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.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday, Year I

Resurrection (Noli me tangere) (ca. 1304-06), Giotto
Christ has risen! He has risen indeed! This familiar greeting reminds us of our hope for salvation: Jesus’ suffering and death, and three days in the tomb was not in vain: his victory over death is our hope for salvation, and for our own resurrection and the gift of eternal life.

Victimae paschali laudes is an 11th century sequence (an early hymnic form of Latin poetry) sung at Mass on Easter Sunday and during the octave. It captures the Christian’s joy at Christ’s resurrection. It’s generally believed to have been writen by Wipo of Burgundy, chaplain to German Emperor Conrad II, although it has also been attributed to other authors. Its dialogue between the faithful and Mary Magdalene played a part in the development of medieval mystery play. It’s sung here by the Capella Sistina, with the boys singing Mary’s parts. Here's a translation:

Let Christians offer sacrificial
praises to the passover victim.

The lamb has redeemed the sheep:
The Innocent Christ has reconciled
the sinners to the Father.

Death and life contended
in a spectacular battle:
the Prince of life, who died,
reigns alive.

Tell us, Mary, what did
you see on the road?

I saw the tomb of the living Christ
and the glory of his rising,

The angelic witnesses, the
clothes and the shroud.

Christ my hope is arisen;
into Galilee, he will go before his own.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Holy Thursday, Year I

On this sacred day commemorating the Last Supper of the Lord, we offer this reflection from St. Augustine:
In this way Christ showed that as he suffered for our sake in his mortal body in order to ransom us from eternal death and prepare our way to the heavenly kingdom, so, in order to have us as his companions in eternal life, he would be willing to undergo the same things daily for us whenever we celebrated the sacramental reenactment of these sacred mysteries. For this reason he told his disciples: “Take this, all of you; this is my body, and this the chalice of my blood which is shed for all for the forgiveness of every sin. Whenever you receive it, you do so in memory of me.”
On the altar, therefore, Christ is present; there he is slain, there he is sacrificed, there his body and blood are received. Christ who on this Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper day gave his disciples the bread and the cup is the same Christ who today consecrates these elements. It is not the man who handles the sacramental species who consecrates Christ's body and blood; it is Christ himself, who was crucified for you. By the lips of the priest the words are pronounced; the body and blood are consecrated by the power and grace of God.
And so in all things let the purity of our mind and thought be evident, for we have a pure and holy sacrifice and must train our souls in a corresponding holiness. Having done all that needs to be done, we may then celebrate these sacred mysteries with all simplicity. Let us therefore approach Christ's altar in a fitting manner, so that we may be counted worthy to share eternal life with Christ, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Passion (Palm) Sunday, Year I

Palm Sunday! Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph, the crowds stretch out their garments in his path and sing praises: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Lk 19:38).

On the 28th World Youth Day (which is held on Palm Sunday), in 2013, Pope Francis, fresh from his election, spoke to the crowd:
Crowds, celebrating, praise, blessing, peace: joy fills the air. Jesus has awakened great hopes, especially in the hearts of the simple, the humble, the poor, the forgotten, those who do not matter in the eyes of the world. He understands human sufferings, he has shown the face of God’s mercy, and he has bent down to heal body and soul.
Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem, Hippolyte Flandrin (c. 1842)
This is Jesus. This is his heart which looks to all of us, to our sicknesses, to our sins. The love of Jesus is great. And thus he enters Jerusalem, with this love, and looks at us. It is a beautiful scene, full of light – the light of the love of Jesus, the love of his heart – of joy, of celebration.
At the beginning of Mass, we too repeated it. We waved our palms, our olive branches. We too welcomed Jesus; we too expressed our joy at accompanying him, at knowing him to be close, present in us and among us as a friend, a brother, and also as a King: that is, a shining beacon for our lives. Jesus is God, but he lowered himself to walk with us. He is our friend, our brother. He illumines our path here. And in this way we have welcomed him today. And here the first word that I wish to say to you: joy! Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but from having encountered a Person: Jesus, in our midst; it is born from knowing that with him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many of them!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

5th Sunday of Lent, Year A

I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die (Jn 11:25). How much comfort Christ’s words to the mourning sisters of Lazarus bring to anyone who has lost a loved one. And how much hope they bear to each of us, as we journey through this life to our eternal homeland! The Church gives us today’s Gospel (John 11:1-45) prepares us for the approaching celebration of Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, as he gives his life in order that we might have Life.

In 2015, Pope Francis gave a beautiful talk on this Gospel. Here's part of it:
The Raising of Lazarus, Duccio (1310–11)
Before the sealed tomb of his friend Lazarus, Jesus “cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth” (vv. 43-44). This peremptory cry is addressed to every human person, because we are all marked by death, all of us; it is the voice of One Who is the master of life, one who will all “should have [life] more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). Christ is not resigned to the sepulchres that we have constructed with our choices of evil and death, with our mistakes, with our sins. He is not resigned to this! He invites us, almost orders us, to come out from the tombs into which our sins have plunged us. 
He calls us insistently to come out of the darkness of the prison in which we are enclosed, contenting ourselves with a false, selfish, mediocre life. “Come forth!” He says. “Come forth!” It is a beautiful invitation to true freedom, to allow us to grab onto these words of Jesus that He repeats to each one of us today, an invitation that allows us to free ourselves from the “bands,” from the bands of pride. Because pride makes us slaves, slaves of ourselves, slaves of so many idols, slaves of so many things. Our resurrection begins here: when we decide to obey the commands of Jesus to come into the light, to life; when the masks fall from our faces — so many times we are masked by sin: the masks must fall! — and we rediscover the courage of our original faces, created in the image and likeness of God. 
The act of Jesus by which He raised Lazarus demonstrates the end to which the power of the Grace of God can arrive, and the end, therefore to which our conversion, our change can arrive. But listen well: there is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all! There is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all! Remember this phrase. And we can all say it together: “There is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all!” Let us say it together: “There is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all!” The Lord is always ready to take away the tombstone of our sins, which separate us from Him, the light of the living.