Sunday Scriptures — All Saints, Nov. 1, 2015

Normally, the Sunday after the 30th in Ordinary Time is the 31st Sunday in OT. In Year B it “fast forwards” in the Gospel of Mark to bring us from Jericho to Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem (bypassing Chapter 11 and verses 1-27 of Ch. 12). We hear in Mark 12:28-34 of the two greatest commandments. The first reading — Deuteronomy 6:4-5 — gives the first of the commandments, the second being found in Leviticus 19:18. The second reading for that Sunday — Hebrews 7:23-28 — again tells of Jesus as our high priest, emphasizing that he offers one sacrifice because he is perfect and eternal, unlike the previous priests.

But this year, we don’t hear those readings, because the Sunday of Ordinary Time is “outranked” and superseded by the Solemnity of All Saints, which falls on November 1. (All Saints used to be called “All Hallows,” and thus the preceding evening is Hallowe’en.) Solemnities are the highest rank of liturgical celebration, and they displace Sundays of Ordinary Time and Christmastide (but not of Advent, Lent, and Eastertide).

Why have a feast of All Saints? Don’t the saints have their individual days through the year? Theoretically, they do, but not all appear in the Church’s general calendar. There are well over 365 canonized saints, so most of their days don’t get celebrated at Mass. And then there are all the people who have been saved through the centuries and are in heaven but have not been canonized. Hopefully, these include many of our own relatives, friends, and acquaintances who have died, as well as many others of earlier times. So while the feast includes the famous canonized saints, this is especially a day to honor those who are not officially known or regularly celebrated, to ask for their intercession with the Lord for us, and to pray that we will join their number.
The numbers given in the first reading — Revelation7:2-4, 9-14 — need not be taken literally. What the passage tells us is that there will be a great many Jews saved as well as even more Gentiles (unsurprising, since there are way more Gentiles than Jews). The throng tells us this is no highly limited group. God wants us all. We only have to be faithful to him.
The responsorial psalm — Ps 24:1-6 — prepares us for the Beatitudes in the gospel as we reflect on those who attain the blessedness portrayed in Revelation.
The second reading — 1 John 3:1-3 —tells us a bit more about what happens in heaven: seeing God we become like him. But even now, we are already God’s beloved adopted children. We belong to him; we belong with him.
The Beatitudes — Matthew 5:1-12a — show us qualities that characterize saints and that characterized Jesus above all. Maybe it would be useful to ask God to show us if we need his help to live up to any of them. How poor are we in spirit? Do we mourn for the trials which beset God’s people and for those who do not know God? How meek, how hungry and thirsty for God’s righteousness, how merciful, how clean of heart (not just sexually, but with regard to anything sordid) are we? Are we peacemakers in our families, communities, world? Can we take persecution (Revelation’s “time of great distress”) if it comes and stand firm in our faith?
A moment of openness to the Holy Spirit showing us how to live more fully the holy life to which we are called is in order. As I said above, however, above all we should rejoice both in our call to be saints and in the blessedness of all those, known and unknown, are in already heaven and ask them all — especially those with whom we have any sort of connection such as family, location, way of life — to intercede with God for the grace to remain faithful and to join them in heaven. We know the invitation is always open.

Avoiding Great Performances

As part of my subscription  to the Boston Symphony this season, I had a ticket to the October 15 performance of Richard Strauss’s opera “Elektra.” This was the first of three performances. It was given again on Saturday, October 17, and again in Carnegie Hall the following Wednesday, October 21. It drew reviews ranging from the favorable to rave — Boston Musical Intelligencer, Boston Globe, The Arts Fuse, and the New York Times. It seems to have been a performance not to be  missed, one for the ages.

I say “seems” because I wasn’t there, having exchanged my ticket for one to the November 5 concert, which will include the American premiere of Unsuk Chin’s “Mannequin,” a work co-commissioned y the BSO. I try to attend all premieres given by the orchestra in Boston, whether they are the world, American, Boston, or BSO premiere. I consider them special events, and therefore worth attending. I think of famous premieres of the past, such as the concert where Beethoven premiered four of his works, or the premiere of “The Rite of Spring,” where a riot broke out; and I think how wonderful it would have been to be there. Any premiere holds the possibility of being a similarly noteworthy occasion. Facetiously, I say, “Fifty years from now, I can tell people I was there for the premiere.”

As for “Elektra,” I had seen a video performance on TV a number of years ago, and the opera wasn’t something I wanted to hear again. So even if an end-of-season Race Committee party had gotten scheduled for the 15th, I probably would have made the ticket exchange, even though I could have gotten a ticket for the 5th some other way.

The result was that I seem to have missed hearing a really spectacular performance. Of course, in advance I had no way of knowing it would be that good. If I had somehow known, I might have deliberated seriously about it. There is something to be said for hearing a really spectacular performance, even if it isn’t a piece one particularly likes. But there are limits. I don’t think I’d ever go to hear “Lulu,” even if I knew it would be the best performance ever. Berg’s music and the story are just too repulsive. Similarly, I’d never go to a performance of something by Milton Babbitt, no matter how well it was to be played (unless it was part of a larger program). Under James Levine, the BSO played something by Babbitt, and it’s among the worst things I’ve ever heard. On the other hand, although I have no real interest in hearing “La Boheme” or “Also Sprach Zarathustra” again, if I had reason to believe that an upcoming performance would be one for the ages, I’d be interested to hear it. The “reverse side of the coin” is that I’d be happy to hear a mediocre performance of Beethoven’s 3rd or 5th symphony or piano concerto, or “Il Trovatore,” but not a really terrible one.

In this particular instance, I have mild regret that I missed this “Elektra,” but I’m not “kicking myself” over it.

Sunday Scriptures — OT B 30, Oct. 25, 2015

This Sunday’s readings speak of the Lord as the healer of his people who leads them on their way.

We begin with Jeremiah 31:7-9, a promise that the Lord will bring the remnant of Israel back to their homeland. All, regardless of infirmities, are included, and the Lord will clear the way for them so that the return to Israel will be easy.

Between the years 732-722 B.C. the Assyrians annexed the Northern Kingdom of Israel, which included all the Israelite tribes other than Judah and Benjamin. They deported the people to Assyria. Writing in the period 605-587, as Assyria weakened and Babylon gained strength, Jeremiah looked forward to the end of the captivity. In fact, it does not seem that there was a wholesale return of Israelites from Assyria, and in 587 Babylon conquered the Southern Kingdom of Judah and there was an exile of its people, known as the Babylonian Captivity, which lasted until 539, when Persia conquered Babylon.

Since Jeremiah’s prophecy does not seem to have been literally fulfilled, we must understand it differently. It is, of course, possible that at some point before the end of the world, the descendants of the tribes deported to Assyria will return to the Promised Land. But we need not insist that there will be an eventual literal fulfillment of the prophecy. We can, and I think should, take it in a figurative sense, seeing the Promised Land as a type (prefiguration) of heaven, and the people as being all God’s people. God is our father, and he will bring us from what we can metaphorically consider an exile from heaven in this life to our true home with him. We suffer in various ways, but he will remove both internal and external obstacles to our joyous return to him.

In the responsorial psalm — Ps 126 — we meditate on the joy of the Lord’s bringing us back to our ultimate promised land.

The gospel — Mark 10:46-52 — recounts a specific healing by Jesus, that of the blind man Bartimaeus. This presents an individual case corresponding to the more general reference to the disabled of various types in the passage from Jeremiah. We all have disabilities. there are physical disabilities. More importantly, all of us, regardless of physical condition, have our spiritual disabilities — sins — which keep us from God. When we seek the Lord’s healing forgiveness, he will not refuse it.

Bartimaeus, once healed, didn’t stay in Jericho. Without being asked, he joined the company of Jesus’ followers as they went up to Jerusalem, where Jesus would suffer and die for us. In the same way, being forgiven, healed of our sin, enables us to follow Jesus through his suffering and death to his resurrection and return to heaven.

We can hear the second reading — Hebrews 5:1-6 — in the context of the passages about being healed and led home from exile. The quotes from Psalms 2 and 110 with which the reading concludes became common among Jesus’ followers’ understanding of him after his death and resurrection. (See Acts 13:33 for Ps 2:7 and Matthew 22:44 for Ps 110 — though not directly v. 4.) It is as our high priest, our representative before the Father, that Jesus offers the sacrifice of himself: the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52-53 whom we heard about last Sunday. This is what frees us from the sins that separate us from God.

In one sense, our spiritual blindness is cured in baptism, which sets us on the path of return to God. But we can also fall victim to a sort of blindness when we lose sight of God as part of our lives and wrap ourselves in the cloak of our own self-interest. We can turn aside from the path that leads to God and return to a state of exile. If we find ourselves in any sort of spiritual blindness, in any sort of exile or estrangement from God, the Church says to us what it says to all, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” He makes it possible for us to follow him home to the Father.

Israel and the Palestinians

The past couple of weeks have brought the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to the fore.

The wave of violent attacks on Israeli citizens has apparently been fomented by Mahmoud Abbas’ false accusation that Israel intended to change the status quo on the Temple Mount. Palestinian leaders have continued to praise the unprovoked attacks and to lie about the Israeli response. This article gives a fairly extensive report.

This wave of violence is consistent with the history of conflict since the foundation of the State of Israel. Arabs attacked Israel at its birth in 1948, and although Egypt and Jordan had the good sense to come to terms with Israel, the Palestinians have never wavered in their purpose of destroying Israel and ending the presence of Jews in the area. The Palestinian leaders have constantly promoted anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiments among the people.

Israel has, for its part, exercised its right and duty to defend itself during the state of war it has had to endure for 67 years. Some decisions, such as the building of settlements in areas won during hostilities, may have been unwise. Some actions undertaken in Israel’s defense may have involved excessive or misdirected force. There is an excellent book, My Promised Land, by Ari Shavit, which acknowledges wrongs done by Israel, while affirming Israel’s fundamental right to exist. The wrongs, in my opinion, no more make Israel “the bad guys” in the conflict than excesses committed by the Allies in World War II make them the bad guys in that conflict.

As I see it, the basic underlying fact is that the reason there is no peace between Israel and the Palestinians is that the Palestinians are unwilling to live in peace with Israel.

The history of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem’s anti-Semitism, (see here, and here) has also made the news. The first article I linked notes how that anti-Semitism long predated the Mufti’s support of Hitler and how it continued on after the war in Yasser Arafat, his kinsman and admirer. It is unfortunate that PM Netanyahu’s exaggerated account of the matter may be enabling people to evade the reality the the anti-Semitism of the current leadership of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority has deep roots in their history and is surely behind their intransigence.

In the light of all this, I don’t see how it is possible for any decent person to support the Palestinians generally, to try to justify Palestinian violence against Israelis, to criticize legitimate Israeli self-defense, to focus on occasional excessive acts by Israeli forces while saying not a word about Palestinian terrorism and brutality, or to support the anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement.

And yet there are such people. A second cousin of mine gloated about the fact that Canadian PM Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party had lost every seat in Atlantic Canada where she lives: “Atlantic kicks Harper’s arse. 1-way ticket to Israel.” She has been involved with a group that calls itself “The Island Peace Committee,” which was active in 2014 in condemning Israel’s self-defense against attacks from Gaza. When I responded to a couple of her shares of posts from the Committee, she unfriended me. When I responded to her post about Harper with a comment pointing out that Israel is the only country in the region that recognizes many rights she ought to support, she deleted the comment.

Many people point out the inherent anti-Semitism of the supporters of the Palestinians, but I think that is not the full explanation. On a personal level, I can’t recall my cousin ever saying anything suggesting anti-Semitism on her part. In some cases, anti-Semitism may be the primary motive; in others, anti-Americanism may be in play — the U.S. supports Israel so they oppose it. Even more, though, I think this is an instance of opposition to Western Civilization, of which Israel is a clear representative. There is the mindset that says all cultures are equal, and equally good. Somehow, in practice that means that people of every other culture can be proud of their culture and seek to maintain it, but Westerners shouldn’t. Whether from that starting point or not, a number of people seem to have the (perhaps unspoken) attitude that Westerners are the oppressors of everybody in the world, and therefore deserve to be defeated.

Maybe I’m psychologizing the pro-Palestinians wrongly. What I am sure of is that they are, whatever their delusions about Israel and the Palestinians, in fact on the wrong side of the conflict.

Sunday Scriptures — OT B 29, Oct. 18, 2015

Once more, the assigned scriptures show us Jesus as the Suffering Servant of the Lord. The first reading — Isaiah 53:10-11 — introduces the theme. This is an excerpt from near the end of the fourth (and last) of the Songs of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah. The complete song – Is 52:13-53:12 — tells of one who, although innocent, is tortured and killed but whose acceptance of these things takes away the sins of others and leads ultimately to glory. It is read in its entirety on Good Friday. Apparently there were different understandings among the Jews as to who this servant is: possibly the people of Israel suffering in their exile and dispersion, or the Messiah (with the actual sufferings falling on the pagans.

Regardless of how Isaiah and his hearers may have understood the passage, Christians from the beginning have understood it as being fulfilled in Jesus: he endured sufferings comparable to those described in the song and died, and this suffering and death brings salvation. (Accordingly, several verses of the song were included in the libretto of Handel’s “Messiah” — 53:3, 5-6, 8.) Jesus’ undeserved sufferings and death, willingly accepted, bring him glory and us undeserved forgiveness of our sins.

Verses from Psalm 33 — Ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22 — turn our hearts to reflect on our trust in the Lord, who is good to us.

The last line of the second reading — Hebrews 4:14-16 — brings back the thought of the responsorial psalm urging us to “confidently approach the throne of grace to find mercy and … timely help.” This letter seems to have been written to a community of Jewish Christians in Rome who seemed to have been considering giving up their faith in Jesus and returning to rabbinic Judaism. Christianlty brought the danger of persecution, while Judaism was accepted as legitimate by the Roman government. So the author urges his hearers to continue to put their faith in Jesus as their high priest. One point in this reading is that unlike earthly priests, Jesus has entered heaven where he is with God. In the context of today’s readings, this is comparable to the Servant in Isaiah, who sees his descendants in a long life and sees the light in fullness of days. Then we are reminded that our high priest, Jesus has been tested. This corresponds to the “affliction” and “suffering” of the Servant in Isaiah. So, as in the psalm, we can “confidently approach the throne of grace.”

In the gospel — Mark 10:35-45 — we see the themes of Jesus suffering and self-giving developed. In the verses immediately preceding today’s reading, Jesus gives the third prediction of his passion, in terms consistent with what Isaiah says of the Suffering Servant of the Lord. Charitably, we might partially, excuse James and John for asking for the seats next to Jesus in his glory by saying that they are focusing on the predicted resurrection, not the passion and death. In his response Jesus begins by reminding them that to share his glory, they must share his suffering. But he goes beyond that to explain why they even misunderstand following Jesus is all about. It’s not a matter of ruling others; it’s a matter of serving them. Of course, Jesus’ supreme service is that of “giv[ing] his life as a ransom for many,” or, as Isaiah puts it, “through his suffering … justify[ing] many.”

The service to which we are called in humility includes things such as those mentioned in Matthew 25 — feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick, and so forth — what are called the “corporal works of mercy,” and generally being helpful to those in need. It also should be the attitude with which we approach our duties at work, in the family, and in the community. We are there to serve the needs of others, not to boss them around, even if we are the boss, even if we are in charge. But in a way our service also includes the service of giving our lives “as a ransom for many.” How is this possible? Jesus is the one and only savior. But in our baptism we are incorporated into Christ’s body, the Church. So whatever god we do is part of the work of Jesus. St. Paul says, in Colossians 1:24, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.” If Paul can do this, so can we. Our sufferings, light or heavy, can have redemptive value, if we accept them as Jesus did.

In summary, Jesus saves us from our sins through his undeserved suffering and death for our sake. Therefore we have confidence in God’s love for us. Redeemed by Jesus, we can approach God for mercy and for help. Beyond that, we, like Jesus, are to have an attitude of service, not domination. Since we are members of his body, our own sufferings can have redemptive value, not apart from his, but united with his.

Democrats Debating

I came a bit late to the Democratic Presidential Candidates’ debate on TV, and I turned off the TV when Anderson Cooper said they would talk about marijuana. While I was watching, Clinton came across as a phony with positions that were too contrived, and Chaffee as a lightweight. The other three seemed to be genuine and thoughtful. O’Malley seemed the best of the lot. I wonder how Joe Biden would have fared.

While I’m at it, I’ll say among the GOP candidates, I’ve been favorably impressed by Bush, Rubio, Kasich, Christie, and Fiorina.

Columbus Day

I think Columbus Day is still worth celebrating. “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two/ Columbus sailed the ocean blue/ [and on the twelfth of October/ landed on Hispaniola].”

People rightly point out that other Europeans had seen and visited the continent(s) of America. But none of those led to the settlement to which most of us owe our presence here. So unless we wish to leave this hemisphere, we must consider ourselves in some way the beneficiaries of Columbus.

People also point out the undeniable bad results for the native populations. But, whatever his personal cruelty toward natives in subsequent years, that was not Columbus’ purpose in his first voyage. Furthermore, it seems that on balance, over time the Spaniards were less hostile toward and destructive of the native populations than the English. Above all, the evils, intended and unintended, are counterbalanced by the surpassing  good of the bringing of Christianity to the native peoples.

To me, then, whatever the evils brought by Europeans to these shores — not all of which can be justifiably laid to the personal blame of Columbus — on balance no Christian and no one of European descent who continues to live here can honestly wish Columbus’ “discovery” of America hadn’t happened.

Sunday Scriptures — OT B 28, Oct. 11, 2015

Today’s readings remind us to put nothing ahead of God in our lives, because God is the giver of all true goods. God, in Jesus, always invites us to follow him.
The gospel — Mark10:17-30 — tells us one more time that we should not be attached to our possessions. Regrettably, the rich young man doesn’t accept Jesus’ invitation to sell all, give to the poor, and follow him. This is not an invitation which is given to all: it was given to a particular individual in a particular situation, but it is still an invitation worth thinking about.

If Jesus isn’t commanding all of us to sell all we have and give to the poor so we can be his disciples, what does this event mean. Why does he say it’s difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God? I think it’s because it’s easy to become attached to our possessions to the point that they take first place in our lives. Love of God and love of neighbor — with all they imply — should come first. I need to ask myself always how selfish I am.

The young man serves as an example of excessive attachment to possessions, but even those who are not rich can be excessively attached to what they have or excessively concerned about getting more, beyond the true necessities of life. So Jesus says it’s hard for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God, but then he expands it to say simply that it is hard to enter the kingdom. In fact, it’s so hard to get into the kingdom that we can’t do it.

“For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” Nobody gets into the kingdom of God on his own power. That’s why we need Jesus. What’s impossible for us by ourselves is possible with Jesus, when we have faith in him as our savior, when we follow him.

The first reading — Wisdom 7:7-11 — is presented as the words of King Solomon. He has the right idea. He doesn’t pray for power or wealth. He prays for wisdom, which is an attribute of God, a direct gift of God, a grace from God. We should pray as he did: not for power or riches, but for whatever graces we need to draw closer to others and to God.

The responsorial psalm — Ps 90:12-17 — reminds us of the variable course of our lives and leads us to pray for God’s gracious blessing in all circumstances.

Our second reading — Hebrews 4:12-13 — reminds us that God sees into our very being. We can ask him to let us see ourselves as he sees us. We can ask for the wisdom to know how we can cooperate even more with his grace. We may all already be cooperating with God’s grace, but none of us is perfect, so we should ask for the wisdom to know what can improve in us and in our behavior.
We all have a personal invitation from Jesus — something that will help us follow him better, become better people. Should we be more generous and hospitable with what we have? Should be less critical of others or compliment them more? Should we be more available to people who need to talk to us or spend time with us? Should we work harder, or should we work less? Should we spend less time watching TV or on other entertainment and more time doing something useful? Is there something else in our lives that takes us away from love of God or active love of neighbor? Should we spend more quiet time in prayer? Those are a few examples of things that could be an invitation from Jesus. We can ask God to show us our personal invitation.
Jesus is always inviting is to follow him more closely, in our sorrows, and in our joys, in good times and bad. The specifics of the invitation my change as we change and as times change. The invitation may seem easy or hard. It may be something that will take time, even a long time. But we shouldn’t be like the young man and go away sad. We shouldn’t get discouraged. Instead, let’s ask him to help us by giving us the strength we need to accept his invitation.

Edited to add:  Although Jesus’ invitation to the young man involved the most radical detachment, making possible the most radical generosity — a degree of detachment and generosity to which few are called — we are all called to detachment and generosity (which is possible only to the extent of our detachment from our possessions), as well as to whatever particular changes Jesus invites us in order to follow him better.

Hospitality

On Monday evening I went to a talk about fostering faith within the family. The speaker, a professor from Boston College suggested two elements which should be part of a faith-nurturing spirituality. She said we should cultivate gratitude and hospitality. I didn’t think much about hospitality until after my mother died, eleven years ago.

It seems to me that as I was growing up, hospitality, in the sense in which the speaker wanted to consider it, wasn’t something I experienced very much: it wasn’t behavior that was “modeled” for me to use current jargon. Of course, my parents would socialize with friends, visiting them and being visited by them on Friday evenings for drinks and snacks and games of bridge or just sitting around. When I was little we would occasionally stay for several days at my paternal grandfather’s home, a couple of hours’ drive from ours. Visits to and from my maternal grandmother, who lived 15 minutes away, were more frequent. And there would be gatherings of the extended family every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. But I don’t recall any welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless in person. Doubtless, the folks made contributions to charities; as an adult I knew it, but it wasn’t something that I can recall hearing about as a child. But we lived in a middle-class suburb with no visible poverty, so occasions for direct works of hospitality didn’t really exist.

After my mother died, my brother’s and I connected or reconnected with two sets of cousins: a cousin and her family in Colorado, and two cousins of my mother and their progeny on Prince Edward Island.

The family in Colorado consisted of my cousin, her husband, their three children, and his mother. When my brother and I visited, the sons were kicked out of their bedroom so we could have it. One used the room of his absent sister, and the other slept on the living room couch. There was no thought of our staying in a nearby motel, or with neighbors who had a spare room or two.

Similarly, on PEI, we (my two brothers, sister-in-law, nephew, and I) arrived at a time when a number of our second cousins from off island were also visiting. My older brother and I were assigned a room in the “patriarch’s” (a first cousin of my mother) home, with other relatives staying in the finished basement. My other brother and his family were put up in a second cousin’s home. On other visits, a second cousin, Marian, had me stay in her home. When the last of my mother’s first cousins died, Marian was at her brother Eddie’s home, looking in on his sons, while Eddie and his wife were away. When she called me from there and I said I’d come for the funeral, Eddie’s college age son Noah immediately said, “Joe can stay here.”

Beyond the hospitality to me and my brothers, during my visits I also witnessed other acts of generosity: Marian caring for her sisters’ children as needed, extended family members getting together for canning projects. As at home, there wasn’t visible poverty to be directly alleviated, but there was a clear feeling of community and an attitude of generosity.

These experiences have shown me that I grew up in a way that allowed me to be more self-centered. I didn’t learn hospitality as a way of life that was lived daily and taken for granted. It is something I need to train myself into. I don’t know if I’ll ever have either the occasion or the generosity to let someone who needs a place to live to stay in one of the spare bedrooms in my house, but I hope I’ll be able to muster at least enough generosity to be counted among the sheep when the King returns and the nations are gathered before him.

Sunday Scriptures — OT B 27, Oct. 4, 2015

Today’s first reading and gospel are a large part of the foundation for St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. He uses the parallel passage in Matthew (Mt 19:3-12), which refers to Genesis 1:27 as well as to today’s 2:24. He also uses Matthew 22:30 to develop the theme of celibacy for the kingdom. But much of what he says is based on what we find in today’s readings — Genesis 2:18-24 and Mark 10:2-16.
We are created in the image of God in our masculinity and femininity, not just in the spiritual part of our nature. In our bodily actions we can provide a physical image of what God is as pure spirit. Man and woman are for each other and complete each other. Our sexual complementarity is part of being in God’s image. God is a communion of persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The divine communion is permanent, committed, loving, and life-giving. In our bodily nature, we are called to similar communion. In our sexuality, the highest form of this communion of persons is marriage, in which man and woman become one flesh in an indissoluble, life-transmitting, loving communion. Marriage is indissoluble because the Trinity is indissoluble.

This all ties in so well with the Synod of Bishops on marriage and the family which opens today in Rome that I’m sure that the date for the Synod was chosen with these passages in mind, if not by the Pope or other people involved in organizing it then by the Holy Spirit guiding them.
Psalm 128 leads us to reflect on marriage and children as a great blessing from God.
The second reading — Hebrews 2:9-11 — reminds the hearers of Jesus’ taking on humanity. This he did so that he would be able to save humanity through his suffering (and resurrection).

It is an interesting coincidence(?) that this reading, with its mention of Jesus’ becoming “lower than the angels” occurs just after the Church has celebrated the feasts of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael on September 29, and the Guardian Angels on October 2. It is good to remember that God gives angels roles of service to us.