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.
Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. (Is 55:6-9)
Our God is near to us always. The Merciful, the Compassionate. In the liturgy, the hymn, Lord, Have Mercy is from the Greek (Kyrie eleison) but is not originally a penitential plea for mercy. Rather, it is an acclamation that means “Lord, you are the giver of mercy.” Today (September 24) is the feast of Our Lady of Mercy—so Happy Feast Day to all the Sisters of Mercy!
When a large crowd gathered, with people from one town after another journeying to Jesus, he spoke in a parable. "A sower went out to sow . . .” (Lk 8:4-15)
The little details often get overlooked, but in the case of the parable of the sower the little details mean a lot. Part of the key to evangelization is that we can’t evangelize inside the four walls of the church. Some of us are content with getting stained-glass suntans, but we have to go outside the church building if we’re going to sow the word. Even if, like the sower in the parable, we throw the seed in the middle of the street or among the weeds. It is not our careful preparing of the soil, but rather God who brings the miraculous harvest. Maybe it’s just that simple . . . “a sower went out to sow.” Padre Pio (1887-1968) always gave advice: "Pray, hope, and don't worry."
Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources. (Lk 8:1-3)
As evidenced by the gospels, the earliest communities had little problem with women disciples, (especially since in the ministry of Jesus the women footed the bill!). Today is the feast of my heavenly patron, Saint Maurice of Egypt (d. 287) and his companion martyrs.
As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" He heard this and said, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners." (Mt 9:9-13)
The Table Ministry again! And how important is that Table Ministry. It is not a one-off event, rather it is the defining feature of the entire ministry of Jesus, especially the eating and drinking with sinners. Saint Matthew reminds us that ALL are welcome at the TABLE.
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, 'Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' (Lk 7:31-37)
This is one of the oldest charges against Jesus made by good religious folks attacking the Lord’s table ministry. Of course, there are church folks who still attack that table ministry and want to prevent the “tax collectors and sinners” from getting too close. Perhaps we all should remember that it’s not OUR table, it’s not OUR invitation. It’s the Table of the Lord, and it’s the Lord who does the inviting. We celebrate today the first martyrs of Korea (1791-1888).
Beloved, this saying is trustworthy: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Therefore, a bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not aggressive, but gentle, not contentious, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with perfect dignity; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of the Church of God? (1 Tim 3:1-13)
The requirements for bishops and deacons assumes that they would be married and have families. Being able to manage one’s household prepares one to care for the church. Perhaps we need to recover that key insight. Today's picture is of my ordination as a deacon at Saint Meinrad Abbey Church in 1977 with Archbishop George Biskup of Indianapolis.
When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and save the life of his slave. They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying, "He deserves to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us." And Jesus went with them, but when he was only a short distance from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. (Lk 7:1-10)
The Healing of the Centurion’s Servant is a fascinating story. The English translation is wrong: the servant wasn’t “valuable to him”; the servant was very dear to him (as the Spanish translation clearly states: “un criado muy querido.” Roman centurions were not in the habit of building Jewish synagogues. So when the elders state that the centurion is “worthy” to have this favor done, Jesus is curious. Then suddenly the centurion sends the message, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.” To which Jesus responds “I haven’t found faith like this in all of Israel.” Even though the centurion never actually meets Jesus, the servant is healed. And the church in its wisdom puts the words of the centurion on our lips before we receive Communion.