Friday, March 5, 2010

St. John Joseph of the Cross (1654-1734)

Self-denial is never an end in itself but is only a help toward greater charity—as the life of Saint John Joseph shows. John Joseph was very ascetic even as a young man. At 16 he joined the Franciscans in Naples; he was the first Italian to follow the reform movement of Saint Peter Alcantara. John’s reputation for holiness prompted his superiors to put him in charge of establishing a new friary even before he was ordained. Obedience moved John to accept appointments as novice master, guardian and, finally, provincial. His years of mortification enabled him to offer these services to the friars with great charity. As guardian he was not above working in the kitchen or carrying the wood and water needed by the friars. When his term as provincial expired, John Joseph dedicated himself to hearing confessions and practicing mortification, two concerns contrary to the spirit of the dawning Age of Enlightenment. John Joseph was canonized in 1839.

The First reading from the Book of Genesis (37.3~28)

Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons,
for he was the child of his old age;
and he had made him a long tunic.
When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons,
they hated him so much that they would not even greet him.

One day, when his brothers had gone
to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem,
Israel said to Joseph,
“Your brothers, you know, are tending our flocks at Shechem.
Get ready; I will send you to them.”

So Joseph went after his brothers and caught up with them in Dothan.
They noticed him from a distance,
and before he came up to them, they plotted to kill him.
They said to one another: “Here comes that master dreamer!
Come on, let us kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns here;
we could say that a wild beast devoured him.
We shall then see what comes of his dreams.”

When Reuben heard this,
he tried to save him from their hands, saying,
“We must not take his life.
Instead of shedding blood,” he continued,
“just throw him into that cistern there in the desert;
but do not kill him outright.”
His purpose was to rescue him from their hands
and return him to his father.
So when Joseph came up to them,
they stripped him of the long tunic he had on;
then they took him and threw him into the cistern,
which was empty and dry.

They then sat down to their meal.
Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead,
their camels laden with gum, balm and resin
to be taken down to Egypt.
Judah said to his brothers:
“What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood?
Rather, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites,
instead of doing away with him ourselves.
After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.”
His brothers agreed.
They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver.

A reflection on the first reading from the Book of Genesis (37.3~28)

Trust in God
(Reflection by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

When threats come our way, perhaps loss of possessions, failure in work, bad health, serious sickness or the approach of death, we can be tempted to panic, or rebel, or simply to give up. We can fail in hope and trust because we think there is no one who is looking after us. Consider the patriarch Joseph, the beloved son of Jacob. He was hated by most of his brothers because they were envious of the special love their father had for him. So they violently sold him into the oblivion of slavery in Egypt. Joseph may have thought there was no hope humanly speaking. But the integrity he displayed in Egypt (as recounted in Genesis) shows that he still trusted in God.

In fact, God used his enslavement for far reaching purposes. He exalted Joseph in Egypt and as a result of this, he was the instrument whereby God preserved Jacob and his family from devastating famine. From Jacob and his family would come the Messiah. Among many things, the story of Joseph powerfully reminds us that God is our Father and our constant Provider, no matter what happens to us. Joseph was a type of Christ. Throughout his Passion, Christ abandoned himself to the care of his Father. Let us resolve to abandon ourselves into the Father's care, no matter what might happen to us.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew (21.33~43. 45~46)

Jesus said, "Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them in the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. 'They will respect my son,' he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time." Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes'? Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit." When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew He was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest Him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that He was a prophet.

The Vine
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

Buddhism proposes a way to what it regards as life. The Christian religion sets forth a Person. He is the way, just as He is the full truth and life, life in abundance. Pope Paul VI once said that the Christian religion is not a simple matter — he was referring to the immense richness and unending implications of the Christian religion. But in one sense he would have been the first to insist on the simplicity of its essential element. Christianity is about the person of Christ, and the vocation of the Christian is to live in friendship with Jesus Christ. When the Christian reads the inspired Scriptures, it ought deepen his understanding of Jesus Christ. So then, let us consider our Lord’s parable in today’s Gospel in view of what it says about him. Our Lord situates himself in the context of the history of God’s dealings with his chosen people. The people of his choice is his vineyard — and we think of the image of the vineyard used by the prophet Isaiah. What could I have done that I have not done! the prophet said, speaking on God’s behalf. We think of the history of that divine choice beginning with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob through to the twelve patriarchs, the sons of Jacob. God was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and he had entered into a covenant with them, marvellously renewed and developed in the covenant of Sinai. God was forming his people and sending them his prophets to guide and guard them as his own. We may say that this process of choice is encapsulated in our Lord’s opening scene of his parable: “There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower.” The vineyard was the house of Israel. But those charged with caring for the vineyard neglected their responsibility. “Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third.” This was the context of our Lord’s reference in the parable to himself.

Now, observe the dramatic difference in the parable between the servants of the vineyard who are clearly the prophets, and Jesus himself. While they are the landowner’s servants, he is the landowner’s son. There is a difference, we may almost say, not in mere degree but almost in kind. The prophets are the servants of Yahweh God, but Jesus Christ is his son. No other prophet spoke of himself so — we might even say — audaciously. Yet repeatedly our Lord spoke of himself in these exalted terms, and in the presence of his determined opponents. There was no one equal to Jesus Christ in terms of his relationship with God: the best of them were but servants of God, whereas he was his very son. So while in the parable our Lord speaks of the judgment that will come upon the leaders of the people and how the vineyard will be taken away from them, the parable also speaks of Jesus Christ. He is the privileged son, the only son of the master of the vineyard. Moreover, he is destined to be cast out of the vineyard by the tenants and killed. So our Lord is pointing not only to his unique status and relationship with God, but to the mysterious destiny that is his, despite his exalted status. So as we read the parable, let us think of the one who is the son of the master of the vineyard. There is a second extraordinary point intimately connected with the son. The vineyard of the house of Israel in the plan of God became the vine that is the Church. The vine is the son. “I am the vine,” our Lord said to his disciples at the Last Supper, “and you are the branches.” So an altogether new relationship has been established by God between his son and the people of his choice. Christ does not serve merely as another of his father’s emissaries. He has become the vine, and the people of God are now the branches. There is an new relationship obtaining between God and his people. The owner of the vineyard is the now the vinegrower. He attends to the vine himself, and the vineyard has become but one vine. All of the Church’s members share as branches in the life of that one vine that is Christ. In Christ there has been effected a new relationship between God and his people (Matt. 21: 33-43. 45-46).

All of this constitutes a serious responsibility to tend the vine and to bring forth fruit. Christ told his disciples that he expected that they produce fruit that would last. In the previous situation described in the parable, the produce was not forthcoming. In its stead, the master of the vineyard was conspired against and his representatives were rejected. A judgment came upon the tenants as a result. Let us not be like that! Let us live as true branches of the vine, being open to the care of the vinegrower who our heavenly Father, and who wishes us to share in the life of his Son.

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