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Jul 1-6, 2019: Weekday Reflections


July 1 Monday (St. Junipero Serra, Priest, U.S.A): Mt 8:18-22: 18 Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side.  19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”  20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

The context: Today’s Gospel passage explains the cost of Christian discipleship and the total commitment, wholehearted constancy and sacrificial ministry that the Christian mission requires.
It was quite unexpected for a learned scribe to volunteer to become Jesus’ disciple. But Jesus offered him no false promises.  “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests,” He said, “but the Son of Man has not whereon to lay his head.” Jesus was simply being honest about the demands and the cost of a commitment the scribe might make too lightly and an arduous journey he might be undertaking too easily. Being a Christian is not an easy or comfortable affair.  It calls for a lot of self-control and self-denial, putting God before everything else. Jesus’ response to another would-be disciple who asked for more time before becoming a disciple sounds harsh:   “Let the dead bury their dead.” But this man’s father was not dead or sick. The man had simply asked to stay with his father until the father’s death. Jesus knew that later he would find another reason to delay answering the call.
Life messages: 1) We need to honor our commitments: Today, more than ever, people make marriage commitments too easily and then break them.  The problem today is that the couples do not have the courage to make the commitment of marriage. We all know there is a tremendous shortage of priests and religious. Our young people are unwilling to make commitments to God by committing themselves to life-long celibacy, obedience to a Bishop or religious superior or to the vowed life of a religious community. 2) We need to pray for strength to honor our commitments. We are here this morning because, in one way or another, we have said to Jesus, “I will follow you.” Sometimes we have been faithful to him, and other times we have not. Hence, we need to pray for strength to honor our commitments, we need to ask for forgiveness when we fail, and we need to renew our determination to walk with Jesus by being loyal to our spouse and family, earning our living honestly, and living not only peacefully, but lovingly, with our neighbors. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/). L/19

July 2 Tuesday: Matthew 8: 23-27: 23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him.  24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.  25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.  27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
The context: Matthew’s emphasis on Jesus’ wondrous works helps him to reveal Jesus’ true Messianic identity. The role of God in calming the storms of life is the central theme of today’s Gospel. By describing the miracle, Matthew also assures his first-century believers that nothing can harm the Church as long as the risen Lord is with them. The incident reminds us today to keep Jesus in our life’s boat and to seek his help in the storms of life.
The storm:  The Sea of Galilee is a lake thirteen miles long from north to south and eight miles broad from east to west at its widest. It is notorious for its sudden storms.   When a cold wind blows from the west, the valleys, gullies and hills act like gigantic funnels compressing the storms and letting them rush down to the lake to create violent waves. Unable to control their fears, the disciples wake Jesus up, accusing him of disregarding their safety. Jesus’ response is immediate. At once he rises and rebukes the winds and the sea, and instantly there is total calm. Only then does Jesus gently chide his terrified and now astonished disciples for the smallness of their Faith.
Life message: We need to welcome Jesus into the boat of our life to calm the storms we face. 1) All of us are making a journey across the sea of time to the shore of eternity, and it is natural that we all will experience different types of violent storms occasionally in our lives: physical storms, emotional storms, and spiritual storms. We face storms of sorrow, doubts, anxiety, worries, temptations and passion. Only Jesus can give us real peace in the storm of sorrow or console us for the loss of our dear ones. When the storms of doubt seek to uproot the very foundations of the Faith, Jesus is there to still that storm, revealing to us his Divinity and the authority behind the words of the Holy Scripture. He gives us peace in the storms of anxiety and worries about ourselves, about the unknown future and about those we love. Jesus also calms the storms of passion in people who have hot hearts and blazing tempers. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/). L/19

July 3 Wednesday (St. Thomas the Apostle): Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle: Jn 20:24-29: 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came  and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21
The context: Today we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas, the Apostle. Today’s Gospel passage (John 20:24-29), presents the fearless apostle St. Thomas, in his uncompromising honesty, demanding a personal vision of, and physical contact with, the risen Jesus as a condition for his belief.   Thomas had not been with the disciples when Jesus made his first appearance to them. As a result, he refused to believe. When he appeared to Thomas later, Jesus said: “Blessed are those who have not seen but have believed.”  Thomas was able to overcome his doubts by seeing the risen Jesus.
The unique profession of Faith: Thomas, the “doubting apostle,” made the great profession of Faith, “My Lord and My God.” This declaration by the “doubting apostle” in today’s Gospel is very significant for two reasons. 1) It is the foundation of our Christian Faith.  Our Faith is based on the Divinity of Jesus as demonstrated by his miracles, especially by the supreme miracle of his Resurrection from the dead.  Thomas’ profession of Faith is the strongest evidence we have for the Resurrection of Jesus.  2) Thomas’ Faith culminated in his self-surrender to Jesus, his heroic missionary expedition to India in A.D. 52, his fearless preaching, and the powerful testimony given by his martyrdom in A.D. 72.
Life messages: 1) Faith culminating in self-surrender to God leads us to the service of our fellow-human beings.   Living Faith enables us to see the risen Lord in everyone and gives us the willingness to render each one loving service.  (“Faith without good works is dead” James 2:17). Mother Teresa presents it this way: “If we pray, we will believe; if we believe, we will love; if we love, we will serve. Only then we put our love of God into action.”   It was his Faith in the Lord and obedience to Jesus’ missionary command that prompted St. Thomas to travel to India to preach the Gospel among the Hindus, to establish seven Christian communities (known later as “St. Thomas Christians”), and eventually to endure martyrdom. 2) We need to grow in the living and dynamic Faith of St. Thomas using the following means prescribed by the Spiritual Fathers: a) We come to know and experience Jesus personally and intimately by the daily and meditative reading of the Bible.  b) We strengthen our Faith by the power of the Holy Spirit through personal and community prayer.  c) We share in the Divine Life of Jesus by frequenting the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. d) We are reconciled with God on a daily basis by repenting of our sins and asking God’s forgiveness and by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation whenever we fall into a grave sin.  (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19

July 4 Thursday: Mt 9:1-8: 1 And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. 2 And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, lying on his bed; and when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”  3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?  5 For which is easier, to say, `Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, `Rise and walk’?  6 But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he then said to the paralytic — “Rise, take up your bed  and go home.” 7 And he rose and went home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
The context: Beyond showing his authority over temptation, over the lives of men, over nature, over demons and over sickness, in today’s Gospel we see Jesus demonstrating a new form of authority – his authority to forgive sins. Jesus miraculously restores a paralyzed man to health as a sign of this authority. The healing episode presents Jesus as the embodiment of God, sent to save us, restore us and make us new. So, we have to look beyond the boundaries of our religious experience to appreciate the healing and forgiving operation of our God in newer and newer ways.
Many kinds of sickness, like the paralysis of the man in the story, were seen by the Jews as punishment for their personal sin or the sins of their parents.   It was also a common belief that no sickness could be cured until sin was forgiven. For that reason, Jesus had first to convince the paralyzed man that his sins had been forgiven. Once Jesus had granted the paralytic the forgiveness of God, the man knew that God was no longer his enemy, and he was ready to receive the cure which followed. It was the manner of the cure which scandalized the Scribes.   By forgiving sin Himself, Jesus had, they thought, blasphemed, insulted God, because forgiving sin is the exclusive prerogative of God. This healing demonstrates the facts that we can never be right physically until we are right spiritually and that health in body and peace with God go hand in hand.
Life messages: 1) We need God’s forgiveness to live wholesome lives. The heart of the Christian Faith is the “forgiveness of sins.” In the Creed we say, “I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” While we have the power to forgive others, we need to be forgiven ourselves by the One who has the authority to forgive. In Jesus, we see this authority, the same authority He gave to his Church. Today’s Gospel gives us an invitation to open ourselves to God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to hear from the priest’s mouth the words of Jesus to the paralytic being spoken to us: “Your sins are forgiven.” 2) The Gospel also instructs us to forgive others their sins against us and to ask God’s forgiveness for our daily sins every day of our lives. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19

July 5 Friday St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest, St. Elizabeth of Portugal (U.S.A.): Mt 9:9-13: 9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.  10 And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.  11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  13 Go and learn what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The context: Today’s Gospel episode of Matthew’s call to be Jesus’ apostle reminds us of God’s love and mercy for sinners and challenges us to practice this same love and mercy in our relations with others.
The call and the response: Jesus went to the tax-collector’s office to invite Matthew to become his disciple. Since tax-collectors worked for a foreign power and extorted more tax money from the people than they owed, they were hated and despised as traitors by the Jewish people, and they were considered public sinners and ostracized by the Pharisees.   But Jesus could see in Matthew a person who needed Divine love and grace. That is why, while everyone hated Matthew, Jesus was ready to offer him undeserved love, mercy and forgiveness. Hence, Matthew abandoned his lucrative job, because, for him, Christ’s call to follow him was a promise of salvation, fellowship, guidance and protection. Scandalous partying with sinners. It was altogether natural for Matthew to rejoice in his new calling by celebrating with his friends. Jesus’ dining with outcasts in the house of a “traitor” scandalized the Pharisees, for whom ritual purity and table fellowship were important religious practices. Hence, they asked the disciples, “Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus answered that question, stressing his ministry as healer: “Those who are well do not need a physician; the sick do.” Then Jesus challenged the Pharisees, quoting Hosea, “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”  Finally, Jesus clarified his position, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” [After the Ascension, Saint Matthew remained for over ten years in Judea, writing his Gospel there in about the year 44. Then he went to preach the Faith in Egypt and especially in Ethiopia, where he remained for twenty-three years. The relics of Saint Matthew were for many years in the city of Naddaver in Ethiopia, where Matthew suffered his martyrdom, but were transferred to Salerno in the year 954].
Life messages: 1) Jesus calls you and me for a purpose: Jesus has called us through our Baptism, forgiven our sins and welcomed us as members of the Kingdom. In fact, he calls us daily through the Word and through his Church to be his disciples and turn away from all the things that distract us and draw us away from God. 2) Just as Matthew did, we, too, are expected to preach Christ through our lives by reaching out to the unwanted and the marginalized in society with Christ’s love, mercy and compassion. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19.

July 6 Saturday St. Maria Goretti, Virgin, Martyr): Matthew 9:14-17: 14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is  taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 And no one puts a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made.  17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is  put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
 The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives Jesus’ reply to the question asked by a few disciples of John the Baptist about fasting and feasting. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving were three cardinal works of Jewish religious life. Hence, John’s disciples wanted to know why they and the Pharisees fasted while Jesus’ disciples were seen feasting with him and never fasting.
Jesus’ reply: Jesus responded to their sincere question using three metaphors: the metaphor of the “children of the bridal chamber,” the metaphor of patching torn cloth and the metaphor of wineskins. First, Jesus compared his disciples with the children of the bridal chamber, the selected friends of the bride and groom who feasted in the company of bride and groom during a week of honeymoon. Nobody expected them to fast. Jesus explained that his disciples would fast when he, the bridegroom, was taken away from them. In the same way, we are to welcome both the joys of Christian life and the crosses it offers us. Using comparisons of the danger of using new, unshrunken cloth to make a patch for an old garment and the danger of using old wineskins to store freshly fermented wine, Jesus told the questioners that they must have more elastic and open minds and larger hearts to understand and follow his new ideas which were in many cases different from the traditional Jewish teachings.
Life message: 1) We need to be adjustable Christians with open and elastic minds and hearts: The Holy Spirit working actively in the Church and guiding the teaching authority in the Church enables the Church to have new visions, new ideas, new adaptations and new ways of worship in the place of old ones. So, we should have the generosity and good will to follow the teachings of the Church. At the same time, we need the Old Testament revelations, the New Testament teachings and the Sacred Tradition of the Church as main sources of our Christian Faith. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19.