Prayers for today: Come, Lord, from your cherubim throne; let us see your face, and we shall be saved. (Psalm 79:4, 2)
God our Father, you loved the world so much you gave your only Son to free us from the ancient power of sin and death. Help us who wait for his coming, and lead us to true liberty. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son.
Saint Sabas (b. 439)
Born in Cappadocia (modern-day Turkey), Sabas is one of the most highly regarded patriarchs among the monks of Palestine and is considered one of the founders of Eastern monasticism. After an unhappy childhood in which he was abused and ran away several times, Sabas finally sought refuge in a monastery. While family members tried to persuade him to return home, the young boy felt drawn to monastic life. Although the youngest monk in the house, he excelled in virtue. At age 18 he travelled to Jerusalem, seeking to learn more about living in solitude. Soon he asked to be accepted as a disciple of a well-known local solitary, though initially he was regarded as too young to live completely as a hermit. Initially, Sabas lived in a monastery, where he worked during the day and spent much of the night in prayer. At the age of 30 he was given permission to spend five days each week in a nearby remote cave, engaging in prayer and manual labour in the form of weaving baskets. Following the death of his mentor, St. Euthymius, Sabas moved farther into the desert near Jericho. There he lived for several years in a cave near the brook Cedron. A rope was his means of access. Wild herbs among the rocks were his food. Occasionally men brought him other food and items, while he had to go a distance for his water. Some of these men came to him desiring to join him in his solitude. At first he refused. But not long after relenting, his followers swelled to more than 150, all of them living in individual huts grouped around a church, called a laura. The bishop persuaded a reluctant Sabas, then in his early 50s, to prepare for the priesthood so that he could better serve his monastic community in leadership. While functioning as abbot among a large community of monks, he felt ever called to live the life of a hermit. Throughout each year — consistently in Lent — he left his monks for long periods of time, often to their distress. A group of 60 men left the monastery, settling at a nearby ruined facility. When Sabas learned of the difficulties they were facing, he generously gave them supplies and assisted in the repair of their church. Over the years Sabas travelled throughout Palestine, preaching the true faith and successfully bringing back many to the Church. At the age of 91, in response to a plea from the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sabas undertook a journey to Constantinople in conjunction with the Samaritan revolt and its violent repression. He fell ill and, soon after his return, died at the monastery at Mar Saba. Today the monastery (Mar Saba in Palestine) is still inhabited by monks of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and St. Sabas is regarded as one of the most noteworthy figures of early monasticism. His relics are kept at the monastery.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew ( 9.35-10.1.6-8)
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.
An apostolic friendship
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)
There are many things which are distinctive about the Christian religion. Buddha discovered, he believed, the path to peace and happiness, a happiness that transcended the suffering he saw all around him in the world. That path consisted in the attainment of detachment and Enlightenment. The person of Buddha himself was in no way at all the object of his religion. Mahomet set forth what he believed to be the revelations he had received and they concerned Allah and a life lived in obedience to him. Mahomet was not in any way the object of the religion he announced. So too with Zarathustra centuries earlier. These great religious founders announced and established ways which pointed men away from the founders themselves to God. But the case is radically different with Jesus Christ. The religion he revealed consists precisely in an intimate friendship with him. He himself is the object of the Christian religion. In loving and serving him we love and serve the Father, for to see him is to see the Father, and this we can do only by the grace of the Holy Spirit. The man Jesus is the love of the Christian because the man Jesus is the one and only God, as is the Father and as is the Holy Spirit. But now, our Gospel passage today reminds us of the distinctive character of this friendship with Christ, which is the heart and soul of the Christian religion. It is a friendship which sweeps us up into a share in Christ’s own mission. God became man, not simply to be with man as if his mere presence is all that is to be said about his coming. He came to befriend fallen man, and the indispensable and necessary route to this was by saving him from his sins. That is to say, God became man in order to fulfil a mission, and his invitation to man to enter into friendship with him is an invitation to share simultaneously in his saving mission. It is a very active friendship into which the Christian enters with respect to Jesus Christ. He is expected by his divine Friend to be, with him, a missionary. The form that this missionary character of his life of friendship with Jesus will take varies according to the calling and circumstances of a person’s life, but missionary it will of necessity be. The Christian life is essentially apostolic.
We are reminded of this by our Gospel passage today which describes our Lord’s intensely missionary life. He did not appear publicly simply to gather friends and to spend his time enjoying their friendship. He appeared before the people, and it was as if a great shot had been fired into the air and the race begun. We read that “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” It was an intense race that he was running, a race for souls and he needed many to join him. We read that, “he said to his disciples, The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” He invited people, his disciples, to be his friends precisely in running the race with him. A battle had to be won and the great tide had to be turned. There was a momentous work to be done for the world — a world which God so loved as to send his only begotten Son. So the pearl of friendship with Jesus means entering into his own great work and becoming his intimate precisely in his mission. We read in today’s Gospel that, “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 9: 35-10:1.6-8). For this reason the Church which Christ founded is essentially missionary. Its life and the life of all its members is one of friendship with the living unseen Jesus, and this is an essentially apostolic friendship. The friend of Jesus knows that the heart of his Master is filled with compassion for the lost sheep. His Master, the good shepherd, wishes the disciple’s prayers and his daily immersion in the world to be the means whereby he saves those being lost.
Our Lord told his disciples that he is the vine and that we are the branches. The Father wishes that we bear much fruit, fruit that will last. The greatest fruit of our lives is that we play our due part in winning souls for Christ. Every day this great work must be proceeding, be it in our families, with our spouse, our children, our acquaintances, with all those with whom we have contact, and in our daily prayers and sufferings offered up for the salvation of souls. Our friendship with Jesus which constitutes the heart of our Christian faith must be essentially apostolic. It must be a friendship which participates actively in Christ’s saving mission. Let us be up and doing, then!