3 Fri Saint Gregory the Great, Pope Memorial Col 1:15-20/Lk 5:33-39
4 Sat Weekday Col 1:21-23/Lk 6:1-5
5 SUN TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Is 35:4-7a/Jas 2:1-5/Mk 7:31-37
We’re beginning to read from Luke’s Gospel this week as Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth, and we’ll be reading Luke till the end of November, as the season of Advent begins. A good time to take an overall look at the Gospel of Luke, Here’s the Introduction from the New American Bible.
The readings from I Thessalonians end Monday and Tuesday with Paul’s teaching on the last days. Then we read from the Letter to the Colossians. Good introduction and notes from the American Bible .
September 1 is a day for praying for creation.
We celebrate one of our greatest popes, Gregory the Great, September 3rd.
In a beautiful section of his Confessions St. Augustine describes his mother Monica’s last days at Ostia, the seaport of Rome, where they were preparing to sail for their home in Africa. Monica, taken sick, was on her way to another homeland.
The two of them were “leaning against a window looking out on a garden…inquiring what you are and what the eternal life of the saints would be like, for ‘Eye has not seen nor ear heard no human heart conceived it’”
“For my part, my son, I no longer find pleasure in anything this life holds,” his mother said, “ What I am doing here still, or why I am still here, I do not know, for worldly hope has withered away for me. There was only one thing I desired to live for in this life: to see you a Catholic Christian before I died. And my God has granted this to me more lavishly than I could have hoped, letting me see even you spurning earthly happiness to be his servant. What am I still doing here?”
Shortly after, Monica fell unconscious from the fever.
She revived and said to Augustine and his brother at her side, “You are to bury your mother here”.
“It would be better for you to be buried in your own homeland,” his brother said to her.
“‘What silly talk!’ she replied, ‘Lay this body anywhere, and take no trouble over it. One thing only do I ask of you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be.’
“Having made her meaning clear to us with such words as she could manage, she fell silent, and the pain of the disease grew worse.”
His mother’s death was a graced time when they drank in their thirst from “the fountain of life which is you”, Augustine wrote.
St. Bartholomew (August 24) is the apostle we remember this month. Faith comes to us from the apostles, so each month we remember an apostle.
The Passionists celebrate the feast of Blessed Dominic Barberi August 26. He received St. John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church.
St, Augustine and St. Monica, his mother, are remembered August 27-28 . Notice they’re both celebrated equally as memorials. Monica comes first. God answered her prayers for her wayward son, Augustine said.
We’re reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians this week. An Introduction to the letter here. www.usccb.org (Bible)
At a time we’re preoccupied with the Afghan War how appropriate to hear today in our first reading at Mass from the great Jewish general, Joshua. Ending his career, Joshua gathers the tribes of Israel, not to reminisce about past victories or to plan future battles, but to proclaim for himself and his household, “we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24, 1-2,24-27)
Joshua’s days and the days of the Judges that follow were days of war. The Jews had become “a rough people, barbarized by war.” The general now seeks to know God’s will. Good advice to us? What’s God’s will for war today?
Today at the US Maritime Academy at Kings Point I offered to the young men and women at Mass what our Catechism of the Catholic Faith tells us about war:
“The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life. Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war. 2307
All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. However, as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed. 2308
The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
there must be serious prospects of success; the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. the power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition. 2309
The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict.The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties. 2312
Non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners must be respected and treated humanely.
Actions deliberately contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles are crimes, as are the orders that command such actions. Blind obedience does not suffice to excuse those who carry them out. Thus the extermination of a people, nation, or ethnic minority must be condemned as a mortal sin. One is morally bound to resist orders that command genocide. 2313
Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation. A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons – to commit such crimes. 2314
The accumulation of arms strikes many as a paradoxically suitable way of deterring potential adversaries from war. They see it as the most effective means of ensuring peace amongnations. This method of deterrence gives rise to strong moral reservations. the arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war, it risks aggravating them. Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations; it thwarts the development of peoples. Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict and increases the danger of escalation. 2315
The production and the sale of arms affect the common good of nations and of the international community. Hence public authorities have the right and duty to regulate them. 2316
Fox News, CNN, The New York Times, the New York Post, all the media are busy with the politics of it all. Might be better to ask what’s God’s will.
Eamon Duffy in his fine study of the popes, “Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes”, describes St. Pius X as a pope who looked forward and looked backward. His pastoral reforms of the liturgy, his encouragement of frequent Communion and reform of church prayers, for example, anticipated many of the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. His fear for the integrity of church doctrine, on the other hand, slowed the church in adapting itself to a changing world. Like us all, popes have their strengths and weaknesses.
The pope’s reflection on the psalms, found in our liturgy today, reveals his love for prayer:
The psalms teach us how to pray. They provide a way to praise God and the words to bless God.
“The psalms have also a wonderful power to awaken in our hearts the desire for every virtue. Athanasius says: Though all Scripture, both old and new, is divinely inspired and has its use in teaching, the Book of Psalms, like a garden enclosing the fruits of all the other books, produces its fruits in song… The psalms seem to me to be like a mirror, in which the person using them can see himself and the stirrings of his own heart; he can recite them against the background of his own emotions.
Augustine says in his Confessions: How I wept when I heard your hymns and canticles. Those voices flowed into my ears, truth filtered into my heart, and from my heart surged waves of devotion. Tears ran down, and I was happy in my tears.
Who could fail to be moved by those many passages in the psalms which set forth so profoundly the infinite majesty of God, his omnipotence, his justice and goodness and clemency, too deep for words, and all the other infinite qualities of his that deserve our praise?
Who could fail to be roused to the same emotions by the prayers of thanksgiving to God for blessings received, by the petitions, so humble and confident, for blessings still awaited, by the cries of a soul in sorrow for sin committed?
Who would not be fired with love as he looks on the likeness of Christ, the redeemer, here so lovingly foretold? His was the voice Augustine heard in every psalm, the voice of praise, of suffering, of joyful expectation, of present distress.”
So far this week in our lectionary we’re reading from the Book of Judges, which warns about the barbarous society war can bring on. Our reading today describes the warrior Jephthah sacrificing his own daughter for his cause. (Judges 11:29-39) That’s what happens when a culture of war takes hold.
We end the week (Friday and Saturday) reading from the Book of Ruth, the story of a loyal woman. A foreigner not a Jew, Ruth remains faithful to Naomi, her mother-in-law, and returns with her to Bethlehem from the plains of Moab, where Jews sought refuge in time of famine.
In answer to Naomi who wants her to remain with her own people since her husband is dead, Ruth says: “Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
Foreigners can become friends, trusted friends. Wars divide; violence kills. The loving response of Ruth is a welcome response to the Book of Judges.
In Bethlehem, Ruth meets Boaz, a relative of Naomi, as she gleans in his fields, and he marries her. They have a son, Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David. And from that great lineage, the Gospel of Matthew says, Jesus Christ is born.
That’s a question we’re all asking these days. It’s all so uncertain. So let’s listen to what faith says. Here’s what the church said at the Second Vatican Council.
“We do not know the time when earth and humanity will reach their completion, nor do we know the way in which the universe will be transformed. The world as we see it, disfigured by sin, is passing away. But we are sure that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth. In this new earth righteousness is to make its home, and happiness will satisfy, and more than satisfy, all the yearnings for peace that arise in human hearts.
On that day, when death is conquered, the sons of God will be raised up in Christ; what was sown as something weak and perishable will be clothed in incorruption. Love and the fruits of love will remain, and the whole of creation, made by God for man, will be set free from the frustration that enslaves it.
We are warned indeed that we gain nothing if we win the whole world at the cost of ourselves. Yet our hope in a new earth should not weaken, but rather stimulate our concern for developing this earth, for on it there is growing up the body of a new human family, a body even now able to provide some foreshadowing of the new age. Hence, though earthly progress is to be carefully distinguished from the growth of Christ’s kingdom, yet in so far as it can help towards the better ordering of human society it is of great importance to the kingdom of God.
The blessings of human dignity, communion and freedom – all the good fruits on earth of our co-operation with nature in the Spirit of the Lord and according to his command – will be found again in the world to come, but purified of all stain, resplendent and transfigured, when Christ hands over to the Father an eternal and everlasting kingdom: “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.” On this earth the kingdom is already present in sign; when the Lord comes it will reach its completion.” (Pastoral Constitution on. the Church in the Modern World)
The Jewish Encyclopedia describes the period of the Judges, the period we’re reading about this week in our lectionary, in this way:
“Israel remained for some time a rough people, barbarized by continuous wars. Sword law and the vendetta reigned supreme. Neither expeditions undertaken for pillage and plunder (comp. Judges xvii. et seq.), nor treacherous dealings with the enemy, as practiced by Samson, nor assassinations, as those committed by Jael and Ehud, gave offense; and even the lives of those nearest and dearest were sacrificed to satisfy a vow, as in the case of Jephthah.”
“Barbarized by continuous wars.” War became the only way to settle things at this time, and that led to warrior leaders, some more measured than others. The allegory of the trees which we will hear tomorrow from the Book of Judges ends with the buckhorn tree ruling over the people. That’s Abimelech, the vicious son of Gideon, who kills anyone in his way and, in turn, suffers a violent death.
The Book of Judges was an admonition to the Jewish people to beware of seeing war and violence as a way of life. It creates a barbarous society. It’s a way to death.