Translation of St. Dominic

Today we celebrate the translation of St. Dominic. It has nothing to do with languages. We celebrate that on May 24, 1233, the relics of St. Dominic.

Before he died, he expressed his wish to be buried “at the feet of the brothers”. According to his wishes, he was buried at the entrance of the church. Those wishes were very pious but not very practical. The tomb was soon covered with rain, snow and mud, so the friars decided to move the remains to the new Church.

This translation gave new momentum to St. Dominc’s process of canonization. The brothers feared that unearthing the body will discourage devotion to St. Dominic because of the presence of the smell and sight of the corrupting body. They were all surprised when they found the body incorrupt and a pleasant aroma invaded the Church and lingered long afterwards.

Learning from children: 7th Saturday of the year

“Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” (Mk 10:15) The original Greek text allows for two interpretations: like a child receives, and the second interpretation, like a child is received.

Both are supported by parallels in the gospel. Mk 9:36 advises us to receive people who are like children because that is receiving Jesus and the Father themselves. Mt 18:3 advises us to “become like children”. So, it seems that children have a double lesson to teach us. One, to learn to receive them; the other, to learn to welcome the Kingdom as they welcome it. Which begs for a second question. How do children welcome the Kingdom?

Adults have learnt to develop a fear of gratuity, a fear of receiving freely and gratis. Once they receive something, they feel they need to pay back and don’t feel good until they do. A kind of shame prevents us from accepting with total simplicity and humility.

Children accept things from parents with a total different attitude. Once I heard an adult ask a child why he couldn’t do things by himself and the child answered with total naturality: “… because I am only a child.”

The reason why we need the kingdom is only because we are children. We cannot deserve it. It is a free gift for which we cannot pay. We certainly must be grateful, but must learn to receive it with total simplicity and humility.

Daily Wisdom

“When the stomach is full, it is easy to talk of fasting.”

St. Jerome

Purification or punishment? 7th Thursday of the year

“And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ Everyone will be salted with fire.” (Mk 9:47-49)

A serious interpretation of these words does not equal a literal interpretation. The church has never advised self-mutilation as a means to salvation. Obviously feet, hands or eyes do not make us sin. Rather, we practice either  virtue or sin through their use. But  if we are not take these words literally, then how should we interpret them to take them seriously?

Gehenna is probably a compound word derived from Hebrew ge-hinnom, for Valley of Hinnom, the dumping grounds of Jerusalem where a continuous fire consumed everyone’s refuse. Popularly the imagery of fire has been associated with punishment because burning is painful. But that is not what the Biblical language suggests.

Fire, in the Scriptures, is often linked with purfication. Fire burns what is flammable, and often impure, but respects what is inflammable. And so gold is purified through fire because fire will burn the impurities leaving behind only pure gold.

Amputation is, however, an image of punishment in the Old Testamen (Dt 25:12). In other words, what this text seems to imply to someone familiar with the Jewish practices and the customs of Jerusalem is, it is better to be punished in time (even if it is through mutilation) than to be definitively wasted (like Jerusalem’s refuse).

The symbol of salt seems to be linked, according to some scholars, to Lv 2:13 where salt that accompannies sacrifices is described as “salt of the covenant with your God” and similarly in Ex 30:35, salt is associated wit the qualities “pure and holy”. So, how should we read “to be salted with fire”?

It seems to point out to the fact that if the sinner has to be pure and holy (salted), which is a necessity (v. 50), one must either enter the Kingdom of God through timely punishment or through a fiery purification that will eventually purify us, although through a more regretable process.

No middle way, freedom or suspicion: 7th Wednesday of the year

“For whoever is not against us is for us.” (Mk 9:40) That one cannot be for Jesus half-way cuts both ways. It means that those who are not against him are for Him, but it also means that those who are not for Him are against Him: “he who does not gather, scatters.” That thinking alone makes us wonder on which of the two sides are we.

However, in today’s gospel, Jesus was teaching a lesson on humility. The disciples felt that they had the monopoly of the kingdom of God because they had been elected and they were followers of Jesus. Immediately they felt invaded by this “stranger” who claimed a share of their privilege.

Truth is not something we possess and must zealously defend for fear that it will be taken away. Strictly speaking, truth does not need defendants: “Truth,” said John Wycliffe, “in the end always triumphs.” What truth needs is sharers. The more it is shared, the more it shines. There was no reason for the disciples to feel jealousy. There was only the reason to rejoice that their mission was being shared.

“Every truth comes from the Holy Spirit” no matter who claims it, because the Spirit is free, or even better, the Spirit is freedom personified. Posessiveness enslaves in suspicion, conversely, sharing frees to welcome.

Loving God really: 7th Tuesday of the year

Welcoming someone insignificant, as a child maybe, is welcoming Christ and the Father. God, the most supreme Being, compares Himself with the most socially meaningless human being, which is the socially voiceless child. That comparison is only to help us understand our own love for God as He really is, as opposed as loving Him as we think He is.

No matter what our lips say, we can only love God as much as we love the most insignificant of the persons we meet. Nothing discerns our love for God, like the last of our brothers.

Daily wisdom

“I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.”

Dorothy Day

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