Monthly Archives: June 2019

Readings for the 13th Week of the Year

July 1  Mon Weekday

[USA: Saint Junípero Serra, Priest]

Gn 18:16-33/Mt 8:18-22 

2 Tue Weekday

Gn 19:15-29/Mt 8:23-27 

3 Wed Saint Thomas, Apostle Feast

Eph 2:19-22/Jn 20:24-29 

4 Thu Weekday

[USA: Independence Day]

Gn 22:1b-19/Mt 9:1-8, or “For Peace and Justice,” nos. 887-891

5 Fri Weekday

[Saint Anthony Zaccaria, Priest; USA: Saint Elizabeth of Portugal]

Gn 23:1-4, 19; 24:1-8, 62-67/Mt 9:9-13 (381)

6 Sat Weekday

[Saint Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr; 

Gn 27:1-5, 15-29/Mt 9:14-17 (382)

7 SUN FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Is 66:10-14c/Gal 6:14-18/Lk 10:1-12, 17-20 or 10:1-9 (102)

The calendar brings three “hot-button” issues before us this week.

 Monday: What do we think of our missionary work among the native peoples? (St. Junipero Serra)

Thursday: What do we mean by “All men are created equal?” (Independence Day}

 Saturday: Is purity still possible in today’s world? (St. Maria Gorretti)

Our calendar is not just a bland recital of nice things that should comfort us. Celebrations bring questions.

A Heart Says it All

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Faith has a way of saying great things in the simplest of ways. Sometimes a few words say it all, like the simple words the publican in the gospel utters, not raising his head. “Be merciful to me, a sinner!” Sometimes signs like bread and wine point far beyond themselves to an infinitely generous God.

Today’s Feast of the Sacred Heart offers the sign of the human heart as a way of expressing divine love that cannot be measured. How is it possible to sum up all the words and works of Jesus Christ? He burned with love for us.

The feast of the Sacred Heart is always celebrated on Friday, the day Jesus showed us the depth of his love. The day he faced rejection, he gave himself to us. The day he died, he gave us life. John’s gospel sums up this mystery by pointing to an important but easily overlooked moment of that fearful day– a soldier pierced the heart of Jesus on the cross and blood and water poured out. “Immediately blood and water poured out.”

Look at these signs with eyes of faith, John’s gospel says. They are powerful signs of God’s love for us and for our world. A pierced heart says it all.

60 years

I’m celebrating 60 years of priesthood today, among my own community, the Passionists, gathered here in Jamaica, NY,  for an assembly. There are three of us left. Fr. Theodore Walsh, Fr. Paul Cusack, and myself. 

The first reading today is from Genesis 15, 1-12,17-18; Abraham complains to God he is childless, without an heir, and God takes him out into the night and shows him the stars: 

“Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.

Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.”

Abram put his faith in the LORD,

who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.” 

The responsorial psalm goes on:

“You descendants of Abraham, his servants,

sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!

He, the LORD, is our God;

throughout the earth his judgments prevail. 

R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.

He remembers forever his covenant

which he made binding for a thousand generations—

Which he entered into with Abraham

and by his oath to Isaac.

R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.

Remain in me, as I remain in you, says the Lord;

whoever remains in me will bear much fruit.”

And so may it be. Amen.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (d.444)


Pope Francis, speaking in his recent Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudete et exultate” of “the saints next door” – the ordinary holy people of our world– says “Their lives may not always have been perfect, yet even amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord.” (3) They persevere.

The pope in that same exhortation says that canonized saints have their faults and failings too.“Not everything a saint says is completely faithful to the Gospel; not everything he or she does is authentic or perfect. What we need to contemplate is the totality of their life, their entire journey of growth in holiness, the reflection of Jesus Christ that emerges when we grasp their overall meaning as a person.” (22)

Later in his letter, Francis speaks about the dangers of modern day Pelagianism and cautions that when some say “ all things can be accomplished with God’s grace, deep down they tend to give the idea that all things are possible by the human will, as if it were something pure, perfect, all-powerful, to which grace is then added. They fail to realize that “not everyone can do everything”, and that in this life human weaknesses are not healed completely and once for all by grace. (49)

Being holy, being a saint, doesn’t mean you’re perfect, the pope says. That’s good to remember when we consider St.Cyril of Alexandria, the 4th century bishop of Alexandria and doctor of the church, whose feast is today, June 26th.

If you read his online biography in Wikipedia–where many today look for information about saints – you’ll find that he was deeply involved in the messy partisan politics of his time, when Christians, Jews and Pagans fought and schemed to control the city that was then probably the most important city in the Roman empire. He was a “proud Pharaoh;” “ a monster” out to destroy the church, some said, an impulsive bishop in a riotous city. That’s the way the Wikipedia biography mainly sees him.

He was a saint, others said. Why a saint? Well, Cyril was absorbed in understanding and defending the Incarnation of the Word of God. Did the Word of God come among us? How did he come? Who was Jesus Christ? Pursuing that mystery defined Cyril during life.

He thought and wrote extensively about this mystery; it absorbed him. The way he came to express it was used at the Council of Ephesus (431) and became the way we also express it in our prayers. Mary was the Mother of God. The One born of her was not simple another human being. Her Son was true God, who would be truly human and eventually die on the Cross. God “so loved the world” that he came among us as Mary’s Son.

What we see as “the totality” of Cyril’s life, his “life’s jouney”, the “overall meaning of his person”, to use the pope’s words, is not his involvment in the violent politics of city and society of his day, but his quest to know Jesus Christ.

Abraham, The Unwavering Nomad

We call Abraham “Our father in faith” in our 1st Eucharistic Prayer. That’s because Abraham believed when God called him to leave his own land and go to a land he did not know. He believed in God’s call.

A pastoral nomad, sometimes settling down but then moving on. Abraham was on the move, on the way to a permanent home. That’s us too. Abraham trusted in God rather than in himself. As an old man, he believed God who said he would generate a child.

The great patriarch was tested. Faith grows through testing. Abraham’s greatest test came when God asked him to sacrifice his only son Isaac.

My favorite reflection on Abraham is Jessica Power’s beautiful poem:

“I love Abraham, that old weather-beaten
unwavering nomad; when God called to him
no tender hand wedged time into his stay.
His faith erupted him into a way
far-off and strange. How many miles are there
from Ur to Haran? Where does Canaan lie,
or slow mysterious Egypt sit and wait?
How could he think his ancient thigh would bear
nations, or how consent that Isaac die,
with never an outcry nor an anguished prayer?

I think, alas, how I manipulate
dates and decisions, pull apart the dark
dally with doubts here and with counsel there,
take out old maps and stare.
Was there a call after all, my fears remark.
I cry out: Abraham, old nomad you,
are you my father? Come to me in pity.
Mine is a far and lonely journey, too.

Genesis 11-50

For the next two weeks at Mass we’re reading from the section of the Book of Genesis we could call its Jewish phase (Genesis 11-50). The first 10 chapters of Genesis describe the origins of the world and the beginnings of the human race. Then, the various peoples multiply and go out to parts of the earth God assigns them. 

Chapter 11 begins with the call of Abraham. A Jewish tradition suggests that the peoples of the earth became so unmanageable that God decides to concentrate on one nation, the Jews, with the hope that they will bring all the other peoples together. 

God calls Abraham and his family to take possession of the land God will show them. But that’s not as easy for them as it was for other nations. They’re going to have a more mysterious and more difficult journey. The main obstacle they face is that Abraham and his wife Sarah are childless. How can you take possession of land if you don’t have anyone to follow you?

They have to trust in God and not themselves. We can see that trust in today’s story of Abraham and his nephew Lot. They can’t all go on together, too much conflict between them, so Abraham tells Lot to pick out the land he wants to have. Abraham will take whatever God wants him to have.

He trusts in God. Of course, the supreme act of trust is when Abraham is told to sacrifice his son, his only son after many years.

Our lectionary readings for the next few weeks relate some key events from the story of Abraham and Sarah and their descendants, which the Jews recognize as their history and Christians see it as theirs too. 

Our lectionary readings omit many dis-edifying parts and details from the accounts of the patriarchs and their wives and their times, which the Bible doesn’t hesitate to recall.  

That might be a weakness in reading the scriptures from the lectionary and not the Bible itself. The bible is not a story of human achievement and human courage and human trust. It’s the story of God’s grace moving humanity on its journey, where human weakness is strengthened by the power and love of God. 

From the beginning, God creates the heavens and the earth and all that is in them.