Sunday, December 10, 2017

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year B

The Gospel given for the Second Sunday of Advent (Mk 1:1-8) encourages us to make straight the paths of the Lord. Indeed, it is Christ himself who makes us "straight"; we have only to open ourselves to his presence and grace. Origen, in an ancient homily, speaks of this truth:
John the Baptist, Tiziano (1542)
Let as examine the scriptural texts foretelling the coming of Christ. One such prophecy begins with a reference to John the Baptist: The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight. What follows, however, applies directly to our Lord and Saviour, since it is by Jesus rather than by John that every valley has been filled in. [...]
Now let us turn to that part of the prophecy which also concerns the coming of Christ and see whether this too has been fulfilled. The text continues: Every crooked way shall be straightened. Each one of us was once crooked; if we are no longer so, it is entirely due to the grace of Christ. Through his coming to our souls all our crooked ways have been straightened out. If Christ did not come to your soul, of what use would his historical coming in the flesh be to you? Let us pray that each day we may experience his coming and be able to testify: It is not I who now live, but Christ who lives in me.
So then, by his coming Jesus my Lord has smoothed out your rough places and changed your disorderly ways into level paths, so that an even, unimpeded road may be constructed within you, clear enough for God the Father to walk along, and Christ the Lord may himself set up his dwelling in your hearts and say: My Father and I will come to them and make our home in them.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

1st Sunday of Advent, Year B

"Watch! Stay awake!," declares Christ in the Gospel for this First Sunday of Advent (Mk 13:33-37). We are called to shake off the sloth that drags us down so that we may eagerly await him and desire the things of heaven. Godfrey of Admont explains further how to spend these holy days of the Advent season:
Behold I Stand at the Door and Knock,
 stained glass detail, Geneva, Indiana
Take heed, watch, and pray, the Scripture says. By these words our Lord and Saviour admonished not only his disciples whom he was addressing in the flesh; by these same words he also made clear to us what we must do, and how we should keep watch. The three parts of this saying plainly show how all destined to be saved, who forget what lies behind them and desire to press on toward what lies ahead, can attain the summit of perfection which is their goal. [...]
Take heed, watch, and pray our text says; meaning, take heed by understanding what is right; watch by doing what is good; and pray by desiring what is eternal. And the following words show clearly why they must be so very heedful, watchful, and prayerful. You do not know, the text says, when the time will be. So since we are ignorant of the time of this great visitation, we must be always watching and praying; that is to say, for the grace of so great a visitation we must prepare the innermost recesses of our hearts by vigilant effort.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Christ the King, Year A

The Last Judgment, Rogier van der Weyden (1446-52)
The Solemnity of Christ the King is the final Sunday of Ordinary Time, which closes the liturgical year with a profound and powerful act of worship. As the seasons of the church year mirror the entire drama of salvation, this last week draws our attention to the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. The Gospel from Matthew (25:31-46) reminds us that our eternal destiny begins with this life, and is shaped by our efforts to love God and all whom we encounter. What great joy is in store, and for all eternity! St. Hippolytus describes this in detail:
As the holy gospel clearly proclaims, the Son of Man will gather together all nations. He will separate people one from another, as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. The sheep he will place at his right hand, the goats at his left. Then he will say to those at his right: Come, my Father’s blessed ones, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Come, you lovers of poor people and strangers. Come, you who fostered my love, for I am love. Come, you who shared peace, for I am peace.
Come, my Father’s blessed ones, inherit the kingdom prepared for you who did not make an idol of wealth, who gave alms to the poor, help to orphans and widows, drink to the thirsty, and food to the hungry. Come, you who welcomed strangers, clothed the naked, visited the sick, comforted prisoners, and assisted the blind. Come, you who kept the seal of faith unbroken, who were swift to assemble in the churches, who listened to my Scriptures, longed for my words, observed my law day and night, and like good soldiers shared in my suffering because you wanted to please me, your heavenly King. Come, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Look, by kingdom is ready, paradise stands open, my immortality is displayed in all its beauty. Come now, all of you, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.... Enjoy forever the gifts of my heavenly Father, and of the most holy and life-giving Spirit. What tongue can describe those blessings? Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, not human heart conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

The Parable of the Talents (Mt. 25:14-30) is a story that Christ uses to challenge and encourage us. It is a call to be zealous for God, to be resourceful in our ways of serving him and to avoid fear. As St. Augustine says in a homily: Love makes all, the hardest and most distressing things, altogether easy, and almost nothing. Indeed, loving God enables us to use the gifts we have been given to bear much fruit for the Kingdom. Here, St. John Chrysostom reflects on this week's Gospel:
Parable of the Talents, A. N. Mironov (2013)
In the parable of the talents the Master entrusted money to his servants and then set out on a journey. This was to help us understand how patient he is, though in my view this story also refers to the resurrection. Here it is a question not of a vineyard and vine dressers, but of all workers. The Master is addressing everyone, not only rulers, or the Jews.
Those bringing him their profit acknowledge frankly what is their own, and what is their Master’s. One says: Sir, you gave me five talents; another says: You gave me two, recognising that they had received from him the means of making a profit. They are extremely grateful, and attribute to him all their success.
What does the Master say then? Well done, good and faithful servant (for goodness shows itself in concern for one’s neighbour). Because you have proved trustworthy in managing a small amount, I will give you charge of a greater sum: come and share your Master’s joy.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

"Stay awake," says Christ in this week's Gospel passage from Matthew (25:1-13). In short, our Lord exhorts us to be spiritually alert, vigilant and eager for his coming. While we know he will come again at the end of the ages, we are called to be ready to welcome Jesus who comes lovingly into our lives at every moment. Pope Francis expounds further on this Gospel:
Five Foolish Virgins, France (12th century)
The Bridegroom is the Lord, and the time of waiting for his arrival is the time he gives to us, to all of us, before his Final Coming with mercy and patience; it is a time of watchfulness; a time in which we must keep alight the lamps of faith, hope and charity, a time in which to keep our heart open to goodness, beauty and truth. It is a time to live in accordance with God, because we do not know either the day or the hour of Christ’s return.

What he asks of us is to be ready for the encounter — ready for an encounter, for a beautiful encounter, the encounter with Jesus, which means being able to see the signs of his presence, keeping our faith alive with prayer, with the sacraments, and taking care not to fall asleep so as to not forget about God. The life of slumbering Christians is a sad life, it is not a happy life. Christians must be happy, with the joy of Jesus. Let us not fall asleep!



Sunday, November 5, 2017

Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

A beautiful but demanding Gospel is presented to us this Sunday in Matthew (23:1-12). Jesus strongly rebukes the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, pride and egoism; likewise, we are challenged by our Lord to look at our own duplicity of heart. In short, Jesus asks: are we seeking ourselves, our reputation, prestige or honor, or God and his glory? In a homily by Paschasius Radbertus written in the 9th century, the importance of humility is stressed, in imitation of Christ himself:
Washing of Feet (ca. 1305), Giotto
Christ is called master, or teacher, by right of nature rather than by courtesy, for all things subsist through him. Through his incarnation and life upon earth we are taught the way to eternal life. Our reconciliation with God is dependant on the fact of his being greater than we are. Yet, having told his disciples not to allow themselves to be called master, or to love seats of honour and things of that kind, he himself set an example and was a model of humility. It is as though he said: Even as I do not seek my own glory (though there is One who seeks it), so neither must you love to be honoured above others, or to be called master. Look at me: The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life for many....

Those who delight in serving and caring for others are the ones who humble themselves so as to be exalted by God. Note that it is not those whom the Lord exalts who will be humbled, but those who exalt themselves, and similarly it is those who of their own accord humble themselves who will be exalted by the Lord.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Jesus reminds in today's Gospel that love is at the heart of Christian life. "The whole law and the prophets depend on the twofold commandment" (Mt. 22:40) to love God and neighbor. All things are measured by love: “love and do what you will ... let the root of love be in you,” says St. Augustine. He emphasizes the importance of this greatest commandment in his homily:
What else is there to speak of apart from love? To speak about love there is no need to select some special passage of Scripture to serve as a text for the homily; open the Bible at any page and you will find it extolling love. We know this is so from the Lord himself, as the gospel reminds us, for when asked what were the most important commandments of the law he answered: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself....
People are renewed by love. As sinful desire ages them, so love rejuvenates them. Enmeshed in the toils of his desires the psalmist laments: I have grown old surrounded by my enemies. Love, on the other hand, is the sign of our renewal as we know from the Lord’s own words: I gave you a new commandment – love one another.