Sunday, November 27, 2016

1st Sunday of Advent, Year A

The First Sunday of Advent is here! No matter how hard we strive not to be affected by all the commercialism, it can be such a busy, distracting time of year. This beautiful reading from a sermon by St. Aelred of Rievaulx may help set your minds on the things that are above (Col. 3:2):
How beautifully at this season the Church provides that we should recite the words and recall the longing of those who lived before our Lord’s first advent! Nor do we commemorate that desire of theirs for a single day, but share it so to speak for a long period of time, because when something we greatly love and long for is deferred for a while it usually seems sweeter to us when it does arrive.
It is our duty then to follow the example and recall the longing of the holy fathers and so inflame our own souls with love and longing for Christ. You must understand that the reason why this season was instituted was to inspire us to remember the desire of our holy fathers for our Lord’s first coming, and through their example learn to have a great longing for the day when he will come again. We should consider how much good our Lord did us by his first coming, and how much more he will do for us by his second. This thought will help us to have a great love for that first coming of his and a great longing for his return.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Christ the King, Year C

This Sunday, the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year and the feast of Christ the King, has as its Gospel a scene from the Crucifixion, related by St. Luke (Luke 23:35-43).  Jesus is mocked by the Jews (He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!), by the soldiers (If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself), and by one of the thieves crucified with him (Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!) But this last scorner is rebuked by the other thief, who then turns to  Our Lord and says, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power.” And Jesus responds, Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. What a fitting Gospel to end Pope Francis's Year of Mercy!

Here's part of a commentary by St. John Chrysostom:
Mosaic of Christ, Hagia Sophia
Lord, remember me in your kingdom. But before he had laid aside the burden of his sins by confessing them did the thief dare to say the words Remember me in your kingdom. Do you not see the value of that confession? It opened paradise! It gave the former brigand the confidence to seek admission to the kingdom!
But that the cross brings us untold blessings is surely obvious. Have you set your heart upon a kingdom? Then tell me, can you see any such thing? All that meets the eye are nails and a cross, and yet this very cross, Christ says, is the symbol of the kingdom. I proclaim him king, therefore, because I see him crucified, for it becomes a king to die for his subjects. He himself said that the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, and so the good king too lays down his life for his subjects. Christ laid down his life, and that is why I proclaim him king: Lord, remember me in your kingdom.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

We are nearing the end of the Church Year: next Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King, and the week after is the First Sunday of Advent. In today's Gospel (Luke 21: 5-19), Jesus prepares us for the end of the world: When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” How frightening his words can sound! You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. And yet Jesus ends with comfort for us: By your endurance you will gain your souls.

Here is part of a letter written by St. Nilus of Ancyra, bishop and monastic writer (d. 430 AD) about patient endurance:
In time of trial it is of great profit to us patiently to endure for God’s sake, for the Lord says: By patient endurance you will win life for yourselves. He did not say by your fasting, or your solitude and silence, or your singing of psalms, although all of these are helpful in saving your soul. But he said: By patient endurance in every trial that overtakes you, and in every affliction, whether this be insolent and contemptuous treatment, or any kind of disgrace, either small or great; whether it be bodily weakness, or the belligerent attacks of Satan, or any trial whatsoever caused either by other people or by evil spirits.
...The Apostle writes: With patient endurance we run the race of faith set before us. For what has more power than virtue? What more firmness or strength than patient endurance? Endurance, that is, for God’s sake. This is the queen of virtues, the foundation of virtue, a haven of tranquillity. It is peace in time of war, calm in rough waters, safety amidst treachery and danger. It makes those who practise it stronger than steel. No weapons or brandished bows, no turbulent troops or advancing siege engines, no flying spears or arrows can shake it. Not even the host of evil spirits, nor the dark array of hostile powers, though the devil himself standing by with all his armies and devices will have power to injure the man or woman who has acquired this virtue through Christ.
Destruction of the Temple, Relief in the Arch of Titus, ca 81 AD

Sunday, November 6, 2016

32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Here's part of a talk Pope Francis gave in St. Peter's Square on this Gospel three years ago:
This Sunday’s Gospel [Luke 20: 27-38] sets before us Jesus grappling with the Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection.... It is not this life that will serve as a reference point for eternity, for the other life that awaits us; rather, it is eternity — that life — which illumines and gives hope to the earthly life of each one of us! If we look at things from only a human perspective, we tend to say that man’s journey moves from life to death. This is what we see! But this is only so if we look at things from a human perspective. Jesus turns this perspective upside down and states that our pilgrimage goes from death to life: the fullness of life! We are on a journey, on a pilgrimage toward the fullness of life, and that fullness of life is what illumines our journey! Therefore death stands behind us, not before us....
The Anastasis fresco, Chora Museum
Before us stands the final defeat of sin and death, the beginning of a new time of joy and of endless light. But already on this earth, in prayer, in the Sacraments, in fraternity, we encounter Jesus and his love, and thus we may already taste something of the risen life. The experience we have of his love and his faithfulness ignites in our hearts like a fire and increases our faith in the resurrection. In fact, if God is faithful and loves, he cannot be thus for only a limited time: faithfulness is eternal, it cannot change. God’s love is eternal, it cannot change! It is not only for a time: it is forever! It is for going forward! He is faithful forever and he is waiting for us, each one of us, he accompanies each one of us with his eternal faithfulness.