Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter


Saint Pius V, Pope

Readings for Thursday of the Third Week of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:
[3]

Reading 1:
Acts 8:26-40

The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip,
"Get up and head south on the road
that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route."
So he got up and set out.
Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch,
a court official of the Candace,
that is, the queen of the Ethiopians,
in charge of her entire treasury,
who had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home.
Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
The Spirit said to Philip,
"Go and join up with that chariot."
Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said,
"Do you understand what you are reading?"
He replied,
"How can I, unless someone instructs me?"
So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.
This was the Scripture passage he was reading:

Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who will tell of his posterity?
For his life is taken from the earth.

Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply,
"I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this?
About himself, or about someone else?"
Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this Scripture passage,
he proclaimed Jesus to him.
As they traveled along the road
they came to some water,
and the eunuch said, "Look, there is water.
What is to prevent my being baptized?"
Then he ordered the chariot to stop,
and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water,
and he baptized him.
When they came out of the water,
the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away,
and the eunuch saw him no more,
but continued on his way rejoicing.
Philip came to Azotus, and went about proclaiming the good news
to all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Acts 8:26-40

In this story of Philip’s conversion of the eunuch we are given a strong mystical nudge. First when Philip is instructed by an angle to leave on the trip and again with is disappearance after the baptism of the eunuch.

If we read this passage in context with verse numbers we find verse 37 is not present in either the NAB or the Jerusalem Bibles. That is because in the oldest and best manuscripts it was not present. But, for our benefit verse 37 said responding to the eunuch’s request for baptism; "And Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may.' And he said in reply, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.' "In modern texts it is omitted as probably a latter addition by some early Christian redactor.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 66:8-9, 16-17, 20

R. (1) Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Bless our God, you peoples,
loudly sound his praise;
He has given life to our souls,
and has not let our feet slip.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare
what he has done for me.
When I appealed to him in words,
praise was on the tip of my tongue.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Blessed be God who refused me not
my prayer or his kindness!
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Ps 66:8-9, 16-17, 20

Psalm 66 is a song of thanksgiving. As it continues today the selection starts with part of the community blessing of the Lord and follows with the second and third strophes being individual response to the communal prayer.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gospel:
John 6:44-51

Jesus said to the crowds:
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:

They shall all be taught by God.

Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my Flesh for the life of the world."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Jn 6:44-51

St. John’s “Bread of Life” discourse continues in response to the protest of the crowd. In the first part of the passage we hear Jesus telling the crowd that no one comes to God unless it is willed by the Father (who sent me). Then Jesus says the remarkable; “…and I will raise him on the last day.” This is a clear statement that the Lord has been given the authority to judge the living and the dead in the Eschaton (the last day).

The Lord makes reference to
Isaiah 54:13 (“They shall all be taught by God.”), interpreting that passage as it relates to him as the “teacher” sent by God. He now launches into the answer to the earlier request "Sir, give us this bread always." (John 6:34) saying “I am the bread of life”. He follows this reiteration of his identity by recalling God’s salvation of the Hebrew people who were fleeing Egypt and starving in the desert but were rescued by God’s gift of manna (Exodus 16:1ff). Then going further, he tells the crowd that they must eat (John uses the graphic word gnaw) the bread of life to have eternal life and that the bread he gives them is his life for the salvation of all mankind.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Homily:

This Gospel is the most straight forward statement of the promise and reality of the Lord’s gift of himself in the Eucharist to be found in Sacred Scripture. The heart of the Bread of Life discourse provides the reality of the glorified Body of Christ offered here in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The Lord offers his body and blood to all those drawn to Himself by the Father. Anyone who listens to their heart and “…believes has eternal life”. St. John provides unambiguous language.

The difficult of what is contained in this passage is not understanding what is being said as Jesus tells his audience that he is the Bread of Life. The words are clear. What is difficult for those listening is to understand that what he offers is the essence of God. It is not bread or manna as they see and taste it. It is the living presence of the One who lives and created all that is.

It is clear that this was too big a leap to take for many. Even some of Jesus’ followers could not understand that this was not a physical act of cannibalism but much more than mere symbolism. They could not understand that the Christ was offering the glorified real presence of his risen body. Something the human mind reaches for but cannot fully grasp. And following this speech, many fell away.

With our life-long experience, we accept what we cannot understand with faith that God will, as he said to St. Thomas our patron, in the locked room, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” The greatest gift ever given is received in faith and has effects beyond understanding. We give thanks for that gift and rejoice in what the Risen Lord has left for us. Today once more he feeds the multitudes.

Pax

[1] ALTRE
[2] The picture used is “Communion” by Giuseppe Maria, Crespi, 1712
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena


Virgin and Doctor of the Church

St. Catherine of Siena[1]

Readings for Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:
[3]

Reading 1:
Acts 8:1b-8

There broke out a severe persecution of the Church in Jerusalem,
and all were scattered
throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria,
except the Apostles.
Devout men buried Stephen and made a loud lament over him.
Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the Church;
entering house after house and dragging out men and women,
he handed them over for imprisonment.

Now those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.
Thus Philip went down to the city of Samaria
and proclaimed the Christ to them.
With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip
when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.
For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice,
came out of many possessed people,
and many paralyzed and crippled people were cured.
There was great joy in that city.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Acts 8:1b-8

This selection describes the first concerted effort to eradicate Christianity. Following the death of St. Stephen, we are told that “all were scattered…except the Apostles.” This is pointed at by many scholars as implying that it was the Hellenists (Greek) Jews only who were scattered (recall that St. Stephen and the other deacons were appointed to minister to that community and that it was St. Stephen, buried in this passage, that had enraged the Sanhedrin.).

As the main force in this persecution, Saul (later St. Paul) clearly sees the threat by Christianity to the Jewish Tradition that has evolved. He leads the persecution of the Church which has the unintended effect of spreading the Good News outside of the Jewish community in Jerusalem as we see St. Philip taking it to Samaria with good results.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 66:1-3a, 4-5, 6-7a

R. (1) Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Shout joyfully to God, all the earth,
sing praise to the glory of his name;
proclaim his glorious praise.
Say to God, "How tremendous are your deeds!"
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
"Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you,
sing praise to your name!"
Come and see the works of God,
his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He has changed the sea into dry land;
through the river they passed on foot;
therefore let us rejoice in him.
He rules by his might forever.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Ps 66:1-3a, 4-5, 6-7a

Psalm 66 is a hymn of praise and thanksgiving. In the first part presented here, the psalmist praises God for His salvation, recalling the exodus from Egypt and the great signs he gave the people.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gospel:
John 6:35-40

Jesus said to the crowds,
"I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
But I told you that although you have seen me,
you do not believe.
Everything that the Father gives me will come to me,
and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,
because I came down from heaven not to do my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.
And this is the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything of what he gave me,
but that I should raise it on the last day.
For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Jn 6:35-40

St. John’s “Bread of Life” discourse continues with the repetition of the great Eucharistic pronouncement – “I am the Bread of Life.” The Lord states that in spite of their lack of belief, his presence with them is part of God’s revelatory plan (“I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.”) and that all who come to believe in the Son of God, the Bread of Life, will be welcome (“I will not reject anyone who comes to me”).

The selection concludes with the promise of eternal life for those who believe in Jesus, the Son of God; they will be raised with him in glory on the “last day.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Reflection:

As we look at the remarkable Gospel passage one line at a time we find it so full of possibility yet so difficult to accept. The Lord promises himself, his body, blood, soul and divinity will be offered up for all creation. This offer is made unconditionally and universally to everyone.

When it is stated in this way, in general theological terms, we understand it intellectually. We see what was offered in the Gospel as if from a distance, unemotionally, very rationally. It is only when we pull the pieces apart that the impact of what is offered in this passage suddenly grasps us by the heart. Let’s try just a couple of phrases:

…whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” Obviously the Lord is speaking at the spiritual level, not physically. If we accept the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, as it is offered, the hunger we feel for love, for something larger than ourselves, the hunger for peace, will be satisfied. We become, like the Holy Mother, “full of grace”; joined with God through the essence of His Son. If we accept the Eucharist as it is offered, the Blood of Christ slakes the thirst we have for life and love because what does Christ offer in His Blood but the love of God out-poured for us. He takes away that which causes us pain, our sins. He washes it away more completely than any bath takes away dirt and grime. All this he does, time and again so we will never hunger and never thirst. All we need to do is accept the Bread of Life he offers.

“…I will not reject anyone who comes to me” There is nothing standing between us and the offer of life except our own resistance. The Lord opens his arms and virtually begs us to come to him. But we resist. We find it so difficult to relax the defenses that we have built up so people cannot hurt us that we cannot give ourselves completely to Jesus. It is like flinging ourselves off a high cliff with no apparent safety net of means of protection. We hold back that most central piece of ourselves the core of our being cannot be exposed. Until we can release this to Christ, we have not accepted his offer.

“And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me“ What he offers seems so simple – “Come to me” he says and he will give himself to us and we will have life. But it is so hard. It means becoming vulnerable to others as well. We cannot just give ourselves to Christ in the safety of our homes. We must also offer the love we give him to those who he also calls his own because he lives in them as well.

Today we are offered this Gospel as the challenge. We are offered the Bread of Life and all that entails. The question we must answer is can we accept it?

Pax


[1] The picture used is “The Ecstasy of St. Catherine of Siena” by Pompeo Batoni, 1743
[2] ALTRE
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter


Saint Peter Chanel, Priest, Martyr
Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Priest

Biographical Information about St. Peter Chanel
Biographical Information St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort

Readings for Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:
[3]

Reading 1:
Acts 7:51—8:1a

Stephen said to the people, the elders, and the scribes:
"You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears,
you always oppose the Holy Spirit;
you are just like your ancestors.
Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute?
They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one,
whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.
You received the law as transmitted by angels,
but you did not observe it."

When they heard this, they were infuriated,
and they ground their teeth at him.
But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and Stephen said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened
and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
But they cried out in a loud voice,
covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out,
"Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice,
"Lord, do not hold this sin against them";
and when he said this, he fell asleep.

Now Saul was consenting to his execution.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Acts 7:51—8:1a

St. Stephen is martyred for proclaiming Jesus Christ risen. He is the first Christian martyr, stoned outside of Jerusalem with the consent of one of the representatives of the Sanhedrin (“The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.”) who we know later became St. Paul.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 31:3cd-4, 6 and 7b and 8a, 17 and 21ab

R. (6a) Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name's sake you will lead and guide me.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
My trust is in the LORD;
I will rejoice and be glad of your mercy.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your kindness.
You hide them in the shelter of your presence
from the plottings of men.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
or:
R. Alleluia.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Ps 31:3cd-4, 6 and 7b and 8a, 17 and 21ab

This is an individual lament. The section links nicely to the death of St. Stephen with “Into your hands I commend my spirit” and “You hide them in the shelter of your presence from the plottings of men.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gospel:
John 6:30-35

The crowd said to Jesus:
"What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:

He gave them bread from heaven to eat."

So Jesus said to them,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world."

So they said to Jesus,
"Sir, give us this bread always."
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst."
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Jn 6:30-35

Jesus continues the “Bread of Life” discourse. In this selection St. John provides the most solemn of statements by Jesus which are unambiguous statements about the real presence in the Eucharist: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Reflection:

Within all of the Christian denominations there is no more unifying and divisive doctrine of faith than that of the “real presence in the Eucharist”. Yes, there are, in addition to the Eastern Rite Churches, two other non-Catholic denominations that believe in the real presence, some of the Lutheran Synods and the “High” Episcopalians or Anglicans. Yet even in some of these, the understanding is different than that of the Roman Catholic Church. Now something even more disturbing, many professed Roman Catholics do not believe in the real presence.

That belief is one of the Precepts of the Church. That means that in order to be in communion with the Church, one must believe that; at the rite of consecration within the Liturgy of the Eucharist, first bread and then wine are transubstantiated (changed in substance) into the Body of Christ (the Bread of Life) and the Blood of Christ.

This event, repeated around the world each day (except Good Friday) is not a simple memorial and is not a remembrance as it is understood in a majority of the protestant denominations. It represents for us, as the Divine Mercy Chaplet says; “The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity” of our Lord Jesus Christ whose sacrifice on the cross redeemed us by becoming the “Sin Offering” for all of humanity.

Today, St. John gives us those amazing words, uttered by the Lord all those years ago in response to people looking for life through a physical meal (remember, this is the crowd that Jesus fed with the five barley loaves) and the Lord here offers them the spiritual food that will lead them to eternal life. Let us pray today that all Christians everywhere will come to understand the great gift the Lord left us in the Eucharist and the Holy Presence He maintains in it.

Pax

[1] ALTRE
[2] The picture used is “Communion of the Apostles” by Luca Signorelli, 1512
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday of the Third Week of Easter


Readings for Monday of the Third Week of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:
[3]

Reading 1:
Acts 6:8-15

Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.
Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen,
Cyreneans, and Alexandrians,
and people from Cilicia and Asia,
came forward and debated with Stephen,
but they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.
Then they instigated some men to say,
"We have heard him speaking blasphemous words
against Moses and God."
They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes,
accosted him, seized him,
and brought him before the Sanhedrin.
They presented false witnesses who testified,
"This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law.
For we have heard him claim
that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place
and change the customs that Moses handed down to us."
All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him
and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Acts 6:8-15

The first deacon, St. Stephen, through his zeal has angered the Jewish community in Jerusalem (as if the Apostles were not enough) by placing Jesus above Moses in his teaching. The witnesses testified that Stephen placed Jesus above Moses which was in fact true and there would have been no defense possible. Later, with the introduction of false witnesses, St. Luke draws a parallel between St. Stephen and the fate of Jesus in the hands of the Sanhedrin.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 119:23-24, 26-27, 29-30

R. (1ab) Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
or:
R. Alleluia.
Though princes meet and talk against me,
your servant meditates on your statutes.
Yes, your decrees are my delight;
they are my counselors.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
or:
R. Alleluia.
I declared my ways, and you answered me;
teach me your statutes.
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous deeds.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
or:
R. Alleluia.
Remove from me the way of falsehood,
and favor me with your law.
The way of truth I have chosen;
I have set your ordinances before me.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
or:
R. Alleluia.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Ps 119:23-24, 26-27, 29-30

Continuing the theme of being opposed to civil authority for the sake of God, this psalm response praises those who are steadfast in the face of such opposition. Psalm 119 is an individual lament asking for God’s support in times of difficulty.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gospel:
John 6:22-29

[After Jesus had fed the five thousand men, his disciples saw him walking on the sea.]
The next day, the crowd that remained across the sea
saw that there had been only one boat there,
and that Jesus had not gone along with his disciples in the boat,
but only his disciples had left.
Other boats came from Tiberias
near the place where they had eaten the bread
when the Lord gave thanks.
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there,
they themselves got into boats
and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
And when they found him across the sea they said to him,
"Rabbi, when did you get here?"
Jesus answered them and said,
"Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me
not because you saw signs
but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.
For on him the Father, God, has set his seal."
So they said to him,
"What can we do to accomplish the works of God?"
Jesus answered and said to them,
"This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Jn 6:22-29

This dialogue with the people begins St. John’s great discourse on the bread of life. In this selection Jesus begins by telling the crowd, which had just been witness to the feeding of the multitude with the barley loaves, that they should focus on spiritual food rather than filling their stomachs. His reference here is that through their belief in him as the Son of God, they are doing God’s will.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Reflection:

Sacred scripture emphasizes how difficult it is to follow the great Christian paradox of being part of the world but separate from it. Jesus make this point, although somewhat veiled, as he begins the great “Bread of Life” discourse in the Gospel selection. He tells the crowd that followed him after he fed the multitude that they should be less worried about what fills the belly and more worried about what fills the spirit.

In the story about the trial of St. Stephen in the reading from Acts, it is clear that he has taken a more “in your face” approach with the Hebrews and has invited the wrath of the Sanhedrin. Ultimately this will cost him his life. Assuming that most of us would not choose martyrdom, we must ask ourselves what kind of balance we should strike between living in the world as witness to Christ’s love and opposing the world as anathema to that spirit.

We must recognize that the more completely we adopt that loving attitude of Christ, the more we will be seen as fanatics or as strange to those who have taken a more casual approach to their spiritual lives (even more so to those who reject God entirely). We must realize that most people see in the faithful follower an image of what they believe they should be and seeing that image, they become uncomfortable. It is like they have looked into the mirror before leaving for a social engagement and discovered that what they are wearing is inappropriate for the event and there is no time to change. They become angry at the mirror or rationalize that everyone should appear as they do.

The more they are reminded that they should love others, the more uncomfortable they become and their tolerance for the one who reminds them becomes less. There is a serous possibility that they may feel threatened and take action to insure that they are no longer forced to be reminded of what they should be. We do not need to look too far to see the signs of this attitude at the macro level. There are plenty of law suits against people, companies, and even the government to eliminate objects of faith – the Ten Commandments and prayer in schools to mention a few.

Our Easter Celebration offers us the reward for zeal in following the Risen Christ. We must recognize that if we are doing Christianity right, we will not be loved by the world, as the Savior himself was not loved by the world. But by living our faith to the best of our ability, we hope that we will be buoyed up by the community to which we belong, the spirit dwelling within us, and by our hope in the reward for fidelity to the one who offers us spiritual food to sustain us on our journey.

Pax

[1] ALTRE
[2] The picture used is “St. Stephen the Martyr” by Vincenzo Foppa, 1480s
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Third Sunday of Easter


Readings for the Third Sunday of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:
[3]

Reading 1:
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19

Peter said to the people:
"The God of Abraham,
the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus,
whom you handed over and denied in Pilate's presence
when he had decided to release him.
You denied the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
The author of life you put to death,
but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.
Now I know, brothers,
that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did;
but God has thus brought to fulfillment
what he had announced beforehand
through the mouth of all the prophets,
that his Christ would suffer.
Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19

Following the earlier cure of the lame beggar, a crowd gathers in the temple area and Peter launches into the second kerygmatic discourse or proclamations about the nature of Christ. Peter uses a new title for the Savior, “The Author of Life.” He concludes this discourse with a call for conversion.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9

R. (7a) Lord, let your face shine on us.
or:
R. Alleluia.
When I call, answer me, O my just God,
you who relieve me when I am in distress;
have pity on me, and hear my prayer!
R. Lord, let your face shine on us.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Know that the LORD does wonders for his faithful one;
the LORD will hear me when I call upon him.
R. Lord, let your face shine on us.
or:
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, let the light of your countenance shine upon us!
You put gladness into my heart.
R. Lord, let your face shine on us.
or:
R. Alleluia.
As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep,
for you alone, O LORD,
bring security to my dwelling.
R. Lord, let your face shine on us.
or:
R. Alleluia.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Ps 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9

Psalm 4 is an individual lament. In these strophes we hear the trust the psalmist has in God whose saving works cause the faithful to tremble in awe of God’s mercy.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Reading II:
1 John 2:1-5a

My children, I am writing this to you
so that you may not commit sin.
But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous one.
He is expiation for our sins,
and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.
The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep
his commandments.
Those who say, "I know him," but do not keep his commandments
are liars, and the truth is not in them.
But whoever keeps his word,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
1 Jn 2:1-5a

This selection provides a principle teaching of St. John. He writes to the faithful that they might know the commandments of Christ. He then tells them that in order to keep from sin they must keep “Jesus’” commandments. He contrasts professed faith and observed actions saying that if you say you belong to Christ but do not follow his commandments, you are a liar. (see also
1 John 4:20, 1 John 5:10).


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gospel:
Luke 24:35-48

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,
and how Jesus was made known to them
in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
"Peace be with you."
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have."
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?"
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,
"These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled."
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
"Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things."
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Lk 24:35-48

This is the first appearance of the Risen Christ to the disciples immediately following his appearance on the road to Emmaus, the account of which is referenced at the beginning of this selection. No mention is made of St. Thomas’ presence or absence as in the account from St. John (see
John 20:19-31). He shows the disciples his wounds and then to prove he is corporeal, he asks for food and eats in front of them.

As with the disciples of Emmaus, Jesus “opened their minds” so they could see how the Law and Prophets were fulfilled in Him. Then, satisfied that they believe, the Lord brings them to understand the prophetic significance of what had taken place. He concludes pointedly by saying; “You are witnesses to these things.” This statement is important since later in St. Luke’s narrative in the Acts of Apostles, their witness becomes the foundation of faith for others.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Reflection:

St. John does not mince his words; “Those who say, "I know him (Jesus)," but do not keep his commandments are liars…” We can differentiate this with Jesus attacks on the Pharisees. He called them “hypocrites” (
Matthew 6, 2ff, Mark 7:6, and Luke 13:15).

A hypocrite is defined as: “a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, esp. a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.”
[4]

We contrast that word with the one used so forcefully by the Evangelist – he calls the person who claims to know Christ but whose “actions belie stated beliefs” liars. The same source defines the word “liar” as: “A person who knowingly utters falsehood; one who lies.”
[5]

In reality, hypocrisy as demonstrated by the Pharisees is more easily forgiven. Their pious deeds or praying, fasting and alms-giving, while not heartfelt, at least attempted to serve God’s purpose (Do we really believe that the Pharisees felt they were being dishonest in their rigorous practice of the faith?). The Christian, on the other hand, who claims to know the Lord, to understand Christ’s will for his followers, but knowingly acts in sinful ways is more culpable.

Whether liar or hypocrite, the teaching point is clear. As Christians we have two important goals to accomplish. First we are called to have faith in Jesus Christ; that he is the Anointed One, of God and sent by God so that we might obtain life through the forgiveness of our sins. As St. John also says of Jesus “He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.”

The second goal also follows the injunction of the Evangelist. If we believe in Jesus, we seek to understand what he calls us to be; what he calls us evidence in the world. St. John defines that as well. He says if we believe in him we “keep his commandments”.

At last an actionable statement. All we need to do is understand the commandments of Jesus. Throughout the New Testament the Gospels give us a number of “sayings” of Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount is a virtual litany of blessings to be given to those who follow God with a sincere heart. There is, however only one place in which Jesus tells us what he considers to be the “greatest commandment” (
Matthew 22:36). It is the same commandment that St. John is said to have focused all of his attention on in his later years. It is the same commandment that he re-states in his fist letter, used above, immediately following the passage proclaimed today. Jesus demands that we love God and love one another. It is this commandment that identifies us instantly as Christian. It is our failure to follow this commandment that would accuse us as “liar” to our faith.

This love of God and love of others that is so important that St. Luke calls it our in his Gospel and in the Acts and that St. John so vehemently proclaims in his Gospel and epistles is our key to living the faith we have been called to. It is the reason Jesus died and the reason he returned to us. What more can we ask? It is God’s love personified and returned to us time and again.

Pax


[1] ALTRE
[2] The picture used is “Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles” by Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308-11
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.
[4] hypocrite. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved April 26, 2009, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hypocrite
[5] liar. (n.d.). Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary. Retrieved April 26, 2009, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/liar

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Feast of Saint Mark, Evangelist


Biographical Information about St. Mark[1]

Readings for the Feast of St. Mark[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:
[3]

Reading 1:
1 Peter 5:5b-14

Beloved:
Clothe yourselves with humility
in your dealings with one another, for:

God opposes the proud
but bestows favor on the humble.

So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,
that he may exalt you in due time.
Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.

Be sober and vigilant.
Your opponent the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, steadfast in faith,
knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world
undergo the same sufferings.
The God of all grace
who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus
will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you
after you have suffered a little.
To him be dominion forever. Amen.

I write you this briefly through Silvanus,
whom I consider a faithful brother,
exhorting you and testifying that this is the true grace of God.
Remain firm in it.
The chosen one at Babylon sends you greeting, as does Mark, my son.
Greet one another with a loving kiss.
Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
1 Pt 5:5b-14

St. Peter, according to most scholars, probably wrote this letter just before his death in Rome (code named Babylon in our text today) between 65 and 67. This part of his letter encourages fidelity to the Lord in the face of persecution which comes from the devil. The mention of Mark at the end of this selection is probably referring to the Evangelist whose feast we celebrate today.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 89:2-3, 6-7, 16-17

R. (2) For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The favors of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, "My kindness is established forever";
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The heavens proclaim your wonders, O LORD,
and your faithfulness, in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies can rank with the LORD?
Who is like the LORD among the sons of God?
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Blessed the people who know the joyful shout;
in the light of your countenance, O LORD, they walk.
At your name they rejoice all the day,
and through your justice they are exalted.
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Ps 89:2-3, 6-7, 16-17

Psalm 89 is a song of thanksgiving. The psalmist rejoices in God’s steadfast support. God’s constant presence is established through the gift of his creation, proof of His omnipotence. The selection concludes inviting the faithful to rejoice in God’s presence and the justice of his judgement.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gospel:
Mark 16:15-20

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
"Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."

Then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven
and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Mk 16:15-20

The verse just prior to this passage which is the ending of St. Mark’s Gospel indicates that the disciples are still not sure what has happened (typical of the image we have of the disciples in St. Mark's Gospel) and Jesus comes to them at table, rebuking them for their unbelief. That sets the stage for this commissioning address by the Lord. Once again the Disciples now Apostles are sent into the world with God’s blessing.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Reflection:

Today we have a little break in our on-going stories from the Acts of the Apostles as we celebrate the Feast of St. Mark. As a tribute to him we hear the very end of this shortest of the canonical Gospels. As you will see, if you follow the link to the biographical information (above), Mark was thought to be the Mark mentioned in the reading from 1st Peter we also hear today. He was also thought to be the young man who ran away when Jesus was arrested. As such he was very familiar with the Jesus story.

Although he was not as eloquent as Matthew or Luke nor as theologically well grounded as John, his gospel gives us a view of the disciples that seems unvarnished and lets us identify with a group of followers who were not perfect and did not understand. His portrait is very believable and balances well against Johns Gospel in which Jesus himself (in the eyes of the author) has much more foreknowledge than he does according to St. Mark. Mark uniquely shows us Jesus Christ True God and True Man most clearly. Today we see Jesus’ farewell to the Apostles as he ascends to the Father.

While we are not given the formula of; “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (
Matthew 28:19) as we are in Matthew, we can still see the importance placed on that conversion and the indelible change it manifests in each of us.

The reading from St. Peter gives us another glimpse into the life of the early Christian community and reminds us that, as a people who share a common faith and purpose, we are to accept that mantle with humility. It is a lesson we as a community learned again four decades ago when, with the advent of the Vatican II changes, we dropped the "Triumphant Church" attitude of;" If you're not Catholic you're going to hell." It is a corporate learning experience many of our protestant brethren are still struggling to learn.

We are asked to be open, inviting and inclusive. This supports the great paradox of Christ's teaching that we must be part of the world (in order to affect change) but be separate from it to insure we retain the ideals that define us as Christian. Today we go out into the world once more and pray that our Christian identity is obvious to all we meet.

Pax

[1] The picture used is “Head of St. Mark” by Albrecht Dürer, 1526
[2] ALTRE
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday of the Second Week of Easter


Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Priest, Martyr

Readings for Friday of the Second Week of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:
[3]

Reading 1:
Acts 5:34-42

A Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel,
a teacher of the law, respected by all the people,
stood up, ordered the Apostles to be put outside for a short time,
and said to the Sanhedrin, "Fellow children of Israel,
be careful what you are about to do to these men.
Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important,
and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed,
and all those who were loyal to him
were disbanded and came to nothing.
After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census.
He also drew people after him,
but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered.
So now I tell you,
have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.
For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin,
it will destroy itself.
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting against God."
They were persuaded by him.
After recalling the Apostles, they had them flogged,
ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus,
and dismissed them.
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin,
rejoicing that they had been found worthy
to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.
And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes,
they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Acts 5:34-42

Today we conclude the Apostles’ second confrontation of the Sanhedrin. Gamaliel (probably St. Paul’s mentor
Acts 22:3), dissuades them from killing the Apostles to let them off with scourging (probably also at the hands of the same men who scourged the Lord). St. Luke records an enlightened view from the great Hebrew Teacher. Having witnessed a number of false prophets rise and fall, he tells the Sanhedrin that “... if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them”.

Gamaliel was indeed wise, recognizing that, even before it formally existed, the blood of martyrs is the seed for new members of the Church. Even persecution has a positive effect on the faith and fervor of the Apostles (“So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.”)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 27:1, 4, 13-14

R. (see 4abc) One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life's refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R. One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
One thing I ask of the LORD
this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD
and contemplate his temple.
R. One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
R. One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Ps 27:1, 4, 13-14

The selection from Psalm 27 presents as an individual lament. David here longs for the Lord’s protection and the gift of life which flows from his salvation.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gospel:
John 6:1-15

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.
A large crowd followed him,
because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain,
and there he sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near.
When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,
he said to Philip, "Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?"
He said this to test him,
because he himself knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered him,
"Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough
for each of them to have a little."
One of his disciples,
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
"There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?"
Jesus said, "Have the people recline."
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.
So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
"Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted."
So they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,
"This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world."
Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Jn 6:1-15

The Gospel from St. John today is the fourth sign from his Gospel, the multiplication of the loaves. It is the only miracle story carried in all four Gospels and closely follows the synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) in most details.

Placed in Eastertide the Eucharistic symbolism is most striking. More subtle is the reference to feeding the poor. Barley loaves were traditionally the fare of the poor. It is also interesting to note that in the Jerusalem translation the Lord “escaped” into the hills at the end of the story, implying the people were immediately aware of the great sign he had facilitated.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Reflection:

What is the worth of the most valuable object in the whole world if it is kept secret in the hands of a private collector? Let us say a huge diamond is discovered and cut in such a magnificent way that it is considered perfect. What is its value as it sits in a vault unseen by human eyes, unknown except to those who secreted it away? It may have value to its owner who occasionally opens the vault to gaze upon its beauty. But to the person who is starving for lack of food or cold for lack of fuel, its only value would be if that object could be sold (to one who would in turn sell it again) to purchase what they need. As in most things the world prizes, value is relative to ones situation and only realized when the asset is sold to another for something perceived to be of equal value.

Are there things of “intrinsic” value? That is, are there objects that have value in and of themselves without the need to be transferred to another? Nourishing food could be said to have intrinsic value. It feeds the body, provides what a person needs to retain health and continued life. Water could also said to have intrinsic value, perhaps even more so than food since, even after it is consumed, it is recycled in its original form to provide benefit to other things, plants, animals, and people. But if it were kept in a sealed jar on a table or in a locked cabinet, what is its value? The value of the water lies in the beneficial effects it produces when it is used.

In the Gospel today, we find something with intrinsic value, the Eucharist. Symbolized by the miraculous feeding of the multitudes, the “Bread from Heaven” feeds body and soul. The Lord blesses it (scripture says “he gave thanks”) and then all present ate of it. All were satisfied; all were nourished. What valued did those barley loaves have before they were transubstantiated? They were food, poor food at that. Yet after they were blessed they became much more. They became a sign of God’s love, a symbol of salvation, a gift of freedom.

Now we ask the same question about value as we asked above when talking about a diamond or other objects of value. What is the value of the Eucharist, the transubstantiated Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ if it stays locked in the tabernacle? We venerate that place of repose with genuflection. We adore the Body of Christ as it is exposed in the monstrance. Even the sight of it is efficacious, like being in the presence of some healing balm or invisible radiation that promotes health. The value of the Eucharist is most dramatically felt when we receive it, consume it; when it becomes part of us and we of it. That place deep within us that we call the spirit or soul reacts to that divine presence and we are strengthened and uplifted.

There are those who see the unremarkable bread and wine as simply reminders of an ancient story of self-sacrifice. They see the morsel as something having no physical value beyond the minimal nourishment it might provide. In those cases it would be better for that person to never receive the Eucharistic meal. It is like the farmer who while plowing his filed find a diamond in the rough and casts it aside as valueless.

Today we reflect upon the value of something beyond valuing. We discover the gift of salvation, freely given, the product of incredible sacrifice offered to us freely and we are awed by the purity of the gift.

Pax

[1] ALTRE
[2] The picture used is “The Miracle of the Loaves” by Tintoretto, 1579-81
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday of the Second Week of Easter


Saint George, Martyr
Saint Adalbert of Prague, Bishop, Martyr

Readings for Thursday of the Second Week of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:
[3]

Reading 1:
Acts 5:27-33

When the court officers had brought the Apostles in
and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,
the high priest questioned them,
"We gave you strict orders did we not,
to stop teaching in that name.
Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man's blood upon us."
But Peter and the Apostles said in reply,
"We must obey God rather than men.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him."

When they heard this,
they became infuriated and wanted to put them to death.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Acts 5:27-33

As in the previous case when they had cured the lame beggar, the Apostles (this time all of them, not just Peter and John) are brought before the Sanhedrin. It is interesting to see that the elders and scribes fear to speak the name of Jesus in these proceedings (“…stop teaching in that name”).

Peter now assumes his role as leader of the Apostles and again boldly professes his faith that Jesus, in whose name they speak and whose name the Sanhedrin fear to speak, is the Son of God (“We must obey God rather than man.”).The intent of the Sanhedrin at this point changes from telling the Apostles to stop to seeking their death in accordance with Mosaic Law
Deuteronomy 13:6-10. The Apostles seem to be following the path that their Savior had walked.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 34:2 and 9, 17-18, 19-20

R. (7a) The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
Many are the troubles of the just man,
but out of them all the LORD delivers him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Ps 34:2 and 9, 17-18, 19-20

The Psalm and response are of praise and thanksgiving for God’s saving works and his special care for the poor. The Old Testament God of Justice is very visible in this selection.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gospel:
John 3:31-36

The one who comes from above is above all.
The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things.
But the one who comes from heaven is above all.
He testifies to what he has seen and heard,
but no one accepts his testimony.
Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.
For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.
He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.
The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life,
but the wrath of God remains upon him.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Jn 3:31-36

In this selection provides the conclusion of the discourse with Nicodemus. It is almost a reflection by the Gospel writer on the proceeding dialogue and monologue. The Lord is, in no uncertain terms, telling Nicodemus that the Messiah, who comes from above is of God and with God in his kingship over all creation. He goes on to explain that all he has said and taught, since it proceeds from that authority given by the father, is true and all who believe in this truth shall receive eternal life.

The passage concludes with a formula similar to the “blessings and curses” statements made in God’s covenants with Abraham and Moses. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Homily:

We must obey God rather than men” That is what Peter tells the Sanhedrin. His words echo in that place and strike a chord in us. The whole faith journey each of us travels is about discovering what God wants us to do and then how can we change our selves enough to do His will in all situations.

We must obey God rather than men” How many times each day are we confronted with choices that test our resolve to carry out this very command? How often are we given a choice between doing what is right and doing what is easy? As we talk with our friends, family or co-workers and the conversation turns ugly or degrading, how often do we go along instead of doing what God asks?

We must obey God rather than men” Our quest must be to find a way to make that defiant statement within our lives. Some how, we need to tap that gift of the Holy Spirit as Peter did in front of those powerful leaders and tell the world the same thing – I must obey God rather than men. That power is clearly within us. It was placed there at our baptism and sealed in confirmation. It is the dove that is stronger than the fires of hell, able to lift us up and make us steadfast in the face of the evil of this world.

We must obey God rather than men” Let us make these simple words the mantra we carry with us today and going forward. When we are confronted with a situation that goes contrary to God’s commands let it spring to mind with the force of that dove and guide us in right paths to the glory of the Father so all might see and know we follow Him – and no one else.

Pax

[1] ALTRE
[2] The picture used is “Apostles Before Sanhedrin” by Johann Christoph Weigel, published 1695
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter


Readings for Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:
[3]

Reading 1:
Acts 5:17-26

The high priest rose up and all his companions,
that is, the party of the Sadducees,
and, filled with jealousy,
laid hands upon the Apostles and put them in the public jail.
But during the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison,
led them out, and said,
"Go and take your place in the temple area,
and tell the people everything about this life."
When they heard this,
they went to the temple early in the morning and taught.
When the high priest and his companions arrived,
they convened the Sanhedrin,
the full senate of the children of Israel,
and sent to the jail to have them brought in.
But the court officers who went did not find them in the prison,
so they came back and reported,
"We found the jail securely locked
and the guards stationed outside the doors,
but when we opened them, we found no one inside."
When the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard this report,
they were at a loss about them,
as to what this would come to.
Then someone came in and reported to them,
"The men whom you put in prison are in the temple area
and are teaching the people."
Then the captain and the court officers went and brought them,
but without force,
because they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Acts 5:17-26

This is the second time the Apostles are attached by the Sanhedrin. They have already been told by the Jewish leadership to stop teaching and have been condemned as false prophets so there is no need for a second trial – they are jailed.

Jailing Apostles in Acts don’t seem to work very well (see also
Acts 12:6-11; 16:25-29.) They fearlessly return to the Temple area and resume their mission to proclaim Christ Crucified and Risen, forcing the Sanhedrin to take action.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R.(7a) The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.

The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

This song of thanksgiving places emphasis on God’s mercy and compassion. The Lord in his faithful love always hears those who call to him for help and salvation.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gospel:
John 3:16-21

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.
And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commentary on
Jn 3:16-21

The dialogue Jesus was having with Nicodemus has now turned into a famous monologue in this passage from the Gospel of St. John. Here Jesus is clear about his own identity as God’s “only-begotten Son” and his mission “…that the world might be saved through him.”

The Lord continues by explaining that the salvific event is dependent upon faith and acceptance by those to be saved (“…whoever believes in him will not be condemned”) and those who reject this belief are already condemned. The passage is concluded with the analogy or light and darkness where the Lord who is light comes to save the people but will be rejected by many (“…but people preferred darkness to light”). Those who believe in the Lord will be identified by their good works and the glory that those works bring to God the Father.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Reflection:

In the most famous passage from St. John’s Gospel we are told that God sent his Son to us so that we might have “Eternal Life”. For us to appreciate the sacrifice and promise, it is important that we recognize the gift implied in that statement. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, provided some wonderful insights into that gift in his encyclical “Spi Salvi”. Rather than paraphrase, we include a quote from that document:

[4]Faith is the substance of hope. But then the question arises: do we really want this—to live eternally? Perhaps many people reject the faith today simply because they do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive. What they desire is not eternal life at all, but this present life, for which faith in eternal life seems something of an impediment. To continue living for ever —endlessly—appears more like a curse than a gift. Death, admittedly, one would wish to postpone for as long as possible. But to live always, without end—this, all things considered, can only be monotonous and ultimately unbearable. This is precisely the point made, for example, by Saint Ambrose, one of the Church Fathers, in the funeral discourse for his deceased brother Satyrus: “Death was not part of nature; it became part of nature. God did not decree death from the beginning; he prescribed it as a remedy. Human life, because of sin ... began to experience the burden of wretchedness in unremitting labor and unbearable sorrow. There had to be a limit to its evils; death had to restore what life had forfeited. Without the assistance of grace, immortality is more of a burden than a blessing.” [5] A little earlier, Ambrose had said: “Death is, then, no cause for mourning, for it is the cause of mankind's salvation.” [6]

Our Pontiff, with the help of St. Ambrose, describes the difference between “Eternal Life” and living forever. After developing the theme a bit more using some of St. Augustine’s logic he describes this difference:

[7]To imagine ourselves outside the temporality that imprisons us and in some way to sense that eternity is not an unending succession of days in the calendar, but something more like the supreme moment of satisfaction, in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality—this we can only attempt. It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time—the before and after—no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy.”

The gift of Eternal Life now becomes a more welcoming thought. It was for this that God sent his Son. It was for this that he created us. Just as a parent hopes only for supreme happiness for their children; God so loved us that he provided this remedy for human existence and opened the gates to heaven. Our Easter Joy is revitalized as we recognize the wondrous prize God has offered us.

Pax

[1] ALTRE
[2] The picture used is “The Crucified Christ” by Pieter Pauweel Rubens, 1610-11
[3] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.
[4] Spi Salvi 10.
[5] De excessu fratris sui Satyri, II, 47: CSEL 73, 274.
[6] Ibid., II, 46: CSEL 73, 273.
[7] Spi Salvi 12.