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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Celebrating our Salvation: The Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Celebrating our Salvation
The Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
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August 25, 2019
Isaiah 66:18-21; Psalm 117; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30

We continue to read about the difficult sayings of Jesus when he tells us that few will make it to the Kingdom of Heaven and that the road ahead is narrow and hard. We have to safeguard against the vice of presumption, which means we have taken over the role of making ultimate judgments and we have declared ourselves as good and virtuous. Many of us no longer go to confession because (1.) we have judged our actions as good enough as there are more sinful people than us, and (2.) we have lost the sense of the complexity of sin. This role of judging is reserved for Jesus.  

I am aware that many preachers will talk about what we have to do to avoid eternal damnation and that we must strive harder in our moral life, but I’m not going to be one of those preachers. Throughout the years, we have heard too often about hell and how bad we are as people who are in need of conversion and grace. In my life, I’ve heard priests scold people from the pulpit and in public conversations and then instruct them to pray certain devotions so that they are changed from the person they really are into a better person of whom Jesus would be proud.

What do I want you to hear? I want you to know you are saved already. You are good just as you are. You have no need to worry about your salvation. For those of you I’ve met, I have experienced your goodness of the core of your soul. You are lovable. No wonder why the Lord loves you so much. This doesn’t mean we are perfect, haven’t made poor choices, yelled at the person in the car who cut us off, or we don’t have imperfections. We are lovable because of our imperfections.

I was at an art fair last week on Cape Cod and a craftsperson was showing me her work. She was rightly proud. She explained how a gap of air once crept into maple tree and created a complex pattern that was distinct from the rest of the wood when resin filled in the fissure. As the imperfection solidified, it became stronger than the natural wood around it and revealed a unique mark that made it desirable. She seeks out imperfect wood because of its character and beauty.

As I continued our conversation, I remarked that our souls are like that piece of wood and that we have to embrace our imperfections because they are what make us lovable. We are ashamed of our poor choices, failures, addictions, and that we were not made complete enough, but those marks, and the ways we fill them in, are the carriers of our grace. Those are the areas that become stronger and make us more beautiful to the Lord and to each other. Oftentimes, as we are too close to our imperfections, we may have to change our lenses to get a different, more complete view of who we are.

A TEDx talk by a former National Geographic photographer called, “Celebrate what’s right with the world” demonstrates how we are to find the good and the beauty in the moment rather than to see the missed opportunities and imperfections. The photographer demonstrates how we ae to actively discover God in all things, even those things that look like disappointments. We can uncover the glory of God if we learn how to change the lenses on our proverbial cameras and to be like an artist or scholar that views objects from distinct angles. Likewise, we have to view ourselves in the same way, and will recover the goodness and lovable-ness of our real selves, the selves we often hide from view because we haven’t yet embraced it or ourselves.

We can be assured of Isaiah’s message in the First Reading when the Lord says, “I come to gather the nations of every language; they will come and see my glory.” Rest assured that the Lord will gather you for his Kingdom. He will be searching for you because he wants you to be with Him. You are already accepted into his heart, and he wants to share all his possessions with you. This is the reason we give thanks. He keeps drawing you closer to Himself because you are very desirable, and you fill his heart with great wonder. Celebrate what is good and right, here and now, and you shall see the glory of the Lord, and God’s glory within you.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (1 Thessalonians 1) We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing how you were chosen.

Tuesday: (1 Thessalonians 2) You yourselves know that our reception among you was not without effect. Rather, after we had suffered and been insolently treated in Philippi, we drew courage through our God to speak to you the Gospel of God with much struggle.

Wednesday: (1 Thessalonians 2) You recall our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the Gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers.

Thursday: (1 Thessalonians 3) What thanksgiving, then, can we render to God for you, for all the joy we feel on your account before our God? Night and day we pray beyond measure to see you in person and to remedy the deficiencies of your faith.

Friday (1 Thessalonians 4) We earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God– and as you are conducting yourselves– you do so even more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

Saturday (1 Thessalonians 4) On the subject of fraternal charity you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another. Nevertheless we urge you, brothers and sisters, to progress even more, and to aspire to live a tranquil life, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your own hands, as we instructed you.

Monday: (Matthew 23) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.

Tuesday: (Matthew 23) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.

Wednesday (Matthew 23) You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men's bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.

Thursday (Mark 6) Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so.

Friday (Matthew 25) The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. 

Saturday (Matthew 25) A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one– to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

Saints of the Week

August 25: Louis of France (1214-1270) became king at age 12, but did not take over leadership until ten years later. He had eleven children with his wife, Marguerite, and his kingship reigned for 44 years. His rule ushered in a longstanding peace and prosperity for the nation.  He is held up as a paragon of medieval Christian kings.

August 25: Joseph Calasanz, priest (1556-1648), was a Spaniard who studied canon law and theology. He resigned his post as diocesan vicar-general to go to Rome to live as a pilgrim and serve the sick and the dying. He used his inheritance to set up free schools for poor families with children. He founded an order to administer the schools, but dissension and power struggles led to its dissolution.

August 27: Monica (332-387) was born a Christian in North Africa and was married to a non-Christian, Patricius, with whom she had three children, the most famous being Augustine. Her husband became a Christian at her urging and she prayed for Augustine's conversion as well from his newly adopted Manichaeism. Monica met Augustine in Milan where he was baptized by Bishop Ambrose. She died on the return trip as her work was complete.

August 28: Augustine, bishop and doctor (354-430),  was the author of his Confessions, his spiritual autobiography, and The City of God, which described the life of faith in relation to the life of the temporal world. Many other writings, sermons, and treatises earned him the title Doctor of the church. In his formative years, he followed Mani, a Persian prophet who tried to explain the problem of evil in the world. His mother’s prayers and Ambrose’s preaching helped him convert to Christianity. Baptized in 387, Monica died a year later. He was ordained and five years later named bishop of Hippo and defended the church against three major heresies: Manichaeism, Donatism, and Pelagianism.

August 29: The Martyrdom of John the Baptist recalls the sad events of John's beheading by Herod the tetrarch when John called him out for his incestuous and adulterous marriage to Herodias, who was his niece and brother's wife. At a birthday party, Herodias' daughter Salome danced well earning the favor of Herod who told her he would give her almost anything she wanted.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Aug. 25, 1666: At Beijing, the death of Fr. John Adam Schall. By his profound knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, he attained such fame that the Emperor entrusted to him the reform of the Chinese calendar.
·      Aug. 26, 1562: The return of Fr. Diego Laynez from France to Trent, the Fathers of the Council desiring to hear him speak on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
·      Aug. 27, 1679: The martyrdom at Usk, England, of St. David Lewis, apostle to the poor in his native Wales for three decades before he was caught and hanged.
·      Aug. 28, 1628: The martyrdom in Lancashire, England, of St. Edmund Arrowsmith.
·      Aug. 29, 1541: At Rome the death of Fr. John Codure, a Savoyard, one of the first 10 companions of St. Ignatius.
·      Aug. 30, 1556: On the banks of the St. Lawrence River, the Iroquois mortally wounded Fr. Leonard Garreau, a young missionary.
·      Aug. 31, 1581: In St. John's Chapel within the Tower of London, a religious discussion took place between St. Edmund Campion, suffering from recent torture, and some Protestant ministers.


  1. John, thanks for this positive message of God's love! Blessings.

    1. Thanks, Lynda. The People of God need to hear positive messages from time to time. Many are trying so hard.