Posts tagged: scripture

Fiftieth Anniversaries Surround Us

By , April 16, 2014 5:48 am

Have you noticed that we are surrounded by a very plethora of anniversaries marking the 50th anniversary of this or the 50th anniversary of that. If it tells us anything at all, it should be that the 1960’s were an extraordinarily important period. It is fifty years since the riots in Watts, fifty years since the death of Jack Kennedy, fifty years since Lyndon Johnson led the change in America by the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It is also fifty years since the first session of the Second Vatican Council.

These American events are being rather well marked but for some reason the Catholic bishops of the United States have done little or nothing to remind the 60 million of us that the Council was an extraordinary event widening horizons, creating hope and helping to lead us into the future. Maybe one of the reasons why it has not been spotlighted so much in this country is that many of the younger bishops would just as soon forget it! That is a tragedy but it is not an enduring tragedy. The Council is being brought back to life by our magnificent leader Pope Francis.

A few days ago I started a series of blogs on the documents of the Council. Since I find it so refreshing to go back and study them, you may appreciate or enjoy at least a brief mention to various segments of them as I plod through the next few weeks.

The other day I stressed that the first and most exciting of the Council documents was the one on the sacred liturgy and how it got started. Now I would like to go very briefly through certain segments of this document that has touched each and every one of us in this country and actually every Roman Catholic across the world. I break Roman Catholics into two groups about the Council. Older men and women who remember it taking place fifty years ago connect it with a time of change and tension and the most visible thing they remember is that Latin ceased to be imposed on the Universal Church and all the countries of the world were able to use vernacular language. Imagine – the Church decided to put worship into a language that the worshipers understood. What a breakthrough!

To discuss the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy would require volumes and believe me many volumes have been written about it. With the constraints of this space, I want to simply break it into two key components. Many subdivisions are possible.

The first thrust of the document centers on the fact that the Eucharist is the absolute center of the Church’s prayer life. Certainly, the other sacraments are important and they draw us closer to Jesus and private devotions and prayers of individuals are very valuable. However, it is in the Eucharistic liturgy that the entire Church prays and we pray in unison and with one faith and one heart. The Eucharist is the center of the Church and it unites each and every one of us together. We are believers.

Secondly, the liturgical document calls forcefully and urgently for a resurgence in the study of sacred scripture and more effectively integrating scripture into the Eucharist liturgy and all the other sacraments as well. I am happy to report that this early Council directive has been rather well implemented. While there is much work to be done, it is a very measurable accomplishment.

In the meantime, what we need is millions of small groups across the world taking time out of their lives, day by day and week by week, to study God’s word, to see their own lives in relationship to it and to be guided by that word. We are a long way from there but I think we are moving in the right direction. For that I thank God.

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Neighbors in Need

By , February 8, 2014 5:52 am

February 9th, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I frequently refer to the three Scripture readings that the Church presents to us each Sunday as forming a mosaic or a collage, which should tie together and unfold before us a very special message that we ought to study, meditate upon and practice in the week that is before us. Today’s readings are a perfect example of this and the message is that Almighty God expects us to do good things and to be especially sensitive to our neighbors who are in need.

Sometimes we followers of Jesus think that the essence of a good life is avoiding sin. That is important, but God expects much more of us than that. Listen to the message presented in the first reading on this Sunday. Read it in the context that Isaiah is preaching to the people in a terrible time of oppression and poverty. Even with this circumstance, Isaiah challenges God’s people when he proclaims:

Thus says the Lord
Share your bread with the hungry
Shelter the oppressed and homeless
Clothe the naked when you see them
Do not turn your back on your own

Wow! Isn’t it true that sometime we do not see people who are hungry, homeless and naked? Modern American cities are designed to get you through the slums on fast freeways and out to the comfortable world of suburbia. However, the Church never stops calling us to be concerned about those in need, and this wonderful new Pope Francis is making that the main thrust of his pontificate. Just look at these words that appear earlier in his exhortation to the whole world about the joy of proclaiming the Gospel.

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shall not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘Thou shall not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not news when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

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God’s Plan Or Ours?

By , September 7, 2013 5:00 am

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 8th
Readers of this blog may note that I am frequently bragging about the importance of the Lectionary. That is the book that the Catholic Church uses for scripture readings on Sundays, holy days and other special liturgies. It was developed immediately after the Vatican Council and was produced by countless hours of labor by scripture scholars pulling together separate texts in order to form a meaningful collage for each time the Church gathers to celebrate the Eucharist. It is really wonderful that several mainline Protestant churches now use the Catholic Lectionary. It is an important step towards unity. Overall, they are wonderful texts and neatly tie together enabling a person who wants to meditate them or even preach from them to have an easy task. However, that is not always the case and today is an example of what at first glance appears to be misfitting texts.

The first reading from the Book of Wisdom is easy enough. It is about mystery. The sacred author reminds us that we frail human beings really do not understand a God whose thoughts and plans are infinite. Human beings have very real limitations.
“And scarce do we guess that things on earth and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty but when things are in heaven who can search them out?”

This seems obviously true. Most of us are constantly trying to second guess God and not always with much success.
I will touch on the second reading but cannot do so adequately. It is an excerpt from the Book of Philemon, the shortest book in the bible, and Paul has had a runaway slave get in touch with him and Paul directs him to return to his master. The letter is to the master and Paul directs the man to give the slave freedom not for legal reasons but for the love of Christ. He tells him, “That you might possess him forever no longer as a slave but as more than a slave, a beloved brother!” I abhor slavery but let’s face it. The Church lived with it for more than half of its historical life.

Then the Gospel. This excerpt from St. Luke has our Lord challenging all of us to get our priorities in order and make walking in the footsteps of Jesus the chief goal and responsibility in our lives. The challenge is a tough one and scripture professors tiptoe around it because most of us simply can’t do it except in a symbolic way. Christ comes first. We walk in the footsteps of Christ and no relationship on earth should get in the way with our commitment to our Divine Lord. That sounds good enough but very few of us sell our cars or jewelry!

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Frustrating Choices

By , August 31, 2013 5:24 am

September 1st, 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

For more than three years now I have been placing my views and opinions here in the mysterious world of the internet. I thoroughly enjoy it but I have absolutely no idea how it works. I do, however, know how to read, think and have opinions. Monday through Friday the ideas can come from almost any direction but I put out one comment on Saturday drawing upon the texts of the scriptural readings for the following day. As I know my readers are all busy people, I try with some success to keep my views rather short. What do I do if I want to touch on two different subjects? That is certainly the case today.

The first reading is magnificently important for everybody who wants to live a happy life. The Gospel is about fraternal
correction and how that should be done inside the community of faith, which is the Church. I personally have needs in both of these areas and topics give each and every one of us an opportunity to develop both psychologically and spiritually. Take a quick look at the first reading from the book of Sirach and see if it doesn’t make horse sense.

The text reflects an old man talking to his son giving him good advice on how to live a better life. He stresses that if you develop the virtue of humility people will appreciate you and value your friendship. If you are really very successful, you don’t have to tell your friends about it. They will know that and respect the fact that your accomplishments have not gone to your head and turned you into an obnoxious person. He also suggests that we set goals for ourselves that are reasonable and not greedy and if we do find ourselves sinning, then generosity and concern for others will atone for those weaknesses. Good advice from an old man. Always true but sometimes we have to get somewhat older in order to gain that wisdom from experience.

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Feast of St. Peter and Paul

By , June 29, 2013 4:28 am

June 29th
I have been putting this blog out for over three years and have had a consistent policy regarding the weekends. I attempt to make some meaningful remarks regarding one or another of Sunday’s scripture excerpts. That comes out on Saturday and then, following God’s direction in the Third Commandment, I do nothing on Sunday.
This week, however, I am going to let the scriptures take care of themselves. They are well able to do that and I would like to talk about today’s regular liturgical feast. Across the world today we celebrate the great names of St. Peter and St. Paul.
The Church has always kept these two men side by side because they are the key apostles in the first generation in the life of the Church. Peter was not just an apostle. He was the leader of the other apostles. While Paul was not one of the original twelve, he was certainly so filled with faith, zeal and effective missionary work that he declared himself an apostle and the Church has accepted that from the first century.
I think that we can take inspiration from these two wonderful men. They centered their lives on Jesus of Nazareth and the sacrifices in carrying out their missionary activities. Both experienced misunderstanding from others in the Church. Finally, both will die very close to each other in the year 66 in the first Roman persecution of this new community of Jesus’ followers, which at first was called “The Way.”
In addition to inspiration flowing from the example that they have given us, I think we can also find encouragement by the fact that as great as they were they both were very human. Peter was impetuous and at times inconsistent. Paul could be given to braggadociousness and anger. He fired two of his closest co-workers and had a face to face run in with St. Peter. I think that knowing about these very human blemishes is wonderful. We can draw inspiration and encouragement from Peter and Paul and all the saints without having to think that they were perfect. Their imperfections make their holiness even more important

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Are You Wearing RED Today?

By , May 26, 2012 5:28 am

Pentecost Sunday
One of the things that I really love about Roman Catholic traditions is the way that we have divided the entire year into phases or chapters that center around Jesus of Nazareth. Part of the year prepares for his coming. That is Advent. Part of the year marks the time when Christ was present among us. That is from Christmas Day until fifty days after the Resurrection. The third chapter and the longest begins with Pentecost and continues until Advent begins again. It is really a wonderful system where throughout the year we are constantly reminded of the need to have our lives centered on Jesus of Nazareth, to know him better, to love him profoundly and to motivate ourselves to walk in his footsteps.

I love Pentecost because on this day the spotlight swings away from the life of Jesus of Nazareth and shines squarely on us. Jesus came to be our savior, to be our redeemer and he accomplished that, but He wanted to have the human family involved in its own salvation. He wanted us to be partners with him in preaching the good word of God’s love for the human family.

Regretfully, sometimes we don’t get as much out of the Scripture readings as we should when we are at Sunday Mass. I would suggest that you take three or four minutes and open up your bible to Acts of Apostles 2:1-11. The story related there is short but awesomely dramatic. It provides a jump start for this little band of battered, confused men who now have the responsibility of carrying forward the work of Jesus and, believe me, they do well. Next week we will see that Peter gave one of the most successful homilies in the history of the Church. Following the reception of the Holy Spirit, Peter and the apostles go out into the streets of Jerusalem and Peter preaches to the crowds and the text says that, “There were added that day three thousand souls.” That would certainly have been the shortest RCIA in Church history.

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Lent – Still Faithful?

By , March 20, 2012 2:15 am

Most of the time, I just comment on Sacred Scriptures for Sundays but occasionally I see something in the weekday readings that makes me want to share it with others via this blog. Last Thursday, March 15th, was such a day, so I’d like to take a small step back and revisit a portion of the message. The first reading was from the book of Jeremiah and, as is so often the case in Jeremiah, it is a warning! Yahweh is condemning the people for their sinfulness, their lack of faith, their inconstancy and their foolish disregard of his law. He reminds them that time after time he has sent prophets among them to call them to faithfulness, to direct them on the right path and to remind them of the suffering that would be ahead if they continued on that unfaithful road.

Here we are late in Lent and you don’t have to go back to the Sinai desert to be conscious of the fact that warnings come into our lives as well. A close friend dies very suddenly and a very important thought catches our imagination and we are reminded of the need to recommit ourselves to utilizing this holy season. We experience disappointment when a friend lets us down and we have to concentrate on the fact that Jesus Christ is our faith long friend, and that we are journeying with him and we need to stay close to him and on the road. We don’t want to have applied to us what Yahweh said to the people in the 6th century B.C.

This is the nation which does not listen to the voice of the Lord its God or take correction. Faithfulness has disappeared.

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No One Wants to be Hard Hearted

By , January 28, 2012 4:52 am

January 29th, Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Most viewers of this blog are probably familiar with the fact that I only post them six times a week. On Saturday, I make some comments on the Scriptures of the following day and then take Sunday off. I hope that you also have an easy Sunday!

This is always the easiest day of the week for me to post a blog because I have my choice of three different readings. The first and second readings are usually drawn from the Old Testament and from one of the Epistles while the third reading is always from one of the four Gospels.

Today, I am passing all of those over and going to the Responsorial Psalm which I think is beautiful, optimistic and a guide for anyone’s life. The first refrain tells us, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Oh, my friends, what a wonderful challenge. Each of us has experienced temptations to do something that our conscience warns us against and, on the other hand, we sometimes see an opportunity to do good and yet feel that it wasn’t our job or our responsibility. When we have those thoughts and we don’t give the right response, what we are doing is exactly what the psalmist calls us not to do. We are hearing his voice but we have hardened our hearts.

This particular psalm comes from the 95th psalm and it is so beautiful. The psalm tells us:

Let us sing joyfully to the Lord
Let us greet him with thanksgiving
Let us bow down and worship
He is our God and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides

These few words are both a challenge and a source of joy and confidence. We are part of the flock. He does shepherd us and we should endeavor to be open constantly to the various invitations to be better, to walk in his footsteps.

Once again, if today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

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A Joyful Obedience?

By , September 24, 2011 4:05 am

26th Sunday (September 25th)
The Church year is beginning to wind down. For many weeks, the Scripture texts presented for our consideration each Sunday morning have provided us with material for thought, self evaluation and, hopefully, self improvement. Occasionally, some of them jump out at us with really startling concepts. Today, is such a day.

The theme of today’s Mass is obedience and the Gospel narrative gives an excellent example of that, but the most important for me personally, is the second reading from the second chapter of St. Paul in which he talks about the obedience and humility of Jesus Christ. St. Paul is writing from prison to his friends and converts in the city of Philippi. The apostle urges them to be united in faith, not to quarrel or fight and pointing out that they can avoid conflict by being humble and generous to each other. Then he referred to Christ’s attitude in those areas.

Christ, “though he was by nature God, did not deem the equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather he emptied himself, took the form of a slave and born in the likeness of men.”

In his preaching, Paul frequently urges us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ – “For me to live as Christ.” He never asserted that it was going to be easy and in today’s world, such a path is truly challenging.

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The Mystery of the Jews

By , August 13, 2011 4:36 am

20th Sunday of the Year: August 14th
This Sunday is all about the mystery of the Jews in the Christian story. There is no way that I can deal with it effectively in the few paragraphs to which I am limited by my editor. All three scripture texts touch on the mystery of Judaism and the new dispensation brought about by the life, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In the first reading, Isaiah says with great optimism and hopefulness that God’s love and justice reaches out to non-Jews if they love the name of the Lord and become his servants. In the second reading, St. Paul, in writing to the Romans, identifies himself for the first time as the apostle to the Gentiles and explains why he is still vitally concerned about bringing Jewish friends into the community that is united by its faith in Jesus. Those first two readings are essentially gentle and encouraging, but today’s excerpt from the Gospel seems harsh because it shows that Jesus is still coming in a very special way to call God’s chosen people to listen to his word and he wants to specialize in that. He will get around to the Gentiles later on but then, of course, the text does take a happy turn. Because of the great faith of this Canaanite woman, her wish is granted and her child is cured. This text tells us many things; first of all, the importance of the Jews in salvation history and secondly, the power of prayer.

Remember that sad line in the prologue of St. John’s Gospel? “He came into his own and his own received him not.” That text is offset by John, a few lines later, when he says, “But to those who did accept him, he gave the power to become children of God who are born not of natural generation nor human choice nor a man’s decision, but are born of God.”

And so we are!

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