Sep 10, 2022
Aug 13, 2022
Fire can be as dangerous as it is beautiful and useful as it is mysterious. From the burning bush to the tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost, throughout the Scriptures, its language is rich and often used to reflect the nature of God (CCC 696). (c.f the Seraphim) Our own experience of the summer California wildfires touches us in a particular way. Many of us still have vivid memories of the fires of 2008 that surrounded us on three sides, provoking mass evacuations, destroying many homes and livelihoods.
It’s no consolation when we hear Our Blessed Lord saying in the gospel today, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing” and the cause of households divided against themselves, family members betraying each other's trust.
For example, sometimes it’s easy to understand the unintended tensions unleashed within a family to events such as funerals, weddings and even who gets invited and who doesn't to a family Thanksgiving dinner. But the fuse of this particular stick of dynamite has been lit by the Lord himself.
How do we understand this apparent “violence” with the image we must also have of Christ as the Good Shepherd and the Prince of Peace?
We must first consider when St. Luke wrote his Gospel message. It was probably written not long after the great fire of Rome in 64 A.D. The rumor was that the Emperor Nero had himself lit the match that destroyed much of the city so that he could begin a new massive building project. This is how a pagan historian, who survived the fire, described the aftermath.
"Consequently, to get rid of the report [that he started the fire], Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most creative tortures on a class of people hated for their abominations, called Christians by the common people … Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths...they were torn to death by dogs, or they were crucified on crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as human torches when nighttime illumination was needed." Tacitus, Annals XV.44
The early Christians, in the light of those “current events” would have, no doubt, listened to today’s Gospel and found in it an assurance that Our Lord himself experienced the fire of hell. But he transformed it into the fire of heaven. Abandoned by his own disciples, betrayed by the very ones he considered family, Christ shared in the anguish of persecuted Christians as non-believers betrayed friends and family when Roman soldiers came knocking on the door. But he rose triumphantly from the dead.
Yes, oftentimes we will get burnt (and it stings more when it is from family or friends), and we will scream and call out in anger and in anguish. But as painful as it often is, abandoning ourselves to the grace that comes from the suffering of Christ, let us pray that we may never mistake the purifying fire of heaven with the destructive fires of hell. One fire attracts us to the warmth of Christ. The other fire puts us in harm's way.
There lies the virtue of Christian hope that must triumph over every temptation to despair. For the Christian, despite the past hurts in our own day, we should always look forward to Sunday. The Lord’s Day who promises us that the best days are ahead of us. As St. Paul reminded us in the second reading, my same message is: we must “persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus”
Jul 22, 2022
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.”
Watching him pray, his disciples could see that Our Blessed Lord was intimately in touch with heaven. In a way it was “written all over his face”, but this was more noticeable when the Lord would go to "certain places" to be alone in prayer.
For example, this is what you do when you come in early and sit in the church, when you look around and gaze at the sacred images wondering how they might reflect a little glimpse of heaven in our direction. Prayer is when we light a candle, and our focus becomes, not inward, but reaching out through the darkness of this world to the beyond. Prayer is following the trail of incense as it drifts upward to heaven. It is the words of scripture, which are presented in the selected passages from the bible, or have been weaved together into conversations with God, which we have come to know by heart, or try to make our own. Prayer is the raising of the heart and soul, reaching out to heaven.
The first place for prayer is actually not here in the church building. It’s at home in your own house. We come to the church to give thanks to God for all the blessings we have received during this past week, and we offer our prayers and sacrifices to God for our own good and the good of all his holy Church as we begin another week.
But, every day, our homes are sacred places. It is there we are to find a place to pray every day. But increasingly our homes can become noisy places, cluttered places, and busy places. This is why it is always good that there be a sacred space in your home, a place where you can withdraw to, to bring the family around, to pray especially the familiar sacred words that have been passed down to us from generation to generation, and where our minds can focus on the sights and sounds of heaven. And even to ask, “Lord, teach us to pray”.
Christ does teach us how to pray. In fact, he gives us a formula, a template, and words to say. “Our Father, who art in heaven…” - Listen to them as if the Lord himself were teaching you these words, asking you to ponder on the deep meaning that each verse has for all of us and every time we bring these divine words to our mind and lips, to allow them to sink deeper and deeper into our soul.
As we ask Christ to teach us to pray, consider who taught him! As he grew up, Mary would have helped him to say his first words, how to read the scriptures, how to pray according to the tradition of the Chosen People. In her teenage years her own words to the angel, “Be it done unto me, according to thy will”, seem to echo through the verse of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. And when Christ was alone in the garden of Gethsemane, hours, I’m sure he thought of his mother and her words to the angel message thirty years ago he himself prayed to his Father, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”
Prayer is not a nicety of Christian life; it is allowing Christ to pray through us, so that his words become our own. In this Holy Mass, let our prayer be united with Calvary in the greatest prayer that ever reached heaven.
Jul 16, 2022
Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Instead, to offer us a greater insight into a bigger picture to contemplate, the Church has given us an appetizer, so to speak, in the form of the First Reading – the visitation of the three mysterious guests to the tent of Abraham (Gn. 18:1-10a). On the surface one can easily recognize the demands of hospitality and generosity evident as a theme to this Old Testament event. This may also provide us with a reflection on the corporal works of mercy demonstrated by feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty.
But for the Christian when we look back to these events through the lens of faith, we can see in Abraham’s remarkable hospitality and Sarah’s listening attentively behind the scenes, a “dress rehearsal” for the Annunciation when the Virgin Mary was told by the angel she would bear a son whose name would be Jesus.
When the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus, God was “enfleshed” (i.e. incarnated) in humanity in every way except sin. God experienced human hunger and thirst. We saw this spelt out clearly when Christ was in the desert fasting. We are told that he was hungry. Now, we find him being fed by the love and generosity of family and friends.
Martha provides a valuable service to God. It is by her sacrifice and acts of charity that she nourishes the Lord’s body, providing him with the necessary sustenance so that he might continue his journey. This gives Christ the strength of mind and body in order to accomplish his mission. He will need this strength in order to carry the cross.
Remember Christ’s words while he was being tempted by Satan in the desert, “Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”. However, Mary the sister of Martha also provided us with a glimpse of hunger, not of a body for food, but of a soul hungry for God. In the words of St. Augustine, Martha’s sister “was eating the one she was listening to…because he was the one who said ‘I am the Bread come down from heaven’. This is the bread which nourishes and never diminishes”.
After the consecration, what we perceive with our natural eyes as bread and wine, the heavenly angels from their perspective see the glorious body of the living Christ. It is for this reason that this Blessed Sacrament is called the “Bread of Angels”.
God, creator and sustainer of all that exists. When you unlocked the gates of time, from that first moment of our conception, one by one you called us forth as a son or daughter made in your image, to a place and for a purpose, and into the unfolding of history, not only of this great nation, but of the whole world.
But your work is never done, you never retire from your duty to sustain, protect and nourish all that is good. And as long as we have breath, neither can we, for your presence, without beginning or end, resonates deep within us. For out of the depths we breathe, we sing and send forth our own music, unique in all creation that even the angels on high pause to listen.
That we might carry your note faithfully, you embodied yourself, untainted, in our flesh and blood. You taught us a new song, a battle hymn of a new kingdom, a kingdom of your justice and peace, of a restored creation worth fighting and worth dying for.
You marched, with us and ahead of us, step by step, encouraging us, up and down the ranks, with discipline and with food for the journey, commanding us not to give in to fear or despair, for at our side you keep us in true formation, of body and soul united, so that each of us, one by one, might reflect your power and glory.
May we always take your lead, listen to your voice, tune the chords of our heart and the breath of our soul to your song even as we march through the blazing heat of the day or through a bitter valley of darkness.
For it is not the beating drum that beckons us forwards in hope, nor the distant echo of the tapps assuring us of true rest from the battle. Instead let it be the sound of your own beating heart Oh merciful God, the eternal song of the Savior’s love and the prayer of a mother for her children that they return home safely. Only then can we all retire, after the final battle is won and a victory celebration begun through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Father Cávana G. Wallace
(Luke 15: 11-24. 24th Sunday) Many commentators on this parable tried to speculate about who the younger son and the older son where. Diff...