21Jul 21st July. Monday, Week 16.

Saint Lawrence of Brindisi.

Giulio Cesare Russo (1559-1619) from Brindisi, Kingdom of Naples, became a priest of the Capuchin Order in Verona, taking the name Brother Lawrence. An accomplished linguist, he spoke most European and Semitic languages fluently. Pope Clement VIII assigned him the task of converting the Jews in Rome. As general superior of his order, Lawrence established Capuchin friaries in Germany and Austria, promoting the Counter-Reformation and bringing many Protestants back to Catholicism.

1) Micah 6:1-4, 6-8

(Micah’s famous summary of the Torah: on walking humbly with your God.)

Hear what the Lord says: ‘Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.’ Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel.

“O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.”

“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Gospel: Matthew 12:38-42

(The Ninevites and the foreign queen responded better than did his own people to Jesus.)

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!

What God wants of us

In an illuminating prophecy, Micah states clearly what God really wants of us. But first he says what God does NOT want: Not holocausts, nor thousands of sacrificial lambs – for none of these externals can replace the personal attitudes of the soul. Then, memorably, he declares what the Lord really require of us: “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

With these priorities in his heart, how disappointed Jesus felt when some were interested only in his miracles, instead of in his message about our relationship with God. He had shown an ministry of kindness and concern, but these people wanted something more spectacular than the cure of a poor cripple or the blessed wisdom of being poor in spirit or pure of heart. He then reminds them about Jonah and how many Ninevites were converted by his preaching; and about the Queen of the South’s admiration for the wisdom of Solomon. These foreigners, even the worst of them, the Ninevites, repented and were converted – “and you have a greater than Solomon here.”

Unless we take the risk of being generous towards others, no miracle will prove anything to us. Then too, Jesus points to the sign of Jonah, “three days and three nights in the belly of the whale.” We too must risk going the depths and letting ourselves be as it were “swallowed up” by the will of God and taken to wherever God brings us, as happened to Jonah. Then we will experience the sweet reward of faith, after long fidelity.