Daily Reflections by Father Bert

Nov 14
Lectionary: Wisdom 7:22-8:1. Psalm 119: 175. Luke 17: 20-25:

Today we are blessed with three Scriptural passages in the Liturgy of the Word that are revelatory. They help us to understand the deeper realities of our faith. Though different in their content and literary style and form we are opened to new paths in our way of life with God and with Jesus.

In the first reading which is from the Book of Wisdom we have a beautiful litany of attributes of Wisdom. The inspired author lists twenty-one of the attributes found in the nature of Wisdom. This is said to be a perfect number since it is composed of three times seven thus elevating Wisdom to the highest perfection. Seven is a sacred number for the Israelites. During this season of remembering we are helped in thinking about “Communion of Saints” through the verse that reads: “ Wisdom endures from generation to generation and passes with holy souls from age to age producing friends of God and prophets. She reaches from end to end mightily and governs all things well.”

Psalm 119 is considered a wisdom psalm in the form and style of an acrostic, that is, using the alphabet for each new stanza. The Hebew alphabet has twenty-two letters in the alphabet. This psalm praises all aspects found in the Torah that deal with the words of God which provokes us to obey these words in the spirit of Deuteronomy and the Psalm itself. Seven key words are spread throughout the alphabet: precepts, engraved laws, Torah, testimonies, good deeds (mitzvoth),principles and rules, words as reality, and God’s promises.

Jesus answers the Pharisees about the question of when the kingdom will come. He tells them it is already here in him who represents the visible presence of God here on earth through his humanity and divinity. By living in the presence of God and the remembering of Jesus being among us in history we are prepared for the Second Coming and the judgment of the Lord. Here, however, while Jesus is with us on earth, he must go through his mystery of sufferings, death, and Resurrection. On our part to understand these mysteries and the revelatory words of Jesus we need to give a faith-filled response to the presence of God among us and in our hearts already at work within our faith, hope, and love. Amen.

Nov 13
Lectionary: Wisdom 6: 2-11. Psalm 82: 3-4, 6-7, Luke 17: 11-19:

Wisdom is the crown of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit based on Isaiah’s description of the messiah of Israel. The words used for Wisdom both in Hebrew and Greek are feminine. In the Septuagint it is called Sophia; in the Hebrew Hochma. We often practice wisdom if we are parents, teachers, or ministers of God. This is normal practical wisdom. The Wisdom that comes from above is the gift that enables us to see the overall plan of God in salvation history through the Scriptures and the lives of wisdom persons from both the Hebrew Scriptures and our Christian Scriptures (New Testament). We can simply say we see the bigger picture in the light of God’s revelation to us and to our careful listening to what God tells us in so many ways.

Today’s passage from Wisdom speaks to those who have power and authority in civil and religious matters for that time. The instruction Lady Wisdom give is valid for leaders today, but they may not take it to heart and practice it. Wisdom prompts leaders to be reasonable, honest in speech, humble, and integrated in one’s views and judgments based on God’s law and providence. God shows them how the poor and humble, the widows and children must be cared for by these leaders whose gifts should lead them to do such things. If not they are foolish in not listening to what they know from ordinary wisdom and from their years of learning. Only with them can society make progress from those who have God-given wisdom.

Again we turn to another theme during this month of November that of Thanksgiving. It is a marginal person who is healed of his leprosy who comes back to thank Jesus. We are told he was a Samaritan. Jesus tells him, “Stand up and go on your way; your faith has been your salvation.” Amen.

Nov 12
Lectionary: Wisdom 2: 23-3: 1-9. Psalm 34: 2-3, 16-17, 18-19. Luke 17: 7-10:

“The faithful shall abide with God in love.” The book of Wisdom is frequently used during the Masses for Christian Burial or at funerals. I have heard it also at the interment of Jewish friend at a cemetery nearby. Chapter two is one of the most frequently used for this occasion of transition from earthly existence to the realm of God in eternal life. Wisdom given assures us of a divinely inspired message that there is an afterlife and joy with God in the kingdom of God.

Psalm 34 encourages us to pray: “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth.” (Psalm 34: 2). This psalm is excellent for this season of Thanksgiving and remembering. We are being instructed in how to grow in holiness and wisdom while being thankful to God for being created in the image and likeness of God. I found verse 9 fitting in well with the Eucharist which means Thanksgiving: “Taste and see how good the Lord is.” Even our sense of taste becomes important in this month as we look forward to a family and national celebration of Thanksgiving Day.

Luke has Jesus frequently reminding us of the poor whom as Jesus says “we always have with us.” His Gospel has concern for the poor as one its main themes and is often called the “social Gospel” because of this theme. Jesus wants us to be humble and open like a child that we can then reach out more easily to the poor in our midst as a trusting child. Some of us are too shy in doing this and avoid even eye-contact when we see a poor person coming toward us. We learn much from Jesus who is above all the servant of God and the servant to his own disciples as he shows us this in the Last Supper while washing their feet to celebrate the Passover Meal with him and the “Institution of the Eucharist.” He shows us how to prepare ourselves for sharing in this great meal by first washing the feet of one another. Then we enter the banquet of love, thanksgiving and joy for the Lord offers himself as our nourishment to continue what he has taught us to do. May we therefore bless the Lord at all times and in all places. Amen.

Nov 11
Lectionary: Wisdom 1: 1-7. Psalm 139: 1-3, 4-6. 7-8. 9-10. Luke 17: 1-6:

A strong contrast is given to us in the readings from Wisdom and Psalm 139 with the Gospel. The only unifying theme I found in all three readings is that the human heart is where wisdom and holiness reside (Sophia and Tsdedekah In Greek and Hebrew respectively). The Gospel takes us to the sad state of scandals especially among the followers of Jesus. This, of course, is very relevant to the very troublesome, sad, and sinful abuse seen in our Church members and put in the “spotlight”. The Gospel seems to point to our sinful Church members who have betrayed the trust of many families, friends, and relatives. The numbers still grow as we reflect on how this must stop.

Jesus proclaims some of his strongest words in the Gospel today on this situation of sinning against youth whose angels look upon God in the heavens. We know how deeply our Church has been wounded and the horrible things that have been done by those who were supposed to be mentors, healers, and models for Christian living out the values of the Gospel. Jesus asserts that it would have been better off to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around one’s neck than to give such scandals.

In contrast, Psalm 139 is the most profound reflection found in the Bible on the creation of a human being from conception to maturity. In this psalm we ponder over the marvels God has done in creating us in the image and likeness of the Lord our Creator and Redeemer. Our psalm reaches into the depths of the human heart.

We are fortunate to read from the Book of Wisdom, a deuteron-canonical book, in which its very first verses tells us to seek the Lord God with all our heart and soul integrated by the love of God. “Wisdom is a kindly spirit.”

The readings for this month of November are well chosen for the remembering and thanking of God’s marvelous presence in our world and ourselves. We are led to open our hearts in thanksgiving each day. We eagerly await the national celebration of Thanksgiving Day when most of us will take time to thank God for all the benefits we have received from the bounty and goodness of God. Amen.

Nov 10
Lectionary for the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (C): II Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14. Psalm 17: 1.5-6. 8.15. II Thessalonians 2: 16- 3:5. Luke 20: 27-38:

Our readings for this Sunday help us to trust in God’s promises that we will enjoy eternal life. This spurs us on to be faithful and to deepen our convictions about living the life of Christ as much and as deeply as we can. It is a life worth living and has great rewards. Now, in today’s firs reading we have a startling narrative about a mother and her seven sons who were martyred rather than give up their faith in the Lord God of Israel. She herself went through the agony of death seven times then was also martyred for her strong belief in the God of her ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Psalm 17 speaks of the eternal glory of God which lasts forever. It is this that we seek to participate in as believers in God and Jesus. We sing the Psalm: “ Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.” These words are attributed to David who hopes against hope and is delivered from his enemies who are searching for him. David realizes he desires to see God always and forever; only then will his soul be at rest.

Paul gives me comfort in the faith that I share with you. He has elsewhere told us to put on Christ, to be imitators of him with Christ, and to actually be Christ for others (“For me to live is Christ”). Paul asks for his communities to pray for him: “In the Lord we are all confident that you are doing and continue to do whatever we enjoin. May the Lord rule your hearts in the love of God and the constancy of Christ.”

Luke, in the controversies that Jesus experiences with the religious leaders we learn how to think and act as he does. He understands when the Sadducees try to trap him. Jesus thinks on a different level and teaches us to think on another level—that of the realm of God and the holy ancestors and saints of old. Often the opposition confronts him with secular thinking and he, in turn, shows them another way of looking at the situations which with they confront him. He knows the Sadducees do not believe as the Pharisees do when they ask him about the widow who survived seven husbands through the levirate laws. There is not marrying in the realm of heaven; there are angels, there is the fullness of God’s revelation in the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings (of which the Psalms are a part). Neither do they believe, that is, the Sadducees, in the Resurrection. They think only how to trick or refute; to interpret incorrectly the precepts and laws of God and miss the beauty of true belief in God which leads to everlasting life.

This is the only appearance of a controversy with the Sadducees but it taken up by Matthew and is found in the Acts of the Apostles. “The point is the radical discontinuity between the good news of the kingdom proclaimed by Jesus the Prophet, and the messianic expectations and religious concerns of the Jewish leaders. The discourse is all the sharper, of course, because it is seen from the other side of the resurrection experience and years of reflection within the Christian community on the meaning of Jesus as Messiah.” ( Luke Timothy Johnson, Sacra Pagina , Luke, pages 317-318). Amen.

Nov 9
Lectionary: For Feast of St. John Lateran basilica in Rome: Ezekiel 47: 1-2,8-9, 12. Psalm 46: 2-3, 5-6, 8-9. I Corinthians 3: 9c-11, 16-12. John 2: 13-22:

Sacred space and sacred places are important to most religious minded people. This is one of the reasons we celebrate the existence of some of the most important places whether they are mosques, churches, or synagogues. In the Hebrew Scriptures the Temple is central to the worship of the Israelites and its most sacred place often identified with Zion or Mount Zion, Jerusalem.

The very first western church of great importance was founded on a palace that belonged to Constantine, first head of the first Holy Roman Empire leader who donated it to the Christian faithful; then it was rebuilt into St. John Lateran basilica, the first among the three other basilicas of Saint Peter, St. Paul outside the walls, and Saint Mary Major dedicated to the Mother of God. St. John Lateran is dedicated to Jesus as Savior and John the Baptist. The name Lateran comes from the family who first owned the land on which this church was eventually built. I had the privilege of living five months near St. John Lateran which was just about five minutes away from my lodging at Collegio Santa Maria of the Marianists. I visited it often, bought tickets for the bus system and the subway nearby and acted as a tour-guide for people who visited Rome for the first time, etc. It was and is a sacred place for me with fond memories.

St. John Lateran is easily recognized by the twelve large statues on top of its roof. It is said to be “the mother and head of all the Churches of Rome and the world.” It came into existence in the early part of the fourth century probably 313 A.D.

St. John’s Gospel is chosen for today’ feast because it refers to Jesus speaking about the Temple in Jerusalem and the temple of his own body. His language is veiled and only after the resurrection do his apostles understand that he calls his body the Temple. Only by understanding the passage in the light of the resurrection do we interpret it correctly, but it is the author who helps us through this interpretation with his own parenthetical remarks capturing the scene at the end of chapter two of the Fourth Gospel.

The passage from Ezekiel’ prophesy is about the waters flowing through and from the Temple in Jerusalem from the south to the east and bringing rich fertile land and trees with fruit throughout the year appearing along the banks of the Dead Sea. Its refreshing waters even effect some parts of the Dead Sea while leaving some salt areas to season food! Ezekiel has a divinely inspired imagination, doesn’t he?

Our Psalm 46 has two verses that help us recall Ezekiel since they refer to the waters near the Temple. It is the imagery of these verses that helped me associate them with that of Ezekiel’s vision like prophecy. Here are those verses: “There is a river, the streams whereof make the city of God, the holiest dwelling place of the Most High. God in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her at the approach of morning.” Amen.

Nov 8
Lectionary: Romans 15:14-21. Psalm 98: 1.2-3.3-4. Luke 16: 1-8:

Paul is convinced and totally dedicated to his role as the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” His calling started at his conversion when the resurrected Crist appeared to him and asked him why he was persecuting the members of the early Church who followed Jesus and believed in him both as Messiah and Lord. His conversion was successful because he believed and followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He prayed, consulted, and learned from other people who followed Jesus some of whom were apostles. The rapid growth of early Christianity is due to Paul’s energetic missions to lands that never heard of Jesus of Nazareth. His letter to the Romans keeps in mind his fellow Jews who converted and are now in Rome, but most of the content focuses on the needs of the Gentiles. He did not try to infringe on those territories where other apostles labored before him not wanting to disturb their foundational success. “I did not want to build on a foundation laid by another.” In all that Paul does is done in the name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our Response for today: “The Lord has revealed his saving power to the nations.” That verse describes Paul’s missionary activities as an Apostle called in a unique way and differing from the others who lived, walked and talked with Christ. Paul speaks and writes from his knowledge of the Resurrected Christ. We join in the Psalm which invites us “To sing joyfully to the Lord all you lands; break into song; sing praise!”

The parable of the shrewd servant who escapes the condemnation of his master by carefully and cleverly gathering those who owe him money for his master.He shaves their account even in half their bills with the master. He does it in such a way that he avoids cheating the Master by taking it out of his own surplus taxes that he has control of. The owner of the land actually praises his servant for making the master look so generous and rewards himself by not begging, digging, or stealing. Jesus also praises those who are so clever in the world and who seem to know how to benefit from their cleverness. They are much more attentive toward reading the secular customs and actions than are the children of the kingdom. I personally found the following citation from a rabbi who wrote this in a Talmud scroll : “Let your fellow’s money be as precious to you as your own.” (Rabbi Yose). The shrewd steward made sure his master would look good in the eyes of those who dealt with his clever steward who had dealing with customers either in the shaving of their taxes or prices on the produce. If only we should be so diligent and clever in helping others to see the gracious and loving God of all peoples. Amen.