Monday, February 27, 2012


Jonah: Wed. Feb. 29,2012 1st reading of 2nd Wed. of Lent.
The brief little book of Jonah presents us with a very powerful  challenge/lesson , especially for the season of Lent.  It is a call of the prophet to preach repentance to one of the worst enemies of God’s people: the hated Assyrians who viciously conquered the northern 10 tribes of Israel.  The Assyrian capital was Nineveh.  Bear in mind that the inspired writers ultimately understood such a catastrophe of being conquered and carried off into slavery as a punishment from God for their infidelity. Considering that God had raised up many prophets before Jonah who preached repentance to His chosen people and time and again the people  rejected those prophets and did not repent,  it must have been utterly mind blowing for Jonah to be directed now to go preach the potential for forgiveness to these awful  infidel enemies.
Thus in the first  instance this vocation was so alien to Jonah’s  way of thinking, that he tried to run away from it, rather than obey.  So we have the more famous story of Jonah being swallowed by Leviathan (a whale) making his attempted flight unsuccessful, and God a second time challenging him to preach to the Ninevites.  So we have this day’s first liturgical reading.  Jonah finally goes to Nineveh and influenced  no doubt by his own  prejudices , in a half hearted way preaches repentance to the Ninevites.
Now comes the knife turning in the wound.   How many times did the chosen people hear this message and yet continued to give it a deaf ear?   Yet the hated infidel enemy needed only a reluctant half hearted  announcement and  they took it to heart. As the story goes,  given but one chance, they grasped it wholeheatedly,  while by comparison, how many times did His chosen ones ignore their opportunities?
I should think this should give us serious grounds for reflection.  How many Lents have we heard the call to repentance: as St. Paul says:  Now is the acceptable time; now is the time for repentance!  Is our response to take a raincheck as the Israelites so often did?  How many chances will we get before God goes elsewhere?

Monday, February 13, 2012

The dewfall”
In the recent new translation of the Roman Missal, it seems that many priest celebrants often chose to use the second of the four regular Eucharistic prayers for the heart of the ritual.  In the early part of  it there appears a phrase we are not used to hearing:  “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, …”    Have you ever wondered, is that image simply a flight of poetic imagination?  Or is there something else responsible for that image?   May I suggest that in the Old Testament, the manna in the desert provided the daily bread for God’s people as they wandered in preparation for entering the promised land.  The manna has from the earliest Fathers of the Church been seen as prefiguring the Eucharistic bread of life , just as the prayer Our Lord Himself taught us, alludes to the Eucharistic bread as well as ordinary sustinence.
The new translation of the Roman Missal tries to make clearer the numerous Biblical references contained in our Mass prayers.  In light of the manna in the desert prefiguring the Eucharist, cf. Exodus 16: 12-14: “In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.  In the evening quail came up and covered the camp.  In the morning a dew lay all about the camp, and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert were fine flakes ….(i.e manna)”    Thus, just as the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament provided the staff of life to God’s people mediated by the dewfall, now we pray that the Spirit do so for our supernatural life.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

fifth sunday in ordinary time

Fifth Sun. in ordinary time: The Book of Job; the problem of evil; and Biblical Faith.
According to the Bible, mankind was so self-absorbed that in choosing to bring a people out of this darkness, God revealed Himself (everlasting Love: the Old Testament called it in Hebrew hesed we emeth – most frequently translated loving kindness and fidelity.  Ck. e.g. how often this phrase appears in the Psalms)  only little by little over a long period of time.  At the time the Book of Job was written, from which comes today’s first reading, God had not yet clearly revealed that man has an immortal soul which lives on in a new kind of existence after death.  Job and his contemporaries therefore, had the limited view that God’s favor/love would always be recognized by material prosperity and good fortune, with the other side of the coin being if one experienced bad fortune, poor health, poverty, etc., i.e. evil, it must be God’s punishment because of one’s sins.  Holy (i.e. innocent) Job could not deny all the misfortunes and misery that had come upon him.  We hear some of that in today’s reading.  Yet his faith was so strong Job nertheless continued to believe in the goodness/love of God. (and only ultimately was he rewarded for this).
The other two readings today seem to focus on the importance of preaching (which can be either by one’s words or one’s life.)  Remember that St. Paul vowed to preach only Christ Crucified (cf. 1 Cor.2:2). And Jesus in his preaching made it clear he was a sign of contradiction.  What might that be?  That we all must wade through the fog of the mystery of evil, having faith that by joining our sufferings to the sufferings of Christ, we will ultimately participate in his risen glory.