Daily Reflections by Father Bert
Lectionary: Malachi 3: 13-20. Psalm 1: 1-2, 3,4,6. Luke 11: 5-13.
Malachi is the last of the Minor Prophets. It is also the last book of the Hebrew inspired canon of books which is called the Old Testament. Malachi simply means “my messenger, my angel” and is not the prophet’s personal name. We know nothing of his life except what we have in this small scroll of four chapters. It emphasizes God as the creator of the universe and the God who judges those who are not written in the book of life. Malachi may have been written by a Levite who was contemporaneous with Ezra and Nehemiah who were the ones who led the people to rebuild the Temple and its rituals and worship. I am led to share with you an idea that came to me about the use of images in Scripture. es. The image that caught my eye was that the wrong-doers or evil ones are compared to stubble which is thrown into a burning oven. This image symbolizes the day of judgment. In some ways the Psalm that follows this reading has a similar image of a tumble-weed being swirled here and there in the dry dusty land being move here and there by the wind. This image is used in Psalm one to represent those who are likewise wrong-doers and evil ones.
Images are important and a help for the way we read the Psalms especially in a choir or a group. They make us think of the consequences of being similar to a tumble-weed. For me, the rolling chaff or tumbleweed caught my attention when I heard a song describing it. This happened in grade-school on hearing it sung by Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers. I can still envision how it described and put into music the tumble-weed’s movement here and then there. That group was known in the 1940’s. Both the prophetic reading and the Psalm use a similar image for those who will be judged for not choosing the right path. Psalm One is a wisdom psalm that contrasts the righteous ones with the sinners.
The selection from St. Luke’s Gospel is again a continuation of Jesus’ words about prayer and how to pray. There are three parts to this small group of sayings: a parable, a word about continuing to knock on the door and finally a prayer that shows God sending us the Holy Spirit . Luke is ever mindful of the theme of prayer and also is dedicated to the Holy Spirit in both his Gospel and the
Acts of the Apostles. God will send us the Holy Spirit if we pray consistently, patiently, and with faith that grows each day. Amen.
On Oct. 7 we celebrated the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary. It also is the foundation day for the congregation of Mission Sisters of Charity founded by Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Some of our Marianist brothers had the joy of working with her among the poor of India. I personally heard from one Marianist priest who studied here at the University of Dayton, and another presently living with us for studies who worked with her; she was always very hospitable to them and taught them how to minister to the poorest among the people.
Lectionary: Jonah 4: 1-11. Psalm 86: 3-4, 5-6,9-10. Luke 11: 1-4.
Our readings from Jonah focus more on the behavior of the prophet than on the success of the people of Nineveh doing universal penance and repentance. From what we read in the texts from yesterday and today, we discover Jonah is a very angry prophet, a pouting prophet, and a moody person. He needs a lot of reforming himself from these unsavory traits! God is the merciful one who sees the repentance of Nineveh’s people and despite Jonah’s behavior God works through him. God is very patient even when the prophets are not. David was right. It is better to fall into the hands of the living God than in an angry prophet’s!
On the other hand the message of Jonah is carried out by them and everyone including the king and his livestock are in a mournful and repentant response. We learn that some people cannot live with success. Jonah was such a person while the people of Nineveh did turn to God and praise the God of loving-kindness, mercy and patience. We should realize that Jonah is the first prophet who is sent to a heathen nation but Jonah believed that salvation was only for his own people not the nations. Jonah learned the breadth of God’s loving- kindness and mercy despite the prophet Jonah’s bigotry and anger. God often writes straight with crooked lines to break through our stubborn behavior and moodiness. This fifth book of the Minor Prophets is read entirely in the synagogue on the afternoon of Yom Kippur, the great day of Atonement and fasting.
Psalm 86 gives us the right approach to how to pray: “Lord, you are tender and full of love” (v.15). Here we learn that the nations will come and worship God in the Temple. The spirit of this psalm is the contrary of the above behavior of Jonah. This excellent prayer comes from the heart of the poet or psalmist. It is an excellent pure and simple prayer from a person who is burning with love for God and who centers all of his thoughts on God. God’s loving-kindness, mercy, beneficence and grace are sensed throughout the psalm.
Luke, the author who develops prayer the most in his Gospel, surprises us with his much shorter version of the Lord’s Prayer. Matthew’s version is always used in the Mass and at Morning Prayer and Vespers. Why is it so short from the Evangelist who speaks the most about prayer and shows us Jesus at prayer throughout his Gospel? Perhaps, it comes from a different sayings collection than that of Matthew. Luke does like to abbreviate and focus clearly on the words of Jesus. If we think of it, Mark and John do not have the Lord’s prayer but do have the seven petitions in various parts of their respective Gospels. By remembering the other Gospels of Mark and John think of each phrase and then review your knowledge of what is said in these Gospels. You will discover the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer scattered throughout the events an sayings of Jesus, in these texts on different occasions, but all of the Gospels have the petitions in one form or another. We also know that the early writing called the Teachings of the Apostles the Didache) had an Our Father similar to that of Matthew but added the doxology. Amen.
Lectionary: Jonah 1: 1-2: 1-11. Jonah 3: 22.214.171.124-8. Luke 10: 25-37
Whether you accept Jonah as a real historical person and read his life and situation as a prophet of the Lord or if you look at it as a parable that confronts Israel and you and me as a message of obedience to the Lord and the duty of repentance and turning back to the Lord, the important thing is that God’s word is telling us to live out what we are called to witness to and to practice ourselves. In reading Jonah we come to see that even Jonah recognizes and acknowledges his sin of not listening to his call to the mariners before they throw him into the sea, then they, the mariners, come to acknowledge that the Lord is speaking to them through prophets. Once Jonah realizes his salvation comes to recognizing you cannot escape from the presence of God nor from the responsibilities God gives you in your particular state of life. He then reluctantly starts to preach repentance to the Ninevites hoping they will not repent but God works through their acknowledgement of their sins and they do a monumental form of repentance in fasting, sitting in ashes, and returning to the God of the prophet Jonah. All become winners so to speak despite the stubbornness and foolishness of Jonah in trying to escape from the Lord. He cannot and he has to come to realize the Lord works through him nevertheless.
The reading from Jonas continues in selections from the second chapter of this prophet’s writings. They help us to pray for our own need for repentance and to learn how to obey the Lord more spontaneously rather than to hesitate in carrying out what we know is God’s call and will for us. “You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord.” ... for you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the sea.” (Jonah 2: 3-4).
In the Gospel the message of the parable is so clear that we do not have to spend much time on trying to figure out what it means. Like the Pharisee who asks about the commandments and keeps them, we want to go beyond them. Jesus shows him through the parable what this would mean for him in going beyond what the Levite and the Priest did and setting aside one’s plans to help save the man who is dying. The commandments should lead us to do this but the example of one doing them speaks more to us than memorizing them and just repeating them without putting them into practice. The greatest commandment is love of God, love of neighbor and proper love of oneself. These three are bound together in our individual and communitarian commitment to God and neighbor. We are like the Samaritan who makes this specific act a magnanimous MITZVAH (the fulfillment of a commandment by our deeds more than our praying or saying it. Amen.
Mitzvah: To do a Mitzvah is to outdo oneself, to go beyond one’s needs and to illumine the world.
Lectionary: Memorial for Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary: Acts 1:12-14. Luke : 1: 46-56 (Mary’s Song the Magnificat is our Responsorial Hymn. Luke 1: 26-38:
Pope Leo XIII is well known for his writing called Rerum Novarum (New Things). It is the encyclical that raised consciousness about Social Justice in the world for the first time in a papal encyclical. What is not known about Pope Leo XIII is that he was the Pope who wrote over fifty letters to promote devotion to the Rosary said in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was he who added the invocation, “Queen of the most holy rosary, pray for us.” He also promoted the date of Oct. 7 in honor of Our Lady’s victories over the evils of war in the sixteenth and eighteenth century. The feast date was to be celebrated universally in the Church.
The Liturgy of the Word presents all three readings from writings of St. Luke (Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles). He is the writer of the New Testament who gives us a literary portrait of Mary that surpasses in depth and content the rest of the New Testament writings on Mary. It is he who gives us the framework for the bigger picture of Mary. Many of the later writings and works of art stem from his Gospel more than from the other texts about her in the New Testament. It is he who gives us almost all of the mysteries of the rosary including the five mysteries added by Pope John Paul II which are called the luminous mysteries. Thus the rosary today consists of the Joyful Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, the Luminous Mysteries and the Glorious Mysteries and each of them consists of five mysteries of Mary according to those four sets. It takes about one half hour to pray all four sets.
In order to illustrate the importance of St. Luke in the devotion that developed into the holy rosary we look at the Joyful Mysteries which follow perfectly from Luke’ order in his Infancy Narrative of two chapters: The Annunciation, the Visitation, the Birth of Jesus, the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple.
In Luke’s second inspired writing the Acts of the Apostles, May is depicted in what is known as the third glorious mystery—the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. Mary is in their midst and is praying with them in the upper room waiting for the Coming of the Spirit and the birth of the Church. There are many parallels in Luke’s Gospel that are found in the Acts of the Apostles and have recollections of what Jesus did and said, and then in the Acts of what the early disciples, apostles and relatives did to give birth to the Church and to keep it growing in numbers.
There is in today’s readings the great hymn of Mary called the Magnificat which is a psalm-like prayer of thanksgiving, praise, and humility manifested by Mary’s thoughts and words.
The Gospel gives us our meditation for the first Joyful Mystery which is the Annunciation Narrative of the Angel Gabriel appearing to the Virgin Mary and inviting her to be the mother of the Messiah. She says her “Yes” and the world has never been the same as the great event of the Incarnation commences here and continues to unfold in the birth of Mary’s first born and only son as Origen tells us in his reflection and comment on St. John’s Gospel about Mary: No one may understand the meaning of the Gospel of John, if they have not rested on the breast of Jesus and received Mary from Jesus, to be his mother also.” Origen goes on to say it is known that she had no other son except Jesus according to what this great person says about her.
The Annunciation Narrative gives us the first part of the Hail Mary or the Ave Maria. The last part, the invocation comes from a later tradition in the Church’s most famous prayer about Mary taking its place after the Our Father and the Glory be to the Father…
Perhaps, if you know the rosary, you could join me in praying one of the decades of the twenty mysteries given to us in the holy rosary as it now prayed. Amen.
Lectionary for 17th Sunday C cycle: Habakkuk 1:2-3. 2:2-4. Psalm 95: 1-2,6-7, 8-9. II Timothy 1: 6-8. 13-14. Luke 17: 5-10:
There is no doubt that all of today’s readings emphasize the gift of faith. Habakkuk, the prophet, gives us one of the most cited expressions about what faith is and what it accomplishes by saying simply, “The just person lives by faith.” Paul cites this in his greatest Epistle to the Romans. Blessed Chaminade used this expression for prayer and meditation calling it “faith of the heart.” He develops the theme of faith of the heart by using chapter ten of Romans.
Psalm 95 is an invitation to praise God through our prayers especially in the morning. For those who pray the Prayer of the Hours or that of Readings, it is a perfect “Invitatory Psalm.” Faith is implied for belief in the Creator and the Redeemer. This requires a “listening heart” and a doing of God’s will daily.
In his Second Letter to Timothy, Paul speaks of the flame of faith found in Timothy when he was anointed in the Holy Spirit to assist Paul in ministering to the Gentiles and bringing the Good News to them. Paul tells Timothy to “Guard the rich deposit of faith with the help of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.” (II Tim. 1:14).
In the Journey Narrative of Luke (9:51-19:44) responds to the request of the apostles to increase their faith. Jesus gives them the metaphor of the mustard seed and shows them how from a small seed which is cultivated in good soil, a huge bush results. So it is with faith—even strong enough to uproot a tree and throw it into the sea. The title apostle is important to Luke; he will use it extensively for those who spread the faith in the Gospel by those disciples who are sent to others. Jesus insists on living one’s faith and making it grow and strengthen like the small mustard seed. As it deepens its roots it becomes a bush of considerable size.
In the second part of the Gospel selection for today we learn how to take on the mindset of Jesus by becoming servants to one another. The greatest will be the servant of all the other servants—a motto applied to all popes, “Servus servorum Dei –A servant to the servants of God. Jesus himself gives a great example of his own service to his apostles and friends by washing their feet. He is our model for what it means to love God and neighbor which is our principal call of faith to be an apostle of the Lord. In our bringing of the word of God to others, Jesus tells us as he told his apostles, “When you have done all you have to do, say “We are useless servants. We have done nor more than our duty.”
Lectionary: Baruch 4: 5-12. 27-29. Psalm 69: 33-35/ 36-37/ :ile 10: 17-24:
Baruch was devoted to Jeremiah the prophet of the Exile period. He served as his secretary but also wrote his own prophetic words. We are fortunate to have the few pages that he wrote as part of our Scriptures. There is also an Apocryphal Book of Baruch preserved in Greek but originally was in Hebrew. The work is also found in Syriac—a language close to Aramaic, however, with a different script. This apocryphal work was written after the Jewish canon was established at Jamnia in the first century. Baruch B, the apocryphal work does not go back farther than the second century A.D. We find the virtue of hope in what we have in the liturgy of the word. The present generation is encouraged to repent and to discover that sane hope of living righteously in their own homeland of present day Israel.
Psalm 69 gives all who read it another thrust of hope, namely, that God hears the cry of those who are totally dependent on God. In the time in which it was written these are the remnant and the “’Anawim” or the Poor of God. I can easily pray this psalm with the verse given as a Responsory and also in one of its other verses. Here are the two citations: “The Lord hears the cry of the poor (“Anawim).” The final verses confirm the need to enjoy a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem and to experience as sense of hope, joy, and peace. Here is that verse: “The Lord listens to the poor… For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah. They shall dwell in the land and own it, and the descendants of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall inhabit it. “ Verse, 34, 36-37).
In our reading from Luke we learn of the seventy-two disciples coming back to Jesus and telling him of their success in preaching and healing and casting out demons. Jesus is also rejoicing in knowing this and attributes it to the working of the Holy Spirit within his disciples. The journey with them continues but we know from this passage that they are becoming agents of Jesus’ Good News of salvation. This formative stage is also motivation for us to continue our journey with the Lord despite some of the obstacles we face on the way. Many prophets and sages wished to see and experience what the disciples saw and experienced. They have the distinct advantage of being with Jesus in the flesh. Jesus bestows blessings upon them by rejoicing in the Holy Spirit and sharing his joy with them. We, too, are blessed even though we do not see the Jesus of history that they saw. Blessed are we for believing in Him through his Word and through the Eucharist. Amen.
Lectionary: Baruch 1: 15-22. Psalm 79: 1-2, 3-5, 8.9. Luke 10: 13-16:
We have a rare selection in the Liturgy of the Word from Baruch who was the friend and secretary of Jeremiah and who copied down his prophetic words. We are able to date him doing this in 605 B.C. The contents were read in the Temple by Baruch. Soon he and Jeremiah fled to safety in Egypt.
The reading of Baruch 1: 15-22) is a prayer for the past sins of Israel and the nations. It is a national lamentation. The value of this writing is the universal dimension of prayer where the entire people as a whole are being addressed to repent and renew. The justice of the Lord must prevail over the failures of the people of Israel from the time of the Exodus up to the present time of Baruch. Baruch means the “blessed one.” For us as readers, we are part of a large community, the Church, and Baruch’s words are thus applied to all who are aware of being God’s people. The entire body of believers is being addressed for its sinfulness and not just the individual. As a Church and a nation we are all called to be free of our sins and to be people and nations who renew our covenant with God.
Psalm 79 is also a national or community lamentation. Memories of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and defilement of the holy places make this psalm one of the most graphic and vivid ones in the Psalter. We cry out together, “For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.” This is our prayer response for the day. Another verse reads, “Remember not against us the iniquities of the past; may your compassion quickly come to us, for we are brought very low.”
Jesus’ words are very strong against the cities mentioned in the Gospel today. He has been rejected by his own people and by these cities in what he proclaims as necessary for entering the kingdom of God. Gentile cities are mentioned (Tyre and Sidon) and also cities of his own land Chorazin and Bethsaida, and finally his frequently visited town of Capernaum where he ministered, rejects his good news while mocking him. The justice meted out to Capernaum would send it to Sheol or Hades. Jesus cries out, “He who rejects me, rejects the one who sent me.” The journey narrative is framed not only by what the disciples are being taught but also by the Divine Reversal: “The turning is characteristic of the journey narrative, which alternates messages and audiences. As in the Sermon on the Plain but in reverse order, a declaration of woe is followed by a blessing. Now it is becoming clearer who within the populace is receiving what.” (Luke Timothy Johnson, Sacra Pagina, p. 170-171).