Tuesday, July 26, 2016

7/28/2016 – Thursday of the 17th week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 13:47-53

     We have been hearing a lot of different parables in the Gospel readings at mass lately.  Today, we hear the parable of a huge net that hauls in all kinds of fish, in which the fishermen will separate the good from the bad.  Jesus explains that at the end of the age, the angels will take the wicked, separating them from the righteous, throwing them into a fiery furnace where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.  There was a fiery place outside of Jerusalem called the Valley of Hinnom, also referred to as Gehenna.   Jeremiah refers to that valley as a place where the pagans sacrificed children as offerings to the idols.  Both Isaiah and Jeremiah refer to that place as a symbol of the destiny of the wicked, as fiery furnace and place of torment where there will be no consolation or comfort, a place for those who will be excluded from God’s divine blessing in eternal life.  I remember once when a rabbi was asked a question by a Christian about the specifics of heaven and hell, of how the Jewish people conceptualized those two places, he explained that the Jewish faith places greater emphasis on their conduct in this current life, in obeying God’s will and following his law and commandments, as opposed to trying to imagine what heaven and hell will be like for them.  In this Year of Mercy, in which we are called by Pope Francis and our Church leaders to be merciful like the Father and to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy in our daily lives.  Lord, help us to follow your word in our daily lives.

Monday, July 25, 2016

7/29/2016 – St Martha – Friday of the 17th week in Ordinary Time – John 11:19-27

      Last Friday, we celebrated the Feast day of St Mary Magdalene, an important disciple and evangelizer from the Early Church.  In fact, the great medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas called Mary Magdalene “the apostle of the apostles” for the way she announced Christ’s resurrection to the apostles and to the world.  Today we celebrate another woman who was a devout follower of Jesus’ and one of his beloved friends – St Martha.  One may wonder why we have special feasts to celebrate these two women from the Early Church.  Perhaps it shows us the importance that women had in Christ’s original group of disciples.  Perhaps is also draws attention to the important role women have in our modern Church today.  Martha is always mentioned in the Gospels in conjunction with his sister Mary, but Martha gets a feast day all to herself.   There are two options for the Gospel reading for the feast of St Martha.  The first option comes from the Gospel of Luke, with Martha busy preparing a meal for Jesus and trying to show him hospitality, while her sister Mary wants to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his teachings.  The Gospel we hear today is from John’s account of the raising of Martha’s brother Lazarus, in which Martha, in a daring leap of faith, declares her belief in Jesus as the Messiah, the long-awaited one:  “I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”  There have been a lot of different interpretations and reflections on the Gospel readings concerning Mary and Martha.  In fact, you already heard a reflection from me a couple of weeks ago when we had the reading from the 10th chapter of Luke’s Gospel on the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time.  What we can say is that Martha has a very practical, lived reality aspect of her faith.  Martha definitely is faith put into action.  When her brother dies, she is able to say that she believes he will rise again because she knows who Jesus really is: the Son of God.  The Church needs both Marys and Marthas.  The Church needs priests of different stripes and colors as well – theologians, canon lawyers, missionaries, theologians, Diocesan priests in the small towns in the Delta, rectors at the cathedrals, intellectual Jesuits, contemplative Benedictines.  The Church always has had people of action and people of prayer, people of the establishment and the prophetic voices of the poor.  As we celebrate Martha today, let us learn from her experiences, and may we look for balance in our lives. 

7/27/2016 – Wednesday of the 17th week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 13:44-46

      We have been hearing different parables in our Gospel readings this week. It is striking to me that the treasure in the parable is found by accident. The person was probably not even looking for that treasure when he found it.  Our life of faith is that way as well.  We can have a plan for how we want our faith life to unfold, but Jesus can come to us in very unexpected ways.  Perhaps those surprise visits from Jesus are the greatest treasures we can have on our journey of faith.  I know that as a priest, I can have a “to do” list with everything I want to get done on a certain day, but then so much can happen to do away with my plans.  On the website for the pilgrims going to the Camino of St James in Spain, so many people planning their pilgrimage don’t want to leave anything to chance and try to plan each little detail to the greatest extent possible.   The trouble with that is that sometimes it does not leave much opportunity for God to interact with us in those unexpected ways.  A big part of pilgrimage is being open to God in those unexpected ways.  Even if we are happy and content with our lives, Jesus can come to us out of the blue and really upset our plans, can’t he? Let us try to open up our hearts to those unexpected ways God speaks to us in our daily lives.

7/26/2016 – Memorial of Joachim and Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Tuesday of the 17th week in Ordinary Time – Jeremiah 14:17-22

      The people of Israel are suffering, yet they are not afraid to ask God why.  They cry out to God: Have you cast Judah off?  Is Zion loathsome to you?   The people acknowledge their own sins and the sins of their fathers, sins that were committed against God.  They ask God to remember the covenant that he made with them, to forgive them in honor of his own name.
       We live in a society where so many people aren’t willing to acknowledge the wrongs that they have done.  It is so much easier to blame the system, to blame someone else, to sue someone, to not take responsibility. The people in the Old Testament were confronting God in the midst of suffering from a great draught.  I wonder if some of the people of California and the American West who are in the midst of a terrible drought ever cry out to God in the same way.
        In the midst of this acknowledgement by the people of Ancient Israel, we celebrate today the memorial of St Joachim and St Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  They are not mentioned by name in the Bible, but they have been honored since the days of the early Church.  Tradition tells us that Joachim and Anne were an older couple without children when they were given the gift of a daughter.  When their daughter, Mary, was with child herself, both Joachim and Anne were notified separately by an angel of the Lord of this good news, which was the same way Joseph and Mary both heard the news of the upcoming birth of Jesus.  C. Since their daughter was specifically chosen for this special role in the history of salvation, we can only imagine the holiness and example of faith that Anne and Joachim gave her as she grew up in their home.  We celebrate the lives of Anne and Joachim and the example of faith that they are for us.
       I remember having a conversation with a young man from Shreveport, Louisiana who was helping us paint the church after the tornado.  He was of an Evangelical Protestant background; he asked me in a lot of questions about our Catholic faith. He could not get over that we in the Catholic faith don't go by Scripture alone, but rather have the teachings of the Magisterium and Tradition to help us with what the Church teaches of the faith.  A lot of what we know about Mary and Jesus is filled in by what the Magisterium and Tradition teaches, by what was passed down to us from the Early Church.  Let us celebrate the lives of Anne and Joachim today.  We give thanks for their place in the history of salvation.  Let us do so in the same spirit of humility in which the people approached God in the Old Testament reading from Jeremiah today. 

Prayer to St James - Camino de Santiago de Compostela

We prayed this prayer on our pilgrimage walk on July 23 at our parish in Tupelo, Mississippi in honor of St James the Greater and his Way of St James in northern Spain.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, our loving Father,
You guide us along a path on our pilgrimage on our life,
You guide us to eternal life and to our promised inheritance in heaven,
Pour out your blessings upon all of us this morning as we make this pilgrimage in honor of St James the Greater, our parish’s patron saint.
We thank you for gathering us from all walks of life as we journey together as a community faith on today’s pilgrimage journey.
Today, in a special way, we honor those people of faith who have passed down the faith to us, for their courage and steadfastness.   

We ask that you strengthen our steps with your grace,
that you enlighten our hearts with your love.
We offer this pilgrimage in acknowledgment of our own sins and for the sins of the world.
We offer this pilgrimage for peace and justice, for healing in our city of Tupelo, in our state of Mississippi, and across our nation. 
We offer this pilgrimage in solidarity with the poor and those who are burdened with so many things. 
We offer this pilgrimage for the sick and shut-ins of our parish, our families, and our community.
May this journey of faith help us be aware of your blessings and your grace at work in our lives. 

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, your holy Angels and the community of saints surround us with love and lead us to the joy of your Beloved Son.
Through the intercession of James the Greater, may God keep us whole in body, mind and soul, safe from every attack of the enemy.
As we celebrate this pilgrimage in the midst of our Year of Mercy, we ask that you bless us with your mercy, O heavenly Father, and make us merciful like you are merciful. 

We ask this prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with the Father, in communion with the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer to St James - Camino de Santiago de Compostela

We prayed this prayer at the beginning of our pilgrimage walk on Saturday, July 23 in honor of St James.  I very freely adapted this prayer from a prayer made by Pope John Paul II when he made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in 1989.  

We approach you today St James on your pilgrimage walk.
We honor your memory and we ask your protection.

As we honor you in Tupelo, Mississippi,
Far off from Spain or Jerusalem or Rome,
We remember how you walked in the footsteps of Christ
Bringing his name and his voice to a far off corner of the world.

With Peter and your brother John and the other apostles
You were one of the pillars of the Early Church.
That faith that all of you followed has reverberated throughout history,
a faith that we are proud to profess as Catholics today.

Come, with us, St James on our journey today,
May your prayers and intercessions bring us closer to Christ
And may you help energize and refresh our faith.  

We honor the way that you bring people from all over the world to your holy city of Santiago de Compostela where you are pilgrim and host,
apostle and patron. 
Santiago, on our own pilgrimage through life, help us imitate your zeal and fearlessness.
As the patron of pilgrims, especially help our youth be evangelizers of the Gospel to the world. 
Above, all St James the Apostle, teach all of us throughout the world that Christ is today and always the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

May almighty God bless us on our pilgrimage journey today – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  AMEN. 

Prayer for Pilgrims - Camino de Santiago de Compostela

We prayed this prayer for pilgrims at our pilgrimage of St James that we had in Tupelo, Mississippi on Saturday, July 23.  I adapted a prayer that I found on a prayer card that I brought back my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in January 2016, which was my fourth pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.  

Lord, you called your servant Abraham out of his homeland.
You watched over him throughout his wanderings.
You guided the Jewish people through the desert.
We ask to watch over us & guide us as celebrate our patron, St James, the Greater today.

Be for us our companion on our journey,
our guide as we try to find our way,
our strength in the midst of our fatigue,
our fortress in the midst of danger,
our resource on our itinerary,
our shadow in the heat,
our light in the darkness,
our consolation in the midst of dejection,
and the power of our intention.

Under your guidance may we travel safely and unhurt. 
May you help us reach the end of our journey.
Strengthened with gratitude and thanksgiving,
secure with happiness in our hearts,
may we reach our eternal home.

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.