June 29, 2020
What makes for "Catholic" faith? According to the earliest councils of the Church, fundamental to faith in Christ is acknowledgement of Jesus as both Son of Man and Son of God. This was the faith of Peter, making him the "Rock" upon which the Lord would build his Church (Mt 16). Yet not too long after Jesus affirmed the faith of Peter he would remind the Apostles of the need to pick up their crosses and follow him in order to fulfill their missions. As we know from the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul, both Peter and Paul would experience trials, imprisonment, and ultimately martyrdom. Yet their confidence in the Lord's constant presence in their lives, guiding them in their mission, would give them the ability to devote both their lives and deaths to witnessing to Jesus. Christian disciples today can have the same confidence as they fulfill their own missions of preaching Christ, in whom humanity and divinity met for the salvation of the world.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on June 29, 2020, Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul
June 28, 2020
In Matthew 10, Jesus sends his apostles as forerunners of his ministry among the people of Israel. The apostles were sent out as prophets, ambassadors of the one by whom they were sent. Total commitment is required, because though welcome would be the outcome at times so would rejection and persecution. The Christian disciple today shares in this prophetic mission of Christ by acting as his ambassadors in the world. This mission does not arise from the disciple but from sharing in the life of Christ, having died and risen with him in baptism (Romans 6). Growing in the life of the Holy Spirit throughout their lives, disciples become increasingly capable of preaching Christ in word and deed. Yet the life of an ambassador is not only one of telling but of listening as well: first to Jesus himself, then to those to whom he or she is sent, hearing the needs and desires of others first just as Elisha did for the Shunemmite woman (2 Kgs 4). The Christian disciple aspiring to be an ambassador must learn first to be in dialogue before expecting to introduce others to Christ.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on June 28, 2020, 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time
June 22, 2020
2 Kgs 17 relates the sad tale of the fall of Samaria and the deportation throughout the Assyrian empire of Israelites from the northern kingdom. "Only the tribe of Judah was left," and the descendants of the tribe of Judah would put the blame for this squarely on the northern kingdom's lack of fidelity to the Lord, making inappropriate foreign alliances and importing strange cults into their worship. In a word: idolatry. When both Church and world experience being "rocked and split open" (Ps 60), idolatry is to blame, above all in the form of myriad ideologies all glorifying human power against the calm reign of God. Christian disciples are called to be purified of human ideology, submitting all things to Christ and his gospel. Without this purification, there is only hypocrisy, too many "beams in the eye" to help others transcend the clamor of the world by freeing their eyes of "splinters" (Mt 7:1-5). But with this purification, Christian disciples become fresh leaven in the world, sowing the true peace and justice of the kingdom of God.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on June 22, 2020, Monday of the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time
June 17, 2020
In 2 Kings, the prophet Elisha had only one request of his master, Elijah: "I want a double portion of your spirit." And he was granted it... why? This is surely due, in part, to his full acceptance of the trials and sufferings that a prophet of the Lord would necessarily encounter, proving that he had the right motivations for receiving this spirit. Jesus also made motivations an important aspect of his teaching on almsgiving, prayer, and fasting in the second major portion of his Sermon on the Mount (Matt 6). While a hypocrite practices these disciplines to be esteemed, the Christian disciple does so for the sake of his or her relationship with the Father. With this focus on right relationship with God firmly practiced, the disciple then can act in the world in a way consistent with the will of God through docility to his Spirit. Pray for a double portion of the Holy Spirit today, but pray first for the right motivations in receiving him!
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on June 17, 2020, Wednesday of the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time
June 15, 2020
The achievement of a natural peace--absence of conflict--is only possible through a natural justice: "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth." Such an ethic of tit-for-tat, hurt for hurt, by means of scapegoats is the only recourse of the world. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents a new ethic capable of achieving true peace and justice, only by grace: gratuitous self-giving, even to enemies, so as to win them over to what is right and just. Christians today have many opportunities for such self-giving by contributing to the cause of justice in the world, albeit in a Christian manner and according to Christian principles. This holds out the promise that those who would otherwise despise Christian values and faith, in general, might discover a new openness to hearing the gospel. But it requires graced courage and creativity for Christian disciples to engage the world such self-giving. Let us pray for this grace today!
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on June 15, 2020, Monday of the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time
May 29, 2020
Jesus constantly tells his disciples not to worry, to take courage, that God is in control. But unless we are to fall into "fideism," this must be balanced with Jesus' three-fold demand to Peter: "feed my lambs / tend my sheep / feed my sheep." Jesus identifies this care for his flock as a true mark of a pastor in the Church, who loves Jesus by loving his people. But by extension every Christian disciple is likewise called to care for the needs of others in response to their faith in Jesus. The challenge has always been to care, to allow one's heart to be open to receiving what matters to Christ in our broken world: the demands of justice, the demands of peace, within the Church, and in the world without. Though each disciple may be called to act when it comes to particular issues in the world, great demands are placed upon Christian disciples to care about everything, not to hide behind "fideism" or an obstinate skepticism. If Christ's peace is truly to be made present in the world, justice must be sought in tandem: the righteousness of sanctification in the Holy Spirit, and right relations among all peoples. Pope St. Paul VI challenges us still to pursue this righteousness and justice today.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on May 29, 2020, Friday of the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Paul VI
May 25, 2020
Perceptions of violence within the Christian tradition have been fraught with complexity, from inquisitions and crusades, to strict pacifism and severe penances demanded for killing, to just war theory and the need for protecting the innocent and powerless. Complexities will always remain, but in our post-World War world, Christians are called to look upon the use of violence with fresh eyes in a globalized international reality. Today more than ever the Christian disciple is called to have faith that Jesus has already conquered the world, so that we may have the courage not to resort to violence when afraid for our security and the security of others. Nevertheless, in our fallen world sometimes lethal force is necessary to secure peace, though always as a last resort. This Memorial Day, we honor those who've given their lives to protect the innocent and defenseless, and recognize our responsibility as Christians to contribute to a world in which the necessity of such sacrifices are kept to a minimum, if not eliminated entirely.
-Given at the St. Albert the Great Priory on May 25, 2020, Monday of the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Memorial Day
May 21, 2020
In the face of confusion and darkness, the Christian disciple might be tempted to question Jesus about his purposes in our lives. Well... do it! The disciple knows that obstacles faced are opportunities to grow deeper in the life of self-entrustment to the Lord, i.e. faith in his Messiahship as preached by Paul to the people of Corinth. This deeper faith leads to deeper understanding of the Lord's place as lord of human history, and all that seems to be intended for the bad has the possibility of giving rise to the good under his hand. The only choice the disciple has is whether or not to participate in this process, and if one does then he or she might just find that even when they are grieving in the face of evil, their grief will be turned into joy.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on May 21, 2020, Thursday of the Sixth Sunday of Easter
April 26, 2020
How do you encounter God? For Christians, the fullest encounter with God possible is to be found in their Eucharistic worship, participating in Word and Sacrament. The Second Vatican Council spoke of this encounter with God through Christ's presence in multiple modes, above all in the sacrifice of the Mass, the proclamation of the word, the celebration of the sacraments, and communal praise. All of these are the fullest actualization of encounter with God, and so have a normative, privileged place in Christian discipleship. Yet we often take these realities for granted, making us poorly disposed to receiving the life of grace offered through them. This time of quarantine is the perfect time to let "absence make the heart grow fonder": first, by cultivating a deep contemplative time through prayer and study of the Scripture and Tradition of the Church; second, by cultivating a consciousness of all reality as "sacramental," mediating Christ's presence to us constantly, and of ourselves as mediating Christ's presence to others by sharing in the Holy Spirit. With greater cultivation of our spiritual appetites, our encounter with God in Word and Sacrament will be that much more powerful, and we are able to bring that encounter into the lives of others, stimulating their appetites for more in the communion of the Church.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on April 26, 2020, Third Sunday of Easter
March 19, 2020
Christians are not strangers to dark and difficult times. The parents of Jesus experienced such a difficult time when they lost their son (Lk 2:41-51), and only after three days (hint, hint!) did they find him in the Jerusalem Temple. Like them, we might legitimately ask of a seemingly absent God: "Why are you doing this to us? We are looking for you with great anxiety!" Jesus' answer to his disciples is just what he told them: "I am in my Father's house." This knowledge would see him through the dark times also, even on the cross when cried out, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" (Ps 22) And where did he learn what it means to have God as his "Father"? At least partially from the fatherhood of Joseph, who gave him love and protection, but no doubt also knew when suffering couldn't be avoided in the life of his adopted son. Through Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist, the Christian disciple is made a son or daughter of the "Father's house," and such knowledge will see him or her through the darkest of times.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on March 19, 2020, Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary.