Monday, November 30, 2009

Come After Me, And I Will Make You Fishers Of Men.

The Feast Of Saint Andrew The Apostle

First Reading
Romans 10:9-18

Brothers and sisters:
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.

For one believes with the heart and so is justified,
and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.
The Scripture says,
No one who believes in him will be put to shame.

There is no distinction between Jew and Greek;
the same Lord is Lord of all,
enriching all who call upon him.
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear without someone to preach?

And how can people preach unless they are sent?
As it is written,
How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!

But not everyone has heeded the good news;
for Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed what was heard from us?
Thus faith comes from what is heard,
and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.

But I ask, did they not hear?
Certainly they did; for
Their voice has gone forth to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 19

R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye..

The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.

They are more precious than gold,
than a heap of purest gold;
Sweeter also than syrup
or honey from the comb.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

Matthew 4:18-22

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.

He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.

+++ +++ +++ +++  

John the Evangelist presents Andrew as a disciple of John the Baptist. When Jesus walked by one day, John said, "Behold, the Lamb of God." Andrew and another disciple followed Jesus. "Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day" (John 1:38-39a).

Little else is said about Andrew in the Gospels. Before the multiplication of the loaves, it was Andrew who spoke up about the boy who had the barley loaves and fishes (see John 6:8-9). When the Gentiles went to see Jesus, they came to Philip, but Philip then had recourse to Andrew (see John 12:20-22).

Legend has it that Andrew preached the Good News in what is now modern Greece and Turkey and was crucified at Patras.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Now, We Watch For The Day When Christ The Lord Will Come In Glory!

Today’s First Reading is taken from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (33:14-16):

The days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will make a righteous shoot sprout up from David's line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure. This is the name they shall call her: “The LORD our justice.”


This is the longest continuous passage in the Book which exists in the Hebrew, but is lacking in the Greek. It appears to be the composition of an inspired writer who lived in Babylon during the exile, and who built upon the prophecies of Jeremiah, but in a sense different from the prophet’s. The prediction of an eternal dynasty ruled by a Son of David (Jeremiah 33:14-17), fulfills the prophecy of Nathan (2 Samuel 7:11-16). This prophecy, together with that of an eternal priesthood and sacrifice (Jeremiah 33:18), was not to be fulfilled by the return of the Jewish nation to the Land of Israel. It will be fulfilled only in Jesus of Nazareth, who combined with his messianic Davidic kingship an eternal priesthood (cf. Hebrews 6:20; 7:24-25).

+++ +++

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 25

R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior,
and for you I wait all the day.

R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and teaches the humble his way.

R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

All the paths of the LORD are kindness and constancy
toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
The friendship of the LORD is with those who fear him,
and his covenant, for their instruction.

R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

+++ +++

Today’s Second Reading is taken from the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians (3:12 –4:2):

Paul prays for the people of Thessalonica, asking the Lord to deepen their love of one another and for everyone. He prays that their hearts be strengthened, so that when the LORD Jesus comes again in glory, with all the saints, they will be judged as blameless in holy when they stand before the Judgment Seat of God.

Paul reminds the Thessalonians that he and his companions, Silas and Timothy, had taught them how they ought to live as followers of Christ, “as in fact you are now living.” Now they ask and urge them to conduct themselves in a manner pleasing to God. To ask is to make a gentle and friendly request; but to urge is more than a request, but less than a command. It is an urgent demand which they make in the name of the LORD Jesus. Paul reminds them about what he and his companions had taught the Thessalonians while they were with them. If they continue to follow the instructions they received, they will live in a manner pleasing to God.

+++ +++

Today’s Gospel is from Luke (21: 25-28, 34-36):

Jesus said to his disciples:

"There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."

+++ +++ +++

The Old Testament prophets often wrote about strange events in the sky: The earth would become dark, because the sun, moon and stars do not give their light (Amos 8:9, Joel 3:15). The sea would become much more stormy than normal. The sky would be shaken.

The prophet Daniel wrote that “one like a Son of Man will come on the clouds of heaven (Daniel 7:13). Jesus said that he would return to the Earth in the same manner. In the Hebrew Scriptures, a cloud is a sign that God is present (cf. Exodus 13:21). When Jesus says that he will come “on a cloud”, he is identifying himself as a divine person.

Jesus has often warned his disciples that they should be ready to greet him when he comes again in glory. In Luke 12:35 he tells the parable of the servants; in Luke 17:22-29, he describes the fate of the people at the time of Noah and of Lot. Now he warns the disciples about dissipation and drunkenness, on the one hand, and concern about the anxieties of life, on the other.

All of the events described in this gospel passage suggest that the return of Jesus as the Divine Judge is imminent. Yet, two millennia have passed, and a third has begun, but “what is coming soon” has not yet arrived. In preparing for today’s meditation, I was reminded of three events that occurred in the first year of after I was ordained: In the fall, I was called one morning to the scene of a boarding house fire, where a man in his 80s had escaped, but went back up to his room on the fourth floor because he had forgotten his eye glasses. One afternoon in the spring, I was called to a home where a boy coming back from school had gone to wake his dad, who worked second shift, but the man was no longer living. One night the following spring, I was called to the Regional Medical Center, where a young parishioner had given birth to a son whose heart was not beating properly. I baptized him that night, and celebrated his entry into eternal glory a few days later.

Nearly 40 years later, I still can’t tell you which of these three incidents touched me most deeply. But all of them echo the same message: Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again. Be watchful for that day, so you will be ready to greet him when he comes.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pray That You Will Be Ready.

Today’s First Reading is taken from the Book of the Prophet Daniel (21:34-36)

Daniel was anxious and afraid. The thoughts that entered his head during this dream frightened him. So, he approached one of those standing with him, and asked what all this meant. The angel explained the dream to Daniel.

The four great beasts are four kings, who will rule with power upon the earth. The first kingdom was the kingdom of Babylon; the second, the kingdom of the Medes and Persians; the third, the kingdom of Greece; the fourth, the kingdom of Rome. All of these kingdoms seemed very powerful, like the beasts in Daniel’s dream. But the one true God will grant the kingdom to his holy people, to possess it forever and ever.

Daniel wanted to know more about the fourth animal. It was different from the others, more terrible and frightening. It broke both things and people into pieces with its claws of bronze, and consumed them. It trampled whatever was left over with its feet. Daniel wanted to know more about the ten horns on the beast’s head. The angel told him that the fourth beast represents a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from the earlier ones. It will devour the entire earth, beat it down and crush it. The ten horns will be ten kings rising out of that kingdom. They will rule, and after them another king will come, different from the earlier kings, three of whom he will defeat. He will speak against God, and oppress God’s holy people. He will command everyone to observe the religious festivals established in the law of the land, and forbid them to serve the one true God.

God will allow this to go on only for “one time, two times, and half a time”, that is, three and one half years. But when the judgment is made, his power will be taken away and it will be finally and absolutely destroyed. Then the kingdom, the power and the glory of every land under heaven will be given to the holy people of the Most High God. And he shall reign forever and ever and ever.


Responsorial Psalm
Daniel 3

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

“You sons of men, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

“O Israel, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

“Priests of the Lord, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

“Servants of the Lord, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

“Spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

“Holy men of humble heart, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.


Today’s Gospel is taken from Luke (21:34-36):

Jesus had already warned his disciples that they should be prepared to greet him when he comes again in glory. He told them the parable of the servants (Luke 12:35); he described the fate of the people who lived at the time of Noah and of Lot (Luke 17:22-29). Now he warns them, “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness, or from the anxieties of every day, or that day (of his coming) will close upon you unexpected, like a trap. That day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times. Pray that you will have the strength to escape the coming tribulations, and be ready to stand before the Son of Man."

+++ +++ +++ +++

Most of us do not like to think about death. Thoughts about death can be very unpleasant. And yet we are forced to confront death often when family members, relatives, and friends die. And all of us know with utter certainty that we are going to die. The problem is that we don't know when our death will occur. Most of us would prefer to think that death will not come for many years. But we have no guarantee of that. The reality is that death can come at any time. It can come suddenly and unexpectedly. It can come slowly after a long illness. It can come to the young and to the old. This past week I have been confronted by the death of a 22 year old woman and an 85 year old man. About the only thing they had in common was that their deaths occurred within days of each other. I found it much more difficult to comprehend the death of the young woman. At her age it seemed like her whole life was in front of her. But death came to her, and now I believe that she has embarked on a much better life. The death of the elderly man was easier to accept. He had lived a long life, and left many good memories for his loved ones. It is never really easy to accept the death of a loved one, But the circumstances of each death are very important in our attempt to cope with the loss.

Today is the last day of the liturgical year. At this time of the liturgical year the Church, through the daily Mass readings from scripture, focuses our attention on the last things and the end of our earthly life. Today's gospel is no exception. In this gospel Jesus gives us some very practical advice. Since we don't know when our death will occur, he tells us to live so that we are always prepared to meet God. He exhorts us to vigilance, so that death will not catch us unprepared. Jesus wants us to live lives that are marked by fidelity to his teaching and to the commandments. He wants us to know that living our lives in this way is the best way to prepare for death and to avoid being surprised by it. The reason why this message is repeated often during these days is that repetition helps us to really hear the advice of Jesus. Hearing the words of Jesus is not the problem. The problem is hearing the words in such a way that we want to immediately follow the advice of Jesus. Many of us are procrastinators. Even when we know what we should do, we often put off doing it. We have many excuses. We are too busy right now. The time is not right. In a few weeks or months I will have more time. I'll do it then. But how often do we find that the time never comes? Something always seems to interfere with our plan. Or we convince ourselves that since death is a long way off, there is no rush. We procrastinate.

Today Jesus is telling us to listen to his advice. He is asking us to really and truly confront the idea of our death. He is asking us to pray for the strength to follow his advice. He wants us to be prepared for our death whenever it comes. If we listen carefully to the words of Jesus and do as he asks, we will be better able to confront the idea of our death. And when our death approaches, we will be prepared to meet it peacefully.

Tom Bannantine, S.J.
Creighton University Online Ministries

Friday, November 27, 2009

Heaven And Earth Will Pass Away, But My Words Will Never Pass Away.

Today’s First Reading is taken from the Book of the Prophet Daniel (7:2-14):

In the first year that Belshazzar ruled in Babylon, Daniel had a vision. Belshazzar was the last king of Babylon. This occurred long before the events we read about on Wednesday and Thursday: Balthazar’s feast and Daniel in the lion’s den.

In his vision, Daniel saw four immense beasts, each different from the others. The first was like a lion with eagle’s wings. While he watched, the wings were plucked and the beast stood upright like a man, and was able to think like a man. The second animal was like a bear, and in its mouth were three tusks, as if it had been gnawing on meat. It was given the order: “Get up and devour much flesh!” The third animal seemed like a leopard, but on its back were four wings like those of a bird, and it had four heads. It flew around like a bird of prey, seeking something to devour. It was given dominion to rule like a king.

Then Daniel saw the fourth beast, different from the others, terrifying and horrible. It was very powerful, and it had great iron teeth with which it crushed and devoured its prey, and what was left was trampled under its feet. This beast had ten hours, which Daniel was staring at, when suddenly another little horn sprang up, and three of the large horns were torn away to make room for it. This horn had eyes like a man, and a mouth that spoke arrogantly.

As Daniel watched, he saw a court in heaven. Thrones were being set up, and one called “The Ancient of Days” took his place upon the throne. In the Aramaic language “The Ancient of Days” is another name for God, who has always been, is now, and ever shall be. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A surging stream was flowing out from where he sat. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.

The court was seated, and the books were opened. "Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.

As these visions continued through the night, I saw before me one like a son of man, coming upon the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.


Responsorial Psalm
Daniel 3

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!

“Mountains and hills, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!

“Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!

“You springs, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!

“Seas and rivers, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!

“You dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!

“All you birds of the air, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!

“All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!


Today’s Gospel is taken from Luke (21:29-33):

Jesus told his disciples this parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

“Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

+++ +++ +++ +++

The Old Testament prophets often wrote of strange events in the sky that would occur before God’s judgement upon the people he had created. The earth will become dark because the sun, moon and stars will not give their light (Amos 8:9; Joel 3:15). The sea will be greatly more stormy than usual. There will be something like seismic activity, not under the ground but in the sky.

The Prophet Daniel, as we have seen, wrote that “one like a Son of Man will come in the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13). Jesus said that he would return to the earth in this way. In the Bible, a cloud was often evidence that God was present (as in Exodus 13:21). When Jesus comes “on a cloud’ this describes how he will return in glory.

In this gospel, Jesus speaks about the signs of the change of seasons as a figure of the signs that will announce his coming in glory to judge the living and the dead. Leaves first appear on trees when summer is near. In the same way, the events Jesus describes in this gospel will announce that Jesus is about to return.

Some of the people with whom Jesus spoke would still be alive when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. When that occurred, some Christians believed that it was a sign that Jesus was coming soon to judge the living and the dead. Paul, in First Thessalonians urged the members of that Church community to prepare themselves for the Second Coming, for it was approaching soon. In Second Thessalonians, he admits that his prediction was not a prophecy. The people who were alive when Jesus walked the earth, those who have lived and died over the centuries (now more than two thousand years) since his Ascension into the heavens, those who will be born and die from this day forward, and those who will be living when He comes again have an equal opportunity to be saved.

What Jesus said will always be true. What will happen to the earth and sky will not change Jesus’ words. You and I do not know when the moment will come that we will be called before the Judgment Seat, to give an account of our stewardship. Once again, I close this reflection with a familiar phase: Child of God, live this day as if were the first, the last, the only day of the rest of your life. One of these days, it will be!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Remember The LORD Your God, Who Brought Your Ancestors To This Land

First Reading:
Deuteronomy 8:7-18

The LORD your God is bringing you into a good land – a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and the hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack for nothing: a land where the rocks are iron, and you can dig copper out of the hills.

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your good for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am given you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble you and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.


Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 113

R. Alleluia!

Praise, you servants of the LORD,
Praise the Name of the LORD.

R. Alleluia!

Blessed be the Name of the LORD,
Both now and forever.

R. Alleluia!

From the rising to the setting of the sun,
Let the name of the LORD be praised.

R. Alleluia!


Luke 17:11-19

As he continued his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going, they were cleansed. One of them, realizing that he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

+++ +++ +++ +++


When the pilgrims landed safely on the shores of the New World (at Provincetown, not Plymouth), they offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God for their arrival in a land where they would have the freedom to live and to worship as they chose to. Today, we celebrate the freedoms we enjoy in this nation, and we offer our prayers in gratitude to God for the many blessings we continue to receive.

The First Reading from Deuteronomy contains images and phrases that truly fit today’s celebration. We reflect on the goodness of God, and give him thanks for the abundant gifts we have received from his bounty through Christ our Lord. Then we recite Psalm 138, an ancient song of praise and thanks to God for his abundant blessings.

Finally, the gospel story from Luke recalls the time when Jesus cured ten lepers of their disease. Yet only one, a despised Samaritan, returned to give thanks to the Lord for his cure. Let us reflect on our own taking for granted the many blessings we have received from God, and have come to expect as entitlements.

As we ponder these readings and as we gather together with family and friends to celebrate God’s goodness to us, let us be reminded by this gospel reading that we must always thank God for his blessings. Our prayer of thanksgiving to God is more effective when we move out of our own comfort zone and treat others with compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience. Even more importantly, we are encouraged to forgive those who have offended us, as we pray that the LORD will forgive our offenses. When all of this is accomplished with love, we can honestly and sincerely give praise and thanks to God on this holiday which becomes for us a holy day.

Paul Mahowald, S.J.
Creighton Online Ministries

Give Thanks For Everything To God The Father In The Name Of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today’s First Reading is taken from the Book of the Prophet Daniel (6:12-28)

When Darius assumed the royal throne of Babylon, Daniel, now an old man, was appointed one of the three closest advisers to the king. The other two tried to find something to accuse him of, but he performed his duties better than they did. They decided to persuade the king to issue a decree that, for the next thirty days, anyone who prays to any god or man other than the king would be cast into a den of lions. This would be a law for Medes and Persians, and for everyone who lives in Darius’ kingdom. So the king signed the law.

When Daniel heard that the king had signed the law, he went home and climbed the stairs to the upper room, where the windows opened facing in the direction of Jerusalem. He knelt and prayed to God, as he did every day. Then some of the king’s men rushed into Daniel’s home, and went upstairs, where they found him praying to his God. They then went to the king, and reminded him of his decree: “Didn’t you order that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to a god or a man other than yourself should be thrown into the lions’ den?”

The king answered: “The decree must stand, in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, since a royal command cannot be repealed.”

Then the officials and rulers said to the king, "Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day." When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.

Then the men went as a group to the king and said to him, "Remember, O king, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed."

So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel to the lions' den and threw him in. The king said to Daniel, "May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!"

A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel's situation could not be changed. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.

At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions' den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?"

Daniel answered, "O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king."

The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. At the king's command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions' den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land:
"May you prosper greatly!
"I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.

"For he is the living God
and he endures forever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed,
his dominion will never end.

He rescues and he saves;
he performs signs and wonders
in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel
from the power of the lions."

Responsorial Psalm
Daniel 3

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

“Dew and rain, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”

“Frost and chill, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”

“Ice and snow, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”

“Nights and days, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”

“Light and darkness, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”

“Lightning and clouds, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”

“Let the earth bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

Luke 21:20-28

Jesus said to his disciples:

“When armies surround Jerusalem, you will know that they will soon destroy it. Then those people who are in Judea must escape to the hills. The people who are in the city of Jerusalem must leave. The people who are out in the country must not return to the city. This will be the time of punishment, when all that has been written in the scriptures will be fulfilled. How terrible it will be in those days for women who are expecting babies, and mothers with little children! Terrible suffering will come upon this land, and God will punish these people. Some will fall by the sword and others will be taken as prisoners to other nations. Jerusalem will be trampled upon by the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled.

“There will be strange signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, entire nations will be in anguish, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the tossing of the waves. People will faint with terror, fearful of what is happening to their world, for the sun, the moon and the stars in the sky will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory. When these things start to happen, stand up, and lift your heads, because the time of your redemption is close at hand.”


About 40 years later, Roman armies camped outside Jerusalem for about 5 months. The people in the city were starving. They were so desperate that they were even prepared to eat human bodies. Jesus had warned his disciples to leave the city. They did. They escaped to Pella, a city on the east side of the river Jordan. In the Hebrew scriptures, the prophets had warned that God would punish his people for their wickedness. The Jews of his own times had not heeded the warning, and they too would perish.

Jesus was especially concerned for pregnant women and nursing mothers. Not only would they suffer, but they would watch their own children starve to death. Thousands would die when the Romans breached the city walls, and thousands more were carried off into exile not only to Rome itself, but to Roman colonies in the Middle East, North Africa and Southern Europe.

The Hebrew prophets often wrote about strange events in the sky. These were considered to be omens of God’s impending judgment. The earth would become dark, because the sun, moon and stars would not give their light (Amos 8:9; Joel 3:15). When these events prophesied by Jesus begin to occur, the same sort of signs will appear. The sea will be much more stormy than usual, and the sky will be shaken. The Greek word used here is seismos, which usually refers to an earthquake. But these phenomena will be happening not only on the earth and the sea, but in the sky.

In the Bible, a cloud was often a sign that God was present (cf. Exodus 13:21, Daniel 7:13). The cloud filtered the brilliant light that surrounded the Godhead. When Jesus says that he will come in a cloud with great power and glory, he is announcing to the disciples – and to us – that he is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God” (the Nicene Creed).

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By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Make Up Your Mind Not To Worry How To Defend Yourselves, For I Will Give You Words.

Today’s First Reading is taken from the Book of the Prophet Daniel (5:1-5, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28)

Nebuchadnezzar has died. Belshazzar is the king. The writer says that Nebuchadnezzar was the father of Belshazzar. On the other hand, some historians suggest that Belshazzar was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. For historians, that is an important distinction; but for the revelation of God’s truth in Scripture, it is less so. God’s truth can be revealed to us both in history and in legend.

Belshazzar gave a great banquet to which he invited a thousand of his nobles and many other guests. This was a strange thing to so, since the armies of the Medes and Persians had surrounded the city (cf. Daniel 5:30) and were planning to attack. The city had thick walls, and there was a river around it; so perhaps the king believed he was safe.

Belshazzar and his guests imbibed large quantities of wine, with the usual consequences. Then the king did something foolish: He gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem (cf. Daniel 1:2). The old king had kept them safe, but the new king wanted to use them for his party: he, his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. And as they drank, they praised their idols of gold and silver, of bronze and iron, of wood and stone.

Suddenly, the fingers of a human hand appeared, and began to write on the plaster of the wall, opposite the lamp stand in the royal banquet hall. The king watched the hand as it wrote; his face turned pale, and he became so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs buckled under him.

So Daniel was brought before the king. The king message to him was this: “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father brought from Judah? I have heard that the spirit of the gods is within you, and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. I have also heard that you are capable of giving interpretations and solving difficult problems. If you can read this writing, and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in royal purple and wear a gold chain around your neck. I will make you the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

Then, Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts, and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless (he said to the messengers), I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means:

You have rebelled against the Lord of Heaven. You had the goblets from His temple brought to you, so that you, your nobles, your wives and your concubines might drink wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze and iron, of wood and stone. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. That is why he sent the hand that wrote the inscription. This is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, TEKEL, PERES.

MENE means number. God has numbered the days of your kingdom and will put it to an end.

TEKEL means weigh. You have been weighed on the scales of God and been found wanting.

PERES means divide. Your rule will soon come to an end, and the kingdom will be divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.


Responsorial Psalm
Daniel 3

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

“Sun and moon, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

“Stars of heaven, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

“Every shower and dew, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

“All you winds, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

“Fire and heat, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

“Cold and chill, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.


Today’s gospel is taken from Luke (21:12-19):

In yesterday’s gospel, Jesus told his disciples that the days were coming when the Temple of Jerusalem would be razed to the ground, and not a stone would be left standing on a stone. They wondered when this was going to happen, and what would be the signs. Jesus warned them that men would come and say, “I am the Messiah! The end time has come!” He concluded his teaching to the disciples with these words: “Remain loyal to me and you will gain eternal life.”

In today’s segment of Jesus’ lesson, he describes the troubles that the followers of Jesus will have in every age, and reassures them that God will assist and protect them:

“They will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons.” The synagogues were not only places of worship; they were also courts of law. “This will lead you to give testimony to them.” Jesus advises them not to be concerned about what they will say, and how they are to defend themselves. “Make up your mind not to worry about how to defend yourselves. I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.”

Then Jesus speaks of the reaction of the families of his disciples: “You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.” In sum, Jesus says, “Everyone will hate you because of me, but not even one hair of your head will be destroyed.” He concludes today’s segment of his discourse to the disciples: “By perseverance, you will secure your lives.”

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These are end-times, liturgically. It is important to learn not just how to endure the endings of various things in our life, but to celebrate the ending! If we don't celebrate the end, the next beginning has no freshness. If the Gospel does not seem constantly new to us, perhaps it is because we have not died enough. Thomas Merton wrote, “Those for whom the Gospel is old, and old only, have killed it for everyone else. The life of the Gospel is its newness. Those who preach the Gospel as if it were not and could not be news, as if it never could be news again, are saying in their own way, and much more terribly than Nietzsche, that ‘God is dead’. They are declaring it officially; they are proclaiming it not just as a paradox of an eccentric, but as the doctrine of their church.”

Even if we have spent our whole life trying to make everything seem old, our own death, when it comes, will be a new experience! We only die once, and no one can do it for us. “Don’t worry in advance about what to answer,” Jesus said. When a world is ending or when your own world is ending, how could you know in advance what to say? Death is unthinkable. What is thought-over is second-hand. Death will be new.

Let’s see what the wise Francis Bacon (1561-1626) had to say about death. “Men fear death, as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other.” Then he quotes a Latin author to the effect that the trappings of death are more frightening than death itself. “Groans, and convulsions, and a discolored face, and friends with weeping, and blacks, and obsequies, and the like, show death terrible.” But death itself is natural. The sweetest canticle, he said, is the Nunc dimittis: the prayer of ancient Simeon when he held the infant Jesus in his arms (Luke 2:29-32) This is the Canticle which is recited (or preferably sung) at liturgical Night Prayer. It is full of peace and confidence; there’s not a black thought in it.

Lord, now yet your servant go in peace;
Your word has been fulfilled;

My own eyes have seen the salvation
Which you have prepared in the sight of every people:

A light to reveal you to the nations,
And the glory of your people, Israel.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Donagh O’Shea, O.P.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Give Glory And Eternal Praise to HIM!

First Reading

Daniel 2:31-45

Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar:

"In your vision, O king, before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind blew them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.

"This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.

"After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.

"In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.

"The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy."


Responsorial Psalm
Daniel 3

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

“Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

“Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

“You heavens, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

“All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

“All you hosts of the Lord, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.


Luke 21:5-11

While some people were commenting about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, "As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down."

"Teacher," they asked, "when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?"

He replied: "Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,’ and, ‘the time is near.' Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away."

Then he said to them: "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and awful sights and mighty signs will come from the skies.”

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There is a consistent theme in the Old Testament and New Testament readings of today’s liturgy. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, saw in a vision an enormous statue, terrifying in appearance, head of gold, torso and arms of silver, midsection and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, crumbled into dust when a stone rolled down the mountain and struck its feet of clay. The Hebrew prophet Daniel, called by the King to interpret his dream, did not mince words with him: The kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar would fall, be replaced by a succession of kingdoms, each less powerful than the last.

How many regimes are represented in Daniel’s prophesy? Babylonia was succeeded by Assyria, Chaldea and Persia, each a less powerful nation than the last. In 141 BC, when the Parthian empire took over the region, the city of Babylon and the surrounding area was in total desolation and obscurity. At the time of Jesus, the area was an outlying and insignificant part of the Sassanid Persian Empire. What about today? A few words will suffice: Babylon is now Iraq, Persia is Iran, and the city of Jerusalem is divided into Jewish and Palestinian sectors.

These same themes are echoed in the Gospel. As people were admiring the beautiful stones and with which the Temple of Jerusalem was adorned, Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down." If the Temple Priests, Teachers of the Law, Pharisees and Sadducees heard him speak, they probably were not worried: Solomon, son of David built the Temple about 900 years BC; it was rebuilt by Cyrus, King of Persia about 500 BC when the Jews were allowed to return from the Babylonian exile. The Roman general Pompey had desecrated the Temple about 60 BC, and it was completely refurbished by Herod the Great about 20 BC. Surely the God of Israel would not destroy His Dwelling Place forever. It was demolished by the Roman General Titus in 70 AD. The Dome of the Rock was built upon the site of the Temple of Jerusalem. The Muslim custom is to build mosques on the site where temples and synagogues had stood. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

This last week of November, as we prepare for and celebrate Thanksgiving, is a good time to reflect on the themes of change and impermanence of earthly things – even magnificent buildings built for the worship of Almighty God – and in our own personal lives. The “costly stones” we put in our places of worship will not be permanent, nor will those we place n our lives. What am I most thankful for today? In my life, how do I give glory and praise to God? Which “costly stones” in my worship, my prayer, my life, do I need to examine and re-evaluate?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Would That You Had Known, City of Peace, What Makes For Peace!

Today’s First Reading is from the First Book of Maccabees (2:15-29):

The officers of the King, who were forcing the people to turn from God, came to the town of Modein to force the people there to offer pagan sacrifices. Many of the Israelites came to meet them, but Mattathias and his sons gathered in a group apart.

The king's officials said to Mattathias: “You are a respected leader in this town, and you have the support of your sons and kinfolks. Why not become the first one here to do what the king has commanded? All the Gentiles, the people of Judea, and all the people left in Jerusalem have already done so. If you do, you and your sons will be honored with the title of Friends of the King, and you will be rewarded with silver and gold and many gifts.

Mattathias answered in a loud voice: “Even if every Gentile in this empire has obeyed the king and yielded to the command to abandon the religion of his ancestors, my sons, my kinfolk and I will continue to keep the covenant that God made with our ancestors. With God's help we will never abandon his Law or disobey his commands. We will not obey the king's decree, and we will not change our way of worship in the least.”

Just as he finished speaking, one of the Jews decided to obey the king's decree and stepped out in front of everyone to offer a pagan sacrifice on the altar that stood there. When Mattathias saw him, he became angry enough to do what had to be done. Shaking with rage, he ran forward and killed the man right there upon the altar. He also killed the royal official who was forcing the people to sacrifice, and then he tore down the altar. In this way Mattathias showed his deep devotion for the Law, just as Phineas had done when he killed Zimri son of Salu.

Then Mattathias went through the town shouting, “Everyone who is faithful to God's covenant and obeys his Law, follow me! With this, he and his sons fled to the mountains, leaving behind all they owned. At that time also many of the Israelites who were seeking live according to righteousness and in obedience to the Law went out to live in the wilderness.

In this reading, we see Mattathias turn down bribes of gold and silver, and reject the offer to become one of the Friends of the King, so that he can fulfill the covenant he has made with the Lord. He holds steadfastly to this covenant, even to the point of resorting to violence before leaving the city to join the Jews who have fled to the wilderness, where they can live in peace, and in obedience to God’s will and to the Law of Moses.

Mattathias’ rampage in verses 23-26 of this reading finds a parallel in John 2:13-17, Jesus chasing the money changers out of the Temple, and the writer’s comment “In this way Mattathias showed his deep devotion to the Law”, is echoed in John’s citation of Psalm 69:9: “Zeal for God’s house will consume me.”

God calls us to keep our own covenant with him, by practicing our faith with zeal. We also are offered gold and silver, whether metaphorical or monetary, to induce us from the path of righteousness. Each of us must trust in God to give us the strength to fulfill our own covenant with Him and with his people.

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Today’s Gospel is taken from Luke (19:41-44):

Jesus is going up to Jerusalem, and his journey is coming to an end. In the previous verses, the people were singing and shouting for joy, strewing palm branches in his path as he approaches the city gates. Suddenly, the mood changes: As Jesus sees the city, he begins weeping over it, saying, “Would that you, the city of peace, had known today what makes for peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. For behold, the days are coming when your enemies will raise a palisade against you. They will encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation."

Across the Kedron valley from the city of Jerusalem there is a chapel I visited nearly forty years ago on a pilgrimage-retreat during Holy Week, early in April, 1964. The little church is called “Dominus flevit”, which means, “The Lord wept”. On the base of the altar there is a mosaic depicting a mother hen with her chicks gathered under her wings for protection, some of them peering out in the way chicks are wont to do. It is the only representation I have ever seen of Jesus lamentation, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34) It is a motherly image, warm and protective.

If you think it is too sentimental an image, look at it this way: We used to call the Church on earth “the Church militant”, a rather belligerent image, suggesting military conflict.  Yet it was meant to convey that our struggle is to resist temptation, avoid sin, and, with the help of God’s grace, to direct our thoughts and actions toward what is true and what is good.

The trouble is that we find it all too easy to be militant against others who disagree with us, but, when it comes to struggling with ourselves, we are chickens.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Well Done, You Good And Faithful Servant!

Today’s First Reading is taken from the Second Book of Maccabees (7:1, 20-31)

In the days of King Antiochus Epiphanes, a Jewish mother and her seven sons were arrested. By the King’s orders, they were beaten with whips and scourges to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law.

The mother was most admirable and worthy of an everlasting place in our memory, for although she saw her seven sons perish in a single day, she endured it with great courage because she trusted in the Lord. She combined womanly emotion with manly courage and spoke words of encouragement to each of her sons in the language of their ancestors.

I do not know how your life began in my womb; I am not the one who gave you life and breath. Nor was it I who set in order the elements of which each of you is composed.

It was God who did it, God who created the universe, the human race, and all that exists. He is merciful and he will give you back life and breath again, because you love his laws more than you love yourself.

Antiochus, suspecting that the mother was making fun of him, did his best to convince her youngest son to abandon the traditions of his ancestors. He promised not only to make the boy rich and famous, but to place him in a position of authority and to give him the title

Friend of the King. But the boy paid no attention to him, so Antiochus tried to persuade the boy's mother to talk him into saving his life, and after much persuasion she agreed to do so. Leaning over her son, she fooled the cruel tyrant by saying in her native language:

My son, have pity on me. Remember that I carried you in my womb for nine months and nursed you for three years. I have taken care of you and looked after all your needs up to the present day. So I urge you, my child, to look at the sky and the earth. Consider everything you see there, and realize that God made it all from nothing, just as he made the human race. Don't be afraid of this butcher. Give up your life willingly and prove yourself worthy of your brothers, so that by God's mercy I may receive you back with them at the resurrection.

She had scarcely finished speaking when the boy said: “What are you waiting for? I refuse to obey the King’s orders. I only obey the commands in the Law which Moses gave to our ancestors. You have thought up all kinds of cruel things to do to our people, but you will not escape the punishment that God has in store for you.”

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 17

R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

Hear, O LORD, a just suit;
attend to my outcry;
hearken to my prayer from lips without deceit.

My steps have been steadfast in your paths,
my feet have not faltered.
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my word.

Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings.
But I in justice shall behold your face;
on waking, I shall be content in your presence.

R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

Today’s gospel is taken from Luke (19:11-28):

While people were listening to Jesus speak, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was now close to Jerusalem, and they thought the reign of God might dawn at any moment.
The parable is based on a true incident. Herod the Great ruled over most of Palestine, and the lands beyond the Jordan, as a client of the Roman Empire. He promised his son Archelaus that he would inherit the kingdom. After Herod’s death, Archelaus went to Rome, and asked the emperor to appoint him King, but the emperor refused. A delegation of fifty Jews went to Rome to oppose him. As a result, the territory ruled by Herod was divided among three of his sons: Archelaus, his son by his fourth wife Malthace, received the lion's share of the kingdom; Judea, and Samaria; Herod Antipas, Archelaus’ full brother, became Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea; Philip, Herod’s son by his fifth wife, Cleopatra of Jerusalem, became Tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis. Jesus applied the story of Herod and his sons to himself.

He said: "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. (A mina was worth about three months’ wages.) 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'

"But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, 'We don't want this man to be our king.' "He was made king, however, and returned home.

Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. "The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.' 'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.'

"The second came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned five more.' His master answered, 'You take charge of five cities.'

"Then another servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.'

"His master replied, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?'

"Then he said to those standing by, 'Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.'

'Sir,' they said, 'he already has ten!'

"He replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me."

After he had said this, Jesus proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.

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In today’s Scriptures, we read two stories about kings and their subjects. In Maccabees, a pagan king takes over the land given to the children of Abraham, and orders the people to give up their obedience to the Mosaic Law, and the worship of the God who gave the Law to Moses. A mother and her seven sons chose to remain faithful to the eternal King, at great cost to themselves, not only the loss of their lives, but the great pain that they endure before dying. In the gospel, a noble man is appointed king in a distant country. Before he leaves, he gives ten of his servants the equivalent of 2 ½ years wages, and tells them to invest them. When he returns, he rewards the servants who made profit: one 100%, the second 50%. But the third, who buried his money in a hole in the ground, lost his original investment, which was given to the first man. Then, he goes back to the country where he was made king, and has his opponents executed.

In commenting on this gospel, Cyril of Alexandria (375-44) wrote, “The distribution (of the coins) was suitable to the measure of each one’s abilities. As to those who were entrusted with them, let us to the best of our ability determine who they are. They are those whose intellectual senses are exercised in the discernment of good and evil. They are those who are acquainted with the sacred teachings, and skilled in instructing them correctly. They know how to direct both themselves and others. In short the wise disciples were above all the others.”

Are you convinced? Does God give his gifts only to those who deserve them, to those who have been judged “above the others”? That doesn’t seem to be God’s way. If only the deserving received such gifts, they would be wages, not rewards.

It seems that God spreads gifts about at random, not according to some scale of merit. But then, everything depends on how we use the gift that we’ve been given. If someone has a gift, it will bear fruit if it is cultivated, and it will lie fallow if it is neglected. (Take, for example, a talented student of music who neglects the need to practice.) The same must be true for intellectual and spiritual gifts: to someone who uses the intelligence he or she possesses, greater knowledge and understanding will be given; to one who prays sincerely, a deeper prayer life becomes possible. One who truly loves God and neighbor will be granted a greater capacity for love, even to martyrdom: “Greater love than this no one has, but to give one life for the beloved.”

In his gospel Luke offers two slightly different versions of the negative form of this axiom: “From those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away (8:18), and the present text, “As for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.” The latter version is the paradox in its full force (as it is in Matthew 13:12, 25:29, and Mark 4:25). It is repeated so often that it can be seen as a basic axiom of Gospel teaching.

What does this mean? How can something be taken away from me if I don’t have it to begin with? I believe the answer is this: Even if I don’t have something, I may have the capacity for it, and the awful truth is I can lose even that. If I lose something, I might recover it. But if I lose the capacity for something, then I will not be able to accept it, even if the whole world were to drop it into my lap.

God is never going to deprive us of our capacity for faith, hope, love and all of the other moral virtues. On the other hand, the axiom, “Use it or lose it” appears to apply.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Son Of Man Has Come To Seek And To Save What Was Lost.

Today’s First Reading is taken from the Second Book of Maccabees (6:18-31):

There was an elderly and highly respected teacher of the Law by the name of Eleazar, whose mouth was being forced open to make him eat pork. But he preferred an honorable death rather than a life of disgrace. So he spit out the meat and went willingly to the place of torture, showing how people should have courage to refuse unclean food, even if it costs them their lives.

Those in charge of the sacrifice had been friends of Eleazar for a long time, and because of this friendship they told him privately to bring meat that was lawful for him to eat. He need only pretend to eat the pork, they said, and in this way he would not be put to death. But Eleazar made a decision worthy of his gray hair and advanced age. All his life he had lived in perfect obedience to God's holy laws, so he replied:

Kill me, here and now. Such deception is not worthy of a man of my years. Many young people would think that I had denied my faith after I was ninety years old. If I pretended to eat this meat, just to live a little while longer, it would bring shame and disgrace on me and lead many young people astray. For the present I might be able to escape what you could do to me, but whether I live or die, I cannot escape Almighty God. If I die bravely now, it will show that I deserved my long life. It will also set a good example of the way young people should be willing and glad to die for our sacred and respected laws.

As soon as he said these things, he went off to be tortured, and the very people who had treated him kindly a few minutes before, now turned against him, because they thought he had spoken like a madman. When he had been beaten almost to the point of death, he groaned and said:

The Lord possesses all holy knowledge. He knows I could have escaped these terrible sufferings and death, yet he also knows that I gladly suffer these things, because I fear him.

So Eleazar died. But his courageous death was remembered as a glorious example, not only by young people, but by the entire nation as well.


Eleazar, the learned and wise scribe, had the courage to refuse to eat pork, a meat forbidden by the Law. He also declined his friends’ suggestion that he merely pretend to eat the meat in order to save his own life. Today, he is venerated as a hero by Jews and Christians alike, a hero who died in the name of virtue. Although Eleazar lived and died more than two thousand years ago, the question remains today: Am I prepared to defend the beliefs, values and virtues of my religion? Am I willing to suffer and die in witness to my faith?

I can easy write “Of course I am!” as the next line of this reflection. But I am sitting at the computer desk, not standing as a prisoner before soldiers who will bring my life to a sudden and painful end if I don’t renounce my faith. Maybe it was easier to believe with certainty and to be willing to give one’s life for the faith in the days of the martyrs. Maybe the graces of faith and courage to endure martyrdom come only to those who are faced with that challenge, not to us who speculate about it.

There are some friends and family members of every generation from my grandparents’ to my own who have seen combat in every conflict this nation has been involved in during the 20th century. All of them had buddies who were tortured; some of them experienced torture themselves. All of them attested that someone who was tortured would never tell the truth, but instead, tell “credible untruths” with two purposes: to deceive the enemy and even more critically, to stay alive. What about myself? I’d like to think that I would tell an untruth to put an end to the torture and preserve my life, in a military situation, but that’s easier to say sitting here at my computer desk than if I was in a prison camp. In a situation like Eleazar’s, would I be able what he did, offer his life rather than denounce his faith? To tell the truth, I cannot answer that question. I can only hope and pray that I, and each of you, would say yes to witness, even if witness meant martyrdom.

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Today’s Gospel is taken from Luke (19:1-10):

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”


The story of Zacchaeus is unique to Luke, as are the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. Luke seems to have an eye for what is lost, and he even sees tax collectors in a good light (3:12; 7:29; 15:1; 18:10). But the situation here is ambiguous, since Luke typically portrays wealthy folk in a bad light. How will Zacchaeus be categorized, since he is both a tax collector and a wealthy man?

In fact, Zacchaeus was a “chief tax collector”, the epitome of revenue agents. They were despised by their own people, since the taxes they were collecting were going to the forces of occupation, the Romans. But there was something about Zacchaeus that remained open to grace. Jesus responded immediately: “Today I must stay at your house … today salvation has come to this house”, Jesus said. The word “today” is an important word in Luke’s vocabulary, as it must have been when Jesus spoke. How, then, does Jesus seem to be satisfied with Zacchaeus’ pledge for tomorrow? "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." In the Greek, these verbs are in the present tense, but many scholars, including the translators of this version, the New Revised Standard Version, see the meaning as future. The present tense would show the tax collector as boastful, which would certainly not impressed Jesus positively. Moreover, it would be hard to understand the crowd’s hostility to the tax collector if he had already mended his ways. It seems clear that Zacchaeus was not talking about what he was already doing, but about what he was going to do.

Why did Jesus accept his pledge? The point is that he was able to see his face, and his heart, which is impossible for us. The full message is not given by the words a person uses, but the person’s entire demeanor. Jesus saw that he was lost, and he also saw that he was open to being found again.

Monday, November 16, 2009

They Preferred To Die Rather Than Break The Holy Covenant.

Today’s First Reading is taken from the First Book of Maccabees (1:10-25, 41-43, 54-57, 62-63):

Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus the Third of Syria, was a descendant of one of Alexander's generals. Antiochus Epiphanes had been a hostage in Rome before he became king of Syria in the year 137.

At that time there appeared in the land of Israel a group of traitorous Jews who had no regard for the Law and who had a bad influence on many of our people. They said: Let us come to terms with the Gentiles, for our refusal to associate with them has brought us nothing but trouble. This proposal appealed to many people, and some of them became so enthusiastic about it that they went to the king and received from him permission to follow Gentile customs. They built in Jerusalem a stadium like those in the Greek cities. They had surgery performed to hide their circumcision, abandoned the holy covenant, started associating with Gentiles, and did all sorts of other evil things.

Antiochus then issued a decree that all nations in his empire should abandon their own customs and become one people. All the Gentiles and even many of the Israelites submitted to this decree. They adopted the official pagan religion, offered sacrifices to idols, and no longer observed the Sabbath.

On the fifteenth day of the month of Kislev in the year 145, King Antiochus set up the Horrible Abomination on the altar of the Temple, and pagan altars were built in the towns throughout Judea. Pagan sacrifices were offered in front of houses and in the streets. Any books of the Law which were found were torn up and burned, and anyone who was caught with a copy of the sacred books or who obeyed the Law was put to death by order of the king.

But many people in Israel firmly resisted the king's decree and refused to eat food that was ritually unclean. They preferred to die rather than break the holy covenant and eat unclean food and many did die. Terrible suffering was inflected upon Israel.


Today’s Gospel is taken from Luke (18:35-43):

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by."

He called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?"

"Lord, I want to see," he replied.

Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you."

Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

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Daily Reflection

Creighton University's Online Ministries

Today is the twentieth anniversary of the assassinations of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her teenage daughter, at the University of Central America (UCA) in El Salvador, an institution of Christian inspiration that had made a preferential option for the poor, the vast majority of the country’s citizens. But the martyrdoms of November 16, 1989, were hardly the first or only instances of persecution of the church and repression of movements for social change by the U.S.-supported armed forces of the Salvadoran government from the late 1970s into the early 1990s. The litany of dead and disappeared, including the saintly and prophetic Archbishop Oscar Romero, as well as four U.S. women missionaries, is heartbreakingly long, numbering in the tens of thousands.

An infamous slogan of the day was “Be a patriot! Kill a priest!” Women, including pregnant women, and children, including infants, were not spared. Unspeakable massacres at the Rio Sumpul and in the village of El Mazote seemed intended to wipe out the next generation of peasants – potential “subversives” – and to terrorize the current generation into submission.

“In those days there appeared in Israel men who were breakers of the law, and they seduced many people,…abandoned the covenant,…and sold themselves to wrongdoing… Whoever was found with a scroll of the covenant…was condemned to death by royal decree.” Apparently persecution of the righteous by the ruling powers is nothing new, as the story of the Maccabees in the second century before Christ makes clear. “But many in Israel were determined and resolved in their hearts…[and] preferred to die rather than…to profane the holy covenant.” And so was born the idea of religious martyrdom.

Faced with such inhumanity and idolatry, one cries out to God, with the Psalmist, “Indignation seizes me because of the wicked who forsake your law.” One begs the Lord, “Redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may keep your precepts.” When wicked men rule, as in the time of the Maccabees, or of Jesus, or of Romero and the UCA Jesuits, observing the commandments to love God and one’s neighbor as oneself becomes subversive and makes the righteous targets for violence.

In such a broken world, when the risen Jesus passes near, for what do you beg? How do you respond to his question to the blind man of Jericho, “What do you want me to do for you?”

I find myself praying for the courage to sustain compassion when so many suffering people around the world and over my back fence cry out for justice and solidarity. I find myself praying for the courage to be faithful to the covenant when it might be risky to speak out. I find myself asking for mercy, since I know from long past experience that my courage will sometimes be found wanting.

I find myself begging for sight, to see the world as it really is, in all its beauty and all its misery, its love and its hate, and to see it through the eyes of Jesus. I pray that I will never grow too tired, or cynical, or comfortable, to experience indignation in the face of yet another atrocity.

From the Maccabees to Jesus, and from Jesus to the Salvadoran martyrs, we have examples before us of those who persevered and paid the price. Dare we pray to have that kind of subversive faith?

Roger Bergman has been the director of the Justice & Peace Studies Program in the College of Arts & Sciences since 1993. He began teaching theological ethics at Creighton University in 1989.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Heaven And Earth Will Pass Away, But My Words Will Not Pass Away.

Today’s First Reading is taken from the Book of the Prophet Daniel (12:1-3)

When the time arrives for this world to come to an end, Michael, the great prince of angels, the guardian of God’s people, will arise. There will be a period of great distress, such as has not occurred from the beginning of time until then. But God has promised that the angels will help his people, and rescue them, so that everyone whose name is inscribed in the book of life will be saved.

At that time, those who have died will come back to life, and a final judgment will occur. Some will be called to eternal life, others to everlasting horror and disgrace. Those who are truly wise will learn that the surest path to enter the kingdom of heaven is to lead others to righteousness. The lesson is beautifully illustrated in the tale of two pilgrims going to Jerusalem. The blind pilgrim carried the lame pilgrim on his shoulders, while the lame pilgrim pointed the way.


Today’s Second Reading is taken from the Letter to the Hebrews (10:11-14, 18)

Day after day, the priests of the Temple in Jerusalem stood to perform their ministry. Over and over again they offered the sacrifices called for in the Law of Moses. But however often the ritual sacrifices were repeated, they could never take away the people’s sins.

But, when Jesus offered himself as the Lamb of God, he accomplished the perfect and complete sacrifice which atoned to the Father for the sins of his brothers and sisters from Adam and Eve to those still alive in the flesh at the moment He comes again in glory. Having completed this sacrifice, he took his seat forever at the right hand of God. (Cf. Psalm 101:1 “The Lord says to my Lord, sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool”.) By this one sacrifice, he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. For when God has forgiven sin, there is no longer a need for sin offerings.


Today’s Gospel is taken from Mark (13:24-32):

Jesus is speaking to his disciples about the “end times” when he will return in glory to judge the living and the dead. He uses the same imagery as the prophets of the Old Testament: "But in those days, following that distress, 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly powers will be shaken.”

He continues with a reference to the prophet Daniel: "At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” At the time, God will send the angels to gather the chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the sky.

Jesus then uses a horticultural image: “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the gates.” Here, there is a subtle reference to the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah in Micah 4:3-4:

They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

Every man will sit under his own vine
and under his own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the LORD of Hosts has spoken.

This gospel concludes with a prophecy that has caused controversy and concern from the early days of the Church until the present: I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Mark 13:30-31)

After the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the disciples believed that Jesus would return in glory very soon. But the time of Jesus’ return remains known only to God. We have been waiting for that day for two thousand years, and it has not yet arrived. Perhaps we would be better served by paying greater attention to the last verses of the prophesy, the conclusion of today’s gospel: “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

The last word is one you have heard before: “Live this day as if it were the first day, the last day, the only day of your life. One of these days, it will be.”

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Will Not God Secure The Rights Of Those Who Call Upon Him?

Reading 1
Wisdom 18:14-16; 19:6-9

When peaceful stillness compassed everything
and the night in its swift course was half spent,
your all-powerful word, from heaven’s royal throne
bounded, a fierce warrior, into the doomed land,
bearing the sharp sword of your inexorable decree.
And as he alighted, he filled every place with death;
he still reached to heaven, while he stood upon the earth.

For all creation, in its several kinds, was being made over anew,
serving its natural laws,
that your children might be preserved unharmed.
The cloud overshadowed their camp;
and out of what had before been water, dry land was seen emerging:

Out of the Red Sea an unimpeded road,
and a grassy plain out of the mighty flood.
Over this crossed the whole nation sheltered by your hand,
after they beheld stupendous wonders.

For they ranged about like horses,
and bounded about like lambs,
praising you, O Lord! their deliverer.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 105
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done!

Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.
Glory in his holy name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!

R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done!

Then he struck every first born throughout their land,
the first fruits of all their manhood.
And he led them forth laden with silver and gold,
with not a weakling among their tribes.

R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done!

For he remembered his holy word
to his servant Abraham.
And he led forth his people with joy;
with shouts of joy, his chosen ones.

R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done!

Luke 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.

He said, “There was a judge in a certain town
who neither feared God nor respected any human being.
And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,
‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’

For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,
‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,
because this widow keeps bothering me
I shall deliver a just decision for her
lest she finally come and strike me.’”

The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call upon 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?”

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Saint Augustine wrote: “[The Lord] taught us … not to use a lot of words when we are praying, as if the more words we used, the more likely we would be heard. He said, “The Father already knows what you need before you ask him.” On the other hand, though he warns us against using too many words, and assures us that the Father knows what we need even before we ask, Jesus still urges us “pray constantly, and never lose heart.”

Augustine understood that the unjust judge in the parable was not an image of God. Jesus is not comparing them, but contrasting them. If an unjust judge will respond positively to repeated requests, how much more will God, who is good? “The Lord wishes us to understand how much God cares for those who pray to him, since God is both just and good.”

Once, probably during a hospital visit, I asked a man how often he prayed. He assured me that he prayed every night before he went to bed. I was impressed, and asked him how he prayed. He said, “Even when I am very tired, I never forget at least to say, ‘Good night, God’”. That brings us back to Augustine’s question: If God is a just and loving God, who knows what we need even before he ask, why would need to go beyond “Good morning” and “Good night”? Why would we need to be persistent in prayer?

If we feel we have to be persistent, it is not because God is reluctant to give us what we need. It is not God, but ourselves, that we have to convince. Sometimes – often, I should say – we hardly know what we want, never mind what we need. By our persistent prayers, we are preparing ourselves to receive what God is going to give – or to do without what God is going to withhold for our own good. We are cooperating in God’s work within us. In the words of the English mystic Julian of Norwich, God says, “I am the ground of your praying. First, it is my will that you should have something, then, I make you wish for it, and finally, I make you pray for it.”

Friday, November 13, 2009

We Are God's Children Now.

First Reading
Wisdom 13:1-9

Anyone who does not know God is simply foolish. Such people look at the good things around them and still fail to see the living God. They have studied the things he made, but they have not recognized the one who made them. Instead, they suppose that the gods who rule the world are fire or wind or storm or the circling stars or rushing water or the heavenly bodies. People were so delighted with the beauty of these things that they thought they must be gods, but they should have realized that these things have a master and that he is much greater than all of them, for he is the creator of beauty, and he created them. Since people are amazed at the power of these things, and how they behave, they ought to learn from them that their maker is far more powerful. When we realize how vast and beautiful the creation is, we are learning about the Creator at the same time.

But maybe we are too harsh with these people. After all, they may have really wanted to find God, but couldn't. Surrounded by God's works, they keep on looking at them, until they are finally convinced that because the things they see are so beautiful, they must be gods. But still, these people really have no excuse. If they had enough intelligence to speculate about the nature of the universe, why did they never find the Lord of all things?


Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 19

R. The heavens proclaim the glory of God.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day pours out the word to day,
and night to night imparts knowledge.

R. The heavens proclaim the glory of God.

Not a word nor a discourse
whose voice is not heard;
Through all the earth their voice resounds,
and to the ends of the world, their message.

R. The heavens proclaim the glory of God.


Luke 17:26-37

Jesus said to his disciples: As it was in the time of Noah so shall it be in the days of the Son of Man. Everybody kept on eating and drinking, and men and women married, up to the very day Noah went into the boat and the flood came and killed them all. It will be as it was in the time of Lot. Everybody kept on eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. On the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and killed them all. That is how it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.

On that day someone who is on the roof of a house must not go down into the house to get any belongings; in the same way anyone who is out in the field must not go back to the house. Remember Lot's wife! Those who try to save their own life will lose it; those who lose their life will save it. On that night, I tell you, there will be two people sleeping in the same bed: one will be taken away; the other will be left behind. Two women will be grinding meal together: one will be taken away; the other will be left behind.

The disciples asked him, Where, Lord? Jesus answered, “Wherever there is a dead body, the vultures will gather.”

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This passage of Luke’s gospel is rather obscure. It’s not easy to know what Jesus is saying, except that no one knows when “the day the Son of Man is revealed” will come. The imagery is drawn from Old Testament prophecy; all of the cosmic convulsions are there, as they are in the prophetical books, and in the books of Wisdom. “That day” seems to be a reference to that day when He will come in glory to judge the living and the dead.

The emphasis here is on the suddenness and the newness of it all. The normal routing of “eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building” will be disrupted. It will even make your most familiar companions look like strangers. When there is a cataclysm of some kind, people remember vividly what they were doing just as it struck. Those normal routines are seen now from a different perspective: from high in the air, as it were, rather than from the familiar ground.

Though we are largely at a loss when it comes to understanding this passage, its urgency is good for us, no doubt. Perhaps we become too complacent, too detached, too ‘knowing’. The impact of the 19th century Danish philosopher Kierkegaard’s writing in his own world was explosive: he castigated his age as “an age without passion, with no values, an age that reduces everything to ideas.” It was said of Karl Barth, the 20th century Protestant theologian, that his impact on his contemporaries was “like a bomb exploding in their back garden.” He stressed the "total otherness of God.” We make God a kind of private ineffectual daydream or a monthly or annual liability like rent or tax. We make God “part of our life”, even though God cannot be part of anything; God can only be whole. We are God's children now; our lives should radiate his life within us.