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.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

January 1, Mary Mother of God

A happy and holy New Year to you! We pray that 2017 is a year of God's blessings for you and your loved ones, and that our world is filled with His peace. Today, on the feast of Mary Mother of God, we'd like to share with you some words about Our Lady from the Cistercian abbot Blessed Guerric of Igny (c. 1070/80-1157):
One and unique was Mary’s child, the only Son of his Father in heaven and the only Son of his mother on earth. Mary alone was virgin-mother, and it is her glory to have borne the Father’s only Son. But now she embraces that only Son of hers in all his members. She is not ashamed to be called the mother of all those in whom she recognizes that Christ her Son has been or is on the point of being formed. 
Adoration of the Shepherds, Gerard van Honthorst (1622)
...Like the Church of which she is the model, Mary is the mother of all who are born again to new life. She is the mother of him who is the Life by which all things live; when she bore him, she gave new birth in a sense to all who were to live by his life.
Recognising that by virtue of this mystery she is the mother of all Christians, Christ’s blessed mother also shows herself a mother to them by her care and loving kindness. She never grows hard toward her children, as though they were not her own. The womb that once gave birth is not dried up; it continues to bring forth the fruit of her tender compassion. Christ, the blessed fruit of that womb, left his mother still fraught with inexhaustible love, a love that once came forth from her but remains always within her, inundating her with his gifts.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Nativity of the Lord, Year A

A blessed and holy Christmas to you! The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory (John 1:14). What a gift God has given to our world. This year we would like to share with you this delightful manuscript illumination of the Nativity scene. If you click on the image to see details, you'll notice Jesus patting the head of the ass. There's so much to meditate on in this charming painting: a hole in the roof allows the golden rays of the star to shine through - divine providence in the midst of poverty! - and an industrious angel helps out this tired family by pouring water in the trough - a lowly, thoughtful task!

Just as there is a wealth of images of the Birth of Our Lord, so understandably there is an abundance of writings on the Nativity. Here's a little jewel on the humility of Christ from Theodotus (d. 446), bishop of Ancyra:
Nativity, Book of Hours, ca. 1420 (British Library)
The Lord of all comes as a slave amidst poverty. The huntsman has no wish to startle his prey. Choosing for birthplace an unknown village in a remote province, he is born of a poor maiden and accepts all that poverty implies, for he hopes by stealth to ensnare and save us.
...Suppose he had been the son of an emperor. They would have said: “How useful it is to be powerful!” Imagine him the son of a senator. It would have been: “Look what can be accomplished by legislation!”
But in fact, what did he do? He chose surroundings that were poor and simple, so ordinary as to be almost unnoticed, so that people would know it was the Godhead alone that had changed the world. This was his reason for choosing his mother from among the poor of a very poor country, and for becoming poor himself.
Let the manger teach you how poor the Lord was: he was laid in it because he had no bed to lie on. This lack of the necessaries of life was a most appropriate prophetic foreshadowing. He was laid in a manger to show that he would be the food even of the inarticulate. The Word of God drew to himself both the rich and the poor, both the eloquent and the slow of speech as he lay in the manger in poverty. Do you not see how his lack of worldly goods was a prophecy and how his poverty, accepted for our sake, showed his accessibility to all?
No one was afraid to approach Christ, overawed by his immense wealth; no one was kept from coming to him by the grandeur of his royal estate. No, he who was offering himself for the salvation of the world came as an ordinary worker. The Word of God in a human body was laid in a manger, so that both the eloquent and the slow of speech would have courage to share in the food of salvation.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A

As we approach the Birth of Our Lord, the Church gives us in the liturgy Matthew's acccount of St. Joseph (Mt. 1:18-24): When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. The angel sent by God calms his fear, and When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

It was providential that Pope Francis's inaugural Mass was on the feast of St. Joseph, the protector of Jesus and Mary. The full homily is well worth meditating on during these last days of Advent, but here are a few of his thoughts:
Hugo van der Goes, Portinari Tryptique  (c. 1475) (detail)
How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own.... Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!
The vocation of being a “protector” ... means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

3nd Sunday of Advent, Year A

St. John the Baptist, who last week pointed out the Lord, is again featured in today's Gospel narrative. He is in prison, and he sends his disciples to Jesus to ask, Are you the one who is to come, or are we to look for someone else? Could any question be more important to humanity? Who is Jesus? Who is this Child lying in the manger? Are you the one who is to come, or are we to look for someone else?

Thomas of Villanova (1486-1555), an Augustinian friar and Archbishop of Valencia who was called the Beggar Bishop because of his care for the poor, comments:
The disciples approached Jesus, and in front of the crowd put to him the same question which the Jews had put to John. Everyone eagerly awaited his reply, for there had already been a rumor among the people that he might indeed be the Messiah. The Lord gave no immediate answer, but delayed a little, and in their presence worked wonderful, mighty miracles. Then he invited them, “Go and report to John what you have heard: The blind are receiving their sight, the lame are walking, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”
He did not give an answer to them in so many words, but pointed to his deeds, as much as to say, “The works that I am doing are my witness. These are the works I am performing; judge for yourself whether I am the Messiah.” This was an admirable reply, for he not only claimed by means of his works that he was the Messiah; he also proved it.