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.”

Sunday, March 4, 2018

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B

Today's Gospel, taken from John 2:13-25, tells the dramatic story of Jesus driving the moneychangers from the temple. “God’s temple is holy,”  and, says St. Augustine:
Expulsion of the Money changers from the Temple,
Giotto Scrovegni
You are that temple: all you who believe in Christ and whose belief makes you love him. Real belief in Christ means love of Christ: it is not the belief of the demons who believed without loving and therefore despite their belief said: “What do you want with us, Son of God?” No; let our belief be full of love for him we believe in, so that instead of saying: “What do you want with us,” we may rather say: We belong to you, you have redeemed us. 
To pray in God’s temple we must pray in the peace of the Church, in the unity of the body of Christ, which is made up of many believers throughout the world. When we pray in this temple our prayers are heard, because whoever prays in the peace of the Church prays in spirit and in truth.
The temple of God, this body of Christ, this assembly of believers, has but one voice, and sings the psalms as though it were but one person. If we wish, it is our voice; if we wish, we may listen to the singer with our ears and ourselves sing in our hearts. But if we choose not to do so it will mean that we are like buyers and sellers, preoccupied with our own interests.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

2nd Sunday of Lent (Gospel of the Transfiguration), Year B

No one should be ashamed of the cross of Christ, through which the world has been redeemed. No one should fear to suffer for the sake of justice; no one should lose confidence in the reward that has been promised. The way to rest is through toil, the way to life is through death. Christ has taken on himself the whole weakness of our lowly human nature. If then we are steadfast in our faith in him and in our love for him, we win the victory that he has won, we receive what he has promised.

From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope

Fresco of the Transfiguration at the Serbian Orthodox Monastery of Decani, Kosovo 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

1st Sunday of Lent, Year II

This first Sunday of Lent, as we begin our journey to the Paschal Mystery of Christ's Passion, Death and Resurrection, the Church gives us as the Gospel Mark's account of his temptation by the devil at the beginning of his public ministry. Here's a commentary on it by John Justus Landsberg (1489/90-1539), the Carthusian spiritual writer:
Temptation of Christ on the Mountain,
Duccio di Buoninsegna (d. c. 1319)
Everything the Lord Jesus decided to do, everything he chose to endure, was ordained by him for our instruction, our correction, and our advantage; and since he knew that the teaching and consolation we should derive from it all was far from negligible, he was loath to let slip any opportunity that might profit us. 
And so when he was led out into the wilderness there is no doubt that his guide was the Holy Spirit whose intention was to take him to a place where he would be exposed to temptation, a place where the devil would have the audacity to accost him and put him to the test. 
The circumstances were so greatly in the devil’s favor that he was prompted to capitalize on them: here was Jesus alone, at prayer, physically worn out by fasting and abstinence. A chance indeed to find out whether this man really was the Christ, whether or not he was the Son of God.
From this episode therefore our first lesson is that human life on earth is a life of warfare, and the first thing Christians must expect is to be tempted by the devil. As Scripture tells us, we have to be prepared for temptation, for it is written: “When you enter God’s service, prepare your soul for an ordeal.”

Sunday, February 11, 2018

6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

The story of Jesus's healing the leper in today's Gospel (Mark 1: 40-45) is a source of great hope for us all. Paschasius Radbertus (785–865), the Benedictine abbot and theologian, encourages us to trust in God's mercy and forgiveness:
Jesus heals the leper (XII-XIII s. mosaic)
Cathedral of Monreale, Sicilia
However great our sinfulness, each one of us can be healed by God every day. We have only to worship him with humility and love, and wherever we are to say with faith: Lord, if you want to you can make me clean. It is by believing from the heart that we are justified, so we must make our petitions with the utmost confidence, and that the slightest doubt of God’s power.
If we pray with a faith springing from love, God’s will need be in no doubt. He will be ready and able to save us by an all-powerful command. He immediately answered the leper’s request, saying: I do want to. Indeed, no sooner had the leper begun to pray with faith than the Saviour’s hand began to cure from his leprosy.