Free from burden

How2ReadBibleIn yesterday’s homily, I noted that God’s Word is always related to human need. If a person is dying of cancer, the gospel is God’s strong word of resurrection. If a person is permeated with guilt, the gospel is God’s assurance of forgiveness. If people experience extreme suffering, God’s word is our refuge and strength.

If a person is under the power of the devil, to that one has come the proclamation of  liberty to captives, the recovery of sight to the blind, and letting the oppressed or possessed go free. In this day’s gospel, we are presented by what we understand as a classic exorcism, a quite dramatic expulsion of a demon from a person. The stuff of movies, Hollywood, but sadly also real life. But if this is just a narrative of particularly dramatic demonstration of the power of the Word, then how is it related to your human need? Your need on this day? Continue reading

Difficulty in Speaking

JesusHealstheDeafMuteThis coming Sunday, the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time in Year B, we will hear the Gospel of Mark 7:31-37 proclaimed. It is an encounter with “a deaf man who had a speech impediment.

31 Again he left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. 32 And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; 34 then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) 35 And (immediately) the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. 36 He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. 37 They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and (the) mute speak.”  Continue reading

Human Need

JesusIconNazarethOn January 1st 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in the midst of the Civil War. Slaves who lived within the borders of the Confederacy remained in bondage. Most never heard about the proclamation until the last days of the conflict; some only heard well after the war’s end – the basis of Juneteenth Celebration when freedom from slavery was proclaimed to the people of Galveston months after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. Continue reading

What is unclean

JesusHealstheDeafMuteThis coming Sunday, the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time in Year B, we will hear the Gospel of Mark 7:31-37 proclaimed. It is an encounter with “a deaf man who had a speech impediment.” This section of the Gospel of Mark is book-ended by two stories of a miraculous feeding of the crowds (6:34-44 and 8:1-10) – and so when Jesus heals the man, it seems a rather tame and minor miracles by comparison. Continue reading

Dangerous Times

pharisees-n-scribesA popular line of anti-Catholic apologetics centers on our gospel reading. The argument is this: “you Catholics have lost your way. You rely on human traditions and ignore the commandments of God.” Their usual list of Catholic errors includes the veneration of Mary, her Immaculate Conception, and her bodily Assumption into Heaven. There is also transubstantiation, praying to saints, the confessional, penance, purgatory, and more. We might take great offense at their assertions – but it is a reminder that we should always be mindful about losing our way on the journey to God. We do in fact have our Traditions and our traditions.  Lots of Catholics confuse the two. One can easily lose one’s way. Continue reading

Changing language

linguisticsI appreciate the good turn of a phrase, expressions of speech local to a region of the country, knowing the etymological origin of words, and many other things about language and dialogue. And if one lives long enough, one becomes witness to the changes that are ever ongoing. Lexicographers document our changing use of words even as the take on the exact opposite meanings over time – for example, the word “peruse.” Linguists study the domains  of phonology, morphology, and syntax, often complemented by phonetics, semantics, and pragmatics. Grammarians study the structural constraints of  clauses, phrases and words to describe the the ways we use natural language to communication. They helps us recognize the importance of commas – after all there is a difference between “Let’s eat, Grandma” and “Let’s eat Grandma.” Commas save lives. Continue reading

Francis of Assisi and Prayer

When people think of St. Francis of Assisi and prayer, what most likely comes to mind is “The Peace Prayer of St. Francis,” with the memorable line: “Make me an instrument of peace…” It is a moving and noteworthy prayer, certainly in the Franciscan tradition, perhaps inspired by St. Francis, but it dates to 1912 and was first published as a poem in the French spiritual magazine, La Clochette. Later, during World War I, it appeared on the back of a holy card bearing an image of St. Francis and the association of the two became cemented in our minds. Continue reading

Francis of Assisi and almsgiving

prayer fasting almsgiving2There are many ideas that people hold about what it means to be Franciscan.  I was once asked, “Where do you friars keep the animals?”  I was living in the Soundview area of the Bronx at the time.  The person assumed that our way of life would always be surrounded by furry friends.  Later, another person wondered why we were not living out our vow of poverty by spending our day begging for alms? Continue reading