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
September 1, 2020
When Jesus preached to the people of Capernaum, they encountered him as one who "spoke with authority" (Lk 4). There are many ways of speaking with authority, but today's Gospel passage makes clear that Jesus has the authority not only to reveal reality but to shape reality with his word. This same power would be given to the Apostles and other disciples in later chapters, indicating that the power to heal, to cast out evil, and to speak in his name is a common heritage of all Christian disciples. It is the Holy Spirit who ultimately gives to disciples the power to rightly exercise this "creative authority", however, since only the Holy Spirit can know what is the will of God in its fullness (1 Cor 2). This makes the life of prayer, study, and community essential to Christian life, the means through which disciples receive the direction and discernment necessary to guide them in their own spiritual authority in the world.
-Given at the St. Thomas More Chapel (UST-Minneapolis) on September 1, 2020
August 28, 2020
Throughout his "eschatological discourse" (Mt 24-25), Jesus warns his disciples to stay awake, remain watchful, be prepared, because the timing of the Parousia (second coming) of the Lord is uncertain. Jesus illustrates this using the parable of the wise and foolish virgins waiting for the bridegroom to arrive: only the wise are able to enter the wedding feast because they planned ahead. The wisdom of the virgins isn't a mere human wisdom, one of factual knowledge and philosophical cleverness, Paul says (1 Cor 1:17-25), but rather the same fundamental love of God and neighbor that led Jesus to bear the cross and ultimate sacrifice his life. St. Augustine of Hippo was an exemplary of this love, shunning worldly success to commit his life wholly to the Lord and growing in his relationship with Jesus throughout his life as evidenced in his writings. Want to be prepared for the Lord's coming? Commit to the ordinary journey of deepening your relationship with Jesus each day through personal prayer, communal support, study of the Christian faith, and active love towards others.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on August 28, 2020, the Memorial of St. Augustine of Hippo
August 23, 2020
A community thrives when it's grounded in reality and pursuing just ends through right means, and any Christian in the role of leadership is called to the same. Jesus modeled good leadership by binding others to the truth through instruction and by loosing them from all that would obstruct their response. But he also demonstrated another good leadership quality: delegation. In Mt 16, Jesus declares the confession of the Apostle Peter--the truth of Jesus as "Messiah and Son of the Living God"--as the "Rock" on which the Church would have its foundation. Peter was then made the principal minister of the household of God, inheriting the power to bind and loose just like Eliakim was for the house of David (Isa 22). In Mt 18, this responsibility was extended to all official leadership in the Church, namely the bishops in communion with See of Peter. Yet Pope Benedict XVI made clear that the laity share a "co-responsibility" for the building up of the Church. Thus all Christian disciples are called to exercise the power of binding and loosing, each in his or her own way: binding others to the truth and loosing all that would obstruct embracing Jesus Christ as Son of God, Son of Man. This can be done more or less well, requiring disciples to continually grow in knowledge of truth, in the virtue of prudence for discerning how best to actualize this truth, and in the Gift of Counsel endowed by the Holy Spirit through regular prayer and community life. Then can truth be lived and preached in love, "and the gates of Hades will not prevail" in our lives.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on August 23, 2020, the 21st Sunday of OT
August 21, 2020
"Knowledge builds up, but love builds up" (1 Cor 8). So the Apostle Paul reminds us, dealing with the arrogance of certain disciples of the Church in Corinth who thought that their "right knowledge" allowed them to do as they wished without consideration for the needs of others. It remains a common problem today, acting out of an attitude of "I know what's best" while ignoring the common good and the Good who is God himself. Jesus reminds his followers that fundamental to right action on the basis of right knowledge is right will: "Love God... love your neighbor" (Mt 22). Regardless of how right one is, how one enacts truth depends on prior regard for God and neighbor. Pope St. Pius X knew and practiced such throughout his pastoral ministry, living a spirit of poverty, caring for the practical needs of others, but above all in countering philosophical movements in the Church which asserted dubious knowledge over love of the Body of Christ. He knew that only knowledge suffused with love has the capability of building up, something to remember in these heated times.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on August 21, 2020, the Memorial of St. Pius X
August 17, 2020
For the Christian disciple, perfection is everything. "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5). But in what sense? The young man who came to Jesus in Mt 19 had the same question, and was challenged to look beyond simply following commandments to a living relationship with Jesus himself. Part of this challenge was for the young man to let go of his wealth, and in response he went away "for he had many possessions." The Christian disciple is called to the same radical commitment to Christ, requiring a proper detachment from things of this world. This goes for even good things! Without this growth in spiritual detachment, so much can get in the way as an idol: people, things, ideas, activities, and so on. But if these are put in their proper place, the Holy Spirit has room in which to operate so that even what was an idol can become a means to our true perfection in Christ.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on August 17, 2020
August 14, 2020
What's so special about commitment? Well, for the Christian disciple it's because God is a God of Commitment. The Hebrew prophets constantly spoke of their God being commitment to them as a husband ought to be towards his wife. And even if the People of Israel were unfaithful, God would remain faithful to his covenant with them. The God of Commitment calls the Christian disciple to be committed as well: to him, to the Church, to neighbor. This is the background behind Jesus' "difficult sayings" around the permanence of marriage and the possibility of celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (Mt 19). Yet these sayings established in the Church the basis of vowed life: marriage, religious life, consecrated virginity, ordained ministry. Just as marriage is a symbol of Christ's commitment to the Church (Eph 5), so Christians are called to imitate Christ by entering into vowed commitment as a means of witnessing to this love today. This same vowed life is what gave St. Maximilian Kolbe the strength to die in the place of another prisoner in Auschwitz. There is power in the vowed life: What power is the Lord asking you to tap into for the sake of service to Church and world?
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on August 14, 2020, the Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe