Sunday, December 4, 2016

2nd Sunday of Advent

In today’s Gospel, St. John the Baptist tells the crowds, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” John is the forerunner of of the Messiah, of whom Isaiah prophesied: “A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” During this holy season of waiting for the coming of Our Lord, all creation seems to cry out, Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2).

Here is an excerpt from a homily of St. Augustine on the mercy of God and the time of salvation:
John the Baptist (right) with child Jesus, Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo
Each of us would be wise therefore to take to heart the advice of his teacher, and not waste this present time. It is now that our Savior offers us his mercy; now, while he still spares the human race. 
Understand that it is in hope of our conversion that he spares us, for he desires no one’s damnation. As for when the end of the world will be, that is God’s concern. Now it is the time for faith. Whether any of us here present will see the end of the world I know not; very likely none of us will. Even so, the time is very near for each of us, for we are mortal.There are hazards all around us. We should be in less danger from them were we made of glass. What more fragile than a vessel of glass? And yet it can be kept safe and last indefinitely. Of course it is exposed to accidents, but it is not liable to old age and the suffering it brings. We therefore are the more frail and infirm.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

1st Sunday of Advent, Year A

The First Sunday of Advent is here! No matter how hard we strive not to be affected by all the commercialism, it can be such a busy, distracting time of year. This beautiful reading from a sermon by St. Aelred of Rievaulx may help set your minds on the things that are above (Col. 3:2):
How beautifully at this season the Church provides that we should recite the words and recall the longing of those who lived before our Lord’s first advent! Nor do we commemorate that desire of theirs for a single day, but share it so to speak for a long period of time, because when something we greatly love and long for is deferred for a while it usually seems sweeter to us when it does arrive.
It is our duty then to follow the example and recall the longing of the holy fathers and so inflame our own souls with love and longing for Christ. You must understand that the reason why this season was instituted was to inspire us to remember the desire of our holy fathers for our Lord’s first coming, and through their example learn to have a great longing for the day when he will come again. We should consider how much good our Lord did us by his first coming, and how much more he will do for us by his second. This thought will help us to have a great love for that first coming of his and a great longing for his return.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Christ the King, Year C

This Sunday, the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year and the feast of Christ the King, has as its Gospel a scene from the Crucifixion, related by St. Luke (Luke 23:35-43).  Jesus is mocked by the Jews (He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!), by the soldiers (If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself), and by one of the thieves crucified with him (Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!) But this last scorner is rebuked by the other thief, who then turns to  Our Lord and says, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power.” And Jesus responds, Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. What a fitting Gospel to end Pope Francis's Year of Mercy!

Here's part of a commentary by St. John Chrysostom:
Mosaic of Christ, Hagia Sophia
Lord, remember me in your kingdom. But before he had laid aside the burden of his sins by confessing them did the thief dare to say the words Remember me in your kingdom. Do you not see the value of that confession? It opened paradise! It gave the former brigand the confidence to seek admission to the kingdom!
But that the cross brings us untold blessings is surely obvious. Have you set your heart upon a kingdom? Then tell me, can you see any such thing? All that meets the eye are nails and a cross, and yet this very cross, Christ says, is the symbol of the kingdom. I proclaim him king, therefore, because I see him crucified, for it becomes a king to die for his subjects. He himself said that the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, and so the good king too lays down his life for his subjects. Christ laid down his life, and that is why I proclaim him king: Lord, remember me in your kingdom.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

We are nearing the end of the Church Year: next Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King, and the week after is the First Sunday of Advent. In today's Gospel (Luke 21: 5-19), Jesus prepares us for the end of the world: When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” How frightening his words can sound! You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. And yet Jesus ends with comfort for us: By your endurance you will gain your souls.

Here is part of a letter written by St. Nilus of Ancyra, bishop and monastic writer (d. 430 AD) about patient endurance:
In time of trial it is of great profit to us patiently to endure for God’s sake, for the Lord says: By patient endurance you will win life for yourselves. He did not say by your fasting, or your solitude and silence, or your singing of psalms, although all of these are helpful in saving your soul. But he said: By patient endurance in every trial that overtakes you, and in every affliction, whether this be insolent and contemptuous treatment, or any kind of disgrace, either small or great; whether it be bodily weakness, or the belligerent attacks of Satan, or any trial whatsoever caused either by other people or by evil spirits.
...The Apostle writes: With patient endurance we run the race of faith set before us. For what has more power than virtue? What more firmness or strength than patient endurance? Endurance, that is, for God’s sake. This is the queen of virtues, the foundation of virtue, a haven of tranquillity. It is peace in time of war, calm in rough waters, safety amidst treachery and danger. It makes those who practise it stronger than steel. No weapons or brandished bows, no turbulent troops or advancing siege engines, no flying spears or arrows can shake it. Not even the host of evil spirits, nor the dark array of hostile powers, though the devil himself standing by with all his armies and devices will have power to injure the man or woman who has acquired this virtue through Christ.
Destruction of the Temple, Relief in the Arch of Titus, ca 81 AD

Sunday, November 6, 2016

32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Here's part of a talk Pope Francis gave in St. Peter's Square on this Gospel three years ago:
This Sunday’s Gospel [Luke 20: 27-38] sets before us Jesus grappling with the Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection.... It is not this life that will serve as a reference point for eternity, for the other life that awaits us; rather, it is eternity — that life — which illumines and gives hope to the earthly life of each one of us! If we look at things from only a human perspective, we tend to say that man’s journey moves from life to death. This is what we see! But this is only so if we look at things from a human perspective. Jesus turns this perspective upside down and states that our pilgrimage goes from death to life: the fullness of life! We are on a journey, on a pilgrimage toward the fullness of life, and that fullness of life is what illumines our journey! Therefore death stands behind us, not before us....
The Anastasis fresco, Chora Museum
Before us stands the final defeat of sin and death, the beginning of a new time of joy and of endless light. But already on this earth, in prayer, in the Sacraments, in fraternity, we encounter Jesus and his love, and thus we may already taste something of the risen life. The experience we have of his love and his faithfulness ignites in our hearts like a fire and increases our faith in the resurrection. In fact, if God is faithful and loves, he cannot be thus for only a limited time: faithfulness is eternal, it cannot change. God’s love is eternal, it cannot change! It is not only for a time: it is forever! It is for going forward! He is faithful forever and he is waiting for us, each one of us, he accompanies each one of us with his eternal faithfulness.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

31st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. Zacchaeus, the wealthy tax collector, declares this to Jesus in today's gospel (Luke 19:1-10). And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold. The faith of Zacchaeus is rewarded: Jesus responds, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Here's part of the commentary on this passage by Philoxenus (c. 440-523), bishop of Mabbug (Hieropolis):
Zaccheus in the Sycamore Tree, unidentified icon
All who were called by the Lord obeyed his summons at once, provided love of earthly things did not weigh them down. For worldly ties are a weight upon the mind and understanding, and for those bound by them it is difficult to hear the sound of God’s call. 
But the apostles, and the righteous people and patriarchs before them, were not like this. They obeyed like people really alive, and set out lightly, because no worldly possessions held them bound as though by heavy fetters. 
For faith’s only possession is God, and it refuses to own anything else besides him. Nothing can bind or impede the soul that senses God: it is open and ready, so that the light of the divine voice, each time it comes, finds the soul capable of receiving it.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Last Sunday's parable of the widow and the unjust judge was a call to diligent prayer. The widow's persistence wore down the judge's resistence. This Sunday, the parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18: 9-14) illustrates how we should pray: with humility. Here is part of a commentary by St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria from 412 to 444 AD:
The Pharisee and the Publican, unidentified manuscript
But what of the publican? He stood, it says, “afar off,” not even venturing, so to speak, to raise up his eyes on high. You see him abstaining from all boldness of speech, as having no right thereto, and smitten by the reproaches of conscience: for he was afraid of being even seen by God, as one who had been careless of His laws, and had led an unchaste and dissolute life.... And what is the result? Let us hear what the Judge says, “This man, He says, went down to his house justified rather than the other.”
Let us therefore “pray without ceasing,” according to the expression of the blessed Paul: but let us be careful to do so aright.... Yes, though you lead an excellent and elect life, don't exact wages from the Lord; but rather ask of Him a gift. As being good, He will promise it you: as a loving Father, He will aid you.