September 30, 2015


September 30, 2015:  St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor
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Legend at bottom


Pope Francis
General audience:  wanted to embrace all Cubans, proclaim the transforming power of God’s mercy, and renew the hope that Cuba will open itself to the world and the world to Cuba.  Travelling from Cuba to the US was symbolic; God is rebuilding a bridge.   God always wants to build bridges when we build walls.  Walls collapse.
Recall America’s tradition of religious freedom and its contribution to the life of the nation. 
At the UN I renewed the Church’s encouragement for their efforts to promote peace, justice, integral human development, and care for creation; I reaffirmed the call to stop and prevent violence against ethnic and religious minorities and civilian populations.
My participation in the World Meeting of Families was an opportunity to celebrate the beauty of God’s plan for the family.  The fruitful covenant between a man and a woman is the key to a future of prosperity and solidarity.  Pray for the Synod on the Family which opens Sunday, and be witnesses of God’s presence in the world and through family life.
At Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (Philadelphia) [deferred from Monday's post]:  Your time of struggle is painful for you, your families and all of society.  Any society or family that can't share its children's pain and views it normal or expected is “condemned” to remain hostage to itself.  I'm here as pastor and brother to share your situation.  I came so we can pray and offer God everything that causes us pain, and everything that gives us hope, so we can receive the power of the resurrection.
When Jesus washed his disciples' feet, his disciples found it hard to accept.  In those days, that's how people were welcomed; roads were covered with dust, and stones got stuck in your sandals.  People's feet were dusty or cut.  That's why Jesus washes feet, then and now.  Life is a journey along roads that leave their mark on us.  Jesus seeks us out; he wants to heal us, soothe our hurt feet, wash us clean; he doesn’t ask where we've been or what we've done.  Jesus comes to us so he can restore our dignity.  He wants to help us set out again, resume our journey, recover hope, restore trust.  He wants us to keep walking, to realize we have a mission, and that confinement isn't the same as exclusion.  Life is “getting our feet dirty.”  We all need to be washed.  The Teacher stretches out his hand and wants to help us move on.
It's painful to see prison systems that don't care for wounds, soothe pain, or offer possibilities.  It is painful to see people who think only others need to be cleansed and don't see their own weariness, pain, wounds.  The Lord washes our feet so we can come back to the table to which we're all invited.  This time is to help you get back on the right road, and rejoin society.  We're all part of that, called to encourage enable your rehabilitation, one which benefits and elevates the whole community.  Jesus invites us to share his way of living and teaches us to see the world through his eyes, not scandalized by the dust; he asks us to create new opportunities for inmates, their families, correctional authorities, and society.  Make new opportunities, journeys, and paths possible!
Each of us has something we need to be cleansed of.  May that knowledge inspire us to support one another and seek the best for others.  Look to Jesus, who washes our feet, “the way, and the truth, and the life”; he comes to save us from the lie that says no one can change.  He helps us to journey along paths of life and fulfillment.  May the power of his love and resurrection lead you to new life.
  • Neh 2:1-8  I offered some wine to the king, who asked me, “Why do you look sad?”  I answered, How could I not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins?”  “What do you wish?” / “If it please you, send me to Judah to rebuild it.” / "How long will it take?"  I set a date acceptable to him, and he agreed that I might go.  “If it please you, give me letters for the governorsthat they may afford me safe conduct till I arrive in Judah; and a letter for the keeper of the royal park, that he may give me wood.”  He granted my requests, for God's favor was upon me.
  • Ps 137:1-6  "Let my tongue be silenced if I ever forget you!"  We wept by the streams of Babylon when we remembered Zion.  Our captors asked the lyrics of our songs, and our despoilers urged us to be joyous, but how could we sing of the Lord on foreign land?  Let me never forget you or place my joy ahead of Jerusalem.
  • Lk 9:57-62  Someone / Jesus:  “I'll follow you wherever you go.” /  “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son has nowhere to rest his head.”  Another:  “Let me bury my father first.” / “Let the dead bury their dead.  You go proclaim the Kingdom.”  Another:  “I'll follow you, but first let me say farewell to my family.” / “No one who looks back is fit for the Kingdom.”
St. Jerome
  • Universalis:  St. Jerome, unwillingly ordained a priest, founded monastery, hospice, and school, translated Bible into Latin, wrote many works, including letters and commentaries on Scripture, and helped refugees and those in need.  See Catholic Encyclopedia.

    • Creighton:  King Artaxerxes asks about Nehemiah’s interior life, and Nehemiah answers honestly and asks for the king’s help; he longed to return home. / Few answering Jesus’ call face the stark choices from today's gospel.  We follow him while doing other good things like caring for our families and making a living.  But in our multitasking, we need to pause to make sure we're really following Jesus, not just being carried along....
    • One Bread One Body:  "Jump when I say jump":  Jesus calls us to follow him on his terms, not ours.  He doesn't even let us choose our own pace.  Now is the acceptable time.  Jesus demands our all as only he can.  After what he's done for us, how can we give him any less?  We're indebted to him for the honor of serving him.
      St. Jerome/ Spada
      (See below re skull)
    • Passionist:  Jesus was committed to and focused on doing his Father’s will; not even death could deter him.  He looks for that dedication in his followers.  Once we commit, amazing things happen:  our imagination opens up, our inner resources are tapped, we discover energy and courage that stiffens our backbone.  Commitment opens our senses and intuition and hastens our learning.  Commitment forges our identity, centers our attention, and excites others to join us.  Great people have a purpose.  Jesus asks us to pursue the purpose of love and service with heart, soul, mind, and body, chin facing the wind, eyes ahead.  Part of the peace Jesus promises comes from a meaningful purpose and knowing we give our best, as he did.
    •  When the Lord calls, he discloses the cost and gives grace to respond and strength to persevere.  Detachment is a necessary step; it frees us to give without reserve.  We must be willing to part with whatever might stand in the way.  A plowman who looked back caused his line to become crooked.  Crooked lines can make the whole field a mess.  If we look back on what we leave behind, our path can diverge and we'll miss what God has for us.  Am I ready?
    Dress legend
    • 'Girl with heart' pin:  "If you're not sick, you must be sad at heart." (1st reading)
    • Orange suspenders:  "The city gates were eaten out by fire" (1st reading)
    • 'Letters' tie:  "Give me letters for the governors..." (1st reading) [trumps "doctor's office" tie for St. Jerome, 'doctor' of the Church]
    • 'Hand' tie pin:  The favoring hand of God was on me. (1st reading); "If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand be forgotten" (psalm); “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom.” (gospel)
    • Blue shirt:  We sat and wept by the streams of Babylon (psalm)
    • 'Musical note' tie pin:  Our captors asked the lyrics of our songs (psalm)
    • 'Bird' tie pin:  "Birds have nests, but the Son has nowhere to rest his head" (gospel)
    • 'Skeleton' tie pin:  “Let the dead bury their dead.” (gospel); skull (unfortunately missing here) as image of St. Jerome's asceticism
    • White in tie:  color of St. Jerome's memorial

    September 29, 2015


    September 29, 2015:  SS. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels

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    Legend below

    Pope Francis
    Return flight Q&A:  What surprised you about the US?  The warm welcome, whether formal, exuberant, or expressive.  Also the religious ceremonies and the people's piety...
    What's the challenge?  To work with the faithful, accompanying them through good times and hard times, in their joy and their bad moments. Staying close to the people.
    Philadelphia has had a hard time with sex abuse. Why did you feel the need to offer compassion to the bishops?  I spoke to all the US bishops.  I expressed compassion because something terrible happened.  What happened was a great tribulation. Abuses are everywhere:  in families, neighborhoods, schools, gyms.  But when a priest abuses, it's very serious because the priest is to make that boy or girl grow towards God's love, maturity, and good.  When it's squashed, it's a betrayal of the Lord's call, nearly a sacrilege.  So the Church is strong on this and one must not cover these things up.  Those who covered it up are guilty.  The words of comfort were not to say, "Don’t worry; that was nothing," but "It was so bad; I imagine you cried hard."
    Many priests sexually abused minors and have not asked their victims for forgiveness.  Do you forgive them?  If a person has done wrong, is conscious of what he's done, and doesn't say sorry, I ask God to take him into account.  I forgive him, but he doesn't receive that forgiveness because he's closed to it.  We must forgive, because we were forgiven, but if a priest is closed to forgiveness, he won’t receive it, because he locked the door from inside.  What remains is to pray that the Lord open the door.  That's how you explain people who finish their life hardened, badly, without receiving God's tenderness.
    Do you understand victims or relatives who can’t or don’t want to forgive?  Yes. I pray for them. I don’t judge them.  I met a woman who told me “When my mother found out I'd been abused, she lost her faith and died an atheist.”  I understand her, and God understands her.  I’m sure that God received that woman.  What was abused was her own flesh, her daughter's.  I pray and ask God to fix it; God is a champion in finding solutions.
    Do you really want a solution for the divorced and remarried?  How do you respond to those who fear the reform creates 'Catholic divorce'?  My document closed the administrative path to divorce.  The Synod fathers called for streamlining of the annulment process.  Benedict XIV introduced the double sentence to stop abuses in his time.  Pius X wanted to streamline the process but didn’t have the time or opportunity.  My document facilitates the processes and timing, but it's not divorce because sacramental marriage is indissoluble, and the Church can't change that.  The trial is to prove that what seemed to be a sacrament wasn't one, e.g. for lack of freedom, lack of maturity, or mental illness....  Young people don’t want to get married.
    We were told you wanted to show your support for the Little Sisters of the Poor and their court case.  Do you also support individuals who say they can't in good conscience abide by some laws or discharge their duties as government officials, for example in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Do you support those kinds of claims of religious liberty?  Conscientious objection is a right that's part of every human right.  If you don't allow others to be a conscientious objector, you deny a right.  Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it's a human right.  If we want to make peace, we have to respect all rights.
    What do you think about the relationship of the Holy See with China?  China offers the world many good things. I would very much like to go there.  I hope there is possibility of good relations.  We're moving forward.  Having a friend of a great country like China would be a joy.
    Do you feel powerful after your success in the US?  I don’t know whether I had success, but I'm afraid of myself.  Power is fleeting.  It’s important if you can do good with power.  Jesus defined power as humble service; I must make progress on this path because I feel I don’t do everything I should do. That’s the sense I have of power.
    Will there be women priests?  That can't be done.  St. John Paul II, after intense discussions and long reflection, was clear.  Not because women don’t have the capacity.  In the Church women are more important than men, because the church is a woman, the bride of Christ.  And the Madonna is more important than popes, bishops, and priests.  We're late in elaboration of the theology of women. We have to move ahead with it. 
    Is it good for the Church if the Pope is a star?  Stars are beautiful to look at, but the Pope must be the servant of the servants of God.  How many stars go out and fall?  It's fleeting, but being servant of the servants of God doesn’t pass.
    • Dn 7:9-10, 13-14  The Ancient One took his throne, clothing and hair bright; thousands ministered to him.  One like a son of man came on the clouds of heaven, was presented before the Ancient One and received kingship.  His dominion is everlasting; it won't be taken away.

    • Rv 12:7-12ab  War broke out between Michael and his angels and the dragon.  The dragon, the ancient serpent called Satan, was thrown to earth,  From heaven:  “Salvation and power have come, and God's Kingdom, and his Anointed's authority.  The accuser of our brothers is cast out, conquered by the Blood of the Lamb.  So rejoice!”

    • Ps 138:1-5  "In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord."  I'll thank you, for you heard me; I'll worship at your temple.  You've made your name and promise great and built up strength within me.  All kings shall thank you and sing of your glory.

    • Jn 1:47-51  Jesus re Nathanael:  “Here's a true child of Israel, with no duplicity.”  Nathanael / Jesus:  “How do you know me?” / “I saw you under the fig tree.” / “Rabbi, you're the Son of God, King of Israel.” / “You believe because I saw you under the fig tree?  You'll see greater things.  You'll see heaven opened and God's angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
    • St. Gregory's famous homily on the Archangels:  “Angel” denotes function, not nature. Heavenly spirits are only called angels when they deliver a message; archangels are the ones who proclaim supremely important messages, as Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary the greatest of all messages.  Some angels are given names to denote the service they perform.  Whenever a powerful act must be performed such as battling Satan, Michael is sent, making clear no one can do what God does.  So too Gabriel, "God's strength," was sent to Mary to announce the humble One who would quell the cosmic powers.  Raphael, "God's remedy," touched Tobit’s eyes to banish the darkness of his blindness.
      • Michael ("Who is like God?") is mentioned in Rv as leader of the heavenly host.  Patron of soldiers
      • Gabriel ('God's strength') appears in Dn to explain some of the prophet’s visions, and was also the bearer of the Annunciation to Mary.
      • Raphael ('God heals'):  In Tb, he heals Tobit of his blindness.
    • One Bread One Body:  "The coming of Raphael":  The archangel Gabriel is recognized in the Angelus, where we think of the Annunciation.  Pope Leo XIII composed the St. Michael Prayer, making the archangel better known and appreciated. The prayer is about the reality and importance of spiritual warfare.  We need St. Raphael to do for us what he did for Tobit:  open our eyes, to the need for evangelization and spiritual warfare.  When we let him open our eyes, we'll see better why we need Gabriel and Michael and give them more than lip service.
    • Passionist:  We are given a picture of division in the ranks of the angels.  Division is a sign of our times:  in politics, religion, society, the economy, among races, within families....  But in a disaster we temporarily suspend divisions amid our common experience of suffering.  The Cross of Jesus unites us in a common bond.  Our vocation calls us to “hold high the Cross” and stand up for the unity we share as God's children. 
      Vision of the Son of Man
      Jackson with contributions by Hart
      © 2005, The St. John’s Bible
      St. John’s Univ., Collegeville, MN
    • Creighton:  Words, pictures, and music can express love, hate, and other messages.  The Archangels were messengers of God’s plan and presence.   Angels express the Son of Man's power and glory.  Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel are powerful messengers of God’s protection (Michael), communication of God's plan (Gabriel), and healing (Raphael); symbols communicate their speed, power, and authority (wings, war gear, size, multiple eyes, trumpets...).  Ancient manuscript work enables us to receive God's word; this form of communication has been brought into the present by calligrapher Donald Jackson and others in the St. John’s Bible.  The illustration accompanying today’s 1st reading can transform our reception of God's Word.  As we gaze at the image and follow the patterns of embossed gold (for God's presence), the words and art allow us to participate in the experience of the angels.  We're called to stand in awe of God to worship and accomplish his mission as the angels are.
    •  When Philip brought Nathanael to see Jesus, Jesus revealed to Nathanael how God looks in the depths of our hearts and invites us into communion.  Nathanael was startled.  The fig tree was a symbol of God's peace and blessing; it provided shade and a place to retreat, pray, and reflect.  Rabbis gathered their disciples there.  Nathanael recognized Jesus was the Messiah, and the Lord offered him the gift of friendship with God and access to God's throne.  In Jacob's dream, God had opened a door for Jacob that brought him and his people into a new relationship with God.  God revealed his angels, showed him the throne of heaven, and promised him that he and his descendants would dwell with God.  Angels are God's servants and messengers, created for and through Christ.  Heb speaks of the role of the angels in God's plan:  spirits sent to serve, for those to obtain salvation.  Angels are also protectors and guardians as well.  We're not alone in our struggle against sin and evil.  Jesus' promises that he'll be the ladder uniting earth with heaven.  Jesus is the true stairway to heaven.  In his incarnation, God makes his dwelling with us and brings us into the heavenly reality of his kingdom.  Jesus' death on the cross opens the way for us to come into a new relationship with God as his adopted children.  Jesus opens the way for each of us to ascend to heaven and bring heaven to earth in our daily lives.  God's kingdom is present in those who strive to do his will....
    Dress legend
    • White shirt:  Today's liturgical color; the Ancient One's clothing was bright as snow, hair was white as wool (1st reading)
    • 'Angel' pin:  Archangels.  "In the sight of the angels I'll sing Your praises" (psalm).  "You'll see God's angels ascending and descending" (gospel)
    • 'Crowns' tie:  His kingship shall not be destroyed (1st reading); All kings shall thank you (psalm); "You're the King of Israel" (gospel)
    • 'Blood drop' pin:  They conquered the Accuser by the Blood of the Lamb...  (alt. 1st reading)
    • 'Girl with heart' pin:  I'll thank You with all my heart (psalm)
    • 'Phone' tie bar:  When I called, you answered (psalm)
    • 'Tree' pin:  "I saw you under the fig tree" (gospel)
    • 'Lamb' tie bar:  "They conquered him by the Blood of the Lamb" (alt. 1st reading)

    September 28, 2015

    Sept. 28

    September 28, 2015:  Monday, 26th week, Ordinary Time

    Pope Francis in Philadelphia
    To bishops:   The family is not primarily a cause for concern but the joyous confirmation of God’s blessing.  We rejoice in the Lord’s gift of families that remain faithful!  The foremost pastoral challenge is to recognize this gift.  Gratitude should prevail over concerns and complaints.  The family is the fundamental locus of the covenant between Church and creation; without it, the Church wouldn't exist or be “sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).  Changes in society affect family bonds.  The world is where we live, believe, and must proclaim.  Civil marriage and the Christian sacrament used to be similar, interrelated, and mutually supportive, but no longer.  To describe today's situation, I'll use the images of neighborhood stores and our large supermarkets:
    One neighborhood store used to have everything you needed.  There was a personal bond between shopkeeper and customers.  Business was done on the basis of trust.  Then supermarkets arose, huge spaces with great selection.  The world seems to have become a great supermarket.  Business is no longer conducted on the basis of trust.  There are no longer close relationships.  Today’s culture seems to encourage people not to bond or trust, just to follow the latest trend.  This is even true of religion.  Consumerism determines what's important.  Consuming relationships, friendships, religions,… whatever the cost.  Social bonds are a mere means to satisfy “my needs.”  The important thing is no longer our neighbor.  The result is a culture that discards whatever isn't “useful” or “satisfying” to the consumer.  Society is a showcase tied to certain consumers' tastes, while others only “eat the crumbs from their masters’ table.”  This causes great harm.  There's an impoverishment born of radical loneliness.  Running after the latest fad, accumulating “friends” on a social network, we get caught up in what society has to offer:  loneliness with fear of commitment in an effort to feel recognized.
    Should we blame our youth for having grown up in this kind of society?  I think not.  As shepherds, we're asked to seek out, accompany, lift up, and bind wounds.  To look at things realistically, with the eyes of one who feels called to action, to conversion.  The world demands our conversion.  But we'd be mistaken to see this “culture” as indifference towards marriage and the family, as selfishness.  Are today’s youth timid, weak, inconsistent?  Many have unconsciously acquiesced, paralyzed when they encounter the beautiful, noble, and necessary challenges faith sets before them.  Many put off marriage while waiting for ideal conditions.  Meanwhile, life goes on, without being lived to the full, for life’s true pleasures only come out of a long-term, generous investment of our intelligence, enthusiasm, and passion.
    We're called to rebuild enthusiasm for making families correspond more fully to the blessing they are!  We need to invest our energies not so much in rehearsing world problems and the merits of Christianity, but in inviting young people to be brave and opt for marriage and family.  We need holy parrhesia!  A Christianity which “does” little in practice, while “explaining” its teachings, is unbalanced, stuck in a vicious circle.  A pastor must show that the “Gospel of the family” is truly “good news” in a world of self-concern!  The perseverance called for in having and raising a family transforms the world.

    A pastor proclaims God's word, encourages believers to aim high, enables them to experience God’s promise, which can give their parenthood the horizon of a new “familiarity” with God.  A pastor watches over his flock's dreams, lives, and growth.  Only one who stands “in the midst of” the flock can be watchful.  A pastor keeps watch with prayer and support; he helps people lift their gaze amid discouragement, frustration, and failure.  Are we ready to “waste” time and be present to our families?
    We ourselves must experience joyful familiarity with God to spread the gospel's power, to become more like parents and less like people who've just learned to live without a family.  A good pastor renounces family love to focus on blessing the love of others, starting with those the lost, abandoned, wounded, broken, downtrodden, and those deprived of their dignity.  This surrender to God’s agape includes tenderness and affection!  Look to Jesus to understand.  A good pastor imitates the Son’s love for the Father, reflected in tender care of our human family.  If our ministry doesn't deepen the covenant between Church and family, it becomes arid, and people will grow distant from God’s joyful good news.  If we reflect God’s love, cultivate patience and serenity, and sow their seeds, then even a Samaritan woman with five “non-husbands” will discover she can give witness and publicans will come down from the tree and give to the poor.  May God grant us renewed closeness between family and Church.  The family is our window to the world and evidence of God's blessing to all!
    Post-visit with sex abuse victims:  I hold the stories and the suffering of children sexually abused by priests deep in my heart.  I'm overwhelmed with shame that these men violated children and caused harm.  I am profoundly sorry. God weeps.  The crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children must not be kept secret.  I pledge our vigilance to protect children, and I promise accountability for all.  Survivors of abuse are heralds of hope and ministers of mercy; we owe them and their families our gratitude for their courage in shining Christ's light against evil.  I tell you this because I’ve just met with a group of sex abuse victims who are being helped and accompanied here in Philadelphia.
    World Meeting of Families homily:  Joshua tells Moses two people are speaking God’s word without a mandate. John tells Jesus that the disciples stopped someone from casting out evil spirits in Jesus' name.  Moses and Jesus rebuke those closest to them for being so narrow!  Jesus encountered hostility from people who didn't accept what he said and did; they were intolerant of his openness to the faith of those not part of the chosen people.  The disciples were scandalized by God's freedom, sending rain on the just and unjust, and bypassing bureaucracy and inner circles, but Jesus was scandalized by what breaks down trust in the Spirit's work! 
    Our generous Father scatters the seeds of his presence in our world, loving us first; that love assures us God seeks and awaits us.  This confidence makes disciples encourage, support, and nurture the good things around them.  God wants his children to take part in the feast of the Gospel.  “Don't hold back anything that's good; help it grow!”  To doubt that the Spirit's work can take place in "outsiders" is a perversion of faith and blocks conversion! 
    Faith opens a window to the Spirit; it shows us holiness is tied to little gestures.  We learn to do these quiet things in the family; they get lost amid other things we do, but they make each day different.  They're little signs of tenderness, affection, and compassion, like the supper we look forward to, a bedtime blessing, or a hug after work.  Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs.  Faith grows when lived and shaped by love; that's why our families are true domestic churches, places for faith to become life, and life faith.  Jesus tells us not to hold back these little miracles but to encourage and spread them every day; they'resigns of his own presence.
    How are we trying to live?  What world do we want to leave to our children?  We can't answer these questions by ourselves.  The Spirit challenges us to respond as part of the human family.  Our common house can't tolerate divisions. Protecting our home includes bringing everyone together to pursue sustainable, integral development.  May we be models of and incentives to communion, capable of joining others in bringing to fruition the seeds the Father has sown!
    Jesus tells us, “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father give the Spirit to those who ask!”  We don't have much goodness and purity, but we can be generous to our children.  Families, help us!  Would that we all were open to miracles of love and overcome the scandal of narrow, petty, closed-in, impatient love!  How beautiful if we appreciate and encourage this miracle!  We renew our faith in the Lord's invitation to the covenant of man and woman that generates life and reveals God!  We appreciate anyone who brings into the world a family that teaches children to be excited by overcoming evil, that shows the Spirit is alive.  May God make us worthy of purity of heart that's not scandalized by the Gospel!

    • 'Children in street' tie:  The city shall be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets (1st reading); Jesus placed a child by his side (gospel)

    • 'Girl with heart' pin:  Jesus realized the intention of their hearts (gospel)

    • 'Owl' tie pin:  The Lord's decree gives wisdom (Sunday psalm)

    • Green in shirt:  Ordinary Time season

    • Zec 8:1-8  Lord:  I am jealous for Zion.  I will return to dwell within Jerusalem.  The old shall sit in its streets; boys and girls will play in its streets.  I'll rescue my people and bring them back to Jerusalem.  They shall be my people, and I will be their faithful and just God.

    • Ps 102:16-21, 29, 22-23  "The Lord will build up Zion again, and appear in all his glory."  The nations shall revere you when you've rebuilt Zion, appeared in your glory, and regarded the prayer of the destitute.  “The Lord looked down to hear prisoners' groaning, to release the doomed....”

    • Lk 9:46-50  The disciples were arguing about who was the greatest.  Jesus, realizing their intention, placed a child by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me and the one who sent me.  The least among you is the greatest.”  John / Jesus:  “We saw someone casting out demons in your name and tried to prevent him because he doesn't follow in our company.” / “Don't; whoever isn't against you is for you.”
      • Creighton:  Jesus turned the disciples' "Who's the greatest?"  argument around when he says a child is the greatest.  The greatest recognize their need.  As we grow, we can think we're less dependent, but he reminds us otherwise.  The greatest recognize their need for others and can rely on them; this recognition leads to humility.  When we accept our dependence on God and each other, and accept our own incompleteness, brokenness, and imperfection, we're less likely to exclude and judge others....
      • One Bread One Body:  "Faith-fight":  The Lord wants us to believe he can do the impossible.  The Lord wants our faith to be deeper and its effects greater.  The world promotes ever-decreasing faith, but attempts to debunk miracles are based on prejudice, not fact....
        St. Lorenzo Ruiz
      • Passionist:  The message Pope Francis is giving is today's, to be childlike and humble; he lives that out and challenges us to.  The disciples were caught up in trappings of power, but Jesus called them to look beyond power and control.  May we recommit ourselves to looking beyond our needs and focus on the less fortunate.  May we tear down barriers of race, creed, and gender and concentrate on the least in our midst.
      •  The appetite for glory seems to be inbred.  Jesus made a dramatic gesture by looking to a child to show his disciples who's really the greatest.  Jesus placed a child in a privileged position of honor at his right.  The greatest is the humble, the self-emptying servant.  Jesus is our model; he emptied himself and took the form of a slave.  To be filled with God's life and power, empty yourself of what stands in the way....  God wants empty vessels to fill with his glory, power, and love...
        • SS. Lorenzo Ruiz (1st Filipino martyr) and companions Dominic Ibañez de Erquicia, Francis Shoyemon, James Kyushei Tomonaga, Michael Kuroboiye, Lucas Alonso of the Holy Spirit, Matthew Kohioye of the Rosary, Antonio González, William Courtet / Thomas of St. Dominic, Niguel de Aozaraza, Vincent Schiwozuka of the Cross, and Lázaro of Kyoto, martyrs

      September 27, 2015

      26th Sun., Ordinary Time

      September 27, 2015:  Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Pope Francis in Philly
      At meeting for religious liberty:  The Declaration of Independence stated that all people are created equal, endowed by their Creator with rights, and that governments exist to protect and defend those rights. The struggles leading to the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, the growth of the labor movement, and efforts to eliminate racism and prejudice show that a country respecting human dignity is strengthened and renewed.  When we're guaranteed effective exercise of our rights, we can realize our potential and contribute to society. 
      The fundamental right to religious freedom shapes how we interact with those whose religious views differ from ours.  It includes the right to worship as our consciences dictate, but it transcends places of worship and the private sphere.  Religious traditions serve society primarily by their message.  They call us to worship God, source of life, liberty, and happiness.  They remind us of the transcendence of human existence and our freedom.  Recall the atrocities perpetrated by systems claiming to build an “earthly paradise” by dominating peoples and denying rights.  Our religious traditions offer meaning and direction, open horizons, stimulate thought, expand the mind and heart, and call to conversion, reconciliation, concern for the future, self-sacrifice, service, and compassion; they proclaim the dignity of the human person.  Our religious traditions remind us of our call to acknowledge One who reveals our relational identity in the face of efforts to impose uniformity some would impose. 
      In a world where modern tyranny seeks to suppress religious freedom or to dampen its public voice, or to use religion as a pretext for hatred, we must call for peace, tolerance, and respect for human dignity and rights.  Our world aims at uniformity and seeks to eliminate differences in a superficial quest for unity.  Religions have the right and duty to make clear that we can build a society where healthy pluralism respects and values differences; religion is an ally in the commitment to defending human dignity and a path to peace.
      The Quakers, inspired by a sense of the dignity of each individual and the ideal of a united community, founded a colony that became a haven of religious freedom and tolerance.  That sense of concern for the dignity of all, especially the weak and vulnerable, became part of the American spirit.  St. John Paul II reminded us, “The ultimate test of your greatness is how you treat every human being, especially the weakest and most defenseless.”
      Thanks to all who have sought to build cities of love, caring for the needy, defending the dignity of life and the cause of the poor and immigrants.  Often, those most in need aren't heard.  You are their voice.  This witness, which often encounters resistance, reminds American democracy of the ideals it was founded for.
      I greet the Hispanic population and all immigrants with affection!  Many have emigrated, at great cost, in the hope of building a new life.  Don't let hardships discourage you.  You bring many gifts to your new nation.  Don't be ashamed of your traditions, your lifeblood.  Remember the lessons you learned from your elders and bring them to enrich American life.  Be responsible citizens, contributing to the life of your communities.  I think of your vibrant faith, sense of family life, and other values you've inherited.  Contribute your gifts, find your place here, and help renew society.
      You all enjoy many blessings and freedoms.  Defend your God-given rights, especially religious freedom.
      Saturday homily, Cathedral:  The history of the Church is about breaking down walls, going out to the peripheries, building communities of worship, education, charity, and service.  The story is seen in your shrines, parishes, schools, and service of the poor, immigrants, and the sick and imprisoned.  You're called to enrich this legacy and pass it on.  When St. Katharine Drexel spoke to Leo XIII of the needs of the missions, the Pope asked her, “What are you going to do?”  Those words changed her life; they reminded her that every Christian has a mission.  Each of us has to respond to the Lord’s call to build up his Body. 
      “What about you?”  made her think of what had to be done and realize she was called to do her part.  Do we challenge the young people in our parishes and schools?  Do we help them do their part, to share their enthusiasm and gifts in works of mercy and concern for others?  Do we share our joy in serving the Lord?  A great challenge is to foster in the faithful a sense of responsibility for the Church’s mission, and to enable them to be missionary disciples.  This will require creativity in adapting to change, being open to the possibilities the Spirit opens up to us, and communicating Gospel joy daily.
      “What about you?” was addressed to a lay woman.  The future of the Church calls for the laity's active engagement.  The US Church has devoted immense effort to catechesis and education.  Build on those foundations and foster collaboration and shared responsibility in planning for the future. Discern and employ the gifts the Spirit pours out on the Church.  Value the contribution of women, lay and religious. 
      Thank you for how you've answered Jesus’ question, “What about you?”  Be renewed in the joy of that first encounter with Jesus and draw from it renewed fidelity and strength.  Pray for families and for me....
      At celebration of family life:  (after performances and couples' testimonies) The family is God’s great gift, the most beautiful part of creation, the channel and reflection of God’s beauty, truth, and goodness. The family,  founded on marital love, is like a factory of hope.  No family is perfect, and every one has conflicts and challenges, but the family has abiding love to overcome them; there's light because the love of God opened the door of love.  Remember the light of the Resurrection.
      Only love can overcome.  Remember and care for children and elderly family members.  Children are the future, the strength that moves us forward, and grandparents are the living memory of the family; looking after them is the expression of love.  The stakes can't be higher:  a people not able to look after their children and grandparents has no future; it doesn’t have strength or the memory to advance.
      At prayer vigil for the World Meeting of Families:  How important it is to share our home life and to help one another to be family.  God came into the world through a family, a home; he wanted the name Emmanuel, God with us.  “I am God with you, for you.”  From the beginning he said, “It's not good for man to be alone.”  It's not good for anyone to be alone.  Family is the great blessing, the great gift of “God with us” who didn't want to abandon us to solitude, without challenges, without a home.
      God tries to do everything “with us.”  His dream comes true in the dreams of many couples who work to make their life that of a family.  The family is the living symbol of God's loving plan.  To form a family is to be a part of God’s dream, to dream with him, to build with him, to join him in building a world where no one will feel alone, unwanted, or homeless.  We appreciate the beauty of the family as the place we come to learn the meaning and value of relationships.  “To love someone is not just a strong feeling; it's a decision, a judgment, a promise” (Fromm, The Art of Loving).  We stake everything on another person, and we learn it's worth it.
      Jesus was't a confirmed bachelor; he took the Church as his bride and made her his people.  He laid down his life for those he loved, so that his bride could always know he's God with us, his people, his family.  We can't understand Christ without his Church; we can't understand the Church without her spouse, Christ, who gave his life out of love and makes us see that it's worth it.
      Laying down one’s life out of love is not easy; it can involve the cross.  Everything can seem uphill.  Think of parents who lack employment or rights.  How many sacrifices they make to earn their daily bread!  When they return home, they're so weary they can't give their children their best.  Think of families lacking adequate housing, families lacking the basics to build bonds of closeness, security, and protection.  Think of families with no access to health services, depending on a system which doesn't meet their needs, insensitive to their pain, and forcing them to make great sacrifices to receive treatment.  A society not leaving room for family life isn't healthy; a society incapable of passing laws to protect families and ensure their basic needs has no future.  How many problems would be solved if society protected families and provided households the possibility of dignified work, housing, and health care. 
      God’s dream remains intact and invites us to work for a society that supports families, where bread is put on the table of every home, to nourish its children's hope.  Help one another make it possible to stake everything on love. Help one another in hard times and lighten each other’s burdens.  Support one another.  Perfect families don't exist, but don't be discouraged:  love must be learned and lived; it grows as it's “forged” by concrete situations.  It's born and develops amid lights and shadows; it can flourish in people who don't make conflict the last word but rather a new opportunity to seek help, to question how we need to improve, to discover the God-with-us who never abandons us.  Give your children the lesson that we make mistakes and have problems but know they're opportunities to draw closer to others and to God. 

      • 'Owl' tie pin:  The Lord's decree gives wisdom (psalm)
      • Girl with heart:  The Lord's precepts give joy to the heart (psalm); You rich, you've fattened your hearts... (2nd reading)
      • 'Penny' button:  You rich, wail; your wealth has rotted away... (2nd reading)
      • Gold- and silver-colored accoutrements:  You rich, your gold and silver have corroded (2nd reading)
      • 'Hand' pin:  If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off (gospel)
      • 'Feet' pin:  If your foot causes you to sin, cut if off (gospel)
      • 'Eyeball' pin:  If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out (gospel)
      • Green shirt:  Ordinary Time season
      • Nm 11:25-29  The Lord bestowed some of the spirit that was on Moses on the seventy elders, and they prophesied.  Eldad and Medad were on the list; the spirit rested on them too though they hadn't gone to the tent, and they prophesied in the camp.  Man to Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying, "  Joshua / Moses:  "Stop them." / "Are you jealous?  Would that the Lord bestowed his spirit on all his people to be prophets!"
      • Ps 19:8, 10, 12-14  "The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart."  The law of the Lord is perfect, trustworthy, true, and just, giving wisdom.  Cleanse me!  Don't let sin rule me....
      • Jas 5:1-6  You rich, weep over your impending miseries; your wealth has rotted away.  You've stored up treasure, but the wages you withheld cry out to the Lord.  You lived in luxury and pleasure, condemned, and murdered the righteous.
      • Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48  John / Jesus:  "We saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him." / "Don't.  No one who performs a mighty deed in my name can also speak ill of me.  Whoever is not against us is for us.  Anyone who gives you a cup of water because you belong to Christ will be rewarded.  If someone causes a believer to sin, it would be better for him if he were hurled into the sea wearing a millstone.  If your hand, foot, or eye causes you to sin, cut it off; better to enter into life maimed, crippled, or one-eyed than to go into the fire of Gehenna.
        • Creighton:  Moses and Jesus have the same response about "unplanned" prophesying or driving out demons.  God's grace don't always come in ways we expect; we shouldn't get in the way.  We can condemn others for not "following the rules," but Jesus sees the Spirit.  Look for the Spirit's work.  James reminds us that wealth is "corrosive" and victims of injustice cry out.  Jesus tells us to "cut off" whatever leads us to sin.  Why am I judgmental?  Why do I want more, want to look better than others?  Why do I find it hard to care for those on the margin?  What underlying unfreedom causes me to sin?  Then I can ask for forgiveness and healing and identify how to change.  We only change when we deeply desire something else; otherwise we can deny we have a problem, even when we're unhappy. When we experience God's mercy, we want to be closer to him, be more like him, and we're gradually healed and become like him.
        • One Bread One Body:  "Making the cut":  If you're a captive in even a small part of your life, you can be paralyzed.  Sin can immobilize us. Cut out whatever holds you captive to sin....
          St. Vincent de Paul
        • Passionist:  "Better for, not better than":  The disciples have been learning the challenges, surprise, and hard lessons of following Jesus:  Peter offers to erect tents on Mt. Tabor, but Jesus warns them of suffering. Peter asks how often he must forgive, and Jesus replies 77.  While the disciples are arguing who’s the greatest, Jesus places a child (then a nonentity) before them.  Their questions show self-centered attitudes.  They were being spun around and sent out.  We're being formed to be 'better for,' not 'better than.'  Prophets and apostles have the same needs as those to whom they're sent.  Jesus meets us in our fragility, so that we won't be paralyzed by our weakness but inspired to embrace the world around us. 
        •  Jesus reprimands his disciples for their jealousy.  Don't we get upset at good deeds that shine more than ours?  But "love is not jealous; it rejoices in the right."  Envy and jealousy lead us to sorrow over others' good that should make us rejoice.  Our neighbor's good is the object of both envy and love, but love rejoices in it while envy grieves over it.  We can overcome envy through love.  The Spirit frees us from disordered passions.  God's love is oriented towards our good.  True love seeks our neighbor's good.  God's love frees us from envy and jealousy and compels us to give. God created us in love for love. We're most free and happy when we love as he loves.  The love and help we show our neighbor expresses our gratitude God's mercy towards us.  Jesus declared that kindness and help would be rewarded.  We're called to be kind and generous as he is.
        Gregory of Nyssa:  “God never asks us to do the impossible.  His love and goodness are richly available, poured out on all.  God furnished each of us the ability to do good.  No one seeking to be saved will lack this ability, given by the one who said: 'whoever gives you a drink... will be rewarded.'”  Do you allow Christ's love to transform you so you may treat others with mercy?  Jesus' will for us leads to peace and happiness.  We must part with whatever causes us to sin.  Jesus warns of responsibility to not set a stumbling block, to not give offense or bad example.  The Greek for temptation is scandalon; scandal originally meant trap or stumbling block.  Jews held that was unforgivable to teach another to sin; it sets a sin train in motion.  Do I set a good example?
        • Trumped saint, from Universalis:  Vincent de Paul, priest, servant of the poor, founder of the Congregation of the Mission ("Vincentians"; see world and local sites) co-founder (with St. Louise de Marillac) of Daughters of Charity (world / local sites).