Monday, October 12, 2009

St. Seraphin of Montegranaro

St. Seraphin of Montegranaro (1540-1604) Born into a poor Italian family, young Seraphin lived the life of a shepherd and spent much of his time in prayer. Mistreated for a time by his older brother after the two of them had been orphaned, Seraphin became a Capuchin Franciscan at age 16 and impressed everyone with his humility and generosity. Serving as a lay brother, Seraphin imitated St. Francis in fasting, clothing and courtesy to all. He even mirrored Francis' missionary zeal, but Seraphin's superiors did not judge him to be a candidate for the missions. Faithful to the core, Seraphin spent three hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament daily. The poor who begged at the friary door came to hold a special love for him. Despite his uneventful life, he reached impressive spiritual heights and has had miracles attributed to him. Seraphin died on October 12, 1604, and was canonized in 1767.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to St. Luke (11.29-32)

As the crowds increased, Jesus said, This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. (Luke 11: 29-32)

The Answer
(Homily by Fr. E.J.Tyler)

There is not any instance that can be found in the Old Testament of a prophet claiming to be greater than the prophets before him. Moses did not claim to be greater than Abraham, and Abraham did not claim to be greater than those who would come after him. Any such comparisons were out of the question. Elijah did not claim to be greater than Elisha, his future successor, nor did Elisha claim to be greater than Elijah. Jeremiah did not claim to be the greatest prophet, nor did any other make such a claim. The one figure in all of the Scriptures who did make a claim of this kind was Jesus of Nazareth, and we have an instance of it in our Gospel passage today. The Queen of the South came from Sheba to “listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and now one greater than Solomon is here.” Our Lord says that in His Wisdom he is greater than Solomon. The men of Nineveh “repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.” Our Lord is a far greater prophet than Jonah. Christ is serenely aware that all who went before Him, all the prophets and kings of which Jonah and Solomon were examples, pointed to Him and were transcended by Him. On one occasion our Lord said to His disciples in private that blessed were their eyes to see what they were seeing, and their ears to hear what they were hearing, because many prophets and kings sought to see and hear what they had before them, and it was denied them. It is yet another indication of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, and of his own clear consciousness of this. The Scriptures pointed to the One who was coming, and to what God would do for man by means of His Coming, but in fact the event proved to be a far greater blessing than was promised. The Messiah, greater than any of the prophets or priests or kings before Him, was the Son of God Himself. He was one of us, and yet He was God. He was far more than God’s all-holy Servant. He was God’s own Son, equal to the Father. Despite this, the people were demanding a sign from heaven by way of proof. Our Lord had given many proofs, and John in his Gospel calls them “signs.” He had cured the lepers, healed all kinds of sickness and disease, raised the dead to life, calmed the storms, fed multitudes with a handful of food, cast out intractable demons with a mere word. No prophet or king displayed such constant and effortless power at the service of good. It ought to have been enough, and for this reason our Lord said that “this is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign” (Luke 11: 29-32). All that was really needed was to gaze on Him and on the Holiness of his life, and listen to His Word in faith and obedience. The pagan city of Nineveh looked on Jonah and heard his preaching. They recognized in him a prophet and repented. Far more, then, ought all listen to Jesus of Nazareth and repent. The problem is that we do not want to listen to Jesus, or at least we do not care. We are not interested. We are content to live as if God does not exist - and we do not care if He does. This is the characteristic posture of modern secular man. His reason has been set adrift from religious faith, and the reason for this is perhaps that he does not recognize sin and its odiousness. Christ is not deemed to be needed. Christ is just one of many religious phenomena in history and a matter more of curiosity than of life and death. His uniqueness is dismissed. The pressing need, then, is to resolve to gaze on Jesus of Nazareth with a consciousness of our need. We must ask God to give us a sense of our true condition and place ourselves in the presence of Jesus, contemplating His Person and the blessing of redemption He brings. There was once on television an interview with a fine Catholic mother of a large family. She was a convert from Islam. When asked what led her to the Catholic religion, she said it was the thought of Christ the Redeemer, and the thought of our need for redemption. Islam has no recognition of a need to be redeemed. Every day let us place ourselves in the presence of Jesus Christ, with the conviction that He lives now, risen from the dead and in glory, but present to each of us. He is worthy of our constant contemplation, our constant gaze. Let us resolve to come to know Him as our living Friend and Lord, placing our faith in Him and resolving to follow Him in the ordinary course of our daily life. We must place all our faith in Him, a faith based on a vivid awareness of our need and on an intimate knowledge of the One who answers our need.

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