Saving Our Souls

Today is the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the patron of my congregation. Our Founder, Theodore James Ryken told us that “The name of this insatiable laborer for souls will indicate with one word what is intended for the congregation.” Now I have to admit that there are very few ways I am able to identify with St. Francis Xavier. Perhaps if at the age of 17, when I was making the decision to join the congregation, I had known these words of Ryken I would have sought out an order or congregation more suited to my personality and temperament.[read more]

Awareness and Judgment

On this first weekday of Advent, we pray that when the Lord comes and knocks, we shall be found “watchful in prayer.” To be in prayer is to be awake and watchful in a way far more truly and distinctively human than the way we are present to life much of the time. In today’s gospel Jesus exclaims to his disciples that in no person in Israel has he found the faith that the centurion manifests. For what Jesus experiences among his own people is what he well may experience among his church today when he comes. He may find[read more]

Faith and Disappointment

The last week of the Church year has, for much of my life, been my least favorite time, liturgically speaking. There is a relentlessness to the themes of catastrophe, destruction, violence, and death. There is the constant reminder, as we hear in the gospel today, that “the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down” (Luke 21:6). The reminders of the limits of humanity’s potency and effectiveness have always easily evoked my personal psychic sense of and fears of futility. One of the hardest but truest spiritual directives[read more]

Giving All We Have To Live On

It is easy to read the story of the poor widow’s offering as a moral lesson, and so to some degree it is. Yet, it is also much more than that. It is a description both of the very nature of God and of the nature and quality of our participation in God’s life and creation. In context it is surrounded by Jesus’ description of the miserly and constrained consciousness of the Pharisees on one side and his description of the destruction of the Temple and the signs of the end times on the other.[read more]

Encounter and Aggression

When I was a boy, one of the earliest lessons my mother attempted to teach me was that if you were good to others, they would be good to you. In light of the tension between congeniality and compatibility we have been reflecting on these past days, her formative directive to me was “get along to go along.” As an adult, and especially in my later years, I have come to recognize that my mother had a deep anxiety that somehow I would have difficulty in life “getting along” and being accepted. Now this interpretation may not be true at[read more]

Envy and Scapegoating

In his commentary on the above verse from Luke, Luke Timothy Johnson writes: “In Greek moral philosophy, misos (“hatred”) is often associated with envy, phthonos, and like it tends toward the harming of another.” To hear repeatedly in the gospels of the hatred of many of the religious leaders of Jesus gives rise to the question of “Why?” Conventionally we answer this question by pointing out that Jesus poses a threat to their status as leaders by revealing what is impure and self-serving in their motivation. However, there is perhaps an even more fundamental reason for their hatred of him,[read more]

Maintaining Congeniality

Today we read the story of Eleazar, a ninety year old man who is being forced to deny his God by eating pork, which, of course, is prohibited. In our own age, that Eleazar would give his life rather than defy the demands of the Law of the Covenant can seem extreme. Yet, it is important to understand that obedience to the Law is the bond between God and the people. As called by God as one of God’s people, the choice not to follow the Law is both a betrayal of God and of oneself.[read more]

Repentance and Evangelization

As living and sacred words, the scriptures live anew for us in every given moment and phase of our lives. To read the words from Maccabees this morning is to experience from our own perspective the problem of faithfulness and syncretism. What our immigrant grandparents so valued and longed to enter into, the “melting pot” of American culture, is for us who attempt to hold to a gospel faith an increasing experience of inner and outer conflict. In practice we sacrifice on a daily basis our lives to the cultural values of competition, consumption, and commerce, while relegating our relationship[read more]

Not Returning To What Was Left Behind

So it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, a person who is on the housetop and whose belongings are in the house must not go down to get them, and likewise a person in the field must not return to what was left behind. Remember the wife of[read more]