September 17, 2021
Today is the memorial of Saint Hildegard of Bingen, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, German Benedictine nun and among the greatest female saints of the Medieval period of European history. Like the women who supported Jesus and the Twelve (Lk 8), she scorned the attraction of riches as the early Apostles did (1 Tim 2) for the integrity of religious life in support of the gospel. But just as women of the Church do today, she offered up more than her wealth but all her God-given gifts for the edification of others She gifted to the Church her visionary experiences, her spiritual wisdom, her learning in natural philosophy, the composition of some of the greatest hymns of the Medieval era, and her reformist preaching calling for the reform of both clergy and laity alike to live in accord with the holiness of God. Today we can look to her as an example of total dedication to Christ, of the poverty necessary to promote the gospel through living out the many gifts that God has given us for the preaching of truth and the life of charity.
24th OT Friday // 1 Tim 6:2c-12 // Ps 49// Luke 8:1-3
May 23, 2021
With many graduations taking place during these weeks, we remember that Christian education is a life-long project, becoming forged by God for his Kingdom. The Holy Spirit is the Eternal Flame who keeps us malleable during our lives as we are shaped on the anvil of the world for eternal life. That Flame is meant to be shared with the world as St. Catherine of Siena says: "Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire."
October 25, 2020
We hear repeatedly throughout the New Testament writings that Christians are to be "holy as our Father is holy" (1 Peter), "merciful as our Father is merciful" (Luke), and "perfect as our Father is perfect" (Matthew). But what is our heavenly Father like in these regards? St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that God's justice and mercy are exercised in creation by his prior commitment to sustain it in existence and govern it towards its end. This is not something God owes to creation, but rather to himself because of his prior commitment! Like him, Christians owe it to themselves to pursue justice and bestow mercy: towards all people, in recognition of the "image of God" in each; but "especially those of the family of faith", the Church, who share in God's "likeness" by grace. In this latter case, especially, the Christian disciple is able to "love neighbor as self", for "we are members individually of one another", so in seeking justice towards and bestowing mercy on fellow discipes the disciple is being "God-like", giving what is owed to the other by "holy selfishness"!
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on October 25, 2020, 30th Sunday of OT
September 28, 2020
Where do martyrs get the strength to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Christ? Surely part of it stems from a radical consciousness of the contingency of their lives, knowing that all comes from God and returns to God, so that the only question becomes how to receive or let it go for the sake of the gospel. Like Job, they are able to say "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD!" (Job 1:21), cultivating an identity solely based on the dignity that comes from the call of Jesus to discipleship and service to others. One can be as apparently insignificant as the child that Jesus presents in Luke 9 to his disciples as an example of becoming "the least." Only then can one join the ranks of martyrs like St. Lorenzo Ruiz, who have become the greatest through their witness to Christ's grace, even unto death.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on September 28, 2020, Memorial of St. Lorenzo Ruiz
September 21, 2020
What do you hope for from the Lord? Sometimes we can think that our hope of eternal salvation is dependent on doing something to earn it, but this attitude basically that of the fifth century heretic Pelagius. Rather, as St. Augustine and the Roman Catholic Church teach, there is nothing that one does to earn salvation, but rather all good works that contribute to our sanctification are done out of gratitude for what the Lord has already wrought through his death on the cross. The concern should not be over one's salvation -- something that lies only in the hands of God himself -- but rather with responding to this gratuitous offer in love, by bearing fruit in the "vineyard of the Lord" among those to whom we are sent. If there is any "merit" in what we do, it is Christ's first, in which we participate when we embrace his call to pick up our cross daily and follow him.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on September 20, 2020, the 25 Sunday of Ordinary Time
September 18, 2020
Christian disciples are called to give something--"time, talent, treasure"--for the sake of supporting their churches and their evangelical missions. Yet, the Church has never defined how much, whether it be the traditional 10% tithe or not. Why? Out of the wisdom to avoid giving becoming mechanical, instead suggesting that it should be on the basis of ability, according to vocation. But even more important is the reason for giving. Less important (though still important) is the amount than the spirit in which it is given, namely that of gratitude: for the gift of present liberation wrought in the death of Jesus Christ, and for the gift of future eternal life wrought in his resurrection. "God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor 9:7). "How grateful are you?" A question that Christian disciples must ask each day as they discern the generosity that the Lord is calling them to.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on September 18, 2020
September 14, 2020
Why is the cross of Christ so "exalted" in the Christian tradition? Because it is the source of the disciple's salvation. Jesus predicts his own elevation on the cross in John 3, relating it to Moses' holding aloft a bronze serpent in the desert: "whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live" (Num 21:9). The cross is the source of healing for Christians, because through it Jesus was able to recapitulate the whole history of the human race, marred by sin through disobeying the will of God for their good: "and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8). The Christian disciple has heard that he or she is to take up the cross and follow Jesus, imitating his obedience to what is right and just, experiencing transformation and healing, becoming oriented towards the salvation which Jesus has promised. The disciple who truly carries the cross is one that others can "look upon" for healing, inviting them into the glory that Jesus attained only through his saving sacrifice.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on September 14, 2020, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
September 11, 2020
When is "good enough" good enough? The search for "good enough" enters into every facet of life, and for the Christian disciple this can be doubly true of the spiritual life. It can seem like one never "measures up" enough to the call to virtue and holiness, bringing with it great anxiety and discouragement. One is never satisfied: How can God be!? But Jesus, and his Apostle Paul, both teach notion of holiness that is other-directed, rather than a neurotic inversion upon oneself. In his Sermon on the Plain (Lk 6), Jesus' exhortations to righteousness are made in the context of seeking to lead others towards the Good (vv. 39-42). In his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 9), Paul talks about becoming all that others need him to become in order to bring them to salvation (vv. 19-23). All of this correlates perfectly with other teachings of Jesus and Paul that the disciple must strive to bear spiritual fruit in the world, above all that of love. Are we ever "good enough"? Never, but the Christian disciple is always "good enough" to give the love possible for the day, and where this love must become better, one now knows specifically where greater spiritual growth is necessary.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on September 11, 2020
September 8, 2020
On this feast day of the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Christian disciples are called to remember their places in the salvation history over which God has divine providence. Certainly, Joseph provided by adoption the lineage of Judah in confirmation of Jesus' Messiahship, and John the Forerunner could claim the lineage of Levi to authenticate his preaching. But who was Mary? Seemingly a nobody, just like the women who played unexpected roles in the genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1) were nobodies in others' eyes. But in the Father's eyes these women played unexpectedly critical roles in salvation history, just as Mary's role as Mother of God was as unexpected as could be! Christian disciples are reminded, then, that while the Lord often works with and through expected patterns of human relationship he can just as often utilize the unexpected to achieve the greatest glories. Mary, conceived in justice, provides to disciples, reborn in grace, an example of the openness, humility, and courage necessary to embrace their vocations to bear Christ into the world as she did.
-Given at the St. Thomas More Chapel (UST-Minneapolis) on September 8, 2020, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
September 4, 2020
A difficult balance to strike in the spiritual life is contentedness and discontentness. On the one hand, a certain contentedness is necessary to maintain a spirit of gratitude toward God, even when experiencing discontent over oneself. On the other hand, that discontent with oneself is always necessary to keep us striving for ever greater righteousness, and a very important facet of this is right judgment. Paul critiqued the church of Corinth (1 Cor 1-4) for exercising poor judgment regarding himself and other apostles because of their resorting to partisanry rather than receiving with gratitude the one faith they preached. Human judgment must always be submitted to the Lord who is the sole judge, and to the extent that one receives the internal renewal desired by Jesus (Lk 5) out of a discontentedness with one's own wisdom, the Christian disciple will be able to be renewed in mind and heart, and be made righteous unto salvation.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on September 4, 2020