Sunday, April 22, 2018

4th Sunday of Easter, Year B (Good Shepherd Sunday)

In the Gospel for this Good Shepherd Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter (Jn 10:11-18), we learn that Christ is the Good Shepherd, and his faithful followers are the “sheep” who will hear the shepherd's voice. And what is this voice of Christ saying? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger. Basil of Seleucia, in his homily below, reveals the direct link between our compassion for our neighbor and God's compassion toward us:
Good Shepherd mural (detail), Duncan Grant
Lincoln Cathedral, England. (1958)
The Gospel says that “all nations will be assembled before him and he will separate people from one another, as the Good Shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand, and the goats on his left, and he will say to those on his right hand, 'Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'”
Win the judge over by gifts before you come to trial. Provide him with grounds for showing clemency, give him some reason to acquit you.... Christ will accept even the gift of the poor and for a small gift grant remission of long punishment. Let us put out the fire with mercy and avert the sentence that hangs over us by showing love for one another. Let us be compassionate toward one another and forgiving, as God has forgiven us in Christ.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Third Sunday of Easter, Year B

This Sunday's Gospel (Lk 24:35-48) tells of the encounter two disciples have with the Risen Lord. When he appeared to them they were "startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost." Jesus says, "Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." He shows them his hands and his feet and they are incredulous for joy and amazed.

Here's a meditation from a homily by St. Augustine:
Man of Sorrows, by Hans Memlin
Christ rose from the tomb with his wounds healed, though their scars remained. He knew it would be good for his disciples if he retained the scars, for those scars would heal the wound in their hearts.
What wound do I mean? The wound of disbelief; for even when he appeared before their eyes and showed them his true body, they still took him for a disembodied spirit. So he showed himself to his disciples.
When we say “himself,” what precisely do we mean? We mean Christ as head of his Church.
He foresaw the Church extending throughout the world, a vision his disciples could not yet share. However, in showing them the head, he was promising them the body too.
We too find ourselves in a situation not unlike theirs: we can see something which was not visible to them, while they could see something not visible to us. We can see the Church extending throughout the world today, something that was withheld from them, but Christ, who in his human body was perceptible to them, cannot be seen by us.

And just as they, seeing his human flesh, were enabled to believe in his mystical body, so now we, seeing his mystical body, should be able to believe in the head. Just as the sight of the risen Christ helped the disciples to believe in the Church that was to follow, so the spectacle of that same Church helps to confirm our faith in the resurrection of Christ.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Sunday within the Octave of Easter, Year B

This Sunday's Gospel tells the story of Doubting Thomas:

The disbelief of Saint Thomas.
Detail of ivory dyptic, ca. 500 AD., Milan Cathedral.
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

St. Cyril of Alexandria, writing about this scene in his Commentary on John’s Gospel says, "As always, Christ has to be patient with Thomas when he said he would not believe, and with the other disciples too when they thought they were seeing a ghost. Because of his desire to convince the whole world, he most willingly showed them the marks of the nails and the wound in his side; because he wished those who needed such signs as a support for their faith to have no possible reason for doubt, he even took food although he had no need for it."

May our faith, like that of Thomas and the other disciples, ever increase, and may we always say to the risen Christ, "My Lord and my God!"


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday, Year B

A Holy and Blessed Easter to all! Christ is risen, Alleluia!



A translation of the Easter Sequence Victimae paschali laudes,
by Wipo of Burgundy (d. 1050?)

Christians, to the Paschal victim
offer your thankful praises!

A lamb the sheep redeemeth:
Christ, who only is sinless,
reconcileth sinners to the Father.

Death and life have contended
in that combat stupendous:
the Prince of life, who died,
reigns immortal.

Speak, Mary, declaring
what thou sawest, wayfaring:

"The tomb of Christ, who is living,
the glory of Jesus' resurrection;

"Bright angels attesting,
the shroud and napkin resting.

"Yea, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he will go before you."

Christ indeed from death is risen,
our new life obtaining;
have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Palm Sunday, Year B

Blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week from us all!

Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward his passion, and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish.
From a sermon by St. Andrew of Crete
Christ's entry into Jerusalem (detail from sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, 359 AD)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

5th Sunday of Lent, Year B

This week we are presented with a powerful gospel text (John 12:20-33) with the simple and clear imagery of a grain of wheat. "If a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it yields a rich harvest," says Christ. It is a striking and confronting message, and yet Jesus reassures us that a self-sacrificing death will yield an abundance of life. St. Cyril of Alexandria adds that we do not do this in isolation, but as many members of one body. He writes:




Christ became like one of us; he sprang from the holy Virgin like a spike of wheat from the ground. Indeed, he spoke of himself as a grain of wheat when he said: “I tell you truly, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains as it was, a single grain; but if it dies its yield is very great.” And so, like a sheaf of grain, the first fruits, as it were, of the earth, he offered himself to the Father for our sake.

For we do not think of a spike of wheat in isolation, any more than we do of ourselves. We think of it rather as part of a sheaf, which is a single bundle made up of many spikes. The spikes have to be gathered into a bundle before they can be used, and this is the key to the mystery they represent, the mystery of Christ who, though one, appears in the image of a sheaf to be made up of many, as in fact he is.

Spiritually, he contains in himself all believers. “As we have been raised up with him,” writes Saint Paul, “so we have also been enthroned with him in heaven.” He is a human being like ourselves, and this has made us one body with him, the body being the bond that unites us. We can say, therefore, that in him we are all one, and indeed he himself says to God, his heavenly Father: “It is my desire that as I and you are one, so they also may be one in us.”

Sunday, March 11, 2018

4th Sunday of Lent, Year B

As the Church approaches Holy Week, we are given Jesus's words to Nicodemus, recorded by St. John (3:14-21): For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. St. John Chrysostom reflects in a homily on this great love of God for humanity, a love that was revealed in the self-sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our redemption. This love should inspire awe and gratitude in us, for it reveals the very nature of who God is: love itself.

St. John Chrysostom says:
Crucifix, Paolo Veneziano (ca. 1350)
Although we praise our common Lord for all kinds of reasons, we praise and glorify him above all for the cross. It fills us with awe to see him dying like one accursed.

It is this death for people like ourselves that Paul constantly regards as the sign of Christ’s love for us. He passes over everything else that Christ did for our advantage and consolation and dwells incessantly on the cross. “The proof of Gods love for us,” he says, “is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.”

Then in the following sentence he gives us the highest ground for hope: “If when we were alienated from God, we were reconciled to him by the death of his Son, how much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life!”

...What wonder, indeed, if Paul rejoices and glories in the cross, when the Lord himself spoke of his passion as his glory. “Father,” he prayed, “the hour has come: glorify your Son.”