December 1st, 2011 - Thursday, 1st week of Advent

Today's Readings

We could just nod along with our Lord’s analogy today, taking the general idea, not searching for the wisdom that our Lord wants to give us, but how much better it is to look deeper and understand the meaning of the image that our Lord gives us!

Both men in the analogy today see the storm coming. Both men are philosophers. The storm is inevitable, wherever you build your house. The wind, the waves, and the rain are on their way. Both men know this, which is why they are building their houses. We live in a stormy world. Jesus does not say that if we do as he says then the storms will not come. Christians do not suffer less in this world than other people. Christians have the same storms in their lives as anyone else does, but we have rock solid foundation that will stand up to the storm.

Both men in the analogy today build their houses against the storm. I have never built a house, but I can easily imagine that it is a complicated and arduous task. It is not the work of a single day. This fact stresses the foolishness of the fool; he has expended great effort and cost to no purpose. They both see the great destroyer, death, approaching, so they build. What house can be built against death? Many can be built but only one will stand. Every philosophy has tried to build something which cannot be conquered by death, whether meaning or pleasures or knowledge. Only the fullness of truth, however, will stand up to the storm when it comes. Every effort which is founded on partial truths and shifting opinions will show itself weak in the end.

It will be insufficient, when the storm arrives, to have built a great house unless it sits on the true foundation. It will be insufficient, when the waves come crashing, to fight them with whatever seemed right to me at the time. God has come to Earth and revealed what is required to stand, revealed a truth that can serve as a rock-solid foundation. Any effort on our part, even one combining all our skill, intelligence, being, strength, and every good intention, will be as useless as no effort, unless it is founded on the truth as revealed to us by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior.

November 30, 2011 - Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle

Today's Readings

“How can anyone believe the Gospel unless they have heard it? How can anyone hear it unless someone preaches it to them? How can anyone preach unless they have been sent?” The first and second questions are self-evidently true. No one can believe in the Gospel if they never heard it, and no one can hear something which has not been preached, whether aloud or in writing or communicated in some way.

We must agree with the first two questions, but the third question is not so clear for us modern people. “How can someone preach unless they have been sent?” "Well, they could go on their own initiative", we think. Does a person really have to be sent in order to preach? Perhaps someone has an education, a command of the English language, and an inbox full of funny stories. What prevents them from preaching the Gospel? Nothing prevents them, but neither does anything impel them.

Preaching is not a hobby. Preaching cannot merely occupy an occasional weekend. Preaching is a charism of the Holy Spirit. Preaching is a supernatural vocation. Preaching must become a man’s whole life. The apostles show us what is involved in preaching: suffering many hardships and privations, being insulted and imprisoned, and, finally, martyrdom. A preacher who does not want to be a martyr is not a witness for the faith, rather, they are a scandal. No one can live the life of a preacher without a supernatural vocation. St. Andrew could never have been a preacher, could never have gone out to all the world, could never have died upon a cross, had he not been sent, were he not continually sent by the Holy Spirit.

St. Andrew was called by Christ, and, when he had come to Christ, he was sent forth from him to preach. We too must go to Christ, who calls us, and then go forth, not to wherever we desire or plan to go, to do whatever we feel like doing, but go forth sent by Christ, impelled by the Holy Spirit. Some will be sent to preach. Others will be sent to other tasks. Each person has their own vocation, their own mission from God. Together, guided by the Holy Spirit, we will help Christ establish the Kingdom of God.

November 29, 2011 - Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Today's Readings

Today our reading from Isaiah lists the traditional seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah lists them because he prophesies that Jesus, the green shoot from the stump of Jesse, would possess these gifts. However these gifts can be ours if we will have them. So what are they?

The first gift is wisdom. Wisdom is knowing the best action in any situation. Wisdom helps us make decisions especially in difficult cases. Like the other gifts, there is an earthly form of wisdom which comes with experience, but Isaiah is speaking of something greater, a divine gift unrelated to experience. Even a child can display great wisdom through the Holy Spirit.

The second gift is understanding. Understanding means seeing the truth even when it is hidden. It can be the truth of a difficult Scripture passage. It can be the truth of the dignity of another person.

The third gift is counsel. This gift allows a person to give good advice. Giving really good advice is very difficult, almost impossible. Many people think that they can give good advice, but they cannot. Counsel requires both wisdom and understanding, and also knowing exactly what words will convey the advice in the most helpful fashion.

The fourth gift is fortitude. Fortitude is the willingness to die in battle. It may be an actual battle, or it may be a battle against our own pride. We want to defend ourselves, but sometimes we must be willing to die.

The fifth gift is knowledge. The gift of knowledge allows us to learn about the creation of the world by God. Through this gift we see the creator in the created things.

The sixth gift is the fear of the Lord. Also called piety, it is the feeling we get when in the presence of the holy. It is what keeps us from chattering in church. When I was a child, I would never have walked into the sanctuary. This fear is a wonderful gift. Life without piety is boring; nothing is special.

The seventh gift is once again the fear of the Lord, but this time we consider it differently. It is the fear of sinning. For an immature person it is the fear of hell. For a more mature person, it is the fear of disappointing our Father. For a very mature person, it is the fear of being separated from God.

These are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. May God give them to his Church in abundance.

November 28, 2011 - Monday of the First Week of Advent

Today's Readings

How marvelous that we have restored to us this verse from the Gospels. The centurion says, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my servant shall be healed.” We repeat these words at every mass, changing “servant” to “soul” because we are not asking for the healing of someone else but for our own healing.

Why do we repeat this at every mass? It is because we are about to receive Communion, and it is most appropriate that we should say something signifying great faith, for we would not dare approach the sacred sacrifice without faith. Now we could say something like, “Jesus I believe in you” or “Jesus you are the Christ, the Son of God, God himself”, but we say this phrase instead. Why? Because Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, I have not found such faith.” If Jesus considered these words to be the highest expression of faith that he found, why would we say anything else?

We should know what we are saying though, since simply pronouncing the words is not an act of faith unless we mean them. Jesus offers to come heal the centurion’s servant, as he had healed many people. We know that Jesus can heal without touch, even from a far way off. He is God. He can do everything. The centurion is telling Jesus that he knows that the actually coming to the house and laying on of hands is an unnecessary part of the healing. He is telling Jesus that he has faith in Jesus’ power and does not need the external helps to faith.

He is also asserting his faith by acknowledging that he is not worthy to have Jesus enter under his roof. The centurion was an officer in the Roman army. He was a great man as the world judges greatness, yet he judged that Jesus was greater yet. He sees in addition to the power some less definable characteristic: holiness.

In this one sentence the centurion states that Jesus, though he looks like an ordinary human, is nevertheless very powerful and very holy. No wonder then that Jesus praised the faith of this man. When we repeat his words at each mass before receiving Communion, we acknowledge the same reality: what looks like bread and wine is nevertheless very powerful and very holy.

November 27, 2011 - First Sunday of Advent

Today's Readings

Today we begin the new year in the Church. Today is the first day of Advent. The first thing that can be said about Advent is that it is not Christmas. Though the world thinks that Christmas begins in November and ends on the 26th of December, we believe that Christmas is a season that begins on the 24th of December at the Christmas Eve mass and is celebrated in various ways until the 2nd of February. I cannot too highly recommend that you celebrate in the Church’s way. If you pick the way of the world, you will miss Advent entirely, which would be sad, because Advent is a wonderful season.

It is as question of ticipation and what sort of ticipation we ought to have. The world likes to have anticipation, but we ought to have participation. The world is rushing, rushing, because it is always anticipating what comes next. Our God lives in eternity, and when we choose to patiently participate in the present we come as close to sharing in eternity as we can. The world does not have enough time because the world has made plans months in advance and then rushes to meet those plans. We can have all the time in the world if we make use of it as it arrives.

But what is Advent if not merely pre-Christmas? The word Advent means “Coming”. During Advent we celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ. Both comings. We celebrate his coming among us as a man, which is how Advent is related to Christmas, and we celebrate his coming in the future as the judge of the world.

God wanted to reconcile the world to himself, so he sent his Son among us as a man, one like us in all things but sin. The Son of God had to come to us because we were not able to go to him. We could not go up to heaven, so he came down to earth. I say that God had to come down, but of course he did not have to come down. He could have left us in our sinful condition. Advent is above all a celebration of God’s love. He so loved the world that he sent his only Son.

And he will come again. When he comes it will be the end of the world as we know it. The dead will rise from their graves. Then they and we who are alive will go up to meet him in the sky. Then the whole world, every person who has lived since the creation of the world, will go to the Valley of Jehoshaphat and be judged. It will, of course, take a very long time to judge all those people, but we will have all the time in the world.

Some people talk about the end of the world as if it were something to be afraid of, something we would prevent if we could, but we Christians should not. The end of the world, the second coming of Jesus Christ, is something we celebrate every year in Advent. We know that it is coming, and we will be glad to see it come. If we love Jesus, how could it be otherwise? Who is afraid of the coming of one whom they love?

Yet even in this eager expectation, we do not abandon the present moment. Jesus did not tell us when he would return again, only that he would. The reason he kept the date from us was to show us what should be our frame of mind as we work in the present moment. Perhaps he will come next week. If we knew that we would give up all our plans for the coming year. People would stop working. It would be bad because Jesus wants to find us at work when he comes back. Or if he will not come for another thousand years, we would forget to wait for him. The date would seem so far off and unimportant. Instead, because he kept the day hidden from us, the Church has been expecting him for 2000 years and will go on expecting him until he suddenly arrives.

So what is the right attitude? Jesus’ advice to us today, which he repeats over and over throughout the Gospel today (contrary to this translation) is “Stay awake!” Obviously he does not mean this physically. Whether we are awake or asleep physically, we should be awake spiritually. He is telling us to be to the rest of the world what an awake person is among sleepers. It is interesting to be awake while others sleep. To get things done before others even get up or to finish things after others have gone to bed. This can often seem like the most fruitful time of the day, whether early morning or late at night.

The whole world is asleep right now. Most people are merely sleepwalking through their lives. They do not know why they do what they do. They work hard for vanities that disappear as soon as they have them. In the dream world many things seem important that are not important. How often have I had a dream where something seemed so crucial to have or to do, but when I woke up I realized that it was something silly and pointless.

It is easy to be awakened for a moment by a book or a piece of art or a retreat, but the temptation is to roll over and fall asleep again. Many people can remember a time, perhaps only a day, when they were awake, but it is difficult to actually wake up and stay awake. So Jesus tells us, “Stay awake!” He sounds like a man trying to wake up a groggy world.

For the next four weeks, as we celebrate that Jesus has come and that he is coming again, we ought to take this command particularly to heart. Fight off the weariness of this world. Fight against the desire to return to sin like a person rolling over and returning to sleep. For now it seems like so much effort is required to stay awake, but that is only because we are not fully awake. When we have really woken up, washed our face, and gotten to work, nothing could ever convince us to go back to bed.

November 26, 2011 - Saturday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

Jesus does not want us to burden ourselves with the anxieties and stresses caused by useless tasks. Consider how much stress has been experienced over trifles: that a game is won, that many people come to a party, that a television program not be missed. Consider the tears that have been shed since the creation of the earth over party dresses and other amusements.

Recreation is supposed to refresh us, but we modern people are worn out by our recreations. Video games are hard work. Television keeps us up at night. Sports involve crowds and expense. We would be happy to avoid all the trouble, but we have come to believe that the trouble makes us happy.

Whenever the thought occurs that we ought to be less of this world, less devoted to its distractions, the tempter asks, “What is the harm in a little television? Why not spend a night partying and drinking?” Jesus tells us why not. Our lives were not meant to be wasted. Time does not exist to be killed. We are servants of the Most High, and we ought to have a purpose to our lives so definite that we know what we want to do with every minute.

Our purpose is two-fold: to love and to be strengthened. We are strengthened, as Jesus says, by praying constantly. Every moment is an opportunity either to pray or to love. If we consider the world in this way, there is no time for drunkenness or entertainment. We know this, but we are afraid; we are afraid of wasting our lives. We are afraid that the whole world will be having fun, and we will miss out.

Jesus does not make a new commandment here against fun. Instead, he tells us to guard ourselves lest our hearts be burdened. Happiness does not come from indulging boredom. We know how our hearts are lightened by love and prayer. It is a wonder that the tempter is able to convince us that we want anything else.

Yet he does convince us. We fall over and over again, choosing the pretty fruit and forgetting that paradise is all around us. It is not that these things Jesus mentions and I mention are sins exactly. Rather, they are lost opportunities. It would be a sin to miss too many opportunities. We are afraid of missing out on fun, but then we miss out on life. Do not be afraid to do great things for God!

November 25, 2011 - Friday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

Daniel’s vision is somewhat obscure to us. These beasts are fantastical creatures. They are symbolic of something (that is how Daniel spoke), but whether these beasts have already come or are yet to come, whether they symbolize countries or individuals, we do not know. This prophecy seems like something from the book of Revelation, and like that book, interpretation is often pure speculation and rarely fruitful.

But the last part of Daniel’s prophecy is as clear as day. One like a son of man approaches the Ancient of Days on the throne and receives dominion, glory, and kingship. And “his dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away; his kingship shall not be destroyed.” Even the simplest Christian without any theological education at all can discern that the Ancient of Days is God the Father and the one like a son of man is God the Son. At the time Daniel wrote it, no one knew what it meant, but now we all do. Much prophecy is given simply so that when we see it fulfilled, we will believe.

Jesus tells his disciples the coming of the Kingdom of God is as obvious as the coming of summer. I am sure it was to his eyes. Yet this analogy is apropos to us 21st century people. I am sure that I miss many natural signs that would have been obvious to the disciples, to anyone 2000 years ago. I spend so much time indoors that I do not see the buds on the trees until it is almost in full bloom. Even then I would not be able to tell a fig tree from an apple tree until the fruit appeared.

So too the signs of Kingdom of God are not obvious to those who are not looking, and without experience it would be impossible to interpret those signs. I cannot tell if we are almost at the end of the world. It might be the beginning of the end or only the end of the beginning. There might be ten years left, and there might be 10,000. I have neither the eyes nor the mind to see the signs and interpret them, but I do not doubt that they are there. No one can predict when the end will arrive, but when it has come it will be obvious to everyone that the signs of the coming were everywhere.

November 24, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Andrew Düng-Lac, priest and martyr, and his companions, martyrs

Today's Readings

We are told throughout our first reading today how it was the fault of “some men” that Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den. It emphasized over and over how the king himself did not want to put Daniel in there. He “worked until sunset to rescue him” and “sleep was impossible” that night. After Daniel himself, we are supposed to feel bad, I suppose, for the king, but who issued the royal decree? Who insisted that no one should pray to anyone except the king for one month?

Those men who are accusing Daniel tell us who it was, “Daniel, the Jewish exile, has paid no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you issued.” The king issued the royal decree. So if he spent a sleepless night without dinner or entertainment, I think he deserved it. He never does, but he could have even taken responsibility for his own actions.

What could he have done though? As the men remind him, “under the Mede and Persian law” royal decrees are irrevocable. Perhaps, but under the law of God, throwing a human into a lions’ den because they were praying is wrong. When human law conflicts with divine law, it is obvious what ought to prevail. The king should not have thrown Daniel in the lions’ den, no matter what. He was not forced to.

The king dug a hole for himself with his stupid decree. Then he felt that he had no choice but to follow through. He was wrong. We always have a choice to do what is right. Like a businessman who is forced to lie under oath or a single mother who is forced to kill her own child, it is possible to arrive at a point where the choice is between self-sacrifice and doing wrong. The businessman is not forced; he could always go to jail instead. The mother is not forced; she could always struggle to care for the child instead.

It is never impossible to do what is right. In every circumstance, no matter what choices we have made up to that point, we can always begin doing what is right. It may be difficult. We may lose everything except our souls. Who knows what would have happened if the king had refused to thrown Daniel in the loins’ den. He might have lost his kingdom. It would have been worth it though, to do what is right.

November 24, 2011 - Thanksgiving Day

Today's Readings

How blessed are we to gather as a country each year and give thanks. This holiday transcends any political sentiments or particular religious belief, but, at the same time, it is central to all true religion. To give thanks is to acknowledge the existence of a Creator whom we can thank. We do not merely celebrate how much we have today; we celebrate how much we have been given. Given by whom? By the Creator of all.

Thanksgiving is the most important feast in the Catholic Church. It is more important than Christmas and more important than Easter. This is revealed to us if we say that word, “thanksgiving”, in Greek. The word is “Eucharist”. Every Sunday, indeed every day of the week, we gather in this Church and give thanks. On Christmas and Easter and every other feast day, we gather in the Church and celebrate the Eucharist; we celebrate Thanksgiving. Though our country celebrates Thanksgiving once a year, we celebrate it without end.

What is God looking for from us except thanks? Imagine how proud a parent is the first time they hear their child say, “Thank you, Mommy” or “Thank you, Daddy”. It is a sign that the child is maturing beyond the basic selfishness of infancy. It is impossible to be purely selfish and grateful at the same time. When we are perfectly grateful, we will be generous without fault. We cannot begrudge another what we ourselves received as gift.

To be perfectly grateful is to know our place in this world. We are creatures of God and loved by him. Everything we possess was a gift from God, even our own bodies and souls. Even our talents and abilities are reasons not for pride but for thankfulness.

There is no prayer more appropriate for us creatures. Prayers of petition are important, and prayers of praise are proper, but in the prayer of thanksgiving all the rest are summed up. When we give thanks to God we admit the truth: we are dependent on him. We can thank God for every gift he has given us. We can thank God for every struggle that he has not put in our way. We can thank God for the strength to endure the struggles that do confront us. We can thank God for his great glory. We thank God for everything; without him there would be nothing.

November 23, 2011 - Wednesday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

Our first reading today is the source of a couple of sayings in English. The first is “seeing the hand writing on the wall”. When someone says that they have seen the hand writing on the wall, they mean that they are aware of what is coming next, usually something that cannot be avoided. In the reading today, the writing hand is a visible expression of the will of God. God gives the king this sign so that there can be no doubt that the end of the empire of Babylon was not a mere accident of history; it was part of God’s plan for the world.

Another saying taken from the reading today is an insult: “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.” This insult is profound: it implies a judge of the world able to weigh emperors on a scale; it implies a minimum standard which everyone ought to meet. This statement is an expression of pure justice: no one can debate with a scale; no one can give excuses or explanations; no one can bribe a scale; the scale measures dispassionately. Thus we have the image of blind Justice holding the scales.

The king is terrified. In fairness, he did see a disembodied hand writing on the wall, but how did he know that the hand was writing something against him? The hand could have been writing something good. Such a hand would surprise anyone but it will only cause fear in the mind of a guilty person. The king knew that he deserved punishment, so he presumed that his punishment had come. When we have a clear conscience very little can frighten us, but a person with a guilty conscience is afraid of their own shadow.

Was this king guiltier than other men? I do not think so. No guiltier than I am, perhaps less so. We all have a guilty conscience because we all have sinned. We are afraid of ghosts and darkness because we know that we deserve punishment for our sins, and we fear that our punishment is just around the corner. We need someone to save us from our guilt, from our fear, and we have such a Savior. How many times did Jesus say, “Be not afraid”? In Jesus Christ, our sins will be forgiven so that we do not have to be afraid anymore.

November 23, 2011 - Memorial of Blessed Miguel Pro, Martyr

Today we commemorate Blessed Miguel Pro, who died about 90 years ago. He was a Catholic at a time when it was illegal to be Catholic. He was a priest at a time when it was illegal to be a priest. He celebrated Mass though the Mass was illegal. He used to sneak around from place to place in disguise, celebrating the sacraments for all those criminals who refused to stop worshiping God in the way handed down to us from the apostles. Then they caught him and shot him.

Miguel Pro is special among the saints. We only have photographs of the most recent saints, those who lived during the last hundred years or so, and these photographs are precious relics. Yet even in this case Blessed Miguel is special, for we have a photo of him taken at the moment of his martyrdom. We actually are able to see how he died. He was shot by Mexican soldiers while standing like this – like Jesus on the Cross. This was a very common way of praying in Mexico and it is a perfect image of how we ought to live and how we ought to die.

In his posture, Blessed Miguel is giving the meaning of his own martyrdom. He is unified to Christ in that moment captured in the photo. Christ told us that the world would hate us for believing in him. Blessed Miguel experienced their hatred. The hatred of the world is an ugly thing; human suffering and death is repulsive, but his death became beautiful because he joined it to the Cross.

We might not see the kind of persecution that arose in Mexico in the 1920’s, but then not many people would have expected that to happen in Mexico until it did. Christians are the most persecuted religion by far. Though we have no persecution right here, there are Christians suffering throughout the world. Perhaps someday there will be a persecution right here. Whether we face martyrdom someday or we go on living as we are and die as we expect, we can learn how to die from Blessed Miguel. Whether we die suddenly or after a long decline, whether we suffer much or little, if we die like this – like Jesus – then it will be a beautiful death.

November 22, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Cecilia, virgin and martyr

Today's Readings

Today we have two prophecies about the future, at least the future from the perspective of when they were spoken. Daniel’s prophecy was about his future, our past, came true exactly. After Babylon came Persia, then Alexander the Great, then Rome. Each empire is exactly as described. Then, in the time of the fourth empire, Rome, God carved a stone from the mountain and cast down the idol of the world. That stone was Jesus Christ, who founded a new kingdom that will never end. Indeed it grows until it fills the whole world.

We can see from AD 2011 that Daniel’s prophecy about the future was fulfilled. Jesus’ prophecy is also not exactly in our future. We are rather in the midst of it. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. There have been wars and earthquakes and famines and epidemics. People have gone around saying that they are the Messiah or that the time for Jesus’ return has come. These things have happened, and they will happen. Jesus tells us that such things must happen.

A skeptic could say that Jesus was not making such a profound prophecy to say that there would be wars and disease, etc. “There always have been, and there always will be”, they might say, but we Christians do not believe that. We believe that there was a time when there were no such things. We also believe that there will be a time when such things no longer happen. When that time arrives, it will never end.

When that time come, Jesus will return. He will not come secretly. There will be no doubt when he has arrived. And he will not come according to the schedule of any self-appointed prophet, no matter how many times they change the date. He will come in power and majesty, riding on the clouds. We will go up to meet him in the sky. Until that happens, believe nothing.

Do not put faith in any such rumors, but place your hope in the sure prophecies given to us in Scripture. Do not believe that Jesus will come next Thursday because some crackpot says he will, but know that he might. He might come tonight. He will come when the Father sends him. Above all, do not be afraid, for when he comes it will be the end of the world as we know it: the end of wars, the end of disease, the end of starvation. The end of the world is nothing to be afraid of, it is our dearest hope.

November 21, 2011 - Memorial of The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today's Readings

One common theme in both our readings today is faithfulness. Daniel decided to be faithful. He was an exile, a child in a foreign land. Now the king, the very king who invaded his land and brought him to Babylon as a prisoner, wants him to study to be an advisor to the government. I could imagine him being too afraid. I could imagine him being too proud, thinking that he will never serve his enemy. Instead he is faithful. God told the Israelites to build up lives for themselves in exile, so Daniel puts aside his fear, his pride, his anger, and every other impediment and accepts the position.

Then within his decision, he is faithful. He shows two kinds of faithfulness: faithfulness to God and faithfulness to his work. He is faithful to God by refusing to eat the food, the meat and wine, which was sacrificed to idols. He is faithful to his work by studying hard. Indeed, he and his companions from Israel are judged to be superior to he other students. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Faithfulness to our work means putting in our best effort out of respect for ourselves.

The widow in the Gospel also shows faithfulness. Although it is not clear in this translation, she is not merely poor; she is a beggar. She has spent the whole day begging and has gotten, let us say, twenty cents. She then goes to the temple and puts two of the cents, ten percent, in the collection. She is being faithful to the tithe. If she asked me, I would have told her that she should hold on to every cent she can, that she cannot afford to be tithing, yet she does tithe. She is faithful.

Our readings do not make light of the struggles: Daniel is still an exile, soon to be thrown in the lion’s den, and the woman is still a beggar, but in their faithfulness they have a certain integrity and self-respect which many well-off people lack. Do not underestimate the value of knowing that you have done your best work and have been faithful to the commands of God. Success as the world sees it, measured in money or influence or fame, is of little value compared to hearing someday, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

November 20, 2011 - Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King'

Today's Readings

The Lord is our shepherd, which sounds so nice, what with the verdant pastures and restful waters. It is nice too. He will seek the lost and bring back the strayed. He will bind up the injured and heal the sick. He will destroy the sleek and the strong.

That last part might seem strange. What is the point of all the care that the Lord is showing to his sheep if he will destroy the sleek and the strong? I would have thought that the Lord wanted us to be sleek and strong. If we look back though, before this reading, we will see how these sheep got to be so strong and fat. These sheep were also shepherds, they were the ones to whom God had entrusted the care of his flock, but instead of feeding the sheep, they fed themselves. Their strength comes at the expense of the others’ weakness. They are fat because the others are starving.

It is written that he will shepherd them with justice. Clearly they were not just to the others whom they left to starve, but they also were not just to themselves. The other sheep merely suffered the consequences of laziness and greed. These sheep had to suffer being lazy and greedy.

God will feed these sheep with justice. He will destroy them, but after the destruction they will be improved. The fat and strong consider returning to where everyone else is destruction. A rich man would say he lost everything if he were left with only a few thousand dollars in savings, but there are people who would be so happy to have a few thousand dollars in savings. So when God destroys the independent and the fat, it means that he will make them lean and dependent on him again.

The Gospel today is the judgment of the nations, of the Gentiles. Gentile meant someone who was outside of God’s family, so it is reasonable to conclude that this judgment is the judgment of all the non-Christians. We Christians will be judged, as Jesus says elsewhere, by whether we have forgiven our brothers and sisters from our hearts, but those who do not know Jesus will be judged more lightly, by whether they have done some kindness. Kindness for whom? For Jesus, for “these least brothers and sisters of mine.”

We know that the Gospel relates to the non-Christians because of the surprise they all express, both the sheep and the goats. They did not see this coming. Yet we all are so familiar with this prophecy that we would know exactly what Jesus was talking about. As soon as he started dividing us to the right or to the left, we would know what was going on.

However, this does not mean that we can ignore this Gospel. First of all, Jesus is providing a very low minimum standard to get into heaven. We should be meeting and exceeding this standard. Jesus says that those who knew better will be judged more harshly. Do not expect to get into heaven because you did something nice for someone once. We are supposed to be on Jesus’ side! He is our king and we are his servants. We are supposed to love God above all else. If doing something for someone in need is doing it for Jesus, we ought to jump at all such opportunities. We ought to be seeking out such opportunities. Business men are always looking for opportunities in the market; Christians should be just as vigilant to find people in need. Which one of us profits more? Let the business men make his billions, but Christians have a greater reward.

Second, considering the Gospel and the first reading together, we can come to a conclusion. God promises to provide, but he is not the one providing. If I say that the President helped the victims of an earthquake, I really mean that a lot of people helped the victims. If I say that the Twins won another game, I really mean that the players, Joe and Justin and Michael, won another game. If I say that God provides, and I claim to be a servant of God, that means that I provide.

God has provided so much, but if we healthy people, who have been provided with health by God, do not go visit the sick, who will? The political goal might be to achieve an economic system where everyone has plenty and no one needs any help, and that sounds great. I wish the political system the best of luck with that. But even if that were ever achieved, and I kind of doubt that it ever will be, it would not remove the need we have for charity.

We humans need to give charity. Within us is a need, designed in us by God, to serve our brothers and sisters. As with every need, if we fail to answer it, we will die. If we do not eat or drink, we die. Those are bodily needs, so the death is bodily. If we do not give and serve, we die. Those are spiritual needs, so the death is spiritual. Someone who never gives and never serves is spiritually dead.

But just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life. We are brought to life by Christ's example. He lived entirely for the sake of others. He considered his life to be a gift from the Father to be used for the salvation of the world. Seeing how Christ lived should make us want to live better ourselves. we are brought to life by his example, and we are brought to life by his grace. God does not force himself on us, but when we want help and ask for help to be better servants, God will help us.

What should we think of a waiter who stands at the table bragging about the excellent service at his restaurant and then, after an hour goes by, begins complaining that the service is not so good after all? So also is a Christian who teaches that God provides and then does not actually get around to providing. Right now there are children starving to death in Somalia. Right now there are Christians in Iraq struggling against violence and persecution. Why isn’t God providing for them? Which is to say, why aren’t we providing for them?

November 19, 2011 - Saturday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

The Sadducees think that they are so clever with their ad absurdum proof that there is no Resurrection. Imagine when the woman dies and is married to all seven men! Surely that is too ridiculous, so there must not be a Resurrection. Their argument is no mere trick. They understood that when a woman's husband dies, she is not married anymore. How could that be unless death is final? When a man goes on a trip, his wife is not considered a widow. So, if death were temporary, why is it treated differently?

Jesus tells the Sadducees that their logic is not perfect. True, death does end something permanently; they are right to notice that implication of the law, yet what is ended is not life but only this life. The next life is not simply a continuation ad infinitum of this existence. The next life is not even just a improved version of this life: no pain or suffering but otherwise the same.

No. The life to come is different. It is better. It is different essentially, not merely in the execution. In the life to come we will be like angels; we will be children of God because we will be the children of the Resurrection. In the life to come there will be no marriage because there will not be anyone born there who was not born here. In the life to come there will be no marriage because we will not be alone anymore, in need of a companion.

“After that they did not dare ask him any more questions.” What? After he answers so well, so beautifully? I have a thousand questions to ask him. Did they not ask any more because they knew that they would not be able to get the better of him? They must truly be blind if the only reason they can think of for asking a question is to prove their own point.

However, they are right to not ask any questions. If I met a wise teacher, I would ask many questions in order to learn their wisdom, but Jesus is so much more than a wise teacher; he is so much greater. The only appropriate response to Jesus is cling to him, listening, like the simple people of Jerusalem were doing. It is always a Pharisee or a Sadducee or a scribe or a rich man who asks Jesus a question. The simple people knew better.

November 18, 2011 - Friday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

Did you notice the parallels between our two readings today? The Maccabees go up to the temple and cleanse it. Jesus goes up to the temple and cleanses it. The Maccabees purified it after a foreign power had come in and turned the temple into a pagan temple. Jesus purified it after the Jewish government themselves chose to let money changers and vendors take over. The Maccabees gathered the whole people together in the temple to praise God and celebrate the dedication of the altar. Jesus gathered the whole people together in the temple because he taught there every day and they hung on his words.

Our first reading today is the story of Hanukkah, which celebrates the cleansing of the temple by the Maccabees. Our Gospel is the story of the new Hanukkah. As Easter is the new Passover, and Sunday is the new Sabbath, and Pentecost is the new Pentecost, so the cleansing of the temple by Jesus is the new Hanukkah. Today, almost 2200 years after the cleansing of the temple, the Jewish people still celebrate Hanukkah; they celebrate how God rescued them from their persecutors and restored to them the ability to worship him as he commanded. We do not celebrate a particular feast day for the cleansing of the temple, but we do celebrate, in the person of Jesus Christ, the power of God to save us. Just as he rescued the Jewish nation from the persecution of the Greeks, so he rescued the whole world from the persecution of Satan. Just as he restored the true worship to his temple, so also he taught us the true sacrifice, the sacrifice of thanksgiving, the sacrifice of the Eucharist.

Hanukkah almost always falls during Advent each year. How much more appropriate it would be if Christians, instead of celebrating Christmas before Christmas, would celebrate Hanukkah, remembering how our Lord came to cleanse the temple and how he is coming again to cleanse the whole world. Indeed, we Catholics do this and call it Advent. We light an Advent wreath instead of a menorah but the meaning is the same: we praise the God who saves his people, who rules over all. As Hanukkah celebrates the cleansing of the temple in Jerusalem, Advent is the coming of Jesus to cleanse us, the temple of the Holy Spirit. As with every aspect of religion, the meaning, while remaining fundamentally the same, is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

November 17, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, religious

Today's Readings

Jesus today prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem. It happened, exactly as he described, about forty years later. The prophecy is so accurate that some say that Luke invented it after seeing the destruction of Jerusalem. Some people will believe any nonsense rather than acknowledge the power of God.

Jesus gives more than a prophecy here. He also gives a reason: because the city failed to recognize the time of its visitation. It is not politic to say that Jerusalem was destroyed because they killed Jesus, and the idea is tied up with anti-Jewish attitudes, but we cannot reject the word of the Lord. Jerusalem was destroyed because they failed to recognize the time of their visitation. The destruction of Jerusalem was divine justice.

As Mattathias asks in our first reading today, “Will it benefit us to forsake the law and right-living?” The king may give them gold and high positions, but who wants gold and high positions if they cannot live the way they should? Nothing is as valuable as the freedom to serve God. Any city that chooses money or pleasure or political safety over the grace of God has chosen poorly. It is only appropriate that such a city should be destroyed.

Yet, though Jerusalem was destroyed by divine justice, this is not an anti-Jewish idea. The example of Jerusalem threatens all of us. Every city and every nation that fails to recognize the Lord is in danger of destruction. It does not come immediately, as imagined by a cartoonish, childish understanding of divine justice. Jerusalem was not destroyed for forty more years. The destruction comes at the appropriate moment.

Our country has been killing innocent children by the millions for 40 years now. We have chosen, as a society, convenience and selfishness over justice and love. Who can doubt that we are in danger of destruction? We pray for God to bless America, and we consider our country a shining beacon of freedom and safety in a dangerous world, and God has blessed America and continues to bless her, but how much longer will he put up with this injustice? Empires have risen and fallen before. God does not need America; America needs God.

So we pray for our country, our motherland. We pray for God to save her from the destruction due to her in justice, for the blood of 55 million babies killed even before they were born cries out to God for vengeance. We pray for God to remove this injustice in our midst, we work to remove this injustice in our midst, and we offer the sacrifice of fasts and prayer in reparation for injustices that have been committed.

November 16, 2011 - Wednesday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

Our Gospel today is very similar to the parable of the talents. Ten minas to ten servants versus eight talents to three servants. Is there really such a difference? There are some differences. The business man gone on a journey becomes a nobleman who wants to be a king. The enormous amount of money characterized by a talent, about 20 years of income, is reduced to the mina, which is a much smaller amount, about 4 months of income. Most importantly, and the reason we need to consider the parables independently, is that although the business man was strict but fair, the nobleman is a cruel, terrible man: “Bring them here and slay them before me.”

We might think at first, especially with the introduction that Luke gives, that Jesus is the nobleman who is going away in order to become the king, but this must not be true, for that nobleman is awful. Many historians have pointed out that a real king, Herod Archelaus, actually did these things. He went on a journey to Rome when his father, Herod the Great, died. Some Jews wrote to the emperor asking him not to make Herod the king, but he did anyway. Herod was so bad that he only lasted nine years before being removed, and he often did things like have enemies slain at his feet.

Perhaps Jesus is reminding his disciples how cruel people are. The disciples think that the Kingdom of Heaven will be established immediately, but they are naïve. They do not remember what kings and governors do to people who they see as a challenge to their authority. Herod Archelaus had people executed at his feet. The Pharisees and Pontius Pilate had their rival nailed to a cross.

Our first reading today shows this evil so clearly. It is heavily edited: all of the explicit details of torture have been removed. You can read it yourself or just trust me – it is horrible. And why did the king kill a mother and her seven children? Because they refused to eat pork. Those in power cannot stand to have anyone tell them “No”. The powerful in Jerusalem are certainly not going to put up with Jesus establishing his Kingdom. Mind you, the Kingdom will be established but not easily and not quickly. It has been nearly 2000 years so far. Consider how far the world has come in that time, and how far the world has yet to go.

November 15, 2011 - Tuesday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

What contrasting figures are set before us today! In the first reading, we have Eleazar, chief of the scribes; in the Gospel we have Zacchaeus, chief of the tax collectors. Eleazar is a man noble in appearance; Zacchaeus is short in stature. Eleazar is so well respected that his persecutors try to find a way out for him; Zacchaeus is despised by his own people. Eleazar has lived an admirable life since his childhood; Zacchaeus is a tax collector.

What could such men have in common? I would say that they had more in common than they differed. Eleazar was a son of Abraham and Jesus tells us about Zacchaeus, “this man too is a son of Abraham.” More basically than that, they are both sons of the Most High God. The point of both stories is faithfulness to God. Eleazar choose to remain faithful; Zacchaeus choose to become faithful.

St. Thérèse puts it this way:

Let us suppose that the son of a very clever doctor, stumbling over a stone on the road, falls and breaks his leg. His father hastens to him, lifts him lovingly, and binds up the fractured limb, putting forth all his skill. The son, when cured, displays the utmost gratitude, and he has excellent reason for doing so. But let us take another supposition.
The father, aware that a dangerous stone lies in his son's path, is beforehand with the danger and removes it, unseen by anyone. The son, thus tenderly cared for, not knowing of the mishap from which his father's hand has saved him, naturally will not show him any gratitude, and will love him less than if he had cured him of a grievous wound. But suppose he heard the whole truth, would he not in that case love him still more?

The key is in our psalm today: “The Lord upholds me.” The Lord gave Eleazar the grace to be faithful for 90 years; the Lord gave Zacchaeus the grace to repent. The Lord uphold them both, though in different ways. If Eleazar had lived 90 years faithfully and then decided to abandon God in the end, his 90 years would not matter. The past is not that important. It is in the present moment that we can be faithful, that we must be faithful. God neither holds the past against us nor gives us credit for it. So brothers and sisters, let us begin to be faithful today, regardless of our past.

November 14, 2011 - Monday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

He heard the crowd, so he asked those who could see what was going on. “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” So he cries out, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” How did this man know Jesus? How did he know that Jesus was descended from King David? How did he know that Jesus could do anything for him? Perhaps he has heard stories. Perhaps someone had told him about the prophet who could heal the blind, and now – here he is.

The leading men try to shush him. They want a respectful silence. They should have joined in. “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.” Who would be unable to say this? Who does not need mercy? We admire this man so much that we repeat his words at every Mass: “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” We join in. They should have joined in.

Jesus insists that the man be brought to him. He cannot turn down this request for mercy. He came to have mercy on us. Everything he did was for the sake of mercy. His whole existence as a man was an act of mercy. Now here is a man crying out as the whole world ought to have been crying out: “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.” So he stops. God stops what he was doing and waits for the man. We think that we are too busy to help other people, but God stopped and waited.

Jesus offers this man a wish. What do you wish that I will do for you? His question includes a promise: “I will do for you” he says. The blind man wants to see again. We want to see again too. We used to see clearly, before our eyes were opened, before the fall. This man is a symbol of all humans. He could see and then he lost his sight and Jesus restored it. We could see and then we lost our sight and then Jesus restored it.

The man ends by following Jesus and glorifying God.This man is not only a symbol, but an example. As he moves from hearing about Jesus to begging for mercy to praising God, he moves quickly and readily, revealing his abundant faith. When the people see him praising God, they praise God too. His faith is contagious.

November 13, 2011 - Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

A talent is not a special ability. That English word is based on an imperfect reading of this parable. We cannot understand this parable correctly until we forget the English word and think about what Jesus’ words meant to those who were listening to him. A talent is a small pile of silver. A talent is 6000 drachmae. Good pay 2000 years ago was six drachmae a week, so think of a talent as being equal to whatever you earn in 1000 weeks, which is 20 years. It is a lot of money, about a million dollars.

So the rich man is going on a journey and he has to decide what to do with his money. He could put it all in the bank, but instead he divides it among three of his slaves. He entrusts it to them, not equally, but to each according to his abilities. Here is a sign that the talents do not stand for special abilities. The master gives to each servant according to his abilities, so the talents cannot symbolize abilities.

So what do the talents stand for, what do they symbolize? The stand for what they are: money. Not simply money, since money is always a symbol itself, but everything that money stands for: power, convenience, fame, influence, comfort, honor, etc. In short, what we call "life". Not biological life, but like the phrase "This is my life." We see the first two servants go out and invest their talents. The symbol here is a willingness to risk their lives, their lifestyles.

I think of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata. She was a successful Sister, teaching in a girl’s school in India. She had no money of course, but she had comforts and respect. Jesus told her to go serve the poor, so she gave up everything and started caring for the people dying on the streets of Kolkata. She went out into the world and risked her position, her honor, and her investments paid back well. In this world, she won the Nobel Prize, started a successful religious order, and became very famous. When she got to heaven and Jesus asked her what she did with the life and opportunities he entrusted to her, Teresa could point to the Missionaries of Charity, and Jesus surely said, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

Then I think of a young actor and playwright named Karol Wojtyła. He might have been a successful actor. For all we know, he could have been the most famous actor in all of Poland. Instead, he heard God call him to the priesthood. So in the middle of World War II, he studied for the priesthood. Then he was ordained a priest during the Soviet occupation of Poland, when the atheist government was trying to get rid of the Catholic Church. He put his honor and safety and comfort on the line. He gave up any chance at being wealthy. In this world, he became a bishop, a cardinal, and the Pope. When he got to heaven and Jesus asked him what he did with the life and opportunities he entrusted to him, John Paul could point to the strengthening of the Church and the clarification of difficult doctrines, and Jesus surely said, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

Then I think of an up and coming student who excelled beyond any of his classmates. His name was Saul. He was a rabbi and might have become one of the great rabbis in history. Then Jesus revealed to him the Resurrection, and he gave up the life, the comforts, his friends and family. He joined a new sect led by some fishermen. For twelve years he made tents for a living. Then he was chosen to wander the world as a poor beggar telling people about Jesus, which he did for about 20 years, sometimes in prison. In this world, he was respected by some and rejected by many. Today, we honor him as the Apostle Paul, with not one but two feast days. When he got to heaven and Jesus asked him what he did with the life and opportunities that he had entrusted to him, Paul could point to Corinth and Thessalonica and Ephesus and many other cities where he brought the Gospel, and Jesus surely said, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

I could go on and on with every saint. So many people who chose to risk their lives and found happiness. The risked everything rather than bury their life in the earth, in the world. So many people bury their lives in their jobs or in games or in vanity. There are many places you could bury your life, but none of them will give you anything back. We give the world so much, and we are foolish to expect anything in return.

Jesus does give a third option. Some people are too afraid to invest their lives in the Gospel mission. Some people are too timid to give up everything and follow Jesus. Clearly, burying their lives in this world is not a good option. Well, they will never make the rates of return that a saint gets, but they should put their talent in a bank so that it will at least earn interest. What is the bank if not the Church? Many people live this way. They go to Mass on Sunday. They love their neighbors. They obey the teaching of the Church in all matters, even when they do not understand it. They have their money in the bank. When they get to heaven and Jesus asks them what they did with the life and opportunities that he entrusted to them, they can say, “I was afraid to go out into the deep. I was too afraid to risk everything, so I entrusted my life to the Church. Here is your talent with interest.” Jesus will say, “You were afraid to risk everything. We could have done amazing things together. Here you will learn to never be afraid anymore. Come, enter into my joy.”

That is a possible path, and if you are timid, you should take it. Better that than expecting this world to give you a return on what you give it. Yet I would not say that I recommend this path, this straddling the fence, this investment strategy. No. Do not be afraid. Risk everything. Begin living your life like heaven is the only thing you want. Begin loving other people like it was your job. Miss out on everything this world has to offer, and be so happy. Be not afraid, if you can.

November 12, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Josaphat, bishop and martyr

Today's Readings

The unjust judge wanted a bribe. Most unjust judges are looking for bribes. Very few, I would suppose, actually like seeing injustice in the world. Perhaps he was just lazy, but, really, how much effort does it take to make a judgment? It is not as if he would have to execute the judgment himself. He just needs to listen to the stories, say a few words, and then hammer his gavel. So I think he wanted a bribe.

He finally makes a decision, not, as this translation suggests, because he was afraid of getting punched in the face, but because he was tired of the widow coming to him every day. He put her off for a while, hoping that she would come offering a bribe, but she never did. Now he decides that it is not worth it. He will make the decision for free, just to get her off his back.

So is God like the unjust judge? No. Jesus’ point is that he is not at all like the unjust judge. God is never weary of listening to us. In fact, he delights in hearing us pray to him. We could never tire God out. The widow can threaten the unjust judge with her constant presence and pleading, but what do we threaten God with, that we would constantly pray? “I am not leaving this church until you answer my prayer.” “Good”, he says.

God is not waiting for a bribe, but he is waiting for faith. He will do his part if we do ours. His part is to give us everything. Our part is to have faith. God will provide, but when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? Faith is not a human action; it is a gift from God, but we must choose to hold on to the gift. Faith is believing that God will provide what he has promised. Faith means believing that God is neither too weak to bring about what he promised or too fickle to stand by his promise.

God has promised to take care of us. Do we believe him? Sometimes this world causes us to doubt. Sometimes it seems like God is not taking care of someone. There is a lot of suffering in this world. Is there really a just God ruling over it all? I believe there is. I believe independently of my ability to understand.

November 11, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours, bishop

Today's Readings

Our psalm today has been characterized as the only poetic psalm. There are 150 psalms, but the ancient Hebrew taste for poetry was very different from modern poetry. This one psalm stands out as a strange exception. Not that the other psalms are not good, but they are all rather literal. Psalm 19 requires that we use our imaginations.

Psalm 19 calls us to imagine the night sky speaking to us and the day sky announcing a proclamation. Each day says something to us. Every night has a message for us. The earth, the plants, the mountains and the oceans, are all shouting in unison one message: “God made us!” They shout this message in every language and manner of speaking. No translation is needed.

When I see a skyscraper I am impressed. I suppose that many people worked very hard on it and a few great minds designed it. So what should I think when I see a mountain? The night sky is full of billions and billions of stars. How did they get there? The sun, the earth, the moon: all in perfect balance. The tides go in; the tides go out, and no one can explain why. Oh, sure, scientists have explained how: gravity and the moon and all that. “How” is easy enough, but what about “why”? Why is there something rather than nothing? Why is everything balanced with more precision than a Swiss watch?

As our first reading today says, anyone who can study all this and not believe in God is empty inside. Anyone who considers the universe to be a giant machine of entropy – the dice rolled and this beautiful earth appeared by chance and life appeared by chance and someday it will be gone and mean nothing at all – anyone who believes that is empty inside.

We believe that God is who he is through faith, but that he is, that God exists, is not of faith. We can see it with our own eyes. This is not all just a coincidence. This is a work of art. This is the handiwork of a master craftsman. This is the masterpiece of a true genius.This universe is beautiful. How much more beautiful must the artist be? This universe is full of energy. How much more powerful must the creator be?

November 10, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, pope and doctor of the Church

Today's Readings

The first coming of Jesus was hidden. He came as the infant child of poor parents. When he had been here for 31 years, he revealed himself with signs and wonders, not to the whole world but only in a small part of the world. The second coming of Jesus will be like lightning. He will come in power and glory and judge the whole earth.

Between the first coming and the second coming is a middle coming of Jesus Christ, in which he comes through his disciples. When Paul came to Corinth preaching Jesus, that was the first time Jesus had been in Corinth. Someday Jesus is going to appear in the sky, and the whole world will end like the flipping of a switch. Until that day, he comes invisibly. On that day he will come whether people want him to or not. Until that day, he only comes with our cooperation. This middle coming of Jesus is fulfilled when he is preached in every corner of the world.

Of course, the corners of the world are not measured geographically. There are not four corners of the world; there are 7 billion corners of the world. The day is coming, thanks to widespread communication and easy worldwide travel, when every human will have heard the Gospel. Then Jesus will have arrived in every corner of the world, even if he is rejected by many as he was rejected by his own generation.

This middle coming is fulfilled in us, his disciples. We are missionaries to the corners of the world. If you are not called to bring Jesus to Japan, you are called to bring Jesus to the Japanese restaurant down the street. If you are not called to preach the Gospel in the street bazaars of India, you are called to preach the Gospel in the mall downtown.

But how can we bring Jesus into the mall if we do not have him in ourselves? The middle coming of Jesus begins when he comes into our lives, into our souls. Each of us is a beachhead where God can begin the invasion of the world. When I have allowed him to conquer me and establish his kingdom right here, then I will become a launching point for further incursions.

When it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me and you and you, he, while remaining one, will be many, and will reach everywhere.

November 9, 2011 - Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

Today's Readings

We celebrate today a building. Not just any building, of course, but the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Rome: St. John Lateran. This building is the mother church and the head church of Rome, and since Rome is the foremost city of the Christian Church, it is the mother church of the whole world too.

Now, there is the Church and then there is a church. We come into a church to pray, but we are the Church. The word Church means two things, depending on which way you trace its meaning. It means that which belongs to God or the gathering of the people. The building belongs to God; it is set aside for worshipping him, but how much more do the people who worship him belong to God! This building is where we gather together to praise the Lord, but the people are the actual gathering, whether it takes place in a nice building or outside or in someone’s home.

However, we call this building a church, and rightly so, because it is a symbol of the Church: the gathering of the people who belong to God. Throughout these readings we have symbols layered on top of symbols, the Temple of Jerusalem stands as a symbol of the church building we celebrate and therefore as a symbol of the entire Church.

St. Paul says that we are the Temple of God. Each one of us individually is a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, and together we are like the stones out of which the building is formed: Jesus is the foundation, and we are supported not only by this foundation, but also by 2000 years of people building up the Church, brick by brick. We take our place in the wall, bearing the load that is given to us, and supporting the Church for years to come.

As in the first reading, the life of the world, the fresh water that purifies the acrid waters of the sea, flows through the Temple, so too the grace of God flows from God, through the Church, into the whole world. As Jesus cleansed the temple, so we pray to him to cleanse the Church. We must be clean within if we are going to cleanse the culture outside. We should not be afraid that the Church is too filthy to give life to the world; we are simultaneously being cleansed and cleansing the world.

November 8, 2011 - Tuesday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

Jesus really gets us with how contradictory we are. True, we do not have slaves, but we live in a service culture. When I go to McDonald’s, I am not grateful that the cashier takes my order. When I go to the grocery store, I am not grateful that the clerk checks out my groceries. When I go to the bank, I am not grateful that the teller gives me money. So why would I expect God to be grateful when I do my job?

Jesus says that we are obligated to follow the commandments. We owe it to God. Why? Whose oxygen are we breathing? Whose water are we drinking? Whose planet are we standing on? What is the value of everything God has given me? We are getting paid; we should do our jobs.

What is our job exactly? To obey the commandments. Which commandments? Well, Jesus simplified that. He took it down to just one commandment: love. Love God above all, and love other people the way that Jesus loves me. If I spend 8 hours loving, should God be grateful and give me the rest of the day off? No! I am an unprofitable slave. Nothing I do does God any good. A human boss ought to thank their employees since the business profits by their work, but what profit does God have because I obey his commandments? None.

Indeed, we are getting the best possible deal. We were made to love. It is the purpose of our existence. Getting paid to love is like getting paid to eat or breathe. If I put in an 8 hour shift loving God above all and other people the way that Jesus did, I am the one better off at the end.

So why is it that we see God’s commandments as this burden? It is because of the lies of Satan. It is written in our first reading today that “By the envy of the Devil, death entered the world.” Satan is jealous of this arrangement we have with God where he gives us everything and then demands nothing in return except love. So the Devil whispers in our ears lies about how we hate helping other people and we hate praying, about how we are too busy for such things. He whispers anxieties and worries and then makes us think that we thought of the lies ourselves. If anyone ever tells you, if you even seem to tell yourself, that you don’t want to love, don’t believe it.

November 7, 2011 - Monday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

What is a scandal? Jesus tells us that “it is impossible that scandals should not come”, but what does he mean? A scandal, in the original usage, is a trap, or more specifically, the trigger of the trap. So with a mousetrap, you have the base and the catch and the bar and then you have the scandal. You put the cheese or peanut butter on the scandal and then the mouse comes to eat it and triggers the trap. Jesus is saying that it is impossible that there would not be scandals in the world. This world is full of scandals. If you touch them, the trap will get you.

When it was revealed that many children had been abused by Catholic priests, it was called “the child sex abuse scandal”, but the scandal was not the news reports nor the fact that there were news reports. The scandal was always there, hidden from view. The journalists were merely drawing attention to the scandal that already existed. If they seem to point out this scandal excessively, even more than other child sex abuse scandals, because they hate the Church, or if they are always trying to falsely implicate Pope Benedict in the scandal because that would sell more papers, the fact of the scandal remains.

Imagine all the people who have been hurt by these scandals! Imagine how many people stopped going to Mass because of a scandal and how many people would have joined the Church but for a scandal and how many children were forever alienated from the Church and how many children grew up to be sexual abusers themselves, for it is often the case that sexual abusers were themselves sexually abused. Imagine how much sin there is in this world because of each priest who decided to be ruled by selfish perversions. And hiding the scandal, which was done by other priests and bishops, is itself another scandal.

Jesus gives us the secret to dealing with scandal: condemn and forgive. “If your brother or sister sins against you, reprove them: and if they repent, forgive them.” He does not tell us to pretend as if there were no scandal. He tells us to condemn and forgive. And if we come upon a scandal, we are in no danger if we condemn it fearlessly and forgive readily, but do not think that “forgive” means withholding punishment. After all, Jesus said about those who cause scandals: being thrown into the ocean with a stone tied around their neck is too good for them. To forgive means that we are choosing to not be caught by the scandal, to not let the scandal stand between us and God.

November 6, 2011 - Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

This parable is confusing for some people, but a little clarification goes a long way. The virgins are girls, bridesmaids. Virgin is just the standard word for an adolescent girl. Their job was to be a part of the procession, carrying lamps.

I used to think that the wise girls were really the selfish girls. I learned about sharing in kindergarten, but it seems that these girls did not. Why not share the oil? Then I finally heard, as if for the first time, the reasoning of the wise girls and realized that they were right. There might not be enough for both. The oil each girl had in her flask might keep her lamp lit for 8 hours but would only keep two lamps lit for 4 hours. If they had shared the oil, they might have ended up with no light at all. It would be foolish to share the oil and burn through the limited supply twice as quickly.

What about the strange words of the bridegroom, “I do not know you”? The foolish girls went to town to buy some oil, and when they came back, presumably with well-lit lamps, they knock on the door respectfully. “Lord, Lord”, they say, “open up for us.” He does not refuse to open, but simply admits that he does not know them.

There is a parallel here between this parable and the end of the Sermon on the Mount, 18 chapters earlier. There Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you.’” The girls say “Lord, Lord.” The bridegroom says, “I do not know you.”

So what do all these symbols mean? Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit: it is used in Baptism and Confirmation and Anointing of the Sick to signify the Holy Spirit. If that is the case, there are two kinds of Holy Spirit in this parable, for there are two kinds of oil container. Some of the Holy Spirit is in a lamp, burning. Some of the Holy Spirit, at least for the five wise girls, is in a flask, not burning. So also, in every Christian, there are two kinds of Holy Spirit: there is the Holy Spirit that burns – a jumping up and down, casting out demons, speaking in tongues, healing the sick with a touch, floating in the air kind of Holy Spirit, and then there is the Holy Spirit that does not burn – a quiet, prayerful, loving your neighbor, biting your tongue, suffering patiently kind of Holy Spirit.

Of course there is really only one Holy Spirit, just as the oil in the lamps and the oil in the flasks was the same oil. It is not the Holy Spirit who is different; the difference is in the containers: our souls. Now all the girls had lamps, but only some had flasks. Every Christian is glad to have the power of the lamp, but not everyone wants to do the work required to fill up the flask. Some Christians go so far as to consider the lamps to be the real Holy Spirit. They gather on Sunday and speak in tongues and play music that sets their hearts on fire; they like to see miracles and healings and spectacular conversions. These are gifts from God; I do not denigrate any of this, but if this is all Christianity is for them, they are like the foolish girls: lamps but no flasks.

It is in quiet prayer that we fill our flasks. Here at Mass we fill our flasks. It was a mistake that in the past 50 years we have filled the silence of Mass with piles of hymns. It is in the silence that we fill our flasks. We will never make Mass as fun as MTV. Trying to make Mass as fun as MTV is like trying to make a hammer as musical as a guitar: the effort is destined to fail and, with each attempt, we have a less powerful hammer. The Church is calling us to return to silence, uncomfortable silence. Not merely the absence of noise, but the space to pray.

It is in patient suffering that we fill our flasks. Suffering is either accepted or chosen. We can accept suffering in sickness or cruel treatment. We can also choose to suffer by fasting or vigils or discomfort. Our culture cannot understand why someone would choose to be uncomfortable or accept suffering gladly. All suffering, whether avoiding meat every Friday or sleeping without a pillow, whether being shunned for refusing to gossip or being unjustly imprisoned, whether a papercut or terminal cancer, can be an opportunity to fill our flasks. Accepting suffering does not mean that we do not seek a cure, but that every pain-filled moment, every dangerous surgery, and nauseous medicine, becomes something we share with Christ dying on the Cross, a commonality between two suffering people.

It is in loving that we fill our flasks, loving our neighbor and loving our enemies: forgetting ourselves; thinking of what others need, how we could make life better for them by putting in the extra effort; refusing to rest when we do not need rest; refusing to rot in front of a screen; considering it no waste of time when we miss a show to help a brother. To love means to live for. If we love ourselves, we live for ourselves. If we love others, we live for them.

It is in study that we fill our flasks. So many people are ready to declare themselves experts on the faith. This is an epidemic in our whole culture, when every Joe has an opinion about global climate change. It is possible to live a simple faith, looking to others for guidance, but it is better to study. When this study is done humbly, realizing that however much is learned, there is more to understand, then a Christian fills their flask.

It is the will of God that we fill our flasks, so if anyone says to us, “Oh you with your boring Christianity”, while juggling snakes and drinking poisons and dancing in the aisles, if anyone tells us that we are missing something because we do not shout often enough, let us go on nonetheless, filling our flasks, waiting for the Bridegroom.

November 5, 2011 - Saturday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

You cannot serve God and Mammon. If you love Mammon you will hate God. God is always telling us to give all our money to the poor. He calls money worthless when he says to return it to Caesar. He tells his disciples to not carry a moneybag when he sends them out. If you love God, you will hate Mammon. A saint might use money to get something done, but the idea of collecting the stuff, working to pile up the stuff, is just silly. Money might be a necessary evil, but to desire wealth for its own sake is just ridiculous.

You cannot serve God and Mammon. If you attend to Mammon, you will neglect God. Even in prayer you will be thinking about how you can get more money, so who are you really praying to? If you attend to God, you will neglect Mammon, even at work you will try to be a better person, so who are you really working for? If you attend to Mammon, you will neglect God. You will work on Sunday, not because you might starve otherwise nor because your work is a necessary part of society but for the money. If you attend to God, you will neglect Mammon. You will be too busy loving your neighbor to consider how they might be profitable to you.

“No servant can serve two masters.” Instead of the usual word for servant, Jesus uses a word that implies that the servant is to some extent part of the family. I did not have any servants growing up, but I think of Alice on the Brady Bunch or Jeeves from Jeeves and Wooster or some of the other servants in books who form an essential part of the household. A farm hand might do a little work here and little work there, but a household servant cannot so easily divide their loyalties.

We belong to the household of God. In another place Jesus calls us “the adopted sons and daughters of God”, and our loyalty is called “love”; here Jesus calls us “housemates” and calls the loyalty “service”, but both images express the same idea: God is bringing us into his family. We stand outside in a dark, cold world. Mammon beckons, offering small, temporary comforts; God invites, offering warmth and light and a place to live. Above all, God offers a family to join. We have to choose.

November 4, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo, bishop

Today's Readings

St. Paul has a very good analogy for the spiritual life, in another reading, where he compares it to athletics. If only we could train and deny ourselves and strive like athletes, who do all these things just to win a gold medal, then we would be doing very well as Christians. If any Christian claims that the life demanded of us is too demanding, let them look at the 8 year old girl who is putting in 6 hours a day in the gym. If any Christian thinks that a little fasting during Lent is too hard, let them see how athletes eat. It is a very good point. The possibility for greatness lies within us, but will we use it?

Jesus makes the same point today with another analogy: consider how hard some people work to get rich. Consider the small business owner who is their only employee and works 18 hour days, who stays up all night making sure that the deliveries are sent out, who goes to bed each night thinking about how they could improve the inventory system and jumps out of bed each morning to open the store. The children of this age are wiser than the children of light when it comes to business.

Imagine if we worked as hard at being Christian as the average athlete with their sights set on the Olympics. Imagine if we worked as hard at growing our spiritual life as the average small business owner works at growing their market share. Whether in athletics or in business or in scientific achievement or in politics, men and women are right this moment working harder and smarter and better than most Christians will ever work at Christianity. A person would expect that since our reward is so much greater, our effort would be too, but instead we seem to hope that a little effort will be enough.

Maybe a little effort will be enough. Maybe God will let nearly everyone into Heaven after time in Purgatory. I do not know. But athletes do not say that they are "fast enough" and business owners do not say that they are "successful enough". If someone does, they are not the kind of person I am talking about. Let us not be good enough. Let us be excellent! Let us compete with each other to see who can love the most, believe the best, hope the strongest, and be the most humble.

November 3, 2011 - Thursday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

Jesus is explaining to us how much God loves us, and I think he hits on the perfect analogy: God loves you like you love money.

The woman in today’s Gospel is unreasonably excited over such a small amount of money. She loses a dollar, so she lights a lamp and searches the house. How much oil did she use in the lamp? Probably about a dollar’s worth. How much time did she waste, looking for the dollar? Probably more time than it would have taken to earn another dollar. But the irrationality of the woman knows no bounds. She then calls all her friends together to celebrate, in the middle of the night, that she has found the dollar. Most of them would just like to go back to sleep when they find out what all the fuss is about. “What’s the big deal?”, someone says, “It is just a dollar.”

Yet if she is unreasonable, we can sympathize. I remember reading about how various wealthy people make so much money every second that if they dropped a $100 bill, they should not waste the time to pick it up. This is true for all of us on some level. It is probably never worth the time or effort to pick up a penny. It is just of such little value. Nevertheless, people do pick up pennies and waste time counting them and when we drop a dime we will crawl on our hands and knees to retrieve it.

The woman is excited about the dollar because she only has ten dollars. God is excited about each new convert as if he only had ten people on earth. Does God really care about each one of us, personally? Yes. He does. The joy in heaven is “in the sight of the angels.” What are the angels looking at? God. So the image is not really the angels rejoicing but all the angels watching God dance for joy whenever a new sinner converts. “What’s the big deal?”, one might ask, “It is just another human.”

Brothers and sisters, who would have imagined how important we are to God? If I am not amazed that he values me so much, since human pride knows no bounds, I should consider anyone whom I despise or consider worthless: God loves them too. How does God love them? He loves us in a down-on-his-hands-and-knees-looking-under-the-refrigerator for us kind of way.

November 2, 2011 - The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)

Today's Readings

Today I am going to tell you something that ought to be said at funerals. It never is said because of the grieving friends and family and because these words are for all and can be very heavy if all placed on the one person who has died, but today, All Souls Day, is an opportunity to say this more generally, without causing undo grief:

Getting into Heaven is hard.

No one is going to Heaven because they liked gardening nor because they baked very good cookies nor because they gave good advice that one time. And no one is going to Heaven because they volunteered for a few hours a week at the homeless shelter nor because they were nice to animals nor because they went to Mass occasionally.

Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor active homosexuals, nor thieves, nor drunkards, nor gossips, nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God. For we can be sure that everyone who is sexually impure or greedy has no inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God.

Unless you are more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And NOT everybody who calls Jesus Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And if you have wealth, how difficult it is to enter the Kingdom of Heaven! For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

No one is going to Heaven because they happen to love those who love them. What is unusual about that? No one is going to Heaven because they want to. Everyone wants to go to Heaven. Heaven is perfect and that means that only perfect can get in. Nothing unclean can enter Heaven nor anyone who does terrible things or tells lies. If you are not perfect, you cannot go to Heaven.

So thank God for Purgatory! What is Purgatory? St. Paul calls it salvation by fire. Christ does too. He tells us to avoid “Hell where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched, but everyone”, he says, “will be salted with fire.” He likens it to a debtors’ prison, where we will not be released until we have paid the last penny.

Some say that Purgatory is the imperfect soul getting used to Heaven, like a person dipping their toe in a hot bath or a cold pool. It hurts at first, but eventually we become accustomed to it and glad for the comforting hot water or the refreshing cold water. Or like walking outside after being in the dark, the light hurts our eyes at first, until we become accustomed.

Some say that Purgatory is like a gym for the soul. While the lazy souls in Hell lie down and never get up again, the lazy souls in Purgatory run 10,000 mile laps. While the gluttonous soul in Hell eats and eats until it throws up and then eats some more, the gluttonous soul in Purgatory fasts for 100 years. While the jealous souls in Hell claw at each other, the jealous souls in Purgatory have their eyes closed for a few centuries.

So thank God for Purgatory, because there is a way for the imperfect to get into Heaven: by becoming perfect. When a person dies, if they are perfect they go to Heaven; if they are imperfect and stubborn, they go to Hell; if they are imperfect but willing to change, they go to Purgatory. Purgatory is the final proof of God’s mercy – if he can get someone into Heaven, he will.

If someone gets into Purgatory, there is no chance of failure. Everyone stays there until they succeed. From Purgatory, the soul can see Heaven, so they embrace all the necessary suffering with joy, keeping their eyes fixed on the final destination. If a soul spends 10 million years in Purgatory, they know that they will have forever in Heaven. Ten million years is not even a fraction of forever.

We should understand that time in Purgatory and time on earth do not run by the same clock. So ten million years passes there and only a little while passes here. The time between the death and the funeral could be centuries in Purgatory. I know that some people put their faith in promises about being released from Purgatory on Saturdays, but in that time, as much time passes as is necessary.

So we, for our part, should pray ceaselessly for the faithful departed. Our prayers can do so much good for the souls in Purgatory. Not only today, but every day. Who knows how much time passes from one All Soul’s Day to the next? And the most powerful prayer, by far, more powerful than any special holy card you might find, is the Mass. We offer every Mass for the faithful departed. Every Mass has an intention for a soul in purgatory. Even if it is offered for some other intention, a sick person or thanksgiving or anything else, there is a separate intention for the souls in Purgatory.

And indulgences are powerful prayers too. What is an indulgence? It is a little suffering, like fasting or giving up time, that we offer to the souls in Purgatory. Just as a little time on earth is a great deal of time in Purgatory, so a little suffering here makes up for a great deal of suffering there.

It is true that there have been problems with indulgences. One kind of sacrifice is giving money to the poor, so if I collect money for the poor and tell you it is an indulgenced act, it could look like I am selling you an indulgence, which is of course nonsense. And if a few priests, hundreds of years ago, expressed this poorly, it does not void the truth.

Whether prayer or fasting or almsgiving, or any other suffering, such as a sickness or suffering injustice without complaining, we can offer it up and help the souls in Purgatory. And every suffering that we do, in addition to helping the souls now in Purgatory, counts as time off our own time in Purgatory. Every sin we commit adds to the time, even after it is forgiven, and everything we suffer subtracts from the time.

So, in summary: it is hard to get into Heaven, but easy to get into Purgatory, and everyone in Purgatory eventually makes it to Heaven. So thank God for Purgatory, and pray for those who are making their way through right now.

November 1, 2011 - Solemnity of All Saints

Today's Readings

Today is All Saints Day. To better understand the meaning of this holiday, we need to know what a saint is. There are really two meanings of the word saint, two ways that we use this word, and they reflect the two meanings of this holiday. “Saint” means “those who belong to God”, so it partially means all the people in heaven, but it also means all the people in the Church, including us. We belong to God. So today we celebrate the achievements of all the saints in heaven, and we celebrate the possibility of all the saints on earth.

What is the achievement of the saints in heaven? They are happy. They are praising God forever. They are doing what humans were meant to do. If a saint from heaven appeared to us right here, we would think they were an angel or one of the ancient gods, but really they are just a human like you and me. Just some Joe or Sally who lived the way we live. On earth their appearance probably was not impressive, but now we would be embarrassed to stand in their presence. I know that some of the saints in heaven were homeless here on earth. Here they were, to be honest, filthy and smelly, repulsive. There they are now so beautiful that we would not be sure whether to stare in amazement or look away ashamed. This is the achievement of the saints in heaven. These are the people we celebrate today.

What is our possibility, we saints on earth? To be like those saints in heaven. A few years from now, not so many, probably less than we expect, we might be in heaven. We might be like the angels. But how do we turn this possibility into a reality? The answer is in the readings today. Revelation tells us that salvation belongs to our God and the Lamb, Jesus Christ. If we are going to get into heaven, it will not be by our own strength.

In Revelation we see all the saints in heaven praising God. If you want to grow up to be a basketball player or a violinist or anything else, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you want to grow up to be a saint, you have to practice praising God. We need to put in some real time here on earth praising God. We need to set aside time each day to praise God. We need to praise him while we are working. We need to periodically shut off the TV and praise God. No one is ever too busy to praise God.

We do not praise God because he has low self-esteem. We do not praise him for his benefit but for our own. We praise God not out of flattery or fear but because it is the truth. He is great. He is wise. He is powerful. He is wonderful. He is mighty. We forget these things unless we say them. We begin to think that some human person, ourselves perhaps or a star, is the greatest, or, if get beyond this delusion, we begin to think that nothing in existence is really that great after all. If we are going to become saints we have to learn the truth: there is something wonderful in this universe and it is God.

The psalm gives us advice about how to get to heaven. It asks, “Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD or who may stand in his holy place?” This was the very question we had, but the answer is not so easy as I had hoped: “One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is useless.” I hear that and wonder whether there is any other way. If heaven is only for those who have never sinned, then we may as well give up now. We are in luck though, we sinners. Jesus Christ came to forgive all of our sins. He forgives our sins without lowering the standard. A clean heart and sinless hands and pure desires are still necessary, but he will bring us up to the standard and even higher.

That higher standard is set today in the Gospel. We have here the beatitudes, these beautiful blessings. Some people consider them to be a kind of commandment, but I think they ought to be thought of more as a ruler. In my house, where I grew up, there is a wall, between the kitchen and the laundry room, where we stood as children while our mother marked our heights. Those marks, now barely visible, show how we grew, inch by inch.

The beatitudes are like that wall. Periodically we ought to stand up next to the beatitudes and see how we are growing. Do I care less about money? Am I dissatisfied with this world? Am I meeker? Do I hunger and thirst for justice? Am I more merciful? Are my desires more pure? Am I making peace in the world? Have I been persecuted for my faith? Inch by inch, reaching heaven by inches, always growing, never shrinking back, and someday we will be a saint in heaven.

Beloved: Do you see what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God? And so we are. We are his children now, but what we might yet be has not been revealed. We know a little, just glimpses, like in the book of Revelation today, but we cannot even imagine what it will really be like. We just know that it is going to be good. We just know that we want to be saints forever.

I want to be a saint forever, and I know that in your soul, each one of you, you do too. I know this because built into every human soul is a deep desire to be in heaven. Some people mistake it as boredom or inexplicable sadness. It is dissatisfaction with this world. It is the mourning that Jesus calls blessed, the feeling that surely there is something more than just this. In some people it becomes greed or gluttony or lust, but neither money nor food nor sex can satisfy this desire. God has made us for himself, and we are restless until we rest in him.