Sunday, January 31, 2016

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Icon of Christ Pantocrator,
c. 6th century
Today's Gospel is a continuation of last Sunday's. Jesus has just read the passage from Isaiah:
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,

and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
He now addresses the synagogue and says,"Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

St. Cyril of Alexandria, the great Bishop and Doctor of the Church, commenting on Isaiah, writes about blindness, poverty, and the Lord's healing power:
Desiring to win over the whole world and bring its inhabitants to God the Father, raising all things to a higher condition and, in a sense, renewing the face of the earth, the Lord of the universe took the form of a servant and brought the good news to the poor. This, he said, was why he had been sent.
Now by the poor we may understand those who were then deprived of all spiritual blessings and who lived in the world without hope and without God, as scripture says....
To the brokenhearted Christ promises healing and release, and to the blind he gives sight. For those who worship created things, and say to a piece of wood, “You are my father,” and to a stone, “You gave me birth,” thus failing to recognize him who is really and truly God, are they not blind? Are not their hearts devoid of the spiritual and divine light?
To these the Father sends the light of true knowledge of God. Having been called by faith, they know God, or rather, they are known by him. They were children of night and of darkness, but they have become children of light. The Day has shone upon them, the Sun of Righteousness has risen, the Morning Star has appeared in all its brilliance.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

In this Sunday's Gospel, when Jesus returns to Galilee and teaches in the synagogues there, "Everyone sang his praises," says St. Luke. How often we can think, "If only I could have sat at his feet and heard him speak." Yet the early Christian writer Origen (183-253), who commented on this passage, assures us that we are not at a disadvantage:
When you read about Jesus teaching in the synagogues of Galilee and everyone there praising him, take care not to regard those people as uniquely privileged, and yourselves as deprived of his teaching....Throughout the world Jesus looks for instruments through which he can continue his teaching....
When Jesus had read this prophecy, “he rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant and sat down. Every eye in the synagogue was fixed upon him.”
Jesus teaches in the synagogue, Caldarusani Monastery, Romania
Here too in this synagogue, that is in this present assembly, you can at this very moment fix your eyes upon your Savior if you wish. Whenever you direct your inward gaze toward wisdom and truth and the contemplation of God’s only Son, then your eyes are fixed upon Jesus.
Blessed was that congregation of which the Gospel says, “All eyes in the synagogue were fixed upon him!” How I long for our own assembly to deserve the same testimony; for all of you, catechumens as well as the faithful, women, men, and children, to have your eyes, not those of the body but of the soul, turned toward Jesus!
When you look at Jesus your own faces will become radiant with his reflected glory, and you will be able to say: “The light of your face has shed its brightness upon us, O Lord!” To you be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

This Sunday's Gospel tells of the miracle of the wedding feast at Cana. Mary noticed that the hosts were running out of wine, and she tells Jesus. On July 6 2015, Pope Francis gave a homily on the wedding feast at a Mass for families at Guayaquil, Ecuador. His words are so meaningful that it's worth reading the full text.

Wedding Feast at Cana, Giotto, 1304-1306.
(Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel, Padua, Italy)
Here is a portion of his homily:
The wedding at Cana is repeated in every generation, in every family, in every one of us and our efforts to let our hearts find rest in strong love, fruitful love and joyful love. Let us make room for Mary, 'the Mother' as the evangelist calls her. Let us journey with her now to Cana.
Mary is attentive, she is attentive in the course of this wedding feast, she is concerned for the needs of the newlyweds. She is not closed in on herself, worried only about her little world. Her love makes her 'outgoing' towards others. She does not seek her friends to say what is happening, to criticise the poor organisation of the wedding feast. And since she is attentive, she discretely notices that the wine has run out....
But Mary, at the very moment she perceives that there is no wine, approaches Jesus with confidence: this means that Mary prays. She goes to Jesus, she prays. She does not go to the steward, she immediately tells her Son of the newlyweds' problem.... She teaches us to put our families in God’s hands; she teaches us to pray, to kindle the hope which shows us that our concerns are also God’s concerns.
Praying always lifts us out of our worries and concerns. It makes us rise above everything that hurts, upsets or disappoints us, and helps to put ourselves in the place of others, in their shoes. The family is a school where prayer also reminds us that we are not isolated individuals; we are one and we have a neighbor close at hand: he or she is living under the same roof, is a part of our life, and is in need.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Octave of Christmas: Mary Mother of God Year C

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. It is a special day for our community, as our church is dedicated to Our Lady under this title.

Basil of Seleucia was a bishop and ecclesiastical writer, who probably died between 458 and 460 AD. Forty-one extant sermons are attributed to him. This excerpt from one of his homilies is a beautiful meditation on the Incarnation:
Emmanuel came into the world he had made long before. God from all eternity, he came as a newborn infant. He who had prepared eternal dwellings lay in a manger, for there was no room for him at the inn. He who was made known by a star came to birth in a cave. He who was offered as a ransom for sin received gifts from the wise men. He who as God enfolds the whole world in his embrace was taken into the arms of Simeon. The shepherds gazed upon this baby; the angelic host, knowing he was God, sang of his glory in heaven and of peace to his people on earth.
And all these things together with other marvels concerning him, the holy mother of the Lord of all creation, the mother in very truth of God, pondered in her heart, and her heart was filled with great gladness. She was radiant with joy and amazed when she thought of the majesty of her Son who was also God. As her gaze rested upon that divine child I think she must have been overwhelmed by awe and longing. She was alone conversing with the Alone. 
Nativity, Giotto, 1304-1306 (Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel, Padua, Italy)