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.
New moon and sabbath, calling of assemblies, octaves with wickedness: these I cannot bear. Your new moons and festivals I detest; they weigh me down, I tire of the load. When you spread out your hands, I close my eyes to you; Though you pray the more, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow. (Is 1:13-17)
To think that God would get tired of us and all our religiosity perhaps is too much for most believers to handle. But the Scriptures are very clear. What God wants is not for us to be “religious” but rather to act with justice: to redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow. Perhaps it takes a football coach and his team to teach the church to “learn to do good.” As Nick Saban and the Alabama football team said so elegantly: “All lives can’t matter until black lives matter.”
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.” (Mt 13:1-9)
The parable of the miraculous harvest reminds us that the harvest is brought by God. Besides look where the sower does his sowing: the middle of the road, among the rocks, and among the thorns. Silly sower . . . none of us would do that. We prepare the ground for our summer garden. We weed, we sweat, and take great care and great pride in our bumper crop of summer tomatoes. If the parable has something to do with the Kingdom of God . . . then there’s no time to waste. Sow the word wherever we can and leave the harvest to the Lord.
The painting is The Sower by Vincent Van Gogh.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!” (Is 6:8)
The call of the prophet Isaiah is remarkable for the eagerness with which the prophet responds, “Here I am, send me!” Today is the feast of Saint Benedict. The Rule for Monasteries which Benedict wrote invites us all to the school of the Lord’s service.
Today's picture is the mural of Saint Benedict from Saint Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana.
Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. (Mt 10:21-22)
You won’t find this verse on a Hallmark card . . . but the question comes, why did a Christian community preserve this particular saying of Jesus? It must have reflected the real life situation of people in that community. I remember the shortest sermon I ever heard. It was about this passage: You will be hated by all because of my name. The young preacher got up and asked, “Why don’t they hate us anymore? And then sat down. It’s still a good question. Because if we stand with those that Jesus stands with . . . well, we will be hated by everyone.
The photo today is Christ of the Breadlines by Fritz Eichenberg (1950).
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks. (Hosea 11:4)
What a tender image of God who scoops us up in arms of love and covers us with kisses!
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 105) R. Seek always the face of the Lord. Sing to him, sing his praise, proclaim all his wondrous deeds. Glory in his holy name; rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD! R. Seek always the face of the Lord. R. Seek always the face of the Lord.
To “seek always the face of the Lord” is the goal of Christian life. In fact, heaven is described as the Beatific Vision, literally to behold the Face of God for all eternity. The marvelous thing about Christianity is that we don’t have to wait until heaven in order to see God’s Face. As Jesus says in the Parable of the Last Judgment, “I was hungry and you fed me. A stranger and you welcomed me. Sick and in prison and you visited me . . . .” (Mt 25:31-46). “Seek always the face of the Lord” is really a call to practice justice.
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Mt 9:36-38)
Some folks like to think that the current crisis in vocations is somehow to be blamed on the reforms, especially the liturgical reforms, of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). But, of course, that is pure nonsense. From the very beginning of the church, there has always been a crisis of vocations—there has never been enough workers for the harvest. As Pope Francis points out repeatedly, what is needed is not a great number of shepherds, but rather shepherds that smell of the sheep.