The Lord … executes justice for the orphan and the widow and befriends the alien, feeding and clothing him. Deuteronomy has lots of law (the nomy part), but its heart and soul is the deutero part — Moses’ loving re-do of the covenant with the God of mercy. Moses even anticipates Paul’s revision: “Circumcise your hearts!” Maybe Jesus thought of Deuteronomy when the Pharisees told him to pay the temple tax. He sends Peter with a hook to the lake. The first fish that bites has a coin in its mouth worth twice the temple tax. “Give that to them for me and for you.” Call it a deutero, a reminder of how intimate is God’s care for us, even in the smallest things. O Lord, grant us peace within our borders, fill us with the finest wheat! MD
Christ [is] the firstfruits. Is the Assumption the most “Catholic” feast on the calendar? The Virgin Mary, after completing her earthly life, was “assumed” body and soul into heaven. Some people don’t believe in miracles. Other people, like Pope Francis, are realists. Be like Mary, he says, who at Cana, saw a problem and went about solving it with “discretion, efficacy, and determination.” Paul hints at the Assumption when he says, “Since death came through a man, the resurrection ofthe dead came also through a man.” And guess what: That man came through a woman! We are borne with gladness and joy, O Lord, as we enter the palace of the King! MD
Wed., Aug. 16 | Dt 34:1-12; Mt 18:15-20
Since then no prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. Jesus says, if errant Christians don’t shape up, “Treat them as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” But some of Jesus’ favorite people are Gentiles and tax collectors! When Matthew finds rigidity, even bigotry, in his source, he pushes back with words he remembers of the merciful, inviting, inclusive Jesus who saved him from a life of self-loathing as a tax collector. And what beautiful words they are! “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Hear now, all of you who love the Lord, while I declare what God has done for me! MD
Thurs., Aug. 17 | Jos 3:7-10a, 11, 13-17; Mt 18:21-19:1
Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? A servant, who owes a fortune to his master, is forgiven, but then jails a fellow servant who owes him for something trivial, brutally rejecting the man’s cries for mercy. The story ends with the merciless servant in the hands of “the torturers.” Jesus warns: My Father will treat you the same way unless you forgive each other “from your heart.” If only there were an “Occupy Forgiveness” movement! Self-righteousness is indeed a torture. Only forgiveness actually changes reality. Today’s psalm has a great image of what forgiveness might look like. The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like the lambs of the flock! MD
Fri., Aug. 18 | Jos 24:1-13; Mt 19:3-12
Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator “made them male and female”? Sometimes Jesus sounds indeed like a man of the first century, such as today when he goes on about eunuchs, whom our delicate translation calls “some are incapable of marriage.” But, let’s apply Jesus’ own criterion, namely, “the beginning,” which established equality as the standard for living our lives together. The Declaration of Independence was bold enough to make it the basis of the U.S. nation: “All men are created equal.” And “men” became an ever-expanding category — slaves, women, refugees, foreigners, gays, the poor, prisoners. We give you thanks, O Lord, for you are good and your mercy endures forever! MD
Sat., Aug. 19 | Jos 24:14-29; Mt 19:13-15
As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord! Joshua’s stirring words are a challenge that needs constant updating. The apostles thought they were “serving the Lord” by creating child-free zones lest they trigger any discomfort for the dear Lord. Instead, Jesus gave the kids priority seating — on his own lap! “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Catechists and teachers do such holy work, preparing children to come to Jesus in the sacraments, hopefully while sparking the child’s curiosity and wonder. Such is the work of the kingdom of heaven. I bless you, Lord, who even in the night exhort my heart! MD
Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
Mon., Aug. 21 | Jgs 2:11-19; Mt 19:16-22
Pius X, pope
The children of Israel offended the Lord. The Israelites stubbornly clung to their false gods. They knew the commandments but only grudgingly obeyed when the Lord raised up judges to protect them. Left alone, they repeatedly returned to their destructive ways. Like the young man who questioned Jesus about which commandments to follow, they gave up. Doing the right thing is difficult; it’s not always obvious what’s truly good. Such wisdom requires humility, obedience and willingness to change. One of the greatest reforming popes, Pius X, diligently battled heresy and the evils of Modernism, and achieved codification of the Code of Canon Law. He encouraged frequent Communion and strove to “restore all things in Christ.” Give me the grace, Lord, to accept your commands. PR
Tues., Aug. 22 | Jgs 6:11-24A; Mt 19:23-30
Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary
For God all things are possible. Jesus’ words echo Gabriel’s message to the expectant virgin. Mary is told her son will take David’s throne and rule forever. Her queenship expresses her communion in God’s love and responsibility for the world. Hers is a throne of grace and mercy. We reverently approach, knowing Mary awaits us with peace and consolation. The feast was established in 1954 by Pope Pius XII. His encyclical “To the Queen of Heaven” reflects on Mary’s perfection and preeminence, her role in Jesus’ work of redemption and her intercessory power. Holy Queen, most faithful follower of our Lord, we seek your intercession and place our worries into your loving care. PR
Wed., Aug. 23 | Jgs 9:6-15; Mt 20:1-16
My friend, I am not cheating you. Human ideas of fairness are conflicting. We desire everyone to be treated the same, yet feel that some people, ourselves included, deserve special treatment. We rationalize our reasons, but generally they are arbitrary, petty and self-serving. The laborers in Jesus’ parable grumble about unfairness, yet all do exactly what they’re hired to do; each receives exactly what’s been promised. There’s no deceit, only an expectation of receiving more despite the fact they did only what was agreed upon. The Lord’s justice is not a matter of what we deserve, but what we need. He doesn’t rationalize; he simply gives. The choice is ours: whine like the misguided laborers or share God’s gifts without envy or greed. Generous Lord, forgive my selfish grumbling. PR
Thurs., Aug. 24 | Rv 21: 9b-14; Jn 1:45-51
There is no duplicity in him. Bartholomew was completely without deception. He knew Scripture well, notably what it said of the coming Messiah. When his friend Philip invited him to meet Jesus, Bartholomew sincerely questioned the likelihood of Jesus being the Messiah. On Philip’s word, however, Bartholomew trustingly accepted the summons and never looked back. Bartholomew’s sincerity opened him immediately to see and accept Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus told Bartholomew he wouldrisen Savior on the Sea of Galilee. After the first Pentecost, Bartholomew traveled widely — preaching, baptizing and performing miracles. He was martyred in Armenia, crucified upside down, flayed alive, and beheaded. Though regularly persecuted, he steadfastly professed the good news with an undivided heart. Help us live the truth, Lord. PR
Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest? The Pharisees purposely posed a seemingly impossible question. Rabbis and scribes continually debated the complexities and severity of the 613 letters in the Hebrew text of the Ten Commandments and 613 laws in the Pentateuch, ranking their significance and disagreeing about which laws were binding. Asked to single out the most significant, Jesus saw their trick. He answered their intricate argument simply. Love of God comes first, but it necessitates love of neighbor. If we love God primarily and wholly, everything else naturally follows. Love of God demands doing the right thing in all situations out of thanks and praise, not because it’s a command. May our love for you, Lord, guide our hearts, minds and actions. PR
For they preach but they do not practice. Jesus warned his disciples that the Pharisees were blind guides; their deeds a stark contrast to their teachings. They put on a show, widening their phylacteries and lengthening their tassels, but these were dramatic gestures to flaunt their supposed piety. This isn’t the first time Jesus warned the disciples about engaging in pious actions to earn praise. Jesus taught them to observe the Pharisees’ example not to imitate it but to avoid it. It’s a lesson on how not to act. Going through the motions to impress others doesn’t work. People see through pompous displays. Similarly, we can get so robotic in our practices that they hold no meaning. We must be conscious not only of what we say and do but also the reasons why. Help us speak and live your truth, Lord. PR
Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Mon., Aug. 28 | 1 Thes 1:1-5, 8b-10; Mt 23:13-22
Augustine, bishop, doctor of the church
We give thanks for … your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope. There is a striking difference between how Paul addresses the Christians in Thessalonica and how Jesus speaks to the scribes and Pharisees. I shudder at the thought of being a “blind guide.” I want to practice what I preach. I want to have my eyes open to God’s abundance, to the daily miracle of life, to not be one who misses it. Is there greater suffering than to get to the end of one’s life and realize, “I missed it!”? God, open my eyes, stretch my mind, soften my heart, that I may see you in all things, in all work, in all on my path this day. PBS
Tues., Aug. 29 | 1 Thes 2:1-8; Mk 6:17:29
Passion of John the Baptist
We drew courage through our God to speak to you the Gospel of God. Both readings today are about having the courage of our convictions. Paul, after what he deemed a failure in Philippi, draws on divine courage to preach the Gospel to yet another community. John the Baptist tells truth to power, costing him his head. Perhaps the Gospel has always been inconvenient. Today Christians may quote, “Whatsoever you do to the least of them” and then argue about who is the “worthy least.” The child who is unborn? homeless? refugee? uninsured? Preaching the Gospel takes courage and patience, and a large dollop of kindness because no one hears truth from someone who doesn’t love them. Gracious God, give us courage, patience and kindness, that we might show a face of you to the world. PBS
Wed., Aug. 30 | 1 Thes 2:9-13; Mt 23:27-32
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. Jesus seems to have patience with every kind of sin and weakness except one. He is gentle with Peter’s timidity, James and John’s envy, Thomas’s doubt, Martha’s frustration, the sinful woman’s transgressions. But with hypocrisy — no way! That pretense of virtue when we are as sinful as anyone. Demanding goodness of others we don’t demand of ourselves. Saying one thing and doing another. Perhaps we should stencil on the side of every pulpit (and cantor stand, organ bench, teacher’s desk, parents’ mirror, etc.) that famous quote often atributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.” Give us the gift of sincerity, Lord, and help us to live what we believe. PBS
Thurs., Aug. 31 | 1 Thes 3:7-13; Mt 24:42-51
Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant? Faithful servants are those who honor the work given to them, care for the people who depend on them, take responsibility for their failures, are grateful for their successes. People of authority — pastors, preachers, parents, politicians, teachers, coaches, counselors — may have enormous influence to affect lives. The failure to use that influence for the good is to fail as a faithful servant. Just writing that makes me want to examine my life and be sure that I am using my energy where I can be most effective instead of spending that precious energy where I cannot make a difference. Will you join me? For wisdom and generosity, we pray. PBS
Daily Bread Authors from Celebration
Paige Byrne Shortal, longtime contributor to Celebration, serves as coordinator and editor for the Daily Bread writers.
Miguel Dulick lives in a mountain village in Honduras, Central America. Originally from St. Louis, he holds degrees from St. Louis University and Weston School of Theology, Boston.
Mary Joshi lives in Moncton, NB, Canada. Raised Catholic and married to a Hindu, Mary helps coordinate the RCIA for her parish unit and is a reflection writer for the parish bulletin. She holds degrees in history, English and deaf education.
Jeanne Lischer grew up in St. Louis and Ghana, West Africa, where her parents were missionaries. She is a graduate of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, was ordained in 1990 in the United Church of Christ, and is currently the pastor for two rural congregations in Missouri.
Patricia Russell graduated from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Mich., with degrees in English and secondary education
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