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Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist

Scripture Readings

Today’s memorial celebrates martyrdom/passion of John the Baptist.  The date of this memorial likely corresponds with the date of the dedication of the church of St. John the Baptist in Samara.  This church commemorates the location where tradition holds that St. John the Baptist was buried. 

Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Scripture Readings

One of the great joys of summer is the fruit that becomes available. In our house, the big favorites right now are local peaches. Within just a day or two of purchasing them, they are ripe and juicy. The only down side of having a pile of them in a bowl on our kitchen counter is the relentless presence of fruit flies. I’ve tried covering the fruit bowl with a towel, putting the fruit in a closed container, and encouraging everyone to eat the peaches quickly before the fruit flies show up. I even bought “Fruit Punch”—a concoction that comes in a plastic container that attracts fruit flies when the lid to the container is open. They fly in but can’t get back out. Despite all my efforts, they persist.

Memorial of Saint Monica

Scripture Readings

"The more hidden the divine operation beneath an outwardly repulsive appearance, the more visible it is to the eye of faith." This quote is by the spiritual master Jean Pierre de Caussade, a French Jesuit priest who lived during the 17th and 18th centuries. Fr. Caussade's writings came to mind while reading today's Scriptures. The brief passage from 2 Thessalonians and its words about faith stayed with me for quite a while leading me to reread some of his thoughts on the subject.

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Finally, after five weekends, we have reached the end the Bread of Life discourse. We could only wish that the discourse ends well. But it does not. It ends letting the readers know that many of Jesus’ disciples “returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him (Jn 6:66). Just as you prepare yourself for a bad ending, there is a glimpse of hope. Jesus came to the Twelve and asked them, "Do you also want to leave?" (Jn 6:67). Peter’s response warms every believer’s heart. "Master, to whom shall we go?” he says, “You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:68-69). (As an aside, please keep Peter’s confession at the back of your mind. We will return to it later). Just when you think that the story has a happy ending, John gives us this devastating news: Jesus said to the Twelve: “Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil? He was referring to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot (Jn 6:70-71). The story will ultimately end well, but for that we must until the resurrection. 

Saturday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

My undergraduate degree was a double major between History and English, so it should come as no surprise that amid all the richness of today’s readings, I was drawn to four lines of a poem. In the middle of our selection from Psalm 85 we find these lines. “Kindness and truth shall meet;/ justice and peace shall kiss./ Truth shall spring out of the earth,/ and justice shall look down from heaven.” As we seek to live heaven on earth, I find myself echoing the longings of the Psalmist in these four lines as he envisions life when God’s reign is fulfilled.

Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle

Scripture Readings

A friend of mine and I were talking this week about labels, especially the political labels that we hear tossed around so often during election season: "liberal", "conservative," "Republican" "Democrat" and so on.  Both of us pointed out to each other that we didn't really feel like we fit neatly into any of those categories, that there were some things about us that might make people think we're conservative, but other things that might make us seem liberal.  We thought "moderate" didn't really do us justice either, since we both hold our views very passionately, and moderate sometimes implies a kind of easy-going passive kind of nature (rightly or wrongly). So we found ourselves frustrated by the labels. 

Thursday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

In today’s readings, we see a theme of sin and redemption with God’s love shining throughout. The passage from the prophet Ezekiel is a well-known one: here God reveals his dedication to the people of Israel who have turned away from him. The Lord speaks of bringing the people back, cleansing them from their false worship, and giving them a “new heart” and a “new spirit” (Ez. 36:26). Even though the people have deserted God and worshiped other gods, the Lord remains faithful, and in this fidelity to his sinful people, God is willing to do the cleansing, to give the people another chance. 

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Scripture Readings

The theme of the good shepherd is a common thread for today’s readings.  We come across Ezekiel just after he learns of Jerusalem’s fall.  Ezekiel had already been in exile for twelve years.  Ezekiel’s prophecy against the shepherds of Israel reads like a job description of a bad shepherd:  you feed yourself instead of your sheep, you do not search for those who have strayed or are lost, and you do not strengthen the weak or heal the sick.  The prophet is challenging the leaders of the faith, who have failed to hear the word of the Lord.  The story does not end here.  The Lord, the Good Shepherd, promises to search for the lost sheep and gather them back into their land.

Memorial of Saint Pius X, Pope

Scripture Readings

I have to confess that I find in today’s gospel reading (a continuation of yesterday’s) one of the more challenging gospel passages. “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.” (Matthew 19:24) I find myself wanting to argue my way out of the challenge with defenses such as, “well, how rich does he mean?” or “rich compared to whom?” “I’m certainly no millionaire!” Yes, there is a part of me that would like to hear the opposite, such as that we will be rewarded with material wealth in this world AND the eternal riches in the next if we follow Jesus (I’m really not promoting Prosperity Theology).

Memorial of Saint Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church

Scripture Readings

It seems in our society that many people are focused on achieving a prize or reward with the least amount of effort. The question, “What do I have to do to get an A in this class?” is a prime example of how students are trying to ascertain exactly the steps that need to be done to get the top grade. The implication is that they can do these steps and no more in order to receive the reward.  What seems to be lost in this pursuit is the importance of what can be learned from their studies and how the knowledge they obtain can be used to make them better prepared for the future.  By choosing to do the most to absorb the material, they not only gain a better understanding of what is being taught, but with their complete effort they grow as individuals who embrace the fullness of every experience in life.

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Reading

One of the most difficult things to believe in the Catholic tradition is the belief that the bread and wine at every Eucharist is transformed into the body of blood of Jesus. The difficulty is seen in the statistics. Only 57 percent of Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present in the bread and the wine. Perhaps, we can find some consolation in the fact that we are not alone in our difficulty. Around the end of the 1st Century, John’s community dealt with the same issue. Last week we reflected on Jesus’ words, “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51). The people were quick to ask, “"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (Jn 6:52). 

Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Sometimes it feels like “sorry” is a really sorry word.  When there is something that I have done wrong, I know I can feel sorry.  That makes it a feeling.  Something that can be fleeting and utterly subjective.  I can say sorry.  That makes it a word that can be said without substance.  And sometimes I can just be sorry.  Making it a state of being.  But in the moments when I’m regretting a choice of words, an action, or an inaction, sorry can just seem so insufficient.  I think that is because it seems difficult to act sorry.  This is where repentance comes into the picture.

Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

When I teach my undergraduate Christian Marriage course, I always have students asking why the Catholic Church prohibits divorce - and what's up with annulment anyway?  Isn't it just a Catholic form of divorce? Today's scriptures point toward some of the whys and the complexities of Catholic teaching about marriage and divorce.

Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Each time we pray the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father…”), which is at least each Sunday at mass, perhaps more often if we pray it on our own or with our children during the week, we are asking God to “forgive us our trespasses (or debts) as we forgive those who trespass against us (our debtors).” (taken from Matthew 6:12)  Today’s gospel reading (Matthew 18: 21-19:1) is about just that.  The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant is a somewhat jarring parable intended to bring home Jesus’ important message of forgiveness. 

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Mass during the Day

Scripture Readings

On this Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we can sing with our Holy Mother “…He has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.” (Lk 1:54-55) Mary sings in gratitude and praise for the long awaited Messiah and, on this day, we sing in gratitude and praise for the gift of Mary as well. Though we can never fully comprehend the depth of God’s mercy for us, God’s gift to us in the Blessed Mother is a most splendid expression of the vastness of this mercy. 

Memorial of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr

Scripture Readings

You just have to love the disciples in the text from Matthew today. There they are—the guys who have Jesus’s ear, the inside circle of witnesses to his ministry, the ones among all others he often selects to share a special teaching—and they ask Jesus to tell them who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. Of course, I can’t say this with anything like certainty, but I have to believe that they were expecting him to say that they are. I mean, they are his disciples! I wish I could have seen the looks on their faces when, in answer to their question, Jesus calls a child over and tells them that unless they—the disciples—become like children they will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.

Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

This summer I have been reading a lot of books...mostly old favorites and classics everyone reads in high school or college. This has been very enjoyable but they all seem very different now. Of course, having forty more years of life experience has a lot to do with it; there is less imagining and more identification with characters’ emotions, behaviors, and struggles. It struck me how the capacity to accept life on life’s terms (as opposed to my own) powerfully influences the life of all human beings. Life is often much harder than it has to be when we fight to change people or things that are truly outside of our power to control.

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Of the all the people in your life, is there one person you love the most? Perhaps, there are a few people who love the most. What could you do for them? Are there any limits to what you can do or be for them? Are there words to describe how much you love them? These are emotional questions, are they not? The reason, I begin with these questions is because today we are going to reflect on Jesus’ love. What does Jesus do? What does Jesus give us? What does it say about God’s love? 

Memorial of Saint Clare, virgin

Scripture Readings

Faith is a really big word for us as Christians. It is at the core of the set of beliefs that we call "our faith." How we define it and understand its role in our salvation has been a sticking point between denominations for centuries. Then there is the question of faith in our everyday circumstances and that collides with whether or not we have expectant faith that God can do the miraculous. One could write volumes on "faith", but this is not the space for that. Instead I'd like to offer just one reflection regarding faith and how we can more intentionally pursue the faith of the "just man" as Habakkuk describes it and the faith that the Apostle's lack in today's gospel. I'd like to ponder faith as "the resolute trust that God will fulfill the promises that have been made."

Feast of Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

Scripture Readings

I think it's easy to read today's readings and immediately jump to money. We can read these readings and reflect on how we are giving financially - am I giving enough? Am I giving to the right organizations? Am I cheerful when I am giving that money away? But I think there is more to what we are being asked here.