Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Nativity of the Lord, Year A

A blessed and holy Christmas to you! The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory (John 1:14). What a gift God has given to our world. This year we would like to share with you this delightful manuscript illumination of the Nativity scene. If you click on the image to see details, you'll notice Jesus patting the head of the ass. There's so much to meditate on in this charming painting: a hole in the roof allows the golden rays of the star to shine through - divine providence in the midst of poverty! - and an industrious angel helps out this tired family by pouring water in the trough - a lowly, thoughtful task!

Just as there is a wealth of images of the Birth of Our Lord, so understandably there is an abundance of writings on the Nativity. Here's a little jewel on the humility of Christ from Theodotus (d. 446), bishop of Ancyra:
Nativity, Book of Hours, ca. 1420 (British Library)
The Lord of all comes as a slave amidst poverty. The huntsman has no wish to startle his prey. Choosing for birthplace an unknown village in a remote province, he is born of a poor maiden and accepts all that poverty implies, for he hopes by stealth to ensnare and save us.
...Suppose he had been the son of an emperor. They would have said: “How useful it is to be powerful!” Imagine him the son of a senator. It would have been: “Look what can be accomplished by legislation!”
But in fact, what did he do? He chose surroundings that were poor and simple, so ordinary as to be almost unnoticed, so that people would know it was the Godhead alone that had changed the world. This was his reason for choosing his mother from among the poor of a very poor country, and for becoming poor himself.
Let the manger teach you how poor the Lord was: he was laid in it because he had no bed to lie on. This lack of the necessaries of life was a most appropriate prophetic foreshadowing. He was laid in a manger to show that he would be the food even of the inarticulate. The Word of God drew to himself both the rich and the poor, both the eloquent and the slow of speech as he lay in the manger in poverty. Do you not see how his lack of worldly goods was a prophecy and how his poverty, accepted for our sake, showed his accessibility to all?
No one was afraid to approach Christ, overawed by his immense wealth; no one was kept from coming to him by the grandeur of his royal estate. No, he who was offering himself for the salvation of the world came as an ordinary worker. The Word of God in a human body was laid in a manger, so that both the eloquent and the slow of speech would have courage to share in the food of salvation.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

4th Sunday of Advent, Year A

As we approach the Birth of Our Lord, the Church gives us in the liturgy Matthew's acccount of St. Joseph (Mt. 1:18-24): When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. The angel sent by God calms his fear, and When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

It was providential that Pope Francis's inaugural Mass was on the feast of St. Joseph, the protector of Jesus and Mary. The full homily is well worth meditating on during these last days of Advent, but here are a few of his thoughts:
Hugo van der Goes, Portinari Tryptique  (c. 1475) (detail)
How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own.... Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!
The vocation of being a “protector” ... means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A

St. John the Baptist, who last week pointed out the Lord, is again featured in today's Gospel narrative. He is in prison, and he sends his disciples to Jesus to ask, Are you the one who is to come, or are we to look for someone else? Could any question be more important to humanity? Who is Jesus? Who is this Child lying in the manger? Are you the one who is to come, or are we to look for someone else?

Here's part of Pope Francis's Angelus message, given in 2016:
The Lord comes, he comes into our life as a liberator; he comes to free us from all forms of interior and exterior slavery. It is he who shows us the path of faithfulness, of patience and of perseverance because, upon his return, our joy will be overflowing. Christmas is near, the signs of his approach are evident along our streets and in our houses; here too, in Saint Peter’s Square, the Nativity scene has been placed with the tree beside it. These outward signs invite us to welcome the Lord who always comes and knocks at our door, knocks at our heart, in order to draw near to us; he invites us to recognize his footsteps among the brothers and sisters who pass beside us, especially the weakest and most needy. 
Today we are called to rejoice for the imminent coming of our Redeemer; and we are called to share this joy with others, giving comfort and hope to the poor, the sick, and to people who are lonely and unhappy. May the Virgin Mary, the “handmaid of the Lord”, help us to hear God’s voice in prayer and to serve him with compassion in our brothers, so as to be prepared for the Christmas appointment, preparing our hearts to welcome Jesus.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A

In today’s Gospel, St. John the Baptist tells the crowds, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” John is the forerunner of of the Messiah, of whom Isaiah prophesied: “A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” During this holy season of waiting for the coming of Our Lord, all creation seems to cry out, Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2).

Here is an excerpt from a homily of St. Augustine on the mercy of God and the time of salvation:
John the Baptist (right) with child Jesus, Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo
Each of us would be wise therefore to take to heart the advice of his teacher, and not waste this present time. It is now that our Savior offers us his mercy; now, while he still spares the human race. 
Understand that it is in hope of our conversion that he spares us, for he desires no one’s damnation. As for when the end of the world will be, that is God’s concern. Now it is the time for faith. Whether any of us here present will see the end of the world I know not; very likely none of us will. Even so, the time is very near for each of us, for we are mortal.There are hazards all around us. We should be in less danger from them were we made of glass. What more fragile than a vessel of glass? And yet it can be kept safe and last indefinitely. Of course it is exposed to accidents, but it is not liable to old age and the suffering it brings. We therefore are the more frail and infirm.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

1st Sunday of Advent, Year A

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

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Christ the King, Year C

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

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

Saturday, November 16, 2019

33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

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

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

Saturday, November 9, 2019

32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

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

Saturday, November 2, 2019

31st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. Zacchaeus, the wealthy tax collector, declares this to Jesus in today's gospel (Luke 19:1-10). And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold. The faith of Zacchaeus is rewarded: Jesus responds, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Here's part of the commentary on this passage by Philoxenus (c. 440-523), bishop of Mabbug (Hieropolis):
Zaccheus in the Sycamore Tree, unidentified icon
All who were called by the Lord obeyed his summons at once, provided love of earthly things did not weigh them down. For worldly ties are a weight upon the mind and understanding, and for those bound by them it is difficult to hear the sound of God’s call. 
But the apostles, and the righteous people and patriarchs before them, were not like this. They obeyed like people really alive, and set out lightly, because no worldly possessions held them bound as though by heavy fetters. 
For faith’s only possession is God, and it refuses to own anything else besides him. Nothing can bind or impede the soul that senses God: it is open and ready, so that the light of the divine voice, each time it comes, finds the soul capable of receiving it.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Last Sunday's parable of the widow and the unjust judge was a call to diligent prayer. The widow's persistence wore down the judge's resistence. This Sunday, the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18: 9-14) illustrates how we should pray: with humility. Here are some thoughts on this parable by Pope Francis:
The Pharisee and the Publican, unidentified manuscript
It is not enough, therefore, to ask how much we pray, we have to ask ourselves how we pray, or better, in what state our heart is: it is important to examine it so as to evaluate our thoughts, our feelings, and root out arrogance and hypocrisy. But, I ask myself: can one pray with arrogance? No. Can one pray with hypocrisy? No. We must only pray by placing ourselves before God just as we are. Not like the pharisee who prays with arrogance and hypocrisy. We are all taken up by the frenetic pace of daily life, often at the mercy of feelings, dazed and confused. It is necessary to learn how to rediscover the path to our heart, to recover the value of intimacy and silence, because the God who encounters us and speaks to us is there. Only by beginning there can we in our turn encounter others and speak with them. The pharisee walked toward the Temple, sure of himself, but he was unaware of the fact that his heart had lost the way. 
Instead the tax collector — the other man — presents himself in the Temple with a humble and repentant spirit: “standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast” (v. 13). His prayer was very brief, not long like that of the pharisee: “God, be merciful to me a sinner”. Nothing more. A beautiful prayer! ... His prayer is essential. He acts out of humility, certain only that he is a sinner in need of mercy. If the pharisee asked for nothing because he already had everything, the tax collector can only beg for the mercy of God. And this is beautiful: to beg for the mercy of God! Presenting himself with “empty hands”, with a bare heart and acknowledging himself to be a sinner, the tax collector shows us all the condition that is necessary in order to receive the Lord’s forgiveness. In the end, he is the one, so despised, who becomes an icon of the true believer.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Pray always and do not lose heart is the message Jesus gives his disciples today (Luke 18:1-8). He illustrates it with the parable of a widow and an unjust judge. The widow is persistent and the judge finally grants her request: Because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.

Here are some thoughts on persistent prayer from Pope Emeritus Benedict, given during a homily on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 2012: 
Praying without ceasing means never losing contact with God, letting ourselves be constantly touched by him in the depths of our hearts and, in this way, being penetrated by his light. Only someone who actually knows God can lead others to God. Only someone who leads people to God leads them along the path of life.
The restless heart, … echoing Saint Augustine, is the heart that is ultimately satisfied with nothing less than God, and in this way becomes a loving heart. Our heart is restless for God and remains so, even if every effort is made today, by means of most effective anaesthetizing methods, to deliver people from this unrest. But not only are we restless for God: God’s heart is restless for us. God is waiting for us. He is looking for us. He knows no rest either, until he finds us. God’s heart is restless, and that is why he set out on the path towards us – to Bethlehem, to Calvary, from Jerusalem to Galilee and on to the very ends of the earth. God is restless for us, he looks out for people willing to “catch” his unrest, his passion for us, people who carry within them the searching of their own hearts and at the same time open themselves to be touched by God’s search for us.... [L]et yourselves be touched by God’s unrest, so that God’s longing for man may be fulfilled.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” Jesus speaks these words to the ten lepers in today's gospel (Lk 17:19). Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI commented on them at the Twentieth World Day of the Sick, on February 11, 2012:
The encounter of Jesus with the ten lepers, narrated by the Gospel of Saint Luke (cf. Lk 17:11-19), and in particular the words that the Lord addresses to one of them, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you” (v. 19), help us to become aware of the importance of faith for those who, burdened by suffering and illness, draw near to the Lord. In their encounter with him they can truly experience that he who believes is never alone! God, indeed, in his Son, does not abandon us to our anguish and sufferings, but is close to us, helps us to bear them, and wishes to heal us in the depths of our hearts (cf. Mk 2:1-12).
The faith of the lone leper who, on seeing that he was healed, full of amazement and joy, and unlike the others, immediately went back to Jesus to express his gratitude, enables us to perceive that reacquired health is a sign of something more precious than mere physical healing, it is a sign of the salvation that God gives us through Christ; it finds expression in the words of Jesus: your faith has saved you. He who in suffering and illness prays to the Lord is certain that God’s love will never abandon him, and also that the love of the Church, the extension in time of the Lord’s saving work, will never fail. Physical healing, an outward expression of the deepest salvation, thus reveals the importance that man – in his entirety of soul and body – has for the Lord.
Healing of the Ten Lepers, Codex Aureus of Echternach, ca 1030-1050

Saturday, October 5, 2019

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Increase our faith! the Apostles ask Jesus in today's Gospel (Luke 17: 5-10). And the Lord replies, If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Here are the words of Pope Francis in an audience in St. Peter's Square on this Sunday three years ago:
I think that all of us can make this request our own. We, like the Apostles, also say to Jesus: “Increase our faith!”
Mulberry Tree, Vincent Van Gogh (1889)
Yes, Lord, our faith is small, our faith is weak, fragile, but we offer it to you just as it is, so that you will make it grow. It seems to me that it would be good for all of us to repeat this together: “Lord, increase our faith!” 
The mustard seed is very small, but Jesus says that it is enough to have a faith like this, small, but true, sincere to do things that are humanly impossible, unthinkable. And it is true! We all know people who are simple, humble, but with an incredibly strong faith, who truly move mountains!
Think, for example, of certain mammas and papas who face very hard situations; or certain sick people, even gravely sick people, who convey serenity to those who visit them. These people, precisely because of their faith, do not boast about what they do, rather, as Jesus asks in the Gospel, they say: “We are useless servants. We have done what we were supposed to do” (Luke 17:10).

Saturday, September 28, 2019

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

In the Gospel for today, Jesus tells the parable of the rich man "dressed in purple and fine linen," and Lazarus, the beggar "covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table." The beggar dies and is carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom, while the rich man is in the torments of hell. At Vigils this morning, we have a reading from St. John Chrysostom (c. 349 – 407), Archbishop of Constantinople, who preached eloquently against the abuse of wealth:
It is worthwhile enquiring why the rich man saw Lazarus in Abraham’s arms, and not in the company of some other righteous person. The reason is that Abraham was hospitable, and so the sight of Lazarus with Abraham was meant to reproach the rich man for his own inhospitality. Abraham used to pursue even passers-by and drag them into his home, whereas the rich man disregarded someone lying in his own doorway. Although he had within his grasp so great a treasure, such an opportunity to win salvation, he ignored the poor man day after day....

And this is true of you also. If you show much eagerness in welcoming some famous and distinguished person you do nothing remarkable; often the high rank of a guest compiles even reluctant host to show every sign of courtesy. But we do something truly great and admirable when we given a most courteous welcome to all, even the outcasts of society or people of humble condition.... And so Abraham also, knowing this, did not ask who travellers were or where they came from, as we do today, but simply welcomed them all. Anyone wishing to show kindness should not inquire into other people’s lives, but has only to alleviate their poverty and supply their needs, as Christ commanded when he said: Imitate your Father in heaven, who makes his sun rise on good and bad alike, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.
Lazarus at the Rich Man's door, illumination from the Codex Aureus of Echternach (11th c.)

Saturday, September 21, 2019

25th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

In today's Gospel from Luke 16:1-13, Jesus relates the parable of the unjust steward. In his homily during Mass in the Chapel of Santa Marta on November 15, 2013, Pope Francis commented on this parable:
Parable of the Unjust Steward, Marinus van Reymerswaele
The Lord speaks to us again about the spirit of the world, about worldliness: how this worldliness works and how perilous it is. In his prayer after the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, Jesus besought the Father not to allow his disciples to fall into worldliness.... 
Some of you might say: "But this man [the unjust steward] only did what everyone does!" No, not everyone! Some company administrators, public administrators, government administrators … but perhaps not many. It’s an attitude of taking short cuts, of taking the easy road to earn a living.
But it is a serious sin, Pope Francis explained, "because it is so against our dignity... That dignity by which we are united through our work."

Saturday, September 14, 2019

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

In today's Gospel (Luke 15:1-32) the Pharisees and scribes criticize Jesus for welcoming sinners and eating with them. He responds by telling the well-known parable of the lost sheep. What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it.  Here's part of commentary on the story by St. Peter Chrysologus:
Christ the Good Shepherd
(Exeter Cathedral mosaic)
Finding something we have lost gives us a fresh joy, and we are happier at having found the lost object then we should have been had we never lost it. This parable, however, is concerned more with divine tenderness and compassion than with human behavior, and it expresses a great truth. Humans are too greedy to forsake things of value for love of anything inferior. That is something only God can do. For God not only brought what was not to into being, but he also went after what was lost while still protecting what he left behind, and found what was lost without losing what he had in safe keeping....
Brothers and sisters, Christ sought us on earth; let us seek him in heaven. He has borne us up to the glory of his divinity; let us bear him in our bodies by holiness. As the Apostle says: Glorify and bear God in your bodies. That person bears God in his body whose bodily activities are free from sin.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.... Whoever does not renounce his possessions cannot be my disciple, says Jesus in today's Gospel (Luke 14: 25-33). In his Angelus talk, Pope Francis speaks of following of Christ:
Following Jesus does not mean taking part in a triumphal procession! It means sharing his merciful love, entering his great work of mercy for each and every man and for all men. The work of Jesus is, precisely, a work of mercy, a work of forgiveness and of love! Jesus is so full of mercy! And this universal pardon, this mercy, passes through the Cross. Jesus, however, does not want to do this work alone: he wants to involve us too in the mission that the Father entrusted to him. After the Resurrection he was to say to his disciples: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you”... if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven” (Jn 20:21-22).

Saturday, August 31, 2019

22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

All  who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

In today's Gospel (Luke 14: 1, 7-14), Jesus eats at the house of Simon the Pharisee and sees that the guests chose the places of honor. St. Bruno, Bishop of Segni and Abbot of Montecassino, comments:
Every day the Lord makes a wedding feast, for every day he unites faithful souls to himself, some coming to be baptized, others leaving this world for the kingdom of heaven.... Whoever you may be who still desire the first place here – go and sit in the last place. Do not be lifted up by pride, inflated by knowledge, elated by nobility, but the greater you are the more you must humble yourself in every way, and you will find grace with God. In his own time he will say to you: Friend, go up higher, and then you will be honoured by it all who sit at table with you....
In the Church, then, the first seat, or the highest place, is to be sought not by ambition but by humility; not by money but by holiness.
Christ in the Home of Simon the Pharisee, Peter Paul Rubens (1618-20)

Saturday, August 24, 2019

21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough (Luke 13:24).

On this Sunday three years ago Pope Francis addressed the audience at the Angelus in St. Peter's Square and spoke about today's Gospel:

This gate is Jesus himself. He is the gateway to salvation. He leads us to the Father. And the gate that is Jesus is never closed, this gate is never closed, it is always open and open to everyone, without distinction, without exclusions, without privileges. Because, you know, Jesus does not exclude anyone.

I want to say emphatically: don't be afraid to pass through the gate of faith in Jesus, to let Him enter more and more into our lives, to go out of our selfishness, our being closed in, our indifference toward others. Because Jesus illuminates our life with a light that never goes out.... Certainly, it is a narrow gate, the gate of Jesus, not because it is a torture chamber. No, not because of that! But because it asks us to open our hearts to Him, to recognize ourselves as sinners, in need of His salvation, His forgiveness, His love, needing the humility to accept His mercy and to be renewed by Him.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

I have come to cast fire upon the earth. These words of Jesus to his disciples in this Sunday's Gospel are interpreteted by Blessed Denis the Carthusian in this spiritual sense:
Christ with sword
(Visoki Dečanki, Kosovo, 14th c.)
In other words, I have come down from the highest heaven and appeared to men and women through the mystery of the incarnation in order to light the fire of divine love in human hearts. And how I wish it were already ablaze! How I wish it were already kindled, fanned into flame by the Holy Spirit, and leaping forth in good works. 
The way to attain the perfection of divine love is then stated. Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? In other words: Do not imagine that I have come to offer people a sensual, worldly, and unruly peace that will enable them to be united in their vices and achieve earthly prosperity. No, I tell you, I have not come to offer that kind of peace, but rather division – a good, healthy kind of division, physical as well as spiritual. Love for God and desire for inner peace will set those who believe in me at odds with wicked men and women, and make them part company with those who would turn them from their course of spiritual progress and from the purity of divine love, or who attempt to hinder them. 
Good, interior, spiritual peace consists in the deposit the mind in God, and in a rightly ordered harmony. To bestow this peace was the chief reason for Christ’s coming. This inner peace flows from love. It is an unassailable joy of the mind in God, and it is called peace of heart. It is the beginning and a kind of foretaste of the peace of the saints in heaven – the peace of eternity.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

In today’s Gospel (Luke 12: 32-48), Jesus talks to the disciples about being prepared for the coming of the Lord. Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms.... For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Here’s a commentary on this Gospel passage given by Pope Francis in a 2016 Angelus Addresss:
Bronze oil lamp (North African ca. 400 AD design) by Frank Egan
In the passage of the Gospel for today, Jesus speaks to his disciples about the attitude they should have regarding the final encounter with him, and explains how the expectation of this encounter should push us toward a life full of good works.

... Jesus today reminds us that awaiting eternal blessedness does not free us from the commitment to make the world more just and more inhabitable. In fact, precisely our hope of possessing the Kingdom in eternity drives us to work to improve the condition of our earthly life, especially that of our weakest brothers. May the Virgin Mary help us to be people and communities who are not limited to the present, or worse, nostalgic for the past, but rather, projected toward the future of God, toward the encounter with him, our life and our hope.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

18th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C




This Sunday's Gospel (Luke 12:13-21) tells the parable of the Rich Fool, who stores up his crops and goods in barns, never thinking that he can't take them into eternity with him. “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?”

In a General Audience on October 20, 2004, St. (Pope) John Paul II spoke about covetousness and wealth:
“In his riches, man lacks wisdom: he is like the beasts that are destroyed” (Psalm 49[48]: 13). In other words, untold wealth is not an advantage, far from it! It is better to be poor and to be one with God.... A profound blindness takes hold of man if he deludes himself that by striving to accumulate material goods he can avoid death. Not for nothing does the Psalmist speak of an almost animal-like “lack of understanding.”
...The rich man, clinging to his immense fortune, is convinced that he will succeed in overcoming death, just as with money he had lorded it over everything and everyone. But however vast a sum he is prepared to offer, he cannot escape his ultimate destiny. Indeed, like all other men and women, rich and poor, wise and foolish alike, he is doomed to end in the grave, as happens likewise to the powerful, and he will have to leave behind on earth that gold so dear to him and those material possessions he so idolized.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. The Lord’s Prayer, which St. Thomas Aquinas calls “the most perfect of prayers,” is at the heart of today's Gospel (Luke 11: 1-13). St. Augustine tells us that “I do not think you will find any holy prayer in Scripture that is not contained and included in the Lord’s Prayer.” Ask, and it will be given to you, Our Lord continues, seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

This morning's Vigil’s reading on prayer is from a homily by St. Bede the Venerable:
Praying Hands (Albrecht Dürer)
We should consider most seriously and attentively what these words of the Lord may mean for us, for they warn that not the idle and feckless but those who ask, seek, and knock will receive, find, and have the door opened to them. We must therefore ask for entry into the kingdom by prayer, seek it by upright living, and knock at its door by perseverance. Merely to ask verbally is not enough; we must also diligently seek to discover how to live so as to be worthy of obtaining what we ask for. We know this from our Savior’s words: Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my heavenly Father.

There is a need, then, for constant and unflagging prayer. Let us fall upon our knees with tears before our God and Maker; and that we may deserve a hearing, let us consider carefully how he who made us wishes us to live, and what he has commanded us to do. Let us seek the Lord and his strength; let us constantly seek his face.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Today's Gospel, taken from Luke 10: 38-42, tells a familiar story: Martha receives Jesus into her house, and is annoyed when her sister Mary sits at Jesus's feet, listening to him. “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work my myself?” Jesus responds by telling Martha that “you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

The two women are often used as symbols of the active and contemplative life. Here's a commentary on them by St. Gregory the Great:
Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (Johannes Vermeer)
These two lives are well symbolised by the two women Martha and Mary.... Note carefully that the part of Martha was not blamed, but that of Mary was praised. He didn’t say that Mary had chosen the good part: he said it was the best, in order to show that Martha’s part was still good. He made it clear what he meant by the “best” part of Mary when he specified that it would not be taken away from her. For the active life comes to an end with the death of the body.
...On the other hand, we must realise that although it is normal and good for the active life to pass over into the contemplative life, often the soul is driven from contemplation to active works of charity. Precisely the contemplative vision calls us back to activity, for it understands that the labor of good works must never be abandoned while we are in this life.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

The parable of the Good Samaritan: how familiar this story is to us! Even the secular world uses it as an example of charity to our neighbor: someone who does a good deed is called a "Good Samaritan." And even the largest organization of recreational vehicles in the world is called the "Good Sam Club," and its members are called "Good Sammers!"

Origen's homily on St. Luke's Gospel talks about Jesus, the "guardian of souls,"
Parable of the Good Samaritan (Rossano Gospels, 6 c.)
who showed mercy to the man who fell into the hands of brigands was a better neighbor to him than were either the law or the prophets, and he proved this more by deeds than by words. Now the saying: Be imitators of me as I am of Christ makes it clear that we can imitate Christ by showing mercy to those who have fallen into the hands of brigands. We can go to them, bandage their wounds after pouring in oil and wine, place them on our own mount, and bear their burdens. And so the Son of God exhorts us to do these things, in words addressed not only to the teacher of the law but to all of us: Go and do likewise. If we do, we shall gain eternal life in Christ Jesus, to whom belongs glory power for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

This Sunday's Gospel (Luke 10:1-12, 17-20) continues the theme of vocation: The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

Pope Francis's message for the 2014 World Day of Prayer for Vocations includes the following words:
Peasant woman binding sheaves,
 Vincent van Gogh (1889)

... Every vocation, even within the variety of paths, always requires an exodus from oneself in order to centre one’s life on Christ and on his Gospel. Both in married life and in the forms of religious consecration, as well as in priestly life, we must surmount the ways of thinking and acting that do not conform to the will of God.
Let us dispose our hearts therefore to being “good soil”, by listening, receiving and living out the word, and thus bearing fruit. The more we unite ourselves to Jesus through prayer, Sacred Scripture, the Eucharist, the Sacraments celebrated and lived in the Church and in fraternity, the more there will grow in us the joy of cooperating with God in the service of the Kingdom of mercy and truth, of justice and peace. And the harvest will be plentiful, proportionate to the grace we have meekly welcomed into our lives.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

"Follow me," Jesus says to a man in today's Gospel. “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” This "mystery of God's call, the mystery of vocation," Pope Benedict said, is "part of the life of every Christian, but it is particularly evident in those whom Christ asks to leave everything in order to follow him more closely." In his message for the 2006 World day of Prayer for Vocations, he told the audience:
Before the creation of the world, before our coming into existence, the heavenly Father chose us personally, calling us to enter into a filial relationship with Him, through Jesus, the Incarnate Word, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Dying for us, Jesus introduced us into the mystery of the Father’s love, a love which completely envelops his Son and which He offers to all of us. In this way, united with Jesus, the Head, we form a sole body, the Church.
... It is not surprising that, where people pray fervently, vocations flourish. The holiness of the Church depends essentially on union with Christ and on being open to the mystery of grace that operates in the hearts of believers. Therefore, I invite all the faithful to nurture an intimate relationship with Christ, Teacher and Pastor of his people, by imitating Mary who kept the divine mysteries in her heart and pondered them constantly (cf. Lk 2,19).
At the Plough, Vincent van Gogh (1884)

Friday, June 28, 2019

Sacred Heart, Year C

Today, on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, one of the readings at Vigils is taken from Blessed Columba Marmion's Christ, the Ideal of the Monk:
At the supreme farewell hour, when Christ Jesus spoke for the last time with his Apostles before entering into his sorrowful Passion and sacrificing himself for the world’s salvation, what is the exclusive theme of his discourse and the first object of his prayer? Spiritual charity. A new commandment I give unto you… by this shall all men know that you are my disciples… Father… that they may be one, as we also are one, I in them, and you in me, that they may become perfectly one. That is the testament of Christ’s Heart.
Our Blessed Father St Benedict, in concluding his Rule, also leaves us as his last testament, his magnificent teaching on good zeal. After having set forth in detail the ordering of our life, he sums up all his doctrine in this short chapter. And what does he tell us? Does he speak to us of prayer? Of contemplation? Of mortification? Undoubtedly, the holy Patriarch forgets nothing of all this, as we have seen; but having reached the end of his long life so full of experience, at the moment of closing the monastic code which contains for us the secret of perfection, he speaks to us, before all else, of mutual love; he wishes, with that intense desire which was that of Jesus at the Last Supper, to see us excel in most fervent love. This chapter is the worthy crowning of a Rule which is but the pure reflection of the Gospel.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Corpus Christi, Year C

On this Feast of Corpus Christi, celebrating the Lord's gift to us of himself in the Eucharist, we ask that the unity for which Christ prayed at the Last Supper may be granted to our broken world.

Below is part of Pope Francis's homily from the Corpus Christi Mass three years ago. The full text is given on the Vatican Radio website.
Tonight, once again, the Lord distributes for us the bread which is His body, He makes a gift of Himself. We, too, are experiencing the “solidarity of God” with man, a solidarity that never runs out, a solidarity that never ceases to amaze us: God draws near to us; in the sacrifice of the Cross He lowers Himself, entering into the darkness of death in order to give us His life, which overcomes evil, selfishness, death.
Last Supper miniature, Psalter Alsace (Strasbourg), ca. 1220-40
Jesus this evening gives Himself to us in the Eucharist, shares our same journey – indeed, He becomes food, real food that sustains our life even at times when the going is rough, when obstacles slow down our steps. The Lord in the Eucharist makes us follow His path, that of service, of sharing, of giving – and what little we have, what little we are, if shared, becomes wealth, because the power of God, which is that of love, descends into our poverty to transform it.
Let us ask ourselves this evening, adoring the Christ truly present in the Eucharist: do I let myself be transformed by Him? Do I let the Lord who gives Himself to me, guide me to come out more and more from my little fence, to get out and be not afraid to give, to share, to love Him and others?

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Holy Trinity, Year C

In his 2005 Angelus talk given in St. Peter's Square, Pope Emeritus Benedict spoke these thoughts on Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity:

Today, the liturgy celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity almost to underline that in the light of the Pascal Mystery is fully revealed the centre of the universe and of history: God himself, eternal and infinite Love. The word that summarizes all revelation is this: “God is love” (I Jn 4: 8, 16); and love is always a mystery, a reality that surpasses reason without contradicting it, and more than that, exalts its possibilities.
Jesus revealed to us the mystery of God: he, the Son, made us know the Father who is in Heaven, and gave us the Holy Spirit, the Love of the Father and of the Son. Christian theology synthesizes the truth of God with this expression: only one substance in three persons. God is not solitude, but perfect communion. For this reason the human person, the image of God, realizes himself or herself in love, which is a sincere gift of self.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Pentecost, Year C

On Pentecost Sunday in 2013, Pope Francis gave a wonderful homily in St. Peter's Square. He spoke about three words linked with the Holy Spirit: newness, harmony and mission. The full homily is posted on the Holy See's website, and is well worth reading and reflecting on. These are his thoughts on newness:
Today we contemplate and re-live in the liturgy the outpouring of the Holy Spirit sent by the risen Christ upon his Church; an event of grace which filled the Upper Room in Jerusalem and then spread throughout the world.
But what happened on that day, so distant from us and yet so close as to touch the very depths of our hearts? ...A completely unexpected scene opens up before our eyes: a great crowd gathers, astonished because each one heard the apostles speaking in his own language. They all experience something new, something which had never happened before: “We hear them, each of us, speaking our own language”. And what is it that they are they speaking about? “God’s deeds of power” (cf. Acts 2:1-11).
Pentecost, El Greco, 1596
...Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, program and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our own comfort, our own preferences. This is also the case when it comes to God. Often we follow him, we accept him, but only up to a certain point. It is hard to abandon ourselves to him with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of our lives in our every decision. We fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and selfish horizons in order to become open to his own....This is not a question of novelty for novelty’s sake, the search for something new to relieve our boredom, as is so often the case in our own day. The newness which God brings into our life is something that actually brings fulfillment, that gives true joy, true serenity, because God loves us and desires only our good. Let us ask ourselves today: Are we open to “God’s surprises?” Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit? Do we have the courage to strike out along the new paths which God’s newness sets before us, or do we resist, barricaded in transient structures which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new? We would do well to ask ourselves these questions all through the day. 

Saturday, June 1, 2019

7th Sunday of Easter, Year C

In the conclusion of Our Lord's Farewell Discourse at the Last Supper, read at today's liturgy, Jesus prays that his disciples be united to one another, to him, and to the Father. He gives his own body and blood to those who believe in him, and is himself the source of this unity.

St Cyril of Alexandria wrote in his commentary on St John’s Gospel:
Our Lord Jesus Christ did not pray only for the twelve disciples. He prayed for all in every age whom their exhortation would persuade to become holy by believing and to be purified by sharing in the Holy Spirit. “May they all be one, he prayed. As you Father are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us.”
...By his own wisdom and the Father's counsel he devised a way of bringing us all together and blending us into a unity with God and one another, even though the differences between us give us each in both body and soul a separate identity. For in holy communion he blesses with one body, which is his own, those who believe in him, and makes them one body with himself and one another. Who could separate those who are united to Christ through that one sacred body, or destroy their true union with one another? If we all share one loaf we all become one body, for Christ cannot be divided.
So it is that the Church is the body of Christ and we are its members. For since we are all united to Christ through his sacred body, having received that one indivisible body into our own, our members are not our own but his.

The Last Supper, Ugolino di Nerio, ca. 1325-30

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Ascension, Year C

On this feast of the Ascension of the Lord, we offer you this meditation from a homily by Pope St. Leo the Great:
Ascension, Hours of Alice de Reydon
These days, dearly beloved, between the Resurrection of the Lord and his Ascension provided the opportunity to confirm great mysteries, to reveal great secrets. In these days the Holy Spirit was poured into all the Apostles by the breath of the Lord; and to blessed Peter above all the others, after the keys of the king­dom, the care of the Lord’s sheep is entrusted. Through all this time which went by be­tween the Resurrection of the Lord and his Ascension, the providence of God took thought for this: that they should recognize the Lord Jesus Christ as truly risen, who was truly born, truly suffered, and truly died....
Since the Ascension of Christ is our elevation, and since, where the glory of the Head has preceded its, there hope for the body is also invited, let us exult, dearly beloved, with worthy joy and be glad with a holy thanksgiving. Today we are estab­lished not only as possessors of Paradise, but we have even pen­etrated the heights of the heavens in Christ, prepared more fully for it through the indescribable grace of Christ which we had lost through the ill will of the devil. Those whom the violent enemy threw down from the happiness of our first dwelling, the Son of God has placed, incorporated within him­self, at the right hand of the Father, the Son of God who lives and reigns with God the Father Almighty and with the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

6th Sunday of Easter, Year C

The Gospel for today is a continuation of Jesus's farewell discourse to his disciples at the Last Supper" My Father and I will come to him, and we will make our home with him.
The Trinity, Andrei Rublev, ca. 1411 or 1425-27
It seems to me, commented St. Bernard, that when the psalmist said to God: You make your dwelling in the holy place, you who are Israel’s praise, he had no other heaven in mind than the hearts of the saints.  The apostle expresses it quite clearly: Christ lives in our hearts through faith, he tells us.
It is necessary for a soul to grow and be enlarged until it is capable of containing God within itself. But the dimensions of a soul are in proportion to its love, as the apostle confirms when he urges the Corinthians to widen their hearts in love. Although the soul, being spiritual, cannot be measured physically, grace confers on it what nature does not bestow. It expands spiritually as it makes progress toward human perfection, which is measured by nothing less than the full stature of Christ, and so it grows into a temple sacred to the Lord.
Love, then, is the measure of the soul. Souls are large that love much, small that love little; while as for the soul that has no love at all, such a soul is itself nothing. Without love, says Saint Paul, I am nothing.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

5th Sunday of Easter, Year C

“I give you a new commandment," Jesus says in today's Gospel, "love one another.” In his commentary on St. John's Gospel, St. Cyril of Alexandria comments:
Christ Pantokrator (St. Catherine's, 6th c.)
But how, we might ask, could he call this commandment new? ... Do you not see what is new in Christ's love for us? The law commanded people to love their brothers and sisters as they love themselves, but our Lord Jesus Christ loved us more than himself. 
He who was one in nature with God the Father and his equal would not have descended to our lowly estate, nor endured in his flesh such a better death for us, not submitted to the blows given him by his enemies, to the shame, the derision, and all the other sufferings that could not possibly be enumerated; nor, being rich, would he have become poor, had he not loved us far more than himself. 
It was indeed something new for love to go as far as that!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

4th Sunday of Easter, Year C

The Church continues to rejoice over Our Lord's resurrection. In a Vigils reading, Christ is risen! cries St. Maximus of Turin in his Easter homily:

He has burst open the gates of hell and let the dead go free; he has renewed the earth through the members of his Church now born again in Baptism, and has made it blossom afresh with men brought back to life. His Holy Spirit has unlocked the doors of heaven, which stand wide open to receive those who rise up from the earth. Because of Christ’s Resurrection the thief ascends to Paradise, the bodies of the blessed enter the holy city, and the dead are restored to the company of the living; there is an upward movement in the whole of creation, each element raising itself to something higher. We see the underworld restoring its victims to the upper regions, earth sending its buried dead to heaven, and heaven presenting the new arrivals to the Lord. In one and the same movement our Savior’s Passion raises men from the depths, lifts them up from the earth, and sets them in the heights....
The Harrowing of Hell, from the Barberini Exultet Roll, ca. AD 1087
And so, my friends, each of us ought surely to rejoice on this holy day. Let no one, conscious of his sinfulness, withdraw from our common celebration, nor let anyone be kept away from our public prayer by the burden of guilt. Sinner one may indeed be, but no one must despair of pardon on this day which is so highly privileged; for if a thief could receive the grace of Paradise, how could a Christian be refused forgiveness?

Saturday, May 4, 2019

3rd Sunday of Easter, Year C

In the Gospel for today's liturgy Jesus appears to his disciples after his resurrection. Three times he asks St. Peter, who denied him three times, Do you love me?

St. Augustine of Hippo comments:
We may wonder what advantage there could be for Christ in Peter’s love for him. If Christ loves you, you profit, not Christ; and if you love him, again the advantage is yours, not his. But wishing to show us how we should demonstrate our love for him, Christ the Lord made it plain that it is by our concern for his sheep. Do you love me? he asked. I do love you. Then feed my sheep. Once, twice, and a third time the same dialogue was repeated. To the Lord’s one and only question, Peter had no other answer than I do love you. And each time the Lord gave Peter the same command: Feed my sheep. Let us love one another then, and by so doing we shall be loving Christ.
But listen to John’s words: If you do not love the brother that you can see, how can you love the God you cannot see? It is by loving the sheep that you show your love for the shepherd, for the sheep are the members of the shepherd. Indeed, it was to make the sheep members of his own body that the Lord became one of them himself, that he allowed himself to be led like a lamb to the slaughter, and that he allowed the Baptist to point him out and say to him: Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Surely a crushing burden for a lamb! But that lamb possessed tremendous strength. Do you wish to know how much strength was in this lamb? Because the lamb was crucified, the lion was overcome. If he could vanquish the devil by his own death, think with what power he is able to rule the world! May nothing, then, ever be dearer to us than Christ the Lord; let us love him with all our hearts.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Second Sunday of Easter, Year C (Divine Mercy Sunday)

On this Sunday in Saint Peter's Square last year, Pope Francis commented on the day's Gospel of Doubting Thomas:
The Incredulity of St. Thomas, Caravaggio (1603)
... In the redeeming contact with the wounds of the Risen One, Thomas showed his own wounds, his own injuries, his own lacerations, his own humiliation; in the print of the nails he found the decisive proof that he was loved, that he was expected, that he was understood. He found himself before the Messiah filled with kindness, mercy, tenderness. This was the Lord he was searching for, he, in the hidden depths of his being, for he had always known He was like this. And how many of us are searching deep in our heart to meet Jesus, just as He is: kind, merciful, tender! For we know, deep down, that He is like this. Having rediscovered personal contact with Christ who is amiable and mercifully patient, Thomas understood the profound significance of his Resurrection and, intimately transformed, he declared his full and total faith in Him exclaiming: “My Lord and my God!” Beautiful, Thomas’ expression is beautiful! 
...Like Thomas we are called to contemplate, in the wounds of the Risen One, Divine Mercy, which overcomes all human limitations and shines on the darkness of evil and of sin.... Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. Let us keep our gaze turned to Him, who always seeks us, waits for us, forgives us; so merciful, He is not afraid our our wretchedness. In his wounds He heals us and forgives all of our sins.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Palm (Passion) Sunday, Year C

"It is a moving experience each year on Palm Sunday," said Pope Benedict in 2011, "as we go up the mountain with Jesus, towards the Temple, accompanying him on his ascent. On this day, throughout the world and across the centuries, young people and people of every age acclaim him, crying out: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” He continued:
 But how can we keep pace with this ascent? Isn’t it beyond our ability? Certainly, it is beyond our own possibilities. From the beginning men and women have been filled – and this is as true today as ever – with a desire to “be like God,” to attain the heights of God by their own powers....
Entry into Jerusalem, Giotto, ca. 1305
The question of how man can attain the heights, becoming completely himself and completely like God, has always engaged mankind. It was passionately disputed by the Platonic philosophers of the third and fourth centuries. For them, the central issue was finding the means of purification which could free man from the heavy load weighing him down and thus enable him to ascend to the heights of his true being, to the heights of divinity. Saint Augustine, in his search for the right path, long sought guidance from those philosophies. But in the end he had to acknowledge that their answers were insufficient, their methods would not truly lead him to God. To those philosophers he said: recognize that human power and all these purifications are not enough to bring man in truth to the heights of the divine, to his own heights. And he added that he should have despaired of himself and human existence had he not found the One who accomplishes what we of ourselves cannot accomplish; the One who raises us up to the heights of God in spite of our wretchedness: Jesus Christ who from God came down to us and, in his crucified love, takes us by the hand and lifts us on high.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

5th Sunday of Lent, Year C

As we approach Holy Week, the Gospel given us for the Fifth Sunday of Lent is the story of the woman taken in adultery: The scribes and Pharisees brought to him a woman who had been caught committing adultery, hoping to trap Jesus. St. Augustine comments:
But look at the way our Lord’s answer upheld justice without forgoing clemency. He was not caught in the snare his enemies had laid for him; it is they themselves who were caught in it. He did not say the woman should not be stoned, for then it would look as though he were opposing the law. But he had no intention of saying: “Let her be stoned,” because he came not to destroy those he found but to seek those who were lost. Mark his reply. It contains justice, clemency, and truth in full measure. Let the one among you who has never sinned be the first to throw a stone at her....
Jesus and the Woman taken in Adultery, Magdeburg ivories, ca. 962-968
This, unquestionably, is the voice of justice, justice that pierced those men like a javelin. Looking into themselves, they realized their guilt, and one by one they all went out. Two remained behind: the miserable woman, and Mercy. The Lord raised his eyes, and with a gentle look he asked her: Has no one condemned you? She replied: No one, sir. And he said: Neither will I condemn you.
You see then that the Lord does indeed pass sentence, but it is sin he condemns, not people. One who approved of immorality would have said, “Neither will I condemn you. Go and live as you please; you can be sure that I will acquit you. However much you sin, I will release you from all penalty, and from the tortures of hell and the underworld.” He did not say that. He said: “Neither will I condemn you; you need have no fear of the past, but beware of what you do in the future. Neither will I condemn you: I have blotted out what you have done; now observe what I have commanded, in order to obtain what I have promised.”