Penniless Preachers

“Penniless Preachers”
A reflection on Luke 9:1-6
Wednesday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Related posts: Two by Two, Neither Gold Nor Silver
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

He summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.” Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.

Luke 9:1-6

The words of the couplet drew inspiration from an ancient prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary called, “Sub Tuum Praesidium,” or “We Fly to Thy Patronage.” The figure of the Virgin is especially dear to St. Luke, the first iconographer of the Blessed Virgin Mary, according to Sacred Tradition. 

The Evangelist also wrote the account of the Annunciation from which the ancient “Hail Mary” prayer comes (Luke 1:26-38). Mary’s role as Mother of God makes her patronage ever-present and hidden in God’s providence for creation.

We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; 
despise not our petitions in our necessities, 
but deliver us always from all dangers, 
O glorious and blessed Virgin.

Related Scripture: Mark 6:7-13, Matthew 10:7-10

Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

“Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist”
A reflection on Matthew 9:9-13, 12:6-8; Hosea 6:6
Related post: The Call of Matthew
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Matthew 9:9-13 (NABRE)

I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

Matthew 12:6-8 (NABRE)

For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, 
And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

Hosea 6:6 (NKJV)

Laws of ritual purity dominated the culture of the Jews, from the temple precincts to the home and marketplace. Sacrifice and burnt offerings seemed to be the heart of true religion, along with avoidance of impure persons and objects. 

Jesus transcended the division between pure and impure, clean and unclean to embrace “tax collectors and sinners,” Jews and Gentiles. Jesus demonstrated that the true sacrifice and oblation of the heart are divine mercy and love for all without discrimination. 

The true temple of God is not a place, but a Person—Jesus Christ—who came to transform all persons into temples of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew, the tax collector

Jews  usually turned away as they passed the customs place where Matthew, the tax-collector, was sitting. But look at our gospel for today:

“As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.”

To celebrate their new friendship, Matthew invited Jesus to a banquet at his house with his friends – tax collectors like himself – and Jesus came with some of his disciples. They were criticized immediately for breaking one of Capernaum’s social codes. “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus’ answer was quick: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.

Go and learn the meaning of the words `I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Hardly anything is known of Matthew’s part in Jesus’ later ministry, yet surely the tradition must be correct that says he recorded much of what Jesus said and did. Tax collectors were good at keeping books. Was Matthew’s task to keep memories? Did he remember some things that were especially related to his world?

The gospels say that wherever Jesus went he was welcomed by tax collectors. When he entered Jericho, Zachaeus, the chief tax collector of the city, climbed a tree to see him pass, since the crowds were so great. Did Matthew point out the man in the tree to Jesus, a tax collector like himself, who brought them all to his house, where Jesus left his blessing of salvation? And did tax collectors in other towns come to Jesus because they recognized one of their own among his companions?

Probably so. Jesus always looked kindly on outsiders like Matthew who were targets of suspicion and resentment. True, they belonged to a compromised profession tainted by greed, dishonesty and bribery. Their dealings were not always according to the fine line of right or wrong.

But they were children of God and, like lost sheep, Jesus would not let them be lost.

Pope Francis said he got his vocation to be a priest on the Feast of St. Matthew, when he went to confession and heard God’s call, a call of mercy.

Matthew’s Gospel?

The gospels themselves recall little about Matthew, an apostle of Jesus. We have his name, his occupation and a brief story of a banquet that took place with Jesus and some of his friends after his call.  ( Mt 9: 9-13; Mk 2:3-12; Lk5:18-26) As it is, the gospels concentrate on the ministry and teaching of Jesus. 

In the early centuries, those who knew Jesus told his story and brought his message to the world. As they died, writings about him gradually appeared, but there are only scarce references to who wrote them. St. Justin Martyr in the early 2nd century speaks of the “memoirs of the apostles”, without indicating any author by name. Later in that century, St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, writing against the Gnostics who claim a superior knowledge of Jesus Christ attributes the gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are eyewitnesses who really know Jesus firsthand; they have given us their “memoirs.” 

Scholars today are less likely to credit Matthew’s Gospel to the tax-collector from Capernaum whom Jesus called. Some of his memoirs perhaps may be there– after all he came from a profession good at accounting for things. But too many indications point to other sources. Why would Matthew, if he is an eyewitness, depend on Mark’s Gospel as he does? Language, the structure of the gospel, the circumstances it addresses, point to a Jewish-Christian area beyond Palestine as its source, probably Antioch in Syria, probably written around the year 8o, after the Gospel of Mark.

Traditions says that Matthew preached in Ethiopia and Persia, but they have no historical basis.

He is remembered as a martyr who died for the faith, but again there is no historical basis. 

Better to see Matthew as the gospel sees him: one of the first outsiders whom Jesus called. And he would not be the last..

The Parable of the Lamp

“The Parable of the Lamp”
A reflection on Luke 8:16-18
Monday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Related posts: Meditation on Light, Series II, Day 5 
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.”

Luke 8:16-18

Another version of this couplet reads:

As the sun pierces through clouds and mist,
God’s Light shines through the evangelist.

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are known as the “Four Evangelists.”  An evangelist is a “bringer of good news” (from eu- “good” + angellein “announce,” from angelos “messenger, angel.” An evangelist—someone who has been touched by Jesus Christ (“Son-kissed”)— is a bearer of God’s light to the world.

Whoever has “ears to hear” and listens attentively will understand and perceive more. Hidden mysteries wrapped in parables will gradually come to light.

Related Scripture: Matthew 5:14-16

Saints of Korea

The founders of churches throughout the world have an important place in our church calendar, because they did what Jesus commanded: “Go out to the whole world and preach the gospel, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 25 ) 

Church founders are apostles like Peter and Paul, founders of the church in Rome, (June 29), or monk-bishops like Boniface, founder of the church of the Germanic peoples, (June 5), Patrick, founder of the church in Ireland, (March 17) Ansgar, founder of the church in Scandanavia, (February 3),  Cyril and Methodius, founders of the church in the Slavic nations (February14).

The church in Korea, whose founding we celebrate today, can be traced back to the 17th century. Its foundation is special, as Pope John Paul II noted at the canonization of the Korean Martyrs, May 6, 1984:

“The Korean Church is unique because it was founded entirely by laypeople. This fledgling Church, so young and yet so strong in faith, withstood wave after wave of fierce persecution. Thus, in less than a century, it could boast of 10,000 martyrs. The death of these many martyrs became the leaven of the Church and led to today’s splendid flowering of the Church in Korea. Even today their undying spirit sustains the Christians of the Church of Silence in the north of this tragically divided land.” – Pope John Paul II at the canonization of the Korean Martyrs, May 6, 1984.

A priest, Andrew Kim Taegon and a layman Paul Chong Hasang, head the list of 103 martyrs canonized in 1984, but the early Korean church was from the first a church of laypeople. Decades before those celebrated today, it was without priests or bishops. All lay people, they kept faith alive at great cost and offered it to others. 

 By its nature, the Catholic Church draws from its member churches the gifts God has given them. The church is the body of Christ. May our churches today, old and new, be blessed with lay people like those who founded the church in Korea.

The Second Vatican Council, 60 years or so ago,  called for increasing the role of the laity in the Catholic Church. It seems to me that goal has still to be met, at least in my country. 

“Once again, Jesus sends lay people into every town and place where he will come (cf.Luke 10:1) so that they may show that they are co-workers in the various forms and modes of the one apostolate of the Church, which must be constantly adapted to the new needs of our times. Ever productive as they should be in the work of the Lord, they know that their labor in him is not in vain (cf.  1 Cor.15:58).”  (Decree on Laity, 33)

O God, who have been pleased to increase your adopted children in all the world, and who made the blood of the Martyrs Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gǒn and his companions a most fruitful seed of Christians, grant that we may be defended by their help and profit always from their example.Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.Amen.

September 20-26: Feasts and Readings

SEPTEMBER 20 Mon Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs Memorial

Ezr 1:1-6/Lk 8:16-18 

21 Tue Saint Matthew, Apostle, Feast Eph 4:1-7, 11-13/Mt 9:9-13 

22 Wed Weekday Ezr 9:5-9/Lk 9:1-6 

23 Thu Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest Memorial Hg 1:1-8/Lk 9:7-9 

24 Fri Weekday Hg 2:1-9/Lk 9:18-22 

25 Sat Weekday Zec 2:5-9, 14-15a/Lk 9:43b-45 


Nm 11:25-29/Jas 5:1-6/Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 

We read from the Book of Ezra and the Prophet Haggai this week, two important sources describing the period of the Restoration, when a small Jewish community returns to Judea around 520 after exile in Babylon, thanks to the Persian king Cyrus.

Jewish history, like Christian history afterwards, is not unrelated to our own experience as a church today. The restoration of the temple and its liturgy is a key task Ezra and Nehemiah undertakes. It was a key task undertaken by the Second Vatican Council. 

This week’s readings from Luke’s gospel are from chapters 8-9,  part of Jesus’ Galilean mystery, which prepare his disciples for his great journey to Jerusalem.

The popular 20th century saint, Padre Pio, is remembered September 23, as well as St. Matthew, apostle and evangelist, September 21. 

The unusual beginnings of the church in Korea are celebrated September 20. They’re unusual because the church in Korea was founded, not by missionaries from the west, but by Korean laypeople.   

The Kingly Child and Flower

“The Kingly Child and Flower”
Mark 9:30-37, Matthew 6:28-29, Luke 12:27 in a couplet
Sunday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

They left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”

Mark 9:30-37

Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.

Matthew 6:28-29

Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them.

Luke 12:27

Related Scripture: Matthew 18:1-5, Luke 9:44-48

Learning from the Saints 

The saints in our liturgical calendar are not just names described by dates and a few words. They’re much more. They tell us how God works in time through his church.

We just remembered Saints Cornelius and Cyprian (September 16) who died martyrs a few years apart in the middle of the 3rd century. One was bishop of Rome, the other Bishop of Carthage in Africa. They lived in times of fierce persecution, before the peace brought by the Emperor Constantine in 312.

Sacrificing to the gods. Capitoline Museum, Rome

 As church leaders they constantly faced death and at the same time had to deal with difficult circumstances in the church. They’re not the only ones we remember from those crucial times. There are other church leaders, like Pope Callistus 1, (October 14), Pope Fabian (January 20), Pope Sixtus and four of his deacons (August 6), Lawrence the Deacon (August 10)  who lived through those times. We remember all of them in our calendar. 

Besides church leaders, we remember other members of the body of the church from those  hard years. Heroic women, like Agnes (January 21), Cecilia (November 22), Agatha (February 5), Felicity and Perpetua (March 7), Two doctors,  Cosmas and Damian (September 26) and a soldier Sebastian (January 20).

What can we learn from them? They remind us that in troubled times many leave the church. Faced with persecution, which was easily avoided then by simply offering sacrifice to the gods of the time, many Christians left the church. They would have joined the emperor, Marcus Aurelius (above), and offered homage at another altar.

Church leaders struggled with the question then of the “lapsi”, those who had left. Should we look for their return? Leave them to God? What kind of faith did they have anyway? Church leaders strongly disagreed on the approach to take. Cyprian is important because he was a church leader who took the side of mercy. Like good shepherds, go in search of the lost sheep. His writings are important too because he stressed the need for unity in his troubled church.

The women martyrs are important witnesses. The accounts of their lives are often called legends, but is that because they suffered so much alone, with no one at their side to give an eyewitness account? They suffered harsh torments, yet, like Mary they remained faithful.

The two doctors, Cosmas and Damian, continued to practice their skills, even in dangerous times. They didn’t give up on their calling. They kept healing people. Bad times are not times to give up.

Sebastian, the soldier, found himself serving a government at odds with his church. He too remained faithful. He was suspect and eventually killed because he treated Christian prisoners well.

We’re often reminded in the scriptures to remember those who have gone before us. The saints from times of persecution are special examples to follow. They offer wisdom for seeing our own times. We should pray to them and keep them in mind.

Prayer to the Sower

“Prayer to the Sower”
Luke 8:4-15 in a prayer couplet
Saturday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Related posts: The Parable of the Sower, The Parable of the Sower Explained
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

When a large crowd gathered, with people from one town after another journeying to him, he spoke in a parable. “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled, and the birds of the sky ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew, it withered for lack of moisture. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew, it produced fruit a hundredfold.” After saying this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”

Then his disciples asked him what the meaning of this parable might be. He answered, “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.’

“This is the meaning of the parable. The seed is the word of God. Those on the path are the ones who have heard, but the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts that they may not believe and be saved. Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear, receive the word with joy, but they have no root; they believe only for a time and fall away in time of trial. As for the seed that fell among thorns, they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along, they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and they fail to produce mature fruit. But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.

Luke 8:4-15