Many love Christ as long as they encounter no hardship; many praise and bless him as long as they receive some comfort from him. But if Jesus hides himself and leaves them for a while, they either start complaining or become dejected. Those, on the contrary, who love him for his own sake and not for any comfort of their own, praise him both in trial and anguish of heart as well as in the bliss of consolation. Even if Jesus should never comfort them, they would continue to praise and thank him. What power there is in a pure love for Jesus - love that is free from all self-interest and self-love!
"Hail Mary, full of grace," the Angel saith.
Our Lady bows her head, and is ashamed;
She has a Bridegroom Who may not be named,
Her mortal flesh bears Him Who conquers death.
Now in the dust her spirit grovelleth;
Too bright a Sun before her eyes has flamed,
Too fair a herald joy too high proclaimed,
And human lips have trembled in God's breath.
O Mother-Maid, thou art ashamed to cover
With thy white self, whereon no stain can be,
Thy God, Who came from Heaven to be thy Lover,
Thy God, Who came from Heaven to dwell in thee.
About thy head celestial legions hover,
Chanting the praise of thy humility.
LIVING WATER:Today’s readings, with their common theme of water, made me think of a walk that my wife and I took with our kids last Saturday. There is a small park that runs along a creek near our parish. I had never been there and my wife said it would be a nice place to let the kids run around a little.
What struck me on the walk was the huge oak trees growing along the edge of the creek. Erosion had worn away some of the soil on the sides of the creek, so you could see the thick roots running down into the water. It reminded me of the words from the first Psalm in the Book of Psalms:
Happy those who do not follow the counsel of the wicked,
Nor go the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers.
Rather, the law of the LORD is their joy; God's law they study day and night.
They are like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever they do prospers.
While all the trees had their roots in the same creek, their shapes were varied. Some stayed close to the creek, extending their great branches over it, almost protectively. I could imagine crawling out onto those branches to fish, read a book, or just to sit under the canopy of leaves and contemplate the water beneath.
Other trees seemed more restless. Their branches thrust toward the sky like arms raised in prayer, almost desperately seeking the light. I wanted to climb those trees, as high as they would go, to break through the canopy and look out over the valley, to feel the wind, to watch the movement of the sun over the great mountain that rises up above the town.
As I walked down the path, I wondered if trees ever argue with one another about the best way of being a tree. Do the trees that stay close to the creek accuse the others of abandoning it? Do those that seek the sun think their brethren are fearful and narrow-minded?
I suspect that trees are wiser than that. All trees need water. All trees need sun. All trees need powerful roots sunk deep in the earth, but branches that can grow and change and even bend with the wind now and then. It is good to be a tree and there are many ways of being one, each one—in its own way—giving glory to its Creator.
It is easy to look at the vast gulf that divides two of the most prominent lay Catholic intellectuals in the United States and despair of finding common ground between them. But that may be because we have misconceived what the search for common ground is all about. Part of the genius of the Catholic tradition has been its ability to live with tension and to make it a source of strength rather than weakness. Rather than asking how we can find a vague middle ground where both men can stand, perhaps we should ask what each brings that the Church needs.
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Before I preach on the Gospel, I ask for all of you to pray for all the clergy and lay people who get irritated when someone says to them, “Oh, we’re celebrating pink day today.” In a huff, the reply comes: “It’s not pink, it’s rose.” Such huffy people are the descendants of the older brother and they need to lighten up. If you do not know, the colors pink or rose have served as symbols of joy for many years within many cultures. We celebrate this Sunday of joy not only because we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, but because we give thanks and praise to Him for his unceasing love toward all humanity.
As wonderful as this Gospel reading is, it makes even greater sense when we include into the mix verses four through ten of the fifteenth chapter of Luke. You might have noticed that these verses have been omitted. I am going to read them to you now.
I want to celebrate with these people presented by Jesus; they seek to rejoice in the manner in which God works more than the supposedly holy frumps do. I must share with you my top story about holy frumps: I was in line for Confession at one church and a lady in front of me whispered to her neighbor – and I say “whispered” loosely because while she thought she was whispering, she could be heard throughout the entire church. She said: “Wow, that person has been in the confessional for a long time. I do not know who it was, but I bet he or she must have done a lot of things to have been there for such a long time. I have never been in the confessional for a long amount of time. Wow. I wonder what that person did.”
I could not decide whether to laugh, cry, or find a door.
I have no idea who the person was that took up all that time in the confessional, but I hope it was time well spent. We should rejoice when someone seeks the help of the Lord and the Church rather than complain that one person is making us wait a little longer than normal for our turn.
The people who go to Daily Mass heard this Gospel reading eight days ago. I told the people here that what the father did for the son is extremely extraordinary. As I said, when the son asked for his inheritance, he, for all practical purposes, killed his father and disowned the family. The ways of which he tossed away his inheritance was bad enough, but he renounced his family. Their companionship was not good enough for him, but to add insult to injury, the family’s money was good enough for him.
Upon returning to the father, the repentant son spoke as he did with the understanding that his father could have used him as a human soccer ball if he felt the desire to do so. The son deserved severe punishment as a result of the verbal murder of his father and the disrespect he showed in the way he spent the inheritance he received. But the father acted in a manner that went completely against each and every legal right and responsibility he had. He acted according to the law written on his heart rather than the law he knew in his head. The father is a characterization of the words Jesus said as He was nailed to the cross because the father said, “I forgive you because you did not know the depth of what you were doing.”
God the Son asked his Father to help humanity share in eternal joy even as the Son was in indescribable pain. How can we keep from rejoicing when we consider this? God the Son could have dispatched upon humanity a big batch of hellfire and brimstone, but instead, He sent the flame of the Holy Spirit. How can we keep from rejoicing when we consider this? Rejoice in the Lord always. By the way, the man who wrote those words, Saint Paul, did not deserve what He received from Jesus, but are we not thankful that Jesus extended his hand to Saul out of love and Saul sought to hold onto it. It could not have been easy for the people of Jerusalem to celebrate when they saw a changed Saul of Tarsus, but I am glad that at least one person said, “We should rejoice in the Lord because he has changed. After all, that is what the angels are doing. Why don’t we join them?”
Fr. Shawn O'Neal is the Pastoral Administrator at Saint Joseph's Saint Joseph's Catholic Church in Bryson City, NC and Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Cherokee, NC.