Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December 2, 2009

Prayers today: The Lord is coming, and will not delay; he will bring every hidden thing to light and reveal himself to every nation (Habakkuk 2:3; 1 Cor 4:5)

Lord our God, grant that we may be ready to receive Christ when he comes in glory and to share in the banquet of heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Blessed Rafal Chylinski (1694-1741)
Born near Buk in the Poznan region of Poland, Melchior showed early signs of religious devotion; family members nicknamed him "the little monk." After completing his studies at the Jesuit college in Poznan, Melchior joined the cavalry and was promoted to the rank of officer within three years. Against the urgings of his military comrades, in 1715 Melchior joined the Conventual Franciscans in Krak√≥w, receiving the name Rafal, and was ordained two years later. After pastoral assignments in nine cities, he came to Lagiewniki (central Poland), where he spent the last 13 years of his life, except for 20 months ministering to flood and epidemic victims in Warsaw. In all these places, Rafal was known for his simple and candid sermons, for his generosity as well as his ministry in the confessional. People of all levels of society were drawn to the self-sacrificing way he lived out his religious profession and priestly ministry. Rafal played the harp, lute and mandolin to accompany liturgical hymns. In Lagiewniki he distributed food, supplies and clothing to the poor. After his death, the Conventual church in that city became a place of pilgrimage for people throughout Poland. He was beatified in Warsaw in 1991. The sermons preached by Rafal were powerfully reinforced by the living sermon of his life. The Sacrament of Reconciliation can help us bring our daily choices into harmony with our words about Jesus’ influence in our life.

During the beatification homily, Pope John Paul II said, "May Blessed Rafal remind us that every one of us, even though we are sinners, has been called to love and to holiness" (L'Osservatore Romano, 1991, vol. 25, number 19).

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew (15. 29-37)

Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way. His disciples answered, Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd? How many loaves do you have? Jesus asked. Seven, they replied, and a few small fish. He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterwards the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

It is almost proverbial that the striking thing about the world is the stark fact of human need and suffering. Now, why is this so? Why is the world not entirely free of suffering? Some might say that this is a pointless question and one that would scarcely occur to very many people. The world is what it is and we must do something about it. This is true, but let us situate this question in the company of another and more fundamental question. Many years ago there was a movie and in one scene a mother was shown holding her young child. The scenery was broad and full, showing the hills, the plains and the sky. Suddenly the child looked up at his mother and said, Why isn’t there nothing? A look of incomprehension came over the face of the mother, who fell silent. But it was a very fair and profound question. Why is there not nothing? There is no objective reason that requires that the world exist. Every thing in it appears to come into being and pass away through the agency of other things. Manifestly, nothing in it need exist, yet of course everything in it does exist. But why so? An ensemble of contingent things — things dependent and conditional — each of which exists only because of the action of other contingent things, cannot provide the ground for the fact that it does exist. Its ultimate ground for existence must lie outside itself and in something that must exist. Now, a similar question may be asked about the all-pervasive fact of human need and suffering that we are reminded of in our Gospel passage today. Why is the world like this at all? Could it not have been free of suffering, even though the mind and imagination can scarcely embrace such an idea because it is so foreign to our experience? For many, just like the fact of the world, so too the fact of need and suffering does not require a fundamental explanation. That is just how things are. But surely an explanation is needed. A world that is radically contingent requires its explanation. That explanation is found in a Being beyond it that is absolutely necessary. Like so, the presence of evil and suffering surging everywhere in the world seems to be a mystery. It calls for explanation, but its explanation seems to be beyond us. Why is the world so radically wounded, so crippled and always hurting? It appears to have been dealt a blow at its root and it never seems to recover. This wound inclines Man — its master and steward — to moral evil.

It has been revealed to us why this is so: at the beginning of human history, Man rebelled against his loving Creator. In doing so he unravelled the connecting thread that held together his own integrity and wholeness as a person and set him adrift from his Maker. He snapped asunder the linchpin of his own moral and spiritual life, and the entire structure of his person sank into a state of hopeless moral sickness — though the imprint of the Creator did remain to an extent. Man did not become, let us say, a demon. There remained a natural yearning for God, but the integrity of his powers were a shadow of what they were when they came from the hand of God. In any case, his communion with God, which was the natural life of his soul, had been dealt a death blow. He was in his nature set adrift from God, and it had been his own doing. The unravelling continued from generation to generation as something now inherent in man’s fallen nature and it flowed from parent to offspring as a vast faultline. Thus was the world affected so profoundly by the sin of man and there could be only one answer. The Creator himself would have to fix it all up, and from the foundation. That is a further matter, but here let us contemplate the state of the world as brought about by man — a state suggested by our Gospel passage today. Crowds brought the “lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others” to Jesus, “and laid them at his feet.” The world is crippled. Such is the mysterious fact and were it not for revelation, we would not have known why. Man might even have come to think that the Source which gives to the world its being must Itself be somehow very limited or even evil. But in Jesus Christ there erupts before us, as it were, a revelation of the true character of the loving Creator and Lord of all. God does not want the world to be as it is found to be. He is not like that himself and he has all the power needed to transform it. In our Gospel passage today there is revealed, not only the fallen state of the world, but the goodness and power of its Creator. God is shown to be powerful and good, all-good. We read that Jesus “healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing” (Matthew 15: 29-37).

We read that our Lord was full of compassion for the crowds and he proceeded to satisfy their hunger, taking a handful of food and feeding the vast crowds with it. While on the one hand the world is broken and often very cruel, God is revealed to be utterly different. He is absolutely good, compassionate, loving and all-powerful. We can be filled with hope if only we entrust ourselves to his loving and almighty care, making it our business to know, love and serve him here on earth. This we do by following lovingly in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. So then, now I begin!

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