Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, (June 8, 2008) Mt. 9:9-13
In our first reading for this Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Prophet Hosea tells us: “The Lord will come to us like the rain, like spring rain that waters the earth.” We read in Mt. 5: 45 that the Lord causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. In other words, the Lord, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, comes to call all people, all men and women, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, saint and sinner alike, to return to the Father who created them. The call of Jesus, therefore, is a universal call not limited in any way.
Such an outlook was bound to run into trouble when it ran into the Pharisees and their myopic vision of things. In their view, the Messiah would come as a leader and warrior king of Israel, the Jewish people. Others, their persecutors, would be shut out. This is what they expected and all knew this was the case. Consequently, when they saw Jesus inviting a tax collector, Matthew, a known public sinner, into his company of disciples, they were scandalized beyond belief. This just couldn’t be. There is no way this Christ could be the Messiah they were expecting. The self-righteousness of the Jewish people at the time of Christ was legendary. It was all about them.
Once again, as we have said so often, don’t be too quick to point the finger of condemnation at the Jews of Jesus’ time. As someone once noted so well: when you point your index finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at yourself. Self-righteousness is an intolerance of other people, their ideas and opinions, just because they do not agree with my ideas, opinions and values. If anyone disagrees with me, they are wrong. It’s as simple as that to the self-righteous.
It doesn’t take too much savvy to realize that such an attitude is not going to get us too far or set well with others. They have a right to their ideas and opinions just as well as we do. Do I condemn the modern young people, people of other religions, people of a different political party, people of another race or country just because they don’t agree with me? If I do, I have fallen into he terrible trap of self-righteousness and I had better start asking the Good Lord to show me the way out of it. Don’t try and do it alone. The attitude of self-righteousness is much stronger than we are. Let’s all of us take a good look at ourselves today for any trace of this and if we find it, seek the Lord’s help and strength in changing it. The rain of Jesus’ grace and redemption falls upon all people.
Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, (June 9, 2008) Mt. 5: 1-12
Jesus, in giving us the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, sums up the ultimate desire of the human heart: to be happy and free of suffering. All the Beatitudes begin with the words: “Blessed are….” The word “Blessed,” means “happy.” It’s the same thing as saying: “Happy are…..” So, Jesus is telling us how to fulfill the deep desire we have in our hearts to be happy.
We must have this happiness in order to exist for very long. We must have it in one way or another. If we cannot have the real thing, we will try to get it elsewhere in some reasonable facsimile thereof. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that no one can live without joy. Jesus is telling us that true joy, true happiness, is found in his way, truth and life. But some people do not dig this and try to obtain it in their own ways, truth and life. Eventually, if they live long enough, they will show themselves that it is not to be found in their way. Most of us experience this in life. I surely did. I tried it my way for years and thought I was happy, but I was fooling myself. Finally, in desperation, I tried it God’s way. And then I found what I was looking for all the time. Reflect a while today on where you are seeking the happiness you desire. Have you found it? Is it the real thing?
Tuesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, (June 10, 2008) Mt. 5: 13-16
Today’s Gospel selection continues to be taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from Matthew’s Gospel. According to a notation in my Bible for these verses used in today’s liturgy, Jesus tells the disciples (and that means us too) that by their deeds they are to influence the world for good. They can no more escape notice than a city set on a mountain. And if they fail to produce good works, they are as useless as flavorless salt or as a lamp whose light is hidden.
Uselessness is a terrible human feeling. It can also be rendered, as the Gospel labels it, to be good for nothing. God didn’t make us that way. He made us all good with many good gifts and talents. To be useless means we disregard all this, we turn our heads aside from God’s creation. This is not easy to do and I am almost sure none of us reach that self-description. But, are we doing as good a job as we are capable of doing? Like the Gospel tells us today, we cannot escape the notice of others. People know we are disciples of Christ and they watch us. Are we showing them the good we are capable of so they too may become an influence to others by their actions?
Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, (June 11, 2008)
Memorial of St. Barnabas
Today the Church Liturgy celebrates the feast of St. Barnabas. And the Liturgy gives us the choice of two Gospels: that for Wednesday of the Tenth Week of the Year or that one chosen for the Memorial (Mt. 10: 7-13). For our purposes here, we will choose the Gospel for the Tenth Week (Mt. 5: 17-19) to maintain our continuity with the Sermon on the Mount. Barnabas, as we all know from the Acts of the Apostles, was a companion of St. Paul on his first journey and later preached the Gospel in Antioch where the disciples were first called Christians. Later he returned to his original home in Cyprus where he continues to preach the Gospel and where he died.
In the Gospel for today, Jesus tells us he came not to abolish or do away with the law in the Old Testament but to fulfill it. This is good news. We all know that he came to change things, sometimes in a radical way. And there are some people who do not read the Old Testament very much at all. They figure that if Jesus changed it, why bother. There is a principle that I read the other day in Richard Rohr’s, Things Hidden, that reminds us: Transcendence to higher levels of consciousness always means inclusion of the previous levels. Many reformers have forgotten this or ignored it. They just bring in the new and throw out the old. Rohr writes: “This is the genius of the biblical revelation. True wisdom will honor and include both the Law and the Prophets, exactly as Jesus said – `to bring them to completion.’” I think this means that when we are changing things we are not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Jesus didn’t!
Thursday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, (June 12, 2008) Mt. 5: 20-26
Today’s Gospel begins what are called the “antitheses” of Matthew’s Gospel. We are all familiar with them, having heard them so many times over the years. They might start out: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors…” or an equivalent formula and then Jesus says. “But I say to you….” This coincides with what we said in yesterday’s homily concerning Jesus’ coming to fulfill the Law and the Prophets rather than doing away with them. Jesus first states what it said in the Law and then gives his fulfillment of it.
In today’s Gospel, for example, we hear the law: “You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.” And then the antithesis of Jesus: “But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment and whoever says to his brother ‘Raqa’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin…..” Anger is the motive behind murder, as the insulting epithets are steps that may lead to it. Raqa means, imbecile, blockhead, a term of abuse.
Any terms or signs of abuse should be eliminated from our vocabulary. Most are abusive judgments and all judgments of others should be avoided in our conversation. They only lead to trouble and sometimes to the rage we hear so much about today. These words of Jesus were given centuries ago but they are still very much applicable in our modern day society. Let us heed them well! Let him/her who has ears to hear, hear!
Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, (June 13, 2008)
Feast of St. Anthony of Padua
Today the Church celebrates the feast of one of the shining lights of the Franciscan Order, St. Anthony of Padua. Anthony was born in 1195 and died in 1231. He was contemporary with St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226). Anthony was declared a Saint by the Church one year after his death.
Anthony first joined the Augustinian Order but in 1221, he witnessed a procession bearing the bodies of five Franciscan martyrs on their way back for burial. This idea of martyrdom greatly appealed to Anthony and he joined the Franciscan Order with the hope of shedding his blood for Christ and becoming a martyr. Note that he lived only ten years after he joined the Franciscan Order.
Anthony was a very learned man and learning and books were not exactly favorite things of St. Francis of Assisi. It is not so much that he disliked books and learning. St. Francis saw that these things could make men think they were independent of God and could do things their own way and disregard surrendering to God’s way and letting the Lord guide their lives. When Francis observed that such was not the case with the very humble Anthony, he welcomed him and his learning and appointed him the first member of the Order to teach theology to the other Friars. Anthony was also regarded as being a great preacher and acquired the nickname “hammer of heretics.” It is written of Anthony that he wanted to profess the Catholic Faith with his mind and heart at every moment of the day. He was 36 years old when he died. Anthony of Padua accomplished much in a very short time.
Saturday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, (June 14, 2008) Mt. 5: 33-37
Today’s Gospel returns to the “antitheses” of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. But I say to you, do not swear at all….. Let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no.’ Anything more is from the evil one.” It doesn’t say anything here about “maybe” or “crossing your fingers behind your back” as you speak. Say what you mean! If you mean yes, say yes. If you mean no, say no. Jesus is telling us to avoid any ifs, ands, or buts. Practically this whole thing means we are supposed to tell the truth at all times. “Little” lies are still lies and the moralists tell us that all lies are intrinsically evil. By their very nature, they are evil. The object of the human intellect is truth. That is what we expect to hear when we are talking one to the other. Lies have no place whatsoever in our conversations. Do I find myself stretching this a bit from time to time?