Monday, 30 September 2013

Dealing with Jealousy: Readings for the Memorial of St Jerome

                                                                    St Jerome, Father of the Church

When the Saint of the day is as big as St Jerome, I tend to hesitate...I'm not sure what I want to include about their lives. So this time around, I found  a secular bio for him, one that does the job in describing his life and work. I'm afraid I'm not too connected to this Saint -not being much of a scholar and all- so I won't share much about him, but will indeed hope to learn more about him as the day goes by! 

 Born in the mid-4th century in Stridon, Dalmatia, Jerome was a young scholar at Rome. He later developed a deep interest in asceticism and worked on creating a unified Latin version of the Bible’s New Testament. After moving to Bethlehem in 386, he translated sections of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin, creating the template for the Roman Catholic Church’s Vulgate

St Jerome (347-420)

Reflections: Jealousy is not something you expect to find much of in the Bible, unless it's condemned . And yet, there are many examples of it 
throughout scripture. There are even 2 examples of it in today's readings, one from the Old testament,  one from the new.  From the old testament, we get this idea of a Jealous God. We don't often sing about this God of Jealousy in our hymns. We probably never do. But what are saying about the great divine when we peak of a Jealous deity?

 One website put it nicely

"God is speaking of people making idols and bowing down and worshiping those idols instead of giving God the worship that belongs to Him alone. God is possessive of the worship and service that belong to Him. It is a sin... to worship or serve anything other than God. It is a sin when we desire, or we are envious, or we are jealous of someone because he has something that we do not have. It is a different use of the word “jealous” when God says He is jealous. What He is jealous of belongs to Him; worship and service belong to Him alone, and are to be given to Him alone."

 It's  as if God's jealousy came from a sense of loss, and this is clear today's first reading from  Zechariah. God once had a whole nation of people worshiping him, praising him. Now that they've lived through exile, they are a different people. Still, God remains faithful, and perhaps hopeful, that the holy city will once again thrive in matters of faith.

 In today's Gospel, we get the other kind of jealousy, this time from the Apostles! (Don't be too surprised! Those poor guys are constantly falling short of being great disciples of the Lord! We should take inspiration from that: If those men who followed Jesus day and night fell as much as they did, how much more will we fall! And yet, how much more will we be redeemed by God's deep love for us in the end!). Indeed, not only are they trying to compete for who will be the greatest, but then they get threatened by some other guy who is driving away demons, taking away the spotlight from Jesus.  Thankfully, they had, as we do, a very loving teacher who was willing to put up with their idiosyncrasies in order to teach them about this new way of life they were being called to in the great Kingdom of God on earth!  It's a call we all have even today, and that through the power of the Spirit, we get to live on a daily basis!

Zechariah 8: 1 - 8

1And the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying,
2"Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath.
3Thus says the LORD: I will return to Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts, the holy mountain.
4Thus says the LORD of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand for very age.
5And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.
6Thus says the LORD of hosts: If it is marvelous in the sight of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvelous in my sight, says the LORD of hosts?
7Thus says the LORD of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country;

Psalms 102: 16 - 21, 29, 22 - 23

16For the LORD will build up Zion, he will appear in his glory;
17he will regard the prayer of the destitute, and will not despise their supplication.
18Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD:
19that he looked down from his holy height, from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
20to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die;
21that men may declare in Zion the name of the LORD, and in Jerusalem his praise,
22when peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the LORD.
23He has broken my strength in mid-course; he has shortened my days

Luke 9: 46 - 50

46And an argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.
47But when Jesus perceived the thought of their hearts, he took a child and put him by his side,
48and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me; for he who is least among you all is the one who is great."
49John answered, "Master, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he does not follow with us."
50But Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid him; for he that is not against you is for you."

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Who do we say he is, and how do we experience him in our world? Readings for Friday September 27th

                    Our vocation is to go and enflame the heart of men, to do what 
                    the Son of God did, He who brought fire into the world to set it alight with His love.                            What else can we wish  for, than for it to burn and consume all things?” 
                         St Vincent De Paul

                         St Vincent De Paul, Priest
St. Vincent de Paul was born in France in the 16th century to peasant parents. He studied theology and became ordained around the age of 20. He tutored some noble French children, the de Gondi’s, and began leading missions on their estate. From these missions grew groups devoted to charity. As his ministry grew, St. Vincent was appointed royal almoner of the galleys by King Louis XIII. As such, he built hospitals in France for convicts and the poor. St. Vincent founded the Congregation of Priests of the Mission, a group of priests committed to evangelizing in the countryside. With the growing number of converts, St. Vincent recognized the need for more local priests. He re-energized the seminaries in France and around 1660, his congregation was overseeing one-third of France’s seminaries. Also, St. Vincent co-founded the Daughters of Charity with St. Louise de Marillac, a group of women committed to working amongst the poor. St. Vincent de Paul’s love for the poor has grown into an international ministry and The Society of St. Vincent de Paul looks to him as their patron. He is beloved as the “Apostle of Charity.”
Reflection:  Does God really care for the poor? Throughout the old Testament, we are told that God has a special space in His heart for the poor. Some will argue 'if the Lord cared so much for the poor, why doesn't He rescue them from their poverty?" A valid question I suppose, but not too dissimilar from 'why does God let bad things happen',  which is not a question I meant to tackle today. The short answer I see is that, if there were no poor,and no suffering,  then we'd all be Atheists. Sounds like a bold statement, but I'm slowly learning that it may be true. I feel that it's  through our interaction with the poor and the marginalized that we really encounter the living Christ who still carries his cross in our world. It's by sharing their suffering, and carrying it with us that we break away from our world of luxuries and comfort, and connect with Jesus. Can Jesus only be found in suffering and poverty? No, I don't think so. However, I do believe that those who are poor and suffer are the ones who are closest to Jesus. 

 So when I ask myself, 'who do I say Jesus is, and how do I live my experience of him today?' what do I hear as response?'  : He is the Lord and the  King of the universe, but he is also brother to the poor'. In that response, I hear a call to follow him... to be a brother to the poor. Not by sharing in their poverty. Not by giving money to every homeless person I encounter on the street -though that's not an option I shirk away from either-. Not by dreaming of a day when poverty will be eradicated, but by cultivating this desire I have to journey with them.To smile at them, speak with them, even spend time with them.  Working in a soup kitchen both as a Novice and a Scholastic has helped me enter their world a little more. I need to continue with that effort. I have no aspirations to become the next Vincent de Paul, but if God were to tell me that's where I'm being called, I would follow. I don't think it is though. There are enough people who do this kind of work today. I feel my call is to do something different...what that something is, I still don't know. However, I feel that part of my answer really lies in Jesus. I see him as Brother to all people, but especially to the poor. Perhaps that's a starting point for's in this role that I will personally encounter my God of salvation who labors among the ones who cry out to him daily.
Haggai 2:
 1 - 9

1in the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet,
2"Speak now to Zerub'babel the son of She-al'ti-el, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehoz'adak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say,
3`Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not in your sight as nothing?
4Yet now take courage, O Zerub'babel, says the LORD; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehoz'adak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the LORD; work, for I am with you, says the LORD of hosts,
5according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit abides among you; fear not.
6For thus says the LORD of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land;
7and I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the LORD of hosts.
8The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the LORD of hosts.
9The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the LORD of hosts.'"

Psalms 43: 1 - 4

1Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people; from deceitful and unjust men deliver me!
2For thou art the God in whom I take refuge; why hast thou cast me off? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
3Oh send out thy light and thy truth; let them lead me, let them bring me to thy holy hill and to thy dwelling!
4Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and I will praise thee with the lyre, O God, my God.
Luke 9: 18 - 22

18Now it happened that as he was praying alone the disciples were with him; and he asked them, "Who do the people say that I am?"
19And they answered, "John the Baptist; but others say, Eli'jah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen."
20And he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered, "The Christ of God."
21But he charged and commanded them to tell this to no one,
22saying, "The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised."

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Trust God always! Readings for Wednesday September 25th

[Saint Finbarr, Bishop]

Feast: September 25

Feast Day:September 25
Born:550 AD, near Bandon, Ireland
Died:620 AD, Cloyne, County Cork, Ireland
Patron of:Cork

Son of an artisan named Amergin and a lady of the Irish royal courtEducated at Kilmacahi monastery, Kilkenny, Ireland. He had very light hair, which led to the nickname Fionnbharr“white hair”. Made multiple pilgrimages to RomeItaly, visiting Saint David of Wales on one trip. Preached throughout southern Ireland, and possibly in Scotland. He became a Hermit on a small island at Lough Eiroe and at Gougane Barra. Founded a school at Eirce. Founded a monastery on the river Lee; it developed into the city of Cork and became the town's first Bishop. Extravagant miracles were attributed to him. Legend says that the sun did not set for two weeks after his death. So, he was no St Patrick, but he still carried alot of religious zeal in him!

Reflection: A poignant passage from Ezra on Wednesday. The Israelites, as we've been reading this week were finally returning home after a generation in exile...ready to return to their ways, their special devotion to God. One got the impression that the zeal to rebuild the city and return to their devotions was quite strong. And perhaps it was. But as with any faith, it was imperfect. Already the people were breaking their covenant with God by inter marrying with pagans. In our 21st century world, of course such a marriage would be considered as the norm, but for this people that had spent so many years with foreigners, the need to rebuild their own cultural and religious identity was crucial. The intermarriages is what has left the poor prophet Ezra rather distraught. What's even more painful for him, is that he is fully aware of the fact that despite his people's long history of sinfulness, God still shines his blessings upon his people.  

 This is part of the great mystery, as also expressed in the Psalm. God will leads us into the depths of hell, but he will also lift us up again to partake in his glorious light. And so the invitation we receive is to always trust that God will provide. It's an invitation echoed beautifully in the Gospel, where Jesus calls on the first missionaries -i.e. his disciples- to 'pack light' and not over prepare for the journey, but to simply trust that God will provide. This is a passage I heard as a Jesuit novice before going on my pilgrimage, which itself was a great act of trust. I guess I sometimes forget how much I learned to trust in God after that experience. Like the Israelites of old, I too falter and fail in my attempts to live out my faith, and my love for God. Still, I trust that this is part of the progress (if I didn't stumble, there would be cause for concern!) and that God uses these moments of stumblings to deepen my own faith. God does work in mysterious ways, but we are called to always trust those ways!

Ezra 9: 5 - 9

5And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garments and my mantle rent, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God,
6saying: "O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to thee, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens.
7From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt; and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as at this day.
8But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant, and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage.
9For we are bondmen; yet our God has not forsaken us in our bondage, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem

Tobit 13: 2 - 4, 7 - 8

2For he afflicts, and he shows mercy; he leads down to Hades, and brings up again, and there is no one who can escape his hand.
3Acknowledge him before the nations, O sons of Israel; for he has scattered us among them.
4Make his greatness known there, and exalt him in the presence of all the living; because he is our Lord and God, he is our Father for ever.
7I exalt my God; my soul exalts the King of heaven, and will rejoice in his majesty.
8Let all men speak, and give him thanks in Jerusalem.

Luke 9: 1 - 6

1And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases,
2and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal.
3And he said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.
4And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart.
5And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them."
6And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

Monday, 23 September 2013

An act of love: Readings for Monday, September 23rd

Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is the key to God's heart. You must speak to Jesus not only with your lips, but with your heart. In fact on certain occasions you should only speak to Him with your heart."Padre Prio

September 23

Saint Padre Pio


Like the Apostle Paul, Padre Pio da Pietrelcina placed at the center of his life and apostolic work the Cross of his Lord as his strength, his wisdom and his glory. Inflamed by love of Jesus Christ, he became like him in the sacrifice of himself for the salvation of the world.
This worthy follower of Saint Francis of Assisi was born on 25 May 1887 at Pietrelcina in the Archdiocese of Benevento,  On 6 January 1903, at the age of sixteen, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars at Morcone, where on 22 January he took the Franciscan habit and the name Brother Pio. At the end of his novitiate year he took simple vows, and on 27 January 1907 made his solemn profession. Filled with love of God and love of neighbor, Padre Pio lived to the full his vocation to work for the redemption of man, in accordance with the special mission which marked his entire life and which he exercised through the spiritual direction of the faithful: the sacramental reconciliation of penitents and the celebration of the Eucharist.
For Padre Pio, faith was life: he willed everything and did everything in the light of faith. He was assiduously devoted to prayer. He passed the day and a large part of the night in conversation with God. He would say: “In books we seek God, in prayer we find him. Prayer is the key which opens God’s heart”. Faith led him always to accept God’s mysterious will.

Reflection:  An act of faith is an act of love. This is a basic truth for many religions, but it's especially mentioned by Christians. It means, we don't believe in God out of fear, or out of  (self imposed) blindness  to the wisdom of the world. We believe in God out of love. Am I saying that people who don't believe in God can't love? Obviously not. I do however believe to God is alive in our world through love, so that even those who do not believe, still experience God in that love they have for another -so, maybe I'm saying that people who can't love others, who only themselves, they don't experience God!! Let's pray for the narcissists of our world!-  

 But with people of deep faith, it's different.  Love, like  faith and hope are not things that are just experienced. They're lived every day of their lives. Very deeply. We see it with today's Saint, Padre Pio, a man whose entire life was shaped  by prayer and devotion. It's something that is also evident in the first reading, where the Israelites who had been living in Exile for a good 50 years, are suddenly invited to return to their holy city, and to return to their devotional practices. This is not about cultural's about a people who had been lost in the wilderness of exile, being allowed to return to their spiritual home, and being able to sing praise to this God who has provided for them once again. 

 So when Jesus calls on us to be light of the world...he's really saying 'let your love radiate before others. Let your faith fill your days with light. Let your hope be ever constant'. As I discussed last week, being religious is a lot of work. Much is expected of us. However, God will take all the time needed to work on's not about how much work we do, but how much we allow God to work in us! An important distinction!
Blessings on your Tuesday!

 Ezra 1:1-6

1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia -- to fulfil the word of Yahweh spoken through Jeremiah -Yahweh roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom:
2 'Cyrus king of Persia says this, "Yahweh, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, in Judah.
3 Whoever among you belongs to the full tally of his people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem, in Judah, and build the Temple of Yahweh, God of Israel, who is the God in Jerusalem.
4 And let each survivor, wherever he lives, be helped by the people of his locality with silver, gold, equipment and riding beasts, as well as voluntary offerings for the Temple of God which is in Jerusalem." '
5 Then the heads of families of Judah and of Benjamin, the priests and the Levites, in fact all whose spirit had been roused by God, prepared to go and rebuild the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem;
6 and all their neighbours gave them every kind of help: silver, gold, equipment, riding beasts and valuable presents, in addition to their voluntary offerings.

Israelites return to Jerusalem to rebuild their Holy city

 Psalm, 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6

1 [Song of Ascents] When Yahweh brought back Zion's captives we lived in a dream;
2 then our mouths filled with laughter, and our lips with song. Then the nations kept saying, 'What great deeds Yahweh has done for them!'
3 Yes, Yahweh did great deeds for us, and we were overjoyed.
4 Bring back, Yahweh, our people from captivity like torrents in the Negeb!
5 Those who sow in tears sing as they reap.
6 He went off, went off weeping, carrying the seed. He comes back, comes back singing, bringing in his sheaves.

Luke 8:16-1816 “No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. 17 For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. 18 Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.”

Friday, 20 September 2013

 Those whose hearts are pure are temples of the Holy Spirit.
-- St Lucy

today's saints almost threw me off...I remembered during Novitiate celebrating a large group of Martyrs from Asia that had inspired St Therese de Lisieux in her own vocation. She even wrote to one of these martyrs before their death to express her admiration. But this was not today's Saints from korea, but another large group from Vietnam! to add to the confusion,  Both are 19th century martyrs!

Korean  martyrs.

Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, Paul Chŏng Ha-sang and Companions, Martyrs

Today the Church honors the Korean martyrs who gave their lives for the Kingdom of God. In 1784, Korean Yi Sung-hun was baptized in China and returned to found the first Christian community. Bibles were sent in from China and the young Church grew. Between 1791 and 1866, waves of persecutions occurred, killing over 10,000 Christians. Saints Andrew Kim and Paul Chong were instrumental in leading the Church through this turbulent time. St. Andrew Kim was the first native priest of Korea, having had Christian parents. He was beheaded in 1846. St. Paul Chong was a lay leader who appealed before the government and because of his pleas, Pope Gregory X sent more priests to Korea. He was martyred in 1839. In 2007, His Excellency Mr. Roh Moo-hyum, President of the Republic of Korea, visited the Vatican. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI welcomed the visit which, “…served to strengthen the good relations that exist between your country and the Holy See.” Today there are upwards of four million Catholics in the Republic of Korea (South), with Christians in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North) still underground.

Reflections: When I was contemplating Christianity as an option for my life in the 1990's, one recurring theme unsettled me: Most of the things I was readings where information tracks written to convince young people to adopt Christianity, and they would often focus on 'the darkness of the faithless life'.  One such story told the story of Del Shanon, the 1960's pop artist who had the one great hit with 'Runaway'. It spoke of his tremendous success, and failure in life. A failure he built up because he depended so much on riches. The more things he had, the emptier he felt, until he committed suicide.  That's the Christian account of Del's life. Something tells me it was a bit more complicated and painful than that! But it always struck me how there was 'some truth' to this story, but that it didn't convince me that this is why I wanted to be a Christian. I couldn't quite name it at the time.
 Today's readings -especially the first and the Psalm- both allude to this idea that, we can't take anything with us, so...why spend our life accumulating riches?  It suggests that of course, God is the only true happiness in our world, so why depend on any others. But falls a little short for me. One could easily answer 'I accumulate riches because it allows me to live comfortably in this lifetime!".  Good point. But that alternative doesn't convince me either. Isn't there something missing from your life if all you have are riches?
 There is, and Jesus offers that. This is why the 12 and the women gave up everything to follow him. This is why the martyrs of Korea and Vietnam sacrificed their lives for their faith. They didn't have to. Nobody asked them to. They just knew. What did they know? They knew that to follow Jesus means " to aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness." ( 1 Tim 6:10). These are the things that help us appropriate the Kingdom in our lives. These are the things that help us receive God's graces at every corner we turn.  Once again, Paul lays it out nicely for us: He explains to us the problems (there are too many arrogant people, and too many rich who seek happiness through material objects);  He explains where those problems lead us (obvious); and finally he explains what it is we have to do in order to follow Jesus, and avoid these traps that take us away from Him! Now, all we have to do it! And that's why, even back in the 1990's, I wanted to be a Christian. To be able to learn how to live love, and be love for others. It's kind of what Francis is urging us to do as well..except he uses more words!!
Blessings on your weekend!

1 Timothy 6: 2 - 12
2Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brethren; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these duties.
3If any one teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching which accords with godliness,
4he is puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing; he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions,
5and wrangling among men who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
6There is great gain in godliness with contentment (independence from material goods) ;
7for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world;
8but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
9But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.
10For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.
11But as for you, man of God, shun all this; aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
12Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Psalms 49: 6 - 10, 17 - 20
6men who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches?
7Truly no man can ransom himself, or give to God the price of his life,
8for the ransom of his life is costly, and can never suffice,
9that he should continue to live on for ever, and never see the Pit.
10Yea, he shall see that even the wise die, the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others.
17For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him.
18Though, while he lives, he counts himself happy, and though a man gets praise when he does well for himself,
19he will go to the generation of his fathers, who will never more see the light.
20Man cannot abide in his pomp, he is like the beasts that perish
Luke 8: 1 - 3
1Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him,
2and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Mag'dalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
3and Joan'na, the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.