Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

There is a temptation to understand our Christian life like a system.  The fact that we would spontaneously associate holiness with hierarchy is a sign of that.  If I do all the things I’m supposed to do – or at least the basic ones – I’ll be ok.  We spontaneously suppose that those who have engaged their lives in the church system become holy or holier by that fact.  Those of us who have never sinned, I suppose, have the right to be scandalized by the crimes church leaders commit.  Those of us who have sinned, and are willing to recall that fact when we learn about crimes committed by others, have a right to be sad, hurt, confused, upset, etc.  The method or system is not working, it has produced bad fruit, it needs to be reformed, etc. read more

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sketch by Brie Schulze

The mission of the disciples is spoken of by Jesus in terms that, while they could certainly be taken literally, require a symbolic interpretation.  The disciples are to go simply on their mission, not taking anything luxurious or extravagant, not bearing in their hearts any preoccupation for the mundane or worldly.  They shouldn’t “wear two coats at the same time,” which St. Augustine understands to mean leading a double life.  The temptation to put on airs, to cover ourselves on the outside with the right words and actions – while inside we are wearing a different coat – is a temptation to lack trust.  Looking like a saint is not the same as being a saint.  There are the saints who will be canonized as examples for the faithful of what God’s grace can do in the hearts and lives of those who cling to Him in faith, hope, and love.  There are also the saints whose lives look like a mess, will never be canonized, but trusted fully in God’s power working through their weakness and will live with Him forever in Heaven.  Refusing duplicity means that my life will become Good News because of the Grace of God – because it will never become so because of me.  Humbly accepting weakness and seeking to respond to God’s mercy – because it is Love – will transform us in ways we could never accomplish on our own.  May we long for the simplicity that allows us to become saints the way God wants, and not according to our own ideals or aspirations.  May the Word of God become our companion and guide on the paths we must tread with Him alone. read more

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

It seems like the closer God comes to us, the harder it is for us to receive Him with faith. God as an abstract idea which may or may not exist is something most people are willing to consider. God the distant Creator who set order, beauty, and perfection in the natural world is still fairly safe and edifying. The God who reveals by His words the same standards of justice and righteousness that we agree with is comforting. The God who openly rebukes and condemns wrongdoing by the mouth of His prophets arrives at an uncomfortable level of proximity however – especially when we ourselves are guilty. So long as a prophet is personally removed from the people to whom he addresses God’s Word, a comfortable level of anonymity can still be maintained. But when the prophet is God Himself, and the people He is sent to – preaching and teaching – were His equals and superiors throughout His childhood that is mind blowing. Any degree of separation between religion and human life is destroyed. Immediate religion is offensive – especially when we lack faith. It is offensive because the holiness of the invisible God seems to require some degree of separation between what we are and what God is. Immediate religion is even more offensive when we lack faith because it forces our conscience out of hiding and sets before it a Word or judgement whose authority we would like to reject but cannot do so comfortably. read more