Monthly Archives: September 2022

Compared With Christ, All Else is Rubbish

“Compared With Christ, All Else is Rubbish”
Philippians 3:8-9 “in a snailshell”
Wednesday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Gospel Acclamation
©️2022 by Gloria M. Chang

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Keeping Job in mind

Gregory the Great

St. Gregory the Great  is one the greatest of the popes. He held the church together during Rome’s free fall into poverty in the 6th century, one of the city’s worst periods. Not only did Gregory help the church survive, he also initiated her expansion into England and the barbarian lands to the north.

I lived across the street from Gregory’s home on the Celian Hill for a few years. On my way to school, I used to peek through the doors of the library of Pope Agapitus, a relative of Gregory’s, where archeologists were working. At some point, barbarian armies must have plundered that place on their sweep through the city.  Yes, Gregory and his family stayed on when most of his neighbors left Rome for safer parts.

Called to a job he didn’t want, Gregory kept his balance by reflecting on the scripture. His favorite book was the Book of Job. We would never know the greatness of Job, if suffering didn’t reveal it, Gregory said, so he looked to Job in hard times. Here are a few lines from his commentary on Job:

“Paul saw the riches of wisdom within himself though his outward body was corruptible, and so he says ‘ We have this treasure in earthen vessels.’

  In Job, then, the earthen vessel was gaping sores, while an interior treasure remained unchanged. Gaping outward wounds did not stop the treasure of wisdom from welling up within and saying: ‘If we have received good things at the hand of the Lord, shall we not receive evil?’

“By good things Job means the good things given by God, both temporal and eternal; by evil he means the blows he presently suffers.

“ When we’re afflicted, let’s remember our Maker’s gifts to us. Suffering will not depress us if we quickly remember the gifts we’ve been given. As Scripture says, ‘In the day of prosperity do not forget affliction, and in the day of affliction, do not forget prosperity.’”

St. Vincent de Paul (1581-1660)

The opening Mass prayer for St. Vincent’s feast day describes succinctly what made him a great saint:

O God, for the relief of the poor

and the formation of the clergy

you endowed the priest St.Vincent De Paul

with apostolic virtues.

grant, that afire with the same spirit

we may love what he loved

and put into practice what he taught.

God gave Vincent de Paul grace to reach out to the poor and form the clergy. Both the poor and the clergy in France needed the grace of God.

Vincent as a young priest, met a Protestant once whom he invited to convert to Catholicism. The Protestant said:

“You told me, Monsieur, that the Church of Rome is led by the Holy Spirit, but I find that hard to believe because, on the one hand, we see Catholics in the countryside abandoned to pastors who are ignorant and given over to vice, with so little instruction in their duties that most of them hardly know what the Christian religion is. On the other, we see towns filled with priests and monks who are doing nothing; there are perhaps ten thousand of them in Paris, yet they leave the poor country people in this appalling state of ignorance in which they are lost. And you want to convince me that all this is being guided by the Holy Spirit! I’ll never believe it.”

That’s a picture of the French church in Vincent’s time. One reason for its sad condition was that the French crown appointed bishops and they, in turn, appointed men from important French families who supported them. Political considerations largely influenced church appointments.

As a result, the priesthood in France was badly off, priests had little education, some could hardly read or write. For financial support, they looked for benefices, usually found in the larger cities among rich families, where they could say Mass and celebrate the sacraments. As a young priest, Vincent himself was chaplain for a wealthy family in Paris.

The decision to become a priest was mostly a family’s decision, which might designate one of its sons as its “offering” to God. The priesthood became a way  to get a son some education and some social standing. Vincent’s own family, who were peasants, were influenced by motives like these. For many the priesthood was a job and not a call.

What Vincent did was to appeal to priests, religious, and even bishops, to begin to look at their roles spiritually. They were called by God to a vocation, not a job or career,  They had a  sacred mission to follow Jesus Christ. Vincent, in fact, called the community he founded the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians), because they were to go to those neglected. He encouraged, not only priests, but communities of women to care for the poor, without living the usual cloistered life of that time. Vincent’s network embraced laypeople too, who worked for those Jesus called “the least.”

Through the efforts of this saint communities of Daughters of Charity,  Societies of St. Vincent de Paul, are found throughout the world today.

The following reading for Vincent’s feast captures his powerful message:

Although in his passion he almost lost the appearance of a man and was considered a fool by the Gentiles and a stumbling block by the Jews, Jesus showed them that his mission was to preach to the poor: He sent me to preach the good news to the poor. We also ought to have this same spirit and imitate Christ’s actions, that is, we must take care of the poor, console them, help them, support their cause.Even though the poor are often rough and unrefined, we must not judge them from external appearances nor from the mental gifts they seem to have received. On the contrary, if you consider the poor in the light of faith, then you will observe that they are taking the place of the Son of God who chose to be poor.

Since Christ willed to be born poor, he chose for himself disciples who were poor. He made himself the servant of the poor and shared their poverty. He went so far as to say that he would consider every deed which either helps or harms the poor as done for or against himself. Since God surely loves the poor, he also loves those who love the poor. For when one person holds another dear, he also includes in his affection anyone who loves or serves the one he loves. That is why we hope that God will love us for the sake of the poor. So when we visit the poor and needy, we try to understand the poor and weak. We sympathise with them so fully that we can echo Paul’s words: I have become all things to all men. Therefore, we must try to be stirred by our neighbours’ worries and distress. We must beg God to pour into our hearts sentiments of pity and compassion and to fill them again and again with these dispositions.

It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible. If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer the deed to God as your prayer. Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of God’s works is merely interrupted so that another can be carried out. So when you leave prayer to serve some poor person, remember that this very service is performed for God. Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity. Since she is a noble mistress, we must do whatever she commands. With renewed devotion, then, we must serve the poor, especially outcasts and beggars. They have been given to us as our masters and patrons.”

More on St. Vincent de Paul

Journey Through a Samaritan Village

“Journey Through a Samaritan Village”
Luke 9:51-56 and 2 Kings 1:9-12 “in a snailshell” 
Tuesday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

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Health Care, Then and Now

Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian, Rome

We celebrate the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian September 26th. They were two brothers who practiced medicine in Syria in the fourth century and were martyred during the reign of Diocletian. Tradition says they gave their services freely to anyone needing medical help, and so followed Jesus’ teaching, “Freely you have been given, freely give. “ (Matthew 10:8)  Besides caring for bodily needs they prayed for those they cared for and well as tending their bodily needs.

The brothers were honored widely from earliest times in the Christian churches of the east and west. In the  great 7th century mosaic in the church of Saints Cosmas and Damian in Rome they’re shown being presented to Christ holding their medicine boxes in their hands, good and faithful physicians. They appear later as patrons of doctors, pharmacists, nurses, barbers. 

We lack exact historical information about them, but let’s not miss the example of holiness Saints Cosmas and Damian offer. In his own ministry, Jesus had special care for the sick and suffering, and showed his concern in miraculous cures that restored them to health and enabled them to return to their families and communities. Those who heal and care for the sick and suffering– whether doctors, nurses, caregivers of every kind, people involved in medical research– follow him in what they do.

Cosmas and Damian remind us health care  is more than a job you may– or may not – get paid for. It’s sharing in the divine power to heal. “I was sick and you visited me,” Jesus says at judgment time. Health care is vital to every society and culture.

The scant historical evidence about Saints Cosmas and Damian is more than compensated by their early popularity in the churches of the east and west. The basilica where they’re honored in Rome replaced a Roman basilica in the Roman forum, not too far from the Roman senate. It was built in the 6th century by Pope Felix II, a relative of Gregory the Great. Was it maybe a reminder to a government then of a burning issue our society needs to remember now? Health care is a basic human right to be honored and supported. 

Saints Cosmas and Damian, pray for us.    

Don’t Look Back: Luke 9:51-18:14

We’re reading at Mass from the long portion of Luke’s gospel describing Jesus’ journey from Galilee to Jerusalem–chapters 9,51-18,14. One sentence dominates this part of Luke’s gospel. “Follow me,” Another sentence we hear repeatedly: “Don’t look back.”

Notice how Jesus’ miracles on this journey help people stuck in one place move on. So, he cures the ten lepers confined outside a village in Samaria and sets them free. “Stand up and go,” Jesus says to them. (Luke 17,11-19) The blind man begging beside the road outside Jericho seems doomed to sit there forever. Jesus immediately gives him his sight and getting up he “followed him, giving glory to God.” {Luke 18, 35-43)

“Follow me,” Jesus says on his way to glory, but not all hear. Leprosy and blindness aren’t the only things stopping them. In Luke’s journey narrative; lots of things get in the way..

In Lot’s day, Jesus says, “they were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting , building on the day Lot left Sodom.” It was time to see beyond these things and get going, but Lot’s wife looked back instead of looking ahead. Fixed on life she knew, she’s frozen there, and she’s.not the only one.

Jesus gives other examples in Luke’s journey narrative. The rich fool building bigger barns, (Luke 12,16-21) the rich man absorbed in himself and his riches, (Luke 16, 19-31) the man absorbed in a lawsuit with his brother, (Luke 12,13-15) the disciples absorbed in maneuvering politically for first place.(Luke 18,15-17) How can they make the journey?

Jesus returns often to another theme that’s a remedy for our lack of faith. Pray constantly, he says. Never stop praying, for prayer opens your eyes and your mind and your heart. Prayer gives us the grace to take up our cross each day and follow him.

The Spirit Blows Where It Wills

“The Spirit Blows Where It Wills”
A reflection on Luke 9:49-50, Mark 9:38-40, Numbers 11:25-29
Monday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

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26th Week of the Year: Readings and Feasts

SEPTEMBER 26 Mon Weekday[StsCosmas and Damian, Martyrs] Jb 1:6-22/Lk9:46-50 

27 Tue Saint Vincent de Paul, Priest Memorial Jb 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23/Lk 9:51-56 

28 Wed Weekday [Saint Wenceslaus, Martyr; Saint Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs] Jb 9:1-12, 14-16/Lk 9:57-62 

29 Thu Sts Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels Feast

Dan 7:9-10, 13-14 or Rv 12:7-12a/Jn 1:47-51

30 Fri Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor Memorial Jb 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5/Lk 10:13-16 (4

OCTOBER 1 Sat Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

Memorial Jb 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17/Lk 10:17-24 

2 SUN TWENTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Hb 1:2-3; 2:2-4/2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14/Lk 17:5-10 

The first readings for most of this week are taken from the Book of Job, the dramatic story of a just man facing the problem of evil. Job is not an historical figure, but he represents all humanity in his questions. Why does God permit evil?

Luke’s gospel this week prepares for Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem which is described in Luke 9:51-18:14. The journey ends in his Resurrection.

A number of important saints are remembered this week in our church calendar. The memorial of St. Therese, the Little Flower, follows that of St.Jerome, the great scripture scholar. Both are doctors of the church, but so unlike as persons. One approached the scriptures mainly as a scholar,  through the mind. Therese approached them through the heart. 

The Vincent de Paul, the founder of the Vincentian tradition, is remembered on Monday.

The Philippines celebrates St. Lawrence Ruiz and his companions on Wednesday. In our neigborhood, they will be celebrating on Sunday.

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

“The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus”
A reflection on Luke 16:19-31
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
©️2022 by Gloria M. Chang

“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”

Luke 16:19-31

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