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
August 10, 2020
Though not everyone in the Church is an ordained Deacon (diakonos), St. Lawrence provides an excellent example to all Christian disciples, who are called to service (diakonia) in the Church and in the world. Martyred in 258 during the Roman persecution under Emperor Valerian, Lawrence had surely spent a lifetime of preparation for the moment of his execution through a life of detachment from worldly concerns, growing in right relationship with Creator and creation. Proof enough of this is found in the stories of his life, presenting to the Emperor the poor, infirm, and powerless as the "treasures of the Church." The Christian disciple is likewise called to this ever more radical detachment in imitation of Jesus Christ himself: "Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life" (Jn 12:25). Lawrence followed this example, sowing his life through martyrdom for the sake of witness to Jesus, the value of human life, and the hope of eternal salvation.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on August 10, 2020, the Feast of St. Lawrence
August 3, 2020
The Hebrew prophets constantly chided Israel for taking matters into their own hands when feeling threatened as a people, leading to foreign alliances and ensuing temptations to idolatry. The prophet Jeremiah's task before and during the Exile was to keep Judah from acting rashly from a refusal to accept the consequences of its continued infidelity, instead encouraging Judah to repent and accept the reality of its degraded situation. The Christian disciple can likewise be unwilling to accept the reality of some trial he or she is undergoing, deserved or not, thus rejecting the opportunity it presents to place one's trust more profoundly in Divine Providence. The Apostle Peter offers a good example in Matthew 14, not asking Jesus to calm the storm but rather asking him to give him the ability to stand with Jesus in the midst of the storm. Such is the opportunity every trial offers, allowed by God for the sake of our own sanctification through faith in Jesus Christ.
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on August 3, 2020
August 2, 2020
Matthew recounts in his Gospel thousands gathering around Jesus to here him preach and receive healing (Mt 14). But a dilemma arises: How to feed all these people? The disciples are skeptical, pointing out that together they have only five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus uses the occasion to work a miracle of multiplication and uses his disciples to feed those gathered. This miracle is a foreshadowing of the nourishment received in the celebration of the Eucharist, but the disciple knows that he or she plays a role in making Christ's presence known in the world after having received him in his Body and Blood. But how practically is this to be done? Through a double process of receiving and giving: first recognizing one's own gifts from God, offering them back to him in return, then receiving these gifts back elevated for service of others. What gifts has God given you for the nourishing the world today?
-Given at the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel (UST-St. Paul) on August 2, 2020, 18th Sunday of OT
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