Preaching

The Carmelites and Elijah

Today the church commemorates the Prophet Elijah, a foundational figure for the Carmelite Order. A statue of Elijah on Mt. Carmel depicts Elijah denouncing a prophet of Baal whom he has conquered through the power of the God of Israel.

"And the prophet Elijah stood up, and his word burned like a torch" is inscribed in several languages on the base of the statue. 

Elijah


St. Camillus de Lellis

Founder of the Camillans, an order of priests and brothers who care for the sick even at peril to their own lives. St. Camillus first popularized the sign of his order, The Red Cross, as a symbol for help and protection on the battle field or the bed of illness. Later, the International Red Cross adopted his already popular emblem. 

Camillus


Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Scapulaire_carmeliteThe Carmelite "Brown" Scapular was shown by the Virgin Mary to St. Simon Stock, an early superior of the Carmelites during a time when their Order was under persecution, as an assurance of Mary's intercession especially at the hour of their deaths. The small, portable scapular of today derives from the work garment of the Carmelites. Keeping this in mind, the wearing of the brown scapular reminds us our responsibility to work for the Kingdom and of Mary's loving intercession for the disciples of her Son.

 

 

Daytime and night time scapulars from the late 1800's worn by the Carmelites.


Friday The Thirteenth

Most of us cope with little superstitions without too much of an impact on our daily lives. Saying "God bless you," after a sneeze is even attributed to a superstition regarding the devil.

Sometimes superstitions and arbitrary actions can become compulsory for the individual and begin to hem their lives in with restrictive rituals they must perform or avoid. Their daily rituals become far more oppressive than crossing fingers or throwing salt over their shoulder. Let us pray that those who are held prisoner to these compulsive rituals are loosed from their bonds by God's grace and the compassionate, knowledgeable care of others.

Too often even our religious faith can become more about following rules or avoiding sin than cultivating a relationship with a God who loves us. Let us ask to experience God's love more fully especially in the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist.

Shutterstock_1044380716


Faith A Two Way Relationship With God

Flood
Workers Prepare to Rescue Trapped Thai Soccer Team

Faith is a two way street

       A relationship between two persons.

       Divine faith is a relationship

       Between us and Jesus.

It’s unlikely that anyone hard of face

       And obstinate of heart

       Will have faith with you.

 

The first reading says it: they'll have a frozen look, no matter what you say;

They'll exhibit a stubbornness of heart that remembers every slight.

When we tell our spouse, our friend

       Our son or daughter

"I have faith in you" – then we work toward

       Real trust, real love.

 

Jesus offered himself in faith

And was rejected by those who

Watched him grow up.

They prejudged him;

Their minds were made up;

Their conclusions already drawn.

He was the carpenter’s son

Nothing else, surely nothing greater.

Their faces were frozen

And their hearts hardened.

 

It can be the same way with us:

I’ve prayed before, I’ve asked for this 1.000 times

I know what the church will say

 

That freezes us into an old way of being

And eliminates the possibility of

A living faith strengthening

Our relationship with Jesus.

Faith is offered to us

To grow, to change,

To cooperate with God’s grace.

 

I think of the Thai soccer team

Trapped deep in the cave.

Their hopes were rewarded

When help arrived.

Now they need faith in God,

In their own ability,

In the skill and care of the divers

And in prophet-like courage

To save themselves and the others.

They need to learn how to dive,

To overcome their fears

And do it quickly and well.

 

One headline read: Fear and courage are both contagious.

Your own courage helps someone else.

And they need to cooperate

With the grace they have been given

To be rescued.

 

So do we.

 


Augustine on Spiritual and Bodily Virginity

 

AugustineThe sanctity of the soul remains even when the body is violated, the sanctity of the body is not lost; and that, in like manner, the sanctity of the body is lost when the sanctity of the soul is violated, though the body itself remains intact. 

City of God, Book I, chapter 16.

Augustine's comments were made during a discussion of the virgin martyrs in the early church who chose martyrdom rather than be sexually violated.

He counsels that victims of sexual abuse should not feel shame since the blame for the sexual transgression is not their own, but rather on the aggressor. 

The mind and will can remain pure and chaste, even in face of non voluntary acts the body is made to perform.


St. Swithun

An English abbot renowned for miracle working and his sanctity of life. Since it rained on the day his relics were translated from outdoors to indoors, the legend grew that it would rain continuously for 40 days if it rained on his feast day. The same is said to be true for sunny weather. Apparently even meteorologists note that the weather pattern in England on this day tends to be rather stable and might be a predictor of weather to come.

He is the patron saint of Winchester Cathedral where a modern shrine stands over his original resting place which was desecrated during the reign of Henry VIII.

Shrine
Swithun

 


Discuss and Debate, Don't Demonize

Demonize

A New Kind of Bigotry


Over the short history of our nation, we have struggled with bigotry of various kinds and generally have forged agreement that bigotry has no place in a democratic country. Not only does it marginalize certain groups, often denying them their fundamental God-given rights but tears at the fabric of our common good.
The consensus that irrational hatred for certain groups is odious seems to be dissolving over the last decade or more. Now it seems acceptable for certain groups to demonize even those who have different opinions than their own. Rational discourse is gone. Civic protections become unraveled by press or mob outcry. Employers cave into pressure from the loudest special interest group who protest the employability of persons holding certain opinions. We don’t discuss, we litigate.
As we reflect on the history of our nation this weekend, perhaps we can nourish the hope for rational civic discourse and debate to return to the public square. If we can’t even talk with our fellow citizens and elected representatives, how can we hope to hold our own in the world.
The spirit of hope and healing which Jesus brings in today’s gospels and the reminder that we are all made in the image of likeness of a loving God from Wisdom can focus our prayer for national unity around respect for persons, not only of different races or lifestyles, but also Americans who in good conscience hold different opinions from our own.


The Northern Kingdom Of Israel Falls

CaptivityIn this morning's first reading we learn of the fall and captivity of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians. Though they are part of the chosen people, they ignored repeated warnings from prophets to reform their lives and worship only the God of the Israelites. They were carried off into captivity and never received permission to return to the homeland. They have become the "lost tribes of Israel."

Sobering warning for us we celebrate Religious Liberty week in the United States, that our responsibility is not to pray that God helps and protects our right to religious liberty, but that we walk in the Way of the Lord. If we find ourselves lost, who has wandered, God or us?

 

 


The Witness of John the Baptist

Musée_de_Lille_P._F._de_Grebber

 

Luke’s gospel this morning
Should remind us of Christmas.

The carefully balanced stories
Of John the Baptist’s birth
With Jesus’ birth
Including that they were both
Announced by the Angel Gabriel

Prepare us
As everything John the Baptist
Said and did for the coming
Of the Lord.

By the time he was born
He had already recognized
The Christ child
Dancing in Elizabeth’s womb
For joy.

Once he spotted Jesus
On the shore of the River Jordan
His ministry became focused
On pointing the way to Christ.

There He is, The Lamb of God!

Drop everything and follow Him,
He is the culmination of history;
All your hopes and dreams
Reside in Him.

For calling out authority
For immorality
He eventually lost his life.
Beheaded in a game of
Jealousy and anger and lust
At the court of the king.

He’s the perfect saint to
Celebrate during Religious Liberty week,
Especially when our media culture
The press, corporations, universities,
Some government leaders
Get as angry as Herod’s court
When confronted with the teachings
Of Christ and his church.

Direct confrontation isn’t even necessary
In some cases,
Just the very fact that Christians dare
To practice their faith in public
Is deemed a direct threat
And must be curtailed.

Many years ago
Public schools in this country
Taught American Protestantism
And ridiculed the Catholic faith
Leading many to found the
Catholic schools as a place
Where the faith could be taught
And not mocked.

Today it would be hard to characterize
Exactly what the public schools
Are teaching about religious faith
Or civic faith or faith in relationships.

In some cases, educators seeking
To remake society
View the American family itself
As a threat.

At a time when Catholic institutions,
Schools, adoption agencies, hospitals,
Are needed now more than ever
Their very existence is threatened
Not only by market economics
But by maneuvering in
Our toxic political square.

Our prayers during Religious Liberty week
Are to strengthen the laws which protect
Our God given right to worship
And witness our faith as we must,
In the spirit of John the Baptist.

Democracies depend on virtuous citizens
And virtuous leaders to survive;
May we be encouraged by
The Holy Spirit to be strong witnesses.

All of us can give witness to the virtues
About which Jesus spoke:
Mutual sacrificial love
And the beatitudes.

Sometimes it takes the courage of John the Baptist.


The King's Good Servant, But God's First

ThomasMoreThis famous portrait of Thomas by Hans Holbein the Younger shows More's resolute determination and the symbols of his office conferred by King Henry VIII.

Today's celebration begins a week of prayer for religious liberty in the diocese of the United States. We don't need reminders anymore how necessary this is, since with every passing year the atmosphere in the public square and in the media becomes more inimical to Christianity.

Join us after morning mass for a moment of reflection and prayer to continue the blessings of religious liberty in this country and strengthen our resolve to witness to our faith when necessary.

 


Swing Low Sweet Chariot

https://e-watchman.com/who-is-elijah-who-is-coming/Today's first reading completed the Elijah cycle and in a dramatic fashion introduced the prophetic period of Elisha, his successor.

Many ancient religions had sun gods who rode the fiery chariot of the sun across the daytime sky each day. Hearers would be quick to connect the arrival of a fiery chariot as an escort to heaven.

 


One Man's Vineyard is Another Man's Vegetable Garden: Naboth and King Ahab

http://www.pascalsview.com/pascalsview/2015/04/from-napa-to-jerusalem-levensohn-vineyards-goes-to-israel.html

Remains of a vineyard and winepress near the biblical location of Naboth's vineyard, coveted by King Ahab and deceitfully obtained by  his wife Queen Jezebel at the cost of Naboth's life.

Just after a sense of righteous anger is aroused in us after reading this passage in the First Reading, Jesus tells us in the gospel to reject the law of revenge and offer little resistance to adversaries.

Nevertheless, the cry of the poor and the oppressed reaches the ears of the Lord, especially those who are mistreated by the powerful for their own interests. Let us resolve today, to augment their prayers and alleviate their suffering when we can.

 


Prophet Elijah vs. The Prophets of Baal

https://paulvanderklay.me/2017/09/15/elijah-slaughters-the-priests-of-baal/The daily Mass readings this week have been following the biblical story of the prophet Elijah and his dramatic actions on behalf of the God of Israel. This painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder depicts all the drama, suspense and intense human interest at the confrontation between the Prophets of Baal and The God of Israel.

As typical for many of the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures, the prophets of Baal danced, chanted and slashed themselves in an ecstatic trance to communicate with Baal. Elijah's relationship with God is more direct and personal. Though at times scholars think the prophets of Israel may also have entered trance-like states, it's not likely in this particular case, since Elijah mocks the ritual dancing of the prophets of Baal.

 


St. Anthony of Padua

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Saint_Anthony_of_Padua#/media/File:St._Anthony_-_facial_reconstruction_-_for_mobile_and_newspaper.jpg
Facial Reconstruction of St. Anthony from His Skull

I had never seen this image of St. Anthony before and was quite surprised when I did.

In 1981, St. Pope John Paul II gave permission for the mortal remains of St. Anthony to be exhumed and studied in order to be public venerated. Likely this reconstruction is based on measurements taken during that study.

St. Anthony was 5 ft. 6 in. (somewhat taller than the average male of the day) and had somewhat enlarged knees and feet (from walking and kneeling?). Scientists estimate he was about 39 years old when he died.  As you may know, during a study of the body undertaken by the Franciscans under St. Boneventure in 1263, his incorrupt tongue was removed and his jaw and a forearm in later years. These had been on public display for veneration.

Neither of our two images of Anthony look much like the facial reconstruction, but icons are only windows to prayer, not necessarily representations of photographic accuracy.

Anthony was a great preacher and tireless evangelist who had a gift for communicating the gospel in word and work.

 


Stir Into Flame The Gift of God

FireToday's first reading from 2 Timothy reminds us to stir the flame of faith we have in our hearts into action. Our faith can become quiet, almost dormant if we let it, like a cozy fire of dying embers. To keep the flame alive, it needs to be stirred and stoked.

Daily acts of charity, prayer and  frequent reception of the sacraments all can stir the faith in our hearts from low to high.