February 23, 2017


February 23, 2017:  St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr

  • 'Money' tie:  Don't rely on deceitful wealth (1st reading)
  • 'Tree' pin:  One who delights in and meditates on the Lord's law is like a tree that yields fruit... (psalm)
  • 'Stone' tie pin:  Better that a millstone be put around your neck than your causing a little one to sin (gospel)
  • 'Hand' tie 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)
  • 'Fire' pin:  It's better to enter God's Kingdom without an eye than be thrown into the unquenchable fire; everyone will be salted with fire (gospel)
  • 'Peace sign' tie bar:  Keep salt in yourselves and you'll have peace with one another (gospel)
  • 'Youth Day' t-shirt [from 1998]:  "What are you waiting for?" theme (1st reading, gospel)
  • Red shirt, 'blood drop' pin:  Polycarp's martyrdom

  • Light of the world, from Godspell/ Schwartz ("If that salt has lost its flavor, it ain't got much in its favor"); more, with another version (gospel)
For Psalm 1
Pope Francis
Homily:  Don’t scandalize the little ones; scandal destroys!  Scandal is saying one thing and doing another; it is a double life, saying you're Catholic but not leading a Christian life:  not paying just wages, exploiting people, laundering money…  Christians like this scandalize others.  We've heard, "I'd rather be an atheist than a Catholic like that."  It happens every day, enough for it to be in the news:  At a company on the brink of failure, people hadn't been paid and couldn't afford their daily needs, but the head of the company, a Catholic, was on vacation on the beach....
Jesus talks about those who commit scandal.  He doesn't use the word, but we understand.  You'll knock at heaven's gate:  "Remember me?  I went to church, did this, made contributions..."  "Yes, I remember your dirty offerings, stolen from the poor.  I don’t know you."  The double life comes from following the heart's passions, the sins that are wounds of original sin.  The 1st reading tells us they don't satisfy.  Ask, is there something of a double life within me, of appearing just, of seeming a good believer but doing something else?  If so, is there excessive confidence?  "The Lord will forgive everything; I’ll keep going on like this."  Do you say, “This isn't going well.  I'll convert, but not today."  Scandal destroys!
To 'football' club:  Sports mirrors life and society:  you need each other.  Each player puts his skill and talent towards a common goal, to play well and to win.  You need much training to achieve that; invest time and effort in creating team spirit.  Act in the spirit of fellowship, leaving aside individualism; when you play for the group's good, it's easier to win.
Many watch and admire players.  Be a good model, highlighting companionship, effort, team play, and the beauty of the game.  Be grateful for the people who have helped you, including your first teammates, coaches, assistants, and fans.  These memories help you to be aware you're only part of a great team.  Our ‘game’ is not ours alone.  Keep playing and giving the best of yourself....
  • Sir 5:1-8  Don't rely on your wealth, power, or strength; God will exact punishment.  Don't keep sinning, overconfident of forgiveness.  Don't delay your conversion!  Deceitful wealth won't help you on the day of wrath.
  • Ps 1:1-4, 6  "Blessed are they who hope in the Lord."  They're like a tree that yields fruit, while the wicked are  like chaff the wind drives away.  The Lord watches over the just.
  • Mk 9:41-50  "Whoever gives you a cup of water because you belong to Christ will be rewarded.  Whoever causes a little one to sin, it would be better if he were thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck.  If your hand, foot, or eye causes you to sin, cut it off or tear it out; better to enter life maimed, crippled, or one-eyed than go into the unquenchable fire....  Keep salt in yourselves and you'll have peace with one another."
    • Creighton:  Some identify Polycarp as a direct student of John the Apostle.  He served as Bishop of Smyrna and defended early Christianity against heresy.  His martyrdom is well documented.  He was burned at the stake when he refused to declare Caesar as Lord:  “Christ never did me wrong during the 86 years I've served him.  How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”  Do we live our faith against daily challenges and temptations?  The 1st reading reminds us that God—not money, strength, ego, or arrogance—saves us.  We're not to delay our conversion or take for granted that we can do anything and be forgiven; we must not betray our relationship with Christ.  Jesus tells us to not judge others but to look at ourselves and recognize what causes us to sin.  He reminds his disciples their salt can become ineffective; they need to preserve what's right and get right before judging others.  May we tend to our “house” before criticizing others  [Reminds me of a joke]
      St. Polycarp
    • One Bread, One Body:  "Pass the salt?"  Jesus says we'll be "salted with fire."  Salt sealed covenants; we need to be sprinkled with the salt of the fire of repentance to be faithful to our baptismal covenant.  Incense was "to be salted and so kept pure and sacred."  Incense represents our prayers. Our prayer life must be salted with God's consuming fire of love. "Every offering you present to the Lord shall be seasoned with salt." We offer God our bodies as living sacrifices.  Sacrifices like fasting and self-denial are like sprinklings of fire that purify us; this kind of salt preserves from death.  Salt preserves and flavors.  A sprinkling of fire, which should destroy us, can preserve what's worthy in us....
    • Passionist:  “Delay not your conversion to the Lord.”  Perhaps the most fundamental requisite to conversion is surrender.  The closer we get to God, the more we realize we need to surrender to his will, and the more we rely on him; it's the only way to peace.  Jesus' words about cutting off our hand or foot stress the urgency of conversion; he challenges us to let go of whatever gets in the way of following him.  The world needs the Good News we've been given; the world needs acts of love, peace, and justice.  If we keep the seasoning of God’s love, we can be at peace, work peacefully with others, and spread peace to all.
    • DailyScripture.net:  "If your hand or eye causes you to sin":  We've been given the great reward of God, perfect love, source of life and happiness. God's love, poured into us, purifies us and compels us to show kindness and charity to our neighbor, who's created in God's image. We were created in love for love. The charity we show others in need expresses our gratitude for God's goodness to us. Jesus never refused to give to anyone in need who asked for help, and we're called to be as generous as he.  "God never asks his servants to do the impossible.  God's love and goodness is revealed as richly available, poured out on all.  God furnishes to each person the ability to do something good.  No one seeking to be saved will lack this ability, given by the one who said: 'whoever gives you a cup of water... will [be rewarded]'" (Gregory of Nyssa, On the Christian Mode of Life 8.1).
    Judas and the salt cellar,
    from Raffaelli's copy
    of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper
    Just as a doctor might remove a limb to preserve a life, so we must part with whatever can lead us to spiritual death. Jesus' disciples must never set a stumbling block by giving offense or bad example. The original meaning of 'scandal' is trap or stumbling block that causes one to fall; the Greek for 'temptation' is scandalon.  Teaching someone to sin was considered unforgivable; it could start a train of sin.  The young in faith are especially vulnerable to bad example.
    Salt gave food flavor and preserved meat from spoiling; it was a symbol of fellowship and sharing a meal with friends. "Betraying the salt" meant betraying one's master or friends; Da Vinci in his Last Supper depicts Judas tipping over the salt, symbolically identifying him as the betrayer.
    As salt purifies, preserves, and flavors food, so disciples of Christ must be salt to purify, preserve, and flavor the world with justice, peace, joy, and mercy.  Salt used to be put in ovens to intensify the heat, then was thrown onto the footpath when burned off and no longer useful.  Perhaps Jesus contrasted useful salt and spent salt to encourage us to bring the flavor of Christ's love, holiness, and justice to the world.
    We're called to be "the aroma of Christ to God among those being saved and those perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life," The Lord wants his fragrance to permeate our thoughts, speech, and actions....

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