These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
Brothers and sisters: Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God . . . . (1 Cor 3:18-19)
The honorific “great” is seldom given to popes. What may seem “great” in one particular moment of time, may not appear that “great” in another. As Saint Paul admonishes the Community at Corinth: “the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.” Only with the passing of CENTURIES does the church get a truer picture of what greatness means (and therefore, no "santo subido" nor "magno subido.") In the VI century, the parents of Gregory died and left him the family home in Rome. He turned it into a monastery for himself. Every day he would go out on the streets of Rome and bring in twelve poor people, sit them at his table, and feed them. So when the pope died, the people of Rome acclaimed Gregory. They asked him what he wanted to do as pope, and Gregory said that he wanted to be the “servant of the servants of God” (servus servorum Dei). To this day, it is the most treasured title of the Bishop of Rome. And now, after the passing of many centuries, Saint Gregory is truly “great.”
R. Alleluia, alleluia. The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor and to proclaim liberty to captives. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
“Good news to the poor, liberty to captives” — If the Lord were mounting a presidential campaign today, Jesus would have a hard time getting elected. Folks would scream: “Soft on crime!”
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, . . . . [For] we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:12-16)
To have the mind and heart of Christ . . . to be able to see this world through the compassionate eyes of Jesus. As Saint Teresa of Ávila said:
"Christ has no body now, but yours. No hands, no feet on earth, but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world."
Yours is the heart with which Christ loves the world.
Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. (Lk 4:16-19)
Today, in the daily Mass readings, we begin the continuous reading of the public ministry of Jesus in the gospel of Luke. We have already completed the public ministry in the gospels of Mark and Matthew. The Lucan gospel is the only two-part gospel (Luke-Acts). Today’s passage has Jesus returning to his home town and preaching in the synagogue. First he reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and everyone is impressed . . . that is until he begins to preach. Proclaiming a year acceptable to the Lord is great . . . but for FOREIGNERS??? The home town folks were so angry that they “drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away.” So much for the campaign: “NAZARETH FIRST.”
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Mt 16:24-26)
It’s fascinating that Matthew’s gospel follows the great handing over the keys scene with Peter putting his foot in his mouth. And the Lord speaks the harshest words in the gospel to Peter: Get behind me, Satan! But the Lord uses the moment to remind the disciples about the meaning of discipleship: to follow him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia. Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The tragedy of the Passion of John the Baptist has been portrayed in music, dance and art. But in the gospels, the Passion of John the Baptist points to the Passion of the Lord Jesus. So, when the cost of discipleship goes up, it’s always good to remember that God never forgets. The Beatitudes are the promise that being a disciple, following in the footsteps of Jesus, is what it’s all about: Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
We proclaim Christ crucified . . . Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor 1:22-25)
Paul reminds us in his preaching that the Cross reveals the power and wisdom of God. Later Christians treasured their preachers who could proclaim God’s unconditional love in ways that brought the Scriptures alive. Besides his many other writings, we are really blessed to have more than 400 homilies of Saint Augustine. As he would preach to his people at the Eucharist: “Become what you celebrate!” Today is the anniversary of my mom’s death. As Saint Monica said to her son, Saint Augustine, as she was dying, “Son, remember me always at the Altar of the Lord,” it is my privilege to remember my mom always at the Altar of the Lord, +Norma Torp Boyd, 22 February 1927-28 August 1996. “Eternal rest grant unto +Norma, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. And may her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”