September 11, 2017

Sept. 11

September 11, 2017:  Monday, 23rd week, Ordinary Time

  • 'Hands' tie:  "Stretch out your hand" (gospel)
  • 'Eyeball' pin:  The scribes and the Pharisees watched Jesus closely (gospel)
  • 'Owl' tie pin:  We proclaim Christ, teaching with all wisdom (1st reading)
  • 'Hearts' suspenders:  I'm struggling that your hearts may be encouraged and brought together in love (1st reading); pour out your hearts before God our refuge (psalm)
  • 'Rock' tie pin:  God alone is my rock  (psalm)
  • Green shirt:  Ordinary Time season

For Psalm 62
Pope Francis

Cartagena homily:  Human dignity, human rights:  Cartagena is human rights headquarters, where people cherish the birth of the desire to help the oppressed of the time, especially slaves who implored fair treatment and freedom.  Here in the St. Peter Claver Sanctuary human rights continue to be studied and monitored, and God's Word speaks of forgiveness, correction, community, and prayer.  Just as the good shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to go after the lost one, no one is too lost to deserve our care, closeness, and forgiveness.  One person's fault or sin challenges us all but primarily involves the victim of that sin, who's called to take the initiative so that the sinner is not lost.

I've heard testimonies from those who have reached out to people who harmed them; they took a first step on a different path.  Peacemaking needs our involvement.  Jesus finds the solution to harm through  personal encounter.  It helps to incorporate the experience of those who have been overlooked.  It's about agreeing to live together.

Reintegration begins with dialogue; nothing can replace that healing, clarifying, forgiving encounter.  Deep wounds require moments where justice is done, victims hear the truth, damage is repaired and commitments made to not repeat the crimes.  But we must also generate a change in culture, responding to death and violence with life and encounter.

How have we worked for encounter and peace?  How have we allowed barbarity?  Jesus commands us to confront behavior that damages community and society.  How have we “normalized” violence and exclusion, without raising our voice!  Alongside St. Peter Claver were thousands of Christians, but only a handful started a movement of encounter.  Peter restored the dignity and hope of hundreds of thousands of black people and slaves arriving in inhuman conditions with no hope.  He said he was of mediocre intelligence, but he had the genius to live the Gospel, to meet those others considered waste material.  Centuries later, his footsteps were followed by St. María Bernarda Bütler, also dedicated to serving the poor and marginalized here.  She also had the wisdom of charity and could find God in others.  She didn't let injustice or challenge paralyze her:  she didn't go her way as if nothing happened; she faced conflict head on to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process.

Our common home must rise on the foundations of a right understanding of fraternity and respect for every human life, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable.  Our common home must be built on the sacredness of creation.

The other may remain closed, refusing to change.  Some persist in sins that damage the our community:  profiting from drug abuse, devastation of natural resources, exploitation of labor, illicit money trafficking, prostitution, human trafficking, crimes against minors, the tragedy of migrants.  We must base ourselves on justice that doesn't diminish charity and avoid actions that harm life.  Defend human rights!

Pray together, so that our prayer rises as one cry.  Pray for the rescue of those who were wrong, not their destruction; for justice, not revenge; for healing.  Pray that we take the first step, to go out and meet others with Christ, who asks us to take a sure step towards others and renounce our claim to be forgiven without showing forgiveness or to be loved without loving.  We must take a step in the direction of the common good, equity, justice, and respect for human nature.  We must help untie the knots of violence.  We must meet with our brothers and sisters and risk correction.  We must be charitably firm in what's non- negotiable.  We must build peace, speaking with hands and works (Peter Claver) and to lift our eyes to heaven together.

Cartagena Angelus:  As we pray the Angelus, recalling the Incarnation, we reflect on Mary who conceived Jesus and brought him into the world.   Her Our Lady of Chiquinquirá image was abandoned, discolored, torn, treated like old cloth, shown no respect, and finally discarded, but humble Maria Ramos saw something different and restored its lost dignity.  She encountered and honored Mary who held her Son, doing what was despicable and useless in others' eyes.  She became a model for all who seek to restore dignity lost through life’s wounds or exclusion.  She's a model for all who care for those in need.  She's a model for all who pray that the suffering may regain the splendor of God's children.

The Lord teaches us through the humble and those who aren't valued.  While he gave this ordinary woman grace to receive the image of the Virgin, he also granted to Isabel and her son Miguel the grace of being the first to see the transformed fabric and recognize the divine light that renews all things.  They are the poor, humble ones who contemplate God's presence and see the mystery of God’s love.

We pray to Mary, “the Lord's handmaid,” and Peter Claver, “slave of the blacks,” who waited for African ships to arrive at this center of slave trade.  He knew everyone understood the language of charity and mercy.   Charity helps us know the truth, and truth calls for acts of kindness.  Whenr he felt revulsion towards the slaves, he kissed their wounds.

Peter Claver was austere and charitable to the point of heroism.  He witnessed to the responsibility and care we should have for one another.  He was unjustly accused of being indiscreet and faced criticism and opposition from those who feared his ministry would undermine the slave trade.

Today millions are still being sold as slaves; they beg for expressions of humanity and tenderness or flee because they've lost everything, primarily their dignity and rights.

These saints invite us to promote human dignity of all, particularly of the poor and excluded, the abandoned, immigrants, and those who suffer violence and human trafficking, who are all living images of God.

Let us turn to Our Blessed Mother, so she may help us recognize God's face in every human being.  May we reject violence in political life and find a solution to this grave crisis.

To priests, religious, and seminariansJesus washed his disciples' feet, opened his heart, and wished to perpetuate his memory in bread and wine.  Just as the Apostles, some women and Mary continued to meet in the Upper Room, so too we're gathered here together to listen to him and to one another.  We experience Jesus choosing us, meeting us, and seizing our hearts.  Many of you have discovered Jesus in your communities.  Vocations arise where there's life, zeal, and desire to take Christ to others.  When young people stand together against evil and become involved in political action and voluntary work for Jesus, feeling they're part of the community, they become “street preachers” to bring Christ everywhere. 

The vine is the “people of the covenant.”  The prophets refer to the people as a vine, as does Psalm 80.  They express the joy of God contemplating the vine, and his anger, bewilderment, and disappointment; yet he never forgets his people.  Suffering and bloodshed run through the Bible, but God always manifests his closeness and election, calls frail people, and produces good clusters on the vine.  Jesus' vine is true.  Truth springs from within.  We're chosen for the truth.  There's no place for deceit, hypocrisy, or small-mindedness.   Every branch must bear fruit.  We must encourage right intentions and want to be configured to Jesus, or else we experience dryness and God learns these branches are dead.  Vocations die when they love to be sustained with honors or thirst for reassurance, advancement, or financial gain.  The devil enters through the wallet.

Cut off branches of lies, obfuscation, manipulation, and abuse of God's people; they have no place and dry us out.  God purifies the vine of imperfections.  We'll bear fruit if we give ourselves, offering our lives freely.  Learn from St. Laura Montoya who gave herself completely to a great missionary effort on behalf of indigenous people, transmitting God's maternal face.  Remember Bl. Mariano de Jesús Euse Hoyos, other Colombian priests and religious, and all the unknown Colombians who in their daily lives gave of themselves for the Gospel; they show us it's possible to respond faithfully to the Lord’s call and bear fruit.

The Lord wants to cleanse us; he eliminates what distorts his call and kills us by inviting us to dwell in him.  Dwelling indicates maintaining a living relationship, growing in fruitful union with Jesus, source of life.  Dwelling in Jesus must have concrete consequences.  Ways to make this “dwelling” effective:

Touching Christ’s humanity:  Look at reality with Jesus' gaze, as a good samaritan.  Recognize people's value, and their wounds and sins.  Discover their suffering.  Be moved by their needs, above all when they suffer from injustice, poverty, indifference, corruption, or violence.  Express love for those nearby; search for those far away.  Announce the gospel, and denounce sin, tenderly and firmly.  Serve generously and joyfully.  Don't believe all is lost or accommodate yourself.

Contemplating Christ's divinity:  Study to increase knowledge of Christ; we can't love someone we don't know.  Give priority to Scripture.  Whoever doesn't know and love Scripture doesn't know and love Jesus.  Read God's Word prayerfully; hear what God wishes for us and our people.  May our study help us interpret reality with God's eyes, not avoid what's happening.  Don't confine the mystery or avoid questions people no longer ask themselves.  Don't abandon those who question us.  Make prayer fundamental to your life and service; it teaches us to live joyfully, distance ourselves from the superficial, and exercise freedom.  It draws us out of self-centeredness and empty religious experience, helps us place ourselves in God's hands, and teaches us to adore.   Be reconciled in order to reconcile.  We need God’s mercy each day.  He uproots what's not good in us and the wrong we've done, casting it out of the vineyard to be burned.  He cleanses us so we may bear fruit, never leaving us at the side of the road.  God does everything to keep sin from defeating us and robbing us of hope and joy. 

Dwell in Christ to live joyfully, to reflect and be heralds of joy and spread the hope of new life in Christ.  God wants a spirituality that brings joy.  Our joy must testify to God's closeness and love.  We dispense God’s grace when we reflect that joy. 

Noah planted a vine as a sign of a new beginning; Moses' scouts returned from the promised land with grapes, a sign that it flowed milk and honey.  You are a sign that God chose you with love.  Offer your love and service united to Jesus, our vine.  Leave discord and violence behind to bear abundant fruit of justice, peace, encounter, and solidarity.

Final greetings to ColombiaDon't be content with “taking the first step”; continue the journey every day, encountering others and encouraging concord.  Don't stand still.  Here St. Peter Claver died, after 40 years of voluntary slavery on behalf of the poor; his first step was followed by many others.  His example draws us out to encounter our neighbors.  Go out to meet your brothers and sisters; they need you.  Bring them the embrace of peace, free of violence.  Be “slaves of peace, forever.”

  • Col 1:24–2:3  I rejoice in my sufferings, filling up what's lacking in Christ's afflictions on behalf of his Body, the Church.  God chose to make his glory known to his holy ones.  We proclaim Christ and labor to teach everyone with wisdom.  I'm struggling for you and others that you may be encouraged and brought together in love, and know and understand the mystery of God, Christ, in whom the treasures of wisdom are hidden.
  • Ps 62:6-7, 9  "In God is my safety and my glory."  Be at rest in God, my hope, my rock, my salvation, my stronghold, our refuge.  Trust him!  Pour out your hearts before him....
  • Lk 6:6-11  On a sabbath where Jesus was teaching there was a man with a withered hand.  The scribes and Pharisees were ready to accuse Jesus if he cured on the sabbath.  “Is it lawful to do good and save life on the sabbath?”  The man's hand was restored.  They became enraged and discussed what to do to Jesus.
  • Does the 1st reading really say Jesus' sacrifice was missing something?  IMHO Pope St. John Paul II gave the best contemporary Catholic explanation in Salvifici Doloris.
  • Passionist:  Jesus is talking to scribes and Pharisees who were watching him to accuse him.  For them, if Jesus were the messiah, he'd follow the law, but Jesus implied that how ignoring someone in need, or not making something right, is itself evil.  May we get beyond our excuses to listen to other's needs, stretch our understanding of the sacred, and do the right thing; may the Sabbath be for us a realization of the sacred in our midst.
  •  "Is it lawful to save life or to destroy it?"  "Is it lawful to save, or destroy, life?"  The scribes and Pharisees wanted to catch Jesus breaking the Sabbath so they could accuse him of breaking God's law; they were filled with contempt for Jesus because they, ensnared in their legalism, put their own ideas above God's.  Jesus points to God's intention for the Sabbath:  to do good and save life.  Ambrose re healing of the man with a withered hand:  "'Stretch forth your hand' is the universal remedy.  You who think you have a healthy hand, beware lest it be withered by greed or sacrilege.  Hold it out to the poor person, to help your neighbor, to protect a widow, to snatch from harm one subjected to unjust insult.  Hold it out to God for your sins.  The hand is stretched forth, then healed.  Jeroboam's hand withered when he sacrificed to idols; then it stretched out when he entreated God."  We celebrate Sunday as the Lord's Day to commemorate God's work of redemption in Christ and the new creation accomplished through Christ's death and resurrection.  If God "rested and was refreshed," we too ought to "rest" and let others, especially the poor, "be refreshed."  Sabbath rest honors God for all he's done for us, but it doesn't exempt us from loving our neighbor.  If we love the Lord, that love will overflow to love of neighbor.  "The charity of truth seeks holy leisure; the necessity of charity accepts just work" (Augustine).  We can make Sunday holy by avoiding unnecessary work and activities that hinder worship; we can also perform works of mercy.  And we ought to seek appropriate relaxation of mind and body.  The Lord's Day refreshes and strengthens us in love of God and neighbor....

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