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.
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 84)
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest
in which she puts her young—
Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my king and my God!
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
I remember this day 19 years ago when I was on retreat at Saint Meinrad Seminary. After my session with my spiritual director, he told me that something had happened and that I should go directly to the television in the faculty lounge. It was terrible to watch in real time as reporters and the whole country tried to figure out exactly what was taking place. But the seminary had no problem . . . we knew just what to do. We all gathered in the chapel to pray. As the psalmist says: How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
“Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful.
Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
So many riches in the readings for today’s Mass! To be merciful just as our Father is merciful . . . well, that’s the secret of the saints! Which is why we remember with great devotion those who have followed the Way of Jesus. Of course, there are selfish, narcissistic people who are incapable of understanding self-sacrifice and who will stand at the tombs of saints and of those who laid down their lives for others and ask the question: “I don’t get it . . . what’s in it for them?” As people of faith, we “get it” and we know that giving of ourselves as the Lord gave himself for us all on the Cross is the full measure of devotion. As the Lord himself says: there is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).
The photo today is from the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Belleau, France. The inscription on the cross reads: "To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die."
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
But woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Most of us could probably come up with one or two of the Beatitudes if we had too . . . but the WOES? I don’t think so. We usually don’t spend much time on those. And perhaps that’s a mistake. When the church speaks about the preferential option for the poor, or when Pope Francis talks about a poor church, a church for the poor, we are entering into the mystery of the kingdom, and the secret of the saints. Saint Peter Claver came to Colombia to be a minister of the gospel, and what he found were the horrors of the slave trade. He dedicated the rest of his life to be a “slave to the slaves.”
Today’s picture is of the memorial to Saint Peter Claver (pictured with a slave) in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.
The Book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Mt 1:1)
I love the genealogy of the Lord . . . if you have ever spent any time researching your family roots, you know what I mean. Matthew’s version is simply fascinating with all these wonderful names
. . . and the gospel writer traipsing through the whole history of salvation. Of course, nine months ago, we celebrated the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and now the great joy of her birth. And to think that by our baptism we’ve become part of this great family tree of the Lord!
The picture today is of the church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Tepoztlán, Morelos, México. I celebrated Mass there every Sunday during my sabbatical year in México.
R. Lead me in your justice, Lord. But let all who take refuge in you be glad and exult forever. Protect them, that you may be the joy of those who love your name. R. Lead me in your justice, Lord. (Psalm 5)
In the United States today is Labor Day. It is always good to remember that God calls us to build a world of justice where there is a place at the table for everyone. As Catholic Social Teaching tells us: The economy exists for the person, not the person for the economy. As Pope Francis says in his statement, Life After the Pandemic: “To everyone: let us not think only of our interests, our vested interests. Let us welcome this time of trial as an opportunity to prepare for our collective future, a future for all without discarding anyone. Because without an all-embracing vision, there will be no future for anyone.” As we pray in the psalm for today: Lead me in your justice, Lord.
If two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. (Mt 18:19)
Do you remember the old arcade machine with the stuffed animals and the Claw? How many kids lost their quarters in that stupid machine without ever managing to get a little stuffed animal? But some folks think that “agreeing in prayer” is kinda like a celestial grab bag—that we can get anything we want as long as we “agree in prayer.” When folks take verses from the Bible to use for their own purposes, It’s always good to check out the context of the verse. In fact, “agreeing in prayer” is set by the gospel writer in the context of forgiveness of sins, specifically about forgiving your brother or your sister. And unfortunately, we don’t agree very much when it comes to forgiving of others.
To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands. When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently. We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment. (1 Cor 4:11-13)
One day in spiritual direction I was told that Saint Teresa of Ávila once said to the Lord, “Well, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!” Saint Paul must have had the same feeling, but he, like Saint Teresa of Ávila, wouldn’t have wanted to change places with anyone.