Saturday, October 31, 2020

November 1 Solemnity of All Saints, Year B

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. This glorious feast has its roots in the early Church, when a martyr's death was commemorated on the anniversary at the place of martyrdom. By the 4th century, the Church honored all martyrs, known and unknown, on a common feastday. In the early 600s, Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Roman Pantheon (Greek for "All the gods"), which had been a pagan temple, to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyrs. He also established the "Feast of All Martyrs," which by the mid-700s was extended to include all the saints in heaven.

In a homily, St. Bernard spoke movingly about our fellowship with the saints in glory:
Why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this feast day mean anything to the saints? What do they care about earthly honors when their heavenly Father honors them by fulfilling the faithful promise of the Son? What does our commendation mean to them? The saints have no need of honor from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning.
Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed.
Come, brothers, let us at length spur ourselves on. We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness. While we desire to be in their company, we must also earnestly seek to share in their glory. Do not imagine that there is anything harmful in such an ambition as this; there is no danger in setting our hearts on such glory.
On this feast of Alls Saints, and every day, may this "great cloud of witnesses" in heavenly glory intercede for us!

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints & Martyrs (ca. 1423-24), Fra Angelico (National Gallery, London)


Saturday, October 24, 2020

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Jesus reminds in today's Gospel that love is at the heart of Christian life. "The whole law and the prophets depend on the twofold commandment" (Mt. 22:40) to love God and neighbor. All things are measured by love: “love and do what you will ... let the root of love be in you,” says St. Augustine. He emphasizes the importance of this greatest commandment in his homily:
What else is there to speak of apart from love? To speak about love there is no need to select some special passage of Scripture to serve as a text for the homily; open the Bible at any page and you will find it extolling love. We know this is so from the Lord himself, as the gospel reminds us, for when asked what were the most important commandments of the law he answered: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself....
People are renewed by love. As sinful desire ages them, so love rejuvenates them. Enmeshed in the toils of his desires the psalmist laments: I have grown old surrounded by my enemies. Love, on the other hand, is the sign of our renewal as we know from the Lord’s own words: I gave you a new commandment – love one another.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

God is a God of surprises! With each new day, He leads us in ways unexpected and unpredictable. In this Sunday's Gospel, Matthew 22:15-21, Jesus declares that we must render to God the things that are God's; this is a call to live according to the divine will, whatever it may be. Pope Francis expounds on this theme in his homily:
Render unto Caesar, Anton Dorph (1831-1914)
God is not afraid of new things! That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways. He renews us: he constantly makes us “new”. A Christian who lives the Gospel is “God’s newness” in the Church and in the world. How much God loves this “newness”!

“Rendering to God the things that are God’s” means being docile to his will, devoting our lives to him and working for his kingdom of mercy, love and peace.

Here is where our true strength is found; here is the leaven which makes it grow and the salt which gives flavor to all our efforts to combat the prevalent pessimism which the world proposes to us. Here too is where our hope is found, for when we put our hope in God we are neither fleeing from reality nor seeking an alibi: instead, we are striving to render to God what is God’s. That is why we Christians look to the future, God’s future. It is so that we can live this life to the fullest – with our feet firmly planted on the ground – and respond courageously to whatever new challenges come our way.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A


In this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 22: 1-14), Jesus tells his disciples the parable of the wedding banquet. A king invites guests to his son’s feast, but for various excuses they don't come: They made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. In a 2011 homily Pope Benedict gave on Holy Thursday at the Mass of the Lord's Supperthe ultimate wedding banquethe reminds us:
Parable of the Wedding Feast, 14th c. Russian icon
In his heart [Jesus] awaited the moment when he would give himself to his own under the appearance of bread and wine. He awaited that moment which would in some sense be the true messianic wedding feast: when he would transform the gifts of this world and become one with his own, so as to transform them and thus inaugurate the transformation of the world. In this eager desire of Jesus we can recognize the desire of God himselfhis expectant love for mankind, for his creation. A love which awaits the moment of union, a love which wants to draw mankind to itself and thereby fulfil the desire of all creation, for creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:19). Jesus desires us, he awaits us.
But what about ourselves? Do we really desire him? Are we anxious to meet him? Do we desire to encounter him, to become one with him, to receive the gifts he offers us in the Holy Eucharist? Or are we indifferent, distracted, busy about other things? From Jesus’ banquet parables we realize that he knows all about empty places at table, invitations refused, lack of interest in him and his closeness.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

In this Sunday's Gospel (Matthew 21: 33-43), Jesus reveals through the Parable of the Tenants the importance of responding to the call of God. He is always waiting for fruit to be borne in us, always looking for the "crop of good grapes" (Isaiah 5:2). We can choose to be like the unresponsive, wicked tenants, or be as the "good soil" that Jesus describes in his Parable of the Sower. Fr. Jean Danielou S.J., a French theologian of the 20th century, brings this point to light in this text from The Lord of History:
Parable of the Tenants, by Liberale da Verona (1441–1526)
God is the husbandman, expecting, hoping, desiring such great things from us. He prepared the soil in which our souls were to grow up and flourish; he ceases not to nourish, protect and encourage their growth, all our lives long. Every circumstance of our environment is an instance of God's care for us....
The point of the Song of the Vine is that it reveals how much store God sets by the spiritual profit of our lives, and how much he depends for this upon our help.... Some things are beyond our control, and temporal success is one of these; other things are at all times within our control, such as the spiritual response we make to the situations in which the Lord is pleased to put us, or the determination to find God in all the circumstances of our life, be they joys or crosses. If we do this, everything that happens to us is nourishment for the sap of that spiritual vine, namely our eternal soul, everything co-operates in its growth to perfection.