Sunday, October 19, 2014

Truly Ancient History

Ignatius House
[Priests' Residence]
St. Matthias Parish
Lanham, MD

St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians 1:1-5b

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians
in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
grace to you and peace.
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, brothers and sisters loved by God,
how you were chosen.
For our gospel did not come to you in word alone,
but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.

Can I have your complete attention?  I intend to bring to you information that may rock your boat.  Surely it may make you question my scriptural training.  My purpose is to stop your thinking that the four gospels were the earliest writings of the New Testament.  Ready?  Most scripture gurus believe Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians contains the first words ever written for the New Testament.  If you were to try to paint the New Testament as a building, this letter, these words of this Pauline letter would be the foundation course of the entire New Testament.  These same scholars estimate that Paul wrote this letter in 50 AD … several years before the earliest of the gospels and earlier than Paul’s other letters.
Grace to you and peace to you.
These words became St. Paul’s signature.  He starts almost every letter with these words of greetings.  Paul believed his mission was to expand Christianity throughout the Roman Empire, joining together both Jewish people and Greeks into a single Church.  So, here is the very first use of this oft-heard greeting. It was for St. Paul his way of bringing Jews and Greeks and their religious backgrounds together to mutual respect and acceptance of each other.  Paul speaks of the need for endurance in hope.
Faith … Hope … Love
Hopefully you recognize this trilogy of virtues as characteristics of the Christian Church.  In this letter Paul draws attention to hope but does not forget to bring to mind the other two gifts.

For Paul faith saves us and leads us to work.  Love is a genuine labor.  It does not come easily for most of us, true love that is.  Love demands so much from all of us if we are honest about our relationships with others.  This virtue of hope is much more than lackadaisical, easy come, easy go wishful thinking.  It is important to recognize that hope holds us.  It is not us who hold hope!  Paul wants all followers of Jesus to realize that hope is more than believing things will get better.  Hope is being centered in Jesus Christ himself.
You Were Chosen

Paul refers to his fellow Christians as “chosen ones, the elect of God.  It was this chosen status.  Chosen for what?, you might ask.  Well, it is rather simple but more often than not forgotten.  We are chosen to be conveyors of God’s graces.  The graces we do recognize as what we are receiving are not for us to hold tight for ourselves but to pass them on through us to entire community.

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ignatius House
St. Matthias Parish
Lanham, Maryland

Pope Francis' Reflection                    Sacred Scripture

Dear Friends,

In today's homily at St. Martha Chapel, Pope Francis, celebrating Mass honoring St. Ignatius of Antioch, a martyr, speaks about the beginning of our heavenly life here on this earth.  The "seal of the Holy Spirit" which we receive during the celebration of our own baptism is the "ticket" for us to earn our way into God's heavenly kingdom.

It is God's gift to us in our beginning days as a child or as adult later coming to the Sacrament of Baptism.  The Holy Father also point out that this seal of the Holy Spirit is indeed our characteristic.  It is our identity.

The Pope reminds us that we do have a free will at the same time because we can become "lukewarm Christians" when we "dull down" our identity as Christian men and women sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Believing in the Gospel preached by Jesus Christ, we are marked with the Christian identity.  This is the heart of the message that St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians that is contained in the first reading from today's liturgy.

St. Paul and Pope Francis also remind the Christians that there are very definite gifts that this sealing, this identifying by the Holy Spirit are given to us to strengthen us on our faith journey.  "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And this is our path to Heaven, it is our road, so that Heaven may begin here..."

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Prayer of Praise!

Ignatius House

Today's 1st Reading
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him.
In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,
in accord with the favor of his will,
for the praise of the glory of his grace
that he granted us in the beloved.
(Ephesians 1:3-6)

Dear Friends,

St. Paul is encouraging the people of Ephesus as well as us to realize what it means to offer a prayer of blessing to God.  As Pope Francis noted this morning in his homily, praying a prayer of blessing God is not an easy kind of prayer.  In true Ignatian format the Pope offers what the author of the Spiritual Exercises would call "three points" for meditation.  Anyone with any experience of Jesuit prayer knows Ignatius offered three points for almost every meditation he offered.

Francis offers us these three points about this rather unfamiliar kind of prayer: (1) prayer of joy, (2) prayer of remembrance, and lastly (3) prayer to the Holy Spirit to have the grace to enter into the mystery of the Eucharist.

Prayer of joy:  praising God in our prayer will bring us to a state of joy, of happiness

Prayer of remembrance:  remembering that before the creation of the world, before the coming of Adam and Eve, God knew you.  Your name was in his heart.  Believing this is the mark of a true Christian.  The Christian is a chosen one, chosen by God's heart.  This reality when considered slowly and prayerfully will bring joy and confidence to the heart.  If you knew that you held a lottery ticket in your hand that is the winning ticket, you would indeed by happy, joy filled, and perhaps a little nervous!

Prayer to Holy Spirit to enter the mystery of the Eucharist: Seeking to become be deeply aware of the mystery of the Eucharist, the very presence of Jesus Christ on the altar during a Eucharistic liturgy or during a time of adoration, the mystery of his becoming a part of who your are each time you receive the Eucharist, these should be thoughts that bring great happiness and comfort to the believer.  Likewise it should be another way of realizing that you have been chosen by God.

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Delayed Reflection

Ignatius House

Hopefully my reflection will be ready after midday.
In the meantime, here are today's scripture readings.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Ignatius House

Dear Friends,

Good morning.  Let me share with you thoughts from Pope Francis' homily at his morning Mass today.

Throughout the world there is heard so often a call for transparency.  The Holy Father today spoke about the reality that authenticity in living one's faith should be the mark of Christians of these times. At the outset of his homily Pope Francis said that authentic Christian living is active charity.

Luke's gospel verses today present the well-known scene where Jesus is criticized by his dinner host when he reclined at the table without following the prescribed ritual ablutions.  Jesus knew that the host, a Pharisee, wanted to embarrass Jesus publicly by appearing to look good in following the ablution ritual.

Pope Francis called attention to "good manners and bad habits" that mark the lives of many want to appear as authentic when in fact they are not.  He asks his hearers and those who read his homily to examine their own lives.  It is so easy for us today to try to look good, to try to impress others about our own spirituality.   It is one thing to be gathered in prayer, thumbing rosary beads.  It is quite another to leave the prayer mode and then become a person living a different lifestyle.

Papa Francisco then reminds us "every disordered desire distances us from Jesus Christ."

Again this successor of St. Peter, kindly but surely puts before us the kinds of temptations that face Christians in our world today where authenticity is often passed over easily.

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt