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). (AmericanCatholic.org)
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.