Wednesday, December 16, 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. Habakuk 2: 3; 1 Cor 4: 5

Father, may the coming celebration of the birth of your Son bring us your saving help and prepare us for eternal life. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son.

Blessed Honoratus Kozminski (1825-1916)

He was born in Biala Podlaska (Siedlce, Poland) and studied architecture at the School of Fine Arts in Warsaw. When Wenceslaus was almost sixteen, his father died. Suspected of participating in a rebellious conspiracy, the young man was imprisoned from April 1846 until the following March. In 1848 he received the Capuchin habit and a new name. Four years later he was ordained. In 1855 he helped Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska establish the Felician Sisters. Honoratus served as guardian in a Warsaw friary already in 1860. He dedicated his energies to preaching, to giving spiritual direction and to hearing confessions. He worked tirelessly with the Secular Franciscan Order. The failed 1864 revolt against Czar Alexander III led to the suppression of all religious Orders in Poland. The Capuchins were expelled from Warsaw and forced to live in Zakroczym, where Honoratus continued his ministry and began founding twenty-six male and female religious congregations, whose members took vows but wore no religious habit and did not live in community. They operated much as today’s secular institutes do. Seventeen of these groups still exist as religious congregations. The writings of Father Honoratus are extensive: forty-two volumes of sermons, 21 volumes of letters as well as 52 printed works on ascetical theology, Marian devotion, historical writings, pastoral writings — not counting his many writings for the religious congregations he founded. In 1906, various bishops sought the reorganization of these groups under their authority; Honoratus defended their independence but was removed from their direction in 1908. He promptly urged the members of these congregations to obey the Church’s decisions regarding their future. He “always walked with God,” said a contemporary. In 1895 he was appointed Commissary General of the Capuchins in Poland. Three years before he had come to Nowe Miasto, where he died and was buried. He was beatified in 1988.

The story is told that Francis and Brother Leo, his secretary, were once on a journey and Francis volunteered to tell Leo what perfect joy is. Francis began by saying what it was not: news that the kings of France, England, as well as all the world’s bishops and many university professors had decided to become friars, news that the friars had received the gift of tongues and miracles, or news that the friars had converted all the non-Christians in the world. No, perfect joy for them would be to arrive cold and hungry at St. Mary of the Angels, Francis’ headquarters outside Assisi, and be mistaken by the porter for thieves and beaten by the same porter and driven back into the cold and rain. Francis said that if, for the love of God, he and Leo could endure such treatment without losing their patience and charity, that would be perfect joy (cited in Regis Armstrong, O.F.M. Cap., and Ignatius Brady, O.F.M., Francis and Clare: The Complete Works, pages 165-166).

Honoratus worked very zealously to serve the Church, partly by establishing a great variety of religious congregations adapted to the special circumstances of Poland in those years. He could have retreated into bitterness and self-pity when the direction of those congregations was taken away from him; that was certainly a “perfect joy” experience. He urged the members of these groups to obey willingly and gladly, placing their gifts at the service of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

When the Church removed Honoratus from the direction of his religious congregations and changed their character, he wrote: “Christ’s Vicar himself has revealed God’s will to us, and I carry out this order with greatest faith.... Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that you are being given the opportunity to show heroic obedience to the holy Church.”

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 7.19-23)

John sent two of his disciples to the Lord to ask, Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else? When the men came to Jesus, they said, John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.

Christ is the Key
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

Immediately after this passage of the Gospel we read how our Lord pronounced the highest praise for John. He is — and our Lord is speaking of him as in the present — he is a true prophet “and something more, I tell you, than a prophet. This is the man of whom it is written, Behold, I am sending before thee that angel of mine who is to prepare thy way for thy coming”. John is the fulfilment of this prophecy of Malachi (3:1). Our Lord emphasizes his point again: “I tell you, there is no greater than John the Baptist among all the sons of women” (Luke 7: 26-28). So then, Christ states that John was a great prophet. John had proclaimed that the Messiah was at hand and he had identified him as Jesus of Nazareth. He had summarized the essence of his Messianic mission, to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16), and he himself was unworthy to undo his sandal straps. When our Lord presented himself for baptism John demurred: Jesus ought be baptizing him, he said. He had witnessed a divine confirmation in the voice from heaven following Christ’s baptism (Luke 3:22). But notice how our Gospel passage today suggests that John himself had misapprehensions about the saving plan of God. Having pointed to Jesus and having passed the prophetic mantle on to him as to one far greater than himself, John from his prison cell was puzzled and troubled. Jesus did not seem to be acting as the Messiah. He did not seem to be purging the threshing-floor clean and consuming the chaff with fire that can never be quenched (Luke 3:17). It looks as if John imagined the Messiah as a man of might, exalting the good and putting down the wicked with a conquering flourish and invincible power. Of course, the Messiah would be all of this, but in the fullness of time at the end. His public ministry was other than what John expected. Rather, it was in accord with the real character of God who is a God rich in mercy and compassion. What this means is that, in effect, John needed the teaching of Christ to interpret properly and fully his own prophecy about him.

In response to the question of the two disciples of John as to whether in fact he was the Messiah, our Lord replied, Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me. (Luke 7: 19-23). Our Lord is pointing to the great prophecy of Isaiah, in which God is spoken of as coming to save his people. “Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened,” the prophet had written (Isaiah 35:5), “and the ears of the deaf shall be cleared. Then shall the lame man leap like a deer and the tongue of the dumb shall be free.” The two disciples of John would have returned to their master giving him full assurance and directing him as well to the prophecy which our Lord was fulfilling in its very detail. The point here, though, is that Christ is not only the fulfilment of the Scriptures and the prophecies, but he is the light that enables the Scriptures to be understood. We have in John an example of a great prophet who not only prophesied the imminent arrival of the Messiah but who clarified his mission and identified his person. As with other great prophets, his teaching is incorporated into the inspired Scriptures — in his case, into the New Testament. However, our Gospel passage today shows that he too had to be enlightened by Christ as to the precise bearing of his own prediction. It is an instance of the principle that Christ is the key to the meaning of the Scriptures and the prophecies. The person and teaching of Christ is foretold with varying degrees of clarity by the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, but they themselves — as did John himself — receive clarifying light from the person and teaching of Christ. Isaiah pointed to the Messiah, but the Messiah helps Isaiah, we might say, to understand his own prophecy. That is to say, we must use the Old Testament — and we may regard John as its epitome — to understand Christ all the more, and we must regard Christ as the light and the key in our reading of the Old Testament.

Jesus Christ is the treasure and the jewel of the world and he is the heart and the soul of all the inspired writings. There is a marvellous unity to all of revelation and to all of its written expression in the Scriptures. That unity, that single thread which holds the entire structure together in one mighty and beautiful robe is the person and teaching of Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man. To have him and to live in his friendship by faith is the pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in the field which we must sell everything to gain. As St Paul wrote, to live is Christ. Let us take our stand with him and live in his friendship, whatever be the cost.

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