August 5, 2018
Several weeks ago and shortly after a boatload of migrants and refugees were refused landing both in Italy and in Malta (they were allowed to land later in Spain), Pope Francis celebrated a special Mass at an altar in the rear of St. Peter’s Basilica to which 200+ migrants and refugees were invited to attend. The homily he preached at that time is so telling and appeals to people of good will in all nations, including our own, who are faced with people asking for asylum and a safe home in their land.
“‘You who trample on the needy and bring to ruin the poor of the land….Behold the days are coming when I will send a famine on the land…a thirst for hearing the words of the Lord’ (Amos 8:4,11).
“Today this warning of the prophet Amos is remarkably timely. How many of the poor are trampled on in our day! How many of the poor are being brought to ruin! All are victims of that culture of waste that has been denounced time and time again. Among them, I cannot fail to include the migrants and refugees who continue to knock at the door of nations that enjoy greater prosperity.
“Five years ago, during my visit to Lampedusa, recalling the victims lost at sea, I repeated that timeless appeal to human responsibility: ‘Where is your brother? His blood cries out to me,’ says the Lord. This is not a question directed to others; it is a question directed to me, to you, to each of us. Sadly, the response to this appeal, even if at times generous, has not been enough, and we continue to grieve thousands of deaths.
“Today’s Gospel acclamation contains Jesus’ invitation: ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest’ (Mt 11:28). The Lord promises refreshment and freedom to all the oppressed of our world, but he needs us to fulfill his promise. He needs our eyes to see the needs of our brothers and sisters. He needs our hands to offer them help. He needs our voice to protest the injustices committed thanks to silence, often complicit, of so many. I should really speak of many silences: the silence of common sense, the silence that thinks ‘it’s always been done this way,’ the silence of ‘us’ as opposed to ‘you.’ Above all, the Lord needs our hearts to show his merciful love towards the least, the outcast, the abandoned, the marginalized.
“In the Gospel we heard, Matthew tells us of the most important day in his life, the day Jesus called him. The Evangelist clearly records the Lord’s rebuke to the Pharisees, so easily given to insidious murmuring: ‘Go and learn what this means—I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’ (9:13). It is a finger pointed at the sterile hypocrisy of those who do not want to ‘dirty their hands,’ like the priest or the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan. This is a temptation powerfully present in our own day. It takes the form of closing our hearts to those who have the right, just as we do, to security and dignified living conditions. It builds walls, real or virtual, rather than bridges.
“Before the challenges of contemporary movements of migration, the only reasonable response is one of solidarity and mercy. A response less concerned with calculations than with the need for an equitable distribution of responsibilities, an honest and sincere assessment of the alternatives and a prudent management. A just policy is one at the service of the person, of every person involved, a policy that provides for solutions that can ensure security, respect for the rights and dignity of all, a policy concerned for the good of one’s own country, while taking into account that of others in an ever more interconnected world. It is to this world that the young look.
“The Psalmist has shown us the right attitude to adopt in conscience before God: ‘I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your ordinances before me’ (Ps 119:30). A commitment to faithfulness and right judgment that all of us hope to pursue together with government leaders in our world and all people of good will. For this reason, we are following closely the efforts of the international community to respond to the challenges posed by today’s movements of migration by wisely combining solidarity and subsidiarity, and by identifying both resources and responsibilities.”
How does what Pope Francis say here square with the policies and the practices that have been taking place on our southern border? How can we justify doing everything possible to curtail anyone asking for asylum by preventing them from actually crossing over to the United States where they must be in order to appeal for asylum, despite the fact that many of these individuals fear for their lives and the lives of their children if they remained in their home countries? How can we tolerate some of the conditions where those who have been able to cross when they have been separated from their children, children kept in areas surrounded by cages, parents not knowing where their children are for weeks at a time, and children sometimes kept in ice cold temperatures where they have little recourse to doctors and nursing personnel when they become sick? Is this what we have become as a nation, when most of us are the children of immigrants ourselves? And how do we justify these policies in light of our Judeo-Christian heritage?
EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The people of Israel show in the First Reading how difficult it was for them to allow God to lead them on their journey from slavery to the Promised Land. They complain and long for the old days “as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread” in Egypt. How easily they forgot what the Lord had done for them! Despite their ingratitude, God never abandoned them. Instead, God gave them manna, “bread from heaven,” as the Responsorial Psalm says.
The Gospel continues John’s narrative, setting the stage for a discourse in which Jesus explains the symbolism and significance of the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. He challenges his hearers about their motivations. They followed him because they focused on the material gift he had given them—namely, bread to eat. Instead, Jesus focuses on the deeper spiritual meaning they should seek, “the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
When they point to the gift of manna their ancestors ate in the desert, Jesus reminds them that it was not Moses who gave them manna, but the Father who, “gives you the true bread from heaven.” When Jesus says “I am the bread of life,” he shows how the manna in the desert foreshadowed his coming. “I am” is a way Jesus identifies himself with God, claiming his divinity. He speaks in the manner of God in the Old Testament where “I am” is God’s name (Exodus 3:14). As “the bread of life,” Jesus is the one who gives bread that is eternal life. Real hunger can only be satisfied through a personal relationship with Jesus.
Jesus tells the Apostles, “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” When the Eucharist is received, Christ, who brings light and life to the world, is given in the form of bread. The person who partakes of the Eucharist is offered eternal life and is to act as the Body of Christ in the world, bringing others to Christ. As they go out in mission to the world, they are to die to themselves in order to rise in the life that Christ brings. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, then, teaches that the “Eucharist is the sacrament of passing over from death to life, from this world to the Father” (#1524) and that the Eucharist is “the sum and summary of our faith” (#1327).
When people partake of the Eucharist, they become one with the whole Body of Christ, those in heaven and on earth. The Catechism explains that the Eucharist enables us to participate in the divine life that unites the people of God (#1325).
For Your Reflection: When has God given you something that you have later grumbled about? Which things that will perish divert your attention from what brings eternal life? Do you really believe and live the reality that the Eucharist offers you the Body and Blood of the Lord?
THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD
Monday, August 6, 2018
About a week after Jesus plainly told his disciples that he would suffer, be killed, and be raised to life, he took Peter, James and John up a mountain to pray. While praying, his personal appearance was changed into a glorified form, and his clothing became dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus about his death that would soon take place. Peter, not knowing what he was saying and being very fearful, offered to put up three shelters for them. This is undoubtedly a reference to the booths that were used to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, when the Israelites dwelt in booths for 7 days. Peter was expressing a wish to stay in that place. When a cloud enveloped them, a voice said, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen, whom I love; listen to Him!” The cloud lifted, Moses and Elijah had disappeared, and Jesus was alone with his disciples who were still very much afraid. Jesus warned them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after his resurrection.
Undoubtedly, the purpose of the transfiguration of Christ into at least a part of his heavenly glory was so that the “inner circle” of his disciples could gain a greater understanding of who Jesus was. Christ underwent a dramatic change in appearance in order that the disciples could behold him in his glory. The disciples, who had only known him in his human body, now had a greater realization of the deity of Christ, though they could not fully comprehend it. That gave them the reassurance they needed after hearing the shocking news of his coming death.
The disciples never forgot what happened that day on the mountain and no doubt this was intended. John wrote in his gospel, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only” (Jn 1:14). Peter also wrote of it, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the majestic glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain” (2Pt 1:16-18). Those who witnessed the transfiguration bore witness to it to the other disciples and to countless millions down through the centuries.
COMMUNAL ANOINTING OF THE SICK
Here at St. Peter’s we have a tradition of celebrating the sacrament of the sick in a communal way four times a year, and one of these is around the feast of St. Clare. We will therefore celebrate the sacrament of the sick on Friday, August 10, within the context of the Eucharist at the 1:15 Mass. Anyone who is about to have a surgery, who is undergoing serious tests with a physician, who suffers from a chronic disease such as diabetes, difficulty breathing, undergoing cancer treatments, or who is over the age of 62 is invited to receive the sacrament during this Mass.
We ask that those who wish to receive the sacrament be present at least five to ten minutes before the beginning of Mass so that you can be properly seated throughout the church in order to allow the priests to come easily for the laying on of hands and for the anointing with the oil of the sick, both of which will take place after the homily. We look forward to seeing many of you here on Friday, August 10, at the 1:15 Mass. You might want to alert some of your friends and co-workers of this wonderful opportunity to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick since it brings the healing power of Christ to us in this special way.
ADORATION OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT
One of the marvelous gifts we have in the Catholic Church is the fact that we always have the presence of the Lord in our churches due to the reservation of the Body of Christ reserved in the tabernacle. But that presence is even more manifest when the Consecrated Host is placed in the monstrance and then publicly displayed for the veneration of the faithful in what we call the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Here at St. Peter’s we have the opportunity to visit Our Lord in this special way every Monday-Friday for the three hours between 1:45 and 4:45 in the afternoon. I hope you try to take advantage of this devotion at least once or twice a week. You need not stay for a longer period of time; even a short visit allows you to focus, to thank the Lord for blessings received, to acknowledge that you owe everything to His goodness and love, and to praise Him for all he has done and continues to do for you. It also gives you a bit of quiet time to just be in His presence and to give Him a chance to speak with you as He sees fit.
SUMMERTIME WORDS OF WISDOM
A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their former university professor. The conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.
Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups—porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain-looking, some expensive, and some exquisite—telling them to help themselves to the coffee.
After all the former students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said, “If you noticed, all the nice-looking, expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is but normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress.
“Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases, it’s just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups…and then began eyeing each other’s cups.
“Now consider this: Life is the coffee, and the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life, and the type of cup we have does not define nor change the quality of life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided for us.”
God brews the coffee, not the cups…enjoy your coffee.