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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Music for October 17, 2021 ~ 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gathering – All Are Welcome #420
Presentation - Open My Eyes #404
Communion – Servant Song #381
Sending Forth – We Belong To You #644
Responsorial Psalm: Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
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.
Reflection on the Painting
Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Luke. Luke wrote two major parts of our Bible:
first his Gospel, where he covers the life of Jesus and then, secondly, the Acts of the
Apostles where he covers the life of the early church. Luke perhaps more than any
other writer of the New Testament shows us the beautiful continuation from the life
of Jesus through to the early Church, all the way to our modern times. Luke shows us
how Christ is actively still at work in His church, now. In our Gospel reading we are told
how Jesus sent out seventy-two disciples two thousand years ago. Today, we are
prompted by Luke to think of all those disciples who have gone before us and to try to
draw strength from their faith. We still share their mission today!
We are often good at passing on material things from generation to generation. A
father may want his son to have the watch given to him by his own grandfather; or a
mother may want a vase to go to the next generation as family heirloom… But as
regards to our faith, we are often more hesitant to pass it on to the next generation.
Maybe we see the passing on of faith simply as being the task of the parish priest or the
children's school. Each generation has beautiful or sad memories, stories and even values
it wants to pass on to the the next generation, but there seems to be a shyness or
hesitancy to pass our faith on to the next generation. ‘Oh well, the children can decide for
themselves later in life what they want to believe in’ is a remark we often hear. We simply
cannot assume that faith will continue to be passed on to the generations to come if we
don’t actively contribute to that process.
The dynamics of today’s reading take us from Jesus, through Luke, through the Acts of the
Apostles, all the way to us… with our responsibility to pass on the faith to the next generations.
For our artwork I simply want to share this painting by Rogier Van der Weyden depicting Saint Luke drawing Our Lady who is holding baby Jesus. During the Middles Ages, Saint Luke gained his own devotional following as the patron saint of artists. Whilst there is no record of Saint Luke actually painting the Virgin Mary, it is nevertheless a tender, intimate portrayal of both the Evangelist and Our Lady. In the background of the painting we can see Mary's parents, Joachim and Anne. The evangelist, who supposedly practiced medicine, is shown dressed like a Flemish doctor. The throne, hinting at Our Lady’s future status as the Queen of Heaven, is decorated with carved figures of Adam and Eve. Luke's trembling reverence when drawing the Virgin is tangible…
MISSION OF OUR CHURCH
Mohandas Gandhi once said, “The things that will destroy us are politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; business without morality; science without humanity; and worship without sacrifice.” So true!
We hear in our modern day of campaigns of “promise making,” aimed almost exclusively at our needs and desires. What is often missing is a call to service. “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you---ask what you can do for your country.” This famous quote is from the 1961 inauguration of John F. Kennedy.
When the only question is, “What is in it for me?” aren’t we suffering from developing spiritually? Jesus pointed his eager disciples toward the maturity of the person who has developed a heart to serve. Next weekend is World Mission Sunday. We as a Christian people have a responsibility to serve as Jesus did. To heal a broken world, we as a community of faith should be assisting the mission of the Universal Church in spreading the Gospel message, to feed each other in God’s word. Now this does not happen automatically.
Points to Pray and Ponder:
Spiritual maturity means getting out of the passive voice, being served, and into the active voice, serving. The call to serve, Jesus has taught us, is a beckoning away from death---to life. What is your mission?
Daily Inspiration from JesuitPrayer.org
October 16, 2021
Lk 12: 8-12
“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Sharing the love of Jesus with others
It is so important to introduce the people who live in our hearts to each other. This happens clearly with many couples over the question of when to introduce the partner to the family or friend group. Yet, when it seems that there never is an introduction, it feels like there’s something holding us back. It feels like there is a part of the other that doesn’t want to be shown. For there is a natural desire in each of us to connect each person who lives in our heart together into one so that our love may multiply.
This is why it’s so important to take what Jesus says here seriously. If we don’t share our love of Jesus with those we love then there’s a part of us that we’re not sharing, there’s a piece of our heart that is disconnected. So if Jesus really lives in your heart, share him with those you love.
Jesus, you love all of me and you love those who I love. Please let me share them with you and you with them so that there may be no part of my life that you aren’t allowed into. Through this, may our love be multiplied to give you ever greater glory. Amen
—Alex Hale, SJ
Looking at life from both sides
On St. Teresa of Jesus’ feast day and today’s first reading we are invited to reflect on prayer
as a friendship with God.
We all have that friend who claps for us and pushes us even harder to get out of our own way.
They constantly challenge us to look at life from both sides. That is God. We walk away from
the conversation frustrated; however, who are we really frustrated with?
Is God proud of us for showing up and doing our part? Absolutely. God knows we can do more
and sees in us what we are incapable of seeing in ourselves. May our friendship with God be one
where we look at our lives from both sides as God does. Still loving us.
Listen to “Both Sides Now” sung by Emilia Jones from the film “CODA” twice.
What speaks to you and your friendship with God?
—“Both Sides Now” written by Joni Mitchell,
Reflection on the Engraving
In our Gospel reading today we hear the words ‘killing, slaughtering, persecuting, blood, murder…’
It is often a comment made to us Christians that the Bible is full of violence. At times, especially the
Old Testament can be hard to reconcile with the God of Love revealed to us in the New Testament.
One way of explaining the violence would be that our human language is limited. We tend to ascribe
to God emotions which we experience in our own human lives. The Old Testament writers would
have used their own experiences and projected them onto how God might think and act. This can be
referred to as ‘anthropomorphism’, the attribution of human traits, emotions or intentions to God.
But probably a better way to explain the violence in especially the Old Testament is by looking at
Origen of Alexandria. Rooting everything in Christ, Origen says that Christ alone provides the
interpretive key to the Bible. As Christ revealed that God is the God of Love and Mercy, we need to
read the Old Testament with that in mind. So according to Origen, the ‘killing, slaughtering,
persecuting, blood, murder…’ must be read metaphorically. The language paints these metaphors
for evil forces. Of course some of the battles and violent events did take place from a historical point
of view, but the language built around it in the Bible goes beyond the purely historical. The language
is there to describe also (and foremost) the great spiritual battles of the people of God.
Our engraving by Gustave Doré from 1865 depicts Elijah killing the prophets of Baal. One man is about
to be beheaded. A headless corpse is falling down the cliff, whilst another body is already floating in
the river. Soldiers and onlookers watch the cruel scene. The scene taken from the Old Testament is
meant to convey spiritual truths about the necessity of eradicating sin. It is not a solely journalistic,
historical account of what took place. The story needs to be read first and foremost in light of the spiritual truths it reveals.
Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.”
Some religious leaders get their kicks from burdening people, laying the law on them heavily, making demands that are terrible, exulting in their own moral superiority. At the core of Jesus’ program is a willingness to bear other people’s burdens, to help them carry their loads. And this applies to the moral life as well. If we lay the burden of God’s law on people, we must be willing, at the same time, to help them bear it.
When were you cured by Christ and how? What was it like to receive, through the Church, his healing touch? When did you feel ostracized, despised, unworthy—and how did Christ, through his Church, restore you to health and communion? Remember that moment and share it.
Reflection on the Pastel on Paper
Born in 1975 and growing up in Transvaal (South Africa), our artist, Christopher Reid, specialises
in pastel works on paper. Pastel drawings are beautiful, as they carry an inherent softness and
subtlety about them. Their velvety texture is rich in feel, as pastel powder is pure pigment. It is
an interesting medium, as it sits somewhere between drawing and painting. The completed works,
such as our pastel today, can look just as finished and luminescent as paintings, yet the artistic
process of creating them is more like drawing than painting.
Our work represents a rusty old car engine. The car it sits in may well look beautiful on the outside,
with shiny bodywork and may be driving well, but the engine is definitely in need of attention. It is
similar to to the analogy Jesus draws between having a cup or dish that is clean on the outside,
while the inside is dirty. The car to which our engine belongs may well drive ok for the time being,
but unless it gets oiled and attended to soon, the car will come to a stand-still. So it goes with our
spiritual lives. We may well appear to other people to be doing good deeds and be respectable, but
if our inner spiritual lives remain unattended and undeveloped, we will come to a stand-still. Prayer is
the oil that will help run our spiritual engines!
Reflection on the Work of Art
Today’s reading carries some sadness with it. There seems to have been a demand for signs since the
beginning of time. Still today, the ordinary does not seem to be enough, or good enough, to impress
us. The ordinary daily experience does not prove anything to us, or so we think. We fail to see the
deeper richness around us; we fail to see what does already get revealed to us; we fail to see what
lies hidden in the everyday. There is a certain naivete and immaturity in our faith when we want to be
given signs and proofs or assurances about what we should do.
I see this in my own journey of discernment towards the priesthood. I have often asked for signs. But
what I have learnt these past few years is to rather try and see what lies hidden in the everyday and
work with that. So rather than God giving me signs, I feel that God has made me use my 'eyes' more.
I can’t speak for my fellow seminarian brothers, but I guess it would be the same for them. Today’s
reading prompts us not to pray for signs, but to pray for the gift of eyes to see the signs that are
Anyway, now to our work of art. Looking in the dictionary, we see that a ‘sign’ is defined as: ‘an
object, quality, event, or entity whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or
occurrence of something else.' Signs indicate something; signs point to something. The most
obvious application of that are traffic signs of course. They point us in the direction we want to go.
ur polished stainless steel panel with applied silkscreen motifs of traffic signs, is by Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto. As a viewer standing in front of this large work, we become part of it with our own reflection on the polished steel surface. We are then quite literally looking at signs… and at ourselves.
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Friends, in today’s Gospel, a rich young man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. There is something absolutely right about the young man, something spiritually alive, and that is his deep desire to share in everlasting life. He knows what he wants, and he knows where to find it.
Jesus responds to his wonderful and spiritually alive question by enumerating many of the Commandments. The young man takes this in, and replies, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." So Jesus looks at him with love and says, "Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor . . . then come, follow me."
God is nothing but love, straight through, and therefore the life of friendship with him, in the richest sense, is a life of total love, self-forgetting love. Jesus senses that this young man is ready for the high adventure of the spiritual life: he is asking the right question and he is properly prepared. But at this point the young man tragically balks. The spiritual life, at the highest pitch, is about giving your life away, and this is why the many possessions are a problem.
The Enemy of our Human Nature
In the course of our lives we acquire them – our own little demons. Call them what you will. Unhealthy attitudes. Destructive dispositions. Injurious habits. (Beelzebul?) Left unchecked, the little monsters take up residence in the corners of our hearts. They find harbor in even the most vigilant souls. We know this. Yet we fall. In spite of our knowledge, we yield “to the deadly enemy of our human nature.” (Spiritual Exercises 136). This is a fundamental reality of our human condition.
So what do we do? How do we confront this reality of our human condition? To start, we assume a posture of humility. We lean into God’s mercy and forgiveness. We trust that it is by “the finger of God” – the grace of God – that our demons are cast out. We choose God. We choose goodness and compassion.
What demons – unhealthy attitudes, dispositions, or habits – might I place in God’s hands today? How can I – in the busyness of my daily life – choose God?
—Douglas Gleber is the Director of Adult Faith Formation at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL.
Gracious God, as we step into this day, open our hearts to your love and your grace. Give us the courage to choose You today and every day.
Receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit
Many parents dealing with small children know all too well the feeling of the man who will give whatever his friend needs “because of his persistence.” With their ability to stick with a request, I sometimes think that this is the first verse of the Bible that my children really took to heart! But whereas parents, or the friend in the story, may give in with a begrudging sigh of annoyance, the requests that we make to God in prayer are received very differently.
God is not a magic genie who grants every passing wish that we make. Rather, God hears our petitions and gives us what we need, though not necessarily in the way we may expect. The promise is that God will “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” In this, we are promised the gifts of the Holy Spirit, traditionally stated as: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. It is these gifts that God offers as the answer to our prayer. Today, let us pray for an increase in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as we continue to pray for what we need.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth.
by the light of the Holy Spirit
you have taught the hearts of your faithful.
In the same Spirit
help us to relish what is right
and always rejoice in your consolation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Reflection on the Pastel Drawing
A few weeks ago when I was still in London, a talk on spirituality and prayer was held in our
parish on one of the evenings. In the Q&A session afterwards, one of the parishioners asked
the speaker 'if God was really listening to our prayers'. For example, the bidding prayers
that we read every Sunday, how do we know God is listening? With all these people praying
worldwide for the same things (Afghanistan, climate change, refugees, etc…), why doesn’t
God respond in a very clear way and give us a sign that our prayers actually do work? Since I
heard that question early in September, it hasn’t really left me, and I still wouldn’t know how
to answer it. It is of course a question that has been asked over and over again throughout
history, mainly when things turned out differently from what people had prayed and hoped for.
Today’s Gospel reading is encouraging for us, as it shows the disciples struggling with the same
question. They must have witnessed Jesus praying up close so often, and noticed the closeness
to His father. They wanted to have what Jesus had. They wanted to know what they had to do
in order to get that same closeness to God in prayer. Was it a special posture that helped Jesus
to pray, or words, or any other clues He could give as to how to pray? What is beautiful in Jesus’
reply in today’s reading is that he doesn’t tell the disciples that any special skills are required to
pray. Prayer is not about having special skills or saying all the right words so that God would
listen to us. Prayer is simply about wanting to be in God’s presence and being close to Him. It is
about us reaching our hearts up to God, and allowing Him to reach down to us.
But Jesus doesn’t simply dismiss the disciples’ question. He gives them and us a very brief and
beautiful prayer which literally contains everything about our faith that is important. The Lord’s
Prayer is a beautiful gift to us. We often say it or mumble it without giving much thought to what
we are saying. It sometimes feels as though we merely repeat words that we learnt by heart some
time ago. Maybe today’s reading can help us rediscover the beauty, depth and fullness of the
Lord’s Prayer… His gift to us.
The pastel drawing is by Ukranian artist Piotr Stachiewicz, done in 1908. A simple, yet powerful drawing of a pilgrim praying close to a red sanctuary lamp in the top right corner.
Reflection on the Painting
Our artwork today was painted by Caravaggio circa 1598. It isn’t your typical Caravaggio with
the dramatic use of lighting. Nevertheless it is an important picture. The story of Martha and
Mary fascinated the early Church Fathers, as it established the two of them as representative
of the ‘active’ versus the ‘contemplative’ aspects of Christian faith. We need both of course.
We need to have a bit of Martha and Mary in us. We see Martha, dressed modestly, in the act
of converting Mary Magdalene from her life of pleasure to the life of virtue in Christ. Martha,
with her face in the shadows is leaning forward passionately explaining to Mary what she should
do. Mary is holding a small orange blossom between her fingers as she holds a mirror, symbolising
the vanity she is about to give up. The comb is already thrown away on the the table and is already
broken. Caravaggio illuminates Mary’s face the most. She is portrayed at the moment of her
conversion. She listened to Martha and realises that she has a point. Caravaggio manages to
beautifully capture Mary’s spiritual change by using subtle physical elements. Mary is not looking in
the mirror anymore… rather, it is we who do…
The conversion of Saint Mary Magdalen has been depicted throughout art history in so many different ways, in different settings, linking different Gospel passages, etc… It is one of the areas where artists did use full artistic liberties to create their own interpretations of the story of Mary. Our painting is one of these interpretations, which one may argue does not reflect what actually happened. But coming back to the Gospel reading of today, a question gets put to us about who we are in our relationship with Jesus. Am I more of listener or more of a doer? Of course it isn’t a choice we have to make, as we need to do both, listening and doing. However it is something Jesus is asking us to balance: if we are more inclined to do than to listen, then we need to make an extra effort in listening. Both the active and contemplative dimensions of our Christian lives are necessary.
Reflection on the Painting
Our Gospel reading of today is probably one of the most loved stories of the whole of Scripture,
or at least a story we all feel a great connection with. Rather than reflecting on the parable of the
Good Samaritan, I would like to look at why Jesus decided to tell this story in the first place. Our
reading starts with an exchange between a lawyer and Jesus. When we read the word ‘lawyer’ we
immediately think of our lawyers nowadays who defend their clients in court. But a lawyer in Jesus’
time was simply an expert in the Law of Moses, recorded in the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,
Numbers, and Deuteronomy, plus all the civil laws, religious laws, moral laws and Jewish ceremonial
The lawyer asks ‘What can I do to inherit eternal life?’ The lawyer focusses on himself, what can ‘I do’.
Ok, fair enough. But it is really when the lawyer asks ‘And who is my neighbour?’ that he reveals his
true colours. By asking Jesus who his neighbour is, he wants to qualify who can get his love. It implies
that he only wants to help his neighbour, but maybe not everyone else. He wants to limit his love to
people in his immediate surroundings. Or at least the lawyer was hoping that Jesus would narrow it
down as to who he should love. Jesus saw this in the lawyer’s heart, and therefore told the parable
of the Good Samaritan in order to expand the man’s heart. Jesus turns the question of ‘Who is my
neighbour?’ on its head, saying that it is not about defining who your neighbour is in order to then
calculate who you give your love to. No, it is about being a neighbour to everyone. All deserve our
Our painting from 1537 (dated in the stone at the bottom) by the Master of the Good Samaritan, has never been attributed to any particular painter, hence the artist’s name carries the title of the painting.
We see the man from Samaria wearing a turban, administering oil and wine to the wounds of the robbed man. The wounded man’s impending death is suggested by his blueish-grey hands and feet. We see the priest depicted as monk and the Levite walking away from the scene on the right. In the background on the left we see the Good Samaritan on his horse carrying the beaten man. The green vegetation and leaves are particularly well painted. But the central focus of the painting is on the nude body of the beaten up man, whose sagging body has taken a complicated, uncomfortable, awkward pose, with a limp arm. It is a beautiful image about the universality of compassion and simply a beautiful painting to pray with.
Click Here: October 3, 2021 Word on Fire
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Friends, in our Gospel, Jesus defines the fundamental sacredness of marriage. I’m convinced that the deep sacramental and religious meaning of marriage—even within the Church—has been, in recent years, dramatically compromised. We say that marriage is a vocation, but do we mean it?
We can look at human sexual relationships at a number of different levels. Two people can come together purely for physical pleasure, for economic reasons, or for psychological companionship. And we might witness two people coming together out of authentic love.
But none of these levels is what the Bible means by marriage. When I was doing parish work, I would invariably ask young couples, "Why do you want to get married in church?" Most would say something like, "We love each other." But I said, "Well, that’s no reason to get married in church." Usually, they looked stunned. But I meant it.
You come to church to be married before God and his people when you are convinced that your marriage is not, finally, about you; that it is about God and about serving God’s purposes; that it is, as much as the priesthood of a priest, a vocation, a sacred calling.
Affirming God’s love for each of us
I am old enough to remember that I was very conscious of my guardian angel during my early grade school years. He—I was quite sure they matched genders with their charges—was always there, somehow offering protection from trouble and, of course, threatening a lump of guilt if I got out of line. Truth be told, these days I don’t always think about my angel. Jesus says in the Gospel, ‘Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.” Since I have long ago passed beyond being a little one, might I be free of my guardian? The belief in guardian angels is, at its root, a way we can affirm God’s love for each of us in particular. Like all love, God’s hopes to bring out our best and, as the Lord’s prayer says, “deliver us from evil.” So this day we can reflect on that faithful love and thank God for it. —The Jesuit Prayer team
Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen. —Guardian Angel Prayer
Reflection on the Painting
Our Gospel reading today describes Jesus’ reaction to seeing a lack
of faith in places where He was expecting to see great faith. Jesus
had travelled to the towns in Galilee where He had worked most of
His healings and miracles. The names of three of them are mentioned
in our short reading: Capernaum is where Jesus often preached;
Bethsaida was the home of some of His disciples, such as Peter and
Andrew, James and John; Chorazin, close to Capernaum, is mentioned
nowhere else in the Gospel. Jesus was disappointed with the lack of
faith shown by the people in these places. He says that they were no
better than the pagan cities of Tyre, Sidon and Sodom. Whereas Jesus
expressed disappointment in places where He would have expected to
see good displays of faith, He often was confronted with amazing faith from completely unexpected people.
Think, for example, of the Roman centurion, the Syro-Phoenician woman, or the Samaritan woman, all of them ‘pagans’ but displaying amazing faith.
We all experience disappointments and surprises on our journeys. Today’s reading shows that they were very much a part of Jesus’ ministry, too. However well we plan our lives, they can bring disappointments, but also some beautiful surprises that may make us even happier than we had expected to be. In order not to get too disappointed in life, we should maybe go forward with fewer expectations but with more explorations: exploring more and delving more deeply, mainly in the realm of our faith, will help handle disappointments more easily.
Our painting from 1892 by Ferdinand Hodler titled The Disappointed Souls conveys this sense of grief and melancholy. Painted towards the closing of the 19th century, it portrays very well the fin-de-siècle anxiety, conveying uncertainty about the future and what the next century might hold. We see five weathered, barefoot men staring, the outer figures looking inward, and the middle man with a semi-naked, emaciated upper body. Though they are seated next to one another, they are not interacting. Each of them is alone, isolated…
Click Here: September 30, 2021 Reflection on the Painting
We continue the theme of our readings this week: being sent out on mission.
Pope Francis reminds us in the Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium, 2013)
that every Christian is a missionary through their Baptism and to the extent
that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ. Jesus is not only asking
us to be close to Him and be best friends, but also to go out and proclaim the
Good News. Each of us is a missionary!
That doesn’t mean to say that we have to aim at making big statements or gestures.
Being a missionary means that we want to witness to Christ’s love with every person
we encounter today. It may be by just exchanging a smile with the shopkeeper or a
kind word to the bus driver, or picking up some litter in the park.… We can proclaim
Jesus’ message through our care and concern for each person… and for our planet.
In exactly a month’s time the COP 26 summit will start, bringing parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Looking after our planet and God’s creation is one way of being missionaries for Christ. One aspect of tackling climate change is to counter, halt and reverse the melting of the icecaps. Therefore I am sharing a painting today by Caspar David Friedrich, The Sea of Ice, from 1824. It was a radical composition at the time and a highly unusual subject matter. As one of the foremost painters of Romanticism, he always put nature at the very centre of his art. In our painting we see icebergs juxtaposed on top of one another creating towers of ice, resulting in an almost cathedral-like effect. Right next to the powerful ice towers is a minuscule detail, a shipwreck. Human beings tried to conquer the icecaps, but nature was all powerful and dwarfed any such effort. Nowadays with global warming this is, unfortunately, no longer the case…
What a vision Daniel has! Ignatius asks us not to hold back the power of our imaginations as we pray with the unfolding story of God. As Daniel vividly envisions God’s (the Ancient One) powerful presence and the kingship of “a human being” (Christians would hear this as Jesus), perhaps we can engage our imaginations. What images, metaphors, or feelings arise within when you consider God? What about Jesus or the Holy Spirit? I must admit that my image of God has evolved from one as distant, almighty, and abstract to one that is a bit more immanent, local, and incarnate. How we envision the divine can change throughout our spiritual life and is informed by our religious upbringing, Scripture, culture, and prayer. I believe Jesus asked his friends “Who do you say that I am?” not only for his own curiosity but so they could name for themselves their own understanding of who he was and who they were in him.
—Andy Otto ministers at St. Thomas More Church and Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center in Atlanta, GA. He is the creator of GodInAllThings.com and author of God Moments: Unexpected Encounters in the Ordinary
At land’s end, end of tether
where the sea turns in sleep
and my spirit fails and runs
landward, seaward, askelter
I pray you
this hireling heart
turn your face to me
—winged, majestic, angelic—
my prayer goest up—
show me Your face, O God!
—Daniel Berrigan, SJ
Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus rebukes James and John for their desire for vengeance. We are walking with Jesus and his disciples as they make their way to Jerusalem. As they pass through Samaria, they are refused hospitality, for their destination is Jerusalem and this annoys the Samaritans. Bothersome? Stupid? Racist? Sure, all of those things. As a result, James and John (the sons of thunder) cry out: “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”
Can you hear echoes of this cry up and down the ages? Whenever people have been unjustly treated, excluded, looked down upon, they experience, naturally enough, feelings of hatred and a desire to get even. Correctly enough, they will say that their family or their race or their country was offended, and so they, with justification, react.
But Jesus turns only to rebuke them. Why? Because following him and his way of nonviolence is more important than race or country or ethnic group. Our feelings for him have to go beyond even our justified feelings for these good things.
Reflection on the Fresco Painting
People love finding secret codes or hidden meanings in art. Artists throughout the ages often put
hidden messages in their works which few people would notice or decipher. I recently came across
an article which mentioned Da Vinci’s Last Supper. We all know how it is filled with symbolism, but
it was the first time I had read that there is a song hidden in the painting. An Italian musician
discovered that, when he lined up the bread rolls on the table and the hands of the Apostles on a
standard musical staff, they worked as musical notes. Whilst at first one can be skeptical, it is
nevertheless worth listening to the sound it produces.
Click here to listen to the musical sound on YouTube.
Today’s Gospel reading says about the disciples that ‘it was hidden from them so that they should
not see the meaning of it’. At times, what Jesus was telling them did not make sense to them.
What Jesus is telling us in today’s reading is that sometimes we need to reflect on things at a deeper level and actually think about the things that we don't understand… and there is so much we don’t understand! Trying to reflect more deeply on the Gospel readings every day will help us to expand our minds and our hearts. Most of us ‘hear’ what God is saying every day in the Gospels, but often we don’t fully understand. And so Jesus is prompting us to keep searching, to keep asking, to keep praying, to keep trying to understand… Each time we do this, a little bit more will be revealed and unveiled to us… the hidden will become more and more visible.
But who do you say that I am?
Place yourself in the scene.
The day draws to a close. You distributed food to 5,000 hungry souls.
Feel the exhaustion. Taste the leftover bread – if you have the energy to feed yourself.
With the night comes solitude. Listen to the quiet. See the stars.
Feel your body ease onto the ground as you prepare for sleep.
Jesus, nearby, prays alone.
You and the other disciples, in whispers and through yawns, share thoughts on the day and the miracle.
Quietly interrupting the silence, Jesus asks, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” Surely, he’s heard the rumors. You and the others share the latest theories.
“But who do you say that I am?” A different question altogether. What was stirring in Jesus’ heart and prayer that prompted him to ask this vulnerable question ? How deafening was the silence in the seconds (minutes) between the question and answer? Were you relieved Peter had the courage to field this one?
Today, Jesus asks you and me, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter is not here to bail us out. How do you respond?
—Douglas Gleber is the Director of Adult Faith Formation at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL.
Jesus, you go by many names.
Messiah. Savior. Christ.
Rebel. Teacher. Story-teller.
Living Bread. Light of the World. Good Shepherd.
The (Narrow) Way. The Truth. The Life.
Draw me close to you so that I may call you Friend.
Reflection on the Painting
Today I am traveling back to Rome to start my third year of seminary. I had a wonderful
Summer. In July I went on a very enjoyable, nurturing parish placement, followed by
some holidays in August in Scotland, Ireland and Belgium. All good fun. But now the
journey and formation continues.
I look forward to going back. My first year in seminary was a beautiful year. God gave
me a lot of joy and consolation in that year. But God does not want us to fall in love with
the feelings of consolation and joy; He wants us to fall in love with Him! So I experienced
my second year in seminary as one where I maybe entered a more honest friendship with
Him. I think I matured away from the feelings and consolations and delved deeper. It was a
year where maybe for the first time I realised that I wasn’t there in seminary trying to look for
God and get closer, but that actually it was God looking for me and wanting to get close to me.
He was doing all the work; I was merely responding. And that is probably the story of the whole
Bible: God looking for us.
As you all know, I do enjoy writing these daily art reflections. They help me, they mould me, as God continues to shape me. So I thank you for reading them. If you read the reflections on our website (rather than solely on email), you may notice that many of you join in commenting every day on the
artwork and reflections. Thank you for your contributions.
At times my prayer life in seminary can be a little dry, or the days can seem repetitive. Every day has moments of speaking and listening, occasions of eating and drinking… but what is permanently there is the ‘seeing’. When we wake up, we constantly see the world around us, even when we close our eyes we still see, we dream images… the visual is what is permanently there. That is why it is important to ‘see’ good things and to look at beauty. Art can truly help with this. Just as we are responsible for what we eat every day, we are also responsible for what we see every day. And, yes, we can get bombarded by images through the media and on our streets, but we can make choices for what we see and watch. I hope that by providing these daily reflections, I can provide you for a few minutes every day with a touch of Beauty using art. I believe these glimpses of Beauty can draw us closer to God. This Beauty through the arts can truly function as a gate of the visible to draw us into the mystery of the invisible!
So, for today I simply want to share a painting which may remind you of holidays past, like it reminds me of these past three months of my holidays. The sailing boat off the coast of New England, painted by Edward Hopper in 1935 depicts a hot blue Summer's day, with the sun beating down on the blanched sand and a gentle breeze catching the sails of the boat. The boat lighthouse and the boat are rendered in typical solitary style as characteristic for Hopper.
Thank you for all your love and support. Please keep all seminarians throughout the world in your prayers.
Onwards we go, united in prayer,
Reflection on the Print
Swiss Theologian Heinrich Emil Brunner said that ‘The Church exists by mission, just as a fire exists
by burning.’ It is a good image to hold, as indeed a stack of wood isn’t a fire if there are no flames.
However many branches and logs there may be, if there are no flames, then there isn’t a fire.
However many of us Christians gather together, there is no Church if there is no mission. That is
what today’s reading is teaching us: Jesus did not simply gather His Twelve Apostles and other
disciples around Him to have a good time, to chat, to feel comfortable: He gathered them so he
could send them out on mission. The mission is what bound them together and gave them purpose.
That mission consisted of setting people free physically (‘cure diseases’) and setting people free
spiritually (‘gave them power and authority over all devils’). These are still the two aspects of living
our faith: helping people physically by, for example, providing help for the sick or feeding the
homeless; and feeding ourselves and those around us spiritually by praying and celebrating mass
together. To stick to the aforementioned image of fire: the flame in our wood can only be ignited if
we let the flame come near us. Also, if there is too much wind, the flame will die out very soon. If
we allow Jesus to light a fire under us, then each time we pray we feed that flame. And when we
gather on Sundays in Church, our individual fires can truly become a bonfire giving out light and
heat for those around us.
In our print from 1913 we see a courting couple gazing into a blazing log fire, imagining their
wedding day. The flames and fire that they nurture show their joint mission….
Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
Friends, our Gospel for today is the simple but magnificent story of the conversion of Matthew. I urge you to read it and meditate upon it, for it’s about you. The Bible says that Jesus told Matthew, "Follow me." The call of Jesus is meant to get into your mind, and then past your mind into your body, and then through your body into your life, into your most practical decisions.
And then we hear that Matthew "got up" and followed him. The verb used here in the Greek is the same verb used to describe the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead: Matthew rose. Conversion means a transition into a higher life, arising from a preoccupation with the goods of the world and a reorientation to the things of God.
Then we hear what happened after Matthew’s conversion: "And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples." This deeply annoys the Pharisees, who ask of Jesus’ disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" The answer is that Jesus loves sinners, and he doesn’t require perfection before he approaches them.
Reflection on the Street Installation
In 2014, the Rue du Mail in Paris was decorated with these beautiful lampshades. Each unique lamp was
there shedding its light, illuminating the street below and functioning as a giant archway. The artwork
was commissioned by the Club Masters of Linen, a European organisation promoting certified European
We are all unique lamps too. We produce different light. We radiate our faith each in a unique way. We
witness to God’s glory in a myriad of ways. Jesus says that we received the light when we had the Word
of God revealed to us, and when we have realised its implications. It is then up to each of us to pass on
that same light and help spread the Good News.
Our readings these past few days about the Parable of the Sower are directly linked to today’s reading.
The light of our lamps is parallel to receiving the seed on fertile soil. Seed that hasn’t been truly planted
in rich soil won't produce any fruit. A lamp that hasn’t been truly lit can’t shed any light, either.
Hearing the Word comes with responsibility: we can decide how we hear it and what we do with it. The
hearer is responsible for how he or she hears...
Our identity comes from being children of God
Jesus told the disciples that the “Son of Man” would be killed and they immediately argued about which of them “was the greatest.” It’s so tempting to compare ourselves to others, but that’s deadly. We either despair because we feel less or we become proud because we think we are better than others.
Jesus rejects comparison and competition. We ought not find our self-worth or identity in anything external, like our appearance or accomplishments. Those don’t last. Only one thing lasts and it is there that we must find our self-worth and identity. You are a beloved son or daughter of God the Father who loves you with the same infinite and unchanging love with which he loves his Son. You have nothing to prove!
How am I tempted to find my self-worth in something other than my identity as a beloved child of God?
Loving God, help me never to forget that the word you spoke to your Son at his baptism, you also spoke to me at my baptism: “You are my beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
—Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ
Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus explains the purpose of the parables: "Knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you; but to the rest, they are made known through parables so that they may look but not see, and hear but not understand."
The use of the word "para" in the New Testament signals the failures to see at various levels. The great metaphor here is blindness, a blindness which is identified with disobedience.
The parables of Christ are meant to highlight and point out this blindness, this willful refusal to see. They themselves, in their peculiar form, are judgments on those who cannot see in them signs of salvation.
The parables are often exercises whose purpose is to confuse and confound the hearer, overturning her expectations and upsetting her theological convictions. A parable does its work by turning our ordinary conception of the spiritual world upside-down. And we would be greatly remiss if we did not attend to the instruction that emerges from those startling, funny, off-putting, and strangely enlightening stories that Jesus loved to tell.
Reflection on the Painting
Our Gospel reading today follows on from the one we heard yesterday. Jesus had just finished
attending a feast at Simon the Pharisee’s house and now goes on His way, preaching through
the towns and villages. Luke provides us with some details of those who travelled with Him: the
Twelve, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and many others. The fact that Jesus included women
among his traveling companions is significant, as rabbis at the time refused to teach women.
Pharisees and scribes were men as well. So Jesus traveling with women and instructing them was
quite revolutionary at the time among the Jewish people. In today’s reading, Luke affirms the role
of women in the first century.
Our painting from 1507 by Jason Van Oostsanen depicts the moment Jesus appears to Mary
Magdalene, one of the three women mentioned in today’s Gospel. The Risen Christ depicted as the
gardener (holding a spade), is seen gently touching Mary at the moment he would have said the
words not to touch Him (noli me tangere), as he hasn’t yet ascended to His Father (John 20:17).
Actually the second part of this verse is inscribed in Latin in the bottom part of Jesus’ garment:
nondum enim ascendi ad patrem. Mary Magdalen is flanked by an alberello (jar) containing ointment,
her attribute. In the background we see the women discovering the empty tomb, and on the right a
small scene where Jesus meets the three Marys and another small scene where Jesus walks on the
road to Emmaus.
Luke is the only is evangelist to give us this detail of the women who travelled with Jesus. Above all,
he gives us a beautiful insight into the very early Church, a church which is constantly on the move,
going from village to village to preach… sharing whatever resources they had to fulfil their mission.
Reflection on the Photograph
Two things struck me when I read today's Gospel. Firstly, how Jesus’ display of mercy sometimes
bordered on the scandalous. If we had been there at the scene, would we too have been scandalised
by the woman’s behaviour and Jesus’ reaction? The call to mercy in today’s reading is so strong. It is
a call to be scandalously merciful!
A second aspect which struck me are the woman’s tears. She poured out her tears over Jesus’s feet.
Oscar Romero once said that ‘There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried’.
How true that is. We can see the world with different eyes after we have gone through some life-changing
events that have caused us to cry. But these tears can be tears of sadness or tears of happiness. Maybe
the woman cried in the presence of Jesus because she was sad about things she’d done; maybe she was
just crying out of happiness and joy at being in the Lord’s presence. Who knows?
Tears maintain the health of our eyes and moisten them. But they also communicate our deep emotions.
Shedding tears remains one of the human body’s more puzzling mysteries, as we don’t know why we cry
or what triggers it. What crying does do is purify us. We feel better after a good cry. So was the woman
purified and forgiven of all her sins after she shed tears on Jesus’ feet.
Titled ‘Tears’, this photograph from 1932 by surrealist artist Man Ray, shows tears on an unnamed can-can dancer, who was a friend of the artist. The almost cinematic photo shows mascara-coated eye lashes looking upward, whilst tears are flowing. She may be looking at the source of her distress, outside the photograph. The tears have been replaced by glass beads, to immortalise and aestheticise the sentiment.
Reflection on the Painting
Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. The title, Our Lady of Sorrows, given to
Our Lady, focuses on her intense suffering and mourning during the passion and death of her
son. The title is not, however, limited to the suffering Mary shared in at the end of Jesus’ life,
but refers to all seven sorrows of Mary. These are: the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt; the
loss and finding of the child Jesus in the Temple; Mary meeting her Son on His way to Calvary;
Mary standing at the foot of the cross when our Lord was crucified; Mary holding Jesus when
He was taken down from the cross (the pietà scene depicted in our painting); and then our
Our painting today is an unusual take on the pietà. Russian-born Oleg Supereco (b. 1974) depicts
Mary gently leaning over Jesus. A soft light connects the two faces. Both have their eyes closed.
Mary joined in the suffering of the cross, as Jesus did. Mary must have been torn by the events of
seeing Jesus crucified unjustly. And here she is depicted with dignity, composed, solemn, and with
caring gentleness towards her son.
Let us pray as we do in the opening prayer of the Mass for this feast day: Father, as your Son was raised on the cross, His Mother Mary stood by Him, sharing His sufferings. May your Church be united with Christ in His suffering and death and so come to share in His rising to new life. Looking to the example of Mary, may we too unite our sufferings to our Lord, facing them with courage, love, and trust.
Reflection on the Papal Pectoral Cross
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. We need to go back to the 4th
century to find the roots of this feast. Saint Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine,
travelled extensively to the Holy Land and Jerusalem to trace back the holy sites of Jesus’ life. At
one stage she asked her son to build the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre over the tomb of Jesus.
During the foundational structural works, on 14th September 326, the builders excavated wood
of three different crosses. Legend has it that the cross on which Jesus died was identified when its
touch healed a dying woman. The cross immediately became an object of veneration and treasured
by worshippers. To this day, the Eastern Churches and Catholic Church celebrate the Exaltation of
the Holy Cross on the 14th September, the anniversary of the basilica’s dedication and building by
Constantine on the site of the Holy Sepulchre and Mount Calvary.
The cross is the universal symbol of our Christian faith. It represents Christ’s victory over death. It
reminds us of the redemptive transformation of an instrument of torture into the foremost
instrument of salvation. Our artwork today is a gold papal pectoral cross which once belonged to
Pope Paul VI (pontificate 1963-1978), set with 75-carat diamonds. A pectoral cross is a cross worn
on the chest, usually suspended from the neck by a chain. Whilst in ancient times such crosses were
worn by most of the clergy, from the end of the Middle Ages onwards they came to be worn by
bishops only, as a sign of their position. Even today the wearing of a pectoral cross remains restricted
to popes, cardinals, bishops and abbots. The word pectoral derives from the Latin pectus, meaning
‘chest’. When putting on the pectoral cross, traditionally the bishop says ‘Munire me digneris’, asking
the Lord for strength and protection against all evil and to be mindful of His passion and cross.
The pectoral cross is decorated with diamonds and Colombian emeralds, bearing the stamp of Cassio, which refers to Cassio Studios, one of the artisan atelier papal suppliers. They made this pectoral cross in the early 1900s with gemstones from the Vatican's own collection. Pope Paul VI made a historic visit to the UN in 1965 to address the General Assembly. He requested that this cross, alongside a matching papal ring, be auctioned, with the proceeds going to human relief funds. The cross appeared again on the art market in 2014 when it was reputedly sold for $1.3 million.
Monday, September 13, 2021
Memorial of Saint John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus is amazed at a Roman centurion’s faith: "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith." How often the Bible compels us to meditate on the meaning of faith! We might say that the Scriptures rest upon faith, remain inspired at every turn by the spirit of 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 person who is God, we are never in control.
One of the most fundamental statements of faith is this: your life is not about you. You’re not in control. This is not your project. Rather, you are part of God’s great design. To believe this in your bones and act accordingly is to have faith. When we operate out of this transformed vision, amazing things can happen, for we have surrendered to "a power already at work in us that can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine." Even a tiny bit of faith makes an extraordinary difference.
Reflection on the Painting
Jesus asks the question today ‘Who do you say I am?’ I think we probably all find it easier to tell
people who we think they are, than to actually listen to them and find out who they really are!
Finding out who the other person truly is, requires listening, walking together, sharing, helping
and being open to see the other person’s fragility and hurt. In doing so, we participate in our
friends’ brokenness. And that is exactly why Jesus offered Himself for us: He broke the bread
for the broken people we all are…
That is what Jesus is explaining to the disciples in today’s reading, by saying He was to suffer
grievously for us. His suffering and sacrifice on the cross were made to help us on a daily basis
with our own sufferings and to ultimately offer us salvation. Our Caravaggesque painting by
Salvador Dali from 1954 depicts the crucifixion. Dali, a committed Christian, referred to himself
as a ‘nuclear mystic’, combining in his work contemporary scientific discoveries with a free visual
interpretation of biblical stories. In our painting Dali's Christ is floating in a mystical, illusionary
space, not part of a historical setting. Christ is floating above a chessboard , where the tiles right
underneath the cross also form a crucifix. Dali’s wife poses as a devotional figure at the foot of the
cross, wearing luxurious clothes. She witnesses first hand Christ’s spiritual triumph over His
corporeal sufferings. Christ turns His head away from us, the viewer. Christ has no pierced wounds,
no crown of thorns, no nails… He is already detached from the cross, as if He has already risen.
This is a beautiful painting or image to gaze at. Yes, I mean ‘gaze’ and not simply ‘look’. Gazing
means that we really use the image to invite us to a realm beyond the sheer image. Gazing is really
losing oneself into the composition and into what Jesus is foretelling in today’s reading and asking
us: to join Him on the cross and join Him in the ultimate act of self-giving to others.
Saturday, September 11, 2021
Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, today’s Gospel is Luke’s conclusion to the Sermon on the Plain.
Someone who comes to me, Jesus says, who "listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built."
This is the heart of it: if you are rooted in God, then you can withstand anything, precisely because you are linked to that power that is creating the cosmos. You will be blessed at that deepest place, and nothing can finally touch you.
But the one who does not take Jesus’ words to heart "is like a person who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed."
When the inevitable trials come, the life built on pleasure, money, power, or fame will give way. So the question is a simple one: Where do you stand? How goes it with your heart? On what, precisely, is the whole of your life built?
Reflection on the Painting
When reading today’s Gospel passage, I always think immediately of the painting by Breughel,
which we covered in September 2019 (see https://christian.art/daily-gospel-reading/172 ). Our
artwork today is a more modern version of this same topic. Painted by Ukranian artist Zoryana
Petriv, we see five blind people walking towards a dark abyss. The front man is the only one who
wears a light-coloured jumper. With outstretched arm, he is feeling his way forward, deciding on
where to place his next step. He already has one foot hovering over a dark space…The answer to
the question ‘Can one blind man guide another?’ is so obvious that something must have triggered
Jesus to even ask the question in the first place. In our short reading Jesus wants to address the
fact that we so easily judge others. We find fault so easily with other people and ‘see’ what they do
wrong or what they could do better. However, we fail to ‘see' our own faults. Hence we are blind to
our own failings, lapses and shortcomings. Our eyesight is so good at seeing faults in other people,
but when it comes to looking at ourselves, we are blind to our own mistakes. Jesus calls us to radical
This same Gospel passage usually gets read just before Lent starts. We can see why. To have this
reading here at the start of Autumn, when we all get busy again with work after the holidays, is giving
us the opportunity to maybe reflect upon a wider context of self-examination in the workspace. Do we
gossip about colleagues, do we like to share juicy stories, do we look down on some colleagues, etc…?
Realising we ourselves are so often blind to our own mistakes may well open the door to the Holy Spirit
to help us re-order ourselves and become more generous towards other people.
Reflection on the Painting
Especially in today’s conflict-filled world, we may find it hard to love our enemies. It is often this line of
'love your enemy' that gets quoted when people want to portray Jesus as an impractical idealist who
was out of touch with people’s realities. So how can we then love our enemies? On 17th December 1957,
Martin Luther King said the following words: ‘But far from being an impractical idealist, Jesus has
become the practical realist. The words of this text glitter in our eyes with a new urgency. Far from being
the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our
civilisation. Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilisation, love even for enemies.’
He continued: ‘How do you go about loving your enemies? I think the first thing is this: In order to love
your enemies, you must begin by analysing self. And I’m sure that seems strange to you, that I start out
telling you this morning that you love your enemies by beginning with a look at self.’
Martin Luther King was probably one of the best examples during the 20th century on how to love your
enemy. He walked a fine line addressing on the one hand the injustices that were around and calling his
people at times to civil disobedience, whilst maintaining a Christian ethos. King instructed his followers to
love their oppressors and to pray for them. Yes, his Civil Rights Movement was a prayer movement as well
as a political movement.
This portrait of Martin Luther King by Brooklyn-born Hans Fleurimont was created using words from the
many speeches he delivered. ML King's words were powerful, and therefore the artist wanted to use his
actual words to create the artwork…
Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Matthew 1:1–16, 18–23
Friends, today as we celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary the Church gives us the
very beginning of St. Matthew’s Gospel. It is desperately important for Matthew to show that
Jesus doesn’t just appear out of the blue. Rather, he comes out of a rich, densely textured
history. St. Irenaeus tells us that the Incarnation had been taking place over a long period of
time, God gradually accustoming himself to the human race.
Look at this long line of characters: saints, sinners, cheats, murderers, poets, kings, insiders,
and outsiders—all leading to the Christ. Of course, King David is mentioned. He is, without
doubt, a great figure, the king who unites the nation, defeats its enemies, and establishes the
first Israelite empire. But he is also, we know, an adulterer and a murderer, the one who abuses
his power in order to eliminate Uriah the Hittite.
And finally the climactic entry that notes the virgin whose birthday we celebrate today: "Jacob
the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ."
Today, St. Paul reminds us of the most important part of our Christian lives: “when you were buried with Christ in baptism, you were also raised with him.” Do you know when you were baptized? Do you celebrate the occasion? Pope Francis says we should; he wants us to celebrate baptismal anniversaries like we do birthdays because the day of your baptism was the most important day of your life, for on that day you were joined to Jesus Christ for all eternity.
Take a moment today and give thanks for the gift of your baptism. If you don’t know when you were baptized, make it a project in the days to come. Find out the date of your baptism, put it on your calendar, and celebrate the day just like you would your birthday…even use it as an excuse for a little more cake in your life!
—Fr. Adam Rosinski, SJ, is the Assistant Director and Promoter of Vocations for the USA East Province of the Society of Jesus.
Monday, September 6, 2021
Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, in our Gospel today, Jesus heals a man with a withered hand. As I’ve said many times before, we tend to domesticate Christ, reducing him to a guru or a teacher, one spiritual guide among many. But this is to do violence to the Gospel, which presents him not simply as teacher but as savior.
I realize that the culture militates against Christianity at this point, for it steadily teaches the ideology of self-esteem and self-assertion: “I’m okay and you’re okay”; “Who are you to tell me how to behave?”
But this sort of thing—whatever value it might have politically or psychologically—is simply inimical to a biblical Christianity. The biblical view is that we have, through the abuse of our freedom, gotten ourselves into an impossible bind. Sin has wrecked us in such a fundamental way that we have become dysfunctional. Until we truly feel what it means to be lost and helpless, we will not appreciate who Jesus is and what he means.
Jesus is someone who has rescued us, saved us, done something that we could never, even in principle, do for ourselves.
Open to hear God’s word
In the baptismal ceremony, there is an optional prayer called the “Ephphatha” prayer.
With it, the celebrant touches the ears and mouth of those being baptized and prays that they may soon hear God’s word and proclaim the faith that comes from hearing. In a world filled with distractions and noise, it is more and more difficult to listen attentively to God’s word. Jesus is the Word, God’s perfect communication. If we want to know Jesus better and follow him in our daily lives, we have to meet him regularly in the Gospels.
It’s been said that the average Christian spends more time in one evening watching television (or using the internet and social media) than the entire rest of the week reading the Bible. Do I devote as much time to hearing God’s word as I do to hearing the voices of the world?
—Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ
May the Lord Jesus, who made the deaf to hear and the mute to speak, grant that I may always receive his word with my ears and profess the faith with my lips, to the glory and praise of God the Father.
—adapted from the Ephphatha prayer
Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, again and again in the Gospels, Jesus is portrayed as violating the sacred command to rest on the seventh day. For example, he often cures on the Sabbath, much to the dismay of the protectors of Jewish law.
And then in today’s Gospel, after his disciples pick grain on the Sabbath, Jesus declares himself “lord of the sabbath.” It’s hard to express how breathtaking this claim would be for a first-century Jew to make. Yahweh alone could be assigned the title “lord of the sabbath,” so what is Jesus implying?
In short, he is claiming that he is above their rituals, even perhaps the defining practice of pious Jews, because he is the Lord. Thus the rules must be placed in subordination to the kingdom of God, the kingdom that the Lord Jesus is ushering in even here and now.
Reflection on the Painting
In our half-length portrait of Saint Peter by the studio of Rubens, we see him portrayed as an
elderly man, balding, with a beard, marking his wisdom and experience. His eyes are gazing
upwards to the heavens. It is a portrait that commands authority and conveys why Jesus chose
St Peter as the rock upon which He would build His Church. His body feels strong and powerful,
as one would expect the physique of a fisherman to be. After the Council of Trent, many more
individual portraits of saints, such at the present example, were commissioned from artists.
Portraits simply depicting the saints, with less storytelling, emphasised the great importance of
saints as intercessors for the faithful.
Saint Peter was told by Jesus ‘You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church’. Peter could
only be this rock because he first found a rock in Jesus. These two rocks, together with all the
saints, give us the foundations for our faith and for our lives.
In fact, each of us is called too to be a foundation stone for the building of the communities
around us. We can be that rock which sits mid stream for people, that could help them with a
safe crossing for a difficult period in their lives…
Reflection on the Painting
Today’s reading reveals the power and generosity of God and identifies the uniqueness of the
disciples. It reminded me of a post a friend of mine shared on Facebook some weeks ago:
A professor gave a balloon to every student, who had to inflate it, write their name on it and
throw it in the hallway. The professor then mixed all the hundreds of balloons. The students
were given 5 minutes to find their own balloon. Despite a hectic search, no one found their
balloon. At that point the professor told the students to take the first balloon that they found
and hand it to the person whose name was written on it. Within 5 minutes everyone had their
The professor said to the students: “These balloons are like happiness. We will never find it if
everyone is looking for their own. But if we care about other people's happiness....we'll find
That is why Jesus called the Twelve Disciples: to work together as groups and in teams to be able
to achieve so much more than each of us can individually. Our painting is by South Korean artist
Jinho Kee. For years he has painted balloons. He considers them to be a metaphor for life: balloons
are loose, then they get tense when inflated, then relax again, and eventually pop one day… But it
is the vibrancy of the colours that brings a smile to us and should inspire us to start a new adventure
today, realising we are all just a single balloon amongst many, and if we stick together, then we can
fly so much higher!
Reflection on the Drawing
When Rembrandt made his drawings, he usually focussed on the main protagonists of the story,
excluding any additional figures or other distractions. He did this to fine-tune his craft of drawing
the figures, studying their pose, their expressions, etc… The only ‘additional’ touches we can see
in our drawing are just few lively strokes of brown ink to suggest the bed or blanket on which the
woman reclines. Upon first glance, we may think that Rembrandt just used brown ink to make this
drawing, but he actually used four materials to convey the subtleties he wanted: pen, ink, brown
wash and white paint. It is the perfect blending of these four materials that make for a very gentle,
Jesus is portrayed as a Jewish man in our drawing, and in the few sketchy lines, we do see the care
Jesus has for Simon’s mother-in-law as he cures her fever. He tenderly holds her hands. As with the
other healing miracle stories, the Gospel reading today follows the same pattern: the illness is
described, a setting is painted, Jesus heals and then the results of the action follow.
In our journeys of faith, all of us have been healed at various times. As it is the 1st of September and
we come back from holidays, today can be a day where we reflect on how we can help with healing
and serving in our own parishes by reaching out to the poor, visiting the sick, running courses,
coaching sports activities for the youth, becoming a lector, server, eucharistic minister, etc…A myriad
of possibilities that may well help or heal someone else close to us in our parishes.
I have everything to do with you
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” Put yourself in the
scene for a moment, and imagine you’re sitting in that synagogue.
You can almost hear it, can’t you? The sneer in this question, the
contempt. “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? I know
who you are!”
But what if you took that same question and put it on your own lips?
What if you took a moment today and, with all reverence and genuine
curiosity, asked Jesus, “What have you to do with me, Jesus?” It’s a
bold question, and an immeasurably important one. And we know, of
course, that Jesus has already answered it.
Take a moment today, look at a crucifix, and ask Jesus this question.
Then pause and listen for that gentle, precious answer: “What have I to
do with you, my beloved daughter, my beloved son? Absolutely everything.”
—Fr. Adam Rosinski, SJ, is the Assistant Director and Promoter of Vocations for the USA East Province of the Society of
Behold God beholding you…and smiling.
—Anthony de Mello, SJ
Reflection on the Painting
In our Gospel reading we are told about Jesus coming to Nazareth, where He had been
brought up. The people of his home town listened to Him, but they were rather expecting
Jesus to perform miracles. They had heard of His miracles and wanted to see with their
own eyes if Jesus would perform such wonders. But Jesus doesn’t meet their expectations.
He simply reads two passages from the Old Testament. Jesus wanted to bring them to the
heart of His teachings, and not just perform miracles for display or to win over people in his
home town. Miracles are there to help and assist the people being healed; Jesus didn’t
perform miracles for show or to win over crowds.
Jesus preached about inclusion and that he came for everyone, not just a select few: ‘He
has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the
blind new sight’. But by speaking this inclusive language, Jesus excluded Himself from His
home town. The painting we are looking at is by Russian artist Vasilij Dmitrievich Polenov,
painted in 1882. It depicts the Virgin Spring in Nazareth. It is a nice, uncomplicated,
day-to-day scene, showing women going to the well. The well is Mary’s Well, as by repute
that is where the Angel Gabriel appeared to Our Lady. An underground spring in Nazareth
served as the city’s main water source for several millennia and so Mary would have gone
there, like the women depicted in the painting, to get water. A daily task. Villagers of