Saturday, October 13, 2018

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

In today's reading from Mark 10: 17-30, the rich young man asks Jesus, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" and Jesus answers: “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

In his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, St. John Paul II says about this gospel:
Before answering the question, Jesus wishes the young man to have a clear idea of why he asked his question. The ‘Good Teacher’ points out to him – and to all of us – that the answer to the question, “What good must I do to have eternal life?” can only be found by turning one’s mind and heart to the ‘One’ who is good: “No one is good but God alone.” Only God can answer the question about what is good, because he is the Good itself. 
To ask about the good, in fact, ultimately means to turn towards God, the fullness of goodness. Jesus shows that the young man’s question is really a religious question, and that the goodness that attracts and at the same time obliges man has its source in God, and indeed is God himself. God alone is worthy of being loved “with all one’s heart, and with all one’s soul, and with all one's mind.” He is the source of man’s happiness. Jesus brings the question about morally good action back to its religious foundations, to the acknowledgment of God, who alone is goodness, fullness of life, the final end of human activity, and perfect happiness.
Christ and the Rich Young Man, by Heinrich Hoffman (Riverside Church)


Sunday, October 7, 2018

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

In the beginning of today's gospel reading, taken from Mark 10: 2-16, Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees about divorce. “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” In part of his his response, he quotes from Genesis 2:24, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."

This image of marriage is a symbol of Christ and the Church. Jacob Serugh, a Syriac poet-theologian who died in 521 AD comments on this image in a vivid homily:
Icon of Christ, the Bridegroom and Mary, the Bride Church, from Sacro Speco
Wives are not united to their husbands as closely as the Church is to the Son of God. What husband but our Lord ever died for his wife, and what bride ever chose a crucified man as her husband? Who ever gave his blood as a gift to his wife except the One who died on the cross and sealed the marriage bond with his wounds? Who was ever seen lying dead at his own wedding banquet with his wife at his side seeking to console herself by embracing him? At what other celebration, at what other feast is the bridegroom’s body distributed to the guests in the form of bread?
Death separates wives from their husbands, but in this case it is death that unites the bride to her beloved. He died on the cross, bequeathed his body to his glorious spouse, and now every day she receives and consumes it at his table. She consumes it under the form of bread, and under the form of the wine that she drinks, so that the whole world may know that they are no longer two but one.
May Christ the Bridegroom, who gave his life so that we might have life, unite us ever more closely to himself!

Friday, September 28, 2018

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

In today's reading, taken from chapter 9 of the Gospel of St. Mark, Jesus tells his disciples, "Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward."

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well,
Wall painting from the Church of St, Mary, Ethiopia (13th c.)
A cup of water! What a simple, easy thing to give. And yet our Lord says that it will not go unrewarded. Pseudo-Chrysostom, an early Church writer says about this:
Every man must care for others, no one is too poor. Even the gift of a cup of cold water will obtain a reward; for it is not the value of the gift, but the dignity of those who receive it, and the feelings of the giver, which makes a work worthy of reward.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, "Don't look for big things, just do small things with great love.... The smaller the thing, the greater must be our love." May God help us in our daily lives to find our eternal reward through such simple acts of love!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

In today's Gospel, from Mark 9:30-37, the disciples are arguing about who among them is the greatest. It's pretty encouraging that even those closest to Jesus during his lifetime, those whom he taught, had their priorities upside down! Jesus responds by telling them, "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all."

Here's a commentary on this passage by St. Theophylact (1050-1107 AD), bishop of Ohrid in Bulgaria:
Jesus washing Peter's feet by Ford Maddox Brown, detail (1852-6)
He came to Capernaum, and after the entering the house he questioned the disciples: “What were you arguing about on the way?” Now the disciples still saw things from a very human point of view, and they had been quarrelling amongst themselves about which of them was the greatest and the most esteemed by Christ. Yet the Lord did not restrain their desire for pre-eminent honor; indeed he wishes us to aspire to the most exalted rank. He does not however wish us to seize the first place, but rather to win the highest honor by humility.
He stood a child among them because he wants us to become childlike. A child has no desire for honor; it is not jealous, and it does not remember injuries. And he said: “If you become like that, you will receive a great reward, and if, moreover, for my sake, you honor others who are like that, you will receive the kingdom of heaven; for you will be receiving me, and in receiving me you receive the one who sent me. You see then what great things humility, together with simplicity and guilelessness, can accomplish. It causes both the Son and the Father to dwell in us, and with them of course comes the Holy Spirit also.



Saturday, September 15, 2018

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

In today's Gospel, Our Lord tells his disciples that "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it." Here is part St. Caesarius of Arles' beautiful commentary on this Gospel:
Vincenzo Catena
Christ bearing the Cross (c. 1520/30)
"As well as telling us to renounce ourselves, our Lord and Savior said that we must take up our cross and follow him. What does it mean to take up one’s cross? Bearing every annoyance patiently. That is following Christ. When someone begins to follow his way of life and his commandments, that person will meet resistance on every side. He or she will be opposed, mocked, even persecuted, and this not only by unbelievers but also by people who to all appearances belong to the body of Christ, though they are really excluded from it by their wickedness; people who, being Christians only in name, never stop persecuting true Christians.

If you want to follow Christ, then, take up his cross without delay. Endure injuries, do not be overcome by them. If we would fulfil the Lord’s command: If anyone wants to be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me, we must strive with God’s help to do as the Apostle says: As long as we have food and clothing, let this content us.  Otherwise, if we seek more material goods than we need and desire to become rich, we may fall prey to temptation. The devil may trick us into wanting the many useless and harmful things that plunge people into ruin and destruction. May we be free from this temptation to the protection of our Lord, lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen."

Sunday, September 9, 2018

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus has just healed the man born deaf and mute. The crowd says of Jesus, “He has done all things well. He has made the deaf hear and the dumb speak.” St. Lawrence of Brindisi, the 16th century Capuchin and Doctor of the Church, comments:

Christ healing a Deaf-Mute, Bibliothèque national de France, 14th c.
"He has done all things well." The law says that all God did was good; the gospel says he has done all things well. Doing a good deed is not quite the same as doing it well. Many do good deeds but fail to do them well. The deeds of hypocrites, for example, are good, but they are done in the wrong spirit, with a perverse and defective intention.
Everything God does, however, is not only good but is also done well. "The Lord is just in all his ways and holy in all his deeds." With wisdom you have done them all: that is to say, most wisely and well. So "he has done all things well," they say.
Now if God has done all his good works and done them well for our sake, knowing that we take pleasure in goodness, why I ask do we not endeavor to make all our works good and to do them well, knowing that such works are pleasing to God? So even in this present life we shall be happy, this world will be an earthly paradise for us; with the Hebrews we shall feast on heavenly manna in the desert of this life, if only we follow Christ’s example by striving to do everything well, so that "he has done all things well" may be said of each one of us.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

22nd Sunday of OT, Year B

Todays gospel reading is taken from chapter seven of Mark. The Pharisees have just asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” Jesus replies, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

St. Irenaeus, the second century bishop and Father of the Church, wrote about this:
Faith, Hope and Charity,
by Karp Zolotaryov (1685)
That [love of God] is the first and greatest commandment, the second being love of our neighbor, the Lord taught by saying that the whole of the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. He himself brought no greater commandment than this but he renewed this same commandment by bidding his disciples love God with their whole heart, and their neighbour as themselves.
Paul also says that love is the fulfilment of the law. When all other charisms fail, faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest of all is love. Knowledge is of no avail without the love of God, nor is understanding of mysteries, faith, or prophecy. Without love all are vain and profitless. Love on the other hand perfects a person, and one who loves God is perfect both in this world and the next, for we shall never stop loving God – the longer we gaze upon him the more our love for him will grow.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

This week's Sunday Gospel reading is from John 6:60-69. After Jesus has fed the crowd of five thousand he tells them that he is the Bread of Life: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” After that, many of his disciples left him. He turns and asks the twelve apostles, “Will you also leave me?” Peter responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

St. Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria from 412-444 A.D, comments on this passage:
Jesus and St. Peter, Miraculous Draught of Fishes,
detail from a tapestry by Raphael
To whom shall we go? 
Peter asks. In other words, “Who else will instruct us the way you do?” Or, “To whom shall we go to find anything better?” You have the words of eternal life; not hard words, as those other disciples say, but words that will bring us to the loftiest goal, unceasing, endless life removed from all corruption.
These words surely make quite obvious to us the necessity for sitting at the feet of Christ, taking him as our one and only teacher, and giving him our constant and undivided attention. He must be our guide who knows well how to lead us to everlasting life. Thus, thus shall we ascend to the divine court of heaven, and entering the church of the first born, delight in blessings passing all human understanding.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

20th Sunday of OT, Year B

Commenting on today's Gospel, Pope Francis said:
These Sundays the Liturgy is offering us, from the Gospel according to John, Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life, which He himself is, just as the Sacrament of the Eucharist is. Today’s passage (Jn 6:51-58) presents the final part of this discussion, and refers to several of those who were scandalized because Jesus said: “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6:54)....
Last Supper, Jaume Huguet (ca. 1470)
Regarding the Holy Mass, one sometimes hears this objection: “Of what use is Mass? I go to Church when I feel like it, and I pray better in solitude”. But the Eucharist is not a private prayer or a beautiful spiritual exercise, it is not a simple commemoration of what Jesus did at the Last Supper. We say, in order to fully understand, that the Eucharist is “a remembrance”, that is, a gesture which renders real and present the event of Jesus’ death and resurrection: the bread really is his Body given up for us, the wine really is his Blood poured out for us.
The Eucharist is Jesus himself who gives himself entirely to us. Nourishing ourselves of Him and abiding in Him through Eucharistic Communion, if we do so with faith, transforms our life, transforms it into a gift to God and to our brothers and sisters.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

19th Sunday of OT, Year B

At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

This Sunday’s Gospel,” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said,
Last Supper miniature from a Psalter c1220-40
is the concluding part and culmination of Jesus’ discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum, after he had the previous day fed thousands of people with only five loaves and two fish. Jesus reveals the meaning of that miracle; namely, that the time of the promise has been fulfilled: God the Father, who fed the Israelites with manna in the desert, now sent him, the Son, as the true Bread of life, and this bread is his flesh, his life, offered in sacrifice for us. 
In listening to this discourse, the people understood that Jesus was not a Messiah as they wanted, one who aspired to an earthly throne. He did not look for a consensus to conquer Jerusalem: indeed, He willed to go up to the Holy City in order to share the fate of the prophets: to give His life for God and for the people. The loaves, broken for thousands of people, would not result in a triumphal procession but would foreshadow the sacrifice of the Cross, in which Jesus would become Bread, his body and blood offered in expiation. Jesus offered the discourse in order to disillusion the crowds and, above all, to provoke a decision in His disciples. In fact, many among them, from that time on, no longer followed Him. 
Dear friends, let us allow ourselves once again to be astonished by Christ’s words: He, the grain of wheat thrown into the furrows of history, is the first fruits of a new humanity, freed from the corruption of sin and death. And let us rediscover the beauty of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which expresses all of God’s humility and holiness: He makes himself little — God becomes little — a fragment of the universe, to reconcile all things in His love. May the Virgin Mary, who gave the world the Bread of life, teach us to always live in profound union with him.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

18th Sunday of OT, Year B

This Sunday the liturgy continues the reading of chapter six of the Gospel according to John ( (Jn 6:24-35). The people who were present at the multiplication of the loaves and fishes last week now go in search of Jesus, who tells them, “I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” Here's a commentary by Pope Francis:

They had not understood that that bread, broken for so many, for the multitude, was the expression of the love of Jesus himself. They had given more meaning to that bread than to its donor. Before this spiritual blindness, Jesus emphasizes the necessity of going beyond the gift, to discover, come to know the donor. God himself is both the gift and the giver. Thus from that bread, from that gesture, the people can find the One who gives it, who is God. He invites them to open up to a perspective which is not only that of the daily need to eat, dress, achieve success, build a career. Jesus speaks of another food. He speaks of a food which is incorruptible and which is good to seek and gather. He exhorts: “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you” (v. 27). That is to say, seek salvation, the encounter with God.
With these words, he seeks to make us understand that, in addition to physical hunger man carries within him another hunger—all of us have this hunger—a more important hunger, which cannot be satisfied with ordinary food. It is a hunger for life, a hunger for eternity which He alone can satisfy, as he is “the bread of life” (v. 35). Jesus does not eliminate the concern and search for daily food. No, he does not remove the concern for all that can make life more progressive. But Jesus reminds us that the true meaning of our earthly existence lies at the end, in eternity, it lies in the encounter with Him, who is gift and giver. He also reminds us that human history with its suffering and joy must be seen in a horizon of eternity, that is, in that horizon of the definitive encounter with Him. And this encounter illuminates all the days of our life.
... This “Bread of Life” is given to us with a task, namely, that we in our turn satisfy the spiritual and material hunger of our brothers, proclaiming the Gospel the world over. With the witness of our brotherly and solidary attitude toward our neighbour, we render Christ and his love present amid mankind.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

17th Sunday of OT, Year B

The multiplication of the loaves and fishes recorded in today's Gospel (John 6:1-15) includes an important detail: a young boy supplies five barley loaves and two fish. Not much to feel such a large crowd. But Jesus uses them to work the miracle.

Like the disciples in this scene, often in life we may feel that something is beyond our powers: we want to be generous, to love, but feel inadequate. Here's part of an Angelus talk Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI gave on this subject:
The Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes, Petrus Comestor's Bible Historiale, 1372
A boy’s presence is also mentioned in the scene of the multiplication. On perceiving the problem of of feeding so many hungry people, he shared the little he had brought with him: five loaves and two fish (cf. Jn 6:9). The miracle was not worked from nothing, but from a first modest sharing of what a simple lad had brought with him. Jesus does not ask us for what we do not have. Rather, he makes us see that if each person offers the little he has the miracle can always be repeated: God is capable of multiplying our small acts of love and making us share in his gift....

Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask the Lord to enable us to rediscover the importance of feeding ourselves not only on bread but also on truth, on love, on Christ, on Christ’s Body, taking part faithfully and with profound awareness in the Eucharist so as to be ever more closely united with him. Indeed, “It is not the Eucharistic food that is changed into us, but rather we who are mysteriously transformed by it. Christ nourishes us by uniting us to himself; he draws us into himself.”

Let us pray that the bread necessary for a dignified life may never be lacking and that inequalities may be demolished, not with the weapons of violence but rather with sharing and with love.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

16th Sunday of OT, Year B

They went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.... When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:32, 34).

At the Mass with the Papal inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI on April 24, 2005, he gave a deeply moving homily on the ministry of the pope. Its themes of desert and of the Good Shepherd are a fitting commentary on today's Gospel:
Jesus the Good Shepherd, tomb of Pius IX,
Saint Lawrence outside the Walls
The pastor must be inspired by Christ’s holy zeal: for him it is not a matter of indifference that so many people are living in the desert. And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God’s darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth’s treasures no longer serve to build God’s garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction. 
The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.
We suffer on account of God’s patience. And yet, we need his patience. God, who became a lamb, tells us that the world is saved by the Crucified One, not by those who crucified him. The world is redeemed by the patience of God. It is destroyed by the impatience of man.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

15th Sunday of OT, Year B

Today's Gospel recounts Jesus' sending out his disciples two by two. They are "to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts. "In virtue of their baptism," says Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium, “all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples.”
Jesus sends out his disciples (10th c. fresco)
Buckle Church, Goreme, Cappadocia
Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples”. If we are not convinced, let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim him joyfully: “We have found the Messiah!” (Jn 1:41).... So what are we waiting for?
... Each of us should find ways to communicate Jesus wherever we are. All of us are called to offer others an explicit witness to the saving love of the Lord, who despite our imperfections offers us his closeness, his word and his strength, and gives meaning to our lives. In your heart you know that it is not the same to live without him; what you have come to realize, what has helped you to live and given you hope, is what you also need to communicate to others. Our falling short of perfection should be no excuse; on the contrary, mission is a constant stimulus not to remain mired in mediocrity but to continue growing.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

14th Sunday of OT, Year B

In this week's Gospel from Mark (6:1-6), we see the profound lack of faith of Jesus's native people. As a result, Christ works very few miracles in their midst. Pope Benedict XVI, in a homily below, reflects on this scene and reinforces the relationship between faith and divine power.
Jesus preaching at Nazareth, unidentified icon
This reaction is understandable because familiarity at the human level makes it difficult to go beyond this in order to be open to the divine dimension. That this son of a carpenter was the Son of God was hard for them to believe. Jesus actually takes as an example the experience of the prophets of Israel, who in their own homeland were an object of contempt, and identifies himself with them. Due to this spiritual closure Jesus “could do no mighty work there [Nazareth], except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them” (Mk 6:5). 
In fact Christ’s miracles are not a display of power but signs of the love of God that is brought into being wherever it encounters reciprocated human faith. Origen writes: “as in the case of material things there exists in some things a natural attraction towards some other thing, as in the magnet for iron... so there is an attraction in such faith towards the divine power” (Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, 10, 19).

Saturday, June 30, 2018

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

The beautiful Gospel for today (Mark 5:21-43) tells of the story of Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus from the dead “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” How comforting these words are! Pope Frances speaks of this Gospel and how we all face death:
Raising of Jairus' daughter,
Codex Egberti, c. 980-993, Reichenau Abbey
We are all small and defenceless before the mystery of death. However, what a grace if at that moment we safeguard in our heart the little flame of faith! Jesus takes us by the hand, as he took Jairus’ daughter by the hand, and repeats once again: “Talitha cumi”; “Little girl, arise!” He will say this to us, to each one of us: “Arise, rise again!”.

I invite you, now, to close your eyes and think about that moment: of our death. Each of us think about our own death, and imagine that moment that will come, when Jesus will take us by the hand and tell us: “Come, come with me, arise”. There, hope will end and reality will abide, the reality of life. Think hard: Jesus himself will come to each of us and take us by the hand, with his tenderness, his meekness, his love. Each one repeat Jesus’ words in your heart: “Arise, come. Arise, come. Arise, rise again!”.

This is our hope in the face of death. For those who believe, it is a door that is thrust open wide; for those who doubt it is a glimmer of light that filters through an exit that is not quite completely closed. But for all of us it will be a grace, when this light, of the encounter with Jesus, illuminates us.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Solemnity of St. John the Baptist

Today the Church celebrates the the Solemnity of the great forerunner of Christ, St. John the Baptist. This great witness to Jesus, this great martyr, is an example to us all for many reasons. Here is part of a moving homily by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in which he talks about the place of prayer in his life.
St. John the Baptist, De Gray Book of Hours
We see this great figure, this force in the Passion, in resistance to the powerful. We wonder: what gave birth to this life, to this interiority so strong, so upright, so consistent, spent so totally for God in preparing the way for Jesus? The answer is simple: it was born from the relationship with God, from prayer, which was the thread that guided him throughout his existence. John was the divine gift for which his parents Zechariah and Elizabeth had been praying for so many years; a great gift, humanly impossible to hope for, because they were both advanced in years and Elizabeth was barren; yet nothing is impossible to God. The announcement of this birth happened precisely in the place of prayer, in the temple of Jerusalem, indeed it happened when Zechariah had the great privilege of entering the holiest place in the temple to offer incense to the Lord. 
John the Baptist’s birth was also marked by prayer: the Benedictus, the hymn of joy, praise and thanksgiving which Zechariah raises to the Lord and which we recite every morning in Lauds, exalts God’s action in history and prophetically indicates the mission of their son John: to go before the Son of God made flesh to prepare his ways. 
The entire existence of the Forerunner of Jesus was nourished by his relationship with God, particularly the period he spent in desert regions. The desert regions are places of temptation but also where man acquires a sense of his own poverty because once deprived of material support and security, he understands that the only steadfast reference point is God himself. John the Baptist, however, is not only a man of prayer, in permanent contact with God, but also a guide in this relationship. The Evangelist Luke, recalling the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, the Our Father, notes that the request was formulated by the disciples in these words: “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his own disciples.”

Sunday, June 17, 2018

11th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

In today's Gospel (Mark 4:26-34), Jesus says that "...the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed." Any gardener knows what a miracle of creation a seed is: from a tiny object, sometimes scarcely visible to the eye, a large plant grows, given the proper environment. In this commentary St. Peter Chrysologus says that:
The Sower, (1888) Vincent van Gogh
Christ is the kingdom of heaven. Sown like a mustard seed in the garden of the Virgin's womb, he grew up into the tree of the cross whose branches stretch across the world. Crushed in the mortar of the passion, its fruit has produced seasoning enough for the flavoring and preservation of every living creature with which it comes in contact.

As long as a mustard seed remains intact, its properties lie dormant; but when it is crushed they are exceedingly evident. So it was with Christ; he chose to have his body crushed, because he would not have his power concealed....
Such then is the mustard seed which Christ sowed in his garden. When he promised a kingdom to the partriarchs the seed took root in them; with the prophets it sprang up, with the apostles it grew tall, in the Church it became a great tree putting forth innumerable branches laden with gifts. And now you too must take the wings of the psalmist’s dove, gleaming gold in the rays of divine sunlight, and fly to rest for ever among those sturdy, fruitful branches. No snares are set to trap you there; fly off, then, with confidence and dwell securely in its shelter.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

10th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

This Sunday's first reading (Gen 3:9-15) brings us to the garden of our first parents, the place of their transgression; here we see the context for Christ's coming to undo the sin of Adam, to reverse the curse of death. As Jesus preaches the coming of the kingdom of God against the earthly kingdom of Satan in the Gospel of Mark (3:20-35), so too does the ancient Greek homilist in his 5th century text below:
Adam & Eve in Paradise, painted wood ceiling, Michaeliskirche (12th c.)
The signs of the Lord's resurrection are obvious: deception has ceased, envy has been banished, strife is despised. Peace is held in honor and war has been done away with. No longer do we reproach the Adam who was fashioned first; instead we glorify the second Adam. No longer do we reproach Eve for transgressing God's command: instead we bless Mary for being the Mother of God. No longer do we avert our eyes from the wood of the tree: instead we carry the Lord's cross.
We no longer fear the serpent: instead we revere the Holy Spirit. We no longer descend into the earth: instead we reascend into heaven. We are no longer exiles from paradise: instead we live in Abraham's bosom. We no longer hear, “I have made your day like night”: instead, inspired by the Holy Spirit, we sing: “This is the day which the Lord has made: let us keep it with gladness and rejoicing.”


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Feast of Corpus Christi, Year B

On this great Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, we offer for your reflection part of a homily give by Pope Francison this feast in 2015:
Manuscript illumination, ca. 1320
In the Last Supper, Jesus gives His Body and his Blood by means of the bread and the wine, to leave us the memorial of His sacrifice of infinite love. With this viaticum full to overflowing with grace, the disciples have everything they need for their long journey through history, to extend the kingdom of God to everyone. Light and strength will be for them the gift that Jesus made of Himself, sacrificing Himself voluntarily on the Cross. This Bread of Life has come down to us! The Church is in unending awe before this reality – an awe that endlessly nourishes contemplation, adoration, memory. This is seen in a beautiful text of today’s Liturgy, the Responsory of the second reading of the Office of Readings, which says: “See in this bread the body of Christ which hung upon the cross, and in this cup the blood which flowed from His side. Take His body, then, and eat it; take His blood and drink it, and you will become His members. The body of Christ is the bond which unites you to him: eat it, or you will have no part in him. The blood is the price he paid for your redemption: drink it, lest you despair of your sinfulness.”

We ask ourselves what it means today, to be torn from Him, to despair – as cowards – of our sinfulness?
We are torn from Him when we are not obedient to the Word of the Lord, when we do not live brotherhood between us, when we race to occupy the first places, when we do not find the courage to witness to charity, when we are unable to offer hope. The Eucharist allows us to be not torn from Him, for it is the bond of communion, is the fulfillment of the Covenant, a living sign of the love of Christ who humbled and annihilated Himself for us, that we might remain united. By participating in the Eucharist and by feeding on it, we are inserted into a way that does not admit divisions. The Christ present in our midst, in the signs of bread and wine, requires that the power of love exceed every laceration, and at the same time that it become communion with the poor, support for the weak, fraternal attention to those who are struggling to carry the weight of everyday life.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Trinity Sunday, Year B

As we honor the Holy Trinity this Sunday, we look to the Fathers of the Church to enlighten us on such a sublime subject. St. Athanasius, in the sermon below, describes the intimacy of relationship among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the way in which they share the divine life with us!
Book miniature of Rublev's Trinity (Unknown painter)
Even the gifts that the Spirit dispenses to individuals are given by the Father through the Word. For all that belongs to the Father belongs also to the Son, and so the graces given by the Son in the Spirit are true gifts of the Father. Similarly, when the Spirit dwells in us, the Word who bestows the Spirit is in us too, and the Father is present in the Word. This is the meaning of the text: My Father and I will come to him and make our home with him. For where the light is, there also is the radiance; and where the radiance is, there too are its power and its resplendent grace.
This is also Paul’s teaching in his second letter to the Corinthians: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. For grace and the gift of the Trinity are given by the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Just as grace is given from the Father through the Son, so there could be no communication of the gift to us except in the Holy Spirit. But when we share in the Spirit, we possess the love of the Father, the grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Spirit himself.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pentecost Sunday, Year B

The beautiful thirteenth century sequence, Veni Sancte Spiritu, is sung at Mass on Pentecost Sunday, but it's a wonderful prayer for any day of the year. Here's an English translation.

From the Hours of John of Berry, c. 1405/10 (British Library)
Come, Holy Spirit,
send forth the heavenly
radiance of your light.

Come, father of the poor,
come, giver of gifts,
come, light of the heart. 

Greatest comforter,
sweet guest of the soul,
sweet consolation.

In labor, rest,
in heat, temperance,
in tears, solace.

O most blessed light,
fill the inmost heart
of your faithful.

Without your grace,
there is nothing in us,
nothing that is not harmful.

Cleanse that which is unclean,
water that which is dry,
heal that which is wounded.

Bend that which is inflexible,
fire that which is chilled,
correct what goes astray.

Give to your faithful,
those who trust in you,
the sevenfold gifts.

Grant the reward of virtue,
grant the deliverance of salvation,
grant eternal joy.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

7th Sunday of Easter, Year B

When the moment was at hand for Jesus to leave his disciples, Guerric of Igny says,
Ascension of Christ, 15th c. Italian, State Library of Victoria
He seemed overwhelmed by the depth of his affection for them, and unable to disguise the overflowing tenderness which until then he had hidden from them. 
Hence the words of the evangelist: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” He laid bare the whole strength of his love for his friends, before pouring himself out like water for his enemies. Handing over to them the sacrament of his body and blood, he instituted the celebration of the eucharist.
It is hard to say which was the more wonderful, his power or his love, in devising this new means of remaining with them, to console them for his departure. In spite of the withdrawal of his bodily presence, he would remain not only with them but in them, by virtue of this sacrament.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments," our Lord declares to his disciples in this week's Gospel from John (14:15-21). Just as Christ loved us unto death, so also are we called to do the same. The life and martyrdom of St. Thomas More (1478-1535) is a poignant reflection of Christ's love and an example of profound fidelity to God; he was willing to oppose the spiritual supremacy of the king of England in favor of the true supremacy of the bishop of Rome. In one of More's meditations, he reveals that the love of Christ is indeed the truest, highest love, the only love worthy of imitation.
Let us deeply consider the love of our Savior Christ who so loved his own unto the end that for their sakes he willingly suffered that painful end, and therein declared the highest degree of love that can be.
For, as he himself says: “A greater love no one has than to give his life for his friends.” This is indeed the greatest love that ever anyone had. But yet had our Savior a greater, for he gave his for both friend and foe.
Who can in adversity be sure of many of his friends when our Savior himself was, at his capture, left alone and forsaken by his? When you go forth who will go with you? 
Now, since our Lord has so loved us, for our salvation, let us diligently call for his grace that in return for his great love we be not found ungrateful.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Fifth Sunday of Easter, Christ the True Vine, Year B

I am the true vine, Jesus says in today's Gospel, you are the branches (John 15:1-8). Think of it: a vine and branches are one plant, with the same life-giving sap flowing through it. The branches depend on the vine for life and nourishment.

Here's part of a commentary on this Gospel by St. Augustine:
Christ the True Vine, anonymous, before 20th c.I 
If you dwell in me, said Jesus, and my words dwell in you, you will ask for whatever you desire and it will be yours. Can a person dwelling in Christ desire anything out of harmony with Christ? The very fact that people dwell in their Savior must mean that they have no desire that is opposed to their salvation. And yet we do indeed desire one thing insofar as we are in Christ, and another insofar as we are still in this world.
Because of our sojourn here below, a thought sometimes steals into our ignorant minds to ask for something which cannot be good for us. But this many not be, if we are dwelling in Christ. He does what we ask only if it is for our good. To dwell in him, therefore, is to have his words dwelling in us; whatever we desire we shall then ask for, and it will be given to us.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

4th Sunday of Easter, Year B (Good Shepherd Sunday)

In the Gospel for this Good Shepherd Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter (Jn 10:11-18), we learn that Christ is the Good Shepherd, and his faithful followers are the “sheep” who will hear the shepherd's voice. And what is this voice of Christ saying? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger. Basil of Seleucia, in his homily below, reveals the direct link between our compassion for our neighbor and God's compassion toward us:
Good Shepherd mural (detail), Duncan Grant
Lincoln Cathedral, England. (1958)
The Gospel says that “all nations will be assembled before him and he will separate people from one another, as the Good Shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand, and the goats on his left, and he will say to those on his right hand, 'Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'”
Win the judge over by gifts before you come to trial. Provide him with grounds for showing clemency, give him some reason to acquit you.... Christ will accept even the gift of the poor and for a small gift grant remission of long punishment. Let us put out the fire with mercy and avert the sentence that hangs over us by showing love for one another. Let us be compassionate toward one another and forgiving, as God has forgiven us in Christ.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Third Sunday of Easter, Year B

This Sunday's Gospel (Lk 24:35-48) tells of the encounter two disciples have with the Risen Lord. When he appeared to them they were "startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost." Jesus says, "Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." He shows them his hands and his feet and they are incredulous for joy and amazed.

Here's a meditation from a homily by St. Augustine:
Man of Sorrows, by Hans Memlin
Christ rose from the tomb with his wounds healed, though their scars remained. He knew it would be good for his disciples if he retained the scars, for those scars would heal the wound in their hearts.
What wound do I mean? The wound of disbelief; for even when he appeared before their eyes and showed them his true body, they still took him for a disembodied spirit. So he showed himself to his disciples.
When we say “himself,” what precisely do we mean? We mean Christ as head of his Church.
He foresaw the Church extending throughout the world, a vision his disciples could not yet share. However, in showing them the head, he was promising them the body too.
We too find ourselves in a situation not unlike theirs: we can see something which was not visible to them, while they could see something not visible to us. We can see the Church extending throughout the world today, something that was withheld from them, but Christ, who in his human body was perceptible to them, cannot be seen by us.

And just as they, seeing his human flesh, were enabled to believe in his mystical body, so now we, seeing his mystical body, should be able to believe in the head. Just as the sight of the risen Christ helped the disciples to believe in the Church that was to follow, so the spectacle of that same Church helps to confirm our faith in the resurrection of Christ.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Sunday within the Octave of Easter, Year B

This Sunday's Gospel tells the story of Doubting Thomas:

The disbelief of Saint Thomas.
Detail of ivory dyptic, ca. 500 AD., Milan Cathedral.
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

St. Cyril of Alexandria, writing about this scene in his Commentary on John’s Gospel says, "As always, Christ has to be patient with Thomas when he said he would not believe, and with the other disciples too when they thought they were seeing a ghost. Because of his desire to convince the whole world, he most willingly showed them the marks of the nails and the wound in his side; because he wished those who needed such signs as a support for their faith to have no possible reason for doubt, he even took food although he had no need for it."

May our faith, like that of Thomas and the other disciples, ever increase, and may we always say to the risen Christ, "My Lord and my God!"


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday, Year B

A Holy and Blessed Easter to all! Christ is risen, Alleluia!



A translation of the Easter Sequence Victimae paschali laudes,
by Wipo of Burgundy (d. 1050?)

Christians, to the Paschal victim
offer your thankful praises!

A lamb the sheep redeemeth:
Christ, who only is sinless,
reconcileth sinners to the Father.

Death and life have contended
in that combat stupendous:
the Prince of life, who died,
reigns immortal.

Speak, Mary, declaring
what thou sawest, wayfaring:

"The tomb of Christ, who is living,
the glory of Jesus' resurrection;

"Bright angels attesting,
the shroud and napkin resting.

"Yea, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he will go before you."

Christ indeed from death is risen,
our new life obtaining;
have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Palm Sunday, Year B

Blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week from us all!

Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward his passion, and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish.
From a sermon by St. Andrew of Crete
Christ's entry into Jerusalem (detail from sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, 359 AD)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

5th Sunday of Lent, Year B

This week we are presented with a powerful gospel text (John 12:20-33) with the simple and clear imagery of a grain of wheat. "If a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it yields a rich harvest," says Christ. It is a striking and confronting message, and yet Jesus reassures us that a self-sacrificing death will yield an abundance of life. St. Cyril of Alexandria adds that we do not do this in isolation, but as many members of one body. He writes:




Christ became like one of us; he sprang from the holy Virgin like a spike of wheat from the ground. Indeed, he spoke of himself as a grain of wheat when he said: “I tell you truly, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains as it was, a single grain; but if it dies its yield is very great.” And so, like a sheaf of grain, the first fruits, as it were, of the earth, he offered himself to the Father for our sake.

For we do not think of a spike of wheat in isolation, any more than we do of ourselves. We think of it rather as part of a sheaf, which is a single bundle made up of many spikes. The spikes have to be gathered into a bundle before they can be used, and this is the key to the mystery they represent, the mystery of Christ who, though one, appears in the image of a sheaf to be made up of many, as in fact he is.

Spiritually, he contains in himself all believers. “As we have been raised up with him,” writes Saint Paul, “so we have also been enthroned with him in heaven.” He is a human being like ourselves, and this has made us one body with him, the body being the bond that unites us. We can say, therefore, that in him we are all one, and indeed he himself says to God, his heavenly Father: “It is my desire that as I and you are one, so they also may be one in us.”

Sunday, March 11, 2018

4th Sunday of Lent, Year B

As the Church approaches Holy Week, we are given Jesus's words to Nicodemus, recorded by St. John (3:14-21): For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. St. John Chrysostom reflects in a homily on this great love of God for humanity, a love that was revealed in the self-sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our redemption. This love should inspire awe and gratitude in us, for it reveals the very nature of who God is: love itself.

St. John Chrysostom says:
Crucifix, Paolo Veneziano (ca. 1350)
Although we praise our common Lord for all kinds of reasons, we praise and glorify him above all for the cross. It fills us with awe to see him dying like one accursed.

It is this death for people like ourselves that Paul constantly regards as the sign of Christ’s love for us. He passes over everything else that Christ did for our advantage and consolation and dwells incessantly on the cross. “The proof of Gods love for us,” he says, “is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.”

Then in the following sentence he gives us the highest ground for hope: “If when we were alienated from God, we were reconciled to him by the death of his Son, how much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life!”

...What wonder, indeed, if Paul rejoices and glories in the cross, when the Lord himself spoke of his passion as his glory. “Father,” he prayed, “the hour has come: glorify your Son.”

Sunday, March 4, 2018

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B

Today's Gospel, taken from John 2:13-25, tells the dramatic story of Jesus driving the moneychangers from the temple. “God’s temple is holy,”  and, says St. Augustine:
Expulsion of the Money changers from the Temple,
Giotto Scrovegni
You are that temple: all you who believe in Christ and whose belief makes you love him. Real belief in Christ means love of Christ: it is not the belief of the demons who believed without loving and therefore despite their belief said: “What do you want with us, Son of God?” No; let our belief be full of love for him we believe in, so that instead of saying: “What do you want with us,” we may rather say: We belong to you, you have redeemed us. 
To pray in God’s temple we must pray in the peace of the Church, in the unity of the body of Christ, which is made up of many believers throughout the world. When we pray in this temple our prayers are heard, because whoever prays in the peace of the Church prays in spirit and in truth.
The temple of God, this body of Christ, this assembly of believers, has but one voice, and sings the psalms as though it were but one person. If we wish, it is our voice; if we wish, we may listen to the singer with our ears and ourselves sing in our hearts. But if we choose not to do so it will mean that we are like buyers and sellers, preoccupied with our own interests.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

2nd Sunday of Lent (Gospel of the Transfiguration), Year B

No one should be ashamed of the cross of Christ, through which the world has been redeemed. No one should fear to suffer for the sake of justice; no one should lose confidence in the reward that has been promised. The way to rest is through toil, the way to life is through death. Christ has taken on himself the whole weakness of our lowly human nature. If then we are steadfast in our faith in him and in our love for him, we win the victory that he has won, we receive what he has promised.

From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope

Fresco of the Transfiguration at the Serbian Orthodox Monastery of Decani, Kosovo 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

1st Sunday of Lent, Year II

This first Sunday of Lent, as we begin our journey to the Paschal Mystery of Christ's Passion, Death and Resurrection, the Church gives us as the Gospel Mark's account of his temptation by the devil at the beginning of his public ministry. Here's a commentary on it by John Justus Landsberg (1489/90-1539), the Carthusian spiritual writer:
Temptation of Christ on the Mountain,
Duccio di Buoninsegna (d. c. 1319)
Everything the Lord Jesus decided to do, everything he chose to endure, was ordained by him for our instruction, our correction, and our advantage; and since he knew that the teaching and consolation we should derive from it all was far from negligible, he was loath to let slip any opportunity that might profit us. 
And so when he was led out into the wilderness there is no doubt that his guide was the Holy Spirit whose intention was to take him to a place where he would be exposed to temptation, a place where the devil would have the audacity to accost him and put him to the test. 
The circumstances were so greatly in the devil’s favor that he was prompted to capitalize on them: here was Jesus alone, at prayer, physically worn out by fasting and abstinence. A chance indeed to find out whether this man really was the Christ, whether or not he was the Son of God.
From this episode therefore our first lesson is that human life on earth is a life of warfare, and the first thing Christians must expect is to be tempted by the devil. As Scripture tells us, we have to be prepared for temptation, for it is written: “When you enter God’s service, prepare your soul for an ordeal.”

Sunday, February 11, 2018

6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B


The story of Jesus's healing the leper in today's Gospel (Mark 1: 40-45) is a source of great hope for us all. Paschasius Radbertus (785–865), the Benedictine abbot and theologian, encourages us to trust in God's mercy and forgiveness:
Jesus heals the leper (XII-XIII s. mosaic)
Cathedral of Monreale, Sicilia
However great our sinfulness, each one of us can be healed by God every day. We have only to worship him with humility and love, and wherever we are to say with faith: Lord, if you want to you can make me clean. It is by believing from the heart that we are justified, so we must make our petitions with the utmost confidence, and that the slightest doubt of God’s power.
If we pray with a faith springing from love, God’s will need be in no doubt. He will be ready and able to save us by an all-powerful command. He immediately answered the leper’s request, saying: I do want to. Indeed, no sooner had the leper begun to pray with faith than the Saviour’s hand began to cure from his leprosy.


Sunday, February 4, 2018

5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B




Today's gospel (Mark 1: 29-39) recounts Jesus's healing of Peter's mother-in-law, who was sick with a fever. Christ did not enter Peter's house, says St. John Chrysologus,
to obtain sustenance for himself, but to restore vitality to another. God wants human beings, not human goods. He desires to bestow what is heavenly, not to acquire anything earthly. Christ came to seek not our possessions but us. 
As soon as Jesus crossed the threshold he saw Peter’s mother in law lying ill in bed with a fever. On entering the house he immediately saw what he had come for.... At a glance he saw her desperate plight, and at one stretched out his hands to perform their divine work of healing; nor would he sit down to satisfy his human needs before he had made it possible for the stricken woman to rise up and serve her God. So he took her by the hand, and the fever left her. Here you see how fever loosens its grip on a person whose hand is held by Christ’s; no sickness can stand its ground in the face of the very source of health. Where the Lord of life has entered, that is no room for death.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

Accordingly the blessed apostle draws a contrast between Moses and Christ to our comfort. “The Law,” he says, “was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” In him God is fully and truly seen, so that he is absolutely the way, and the truth, and the life. All our duties are summed up for us in the message he brings us.

Those who look towards him for teaching, who worship and obey him, will by degrees see “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in his face, and will be changed into the same image from glory to glory.”

John Henry Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons

Rembrandt, Head of Christ

Sunday, January 21, 2018

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

In today’s gospel, beloved, we heard the exhortation to repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. We must recognize the greatness of God’s love for us; so generous is it that he is willing to be appeased by the amends we make for our evil deeds, provided only that we freely admit them before he has himself condemned them. Yet no matter how many wounds our human nature has sustained, we’re never justified in given ourselves over to despair, for the Lord is magnanimous enough to pour out his compassion abundantly on all who need it.
From a Sermon by St. Caesarius of Arles

Detail of St. Mary Magdalene kissing the feet of Jesus, by Mattana.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

From John’s disciples Jesus summoned two to follow him, and one of them, Andrew, led his brother Peter to him also. According to the spiritual sense, it is clear what it means to follow the Lord. You follow the Lord if you imitate him. You follow the Lord, if, insofar as human weakness allows, you do not abandon those examples of humility that, as a human being, the Son of God demonstrated. You follow the Lord if, by showing yourself to be a companion of his sufferings, you painstakingly long to attain communion in his resurrection and ascension.

From St. Bede’s Homilies on the Gospels

The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew by Caravaggio

Monday, January 8, 2018

Feast of the Baptism

Christ is bathed in light; let us also be bathed in light. Christ is baptized; let us also go down with him, and rise with him.

Today let us do honor to Christ’s baptism and celebrate this feast in holiness. Be cleansed entirely and continue to be cleansed. Nothing gives such pleasure to God as the conversion and salvation of men, for whom his every word and every revelation exist. He wants you to become a living force for all mankind, lights shining in the world. You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great light, bathed in the glory of him who is the light of heaven. You are to enjoy more and more the pure and dazzling light of the Trinity, as now you have received—though not in its fullness—a ray of its splendor, proceeding from the one God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

From a Sermon by Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, bishop (330-389 AD)