Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Morning Offering: O Jesus, through the most pure heart of Mary, I offer you all the prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Your Divine Heart, in union with the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I offer them especially for the Holy Father's intentions:

Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for February is: "That by means of sincere search for the truth scholars and intellectuals may arrive at an understanding of the one true God".

His mission intention is: "That the Church, aware of her own missionary identity, may strive to follow Christ faithfully and to proclaim His Gospel to all peoples".

St. Gilbert of Sempringham (c. 1083-1189)

Gilbert was born in Sempringham, England, into a wealthy family, but he followed a path quite different from that expected of him as the son of a Norman knight. Sent to France for his higher education, he decided to pursue seminary studies. He returned to England not yet ordained a priest, and inherited several estates from his father. But Gilbert avoided the easy life he could have led under the circumstances. Instead he lived a simple life at a parish, sharing as much as possible with the poor. Following his ordination to the priesthood he served as parish priest at Sempringham. Among the congregation were seven young women who had expressed to him their desire to live in religious life. In response, Gilbert had a house built for them adjacent to the Church. There they lived an austere life, but one which attracted ever more numbers; eventually lay sisters and lay brothers were added to work the land. The religious order formed eventually became known as the Gilbertines, though Gilbert had hoped the Cistercians or some other existing order would take on the responsibility of establishing a rule of life for the new order. The Gilbertines, the only religious order of English origin founded during the Middle Ages, continued to thrive. But the order came to an end when King Henry VIII suppressed all Catholic monasteries. Over the years a special custom grew up in the houses of the order called "the plate of the Lord Jesus." The best portions of the dinner were put on a special plate and shared with the poor, reflecting Gilbert's lifelong concern for less fortunate people. Throughout his life Gilbert lived simply, consumed little food and spent a good portion of many nights in prayer. Despite the rigors of such a life he died at well over age 100.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark (8.14~21)

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. "Be careful", Jesus warned them. "Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod." They discussed this with one another and said, "It is because we have no bread." Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?" "Twelve," they replied. "And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?" They answered, "Seven." He said to them, "Do you still not understand?"

(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

One of the most common of notions is that in religion, ultimately what is important is that a person be sincere. As it stands, this is unexceptionable except that there can be the hidden assumption that while sincerity in religion is important, the truth is not. Now, it is obviously very essential that a person be sincere, that he act according to his convictions, that he not be duplicitous, that his “yes” be a true yes and that his “no” a true no. It is important that he try sincerely to act according to his conscience. But a person can be all of this, more or less, and yet the crucial element may be missing. He may have no perception. He may be blind. In our Gospel today (Mark 8: 14-21) our Lord warns his disciples against “the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” He was warning them against the influence of their teaching and example. The primary function of yeast (a plant) in the making of bread is to supply carbon dioxide gas which inflates the dough during the early stages of baking. The dough is aerated by the action of the yeast. The yeast ferments the dough, producing tiny bubbles of gas inside it. As a result, the dough gets fatter and bigger — and rises, of course. Thus when the dough is baked, there is a 'bold' loaf, light and airy; when it is cut one can see the tiny holes formed by the gas, so that it looks like a sponge. Without the yeast the dough would remain flat — which is to say that to all intents and purposes the “bread” is made such by the yeast. The Pharisees and the Herodians were blind. On one occasion when the Sadducees attempted to prove to our Lord by a riddle that there could not be a resurrection from the dead, he said they knew neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. “You are very much mistaken,” Christ said (Mark 12: 18-27). On another occasion he referred to the Pharisees as blind leaders of the blind. Both fall into the ditch (Matthew 15:14). But this error and this blindness was due to the state of their hearts. As our Lord went on to say in the same chapter (15:18-20), it is from the heart of man that come the things that defile him.

This point about blindness of mind due to the state of heart is implied in what our Lord then says to his disciples. They had completely misinterpreted his warning against the yeast of the Pharisees and the Herodians. “They discussed this with one another and said, It is because we have no bread.” Why are you talking about “bread” as a result of what I said? he asked them. And then he makes a connection between “understanding” and the state of a person’s heart. “Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up? Twelve, they replied. And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up? They answered, Seven. He said to them, “Do you still not understand?” (Mark 8:14-21). I like to imagine our Lord smiling at his disciples when he said this, perhaps shaking his head in good humour. They loved him and strove to understand his teaching and were truly willing to embrace it because of their love and veneration for him. But our Lord seems to imply that even with his disciples, their lack of understanding was to some extent due to the state of their hearts: Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? This was certainly the case, and far more so, with the Pharisees and the Herodians. Our Lord’s words point to a terrible possibility, that lack of belief can stem from the state of one’s heart. Cardinal Newman during his Anglican days was on intimate terms at Oxford with an apostate Catholic priest, one Joseph Blanco White. Blanco White ended his days having passed from Catholicism to Anglicanism and finally on to Unitarianism. He was buried in the Unitarian burial ground in Manchester while Newman was still an Anglican. Newman even as an Anglican judged him to be sincere but blind — but that this blindness was due to moral failure. Countless moral infidelities brought on a blindness in understanding.

Many have lacked understanding but have acted in all good faith. They remained good soil for the action of God. St Paul prior to is conversion was an instance of this. He simply did not know better, but responded totally when true light came. We remember the blind man coming before our Lord, who asked him 'What do you want me to do for you?' His answer was, 'Lord, that I may see.' Many saints have made that petition their own prayer: Lord that I may see! Mere sincerity is not enough. We must seek to know the truth, to “see,” because sincerity can be blind with a blindness that is morally culpable. Let us pray for light from God that will overcome the blindness of our hearts, and when light comes, let us be faithful to it. If we are not, the light will pass away.

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