Saturday, July 25, 2020

17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

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

Saturday, July 18, 2020

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

 This Sunday the Church gives us another parable of sowing seeds (Matthew 13: 24-43), this one dealing with the good seed and the weeds, which the enemy sows. Here is a wonderful exposition on it from Pope Francis, given in 2014:
The teaching of the parable is twofold. First of all, it tells that the evil in the world comes not from God but from his enemy, the evil one. It is curious that the evil one goes at night to sow weed, in the dark, in confusion; he goes where there is no light to sow weed. This enemy is astute: he sows evil in the middle of good, thus it is impossible for us men to distinctly separate them; but God, in the end, will be able to do so.
And here we arrive at the second theme: the juxtaposition of the impatience of the servants and the patient waiting of the field owner, who represents God. At times we are in a great hurry to judge, to categorize, to put the good here, the bad there....

But remember the prayer of that self-righteous man: “God, I thank you that I am good, that I am not like other men, malicious” (cf. Lk 18:11-12). God, however, knows how to wait. With patience and mercy he gazes into the “field” of life of every person; he sees much better than we do the filth and the evil, but he also sees the seeds of good and waits with trust for them to grow. God is patient, he knows how to wait. This is so beautiful: our God is a patient father, who always waits for us and waits with his heart in hand to welcome us, to forgive us. He always forgives us if we go to him.... 
In the end, in fact, evil will be removed and eliminated: at the time of harvest, that is, of judgment, the harvesters will follow the orders of the field owner, separating the weed to burn it (cf. Mt 13:30). On the day of the final harvest, the judge will be Jesus, He who has sown good grain in the world and who himself became the “grain of wheat”, who died and rose. In the end we will all be judged by the same measure with which we have judged: the mercy we have shown to others will also be shown to us. Let us ask Our Lady, our Mother, to help us to grow in patience, in hope and in mercy with all brothers and sisters.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

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

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

Friday, July 10, 2020

Solemnity of St. Benedict

We wish you all a blessed Feast of our Holy Father St. Benedict!
Here's a reflection from a Brief by Blessed Paul VI, who declared St. Benedict the Patron of Europe:
Saint Benedict has the reputation of being the messenger of peace, the maker of unity, the master of civilization, and especially the herald of Christianity and the author of monasticism in the West. When darkness seemed to be spreading over Europe after the fall of the Roman empire, he brought the light of dawn to shine upon this continent. For with the cross, the book, and the plough, Christian civilization was carried, principally through him and his sons, to the peoples who lived in those lands which stretch from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, and from Ireland to the plains of Poland.
St Benedict healing a leper.
Fresco fragment from the lower church of San Crisogono, Rome
With the cross, that is, with the law of Christ, he strengthened and developed the institutions of private and social life. Through the “Work of God,” that is, through the careful and assiduous conduct of prayer, he taught that divine worship was of the greatest importance in the social order. And so he sealed that spiritual unity of Europe in which the various nations of different ethnic origins and languages felt themselves to be united into the one people of God. And so this unity, learnt from so great a master, which the sons of Saint Benedict so faithfully strove to achieve, became the principal element in that period of history called the middle ages. All men of good will in our times must strive to recover that unity, which, as Saint Augustine says, is “the form of all beauty,” and which alas has been lost in the vicissitudes of history.
With the book, that is, with the culture of the mind, this venerable patriarch from whom so many monasteries have drawn their name and their spirit spread his doctrine through the old classics of literature and the liberal arts, preserved and passed on to posterity by them with so much care.
And lastly, with the plough, that is, through agriculture, he changed the waste and desert lands into orchards and delightful gardens; and joining work with prayer in the spirit of those words ora et labora, he restored the dignity of human labor. 
Not without reason, then, did Pope Pius XII call Saint Benedict the “Father of Europe,” for he inspired the peoples of this continent with the love of order upon which their social life depends. We pray he may look upon Europe, and by his prayer achieve even greater things in years to come.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves.
During these troubled times today's gospel has carries special comfort. Here's part of a homily by St. John Chrysostom on this passage:

Our Master is always the same, gentle and benevolent. In his constant concern for our salvation, he says explicitly in the gospel just read to us: Come, learn from me. The Master came to console his fallen servants. This is how Christ treats us. He shows pity when a sinner deserves punishment. When the race that angers him deserves to be annihilated, he addresses the guilty ones in the kindly words: Come, learn from me, but I am gentle and humble in heart.

I am the Creator and I love my work. I am the sculptor and I care for what I have made. If I thought of my dignity, I should not rescue fallen humankind. If I failed to treat its incurable sickness with fitting remedies, it would never recover its strength. If I did not console it, it would die. This is why I apply the salve of kindness to it where it lies. Compassionately I bend down very low in order to raise it up. No one standing erect can lift a fallen man without putting a hand down to him.