Daily Reflections by Father Bert
Lectionary for the Memorial Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary: Act of the Apostles 1: 12-24. Magnificat of Mary: Luke 1: 48-55. Luke 1: 26-38:
Today we celebrate a feast that honors the mysteries of Jesus and Mary in the recitation or meditative reflection on these twenty scenes from the life and tradition about Jesus and Mary the Mother of Jesus. The Rosary is a Scriptural based devotion approved and formerly prayed by most Catholic Families in the last century. The promoters of this were bishops and priests like Fr. Patrick Peyton, Bishop Fulton Sheen, and Popes like Pope Leo XIII, John Paul II and Paul VI in Marialis Cultus. The Rosary is a complement to the meditation of the Our Father which we read in yesterday’s Gospel reading from Luke 11: 1-4.
The spirit behind these four sets of Mystery is to pray, ponder them and meditate upon them. They basically use the three most prominent of the prayers: The Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the doxology of the Glory be to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit while meditating on each of the mysteries. In a prayerful string of presenting these four different in five mysteries each we arrive at the full rosary of twenty scenes from the Bible and just two of which pertain exclusively to Mary.
Both Protestants and Catholics have written on the Rosary and pray it also. It is practically a devotion based on the Scriptures in some of the most beautiful events in the life of Jesus and Mary. The Joyful Mysteries follow in order the outline of the mysteries found in chapter one beginning with the Annunciation. These begin the Rosary after an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be to the Father. The second set of five cover scenes from the Passion of Jesus starting with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and ending with the death of Jesus on the Cross, while the Luminous Mysteries come before the sorrowful because of the intervention of Pope John Paul II wanted to offer the stages of Jesus’ active ministry. The Glorious speak of the Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, and the Assumption of Mary and her being crowned as Queen of Heaven and Earth. These last two are from the tradition of the Church.
The best way to get into the heart and soul of this devotion is to remember and ponder over the mysteries as they are recalled. The fingers passing over the beads help us to be recollected in mind and still or calm while pondering these events in salvation history.
This devotion is suggested by the circular that Pope Paul VI wrote after the Council of Vatican II which is the most balanced statement on Mary and the mysteries of Jesus in her life. It follows the guidelines of Lumen Gentium which means it is not to be said while the liturgy is being offered in the biblical readings and the Eucharist. The best way of learning why the rosary is important is to read and reread the statements about John Paul II on the Rosary in his circular to the whole church, that of Paul VI presentation in Marialis Cultus and a beautiful biblical issue of Bible Today published about five or six years ago. Notice that in all of the liturgical readings for this day they are from Luke’s Gospel even the Gospel antiphon Luke 1: 28. Amen.
Lectionary for the Feast of St. Luke Evangelist: II Timothy 4: 9-17, Psalm 145: 10-11.12-13. 17-18. Luke 10: 1-9:
We are helped to understand more about Luke through the liturgical texts chosen for this day. We are aware of this Gospel for the past months when it was used as the weekly Gospel in the liturgies for the day. Oct. 18th, then is our way of remembering what we know about him from our past lessons or readings and from the present ones. I was aware of his being mentioned in the Epistle from Timothy for it shows that there is a close relationship with Paul formerly the persecutor Saul of the people and churches Luke will address to his sponsor, probably, a prosperous catechist who is learning more and more about Jesus and Luke would be his valuable friend and source. He would be the one who supports the gift as an Evangelist who wrote his Gospel somewhere between 80-90 of the first century within fifty years after Jesus had died.
We know that he was the most gifted writer of the Koine Greek and read the Septuagint that was the first translation of the Old Testament or the Hebrew Scriptures. He knew both its style and used it for many of his developments of stories added to what he knew about Jesus through Mark, the first Evangelist (who wrote a Gospel in the early years of the seventies of the first century).
We take advantage of this day of celebrating some of his great themes that have formed our own biblical faith and Christian commitment through the primary source of the New Testament. Together with Paul his companion almost 40 percent of the New Testament is our gift from them in all of the New Testament.
Since the liturgy is so important for our daily journey it is prayer that comes first to mind where Luke encourages us to ponder over and penetrate the depths of his message in the ongoing history of salvation that he presents in the middle as it were of that history of servants and prophets of God. Mary is an important model for prayer seen in her pondering over and her praying her song or psalm the Magnificat. He uses all of the principal word of prayer in both Acts and in his first writing, the Gospel known as the third Gospel in the western tradition since it follows and borrows from both Mark and Matthew and the saying source found in his parallels with Matthew in the Two Source theory. Another important feature of Luke so helpful for us today is that his is the most joyful of the Evangelists seen even in the choice of the first five mysteries of a very favorite devotion to Mary, the Rosary.
It is Luke who makes us aware that there is a Holy Spirit and that the Spirit is the reason why Mary’s consent with her "yes" brought about the birth of Jesus or Jesus born in the full likeness of a human person. This is similar to the inspired words of another great Gospel that keeps Mary present to the attentive reader, namely, that of St. John who tells us “And the Word was made flesh (Jesus) who dwells among us and becomes the reason for our salvation through the sufferings and death of Jesus as envisioned in the Passion Narratives of the four Gospels which are parallel and yet show their theological likes and differences to us the grateful readers.
Luke is contemporary to the needs of our world therefore he uses a language that was the predominant one at the time in which he lived and wrote. His concern does make the poor among the world at that time a priority and we learn much about the virtues that help us to be aware and active to helping all who suffer from poverty. His beatitudes help us to do this and Matthew’s Gospel even moreso in adding other traits. In Luke Mary is the personification of the beatitudes that spill over into the joy, happiness, and even more in the area of prayer and thanksgiving seen in the mother of Jesus who is called a joyful and happy woman and thus is known today as the Blessed Mother , Blessed Woman, Blessed Mother of Jesus.
Luke is an artist in the way he depicts Mary through presenting her as a fully developed character and person. Hence, most artists who depict Mary in thousands of human faces depend on Luke. He, too, is a theologian who develops the stages of salvation history from the past, his present, and then into our future as this ongoing active love of God for us in all of history continues. A great book was written by Hans Couselman called “In der Mitte der Zeit”, that is, in the middle of salvific time which is more a spiritual non digital reckoning of time, that is a more Kairos experience of God’s time than our chronological way of measuring each moment and hour and days in our reckoning of events. Luke to be recognized as a Gospel contains both the early ministry of Jesus, the long journey narrative of nine chapters, and last weeks and days in Jesus’ life where the Passion Narrative is also found in Luke’s Gospel.
II Timothy is very valuable for seeing Luke is a historian who had the scrolls, parchments, and the utensils needed for writing and sharing what both he and Paul needed for their missionary journey which may be attested to in the sections that have “we” portions in the Acts in the second and third of Paul’s missionary journeys.
These words in the Acts of the Apostles explains why we find a passage in the universal Gospel of Luke in the need for all to become apostles and missionary disciples. Only Luke does this in his great openness to the Gentile nations who would support his efforts in producing the Gospel exclusively his. Here is an important verse in our liturgy today that applies to the missionary effort of the first great Apostle of God, Jesus himself: “so that through the preaching my task be completed and all the nations might hear the Gospel.”
I think Luke is influential in his being with Paul just as Mark was a follower of St. Peter. Luke’s universalism is about salvation through Jesus as Savior and prophet as recently pointed out by Luke Timothy Johnson in the Sacra Pagina commentary on St. Luke. Luke’s and Paul’s experiences show us not only a social gospel but also a missionary gospel as we learn how great the harvest is and how few the laborers are. We need so many more that the 70 or 72 Jesus sent in his Name as his ambassadors, missionary disciples and apostles. It is a good start. This Gospel is so open that everyone is invited to partake of its graces and beauty. We all need to become a participant in its spiritual and temporal messages. We may wish to start by recognizing a person and offering him or her a smile with that greeting. It is a good way to start with this great trait of Luke for all to enjoy. Amen.
Lectionary for 29th Sunday after Pentecost: Isaiah 53:10-11. Psalm 33: 4-5, 18-19, 20.22. Hebrews 4: 14-16. Mark 10: 35-45:
The theme of servanthood is what is emphasized for us in the readings of this Sunday and we learn about it from a real occurrence in Jesus’ disciples James and John who ask Jesus directly to be seated at his right hand in the kingdom. They may not have been thinking of the heavenly realm of God but of where Jesus was leading them to as their leader. They will continue to follow him but still do not know of the implications this will cost them! The other ten are close enough to hear their request and they become irritated and even angry with them thinking they have no right to usurp their place which would be as equal to those two brothers in Jesus’ kingdom. But as they will learn, Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world.
We learn that in the final part of the Servant Song of Comfort, Song 53, that this idea is present in the corporate or assembly of the followers of Yahweh. This may have messianic meaning for Isaiah and the people of his time, but the messiah would be one who would be a leader or an era or state of happiness in their homeland. Christians took this writings to refer to Jesus in his Messiahship but as the suffering son of God not as a powerful leader. Jesus could only get his point across if they followed him and listened to what he was saying to the two brothers and then followed him on the way of the Cross which would devastate their kind of thinking about a royal messiah with considerable power.
The Epistle to the Hebrews helps us to get an idea of Jesus as a messiah who also is a priest who worships God but also serves God’ s people because he is of the same flesh and blood as they are, a human being with all of its limitations. Jesus raises their level of thinking by example and word. In washing their feet after this incident they start to see he is speaking of a different kind of servant-leadership without the power of a king or lord. They are brought into the realm of Jesus’ messiahship through his way of the Cross as it is explained by all of the Gospels.
He is the servant of the servants of God by being the messiah who ministers to all who follow his teaching about what this means. The one who is least will become the servant of the rest. Those who are last will be first. Next to him in his kingdom will be his mother and anyone whom the Father chooses to be on the other side of Jesus in heaven.
The Psalm is a beautiful one that helps us to be united in our love and worship of God and not to be haughty about it. Through the Psalm we focus on God not ourselves as James and John did. I am sure there are realms in our own psyche that need to be attentive to this lesson of leadership and suffering as the readings tell us. Let us hope and pray that we have learned our lesson that even “those serve who simply stand by and wait.” Amen.
Lectionary: Romans 4: 16-18. Psalm 105: 6-7, 8-9, 42-43. Luke 12: 8-12:
Abraham’s faith is what justified him in the sight of God; his obedience is what led him to trust in God and speak to him as a friend. Moses will follow almost five hundred years later. Paul continues to keep Abraham in front of us as our ancestor and father in faith. Abraham witnesses God throughout his life with both his faith and ability to be obedient to what God is telling him while guiding him from stage to stage in the passing of his life of faith to others. Paul is indebted to him for realizing this and keeping the person of Abraham alive in this greatest of Paul’s epistles and writings.
The promises of God nourished Abraham to keep on listening and believing and trusting in God.
Our holiness or righteousness is modeled on Abraham’s ever since our being baptized in God’s name as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—a Trinity of unity in love and sharing that love in creation and then redemption of all of us made in the likeness of God and the image of God. Abraham trusted and believed in the promises of God made to him and we through the redeeming love of Jesus also are made aware of our enjoying these gifts through Baptism and the witnessing to the God of love. Paul also let us know that through our asking for forgiveness we are restored to the eternal life promised by God.
Psalm 105 prays “The Lord remembers his covenant forever.” God makes us followers of his servant Abraham in this covenant based on grace and faith. We are able to remember and pray because of this gift of our faith and the graces that accompany it. This psalm 105 is a hymn of thanksgiving for God’s fidelity to his covenant with Abraham through his faith and through grace. This psalm fits our communal and individual sense of the Spirit guiding us just as God guided Abraham.
Jesus has to refute the claim that the blasphemies of those who say he is possessed by the prince of demons . This comes to the statement that sin against him even though it is blasphemous, but the sin against the Holy Spirit is not able to be forgiven. This is an astonishing clash to be seeing this acted out in the events of Jesus’ life and yet this can be forgiven. However, we learn from Jesus that the sin against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven. What is this sin against the Holy Spirit? For Luke’s community of those who believe in Jesus is put to the test by those who blaspheme him. However, those who do not stay with Jesus during the times of trial and persecution and who become apostates in what the community of Luke is struggling with. Theologians state the unforgivable sin is the direct lie of saying Jesus has an evil spirit because of being one with Satan. The Spirit is all that is good, true, and unified through the love of those guided by the Holy Spirit. “Calling what is good as absolutely sinful is another way of looking at the sin of not being forgiven for blaspheming the Spirit. Committing such a grievous sin seems possible to a human only by surrendering to the Evil One. Yet, in another place in Luke we hear the statement…such forgiveness is not possible except for God who alone can do the impossible. The boundaries of sin are able to stretch infinitely but God’s love and mercy are limitless. I believe God alone can forgive the sin against the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Lectionary: Romans 4: 1-8. Psalm 32: 1-2, 5-11. Luke 12: 1-7:
We learn more of Paul’s key to redemption which is the necessity of faith and grace working within both Christian and Jew. He, through his own development of his new found faith which started on his way to Damascus through a miraculous intervention of Jesus. Now , his newly purified mind is no longer a persecutor of the Lord Jesus’ people by now is able to see how Abraham as a human example of trust in faith in God also makes his conversion or metanoia a total turn away (shuv)from the need of personal works to be a confirming of his life as a Jew, now bases his faith on salvation coming from the graces that flowed from Jesus as he gave his life for all peoples. Paul now is able to give us more insight into how Abraham (the Father of a Great Nation or People) now is a model for both Christians and Jews in obtaining justification or righteousness through faith. Paul becomes a Christian with a faith based on Abraham’s being the great ancestor of faith as a model for all. We know that Abraham is considered our “father in faith” in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Paul has experienced this turn in his life as a Kairos event and not a chronological one.
Chapter four of Romans helps us to see our own relationship to Abraham and to Jesus through faith based on a gift freely given to us in our Baptism. The faith of Abraham is a turning point that Paul now shares with all of his listeners and readers. Paul now has opened up his redemptive theology through the example of Abraham thus both Jews and Christians will listen to the role of Abraham in salvation history throughout the ages. Abraham is truly a good model for us since he left everything behind and followed God’s call to become the ancestor not only of a great people but also a model for faith in how to become a follower of both Abraham and Jesus.
As we move into the liturgy given for this day, we discover that the Psalm chosen for this day is actually contained in the passage that Paul is speaking about in seeing Abraham cooperating with the gift God gave him through a promise in the future. Abram , “lofty Father, now becomes the Father of the nation of Israel embracing the One God. The Psalm furnishes us with the great source for what Paul is telling us about the relationship of Abraham’s faith which is not founded on our humanity but on the restoration we all have through faith. Paul cites the Psalm and especially gives us the key to how we are justified in the sight of God even though we have often fallen away. The psalm explains through David’s words, that we come to believe and are made righteous not through our actions but we are declared blessed and are made righteous as David says and Paul cites: “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered over. And blessed are those whose sins are covered over and to whom the Lord imputes no guilt.” We, too, enter into the theme as we ,too, respond to make sure we are also justified by our turning back to the Lord (shuv). We pray with the same psalm in verse 7: “Happy or Blessed are those who say, “ I turn to you, O Lord, in time of trouble and you fill me with the joy of salvation.”
Paul has helped us to interpret the prophet Habakkuk : “The righteous one lives by faith.” And now he continues through both Psalm 32 and also Psalm 51 to show the righteousness of what he, Paul, and Habakkuk are proclaiming.
Our passage from Luke is not so difficult as what I said above about righteousness or justification by faith alone. Luke again moves from the larger crowd following and listening to Jesus by setting the scene with his own disciples who are told by Jesus by no means should they lack trust in God and be fearful of surrendering all of our concerns about ourselves and those around us upon whom we are dependent or those who are supported by us. We are worth more than the flock of sparrows, the hairs on our heads, or the beautiful flowers we see in front of us.
With the change of the trees and the new more modest colors of Autumn appear we are easily aware of God’s presence in nature and all the more so in those who take the time to enjoy what is turning (shuv) into a splendid display of God’s love for us. The sun and wind even make us more appreciative of the good around us. By all means we should not fear, but enjoy the good things we see. Amen.
Lectionary: Romans 3: 21-29. Psalm 130: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6. Luke 11:47-54:
In my courses at the Pontifical Biblical Institute our class of over a hundred who were studying for a licentiate or researching a doctorate had Father Stanislas Lyonnet for classes on St. Paul. I remember how he and several other professors were so pleased with a document called Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope)that we caught the spirit of Vatican II by relating our studies on St.Paul with what was happening within the Council in the Church through the development of studying and putting the Scriptures into real life—even academic life with it while daily the grind of studying, listening, and researching God’s sacred words.
I learned much about St. Paul and appreciated the course I had with Fr. Lyonnet,S.J. I had in my possession his work done on chapter five of Romans focuses on sin is strong and carefully explained. I kept this work of Lyonnet till a younger professor needed it, but now in approaching Paul in the spirit of Lyonnet helps me to enjoy relating to the Epistle to the Romans more than ever due to that spark I received from him some sixty years ago
. I had done a paper earlier in Switzerland at the University of Fribourg based on Blessed Chaminade’s spiritual theology on the concept of living faith that comes through witness, preaching, and teaching that what was an important topic or theme using also the short text from Habakkuk which came alive through St. Paul in his last epistle addressed to the Romans. “The just man lives by faith…” (Habakkuk 2:4). This citation was used by Blessed Chaminade in his spirituality under the phrase faith of the heart (also seen in Romans 10).
This passage from Habakkuk is found early in Paul and it means that the righteous person will live by steadfast faith which for Paul is only possible by God’s grace. Already in chapter one we see that verses 16-17 are part of the essential theme of of Roman chapters 1-8. These verses should be kept in mind while reading the rest of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it is the righteousness of God is revealed, “He through faith is righteous shall live.
Psalm 130 is a penitential psalm and uses some strong images for bringing home the message of this individual lamentation. The sentinel or night watchman waits near the gate to see whether anyone who may be an enemy may be approaching the walls of the city. Verse 7 is a prayer that helps us ask for forgiveness and leads us to trust in the Lord who protects us. I like the response verse 7: “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.” This could easily be prayed by St. Paul in his approach to forgiveness of sin and the promise of salvation—in which all is centered on Jesus crucified in Jesus as the Savior.
Luke continues with more woes recalling Israel’s sins against the prophets and holy persons of their ancestors. Jesus is now on the attack against the leaders and their lawyers and scribes. The woes signal that the end of this conflict will not be stopped until the source of the one who is a prophet in their midst brings their attention to their weaknesses. Rather than learning from them, they now hold a deeper grudge at Jesus' abilities to outwit them but now start planning for his demise. Luke will lead us through the woes and continue the ministry of Jesus plus parables of mercy and kindness, and healings that are done by Jesus. We learn much about Jesus through these sections of conflict with religious leaders who are too concerned about their way of interpretation of the Torah while missing the spirit of Moses that is behind the Torah itself, the work of the Holy Spirit who works in those who follow the Lord Jesus and the Spirit. Amen.
Lectionary: Romans 2: 1-11. Psalm 62: 2-3, 6-7, 9. Luke 11: 42-46:
Paul is familiar with Socratic rhetoric used in philosophical settings. In chapter two, at the start he is already into it by changing the persons addressed while adding other techniques like contrast, comparisons, etc. This section is a good example of the diatribe. The theme is about judgments that are false and sinful. For sure they are also destructive of the character of another. Paulis putting before us the mindset he has of both Gentiles and Jews in our passage. Jews follow and know well the truth and power of the Torah and the Christians in Rome who believe in Jesus as Redeemer are the ones he has in mind in this diatribe. The ultimate decision in judgment will happen on the Day of the Lord as we learned from Joel. Here it is judgment day for all those who judge others while being self-centered and convinced their viewpoint is the only way. This lives on in modern society, perhaps, even more strongly than in the days of Jesus when the system of value, virtues, and truth were part of daily life as it was lived under the judgment of gods if the Gentiles were talked about and in failure to live out the Torah if one were a Jew.
He has already opened up the theme that will carry through in the first eight chapters of his epistle where he insists that good works are not enough for salvation; only the graces of God’s mercy and justice will help us make our way to God through our communal and individual acceptance of the grace of God. In the end “all is grace.” (Graham Greene). God is always balanced in the weighing of who is justified by grace and faith and how we need God to complete the purpose of our human lives, namely, to end in the bosom of God and Lazarus did in the bosom of Abraham and Jesus in the bosom of his Father (Prologue of John).
On our human part we need to constantly seek God through truth both human and divine which helps us to feel both the merciful –kindness of God (Hesed) and God’s truth (emeth).
Our Psalm is based on the merciful-kindness of God and is one of the few psalms of confidence and hope in God. Usually lamentation is also found in such psalms. In Lamentations we read how hope is able to be lived even when we do not know how to be hopeful: “Good is the person who waits for God…to the soul that seeks Him. It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:21-26). We sing verse 13 as our response verse: “Lord, you give back to every man according to his works.” This psalm puts trust in the Lord to avoid the punishment we deserve when we sin as we noted in our first reading from chapter two of Paul Then the Psalm comes back to what we find in Lamentations: “Lord, my soul in stillness waits, for God alone is my salvation.” (Psalm 62: 1). These words are encouraging and consoling and show us biblical hope and trust.
Jesus is again in conflict with the religious leaders. We see his impatience in responding to them and their behavior from being true leaders when he uses the awful word Woe! Personally, I am very happy when we end the volley of woes that we find him uttering against the religious leaders. They are neglecting what is the essence of religious leaders by neglecting justice and love of God. They put heavy burdens on people, and are always seeking to be first and admired. Woe! Woe! Woe! Paul and our Psalm inveigh against such leadership which destroys relationships on every level. Amen.