Saturday, April 25, 2020

3rd Sunday of Eastertide, Year A

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

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

Saturday, April 18, 2020

2nd Sunday of Eastertide, Year A

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

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter Sunday, Year A

Christ has risen! He has risen indeed! During this time of  illness and loss of life, this familiar greeting reminds us of our hope for salvation: Jesus’ suffering and death, and three days in the tomb was not in vain: his victory over death is our hope for salvation, and for our own resurrection and the gift of eternal life.

Resurrection (Noli me tangere) (ca. 1304-06), Giotto
Victimae paschali laudes is an 11th century sequence (an early hymnic form of Latin poetry) sung at Mass on Easter Sunday and during the octave. It captures the Christian’s joy at Christ’s resurrection. It’s generally believed to have been written by Wipo of Burgundy, chaplain to German Emperor Conrad II, although it has also been attributed to other authors. Its dialogue between the faithful and Mary Magdalene played a part in the development of medieval mystery play. It’s sung here by the Capella Sistina, with the boys singing Mary’s parts. Here's a translation:

Let Christians offer sacrificial
praises to the passover victim.

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

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

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

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

The angelic witnesses, the
clothes and the shroud.

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

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Holy Thursday

On this most sacred day, Holy Thursday, we pray that the healing and peace of which the Eucharist is the sign and source may fill our world.

We offer for your meditation this English translation of Ubi Caritas, the IX-Xth century hymn sung
Last Supper, Jesus and St. John detail,  Taddeo Gaddi
the Offertory at today's Mass:
Where charity and love are, God is there. 
Christ's love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart. 
Where charity and love are, God is there.
As we are gathered into one body,
Beware, lest we be divided in mind.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease,
And may Christ our God be in our midst.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
And may we with the saints also,
See Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good,
Unto the ages through infinite ages. Amen.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Passion (Palm) Sunday, Year A

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

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