1st August. Friday, Week 17
Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, bishop and doctor of the Church.
Alphonsus (1696-1787) from Marianella near Naples studied law and practiced as a lawyer until 1723, when he began studying for the priesthood. After ordination at the age of 30 he lived his first years as a priest working with the homeless youth of Naples. His warm-hearted sermons were very effective at converting those who were alienated from their faith. In 1732 he founded the Redemptorists, a congregation to preach principally in the slums of cities and other poor places. Despite his resistence, was made bishop of Palermo at the age of 66. He wrote many works on moral theology and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1871.
1) Jeremiah 26:1-9
(Jeremiah is almost executed for comparing Jerusalem to the devastated site of Shiloh where the ark had earlier been enshrined.)
At the beginning of the reign of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, this word came from the Lord: Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the Lord; speak to them all the words that I command you; do not hold back a word. It may be that they will listen, all of them, and will turn from their evil way, that I may change my mind about the disaster that I intend to bring on them because of their evil doings.
You shall say to them: Thus says the Lord: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, and to heed the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not heeded, then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.
The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord. And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.
Gospel: Matthew 13:54-58
(The people of Nazareth find Jesus too much to accept. Because of their lack of faith he could work there only a few miracles.)
He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honour except in their own country and in their own house.” And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.
Linking Liturgy and Life
What bothered the prophets most was the discord between liturgical and secular life. Jeremiah’s call for justice can be read in an enlarged version in Chap. 7, where the social injustices of daily life are said to contaminate the liturgy. Then the priestly managers of the temple turned sharply against Jeremiah, demanding that he be put to death. But he was not asking for ritual to be abandoned, only that, in the true spirit of the Mosaic Law, they also defend justice and dignity in everyday life, and worship in such a way that it encouraged people to care for the poor.
Jesus attempted to do just something similar. He began his ministry at Nazareth by quoting from Isaiah, “He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight for the blind and release for prisoners.” This record the Year of Jubilee, a year of new beginnings prescribed in Leviticus. Yet Jesus encountered stiff resistance arising from envy in his home town, and because they refused to believe in a generous, merciful God, he could work very few miracles there.
Today we can reflect on our own approach to liturgy and prayer. Does it touch and influence my daily life, my home and our contemporary world? Can I accept challenge and change, and a simpler lifestyle, for the sake of the poor and the helpless? Do I believe in, and am I pleased with, our Lord’s concern for others? If not, then perhaps he can do no miracle in my heart either – the miracle of life and grace that he wishes to perform for me.