January 17 Reflection

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

Magnetism. On one level, it’s that physical phenome- non in which a bar of iron or steel can attract other iron. It can grab on to almost any metallic object from a coin to a car and everything in between. It’s the “glue” that holds the photo- graphic memories of a family on the refrigerator door.

On another level, the word refers to those features of a person that makes him or her attractive. In the case of Our Lord Jesus, we have not only attraction but also the fact that He is both human and divine. The gospels give us glimpses of both. Jesus at one time raises a dead man to life but at another time He is caught napping in the stern of St. Peter’s boat.

In the gospel passage we read today, John our author gives us all the subjects and verbs of the incident, but none of the adjectives or adverbs. We hear that two former disciples of the Baptist were sent after the Lord. They experienced in turn His magnetism. But how did their faces look? And how did Jesus’ own face look? Or with what tone of voice did Jesus have when He asked them “What are you looking for?” John doesn’t say.

I surmise a smile and a welcoming arm gesture when Jesus invited them to come and see where He was stay- ing. However John steps out of character to note the time of day when this happened. Maybe because this incident marked the hour of the first calling of people that Jesus gave.

We find out the name of one of the men was Andrew. He in turn introduces his brother Simon to the Lord. Simon gets a new name, along with a new calling. The magnetic attraction of Jesus usually involves a change in the other’s life.

I believe it follows that we have an opportunity this January day to reflect on our own calling from the Lord. While each of us is unique, we also have a common call as Catholic Christians to “introduce” others, so to speak, to Jesus. A sad fact is that the largest group of people in our country in terms of religious affiliation are the “nones.” People with no connection to any religion. I believe we have a call to introduce them to Jesus. And we can do that more by our actions than by words. The action of our Christian lifestyle, which has a built in magnetism of its own.

The story is told of the captain of a Mississippi riverboat who, as his ship passed another vessel, grabbed the first passenger he saw and said, “Look, look over there on the other boat, Look at its captain.” The man was some- what bewildered and asked, “Why do you want me to look at that captain? What makes him so special?”

Then the captain told him the story of how he had collided one night with another boat. His own vessel was foundering and in the process he was thrown overboard. The captain of the other vessel saw his desperate plight and maneuvered close enough that he was able to dive into the water and save his life.

After telling the story, the once-saved captain then turned to the bystander and said, “Ever since that day, I want to point out my rescuer to others.” Likewise, as a people who have been magnetically attracted by Jesus, and been saved, secured and loved by Him, we should want to point out to others the God-Man who has rescued us from the consequences of our sins.

God love you, and give you His peace!

The Feast of the Holy Family

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

To be cute about it, I quote here an American humorist by the name of Evan Esar (d. 1995): “Family: A social unit where the father is concerned with parking space, the children with outer space, and the mother with closet space.”

Whether Mr. Esar was fully correct or not, there is a grain of truth in what he wrote, and there is always some truth in wholesome humor.
However, for my purpose I prefer this statement of Sir Winston Churchill about the nature of family. “There is no doubt that it is around family and the home that all the greatest virtues …are created, strengthened, and maintained.”

Over this holiday time of year we are most likely to be with family, either literally or virtually because of the virus. We can verify Sir Winston’s observation. Family also gives us the answers to most of life’s important questions.

Do you think the young Jesus had questions? Certainly He must have, because remember He took on a human nature “like ours in everything but sin.” What is one of the principal ways we learn? Through answers to questions. Through that triple-spoke process of lessons taught, example given, and experience lived, Our Lord and Savior indeed grew in wisdom and grace.

I think it is an important detail that all this happened in the little village of Nazareth. It was located on the edge of the empire, far from the high society and corruption of Rome. So insignificant was it that it is nowhere even men- tioned in the whole Old Testament. Great things can happen in humble places, as our family homes most often at- test.
Could Our Lord have had better teachers in how to handle life than Mary and Joseph? Hardly. Without any ad- vanced degrees after their names, we can say with conviction that both Christ’s parents had “PhD’s” in holiness. Mary who was declared “full of grace” by an archangel, and Joseph remembered as a “just man” in the Scriptural sense cannot be excelled at their task. The Holy Spirit has decided not to tell us if any peers taught Jesus things, but we can imagine they too played a part, for better or worse, in His human upbringing. So we stand back for a time from all our concerns to admire and celebrate this Holy Family. We can see the necessity of these thirty or so years to prepare Our Lord for His incomparable mission.

That brings up the subject of our mission. Obviously it begins in our family circle, but it has to expand from there if we are to take our Baptismal and Confirmation promises seriously. That means doing our part to tell the waiting world all about Jesus and His Good News, even if the world neither acknowledges nor cares that it is waiting. Wait- ing for something, or more accurately, Someone, beyond its own calculations to give it purpose. Taking up the ad- monitions of Sirach and Colossians, which we read this weekend, is a good place to begin. After all, that’s our way to heaven. Here is George Bernard Shaw’s take on family: “A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” Think about that!

God love you and give you His peace in 2021.

Reading I: Sirach 3: 2-6, 12-14
Fidelity to the Lord implies many virtues. Chief among them is our duties toward our parents. The traditional blessings are then listed.

Reading II: Colossians 3: 12-21
This section is an early baptismal instruction. It describes the Christian community which a new member embraces through his/her baptism.

The Gospel: Luke 2: 22, 39-40
This section points out the necessity of the Nazareth years in Jesus’ life. It was there that He grew strong in the full experience of a human nature. In that way, He could bring the Spirit of God into contact with every area of our lives.

Reflections December 7

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
This weekend we have our annual encounter with that strange man with an even stranger message. The Church wants us to hear from him each Advent season, so he becomes in fact “the man of Advent”: John the Baptist. His is a call to lift our minds and hearts up from undue concern about earthly prep for Christmas 2020 and consider the superior importance of spiritual preparation for the next coming of Christ.

After all, the ultimate reason for Christmas is the incarnation, the taking on of a human nature of the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He truly becomes the “Emmanuel” foretold by the prophets, a title which means “God with us.”

In this early part of Advent, the focus turns to the matter of Christ’s second coming because that event should have a profound personal impact on how we live each day.

The first Coming, we know, is all joy and glory to God in the highest. That’s as it should be, as we note God’s eternal plan slowly coming to fruition with the birth of the holy Babe.

The second coming is described in more frightening terms because then this Babe will have matured and will be coming as our Judge. That will also mark the end of the universe as we know it. So that inescapable moment of judgment we each face could well have a background we can only imagine. Frightening beyond words.

As if to shake us out of the sentimentality associated with Christmas, the Church presents us with Mark’s gospel, where he hurries past the birth tale to Jesus’ adult baptism in the Jordan. It marks the beginning of Our Lord’s brief time being personally present as God’s best emissary. Jesus launches His “campaign” if you will. We will come back to this event in a few weeks to mark the liturgical end of the Christmas season early next year.

God knows we Americans are very familiar this year with the notion of “campaigns,” as we have just lived through months of one for the highest office in our land.

I think the vitriol we saw on both sides causes us to look back in wonder that we could ever stoop so low to make a point.

Meanwhile, we must be careful not to turn John the Baptist into a kind of campaign manager. Rather, is he Our Lord’s precursor, the one who gets us ready to hear the Good News?

Salvation history has come to its final chapter, after centuries of hoping for it. Thus does John the Baptist straddle both biblical testaments as the last prophet of the Old and the first of the New. The era of ultimate choice has arrived, and John is the first to make it known. In blunt terms, it is between Jesus and Satan.

Satan, you ask? Oh yes, he’s still around and very real. He is evil personified. We may not automatically think that way but every one of our sins is a vote cast for the evil one. This culture of ours has found a somewhat sleazy way out of living by objective morality by making everything subjective.

So somebody might justify drinking too much at a Christmas party by thinking he/she deserves it “because 2020 has been a very bad year.” We should wonder just how such an excuse would hold up on Judgment Day. Tough and sober truth.

So, allow me to put an Advent twist on the well-known lyric of a Christmas song, “You better watch out; you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why: Jesus Christ is coming to town.”

At any rate, God love you and give you His peace.

Advent Hope

One day, while filing away papers, the secretary of President John F. Kennedy found this note, written in the president’s own hand. It read: “I know there is a God—and I see a storm coming. If He has a place for me, I believe that I am ready.” Our Lord’s warning this weekend to be ready, and President Kennedy’s readiness to serve, invite me to ask: “How ready am I to put myself at God’s service for whatever God may ask me to do?”

Today begins Advent: a new season and a new Liturgical Year. It is a short season, often cut off from a full four weeks by the secular calendar. It is as if there’s such a thing as “Lent Lite,” since it asks us to do penance and fast in preparation for the great Feast of Christ- mas.
Of course, one nod to the world around us and the media that frame it, and you would believe that this is the season for shopping, decorating, and even baking. None of those is bad in itself. But if any of it robs us of some quiet time for reflection and prayer, then we have wasted Advent time.

In fact, this First Sunday of the season traditionally pulls us away from thoughts about the annual celebration of Christ’s first coming to make us reflect on His second one. That is very much an unknown entity, even though it is inevitable.

The whole point of Advent is not to exclude our pre-Christmas fun, but to remind us of life’s serious side. It’s time to get ready for the next life as President Kennedy believed himself to be.

Nor does Advent ask us to pretend that Christ has not already come to us. It is rather telling us that Christ wants to come closer to us. One day in the unknown future, framed in the Book of Revelation as one of fire raging and trum- pets blaring, Jesus will come back as He promised He would, to judge us all and decide our eternal fate.

In the meantime, we are asked to remember the fact of His wanting to come closer to us. In fact, we should desire to be one of His points of entry into the world, always being attentive to what’s coming, rather than just to opt for a set- tled and comfortable life. This means that we actually facilitate the coming of God’s world into our own that began some 2,000 years ago with Christ. Now each of us has a part to play. In other words, each of us must so live that it doesn’t matter when the end comes because our whole life is a preparation for it.

In this context, it is remarkable what insight comes to us by way of that twenty-something Little Flower who is Saint Therese of Lisieux. Once she wrote this: “Let us go forward in peace, our eyes upon heaven, the only one goal of our labors.”

God love you and give you His Advent peace!

Reading I: Isaiah 63: 16-17, 19; 64: 2-7
The prophet quotes a psalmist who cries out like a despairing man, and implores God’s intervention. He admits that God has abandoned the sinner to his guilt.

Reading II: I Corinthians 1: 3-9
Paul declares himself to be an authentic apostle by virtue of his calling. Using his regular salutation signifies God’s goodness and His many gifts. He thanks God especially for His gifts to the Corinthian community.

The Gospel: Mark 13: 33-37
“Not knowing the day nor the hour” is Mark’s reason for exhorting vigilance. Jesus expands His meaning to go past the pending destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple to include all Jews and Jewish Christians.

Sunday Reflections

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

Ronald Wayne would draw personal meaning from today’s parable. Who is he? Ronald Wayne is the little known third Apple founder who sold his 10% stake for $800. Apple shares hit an historic $1 trillion market cap value last August. Owning 10% of Apple right now sounds like a dream. But Mr. Wayne knows what it’s like to watch that opportunity slip away.

Wayne joined Apple co-founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, who were 21 and 25 at the time, to provide the new company with so-called “adult supervision” and to oversee mechanical engineering and documentation in exchange for a 10% stake in the business. While both Jobs and Wozniak were young and broke, Wayne had assets, including a house, and feared that the financial burden would fall on him if the deal ever went south. So after spending a mere 12 days with Wozniak and Jobs, Wayne had his name taken off the contract and sold his shares back to the cofounders. Today a 10% stake in Apple would be worth $95 billion. It would make Wayne one of the richest people in the world. Google the rest of his story and discover what he thinks of his decision.

If He were preaching in person today, I believe Jesus would have used this story of Mr. Wayne in a retelling of His original parable. We read there about the three reactions that the servants had to the gifts given them by the “man going on a journey.” How we pity servant number 3 for his foolish choice. Talk about the need in life to balance prudence with wisdom! But the parable also stresses the importance of using one’s gifts and talents to serve others, especially the poor.

This Sunday just happens to be World Day of the Poor in our Church calendar. It is the fourth one of these “Days” having been established by Pope Francis in 2017. Here are some of the thoughts in Pope Francis’ inaugural Message given at that time and still relevant:

“Over these 2,000 years, how many pages of history have been written by Christians who, in utter simplicity and humility, and with generous and creative charity, have served their poorest brothers and sisters. The most outstanding example is that of Francis of Assisi

…He was not satisfied to embrace lepers and give them alms, but chose to go to Gubbio to stay with them. We may think of the poor simply as the beneficiaries of our occasional volunteer work, or impromptu acts of generosity that appease our conscience. However good and useful such acts may be for making us sensitive to people’s needs…they ought to lead to a true encounter with the poor and a sharing that becomes a way of life.

…The Body of Christ, broken in the Sacred Liturgy, can be seen, through charity and sharing, in the faces and persons of the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.

…Saint John Chrysostom’s admonition remains ever timely: ‘If you want to honor the body of Christ, do not scorn it when we see it is naked; do not honor the Eucharistic Christ with silk vestments, and then, leaving the church, neglect the other Christ suffering from cold and nakedness.’”

God love you and give you His peace!

Sunday Reflections

Vigilance is a profit center. Oh, not in the financial sense of course, but in the beneficial list of behaviors. Note how vigilance has been the common message of various authorities during this pandemic.

If a person lets down his/her guard, or lacks vigilance, the virus quickly steps in to increase its victim tally. One side effect is that we have citizens ready and eager to be reporters of any violators of the ever-changing mandates.

I must note a certain discrepancy in the way such promulgations are made, because churches have more stringent rules applied to them than casinos and “Big Box stores.” Is this proof that “the smoke of secular- ism” has wended its way into legislative chambers?
Be that as it may, there is no doubt or confusion about where Jesus stands on the matter of staying vigi- lant. He knows what happens to us with the passage of time and how we tend to be nonchalant about our lives and the things that really matter.

This weekend’s parable may mystify us a bit as we note the strange marriage ritual in the background. Be at ease: the same thing teases good biblical scholars. But knowing that the ten virgins represent us as disci- ples is all we really have to know to understand Jesus’ point.
Living as we do in a culture that prefers to sideline God and all things supernatural, it is quite difficult for us to be vigilant. Take God out of the picture and why be concerned about an ultimate account of our
lives? The judge’s bench is empty. That being so, we have permission to ask: “Who cares how I behave? As long as I’m not harming anyone, I can decide what’s right for me and what’s not.” Of course that kind of thinking has its built in dangers. Inconsistency is one of them.

Delusion is another. Soon the fabric of society starts to fray. The world turns upside down, just as it would if we were ever to foolishly imple- ment a policy to defund our police.

In the debate that ensues here we have to admit that both sides cannot be right. St. Paul tells us today who and what we can really trust. In so doing, he reflects the wisdom that describes herself in the First Reading.

Meanwhile we have to admit that secular history offers multiple examples of who not to trust. Since I began with reference to profit centers, here is an apt closing on the matter of trust from the business world. Once a leading economic expert, Professor Irving Fisher of Yale had this to say about the bright future of the stock market and the American economy: “Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” His statement was spoken in early October 1929, just a couple of weeks before the stock market crash that ushered in the Great Depression.

God love you and give you His peace!

Reading I: Wisdom 6: 12-16
Here we find an exhortation by the author to seek Lady Wisdom. “She” is easily accessible and also “hastens to make herself known.”

Reading II: I Thessalonians 4: 13-18, or 4: 13-14
Paul uses an early Christian creed to reassure his readers who wonder about the fate of their dead. This creed is the foundation of his own hope in the coming apocalypse.

The Gospel: Matthew 25: 1-13
Thematrimonyceremonialheredescribedismysteriouseventobiblicalscholars. Forsure,thetenvirginsrepresentthedisci- ples as expectant believers. The delay of the groom’s coming brings the danger of love growing cold. Jesus’ point is to keep vigilant.

Reflections by Rev. Leonard Peterson

After counting the racks of birthday cards, I believe the next largest display of cards for purchase are found in the “Congratulations” section. I’m certain the same holds true for those popular electronic greetings. Why is that do you suppose?

One simple answer is that you and I have a birthday each year. But in the course of our lives certain special events come along that we celebrate as high points, often one of a kind.

So there are congratulatory cards for engagements and weddings; anniversaries and graduations; new babies, new jobs and new homes; yes even for retirements. The cards can be spiritual or silly, but at best they mark the event as significant enough to call for a card.

Only God can congratulate us for living the way He thinks we should. This idea is at the heart of the familiar beatitudes that we read on this All Saints Day. Jesus is saying “Blest” or “Happy” or “Fortunate” are those who can look beyond the measures of this world to realize they are headed for a great reward in heaven.

So the poor in spirit, the mourners and the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers and the persecuted, the inheritors and those athirst for holiness will attain that goal. Even those who suffer insult and persecution for being Jesus’ followers have every reason to hope in God and trust His Word.

Who then are these people from all over the globe that we call saints? They are no more nor less than people who lived like everyone should but who did it better than most of us. I think we’re justified in adding to the official Church list the names of holy people we knew well even though there may never be a side altar dedicated to them. Some of them might even be from our own families. You could say that we saw them as “living holy cards.”

Once upon a time a Protestant minister came up with the clever slogan that these eight statements of Our Lord express the “Be-Attitude” in life. True enough. But equally true is the fact that if we wish to dwell in the “house of many mansions,” then we must make our reservations well in advance.

God love you and give you His peace!

Reading I: Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14
Here we have two distinct visions of John. In the first, 144, 000 are observed “sealed on the forehead” with God’s name for their fidelity to Him. In the second, an uncountable group from all nations wear white robes cleansed in the Lamb’s Blood and they hoist the palm frond of victory.

Reading II: I John 3: 1-3
This is an exhortation to the Johannine community that God’s love for them makes them “children of God.” They sing in response, because they believe they will become divinized. They also believe that God demands of them that they be as pure as possible.

The Gospel: Matthew 5: 1-12a
The famous “Sermon on the Mount,” encompassing the next two chapters in Matthew, begins with Jesus’ eight beatitudes. A beatitude is defined as “an exclamation of congratulations that recognizes an existing state of happiness.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

For quite some time I have been fascinated by the flexibility of our beloved English language. Its development is often rather quick, especially with the advent of “techno speak.” Old words get evicted or completely change their meaning. New words are created swiftly and get widespread use. So it is with the acronym “ASAP.” Its imperative implications come paired with urgency, and in a fast paced world, the letters have even been turned into a word. It has a “cousin,” if you will, in an older creation, namely “PDQ.” The milder translation is “pretty darn quick.” I am deliberately omitting the vulgar meaning of letter “D” because we’re in church for a homily. But you get the idea. I eventually found out that there are 37 other meanings for PDQ, including a restaurant chain!

All this talk of language arose in my mind after rereading what St. Matthew has to say about how Our Lord’s first disciples reacted to His invitation to follow Him. Matthew tells us that they did it “immediately.” How refreshing it was to read that for me. So often I wrestle with indecision. “Immediately” for me involves a certain freedom, unhampered by doubt or indecision. It further notifies all of us that the attraction Jesus had here was for real men used to making quick but important decisions fighting for their livelihood on the open sea. Where and when to toss their nets for fish could almost be a matter of life or death in their daily struggle to provide for their families and themselves.

I read a scriptural commentary in which the writer almost hastens to tell us that Matthew’s account is a compressed one. That St. John’s version of the same incident is more likely because it includes the natural human tendency to be hesitant to embark on a new direction in life. But I thought to myself that “Sure, we all have to do our research and give serious thought to any major decision.” Today we might say “Go on Google first.” Certainly, the early four Apostles likely consulted their wives, children, and others before stepping away from their usual lives to follow this amazing young Rabbi from Nazareth.

But allow me to take Matthew literally for just a moment or two, to admire Saints Peter, Andrew, James and John for following their hearts as well as their heads in answering Jesus’ invitation right away, without consulting a checklist. There is something invigorating about letting go of fear and apprehension and simply saying “Yes” to God right away. I can summon a certain Francis of Assisi who did it centuries later. We all have a knack for delay. We like staying right where we are in our custom made comfort zone and asking Jesus for His understanding.

Such immediate decisions don’t have to be any more uprooting than a change in our daily schedule to get out of bed a half hour earlier to pray each day. Or choosing to fast one day a week to know what it feels like for those among us who through no fault of their own must go hungry most days if not all. You are mature enough to make your own list. But do it immediately.

Beware those well-meaning souls who will happily point out practical obstacles to your decisions. That’s why we have to avoid delay. Like the apostles’ decisions made long ago and far away, which they made “asap.” Look where they are now. Meanwhile, we can imagine those first four Apostles saying to us at times: “Do it now! Today will be yesterday tomorrow.”

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

There is something forlorn about Halloween decorations still hanging around in December. We look at such a place and can only wonder if the owner left town hurriedly. Or that he or she turned seriously ill, and may be lying in a hospital somewhere. Or perhaps the owner is just lazy and out of touch.

For sure, their once proud décor is not in the spirit of the season. That last instance is precisely what the Church looks like every Advent, when she directs the priest to wear purple, and use the same color for the sanctuary adornment. Then there is the recommended absence of flowers. “What is going on?” we might ask, as we see the rest of the world is festooned with red and green, and is “jingle belling” itself into a shopping spree and a partying marathon?

The simple answer is that the Church believes in a period of penance and fasting before the feast. Those are too ancient and time-tested ways to get ready for a major religious celebration. The people of Italian descent among us try to do the same with their “Feast of the Seven Fishes” but it strikes me that they have waited too long and try to condense a whole month of prep into one evening of December 24.

Obviously, as a Church founded by a Person who was from childhood a “Sign of Contradiction,” she will reflect the Founder in her liturgy and customs. We Catholics are more and more conscious of the conflict we have with our present society when we see so many former aberrations that have been adopted and labelled “the new normal.” Just think of the crazy things our legislators have done in the matter of public restrooms.

During these early weeks of Advent, the Church asks us to think forward and consider the Second Coming of Christ. That is when this world, as we know it, will come to an end and then each of us will be judged. Judged on how much we loved God and neighbor. This is a serious matter because it involves our eternal future. Eternity, they have told me, is a very long time! Let’s face it. We would rather not think about such things.

We’d rather turn our attention instead to cozy thoughts of the Babe in the manger. Those many artists employed by the Christmas card makers have given us the bluish moonlight shining on a Nativity scene. Or, that inviting den with a fire glowing and stockings hung on the mantle. Sometimes a cute kitten playing with ribbon gets added. “So nice!” we think. But Advent doesn’t leave us alone with our sweet reveries.

It shakes our shoulders and says: “Wake up Christian! Don’t you realize that this place isn’t your real home and that someday you’ll have to leave here to go there? So you better watch out and you better not pout because He’s coming to town. I mean Jesus of course.

There’s a Second Coming of Christ and you’d better live rightly and justly. As you celebrate the anniversary of the First Coming, which is a fine thing to do because it reminds us of God’s great love for us, just keep in mind that Second One!

Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ

History has no favorites when it comes to kings. She lets us learn about both the good and the bad among them. There is Saint Louis IX of France who, among other good works, gifted the world with the magnificent Saint-Chapelle in Paris built to house relics of the true Cross. Contrast him with Henry VIII of England, who only built pleasure palaces for himself, and left the Catholic Church just so that he could divorce his legitimate wife and satisfy his lust for another woman.

While most freedom-loving Americans are distrustful of the whole idea of monarchs and majesties, there are still a great many of us who remain fascinated by their mischief and mayhem. Consider the size of the American TV audience for their weddings and funerals. These folks seem to have forgotten what our Revolutionary War was all about. But we have to forget all that when it comes time to celebrate this Sunday.

Each November we honor and celebrate Christ our King, and close out the Liturgical Year. We know we’re in a different realm of history when we call Jesus “King of the Universe” in the formal name of this feast. That brings an added dimension to our reflections. We are still in the category of history, but now we are considering the Person whose coming divided it into “before and after Him.” He is at its center, as He ought to be. He in fact never wanted to be a king. Only in His last hours on earth, when He was put on a sham trial, and a certain Pontius Pilate asked Him “Are you a king?” Jesus quickly answered “You say so,” which can be interpreted “That’s your word. (For My part,) I came to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My voice.” To which cynical Pilate quickly asked, “What is truth?” Unfortunately for Pilate, and ourselves, he never got a direct answer from Jesus. But we readers of Scripture remember when Christ said: “I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life.”

Such a deep, bold and royal answer! It’s up to us to remember that. The whole matter of truth becomes problematic for us in the unique time and place we find ourselves occupying. Let’s face it: lies are all around us. They emanate from all the usual suspects, and even a few we never would have expected, like some of our bishops and cardinals. Did truth flee our world, only to orbit another planet? Not at all, for Jesus also told us “I am with you all days even to the end of the age.” He is here with us, dwelling first of all in the Eucharistic presence, and also in the hearts of men and women who exemplify what He stood for when

He was personally present here on earth. Fortunately we have both a Book and a Body to remind us of all that, the former being the bible and the latter being this Catholic Church He founded. While His truth always offers a criterion to decide by, there is now a problem we have to deal with. We, who are so concerned about speaking in politically correct terms, have to remember that the Truth of our King does not always resonate with an idea that is current or popular. Our Lord really doesn’t care if someone is made uncomfortable by hearing His truth spoken. Our King also despises the timid. Ultimately believing the Truth leads us to the Way, and the Life. ‘

Our King in fact demanded as much. This is the practical way to make our response to His ineffable love. Otherwise we’re just playing games. The worst pretender is, of course, the devil, who as father of lies uses every clever disguise he can to trick us into accepting his truth which leads to us bowing before him. That is precisely why I always love hearing stories of saints who beat the devil at his own game, who accepted our true King and how He thinks about things.

One famous story you may know is that of a reporter who watched Mother Saint Teresa of Calcutta as she cleaned the maggot-infested wound of a man on the street. All he could say to Mother was, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.” Mother is supposed to have replied immediately, with a bit of a wry smile, “I wouldn’t either.”