Sunday, November 29, 2015

1st Sunday of Advent, Year C

On this First Sunday of Advent, as we prepare our hearts and lives for the coming of Our Savior, we offer for your meditation this extract from the Advent Sermons of St. Bernard:
It is surely right that you should celebrate our Lord’s coming with all your hearts, and that the greatness of the consolation which his Advent brings us should fill you with joy. Indeed one can only be amazed at the depth of his self-abasement, and stirred up to new fervor by the immensity of his love. But you must not think of his first coming only, when he came to seek and save what was lost; remember that he will come again and take us to himself. It is my desire that you should be constantly meditating upon this twofold advent, continually turning over in your minds of all that he has done for us in the first, and all that he promises to do in the second.
When our Savior comes he will change our lowly bodies into the likeness of his glorious body, provided that our hearts have been changed and made humble as his was. This is why he said: Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart. We may note from this text that humility is twofold: that is intellectual humility and a humility of one’s whole disposition and attitude, here called the heart. By the first we recognize that we are nothing; we can learn this much of ourselves from our own weakness. The second enables us to trample the glory of the world under our feet, and this we learn from him who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant. When the people desired to make him a king, he fled from them; but when they wanted to make him undergo the shame and ignominy of the cross, he gave himself up to them of his own free will.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Solemnity of Christ the King Year B

We wish you every blessing on this feast of Christ the King! Here is part of Pope Francis's homily from last year:
The Gospel teaches what Jesus’ kingdom requires of us: it reminds us that closeness and tenderness are the rule of life for us also, and that on this basis we will be judged. This is the great parable of the final judgement in Matthew 25. The King says: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (25:34-36). The righteous will ask him: when did we do all this? And he will answer them: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).
The starting point of salvation is not the confession of the sovereignty of Christ, but rather the imitation of Jesus’ works of mercy through which he brought about his kingdom. The one who accomplishes these works shows that he has welcomed Christ’s sovereignty, because he has opened his heart to God’s charity. In the twilight of life we will be judged on our love for, closeness to and tenderness towards our brothers and sisters. Upon this will depend our entry into, or exclusion from, the kingdom of God: our belonging to the one side or the other. Through his victory, Jesus has opened to us his kingdom. But it is for us to enter into it, beginning with our life now, by being close in concrete ways to our brothers and sisters who ask for bread, clothing, acceptance, solidarity. If we truly love them, we will be willing to share with them what is most precious to us, Jesus himself and his Gospel.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B


Tympanum of Christ seated in glory, Notre  Dame Cathedral

And then shall they see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. Mark 13:26

Today is the next-to-last Sunday of the liturgical year, before Christ the King. The readings focus on the last days: "Know that he is nigh, even at the doors.... This generation shall not pass away, until all these things are accomplished."

St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359), a monk of Mount Athos and later Archbishop of Thessaloniki in Greece speaks of the Last Judgement:
All those who hold to true faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and show proof of their faith by good works, guarding themselves from sins or cleansing themselves from their stains by confession and repentance; who practice the virtues opposed to those sins—temperance, chastity, love, almsgiving, justice, and fair dealing—all these, I say, will rise again to hear the king of heaven himself saying to them: "Come, my Father’s blessed ones, inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world."
So will they reign with Christ, receiving as their inheritance that heavenly kingdom which cannot be shaken, living for ever in the ineffable light that knows no evening and is interrupted by no night, having fellowship with all the saints who have lived from the beginning of time, and enjoying delights beyond description in Abraham’s embrace, where all pain has fled away, and all grief and groaning.
Grant us, we pray, O Lord our God, the constant gladness of being devoted to you, for it is full and lasting happiness to serve with constancy the author of all that is good. ~ Collect at Mass

Sunday, November 8, 2015

32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

Widow's Mite, Sant'Appollinare Nuovo, Ravenna (6th c.)
Today's gospel, from Mark 12:38-44, tells of the poor widow who casts two coins, all she had, into the temple treasury. Jesus, comparing her to the wealthy donors, says "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on."

The reading at Vigils this morning is taken from a letter written by a saint who followed this example. St. Paulinus, Bishop of Nola (ca. 354-431 AD) was a wealthy Roman aristocrat who, after his conversion to Christianity, renounced a political career, gave away his property and fortune to the poor. Here's part of his letter:
Call to mind the widow who forgot herself in her concern for the poor, and, thinking only of the life to come, gave away all her means of subsistence, as the judge himself bears witness. Others, he says, have given of their superfluous wealth. But she, possessed of only two small coins and more needy perhaps than many of the poor – though in spiritual riches she surpassed all the wealthy – she thought only of the world to come, and had such a longing for heavenly treasure that she gave away, all at once, whatever she had that was derived from the earth and destined to return there.
Let us then invest with the Lord what he has given us, for we have nothing that does not come from him: we are dependent upon him for our very existence. And we ourselves particularly, who have a special and a greater debt, since God not only created us but purchased us as well – what can we regard as our own when we do not possess even ourselves? ... So let us give back to the Lord the gifts he has given us; let us give to him who receives in the person of every poor man or woman. Let us give gladly, I say, and great joy will be ours when we receive his promised reward.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

November 1 Solemnity of All Saints, Year B

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. This glorious feast has its roots in the early Church, when a martyr's death was commemmorated on the anniversary at the place of martyrdom. By the 4th century, the Church honored all martyrs, known and unknown, on a common feastday. In the early 600s, Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Roman Pantheon (Greek for "All the gods"), which had been a pagan temple, to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyrs. He also established the "Feast of All Martyrs," which by the mid-700s was extended to include all the saints in heaven.

In a homily, St. Bernard spoke movingly about our fellowship with the saints in glory:
Why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this feast day mean anything to the saints? What do they care about earthly honors when their heavenly Father honors them by fulfilling the faithful promise of the Son? What does our commendation mean to them? The saints have no need of honor from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning.
Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed.
Come, brothers, let us at length spur ourselves on. We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness. While we desire to be in their company, we must also earnestly seek to share in their glory. Do not imagine that there is anything harmful in such an ambition as this; there is no danger in setting our hearts on such glory.
On this feast of Alls Saints, and every day, may this "great cloud of witnesses" in heavenly glory intercede for us!

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints & Martyrs (ca. 1423-24), Fra Angelico (National Gallery, London)