Sunday, June 17, 2018

11th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

In today's Gospel (Mark 4:26-34), Jesus says that "...the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed." Any gardener knows what a miracle of creation a seed is: from a tiny object, sometimes scarcely visible to the eye, a large plant grows, given the proper environment. In this commentary St. Peter Chrysologus says that:
The Sower, (1888) Vincent van Gogh
Christ is the kingdom of heaven. Sown like a mustard seed in the garden of the Virgin's womb, he grew up into the tree of the cross whose branches stretch across the world. Crushed in the mortar of the passion, its fruit has produced seasoning enough for the flavoring and preservation of every living creature with which it comes in contact.

As long as a mustard seed remains intact, its properties lie dormant; but when it is crushed they are exceedingly evident. So it was with Christ; he chose to have his body crushed, because he would not have his power concealed....
Such then is the mustard seed which Christ sowed in his garden. When he promised a kingdom to the partriarchs the seed took root in them; with the prophets it sprang up, with the apostles it grew tall, in the Church it became a great tree putting forth innumerable branches laden with gifts. And now you too must take the wings of the psalmist’s dove, gleaming gold in the rays of divine sunlight, and fly to rest for ever among those sturdy, fruitful branches. No snares are set to trap you there; fly off, then, with confidence and dwell securely in its shelter.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

10th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

This Sunday's first reading (Gen 3:9-15) brings us to the garden of our first parents, the place of their transgression; here we see the context for Christ's coming to undo the sin of Adam, to reverse the curse of death. As Jesus preaches the coming of the kingdom of God against the earthly kingdom of Satan in the Gospel of Mark (3:20-35), so too does the ancient Greek homilist in his 5th century text below:
Adam & Eve in Paradise, painted wood ceiling, Michaeliskirche (12th c.)
The signs of the Lord's resurrection are obvious: deception has ceased, envy has been banished, strife is despised. Peace is held in honor and war has been done away with. No longer do we reproach the Adam who was fashioned first; instead we glorify the second Adam. No longer do we reproach Eve for transgressing God's command: instead we bless Mary for being the Mother of God. No longer do we avert our eyes from the wood of the tree: instead we carry the Lord's cross.
We no longer fear the serpent: instead we revere the Holy Spirit. We no longer descend into the earth: instead we reascend into heaven. We are no longer exiles from paradise: instead we live in Abraham's bosom. We no longer hear, “I have made your day like night”: instead, inspired by the Holy Spirit, we sing: “This is the day which the Lord has made: let us keep it with gladness and rejoicing.”


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Feast of Corpus Christi, Year B

On this great Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, we offer for your reflection part of a homily give by Pope Francison this feast in 2015:
Manuscript illumination, ca. 1320
In the Last Supper, Jesus gives His Body and his Blood by means of the bread and the wine, to leave us the memorial of His sacrifice of infinite love. With this viaticum full to overflowing with grace, the disciples have everything they need for their long journey through history, to extend the kingdom of God to everyone. Light and strength will be for them the gift that Jesus made of Himself, sacrificing Himself voluntarily on the Cross. This Bread of Life has come down to us! The Church is in unending awe before this reality – an awe that endlessly nourishes contemplation, adoration, memory. This is seen in a beautiful text of today’s Liturgy, the Responsory of the second reading of the Office of Readings, which says: “See in this bread the body of Christ which hung upon the cross, and in this cup the blood which flowed from His side. Take His body, then, and eat it; take His blood and drink it, and you will become His members. The body of Christ is the bond which unites you to him: eat it, or you will have no part in him. The blood is the price he paid for your redemption: drink it, lest you despair of your sinfulness.”

We ask ourselves what it means today, to be torn from Him, to despair – as cowards – of our sinfulness?
We are torn from Him when we are not obedient to the Word of the Lord, when we do not live brotherhood between us, when we race to occupy the first places, when we do not find the courage to witness to charity, when we are unable to offer hope. The Eucharist allows us to be not torn from Him, for it is the bond of communion, is the fulfillment of the Covenant, a living sign of the love of Christ who humbled and annihilated Himself for us, that we might remain united. By participating in the Eucharist and by feeding on it, we are inserted into a way that does not admit divisions. The Christ present in our midst, in the signs of bread and wine, requires that the power of love exceed every laceration, and at the same time that it become communion with the poor, support for the weak, fraternal attention to those who are struggling to carry the weight of everyday life.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Trinity Sunday, Year B

As we honor the Holy Trinity this Sunday, we look to the Fathers of the Church to enlighten us on such a sublime subject. St. Athanasius, in the sermon below, describes the intimacy of relationship among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the way in which they share the divine life with us!
Book miniature of Rublev's Trinity (Unknown painter)
Even the gifts that the Spirit dispenses to individuals are given by the Father through the Word. For all that belongs to the Father belongs also to the Son, and so the graces given by the Son in the Spirit are true gifts of the Father. Similarly, when the Spirit dwells in us, the Word who bestows the Spirit is in us too, and the Father is present in the Word. This is the meaning of the text: My Father and I will come to him and make our home with him. For where the light is, there also is the radiance; and where the radiance is, there too are its power and its resplendent grace.
This is also Paul’s teaching in his second letter to the Corinthians: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. For grace and the gift of the Trinity are given by the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Just as grace is given from the Father through the Son, so there could be no communication of the gift to us except in the Holy Spirit. But when we share in the Spirit, we possess the love of the Father, the grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Spirit himself.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pentecost Sunday, Year B

The beautiful thirteenth century sequence, Veni Sancte Spiritu, is sung at Mass on Pentecost Sunday, but it's a wonderful prayer for any day of the year. Here's an English translation.

From the Hours of John of Berry, c. 1405/10 (British Library)
Come, Holy Spirit,
send forth the heavenly
radiance of your light.

Come, father of the poor,
come, giver of gifts,
come, light of the heart. 

Greatest comforter,
sweet guest of the soul,
sweet consolation.

In labor, rest,
in heat, temperance,
in tears, solace.

O most blessed light,
fill the inmost heart
of your faithful.

Without your grace,
there is nothing in us,
nothing that is not harmful.

Cleanse that which is unclean,
water that which is dry,
heal that which is wounded.

Bend that which is inflexible,
fire that which is chilled,
correct what goes astray.

Give to your faithful,
those who trust in you,
the sevenfold gifts.

Grant the reward of virtue,
grant the deliverance of salvation,
grant eternal joy.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

7th Sunday of Easter, Year B

When the moment was at hand for Jesus to leave his disciples, Guerric of Igny says,
Ascension of Christ, 15th c. Italian, State Library of Victoria
He seemed overwhelmed by the depth of his affection for them, and unable to disguise the overflowing tenderness which until then he had hidden from them. 
Hence the words of the evangelist: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” He laid bare the whole strength of his love for his friends, before pouring himself out like water for his enemies. Handing over to them the sacrament of his body and blood, he instituted the celebration of the eucharist.
It is hard to say which was the more wonderful, his power or his love, in devising this new means of remaining with them, to console them for his departure. In spite of the withdrawal of his bodily presence, he would remain not only with them but in them, by virtue of this sacrament.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments," our Lord declares to his disciples in this week's Gospel from John (14:15-21). Just as Christ loved us unto death, so also are we called to do the same. The life and martyrdom of St. Thomas More (1478-1535) is a poignant reflection of Christ's love and an example of profound fidelity to God; he was willing to oppose the spiritual supremacy of the king of England in favor of the true supremacy of the bishop of Rome. In one of More's meditations, he reveals that the love of Christ is indeed the truest, highest love, the only love worthy of imitation.
Let us deeply consider the love of our Savior Christ who so loved his own unto the end that for their sakes he willingly suffered that painful end, and therein declared the highest degree of love that can be.
For, as he himself says: “A greater love no one has than to give his life for his friends.” This is indeed the greatest love that ever anyone had. But yet had our Savior a greater, for he gave his for both friend and foe.
Who can in adversity be sure of many of his friends when our Savior himself was, at his capture, left alone and forsaken by his? When you go forth who will go with you? 
Now, since our Lord has so loved us, for our salvation, let us diligently call for his grace that in return for his great love we be not found ungrateful.