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.
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.
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. (Jn 20:14-16)
Saint Mary Magdalene’s fierce love for the Lord brought her to the tomb on that first day of the week. Even though she thought he was the gardener, once he called her by name, “Mary,” she answered with faith, “Master.” And then she went to tell the others . . . which is why the early church called her, the “Apostle to the Apostles!” She still has lots to tell to all of us.
While Jesus was speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him. Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you.” But he said in reply to the one who told him, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Mt 12:46-50)
Saint Augustine knew that we are brothers and sisters to the Lord, but he always wondered how we could be mothers to the Lord. He decided that perhaps we could be mothers to the Lord when we brought others to faith. What a wonderful thought . . . helping to birth the Lord in others!