Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 482

If God is for us, who can be against us?
He did not spare his own Son
but handed him over for us all,
how will he not also give us everything else along with him?
Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?
It is God who acquits us.

Is it coincidental that Halloween falls at the end of National Bullying Prevention Month?

Halloween is a celebration of fear and fearlessness. Many Christians despise the custom because they think it gives too much recognition to demons. I think it’s a good custom because it helps us to look at our fears and overcome them.

Speaking of bullying, I remember an incident when I was a freshman in high school. I was a very tall string bean. Some people said I looked like a matchstick, a very skinny body and a very large head. But I could be scrappy when I had to be. One day a sophomore was picking on one of my classmates. He had him down and was pounding his head on the floor. I felt badly for my classmate, who was a meek sort of fellow, and started catcalling the bully.

Of course he had no choice but to leave off his pounding the other fellow and come after me. For some reason I was fearless. I was offering myself as a sacrificial lamb in my buddy’s place. The funny thing was that within a few seconds I had wrestled my attacker to the floor and was pounding his head on the floor. Nor did his classmates rescue him.
Some people will say bullying has been going on a long time in America; it will not stop soon. Actually it started with Cain and Abel. It certainly continued with the European’s treatment of Native- and African-Americans, and aggression against immigrants both legal and illegal.
It’s endemic in our religious practices as well. Many Christians think brow-beating others into joining their church or sect is God’s way; they feel a moral imperative to drive wandering sheep into the fold.
In conversation with an atheist Pope Francis has said: “Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us. Sometimes after a meeting I want to arrange another one because new ideas are born and I discover new needs. This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.”
Americans live and breathe in a culture of consumerism and salesmanship. We continually try to sell our faith to others; we search for ways to make it more desirable. If this is not exactly bullying, neither is it honest.

The Holy Father recommends neither promotion nor aggression but dialogue. The truth can speak for itself; it has its own appeal; it will find its own way to penetrate between bone and marrow in each person’s heart, without any persuasion from either party.

In the process of getting to know each other, listening to each other and improving our knowledge of the world around us, God’s mysterious healing, and reconciling grace seeps into our hearts. All we need to do is love God and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Profound reverence in conversation with others permits God to draw us to himself.

It also undemonizes the hobgoblins of other religions, languages, nationalities and politics. 

Happy Halloween. 

Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 481

The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the one who searches hearts
knows what is the intention of the Spirit,
because he intercedes for the holy ones
according to God’s will.

I suppose nearly everyone has their favorite passage of scripture but nearly everyone favors Romans 8, the Spiritual Chapter. Following Saint Paul’s exasperated, self-incrimination – “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want” – he thanks God for the merciful, reassuring presence of the Holy Spirit. That Spirit buoys him up and carries him over the shoals of his persistent failure.

The Christian learns to pray “in the Spirit.” She learns to let the self be quiet. Its worries, concerns, grievances, disappointments and anxieties can settle down for a while. They are important, no doubt, but not that important. They can be “placed on the back burner” at least for a few minutes as the Spirit of God clears its throat within the chamber of my heart and begins to sing.

The self can listen to the song which may or may not use words. When I first heard the song it used the words of Psalm 139: “O Lord you have probed me and you know me….” I didn’t even know which psalm that was though I had read it many times in our psalter. Hearing it sung in my heart I had to go searching through the breviary to identify it:

LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
You sift through my travels and my rest;
with all my ways you are familiar.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
LORD, you know it all.

Some people hear the Spirit as tongues, and others as familiar hymns. Creative types might hear a new song, read a poem yet unwritten, or see a picture that wants to be painted. In any case they know it is not their own doing but the Spirit speaking within them, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Life is full of troubles. This we know. But it need not be sated.  All things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

  Lectionary: 480

Jesus said, "What is the Kingdom of God like?
To what can I compare it?
It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden.
When it was fully grown, it became a large bush
and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches."

Both readings today speak of God's promise which heals our hurts and eases the disappointment we feel over incurable wounds, chronic illness and lifelong disabilities. 

In this Gospel Jesus compares the unpromising size of the mustard seed to a glorious bush in which birds build their nests. In fact the mustard bush is not like the towering cedars of Lebanon. Jesus is using hyperbole to draw a smile from his listeners. He describes the mustard bush as if it were large when everybody knows it's just a scrub bush; but it's also a safe haven for the little birds hiding from the raptors that soar above. Like Brer Rabbit in the brier patch, they are safe in the unlikeliest place. 

The Promise exalts the bush and the Church and the Kingdom of God and gives us joy even in "this present time". 

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.
If anything our challenges today are a sign and sacrament of the glory to come! The horror and agony and ignominious humiliation of Jesus on the cross promise Resurrection to those who have eyes to see; just as the small wafer of our Eucharist announces the grandeur of Universal Fellowship and the six by four by six foot grave proclaims the unlimited dimensions of the Kingdom of God. 

Catholics gaze upon the crucifix and see astounding beauty because we see through the sign to the Reality. It is precisely in small gestures that we see God's great deeds.
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. 
As People of the Promise we abide in that hope. I often meet former Catholic Veterans who have lost hope. They still call themselves Catholic -- and there is merit in that -- but they no longer practice hope by attending Mass and daily prayer. Many have slipped and slid into various abusive practices: alcoholism, smoking, drug abuse and habitual anger. Disappointed and hopeless they rage against life and destroy themselves and their loved ones. 

I cannot judge them for I know their hopelessness; but in the prayers I offer for them and, usually, with them I try to restore the Promise. "You can still enjoy the innocence of your First Communion. You can still find purity in your Sacrament of Marriage. You can still be satisfied with a tiny wafer of bread and the smallest sip of wine." 

(We will) be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.

Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles

Lectionary: 666

You are no longer strangers and sojourners,
but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones
and members of the household of God,
built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.

When I was a child the Catholic religion rarely seemed to use the word Jesus. Even when it tried to show greater reverence to that sacred name it stood back and said, “the Holy Name.” 

Then, in the 60’s and 70’s Jesus became all the rage. There were even “Jesus people.” Suddenly, “organized religion” became a bad thing which was supposedly supplanted by spirituality; that is disorganized religion.

The Catholic Church caught some of the fervor around Jesus and reminded us we must know the Lord in a personal way. It is not enough to be a “cultural catholic.” But we could not quit being organized. Through it all we have honored the feast days of apostles many times a year. If they organized this religion we are grateful to them.

The apostles represent that vital link between the Risen Lord Jesus and the Church. We rely on their word for our knowledge of him. The apostles faithfully transmitted the gospel intact to their disciples from India to Spain, despite the challenges of travel, misunderstandings, contradictions, egos and persecution. When there were no written documents, the apostles told the stories of Jesus. Their memories did not fail them; they accurately recalled and passed along everything that is necessary for the salvation of the world.

When another generation of Christians – some better educated than the twelve -- suggested various interpretations of stories about Jesus, the apostles vigorously opposed every misunderstanding and enthusiastically encouraged every retelling that got it right.

They were, of course, assisted by the Holy Spirit, the same spirit that guided and impelled Jesus throughout his life. He had schooled them in the life of the Spirit; almost instinctively they could recognize when something was not right. Like sailors, they knew how to read the wind of the spirit, trimming the sails of their ambitions to obey the spirit’s guidance. 

Some members of every generation since then have challenged the apostolic church to change its teachings. Some brazenly declare the apostles misunderstood Jesus from the get-go. They says they have rediscovered – after all these centuries when the Holy Spirit apparently did nothing – what Jesus really meant to say. Now, they go on, the Spirit has told ME what Jesus really said! 
The "College of Apostles" is essential to our faith. If they got it wrong, if they lost the Truth, we are not saved despite all our hopes and eager prayers. 

The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church has not failed. To this day we instinctively know what fits the gospel and what does not. The Holy Spirit gives us that infallible assurance. Despite our worse sins, even the betrayal of Judas, the cloud of witnesses announces the Gospel in song, word, sacrament and charitable deeds.  

On this feast of Saints Simon and Jude we celebrate God’s gift to the Apostles and and their unfailing fidelity.

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 150

The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds;
it does not rest till it reaches its goal,
nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds,
judges justly and affirms the right,
and the Lord will not delay.

Back in the 1960’s the drama department at Catholic University created a play based upon the parables of Jesus. It went on to Broadway success as Godspell. I saw it at the Ford Theater in Washington DC and remember especially this story of the arrogant Pharisee and the humble publican. While the woman who portrayed the Pharisee was broadly comical, the “publican” begged for God’s mercy ala Richard Milhous Nixon. When the audience roared with laughter the kneeling actor thrust both hands into the air with Nixon’s awkward victory sign and his disingenuous smile. The parable invites parodies.

Christian humility begins with the contemplation of God’s humility. Adam and Eve sorely misunderstood the Lord when they aspired to “be like gods who know good and evil.”
Jesus must reveal to us the true source of power, wisdom, goodness, truth and beauty. That source is neither overwhelming nor terrifying. It is meek and humble of heart.

At the conclusion of his poem, Preludes, T.S.Eliot wrote, 
I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images and cling,
The notion of some infinitely gentle,
Infinitely suffering thing.

Because it is willing to suffer infinitely, humility has a deep sense of humor. It sees the absurdity of power and pretense. It knows the height and depth and grandeur of God who must take two giant steps down from infinite space just to see the Tower of Babel

Humility laughs at the crowd who would stone the woman at Jesus’ feet. It bends down and plays in the dirt; then scatters them with ironic encouragement, “Let him who has not sinned cast the first stone.”
The psalmist recalled the laughter of God when confronted with King David's enemies:
Kings on earth rise up
and princes plot together
against the LORD and against his anointed one:
“Let us break their shackles
and cast off their chains from us!”
 The one enthroned in heaven laughs;
 the Lord derides them,
 Then he speaks to them in his anger,
 in his wrath he terrifies them:
 “I myself have installed my king
 on Zion, my holy mountain.”

Humility, compassion, faith, humor: in the end these will bring down the mighty and lift up the lowly.

Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus
has freed you from the law of sin and death.
In his Letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul famously says, “For freedom Christ set you free!” With that and the above statement from Romans Saint Paul sets freedom as the foundation and goal of our way of life.
In a recent interview, Pope Francis is quoted as saying,
“Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place."
In this statement, the Holy Father echoes our traditional respect for the conscience of every person. While all human beings have the duty to form their conscience with the disciplines of prayer and contemplation, and to inform the conscience with study of ethical issues and Church teaching, we don’t believe anyone should be forced to do something contrary to their conscience.
Because divine wisdom is given through human experience in the course of Revelation History, we respect the right of individuals to make critical decisions by their own conscience. But we insist no one should fly off into an orbit of solipsistic self-regard. We are all in this together; we influence and are influenced by one another. As Confucius said, “He who counsels himself counsels a fool.”
The freedom Saint Paul advocates is a heavy burden of responsibility. Adam cannot blame Eve for the decision he made. He must acknowledge his own foolish, ill-advised decision with its consequences of remorse, resentment and shame. Our personal preferences are an excellent guide to knowing right and wrong if they are influenced by the spirit of God.
Our true freedom is obedience to God. This is the paradox at the heart of Saint Paul’s teaching. To choose other than God’s will is to drape a noose around your neck and kick the chair out from under you.
It’s good to remember this teaching as we set out on the road to freedom, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” God presents himself to us with enormous benevolence. His smile penetrates the darkest corners of our shaded hearts and suspicious minds. He is not and never was the enemy. He has proven his love for us in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, and in the Glad Spirit that fell upon us at Pentecost.

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 477

Collect for promoting harmony
For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

This passage from Romans 7, though rhetorical, sounds intensely personal. Saint Paul speaks for all of us. We know the Spirit of God is in us, inviting us to do the right; but there is another mischievous spirit and "I do the evil I do not want to do." 

In my conversations with the Veterans in the Substance Abuse program I sometimes I ask, "On a scale of one to ten, with one being low and ten being high, how intensely do you want to be sober?" 

This is not an unfamiliar question to some patients in the hospital. They are often asked a similar question about the intensity of their pain, on a scale of one to ten. Their answers are recorded and taken seriously. 

With a bit of introspection we can also answer quite honestly, "How intense is my desire to know and do the will of God?" 

We are creatures of earth and everything about this world is cyclic. Just as there is day and night, we sleep and wake. We are warm in the summer and cool in the winter. Physically, emotionally and spiritually we are cyclic creatures, given to moods and spirits. There is no shame in admitting "My ardor is pretty cool at the moment."

Saint Ignatius of Loyola taught his disciples to expect these cycles of desolation and consolation. We should take advantage of the periods of consolation to prepare for the desolation; and endure the periods of desolation without becoming too discouraged. They pass like everything else. 

There is always a light at the end of the tunnel; and there is always a tunnel on the other side of the valley. 

In the darkness we realize that
An ecstatic Francis and his
howling wolf
at Marytown, Illinois
sin dwells in me. We must remember Jesus is our Savior. No matter how well we might have fared during the good times, we need salvation. 

With the practice of prayer, we learn to "raise the bottom." The desolations need not be so low, nor the consolations so high. We can put away the sinful attitudes and pull out of sinful moods and wait upon the Lord. 
Who will deliver me from this mortal body?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Memorial of Saint Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop

Lectionary: 476

Saint Anthony Mary Claret
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness.
But what profit did you get then
from the things of which you are now ashamed? 
For the end of those things is death.
But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God,
the benefit that you have leads to sanctification,
and its end is eternal life.

In conversation with Veterans who seek freedom from chemical addictions, I offer a definition of sin. It is not simply "wrong" by a set of rules; rather it is wrong by the agreements of our relationship:
  1. It was wrong for our friendship. 
  2. I had a choice and I did it anyway.
  3. I didn't have to do it -- even if not doing it might have entailed a sacrifice. 
  4. I have no excuse and will not offer one.
  5. I regret it.
  6. I also regret whatever profit I gained by it. 
In today's passage from Romans, Saint Paul demands of his disciples, "...what profit did you get then from the things of which you are now ashamed?" 

Nine times out of ten, when we consider the profits we gained by our sinful choices, we regret them all the more. We might be richer, more comfortable and more secure, but we are not happier. They cost too much. We lost something precious in the transaction.  

To sin is to disconnect oneself from reality. It is to enter an imaginary world where things might be better and should be better, but aren't. As a violation of "our agreement" I have severed myself from "our" friendship and stand alone outside. 

There are four essential relationships: the self to God, the self to others, the self to oneself, and the self to nature. In Genesis 3 we see how Adam's free choice caused him
  1. to hide from God, 
  2. to blame Eve for what he had done thus alienating her, 
  3. to feel ashamed of his nakedness and 
  4. to reap only thorns and thistles despite the sweat of his brow. 
An outdoor station of the rosary
at Marytown, Illinois
What profit did he gain by it? Only vague notions of right and wrong. But he will never know right from wrong with any certainty without the guiding light of God's wisdom. 

But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life.

The benefits are our belonging to God and to one another in our Church, as families, neighbors and fellow Christians. These benefits are priceless by any standard. 

Saint John of Capistrano

St John of Capistrano
Patron Saint of Military Chaplains
Lectionary: 475

But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching to which you were entrusted. Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness.

The story is told of the boy who asked his grandfather, "I have two wolves within my heart. One is peaceful and the other is angry. They fight with each other. Which one will win?" 
His grandfather told him, "The one you feed." 

Saint Paul ponders a similar mystery as he considers grace and sin. As baptized Christians we should be "slaves of righteousness." But we can still choose to be slaves of sin, as you once were

In The Radiance of Being, Dimensions of Cosmic Christianity, Stratford Caldecott writes,
...the whole world currently seems to believe that freedom grows with the number of options placed before us. But God's love teaches us something different. "Perfect freedom is the total inability to make any evil choice," says Thomas Merton. Therefore the simple definition of freedom is this; it means the ability to do the will of God....
And how do we know the will of God? Jean-Pierre de Caussade reminds us it is revealed to us in every moment of every day. God's words to us take the form of all that we see and hear. They change moment by moment. They are addressed uniquely to us, and call for the unique response that God hopes for.
This is the freedom Saint Paul enjoyed and announced to his people. It is not simply the ability to do good and avoid evil. Which of us always knows the right thing to do under every circumstance? It is rather that willingness to be guided by the Holy Spirit. 
Jesus and his Virgin Mother are the perfect examples of those who want only what God wants. The converse is also true: God wants what Jesus and Mary want. 

Disciplined and trained by the Holy Spirit we learn to act when the Lord says, "Act!" and speak when the Lord says, "Speak!" We learn to wait with the infinite patience of God and to be silent with a holy stillness. We learn to revere all creatures, especially the people with whom we live and work. 

Someone might object, "This is terribly idealistic!" But it is not idealistic in the sense of unrealistic. God knows we can live this way. 

We have seen in Jesus and Mary examples of perfect obedience to God; in the martyrs and saints, examples of wonderful obedience; and in our own lives, moments of true obedience. We can only get better as we learn to hear that word that takes "the form of all that we see and hear." 

Tuesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 474

Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more,
so that, as sin reigned in death,
grace also might reign through justification
for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sometimes we're bowled over by another dreadful news item: a mass killing somewhere; earthquake devastation of homes and lives; famine, disease, starvation, war. With the wonder of mass communications we're given samplings of all the world's sorrows each day, and many times a day. 
Some will challenge us with these tragedies. "How can you believe in God in the face of such horror?" Sometimes, when the dread strikes close to home, we feel the shock. 
A hospital chaplain once told me, "These kinds of crises will strengthen them or destroy them. It will always change them." 
Though Saint Paul's world was not enriched by daily doses of the evening news, he saw enough to suffer disenchantment. And yet he believed in God and the Infinite Goodness of God. He saw God's goodness especially in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. 
Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.
This teaching is vital to our way of life. We do not hope merely for survival. We hope and expect and wait upon a Glory that will justify all the tragedy we have experienced and all the horrors we have ever heard of. 
In today's first reading Saint Paul contrasts the sin of Adam against the victory of Jesus. Adam's sin was a single incident -- a simple act of disobedience by one who hardly knew what he was doing -- and yet it brought calamity upon all creation -- man and beast alike. 
Jesus's obedience -- it stands to reason -- will not only undo Adam's sin; it will trigger a universal resurrection for all the Earth. 
All the sins of human kind are no more than a boy's digging on the beach. He works laboriously with shovel and pail, digging his hole. When the tide comes in the sand is covered and the hole disappears. When the tide recedes there is no trace left of sin. 
Is this Glory hard to imagine? Of course. But we have seen Jesus crucified and him raised up. The brilliance of his resurrection erases all the dread of his suffering. 
We live in that promise. 

Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 473

Recommended Collect for today
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself
but is not rich in what matters to God.”

Jesus’ parable describes a common situation in 21st century America, known as hoarding

I met a fellow who had leased several storage units. Each time he left the hospital he intended to clean out those spaces, sort through the clothes, books, furniture and knickknacks. He would sell most of it, keep much of it, and throw some away. On one occasion he gave me a few of his valuable items. They were cheap premiums – a Chinese watch, ballpoint pens, plastic water bottles, and so forth. Salesmen give this stuff to potential customers.

Each time he returned to the hospital he told me he had not the strength to do it. The last time I saw him, when he again described his ambition of sorting through those storage units, I told him quite frankly, “I don’t think you’re going to leave the hospital.” 

Still he hoped to finish the job. Unfortunately I was right. His friends were left with the keys and the bill for disposing his earthly treasures. 

The saddest part: he never found the wheat of his faith amid the chaff of his possessions. He did not rest his head on his pillow and his heart in prayer. He could not let the rosary beads lie inert in his fingers as his spirit soared to the presence of God.

In this 21st century Jesus' words are as fresh as the morning sun, “(Your) life does not consist of possessions.”

Learning of my friend's passing, I remembered how he loved the sacraments, and revered especially the priesthood. I prayed that he might yet inherit the treasures of heaven.

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 147

The Lord said, "Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them?
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

The English word machine comes from the French machine meaning a device or contrivance. It may also be a trick or ploy. A dramatic machine might refer to the plot contrivances that move the story, giving plausibility to a series of unlikely events. Today we use the word almost exclusively for complicated power tools with many moving parts.

Machinery also serves as a metaphor for many mysterious systems. Plants might be carbon machines and animals might be organic machines. The brain is supposed to be a wonderful thinking machine, still superior to the ultimate non-organic machine, the computer.

In thrall of these mechanical systems, we want other systems to work like machines. Several years ago voters enacted a set of laws called “Three strikes and you’re out.” Although the metaphor was from baseball, the legal system was supposed to act with the same blind impulse as machinery. A man who has been twice convicted of felony will be automatically imprisoned for the rest of his life when he is convicted a third time. Judges are not trusted to make any other decision in such cases.

Predictably, the law has been a disaster. State prisons are over-crowded with harmless old men and women. The same voters who enacted these blind rules blindly refuse to provide adequate housing, security and health care for the lifers.  Systems of law, regarded as machinery, inevitably break down.

When Jesus urged us to pray he didn’t know about machinery and automatic penalties. He saw that every human system is fundamentally human. The intransigence of corrupt judges can be overcome by persistent old women, even when the plaintiffs might not have a strong case. The simple cry of “Give me my rights,” sounded against one’s bedroom window day and night can un-buy a bought magistrate. When he spoke of prayer Jesus urged us to pray persistently because “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”

Given our predilection for machines, some people speak of God like a Huge Machine. God is a mindless force, or energy or power. “May the Force be with you!” they say. Or, “Good luck!” which amounts to the same thing. They fail to notice the person and presence of God. When they read a story like the one we heard today from the Book of Exodus, they suppose Moses’ staff was magical. Didn’t it turn into a snake, eat all the other snakes, and split the Red Sea? But magic, in the real world, is a trick, a contrivance.

Atheism believes no one is in charge. The highest intelligence and strongest will in all the universe is the human being. Because machines feel neither sadness nor joy; because they know nothing of generosity, courage or desire none of these emotions and virtues have any real existence. They cannot matter. Only power exists, to make the machine run. In the absence of God, they worship power. May the Force be with you. But if you have three felonies, you’re dead meat.

Christians believe Someone cares. At the heart of all being is the Trinity – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – a superabundant Generosity who cannot be controlled, managed or manipulated. No matter how clever our mindless machines, there remains the unpredictability of a Benevolent, Providential Willing Good.  

Saint Paul stands
his post at Mundelien
Seminary, Illinois
Jesus urges us to approach the One who cannot be controlled, managed or manipulated. The Trinity of God, which is both three and one -- and neither three nor one because numbers mean nothing in God’s reality -- welcomes our prayer. In today’s gospel Jesus pleads with us,

Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them?
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

Memorial of Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs

Lectionary: 472

It was not through the law that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants that he would inherit the world, but through the righteousness that comes from faith. For this reason, it depends on faith, so that it may be a gift…

Observing “the Law” is mostly about staying out of trouble, keeping your nose clean, CYA. It bears little resemblance to the faithful obedience of Jesus.

Saint Paul saw that more clearly each day as he announced the Gospel. He just kept getting in more trouble. Gentiles jailed him; Jews stoned him, and Christians denounced him. He went so far as to quarrel openly with (Pope) Saint Peter. His denunciation of pagan idols threatened to ruin the economy in Ephesus so they ran him out of town. On one occasion he slipped away from the hostile mob by a basket lowered from the city wall.

Not that he intended to make trouble. He was not an angry young man with issues or a rebel without a cause. He had no need to make his mark in the world, and he certainly wasn't sewing wild oats. 

The Apostle, impelled by the Spirit of God, was commissioned to announce a facet of the Gospel that no one else saw as clearly, that salvation comes through faith and not observance of the law. 

So what is faith? Is it simply believing that Jesus is the Christ? That may be a good start but it can take a long time for that opinion to move from head to heart. Some people may be ready to give their lives for their opinions but, to paraphrase Saint Paul, they have not love

The faith of which he speaks, that Jesus demanded of his disciples, is life in the Holy Spirit. The disciple is guided day by day and year by year by the gentle, whispering sound of God's voice. This faith is not simply believing that.... It is fidelity to the person of Jesus. It is ready obedience and eager willingness to take up the cross daily and follow in his steps.  
My sister Janet,
an original

This faith is not taught; it is caught like a contagion from the Church which is animated by God's spirit. Some people, like Paul of Tarsus, will be courageous leaders and original thinkers. Most of us will be faithful followers, and grateful for the opportunity to take a place in the glory-bound train. 

Feast of Saint Luke, Evangelist

According to ancient legends, Saint Luke interviewed
the Blessed Mother and "wrote" her icon. 
Lectionary: 661

Demas, enamored of the present world, deserted me and went to Thessalonica, Crescens to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Luke is the only one with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is helpful to me in the ministry.

We remember Saint Luke especially for his gospel but the man, a disciple of Paul, appears more clearly in the New Testament than the other three evangelists. Saint Paul speaks of him as the beloved physician and "the only one with me."  

Saint Paul is always a character to be dealt with. He had an enormous affection for a lot of people, and he intensely disliked others. Very likely, they felt the same toward him He knew reconciliation also, as to Saint Mark. The young Mark had stayed with Barnabas when Paul and Barnabas split up and Paul, for whatever reason, took offense at that. 

In today's reading from Paul's second letter to Timothy, Saint Luke appears as the one who remained faithful when others abandoned or betrayed Paul. 

My sister Mary Lou
Since Holy Week of this year I have often pondered this mystery of betrayal and loyalty. Meeting with groups of Veterans who are setting out on the road of sobriety, sanity and serenity, I have insisted they will experience betrayal along the way. "People who have been sober for years will start drinking again; rumors and gossip will violate the confidentiality of your meetings; your loved ones will want you to drink with them...." 

It happens.  It happens so often it seems a vital part of the story:
The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” (Matthew 26:24)
After Jesus' ascension Saint Peter spoke of Judas' treason as fulfilling certain prophecies: 
My brothers, the scripture had to be fulfilled which the holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus. He was numbered among us and was allotted a share in this ministry. He bought a parcel of land with the wages of his iniquity, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle, and all his insides spilled out. This became known to everyone who lived in Jerusalem, so that the parcel of land was called in their language ‘Akeldama,’ that is, Field of Blood. For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his encampment become desolate, and may no one dwell in it.’And: ‘May another take his office.’ (Acts 1:16-20)
Saint Paul encountered that mystery in his ministry and never hesitated to complain about it. He took it personally and it's hard to imagine anyone taking such unexpected, unwarranted betrayal with equanimity. It is a dimension of the cross we bear, and perhaps its most painful. 

Our modern conceptions of Jesus' passion and death are colored by the medieval fascination with its macabre pain; the Gospels are more aware of the twin mysteries of betrayal and loyalty. 

Saint Luke's gospel accentuates the loyalty of Jesus' disciples without denying the betrayal of some. He recalls the women who accompanied Jesus like a praying congregation. They beat their breasts and wailed as he died. They observed the tomb where he was laid and returned after the Sabbath to anoint his body. Simon of Cyrene helped to carry the cross and one of the condemned spoke kind words to him. Even his executioners expressed faith in him. 

My sister Cathy and my aunt Pat
As we celebrate the Feast of Saint Luke we should ponder this mystery of betrayal. We pray that we ourselves will not betray the Lord, even as we recall that every sin of omission and commission is a kind of betrayal. We should pray that, when we are betrayed we will turn immediately to prayer, finding support in God as Saint Paul did,
But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.
Finally, we should pray that we will not take these incidents terribly personally. "Her sin is not about me." Found in that spirit, we will be worthy to pray, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."