Daily Reflections by Father Bert

Sept 17
Lectionary: I Timothy 3: 1-13. Psalm 101: 1-2, 2-3, 5-6. Luke 7: 11-17:

Paul is writing to a Christian Church that has such great growth that he realizes there is a need for delegation of authority to help organize the growing number of converts from among the Gentiles. We hear of episcopoi or bishops and deacons in this passage. In I Timothy, we learn of how Paul gives them their “job descriptions.” They may be married just once and they should make sure their household is a model for the other families who now have entered the faith. Some scholars put this later than Paul, but it is certainly one who is writing who knows Paul very well and either Paul writes it or a secretary or faithful follower of Paul writes it in Paul’s name. I and II Tomothy belong to what are called the Pastoral Epistles; other epistles are called the Catholic Epistles because of their universal outreach and destination to all the churches. Bishop comes from the word in N.T. Greek “episcopos” and deacon from the word “diakonos.” The job descriptions are similar and are meant to help the chosen or delegated leaders to live up to their calling as disciples of Christ and servants of the servants of God. These offices are not meant for so called “climbers” who seek such positions even today. Great care is needed in the selection of such a role in the Church then and today. Notice that celibacy was not one of the requirements during the time of the early church and only came later.

Psalm 101 is a good support to what Paul is advocating in the call of bishops and deacons. It is a Psalm about righteousness (holiness) and integrity. It would be a good prayer to use in Paul’s job description of the overseers and the deacons. The Psalm Response and its surrounding verses develop a good prayer for bishops and deacons: “I will walk with a blameless heart: (v.2). At the end of the Psalm verses for this day we hear this, “He who walks in the way of integrity shall be in my service.” (v.8).

The restoring of an only son to life to the widow of Nain is unique to St. Luke. Jesus, the compassionate one, sees the burial procession and the sorrow of the mother now become a widow with the death of her only son. All was downhill in her future. Jesus, the Light of the World, has loving-compassion on her and touches the bier and raises the son back to life. This is not a resurrection but a resuscitation of the only son. It is a perfect symbol, however, for the resurrection for it is Jesus alone who has power over death and he extends life to those who are open to his words and deeds through faith as the woman probably was. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Amen.

Sept 16
Lectionary: I Timothy 2: 1-8. Psalm 28: 2.7. 8-9. Luke 7: 1-10:

Paul urges the Christians under Timothy’s leadership to pray for all those who have authority and leadership positions. He says to pray for kings and those in authority. In our chapel we usually do this in the prayers called the intercession prayers for the day; we also mention as many other intentions as are voiced by our community of twelve persons. We are answering Paul’s plea in his inspired letter to Timothy. Paul says this is necessary if we want peace in the world. The various forms of such prayer are given by Paul in the first lines today in our selection from him: petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings are to be offered for all humankind.

Our Psalm helps us carry out Paul’s call for various forms of prayer. The Levites and priests pray while lifting their hands while opening them in the form of a “v” on each hand with the forefinger and the two smaller fingers after the forefinger. Unfortunately, though I pray the psalms, my hands cannot open in that fashion. The Levites and the priests during the time of Jesus prayed in that manner. A good Psalm for helping us to see this sacred gesture is Psalm 134. It is an excellent evening prayer and is used in Night Prayer on Saturdays. Our Response Psalm for today also hints at this. It has the following verse as our response: “Blest be the Lord for he has heard my prayer.”

Luke leads us through a smooth transition of Jesus that leads him to Capernaum where the scene of his encounter with a Roman centurion who is either pensioned or works with the customs office. This man has a beloved servant who is near death. He humbly sends Jewish older men to request that the Lord Jesus heal his servant. Jesus heads to the centurion’s home but the the centurion sends his friends to tell Jesus he is not worthy to receive him in his home but only say the word and his servant will be healed. Jesus has learned that the centurion loves the people of Capernaum so much that he has built a synagogue for them. Jesus is so astounded by the faith and humility of this centurion that he says, “I tell you I have never found so much faith among the Israelites.” When those who were sent by the Roman centurion return to his home they found that his servant was completely healthy again.

This composition of Luke struck me in that I enjoyed reading it and appreciating how great a writer Luke is both as inspired writer and especially as an Evangelist. His writing is a work of art and tells me that is why he is called an artist as well as an historian, a theologian and a very kind and compassionate person who paints word pictures of Jesus as compassionate, humble, and meek.Jesus as a prophet both heals and reveals. Amen.

***The most recent fact I learned about Luke is that he may have been a brother of Titus( II Cor.8:16; 12:18).

Sept 15
Lectionary for 24th Sunday (C): Exodus 32: 7-11, 13-14. Psalm 51: 3-4, 12-13, 17. 19. I Timothy 1: 12-17. Luke 15: 1-32:

We all need to turn away from our sins and turn back to God who waits to receive us. God is all merciful, kind, forgiving, and full of love for each of us. This is what I learned from the Scriptures for this Sunday. I found help by pausing and meditating on each of the four readings to learn more about God’s loving-kindness and forgiveness. Though we are lost from time to time, God always finds us. I called this meditation a “Lost and Found” reflection on God’s words.

The three parables are, of course, the most important readings among the four. They all lead us to apply the lost and found thread that helps us return to God like a lost sheep, or a found silver piece, or as a prodigal or a self-righteous person. The first three readings help us to apply the parables to ourselves. This is what happened to me as I reflected upon them and found the threads of thought about finding ourselves again in the arms of God. These readings helped me to respond to God’s call to come back for God is always full of kindness (Hesed), mercy, (Rahamim), and unending love (Agape). God always waits patiently to forgive us when we acknowledge our sins.

Moses is the mediator for the people of Israel in both their obedient times and their rebellious times. He pleads for them before God. Sometimes he gives up on the people but not God who is always merciful, kind, forgiving, and extravagant in loving us. We learn that Moses wanted nothing to do with them after their sins of idolatry, but we are told by the inspired writer, “The Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.” Moses did not.

The best Psalm for preparing for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and private confession is Psalm 51. Each time I read it, I am moved to be sorrow for my personal sins and am ready to have them absolved in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I also think it is a “perfect act of contrition” coming from the mouth of David or whoever wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Psalm 51 is the gem among the seven penitential psalms.

Paul shares with Timothy, his friend and companion in faith, his own need for forgiveness for what had happened in the past saying “I am the worst of sinners.” His humility prepares his willingness to share just how great God’s forgiveness is through the sufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus. God is merciful to him through his complete conversion to the person of Jesus and his Gospel.

The parables lead us to ponder over this ever enduring forgiveness of God. God rejoices when the lost sheep is found; God is thankful when the silver coin is discovered; and God loves us as belonging to God’s Family whether we are at times like the wayward prodigal and at other times arrogant , proud and self-righteous. May we never lose hope in God no matter what happens to us on our journey towards the kingdom. Amen.

Sept 14
These two Masses in honor of Our Lord and his Blessed Mother fit together in the liturgy. I found among my files a powerful meditation from St. Teresia Benedicta at the Cross ( Edith Stein) that I want to share it with you for the meditation of Sept. 14 and 15.Since Sundays are ranked higher in the liturgy Mary’s Sorrowful Mysteries are not read. That is the reason I have merged the two celebrations into one through St. Teresia Benedicta’s meditation on Mary and the Cross of Jesus. Sister Teresia Benedicta at the Cross was martyred at Auschwitz. She had converted from Judaism to Christianity and became a Carmelite nun. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 12, 1998. Her feast day is August 9th. She lived from 1891-1942. Her

“Today I stood with you beneath the Cross, and felt more clearly that I ever did that you became our Mother only there. Even an earthly mother faithfully seeks to fulfill the last will of her son. But you became the handmaid of the Lord.

The life and being of the God-made Man was perfectly inscribed in your own life. So you could take your own into your heart, and with the lifeblood of your bitter pains you purchased life anew for every soul.

You know us all , our wounds, our imperfections; but you know the celestial radiance which your Son’s love would send on us in Heaven. Thus carefully you guide our faltering footsteps, no price too high for you to lead us to our goal.

But those whom you have chosen for companions to stand with you round the eternal throne, they here must stand with you beneath the Cross, and with the lifeblood of their bitter pains must purchase heavenly glory for those souls whom God’s own Son entrusted to their care.

Sept 13
Lectionary: I Timothy 1: 1-2, 12-14. Psalm 16: 1-2, 5.7. 8.11. Luke 6: 39-42:

Paul lets us know of his love for Timothy in his opening words of the first letter to Timothy. They will be of support to one another for the rest of Paul’s days and also for Timothy who is his “child in the faith.” Timothy will remain faithful to his friend, Paul, and they will be great friends through all of the good times and more difficult ones. Paul in the opening parts of his letter—the address and the thanksgiving—blesses Timothy and puts him in the hands of God and our Savior Jesus Christ. He prays for blessings upon Timothy of hope, peace, mercy, and grace.

Psalm 16 is among the most beautiful prayers of thanksgiving and praise in the whole Psalter. The Psalmist is content with his lot in life and with his heritage. The final verse of this Psalm has been put into a liturgical song: “You will show me the path to life; fullness of joy in your presence…you are my inheritance, O Lord.”

In the Gospel of Luke we learn of how Jesus teaches others through wisdom sayings, parables, similes, and down to earth stories. Luke calls the three short paragraphs of Jesus’ sayings as images (literary figures of speech) that are meant for his disciples who are on the way with him up to Jerusalem. These sayings are among many that are given to us in the long journey narrative from Luke 9:51- 19: 27. The journey is filled with the teachings of Jesus so that the disciples may learn how to become apostles who bring his Good News to others.

We may wish to read each of these three collections of Jesus’ words and apply them to ourselves as among those who follow Jesus and listen to his “images of speech” as spiritual nourishment for the long journey up to Jerusalem. His words will not pass away. They have instructed disciples from every age and place for almost two thousand years. Amen.

Sept 11
Lectionary: Colossians 3: 1-11. Psalm 145: 2-3, 10-11, 12-13. Luke 6:20-26:

In the first reading and the in the Gospel we recognize the technique of both inspired writers to make use of comparison and contrast or similarity and difference to express union with Christ through faith and Baptism and a return to the vices before being converted and in the Gospel the meaning of the beatitudes contrasted with woes in Luke’s “sermon on the plain.”

In the first part of our reading from Colossians for today we find the positive results of the Colossians having been baptized as Christians contrasted with the negative living expressed in the middle part of the pericope. The Colossians now have their hearts fixed on Christ in all they do and say. The negative statements show some of the common sins that were theirs before their conversion through Baptism and belief in Jesus. Paul summarizes this small portion of his Epistle by saying, “Christ is everything in all of you.” It is the universal call to holiness.

We see the same literary technique used in the comparison of the four beatitudes that Luke has in today’s Gospel,he has Jesus proclaiming on the plain and contrasting them with the woes. Matthew as we have seen has nine beatitudes has Jesus proclaiming them on the mountain. The woes follow with their contrasts. The beatitudes are presented to the disciples for their blessings, their happiness, and their growth. The woes following one by one in their sequence as the opposite of the beatitudes have a negative effect on those who practice what they contain. They are contrasted with the positive effects of the beatitudes: embracing a life that has its goal as the kingdom of God; being integrated and fulfilled in body and soul and being nourished as food and drink; being consoled by God during the grieving for lost ones through death; and rejoicing and exulting for what they embraced in praising the holy name of God and listening to Jesus. They are rewarded by God for their suffering for the sake of honoring God and his son Jesus.

The negative woes express how those who do not accept the call to practice the beatitudes will suffer the curses that the woes bring about. In a brief summary statement, the beatitudes are blessings; the woes are curses. Luke Timothy Johnson, comments: “The Beatitudes and woes continue the Lukan literary pattern of reversal. God is at work in this prophetic visitation, transforming values, challenging perceptions: the mighty are being cast down, the lowly are being lifted up.” This reminded me of Mary as the perfect disciple who was always a woman of the Beatitudes. Amen.

Sept 10
Lectionary: Colossians 2: 6-15. Psalm 145: 1-2, 8-9, 10-11. Luke 6: 12-19:

Luke gives us a summary- like insight in the selection for today’s Gospel which helps us see Jesus’ holiness through prayer, his need for the Spirit to help him make an important decision about who shall be his followers as “Apostles”, and his power and authority over evil, sin, and the Evil One, the Devil. In the center of the passage is a marvelous listing of the Twelve Apostles that follows upon his long night of prayer on the mountain. The mountain is a symbol for going apart from the noise of the city or village and being alone and closer to God where intimate prayer with God is possible. All three sections of our short pericope are important to get the full picture of Jesus’ role in this text of Luke.

First, Jesus goes up the mountain to pray. St. Luke will develop the theme of prayer and often of Jesus’ prayer helps the reader to also pray in Jesus’ name. More than the other Evangelists, Luke has the most events that happen around prayer and that are expressed in three different words in Greek to tell us about prayer. Prayer leads us into the reason why Jesus was praying and that is the decision about whom to select and why there should be twelve of them.

Twelve, of course, is an important biblical number for it represents the twelve tribes of Israel and is extended to other symbolic meanings in the Bible especially in certain books such as the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation). The twelve chosen will be sent to the Twelve tribes and then to the whole world. Luke is universal in his application of prayer to include everyone in the plan of God’s role in each one’s life.

Luke’s clear and orderly style lists the names of the Twelve Apostles and gathers them under the two pairs of blood brothers and designates other listed apostles to help us know who they are, for example, there is a second James who is designated as the son of Alphaeus, then Simon the Zealot and Judas from Iscariot. These will be the ambassadors for bringing the Good News first to their own people and then to the nations or everyone else in the known world of that time. An apostle is one who is sent as an ambassador of the Lord for the special mission of proclaiming the Gospel and making the listeners aware of God’s plan through the sufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God’s Son.

As Jesus descends the mountain and comes down to the level ground (the plain) we learn of his healing powers over evil, sin, sickness, and possession. The apostles will share in this power of Jesus and also preach, teach, and heal as he does. They are the ones who will carry on the work of Jesus by becoming creative agents of the work of salvation for all humankind. Amen.