Sunday, December 31, 2017

Feast of the Holy Family

The Feast of the Holy Family, which honors Jesus, Mary and Joseph, is relatively recent: it was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in 1893 and it commemorates the Holy Family's life at Nazareth. The holiness of their ordinary lives is held up as a model for all Christian families. In his Wednesday audience of December 29, 2011, Pope-emeritus Benedict spoke of the feast:
Nativity, Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)
The house of Nazareth is a school of prayer where we learn to listen, to meditate, to penetrate the deeepest meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, drawing our example from Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
And in 1964 on the Feast of the Holy Family, Blessed (Pope) Paul XI spoke these beautiful words at Nazareth:
The home of Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus — the school of the Gospel....
First, then, a lesson of silence. May esteem for silence, that admirable and indispensable condition of mind, revive in us, besieged as we are by so many uplifted voices, the general noise and uproar, in our seething and over-sensitised modern life. May the silence of Nazareth teach us recollection, inwardness, the disposition to listen to good inspirations and the teachings of true masters. May it teach us the need for and the value of preparation, of study, of meditation, of personal inner life, of the prayer which God alone sees in secret.
Next, there is a lesson on family life. May Nazareth teach us what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty, and its sacred and inviolable character. Let us learn from Nazareth that the formation received at home is gentle and irreplaceable. Let us learn the prime importance of the role of the family in the social order.
May the Holy Family grant peace and unity to all the families of the world! 





Monday, December 25, 2017

December 25th

We wish all who read this the peace of which the angels sang.

Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness. And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy: Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to his people on earth as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvelous work of God's goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?
From a sermon by St. Leo the Great, pope



Sunday, December 24, 2017

4th Sunday of Advent, Year B

The fourth Sunday of Advent leads us directly into the first moment of the Incarnation: the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38). At this glorious encounter, Mary accepts the plan of God to redeem the human race through a divine child born of her womb. Here, St. Bede the Venerable sheds light on this beautiful Gospel:
Annunciation, Fra Angelico (1437-46)
Today’s reading of the gospel calls to mind the beginning of our redemption, for the passage tells us how God sent an angel from heaven to a virgin. He was to proclaim the new birth, the incarnation of God’s Son, who would take away our age-old guilt; through him it would be possible to be made new and numbered among the children of God. And so, if we are to deserve the gifts of the promised salvation, we must listen attentively to the account of its beginning.
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. What is said of the house of David applies not only to Joseph but also to Mary. It was a precept of the law that each man should marry a wife from his own tribe and kindred. St Paul also bears testimony to this when he writes to Timothy: Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my Gospel. Our Lord is truly descended from David, since his spotless mother took her ancestry from David’s line.
He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. The house of Jacob here refers to the universal Church which, through its faith in and witness to Christ, shares the heritage of the patriarchs. This may apply either to those who are physical descendants of the patriarchal families, or to those who come from gentile nations and are reborn in Christ by the waters of baptism. In this house Christ shall reign forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. During this present life, Christ rules in the Church. By faith and love he dwells in the hearts of his elect, and guides them by his unceasing care toward their heavenly reward. In the life to come, when their period of exile on earth is ended, he will exercise his kingship by leading the faithful to their heavenly country. There, for ever inspired by the vision of his presence, their one delight will be to praise and glorify him.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B

In this Sunday's Gospel (Jn 1:6-8; 19-28), the spotlight focuses intensely on John the Baptist. He declares that he is not the messiah, but one who testifies to his coming. John Scotus Erigena, in the homily below, describes more fully who the Baptist was, and who he is in relation to the Christ.
John the Baptist, Mathis Gothart Grunewald (1512-16)
So then, the Lord’s forerunner was a man, not a god; whereas the Lord whom he preceded was both man and God. The forerunner was a man destined to be divinized by God’s grace, whereas the one he preceded was God by nature, who, through his desire to save and redeem us, lowered himself in order to assume our human nature.
A man was sent. By whom? By the divine Word, whose forerunner he was. To go before the Lord was his mission. Lifting up his voice, this man called out: The voice of one crying in the wilderness! It was the herald preparing the way for the Lord’s coming. John was his name; John to whom was given the grace to go ahead of the King of kings, to point out to the world the Word made flesh, to baptize him with that baptism in which the Spirit would manifest his divine Sonship, to give witness through his teaching and martyrdom to the eternal light. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year B

The Gospel given for the Second Sunday of Advent (Mk 1:1-8) encourages us to make straight the paths of the Lord. Indeed, it is Christ himself who makes us "straight"; we have only to open ourselves to his presence and grace. Origen, in an ancient homily, speaks of this truth:
John the Baptist, Tiziano (1542)
Let as examine the scriptural texts foretelling the coming of Christ. One such prophecy begins with a reference to John the Baptist: The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight. What follows, however, applies directly to our Lord and Saviour, since it is by Jesus rather than by John that every valley has been filled in. [...]
Now let us turn to that part of the prophecy which also concerns the coming of Christ and see whether this too has been fulfilled. The text continues: Every crooked way shall be straightened. Each one of us was once crooked; if we are no longer so, it is entirely due to the grace of Christ. Through his coming to our souls all our crooked ways have been straightened out. If Christ did not come to your soul, of what use would his historical coming in the flesh be to you? Let us pray that each day we may experience his coming and be able to testify: It is not I who now live, but Christ who lives in me.
So then, by his coming Jesus my Lord has smoothed out your rough places and changed your disorderly ways into level paths, so that an even, unimpeded road may be constructed within you, clear enough for God the Father to walk along, and Christ the Lord may himself set up his dwelling in your hearts and say: My Father and I will come to them and make our home in them.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

1st Sunday of Advent, Year B

"Watch! Stay awake!," declares Christ in the Gospel for this First Sunday of Advent (Mk 13:33-37). We are called to shake off the sloth that drags us down so that we may eagerly await him and desire the things of heaven. Godfrey of Admont explains further how to spend these holy days of the Advent season:
Behold I Stand at the Door and Knock,
 stained glass detail, Geneva, Indiana
Take heed, watch, and pray, the Scripture says. By these words our Lord and Saviour admonished not only his disciples whom he was addressing in the flesh; by these same words he also made clear to us what we must do, and how we should keep watch. The three parts of this saying plainly show how all destined to be saved, who forget what lies behind them and desire to press on toward what lies ahead, can attain the summit of perfection which is their goal. [...]
Take heed, watch, and pray our text says; meaning, take heed by understanding what is right; watch by doing what is good; and pray by desiring what is eternal. And the following words show clearly why they must be so very heedful, watchful, and prayerful. You do not know, the text says, when the time will be. So since we are ignorant of the time of this great visitation, we must be always watching and praying; that is to say, for the grace of so great a visitation we must prepare the innermost recesses of our hearts by vigilant effort.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Christ the King, Year A

The Last Judgment, Rogier van der Weyden (1446-52)
The Solemnity of Christ the King is the final Sunday of Ordinary Time, which closes the liturgical year with a profound and powerful act of worship. As the seasons of the church year mirror the entire drama of salvation, this last week draws our attention to the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. The Gospel from Matthew (25:31-46) reminds us that our eternal destiny begins with this life, and is shaped by our efforts to love God and all whom we encounter. What great joy is in store, and for all eternity! St. Hippolytus describes this in detail:
As the holy gospel clearly proclaims, the Son of Man will gather together all nations. He will separate people one from another, as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. The sheep he will place at his right hand, the goats at his left. Then he will say to those at his right: Come, my Father’s blessed ones, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Come, you lovers of poor people and strangers. Come, you who fostered my love, for I am love. Come, you who shared peace, for I am peace.
Come, my Father’s blessed ones, inherit the kingdom prepared for you who did not make an idol of wealth, who gave alms to the poor, help to orphans and widows, drink to the thirsty, and food to the hungry. Come, you who welcomed strangers, clothed the naked, visited the sick, comforted prisoners, and assisted the blind. Come, you who kept the seal of faith unbroken, who were swift to assemble in the churches, who listened to my Scriptures, longed for my words, observed my law day and night, and like good soldiers shared in my suffering because you wanted to please me, your heavenly King. Come, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Look, by kingdom is ready, paradise stands open, my immortality is displayed in all its beauty. Come now, all of you, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.... Enjoy forever the gifts of my heavenly Father, and of the most holy and life-giving Spirit. What tongue can describe those blessings? Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, not human heart conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

The Parable of the Talents (Mt. 25:14-30) is a story that Christ uses to challenge and encourage us. It is a call to be zealous for God, to be resourceful in our ways of serving him and to avoid fear. As St. Augustine says in a homily: Love makes all, the hardest and most distressing things, altogether easy, and almost nothing. Indeed, loving God enables us to use the gifts we have been given to bear much fruit for the Kingdom. Here, St. John Chrysostom reflects on this week's Gospel:
Parable of the Talents, A. N. Mironov (2013)
In the parable of the talents the Master entrusted money to his servants and then set out on a journey. This was to help us understand how patient he is, though in my view this story also refers to the resurrection. Here it is a question not of a vineyard and vine dressers, but of all workers. The Master is addressing everyone, not only rulers, or the Jews.
Those bringing him their profit acknowledge frankly what is their own, and what is their Master’s. One says: Sir, you gave me five talents; another says: You gave me two, recognising that they had received from him the means of making a profit. They are extremely grateful, and attribute to him all their success.
What does the Master say then? Well done, good and faithful servant (for goodness shows itself in concern for one’s neighbour). Because you have proved trustworthy in managing a small amount, I will give you charge of a greater sum: come and share your Master’s joy.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

"Stay awake," says Christ in this week's Gospel passage from Matthew (25:1-13). In short, our Lord exhorts us to be spiritually alert, vigilant and eager for his coming. While we know he will come again at the end of the ages, we are called to be ready to welcome Jesus who comes lovingly into our lives at every moment. Pope Francis expounds further on this Gospel:
Five Foolish Virgins, France (12th century)
The Bridegroom is the Lord, and the time of waiting for his arrival is the time he gives to us, to all of us, before his Final Coming with mercy and patience; it is a time of watchfulness; a time in which we must keep alight the lamps of faith, hope and charity, a time in which to keep our heart open to goodness, beauty and truth. It is a time to live in accordance with God, because we do not know either the day or the hour of Christ’s return.

What he asks of us is to be ready for the encounter — ready for an encounter, for a beautiful encounter, the encounter with Jesus, which means being able to see the signs of his presence, keeping our faith alive with prayer, with the sacraments, and taking care not to fall asleep so as to not forget about God. The life of slumbering Christians is a sad life, it is not a happy life. Christians must be happy, with the joy of Jesus. Let us not fall asleep!



Sunday, November 5, 2017

Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

A beautiful but demanding Gospel is presented to us this Sunday in Matthew (23:1-12). Jesus strongly rebukes the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, pride and egoism; likewise, we are challenged by our Lord to look at our own duplicity of heart. In short, Jesus asks: are we seeking ourselves, our reputation, prestige or honor, or God and his glory? In a homily by Paschasius Radbertus written in the 9th century, the importance of humility is stressed, in imitation of Christ himself:
Washing of Feet (ca. 1305), Giotto
Christ is called master, or teacher, by right of nature rather than by courtesy, for all things subsist through him. Through his incarnation and life upon earth we are taught the way to eternal life. Our reconciliation with God is dependant on the fact of his being greater than we are. Yet, having told his disciples not to allow themselves to be called master, or to love seats of honour and things of that kind, he himself set an example and was a model of humility. It is as though he said: Even as I do not seek my own glory (though there is One who seeks it), so neither must you love to be honoured above others, or to be called master. Look at me: The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life for many....

Those who delight in serving and caring for others are the ones who humble themselves so as to be exalted by God. Note that it is not those whom the Lord exalts who will be humbled, but those who exalt themselves, and similarly it is those who of their own accord humble themselves who will be exalted by the Lord.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Jesus reminds in today's Gospel that love is at the heart of Christian life. "The whole law and the prophets depend on the twofold commandment" (Mt. 22:40) to love God and neighbor. All things are measured by love: “love and do what you will ... let the root of love be in you,” says St. Augustine. He emphasizes the importance of this greatest commandment in his homily:
What else is there to speak of apart from love? To speak about love there is no need to select some special passage of Scripture to serve as a text for the homily; open the Bible at any page and you will find it extolling love. We know this is so from the Lord himself, as the gospel reminds us, for when asked what were the most important commandments of the law he answered: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself....
People are renewed by love. As sinful desire ages them, so love rejuvenates them. Enmeshed in the toils of his desires the psalmist laments: I have grown old surrounded by my enemies. Love, on the other hand, is the sign of our renewal as we know from the Lord’s own words: I gave you a new commandment – love one another.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

God is a God of surprises! With each new day, He leads us in ways unexpected and unpredictable. In this Sunday's Gospel, Matthew 22:15-21, Jesus declares that we must render to God the things that are God's; this is a call to live according to the divine will, whatever it may be. Pope Francis expounds on this theme in his homily:
Render unto Caesar, Anton Dorph (1831-1914)
God is not afraid of new things! That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways. He renews us: he constantly makes us “new”. A Christian who lives the Gospel is “God’s newness” in the Church and in the world. How much God loves this “newness”!

“Rendering to God the things that are God’s” means being docile to his will, devoting our lives to him and working for his kingdom of mercy, love and peace.

Here is where our true strength is found; here is the leaven which makes it grow and the salt which gives flavor to all our efforts to combat the prevalent pessimism which the world proposes to us. Here too is where our hope is found, for when we put our hope in God we are neither fleeing from reality nor seeking an alibi: instead, we are striving to render to God what is God’s. That is why we Christians look to the future, God’s future. It is so that we can live this life to the fullest – with our feet firmly planted on the ground – and respond courageously to whatever new challenges come our way.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A


In this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 22: 1-14), Jesus tells his disciples the parable of the wedding banquet. A king invites guests to his son’s feast, but for various excuses they don't come: They made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. In a 2011 homily Pope Benedict gave on Holy Thursday at the Mass of the Lord's Supperthe ultimate wedding banquethe reminds us:
Parable of the Wedding Feast, 14th c. Russian icon
In his heart [Jesus] awaited the moment when he would give himself to his own under the appearance of bread and wine. He awaited that moment which would in some sense be the true messianic wedding feast: when he would transform the gifts of this world and become one with his own, so as to transform them and thus inaugurate the transformation of the world. In this eager desire of Jesus we can recognize the desire of God himselfhis expectant love for mankind, for his creation. A love which awaits the moment of union, a love which wants to draw mankind to itself and thereby fulfil the desire of all creation, for creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:19). Jesus desires us, he awaits us.
But what about ourselves? Do we really desire him? Are we anxious to meet him? Do we desire to encounter him, to become one with him, to receive the gifts he offers us in the Holy Eucharist? Or are we indifferent, distracted, busy about other things? From Jesus’ banquet parables we realize that he knows all about empty places at table, invitations refused, lack of interest in him and his closeness.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

In this Sunday's Gospel (Matthew 21: 33-43), Jesus reveals through the Parable of the Tenants the importance of responding to the call of God. He is always waiting for fruit to be borne in us, always looking for the "crop of good grapes" (Isaiah 5:2). We can choose to be like the unresponsive, wicked tenants, or be as the "good soil" that Jesus describes in his Parable of the Sower. Fr. Jean Danielou S.J., a French theologian of the 20th century, brings this point to light in this text from The Lord of History:
Parable of the Tenants, by Liberale da Verona (1441–1526)
God is the husbandman, expecting, hoping, desiring such great things from us. He prepared the soil in which our souls were to grow up and flourish; he ceases not to nourish, protect and encourage their growth, all our lives long. Every circumstance of our environment is an instance of God's care for us....
The point of the Song of the Vine is that it reveals how much store God sets by the spiritual profit of our lives, and how much he depends for this upon our help.... Some things are beyond our control, and temporal success is one of these; other things are at all times within our control, such as the spiritual response we make to the situations in which the Lord is pleased to put us, or the determination to find God in all the circumstances of our life, be they joys or crosses. If we do this, everything that happens to us is nourishment for the sap of that spiritual vine, namely our eternal soul, everything co-operates in its growth to perfection.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

This Sunday's Gospel (Matthew 21: 28-32) presents us with the short but powerful Parable of the Two Sons. The first son, when asked to work in the vineyard, finally did his father's will. The second son---although he verbally agreed---did not.

Yves de Montcheuil, a French priest, theologian and chaplain to the free French of Vercors during the Second World War, was executed by the army of occupation in 1944. Having remained faithful to Christ in life and in death, Fr. de Montcheuil reveals the importance of being attentive to the will of God and the beauty in accomplishing it:
The kingdom is for each one of us the response to a personal call; it means clinging to the personal will of God which varies for each one and likewise varies according to our circumstance. God's plan seen from the human angle is not a law established once and for all but a will revealed gradually according the needs of the Church and our personal capabilities.

Indeed the kingdom is not a place where we can sit back and relax. We have to be always following Jesus without knowing beforehand where we are going, ready to discern what God is expecting of us now. We must, then, keep careful watch, wakeful, attentive, and yet peaceful, to discern this living and evolving will of God. His demands on us can make us grow; he can ask of us tomorrow what he did not ask yesterday and so these demands engage us constantly in new ways. We need to examine our motives in all we do in order to hold ourselves in readiness for God.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

In this week's Gospel, Matthew 20:1-16, we see a generous vineyard owner giving equally to all of his hired workers. Some worked long hours, others few, and yet the ownerwho is God himselfbestows his goodness on all. Why is this so? God's generosity is gratuitous and unmerited, and we benefit from it simply because we are his children. St. Pope John Paul II, in his apostolic exhortation to lay Christians, emphasizes the key to understanding this parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. He stresses that the simple act of being a Christian imparts great value, based on the merits of Christ. Perhaps it is not so much that we do great and laborious things for God, but that we are grateful for the great things God does for us. Here's part of his exhortation:
Laborers in the Vineyard,  Codex Aureus of Echternach (ca. 1030–1050)
All the members of the People of God—clergy, men and women religious, the lay faithful—are laborers in the vineyard. At one and the same time they are all the goal and subjects of Church communion as well as of participation in the mission of salvation. Every one of us possessing charisms and ministries, diverse yet complementary, works in the one and the same vineyard of the Lord.
Simply in being Christians, even before actually doing the works of a Christian, all are branches of the one fruitful vine which is Christ. All are living members of the one Body of the Lord built up through the power of the Spirit. The significance of being”  a Christian does not come about simply from the life of grace and holiness which is the primary and more productive source of the apostolic and missionary fruitfulness of Holy Mother Church. Its meaning also arises from the state of life that characterizes the clergy, men and women religious, members of secular institutes and the lay faithful.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

A challenging passage from the Gospel of Matthew (18:21-35) is presented to us today on the need to forgive others. Peter asks,“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus, calling him to imitate the infinite forgiveness of God, responds, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." Christ uses the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant to further illustrate how our mercy toward others must flow from the mercy he bestows on us. St. Augustine, commenting on this parable, writes:
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, Claude Vignon (1593–1670)

There are two works of mercy which will set us free. They are briefly set down in the gospel in the Lord’s own words: Forgive and you will be forgiven, and Give and you will receive. The former concerns pardon, the latter generosity. As regards pardon he says: “Just as you want to be forgiven, so someone is in need of your forgiveness.” Again, as regards generosity, consider when a beggar asks you for something that you are a beggar to in relation to God. When we pray we are all beggars before God. We are standing at the door of a great householder, or rather, lying prostrate, and begging with tears. We are longing to receive a giftthe gift of God himself.
What does a beggar ask of you? Bread. And you, what do you ask of God, if not Christ who said: I am the living bread that has come down from heaven? Do you want to be pardoned? Then pardon others. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Do you want to receive? Give and you will receive.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Jesus's words in today's Gospel (Matthew 18: 15-20), "Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them," are a call to unity among us as individuals and as Christians. "Love," said Pope Benedict XVI, "acts as the principle that unites Christians and guarantees that their unanimous prayer is heard by the Heavenly Father." In this homily, given at the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, he said:
"Deus caritas est" (1 John 4:8,16), God is love. The faith of the Church, in its entirety, is founded on this solid rock. In particular, the patient pursuit of full communion among all of Christ's disciples is based upon it: By fixing one's gaze on this truth, summit of divine revelation, it seems possible to overcome divisions and not to be discouraged, even though they continue to be gravely serious.
The Lord Jesus, who broke down the "dividing wall of hostility" (Ephesians 2:14) with the blood of his passion, will not fail to grant to those who faithfully invoke him the strength to heal every wound. But it is always necessary to start anew from this point: "Deus caritas est."

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

If anyone wishes to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. These are difficult words, which Jesus addresses to his disciples - including us - in today's Gospel (Matthew 16: 21-27). Who by nature welcomes suffering? And yet Our Lord does not tell us to take up our cross and follow our own path, but, Follow me. We are not alone. Jesus prepares the way, as Pope Francis tells us:
Christ Carrying the Cross, (ca, 1565) Titian
Our Lord’s command seems hard and heavy, that anyone who wants to follow him must renounce himself. But no command is hard and heavy when it comes from one who helps to carry it out. That other saying of his is true: My yoke is easy and my burden light. Whatever is hard and his commands is made easy by love....
Who would not wish to follow Christ to supreme happiness, perfect peace, and lasting security? We shall do well to follow him there, but we need to know the way. The Lord Jesus had not yet risen from the dead when he gave this invitation. His passion was still before him; he had still to endure the cross, to face outrages, reproaches, scourging; to be pierced by thorns, wounded, insulted, taunted, and put to death. The road seems rough, you draw back, you do not want to follow Christ. Follow him just the same. The road we made for ourselves is rough, but Christ has levelled it by passing over it himself.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A


In today's Gospel (Matt. 16:13-20), Jesus asks his disciples “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And then he asks them,  “But you, who do you say that I am?” Peter gives the response: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In his homily for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul last year, Pope Francis commented on this passage:
Today [Jesus] looks straight at us and asks, “Who am I for you?” As if to say: “Am I still the Lord  your life, the longing of your heart, the reason for your hope, the source of your unfailing trust?” Along with Saint Peter, we too renew today our life choice to be Jesus’ disciples and apostles....
Those who confess Jesus know that they are not simply to offer opinions but to offer their very lives. They know that they are not to believe half-heartedly but to “be on fire” with love. They know that they cannot just “tread water” or take the easy way out, but have to risk putting out into the deep, daily renewing their self-offering. Those who confess their faith in Jesus do as Peter and Paul did: they follow him to the end – not just part of the way, but to the very end. They also follow the Lord along his way, not our own ways. His way is that of new life, of joy and resurrection; it is also the way that passes through the cross and persecution.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

The Church gives us a very powerful message in today's gospel: don't give up in prayer. A Canaanite woman, although a pagan, asks Jesus to heal her daughter, who is tormented by a demon. At first he refuses: I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. She persists, as Pope Emeritus Benedict tells us, even when she received an answer that would seem to have extinguished any hope: It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. Jesus was struck with admiration, he continues, for an answer of such great faith and said to her: Be it done for you as you desire.
The Canaanite Woman
Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry (1412-1416)
Dear friends, we too are called to grow in faith, to open ourselves in order to welcome God’s gift freely, to have trust and also to cry to Jesus “give us faith, help us to find the way!” This is the way that Jesus made his disciples take, as well as the Canaanite woman and men and women of every epoch and nation and each one of us.
Faith opens us to knowing and welcoming the real identity of Jesus, his newness and oneness, his word, as a source of life, in order to live a personal relationship with him. Knowledge of the faith grows, it grows with the desire to find the way and in the end it is a gift of God who does not reveal himself to us as an abstract thing without a face or a name, because faith responds to a Person who wants to enter into a relationship of deep love with us and to involve our whole life. 
For this reason our heart must undergo the experience of conversion every day, every day it must see us changing from people withdrawn into themselves to people who are open to God’s action, spiritual people (cf. 1 Cor 2:13-14), who let themselves be called into question by the Lord’s word and open their life to his Love.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Nineteeth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

What a wonderful gospel story we are given in this Sunday's Mass! Jesus walks on the water, and St. Peter, impetuous as ever, wants to come to him (Matthew 14: 22-33). But he loses his nerve and starts to sink. These words of St. Augustine, read at Vigils, talk about our own lives, when we are storm-tossed and sinking:
When the Lord said: “Come,” Peter climbed out of the boat and began to walk on the water. This is what he could do through the power of the Lord; what by himself? Realizing how violently the wind was blowing, he lost his nerve, and as he began to sink he called out, “Lord, I am drowning, save me!” When he counted on the Lord’s help it enabled him to walk on the water; when human frailty made him falter he turned once more to the Lord, who immediately stretched out his hand to help him, raised him up as he was sinking, and rebuked him for his lack of faith.
Think, then, of this world as a sea, whipped up to tempestuous heights by violent winds. A person’s own private tempest will be his or her unruly desires. If you love God you will have power to walk upon the waters, and all the world’s swell and turmoil will remain beneath your feet. But if you love the world it will surely engulf you, for it always devours its lovers, never sustains them. If you feel your foot slipping beneath you, if you become a prey to doubt or realise that you are losing control, if, in a word, you begin to sink, say: Lord, I am drowning, save me! Only he who for your sake died in your fallen nature can save you from the death inherent in that fallen nature.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Feast of the Transfiguration

On this Feast of the Transfiguration, here are some words from Pope St. John Paul II:
Transfiguration of Christ by Fra Angelico (1440-1442)
Today, the Eucharist which we are preparing to celebrate takes us in spirit to Mount Tabor together with the Apostles Peter, James and John, to admire in rapture the splendour of the transfigured Lord. In the event of the Transfiguration we contemplate the mysterious encounter between history, which is being built every day, and the blessed inheritance that awaits us in heaven in full union with Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. 
We, pilgrims on earth, are granted to rejoice in the company of the transfigured Lord when we immerse ourselves in the things of above through prayer and the celebration of the divine mysteries. But, like the disciples, we too must descend from Tabor into daily life where human events challenge our faith. On the mountain we saw; on the paths of life we are asked tirelessly to proclaim the Gospel which illuminates the steps of believers.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Seventeeth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Today at Mass, Jesus tells his disciples parables about the Kingdom of Heaven: among them are the image of the treasure hidden in a field, and the pearl of great price (Mt 13:44-52). What is their significance? Pope Francis says that:
Pearl of Great Price by Eugène Burnand
They tell us that the discovery of the Kingdom of God can happen suddenly like the farmer who, ploughing, finds an unexpected treasure; or after a long search, like the pearl merchant who eventually finds the most precious pearl, so long dreamt of. Yet, in each case the point is that the treasure and the pearl are worth more than all other possessions; and therefore when the farmer and the merchant discover them, they give up everything else in order to obtain them. They do not need to rationalize or think about it or reflect: they immediately perceive the incomparable value of what they’ve found and they are prepared to lose everything in order to have it.
This is how it is with the Kingdom of God: those who find it have no doubts, they sense that this is what they have been seeking and waiting for; and this is what fulfills their most authentic aspirations. And it really is like this: those who know Jesus, encounter Him personally, are captivated, attracted by so much goodness, so much truth, so much beauty, and all with great humility and simplicity. To seek Jesus, to find Jesus: this is the great treasure!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Sunday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time Year A: Matthew 13: 24-43 or 13: 24-30

This Sunday the Church gives us another parableof sowing seeds, this one dealing with the good seed and the weeds, which the enemy sows. Here is a wonderful exposition on it from Pope Francis, given in 2014:

The teaching of the parable is twofold. First of all, it tells that the evil in the world comes not from God but from his enemy, the evil one. It is curious that the evil one goes at night to sow weed, in the dark, in confusion; he goes where there is no light to sow weed. This enemy is astute: he sows evil in the middle of good, thus it is impossible for us men to distinctly separate them; but God, in the end, will be able to do so.

And here we arrive at the second theme: the juxtaposition of the impatience of the servants and the patient waiting of the field owner, who represents God. At times we are in a great hurry to judge, to categorize, to put the good here, the bad there....

But remember the prayer of that self-righteous man: “God, I thank you that I am good, that I am not like other men, malicious” (cf. Lk 18:11-12). God, however, knows how to wait. With patience and mercy he gazes into the “field” of life of every person; he sees much better than we do the filth and the evil, but he also sees the seeds of good and waits with trust for them to grow. God is patient, he knows how to wait. This is so beautiful: our God is a patient father, who always waits for us and waits with his heart in hand to welcome us, to forgive us. He always forgives us if we go to him....

In the end, in fact, evil will be removed and eliminated: at the time of harvest, that is, of judgment, the harvesters will follow the orders of the field owner, separating the weed to burn it (cf. Mt 13:30). On the day of the final harvest, the judge will be Jesus, He who has sown good grain in the world and who himself became the “grain of wheat”, who died and rose. In the end we will all be judged by the same measure with which we have judged: the mercy we have shown to others will also be shown to us. Let us ask Our Lady, our Mother, to help us to grow in patience, in hope and in mercy with all brothers and sisters.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

In this Sunday's gospel, taken from Matthew 13: 1-23, Jesus tells the crowd the parable of the sower, who goes out to sow. Some seed falls on the path, some on rocky ground and some among thorns. It is the fruit that falls on good soil that brings forth grain "some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Any dedicated gardener knows the frustration there can be in growing plants from seed, the need for the right kind of soil, and the satisfaction there is in seeing the seeds bear fruit.

Here's part of a homily by St. Gregory the Great, in which he talks about this parable:
Image result for jean francois millet the sower
The Sower (1850), Jean-Francois Millet
Be careful that the word you have received through your ears remains in your heart. Be careful that the seed does not fall along the path, for fear that the evil spirit may come and take it from your memory.... The stony ground lacked the necessary moisture for the sprouting seed to yield the fruit of perseverance.
Good earth, on the other hand, brings forth fruit by patience. The reason for this is that nothing we do is good unless we also bear with equanimity the injuries done us by our neighbors. In fact, the more we progress, the more hardships we shall have to endure in this world; for when our love for this present world dies, its sufferings increase. This is why we see many people doing good works and at the same time struggling under a heavy burden of afflictions. They now shun earthly desires, and yet they are tormented by greater sufferings. But, as the Lord said, they bring forth fruit by patience, because, since they humbly endure misfortunes, they are welcomed when these are over into a place of rest in heaven.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

“Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward,”Jesus says in today's gospel (Mt. 10: 37-42). What a small thing a cup of cold water is! But it is the small things in our day-to-day existence that help make life liveable. Pope Francis knows this! Here's part of his homily given at the conclusion of World Meeting of Families in 2015. If you'd like to read the whole talk - well worth it! - you'll find it here.
These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children, [by siblings]. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Homely gestures. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to [grow in] faith.

Jesus tells us not to hold back these little miracles. Instead, he wants us to encourage them, to spread them. He asks us to go through life, our everyday life, encouraging all these little signs of love as signs of his own living and active presence in our world.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A


“Do not be afraid,” Jesus tells us in today's gospel (Matthew 10: 26-33). “You are worth more than many sparrows.” If God cares for a single, simple bird, how much more does he care for us? Even the hairs on our heads are counted. This trust in God's loving care is the perfect response to fear, no matter what form fear may take in our lives.

Julian of Norwich, an English solitary who lived in the late fourteenth century, wrote these wise words on trust in God:
During our lifetime here we have in us a marvellous mixture of both wellbeing and woe. We have in us our risen Lord Jesus Christ, and we have in us the wretchedness and the harm of Adam’s falling. Dying, we are constantly protected by Christ, and by the touching of his grace we are raised to true trust in salvation. And we are so afflicted in our feelings by Adam’s falling in various ways, by sin and by different pains, and in this we are made dark and so blind that we can scarcely accept any comfort. But in our intention we wait for God, and trust faithfully to have mercy and grace; and this is his own working in us, and in his goodness he opens the eye of our understanding, by which we have sight, sometimes more and sometimes less, according to the ability God gives us to receive....
And even so, when this sweetness is hidden, we fall again into blindness, and so in various ways into woe and tribulation. But then this is our comfort: that we know in our faith that by the power of Christ who is our protector we never assent to [spiritual and bodily sin], but we complain about it, and endure in pain and in woe, praying until the time that he shows himself again to us. And so we remain in this mixture all the days of our life; but he wants us to trust that he is constantly with us in three ways. He is with us in heaven, true man in his own person, drawing us up. And he is with us on earth, leading us. And he is with us in our soul, endlessly dwelling, ruling and guarding.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Corpus Christi, Year A

Today we celebrate the great solemnity of Corpus Christithe Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. (The US Conference of Catholic Bishops allows us the option to move it from Thursday, in order that more of the faithful can celebrate it.)
Last Supper,.14th c. Dominican gradual. (Karlsruhe, Germany.)

This is a great feast day! It is the day we thank God for the gift Jesus gave us of the Eucharist. On the night before he died he instituted this Sacrament that allows us to be one with him in a sublime and mysterious way. Our union with Jesus in Holy Communion is beyond our imagination and it yet it is not our imagination; the whole of Jesus - body, blood, soul and divinity - is present within us. He hears our deepest thoughts, love, worries and desires with all the interest, concern and love that only a parent or lover has for another but even more. How blessed we are!

St. Thomas Aquinas, who composed the liturgy for this day, wrote the beautiful sequence Lauda Sion salvatorem. Here it is sung by the Benedictine monks of Clervaux, and here's an English translation.

And finally, here is a reflection of this great feast from  St. Thomas himself:
No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift. It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all. Yet, in the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of this sacrament in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion. 
It was to impress the vastness of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper. As he was on the point of leaving the world to go to the Father, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples, he left it as a perpetual memorial of his passion. It was the fulfilment of ancient figures and the greatest of all his miracles while for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Holy Trinity, Year I

Blessed Feast of the Holy Trinity! This great mystery is beyond our understanding, yet God longs for us to know how deeply he loves us as the individuals we are. Pope Francis, reflecting on the unity of the Trinity, said that “The relationship between Jesus and the Father is the 'womb' of the link between Christians. If we are rooted in that womb, in this burning fire of love which is the Trinity, we can become able to possess one heart alone and one soul alone, because the love of God scorches our selfishness, judgments and divisions.”

Icon of the Trinity, Andrei Rublev (1425)
And last year on this feastday, the Holy Father said:
Our being created in the image and likeness of God-Communion calls us to understand ourselves as beings-in-relationship and to live interpersonal relations in solidarity and mutual love.

Such relationships play out, above all, in the sphere of our ecclesial communities, so that the image of the Church as icon of the Trinity is ever clearer. But also in every social relationship, from the family to friendships, to the work environment: they are all concrete occasions offered to us in order to build relationships that are increasingly humanly rich, capable of reciprocal respect and disinterested love.

The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity invites us to commit ourselves in daily events to being leaven of communion, consolation and mercy. In this mission, we are sustained by the strength that the Holy Spirit gives us: he takes care of the flesh of humanity, wounded by injustice, oppression, hate and avarice.
We pray that the deep love and relationship that is within God may bear fruit in all our lives and relationships!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pentecost Sunday, Year 1

A glorious and grace-filled feast of Pentecost to you! Today ends the Paschal season, and we sing the Veni Creator Spiritus for the last time. This beautiful hymn is attributed to the Benedictine monk Rabanus
Pentecost, 14th c. Missal (Natl. Library of Wales
Maurus (776-856). It is a tradition to sing it as a novena in the evening at Vespers, begging for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to transform all of us and bring us to the fullness of the life that God so desires us to have. May there be an outpouring of his grace and peace on all the world!

Here's a recording of the Veni Creator Spiritus, sung by the Schola Gregoriana Mediolansis under the direction of Giovanni Vianini, and here's a translation of it (the choir sings it first with women's voices, and repeats it with men and women):

COME, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

O comforter, to Thee we cry,
O heavenly gift of God Most High,
O fount of life and fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.

Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;
Thou, finger of God's hand we own;
Thou, promise of the Father, Thou
Who dost the tongue with power imbue.

Kindle our sense from above,
and make our hearts o'erflow with love;
with patience firm and virtue high
the weakness of our flesh supply.

Far from us drive the foe we dread,
and grant us Thy peace instead;
so shall we not, with Thee for guide,
turn from the path of life aside.

Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
the Father and the Son to know;
and Thee, through endless times confessed,
of both the eternal Spirit blest.

Now to the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death, be glory given,
with Thou, O Holy Comforter,
henceforth by all in earth and heaven. Amen.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Seventh Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

As we near the feast of Pentecost, the sending of the Holy Spirit, the sublime prayer of Jesus to his Father at the Last Supper (John 17:20-21) is given us as the gospel reading: Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.

That unity of charity which is the mark of a Christian is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Here are some words of St. Augustine, taken from his commentary of the First Letter of St. John:
Descent of the Holy Spirit, Syriac Rabulla Gospel (6th c.)
Whoever carries out his commandment abides in God and God in him. And we can tell that we are dwelling in him by the Spirit he has given us. If you find charity in yourself, you have the Spirit of God to give you understanding, a thing most necessary.
How can we know whether or not we have received the Holy Spirit? Let each one question his own heart. If he loves his brothers then the Spirit of God dwells in him. Let him examine and test himself in God’s sight, to discover whether he harbors in his heart a love of peace and unity, a love of the Church as it extends throughout the length and breadth of the world. Let him not look for love only of the brother who is present, for we have many whom we do not see, but with whom we are united in the Spirit.
There is nothing strange in that. They are not all here with us, but we all belong to the one Body and have a single Head in heaven. So then, if you would know whether you have received the Spirit, ask your own heart: do you perhaps have the outward sign of the sacrament without the virtue of the sacrament? Ask your heart: if the love of your brothers is there, you can be at peace. There can be no love without the Holy Spirit, for Paul cries out to us: The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit he has given us.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Feast of the Ascension, Year I





The Church allows the faithful to celebrate the Feast of the Ascension either on the traditional Thursday, or on the following Sunday in order that more of its members can participate. Here in the monastery we celebrate it today, so we’d like to share with you part of the reading we hear at Vigils. It's from a homily by St. Augustine:
Ascension, Giotto (c. 1305)
As he was about to ascend, he spoke the last words he was to utter on earth. At the moment of going up to heaven, the head commended to our care the members he was leaving on earth, and so departed. No longer will you find Christ speaking on earth; in the future he will speak from heaven. Why will he speak from heaven? Because his members are being trampled underfoot on earth. He spoke to Saul the persecutor from above, saying: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? I have ascended to heaven, but I still remain on the earth. Here at the Father’s right hand I sit, but there I still hunger and thirst and am without shelter.’
...My friends, you have Christian hearts. Think, then; if the words of one who is on the way to the grave are so sweet, so precious, so important to his heirs, what must the last words of Christ mean to his heirs as he departs, not for the grave but for heaven! When a person has lived and died his soul is borne away to another place while his body is laid in the ground. Whether his last request is carried out or not, it matters little to him now. He has other things to do or suffer. His corpse lies in the grave, feeling nothing. And yet his dying wishes are carefully obeyed! If that is so, what will be the lot of those who fail to observe the parting words of the one who is seated in heaven and who looks down to see whether they are flouted or not – the words of him who said: Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? and who reserves for the Day of Judgement all that he sees his members suffer?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Sixth Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

At the Last Supper, Jesus prepared his disciples (and that includes us) not only for his Passion and Resurrection, but also for his Ascension to the Father (Jn. 14:15-21). Yet he promised he would not leave us orphans. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him.

Pope Francis spoke about this gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, 2013:
Holy Spirit, Bernini (St. Peter's Basilica)
The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward. The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; he impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ.
The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission. The events that took place in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago are not something far removed from us; they are events which affect us and become a lived experience in each of us. The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures. The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ to his apostles, yet he wants that gift to reach everyone. As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus says: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to remain with you forever” (Jn 14:16). It is the Paraclete Spirit, the “Comforter,” who grants us the courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel!
The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ. Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission? Today let us remember these three words: newness, harmony and mission.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Fifth Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

Nine years ago, on April 20, 2008, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass at Yankee Stadium while visitng the United States. He commented on the Mass readings, drawing a parallel between the increase in numbers of the early Church recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6:1-7) to the growth of the Catholic Church in the United States. The full text is given on the Vatican website; here's a small selection of his words:
Christ Pantokrator (St. Catherine's, 6th c.)
Authority” … “obedience.” To be frank, these are not easy words to speak nowadays. Words like these represent a “stumbling stone” for many of our contemporaries, especially in a society which rightly places a high value on personal freedom. Yet, in the light of our faith in Jesus Christ – “the way and the truth and the life” – we come to see the fullest meaning, value, and indeed beauty, of those words.
The Gospel teaches us that true freedom, the freedom of the children of God, is found only in the self-surrender which is part of the mystery of love. Only by losing ourselves, the Lord tells us, do we truly find ourselves (cf. Lk 17:33). True freedom blossoms when we turn away from the burden of sin, which clouds our perceptions and weakens our resolve, and find the source of our ultimate happiness in him who is infinite love, infinite freedom, infinite life. “In his will is our peace.”
 Real freedom, then, is God’s gracious gift, the fruit of conversion to his truth, the truth which makes us free (cf. Jn 8:32). And this freedom in truth brings in its wake a new and liberating way of seeing reality. When we put on “the mind of Christ” (cf. Phil 2:5), new horizons open before us! In the light of faith, within the communion of the Church, we also find the inspiration and strength to become a leaven of the Gospel in the world. We become the light of the world, the salt of the earth (cf. Mt 5:13-14), entrusted with the “apostolate” of making our own lives, and the world in which we live, conform ever more fully to God’s saving plan.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Fourth Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

“I am the gate for the sheep,” Jesus tells his disciples (John 10:1-10). “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” This Gospel passage continues the Easter celebration of the central mystery of Christianity: Jesus saved us from our sins by giving his life for us on the Cross and rising from the dead. Here's part of a commentary from the early Church Father St. Clement, a convert from paganism and bishop of Alexandria, who lived  ca. 150-215:
In our sickness we need a savior, in our wanderings a guide, in our blindness someone to show us the light, in our thirst the fountain of living water which quenches for ever the thirst of those who drink from it. We dead people need life, we sheep need a shepherd, we children need a teacher, the whole world needs Jesus!
Pasture us children like sheep, Lord. Fill us with your own food, the food of righteousness. As our guide we pray you to lead us to your holy mountain, the Church on high, touching the heavens....
How bountiful the giver who for our sake gives his most precious possession, his own life! He is a real benefactor and friend, who desired to be our brother when he might have been our Lord, and who in his goodness even went so far as to die for us!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Third Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

In today's Gospel (Luke 24:13-35), Jesus once again reveals himself after his resurrection to his disciples, this time on the road to Emmaus. The two disciples don't recognize him, and they unburden their heavy hearts to this “stranger”: The chief priests and our rulers handed [Jesus] over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. (Luke 24:20-21). Jesus comforts them, and “breaks open” the Scriptures for them: Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:26-27). In the end, their eyes are opened and they recognize him when he breaks bread.

Here is a meaninful interpretation of this passage by a twelfth century monastic author:
Christ at Emmaus, Rembrandt (1648)
Their eyes were opened, and they knew him when he broke the bread. When bread is broken, it is in a way diminished, or “emptied.” By breaking understand the virtue of humility, by which Christ—even he who is the bread of life— broke, diminished, and emptied himself. And by emptying himself he gave us knowledge of himself. 
The hidden Wisdom of the Father, and a treasure whole and concealed—what use are they? Break your bread for the hungry, Lord, the bread that is yourself, so that human eyes may be opened, and it may not be regarded as a sin for us to long to be like you, knowing good and evil. Let him who from the beginning wished to strive after or grope for you in your undiminished state, know you through the breaking of bread.....
Break yourself, then, by the labor of obedience, by the humiliation of repentance. Bear in your body the marks of Jesus Christ by accepting the condition of a servant, not of a superior. And when you have emptied yourself, you will know the Lord through the breaking of bread.
True humility opens our eyes, “breaking” and diminishing the other virtues which might blind us with a spirit of pride, and teaching us that of ourselves we are nothing. And when we humble ourselves by self-contempt, so much the more do we grow in the knowledge of God.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Second Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

On April 30, 2000, Pope (now Saint) John Paul II canonized Sr. (now Saint!) Faustina Kowalska, the “Apostle of Divine Mercy.” That same Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter was designated as the Sunday of the Divine Mercy. The popes have given so many wonderful homilies on this feastday. This is just part of Pope Francis', given in 2016. (Here's a link to the full text; it's well worth reading and praying over.)
Sacred Heart, Charles Bosseron Chamber
In God’s mercy, all of our infirmities find healing. His mercy, in fact, does not keep a distance: it seeks to encounter all forms of poverty and to free this world of so many types of slavery. Mercy desires to reach the wounds of all, to heal them. Being apostles of mercy means touching and soothing the wounds that today afflict the bodies and souls of many of our brothers and sisters. Curing these wounds, we profess Jesus, we make him present and alive; we allow others, who touch his mercy with their own hands, to recognize him as “Lord and God” (Jn 20:28), as did the Apostle Thomas. This is the mission that he entrusts to us.
So many people ask to be listened to and to be understood. The Gospel of mercy, to be proclaimed and written in our daily lives, seeks people with patient and open hearts, “good Samaritans” who understand compassion and silence before the mystery of each brother and sister. The Gospel of mercy requires generous and joyful servants, people who love freely without expecting anything in return....
In the responsorial Psalm we heard these words: “His love endures forever” (Ps 117/118:2). Truly, God’s mercy is forever; it never ends, it never runs out, it never gives up when faced with closed doors, and it never tires. In this forever we find strength in moments of trial and weakness because we are sure that God does not abandon us. He remains with us forever. Let us give thanks for so great a love, which we find impossible to grasp. Let us ask for the grace to never grow tired of drawing from the well of the Father’s mercy and bringing it to the world: let us ask that we too may be merciful, to spread the power of the Gospel everywhere.