MISSIONARIES OF ST. FRANCIS DE SALES

From SFS Bible Diary

Click on the day for the readings

Monday: August 14th

Maximilian Maria Kolbe, O.F.M. Conv. (1894-1941) was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar, who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the German death camp of Auschwitz, located in German-occupied Poland during World War II. He is called a martyr of charity. He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners, and the pro-life movement.

Reflection: There are two themes running parallel in the Gospel of today: Jesus as the suffering servant and Jesus the dutiful citizen. Jesus predicts his passion and suffering for the second time. Jesus uses three key verbs in describing his future: he will be delivered into the hands of men; they will kill him; he will be raised on the third day. These three verbs depict the three fundamental realities of human life. All of us experience moments of betrayal and of being killed in different ways. There is no life possible without death – death to oneself, to one’s ego, to one’s passions and selfishness. Betrayal and death are not end in themselves. There is always a resurrection – rising to new life and new possibilities. Jesus sets an example for responsible religious duties by paying temple tax of half shekel. The inquiry was made by the temple authorities about Jesus’ paying the temple tax in order to trap him and his disciples. If he refused, they would portray him as an outlaw defying the Jewish norms. Even when Jesus knew that the Temple of Jerusalem was converted into a “den of robbers”, he fulfils religious duties notwithstanding temple corruption. Prophetic action is authenticated by responsible participation and not by irresponsible criticism. Jesus also sets an example for poverty and hard work. Although Judas kept the community purse, the Temple tax was not paid from it; it was paid by the work of Peter fishing and getting the shekel from the mouth of the fish. Two lessons are taught here: Jesus used the exact money for his need – note that the fish produced one shekel for the just payment of two persons; he did not tax the community for his personal needs but found means to alleviate and support the community.

Tuesday, August 15th

Reflection: Mother Mary’s life is intrinsically linked with the life of her Son Jesus and the life of the Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church states about Mother Mary’s Assumption in the following words: “Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians” (966). The Feast of the Assumption is the celebration of the faith of Mother Mary. Elizabeth greeted her with these words: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:45). It was her faith that enabled her to conceive the Son of God and it was the same faith that linked her to the passion, death and resurrection of her Son. Finally, the same faith enables her to be eternally united with Him in body and soul. Even though she is assumed from the earth in body and soul, she continues to accomplish the mission entrusted to her by her Son at the foot of the cross – taking care of the Church (Jn 19:26). Mother Mary’s assumption is the guarantee for all the faithful that the trials and sufferings of this life are not the final word, but God will reward his followers by making them sharers in his glory.

Wednesday: August 16th

St. Stephen of Hungary (969-1038) was a just, peaceful and religious king, keeping strictly to the laws of the Church and always seeking the good of his subjects. He established many dioceses and did much to strengthen the life of the church.

Reflection: In this passage, Jesus gives the believers a clear lesson in fraternal correction, which is one of the most delicate subjects in interpersonal relationship. The person intending to do the fraternal correction is expected to do some ground work of real examination of conscience so as to discern whether the motive is to punish the offender or to win him/her back to God and to the community. The first mode of fraternal correction recommended by the Lord is that of person to person talk. This ensures respect for the person; it avoids gossip and tarnishing the name of the neighbour and ensures fraternal charity. What Jesus means by sin here is a broken relationship with God and the community. The second mode of fraternal correction involves the representation of the community in the form of one or two witnesses. The objective of the presence of two witnesses is twofold: to increase the persuasion on the offender to repent and to serve as witness of the fraternal correction given. In the last instance, when the person is stubborn and not willing for self-correction, he/she is brought to the community for a hearing. If this method too fails then he/she is to be considered as a “gentile and a tax collector”. This phrase has got two interpretations: the first is the traditional understanding of the offender losing the membership in the community and becoming an outsider. The second is more revolutionary: that such a hard core offender becomes the object of one’s compassion and mercy. Jesus was known as the “friend of tax collectors and sinners” and he went out of his way to show them mercy.

Thursday: August 17th

St Hyacinth (1185-1257) was born in Silesia, Poland. He is one of the first members of the Dominicans. He received his habit from Dominic himself. He is the patron of Poland. He is invoked by those in danger of drowning.

Reflection: Forgiveness and mercy are defined as constituent qualities of God (Mt 9:13; Eph 2:4). Unforgiving attitude is defined by Jesus as the self verdict of condemnation. Many Fathers of the Church have opined that the “image and likeness of God” in which humans are created is best represented in us when we are compassionate and merciful. God uses the same measure of our mercy and compassion that we show to our fellow beings in bestowing his compassion and mercy upon us. It is not clear from the many passages in the Bible whether God’s mercy to us is unconditional. There are several indications in the Bible to show that God’s mercy is conditional. One clear passage for this affirmation is today’s parable of the unforgiving servant. In the prayer “Our Father”, taught by Our Lord, we say “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who tres¬pass against us”. Showing mercy to others, especially the undeserving ones, is not a favour to them. The first beneficiaries of forgiveness and mercy are we ourselves. St. Francis de Sales says that human heart cannot handle many emotions at the same time. If our heart is filled with hatred or revenge, all our dealings with others, including the loved ones, will be coloured by our hatred and revenge. When we forgive others, our heart is filled with compassion and love and that will be transmitted to all. In this Year of Mercy, the Lord invites us to be “missionaries of mercy”, who habitually and consistently reach out to all with the “forgiveness from the heart”.

Friday: August 18th

Saint Helena was the mother of the emperor Constantine the Great. She is traditionally credited with a pilgrimage to Syria Palaestina, during which she is claimed to have discovered the True Cross. She is the patroness of archaeologists, converts, difficult marriages and divorced people.

Reflection: Jesus gives clear answer to his adversaries and guidance for his followers on one of the most sensitive questions faced by the world today – marriage and divorce. Jesus affirms that divorce is out of harmony with the divine will (vv. 4-6). Jesus quotes Genesis 1:17 to prove his case that God made humans man and woman with the intention of joining them together and then he refers to Genesis 2:24 to affirm the lasting union – that the two were to become one flesh. The expression: “become one flesh” in the Hebrew language does not connote just sexual union alone, but an inti¬mate sharing of dreams, hopes, ambitions and plans, including sexual activity. While describing the indissolubility of marriage, Jesus affirms the Yahwist tradition of creation that emphasizes more the unitive dimension of marriage than the procreative factor: “A man ... clings to his wife and they become one flesh (Gen 2:24)”. Second Vatican Council recognized the mutual love and assistance between the spouses as an equally primary good of the marriage together with procreation of children. St. John Paul II states: “the human body, with its sex, and its masculinity and femininity... is not only a source of fruitfulness and procreation, as in the whole natural order. It includes right from the beginning the nuptial attribute, that is, the capacity of expressing love, that love in which the person becomes a gift and – by means of this gift – fulfils the meaning of his being and existence (The Human Person Becomes a Gift in the Freedom of Love, General Audience, January 16, 1980).

Saturday: August 19th

St. John Eudes (1601-1680) was born in the village of Ri, in Normandy. He was a a French missionary priest, who founded the Congregation of Jesus and Mary and the Order of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge with the object of educating priests in seminaries and of rescuing women who were in moral danger.

Reflection: It is important to note that the teaching of Jesus on marriage and divorce is followed immediately by expressing his attitude towards children. The passage that follows this section speaks about a young man and his attitude towards riches and possessions. J. Jeremias suggests that this arrangement (found in Mt and Mk) was a little catechism which taught the followers of Jesus how they should understand marriage, the role of children and attitude towards possessions. Babylonian Talmud narrates the beautiful custom in Jerusalem to make the little children, boys and girls, to fast on the Atonement Day and then to lead them to the elders for them to bless the children and to pray for them that they might attain knowledge of Torah and good works. The disciples rebuke the parents and the children for various reasons: annoyance that Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem is being delayed; irritation over children who interrupt the important discussion among the grownups; resentment that Jesus is treated as any other Rabbi. Jesus’ attitude to children is explained in this episode. They are the objects of his blessings. They are the representatives of the Kingdom he came to preach. The disciples are to grow into the innocence and transparency of the children if they are to enter into the Kingdom. The human Jesus is fully presented by Mk in the parallel passage where Mk states that Jesus “took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them” (10:16a).

Sunday: August 20th

Reflection: Jesus praises the faith of a gentile woman and blesses her for her perse¬verance in faith. God’s compassion extends to all, including the gentiles, is the message of this passage. Jesus had already made mention of Tyre and Sidon while comparing the Galilean towns that were more stubborn in not accepting the message of salvation (Mt 11:21-24). Tyre and Sidon is also the place where we meet the widow who supported Elijah during the famine (1King 17:8-24). We meet this woman as one who will not take no for an answer. This behaviour can appear to us to be rude. Her rudeness comes from two sources: the desperate situation which leaves her with no one to turn to; her absolute faith that Jesus is able to answer her petition. Jesus’ refusal to grant her request can have various reasons: Jesus wants her to understand that he is not a miracle worker or magician but the Messiah; he is also testing the faith of this woman, just like he replied to his mother in Jn 2:4 when Mary told him that the family had no wine. The Canaanite woman, just like the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn 4:25-29) recognizes that Jesus is no magician or miracle worker, but the true Messiah. She fell at his feet with this supplication: “Lord, help me!” St. Chrysostom tells that when the heart is filled with pain and sorrow, prayer becomes shorter. She confesses her faith in the faith-filled answer she gave to the Lord. Jesus’ reply to her that it is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs can appear as an insult to her. Jesus is calling her attention to recognize Israel’s priority in the divine plan and to admit her dependency on the only true God. The Greek word for dog used here by Jesus does not refer to the fierce watch dogs, but the pet dogs that form part of the family. She understands the context and out of the very words of the Lord weaves a plea: Yes Lord, I am one of the house dogs in the household and deserve your mercy. Jesus is pleased with the demonstration of faith by this pagan woman and he heals her daughter. This is one of the few instances in the Gospels where Jesus performs the distant healing, without the presence of the subject involved, because of the “great faith” of the person who pleads.

Monday: August 21th

Pope Saint Pius X (1835-1914)(Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto) was Pope from 1903 to 1914. He was canonized in 1954. Pius X is known for vigorously opposing modernist interpretations of Catholic doctrine, promoting traditional devotional practices and orthodox theology. His most important reform was to order the codification of the first Code of Canon Law.

Reflection: “What good deed I must do, to have eternal life?” Eternal life is not primar¬ily an issue of ‘good deeds,’ instead, ‘good life.’ It is the quality of life that matters. Elsewhere we observe evil spirits venturing to proclaim Jesus: “I know who you are, the Holy One of God” (Mk 1:24-25). But, Jesus was not allowing them to do so (Same reaction we observe with St.Paul at Acts 16:16-18). What they were attempting was to proclaim the Good News! - indeed the best of all good deeds! However, the quality of their life was ‘unclean,’ so Jesus could not accept it. The life of the young man was stained with avarice; the enjoyment of his heart would, naturally, be around material goods. Such a heart will not be able to ‘taste and see how good the Lord is’ (Ps 34:8).