Daily Prayers and Reflections from Father Tom
Bishop Barres has removed the dispensation from attending Mass in Church
as of the weekend of August 14/15
We encourage you to be reasonable, wear a mask if you have concerns and are immune compromised.
Hand sanitizing stations will remain in the lobby at this time.
Please be respectful of each other and aware of proximity.
It is important to remember that all safety protocols should be maintained.
The Sign of Peace should not involve physical contact outside of one’s own household.
The Precious Blood will not be distributed until further notice.
Weddings, Funerals, Confessions, Anointing of the Sick, Eucharistic Adoration and devotions, etc., have all resumed.
We want to welcome you home!
I/we pray that you’ll feel safe joining us as we celebrate and do in memory of Him,
what is the heart of our Catholic faith....celebrate Eucharist.
And I want to assure you that we at Saints Philip and James from the very start
have taken every safety and health concern to protect us all.
I’m praying for you and ask that you pray for me and for our parish. I hope to see you soon! God bless you.
Love, Father Tom
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DAILY PRAYERS - REFLECTIONS - AND WORDS
FROM FATHER TOM
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Click here for the lLink to USCCB Mass readings- click on appropriate day. Act of Spiritual Communion prayer can be found on our opening page
Music for August 1, 2021 ~ 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gathering – Glory and Praise to Our God
Presentation - Lord You Have Come
Communion – I Have Loved You
Sending Forth – Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
Responsorial Psalm: The Lord gave them bread, bread from Heaven
Permission to podcast/livestream the music in this service is obtained
from OneLicense with the license # A-607678
**Recorded CD music is not included in this license.
Blinded by our assumptions
A few decades ago, after talking to a high school theology class about the remarkable 20th century discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, an absent-minded and frustrated student raised his hand and exclaimed: “I just don’t understand why finding some squirrels by the Dead Sea is so important!” His words revealed that he totally misunderstood everything I had said in that class. As I spoke about scrolls, he was trying to imagine squirrels.
Similarly, in today’s Gospel, those who listened to Jesus were offended. Jesus was mending broken lives and sharing profound wisdom and some who listened could not get beyond their familiar but inaccurate assumptions and hasty conclusions about him. How have our unexamined assumptions and hasty conclusions blinded us to the wisdom of Christ today?
Christ Jesus, Wisdom of the Father, help me to gaze upon you with the eyes of a child this day rather than through the eyes of smug familiarity. Amen.
Memorial of Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus
Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
Jesus came primarily as a warrior whose final enemy is death. It is easy to domesticate Jesus, presenting him as a kindly moral teacher. But that is not how the Gospels present him. He is a cosmic warrior who has come to do battle with those forces that keep us from being fully alive.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus deals with the effects of death and a death-obsessed culture: violence, hatred, egotism, exclusion, false religion, phony community. But the final enemy he must face down is death itself. Like Frodo going into Mordor, he has to go into death’s domain, get into close quarters with it, and take it on.
Coming to Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus feels the deepest emotions and begins to weep. This is God entering into the darkness, confusion, and agony of the death of sinners. He doesn’t blithely stand above our situation, but rather takes it on and feels it at its deepest level.
Reflection on the Painting
Kelly Mc Neil is an artist based in Ontario. She specialises in wildlife painting, but our canvas today is a
painting of her son playing on the beach (Big Beach, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia). Feet in the water,
he is on the lookout for something. Titled, ‘Discovering a Treasure’, the painting shows the little boy
seeking and finding a treasure. The treasure to the boy may just have been a beautiful shell... a simple
and beautiful gift from nature.
The treasure the man found in our Gospel reading today was so precious to him that it completely
transformed his life. It changed him. It changed his outlook on life. It changed his plans. The treasure
altered his goals. But, there was a cost: he had to sell everything he owned. He had to risk getting rid of
all he owned in order to embrace the new-found treasure. However, he knew what he was doing. He took
a calculated risk and knew that selling all his possessions was going to turn him into a wealthy man, as he
would own the amazing treasure. What might have seemed recklessness, selling all he had, was not that
reckless after all. The benefits far outweighed the costs.
What our parable doesn’t share with us is how much time elapsed between the selling of everything, and
him having full access to the new field with its treasure. Maybe it was a time of anxiousness to see if all the
property deals would go through smoothly. Maybe he was just very excited at the prospect of owning the
new field? Maybe afraid?… Probably a combination of all these. In a way, our life here on earth is this gap in-between: the time in which we prepare for moving into the new field. This is the time where we know the treasure is ahead of us, but we don’t quite walk in the new field yet. All we can do is prepare, knowing that one day we will be in the presence of the true treasure…
Reflection on the Art Installation
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus is explaining the parable of the weeds. It is a parable about good and
evil, both present in our world, the field as Jesus describes it. The world has forces of good and evil at
work in it. But it is not just in the external world that these battles are being fought: it is also in our
own internal world. In our own hearts, in our own fields, deep inside each of us we fight these battles
between good and evil. Today we ask God to come onto our field and dwell there and help work our
In each of us, goodness, weaknesses, faults, compassion, sin, all live together, just as wheat and weeds
grow together in fields. The more we work the field and our spiritual lives, the better the wheat will
grow and the stronger it will become, overshadowing the weeds.
Our artist, Agnes Denes, is standing in a glowing field of golden wheat, holding a staff in her hand. In
1982, she created this very unusual artwork in New York. “Wheatfield, A Confrontation” (the title of the
artwork) was a two-acre wheat field on a landfill area that would eventually become Battery Park,
Manhattan. After growing as a conceptual artwork, the field was harvested that August and then
disappeared forever from the site. We see behind her some of the New York skyscrapers. It wasn’t just
an artwork at the time, but a groundbreaking experiment in urban farming. But just as the wheat field disappeared a few months after the installation, so has the artist faded from people's consciousness. Sadly, very few people remember her and the groundbreaking art she created at the time. One day she was known, the next she faded away from the art scene… the harvest came, the wheat was collected, the weeds burnt and the field is no more...
Ever Expanding Love
Today’s memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, fits perfectly with today’s Gospel reading of the parables that compare the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed or leaven bread. Jesus teaches that God’s love is not finite; it is constantly growing and “rising”. As a parent, my heart expanded and grew bigger for child number one and then just got bigger for children numbers two and three. Jesus’ parables remind me that the Kingdom of God works like that.
Because the kingdom of God isn’t finite and is constantly expanding, there is no reason for us to judge each other – even when a golden calf is made as in the first reading from today’s Mass (Ex 32: 15-24, 30-34). God reminds us he will take care of any issues and encourages us to try again.
Am I willing to look at others who see the world differently than I do and admit that there is room in the Kingdom of God for all of us? Do I allow my heart to expand to include each person I meet just as a parent does with a new child?
Lord, let my heart be good soil,
open to the seed of your Word.
Lord, let my heart be good soil,
where love can grow and peace is understood.
When my heart is hard,
break the stone away.
When my heart is cold,
warm it with the day.
When my heart is lost,
lead me on your way.
Lord, let my heart,
Lord, let my heart,
Lord, let my heart be good soil.
—Lyrics to “Lord, Let My Heart Be Good Soil” by Handt Hanson
Click Here: July 25, 2021 Bring Your Gifts to Jesus! | One-Minute Homily
Doug Jones, SJ Jul 25, 2021 One-Minute Homily, Videos ~ Approx 1 min
In the story of the multiplication of loaves, Jesus takes a few loaves and fish and makes them more than enough to feed 5000 people. Doug Jones, SJ, reflects on how Jesus can take whatever we bring to him and make it more than enough. Based on the readings for Sunday, July 25, 2021.
God does more than we can ask or imagine!
Hi, I’m Doug Jones, and this is my One Minute Reflection.
When the boy in today’s Gospel brought Jesus five loaves of bread and two fish, he could never have expected what would happen next. We know, of course, because this is one of the most beloved stories in all of the New Testament: Jesus multiplies that boy’s gift so it feeds five thousand people…with plenty left over!
Jesus will do the same with our gifts, too. Our call as Christians is to bring Jesus our talents, our hopes, our desires, all that we have. No matter how meager or simple we might think they are, he will multiply them. He’ll help us do more with them than we could ever do on our own.
Like he did in today’s Gospel, Jesus will use our gifts to nourish his people. He’ll give their bodies and spirits food for the journey.
Bring your gifts to Jesus, and watch in awe at what you and he do with them!
Reflection on the Painting
Van Gogh painted this canvas whilst he was in hospital. This was the view he had from his room.
In the wake of several mental crises, Vincent committed himself to hospital at the end of
April 1889and stayed there for several months. We see a sun-drenched wheat-field, with
a reaper working hisway through the field. After he painted this painting, he wrote this: "
A reaper, the study is all yellow,terribly thickly impasted, but the subject was beautiful
and simple. I then saw in this reaper – a vague figure struggling like a devil in the full
heat of the day to reach the end of his toil – I then saw the image of death in it, in this
sense that humanity would be the wheat being reaped. (...) But in this death nothing is sad;
it takes place in broad daylight with a sun that floods everything with a light of fine gold.”
Vincent wrote about his own paintings when he was in the mental hospital as he had no-
one to discuss his art with. Painting was a lonely experience. He painted various versions
of these beautiful wheat fields surrounding the asylum. Nearly all the paintings feature a
large glowing orb of the sun, which he had come to think of as filled with religious symbolism
and a sign of hope. The reaper in our painting is not just harvesting but also separates the wheat from the weeds, and will subsequently burn the weeds. Patience is needed when farming. And therein lies the essence of today’s reading: the patience of the Lord. He does not want us to gather the weeds prematurely, for fear of also rooting up the good seed and young growth.
Eagerly receiving the Word of God
How many times have you been at Mass and heard a Scripture and thought to yourself, Oh, this one again. I hate to admit that sometimes I fall into a rut where the Gospels, after hearing or reading them so many times, seem to lose their “luster” or “shock value”. In these moments, whether we realize it or not, we become the one who doesn’t truly understand, or the one without roots, or the one overcome with the world’s problems and temptations. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds to receive the Word of God with eagerness, attention, and childlike acceptance.
—Audrey Merck is a Theology teacher and Summer Bridge Principal at Jesuit High School in Tampa, Florida.
Lord, give us eyes to recognize you, ears to hear you, minds to ponder you, hearts to love you, and hands to serve you. Amen.
Reflection on the Gothic Sculpture
Today we celebrate the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalen. Our beautiful carved limestone sculpture dates from
around 1313. It looks so modern, though. I saw this sculpture only once, about 20 years ago, and it stayed
with me. The sinuous lines and waved texture is almost reminiscent of the Art Nouveau style, but this is an
early 14th-century sculpture!
It is has been hard for artists over the years to portray Mary Magdalen. Either she gets portrayed as a saint
or as a sinner. Of all the saints mentioned in the Gospel readings, she is probably the most adaptable and
versatile of figures for artists to depict. Tales and legends even beyond scripture have turned her into a figure
that has fascinated artists throughout art history, leading to her being portrayed as a saint, labelled as a sinner,
condemned a prostitute, even up to the point of her being reimagined as Jesus' wife. She has been an enigmatic
figure for artists. This is the reason why our Gothic sculpture is so unusual. The artist felt he could approach the
subject of Mary Magdalen in a uniquely creative way.
She was first and foremost a friend, a disciple and a witness to Christ. She was there during Jesus’ ministry; she
was there at the foot of the cross; she prepared Jesus’ body for burial; she discovered the empty tomb; she was
the first person to speak to Jesus after the Resurrection… She was Jesus’ most loyal follower. It is this loyalty we
celebrate today on her feast day. As Cicero said: ‘Nothing is more noble, nothing more venerable than loyalty’.
Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, our Gospel for today is the parable of the sower and the seed. It has to do with the growth and development of the kingdom of God. We hear that Jesus "went out of the house and sat down by the sea" and that large crowds gathered around him. This is Jesus speaking to the whole world.
Sitting down, he is, again, in the attitude of the ancient teacher and judge, and he speaks the parable of the sower. The sower sows far and wide, some of the seed landing on the path, where the birds eat it up; some falling on rocky ground, where it is scorched in the sun; some sown among thorns, where the life is choked off; and some sown on rich soil, where it bears thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold.
Keep in mind that Jesus himself, in person, is the seed sown. Jesus is the Logos that wants to take root in us. This seed is sown far and wide, through all sorts of means, but in you, let the seed be sown deep, where it can’t be stolen, scorched, or choked.
Reflection on the Sculpture
Through our Baptism, we are all welcomed into the very family of God: we are all sisters, brothers,
mothers and fathers to each other. We enter into a relationship with every other Christian through
our baptism. It is a unique bond that links us all. Furthermore, we also enter into an eternal family
relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each time we go to mass, we celebrate this
communion between us all. That is what the Church is: a family! The Christian vocation which we are
all called to through our baptism is all about this family relationship and communion. None of us are
Struggling with loneliness is not something that Christians are immune from, even though we are part
of this vast community of fellow believers. Sometimes an emptiness can overwhelm us, as powerfully
sculpted by Swiss artist, Albert György. This piece is installed at the side of Lake Geneva. The figure is
grieving after losing a loved one. Head down, the figure is filled with emptiness. It portrays the void
that grief leaves us with.
When this sculpture was installed in situ in 2018, it was shared over 200,000 times on Facebook and
seen by over 25 million people in the week following its installation. The artwork struck a chord with
people, showing how powerful a single artwork can be, touching so many people. The gaping hole in
the figure shows how we all become an outer shell feeling empty at times. But Jesus reminds us today,
that we are all sisters and brothers to each other, and can find support and comfort through the bond
of our faith.
Reflection on the Sculpture
Someone told me years ago ‘Asking for a sign indicates a lack of faith.’ I do think that is a wrong statement,
as there are often signs around us which drive us to take certain decisions. Also asking for a sign is a type of
prayer which is valid; however, we may not be given the signs that we ask for. God has given signs at times
throughout history. For example to Noah: “I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant
between Me and the earth” (Genesis 9:13). Or to Moses: “And He said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this
shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you
shall worship God at this mountain” (Exodus 3:12). Even with Jesus, all His miracles and ministry were as sign
of who He truly was. So signs are good and important. However what Jesus is warning against today is
depending on signs, rather than depending on God. An over-reliance on signs or an over-longing for signs is
dangerous. People who want a sign from God as a proof of what they should do, do not understand the true
nature of faith.
The Pharisees and the Scribes had been seeing so many signs and proofs of who Jesus was (the healings, the
teaching ministry, the miracles,…) and yet they wanted more signs and more proof. They were hard-hearted
and no sign would ever reach their hearts. That is probably the essence of the matter. Their hearts were
turned into stone. Even Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection still didn’t convince them. So the issue lay in their
hearts, not in the abundant signs that God sent them.
Our sculpture by Dutch artist Isaac Monté, is literally a heart of stone. Even though the gold veins try to
embellish the heart… it remain at its essence hard.
Reflection on the Illustration
Our illustration, created in 1950 by Warner Sallman, portrays Jesus standing behind a young man who is trying to navigate his boat through the storms of life in order to make it safely back to the harbour. Both are gazing into the distance, towards the same goal, the same destination. Warner Sallman was a painter and illustrator based in Chicago. His ‘Head of Christ’ painting of 1940 has been reproduced over 500 million times. Today’s artwork is less well known but equally noteworthy. In 1994, The New York Times wrote that Sallman was likely to be voted the "best-known artist of the century” seeing how widely spread his Head of Christ work was.
We hear in our Gospel reading today how Jesus and His disciples ‘went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves’. They needed some time out to recover from the intensity and demands of their mission. I guess sailing in a boat provides that restfulness. Though I am not a sailor myself, I know from friends who sail that they experience it almost as something spiritual. It is just you out there, with or without friends, being part of the vastness of the winds, seas, the stars, galaxies and the universe. Apparently ‘thinkers’ gravitate to the sport of sailing. The sea provides a unique connection with the world, the universe, and with God.
If I may, I leave you with this poem, ‘The Unknown Shore’ by Elizabeth Clark Hardy (1849-1929):
Sometime at eve when the tide is low,
I shall slip my moorings and sail away,
With no response to a friendly hail,
In the silent hush of the twilight pale,
When the night stoops down to embrace the day
And the voices call in the water's flow.
Sometime at eve when the tide is low,
I shall slip my moorings and sail away.
Through purple shadows that darkly trail
O'er the ebbing tide of the unknown sea,
And a ripple of waters to tell the tale
Of a lonely voyager, sailing away
To mystic isles, where at anchor lay
The craft of those who had sailed before
O'er the unknown sea to the unknown shore.
A few who have watched me sail away
Will miss my craft from the busy bay;
Some friendly barques were anchored near,
Some loving souls that my heart held dear
In silent sorrow will drop a tear;
But I shall have peacefully furled my sail
In mooring sheltered from the storm and gale,
And greeted friends who had sailed before
O'er the unknown sea to the unknown shore.
Reflection on the Watercolour on Paper
In our Gospel reading today, Matthew quotes Isaiah 42:1–4 which is the first
of Isaiah’s “Servant Songs”. These songs describe the Messiah as God’s meek
and gentle Servant. Matthew mentioned this passage to explain why Christ
wanted to avoid the crowds. He wanted to work away gently, under the radar,
as a true humble servant of God. It is true, if all the people who had been
healed had spread the word, it might have hindered Jesus’ mission. But of
course the other major hindrance is mentioned in our Gospel passage too: the
Pharisees plotting against Jesus. We all have our own hindrances as well in our
faith. The struggle of faith is something we all have to cope
with, and at times it gets more troublesome than other times. Whilst hindrances
can be temptations, anger, impatience, love of worldly goods, etc…, probably the
issue always comes back to a lack of desire to grow spiritually. Our desire has a
great deal to do with whether we will grow deeper spiritually or not. Desiring
to desire is key! This desire is something that we control and we can either nurture or neglect it. Genuine
desire to grow spiritually will declutter the soul and make us refocus on God.
Our meticulously painted watercolour on paper by Benjamin Walter Spiers shows a cluttered room. The
place is filled with endless objects and it's hard to see which ones are important and which are not. Hard to
identify the treasure(s) amongst the clutter. Decluttering means to remove any unnecessary items from a
space. When applied to our souls, it means to try and get rid of negative feelings, bad thoughts, selfish
priorities, unforgiving attitudes, manipulative tendencies, etc… and just keeping what is important….
Mercy rather than sacrifice
“I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” Christ’s words from today’s Gospel should cause us to pause and re-evaluate what motivates our spirituality. In the context of salvation history, we can see that Christ doesn’t ask us to obliterate all sacrifices, nor are we given an excuse to recklessly take advantage of God’s mercy. However, we are called to properly recognize the times and areas of our lives that require us to ask for mercy, from those that ask us to sacrifice. Ultimately, even our sacrifices rely on God’s mercy.
Where in your own life can you hand the reins over to Christ, the Sacrificial Lamb, and truly rest in the mercy he offers, rather than unnecessarily place an undue burden on your own shoulders out of pride?
—Audrey Merck is a Theology teacher and Summer Bridge Principal at Jesuit High School in Tampa, Florida.
Reflection on the Street Art work in Palestine
Our short Gospel reading today reveals the beauty of the relationship between Jesus and His Father.
Jesus mentions ‘Abba, Father’ five times. Abba is the normal, widely-used domestic name in Aramaic
(Jesus’ native language) by which a child would call his/her natural father. So the unique, personal and
close relationship between Jesus and His Father is on full display here… and Jesus asks each of us to
fully participate in this relationship.
Ultimately it won’t be until we reach eternal life that we will be fully immersed in the close bond between
God the Father and His Son. In this earthly life we only get a glimpse of the power that their mutual love
holds. Our artwork by Banksy shows a glimpse of paradise. That is what the artist wanted to achieve: a
glimpse into a better world, into paradise for people living on the West Bank in Palestine. As with much
Street Art, the location of the piece is crucial. Banksy stencilled and painted this work onto the
Israeli-Palestinian West Bank barrier wall in August 2005. While he was creating the piece, the Israeli
ecurity forces did shoot in the air threateningly, trying to deter him from making the work. Banksy
apparently told them: "How illegal can it be to vandalise a wall if the wall itself has been deemed unlawful
by the International Court of Justice?"
The work plays on the notion that the grass is always greener on the other side and that occasionally we get glimpses into better lives or into paradise. Today’s gospel reading where Jesus talks to His Father, mentioning Him five times, gives us a beautiful glimpse too into their friendship, love and union.
“After all I’ve done for you and this is how you treat me!” Maybe you have heard this angry expression or even shouted it yourself. It reflects love rejected or mistreated. Jesus, as kind of a Moses-like prophet, announces that certain towns in which He had done “mighty deeds” are deserving of “woes”, because they saw them, but were not soul-touched by His works of healing and uniting.
Jesus is reminding His hearers of the historically sinful cities of the Hebrew past, such as Sadom and Tyre. Had they witnessed these healings and unitings, and repented, they would not be so cruely judged. You and Bethsaida, as well as Capernaum, will be judged for all you were offered and how little you received. Matthew knows the His hearers are familiar with the biblical history and are also aware of their dignity and yet continue hanging on to disbelief or other gods.
“Repentance” actually means letting go of former gods or ultimates. Those towns had been visited, offered invitations, by these “mighty deeds” and yet they could not surrender from and surrender to. “I was so good to you as a people and you slapped the gifts right out of My hands.” So “Woe to you!”
Jesus has been inviting His listeners to “repent” and some did, but not these towns to which He was visiting. The words “pendant, pennant, pendulum, depend, suspend, compendium and impending” all are hinged to the root, “Hang.” Jesus is recalling the history of how certain groups of Jewish leaders had let go of God’s hanging on to them. His call to them is to return to that Divine embrace and to let go to their hanging on to false gods and practices. “Re-pent” literally means letting loose from being tied up and cherish the grasp of their ancient and faithful God.
There is nothing nor anyone to which or to whom we can hang on to as our absolute, or ultimate reality. I look around my room, my address book, phone list and memory-bank. There ar so many persons, places and things to which I am attached. Sweaters, pictures, figurines, knickknacks containing charged memories. I hang on to the hands of those who lovingly gave them to me and some of those I find prayerfully difficult to un-depend.
We pray for the graceful freedom to let go of our “hang-ups” to be freer to receive the new “Mighty deeds” which of course, we fear will not be offered. Relax, rejoice and re-God!
Reflection on the Medieval Sword
The Gospel readings continue from last week’s theme, where Jesus is still instructing the disciples. Today he
shares that 'it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword’. The sword depicted here is a steel sword
dated around 1400 AD, and shows a very sharply pointed blade. The elongated sharp point indicates that this
sword was primarily intended for thrusting (rather than cutting). Its primary function was more than likely to
pierce armour that the opponents would have been wearing. The pommel on top bears the word “MARIA”, a
pious invocation to the Virgin Mary to protect the holder of the sword.
Swords can indeed kill and pierce an opponent. But this is not why Jesus mentions the sword in today’s reading.
Swords and knives usually cut things. They cut things in two. That is what the disciples will face on their apostolic
outreach: people will be divided in two. There will be those who will accept the Good News and those who will
reject God’s message. It is a 'clear-cut' choice indeed whether to follow Christ or not.
Our faith is always shared
Jesus sends out the Apostles with nothing except one thing, each other. Our faith is not something in which we walk alone, it’s always in relationship to others. It is not meant to be hoarded individually, but rather it is meant to be shared. When we choose to belong to each other, we are humbled in knowing that our way is not always the right way, and we are also supported in our mistakes. Above all these things, when we are sent out together on mission, when we and our friends and family look to do God’s will together, then the love that we have for each other shines forth and inspires the world to want to follow the source of that love, Jesus. This action of love will convince more people to follow Jesus than every homily ever given. —Alex Hale, SJ
Prayer Holiest of Trinities, who is in perfect relationship with each other and yet united as one, help us to build friendships of love with others so that we too may share in the joy of giving our hearts and our lives to others. Amen. —Alex Hale, SJ
Reflection on the Fresco
Our artwork today is a detail of Michelangelo’s Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel. It shows a group of
the damned being pulled down into hell. It is inspired by Dante’s Inferno, with which Michelangelo would
have been very familiar. The judgment passed on these figures has put fear into them, powerfully
represented here in our figure who seems to be in complete inner torment. He expresses remorse, anxiety,
despair and the fear of what may happen to him now.
Jesus is telling His disciples not to respond to the persecutions they will face with misplaced fear. He makes
the point that those in authority can just kill off the bodies but not their souls or spirit. Whilst it would be
easy for us to think that this reading was meant for first-century Christians in the face of cruel persecution, it
is also a reading which is applicable for us now. Jesus is prompting us to have a healthy ‘fear of the Lord’ as
described in the Old Testament. This fear is not an invitation to panic or to be terrified of God. No, the fear
Jesus describes is one that expresses a deep respect for God. It is a fear rooted in love, whilst also
acknowledging that God has the ultimate power to do what He wants, such as sending people to the Inferno,
as depicted in Michelangelo’s fresco.
In past times committed Christians were known as ‘God-fearing people’. It was probably meant as compliment.
Maybe now we have swung too much the other way, where ‘fearing God’ is looked upon as being just an
old-fashioned concept? A different way to look at it is that if we fear God, then we know there is nothing
else or no-one else to fear…
The whole movement of the Bible is toward ever-greater Incarnation and embodiment, until the mystery of mutual indwelling is finally experienced and enjoyed even here in this world, in this life, and in this body. It then becomes the banquet that we call eternal life or heaven. For Christians, Jesus, the Christ, is the ultimate symbol of this divine goal, pattern, and embodiment: “When Christ is revealed, and his life is your life, you will be revealed in all your glory with him” (Colossians 3:4). Henceforth we know our true and lasting life in the new “force field” that Paul calls the Body of Christ and not in individual or private perfection.
Paul’s notion of the Body of Christ has a material and cosmic character to it, and begins in this world. Yes, there is a “new heaven” but there is also a “new earth” (Revelation 21:1). In this mutual indwelling we no longer live just as ourselves, but in a larger force field called the Body of Christ, webbed together by the Holy Spirit.
What the full biblical revelation has given us is the history within the history, the coherence inside of the seeming incoherence. If we don’t get this inner pattern, then religion becomes simply aimless anecdotes—just little stories here and there, with no design or direction. Only in the final chapter of the Bible can it say, “Now God lives among humans, they have become God’s people, and he has become their God” (Revelation 21:3).
Here’s where Brian McLaren envisions the “great themes” of Scripture ending up, in the reconciliation of God’s new heaven and new earth:
Imagine a moment before the Big Bang banged. Imagine a creativity, brilliance, fertility, delight, energy, power, glory, wisdom, wonder, greatness, and goodness sufficient to express itself in what we know as the universe. Try to imagine it, even though you know you cannot: a creative imagination and energy so great that it would produce light, gravity, time, and space . . . galaxies, stars, planets, and oceans . . . mountains, valleys, deserts, and forests . . . . gorillas, dolphins, golden retrievers, and us.
And then dare to imagine that this is the great, big, beautiful, mysterious goodness, wholeness, and aliveness that surrounds us and upholds us even now.
Finally, try to imagine that this is also the great, big, beautiful, mysterious goodness, wholeness, and aliveness into which all of us and all creation will be taken up—in a marriage, in a homecoming, in a reunion, in a celebration. . . .
The whole story flows toward reconciliation, not in human creeds or constitutions, but in love, the love of the One who gave us being and life. . .
So our journey in the story of creation, the adventure of Jesus, and the global uprising of the Spirit has come full circle. It all came from God in the beginning, and now it all comes back to God in the end. 
 Brian D. McLaren,
Paul: A New Creation
Paul, the great apostle to the gentiles, is a unique figure in the New Testament. About half of the books in the New Testament bear his name, either because he actually wrote them or because other early Christians attached his name to their work.
For Paul, salvation is something that is actually experienced. He wrote about the experience in so many ways because he was always trying to get a handle on it. He sought to put into words something for which he had no ready-made vocabulary. One such phrase he used was a new creation. He wrote, “All that matters is to be created anew” (Galatians 6:15). He himself felt like a new man after his conversion, filled with a new power he had never known before. His other phrase is en Cristo, or “in Christ,” which he uses dozens of times to move us to a collective notion of salvation—with scant success up to now.
Through the Church, in the Body of Christ, God calls us to a new way of living, a new way of relating to God, to others, and to the world. Paul believes the Church is meant to be a community whose way of living runs contrary to the prevailing culture. We would call it countercultural today. It is a way of cooperating rather than competing, a way of giving rather than getting, a way of sharing rather than hoarding, a way of sacrifice rather than comfort, a way of faith rather than knowledge, a way of relationship rather than anonymity, a way of love rather than animosity. Through membership in the Body of Christ, this way of living is a sharing in the life of Christ.
Brian McLaren describes the new community we are called to in the Spirit of Christ:
We must find a new approach, make a new road, pioneer a new way of living as neighbors in one human community, as brothers and sisters in one family of creation.
That’s why the apostle Paul repeatedly describes how in Christ we see humanity as one body and our differences as gifts, not threats, to one another. In Christ, Paul came to realize that people aren’t different because they’re trying to be difficult or evil—they’re different because the Spirit has given them differing gifts. . . .
More than ever before in our history, we need a new kind of personal and social fuel. Not fear, but love. Not prejudice, but openness. Not supremacy, but service. Not inferiority, but equality. Not resentment, but reconciliation. Not isolation, but connection. Not the spirit of hostility, but the holy Spirit of hospitality.
So the “most excellent way,” Paul said, is the way of love [1 Corinthians 13:13]. Old markers of gender, religion, culture, and class must recede: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” [Galatians 3:28] . . . [and] “the only thing that counts is faith working through love” [Galatians 5:6]. Where the Spirit is, love is. Where the Spirit teaches, people learn love. 
Acts: Knowledge on Fire
In Luke’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit is fully bestowed on Jesus, the beloved Son who acts with God’s power, speaks with God’s authority, and loves with God’s love. Through the gift of the Spirit given to Jesus, God’s justice is announced and demonstrated as Jesus travels from Galilee to Jerusalem, freeing the sick from their illnesses, liberating the enslaved from their sins, and enriching the poor with the good news of the messianic banquet open to all.
In the Acts of the Apostles, also written by Luke, that same Spirit is bestowed on a body of God’s sons and daughters who surrender their own lives to God’s love. Jesus tells his disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit overcomes you, and then you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The spiritual truth is this: there is a difference between knowledge “on ice” and knowledge “on fire.” For many Christians, their belief is often just knowledge “on ice,” not experiential, firsthand knowledge, which is knowledge “on fire.” Even though we call them both faith, there is a difference between intellectual belief and real trust. There is a difference between talking about transformation and God’s love and stepping out in confidence to live a loving life. Only the second is biblical faith: when our walk matches our talk.
The Spirit teaches us this new walk. When Jesus died, the apostles didn’t have a Spirit-filled faith. Though Jesus’ mother Mary and Mary Magdalene stayed, all but one of the men deserted Jesus on the cross. The apostles were demoralized. They lacked conviction. They had no aim or purpose. But shortly afterwards, they were transformed. Changed from within, they acted, lived, and walked in a new way. These lukewarm followers began to act like people “on fire.” Or as Acts describes them, they are “the people who are turning our whole world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
Brian McLaren writes about the need for the fire of the Spirit today:
In the millennia since Christ walked with us on this Earth, we’ve often tried to box up the “wind” [of the Spirit] in manageable doctrines. We’ve exchanged the fire of the Spirit for the ice of religious pride. We’ve turned the wine back into water, and then let the water go stagnant and lukewarm. We’ve traded the gentle dove of peace for the predatory hawk or eagle of empire. When we have done so, we have ended up with just another religious system, as problematic as any other: too often petty, argumentative, judgmental, cold, hostile, bureaucratic, self-seeking, an enemy of aliveness.
In a world full of big challenges, in a time like ours, we can’t settle for a heavy and fixed religion. We can’t try to contain the Spirit in a box. We need to experience the mighty rushing wind of Pentecost. We need our hearts to be made incandescent by the Spirit’s fire. 
Moving toward a profound change
Similar to Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon, Jacob’s crossing the Jabbok clearly refers to more than just a river. Remember, Jacob is on his way to meet his estranged brother Esau, and literally everything is at stake. This is the hero’s journey, where on his way he wrestles, struggles, and eventually prevails against a mysterious adversary. There’s no denying the importance of this encounter since afterwards he is given a new name, signifying a profound change, a new identity.
Our lives are full of moments such as these. Whether it’s deciding to move to a new home amongst the uncertainties, to follow our dreams amidst the naysayers, or like Jacob, attempting to reconcile with an estranged family member despite the risks, there comes a point where we too must make that crossing. So, what are you waiting for? With Jesus guiding us as the good shepherd, do not fear, and cross the Jabbok.
—Mike Manalastas, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the West Province who is studying theology in Madrid.
The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul.
He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.
You set a table before me in front of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of the LORD for endless days.
Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, the centerpiece of our Gospel today is the story of the hemorrhaging woman. To get at the power of the Gospel, we have to reacquaint ourselves with the Jewish attitudes regarding the clean and the unclean. In the book of Leviticus we find carefully laid out prescriptions dealing with animals, plants, foods, and situations that are unclean. These prescriptions were meant to identify the Jewish people as a people. But they had a rather severe downside, since they placed certain people in extremely difficult situations.
Having a flow of blood for twelve years meant that for that entire period the woman in our Gospel was a virtual pariah. Anyone with whom she came in contact would be considered unclean. She couldn’t participate in the ordinary life of her society.
She touches Jesus and should have rendered him unclean. But so great is her faith, that her touch, instead, renders her clean. Jesus effectively restores her to full participation in her community.
The most important outcome is this: Jesus implicitly puts an end to the ritual code of Leviticus. The identity of the new Israel, the Church, would not be through ritual behaviors but through imitation of him.
Click Here: July 4, 2021 Richard Rohr
Matthew's Good News:
The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand
This week I will continue to share portions from my early tapes and
books on the Great Themes of
Scripture. While these talks first launched my public teaching ministry
in 1973, I hope they still contain some relevant wisdom for today,
especially when paired with insights from my friend and CAC teacher Brian McLaren.
The great themes of the New Testament continue those of the Hebrew Bible, and one of those “great themes” is the Gospel itself. In ancient times, a “gospel” was a sharing of good news. Why did the Gospel writers choose to use the Greek word euangelion, which means “good news”? I think it’s because the story of Jesus was the news that transformed their lives. It was Good News of unconditional love, that we are loved, and that our entire lives can and should be based on the absolute love of God. That centers and grounds everything. What a tragedy that so much of Christianity has been made bad news, and has joined with the bad news of Empire, scapegoating, racism, war, sexism, and destruction of the planet. How far we must be from the experience of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John!Matthew wants to show that Jesus has come to proclaim and to establish “the kingdom of God.” Jesus
says, “Turn around! The kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17). The realm of God is right here, right now, in the present tense. The relationship with God’s love that sets us free is in our midst. We have to have the humility and trust to turn around and see it.
Here’s how Brian McLaren describes it:
Jesus forms a movement of people who trust him and believe his message. They believe that they don’t have to wait for this or that to happen, but rather that they can begin living in a new and better way now, a way of life Jesus conveys by the pregnant phrase kingdom of God. Life for them now is about an interactive relationship—reconciled to God, reconciled to one another—and so they see their entire lives as an opportunity to make the beautiful music of God’s kingdom so that more and more people will be drawn into it, and so that the world will be changed by their growing influence. 
It is a much greater message than just individual salvation, which has not gotten us very far at all.
Jesus preaches to “turn around,” or in Greek metanoia, which literally means to “change your mind.” It does not mean self-flagellation or being really down about ourselves, which is what the word “repent” has implied for most of us. It always involves an attitude of trust, letting go, and surrender. Originating with the Hebrew prophets, the biblical idea of metanoia is that of a change of mind and heart, a full turning around, a whole new transformation of one’s mentality and level of consciousness, more than “going to church” or following a new moral code.
 Brian D. McLaren
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’
Reflection on the Drawing
Our drawing by Italian artist Vittorio Bigari, from the mid 18th century (around the same time as yesterday’s painting),
depicts the moment Saint Thomas touches Jesus’ wound. Today’s Gospel reading is a story about seeing and believing.
Our 21st-century thinking can easily portray Saint Thomas as a scientific hero needing empirical and tangible proof in
order to believe. Atheists nowadays often refer to Saint Thomas as being one of theirs, wanting proof before believing.
But such an interpretation is not correct: implying that the other disciples were somehow naive, as they did not need
evidence, is wrong. Remember that the other disciples believed in the Resurrection not just simply through blind faith,
but because they had actually seen Christ risen from the dead with their very own eyes. Where Thomas went wrong
initially is that he simply didn’t trust the accounts of the risen Jesus from his very trusted and closest friends: he didn't
believe his friends. How much do we trust our own friends?
Trusting friends is never easy to do. Trust builds. It is true that our trust is ultimately in God, but yet we need each other.
Friends are important as they teach us, guide us, bring joy to us, and above all love us; and vice versa of course. In order
for us to trust others, we must try to be people whom others can trust. It starts with us. It starts by sharing our hearts
with others. It involves taking a risk to open ourselves to others, realising we have nothing to lose, only a lot to gain!
Happy feast day of Saint Thomas the Apostle!
Click Here: July 2, 2021 Reflection on the Painting
Tax collectors were very unpopular people. They not only collected taxes, but were also seen to be
collaborating with the Roman authorities. Therefore the calling of Matthew was quite shocking to
people. It just demonstrated how inclusive Jesus was: He literally called all people to follow Him.
Giovanni Paolo Panini, the artist who painted today’s canvas, was renowned for painting Roman
landscapes, including old ruins and interiors of churches. He painted very few religious paintings,
of which our work is a good example. We see Jesus calling Matthew by stretching out his arm and
pointing his finger. Matthew is seen overtly dealing with the taxes, having his books open and
surrounded by other tax collectors and Roman soldiers. Some of the disciples, such as St Peter, are
looking on on the left. The drapery above the tax collectors is reminiscent of a Jewish blue and white
striped tallit (prayer shawl), which the artist would have seen on his travels. Whilst the scene in the
foreground could be set 2,000 years ago, the 18th-century architectural background brings the scene
back to contemporary times and shows the relevance of the Gospel story for every age.
Jesus understands who we are and how we sometimes can be locked into certain roles, such as Saint Matthew being a tax collector. Whoever we are, whatever we do, whatever we work at, He asks us to respond to His
call when He invites us to ‘Follow me’.
In today’s Gospel reading, we see Jesus healing a paralyzed man. This is one of many examples of Jesus’ public ministry that we can see blossoming throughout Matthew. In fact, just prior to this section, Jesus expels demons from some swineherds. While the act of healing a person is straightforward, albeit difficult, there is a deeper message that can be found here. Before healing the man of his paralysis, Jesus tells him that his sins are forgiven. This caused some outrage, and Jesus was even accused of blasphemy, for which the punishment could be death.
Why did the scribes react this way? Because they were focused on the worldly. In the eyes of the bystanders, the most important thing that could be fixed in the paralyzed man was his physical condition. However, it is important to realize that the greater gift was the forgiveness of the man’s sins. Jesus makes this point evident by asking the crowd which is harder, to say “your sins are forgiven” or to say “rise and walk”. While healing his paralysis undoubtedly improved his quality of life, the forgiveness of his sins improved his eternal life.
Jesus knew the people may have trouble believing in His power to heal what cannot be seen (our sins) so He intelligently did things in this order. Showing the crowd that the man was healed physically, may have helped them believe that He healed the man spiritually as well.
This passage is beautiful because it shows us that God desires to know our hearts and heal the broken pieces. He looks beyond the physical to what makes us who we are on the inside. Is this not a wonderful thing to apply today? Moving forward, I hope this reading inspires us to keep up with our spiritual health, in addition to our mental and physical health, through confession, prayer, and whatever else may be necessary.
Click Here: June 29, 2021 Reflection on the Painting
On today’s Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, we remember these two giants of the Christian faith.
Both died as martyrs in Rome, in the early 60’s. For 30 years they worked relentlessly and joyfully at
spreading the Word of God throughout the world. And how successful they were! Each of them was very
important, but for very different reasons. Peter was chosen by Jesus in today’s reading to build His Church.
He was the first Pope and kept the Christian community together during the early days of our Church,
which was growing very rapidly. Paul sailed the seas and went out of his way to preach also to the non-Jews,
the Gentiles as they were called then. Whenever we see artworks, therefore, Peter is usually portrayed
holding a key, symbolising his duty as head of the church, and Paul is holding a Bible, symbolising his
preaching, often alongside a sword. The sword holds a two-fold meaning: the sword was used for Paul's
beheading, a symbol of martyrdom. Secondly, the sword is also a symbol of the Word of God: see for
example Eph. 6:17 ('Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God')
and Heb 4:12 ('For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword').
Both men had very different personalities. They often clashed and disputed, as depicted in our painting by Bartolomeo Cavarozzi titled 'The Dispute between St Peter and St Paul'. We can see them steeped in a deep discussion and being very focussed. St Peter is in a more pensive pose, Saint Paul with a more challenging, confrontational gaze. God used these two very different, unique characters to build His church.
Today’s solemnity reminds us that God treasures our uniqueness too and wants to use our own talents, personalities and our weaknesses in order help Him build His kingdom. Let us pray today for the whole Church all over the world. Saint Peter and Saint Paul, pray for us.
Click Here: June 28, 2021 Reflection on the Sculpture
Many of you will be familiar with this sculpture by Timothy Schmalz. Titled ‘Homeless Jesus’, it shows a
life-sized figure shrouded in a linen blanket showing visible wounds on his feet. Jesus is depicted as a
homeless person, sleeping on a park bench. His face and hands are obscured. Schmalz visited Pope Francis
in November 2013 to present a miniature version of this statue. He recalled the Pope's reaction: "He
walked over to the sculpture, and it was just chilling because he touched the knee of Jesus, and closed his
eyes and prayed. It was like, that's what he's doing throughout the whole world: reaching out to the
marginalised.” Three years later, in 2016, over 100 casts of the sculpture were installed throughout the
What I like about the sculpture is that Jesus leaves just about enough room on the bench for someone else
to sit down…. right next to Him. In our Gospel reading today, Jesus says that the ‘Son of Man has nowhere
to lay his head’. I guess we can say that as Jesus started his ministry he became homeless. He and his
disciples kept moving around and stayed in the homes of those who would welcome them. I am back in
London now for the summer and recently I was talking to a friend of mine who asked me what the biggest adjustment was of entering seminary. For me, it is probably the fact that everywhere has become my home and nowhere is my home too. This is how it will be in future. Not knowing where I will end up or be sent to, I will have to keep moving homes. And that is ok. It is as if Jesus in today’s reading is asking us seminarians:
‘Are you sure you want to be homeless with Me and keep moving with Me wherever I want you to go?”
You Are Loved
When I first gave the “Great Themes of Scripture” talks as a young priest in 1973, I couldn’t begin to imagine how they would change my life, and apparently the lives of many others. They changed mine because they were put on audiocassette and therefore spread my message far beyond my original audience. But they also changed my life in another way: having my remarks made so public, I was even more compelled to believe what I had now said about faith and the Word of God.
These talks led me to my own journey of faith—and around much of the world—talking till I grew tired of my own voice, meeting countless Christians and communities, seeing sights and knowing sorrows that further changed me. My faith journey eventually led me to leave my beloved New Jerusalem lay community in Cincinnati for a new venture in New Mexico that later became the Center for Action and Contemplation.
To be honest, I would say a lot of things differently now. Back then, I was a young, enthusiastic believer, surrounded by hope and easy joy. These are the beginning words of an evangelist, and I am happy I said them. Now I am older, chastened by failures, rejections, human suffering, study, and the sophistications and nuances of experience. Do I now know more or less? Were these words adequate, or am I saying it better now? I am really not sure and needn’t be. Over the next two weeks, my Daily Meditations editorial team and I will share some of these early words with you. Some of them we’ve updated, and some we’ve left the same. Here is how I began those talks, all those years ago:
We begin a great adventure. We begin something new. The promise is upon us. God will give us something new. All we have to come with is hunger. We have to come expecting and wanting something more than we already have now. We get what we expect from God. When we have new ears to hear with, God can speak a new word to us. When we no longer expect anything new or anything more from God, for all practical purposes, we do not really believe in God. God now wants to speak something new to us.
When we have an understanding of the great themes of Scripture, the whole book from Genesis to Revelation, we see it as communicating a divine pattern to humanity. One basic message is finally communicated to all Spirit-filled people who enter this faith dialogue with the Scriptures. The message of “Good News” is this: You are loved. You are unique. You are free. You are on the way. You are going somewhere. Your life has meaning. That is all grounded in the experience and the knowledge and the reality of the unconditional love of God. This is what we mean by being “saved.”
Adapted from Richard Rohr and Joseph Martos, The Great Themes of Scripture: Old Testament (St. Anthony Messenger Press: 1987), v, vi; and
Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, today’s Gospel passage acclaims a centurion’s trust in the Lord Jesus. To trust is to have hope, to turn one’s heart to God. It means to root one’s life, to ground and center one’s concerns, in God. And oppositely, to trust and to turn one’s heart to human beings means to root the whole of one’s life, to ground and center one’s concerns, in the things of this world: in wealth, fame, power, honor, or pleasure.
What is the center of gravity of your life? What is your “ultimate concern”? The Bible consistently lays this out as an either/or. Think of the passage in the book of Joshua, when Joshua lays it on the line for the people of Israel: “Do you serve the Lord or some other gods?”
Jesus tells his followers, “Either you are with me or you are against me.” Today’s Gospel reminds us that we each have to answer this question with great honesty and clarity.
Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation
From the Center for Action and Contemplation
Trusting Our Inner Authority
The two wheels of Scripture and Tradition can be seen as sources of outer authority, while our personal experience leads to our inner authority. I am convinced we need and can have both. Only when inner and outer authority come together do we have true spiritual wisdom. Christianity in most of its history has largely relied upon outer authority. But we must now be honest about the value of inner experience, which of course was at work all the time but was not given credence.
Information from outer authority is not necessarily transformation, and we need genuinely transformed people today, not just people with answers. I do not want my words in these meditations to separate anyone from their own astonishment or to provide them with a substitute for their own inner experience. Theology (and authority figures) have done that for too many. Rather, I hope my words—written or spoken—simply invite readers on their own inner journey rather than become a replacement for it.
I am increasingly convinced that the word prayer, which has become a functional and pious thing for believers to do, was meant to be a descriptor and an invitation to inner experience. When spiritual teachers invite us to “pray,” they are in effect saying, “Go inside and know for yourself!” Father Thomas Keating (1923‒2018) wrote:
The chief thing that separates us from God is the thought that we are separated from [God]. If we get rid of that thought, our troubles will be greatly reduced. We fail to believe that we are always with God and that [God] is part of every reality. The present moment, every object we see, our inmost nature are all rooted in [God]. But we hesitate to believe this until our personal experience gives us the confidence to believe in it. . . . God constantly speaks to us through each other as well as from within. The interior experience of God’s presence activates our capacity to perceive [the divine] in everything else—in people, in events, in nature. We may enjoy union with God in any experience of the external senses as well as in prayer. 
This is a foundational belief of the ministry of spiritual direction: everyone has access to an inner experience of God, but we don’t always recognize those experiences for what they are. We may be too busy, too bored with our church services, or too “bought in” to the narratives of our consumer culture. A practice of slowing down, of reflection, of asking “big questions” about our desires, our wounds, our values, and our relationships helps us to discover and trust in the truth and authority that lies within us.
As the wise Joan Chittister points out, “Spiritual direction, ‘holy friendship,’ can be found in every great spiritual tradition. But the purpose is not to attach us to someone wiser than ourselves—the guru, the great guide, the spiritual master, the bodhisattva, the saint. The purpose of spiritual direction is to enable us to become holy ourselves.” 
Reflection on the Painting
Today we celebrate the birth of St John the Baptist. It is a special day, as John the Baptist is the only saint
whose birth we as a Church celebrate with a solemn feast. Feast days of all the other saints are normally
based on the day of their death (if known). Of course, the only other person whose birth we celebrate is
Jesus. Today, the 24th of June is exactly 6 months before the birth of Christ.
These dates are not insignificant. We celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December which is just a few days
after Winter solstice… This is when the days are getting longer again, and with the birth of Jesus the days are
getting longer again… He is the true light coming into the world. In sharp not un-coincidental contrast, the
celebration of the birth of John the Baptist is celebrated around the Summer solstice. Today, the light of the of
the sun starts to decrease… Therefore it is a perfect day to celebrate John, who said that ‘Christ must increase,
but I must decrease’ (John 3:30).
Our painting by William Bouguereau, is a very sweet, tender portrait of Saint John as a child. Just a few
brushstrokes paint a camel hair cloak. John gazes upwards… at the One to come. He shows plenty of resolve,
aware of his own mission… paving the way for Christ’s light to come into the world.
Click Here: June 23, 2021 Word on Fire ~ Bishop Barron
Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that a tree is known by its fruits. In the fifth chapter of his Letter to the Galatians, Paul makes this very specific. He tells us that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control,” implying that the Spirit’s presence in one’s life can be read from its radiance in these soul-expanding qualities.
All of Paul’s “fruits of the Holy Spirit” are marks of an outward-looking, expansive magna anima (great soul), which stands in contradistinction to the pusilla anima (the cramped soul) of the sinner. Thus love is willing the good of the other as other; joy is self-diffusive; patience bears with the troublesome; kindness makes the other gentle; self-control restricts the havoc that the ego can cause; etc.
When is the Spirit present? When these attributes are awakened and sustained; when our souls are made great.
Click Here: June 22, 2021 Word on Fire ~ Bishop Barron
Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 7:6, 12–14
Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus warns, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many."
A question that people have been asking from time immemorial is this: "Will only a few people be saved?" Heaven, hell, salvation, damnation—who will be in and who will be out?
How should we approach this issue? The doctrine concerning hell is a corollary of two more fundamental truths—namely, that God is love and that we are free. Love (willing the good of the other) is all that God is. He doesn’t go in and out of love; he doesn’t change his mind; he’s not loving to some, and not to others. He is indeed like the sun that shines on the good and bad alike, in the words of Jesus.
However, we are also free. We are not God’s marionettes, and hence we can say yes or we can say no to his love. If we turn toward it, we open like a sunflower; if we turn from it, we get burned.
A Midwife for the Soul
Tend only to the birth in you and you will find all goodness and all consolation, all delight, all being and all truth. Reject it and you reject all goodness and blessing. What comes to you in this birth brings with it pure being and blessing. But what you seek or love outside of this birth will come to nothing, no matter what you will or where you will it. —Meister Eckhart, Sermon on Matthew 2:2
The role of the “midwife” to the soul is a powerful metaphor for the ministry of spiritual direction. Drawing on Meister Eckhart’s text, Margaret Guenther writes about the comfort and guidance that good directors can offer those who are “giving birth to the soul.”
If Eckhart is to be believed, we give birth and are born ourselves again and again: the birth of God in the soul is our own true birth. . . .
There are those who feel that something is happening to and within them. Their tastes are changing, and their balance has shifted. Sometimes they are brought up short by a crisis: an experience of conversion, a tragic loss, a period of great pain, a sharp awareness of being on a threshold. As they approach midlife, women especially may feel impelled to explore their spirituality as they discover their new and unexpectedly authoritative voice. Men and women of all ages and life experiences may sense a call, not necessarily a vocation to the ordained ministry, but simply the awareness that God expects them to do something with their lives. . . .
As a spiritual midwife, the director’s task is to pay attention, to listen to what is not being said—or to what is being said but minimized. . . .
Spiritual direction is not a crisis ministry, even though the initial impulse to seek out a director may arise from a sense of urgent personal need. The midwife of the spirit is not an expert called in for the dramatic moments, either a crisis caused by pathology or the final, exciting moment of birth. Like a midwife, she works with the whole person and is present throughout the whole process. She “has time”—unlike the tightly scheduled physician who is concerned with specifics, complaints, and pathology. Or, for that matter, unlike the tightly scheduled parish clergy, who are concerned with program, administration, and liturgy. Instead she offers support through every stage and waits with the birthgiver when “nothing is happening.” Of course, there are no times when nothing is happening. Spiritual growth can be gradual and hidden; the director-midwife can discern or at least trust that something is indeed “happening.”
As a people, we are not comfortable with waiting. We see it as wasted time and try to avoid it, or at least fill it with trivial busyness. We value action for its own sake. . . . It is hard to trust in the slow work of God. So the model of pregnancy and birth is a helpful one. . . . There are times when waiting is inevitable, ordained, and fruitful.
Margaret Guenther, Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction
The Importance of Experience
No matter the religion or denomination in which we are raised, our spirituality still comes through the first filter of our own life experience. We must begin to be honest about this instead of pretending that any of us are formed exclusively by the Scriptures or our church Tradition. There is no such thing as an entirely unbiased position. The best we can do is own and be honest about our own filters. God allows us to trust our own experience. Then Scripture and Tradition hopefully keep our personal experiences both critical and compassionate. These three components—Scripture, Tradition, and experience—make up the three wheels of what we at the CAC call the learning “tricycle” of spiritual growth. 
Historically, Catholics loved to say we relied upon the Great Tradition, but this usually meant “the way we have done it for the last hundred years.” What we usually consider “official teaching” changes every century or so. Most of our operative images of God come primarily from our early experiences of authority in family and culture, but we use teachings from the Tradition and Scriptures to validate them!
If we try to use “only Scripture” as a source of spiritual wisdom, we get stuck, because many passages give very conflicting and even opposite images of God. I believe that Jesus only quoted those Scriptures that he could validate by his own inner experience. At the same time, if we humans trust only our own experiences, we will be trapped in subjective moods and personal preferences.
It helps when we can verify that at least some holy people and orthodox teachers (Tradition) and some solid Scripture also validate our own experiences. Such affirmation makes us more confident that we are in the force field of the Holy Spirit and participating in God’s sacred work in this world.
Jesus and Paul clearly use and build on their own Jewish Scriptures and Tradition, yet they both courageously interpret them through the lens of their own unique personal experience of God. This is undeniable! We would do well to follow their examples. I will admit that the experiences we have of God—and of our own lives and desires—can be confusing and sometimes even contradictory to one another. This is why it is so helpful to have someone to walk with us as we uncover the deeper meaning of our experiences and what they might reveal to us about God and ourselves.
Christians have always relied on wise individuals to companion them in the process of coming to know who God is for them and who they are in God. As my friend Tilden Edwards, founder of the Shalem Institute writes, “We yearn for a soul-friend with whom we can share our desire for the Holy One and with whom we can try to identify and embrace the hints of divine Presence and invitation in our lives.”  Such soul-friends are sometimes called “spiritual directors,” the subject of this week’s meditations.
Click Here: June 19, 2021 Word on Fire
Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, our Gospel today calls us to entrust our lives completely to God. How often the Bible compels us to meditate on the meaning of faith! We might say that the Scriptures rest upon faith, and that they remain inspired at every turn by the spirit of faith.
Paul Tillich said that "faith" is the most misunderstood word in the religious vocabulary, and I’ve always felt that he’s right about that. What is faith? Faith is an attitude of trust in the presence of God. Faith is openness to what God will reveal, do, and invite. It should be obvious that in dealing with the infinite, all-powerful God, we are never in control.
This is precisely what we see in the lives of the saints: in Mother Teresa moving into the worst slum in the world in an attitude of trust; in Francis of Assisi just abandoning everything and living for God; in Rose Hawthorne deciding to take cancer sufferers into her own home; in Antony leaving everything behind and going into the desert; in Maximilian Kolbe saying, "I’m a Catholic priest; take me in his place."
Do not worry, and depend on God for everything. Have faith!
St. Paul reminds us in this part of his letter to the church in Corinth that they are called to focus on the one reality that most matters: their relationship with God. He warns the Corinthians not to be dissuaded by the “super-apostles” who have swayed them against the teachings of the gospel by Paul, their founder.
Paul’s “boast” is made up of the many ways that he has suffered for Christ in his ministry to the churches he founded. He’s been imprisoned, beaten, endured all kinds of hardships, traveled extensively around the world of his time. All these negative experiences he has endured for the sake of Christ and the churches he led to the Gospel of Christ.
Paul’s is a wonderful, if stark, account of the hardships surrounding the preaching of the gospel. He calls on the Corinthians to stay firm in his preaching to them. They are to avoid the contradictions brought about by the super apostles who seek to turn the people away from the faith received by Paul.
St. Paul’s words are echoed in today’s gospel reading. Where Paul encourages the church to stick to the essentials and hold them strongly, the gospel asks us to determine what is our “treasure.” To discover our treasure is to find out where our heart is: with God or (selfishly) only with ourselves. Sometimes we consider the treasure only from a negative perspective – what do we treasure? Things that draw us away from God’s love and Jesus’ life of joy and peace. Definitely needed, but there is another side also to consider.
We all have experienced great treasures in this past year and several months. There have been so many examples recently of those whose treasure has been exhibited in profound service to those who contracted the dreaded Covid19.
Think of all those who, despite the pandemic, heroically gave themselves over to deep healing of those hobbled even to death by Covid. We’ve all seen video of doctors, nurses and medical staffs beaten down by impossible shifts and extraordinary demands on their skills and energy. Facing crushing odds and seemingly defeated, they stayed on task despite the patients who died by the thousands. Think, too, of the wives, husbands and other loved ones completely separated from the ill; not able to visit and wipe the burning brows and hold the hands of their dear ones.
Lord, help us to discover where our treasure is so that we can determine where our heart is to be found. Where the heart is focused on self only, on wealth, on alcohol/drugs, that, with your guidance we may work against them and where the focus is on gratitude and joy in you and openness to your word, that we may be led to you and to your people, especially the poor among us.
Our Father, Who art in Heaven,
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done
on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
The Shadow in Christianity
We can patiently accept not being good. What we cannot bear is not being considered good, not appearing good.—St. Francis of Assisi
If you are willing to bear serenely the trial of being displeasing to yourself, you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter. —St. Thérèse of Lisieux
The two Christian mystics quoted above have helped me to escape the trap of perfectionism which always leads to an entrenched shadow. The wise Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast describes this common ploy:
In its enthusiasm for the divine light, Christian theology has not always done justice to the divine darkness. . . . We tend to get trapped in the idea of a static perfection that leads to rigid perfectionism. Abstract speculation can create an image of God that is foreign to the human heart. . . [A God that does not contain our shadows.] Then we try to live up to the standards of a God that is purely light, and we can’t handle the darkness within us. And because we can’t handle it, we suppress it. But the more we suppress it, the more it leads its own life, because it’s not integrated. Before we know it, we are in serious trouble.
You can get out of that trap if you come back to the core of the Christian tradition, to the real message of Jesus. You find him, for instance, saying, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” [Matthew 5:48]. Yet he makes it clear that this is not the perfection of suppressing the darkness, but the perfection of integrated wholeness. [Richard: Emphasis mine.] That’s the way Matthew puts it in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus talks of our Father in heaven who lets the sun shine on the good and the bad, and lets the rain fall on the just and the unjust alike [see Matthew 5:45]. It’s both the rain and the sun, not only the sun. And it’s both the just and the unjust. Jesus stresses the fact that God obviously allows the interplay of shadow and light. God approves of it. If God’s perfection allows for tensions to work themselves out, who are we to insist on a perfection in which all tensions are suppressed? . . .
[As Paul writes,] “By grace you have been saved” [Ephesians 2:8]. That’s one of the earliest insights in the Christian tradition: it’s not by what you do that you earn God’s love. Not because you are so bright and light and have purged out all the darkness does God accept you, but as you are. Not by doing something, not by your works, but gratis you have been saved. That means you belong. God has taken you in. God embraces you as you are—shadow and light, everything. God embraces it, by grace. And it has already happened.
David Steindl-Rast, “The Shadow in Christianity,” in Meeting the Shadow:
The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature,
ed. Jeremiah Abrams and Connie Zweig (Jeremy P. Tarcher: 1991), 132, 133.
Image credit: Jenna Keiper, dapple (detail), 2020, photograph, Bellingham.
Image inspiration: Shadows are always influential if not always obvious.
Some, in focus in the foreground, are easier to name while others remain
hidden in the background. How might we attend to the lessons of our own
inner shadow landscapes?
Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, today’s Gospel tells us to love our enemies so that we may be like the Father. What is the Father of Jesus Christ like? Well, listen: “He makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” The Father of Jesus Christ is love, right through. That’s all God is; that’s all he knows how to do. He is not like us: unstable, changing, moving from one attitude to another. No, God simply is love.
In every case, his grace comes first, and grace is all that he has to give. This is why the comparison to the sun and the rain is so apt. The sun doesn’t ask who deserves its warmth or its light before it shines. It just shines, and both good and bad people receive it. Neither does the rain inquire as to the moral rectitude of those upon whom it showers its life-giving goodness. It just pours—and both just and unjust people receive it.
Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, today’s Gospel gives Jesus’ teaching about non-resistance to evil people. We are continually wanting God to behave as we would—that is to say, withdrawing his love from those who don’t deserve it and giving his love to those who do deserve it. But this is just not the way God operates.
Why should you pray for someone who is persecuting you? Why shouldn’t you be allowed at least to answer him in kind—an eye for an eye? Because God doesn’t operate that way, and you are being drawn into the divine life. Why should you turn the other cheek to someone who has struck you? Because it’s practical? No, because that’s the way God operates, and you’re being called into the divine life. Why should you go beyond simply loving those who love you? Because that’s the way God operates: he loves the saints and he loves the worst of sinners.
Is any of this easy to do? Of course not. Are we able to get to this state through willing it, through earnest practice? Of course not! That’s why love is referred to as a theological virtue. It is the sheerest participation in the divine life, and it can only come from God.
In today’s gospel reading we have two parables. In the first, a farmer scatters seed on the land and then, regardless of human intervention, the seed sprouts into a plant bearing grain, that the farmer can then harvest. In the second parable, the kingdom of God is compared to a mustard seed, that though the smallest of seeds springs up to become the largest of plants. In the parable of the sower which is at the beginning of chapter 4, the focus is on the land (the hearer of God’s word). In contrast, in the parable of the growing seed that we have for today, the focus is on the seed that grows without any human intervention after it has been planted.
The parable of the growing seed and the parable of the mustard seed both call to mind God’s grace in our lives and in the building of the kingdom of God; God’s grace that moves mysteriously in ways that we cannot comprehend or grasp. We plant seeds though our words and actions, but we need to remember that God is in control and not us. We are collaborators but it is God who is the builder. Thus, the kingdom of God grows mysteriously and we are called to trust in God’s presence even when times are dark and difficult. We are called to go beyond calculations, forecasts, tangible results, and to surrender to God’s plans and not be so caught up with our own. We are called to place ourselves in God’s loving hands and to allow him to use us as he sees fit in the building of his Kingdom of peace, justice, and love. We might be frustrated and even discouraged by continued racism, oppression, hatred, violence, intolerance and so on but we cannot and should not give up. If we are truly committed to living out the gospel values in our lives, then even though we might not see the results, it is possible that we have no idea of how our words and actions are germinating and helping the kingdom of God to grow. Today's readings encourage us to continue to be faithful and to trust in God who cares and loves us deeply.
Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Friends, today’s Gospel tells the familiar story of Mary and Joseph finding twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple. When they find him, they upbraid him with understandable exasperation: “Son, why have you done this to us?” But Jesus responds, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
The story conveys a truth that runs sharply counter to our sensibilities: even the most powerful familial
emotions must, in the end, give way to mission. Though she felt an enormous pull in the opposite
direction, Mary let her Son go, allowing him to find his vocation in the temple. Legitimate sentiment
devolves into sentimentality precisely when it comes to supersede the call of God.
On a biblical reading, the family is, above all, the forum in which both parents and children are able to
discern their missions. It is perfectly good, of course, if deep bonds and rich emotions are cultivated
within the family, but those relationships and passions must cede to something that is more fundamental,
more enduring, more spiritually focused.
The paradox is this: precisely in the measure that everyone in the family focuses on God’s call for one
another, the family becomes more loving and peaceful.
Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Friends, in today’s Gospel, John tells us that a Roman soldier, in order to verify that Jesus was dead,
thrust a lance into the side of the crucified Christ, "and immediately blood and water flowed out."
Physicians tell us that this is a credible account, given that the lance would have pierced the
pericardium, the sac around the heart, which contains a watery substance.
What does this event mean? Theologians have speculated that the blood and water have a symbolic
valence, evoking the sacraments of Eucharist and Baptism.
But which first-century Jew would have missed the most obvious interpretation? This was the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy that when Yahweh cleansed his temple, water would flow forth for the renewal of the world.
Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, our Gospel for today is again taken from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has symbolically established himself as the new Moses, giving a law upon a mountain. His “you have heard that it was said . . . but I say . . .” has revealed that he has authority even over the Torah.
To be clear, the Law is not being abrogated here; it is being intensified. The Law was always meant to bring humanity into line with divinity. In the beginning, this alignment was at a fairly basic level. But now that the definitive Moses has appeared,
the alignment is becoming absolute, radical, complete.
And so Jesus teaches, “You have heard it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.”
Killing is an action, but that action is rooted in a more fundamental dysfunction:
a hateful attitude, a disordered soul, a basic misperception of reality.
To be utterly like God, we obviously have to eliminate cruel and hateful actions;
but we have to go deeper, eliminating cruel and hateful thoughts and attitudes.
For God is love, right through.
In this chapter of Matthew, Jesus has just finished teaching The Beatitudes and after this will go on to expand on the Ten Commandments. So, as we read today’s Gospel, we are reminded that Jesus’ teachings and God’s will for us are lived out, experienced, and embodied in the way we are in relationship with others.
In a “This I Believe” segment, Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ, states “I watch what I do to see what I really believe. Belief and faith are not just words. It’s one thing for me to say I’m a Christian, but I have to embody what it means; I have to live it.” The Beatitudes, the Ten Commandments, many of Jesus’ teachings recorded in the Gospels, guide us to live in right relationship with our community, with a preference for those most in need, oppressed, or looked past. In the Gospel today, Jesus reminds us that we cannot pick and choose which ones to follow and which ones to not. I also think it’s important to recognize that as humans, we sin, we turn away from right relationship with God and with our community. We cannot perfectly follow what Jesus asks of us in this Gospel, but we strive every day, in every choice, to do so. Thankfully, through God’s mercy we are forgiven when we do sin, and with that forgiveness we are called forth to heal and return to right relationship. Lifelong efforts until the end of days.
So, let us take a moment of reflection to consider these questions in our prayer.
Where have I turned away from right relationship with God or someone in my community recently? What does it feel like to have this relationship broken?
Who in my community is in need, oppressed or looked past right now? How can I give of my love, presence, and resources (time, talent, treasure) more generously?
As I consider the broken relationships in my community right now, what stands in the way of healing? What injustice or broken system impact the opportunity for right relationship? How can I be part of the healing of this larger brokenness?
What might I ask from God in order to come to right relationship? Humility? Openness? Detachment from resources in order to give more generously? Wisdom? Love?
Let us pray.
God, who creates us in community, who we experience in each person we encounter, we ask for Your grace. Your grace of humility to face the broken and to quiet the ego. Your grace of courage to look at systems of injustice and the resilience to stay committed to the work of justice. Your grace of generosity in how we show up to relationships and openness to how we might encounter You in another. Your grace of forgiveness when we sin and to quiet the fear that arises as we labor for right relationship with our neighbor and You. Finally, we ask for Your grace for what each of us needs as we strive to live out what Christ calls us to for the rest of our days. Amen.
Reflection on the Painting
Graham Braddock (born in New Zealand in 1942) painted our canvas in 2013. It shows various lamps,
lights and candles. Each of these is emanating different light. Some flames are being amplified by the
glass around them. Some candles are just simple in their beauty. Other lamps are more complex but
giving strong light. Different shapes, different sizes, different lamps, emanating different light. One
lantern has its light extinguished but the matches are ready to re-light it. A candle on the far right is
dead. No-one near to light it?…. It illustrates beautifully our reading today how ‘our light must shine
in the sight of men’ and that we all shine our light in many different ways.
Those of you who looked closely at the painting may have noticed that the clock is displaying one
minute before midnight. The night is dark, the hour late… but not too late. Every day we can start with
renewed resolve to shine our light in a new way. But Jesus is also warning us that we mustn’t shine our
light to draw attention to ourselves. It has to be done to ‘give the praise to your Father in heaven’.
If we have lived our faith for a long time, a lot of the shine might be gone over time, like the shine on a
diamond. A dullness and surface wear may have settled on the diamond over the years.
Today’s reading asks us to polish the gem of our faith again and let it shine for the glory of God.
Pope Francis said Sunday that we need to “enlarge our hearts” to truly appreciate the gift
of the Eucharist.
Celebrating Corpus Christi Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica June 6, the pope noted that Jesus instituted
the Eucharist in the large Upper Room in Jerusalem.
He said: “We need to enlarge our hearts. We need to break out of the small room of our ego and
enter the vast expanse of wonder and adoration.”
The pope lamented that this attitude of adoration was missing in “so many movements” in the
“But if this is missing, if amazement and adoration are missing, there is no road that leads to the
Lord. There will be no synod, nothing,” he said.
“This is the attitude before the Eucharist, this is what we need: adoration. The Church too must be
a large room. Not a small and closed circle, but a community with arms wide open, welcoming to all.”
He continued: “Let us ask ourselves this when someone approaches who is hurting, who has made a
mistake, who has gone astray in life: is the Church, this Church, a large room to welcome this person
and lead him or her to the joy of the encounter with Christ?”
“The Eucharist wants to nourish those who are tired and hungry along the way, let us not forget that!
A Church of the pure and perfect is a room with no place for anyone; the Church with open doors, which gathers and celebrates around Christ, is instead a great hall where everyone — all, righteous and sinners — can enter.”
Click Here: June 6, 2021
Overcoming the Gap
Incarnation is the overcoming of the gap between God and everything visible and concrete. It is the synthesis of matter and spirit. Without incarnation, God remains separate from us and from creation. Because of incarnation, we can say, “God is with us!” In fact, God is in us, and in everything else that God created. We all have the divine DNA. Everything bears the divine fingerprint including, of course, the mystery of embodiment.
The belief that God is “out there” is the basic dualism that is tearing us all apart. Our view of God as separate and distant has harmed our relationship to food, possessions, and money, to animals, nature, and our own bodies. This loss is foundational to why we live such distraught and divided lives, particularly when it comes to sexuality, the subject of this week’s meditations. Jesus came precisely to put it all together for us and in us. He was saying, in effect, “The material and the physical can be trusted and enjoyed. This world and even this body are the hiding place and the revelation place of God! To be human, to have a body, to be sexual is good!”
The whole movement of Christianity is found in the Incarnation. Jesus was not satisfied to remain Word, he became flesh. Already in the first century, the New Testament speaks of the resurrection and redemption of the body. God did not play a trick on us humans, saying “I’m going to give you sexual desire, but don’t you dare really think, feel, or act sexually!” But that’s what happens with dualism and when we view God as separate. The word sex itself comes from the Latin sectare (to cut), so the original root meaning suggests that reality is cut or divided. We split matter and spirit into two and we are searching for union or our other half.
As the writer and Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber puts it, “When two loving individuals, two bearers of God’s image, are unified in an erotic embrace, there is space for something holy. What was separate has come together. Two spirits, two bodies, two stories are drawn so close that they are something together that they cannot be alone. There is unity.” 
Jesus is the great synthesis for us, the icon of the whole mystery—all at once. “In his body lives the fullness of divinity, and in him you too find your fulfillment” (Colossians 2:9–10). We are clearly not very at home in our bodies, and Jesus came to show us that it is our human and this-world experience that we must and can trust. It is our necessary and good beginning point. After the Incarnation, we hopefully realize that the material world has always been the privileged place for divine encounter. What a surprise for most people! Most of us are shooting for the stars instead. We are looking for “higher states of consciousness” and moral perfectionism, while Jesus quite simply comes and “lives among us.”
Reflection on the Painting
The poor widow in today’s Gospel reading is a great teacher to us all. We don’t know who she is or what she does,
but by her actions she is asking us who we are and where we come from. Are we going to be like the scribes, giving
something of ourselves but holding back plenty? Or will we be generous like the widow? We all give, but hold plenty
of ourselves back as well. We give and share ‘up to a certain point’… a point that we ourselves define. The story
of the widow prompts us to give ourselves fully… Giving ourselves to God means that we are longing to be close to
Him and offer to Him all our talents and gifts. Only then will we be changed from the outside-in and inside-out…
… similar to the boy in our painting climbing from the inside out… and showing a look of amazement on discovering
a new world outside the reality he knew before. Struggling his way out of a dark background, he is finding his way
into our space. His eyes are full of wonder. Our painting by Pere Borrell del Caso was painted in 1874 and is titled
Escape from Criticism. It is thought that this painting of the modestly dressed, bare-footed boy with his wild hair,
mirrored the artist’s own desperate attempt to free himself from the art critics. This painting is a cry by a young artist
who had to struggle with the constant criticism from what he said were ‘so-called
knowledgeable’ art critics.
> Bishop Barron
> Friends, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. There is nothing more important. Therefore, I want to encourage everyone—for whomever it’s possible and safe to do so—to go back to Mass.