Saturday, May 8, 2010
Loving Father, through our rebirth in baptism you give us your life and promise immortality. By your unceasing care, guide our steps toward the life of glory. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who liveth and reigneth world without end, Amen. Alleluia.
St. Peter of Tarentaise (c. 1102-1174)
There are two men named St. Peter of Tarentaise who lived one century apart. The man we honour today is the younger Peter, born in France in the early part of the 12th century. (The other man with the same name became Pope Innocent the Fifth.) The Peter we’re focusing on became a Cistercian monk and eventually served as abbot. In 1142 he was named archbishop of Tarentaise, replacing a bishop who had been deposed because of corruption. Peter tackled his new assignment with vigour. He brought reform into his diocese, replaced lax clergy and reached out to the poor. He visited all parts of his mountainous diocese on a regular basis. After about a decade as bishop Peter “disappeared” for a year and lived quietly as a lay brother at an abbey in Switzerland. When he was “found out,” the reluctant bishop was persuaded to return to his post. He again focused many of his energies on the poor. Peter died in 1175 on his way home from an unsuccessful papal assignment to reconcile the kings of France and England.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (15.18~21)
Jesus said to His disciples, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than His Master.' If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed My teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of My name, for they do not know the One who sent Me."
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)
Years ago an Australian politician remarked that “life was not meant to be easy.” Strangely, that observation drew down upon him the ridicule of sections of the press, as if what he said was itself strange. He was simply saying that life inevitably brings many difficulties. One of the difficulties of life is the opposition and criticism of others, and most people receive at least a certain share of this. This opposition and criticism can be fully justified, and it can be unjustified. Usually it is a mixture of both because however well-meaning and enlightened we may be, we are faulty and limited human beings. Those faults and limitations evoke our neighbour’s criticism and opposition, and those criticisms can cause suffering. There is often a dose of injustice in that opposition too, because while we may be faulty, our neighbour is also faulty. His faults and sins often drive his criticisms of our efforts and of our persons. In fact, sin can be and often is the major cause of the suffering inflicted on others. All this is to say that a large portion of the suffering that is man’s lot arises because of sin ― the sin within the suffering person and the sin within the one inflicting the suffering. A common human problem is bitterness, and I am convinced that the appreciation of our common fallen condition can help us forgive. Those who hurt us are also subject to a sinful condition, as are we. But now, while life was not meant to be easy, it is to be noticed that often in history it is particularly difficult for the one who is eminent in goodness. Personal faults and sins often cannot be regarded as the principal reason for the suffering inflicted on him by others. The paradigmatic instance of this is Jesus Christ, the sinless One. He was without sin, without fault because he was divine. Yet he was hated by those who mattered, and ignored and spurned by many others. He ended his short life ― all according to the divine plan, of course ― utterly rejected and nailed to a cross. It set a mysterious pattern, that those who follow him seriously, and in general the Church he founded, would share in his sufferings.
Of course, those who follow Jesus Christ are also faulty and limited human beings, and their faults, sins and limitations will attract the opposition and criticism of others. Just as Jesus Christ suffered, so will they. However, in their case personal sin will have a part to play in bringing down this suffering, in a way that was in no way the case of Jesus Christ. But that is not the whole story, for Christ’s sufferings do set a special pattern that must be expected to recur in the history of the Church. The Church will be made to suffer in a special sense, and in ways well beyond what is warranted. Saints will suffer greatly, and it will be due to the sinfulness and faults of those who inflict the suffering, just as was the case with Jesus Christ. Let us listen to what our Lord has to say on this. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me” (John 15:18-21). Just as the sinless Christ was accused and condemned for wrongdoing, eminent and holy members of his Church will be accused and condemned for wrongdoing. There will often be just enough of fault and limitation in these great disciples of Jesus Christ to convince their accusers that they are doing a good deed in condemning them, and to cloud their perception of the enormity of their unjust actions. They will think they are doing a meritorious deed, whereas they are perpetrating calumnies and harm to society and the Church. But the disciple of Jesus Christ suffers as Christ suffered, and his sufferings sanctify him and bring sanctification to the Church and to the world. Thus are the sufferings of Jesus Christ continued, and the work of redemption advances.
When, for instance, an outstanding and holy Pope is attacked repeatedly by the secular media and confusion and misinformation is spread as a result, the suffering he endures unites him to the crucified Christ. Just as Christ’s sufferings redeemed the world and brought the gift of sanctity to those who accept him, so the sufferings of his close disciple increases the reservoirs of grace. Christ suffers in him, and in the process sanctifies him and the Church. Let us not be dismayed at immense opposition, criticism and sufferings being at times heaped upon the Church and upon the Church’s chosen representatives. They walk in the footsteps of the Lord. It must be expected.
Second reflection Acts 16:1-10; John 15: 18-21
Listening to the Holy Spirit
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)
At times in life we wonder why God allowed certain circumstances to have occurred in our life, circumstances that prevented us from doing the good we felt we should have been permitted to do. Perhaps those with authority over us prevented us from doing obvious good. As we look back on so many frustrations, we might ask, Why did not God allow us to achieve more good?
But consider how our Lord himself was frustrated in the course of his ministry. His heavenly Father permitted all kinds of opposition to stand in his way, right to Calvary. This seeming frustration was according to the plan of God. Or again, the Gospel describes how our Lord invited certain people to follow him ― physically. He allowed others to follow him uninvited, such as Bar Timaeus, the blind man whom he cured. But consider the man in the land of the Gerasenes whom he cured of devil-possession. The cured demoniac pleaded with our Lord to allow him to follow him, but our Lord would not permit him. He told him he was to return to his people and tell them all that God had done for him ― which he dutifully did. So our Lord prevented that man from doing what seemed to be the best thing (i.e., following him), and ordered him to do something different. We notice in the Acts of the Apostles 16:1-10, that when Paul and his companions travelled through Phrygia and Galatia they were "told by the Holy Spirit not to preach the word in Asia." Why did the Holy Spirit forbid them to do this very good thing? We are not told. Again, in the next sentence, "When they reached the frontier of Mysia they thought to cross it into Bithynia, but as the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, they went through Mysia and came down to Troas." God may not want us to do what we think would be the better thing. But he does plan that we do good, and in the same passage in Acts, Paul has the vision of the Macedonian appealing to him to come. So as Luke says, "we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the Good News."
Let us do the good which God in his providence means us to do, not the good we would like to do, even though it may seem to be much the better. The key is to learn to do what Paul and his companions did. They listened to the Holy Spirit.
Get rid of those useless thoughts which are at best a waste of time.
(The Way, no. 13)
5. The majestic ceremonies of the sacrifice of the altar became better known, understood and appreciated. With more widespread and more frequent reception of the sacraments, with the beauty of the liturgical prayers more fully savored, the worship of the Eucharist came to be regarded for what it really is: the fountain-head of genuine Christian devotion. Bolder relief was given likewise to the fact that all the faithful make up a single and very compact body with Christ for its Head, and that the Christian community is in duty bound to participate in the liturgical rites according to their station.
Friday, April 30, 2010
Father of our freedom and salvation, hear the prayers of those redeemed by your Son’s suffering. Through you may we have life; with you may we have eternal joy. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
St. Pius V (1504-1572)
This is the pope whose job was to implement the historic Council of Trent. If we think popes had difficulties in implementing Vatican Council II, Pius V had even greater problems after that historic council more than four centuries ago. During his papacy (1566-1572), Pius V was faced with the almost overwhelming responsibility of getting a shattered and scattered Church back on its feet. The family of God had been shaken by corruption, by the Reformation, by the constant threat of Turkish invasion and by the bloody bickering of the young nation-states. In 1545 a previous pope convened the Council of Trent in an attempt to deal with all these pressing problems. Off and on over 18 years, the Church Fathers discussed, condemned, affirmed and decided upon a course of action. The Council closed in 1563. Pius V was elected in 1566 and was charged with the task of implementing the sweeping reforms called for by the Council. He ordered the founding of seminaries for the proper training of priests. He published a new missal, a new breviary, a new catechism and established the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) classes for the young. Pius zealously enforced legislation against abuses in the Church. He patiently served the sick and the poor by building hospitals, providing food for the hungry and giving money customarily used for the papal banquets to poor Roman converts. His decision to keep wearing his Dominican habit led to the custom of the pope wearing a white cassock. In striving to reform both Church and state, Pius encountered vehement opposition from England's Queen Elizabeth and the Roman Emperor Maximilian II. Problems in France and in the Netherlands also hindered Pius's hopes for a Europe united against the Turks. Only at the last minute was he able to organize a fleet which won a decisive victory in the Gulf of Lepanto, off Greece, on October 7, 1571. Pius's ceaseless papal quest for a renewal of the Church was grounded in his personal life as a Dominican friar. He spent long hours with his God in prayer, fasted rigorously, deprived himself of many customary papal luxuries and faithfully observed the spirit of the Dominican Rule that he had professed.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (14.1~6)
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going. Thomas said to him, Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way? Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:1-6)
The only way One of the greatest acquisitions of Western thought and culture has been the recognition of human rights. Power over others must not be regarded as simply a prize for the strongest, but as a gift to be put to the service of human beings who have rights. Our Lord said to Pontius Pilate that he would have no power over him at all, had it not been given to him from above. Power is a responsibility to be exercised in the service of man’s rights, and these are grounded in his dignity as a human being. “That is why,” our Lord continued, “the ones who handed me over to you bear the greater guilt.” A fundamental human right — indeed the most fundamental of all — is the right to seek and serve God according to one’s lights, provided the legitimate rights of others are not thereby disregarded. This recognition of the right to freedom of religious inquiry and practice has brought with it, though, a philosophical pitfall that is widespread in Western culture. It is the tendency to think that there is no religious error, or rather, that there is no objective truth in religion. While we readily grant the right of others to think and live as they please in religion, typically we take the next step of thinking that religious belief is purely subjective. It involves little grasp of objective reality, but is, rather, a reflection of personal preference or religious and cultural conditioning. This means that though the right to think as one pleases in religion is allowed, paradoxically the right to think that there is objective truth and error in religion is not allowed. This is deemed to be intolerant, and so it is considered intolerable. The positive gain of respect for human rights has in fact brought with it the tendency to think that objective truth in religion is a phantom or a matter of indifference. But of course, this position is irreconcilable with Christianity which makes firm claims about truth and error.
In his religions, man aims for contact with the Beyond, with the powers above who can help him. He aims at communion with what we might call the Ultimate — however this is imagined or conceived among the peoples. It would be impossible to enumerate or catalogue in their entirety the religions of man — although in the last century or more we have gone a long way in that direction. But what would the student of religions say of the claim of one of them that it is the only way to the Ultimate? When faced with the plethora of sincere attempts to seek God or the gods, the claim would seem to be preposterous and scarcely to be taken seriously. In fact, such a claim is rare because it is so obviously unreasonable. If anything, the tendency of the detached observer is, as mentioned above, to think that none of the religions of man attain the final reality of things. They satisfy and express his longings, and that is all. But ah! there is one great exception. In our Gospel today, Jesus of Nazareth makes a breathtaking claim about the religion of man. Christianity claims to have the means of attaining the Ultimate reality — and indeed, it is the only means. That means is Christ. It is extraordinary and seemingly preposterous, but so it is. In our Gospel today, our Lord calmly says that he is going to prepare us a place in his own Father’s House. He continues, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going. Thomas said to him, Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way? Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:1-6). He, Jesus Christ, is the way to the Father; he is the truth of the Father and he is the life of the Father. Seeing him, one sees the Father. Moreover, he is the only way, for no-one comes to the Father except through him. No one can reach God in truth and in fact but by means of Jesus Christ. So if the Buddhist, the Muslim, the man of traditional religion, or the atheist, attain to heaven, in fact this has only been through Jesus Christ. Christ has got him there.
This is a hard saying for the modern ear. But it in no way is disrespectful of other religions, nor does it set aside their great value. Jesus Christ is the Word of God. Through him all things were made. Therefore he is present in all of creation, be it interior or exterior to man. Even if a person fails to learn specifically of Jesus Christ or has little opportunity of taking him seriously, Christ’s presence in creation as the Word will afford him the means of a form of contact with him who is the way to the Father. Cardinal Newman called the conscience of man the “aboriginal vicar of Christ,” and there is a long tradition in English thought that considers nature to be the voice of God. There is a sense in which there is a universal revelation, but it will be more difficult. All of this is a further matter. Our point today is the unique character and role of Jesus Christ for all of mankind. In absolute terms, he is the only way to the Father. Let us choose him, then!
Second reflection for Friday of the fourth week of Eastertide (John 14:1-6)
Peace in trouble One of the widespread problems of our time is that of depression, even among the young, who are traditionally noted for their optimism and idealism. There are reports of a sharp increase among the young in the use of antidepressants. It is possible that people too readily allow themselves to sink into depression and emotional trouble. It is notable how often our Lord tells his disciples not to be troubled, not to be afraid. His directive is in the manner of a command. Inasmuch as he himself was at times troubled, and profoundly so, he obviously means that we are not to allow ourselves to be troubled as one who has nothing secure to rely on. Our Lord's peace and indomitable strength in the midst of trouble came from the thought of his Father and his Father's will.
At the Last Supper our Lord says to his disciples: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still and trust in me" (John 14:1). So, even if we are depressed and are unable to overcome it, even if we cannot cope despite our genuine efforts, we are to trust in God still, and in Jesus. Jesus is our stay in times of trouble, Jesus and our homeland that is ahead of us. "I am going to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am, you may be too." Our final port is always in sight, because Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We reach the Father through him (John 14:1-6). If we stay with him, we shall most certainly arrive.
Let obstacles only make you bigger.The grace of our Lord will not be lacking: "inter medium monium pertransibunt aquae!" ~ "through the very midst of the mountains the waters shall pass."
What does it matter that you have to curtail your activity for the moment, if later, like a spring which has been compressed, you'll advance much farther than you ever dreamed?
(The Way, no. 12)
4. You are of course familiar with the fact, Venerable Brethren, that a remarkably widespread revival of scholarly interest in the sacred liturgy took place towards the end of the last century and has continued through the early years of this one. The movement owed its rise to commendable private initiative and more particularly to the zealous and persistent labor of several monasteries within the distinguished Order of Saint Benedict. Thus there developed in this field among many European nations, and in lands beyond the seas as well, a rivalry as welcome as it was productive of results. Indeed, the salutary fruits of this rivalry among the scholars were plain for all to see, both in the sphere of the sacred sciences, where the liturgical rites of the Western and Eastern Church were made the object of extensive research and profound study, and in the spiritual life of considerable numbers of individual Christians.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Almighty and ever-living God, give us new strength from the courage of Christ our shepherd, and lead us to join the saints in heaven. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen. Alleluia.
St. Pedro de San José Betancur (1626-1667)
Known as the "St. Francis of the Americas," Pedro de Betancur is the first saint to have worked and died in Guatemala. Pedro very much wanted to become a priest, but God had other plans for the young man born into a poor family on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Pedro was a shepherd until age 24, when he began to make his way to Guatemala, hoping to connect with a relative engaged in government service there. By the time he reached Havana, he was out of money. After working there to earn more, he got to Guatemala City the following year. When he arrived he was so destitute that he joined the bread line which the Franciscans had established. Soon, Pedro enrolled in the local Jesuit college in hopes of studying for the priesthood. No matter how hard he tried, however, he could not master the material; he withdrew from school. In 1655 he joined the Secular Franciscan Order. Three years later he opened a hospital for the convalescent poor; a shelter for the homeless and a school for the poor soon followed. Not wanting to neglect the rich of Guatemala City, Pedro began walking through their part of town ringing a bell and inviting them to repent. Other men came to share in Pedro's work. Out of this group came the Bethlehemite Congregation, which won papal approval after Pedro's death. A Bethlehemite sisters' community, similarly founded after Pedro's death, was inspired by his life of prayer and compassion. He is sometimes credited with originating the Christmas Eve posadas procession in which people representing Mary and Joseph seek a night's lodging from their neighbours. The custom soon spread to Mexico and other Central American countries. Pedro was beatified in 1980.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (10.27~30)
Jesus said to the Jews, "My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no-one can snatch them out of My Father's hand. I and the Father are One."
After the Fall
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)
One of the most notable developments of the very recent period has been the rise of a world-wide concern for the environment. The nations have realized that man has spoiled much of the world’s natural habitat, and that his future resources and the beauty of his abode is under serious threat. This concern cannot but be good, and it is an excellent thing that we are now far more concerned to protect the world than merely to exploit it. Such a concern, though, ought be consistent, and should include a concern for deeper areas of destruction. I am referring to the deterioration of man’s moral environment which goes on from generation to generation in the life of society and in individuals. This is, strangely, of little concern for many persons. The natural world is real and concrete for them, and it is appalling to them that its beauty and its resources are being so profoundly spoiled. The moral world, though, is not very real and concrete because it is not visible and tactile. What is real is what is tangible. This is an assumption which has been developing for the last few centuries such that now it is a great philosophical question whether there is, for instance, a supernatural at all. The assumption just mentioned also affects our perception of the moral dimension of man. Our tendency is to regard it as secondary and somewhat subjective, whereas in fact it is primary, fundamental and absolutely objective. It is the moral life of man that affects everything for good or for ill, including the way he cherishes or despoils his physical environment. I make this observation to introduce the calamity that occurred right at the first appearance in history of man. He did something which had horrific effects, not on his physical environment but on his entire moral world. He was the child of God, coming from God’s hand and placed by him in what the inspired Scriptures call “a garden in Eden.” There “he placed the man he had formed,” together with “the woman.” But they rebelled. It was an earthquake of the moral world and left man’s moral life in ruins. His power to be good had gone.
The world has had experiences of earthquakes at the base of the sea that cause tidal waves that engulf populations. The first man and woman broke off their communion with God in which they had been placed, and chose a total rebellion. They wished to be gods in the sense of being independent of the one and only God, their Father. It brought on a vast tsunami of sin that inundated the moral world of all their descendants, affecting the physical world as well. But God did not abandon man to the power of death. Rather, he foretold in a mysterious way (Genesis 3:15) that evil would be conquered and that man would be lifted up after his fall. There was, at the beginning, a first proclamation of the Messiah and Redeemer. The future would see the salvation of God by the hand of the Messiah. So great would this salvation be that the original fall of man would be, in a sense, a “happy fault” because — as the Church sings in the Liturgy of the Easter Vigil — it gained for us so great a Redeemer. This is the context of our Gospel passage today in which Jesus Christ, the one and only Redeemer of man, speaks of saving his sheep. “Jesus said to the Jews, My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no-one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10: 27-30). He knows each of us. While Christ was preparing in the desert for his public ministry, Satan showed him all the kingdoms of the world “in a moment of time.” If the devil could do this, how easy it would have been for Christ to have seen before him, in numerous other “moments of time,” you and I. He knew each of us then, and knows us now. No-one can snatch us out of his hand, for he and the Father are one, the one and only God. Jesus Christ is the one who can clean up and restore the ruins of the moral world into which we are all born. The restoration begins at our baptism when we are born again in him. It is completed with our sanctification in him.
Let us often think of that from which we have been saved, while remembering that sin is still at the door, and, indeed, has a certain entrance. The battle is joined, but we are now with Christ and he has delivered the victory for those who choose never to leave his side. If we depart from him, who is there to save us? No one else would even claim to — except those who deny that sin is of much importance or reality anyway, and that the visible, the tactile, the concrete is all that really matters. But what really matters is the conquest of sin and the acquisition of holiness. Jesus Christ is the one who turns the tide. It is he, and he only, who can make us free. To him, then!
Never reprimand anyone while you feel provoked over a fault that has been committed. Wait until the next day, or even longer. Then make your remonstrance calmly and with a purified intention. You'll gain more an affectionate word than you ever would from three hours of quarreling. Control your temper.
(The Way, no. 10)
2. But what is more, the Divine Redeemer has so willed it that the priestly life begun with the supplication and sacrifice of His mortal body should continue without intermission down the ages in His Mystical Body which is the Church. That is why He established a visible priesthood to offer everywhere the clean oblation (Cf. Mal.1:11) which would enable men from East to West, freed from the shackles of sin, to offer God that unconstrained and voluntary homage which their conscience dictates.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
God our Father, by the waters of baptism you give new life to the faithful. May we not succumb to the influence of evil but remain true to your gift of life. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who liveth and reigneth world without end. Amen. Alleluia.
St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen (1577-1622)
If a poor man needed some clothing, Fidelis would often give the man the clothes right off his back. Complete generosity to others characterized this saint's life. Born in 1577, Mark Rey (Fidelis was his religious name) became a lawyer who constantly upheld the causes of the poor and oppressed people. Nicknamed "the poor man's lawyer," Fidelis soon grew disgusted with the corruption and injustice he saw among his colleagues. He left his law career to become a priest, joining his brother George as a member of the Capuchin Order. His wealth was divided between needy seminarians and the poor. As a follower of Francis, Fidelis continued his devotion to the weak and needy. Once, during a severe epidemic in a city where he was guardian of a friary, Fidelis cared for and cured many sick soldiers. He was appointed head of a group of Capuchins sent to preach against the Calvinists and Zwinglians in Switzerland. Almost certain violence threatened. Those who observed the mission felt that success was more attributable to the prayer of Fidelis during the night than to his sermons and instructions. He was accused of opposing the peasants' national aspirations for independence from Austria. While he was preaching at Seewis, to which he had gone against the advice of his friends, a gun was fired at him, but he escaped unharmed. A Protestant offered to shelter Fidelis, but he declined, saying his life was in God's hands. On the road back, he was set upon by a group of armed men and killed. He was canonized in 1746. Fifteen years later, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, which was established in 1622, recognized him as its first martyr.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 6.60~69)
On hearing Jesus’ teaching, many of His disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" Aware that His disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where He was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray Him. He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no-one can come to Me unless the Father has enabled him." From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him. "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God."
The Word of Life
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)
The Christian, and in particular the Catholic, precisely because of his gift of supernatural faith from his baptism, could have difficulty appreciating the impact of Christ’s singular teaching on his hearers at the time. We accept Christ as being not merely the greatest of the prophets, not merely the Prophet and Messiah foretold by the Scriptures, but the very Son of God, God from God who has become man. This fundamental wonder validates all other wonders announced by him. So we take in our stride, as it were, the various mysteries of our Faith — the danger being that we can fail to live our life in a manner truly based on these mysteries. It is worth the trouble to place ourselves in the scenes of the Gospels and imagine Jesus Christ setting forth his teaching. It was “bad enough,” as we might express it, for the Pharisees and religious leaders to have heard Jesus speaking of God as his own Father in a way that placed him on a par with God; it was “bad enough” to have heard him say repeatedly that he had actually come down from heaven where he was before; it was “bad enough” to have heard and seen him flouting their traditions and rulings on such matters as the manner of Sabbath observance; it was “bad enough” to have heard him state that he and the Father are one, and that before Moses ever was, I am — here in the Synagogue, though, he had the temerity to proclaim that his own flesh must be eaten and his own blood be drunk if people were to have life. This unprecedented teaching with nothing of its like in the prophets before him, divided his very disciples. Many left and returned to their homes, saying that Jesus of Nazareth was, in effect, impossible. We get the impression that there was a majority walk-out and Jesus was left with the Twelve — and, of course — many others. As a result of the proclamation of the doctrine of the Eucharist our Lord was left with a considerably diminished constituency, as some might say nowadays. It was, pundits would have called it, a political and marketing gaffe, and that he was finished from then on.
Our Lord saw this — for it is obvious from the Gospels that in intelligence he transcended all parties. The Eucharist was part of an ensemble of teachings about his own person which Christ gave, the acceptance of which was to be part and parcel of the following of him. He would give his own flesh to be eaten and his own blood to be drunk, and this would be the means whereby people would receive life eternal. To speak of the separation of the body and blood should have evoked in the mind of an observer the thought of a victim sacrificed. His words having this allusion, clearly he himself would be the victim. Did his hearers catch anything of this evocation, this allusion, this point? We are not informed. By eating of the sacrificed victim, a person shared in the effect of the sacrifice which was reconciliation and communion with God. A great sacrifice was coming, and Jesus would be the sacrifice. Clearly, too, only he could be the Priest. With it there would be a great communion in this sacrifice — and by participating in it they would share in his life, life eternal. Thus would the sin of the world be taken away and its blessings brought to those who believed in him and accepted his word. It was a breathtaking revelation and the only basis for accepting it could be that he, Jesus, had uttered it. But many of his disciples thought it was too much — it was “over the top,” impossible. But he had said it, and without any qualification, so if they were to continue following him this doctrine would be “all part of the package,” as one might say. So they left him — and so it has been in crisis moments in the history of the Church ever since. The doctrine of the Eucharist is the mystery of our faith and is one of the fundamental tests of belief and discipleship. Seeing so many of his disciples leave, our Lord turns to the Twelve and asks if they too planned to go. Peter — significantly for the future of the Church and Peter’s successors, answers. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:60-69).
I myself date the true turning away of Judas from this point. We do not know how well or poorly Judas had been growing in discipleship following his personal call. None of the disciples had been perfect in their discipleship, and Judas remains in the shadows as do others of the Twelve. But it is at this point, immediately after Simon Peter’s magnificent profession of faith and acceptance of Christ’s doctrine, that Christ refers to Judas as a devil. I suspect that Judas, in his heart, rejected the doctrine he had just heard, but chose to remain in our Lord’s company. His motives became profoundly compromised. Satan had a clear foothold among the Twelve, and in Judas had one of his own. How important is total acceptance of this doctrine!
What you have just said, say it in another tone, without anger, and what you say will have more force...and above all, you won't offend God.
(The Way, no. 9)
ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS XII
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
TO THE VENERABLE BRETHREN, THE PATRIARCHS, PRIMATES,
ARCHBISHOPS, BISHIOPS, AND OTHER ORDINARIES
IN PEACE AND COMMUNION WITH THE APOSTOLIC SEE
Health and Apostolic Benediction.
Mediator between God and men (1 Tim. 2.5) and High Priest who has gone before us into
Friday, April 23, 2010
Father, by the love of your Spirit, may we who have experienced the grace of the Lord’s resurrection rise to the newness of life in joy. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who liveth and reigneth world without end. Amen. Alleluia.
If Mary Magdalene was the victim of misunderstanding, George is the object of a vast amount of imagination. There is every reason to believe that he was a real martyr who suffered at Lydda in Palestine, probably before the time of Constantine. The Church adheres to his memory, but not to the legends surrounding his life. That he was willing to pay the supreme price to follow Christ is what the Church believes. And it is enough. The story of George's slaying the dragon, rescuing the king's daughter and converting Libya is a twelfth-century Italian fable. George was a favourite patron saint of crusaders, as well as of Eastern soldiers in earlier times. He is a patron saint of England, Portugal, Germany, Aragon, Catalonia, Genoa and Venice.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (6.52~59)
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My Flesh is real food and My Blood is real drink. Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood remains in Me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live for ever." He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)
The Oxford Movement of the third decade of nineteenth century England strove to defend intellectually the dogmatic character of Christianity against a growing liberalism that eschewed revealed dogma as rationally unsustainable. It insisted on the inviolable character of revealed dogma, and on the uniqueness of revealed religion. Revealed religion could not be reduced to what might be called the Natural Religion which is evidenced across the sweep of human history and society. However, this was not to say that the only form of divine revelation was the Judaeo-Christian Revelation — as recorded in the inspired Old and New Testaments. John Henry Newman firmly taught that there was a universal revelation, which is to say that the religions of man contained — together with their errors — certain tenets which in one way or another God had been revealing to the peoples. This universal revelation was not authenticated, but its presence could be judged by the yardstick of Judaeo-Christian Revelation which was authenticated. From the Christian perspective, this point could be granted in respect to, say, certain teachings of Islam on the One God and his absolute transcendence. There is no god but the One God of Abraham. I refer to this teaching, perfectly true as far as it goes, as an introduction to our Gospel today. There is no other god but the Lord and he dwells in light inaccessible. He is beyond. But if this is all that is said about God’s relationship with man and the world, then it stops far short of the fullness of his revelation. In fact it is open to the admission of numerous errors about him. For as it turns out, God is not simply beyond, above, high and utterly other. He is also unbelievably near and at one with us. He is God-with-us. He chose a people so as to prepare to make a home with both them and the world. And, breathtaking surprise! God the Son became one of us so as to be with us as our Brother. More still! The God who is our Brother bore on his shoulders the sins of each of us and died to set us free from them. He rose, returned to the right hand of his heavenly Father, and by their joint gift of the Spirit, brought each of us who are baptized into union with the three divine Persons.
God is thus revealed as a God who loves and serves. He kneels before his friends as represented in the Twelve, and washes their feet, going on from there to die for them. But especially amazing is his ongoing gift which is revealed in our Gospel passage today. “Jesus said to them, I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” Let us remember that our Lord’s unique words on this are uttered publicly. Were we to have had only the first three gospels (called the “synoptics” because of their likeness to one another), we may have thought that it was only in the privacy of the Last Supper that our Lord revealed the stunning gift of the Eucharist. But not so. It was revealed in the full light of day, publicly, in a synagogue — the synagogue of Capernaum. Our Lord did not even “tone it down” by explaining that the gift of his flesh as food would be in a sacramental mode. It was the starkest of statements. If they were to live, they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. The one who eats his flesh will be raised up by him at the last day. He is not speaking metaphorically, he insists. My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink (John 6:52-59). Nothing like this had ever been said before, let alone publicly for it to be reported everywhere — and perhaps distorted and used by his enemies. It was a daring and unprecedented announcement and was, in fact, a fundamental teaching of the new revelation by Jesus Christ. God — the God of light inaccessible — was pouring himself out for man as their very food. He was not only before them as their Brother, but he was becoming much nearer still. He was, as their Brother and their God, making himself their very sustenance. They were to feed on him, and in this way they would live forever. It is an ultimate revelation of the love of God. God is utter love. How beautiful is God!
The Holy Eucharist, coming to us in the life and the ministry of the Church which is the mystical body of Christ, is our principal means of union with the God of all heights. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.” Together with the doctrines of the triune God and the Incarnation, the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist is the most remarkable religious doctrine in the history of all religions. It is the mystery of faith, and it is, in the celebration of Holy Mass, the ongoing revelation of the love of God for man.
A second reflection for Friday of the third week of Eastertide (Acts 9.1~20)
Our Precious Vocation
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)
Chesterton was a famous English lay convert of the early decades of the 20th century who became a great apologist for Catholicism. One of his written sayings was "How odd of God to choose the Jews." Apart from pointing to the special election by God of the Jews as his chosen people with a world mission, Chesterton's remark may be thought of as applicable to every vocation. Why me, and not others? Each of us is chosen by God in Christ “to be holy and full of love in his sight.” for reasons we do not know. Our vocation is precious and it is mysterious.
Consider the mysteriousness and the uniqueness of St Paul's vocation, as narrated in Acts 9:1-20. The Lord Jesus told Ananias that 'this man is my chosen instrument to bring my name before pagans and pagan kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he himself must suffer for my name.' What sort of background did Paul have for this extraordinary calling? A seemingly poor one indeed, and scarcely to be compared with that of the Twelve. Yet he was Christ's chosen instrument. Why him? There is a great mystery here manifesting the inscrutable mercy of God and his loving power.
Each of us has a vocation, a calling that has its origins in eternity, before the world began. Each of us is the object of God's inscrutable mercy, his loving choice. Our vocation, whatever it be, is precious. Let us not squander it. Live it to the full, daily. Let us meditate at length on the calling of St Paul.
Serenity. Why lose your temper if by losing it you offend God, you trouble your neighbour, you give yourself a bad time...and in the end you have to set things aright anyway?
(The Way, no 8)
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Father, in this holy season we come to know the full depth of your love. You have freed us from the darkness of error and sin. Help us to cling to your truths with fidelity. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who liveth and reigneth, world without end. Amen. Alleluia.
St. Adalbert of Prague (956-97)
Opposition to the Good News of Jesus did not discourage Adalbert, who is now remembered with great honour in the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Germany. Born to a noble family in Bohemia, he received part of his education from St. Adalbert of Magdeburg. At the age of 27 he was chosen as bishop of Prague. Those who resisted his program of clerical reform forced him into exile eight years later. In time, the people of Prague requested his return as their bishop. Within a short time, however, he was exiled again after excommunicating those who violated the right of sanctuary by dragging a woman accused of adultery from a church and murdering her. After a short ministry in Hungary, he went to preach the Good News to people living near the Baltic Sea. He and two companions were martyred by pagan priests in that region. Adalbert's body was immediately ransomed and buried in Gniezno cathedral (Poland). In the mid-11th century his relics were moved to St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (6.44~51)
Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise Him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from Him comes to Me. No one has seen the Father except the One who is from God; only He has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever. This bread is My Flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)
Our Lord had said prior to our passage today that the one who comes to him will never hunger, and the one who believes in him will never thirst. He has come from heaven as the One sent by the Father in order to give everlasting life to all who believe in him (John 6: 35-40). He is the One to whom they ought come in order to have life. They object to his exalted claims — they know him and they knew his parents. How can he say that he has come down from heaven? In his answer our Lord warns that they will not be able to come to him — no one will have the power to do so (oudeis dunatai elthein) — unless the Father should draw him. That is to say, a special grace is required to be able to come to Jesus and believe in him. The implication is that their murmuring at our Lord’s teaching is a sign that they are not sufficiently in a state of divine grace. We remember how the Angel Gabriel when coming into the presence of the Virgin Mary addressed her as being “full of grace.” The Lord was with her — meaning that the Father was with her. Now, what was the upshot of her union with God? It showed itself in her faith. Once she understood what was being asked of her, her reply was immediate: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your word.” She was full of grace; the Lord was with her, and her response was one of obedient faith. She may be looked to as the pattern of what our Lord speaks of in our passage today: “Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.” If we are looking to God; if we are listening to him with an obedient faith; if we are subject to the action and grace of God, we shall come to Jesus. A prior disposition of heart, an existing relationship with God, is therefore required if a person is to come to Jesus and receive from him the life eternal which is his gift. The niggardly and grumbling response to our Lord’s teaching about himself is a sign that they are not listening to the Father in their lives. Their negative response to the word of Jesus was a sign that they lacked true religion.
It soon becomes more evident that belief requires a grace and a disposition beyond the natural, because the revelation which now begins to be given is astonishing and absolutely unprecedented. Our Lord has spoken of himself as having been sent by the Father and as having come down from heaven. That he gave the impression of meaning this literally is shown by their response that this could not be, because they knew where he came from and also who his parents were. He compares himself with the manna that God had sent to give them food and life while in the desert. So our Lord repeats what he has said: “I am the bread of life.” Moreover, while their fathers had the manna to eat in the desert, they all died. The bread from heaven that is our Lord himself will bring life everlasting. “Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever.” Whatever of the manna in the desert, this is magnificent bread, the bread of life indeed, an extraordinary gift from God. But there is more, for to refer to himself as “the bread of life” with an evocation of the memory of the manna in the desert is to use a slightly vague expression. Christ’s being “the bread of life” could have meant his teaching; it could have meant his never-to-be-forgotten example; or it could have meant his life-giving friendship. But no — it was all of these things of course, but over and above them all it meant something far more striking and, indeed, startling. The “bread” which had come down from heaven and which was the person of Jesus himself was his very flesh. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:44-51). So while their forefathers ate the manna in the desert and yet eventually died, from now on eternal life will be offered with the food that is Christ. That food is his flesh.
Nothing like this had ever been said by any prophet before him. It was utterly new — but of course with distant types of it and pointers to it in the religion, beliefs, and ritual of the Old Testament. No other prophet had claimed to be the bread from heaven that would give eternal life to the world, and that this bread would be his own flesh. Our Lord’s words must have been a sensation, and must have caused a tremendous stir. It was the mystery of mysteries connected with his person. In all of his mounting witness to his own person and teaching, this act of witness is perhaps the most signal. The true bread of heaven would be the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth. What on earth did he mean? His uncompromising explanation would follow.
Don't have a "small town" outlook. Enlarge your heart until it becomes universal~"catholic."
Don't fly like a barnyard hen when you can soar like an eagle.
(The Way, no. 7)
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Merciful Lord, hear the prayers of your people. May we who have received your gift of faith share for ever in the new life of Christ. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who liveth and reigneth world without end. Amen. Alleluia.
St. Anselm (1033-1109)
Indifferent toward religion as a young man, Anselm became one of the Church's greatest theologians and leaders. He received the title "Father of Scholasticism" for his attempt to analyse and illumine the truths of faith through the aid of reason. At 15, Anselm wanted to enter a monastery, but was refused acceptance because of his father's opposition. Twelve years later, after careless disinterest in religion and years of worldly living, he finally fulfilled his desire to be a monk. He entered the monastery of Bec in Normandy, three years later was elected prior and 15 years later was unanimously chosen abbot. Considered an original and independent thinker, Anselm was admired for his patience, gentleness and teaching skill. Under his leadership, the abbey of Bec became a monastic school, influential in philosophical and theological studies. During these years, at the community's request, Anselm began publishing his theological works, comparable to those of St. Augustine. His best-known work is the book Cur Deus Homo ("Why God Became Man"). At 60, against his will, Anselm was appointed archbishop of Canterbury in 1093. His appointment was opposed at first by England's King William Rufus and later accepted. Rufus persistently refused to cooperate with efforts to reform the Church. Anselm finally went into voluntary exile until Rufus died in 1100. He was then recalled to England by Rufus's brother and successor, Henry I. Disagreeing fearlessly with Henry over the king's insistence on investing England's bishops, Anselm spent another three years in exile in Rome. His care and concern extended to the very poorest people; he opposed the slave trade. Anselm obtained from the national council at Westminster the passage of a resolution prohibiting the sale of human beings.
"No one will have any other desire in heaven than what God wills; and the desire of one will be the desire of all; and the desire of all and of each one will also be the desire of God" (St. Anselm, Letter 112).
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (6.35~40)
Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
Come to Him!
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)
The world seems to be marked by unending vicissitudes. Wars break out and reach their conclusion, civil strife erupts, earthquakes bring incalculable damage to life and property, numerous banks begin to fail as debtors across a nation default en masse, famine and disease strikes this or that country, and so the sorry tale goes on. In his great Apologia pro Vita Sua, written in 1864, John Henry Newman writes, “I look out of myself into the world of men, and there I see a sight which fills me with unspeakable distress. .... The sight of the world is nothing else than the prophet’s scroll, full of ‘lamentation, and mourning, and woe.’” Newman writes of the “aimless courses .... the greatness and littleness of man... the curtain hung over his futurity, the disappointments of life, the defeat of good, the success of evil, physical pain, mental anguish, the prevalence and intensity of sin, the pervading idolatries, the corruptions, the dreary hopeless irreligion, that condition of the whole race.. all this is a vision to dizzy and appal” (ch. V). It is, we might say, an unending struggle to keep “head above water.” There is just no simple solution to the suffering and evil of the world. There is no one key, no single formula that will “fix it” for man. Now this entire phenomena of a broken world constantly being sucked towards death and all that leads to death is but the manifestation and fruit of the deeper catastrophe of sin. We know the cause of the world’s broken condition because it has been revealed to us. It is due to sin, the sin of man at the very beginning. The flawed character of so much of human history merely shows the enormity of sin which is its original and ongoing cause. If the evils of the world are so extensive as to defy man’s efforts at a solution, what could possibly be said of a remedy being found for its very source which is sin? Ah! the Remedy has come, and whatever be the complexity of evil and suffering, together with the prospects for individuals and all of humanity together, in a very real sense the Remedy is remarkably simple. God has given the Remedy.
There is one thing which every man and woman is called to do in order to deal in ultimate terms with his or her condition and prospects. The ultimate answer is to come to Jesus in faith. At times a thought might come to us that it would have been so much easier to have seen Jesus and to have come to him in a directly physical sense. Now we cannot see him. We have to come to him in faith. But notice what our Lord says in our passage today, that “as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.” There were many who saw him and who did not believe. There was one who was called to live with him, to be with him constantly, to be his companion, to share actively in his mission, to receive some of his powers such as that of healing, and yet he not only left him but positively betrayed him. Having had the inestimable opportunity of seeing the Incarnate Son of God did not assure that a person would gain faith. The ultimate answer to man’s dubious situation so fraught with threat and sin is to come to Jesus in faith. The answer is simple, though very demanding in its consequences: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” The one who comes to Jesus in faith has received the grace to belong to Jesus, for our Lord says that “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” We are the Father’s gift to Jesus, and he will receive us into his friendship. Moreover, the divine plan is to care for us and to raise us to eternal life with him forever. “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” Christ is determined not to lose any of us but to save us from all that could do us ultimate harm. He wishes each of us to live forever in him. “For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:35-40).
As opposed to the tangle and mystery of the problems of life and the world, there is a simple Remedy. It is simple in its direction, but immense in its consequences. The way ahead, the Remedy to be applied, is to come to Jesus in faith and to give oneself to him. It is to act on the grace of faith and to resolve to belong to him. If we belong to Jesus and live out our lives according to this self-donation, then Jesus will care for us. He will not lose us. He will raise us up to be with him forever. The way ahead is clear — so let us take it, then
Second reflection for Wednesday of the third week of Eastertide
Trust in God
(Homily by Fr. E,J. Tyler)
In today’s gospel passage our Lord declares that it is the Father's will that he should lose nothing of what the Father had given to him (John 6: 39). This should be the source of a great sense of security: no circumstances need destroy or weaken that all-important relationship which we have been given with Christ. We see an instance of this played out in the first reading (Acts of the Apostles 8: 1-8). With Stephen stoned to death, Saul began a furious persecution of the infant Church, scattering the Christians from Jerusalem. But what was the upshot of this? The fleeing disciples went from place to place preaching the Good News. The persecution was the direct cause of more and more coming to know the Lord. Perhaps the greatest sequel of all was the conversion of Saul himself. In the midst of great tribulation the hand of the Lord was upon the Church. As Paul would write in one of his Letters, nothing can come between us and the love of God in Christ. So we should face adversity with trust in the power of God, determined to use the adversity to further the plan of God in our regard. As Pope John Paul II used repeatedly to say, Be not afraid!
Turn your back on the deceiver when he whispers in your ear, "Why complicate your life?"
(The Way, no. 6)
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Father, you open the kingdom of heaven to those born again by water and the Spirit. Increase your gift of love in us. May all who have been freed from sins in baptism receive all that you have promised. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who liveth and reigneth world without end. Amen. Alleluia.
St. Conrad of Parzham (1818-1894)
Conrad spent most of his life as porter in Altoetting, Bavaria, letting people into the friary and indirectly encouraging them to let God into their lives. His parents, Bartholomew and Gertrude Birndorfer, lived near Parzham, Bavaria. In those days this region was recovering from the Napoleonic wars. A lover of solitary prayer and a peacemaker as a young man, Conrad joined the Capuchins as a brother. He made his profession in 1852 and was assigned to the friary in Altoetting. That city’s shrine to Mary was very popular; at the nearby Capuchin friary there was a lot of work for the porter, a job Conrad held for 41 years. At first some of the other friars were jealous that such a young friar held this important job. Conrad’s patience and holy life overcame their doubts. As porter he dealt with many people, obtaining many of the friary supplies and generously providing for the poor who came to the door. He treated them all with the courtesy Francis expected of his followers. Conrad’s helpfulness was sometimes unnerving. Once Father Vincent, seeking quiet to prepare a sermon, went up the belltower of the church. Conrad tracked him down when someone wanting to go to confession specifically requested Father Vincent. Conrad also developed a special rapport with the children of the area. He enthusiastically promoted the Seraphic Work of Charity, which aided neglected children. Conrad spent hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He regularly asked the Blessed Mother to intercede for him and for the many people he included in his prayers. The ever-patient Conrad was canonized in 1934.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (6.30~35)
So they asked Jesus, "What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. "Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread." Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and He who believes in Me will never be thirsty."
The True Bread
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)
If there is one thing which is obvious from a reading of the Old Testament it is the defining character of the Exodus events. The departure from Egypt, the years in the wilderness, and the entry into the Promised Land, profoundly shaped the religious outlook of the children of Israel. So marked is this memory as evidenced in the Old Testament Scriptures, that one cannot but be a little sceptical of the weight given by many to the current lack of archaeological evidence for the great events referred to in the Hebrew Scriptures. Where is the archaeological evidence, it is urged, for the event of the departure from Egypt, the long sojourn in the wilderness, the mass invasion by Israel of the land of Canaan — and for other supposed facts such as the career of David, Solomon, and so forth? While there is a present lack of that kind of evidence, there is the fact of the great memory by the chosen people, so manifest in their Scriptures. The nation was shaped by this memory, and our Lord himself, true God and true man, refers explicitly to these past historical events. In our very passage today he refers to Moses and to the manna he gave from heaven. I make these points simply to stress how much the Exodus events were a criterion of religious truth for the children of Israel. Our Gospel scene today (John 6:30-35) opens with the crowds making a demand of Jesus. He had told them that the work that God asked of them was to believe in him. To this they responded, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” In the desert, Moses fed the people with manna from heaven for their entire sojourn. You, Jesus of Nazareth, have multiplied the loaves and the fish, could you not do what Moses did, and feed us continually with bread from heaven? What sign will you do that we may see and believe you? Our Lord replies by pointing prophetically to what will be the true bread from heaven — his own person.
Though the manna which Israel received in the desert came from God in answer to the prayer of Moses, it was not heavenly food. It was earthly and served to sustain life on earth. It was a material substance which modern scholars have even attempted to identify. Some suggest it was the resin from the Tamarisk tree, others a form of plant lice, or the thalli of certain lichens, or Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms, or a kosher species of locust, or the sap of certain succulent plants. The manna in the desert had the powers of material food — it was God’s miraculous gift of earthly food. Our Lord says that the true bread of God is heavenly. It does indeed come down from heaven and give life to the world. It is heavenly bread which gives life forever and to all mankind. The manna in the desert had none of these powers. This is a remarkable announcement which those who are fully familiar with the doctrine of the Eucharist may take too much for granted. Our Lord is heralding an extraordinary food for the journey. He is acting as a new Moses for the children of Israel, and for all of mankind. A new sustenance is coming for all. As Moses, by God’s power, provided earthly food for the journey of the children of Israel, so Jesus Christ will provide heavenly food for the journey of the whole world. It will be the true bread from heaven, the bread that manna prefigured. Manna was merely a pointer to the true bread from heaven that would take all of humanity to life in God and heaven. What is this heavenly food? “Sir, they said, from now on give us this bread. Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:30-35). Our Lord calmly and publicly makes a breathtaking claim which had no precedent in all of the Scriptures, and which placed himself far above all. He himself is the bread of life that God has sent from heaven. It is he himself who gives life to the whole world. He is the answer to true hunger and true thirst. If a person lives on him, his true hunger will be satisfied.
Our Lord is placing himself at the very centre of revealed religion. Never before had certain things been said that Jesus Christ was now saying. He is himself the heart and soul of true religion, and a person who lives on him and in him will possess a heavenly life that is far more than this terrestrial life. In order to live, in order to survive the journey through the wilderness of life, we must go to Jesus. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry. He is the source of life, life here and life everlasting. He is speaking as God would speak. Let us then look on Jesus Christ as our all. If we truly possess him by our love and our faith, by our devout hearing of his word from the Church, and by our sincere reception of him in the Sacraments, life will be ours forever.
Get used to saying No.
(The Way, no. 5)
Monday, April 19, 2010
God our Father, your light of truth guides us to the way of Christ. May all who follow him reject what is contrary’ to the gospel. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who liveth and reigneth, world without end. Amen. Alleluia.
Blessed Luchesio and Buonadonna (d.1260)
Luchesio and his wife Buonadonna wanted to follow St. Francis as a married couple. Thus they set in motion the Secular Franciscan Order.
Luchesio and Buonadonna lived in Poggibonzi where he was a greedy merchant. Meeting Francis—probably in 1213—changed his life. He began to perform many works of charity.
At first Buonadonna was not as enthusiastic about giving so much away as Luchesio was. One day after complaining that he was giving everything to strangers, Buonadonna answered the door only to find someone else needing help. Luchesio asked her to give the poor man some bread. She frowned but went to the pantry anyway. There she discovered more bread than had been there the last time she looked. She soon became as zealous for a poor and simple life as Luchesio was. They sold the business, farmed enough land to provide for their needs and distributed the rest to the poor.
In the 13th century some couples, by mutual consent and with the Church’s permission, separated so that the husband could join a monastery (or a group such as Francis began) and his wife could go to a cloister. Conrad of Piacenza and his wife did just that. This choice existed for childless couples or for those whose children had already grown up. Luchesio and Buonadonna wanted another alternative, a way of sharing in religious life, but outside the cloister.
To meet this desire, Francis set up the Secular Franciscan Order. Francis wrote a simple Rule for the Third Order (Secular Franciscans) at first; Pope Honorius III approved a more formally worded Rule in 1221.
The charity of Luchesio drew the poor to him, and, like many other saints, he and Buonadonna seemed never to lack the resources to help these people.
One day Luchesio was carrying a crippled man he had found on the road. A frivolous young man came up and asked, "What poor devil is that you are carrying there on your back?" "I am carrying my Lord Jesus Christ," responded Luchesio. The young man immediately begged Luchesio’s pardon.
Luchesio and Buonadonna both died on April 28, 1260. He was beatified in 1273. Local tradition referred to Buonadonna as "blessed" though the title was not given officially.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (6.22~29)
The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realised that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with His disciples, but that they had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. Once the crowd realised that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. When they found Him on the other side of the lake, they asked Him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?" Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for Me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval." Then they asked Him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent."
The Work of Works
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)
One of the notable features of the modern university is its abundance and variety of degree programs. There is scarcely a field of human activity that cannot be studied at a university. It was not alway so. Up to the beginning of the nineteenth century there was at Oxford, for instance, an overwhelming stress on Mathematics and the Greek and Latin Classics. An indicator of the change that was coming was the foundation of the professorship of political economy at Oxford in 1825, with Nassau William Senior being elected to fill the chair. At present, one of the most dominant disciplines at tertiary level is Economics, and this stands to reason because Economics is one of the most dominant interests of Western culture. Consider the space given to economic and commercial matters in the printed press and in television and radio news. This of itself is not to be regretted because of the fundamental importance of the material dimension to life. Man must live off his material resources, and so it is of immense importance that his material resources be harvested and adequately organized — and this is what Economics is all about. Famine, disease and material deprivation rage in various parts of the world, and the world has a responsibility to provide economic security for the family of man. We must get our economics right and for this reason the Church has an extensive theological teaching on the economic life of society. That having been said, our special danger is to look to economic security and wellbeing as the key to true security and happiness. If only we are economically healthy and secure, all will be well. If we are not, then whatever else we might have, it is all flawed. This viewpoint has always been the danger for man and society, but in the past it has not endangered the acceptance of religion. Societies have pursued economic progress, but have also endeavoured to be in favour with the gods — or God. Now in a secular culture, though, we tend to dispense with God and place our hopes in material and economic progress alone. We aspire for food that will not last.
This has always been a danger, and our Lord refers to it directly in our Gospel today. The day before he had worked a spectacular miracle, a “sign” of what was coming. He had fed thousands with a mere handful of food and had gathered up many baskets of the fragments remaining. He had shown that he could provide sustenance for the multitudes, but it was meant by him as a sign of the special heavenly sustenance he would bestow on the world. That food from heaven would be his own Self, his body given for the life of the world. All that the multitude took from it, though, was a great sign of coming material security. They would scarcely need to work, with Christ in their midst! The day had ended with their eating to their full, with delicious bread and fish (for we remember the delicious wine, changed from water at the wedding feast of Cana). But the next day they discovered that Jesus had gone and they hastened back to Capernaum and discovered him there. How did you get here, they asked him? Our Lord did not bother with an answer to that question. The only reason why they were looking for him, he replied, was because they had been satisfied materially. They had had their fill, and they wanted more of the same. Their following of him, their seeking after him, was for material purposes. They were not seeking the salvation of their souls. They were concerned only with the food that cannot last. “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” But then comes the central question of the passage: “Then they asked him, What must we do to do the works God requires?” That is to say, what is the central work that God asks of us? What is it that humanity must achieve most of all? It is not just to be religious — for, after all, most of humanity in its long history has been “religious.” What humanity must do more than anything is believe in the one whom God has sent. “Jesus answered, The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:22-29).
Just before he ascended into heaven, our Lord gave to his disciples — which is to say, to the Church — a solemn charge. It was to go to the whole world and make disciples of all the nations. This is the work of the Church, to believe in Jesus Christ and to bring mankind to that belief. This is the work par excellence of man, to believe in Jesus Christ. The religion of Jesus Christ is not just one religion among many — all of them representing man’s aspiration for the divine. Jesus Christ is the one sent by God to save fallen man and to bring him into union with the One for whom he longs. Our work in life is to be united in faith with Jesus Christ. Our fulfilment will be attained in this. All other activity — all other work we do — must be understood and pursued in the context of this primary work. So then, now I begin!
Don't say, "That's the way I am - it's my character." It's your lack of character. Esto vir! - Be a man!
(The Way, no. 4)
Sunday, April 18, 2010
God our Father, may we look forward with hope to our resurrection, for you have made us your sons and daughters, and restored the joy of our youth. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen. Alleluia.
Blessed James Oldo (1364-1404)
James of Oldo was born in 1364, into a well-to-do family near Milan. He married a woman who, like him, appreciated the comforts that came with wealth. But an outbreak of plague drove James, his wife and their three children out of their home and into the countryside. Despite those precautions, two of his daughters died from the plague, James determined to use whatever time he had left to build up treasures in heaven and to build God’s realm on earth. He and his wife became Secular Franciscans. James gave up his old lifestyle and did penance for his sins. He cared for a sick priest, who taught him Latin. Upon the death of his wife, James himself became a priest. His house was transformed into a chapel where small groups of people, many of them fellow Secular Franciscans, came for prayer and support. James focused on caring for the sick and for prisoners of war. He died in 1404 after contracting a disease from one of his patients. James Oldo was beatified in 1933.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (21.1~19)
Afterwards Jesus appeared again to His disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. Then they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught." Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask Him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to His disciples after He was raised from the dead. When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love Me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." The third time He said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then He said to him, "Follow me!"
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)
The Oxford Movement in the third decade of nineteenth century England was, among other things, an attempt to restore the authority and spiritual life of the Anglican Church. This was understood by its leaders as requiring a recovery of the Catholic ethos of the early Church, as interpreted theologically by the Caroline divines of the seventeenth century. All acknowledge that John Henry Newman was its driving intellectual leader, and the elements of his thought continue to be the object of widespread research. Now, Newman saw clearly that the foe of Christian faith in his time was Rationalism. The rationalism that Newman opposed insisted that the validity of Faith and its tenets must be judged by the requirements of so-called “Reason.” In effect, “Reason” meant the formal requirements of logic and demonstration, such that if the believer could not demonstrate his case according to the canons of scientific proof, his case could not stand. Newman opposed this notion of the reasonable as being unreal. It was not how human beings arrived at valid convictions. The human being becomes convinced of something not just because it can be “demonstrated,” but because of a host of factors that are usually impossible to put into syllogistic form. Perhaps the most important factor (among others) leading a person to be convinced of the truth of something is antecedent probability. A formal “demonstration” of the existence of God, which might satisfy the demands of formal logic, of itself and alone will not usually lead to personal conviction of its truth. Rather, what will be decisive will be the convergence of factors which, while in logic might be probabilities, amount in his judgment (i.e., according to his “reason”) to a certainty. Newman also said that in matters moral and religious, what a person perceives to be true will depend in large measure on his own moral state — the state of his heart, of his will. This in turn depends on his fidelity to duty. What I am highlighting in this reference to Newman here is the importance of antecedent probability in arriving at religious truth, and of the state of a person’s heart in what he expects to be the truth.
We have a beautiful Gospel scene before us today John 21:1-19, the scene of the risen Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. There he is as dawn is breaking, a lone figure whom the disciples see from their boat. He is soon recognized by the beloved disciple, but this recognition followed on their encounter with the risen Jesus back in Jerusalem on the day of his resurrection. Our scene today invites us to recall the frame of mind of our Lord’s closest disciples, his Apostles no less, following his terrible death and hasty burial on the Friday afternoon. A great gloom enveloped them and during the entire Sabbath day that followed, a great darkness covered their souls. It was well represented by the two forlorn disciples leaving Jerusalem for Emmaus on the Sunday morning. They were joined by the risen Jesus, but failed to recognize him. The striking thing about the entire group of disciples — with the exception, we may be sure, of Christ’s own mother — was their conviction that his death was the end. They did not have the slightest sense of the probability of his rising from the dead. He had spoken of this explicitly. He had foretold his rejection, his condemnation, his passion, his death — and had even foretold how he would die. It would be by crucifixion. But he had repeatedly said he would also rise — and had specified that it would be on the third day. Nevertheless, they had no sense even of its probability, let alone of its certainty. They utterly lacked what Newman says is the principal factor leading to conviction in matters of real life; a sense of its antecedent probability. Not only did they not expect it, but they expected the opposite. Because of this they did not accept the various reports coming from reliable witnesses on the day of his resurrection. They regarded it as overwhelmingly improbable, despite all they had seen and known of Jesus Christ and of what he had predicted. Thomas even refused to accept the joint witness of the other Apostles. Why did they regard it as so improbable? Our Lord made it clear to them that it was due to the hardness of their hearts.
As I mentioned earlier, Newman also taught that in matters moral and religious, what a person accepts as likely will depend on his moral state. Religious conviction — or faith — does not just depend on so-called “Reason.” It depends on the state of our hearts, for this will shape what we consider to be probable. In turn, our sense of what is probable will shape our response to those many things that point to the truth of something. It was because of the state of their hearts that the Apostles did not accept the news of the resurrection — in other words, the good news of the Gospel. They regarded it as totally improbable. It was only when the Fact of it was presented before their eyes that they became convinced. Let us ask our Lord to pour his grace into our hearts and make of them good soil for the great truth of the resurrection.
Maturity. Stop making faces and acting like a child! Your bearing ought to reflect the peace and order in your soul.
(The Way, no. 3)