Sunday, February 19, 2017

Seventh Week in Ordinary Time, Year A

If any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well, Christ tells his disciples in today's Gospel (Matthew 5: 38-48). Jesus is our supreme example of charity and self-giving: not only was he stripped of his clothes during his Passion, but he gave his very life for us.

Here are some words by St Cyprian on imitating Christ. (The image is of St. Martin of Tours, the soldier in the Roman army who cut his military cloak in two and gave half to a beggar in rags.):
St. Martin and the Beggar, Simone Martini
To assume the name of Christ without following the way of Christ – what else is that but to make a sham of the divinely given name and to abandon the path of salvation? When Christ himself teaches that the person who keeps his commandments will have life and that wisdom belongs to the one who not only listens to his words but acts on them, that the distinction of being called the greatest teacher in the kingdom of heaven is awarded to the one who not only teaches but acts in accordance with his teaching, then he means that if anything good and useful has been preached it will benefit the preacher only insofar as he lives by what he preaches....
We cannot bear the heavenly image within us unless we show a likeness to Christ in the life upon which we have now entered. This means changing from what we used to be and becoming something altogether new, so that our divine birth may be seen in us, so that we may imitate the Father by our holy way of life, and so that our lives may give honour and praise to God and he may be glorified in us. This is what he himself has taught and urged us to do, promising that those who glorify him will be rewarded. I will glorify those who glorify me, he says, and those who despise me shall be despised. To instruct us and prepare us for this glorification and produce in us a likeness to God the Father, our Lord, the Son of God, says in his gospel: You have heard it said: Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Year A

In today's gospel (Matthew 5:17-37), Jesus has strong words about anger and forgiveness: Whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment. St. John Chrysostom, who pulled no punches in his homilies, has these powerful words to say, that sound suprisingly modern:
Crucifixion, drawing by St. John of the Cross
Christ gave his life for you, and do you hold a grudge against your fellow servant? How then can you approach the table of peace? Your Master did not refuse to undergo every kind of suffering for you, and will you not even forgo your anger? Why is this, when love is the root, the wellspring and the mother of every blessing?
If you refuse to forgive your neighbor’s offence your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins either. What does your conscience say when you repeat the words: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, and the rest? Christ went so far as to offer his blood for the salvation of those who shed it. What could you do that would equal that? If you refuse to forgive your enemy you harm not him but yourself.... 
Listen to the Lord’s words: If you are bringing your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and first go and be reconciled with your brother. Then come and offer your gift. What do you mean? Am I really to leave my gift, my offering there? Yes, he says, because this sacrifice is offered in order that you may live in peace with your brother. So if the attainment of peace with your neighbor is the object of the sacrifice and you fail to make peace, even if you share in the sacrifice your lack of peace will make this sharing fruitless. Before all else therefore make peace, for the sake of which the sacrifice is offered. Then you will really benefit from it.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

5th Week in Ordinary Time, Year A

In a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his disciples, You are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5: 13-16). Here are some words on this Scripture passage from Jean Mouroux's book, “The Christian Experience”:

Sermon on the Mount, Fra Angelicao
This love of the neighbor means means bearing witness. Being a Christian means serving as Christ served, and with Christ. Christ’s essential service is the bringing of truth, salvation, joy. Christians must take part in this service, and this they do by bearing witness. There are two images that express one aspect of this Christian function. First, You are the salt of the earth. Like salt, Christians act by contact. The power of purity and faithfulness and charity that is in them elevates their life, saves it from egoism, and gradually delivers it up into God’s hands; it gives a spiritual savor to all their actions and makes them an agent of purification and preservation.

Then, You are the light of the world. Like light, Christians act by presence. The light of faith, which produces every kind of good work dissipates prejudices, lightens the way, leads to God. It comes and awakens that power of desire and admiration and “graceful” action that slumbers in every Christian soul, and thus, by its mere presence, it causes us to glorify God. This gospel affirmation is complementary to another. We must never act so as to be noticed by human beings, but only to please God. The purer the intention, the deeper the inwardness of our acts, the more direct and detached will be our search for God and his kingdomand the more will our light shine before all.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

4th Week in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew tells us in the gospel this morning that Jesus went up onto a mountain and taught his disciples (Matthew 5:1-12). The Sermon on the Mount, as it's called, records his words: Blessed are the poor in spirit ... Blessed are the meek ... the merciful ... the pure in heart.... In one of this morning's long readings at Vigils, we hear part of a homily by St. Chromatius on this gospel:
Sermon on the Mount, Carl Bloch (detail)
Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called the children of God. If you can see how great the merit of peacemakers is, when they are no longer called servants but children of God. This reward is fully justified, since the lover of peace loves Christ, the author of peace, to whom Paul the Apostle even gives ‘peace’ as a name: He is our peace, he says. Someone who does not love peace goes in pursuit of discord, for he loves its author, the devil. In the beginning the devil caused discord between God and the human race by leading the first man to violate God’s precept. The reason why the Son of God came down from heaven was to condemn the devil, the author of discord, and to make peace between God and the human race by reconciling its members to God and making God propitious to them.

We must therefore become peacemakers so that we may deserve to be called children of God. Without peace, we lose the name not only of children but even of servants, since the apostle says to us: Love peace, for without it none of us can be pleasing to God.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

3rd Week in Ordinary Time, Year A

In today's Gospel (Matthew 4: 12-23), Jesus sees Simon Peter and Andrew fishing and says to them: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And “immediately they left their nets and followed him.” How amazing is that, and how much can we learn from their example? You have heard how, at a single command, St. Gregory the Great tells his congregation,
Calling of St. Peter Calling of St. Peter and St. Andrew
ca. 1160, Sant Pere de Rodes monastery
Peter and Andrew left their nets and followed our Redeemer. They had not yet seen him work one miracle, or heard any mention of an eternal reward, and yet one word from the Lord was enough to make them forget all their possessions.
....But the perhaps someone is saying to himself: How much did these two fishermen give up at the Lord’s bidding? They had practically nothing! That maybe so, but in this matter what counts is motive rather than wealth. Those who keep nothing back for themselves give up much; those who abandon all they have, even if it is very little, give up a great deal. We, on the other hand, are possessive about the things we have and covetously try to obtain those we do not have. Peter and Andrew gave up a great deal because they gave up even the desire to possess anything.
Therefore let none of us who see other people giving up great possessions say to ourselves: I should like to imitate people like these who have such contempt for the world, but I have nothing to give up. You give up much if you give up the desire to possess. The Lord looks at your heart, not your fortune; he considers the love that prompts your offering, not its amount.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

2nd Week in Ordinary Time, Year A

The very first Sunday after the Feast of the Baptism again features St. John the Baptist, witnessing to Jesus: I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One (John 1:33-34). Heres part of a commentary on this Gospel by St. Cyril of Alexandria, read at Vigils this morning:
St. John the Baptist Bearing Witness (detail), Annibale Carracci
When he saw Jesus coming toward him John said: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’ ...One Lamb died for all to restore the whole flock on earth to God the Father; one died for all to make all subject to God; one died for all to gain all so that all might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.
...Once sin had been destroyed how could death, which was caused by sin, fail to be wholly annihilated? With the root dead how could the branch survive? What power will death have over us now that sin has been blotted out? And so, rejoicing in the sacrifice of the Lamb let us cry out: O death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting? All wickedness shall hold its tongue, as the Psalmist sings somewhere. Henceforth it will be unable to denounce sinners for their weakness, for God is the one who acquits us. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for our sake, so we might escape the curse brought down on us by sin.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Feast of the Epiphany, Year A

Blessed Feast of the Epiphany! This day’s liturgical celebration (from the Greek epiphania, “manifestation,” of Christ, that is) has many layers: the Adoration of the Magi, the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, and the first miracle at the wedding feast of Cana. The feast is so rich in meaning that it’s difficult to choose from among the wealth of commentaries, let alone edit out sections of the one selected. We hope this commentary by from St. Basil the Great isn’t too long, but we couldn't bear to cut any of it! Perhaps you might read parts of it throughout the coming week:
Journey & Adoration of the Magi
Codex Bruschal, ca 1220
The star came to rest above the place where the child was. At the sight of it the wise men were filled with great joy and that great joy should fill our hearts as well. It is the same as the joy the shepherds received from the glad tidings brought by the angels. Let us join the wise men in worship and the shepherds in giving glory to God. Let us dance with the angels and sing: To us is born this day a savior who is Christ the Lord. The Lord is God and he has appeared to us, not as God which would have terrified us in our weakness, but as a slave in order to free those living in slavery. Could anyone be so lacking in sensibility and so ungrateful as not to join us in our gladness, exultation, and radiant joy? This feast belongs to the whole universe. It gives heavenly gift to the earth, it sends archangels to Zechariah and to Mary, it assembles a choir of angels to sing, Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.
Stars cross the sky, wise men journey from pagan lands, earth receives its savior in a cave. Let there be no one without a gift to offer, no one without gratitude as we celebrate the salvation of the world, the birthday of the human race. Now it is no longer, Dust you are and to dust you shall return, but “You are joined to heaven and into heaven you shall be taken up.” It is no longer, In sorrow you shall bring forth children, but, “Blessed is she who has borne Emmanuel and blessed the breast that nursed him.” For a child is born to us, a son is given to us, and dominion is laid upon his shoulder.

Come, join the company of those who merrily welcome the Lord from heaven. Think of shepherds receiving wisdom, of priests prophesying, of women who are glad of heart, us Mary was when told by the angel to rejoice and as Elizabeth was when John leapt in her womb. Anna announced the good news; Simeon took the child in his arms. They worshipped the mighty God in a tiny baby, not despising what they beheld but praising his divine majesty.
 Like light through clear glass the power of the Godhead shone through that human body for those whose inner eye was pure. Among such may we also be numbered, so that beholding his radiance with unveiled face we too may be transformed from glory to glory by the grace and loving kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honor and power for endless ages. Amen.