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.
I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 1:4-7)
Today is the feast of Saint Monica which is joined with tomorrow’s feast of Saint Augustine, her son. Theirs is a mother-son story that touches every heart. At the end of her life, they were in Ostia, Italy, the seaport for the City of Rome, waiting for the ship that would take them home to Africa. Monica was gravely ill and Augustine was very anxious because the ship was delayed in arriving. Monica told him, “Son, don’t worry about my body, bury me wherever I die. But remember me always at the Altar of the Lord.” And that is the privilege we all enjoy . . . we can remember our departed loved ones always at the Altar of the Lord.
This greeting is in my own hand, Paul’s. This is the sign in every letter; this is how I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. (2 Thes 3:17-18)
Paul didn’t want to have more problems with fake letters allegedly from him . . . so after the scribe who had been furiously trying to write down everything that the apostle dictated, Paul signs the letter in his own hand. I wonder how much that autograph would be worth today?
We ask you, brothers and sisters, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling with him, not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed either by a “spirit,” or by an oral statement, or by a letter allegedly from us to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand. Let no one deceive you in any way. (2 Thes 2:1-3)
Poor Saint Paul . . . he had to put up with all sorts of troubles: persecutions, beatings, imprisonment, shipwrecks . . . and even worse, other Christians writing fake letters in his name. And for what purpose? To scare people about the end of the world! Well, that kind of silliness still goes on today, two thousand years later. And what does Saint Paul tell us? The same advice he gave to the little community at Thessaloniki: “Hold fast to the traditions that you were taught.”
The angel spoke to me, saying, “Come here. I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God . . . . There were three gates facing east, three north, three south, and three west. The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. (Rev 21:9b-14)
Today is the feast of Saint Bartholomew with the reference to the "beautiful city"--the Heavenly Jerusalem. I remember the Dedication of the New Altar and the Renovated Chapel of Our Lady of Fatima in Winston-Salem, NC, now almost 40 years ago. For the Dedication Mass with the Bishop, I requested that our cantor, Joanne Munden, sing the spiritual, Oh What a Beautiful City! The version today is from the great singer, Paul Robeson.
And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 16:18-19)
Saint Peter is the hope for many of us, because if he can make it, perhaps we will to! In the gospels, Peter usually gets things wrong or misunderstands, but every so often he gets it right, as in today’s gospel. Cue the Rocky music!
And I saw that the temple was filled with the glory of the LORD. . . . . Then a voice said to me: Son of man, this is where my throne shall be, this is where I will set the soles of my feet; here I will dwell among the children of Israel forever. (Ezekiel 43:5-7)
The summer of the prophets comes to a close with this final reading from the Prophet Ezekiel, the vision of the Glory of the Lord in the temple. But which temple, the physical temple in ruins, or the temple which is God’s people?
Today is the Octave of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We celebrate Mary receiving the Crown of Life from her Son. As my young Jesuit friend said so eloquently:
"Every teaching of the Church about Mary is a teaching about us as Christians as well. At her conception, she received the same grace that we all do at our baptism. At the end of her life she was raised just as Jesus, and just as we all shall be."
And today’s feast is no exception . . . the Crown of Life awaits each one of us.
Son of man, can these bones come to life? I answered, “Lord GOD, you alone know that.” Then he said to me: Prophesy over these bones, and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! (Ezekiel 37:3-4)
The dry bones . . . what a vision! We should never be surprised what God can do for these dried up bones of ours. As the reading concludes:
You shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and make you come up out of them, my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may come to life, and I will settle you in your land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. I have spoken; I will do it—oracle of the LORD.
Today is the feast of Pope Saint Pius X (d. 20 August 1914), the Pope of the Holy Eucharist. Pius X allowed children to receive communion BEFORE receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, and thus he invented First Communion as we have it today. Before that time, no one could receive communion unless they had been confirmed . . . a practice that still holds true for adults coming into Full Communion with the church today. Pope Pius X also encouraged frequent communion for everyone.