Tuesday in the 18th Week of the Church Yearscribes

Feast of the day:

Dedication of St. Mary Major Basilica

Scripture Readings for today's Liturgy:

Jeremiah 30:1 … 22

Psalm 102

Matthew 15:1-2, 10-14

“Jesus said, ‘It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles the man; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.’” (Matthew 15:10ff)

Today, rather than repeating the Gospel that we just heard yesterday, we are given this passage from Chapter 15 lineof Matthew’s Holy Gospel about the Scribes and Pharisees pre-occupation with following the letter of the law. But we can’t just say, “That was them at a different time “ and get ourselves off the hook. When you’re as old as I am, we forget that we, too, got caught up in following the letter of the law in a variety of ways. I remember when my class was preparing for our 1st Holy Communion the sisters told us to be very careful not to miss out in this beautiful experience by inadvertently swallowing even a drop of water as we brushed our teeth on that special Sunday morning. The sisters even covered over all the drinking fountains around the school just to be sure that nobody accidently took a sip of water. We also got caught up in thinking how much of the Mass could we miss before it became a mortal sin.

Years later when I was in the Dominicans we celebrated the Holy Thursday Foot Washing Rite in the refectory where we ate our meals. That meant the brothers had to set up chairs in front of the tables where the entire community sat as the Prior (incup this case a priest who was in his early 80’s) washed all the brothers feet! Afterwards, the lay brothers had to re-set the refectory for diner and in the course of running back and forth I grabbed a little cookie and ate it before somebody told me, “Daniel! You ate a cookie and now you won’t be able to receive Holy Communion. There was, at that time a three-hour fast required before receiving Holy Communion. I immediately went to my superior and asked him what I was to do. Being a wise man he told me, “What is the greater good that we’re talking about here? On this day when we commemorate the institution of the Holy Eucharist it’s more important to receive Holy Communion than to follow a law which was only there to prevent abuse.” Then he quoted the verse that I printed at the top of this reflection. It’s another reminded for all of us to put our focus on getting as close to the Divine Presence rather than trying to see how far we can stretch the tie that binds us to Christ before it breaks completely.

mouthI remember someone telling me that they had to eat dinner a little early – e.g. before sunset – since they were taking that next day as their “fast day.” When I asked what they did regarding eating on their “fast day” I was told that they then waited until after sundown to eat their dinner. When I told them that when I take Wednesday as a fast day I eat a regular meal on Tuesday evening and then don’t eat anything else until Thursday morning. That person told me, “Well, heck! That’s a ‘day-and-a-half’ fast! However you look at it, that statement of Jesus is important for us to take seriously: “It’s not what goes in that makes you bad or good but what comes out of your mouth!” Think about that and how it might apply to your own spiritual life. Amen!

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Monday in the 18th Week of the Church Yearwaves

Saint for the day: St. John Vianney (1786-1859)

Scripture Readings for today's Liturgy:

Jeremiah 28:1-17

Psalm 119

Matthew 14:22-36

 

Jesus walks on the storm-tossed sea and makes it calm and the disciples did Him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:34)

Today’s Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew is another of the familiar accounts of Jesus power over the storms of life. And I have to admit that it is much easier to focus on this Gospel than to try and comment on the scripture passage from Jeremiah. monsterPerhaps, if we look at the Old Testament situation in the light of this gospel passage we might get a little bit more of a connection. In the first place we live in a water world. To the ancients the sea was the home of Leviathan, the monster of the depths. Even in the deserts of our own lives the power of the sea has dominance. Even though the Israelites were miraculously led to the “Promised Land” through the Red Sea they still fell victim to the power of evil and rose and fell under half-hearted prophets and leaders all through the ages. When Jesus began his public ministry He turned the tables and, rather than choosing powerful and prominent people of his time, he selected common, ordinary folk to be his core leadership. Fisherman, tax collectors and poets. Then we come to this Gospel, which is a familiar story to most of us. One thing that wesave me always have to remember: these stories got into the “cannon of scripture” – not as biographical narratives – but as religious, or theological sermons with words and settings mentioned in order to teach something important about Jesus and His ministry.   In this section, they have just finished a great “hillside revival” and I’m sure the disciples were “puffed up” about the preaching and healing of Jesus and probably wanted to spend some time reflecting on how they might follow – or copy Jesus and his preaching style and miracle workings. But what does Jesus do? This Gospel passage begins with the words, “Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and go to the other side of the sea.” This is the way the Gospels force us to confront our deepest fears. We usually are more at ease in our own comfort zones and don’t like hemto appear vulnerable – especially on storm-tossed seas. In this Gospel account it’s Peter (the “rock”) who jumps out of the boat to meet Jesus who is coming towards him walking on the water. When Peter realizes what he’s doing he begins to sink and cries out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately, Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Take some time to let this event sink in (no pun intended) and try to see how this might have something important to tell all of us. The closing verses of this Gospel passage are important and the verse that says, “People brought the sick to Jesus and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak, and as many as touched it were healed.” How close do we have to get to Jesus to experience His healing power? Just touch the hem of his garment. Amen!

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18th Sunday of the Church Yearwater

Saint for the day:

          St. Lydia Purpuraria (1st Cent.)

Scripture Readings for today's Liturgy:

   Isaiah 55:1-3

   Psalm 145

   Romans 8:37-39

   Matthew 14:13-21

“Let all who thirst, let them come to the water. Without money. And let all who have nothing, let them come to the lord.” (Isaiah 55ff)

I don’t know about you … but I know that I can’t read this passage from Isaiah without bursting into the St. Louis Jesuit’s, “Come to the Water.” And it takes me back water 2to a beautiful retreat conference and the closing Mass in a huge basilica. The musicians began a quiet instrumental of the opening verse of this popular song – repeating it over and over as a women entered carrying a large, glass water vessel on her shoulder. The entire congregation began to sing – very quietly – just those opening words as the women slowly walked up towards the altar and then around – encircling the entire congregation with that invitation, “Oh, let all who are thirsty let them come to the water.” When she finally got to the sanctuary the music and the singing seemed to stop suddenly and all you could hear was the splash of the water being poured into the font. That experience forever changed my attitude toward this hymn that I’ve notcome2 forgotten all these years later. That invitation to “come.”

Even before I even get to the other scripture readings for today’s liturgy I know that I am already halfway there. It’s like, before we do anything else it’s important to know that we are invited to “come” without any strings attached. This is, perhaps, what we need to be reminded of at every liturgy that we participate in. All that being said, I suppose we better get on to this day’s scriptures!

The Responsorial Psalm picks up on this theme with the refrain, “The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” But don’t just stop there. Take some time to slowly go through the verses of this psalm with all the encouraging words to give us hope. Then – as if we didn’t get the point of today’s Liturgy – St. Paul, to the Romans gives us a kind of re-cap to remind us that nothing can take us away from the love of Christ. From there we slide into today’s Holy Gospel: the feeding of the multitude on the hillside. The Gospel writers are very careful to make sure we know all the conditions present when Jesus performs these miracles: he went by boat to a deserted place by himself; the people followed on foot; He cured the sick; it was late in the day. When Jesus tells the disciples to feed the people – a crowd of five thousand men! Plus another five thousand women and their one point two children -you’re talking about a crowd of more than 15,000! And all they had were five loves and two fish! Without letting the facts get in the way of a good story the point of this Gospel is to let us know that no matter how great the challenge might be there is nothing that God can not do to take care of us: the sick were healed; all the people were fed; and there was plenty left over – food for the journey home! Jesus: the God who is and who was and who will be, heals our past; feeds us at the end of the day; and gives us ‘food for the journey’ – another euphemism for the Eucharist. How much more do we need? Thank you, Jesus!

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Saturday in the 17th Week of the Church Yearprophets

Saint for the day: St. Peter Julian Eymard (1811-1868)

Scripture Readings for today's Liturgy:

Jeremiah 26:11 … 24

Psalm 69

Matthew 14:1-12

 

 

 

 

 

Being a prophet is never easy. It wasn’t easy for Jeremiah & it wasn’t for St. John Baptist when they spoke out against the status quo of their times. The powers that be don’t stifle the prophet because they think he is speaking falsely but because speakingthey fear the truth of his words which challenge their way of life. Opinions that are not proclaimed never have much impact. Just look at any time I history when atrocities were being carried out and you’ll find prophets standing silently at the edges – aware but unable to speak out.

Believing in God and the following of Jesus will always bring us to that edge where we must confront our own fears & uncertainties and “stand up, stand up for Jesus.”

The priest who ended Mass with an unusual invitation, “May the Peace of Christ profoundly disturb you,” gives us the core of what it means to be a Christian. That’s why I am so skeptical of the “happy churches” where nice people meet a nice God.” They might pack them in with their high-tech methods of a baptism of self-help but they are missing a very important part of the equation: if your assumptions are not being challenged then they might just not be the right ones.

Our world is crying out for peace and justice while at the same time forging off into battle. Howsword can we think that taking this approach will result in anything but more violence? Don’t they know that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword?” (Matthew 26:52) The readings that we’re hearing these day from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah give us an almost perfect outline on how to really follow the Lord. Even when he is faced with the possibility of being put to death he does not retaliate with more evil but only says, “For in truth it was the Lord who sent me to you, to speak all these things for you to hear.” That puts it back square in their court and they are brought to believe, “This man does not deserve death; it is in the name of the Lord, our God, that he speaks to us.”

Then we come to this familiar Gospel of the beheading of John the Baptist a most gruesome story that shows us what evil lurks in the hearts of those who have their own perverted goals leading them down the path of evil. And the public record shows that Herod, himself, died a most pitiable death possible. Another variation of the “Live by the sword” verse might be, “Evil begets evil.”    Amen!

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Late Fr. Lewis Shea, OP (45 Mins) Video Documentary

The very Rev. Fr. Lewis Mary Shea, OP was a Dominican friar from the Chicago Central Province of St. Albert the Great,...

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Gospel Sights

Quote for today

stdominicI will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Psalm 32:8

Province of St. Joseph

The Dominican friars of the Province of St. Joseph were founded in 1806 by Edward Dominic Fenwick, O.P., an American who had joined the English Province of the Order as a young man during its exile in Belgium. Fenwick eventually returned to the United States with the dream of establishing the Order in his native land. Read More

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