Tuesday, 30 July 2013

" Christ in the home of Mary and Martha" by Johanes Vermeer

Feast: July 29
Feast Day:July 29
Palaestina (modern-day Israel)
Died:80, Tarascon, Gaul (modern-day France) or Cyprus
Patron of:butlers; cooks; dietitians; domestic servants; homemakers; hotel-keepers; housemaids; housewives; innkeepers; laundry workers; maids; manservants; servants; servers; single laywomen; travellers

Last week, we talked about Mary, and Yesterday, it was Martha's turn. Again, a Saint whose life is not as historically documented, so what we know is Bible based. We already know the familiar story of how when Jesus was invited to visit their house:  Mary listened, and Martha worked. But St. John has given us a glimpse of the other and deeper side of her character when he depicts her growing faith in Christ's Divinity (Jn 11, 20-27), a faith which was the occasion of the words: "I am the resurrection and the life."  Many know this story well: how Lazarus, her brother, was ill, and finally died, and how Jesus came days later, almost intentionally taking his time so that he would have the opportunity to illustrate to the world his greater powers...(one final expression of his divinity before he faced his passion); How Martha still trusted that Jesus could ensure her brother's place in heaven, but didn't yet understand the fullness of his power, until he explained it to her in plain terms. The Evangelist has beautifully indicated the change that came over Martha after that interview: "When she had said these things, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying: The Master is come, and calleth for thee.""

  So while we remember Martha as the one who chose to express her love for Jesus in the way she hosted him, and while we celebrate this aspect of her personality by making her the Patron saint of so many who work in the hotel industry and in housekeeping, she also becomes a much greater model of conversion for us in John 11. Her faith in Jesus was already very strong and commendable...and at that moment in time, it  became even stronger. A reminder to all of us that, even when we thing we've been converted to the faith, there is always room for a deeper conversion in our life...quite a few of them in fact!!

 The story of Exodus 32, like that of Exodus 14 (the drowning of the Egyptians in the Red Sea) is not an easy one for us to read. Both these passages -and many others like them in the Bible- depict a God who is rather angry and destructive, even vengeful. This is a God that the Israelites  needed to believe in as they faced a very hostile world with many enemies and threats, but not one we relate to very strongly. However, what I'd like to draw your attention to in the Golden calf story, is not how angry and vengeful God is, but how strong in his faith Moses is, something we see in his reaction to the sin of his people. This 'sin', in the end, could have been worse! They simply became impatient, didn't know what was going on, and in their confusion, created their own false idol which they proceeded to worship.  Unfortunately for them, this act  was an expression of their lack of trust in the God that had led them out of slavery, and into this new land. And granted, things weren't going so well for them, but at least they were 'free'.

 Perhaps the problem was that they didn't know what to do with the freedom.  Like Adam and Eve, it's in their freedom, that they chose to act against God.  Moses' response? Anger. Obviously...he put a lot of effort and energy into being God's mouthpiece...this golden calf was not what he wanted to see. Sure, he may have overreacted with the whole ' grounding (the golden calf)down to powder... scattering it on the water and making the Israelites drink" (  32:20) Still, like Abraham before him, Moses' relationship to God was so close, so intimate, the he decided to answer for this sin himself: (speaking to God) " If you could only forgive their sin. If you can not, then strike me out of the book you have written". (32:32)  I'm still trying to process the act of faith illustrated in his words. It's not a Christ like action..he's not offering himself unto death with the intention of being resurrected and redeeming his people from their sins! Still, he IS taking on the sins of his people, not just out of love for them, but more importantly, out of love for God. He is so close to God at this point, that he can not keep in his heart the sin that his people has committed against him. It's an act of deep love for the divine, and it's the reason why in the end, God does not destroy the Israelites. As the Psalm says, he planned to destroy them, but Moses' courage, honesty and deep love and faith convinced God to do otherwise.

Many people have interpreted this passage differently, but for me, Moses' disposition before God is the only thing that stands out. He really does become a role model for me, as I contemplate the sinfulness of our world. Of course, we all would like to be like Martha, always laboring, concerned about getting things done and ensuring that everything is perfect.Unfortunately,  nothing  is perfect in our world. There will always be brokenness and sinfulness. Many may find this depressing and live in  hopelessness. I do too sometimes. However, knowing what Christ has done for us, how he has redeemed our personal sins  with his life, death, and resurrection,  restores my hope, and gives me the strength to do like Moses: to  face the sins of our culture head on. Nowadays, I feel that's our main issue: Personal sin will always be there. Many will be challenged in their faith to abandon any sinful practice they have in their lives,and to follow a path of righteousness. This gives me cause to hope. The hopelessness settles in when I look at our Societal sins:  Racism, war, violence towards minorities,  pollution of the environment or any other social issue. These are sins we must answer for (whether we're involved with them or not!) That's the  lesson we get from Moses:  He didn't build the damn golden calf. But he still took responsibility for it!! This forced him to deal with this problem head on. I think it's healthy for us to do the same with the sinful behavior in our world. If we were to start saying 'I'm not the one who polluted this planet in the first place!! Why should I fix it!!?' we'd be even worse off than we already are!  More importantly, Christians must remember that Jesus' victory over sin has not stopped the sinfulness of humanity. Instead, it becomes our guiding light in a darkened world, a light that nourishes our own journey and inspires us to become the next Marthas and Moses of the world!!


Exodus 32: 15-24,30-34

Moses then turned and came down the mountain with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands, tablets that were written on both sides, front and back;
tablets that were made by God, having inscriptions on them that were engraved by God himself.
Now, when Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, "That sounds like a battle in the camp."
But Moses answered, "It does not sound like cries of victory, nor does it sound like cries of defeat; the sounds that I hear are cries of revelry."
As he drew near the camp, he saw the calf and the dancing. With that, Moses' wrath flared up, so that he threw the tablets down and broke them on the base of the mountain.
 Taking the calf they had made, he fused it in the fire and then ground it down to powder, which he scattered on the water and made the Israelites drink.
Moses asked Aaron, "What did this people ever do to you that you should lead them into so grave a sin?" Aaron replied, "Let not my lord be angry.
You know well enough how prone the people are to evil.
They said to me, 'Make us a god to be our leader; as for the man Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.'
So I told them, 'Let anyone who has gold jewelry take it off.' They gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out."

30 On the next day Moses said to the people, "You have committed a grave sin. I will go up to the LORD, then; perhaps I may be able to make atonement for your sin."
So Moses went back to the LORD and said, "Ah, this people has indeed committed a grave sin in making a god of gold for themselves!
5 If you would only forgive their sin! If you will not, then strike me out of the book that you have written."
The LORD answered, "Him only who has sinned against me will I strike out of my book.
Now, go and lead the people whither I have told you. My angel will go before you. When it is time for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin."

Psalms 106: 19 - 23

19They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a molten image.
20They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.
21They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt,
22wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red Sea.
23Therefore he said he would destroy them -- had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

Luke 10:38-42

13 As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
14 She had a sister named Mary (who) sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me."
The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
15 There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."

Monday, 29 July 2013

From Me to We: Readings for 17th Sunday in Ordinary time.

Feast Day:July 28
Born:490 at south Wales
Died:565 at Brittany

 One of the first great Missionaries from Britain onto the continent, he was born in Wales of noble, but not royal, birth. While still an infant he was dedicated to God and entrusted to the care of St. Illtyd, by whom he was brought up in the monastery of Llantwit Major. Years later, after much success in his studies, he was ordained deacon and priest by St. Dubric. Years later, was made Abbot of a Monastery.  Not long after his appointment  some Irish monks who were returning from Rome happened to visit Samson's monastery. So struck was the abbot by their learning and sanctity that he accompanied them to Ireland, and there remained some time. After a few years of absence,  he returned to Wales, where his fame as a worker of miracles attracted so much attention that he resolved to found a new monastery or cell "far from the haunts of men", and accordingly retired with a few companions to a lonely spot on the banks of the Severn. He was soon discovered, however, and forced by his fellow-countrymen to become abbot of the monastery formerly ruled by St. Germanus;  He was ordained by St Dubric as Bishop, but eventually received a warning  from an angel,  which made him  determined to leave England and,set sail for Brittany. He landed near Dol, and there built a monastery which became the center of his episcopal work in the district.  It's where he lived until the age of 85, and where's he is buried.
 I'm afraid Today's saint really has not many connections to my reflections on the readings, but I'll only point out that I love it when the stories of Saints mentions other Saints! I promise to attach the Wikipedia link to the Saints mentioned from here on in. It's educational, and will help us get a better picture of this communion of Saint of ours!

Reflections:  World Youth Day in Rio has come to a close. News is still coming in about the actual figures, but an estimated over 3 million people  attended the last Mass - there aren't many events in modern history that have drawn that many people in one single place at the same time!  The Philippine World youth day in 1995 still holds the Catholic record with 5 million in attendance at the last Mass!- Part of the reason for the big numbers is of course Pope Francis. There are still many controversies around his papacy, and yet, his words and deeds embody so much of the Gospel message with them. Pope Francis is eager to restore some humility and simplicity in the Church, and many are excited about this call.

  Another one of his emphasis is how our faith  should take us out of ourselves, and into service of others. Our personal relationship with God is of great significance, and any journey of faith needs to begin at a very personal level. We see it with Abraham in the first reading. He has an incredible intimate awareness of God, an ability to speak with God at a very personal level, but also a deep knowledge of Who God is, how God would act. " Far be it from you to do such a thing as destroy a place that has righteous people". And yet, in this reading we see that Abraham is not turned to an interior experience of faith only. He gladly prays to God on behalf of the sinful city of Sodom and  Gomorah. He's concerned for his own relative, Lot,  but he is praying for the well being of the entire city. It's not just a personal, isolated relationship with God anymore. He has gone from his own needs to that of others. And he is pretty courageous in doing so too, as he tries to bargain for the safety of this town with God, almost calling God to task!! Ironically, that strength, that courage to speak his heart so honestly before God, comes not from himself, but from God!! This is a sentiment also  expressed in the 2nd reading as well, as Paul reminds us that though we die in our sins, through the power of our faith in God, through the intercession of our Lord, we take on a new life.

 This is the whole point of having a personal faith/relationship with God. It eventually grows/buds into something stronger, more courageous that will be of greater service to all humanity. As the  Psalm states beautifully  (paraphrased!)" I called, and you answered by strengthening my spirit".  With that strengthened spirit, we can move mountains!  Still, some people may say to me ' I tried talking to God, and he doesn't respond/ listen".  I promise you...God listens. The only problem is, many people out there assume God doesn't care simply because he doesn't give 'ME the things I want when I want them'. Yes...that's right. God don't work that way! That's a good thing. Otherwise Our Lord and Savior would be nothing more than a butler for us!! Instead, God is trying to teach us to exercise patience, faith, and care of others. To move from what 'I want' to what ' the people around me need". This is an act of courage and strength that we need to exercise...correction...it's an act of courage and strength that we need to let God exercise in us.

 This is why we pray as Jesus taught us. Those of you who pray the 'Our Father' regularly will know this: We do not pray 'My Will' be done...but 'YOUR/THY will be done'  And God's will does not lie in the selfish gratification of our own desires, but in the betterment of  all humanity. That's what Jesus means when he says ' ask and you shall receive'. He's really not saying 'ask anything you want', but instead, 'ask for the good in our world' We have a ways to go before our Christian community lives this unselfish prayer with the fullness of  Her heart, but let us never stop praying as Jesus has taught us...that's a wonderful start:

(Source: http://biblestudyoutlines.org/)

Genesis 18: 20 - 32

20Then the LORD said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomor'rah is great and their sin is very grave,21I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry which has come to me; and if not, I will know."22So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham still stood before the LORD.23Then Abraham drew near, and said, "Wilt thou indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked?24Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; wilt thou then destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?25Far be it from thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"26And the LORD said, "If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake."27Abraham answered, "Behold, I have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.28Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Wilt thou destroy the whole city for lack of five?" And he said, "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there."29Again he spoke to him, and said, "Suppose forty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of forty I will not do it."30Then he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there." He answered, "I will not do it, if I find thirty there."31He said, "Behold, I have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it."32Then he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there." He answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it."

Psalms 138: 1 - *-3, 6 - 8

1I give thee thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods (heavenly beings subordinate to God!) Souce: NAB, Bible study)  I sing thy praise;
2I bow down toward thy holy temple and give thanks to thy name for thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness; for thou hast exalted above everything thy name and thy word.
3On the day I called, thou didst answer me, you strengthened my spirit.
6For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he knows from afar.
7Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou dost preserve my life; thou dost stretch out thy hand against the wrath of my enemies, and thy right hand delivers me.
8The LORD will fulfil his purpose for me; thy steadfast love, O LORD, endures for ever. Do not forsake the work of thy hands. --
Colossians 2: 12 - 14
12     You were buried with him in baptism, in which  you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
13      And even when you were dead (in) transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions;
14      obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross;

Luke 11: 1 - 13

 He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples."
 He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread 
and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test."
And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,'
and he says in reply from within, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.'
I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.
"And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?"

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Feast day of St Joachim and Anne: Readings for Friday, July 26th

Tradition can be a tricky thing. Indeed, it's not always something to sing and dance about as it is in 'Fiddler on the Roof'. It can be quite complex! The stories that emerge from our traditions, can sometimes  make perfect sense, but they are simply not historically documented (just because something is not historically documented, that does not make it false. It just makes it harder for us to relate to!).  They are stories that are told to help us deepen  the human connection to our faith. As time goes on, the tradition becomes much more elaborate and realistic, and serves as a wonderful tool in our devotion to God.

 Nowadays, many people are a little skeptical around the value  such traditions.  It's  so much easier for them to act dismissively towards these stories, by comparing them to  fairy tales and other children stories ( one argument that I hear a lot from people: 'I don't believe in Santa Claus, why should I believe in God?" I'm usually stunned at the childishness of such reasoning!) However, these ARE important stories for us, because they can connect us to the human element of our faith more than anything else can. The story around the two Saints we celebrated on Friday, is a good example of this.

Sts. Joachim and Anne

"By tradition Joachim and Anne are considered to be the names of the 
parents of Mary, the Mother of God.  Any stories about Mary's father 
and mother come to us through legend and tradition.We get the oldest 
story from a document called the Gospel of James, (a rather controversial 
source, not always trusted!). The legend told in this document says that 
after years of childlessness, an angel appeared to tell Anne and Joachim 
that they would have a child. Anne promised to dedicate this child to 
God (much the way that Samuel was dedicated by his mother
 Hannah -- Anne -- in 1 Kings).
For those who wonder what we can learn from people we know nothing
 about and how we can honor them, we must focus on why they are honored 
by the church. Whatever their names or the facts of their lives, the 
truth is that it was the parents of Mary who nurtured Mary, taught her,
 brought her up to be a worthy Mother of God. It was their teaching that led 
her to respond to God's request with faith, "Let it be done to me as you will." (Luke 1:38)" 

(source: Catholic.org)
Reflection: One way to understand the value of St Anne and Joachim, is to remember how our Aboriginal people in Canada look at their ancestors(after all, Anne and Joachim are meant to be our spiritual ancestors!!): They see them as people to keep in their hearts and minds. They may know very little about these ancestors, but they speak about them frequently. It's a way of keeping themselves connected with the wisdom,and the strength that filled the bodies and souls of their ancestors. 

    This attitude is something we've partially lost in the West where many believe that because of all the 'progress' we've made socially or scientifically, we know more than our ancestors ever did, and have therefore,nothing to learn from them. I feel sorry for anyone who believes this, because I genuinely feel that many of our problems in this world would be resolved if we payed more attention to some of the wisdom of those who preceded us. 

 This is not a wisdom  rooted in science or logic, or in the narcisim that drives much of our business, social and political culture today, but is a much deeper, more spiritually in tune understanding of who we are as a species, and how we ought to coexist with creation.  Even more significant for us, is that, as the first reading suggests, when we remember that wisdom, we remember the people who carried it. And as we remember them, we continue the legacy of  love, justice and peace that this wisdom is rooted in as well, which as Pope Francis keeps reminding us, is one of our most important tasks as Christians and citizens of good will on earth! However, we don't need to do this alone. Let us be inspired by all those who came before in love, and in communion with all of God's creation!

Sirach 44:
 1, 10 - 15

1Let us now praise famous men and women, and our fathers and mothers in their generations.
10But these were people of mercy, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;
11their prosperity will remain with their descendants, and their inheritance to their children's children.
12Their descendants stand by the covenants; their children also, for their sake.
13Their posterity will continue for ever, and their glory will not be blotted out.
14Their bodies were buried in peace, and their name lives to all generations.
15Peoples will declare their wisdom, and the congregation proclaims their praise.
Psalms 126: 1 - 6
11The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: "One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne.
13For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation:
14"This is my resting place for ever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
17There I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.
18His enemies I will clothe with shame, but upon himself his crown will shed its luster.
Matthew 13: 16 - 17

16But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
17Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Feast of St James, The Greater: Thursday July 25th

                                                                          Saint James, The Greater
St. James the Greater<br>Apostle
St. James the Greater
Feastday: July 25
Patron of Laborers

One of the 12 (not to be confused with St James Minor, also an apostle). The Brother of John, the son of Zebede.  But not just any  one of them. He and his brother (along with Peter) are often the ones that are alone with him during certain pivotal moments of his ministry.  When Jesus raised Jairus' daughter when all thought her dead, he only allowed them to come with him. These 3 were the witnesses to his transfiguration on the mountain, as he spoke to Moses and  Elijah. On the negative side, they are also the Apostles who wanted special privileges -as we see in today's Gospel- and the ones who fell asleep in Gethsemane when Jesus needed them the most. 
  While his name is not mentioned very often after the resurrection, like the other Apostles his life was forever changed that day, and he was ready to give his life for Jesus. He was in fact one of the first Martyrs of the Church, and the first Apostle to be martyred. He was executed  by order of King Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great (who tried to kill the infant Jesus--Matthew 2), nephew of Herod Antipas (who killed John the Baptist--Mark 6--and examined Jesus on Good Friday--Luke 23), and father of Herod Agrippa II (who heard the defence of Paul before Festus--Acts 25). James was the first of the Twelve to suffer martyrdom, and the only one of the Twelve whose death is recorded in the New Testament. (Acts 12) Before his death, legend has it that he was instrumental in bringing the faith to Spain, ( in Spanish, the name Santiago refers to this St James. The famous Santiago de  Compostela bears his name.) though there is no historical evidence for this.

Death of St. James, from a 19thC woodcut
in about 42 ad, St James is beheaded

Reflections:  There is something very comforting to me about the apostles. We see it throughout the New Testament:their humanity.  It's expressed in their joy around Jesus, and their deep faith in his mission, but also in their  confusion towards him, their fear of what lies ahead, their inability to wrap their mind around the message Jesus is communicating to them. As we see in today's Gospel, there's even a desire for special status, almost a sense of entitlement that creeps in: " Who will have the honor to  sit on Jesus' right/left? Who's got greater power etc..."  If they who spent every day with him were so imperfect in their fellowship, how much more will we, who have never met him on earth, stumble? How much more will we struggle to be faithful to this call of discipleship?  

 What's key here though, is that while St James did stumble a lot in his faith, in his walk with Christ...once the fullness of revelation was shown to him, he never turned his back on giving his entire life to bringing the Gospel into the world -as far off as Spain, as the legends around him tell us!-  This moment, this post resurrection revelation,  is his real conversion.  He did experience a call with his brother, and that moment was so important to him that they both left everything behind -family,career etc..- and began following Jesus. However, it wasn't the fullness of their conversion. that would happen only once they saw the risen Christ, and suddenly understood what it was that he had been teaching them for 3 years.

 This is the moment that gave he and others, the strength to be a servant for others, to love the world as Christ had loved it. To, as the 2nd passage today proclaims, recognize their despair and sadness living in this world that had rejected Christ, but to be fueled by Jesus' love for them, to never lose hope, never despair, and always be renewed by the Gospel of hope, love, and justice. St James' life was indeed cut short, but his act of love still reverberates to us today, not as a role model, something we should imitate, but as a lesson in the depth of God's love for us. Through St James, and through the communion of Saints, may we never stop learning about that depth, and may we learn to  be Saints for our own 21st century.
2 Corinthians 4: 7 - 15

7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.
8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;
9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
11For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
12So death is at work in us, but life in you.
13Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, "I believed, and so I spoke," we too believe, and so we speak,
14knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.
15For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

Psalms 126: 1 - 6

1When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
2Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them."
3The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.
4Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb!
5May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy!
6He that goes forth weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
Matthew 20: 20 - 28

20Then the mother of the sons of Zeb'edee came up to him, with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something.21And he said to her, "What do you want?" She said to him, "Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom."22But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?" They said to him, "We are able."23He said to them, "You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father."24And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.25But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.26It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant,27and whoever would be first among you must be your slave;28even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Feast: July 22
Feast Day:July 22
1st century AD, Magdala
Died:1st century AD, Ephesus, Asia Minor or Marseilles, France
Patron of:apothecaries; contemplative life; converts; glove makers; hairdressers; penitent sinners; people ridiculed for their piety; perfumeries; pharmacists; reformed prostitutes; sexual temptation; tanners; women

Is it a coincidence that in the Liturgical calendar for Year C, on July 21st we hear the story of Martha and  Mary, and July 22nd is the Feast day of  Mary Magdalene? I've heard that some  scholars do believe that the two Maries are the same person. As it turns out (according to the EWTN Saints page) this may be a more widespread opinion than I thought! The Greek Fathers, as a whole, distinguish the three persons: Mary,
* the "sinner" of Luke 7:36-50;
* the sister of Martha and Lazarus, Luke 10:38-42 and John 11; and
* Mary Magdalen.
On the other hand most, of the Latins hold that these three were one and the same. Protestant critics and Theologians, however, believe there were two, if not three, distinct persons, and aggressively assert that this is the only possible interpretation of this story. 

 Unlike many of our saints, it would be pretty hard to speak about this woman as a historical figure. All we know is what the Gospel writers say of her. And she is mentioned quite a few times in the Gospels, but it's still difficult for us to formulate an accurate picture based on these little snippets. We can at least say know she accompanied Christ and ministered to Him (Luke 8:2-3); that she had seven devils had been cast out of her (Mark 16:9); that she is next named as standing at the foot of the cross (Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:56; John 19:25; Luke 23:49);that  she saw Christ laid in the tomb. It's also important to note that, as we see in Monday's Gospel passage, she was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection. But what Catholics love her for, is that she is a model of repentance. Her experience of Christ was so powerful that she was given the courage to transform her entire life and follow him.

Reflection:   I was recently having a conversation with a friend of mine about her  very troubled love life. She kept telling me about this guy she had met that was the love of her life. Even when the guy was out of the picture, every week it was same old 'do you think he's thinking about me? I'll never love like this again". I expect that from teenagers, but not from a grown woman, so I've been getting a little impatient with her.   The cause for my impatience, is that I guess, like many of my generation, I believe in moving on when it's time to move on in relationships. I especially, do not think clinging to the past, or even to some idealized understanding of the present is healthy for anyone.  Mine can be a very safe, rational, and even logical understanding of  love.  The thing is, love  doesn't have to be any of these things. In fact, love is at it's best when it's  the opposite! 
 It's what we're reminded of in the Song of Songs of Solomon. This is a book that many non believers would be shocked to find in the Bible. It opens with the line " let me kiss him.."  and for a large part of this short book , explores  the longing for one's lover. The obvious imagery is that God is the lover, longing for his children (the beloved) to return to Him (Her, in this case!). It does get a little descriptive at time, and I don't always know how to respond to it! However, in Monday's passage, the imagery is quite poignant on its own...I have very little to add to it. If you ask 'why was it Chosen for the feast day of Mary Magdelene', I'll simply say...really...the longing is key. Think of Mary on the day of the resurection, longing for her Jesus, her Rabouni. Her grief going to the tomb  must have been overpowering, and her confusion, coupled with a sense of great joy, even stronger as she left the tomb. She was ready to cling to her Lord, to never let him go again. In that sense, to me, she becomes the lover in the Song of Songs who yearns for and searches high and low for her lover. She  also reminds me of the Psalmist,  who proclaims to God '...your ...love...is better than life itself.' Even the Psalmist uses the word 'cling'.

It's a powerful theme for Monday, especially as we reach the Gospel reading, which is usualy read during the Easter season. Once Mary realizes that it's Jesus who is standing in front of her, her instinct is to lunge for him of course, and to never let go. 'do not cling to me' he says. If anyone else where to hear that today, they'd be heart broken. The only person you love is telling you to  let them go???  Yes, but his message is more powerful than that. He's really saying to her 'let your love for me be as strong as my love for you, and let it fuel you as you go out and tell the world about this love God has for all creation". Upon hearing these words, what else Could Mary do run....and proclaim to her brothers what she had heard.  For that reason, what's most powerful about Mary for me is not her repentence, but the depth of her love for Christ. May we all learn to love so deeply, and not just love individuals, but love the entire world, as God did in the every begining.


Song of Songs 3:1-4

1 On my bed at night I sought the man who is my sweetheart: I sought but could not find him!
2 So I shall get up and go through the city; in the streets and in the squares, I shall seek my sweetheart. I sought but could not find him!
3 I came upon the watchmen -- those who go on their rounds in the city: 'Have you seen my sweetheart?'
4 Barely had I passed them when I found my sweetheart. I caught him, would not let him go, not till I had brought him to my mother's house, to the room where she conceived me!
Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
2 Thus I have gazed on you in the sanctuary, seeing your power and your glory.
3 Better your faithful love than life itself; my lips will praise you.
4 Thus I will bless you all my life, in your name lift up my hands.
5 All my longings fulfilled as with fat and rich foods, a song of joy on my lips and praise in my mouth.
6 On my bed when I think of you, I muse on you in the watches of the night,
8 my heart clings to you, your right hand supports me.
9 May those who are hounding me to death go down to the depths of the earth,

Gospel, John 20:1-2, 11-18

1 It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb
2 and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,' she said, 'and we don't know where they have put him.'
11 But Mary was standing outside near the tomb, weeping. Then, as she wept, she stooped to look inside,
12 and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet.
13 They said, 'Woman, why are you weeping?' 'They have taken my Lord away,' she replied, 'and I don't know where they have put him.'
14 As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not realise that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?' Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, 'Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.'
16 Jesus said, 'Mary!' She turned round then and said to him in Hebrew, 'Rabbuni!' -- which means Master.
17 Jesus said to her, 'Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my Godand your God.'

18 So Mary of Magdala told the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord,' and that he had said these things to her.

Monday, 22 July 2013

A life of service: Readings for Sunday July 21st

St. Lawrence of Brindisi
Feast: July 21

Feast Day:July 21
Born:22 July 1559 at Brindisi, Italy
Died:22 July 1619 at Lisbon, Portugal
Canonized:1881 by Leo XIII
Major Shrine:Villafranca del Bierzo
Patron of:Brindisi

Lorenzo  was received into the Order of Capuchins under the name of Brother Lorenzo in 1575, and, after his preofession, made his philosophical and theological studies at the University of Padua. Owing to his wonderful memory he mastered not only the principal European languages, but also most of the Semitic tongues. ( I wonder if it's ok to be jealous of Saints for their natural talents and abilities that made them so awesome!!? Probably not! Still...)

Such unusual talents, added to a rare virtue, fitted Brother Lorenzo for the most diverse missions. When still a deacon he preached the Lenten sermons in Venice, and his success was so great that he was called successively to all the principal cities of the peninsula. Subsequently, thanks to his numerous journeys, he was enabled to evangelize at different periods most of the countries of Europe. The sermons he left fill no less than eight folio volumes. This is what makes him a Doctor of the Universal Church.  His biography goes on for quite a bit, as do his various ministries -including Chaplin to the imperial army as they faced the invading Muslims, and working for the conversion of Jews in Italy -neither of these, necessarily saintly tasks, but still a testimony to his devotion to the mission!-

Readings:  By looking at the readings we had on Sunday, there's one theme that would make me a little uncomfortable , if I'm not in a spiritually rich place: Servitude.  Don't get me wrong, my life is one of service to others. I'm ready for this, and have no reservations, no desire to live this life any other way. But I also, like many out there, have a rather fragile ego that doesn't respond well to the idea of 'being servant to others'. I love being OF SERVICE to others, but being a servant can be different, very humbling.  And yet, as an act of faith, it's probably the greatest act one can do. It says 'I may have my own needs, but those aren't important to me now...the person in front of me, and their needs are what I value and have a desire to serve'. That desire to serve others is how many religious express their deep love for God, and is an important part of our lives. Still, there remains something almost off putting about the way the act of service is lived in Sunday's readings.

From Abey, ( my nickname for Abraham! Tell no one!!!) it's a radical act of service. One moment he's sitting in the shade of his dwelling, and the next, he's running out to meet strangers, to  offer them a place to rest and eat, and is running around his 'domain' to ensure that everything is prepared just right. He even offers some of his precious cattle to these strangers. Now of course, what's important here, is that he recognizes right away that these 'strangers' are either from God, or are God.-You can see why many Christians would see this passage as proof of the Trinitarian nature of God. Whatever it is, it makes for an interesting read!-.  This is why he's so quick in switching gears, going from 'relaxation mode' to 'service mode' in a flash! Perhaps part of the message there is that, once you fall in love with God,  there's no limit to how much you will want to do in order to serve the Lord! 

 Unless your name is Mary! No, not Mary the mother of Jesus...but Mary the sister of Martha. There are some intelligent speculations that the Mary in today's Gospel is really Mary Magdelaine. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant to me. What is relevant is that in the  Gospel story for this past Sunday, we have two (opposite) models of  'the good Christian': The Martha model, and the Mary model! What's interesting here is that Jesus doesn't really criticize either. He likes both responses. Some people believe that he's critical of Martha who chooses to be like Abraham and run around and get things organized so that everything looks good for the Lord. They may say 'she's concerned about superficial things'.However, I don't think Jesus response to Martha is criticism per say. First, his response is 'Martha Martha'!!  Then it's ' you chose to be anxious about many things. She chooses to focus on one...she's chosen the good and that can't be changed'. This may sound harsh to some, but I don't think it's meant to be. If I were to put this passage, in my own words, I'd say "you think you're doing the good by running around and making sure everything runs smoothly, but her act of devotion and quieting herself to listen to me is just as valuable". 

And this is a message that's tough for us to hear today as well. We value busy people more than we do quiet, meditative ones. We think the ones who go out there and do a million things are more useful to society than the monk or nun who spends their day in prayer. This is a testimony to the fact that we value efficiency and hard work more than spiritual wisdom and depth. Obviously, it's not a position I subscribe to. like Jesus, I'd like to find that middle ground, the point where I can be both a hard worker, and make the time for spiritual reflections. Like Ignatius, I continue to labor at developing my skills as a contemplative in action. It's a lot easier than it sounds. All it takes is for people to take 15,30, 45 minutes a day to really sit, and listen to the silence of their lives, or listen to the wisdom of holy books. Not just read these books...really listen. Anyone can read the bible. Not everyone can open it and be like Mary in this reading...truly put her entire being in listening mode. This is why she is a role model in holy listening. 

blessings on your week!

Genesis 18: 1-10 1And the LORD appeared to  Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day.2He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men stood in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the earth,3and said, "My lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant.4Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree,5while I fetch a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on -- since you have come to your servant." So they said, "Do as you have said."6And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, "Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes."7And Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.8Then he took curds, and milk, and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.9They said to him, "Where is Sarah your wife?" And he said, "She is in the tent."10The LORD said, "I will surely return to you in the spring, and Sarah your wife shall have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.

Psalms 15: 2 - 5

2He who walks blamelessly, and does what is right, and speaks truth from his heart;3who does not slander with his tongue, and does no evil to his friend, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;4in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;5who does not put out his money at interest, and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved. ------------------------------------------------------------------------

Colossians 1: 24 - 28

24Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,
25of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,
26the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints.
27To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
28Him we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ.

Luke 10: 38 - 42

38Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house.39And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.40But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me."41But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things;42one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her."