Sunday, August 30, 2015

22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

Faith, Hope and Charity,
by Karp Zolotaryov (1685)
Todays gospel reading is taken from chapter seven of Mark. The Pharisees have just asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” Jesus replies, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

St. Irenaeus, the second century bishop and Father of the Church, wrote about this: “That [love of God] is the first and greatest commandment, the second being love of our neighbor, the Lord taught by saying that the whole of the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. He himself brought no greater commandment than this but he renewed this same commandment by bidding his disciples love God with their whole heart, and their neighbour as themselves.

Paul also says that love is the fulfilment of the law. When all other charisms fail, faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest of all is love. Knowledge is of no avail without the love of God, nor is understanding of mysteries, faith, or prophecy. Without love all are vain and profitless. Love on the other hand perfects a person, and one who loves God is perfect both in this world and the next, for we shall never stop loving God – the longer we gaze upon him the more our love for him will grow.”

Sunday, August 23, 2015

21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

This week's Sunday Gospel reading is from John 6: 60-69. After Jesus has fed the crowd of five thousand he tells them that he is the Bread of Life: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” After that, many of his disciples left him. He turns and asks the twelve apostles, “Will you also leave me?” Peter responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

St. Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria from 412-444 A.D, comments on this passage: To whom shall we go? Peter asks. In other words, “Who else will instruct us the way you do?” Or, “To whom shall we go to find anything better?” You have the words of eternal life; not hard words, as those other disciples say, but words that will bring us to the loftiest goal, unceasing, endless life removed from all corruption. These words surely make quite obvious to us the necessity for sitting at the feet of Christ, taking him as our one and only teacher, and giving him our constant and undivided attention. He must be our guide who knows well how to lead us to everlasting life. Thus, thus shall we ascend to the divine court of heaven, and entering the church of the first born, delight in blessings passing all human understanding.

Jesus and St. Peter, Miraculous Draught of Fishes, detail from a tapestry by Raphael

Sunday, August 16, 2015

20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, The Canaanite Woman

From a homily by St. John Chrysostom:

The Canaanite woman whose daughter was tormented by a devil came to Christ begging his help. Most urgently she cried out: Lord, have pity on me. My daughter is grievously tormented by a devil. Notice that the woman was a foreigner, a gentile, a person from outside the Jewish community. What was she then but a dog, unworthy to obtain her request? It is not fair, said the Lord, to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs. Nevertheless, by perseverance she became worthy; for Christ not only admitted her to the same noble rank as the children, dog though she was, but he also sent her away with high praise, saying: Woman, you have great faith. Let it be as you desire. Now when Christ says: You have great faith, you need seek no further proof of the woman’s greatness of soul. You see that an unworthy woman became worthy by perseverance.
Jesus exorcising the Canaanite Woman's daughter,
from the Tr├Ęs Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, 15th c.

Now would you like proof that we shall gain more by praying ourselves than by asking others to pray for us? The woman cried out and the disciples went to Christ and said: Give her what she wants – she is shouting after us. And he said to them: I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But when the woman herself, still crying out, came to him and said: That is true, sir, and yet the dogs eat what falls from their master’s table, then he granted her request, saying: Let it be as you desire.

Have you understood? When the disciples entreated him the Lord put them off, but when the woman herself cried out begging for this favour he granted it. And at the beginning when she first made her request, he did not answer, but after she had come to him once, twice, and a third time, he gave her what she desired. By this he was teaching us that he had withheld the gift not to drive her away, but to make that woman’s patience an example for all of us.

Now that we have learned these lessons, let us not despair even if we are guilty of sin and unworthy of any favour. We know that we can make ourselves worthy by perseverance.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

From a Sermon by Eutychius of Constantinople:

I have greatly longed to eat this passover with you before I suffer. The Lord’s eating of the passover before he suffered was clearly symbolic and sacramental, because but for the passion it would not have been called the passover. He immolated himself sacramentally when, after supper, he took bread into his own hands, gave thanks, held it up and broke it, mingling himself with the sacred element. In the same way he also mixed the cup containing fruit of the vine; he gave thanks, showed it to God the Father, and said: Take, eat; and, Take, drink. This is my body, and This is my blood.

Everyone receives the Lord’s sacred body and precious blood in their entirety, even though each receives only a portion, for the mingling enables them to be shared among all without division. A seal imparts its complete image to everything it is impressed upon, yet remains a single seal. It is not diminished by use, nor is it altered in any way no matter how many impressions are made. The sound produced by the human voice goes out on to the air, yet remains a single sound. Carried on the air, it reaches the ears of all in full strength. No one hears more or less of it than anyone else. The same complete and undiminished sound comes to all its hearers, however numinous they may be; and yet it is a physical phenomenon, for sound is nothing but the vibration of air.

No one, then, after the sacramental sacrifice and the holy resurrection, should have any doubt regarding the incorruptible, immortal, holy, and life-giving body and blood of the Lord. Once infused into the sacred elements through the liturgical rites, they communicate their own properties no less than do the aforementioned examples. They are wholly present in every part, for then the Lord’s body dwells corporally, that is to say, substantially, all the fullness of the divine nature of the Word of God. The breaking of this precious bread signifies his sacrificial death, and so he spoke of the passover as something to be longed for because it was to bring us salvation, immortality, and perfect knowledge. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

From a commentary on St. John's Gospel by St. Theophylact

Our Lord refers to himself as the true bread not because the manna was something illusory, but because it was only a type and a shadow, and not the reality it signified.

5th c. mosaic,Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish, Tabgha, Israel.
This bread, being the Son of the living Father, is life by its very nature, and accordingly gives life to all. Just as earthly bread sustains the fragile substance of the flesh and prevents it from falling into decay, so Christ quickens the soul through the power of the Spirit, and also preserves even the body for immortality. Through Christ resurrection from the dead and bodily immortality have been gratuitously bestowed upon the human race.

Jesus said to the people: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me shall never hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” He did not say “the bread of bodily nourishment” but “the bread of life”. For when everything had been reduced to a condition of spiritual death, the Lord gave us life through himself, who is bread because, as we believe, the leaven in the dough of our humanity was baked through and through by the fire of his divinity. He is the bread not of this ordinary life, but of a very different kind of life which death will never cut short.

Whoever believes in this bread will never hunger, will never be famished for want of hearing the word of God; nor will such a person be parched by spiritual thirst few lack of the waters of baptism and the consecration imparted by the Spirit. The unbaptized, deprived of the refreshment afforded by the sacred water, suffer thirst and great aridity. The baptized, on the other hand, being possessed of the Spirit, enjoy its continual consolation.