Monday, November 30, 2009

Prayers for today: By the Sea of Galilee the Lord saw two brothers, Peter and Andrew. He called them: come and follow me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4: 18-19)

Lord in your kindness hear our petitions. You called Andrew the apostle to preach the gospel and guide your Church in faith. May he always be our friend in your presence to help us with his prayers. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

St. Andrew the Apostle

Andrew was St. Peter’s brother, and was called with him. "As [Jesus] was walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is now called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him" (Matthew 4:18-20). John the Evangelist presents Andrew as a disciple of John the Baptist. When Jesus walked by one day, John said, "Behold, the Lamb of God." Andrew and another disciple followed Jesus. "Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day" (John 1:38-39a). Little else is said about Andrew in the Gospels. Before the multiplication of the loaves, it was Andrew who spoke up about the boy who had the barley loaves and fishes (see John 6:8-9). When the Gentiles went to see Jesus, they came to Philip, but Philip then had recourse to Andrew (see John 12:20-22). Legend has it that Andrew preached the Good News in what is now modern Greece and Turkey and was crucified at Patras.
As in the case of all the apostles except Peter and John, the Gospels give us little about the holiness of Andrew. He was an apostle. That is enough. He was called personally by Jesus to proclaim the Good News, to heal with Jesus' power and to share his life and death. Holiness today is no different. It is a gift that includes a call to be concerned about the Kingdom, an outgoing attitude that wants nothing more than to share the riches of Christ with all people.
“...The Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word’” (Acts 6:2-4).

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew (4.18-22)

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men. At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4: 18-22)

The call of Andrew
(Homily by Fr. E.J.Tyler)

Let us place ourselves in the beautiful scene of today's Gospel, the Gospel for the feast of St Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. In Matthew's Gospel, the call of Simon and Andrew is the first specific thing Matthew reports our Lord doing once his public ministry has begun. Christ was baptized by John in the river Jordan in Judea, and during this the Father announced from Heaven his identity as his beloved Son. Then there followed Christ's encounter with Satan in the wilderness, leaving Satan repulsed. On hearing of John the Baptist's imprisonment, Christ returns to Galilee and commences his prophetic ministry. A great light has suddenly appeared among the people calling for repentance, for the Kingdom of God is near. The momentous public ministry has begun. The scene becomes more concrete: Christ is walking now by the Sea of Galilee. Perhaps it is early in the morning with few of the population out and about, and Christ is there on the shore virtually alone, communing with his heavenly Father. Perhaps he has been there at prayer since the very early hours of the morning before dawn. The tide is lapping quietly at the shore. All is quiet and the inland Sea is lovely in its calm with the water stretching ahead. Some fishermen are at their work. Their voices subdued, perhaps they too have been at their work for many hours. The fishermen know who it is who is walking on the shore. In fact, we learn from the Gospel of St John that our Lord had met Simon and Andrew and James and John in Judea following his baptism. That Gospel makes it clear that their allegiance to him had already begun, but back then there was no public ministry in place. Now Christ has launched his mission and here he formally calls them to share in it. He pauses on the shore, looking at the Sea. His eyes — the eyes of God made man who sustains all things! — rove penetratingly from the gentle waves to the birds and sky above, and then to Simon and Andrew who are casting a net into the water. They pause, gazing at him. He calls: Come, share in my mission! They leave all to follow him.

The Gospels agree that Andrew was one of the very first to know Jesus of Nazareth precisely as the Messiah. In the Gospel of St John we are told that Andrew — at John the Baptist's own bidding — left the Baptist and followed Christ who invited him to his temporary dwelling. From that extended visit there was thenceforth no doubt in Andrew's mind: here was the Messiah! It was he who introduced Simon his brother to our Lord. "We have discovered the Messiah," he told his brother. The first thing, then, that we think of on the feast of St Andrew the Apostle is the coming of Jesus Christ into his life. In this sense it is most appropriate that the feast of St Andrew be celebrated during Advent, the season when the coming of the Lord is celebrated. He came among us as man, and in a wonderful way he came into the life of St Andrew. He wishes to come into our lives too — he has come at our baptism, but let us liken that baptismal coming to his first coming into Andrew's life following his own baptism. Here, now, on the shore he comes again into Andrew's life inviting him to share much more fully in his whole life, to follow him more completely, to be one with him in his joys, his mission and in his sufferings. Previous to our Gospel scene today, Andrew knew and loved our Lord, as did his brother Simon. But it had not led to concrete action — indeed, there had been no call from Christ to do so. But now the call has come and Andrew and Simon respond with alacrity and totality. They leave all to be with their master and to share in his mission and in his toils. Andrew would never turn back from this response to the call, though he and his brother had a great deal, a very great deal indeed, to learn from Jesus. Their notion of discipleship had yet to mature and pass through the fire of trial, but they emerged the purer in their commitment to the Master, and went on to a life and finally to a death as true friends of Jesus. Andrew and his brother Simon, together with James and John who were also called in our passage today, all became heroes in their following of Jesus and foundation stones of the Church. Each will be celebrated as great saints till the end of time.

Such is what happened because of the coming of Christ into their lives. Let us think, then, of the power of Christ's coming! If Christ comes into our lives, all will be well no matter what the cost. What, then, do we wish to welcome into our lives? What is our life going to be filled with? Will it be filled with the world, the flesh and the devil — to use the classic categories of Christian discourse, or will it be the person of Jesus Christ? Christ stands on the shore of my life as I proceed with my daily work. He says to me, come! Follow me and share in my mission in the manner appropriate to the vocation and circumstances I have placed you in. Make me the Guest of your soul, the Master of your life, and bring me to others. Fish for men, as do I! My response?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Servant of God John of Monte Corvino (1247-1328)

At a time when the Church was heavily embroiled in nationalistic rivalries within Europe, it was also reaching across Asia to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Mongols. John of Monte Corvino went to China about the same time Marco Polo was returning. John was a soldier, judge and doctor before he became a friar. Prior to going to Tabriz, Persia (present-day Iran), in 1278, he was well known for his preaching and teaching. In 1291 he left Tabriz as a legate of Pope Nicholas IV to the court of Kublai Khan. An Italian merchant, a Dominican friar and John travelled to western India where the Dominican died. When John and the Italian merchant arrived in China in 1294, Kublai Khan had recently died. Nestorian Christians, successors to the dissidents of the fifth-century Council of Ephesus’ teaching on Jesus Christ, had been in China since the seventh century. John converted some of them and also some of the Chinese, including Prince George from Tenduk, northwest of Beijing. Prince George named his son after this holy friar. John established his headquarters in Khanbalik (now Beijing), where he built two churches; his was the first resident Catholic mission in the country. By 1304 he had translated the Psalms and the New Testament into the Tatar language. Responding to two letters from John, Pope Clement V named John Archbishop of Khanbalik in 1307 and consecrated seven friars as bishops of neighbouring dioceses. One of the seven never left Europe. Three others died along the way to China; the remaining three bishops and the friars who accompanied them arrived there in 1308. When John died in 1328, he was mourned by Christians and non-Christians. His tomb quickly became a place of pilgrimage. In 1368, Christianity was banished from China when the Mongols were expelled and the Ming dynasty began. John’s cause has been introduced in Rome.
When John of Monte Corvino went to China, he represented the Church’s desire to preach the gospel to a new culture and to be enriched by it. The travels of Pope John Paul II have demonstrated the universality of the Good News and the urgent need to continue the challenging work of helping the Good News take root in a variety of cultural situations.
In 1975, Pope Paul VI wrote, "The Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the Message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieus which are theirs" (Evangelization in the Modern World, #18).

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (21.25-28, 34-36)

There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.

Temptation to sin
(Homily by Fr. E.J.Tyler)

There is a special aura about childhood. The child is the object of the love and joy of the parents, and it is not hard to see why our Lord held up the child for our imitation. We must become like little children, he said. Of course, our Lord was referring to one aspect of childhood - the child’s docility and dependence on the guidance of his parents. As the child advances in age, he is prepared for the challenges of life. There are great tests ahead of him. He must choose a suitable career, one which hopefully is his calling. Then he must make his way in it with some success. Marriage will probably be his vocation, unless he has a more distinct calling. As he is growing, the parents and those involved in his upbringing hope that what they are providing will lay the foundations for success. In the event, life could bring enormous challenges. He may fall victim to some great tragedy, be it sickness, bereavement, loss of property or work, injustice, loss of reputation, breakdown of marriage, failure in this or that undertaking. These are great unknowns, and the parents must do what they can to prepare their child for life as it may come. Still, they are unknowns. However, there is a future challenge which is absolutely predictable and it will come constantly. It comes to everyone, and it comes daily. It is the most serious of all challenges and everything ultimately hangs in the balance of its outcome. It is the challenge par excellence which every person must be trained for. I am referring to the challenge constituted by the temptation to sin. Every person will be tempted to sin and the eternal future of each person hangs on the upshot. Sadly, especially in a modern secular culture, the temptation to sin is not recognized as objective and important. It is a trivial and private persuasion which is unmentionable in any public sense. Consider what would be the response were “temptation to sin” to be mentioned on a television panel discussing the most serious challenges facing society and culture. There would be an awkward and profound silence, broken perhaps by a joke.

The greatest challenge facing each, be he high or low, is the temptation to sin. This is the challenge of life in a micro sense and it is the challenge in a macro sense. That is to say, it is the principal challenge facing the most ordinary and unrecognized person and it is the challenge facing the nations. Secularism has so pervaded the world that it is almost inconceivable that the word “sin” be mentioned in public - let alone world - discourse. But just as an individual can sin and sin grievously, so can a government, a people, and the world at large. Sin once appeared even in heaven, and heaven broke up as a result. That is to say, a portion of the angelic world was expelled and a new state of life began: Hell, the everlasting death. The temptation to sin was the greatest challenge facing the Angels themselves, and it was the greatest challenge facing man at the beginning. Man failed the challenge, because he gave into its temptation. It has always been the greatest challenge facing man, and it is a daily one. In our Gospel passage today, our Lord describes in plain yet vivid terms the falling away of the world before the coming of Christ to judge. The ultimate event in the life of each individual and in the life of the nations will be the judgment of Christ. He will come to judge at the end - at the end of each life and at the end of history. In view of this, Christ says to us: Be careful, be always on the watch! Do not give in to temptation. Do not sin. If you sin, repent of it. “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke:21: 25-28,34-36). In the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” We ask that he not leave us alone and in the power of temptation, but that he give us vigilance and perseverance.

As we think of our Lord’s words telling us to be careful and to be always on the watch, let us renew our resolve to resist temptation to sin. We must ask the Holy Spirit to help us to discern between trials that bring growth, and temptations to sin that lead to death. Let us ask for the grace to discern between being merely tempted on the one hand, and not consenting to temptation on the other. Let us resolve to understand clearly that the greatest challenge of every day, and the greatest challenge facing all mankind, it that of resisting the temptation to sin. The greatest achievement is that of resisting sin, and the greatest failure is succumbing to temptation. If we do succumb, we must turn to the mercy of God, repent, and resume the grand struggle for him.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Prayers this week: The Lamb who was slain is worthy to receive strength and divinity, wisdom and power and honour: to him be glory and power for ever. (Revelation 5:12; 1:6)

Almighty and merciful God, you break the power of evil and make all things new in your Son Jesus Christ, the King of the universe. May all in heaven and earth acclaim your glory and never cease to praise you. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.

St. James of the Marche (1394-1476)

James was born in the Marche of Ancona, in central Italy along the Adriatic Sea. After earning doctorates in canon and civil law at the University of Perugia, he joined the Friars Minor and began a very austere life. He fasted nine months of the year; he slept three hours a night. St. Bernardine of Siena told him to moderate his penances. James studied theology with St. John of Capistrano. Ordained in 1420, James began a preaching career that took him all over Italy and through 13 Central and Eastern European countries. This extremely popular preacher converted many people (250,000 at one estimate) and helped spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. His sermons prompted numerous Catholics to reform their lives and many men joined the Franciscans under his influence. With John of Capistrano, Albert of Sarteano and Bernardine of Siena, James is considered one of the "four pillars" of the Observant movement among the Franciscans. These friars became known especially for their preaching. To combat extremely high interest rates, James established montes pietatis (literally, mountains of charity) — non profit credit organizations that lent money at very low rates on pawned objects. Not everyone was happy with the work James did. Twice assassins lost their nerve when they came face to face with him. James was canonized in 1726.

"Beloved and most holy word of God! You enlighten the hearts of the faithful, you satisfy the hungry, console the afflicted; you make the souls of all productive of good and cause all virtues to blossom; you snatch souls from the devil’s jaw; you make the wretched holy, and men of earth citizens of heaven" (Sermon of St. James). (

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (21.34-36)

Jesus said to his disciples, Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.

(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

There is an expression, “the Law of the Jungle.” It more or less means that animals prey on other animals, and there is no mercy shown. The serpent strikes when it can, and the rodent is taken. Then the reptile too is attacked and killed by an eagle or some other bird of prey. The same pattern is present in the world of the sea, and in his turn man preys on animals whether they be of the land or the sea. Those that are prey must be constantly on the look-out because they sense they are vulnerable and can be taken by anything that approaches. Thus it is that birds will immediately fly away at the approach of man or animal. There is a pattern of constant hazard for all of life. In the world of man, while human ingenuity is able to build up networks and systems of protection, still, great hazards remain. Without warning an electrical fire breaks out in a home and the elderly resident is killed. Numerous shoppers are going about their business in a large mall, and suddenly there is a vast explosion. A suicide bomber has struck, and numerous people lie dead, and many more are maimed and seriously injured. A war is in progress in Afganistan, and suddenly there is a roadside explosion. The armoured vehicle is smashed to pieces, and despite constant vigilance, four young soldiers in the prime of life have died. Vigilance is required everywhere. A person gets into his car to drive to work. He says his customary prayer for safe driving, but fifteen minutes later a drunken driver smashes into his vehicle and leaves him seriously injured. So it is that we gradually learn — though some do not seem to learn it — that we who exist, need not exist. We can very easily lose the life which has been granted to us. If we are imprudent and lacking vigilance, we can have life snatched from our possession. But there is this to remember. While the loss of life, health or possessions is itself an evil to be guarded against, what follows after that loss is far more awesome. I refer to the judgment of God.

In our Gospel today our Lord instructs his disciples to be “always on the watch.” There is nothing new about this advice in view of the constant vulnerability of all things to serious hazard. What is distinctive is its reference to a hazard of far greater proportions than anything that meets the eye. It is a hazard for the one who, as it were, goes to sleep on the job of being a true disciple of Christ and an obedient child of God. “Jesus said to his disciples, Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21: 34-36). We can be like the young animal that wanders from its den, lacking all vigilance as to the dangers that are imminent. We can be like the young soldier who fails to take constant precautions. Suddenly he is snatched from his company and becomes a hostage, finally being killed by his crazed captors despite a ransom being paid. The danger our Lord is referring is that of falling into sin, of being ensnared by attachments to enjoyment and ease or concern for material prosperity, and losing interest in God and his holy will. Then suddenly, blissfully unconcerned about the essential vulnerability of human life, the unrepentant sinner is called from this life. Indeed, he might suddenly die precisely because of his dissipated and sinful life. He has lost his life, but more awesomely, he now stands before the Son of Man who is his Judge. There is no recourse from the judgment, no second chance, no one to appeal to, no one who can help. All is laid bare and the divine scrutiny is absolute and immediate. It will be plain what the sentence must be. Eternity will yawn before the soul, and how paltry will seem the brief and sinful enjoyments of the moment during life! So, our Lord warns, be always on the watch!

It is an excellent rule of thumb to begin each day remembering that there is no absolute reason why that day may not be the last. There are too many cases constantly occurring of persons whose day was their last, and it was their last unexpectedly. There was no warning, and they had to pass immediately to the judgment of God. In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet’s father has been murdered without warning and his ghost comes back to his son to bemoan his present lot. He had lost his life, all unprepared. So then, let us be constantly loving and serving Christ, and vigilant against all that might lead us away from him.

Friday, November 27, 2009

St. Francesco Antonio Fasani 1681-1742

Born and raised Lucera in southeast Italy, Francis Anthony was a pious and reserved youth who joined the Conventual Franciscans at age 14, in 1695. During the novitiate year he befriended a gregarious novice named Antonio Lucci who told him that "the fastest way to become a saint was through laughter." These two young friars remained friends and witnessed the importance of close fraternal bonds in the sanctification of self and the world. Francis Anthony served the community as a theology and philosophy professor, a novice master, and as a minister provincial. He was also a tireless confessor and minister of compassion among prisoners and those condemned to death. Known as "Padre Maestro" among the people of Lucera, Francis Anthony was especially dedicated to his work among the poor and destitute. Likewise, his friend Antonio was called the "Father of the Poor" when he served as the Franciscan bishop of Bovino. Saint Francis Anthony Fasani died in 1742 and was canonized in 1986. His friend Blessed Antonio Lucci died in 1752 and was beatified in 1989.

During his homily at the canonization of Francesco, Pope John Paul II reflected on John 21:15 in which Jesus asks Peter if he loves Jesus more than the other apostles and then tells Peter, "Feed my lambs." The pope observed that in the final analysis human holiness is decided by love. "He [Francesco] made the love taught us by Christ the fundamental characteristic of his existence, the basic criterion of his thought and activity, the supreme summit of his aspirations" (L'Osservatore Romano, vol. 16, number 3, 1986). (

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (21.29-33)

Jesus told them this parable: Look at the fig-tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

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

One of the great events in the history of the Anglican Church was the rise of the Oxford Movement, beginning formally in 1833. Within a short time John Henry Newman became its leader, and by 1838 he was the foremost intellectual representative of what might be called Catholic Anglicanism. His theory was firm and fearless: Christianity is the religion of the Scriptures and the early Church Fathers, and it is this that Anglicanism at its best looked to and embodied. For many, Newman was an oracle in both his defence of dogmatic religion and in his attack on Liberalism and Rationalism in religion - which was the forerunner of the Modernism of the early twentieth century, and the Relativism of our time. But then, at the height of the Movement, Newman sustained a serious blow. In 1839 Wiseman’s momentous article on St Augustine and the Donatists appeared in the “Dublin Review,” pressing home the parallel between the Donatists and the Anglican Church. It was a blow that turned the tide in Newman’s life. Five years later Newman was moving inexorably towards the Church of Rome, but one thing that deeply concerned him was that his change might lead to latitudinarianism and liberalism in some of his previous disciples. He wrote to John Keble that “a sort of latitudinarianism and liberalism may be the end of those (God forbid it!) whom I am keeping from Rome” (June, 1844). If the great teacher of Anglicanism could on his own admission have been in error all along, how could anyone hope to attain objective religious truth? Was religious truth a mere phantom, an illusion? In the event some did indeed become liberals in religion - such as Mark Pattison (1813-1884). Why do I mention this example of people losing faith because, as they saw it, there was no one whom they could trust as an authority in respect to the truth? It is meant as an illustration. It is yet another reminder of the wonder of Jesus Christ. He is the one person in human history who claimed to have the fullness of truth, who possessed it, and who asked for complete faith in himself. By trusting in him we possess the truth that saves.

In our Gospel today our Lord makes a claim that no prophet had made: “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Luke 21: 29-33). Consider those words, Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. I have referred to Newman. In a lecture given in 1852 (Discourse 8, Idea of a University) he refers to Aristotle as the master philosopher: “He is the oracle of nature and of truth,” Newman writes, so much so that “we men cannot help, to a great extent, being Aristotelians.” Even if we grant that, still, Aristotle would never have claimed that “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” No man of sense would ever make such an audacious assertion - no man, except the Man who is God become man. One man has appeared on the stage of human history who is all that man aspires to know and love, such that eternal life consists in knowing him. As our Lord said in his prayer to his heavenly Father during the Last Supper, “Eternal life is this, to know you, Father, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Jesus Christ is the absolute Rock of certitude for every man and woman of history. The task of each person is to turn to this Rock, and to build the house of life upon it. As our Lord said elsewhere in the Gospel, the sensible man is the one who builds his house on rock so that when the floods, the wind and the rain come, the house will stand. That sensible man is the one who hears the word of God as uttered by Christ his divine Son, and puts it into practice. There is nothing more certain than the person and word of Jesus Christ. Religion is not just a feeling. It involves knowledge of objective reality. The ultimate reality on which everything else depends is God, and God has revealed himself in his incarnate Son. We should resolve to live in him, knowing that in doing this we rest absolutely secure in the truth. This is precisely what Newman strove to do and succeeded so resoundingly in doing.

Let us resolve to base our lives on the person and the truth of Jesus Christ. “For this I came into the world,” he declared to Pontius Pilate, “to bear witness to the truth, and those who are of the truth listen to my voice.” His word will never pass away. Where, then, is Jesus Christ, and where is his word to be heard? Jesus Christ abides in his body the Church which he founded on the Apostle Peter. His word is present in the Church’s teaching, that teaching uttered in his name. We know where to go, and to whom we ought listen. Let us begin, then!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

St. Catherine of Alexandria (c. 310)

According to the Legend of St. Catherine, this young woman converted to Christianity after receiving a vision. At the age of 18, she debated 50 pagan philosophers. Amazed at her wisdom and debating skills, they became Christians—as did about 200 soldiers and members of the emperor’s family. All of them were martyred. Sentenced to be executed on a spiked wheel, Catherine touched the wheel and it shattered. She was beheaded. Centuries later, angels are said to have carried the body of St. Catherine to a monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Devotion to her spread as a result of the Crusades. She was invoked as the patroness of students, teachers, librarians and lawyers. Catherine is one of the 14 Holy Helpers, venerated especially in Germany and Hungary.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke(21.20-28)

Jesus said, When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfilment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

Christ our hope
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

It is generally recognized that many passages of the Gospels consist of “sayings” of our Lord - statements of his that are strung together and situated in certain contexts. The present passage would seem to be an example of this. The context is our Lord speaking in the Temple, in the course of which he gives his prophecy that it will be destroyed. When would this happen? some had asked. Our Lord did not choose to answer the question as to the date, but foretold that the magnificent Temple would be attacked by armies and destroyed. That is to say, it would be a repetition of what had happened in the past. Jerusalem will be “surrounded by armies.” There will be “desolation” and “great distress in the land and wrath against this people.” Inhabitants “will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” In the event, all of this occurred and with a vengeance. Did it have a meaning, or was it just the way things happened to turn out? It was, of course, an historical event, the causes of which could be traced in the processes of history. But it did have a higher meaning. Our Lord says that “this is the time of punishment in fulfilment of all that has been written.” The cataclysm was allowed as a judgment of God on sin, and was part of the fulfilment of prophecy. Now, there is this too. The destruction of Jerusalem some decades after the death and resurrection of Christ was an event not only with meaning in itself, but is a grand lesson that holiness and sin have historical results. Man’s moral life affects the course of history, which lies in the hands of God who is the moral Ruler and Judge of all. One of the points that Pope Benedict made in his Encyclical Letter, Caritas in Veritate, is that the morality of decisions affects the world economy for good or ill as the case may be. We are reminded by our Gospel today that man is not just the lord of the manor. He is subject to moral law, and if that law is disregarded, history will be subject to a judgment.

While the destruction of Jerusalem is a reminder, to anyone of any age, of the presence in history of the divine judgment, it is also an indicator of what will come at the end. So it is that our Lord’s piercing and prophetic vision goes beyond the fall of the city to what we might call the fall of the world. “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” Our Lord tells his listeners that this world will pass away. The world shares in the fallen character of man, and so it bears death within its lungs. Of itself it cannot last forever. Just as the city will suffer its cataclysm, so too will the world. But for those who have striven to be obedient to God, there is a great hope at hand. They may look ahead with confidence, for the world has not been left by God in its own inadequacy and sin. “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:20-28). The city will fall, and the world will come to its end, but there is a great Rock upon which every man and woman may take a secure stand. That Rock is Jesus Christ who suffered and died, and who now abides with us in his body the Church. He is the Beginning and the End, and in living in union with him by faith and baptism we live in an ultimate security. Whatever may happen to us, in the final analysis we shall come to no harm. He is with us now, and he will be “coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” He will come to bring redemption. Our Lord’s words in today’s Gospel passage speak of the presence and results of sin in God’s chosen people and in the entire world. But they also speak of what God has done about this. He has come and, in Jesus his Son, has saved his people from their sins.

Our Lord’s words begin on a profoundly sombre note, and they end with a ringing note of hope. Whatever situation you are in, be faithful to the end! Stay close to me and walk in my footsteps. No matter what life may bring, place your trust in me, and at the end your trust will be vindicated. I shall come, and your redemption will be near at hand. The Christian faith and vision is one of profound optimism, based on a certain fact. That fact is the person of Jesus Christ. On him does everything depend, and in clinging to him we shall be secure and strong, both now and hereafter.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

St. Columban (543?-615)

Columban was the greatest of the Irish missionaries who worked on the European continent. As a young man who was greatly tormented by temptations of the flesh, he sought the advice of a religious woman who had lived a hermit’s life for years. He saw in her answer a call to leave the world. He went first to a monk on an island in Lough Erne, then to the great monastic seat of learning at Bangor. After many years of seclusion and prayer, he travelled to Gaul (modern-day France) with 12 companion missionaries. They won wide respect for the rigor of their discipline, their preaching, and their commitment to charity and religious life in a time characterized by clerical slackness and civil strife. Columban established several monasteries in Europe which became centres of religion and culture. Like all saints, he met opposition. Ultimately he had to appeal to the pope against complaints of Frankish bishops, for vindication of his orthodoxy and approval of Irish customs. He reproved the king for his licentious life, insisting that he marry. Since this threatened the power of the queen mother, Columban was deported to Ireland. His ship ran aground in a storm, and he continued his work in Europe, ultimately arriving in Italy, where he found favour with the king of the Lombards. In his last years he established the famous monastery of Bobbio, where he died. His writings include a treatise on penance and against Arianism, sermons, poetry and his monastic rule.

Writing to the pope about a doctrinal controversy in Lombardy, Columban said: “We Irish, living in the farthest parts of the earth, are followers of St. Peter and St. Paul and of the disciples who wrote down the sacred canon under the Holy Spirit. We accept nothing outside this evangelical and apostolic teaching.... I confess I am grieved by the bad repute of the chair of St. Peter in this country.... Though Rome is great and known afar, she is great and honoured with us only because of this chair.... Look after the peace of the Church, stand between your sheep and the wolves.”

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (21.12-19)

Jesus said, But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life.

Bearing Witness
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

Our Lord has just foretold the destruction of the glory of Israel, its Temple. Not one stone will be left upon another - and within a few decades, so it was. His disciples questioned him more, and his vision of the future broadens beyond the Temple to the world: Luke records that “the end is not so soon” (21:9). History would entail great upsets and disturbances: “nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. Great earthquakes will occur in various places and famines and plagues. There will be fearful sights” (21:10-11). And so it has been - so much so that philosophers have argued that there could not be a God, for there is manifestly no purpose, no order, no design in the world as it is. The world is a mess. On the night of November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall--the symbol of the Cold War division of Europe--came down. It was the culminating point of the revolutionary changes sweeping east central Europe in 1989. The collapse of communism in east central Europe and the Soviet Union marked the end of the Cold War. There was euphoria at the thought of peace - the two Germanys were united. Then suddenly as if out of nowhere - although there was a long background to it - the cyclone of Islamic terrorism appeared on the horizon. It is now a world threat and long-standing democracies are faced with numerous terrorist cells spawning in their own societies. Suicide bombers are being groomed across the globe. The very word “martyrdom” - meaning the ultimate witnesses with one’s life to goodness and truth - is now debased because of horrifying suicides being given that name. This is to say that there is a mysterious pattern in human history which our Lord describes in this chapter of St Luke, a pattern of unending conflict and turbulence. The refrain of Shakespeare’s witches in Macbeth well describes it: “Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn, and caldron bubble.” Yet, as our Lord says, the end is not so soon.

This is the broad context of life for much of mankind. Is there any special word from Christ to the Christian, to his disciple? Yes - he says that there will be special and added difficulties for him. He will be hauled before authorities and persecuted because of faith in Christ his Lord. “Jesus said, But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name” (Luke 21: 12-19). So not only does the world rise up, as it were, and toss man to and fro, but the society of men will make the one who witnesses to the truth of Christ suffer. There is a strange rebellion at the heart of things. St John tells us in the Prologue of his Gospel that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He came unto his own, and his own did not receive him. He who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, was rejected. The pattern our Lord foretells to his own disciples was in the first instance exemplified in him. He was delivered to the leaders of the synagogues and cast into prison. He was brought before the governor, the representative of the Emperor on account of the truth he had revealed. Thus did he himself bear witness to his truth by his suffering and death. So it will be for the disciple of Christ, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on vocation and circumstances. The disciple of Christ can expect difficulties coming from the world because its condition is one of turbulent instability. He can expect difficulties coming from society because to one degree or another, in one sense or another, society is not disposed to accept testimony to Jesus Christ. Consider the vituperation Cardinal George Pell attracted from politicians in mid 2007. He had repeatedly insisted that no Catholic politician should vote for an expansion of embryonic stem cell research because of the destruction of the embryo that this entails. Again, consider the storm that erupted when Pope Benedict declared during a flight to Africa in 2009 that condoms were not the answer to AIDS.

There are many Christian positions which will attract persecution. But what does our Lord say of this persecution? He tells his disciples that this persecution constitutes an opportunity. It will be the opportunity to bear witness, and help will come from on high when the time comes. “This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” Let us resolve to use the little occasions of every ordinary day to follow in the footsteps of the Master, bearing witness to him and his truth in whatever way is appropriate and possible.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, priest and martyr, and his companions, martyrs

St. Andrew was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. Now all have been canonized by Pope John Paul II. Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (21.5-11)

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down. Teacher, they asked, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place? He replied: Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and 'The time is near.' Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away. Then he said to them: Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

The Lesson of the Temple
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

It is difficult for the modern reader to appreciate the magnificence of the Temple building Herod constructed, nor to appreciate the central place that the Temple occupied in the ethos of the Jewish nation. It had been a long and tremendous project, and together with his rebuilding of parts of Jerusalem (following the attack of 37 BC) it earned for Herod the title of the Great. Our scene of today’s Gospel has Christ teaching in the Temple as its Master, with his Passion soon to begin. He has cleansed its precincts of non-religious activities and has insisted on religious decorum. The leaders of the people are helpless before his assertion of authority because of the support of the people for their great prophet. Soon, as an act of supreme witness, Jesus would deliver himself into the hands of his enemies. So with the magnificent Temple all around them, some remarked to our Lord on the beauty of the stonework and the gifts there that were dedicated to God. It was a sight that moved the human spirit and lifted it in praise of God. Christ himself loved the Temple - as just mentioned, he had very recently caused a sensation by single-handedly putting an end to the busy commerce going on there. The Temple was the House of his Father, and he insisted it be treated as a place of prayer. But our Lord replied to those about him that the massive and awesome Temple would in time be nothing but rubble: “the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down” (Luke 21: 5-11). It was a statement that harkened back to those of the great prophets who had foretold the destruction of Jerusalem. It would have immediately reminded our Lord’s listeners of the great destruction of Jerusalem centuries before, which represented God’s judgment on his people. Our Lord was alluding to the judgment of God on his people’s sins. Well now, rather than lingering on the details of our Lord’s description of coming troubles both soon and distant, let us consider the essential point. The essential point was that all this magnificence would go because of sin.

St Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans that death entered the world through one man’s sin, and then spread to the whole human race. Death and all that is associated with death is ultimately the upshot of sin. The sin of man is, in the final analysis, the rejection of God and his will. This rejection of God destroys the linchpin of created reality, and, with the commission of sin, life unravels. The Scriptures portray this pattern, and the consequences of sin are seen in Scripture in certain iconic events - such as the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Our Lord is pointing to a tremendous destruction that is coming, which would also be due to sin and infidelity. Just before he entered the city, he referred to the coming destruction and wept over what he saw would happen (19:41-44). The cause was his own rejection. We ought take the historical fact of the destruction of the Temple and the City some decades later as a sign of the seriousness of the call to accept the person of Christ. Just before he ascended into heaven, he charged his disciples to go to the whole world and make disciples of all the nations. Those who believe would be saved, those who refused to believe would be condemned. The point is that the issues are ultimately clear-cut and stark, as are the consequences of our decision. They apply to each individual, and they apply to the world. There will be a particular judgment for each individual, and there will be a general judgment for the whole world. All the good things that we see will fall away before the ultimate issue, which is the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord. Let us take our stand with him, then! He is our true rock of security. Our days may be filled with ordinary things, they may even seem secure, but all that matters is the full-hearted acceptance of Christ and his will, lived out in the daily life which the providence of God has made our own. A life which is one of spectacle alone - symbolized, perhaps, by the beautiful Temple our Lord remarks upon - will not stand. All that will stand is a life built on the rock of Christ and his word.

There is one sense in which we must be living constantly in the present. It is no good at all to be caught up in constant bitter memories or daydreams of the future. The one real thing is the present and we ought be trying constantly to make the best of it. We ought live in the present moment. At the same time, we must live in the present with the revealed future before us. Our Lord has revealed the future, and it consists of the divine judgment. Let us bear in mind the lesson of the Temple of Jerusalem so as to gain life everlasting.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Blessed Miguel Agustín Pro (1891-1927)

¡Viva Cristo Rey! (Long live Christ the King) were the last words Father Pro uttered before he was executed for being a Catholic priest and serving his flock. Born into a prosperous, devout family in Guadalupe de Zacatecas, he entered the Jesuits in 1911 but three years later fled to Granada, Spain, because of religious persecution in Mexico. He was ordained in Belgium in 1925. He immediately returned to Mexico, where he served a Church forced to go “underground.” He celebrated the Eucharist clandestinely and ministered the other sacraments to small groups of Catholics. He and his brother Roberto were arrested on trumped-up charges of attempting to assassinate Mexico’s president. Roberto was spared but Miguel was sentenced to face a firing squad on November 23, 1927. His funeral became a public demonstration of faith. He was beatified in 1988. In 1927 when Father Miguel Pro was executed, no one could have predicted that 52 years later the bishop of Rome would visit Mexico, be welcomed by its president and celebrate open-air Masses before thousands of people. Pope John Paul II made additional trips to Mexico in 1990, 1993 and 1999. Those who outlawed the Catholic Church in Mexico did not count on the deeply rooted faith of its people and the willingness of many of them, like Miguel Pro, to die as martyrs.

During his homily at the beatification Mass, Pope John Paul II said that Father Pro “is a new glory for the beloved Mexican nation, as well as for the Society of Jesus. His life of sacrificing and intrepid apostolate was always inspired by a tireless evangelizing effort. Neither suffering nor serious illness, neither the exhausting ministerial activity, frequently carried out in difficult and dangerous circumstances, could stifle the radiating and contagious joy which he brought to his life for Christ and which nothing could take away (see John 16:22). Indeed, the deepest root of self-sacrificing surrender for the lowly was his passionate love for Jesus Christ and his ardent desire to be conformed to him, even unto death.”

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke(21.1-4)

As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. I tell you the truth, he said, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.

Giving all
(Homily by. Fr. E.J. Tyler)

The scene of our Gospel passage (Luke 21: 1-4) is the Temple of Jerusalem, and our Lord has arrived in Jerusalem, cleansed the Temple of its commercial traffic, and imposed a regime of prayer and teaching in its precincts. The hostility of the chief priests, the scribes and other prominent persons is intense (19:47; 20:19), but they are helpless before the admiration of the people for Jesus. While our Lord continues to teach in the Temple, the bulk of the chapter prior to our passage today is given over to the attempts by the chief priests, the scribes as well as the Sadducees to confront him or trap him in his teaching. He sovereignly confutes them all, leaving some in admiration (20:39) and others conclusively cowed in debate before him (20:40). Despite this, the hostility of the leaders remains implacable. In our Gospel passage today our Lord is there, Master of the Temple and Teacher of the truth of God. He “looks up,” and observes the rich as they cast their gifts into the treasury. His eye catches “a certain poor widow” who dropped in two small coins. Now, the word for “poor” here (Greek: penichran) signifies one for whom life is a struggle (21:2). But we notice that when our Lord draws the attention of his disciples to this widow (21:3), he himself describes her poverty by means of a more drastic word - she is ptoke, one who is in abject poverty, a virtual beggar, one in danger of starvation. The two small coins she gave to the treasury were two lepta. The lepton was the smallest Jewish bronze coin. F. W. Madden in his History of Jewish Coinage (Reprint 1967, p.296-302) tells us that it was worth about one eighth of a cent of his day. It must have been something like the old farthing - or, I suppose, less than the modern single cent. In any case, it had scarcely any value. Presumably St Luke was drawing on the Gospel of St Mark (12: 41-44) for this incident, and Mark’s Gospel is recognized as being the account of St Peter. So we may take it that the eye-witness source for our event here is Simon Peter who may have been next to our Lord as he pointed to the widow and spoke of her.

Now, in drawing attention to her, our Lord was not just speaking of generosity in the matter of giving to the Temple treasury. He was speaking of generosity: the remarkable generosity to God of one who had virtually nothing. It is to be remembered that while the rich person can be profoundly attached to his wealth, the poor person can also be profoundly attached to the little he has. He can be found clinging on to it for dear life. But this destitute widow was not attached to anything. She was attached only to God, and she wanted to give to God all she had. She was a widow, and possibly bereft of relatives and support. She had her two small coins, and anyone would have expected her to carefully husband any small means that came her way. But no - she, elderly and without support, gave it to God and trusted in him alone. It was yet another example of the holiness that was indeed to be found in the chosen people of God - and the Gospels give us other examples of this holiness. Holiness of a kind was seen even outside the chosen people. Our Lord said, in astonishment, that he had not seen in Israel the faith that he encountered in the centurion who had asked him to cure his servant. Here, though, our Lord holds aloft before his disciples the magnificence of the poor widow. Simon Peter took careful note of it, related the event in his preaching, and perhaps directed that it be included in Mark’s Gospel. This gift of all that we are and all we have is the ideal for every disciple of Christ. Our Lord said on one occasion that no one could be his disciple unless he gives up all his possessions. He meant that his disciples must be like the poor widow, and give all to God. We must devote all our mind, heart, soul and strength to Jesus. It means doing our very best in the fulfilment of God’s will every day. There is a particular application of this which comes to mind as we think of the context of this event. The context, as we saw, was Christ’s conflict with the leaders due to his bearing witness to the truth of God. For our part, we are called to give our best in bearing witness to the truth of Christ. This we do in our homes, at our work, among our friends and associates.

Let us resolve to love Jesus Christ and to do our best for him. It is often said that love is not just a feeling - in fact feelings can be largely absent. I remember one person who, for five years, went to visit his mother in hospital. She never knew him, because her mind had gone. Love is not a feeling, it is a decision. Let us make the decision to love Jesus, and to show our love by giving him all we have and all we are. Let us take to heart the example of the poor widow, for Christ himself has held her up to his disciples, and through them to the whole Church.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

St. Cecilia (3rd century)

Although Cecilia is one of the most famous of the Roman martyrs, the familiar stories about her are apparently not founded on authentic material. There is no trace of honour being paid her in early times. A fragmentary inscription of the late fourth century refers to a church named after her, and her feast was celebrated at least in 545. According to legend, Cecilia was a young Christian of high rank betrothed to a Roman named Valerian. Through her influence Valerian was converted, and was martyred along with his brother. The legend about Cecilia’s death says that after being struck three times on the neck with a sword, she lived for three days, and asked the pope to convert her home into a church. Since the time of the Renaissance she has usually been portrayed with a viola or a small organ.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (18.33-37)

Pilate asked Jesus, Are you the king of the Jews? Is that your own idea, Jesus asked, or did others talk to you about me? Am I a Jew? Pilate replied. It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done? Jesus said, My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place. You are a king, then! said Pilate. Jesus answered, It is you who say it. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.)

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

It is possible, for considerable periods of one’s life, to be living on the surface of things. Life can be made to consist in the pursuit of this or that interest or distraction, based on mere personal preference. In this case, life is lived and developed on the basis of what happens to attract. Those attractions can be massive and lead to enormous activity, but in the final analysis their basis can be mere preference. But if a person reflects more profoundly, it ought become clear to him that if he is to be truly and fully himself, he must not spend his life simply acting on personal preference. At the heart of being the person he discovers himself to be, is the call of duty. It is not mere preference but duty which - if he has developed an inner sensitivity to it - touches and beckons his deepest self. He senses that the path of duty is the way to his truest happiness and the flourishing of his best self. Very many ignore the call of duty and choose the path of preference, but they do so to their ultimate cost. Duty is at the heart of authentic human experience, and a man’s sense of duty constitutes a moment of choice in his road ahead. What will it be? Duty will be hard and narrow, but it will lead to abundant life. Mere preference will be broad and perhaps exciting, but its end will be an arid desert. Now, if a person stands and contemplates the duty which sweetly and sternly summons him, he notices that in fact it is the summons of truth. It is what is true that constitutes the duty of every life. Every person is called to sincerity and truthfulness in acting and speaking. Everyone has the duty to seek the truth, to adhere to it and to order his life in accordance with its demands. He finds that if he tries always to be true and faithful to the truth as it seems to him, then he flourishes in his being. If he abandons the demands of truth and acts merely on personal preference irrespective of what the truth of the situation may be, then he gradually crumbles as a person. But as Pilate asked the Man before him, What is truth? Where is it? Is it just a phantom?

There are elements of the truth everywhere, and massive attempts have been made by seekers of the truth to attain it. Many have, to a greater or lesser extent, been successful, and mankind has benefited accordingly. But what of the whole of truth, and in particular the source and the heart of truth? Of course, no one can attain all possible elements of the truth as represented by, say, the libraries and wise men of the world. But is there some way of being in intimate union with the heart, soul and source of all truth, and then of surrendering oneself to the duty of loving and serving it? This would obviously bring the greatest possible flourishing to the human spirit and the perfection of his being - because man knows he is made for duty, duty to the truth. The good news of the Gospel is that in Jesus Christ the whole of God’s truth has been made manifest. He is “the Truth.” Christ formally stated that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. In him the fullness of the godhead abides bodily. To know him is to know the Truth. All that is true, be it visible or invisible, has its source in him. All of duty is, then, founded in his person, for all of duty is founded in the Source of truth and being. To discover the person of Jesus Christ is to have found the Source of all that we are called to do and be. Any person who is of the truth and who accepts the fundamental duty to live according to it, and not according to mere preference, comes to him. Thus it is that our Lord responds to Pilate with the simple yet profoundly significant words: “for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18: 33b-37). The fundamental vocation of every person is to hear the word of Christ, to perceive it as the truth, to live according to it, and to bear witness to it before men. The Christian is called to bear witness to Christ as the Truth in every field of his activity, both public and private, and also, if necessary, with the sacrifice of his life. Martyrdom is the supreme act of witness to the truth, and is the greatest fulfilment of duty. In this, Christ is our exemplar.

Let us in our hearts place ourselves before the person of Jesus Christ as he utters the words spoken to Pilate. What is truth? Supremely and fundamentally, truth is that which comes from God - and God, God the Son, is Jesus Christ. I am the truth, he says, and I bear witness to the truth - that truth which is me and my teaching. All violations of the truth, such as lying, slander, flattery, whatever it may be, strike at the person and law of Jesus Christ. Because he is the Truth, he is also our Way and our Life. Let us then resolve to place him at the centre of our life and to hear our duty as it is expressed in his word. This will be the source of our unending happiness.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mary’s presentation was celebrated in Jerusalem in the sixth century. A church was built there in honour of this mystery. The Eastern Church was more interested in the feast, but it does appear in the West in the 11th century. Although the feast at times disappeared from the calendar, in the 16th century it became a feast of the universal Church. As with Mary’s birth, we read of Mary’s presentation in the temple only in apocryphal literature. In what is recognized as an unhistorical account, the Protoevangelium of James tells us that Anna and Joachim offered Mary to God in the Temple when she was three years old. This was to carry out a promise made to God when Anna was still childless. Though it cannot be proven historically, Mary’s presentation has an important theological purpose. It continues the impact of the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and of the birth of Mary. It emphasizes that the holiness conferred on Mary from the beginning of her life on earth continued through her early childhood and beyond.
"Hail, holy throne of God, divine sanctuary, house of glory, jewel most fair, chosen treasure house, and mercy seat for the whole world, heaven showing forth the glory of God. Purest Virgin, worthy of all praise, sanctuary dedicated to God and raised above all human condition, virgin soil, unploughed field, flourishing vine, fountain pouring out waters, virgin bearing a child, mother without knowing man, hidden treasure of innocence, ornament of sanctity, by your most acceptable prayers, strong with the authority of motherhood, to our Lord and God, Creator of all, your Son who was born of you without a father, steer the ship of the Church and bring it to a quiet harbour" (adapted from a homily by St. Germanus on the Presentation of the Mother of God).

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (20.27-40)

Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. Teacher, they said, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her? Jesus replied, The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord 'the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive. Some of the teachers of the law responded, Well said, teacher! And no-one dared to ask him any more questions.

(Homily br Fr. E.J. Tyler)

Josephus informs us in his work, The Jewish War (recounting the Jewish revolt against Rome, 66-70 AD), that there were “three philosophical sects among the Jews. The followers of the first of which are the Pharisees; of the second, the Sadducees; and the third sect, which pretends to a severer discipline, are called Essenes.” He tells us that the Sadducees did not allow “the belief of the immortal duration of the soul, and the punishments and rewards in Hades.” This is corroborated Matthew 22:23 and its parallel passage in our Gospel today from Luke 20:27-40. It is mentioned again by Luke in his Acts of the Apostles 23:8, when St Paul exploits the division between the Pharisees and Sadducees on this point to extricate himself from accusations of the Jews. The fact is that the beliefs of mankind on the Afterlife display a bewildering variety. Zoroastrianism had a judgment after death followed by reward or punishment. Ancient Egyptian religion is impressive in its insistence on an ethically based judgment after death, and there are some who regard the Egyptians as having pioneered the notion of an afterlife judgment. In traditional Australian Aboriginal religion it seems that at death the true soul returns to the eternal Dreaming, where in some sense it resided prior to birth. The list of beliefs that have marked man’s idea of the Afterlife goes on, but what is clear is that while generally man looks forward to an Afterlife in some sense, its nature is clouded in obscurity. The Sadducees of our Gospel today (Luke 20: 27-40) emphasised the first five books of the Bible (as being, presumably, the primitive revelation), and, like the ancient Hebrews, emphasized the present. God's rewards and punishments were given now in this life. Now, modern secular man typically goes an important step further. Nature is all there is. There is no Supernatural. His philosophy is Naturalism. Rewards and punishments, then, can occur only in this life. Let us regard the confrontation between Christ and the Sadducees as, in a sense, involving modern man. Modern man has an ingrained assumption that makes it difficult to him to take seriously any talk of a resurrection.

Our Lord is clear and adamant. There is a resurrection from the dead. There will be a judgment on each and every person following his death. For those “considered worthy” of the age to come and of the rising to life with God, the glory of heaven will not be simply a continuation of this life, for they will no longer die. And so there will be no more marriage and married life as such, but in that respect all will be like the angels, for death will have gone forever. It is worth pondering the thought that the glory of heaven will be free of all that pertains to death. There will be nothing that hints of the breakdown or reduction of life. Christ said that he came to bring life, life in abundance, and this gift of life will reach its zenith in the presence of God in heaven. Our Lord points out to the Sadducees that it was alluded to by Yahweh God himself in his meeting with Moses from the Burning Bush, when he described himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This was from one of the five books they accepted. God was referring to living persons, for he was not a God of lifeless remains. It meant that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were alive when God spoke to Moses, although the fullness of their life in God would come with the sacrifice of Christ. What this means is that we ought think often and deeply of what our Lord has revealed of the resurrection from the dead. An eternity of bliss awaits the one who is faithful to God. The bliss will be total and it will be unceasing. This is because it will involve the direct sight of God and unimaginable union with him. The one in heaven will be enfolded in a divine embrace that will immerse him in the infinite love of God. The smile of God will never fade and an eternity of joy will be ahead. Never will there be a tear to dampen the happiness of every soul who has been taken to glory. Moreover, the day will arrive when each soul will be reunited to the body and thus will happiness be complete. The resurrection is a tremendous thought. It ought be at the forefront of our lives till the end. What a tragedy not to be judged worthy of it! The thought of the resurrection from the dead ought impel us to believe in Christ and to share in his saving mission.

Christ often urges us to pray with faith. Ask, and you will receive, he says. What better thing to ask for than that we be saved, and that those for whom we have some responsibility be saved too? Is not this the greatest favour to be asked for, and would it not be the greatest catastrophe to lose it? We ought pray to Christ and to those who are now in heaven that we may join them there. Let us pray to Mary the mother of Christ too, that she will pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Friday, November 20, 2009

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne (1769-1852)

Born in Grenoble, France, of a family that was among the new rich, Philippine learned political skills from her father and a love of the poor from her mother. The dominant feature of her temperament was a strong and dauntless will, which became the material—and the battlefield—of her holiness. She entered the convent at 19 and remained despite their opposition. As the French Revolution broke, the convent was closed, and she began taking care of the poor and sick, opened a school for street urchins and risked her life helping priests in the underground. When the situation cooled, she personally rented her old convent, now a shambles, and tried to revive its religious life. The spirit was gone, and soon there were only four nuns left. They joined the infant Society of the Sacred Heart, whose young superior, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, would be her lifelong friend. In a short time Philippine was a superior and supervisor of the novitiate and a school. But her ambition, since hearing tales of missionary work in Louisiana as a little girl, was to go to America and work among the Indians. At 49, she thought this would be her work. With four nuns, she spent 11 weeks at sea en route to New Orleans, and seven weeks more on the Mississippi to St. Louis. She then met one of the many disappointments of her life. The bishop had no place for them to live and work among Native Americans. Instead, he sent her to what she sadly called "the remotest village in the U.S.," St. Charles, Missouri. With characteristic drive and courage, she founded the first free school for girls west of the Mississippi. It was a mistake. Though she was as hardy as any of the pioneer women in the wagons rolling west, cold and hunger drove them out—to Florissant, Missouri, where she founded the first Catholic Indian school, adding others in the territory. "In her first decade in America, Mother Duchesne suffered practically every hardship the frontier had to offer, except the threat of Indian massacre—poor lodging, shortages of food, drinking water, fuel and money, forest fires and blazing chimneys, the vagaries of the Missouri climate, cramped living quarters and the privation of all privacy, and the crude manners of children reared in rough surroundings and with only the slightest training in courtesy" (Louise Callan, R.S.C.J., Philippine Duchesne). Finally, at 72, in poor health and retired, she got her lifelong wish. A mission was founded at Sugar Creek, Kansas, among the Potawatomi. She was taken along. Though she could not learn their language, they soon named her "Woman-Who-Prays-Always." While others taught, she prayed. Legend has it that Native American children sneaked behind her as she knelt and sprinkled bits of paper on her habit, and came back hours later to find them undisturbed. She died in 1852 at the age of 83.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (19.45-48)

Then Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. It is written, he said to them, 'My house will be a house of prayer'; but you have made it 'a den of robbers'. Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

Christ our Priest
(Homily br Fr. E.J. Tyler)

Our brief Gospel scene today depicts an event of high drama. Christ had arrived in the city. His journey to Jerusalem is one of the structural planks of St Luke’s Gospel. On his journey to the city much teaching was given, and the arrival is a climax of the Gospel. In the city Christ would offer the great sacrifice of his life which would redeem the world. It is to be noted that Christ never in this Gospel calls himself a priest because, obviously, such a statement would place him within the ranks of the Jewish priesthood. His high priesthood was new and the sacrifice of his life for the sins of the people and all mankind would be the supreme act of his priesthood. So then, Christ has entered the city riding the colt as the prophet had foretold. He enters, acclaimed as prophet and Messiah-king who comes in the name of the Lord. But, unknown to the people, he was also entering the holy city as priest, mankind’s high priest about to offer sacrifice. What does he do? He immediately enters the Temple and shows that he is Master of the Temple, filled with zeal for the worship of God. We read that “Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. It is written, he said to them, 'My house will be a house of prayer'; but you have made it 'a den of robbers'.” Who were the masters of the Temple? They were the priests, and here our Lord is taking charge of the Temple - he physically expels all commercial activity. Nothing but worship, teaching and prayer is allowed. Then he himself sets up, teaching the word of God every day. All this is under the very nose of the chief priests and the scribes and the chief men of the people. He acts with an authority he has not obtained from anyone - it is authority he possesses from God. It is a signal, to be understood in the future, that here was the true high priest ordained by God, and his offering of sacrifice was imminent. In the Gospel of St John, this symbolic action occurs at the outset of our Lord’s ministry (2:14), and in that scene our Lord is even more explicit: he states that his own body is the Temple. Our Lord is filled with the awareness that he is mankind’s priest and victim.

It would be an interesting thing to analyse the popular image of Jesus of Nazareth. I suspect it is that of a great prophet. When our Lord asked his disciples who men said he was, he was told that they thought of him as a great prophet: John the Baptist come back, or one of the great prophets back with them again. I think that generally mankind would still imagine him as a great prophet and teacher of religion. Our Lord then asked his disciples who they themselves thought he was. Peter spoke up: he was the Messiah, and indeed the Son of the Living God. It was a splendid avowal, a remarkable perception that actually came from God. God the Father had revealed to Simon the true identity of Jesus of Nazareth, and our Lord immediately went on to appoint Simon to be the Rock on which he would build his Church. But there was a further dimension to our Lord’s identity and mission which had not yet been explicitly acknowledged, but which our Lord then alludes to. The Son of Man, he told them, must suffer greatly and be rejected and put to death. Having no idea as yet of Christ being priest and victim, Simon Peter reacted strongly at such a thought. He was severely rebuked by our Lord and accused of being a Satan - showing just how central to his identity and mission his sacrifice was. He had come to offer a great sacrifice, the sacrifice of his life. That is to say - though our Lord did not put it in these terms - he had come as high priest and victim. He was Prophet, King and, notably, Priest. The priesthood of Christ was fundamental to his identity and mission. In our Gospel today (Luke 19: 45-48), our Lord takes command of the Temple and sets up there. He is acting as the Priest of God who has responsibility for mankind’s worship of the Father. Soon he would offer the perfect sacrifice which would reconcile man to God and take away the sin of the world. He would act as supreme Pontiff, bringing man’s gifts to God and God’s gifts to man. Though the leaders could not touch him because of the people, our Lord as priest-victim would place himself in their hands.

Let us pray for the grace to appreciate the priesthood of Jesus Christ. This priesthood he shares with all those who are baptized into him. All the baptized faithful posses what the Church calls the common priesthood, while the ordained, by the singular grace of ordination, share in the ministerial priesthood. The two are different in kind and not merely in degree, but each is just a share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. He is our one and only high priest, and by his sacrifice the world was redeemed. Let us take our stand with him, then!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

St. Agnes of Assisi 1197-1253

Agnes was the sister of St. Clare and her first follower. When Agnes left home two weeks after Clare’s departure, their family attempted to bring Agnes back by force. They tried to drag her out of the monastery, but all of a sudden her body became so heavy that several knights could not budge it. Her uncle Monaldo tried to strike her but was temporarily paralyzed. The knights then left Agnes and Clare in peace. Agnes matched her sister in devotion to prayer and in willingness to endure the strict penances which characterized their lives at San Damiano. In 1221 a group of Benedictine nuns in Monticelli (near Florence) asked to become Poor Clares. St. Clare sent Agnes to become abbess of that monastery. Agnes soon wrote a rather sad letter about how much she missed Clare and the other nuns at San Damiano. After establishing other Poor Clare monasteries in northern Italy, Agnes was recalled to San Damiano in 1253 when Clare was dying. Agnes followed Clare in death three months later. Agnes was canonized in 1753.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (19.41-44)

As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace— but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognise the time of God's coming to you.

The Heart of Christ
(Homily by Fr. E.J.Tyler)

Consider the mythical gods of Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman and, say, Nordic religions. Religious myth is an important part of the life of man, and its meaning is the object of unending research. Consider the mythical figure of Baiame (or Daramulan) of the traditional Aboriginal religion of South East Australia, as reported by Howitt in the nineteenth century. Baiame is impressive. But of course, philosophy at its best - for example, the thought of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the best systems that built on their foundations - attained far more to the truth of God than did religious myth. St Augustine considered Christianity as the successor, not of the religions of the ancient world, but of its philosophy. But for all its achievements, philosophy, of itself, also has serious limitations - especially, say, in envisaging God as a living person. Consider the conclusion of philosophy that the ultimate Foundation of this ever-changing world is pure Act, a simple actuality that excludes all potential. This provides an ultimate Principle accounting for a transient and changing world, but how is man to imagine or even conceive of this Principle as a living Person, with whom he can enter into some form of communion? Of course, this could be discussed in philosophical fashion at great length. My point here is that man longs for communion, and for all his best efforts, he could not apprehend God adequately as a living Person without the decisive help of God himself. Somehow he needs to encounter God, and not just reason to him. Enter the living God on this difficult scene. He takes his place on the very stage of human history, and does so as a concrete, living man. He can be heard, seen and touched. He can be imagined. This is the living God of all creation, pure Being, and the abiding Cause of all limited being. He takes on a shape, and he has a face. He can be approached with the utmost ease and befriended, and he means to befriend man. He appears as every bit a man, indeed he is fully and completely human in a way we are not - in the sense that there is no sin to spoil and warp his humanity. Just as he is utterly divine, so he is utterly human. In our Gospel today, he beholds the city of his love and considers its moral and spiritual state. Contemplating it, he breaks down in tears.

It is well to consider the implications of our scene in which the Son of God weeps. It is now no longer difficult for man to apprehend the living God as a real person. We are speaking here of a man whose spirit has depths beyond our imagining. The power, the resources and the life of the heart of Jesus Christ far exceed anything of our experience. In his spirit, Jesus Christ had strength and love that towered beyond compare. Here we see the sensitivity and feeling that marked this unique man of the ages. He beholds Jerusalem which he is soon to enter, and he weeps over its sin and hardness of heart. If Christ wept over Jerusalem, how he must have wept over Judas, a disciple of his special choice! We read that on an earlier occasion Christ was in confrontation with the leaders of the Jews, this time over his imminent action of healing on the Sabbath. Christ asked them to answer his question. They refused, because they knew they would be forthwith defeated in debate. They would not engage, so as not to be exposed to the light of his words. We read that Christ looked around on them in anger, and proceeded to cure the person on the Sabbath. Christ, full of holy love, was angry. We have here a living Person, one who was truly human, and one who has made it easy to imagine God as a living person. At the time of our Gospel scene today, which is to say just before his final entry into Jerusalem - but reported in a different Gospel - Christ goes to the tomb of Lazarus his friend. We read that before he raised him from the tomb, he wept. This is the living God who invites us to be his friend. Let us often think of Christ in tears over fallen, wayward, stubborn, sinful man. Christ weeps for each one of us, and with his tears rolling down his strong face he calls us to him. He said of Jerusalem that he had wished to gather its children to him as a hen gathers its chicks under its wings, but they refused. What we are speaking of here is the living heart of God. Jesus Christ reveals to us that God has a heart. He is not just the Principle behind all things, but the Person we have been made to relate to.

Let us place ourselves in the Gospel scene of today (Luke 19: 41-44), and near to Jesus Christ as he beholds the city of his love. That city had been the love of God’s heart for centuries - and his Temple, his abode among his chosen people, was there. Jesus Christ gazes on the city and he weeps. He has a great heart and that same heart loves you and me. Let us be devoted to the heart of Christ and let us, by the power of grace, strive to model our hearts on his. Learn from me, he said, for I am gentle and humble of heart. That is what grace can do - it can transform us into his likeness.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dedication of St. Peter and St. Paul

St. Peter’s Basilica is probably the most famous church in Christendom. Massive in scale and a veritable museum of art and architecture, it began on a much humbler scale. Vatican Hill was a simple cemetery where believers gathered at St. Peter’s tomb to pray. In 319 Constantine built on the site a basilica that stood for more than a thousand years until, despite numerous restorations, it threatened to collapse. In 1506 Pope Julius II ordered it razed and reconstructed, but the new basilica was not completed and dedicated for more than two centuries. St. Paul’s Outside the Walls stands near the Abaazia delle Tre Fontane, where St. Paul is believed to have been beheaded. The largest church in Rome until St. Peter’s was rebuilt, the basilica also rises over the traditional site of its namesake’s grave. The most recent edifice was constructed after a fire in 1823. The first basilica was also Constantine’s doing. Constantine’s building projects enticed the first of a centuries-long parade of pilgrims to Rome. From the time the basilicas were first built until the empire crumbled under “barbarian” invasions, the two churches, although miles apart, were linked by a roofed colonnade of marble columns.

“It is extraordinarily interesting that Roman pilgrimage began at an…early time. Pilgrims did not wait for the Peace of the Church [Constantine’s edict of toleration] before they visited the tombs of the Apostles. They went to Rome a century before there were any public churches and when the Church was confined to the tituli [private homes] and the catacombs. The two great pilgrimage sites were exactly as today—the tombs, or memorials, of St. Peter upon the Vatican Hill and the tomb of St. Paul off the Ostian Way” (H.V. Morton, This Is Rome).

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (19.11-28)

While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: A man of noble birth went to a distant country to receive for himself a kingdom and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.' But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, 'We don't want this man to be our king.' He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.' 'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.' The second came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned five more.' His master answered, 'You take charge of five cities.' Then another servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.' His master replied, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?' Then he said to those standing by, 'Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.' 'Sir,' they said, 'he already has ten!' He replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be a king over them— bring them here and kill them in front of me.' After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

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

It is well recognized that in structuring his Gospel, Luke brought out the climactic character of the Passion and Death of Christ. Our Lord’s final journey up to Jerusalem is given special emphasis, and important teachings are placed in the course of that journey - as he approaches Jericho, as he leaves Jericho, and so on, as the case may be. In our Gospel passage today “he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” It seems that there was something about our Lord’s manner and teaching that suggested that “the kingdom of God” was imminent. They had formed the impression that the kingdom of God was about to appear - that is, immediately. As Jerusalem was approached, there was mounting expectation. A little later in the chapter, our Lord approaches the city seated on a colt and is acclaimed of his disciples. They welcome him as the King who had been promised. All this is to say that our Lord had connected his entry into Jerusalem and what would then follow, with the coming of the Kingdom. That general point had been conveyed, even though its detail had been - as usual - misinterpreted. This does remind us of the central role of the Passion and Death of the Lord in the coming of the Kingdom. By means of it, Jesus would, to use the imagery he employs in his parable, go away and be appointed King. Then he would return. That return would occur in multiple senses. He would return at his Resurrection. He would return in his gift of the Holy Spirit to his Church at Pentecost, to remain with the Church in the power of the Spirit to the end. Finally, he would return on the clouds of heaven at his final coming to judge the living and the dead. But the climax of his life and the beginning of the Kingdom would be achieved by his Passion and Death. It was necessary that he suffer in order to enter his glory as King of kings and Lord of lords. The people had not appreciated the Passion, but they had picked up that the Kingdom was near at hand.

However, it was not as they thought. They thought that very soon, they too would experience the glory if they followed him now with acclaim. But no, there was much work ahead for the servants of the King - and it was to be real, industrious, fruitful work. They had to put their heads down and enter into the task, for the man of noble birth would come back as King and demand an account. That is, they had to work with energy and effect for the Kingdom, if they wanted to participate in its glory. And so, while in the parable the man of noble birth goes to a far country to receive for himself the kingdom, prior to his leaving he entrusts his servants with his money (Greek: mna). With that money they were to gain more for the King. We read that “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to receive for himself a kingdom and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'” Now, we notice in the parable that there are two groups of persons whom the man of noble birth leaves behind as he goes forth to receive the kingship. There are his servants to whom he entrusts his funds, and there are citizens who hate him and who, when he has gone, refuse to accept his authority. Thus, in very simple terms, is the world divided. There are the servants of Christ, and there are those who do not accept him. St John, in the Prologue of his Gospel, speaks of the Word coming to his own, and his own not receiving him. But to those who do receive him he gives the power to become children of God. In the famous Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola there is the very important meditation on the Two Standards, the Standard of Christ and the Standard of Satan. Those citizens who do not accept him will be condemned when he returns. But the servants too, must face a judgment at his return. Their judgment will be on the industry with which they have served the interests of the King, and that judgment will affect all the servants down to the least. The servant who had done nothing with his master’s money would lose everything.

Our Lord is saying that he, and he alone, is the King. He will come to judge all. Those who wilfully and knowingly refuse his authority will be condemned. It will be a sentence of death. But those servants of his who accept his authority as King and who have been entrusted with the promotion of his Kingdom in their everyday lives, will also face a tribunal. Their judgment will concern the use they have made of the treasure they were given. Let us then use every day of our lives to serve Christ our Lord and to enhance his lordship in the world - for he is coming. When he comes, there will be a solemn judgment, and then his kingdom will have no end.