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.
Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died]. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” (Jn 11:19-27)
The two sisters of Lazarus, Martha & Mary, are very important friends of the Lord. Martha is the first to believe that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. She answers for all of us: “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
If I walk out into the field, look! those slain by the sword; If I enter the city, look! those consumed by hunger. Even the prophet and the priest forage in a land they know not. Have you cast Judah off completely? Is Zion loathsome to you? Why have you struck us a blow that cannot be healed? We wait for peace, to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead. (Jer 14:18-19)
The Prophet Jeremiah is one of the great figures of the Scriptures. The sufferings of the prophet give rise to powerful poetry. I remember a small booklet version of the prophet from youth ministry. It was called, “Are You Joking, Jeremiah?” Jeremiah was definitely not joking. He gave all for the honor and glory of God. As our reading today concludes:
Is it not you alone, O LORD, our God, to whom we look? You alone have done all these things. (Jer 14:22)
The LORD said to me: Go buy yourself a linen loincloth; wear it on your loins, but do not put it in water. I bought the loincloth, as the LORD commanded, and put it on. A second time the word of the LORD came to me thus: Take the loincloth which you bought and are wearing, and go now to the Parath; there hide it in a cleft of the rock. Obedient to the LORD’s command, I went to the Parath and buried the loincloth. After a long interval, the LORD said to me: Go now to the Parath and fetch the loincloth which I told you to hide there. Again I went to the Parath, sought out and took the loincloth from the place where I had hid it. But it was rotted, good for nothing! (Jer 13:1-7)
Jeremiah’s loincloth . . . well, the Bible never shies away from being frank and in your face. Prophetic actions may seem a bit over the top, but they are absolutely serious. Of course God’s relationship with Israel is very intimate, like a loincloth . . . but the people did not listen, and consequently they were good for nothing . . . like a rotted loincloth.
The photo today is of Faith II by South African sculptor, Anton Smit.
The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered: Give your servant, therefore, a listening heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. (1 Kgs 3:5-9)
What would you ask for if you got a blank check from God? That happened to Solomon. And what did Solomon ask for? A listening heart, literally a “heart with ears.” Perhaps in a world like ours a “heart with ears” is just what we need so that we can listen to others with understanding and compassion.
Brothers and sisters: We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. (2 Cor 4:7)
Treasure in earthen vessels . . . a good reminder of the riches we bear. But the treasure comes from God, not from us. Today we celebrate Saint James, who with his brother, had the nerve to ask for the seats of honor in the Kingdom. The other disciples, of course, get angry, not because of the chutzpah of the two brothers, but because they didn’t think to ask first. So the Lord has to talk to them like the squabbling children they are and to remind them that the Son of Man came "not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom." Saint James is famous because of the pilgrimage to his shrine in Santiago de Compostela, EL CAMINO. The picture today is from the Portico de Gloria from the shrine where pilgrims place their hand in the hand print on the column as a sign that they have completed their journey.
I will appoint over you shepherds after my own heart, who will shepherd you wisely and prudently. (Jer 3:15)
Shepherds after God’s heart! What a promise from God: to have wise and prudent shepherds. We keep praying for them! I remember the conclave that elected Pope Francis . . . the Vatican television narrator was giving a very highfalutin description of the cardinals entering the conclave in the Sistine Chapel for the papal election. Unfortunately, the narrator didn’t tell the whole story of why the cardinals are locked in. The reason was that during the middle ages the cardinals took their time in holding a papal election. The cardinals were enjoying the great food and the fine wine, as well as the serving girls and the serving boys, and the election dragged on for almost three years! The people got tired of footing the bill and decided to force the issue: they locked the cardinals in the hall and cut off the food and the wine and the serving girls and the serving boys. Finally, the cardinals got down to business and elected a pope. And that’s why we have a conclave (cum clave [Latin], con llave [Spanish]—with a key). And that’s why we still hope and pray that we will have shepherds after the heart of God!
R. With you is the fountain of life, O Lord. For with you is the fountain of life, and in your light we see light. R. With you is the fountain of life, O Lord. (Psalm 36)
When I was a kid we made a trip to Saint Augustine, Florida. We visited the Fort and we went to the Fountain of Youth. Supposedly, Ponce de Leon searched for the Fountain and according to local legend he found it in Saint Augustine. I remember we drank the water, but I don’t think it worked! What I was really searching for was not the Fountain of Youth, but rather the Fountain of Life.