St Ignatius Loyola

Exodus 35.15-24,30-34; Psalm 105; Matthew 13.31-35

Born in the castle of Loyola as Íñigo López de Oñaz y Loyola, ca1491, the youngest of 13 children, as a young boy Ignatius fashioned his life on tales of romantic chivalry and joined the army at the age of 17. The following year he took up arms for the Duke of Nájera. At the Battle of Pamplona in May of 1621 he was gravely injured when a cannonball shattered his right leg. He endured many surgeries but he was to walk with a pronounced limp ever after.

During his convalescence he underwent a religious conversion, spending hours reading the lives of the saints. He planned a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and received a number of consoling visions. He confessed his sins and hung up his sword. He began theological studies at the University of Alcalá, eventually completing his studies at the University of Paris. There, along with six companions he founded what would come to be known as the Society of Jesus (more commonly known as the Jesuits). The order was accepted by Pope Paul III in 1540. The new order would spread across Europe and beyond it, establishing schools, colleges and seminaries. Ignatius died on 31 July 1556, probably of Roman fever, a type of malaria.

Saint Martha

Exodus 24:3-8; Psalm 49(50):1-2,5-6,14-15; John 11:19-27

Todays liturgy provides us with an alternative. The alternative is the well know story of Martha and Mary, arguing about one doing all the work while the other sits and prays (Luke 10:38-52). The other one is perhaps less well known - it shows that Martha has a deep sense of who Jesus is, and a full trust in his power, for it is Martha who says "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world."

As a result  -  Jesus raises their brother Lazarus from his grave.

Note the change in Martha - Jesus has converted her (in the earlier encounter in Luke 10) from a do-er, busy, eyes only on the practical housewife. She is now a more reflective person, and her faith allows the miracle to take place.

We are blessed with frequent encounters with Jesus, in our communion, so we should hope for change in ourselves, and should expect to see impacts in our lives and in the lives of those around us. We know from Martha's life that this can be!

Friday of week 16 in Ordinary Time

Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 18(19):8-11; Matthew 13:18-23

I hope the you found time to reflect upon the parable of the sower - yesterday's Gospel. Today's is the explanation of its meaning from Jesus.

Jesus had just previously praised his apostles for their understanding of his message - but here he is patiently having to explain it to them in any case. Most teachers and catechists might have experienced this - it can be exasperating. Jesus shows no sign of exasperation at all.

We all can probably see patches in our lives of thin dry soil, thorny soil etc. and hopefully, good fresh soil. That good soil is likely to be the result of time spent in prayer - prayer time turns over our soil, prayer time has a habit of helping us to see the stones and weeds in the way. Prayer digs compost into our soil - makes it fruitful.


Thursday of week 16 in Ordinary Time

Exodus 19:1-2,9-11,16-20; Daniel 3:52-56; Matthew 13:10-17

In this interlude between speaking to the people, Matthew has Jesus explaining his methods to his apostles. Clearly, He is happy that they do understand his message (do they?). But they do not understand why Jesus does not simply say in plain words what his message is.

Partly the reason is cultural - most teachers of that time used similar techniques. The old testament is absolutely full of examples. But Jesus would not simply do what every other teacher was doing - he was distinctive. In the text in the translation we are used to He speaks in parables, but other biblical scholars (e.g. Nicholas King) use the word 'images'. I feel this more accurately describes what Jesus was doing. Parables suggest a desire to obscure, to make deliberately difficult, the message. Jesus is however painting images of situations that his audience would understand, so as to allow his message to emerge with a little observation and time spent looking.

The Ignition way of reading the bible makes use of this technique: allow His words to paint an image in your mind: some people actually get a pencil and paper and sketch what Jesus says. Or find an image by an artist relevant to the story.


Then just look at it for a while. The meaning that you need to see today, will emerge.

Just to help us a little, in the following verses, Jesus explains the image of the sower to his disciples - read Matthew 13: 18-23 (this is the Gospel for tomorrow).

Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Exodus 16:1-5,9-15; Psalm 77(78):18-19,23-28; Matthew 13:1-9

An ancient tradition, already known in the 2nd century, gives these names to the parents of the Virgin Mary. The cult of St Anna became popular in the 6th century in the East, and in the 10th century in the West, where she is the patron saint of Brittany; Joachim was added a long time later – too often the fate of fathers.
Although the information about Mary’s parents is found in an early apocryphal writing that gives many miraculous and highly-coloured stories about the early life of the Virgin Mary, there is no reason to suppose that such a straightforward fact as her parents’ names should be wrong, since there is nothing to be gained from falsifying it. It does not occur in the Gospels simply because the most reliable evangelists (the only ones whom we have allowed into the Bible) felt they had more important things to talk about.
But what, after all, could be more important than the parents who brought up the Virgin Mary to be the woman she was? At the moment of consenting to the Incarnation she took the most important decision ever taken by any human being, and the fact that she took it is, to a great extent, the work of her parents. The Holy Spirit gave her the strength to take the decision; but her parents’ training gave her the wisdom to choose.
Those of us who have children must seek to bring them up to the best of our ability, to meet challenges that, like Anna and Joachim, we have no way of even imagining.

Saint James, Apostle

2 Corinthians 4:7-15; Psalm 125(126):1-6; Matthew 20:20-28

This passage from Matthew is perhaps best read with the sequel, Matthew 20 29-34.

The first passage has two brothers (their mum takes the blame...) who in a very human way, wish to be leaders in Jesus's party. They are rebuked - gently - as Jesus tells them that his team is to be built unlike any other contemporary team. No one will be the boss - the leaders are those who serve.

In the second passage, Jesus meets two blind men, who would be totally dependent upon the service of others to simply stay alive - ask Jesus to serve them by healing them. Jesus puts his message into action - he performs the act of loving service needed, and heals them.

We should not be afraid of asking Jesus to serve us - but must be prepared to serve others in our turn. That service may well be the service Jesus gives to them, using us as his hands to touch, his eyes to look upon the world, and his arms to carry. (St Theresa).

Monday of week 16 in Ordinary Time

Exodus 14:5-18; Exodus 15:1-6; Matthew 12:38-42

The story that is so well known, and given to us in todays reading from Exodus. of the drowning of Pharos's army does present us with some difficulty when analysed with other contemporary records. There are no records of Pharos's entire army drowning in the sea - surely there would be?

It is probable - and not at all inconsistent with the then nature of story telling and (much) later writing down, that a real event becomes magnified in the re-telling. There are shallow lakes in the area the Israelites would have passed through escaping the army, and given a strong wind (from the East, we are old) they could have partially emptied, leaving a boggy but passable area on foot. The local boarder protection force, pursuing on horse and cart would have got stuck, and if that wind dropped, then the water would return making their problems worse - especially if they panicked.

The nature of this type of writing, much as with parables, needs us to look for the meaning behind the story. However appalling the situation, God has, over and over again, provided a solution - and this continues in our day. From Jonah, buried in the tomb of a whale's stomach for three days, linked to the three day burial of Christ - we see a deeper meaning emerges later.

"The Lord will do the fighting for you - you only have to keep still!"

Saint Mary Magdalen

Song of Songs 3:1-4; Psalm 62(63):2-6,8-9; John 20:1-2,11-18

The apostle to the apostles. Mary Magdalene was honoured by Jesus as the first to witness the truth of the resurrection, and sent by him to take this Good News to the apostles.

There is speculation about who this Mary was: a tradition says she was the same sinful Mary who wept onto Jesus' feet and dried them with her hair - but she could also be a different Mary. In which case however, here she is weeping again, but this time not because she has lost all through her sin, but because she has lost the one who saves her. Through her veil of tears she mistakes first of all the angels, and then Jesus himself for a gardener leading to a rich vein in the history of religious art - but when Jesus simply says her name - she recognises him then.

She does not cling to him, but leaves him to set out on her mission; an example to us all. When we hear our name being called we often do not recognise the caller - but he will persistently call us till we do respond.