Saturday, November 16, 2019

33rd Sunday in OT @ St. Vincent de Paul

NOVEMBER 16/17, 2019

According to a geneticist at UC San Diego who is researching DNA methylation in mammals, if you want to know how old your dog is in people years, multiply the natural logarithm of their age by 16 and add 31. This is based on an analysis of over 100 Labrador Retrievers and comparing the similarities of gene methylation between both species.

I always considered that a “dog year” was seven people years. That has somewhat less scientific support – apparently arising from a 1970s Alpo dog food commercial featuring Lorne Green, who introduced his dog and told all of America that “Duchess is 13. That’s like 91 to you and me.

WebMD claims the first year of a dog’s life is roughly 15 years, the second 9, and the remaining years varying between 3 and 5 human years.

An 13th century inscription surrounding the Cosmati pavement in front of the high altar at Westminster Cathedral sets the number of dog years at 9, and lays out the ages of various creatures in various powers of 3. Based on the inscription, humans live to 81, whales live over 6,500 years, and the world itself will end after just less than 20,000 years.

Today is the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Our readings have been taking on an eschatological theme over the past several weeks. Eschatology being the theological study of the end of things – coming from the Greek word ἔσχατον meaning “the end” or “the last.

Our first reading comes from the last chapter of the Book of Malachi – who just happens to be the last of the Old Testament prophets. The overarching theme in this book is how should the people of Israel live a godly life? And Malachi goes at it from several angles, enumerating all the different ways that the people have gotten it all wrong.

St. Paul, in the second reading from the Second Letter to the Thessalonians tells them – and us – to simply follow his example; so that we might be ready when the “Day of the Lord” – that is the Second Coming of Christ – arrives … whether in our own lifetime, or at some other time in the future.

The Gospel reading we heard from St. Luke is the last chapter before the Last Supper and Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. It concerns what is often called the “Tribulation” – what will occur before the end of time when “God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.(CCC 677)

Despite the excitement of the discourse, when all is said and done, Jesus admonishes us to persevere in order to save ourselves.

And so, here we are in the waning days of November, where the Church puts forward for our consideration the “Last Things.”

Since about the 16th century, the “Four Last Things” have meant Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. And there are countless books and writings by saints and others on these. (There is also a point and click video game on the Four Last Things, if you're interested in medieval art and music.)

So, what are we to do?

Reflecting on today’s readings, it would seem that the best way to prepare for the end … the ἔσχατον … the last things … is to live a godly life, in accord with the teachings and traditions of the Church and the Apostles – to follow Christ; and to persevere.

In other words, a good end comes about through a good life … and a godly life leads to a godly end.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ; let us pray for the grace of perseverance – and even more so, the grace of final perseverance. So that we might live … through, with, and in Christ … and reign with Him for eternity.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

31st Sunday in OT @ St. Vincent de Paul

NOVEMBER 2/3, 2019

Born in the south central French alps in the early 17th century, French scientist and philosopher Blaise Pascal was the son of a tax collector and a child prodigy. He designed and built mechanical calculators and wrote on fluid mechanics, projective geometry, and probability theory.

After his death, his philosophical and theological notes were published, titled Pensées – or Thoughts. Within this work is a philosophical argument – referred to as Pascal’s Wager – the gist of which is that an individual bets their whole life on the premise of whether or not God exists.

Pascal argues that a reasonable person should live as if God exists and foster a faith in God – since, if God does not exist one only stands to lose only limited or finite things … whereas if God does exist there are infinite and eternal gains to be had – namely Heaven … or infinite and eternal losses – namely Hell.

Today is the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In todays reading from the Gospel of Luke, we hear the story of the chief tax collector Zacchaeus – who in his small efforts to see Jesus realizes that Jesus is looking for him as well.

His meeting with Christ – and subsequent repentance and conversion – turns the grumblings of the naysayers on their ears, and Our Lord proclaims:
Today salvation has come to this house …For the Son of Man has come to seeknd to save what was lost.
We hear in the first reading from the Book of Wisdom about God’s mercy and love – and how even the smallest details are willed by God – and how it is within His Will that all souls repent and believe in God.

St. Paul, in the excerpt from the beginning of the Second Letter to the Thessalonians speaks of remaining steadfast in our Baptismal call and to be firm in our Faith; and not become easily unsettled by random musings.

For ourselves, we can too often limit our perception of God and His goodness. Presuming that we can hide from God’s sight, or that God’s love is limited to other people or other things. Yet in both of these, we can fail to realize that nothing goes unnoticed by God and that He is actively seeking us out … seeking every single person … in order to bring them into His glory.

God’s mercy does not negate His justice ... and we must make an active respond to God’s mercy and love.

When we pray the Our Father, our pledge that His will be done – implies that the desire to conform our wills to God’s Will … and not the other way around.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ – let us repent of anything holding us back from being completely and totally committed to God … and in return may we receive the fullness of His grace, His mercy, and His love through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our life.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

29th Sunday OT @ St. Vincent de Paul

OCTOBER 19/20, 2019

The Aesopica is a collection of fables credited to the Greek storyteller Aesop, who lived around the sixth century before Christ. There are over 700 fables, and one of perhaps the best known is The Tortoise and the Hare.

Interestingly, because it was never translated into Latin, it remained relatively obscure until the 16th century when it was translated into French and Dutch. Not until 100 years later is it found in English.

Walt Disney provided an animated version of the fable in 1935, where the hare is a smart aleck college boy, complete with varsity sweater and adoring bunnies swooning over him. The tortoise is an honest working man, who just keeps on keeping on.

The hare, bathed in his own self-confidence, takes a nap. And when all is said and done, the Tortoise is the winner.

In our own time, the moral of the story is: “Slow and steady wins the race.” While in its own time, the moral may have been more based on attitude – the hare’s foolish overconfidence leads to his demise against an easy target. An ancient Greek source points out that those with positive natural abilities often ruin them by idleness. Emphasizing that sobriety, zeal, and perseverance can overcome laziness – regardless of ability.

By the 17th century, the moral was “perseverance winneth,” while religious commentators have leaned toward Ecclesiastes 9:11 – “the race is not to the swift,” while another notes that “the more haste, the worse speed.”

Today is the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time. And our readings point to “perseverance.”

In Exodus we hear of Moses’s perseverance in prayer – even to the point of having Aaron and Hur get him a chair and hold up his hands. And how this led to Israel’s victory in one of its first battles in the desert.

St. Paul admonishes Timothy to be “faithful to what you have learned and believed” and to be persistent.

The words translated as “faithful” and “persistent” are, in the Greek, μένω and ἐφίστημι. The first is where we get the English word remain. The second implies readiness. In some sense like a soldier on station, ever watchful.

What is translated here as “convenient or inconvenient” has more often been translated as “in season or out of season.” The root word here being καιρός which means an opportune time – as in the beginning of St. Mark’s Gospel is translated “the time of fulfillment.

The point of the Gospel is given away in the first sentence. St. Luke tells us that the parable is about “the necessity …to pray always without becoming weary.

The two enemies of perseverance are apathy and over-confidence.

What I would call “meh” and “me.”

We can be so self-assured that we step into presumption – and in losing sight of the goal, miss out completely. Or, we can give up before we’ve ever started, and never know if we have a chance.

The key is to strike a balance – what Aristotle called “The Golden Mean.” To know oneself – but  within the boundaries of humility, while knowing what must be done – and doing it.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, let us pray for the grace to persevere.

And as we move closer to November, the month of the Holy Souls, let us also pray for the grace of final perseverance. To follow Christ – unreservedly to the end – so that in faithfully following Him here on earth, we might follow Him into glory in eternity.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

28th Sunday in OT @ St. Vincent de Paul & St Joseph

OCTOBER 12/13, 2019

Aurelius Prudentius Clemens was a Roman Christian poet born in 348 in northern Spain.

He was a lawyer, and provincial governor; eventually ending up in the Imperial Court of Emperor Theodosius I (the first). Around the age of 50, he left public life and devoted his time to fasting, prayer, and writing.

Prudentius's allegorical poem titled Psychomachia – in English, The War for the Soul – was his most influential work. Focusing on the spiritual battle, it captured the imagination of Christians in the middle ages; being illustrated in manuscripts and on church walls – as a sort of medieval comic book. And continues to captivate and interest well into modern times – as a strategy card game.

In this epic poem, the seven virtues are portrayed as seven heroic women who go to battle against the vices, portrayed as seven haughty and wicked women.

Faith beheads Idolatry, Chastity slays Lust with a sword to the throat, and Sobriety uses a cross to sabotage Greed’s chariot before crushing her with a stone. Patience exhausts Anger, who then dies by her own sword.

And on and on, Humility, Hope, and Concord all take to the battlefield being cheered on by saints and biblical figures – and conquer all the other vices.

It really makes for a great comic book. Sort of seven “Wonder Women” facing their arch-nemeses, all in Latin verse and sometimes with pictures.

Today is the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Our readings today give us a look into biblical and Christian virtues.

Namaan the Syrian general is looking for a cure for his leprosy. Yet if we read the story that precedes today’s reading, we learn that Namaan needed to get over his pride, his anger, and his self-will. In the end, as we heard today, he was healed. But in both body and soul.

St. Paul speaks of virtues and vices as well. Perseverance, Honesty, Transparency, and Fidelity. Pointing out that our Christian walk requires an inward transformation – so that we might be always, more and more, conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

In the Gospel, Our Lord shows Generosity to ten lepers. They are all healed through Obedience to His command. Yet only one returns to show Gratitude, glorifying God and giving thanks to Jesus.

While there are various arrangements and listings of virtues and vices the etymologies of these words are quite simply that virtues are strengths and vices are weaknesses.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, let us pray that we might allow the grace of God to transform us interiorly. To cast of the sins of our past, and the vices of the world. To hear and listen to God’s call and to fight the spiritual battle, every day – in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the strength of Christ Jesus – growing in both virtue and holiness, so we might truly live as the adopted children of God the Father, both now and in eternity.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Confirmation Talk to Parents @ St. Vincent de Paul

OCTOBER 2, 2019

Handout (English)

Folleto (Español)

Sunday, September 29, 2019

26th Sunday OT @ St. Vincent de Paul

SEPTEMBER 29, 2019

James Sherley was an English dramatist of the early 17th century. He was said to have been “the last of a great race, all of whom spoke nearly the same language and had a set of moral feelings and notions in common.” He wrote plays from 1625 until 1642 – when Parliament outlawed the performance of stage plays.

He was born in 1596 in London, and studied at Oxford; eventually receiving his B.A. from Cambridge. After receiving his M.A., he served as an Anglican minister until his conversion to Catholicism around 1623.

His work spans 10 volumes, among which is the poem Death the Leveller. It begins:
The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against Fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings:
He speaks of the tumbling down of crown and scepter, and the how even the strong must admit their weakness before death. Neither might nor earthly glory survive death, but ends by telling us:
Only the actions of the justSmell sweet and blossom in their dust.
Today is the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, and again we hear from the prophet Amos in the First Reading. We are skipping around in the book. Last week we heard of the reasons for God’s judgment on the people, and today we rewind two chapters and hear the prophet’s lamentations against the indulgent. In the preceding verses Amos also laments the willfully ignorant and the indifferent, and goes on to cry out against those who are impudent.

This is not an essay in dialectic materialism … between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” Rather it is speaking against “having too much” and intentionally neglecting the duties toward ones neighbor.

But even more so, it is a warning against putting one’s trust in this world and the things of this world … to the point of putting our faith in material things and placing them before our duty to both God and neighbor. It is not a condemnation of wealth, but rather is a condemnation of the worship of it.

In the Gospel from St. Luke, we hear the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man. In this world, the rich man, like the Pharisees, gave lip-service to God, but in his heart placed his trust in wealth and possessions. Lazarus, on the other hand, had nothing to distract his heart from God, and considering that he only received kindness from the local canine population, came to rely on God.

In the afterlife, Lazarus receives the benefits of his spiritual investments. Faith in God has eternal rewards, while faith in the world leaves one not only bankrupt in the next life, but also in a world of hurt.

St. Paul provides some guidance in the Epistle from the First Letter to Saint Timothy.
One phrase, however, is excised from our reading. Timothy is admonished not only to pursue deeds of righteousness, but is admonished to “avoid” worldliness and materialism. In some translations this is rendered as “flee” … that is: run away!

Paul acknowledges that this is not always possible, but that we must “compete” … or in some translations “fight” with our own inclinations to choose the right thing and orient our hearts and minds on the things of heaven.

And we are to do this by our “pursuit” of righteousness – that is, a right relationship based in justice with God and neighbor. Again, “pursue” can also be translated as “follow,” which gives us the three-part formula: flee, fight, and follow.

Of course, if we read just beyond where today’s reading ended, there is a fourth part which is to be faithful,
to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share,
thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life.

Indeed, it is difficult to live in the world but not of the world, but death comes, in many cases, too soon. We must be flee the inclinations, fight the temptations, follow Christ, and be faithful to the Gospel. And in this we can be assured of an eternal reward.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, let us pray for clarity of mind and heart, so that we might always be in right relationship with both God and neighbor. Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the source and summit of our Faith … with the firm intention and knowledge that we are made, not for this place … but for eternity.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

25th Sunday OT @ St. Vincent de Paul

SEPTEMBER 21/22, 2019

In his 2005 book titled, Winners Never Cheat, subtitled, Everyday Values We Learned as Children (But May Have Forgotten), author Jon M. Huntsman provides what he calls “Lessons From the Sandbox”. He provides nine lessons:
1. Check your moral compass2. Play by the rules3. Set the example4. Keep your word5. Pick friends wisely6. Get mad, not even7. Be gracious8. Own what you do9. Give back
I will leave it to you, if you are curious, to find his book and read the explanations.
But indeed – we have all heard it – whether from parents, teachers, siblings, coaches – someone – that winners never cheat … and it’s corollary – cheaters never win.

Today is the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time. And today’s readings are hard to read, and possibly even harder to preach on.

The First Reading from the Prophet Amos is calls out the people of Israel for not following the rules … that is … for cheating.

The Law of Moses had clear rules and regulations regarding religious festivals, business relationships, and criminal punishments … among others. Yet these were all being ignored.

And God has taken notice of this.

But He doesn’t strike them down or smite them with lightning.

Instead He sends the prophet to call them out and point out that … cheaters never win.

In the Gospel, we hear the parable of the Dishonest Steward. Here, a steward is someone whose job was to manage the land and property of his master. And this steward was being dishonest. And this gets noticed by the master.

This isn’t so much of a lesson in “you can’t take it with you” as it is a lesson in “it was never yours in the first place."

The Dishonest Steward cheated his master, and ended up getting caught. Bottom line: he’s been busted.

As Christians we are called to live “in the world” but not to be “of the world.” The gifts we have are given to us … but we are only stewards, not owners.

We may end up cheating our Divine Master for a time, but ultimately we will face judgment. If we cheat, we will get caught … but if it’s not in this world, most certainly it will be in the next.

And that can make it difficult for us to make the right decisions … to follow those simple, sandbox lessons … especially if our focus has been distorted to viewing only the here-and-now, and we don’t take the long view and consider everything … everything … through the lens of Eternity.

The master goes on to commend the Dishonest Steward. But not for his dishonesty. Rather, the steward is commended for taking advantage of what he has for a short time, and leveraging it for his advantage later.

He knew that his time was short. And he knew that he needed to provide for his future, unknown life … and so he took that opportunity to provide for himself.

He was a child of the world, and was prudent with the things of the world. Jesus calls us children of the light – but points out that we act imprudently with the resources of Eternity that we have at our disposal.

Jesus, in this parable, points out that the children of the world gladly and actively cheat others out of the limited things of this world for short-term gain … but unfortunately, the children of the light – that is, His disciples … meaning us – we end up cheating ourselves out of the supernatural things that are our inheritance from God because we too often take them for granted.

St. Paul, in the Epistle, gives us a first step in making this happen. He points out that in all things, prayer should come first … prayer must be a priority.

In this First Letter to St. Timothy, St. Paul speaks of: supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings.

The bottom line is that we must make prayer a priority. And never miss the opportunities to take advantage of the resources – natural and supernatural – at that are available to prepare us for our heavenly future. To miss these opportunities is to cheat ourselves out of the generous graces of God poured out on us every moment of every day.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ … let us pray that we might be more mindful to the gifts of God … and the presence of God … in our daily lives. May we also become more and more attentive to the action of His grace in our lives. And take advantage of the manifold opportunities we have to grow in grace … and mercy … and love.