Monday, June 4, 2012

June 4, 2012 (Monday)

Be Blessed!

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 12:1-12.

Jesus began to speak to the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders in parables. «A man planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and left on a journey.
At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard.
But they seized him, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed.
Again he sent them another servant. And that one they beat over the head and treated shamefully.
He sent yet another whom they killed. So, too, many others; some they beat, others they killed.
He had one other to send, a beloved son. He sent him to them last of all, thinking, 'They will respect my son.'
But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.'
So they seized him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
What (then) will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come, put the tenants to death, and give the vineyard to others.
Have you not read this scripture passage: 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes'?"
They were seeking to arrest him, but they feared the crowd, for they realized that he had addressed the parable to them. So they left him and went away.

Commentary of the day
Saint John Chrysostom (c.345-407), priest at Antioch then Bishop of Constantinople, Doctor of the Church
11th homily on the 2nd letter to the Corinthians

"He had one other to send, a beloved son"

«Christ has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation» (2Cor 5,18). Paul brings out the apostles' greatness by showing us what kind of ministry has been given them, while showing us at the same time the love with which God has loved us. When men had refused to listen to the one he had sent, God did not give vent to his rage, he did not spurn them but went on calling them on his own account and through the apostles...

God has put into our mouths «the message of reconciliation» (v.19). And so we come, not for some difficult work, but to make everyone friends of God. Since they have not listened, the Lord tells us to continue to urge them until they come to faith. Hence Paul adds: «We are ambassadors of Christ; it is God himself who is appealing through us. We implore you in Christ's name: be reconciled to God» (v.20)...

What could be compared to so great a love as this? When we had repaid his blessings with insults, far from punishing us he gave us his Son to reconcile us with himself. Yet, far from wanting to be reconciled, men put him to death. God sent other ambassadors to urge them and, after that, himself became their suppliant. Always it was he who appealed: «Be reconciled to God». He did not say: «Reconcile God to yourselves». It was not he who turned us away, it was you who refused to become his friends. Can God experience feelings of hatred?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Taking pity on our neighbor as God has had pity on us
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 18:21-35.
Peter approached Jesus and asked him, «Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?»
Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.'
Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, 'Pay back what you owe.'
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?'
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart."

Commentary of the day : Byzantine and Eastern liturgies for the Great Lent
Taking pity on our neighbor as God has had pity on us

O Lord and Master of my life,
give me not a spirit of sloth, vain curiosity,
lust for power and idle talk.

But give to me, Thy servant,
a spirit of soberness, humility, patience and love.

O Lord and King,
grant me to see my own faults
and not to condemn my brother:
for blessed art Thou to the ages of ages. Amen.
(Prostration. Then three times with a bow after each.)
O God, be merciful to me a sinner.
O God, cleanse me, a sinner.
O God, my Creator, save me
and for my many sins forgive me!

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Whoever humbles himself will be exalted"
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 23:1-12.
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples,
saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens (hard to carry) and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi.'
As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.' You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called 'Master'; you have but one master, the Messiah.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Commentary of the day : The Imitation of Christ
"Whoever humbles himself will be exalted"

Don't think it a matter of great importance whether So-and-so agrees with you or disagrees with you; act in such a way as to make sure, whatever you are doing, that God is on your side. As long as you have a clear conscience, God will keep you clear of harm ... Not a doubt of it, if you will make up your mind to suffer in silence, you will find that he comes to your aid; he knows just when and how to bring you deliver­ance; you have only to put yourself in his hands. How you are to get out of this or that difficulty, this or that embarrassing situation, is God's business, not yours.

After all, what harm can it do, other people knowing about your weaknesses and taxing you with them? Often it's the best possible thing for you; it helps to keep you humble.
If a man will only be humble about his own short­comings, how little it takes to disarm ill-feeling, how little it costs to put things right!

It's humble people God protects and preserves, God loves and comforts; he stoops down and gives his grace lavishly, raising the humble man to heights of glory, as soon as neglect has done its work. Such a man he chooses for his confidant, beckons to him gently and calls him apart.
Only a humble man takes it calmly when he is put to the blush; what does it matter? It is God, not the world, that gives him countenance.
Never think that you have made any progress, till you have learned to regard all men as your betters.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Saint Joseph's vocation
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 1:16.18-21.24.
Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

Commentary of the day : Saint José Maria Escriva de Balaguer
Saint Joseph's vocation

For Saint Joseph the life of Jesus was a continuous discovery of his own vocation... His first years were full of apparently contradictory events: glorification and flight, the royal presence of the magi and the poverty of the crib, the song of the angels and the silence of men. When the time came to present the child in the Temple, Joseph, who brought the poor offering of a pair of turtle doves, witnessed Simeon and Anna proclaim Jesus to be the Christ: «The Child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him,» Saint Luke says (2,33). And later on, when the Child remains in the Temple without either Mary or Joseph knowing about it, the same evangelist relates that «they were astonished» when they found him again three days later (2,48).

Joseph is taken aback, amazed. God reveals his designs to him little by little and he tries hard to grasp them. Like any soul who wants to follow Jesus closely, he discovers at once that it is not possible to move forward carelessly and that there is no place for mere routine. To stop on reaching a certain level and rest on one's laurels is not enough for God. He demands ever more from us and his ways are not our ways. Saint Joseph learned from Jesus, as no other has done, to open his soul and  heart and keep on the watch to recognise God's wonderful works.

But if Joseph learned from Jesus to live divinely yet, if I may say so, at the human level it was he who taught many things to the Son of God... Joseph took care of this Child as he had been commanded to do and he turned Jesus into a workman by passing on his trade to him... At the human level, Joseph was Jesus' teacher. Every day he surrounded him with tender affection; he cared for him with joyful self-denial. Isn't this one good reason for considering this just man (Mt 1,19), this holy patriarch in whom the faith of the Old Testament is brought to fulfilment, to be a teacher of the interior life?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"At the preaching of Jonah they repented"
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 11:29-32.
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, «This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.

Commentary of the day : Saint John Chrysostom
"At the preaching of Jonah they repented"

Let us beware of losing all hope, but let us also avoid giving in too easily to carelessness... Despair hinders those who have fallen from getting up again and carelessness causes those who are standing to fall... If presumption casts us down from the heights of heaven, despair casts us into the infinite depths of evil, whereas a little hope is enough to hold us back...

This is how Nineveh was saved. However, the divine judgement pronounced against the Ninevites was of a nature to throw them into confusion since it did not say: «If you repent you will be saved» but simply: «Three more days and Nineveh will be destroyed» (Jon 3,4). Nevertheless, neither the Lord's threat, nor the prophet's preaching, nor even the severity of the judgement... caused their confidence to fail. God wants us to draw a lesson from this unconditional judgement,that taught by this example we may resist despair as much as passivity... Besides, divine good will does not only reveal itself in the forgiveness granted to the repentant Ninevites...: the respite granted them attests likewise to his unutterable goodness. Do you imagine that three days would have been enough to wipe out so much wickedness? God's good will is breaking out from behind these words and, besides, isn't it the principal worker of the whole city's salvation?

Let this example keep us from despairing. For the devil thinks of this form of weakness as his most successful weapon and, even when we sin, we could not give him greater pleasure than when we lose hope.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Then they will fast"
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 9:14-15.
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, «Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?»
Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

Commentary of the day : Pope Benedict XVI
"Then they will fast"

In the New Testament, Jesus brings to light the profound motive for fasting...: «man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God» (Mt 4,4). The true fast is thus directed to eating the «true food,» which is to do the Father's will (cf. Jn 4,34). If, therefore, Adam disobeyed the Lord's command: «of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat,» (Gn 2,17) the believer, through fasting, intends to submit himself humbly to God, trusting in His goodness and mercy...
In our own day, fasting seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning, and has taken on, in a culture characterized by the search for material well-being, a therapeutic value for the care of one's body. Fasting certainly bring benefits to physical well-being, but for believers, it is, in the first place, a «therapy» to heal all that prevents them from conformity to the will of God...

Through fasting and praying, we allow Christ to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God. At the same time, fasting is an aid to open our eyes to the situation in which so many of our brothers and sisters live. In his First Letter, Saint John admonishes: «If anyone has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need, yet shuts up his bowels of compassion from him – how does the love of God abide in him?» (3,17). Voluntary fasting enables us to grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who bends low and goes to the help of his suffering brother (Lk 10,29f.). By freely embracing an act of self-denial for the sake of another, we make a statement that our brother or sister in need is not a stranger. It is precisely to keep alive this welcoming and attentive attitude towards our brothers and sisters that I encourage the parishes and every other community to intensify in Lent the custom of private and communal fasts, joined to the reading of the Word of God, prayer and almsgiving. From the beginning, this has been the hallmark of the Christian community.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The way to Christ's glory

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 9:22-25.
Jesus said to his disciples: «The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.»
Then he said to all, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?

Commentary of the day : Saint Anastasius of Antioch
The way to Christ's glory

«Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem and the Son of man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes to be scourged, mocked and crucified» (cf. Mt 20,18). When he said this to his disciples Christ was making known those things that conformed to the predictions of the prophets, for they had foretold how his death would necessarily take place in Jerusalem.... We understand why God's Word, who under other circumstances was incapable of suffering, had to undergo the Passion, because humankind could not have been saved in any other way. He alone had known about it together with those to whom he had revealed it. Indeed, he knew everything that comes from the Father; this is how «the Spirit sees even to the depths of the divine mysteries» (cf. 1Cor 2,10).

«It was necessary for the Christ to suffer» (Lk 24,26): it was absolutely impossible that the Passion should not have happened, as he himself affirmed when he called «slow to believe» and «foolish» those who did not understand that the Christ had to suffer in this way to enter into his glory (Lk 24,25). For he came to save his people by forsaking «the glory he had with the Father before the world began» (Jn 17,5). This salvation consisted in the perfection to be fulfilled through his Passion and bestowed on the author of our life who, according to Saint Paul's teaching: «became the author our life when he attained perfection through his suffering» (cf. Heb 2,10).

Now we see how the glory of the only-begotten Son from which, for a while, he had been separated for our sake, was restored to him through the cross in the flesh he had assumed. Effectively, Saint John speaks of it in his gospel when he explains what that water was of which our Lord said that it would: «flow from within the believer's heart like rivers. He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit as yet because Jesus was not yet glorified» (Jn 7,38-39). What he called his glory was his death on the cross. Which is why, when our Lord prayed before undergoing crucifixion, he begged the Father to grant him that «glory he had with him before the foundation of the world».