he knew when he was in practice as a doctor. For twenty years, single-handed, she had served a ten-mile district. “I marveled,” he says, “at her patience, her fortitude and her cheerfulness. She was never too tired at night to rise for an urgent call. Her salary was most inadequate, and late one night, after a particularly strenuous day, I ventured to protest to her, ‘Nurse, why don’t you make them pay you more? God knows you are worth it.’ ‘If God knows I’m worth it,’ she answered, ‘that’s all that matters to me.’” She was working, not for men, but for God. And when we work for God, prestige will be the last thing that enters into our mind, for we will know that even our best is not good enough for him.

(ii) There is the desire for place. If a man is given a task or a position or an office in the church, he should regard it not as an honor but as a responsibility. There are those who serve within the church, not thinking really of those they serve, but thinking of themselves. A certain English Prime Minister was offered congratulations on attaining to that office. “I do not want your congratulations,” he said, “but I do want your prayers.” To be chosen for office is to be set apart for service, not elevated to honor.

(iii) There is the desire for prominence. Many a person will serve or give so long as his service and his generosity are known and he is thanked and praised. It is Jesus’ own instruction that we should not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing. If we give only to gain something out of the giving for ourselves, we have undone much of its good.

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February 24, 2017


Reading 1 – SIR 6:5-17

A kind mouth multiplies friends and appeases enemies,
and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings.
Let your acquaintances be many,
but one in a thousand your confidant.
When you gain a friend, first test him,
and be not too ready to trust him.
For one sort is a friend when it suits him,
but he will not be with you in time of distress.
Another is a friend who becomes an enemy,
and tells of the quarrel to your shame.
Another is a friend, a boon companion,
who will not be with you when sorrow comes.
When things go well, he is your other self,
and lords it over your servants;
But if you are brought low, he turns against you
and avoids meeting you.
Keep away from your enemies;
be on your guard with your friends.
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his worth.
A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy,
such as he who fears God finds;
For he who fears God behaves accordingly,
and his friend will be like himself.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 119:12, 16, 18, 27, 34, 35

R. (35A) Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Blessed are you, O LORD;
teach me your statutes.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
In your statutes I will delight;
I will not forget your words.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Open my eyes, that I may consider
the wonders of your law.R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous deeds.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Give me discernment, that I may observe your law
and keep it with all my heart.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Lead me in the path of your commands,
for in it I delight.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.

Alleluia – JN 17:17B, 17A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your word, O Lord, is truth;
consecrate us in the truth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 10:1-12

Jesus came into the district of Judea and across the Jordan.
Again crowds gathered around him and, as was his custom,
he again taught them.
The Pharisees approached him and asked,
“Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”
They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”
They replied,
“Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce
and dismiss her.”
But Jesus told them,
“Because of the hardness of your hearts
he wrote you this commandment.
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.

So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.”
In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.
He said to them,
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery.”

Reflection

Today we begin again with our journey toward the Father and we are clearly given instructions along the way: “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure. A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth.” (First Reading)

What this means is the way we treat one another has everything to do with how truly we believe in the mercy and love that God shows for us each and every day. The words of  the Responsorial Psalm should ring and echo deeply in each one of us:  “Give me discernment, that I may observe your law
and keep it with all my heart.”

Without love in this life, we can never know peace or happiness. And unless we understand that true love emanates and finds its source in the love that Jesus has for each one of us, as it is expressed in good solid friendship and marriage, we will not be able to know His own will for our lives. This is why mercy is so important in our day-to-day interactions with each other:

God’s patience has to call forth in us the courage to return to Him, however many mistakes and sins there may be in our life. … It is there, in the wounds of Jesus, that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of His heart. Thomas understood this. Saint Bernard goes on to ask: But what can I count on? My own merits? No, “My merit is God’s mercy. I am by no means lacking merits as long as He is rich in mercy. If the mercies of the Lord are manifold, I too will abound in merits.” This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, to trust in His patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of His love.  (Poe Francis)

 

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February 23, 2017


salt shaker world

Reading 1 – SIR 5:1-8

Rely not on your wealth;
say not: “I have the power.”
Rely not on your strength
in following the desires of your heart.
Say not: “Who can prevail against me?”
or, “Who will subdue me for my deeds?”
for God will surely exact the punishment.
Say not: “I have sinned, yet what has befallen me?”
for the Most High bides his time.
Of forgiveness be not overconfident,
adding sin upon sin.
Say not: “Great is his mercy;
my many sins he will forgive.”
For mercy and anger alike are with him;
upon the wicked alights his wrath.
Delay not your conversion to the LORD,
put it not off from day to day.
For suddenly his wrath flames forth;
at the time of vengeance you will be destroyed.
Rely not upon deceitful wealth,
for it will be no help on the day of wrath.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6

R. (40:5A) Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Alleluia – 1 THES 2:13

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Receive the word of God, not as the word of men,
but as it truly is, the word of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 9:41-50

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink
because you belong to Christ,
amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled
than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
Better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

“Everyone will be salted with fire.
Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid,
with what will you restore its flavor?
Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”

Reflection

We all the plight of salt for us today—we are to avoid it especially if we have high blood pressure. However, it seems to be everywhere, on our tables, all in our foods, and even sometimes on the snowy roads. However, it would be better to investigate, if for just a short while, the significance that salt had in Biblical times.

  1. Salt was valuable. Some people were even paid with salt (which is where we get the word “salary”).
  2. Salt was connected with healing and purity. Saltwater was applied to infections and wounds (it helps heal afflictions of the skin). Newborn babies were washed with saltwater.
  3. Salt was connected with preservation. In the years before refrigeration, salt was one of the most common ways of preserving meat and fish.
  4. Salt was connected with flavor. Salt adds spice to life; it brings out the flavor in food.
  5. Salt was an image for wisdom. Gregory the Great said, “Now by salt is denoted the word of wisdom. Let him therefore who strives to speak wisely, fear greatly” (Pastoral Rule 4.12).
  6. Salt was connected with worship and covenant. Scripture says, Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings (Lev 2:13). So the use of salt was ordered first for the meal offerings, and afterwards for “all” offerings, including the “burnt offering.”
  7. Scripture speaks elsewhere of a “covenant of salt.” For example, Don’t you know that the LORD, the God of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt? (2 Chron 13:5) The covenant of salt refers to the imperishable and irrevocable quality of the engagement made between the two parties to the covenant.
  8. The use of salt to signify and ratify what was sacred was widespread. There is a Latin saying attributed to Pliny the Elder (and Virgil, too), Nulla sacra conficiuntur sine mola salsa (Sacred things are not made without salted meal). (Research courtesy of Msgr. Charles Pope) 

So you see, judging by these standards, it is clear that the you and I as Christians are to purify, sanctify, and preserve our own lives and by extension the wounded and decaying world which we often find ourselves. We are to bring a sort of spiritual flavor to life around us:

“Delay not your conversion to the LORD, put it not off from day to day.” (First Reading) and….”He is like a tree planted near running water, That yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade.” (Responsorial Psalm)

What is then, the great, spiritual result of being salted with fire? We saw this effect in the vest last phrase of the Gospel today: “Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”

Let us then accept the purification of being salted with fire as our only true hope for peace. When Jesus burns away our envy, we no longer resent gifts of others; we finally can rejoice in them and come to appreciate all that the lord for everyone, even me. This certainly brings peace. When we allow the Lord to burn away jealously and greed from all relationships, we are able to be grateful for what we have because there is no longer any resentment. Again, there is peace. When the Lord burns away all bitter memories of past hurts and gives us the grace to forgive, an enormous amount of poison goes out of our souls and bodies making us all ready and equipped to love and to be kind, generous, and patient. Peace, again, at last!

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February 22, 2017


St Peter

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

Reading 1 – 1 PT 5:1-4

Beloved:
I exhort the presbyters among you,
as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ
and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.
Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 23:1-3A, 4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Alleluia – MT 16:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church;
the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MT 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “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.”

Reflection

Today the church celebrates the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter which helps all of us during our spiritual journey to acknowledge and confirm the mission given to St. Peter by Jesus Christ as teacher and pastor of the Universal Church. Here is the opening prayer for the Mass celebrated around the world:

“Grant, we pray, almighty God, that no tempests may disturb us, for you have set us fast on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Why are we celebrating “a chair”? While this is a very good question, it may take a while to answer: First, there is a physical, ancient and ornamental chair located at the very end of the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome. Second, there is the spiritual authority that this chair represents. In addressing this authority, Pope Benedict XVI explained it this way:

This is a very ancient tradition, proven to have existed in Rome since the fourth century. On it we give thanks to God for the mission he entrusted to the Apostle Peter and his Successors.

“Cathedra” literally means the established seat of the Bishop, placed in the mother church of a diocese which for this reason is known as a “cathedral”; it is the symbol of the Bishop’s authority and in particular, of his “magisterium”, that is, the evangelical teaching which, as a successor of the Apostles, he is called to safeguard and to transmit to the Christian Community. The See of Rome, after St Peter’s travels, thus came to be recognized as the See of the Successor of Peter, and its Bishop’s “cathedra” represented the mission entrusted to him by Christ to tend his entire flock. . . .

Celebrating the “Chair” of Peter, therefore, as we are doing today, means attributing a strong spiritual significance to it and recognizing it as a privileged sign of the love of God, the eternal Good Shepherd, who wanted to gather his whole Church and lead her on the path of salvation.

Let’s now take a look at the Readings for today: Our First Reading is an instruction in the first place for those who are ordained ministers in Christ’s Church but–in an extended way–it serves as instruction for all of us, for we all influence others and should set the same example of being authentic followers and disciples of Jesus. Remember, you and I may be the only Bible some people will read today. Pope

The Gospel clearly establishes the deep desire and longing of Jesus to keep the Church going and shepherded throughout the centuries. it is an-going gift of love that Christ has for us in giving us shepherds after His own heart. But like we say in some business circles, we have a “committee chair” for this or that, the Chair of St. Peter refers to the occupant, not the furniture. St. Peter’s incredible and phenomenal life is perhaps best summed up in the account of his meeting with Jesus after the Resurrection. Jesus asked him three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:16b). Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. . . . Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you (John 21:16c, 17b). And he still does.

Pray for the Pope today. And if you have any kind of authority in this world, pray that you may be able to say to Jesus: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

 
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February 21, 2017


Jesus surrounded by children

Childlike vs. Childish

Reading 1 – SIR 2:1-11

My son, when you come to serve the LORD,
stand in justice and fear,
prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast,
incline your ear and receive the word of understanding,
undisturbed in time of adversity.
Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not;
thus will you be wise in all your ways.
Accept whatever befalls you,
when sorrowful, be steadfast,
and in crushing misfortune be patient;
For in fire gold and silver are tested,
and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation.
Trust God and God will help you;
trust in him, and he will direct your way;
keep his fear and grow old therein.

You who fear the LORD, wait for his mercy,
turn not away lest you fall.
You who fear the LORD, trust him,
and your reward will not be lost.
You who fear the LORD, hope for good things,
for lasting joy and mercy.
You who fear the LORD, love him,
and your hearts will be enlightened.
Study the generations long past and understand;
has anyone hoped in the LORD and been disappointed?
Has anyone persevered in his commandments and been forsaken?
has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed?
Compassionate and merciful is the LORD;
he forgives sins, he saves in time of trouble
and he is a protector to all who seek him in truth.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 37:3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40

R. (see 5) Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you.
Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart’s requests.
R. Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you.
The LORD watches over the lives of the wholehearted;
their inheritance lasts forever.
They are not put to shame in an evil time;
in days of famine they have plenty.
R. Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you.
Turn from evil and do good,
that you may abide forever;
For the LORD loves what is right,
and forsakes not his faithful ones.
R. Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you.
The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
R. Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you.

Alleluia – GAL 6:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May I never boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 9:30-37

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee,
but he did not wish anyone to know about it.
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”
But they did not understand the saying,
and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
“What were you arguing about on the way?”
But they remained silent.
For they had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

Reflection

Childish and childlike have roughly the same definition—of, like, or related to a child or childhood—but childish has negative connotations, and childlike usually does not. Childish is often synonymous with words like infantile, immature, silly, juvenile, and foolish, all of which are usually negative. Childlike is closer to words like innocent, trusting, unfeigned, and pure, which are not negative.

“My son, when you come to serve the LORD, stand in justice and fear, prepare yourself for trials.” (First Reading)

Clearly the Readings today call us to consider, or re-consider what kind of faith we are carrying today in the midst of the world and circumstances we find ourselves. The awesome clue we discover today is this pearl nestled in the Gospel:

“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” (Gospel)

Childish Faith

  1. Good Christians don’t have pain and disappointments.
  2. God wants to make us happy.
  3. God always answers prayers.
  4. Faith will help us to always understand what God is doing.
  5. Good Christians are always strong.

Childlike Faith

  1. God uses our pain and disappointment to make us better Christians.
  2. God wants to make us holy.
  3. Sometimes He answers with “No” or “Wait.”
  4. Faith will help us to stand under God’s sovereignty even when we don’t have a clue about what God is doing.
  5. Our strength is in admitting our weakness.

Here is the heart of the matter: Childish faith is self-centered and demanding. It expects God to shield us from all difficulties and to make life comfortable for us. In contrast, childlike faith focuses on God. It trusts Him to use even difficulties for our good and His glory.

Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you.” (Responsorial Psalm) 

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February 20, 2017


Praying man

Wisdom and the Defeat of Evil

Reading 1 – SIR 1:1-10

All wisdom comes from the LORD
and with him it remains forever, and is before all time
The sand of the seashore, the drops of rain,
the days of eternity: who can number these?
Heaven’s height, earth’s breadth,
the depths of the abyss: who can explore these?
Before all things else wisdom was created;
and prudent understanding, from eternity.
The word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom
and her ways are everlasting.
To whom has wisdom’s root been revealed?
Who knows her subtleties?
To whom has the discipline of wisdom been revealed?
And who has understood the multiplicity of her ways?
There is but one, wise and truly awe-inspiring,
seated upon his throne:
There is but one, Most High
all-powerful creator-king and truly awe-inspiring one,
seated upon his throne and he is the God of dominion.
It is the LORD; he created her through the Holy Spirit,
has seen her and taken note of her.
He has poured her forth upon all his works,
upon every living thing according to his bounty;
he has lavished her upon his friends.

Responsorial Psalm – PS 93:1AB, 1CD-2, 5

R. (1A) The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
The LORD is king, in splendor robed;
robed is the LORD and girt about with strength.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
And he has made the world firm,
not to be moved.
Your throne stands firm from of old;
from everlasting you are, O LORD.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
Your decrees are worthy of trust indeed:
holiness befits your house,
O LORD, for length of days.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.

Alleluia – 2 TM 1:10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death
and brought life to light through the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MK 9:14-29

As Jesus came down from the mountain with Peter, James, John
and approached the other disciples,
they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them.
Immediately on seeing him,
the whole crowd was utterly amazed.
They ran up to him and greeted him.
He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”
Someone from the crowd answered him,
“Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit.
Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down;
he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid.
I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.”
He said to them in reply,
“O faithless generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you? Bring him to me.”
They brought the boy to him.
And when he saw him,
the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions.
As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around
and foam at the mouth.
Then he questioned his father,
“How long has this been happening to him?”
He replied, “Since childhood.
It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him.
But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
Jesus said to him,
“‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.”
Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”
Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering,
rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it,
“Mute and deaf spirit, I command you:
come out of him and never enter him again!”
Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out.
He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, “He is dead!”
But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.
When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private,
“Why could we not drive the spirit out?”
He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”

Reflection

“All wisdom comes from the LORD…He has poured her forth upon all his works, upon every living thing according to his bounty; he has lavished her upon his friends.” (First Reading)

In the Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J. writes:

“Modern theology defines miracle as a phenomenon in nature which transcends the capacity of natural causes to such a degree that it must be attributed to the direct intervention of God.”

How many miracles (acts of power) did Jesus perform? There are thirty-seven recorded miracles in the Gospels; twenty-eight involved healing of the sick, casting out demons, and resuscitation of the dead; nine miracles had to do with the natural world.

Why did Jesus perform these works of power? The people of Jesus’ time believed that all physical and mental disorders were caused by sin (evil). In their view, contrary to our modern perspective, whenever Jesus healed the sick, performed exorcisms, and restored life to the dead he was showing his supremacy over evil. At times the Lord insisted that their faith was essential for Him to exercise His healing powers. We read about some of this morning in the Readings for today:

“Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit. Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.”

Without removing the obvious importance and centrality of the effect of demonic possession, evil and the constant spiritual attack on the human soul, let us take a look at these interesting verbs from the Gospel that in fact describe the overthrow of the soul from an a outside source: seize, throw, grind and become rigid. These could also describe the effect of anger and anxiety on the human body. These overwhelming emotional experiences do in fact put the heart a great risk, increases the possibility of a stroke, weakens the immune system, and basically causes an early death than normal. For these experiences, which all of us must bear from time to time, we need and therefore beg God for Wisdom: 

“This kind can only come out through prayer.”

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February 19, 2017


Hateful man

The Cure For Hatred

Reading 1 – LV 19:1-2, 17-18

The LORD said to Moses,
“Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them:
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

“You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen,
do not incur sin because of him.
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the LORD.”

Responsorial Psalm – PS 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13

R. (8A) The Lord is kind and merciful.
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
He pardons all your iniquities,
heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
Merciful and gracious is the LORD,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Reading 2 – 1 COR 3:16-23

Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person;
for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.

Let no one deceive himself.
If any one among you considers himself wise in this age,
let him become a fool, so as to become wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God,
for it is written:
God catches the wise in their own ruses,
and again:
The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,
that they are vain.

So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you,
Paul or Apollos or Cephas,
or the world or life or death,
or the present or the future:
all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.

Alleluia – 1 JN 2:5

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever keeps the word of Christ,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – MT 5:38-48

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 as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand over your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

“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 only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Reflection

“Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.” —Ann Landerslove

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” —Martin Luther King, Jr. 

“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” —Mother Teresa of Calcutta

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” —Jesus Christ, the Lord

The First and Second Readings make one thing very clear to all of us as we keep going through all of our lives: Love is the goal.

Now, what that does that mean? In a day and age where everything seems to take on some sexual overtone, it is good to be clear and honest when we say “love.” Moses began a great discussion for us today when he shouted out to the people, “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” In other words, we might say, God wants us close to Him because He loves us so much. And we stay close to Him by listening closely and following Him even closer. This is the underlying purpose of the Law. It binds us together as a community while strengthening our mutual respect and by staying close to God we hopefully stay close to each other who are following the same Lord.

Jesus teachingWhen Jesus announced that we are also to love our enemies, I am sure that drew a gasp from His first audiences. Unfortunately in a way for some, the English Language really doesn’t do Love any justice in the words that we have available to us to describe. The Greek Language, however, does go deeper: There are at least three different levels (and word) for Love. Quickly, for our purposes here, we will suffice to name 1. Eros, which could be describes as passion, attraction and simple. Then there is Filia, which is like or esteemed kind of friendship, for another person, or even for a hobby or for one’s neighbors. Then there is Agape which is the kind of love that surpasses all the others and says: “I love you so much that I will sacrifice for you wanting the best for you even if means doing without for me.” (must be careful here about promoting co-dependence)

If and when we begin to love our enemies, even appreciate them for their service to us, our love for our friends and families increases. And when that increases, our capacity to love God more and more also flourishes. This is the hope of Discipleship: that we become more loving people.

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