Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 3, 2008) Mt. 14: 13-21
Today’s Gospel selection for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time gives us Matthew’s version of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the only miracle that appears in all four Gospels. I have read many different themes coming from this miracle story: that it prefigures the Eucharist, that it gives us the image of the reign of God as a banquet, that it presents us with the idea of God’s providence and care for his people, that it shows the compassion of God for the Israelites in the Old Testament in feeding them manna in the desert. Recently, I read another interpretation that really interested me: the miracle of the loaves and fishes signifies the building of community through the sharing of what we have with others. This is really how community is formed when you stop to think about it. We could even go so far as to say that this occasion of the miracle of the loaves and fishes was the beginning of the community we now call the Church.
It was sharing that led to this miracle and the beginning of this community of hungry, loving people. The young boy (John 10: 9) who had the five barley loaves and the two fish gave them to the disciples, shared what he had with all, and Jesus did the rest.
And so it is with any other community I can think of: nations, states, families, religious orders and congregations, parishes, schools, AA groups, Altar and Rosary Societies, nursing homes, the Boy Scouts, and any other group of people joined together for a specific purpose may be called communities. And all of them depend on the sharing of the individuals, the members of the community, to be a viable group. We can all see this in our families. All the members, from the youngest to the oldest, contribute their gifts, talents, and work for the good, happiness and support of everyone else in the family. All are gifted in a special, unique way and all are needed by all the others to obtain the purpose of the whole. And the same thing is true in our dioceses, parishes, the whole Church, and all the other communities we mentioned and more.
Let us realize today that irregardless of how little we may think we are, how unimportant we are, we are all vital parts of the communities to which we belong. The whole depends on the sum of all its parts. The Gospel parable for today offers us all the opportunity to reflect on and ask ourselves whether we are doing our part, contributing our share, with God’s help, in the communities to which we belong.
Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time, (August 4, 2008) St. John Vianney
Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of St. John Vianney, perhaps better known as the “Curé of Ars.” He was born in 1786 in Lyons, France. He wanted nothing more in life than to become a priest but it soon became evident that he would not be able to master the studies required for priestly ordination. Once more, however, it was soon to be seen that Jesus had called John to the priesthood not because of what or who he was, but for what he would become. A kind priest friend of his tutored him privately and John was able to be ordained in 1815, “by the skin of his teeth,” Three years later he was made Pastor in the Church of Ars, a remote French town. Soon John’s reputation as a confessor and spiritual director spread through all of France and then to all of Christian Europe. People came from all over to seek his spiritual assistance. It is said that he heard confessions for 16 hours each day. He died on August 4, 1859, at the age of 73. He was canonized a Saint on May 31, 1925, and is the patron Saint of all parish priests.
St. John Vianney, Curé of Ars, pray for us.
Tuesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time (August 5, 2008), Mt. 15: 1-2, 10-14
Once again in today’s Gospel selection we see the everyday inconsequential practices and customs so necessary for the Pharisees disregarded by Jesus’ disciples. Jesus points out to the Pharisees their hypocrisy on many other issues and refers to them as “blind guides of the blind.” They were great at taking non-essential practices and making them essential in paying homage to God. In effect, they were making mountains out of mole hills. I once heard a criterion that should be applied when considering the importance of some of our actions or the actions of others. In Latin it is: “quid ad aeternitatem?” Roughly translated it means: “What is this in the light of eternity?” This criterion can be applied to many “modern” practices or customs and for the most part the answer comes back: nothing at all. In other words, relax. Life is too short to worry about so many non-consequential things we might think are important and get all bent out of shape over them when practiced by others.
Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time (August 6, 2008) The Transfiguration of the Lord
Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration in their Gospels. And all three of them report a bright cloud casting a shadow over them and from the cloud came the voice of God saying: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Jesus himself many times in the Scriptures tells us that we have ears but we do not hear. We have ears but do not listen to what he is saying. This seems to be one of the most heard divine pleas in Scripture to God’s people: Listen!
We too are transfigured and changed and this happens from our listening to the word of God. As I have stated before many times, there are two main places in Sacred Scripture responsible for my own conversion from the disease of alcoholism in my life: “I am the way, the truth and the life,” and “Without me, you can do nothing.” When I really accepted, listened to these words of Jesus, I was transformed toward being a new person.
But many times I still catch myself doing things my way again. I still am not listening when I do that. I am afraid we are all like this many times every day. Lord, be patient with us as we try and do our best today to listen to your words.
Thursday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time (Aug. 7, 2008) Mt. 16: 13-23
“Who do people say the Son of Man is?” This is a recurring question all through the Scriptures. The answer we give is part of the reason why we read and reread the Scriptures over and over, day in and day out. Who is this man, Jesus?
To arrive at the answer, however, requires more than just reading and learning, more than the proverbial head-trip. To arrive at the answer requires a leap, or maybe several leaps, of faith; to let go and let God and see the results, to let go and let God and see that God is really there in Jesus. This is why surrender is so important for it is mainly in surrendering that we will encounter God and it is only in encountering him, in meeting him, that we move from the head to the heart. Surrendering produces not one, but many heart-trips. And only when this happens can we answer the question Jesus asks us all: “Who do you say that I am?”
Friday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time (Aug. 8, 2008) Memorial of St. Dominic
Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of St. Dominic, Founder of the Order of Preachers, or the Dominicans. St. Dominic (1170-1221) and St. Francis (1182-1226) were contemporaries and friends. St. Dominic was born in Calaruega, Spain, and studied at the University of Palencia where he was probably ordained around the year 1199. Dominic spent a great deal of time and effort preaching against the Albigensian heresy. It is almost impossible to condense all the tenets of this heresy in the short space we have here. It begins by asserting the co-existence of two mutually opposed principles, one good and the other bad, and it goes on to divide up the world, and what is in it, into one or the other of these principles. If you wish more details, they are available in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Dominic received Pope Honorius III’s approval for his Order of Preachers in 1216. He spent the remainder of his years organizing his new Order all over Italy, Spain and France. He died on August 8, 1221. He was canonized in 1234 and is the patron saint of astronomers. Why, I do not know.
St. Dominic, pray for us.
Saturday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time (August 9, 2008) Mt. 17: 14-20
In today’s Gospel selection Jesus cures a man’s son “who is a lunatic and suffers severely; often he falls into the fire, and often into water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.” Jesus certainly did some amazing things in the Scriptures. But I kind of suspect that while the curing of the lunatic by Jesus was indeed amazing, what happened to his father and to the disciples was even more amazing. This miracle takes me back to the words of Jesus in the parable of the vine and the branches: “Without me, you can do nothing.”
If you start out baking a banana cream pie and you leave out the bananas, it ain’t gonna work, Charlie Brown! You are leaving out the essential element for the banana cream pie. And when the lunatic’s father, the disciples, and we ourselves start trying to do something, fix something that we are powerless over, without the intervention of Jesus, it ain’t gonna work either! We are leaving out the essential changer and healer when we do that. If we want to cure something or someone, if we want to change someone or something, let’s not try to do it alone. Let’s get Jesus involved and when we do, rest assured that something good is going to happen either to the one you want changed or cured or to yourself. It happens every time!