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Mt 12:38-42 Something Greater Here

Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”  He said to them in reply, “…At he judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation a…

Mt 13:24-43 Wheat and Weeds

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying:  “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.  While everyone was asleep his enemy came and so…

Mt 12:14-21 Saying No To Bad Advice

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.Taking advice from bad people.  Getting bad advice is one thing.  Taking it from bad people is t…

Mt 12:1-8 Nitpicking

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)Jesus was going through a field of grain on the Sabbath.  His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.  When the Pharisees saw this, th…

Mt 11:28-30 Planet of the…?

Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)Jesus said:  “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”Come to me.&nb…

Mt 11:25-27 Expert of Humanity

Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

by BENEDICT AUGUSTINE
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”
“The more a man looks at a thing, the less he sees it, and the more a man learns from a thing, the less he knows,” declares G. K. Chesterton in his essay, “The Twelve Men.” Speaking of the twelve random people summoned for a jury, Chesterton remarks that their very lack of expertise qualifies them to judge the fate of a certain criminal’s case. Unlike the judge, or the police officer, or the attorney, non-experts have no knowledge or experience to prejudice their judgment. All they have, and all they need to have, fairly is their common humanity.
The expert, on the other hand, has many prejudices that he has cultivated through experience. In many ways, this is natural and quite necessary to accomplish his job efficiently and effectively. He should know what to expect, what certain patterns suggest, what courses of actions are available, what normally works and what normally fails. An expert on sickness, the doctor’s knowledge and experience will guide him as he diagnoses and prescribes. An expert on building, the engineer knows quickly which plans and materials will accomplish the job, and which will not. Equipped with an extensive knowledge of the law, the lawyer knows what cases he can make for his clients and their likelihood of successWithout question, many people will prefer to consult with an expert, and they will pay a good amount of money to do it. Hence, most people often strive to become experts in something to maximize their value in society and then convert that value into wealth.
However, expertise comes at a cost. As he gains experience, an expert will often lose sight on the meaning and inherent beauty of his work. As he relates his experience of learning to navigate a steamboat, Mark Twain laments the loss of feeling he used to have for his surroundings. Speaking about the Mississippi River which delighted him in the past, he remarks, “No, the romance and beauty were all gone from the river. All the value any feature of it had for me now was the amount of usefulness it could furnish toward compassing the safe piloting of a steamboat.”Expertise brought him mastery, but it took away his wonder. Most jobs will have this effect on people. They learn of a thing’s utility, but lose sight of its meaning.
Experts also have a bad habit of abstracting everything, extracting a particular idea from the whole reality. They see everything in terms of their job.Doctors do not see a person; they see a patient. An accountant does not people’s actions; he sees their data. Speaking for myself, as a teacher, I will frequently neglect the human side of my job because of abstraction. I see my students as readers and writers, whose value I pin to their latest essay score and grade point average; only occasionally will I remember that they have lives outside my class. Even with myself, I frequently see myself as a paper grader and writing coach, not a human being who loves literature and the English language. Although thinking this way may make me better at my job, it also makes me much more narrow-minded as a human being.  I will figure out ways to maximize a student’s AP testscore, but outside their reading and writing ability, I will know next to nothing about who my students actually are. Because this condition worsens over the course of the year, at least for me, the summer offers a chance to restore my humanity, so I can start the next year with a relatively fresh perspective.
In general, the matters of the greatest concern like the life of a person, the greatness of God, virtue, or leadership cannot be solved by experts. When society tries rely on experts for these matters, problemsinevitably occur. Ethicists often have the worst ethics of anyone (like Harvard’s Peter Singer). Scientists, men who study God’s creation, and not a few Biblical scholars, men who study God’s word, often have the least idea about God and His Will. Far from being philosopher kings, the most credentialed professionals from the most prestigious universities all too often make the worst leaders—consider, out all the American presidents, Woodrow Wilson and Barack Obama have the most formal education.
In those matters of greatest importance, one must seek out non-experts, people who have little experience with the matter at hand. In picking His twelve apostles, Jesus picked out non-experts, men who had more experience with fish, collecting taxes, and making tents than they did with theology and philosophy. Fortunately, what they lacked in expertise, they made up in humanity. They had the vision that the expert rabbis and scribes lacked. They had open hearts that could receive Christ’s words, not the stony hearts of the Pharisees. Like children, they did not have the same prejudices as the experts, and like children, they were humble enough not to test Jesus. They did not want Jesus to prove Himself to them; like children, they wanted to prove themselves to Him. For this reason, God reveals His truth to them.
And why would God reveal His truth to Jesus and His “childlike” disciples? Because Jesus Himself was the supreme non-expert. Unspecialized and lacking any credential yet open and obedient, He was the most childlike of all men. Jesus Himself teaches what it means to be a true child of God. If one could call Him an expert at anything, he should call Jesus an expert of humanity. Therefore, should one seek advice on how to find meaning in humanity, that person can look at the life of Jesus and find his answer.

Mt 11:20-24 The City of God

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented.

I couldn’t believe it.  I was getting a “call” on FaceTime from a family that is dear to me and is currently vacationing on a tropical paradise.  I answered the call and was greeted by smiles I could see and laughter that I could hear.  They were having the time of their lives.  Once everyone settled down, I asked them to show me around their exotic place.  They reversed their camera and I saw a beautiful blue ocean, an amazing blue sky, a gentle breeze, and a room full of windows and sunlight.  When they asked me where I was and what I was doing, I said to them, “Here, let me show you around.”  I reversed my camera and showed them the four walls surrounding my tiny office, the color of the walls being an uninspiring industrial yellow.  Next I showed them my tiny window high above my wall.  I pointed my phone upward for them to see the source of my light – a light bulb – and the cause of the breeze that was my fan.  While I was doing all these things, I went on Google, found a fish and showed them my background. 

We all had a good laugh.

Woe to you!  In today’s Gospel passage, the Lord speaks of cities that refused to repent after mighty deeds had been done.   He says to them, “Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  Woe to you, Capernaum!”  These were not some remote or distant towns or cities.  These were places just around the block.

Cities can be wonderful places of grace and culture.  But they can also be horrible places where vice and sin prevail.  Sin City.   

Cities are places were people can lose their roots, culture and identity, and easily get lost in the dark alleys and be forgotten. 

This morning I read an article about a rookie cop, Melvin Santiago, who was gunned down in an ambush in the streets of Jersey City.  The rookie was shot once in the head at point blank range.  The suspect, Lawrence Campbell, was killed in a gun fight with police.  Soon after, neighbors left written messages and candles at a makeshift memorial near the scene of the crime.  But instead of honoring the rookie, the memorial was for his killer.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading.  And as shocking as this was, what followed next just blew my mind:   

The suspect’s widow, Angelique Campbell, told News 12 New Jersey on Sunday that she was sorry for Santiago’s family but that her husband should have killed more officers if they were planning to kill him. She later apologized for the comments.

City life can turn us into thugs.  We can lose our minds and hearts when so much of humanity is crammed into artificially made tiny spaces.  What’s holy can appear to be silly, while broken institutions simply exacerbate the damage done to a young soul.  We all need to be aware of this. 

Life, as well as faith, can easily be turned upside down in the city.  There are countless bloggers who blog from the city and criticize everything that is Christian.  Do they not realize that Christian bloggers could do the same, and criticize everything that is not Christian, especially the senseless violence and the broken secular institutions?

The prophet Isaiah wrote:  “Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm.”  Lots of people living in the city are on shaky ground.

Isaiah spent his entire life trying to get back what was lost.  He is not alone, and the battle continues.   

Mt 10:34-11:1 All In The Family

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)Jesus said to his Apostles:  “Do not think I have come to bring peace upon the earth.  I have come to bring not peace but the sword.  For I have come to set a man agai…

Mt 13:1-23 Seeds and Saints

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples: “Hear then the parable of the sower.  The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.  The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time…The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.  But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it…”


The seed in us.  Christ is the sower and the seed is the Word of God.  The Lord throws himself and His Word in every direction (Jews and pagans) and to everyone (the good, the bad and the ugly).  Most receive them joyfully, with an open heart and mind, while others, with selfishness and a sense of self-entitlement.  The rest receive them skeptically, judgmentally and with hostility.


Those who have ears ought to hear.  Those who have eyes have seen this with their very own eyes. 


But there is more to this parable than meets the eye and ear.


Are we, His followers, not like the Lord and thrown in every direction and to everyone?  Of course we are.  Like every good seed, we have our Father in us.



We have Him in us.  We are His seeds!  We all have the potential to be sons and daughters of God.  After all, we were created in His image and likeness.  This means a lot.  It means we can be just like Him.  I can forgive.  I have it in me.  I can love my enemies.  I have Him in me.  I can be more loving, forgiving and giving.  Why?  Because I have it in me.  All I need to do is allow it to grow.  All I need to do is take care of it: to water it (Baptism), to feed it (The Eucharist), and later, to prune it (Confession).



We all have Him in us, and He has sent us in every direction and to everyone so that we can share Him.  This is not survival of the fittest.  It is not a competition.  It is cooperation.  And all “creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God” (cf. Rm 8:18-23).



Remember the Lord’s final words to His disciples:  “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation” (Mk 16:15).



The Lord has thrown us everywhere.  He sent His early followers everywhere and to everyone, to the barbarians and to the civilized; to the English and to the Greeks and Romans.  He sent His seed to where the land was rich and fertile, rocky and stubborn, hostile and bitter.  He planted His seeds in Rome, England and Ireland.



We are the ground.  Not only are we Christ’s seeds, we are also His rich soil.  Life is all about giving and receiving.  Seeds alone do not suffice for living life well.  We need a place to rest and to grow.  We need fertile ground. 



Christians are called to be seeds and soil.  Like God, we must give and receive.  We must take and give back. 



Children need a place to grow.  The home and the Church are ideal for children to grow spiritually, physically and emotionally strong.  Will they receive the sacraments?  Will they be taught how to pray?  Will their parents share with them their faith?  Will their lives be immersed in soft and fertile soil or will they be subjected to thorns and thistles that will choke the life of God in them?



Teenagers need a place to grow.  Again, the home and the Church are ideal places for them to grow.  Will they be understood and shown unconditional love?  Will the people who love them the most fight for them the most?  Or will the weeds (like drugs, alcohol, and some nasty boyfriends/girlfriends) come and separate them from the love of their parents (or choke them from the love of God)?



The elderly need a place to grow.  Will they be loved and respected or forgotten, abandoned, and even worse, humiliated?



Seeds cannot do it alone.



I am spiritual, not religious.   So what’s the difference between being spiritual and religious?  It’s the same as “me” and “we.”   



We all know someone who claims to be spiritual but not religious.  But what exactly does this mean?  Well, it’s like saying their American but not a citizen.  In other words, they like everything about being an American except all the rules and laws and people that go with it. To sum it up:  they don’t like to be challenged.



No man is an island.  No one can experience God or know God by themselves.  We all need one another.  Seed and ground.  God and man.  Creation and redemption.   



We need people praying for us and lifting us up in prayer and song.  We need to hear people’s conversion stories.  We need to share our experiences with one another.  We need friends.  We need enemies.  We need saints and we need sinners.  We need all these things just like we need the rain, the sun, the wind and the shade.  We need the Church.



All creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God.  Let’s not let creation down.


Mt 10:24-33 Throw Him Out There!

Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)Jesus said to his Apostles:  “What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.  And do not be afraid of those who kill the body…

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