Prayers for Wednesday of the fourth week in Lent: I pray to you, O God, for the time of your favour. Lord, in your great love, answer me. (See Ps 68:14)
Lord, you reward virtue and forgive the repentant sinner. Grant us your forgiveness as we come before you confessing our guilt. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns world without end. Amen.
St. Patrick (415?-493?)
Legends about Patrick abound; but truth is best served by our seeing two solid qualities in him: He was humble and he was courageous. The determination to accept suffering and success with equal indifference guided the life of God’s instrument for winning most of Ireland for Christ. Details of his life are uncertain. Current research places his dates of birth and death a little later than earlier accounts. Patrick may have been born in Dunbarton, Scotland, Cumberland, England, or in northern Wales. He called himself both a Roman and a Briton. At 16, he and a large number of his father’s slaves and vassals were captured by Irish raiders and sold as slaves in Ireland. Forced to work as a shepherd, he suffered greatly from hunger and cold. After six years, Patrick escaped, probably to France, and later returned to Britain at the age of 22. His captivity had meant spiritual conversion. He may have studied at Lerins, off the French coast; he spent years at Auxerre, France, and was consecrated bishop at the age of 43. His great desire was to proclaim the Good News to the Irish. In a dream vision it seemed “all the children of Ireland from their mothers’ wombs were stretching out their hands” to him. He understood the vision to be a call to do mission work in pagan Ireland. Despite opposition from those who felt his education had been defective, he was sent to carry out the task. He went to the west and north, where the faith had never been preached, obtained the protection of local kings and made numerous converts.
Because of the island’s pagan background, Patrick was emphatic in encouraging widows to remain chaste and young women to consecrate their virginity to Christ. He ordained many priests, divided the country into dioceses, held Church councils, founded several monasteries and continually urged his people to greater holiness in Christ. He suffered much opposition from pagan druids, and was criticized in both England and Ireland for the way he conducted his mission. In a relatively short time the island had experienced deeply the Christian spirit, and was prepared to send out missionaries whose efforts were greatly responsible for Christianizing Europe. Patrick was a man of action, with little inclination toward learning. He had a rocklike belief in his vocation, in the cause he had espoused. One of the few certainly authentic writings is his Confessio, above all an act of homage to God for having called Patrick, unworthy sinner, to the apostolate. There is hope rather than irony in the fact that his burial place is said to be in strife-torn Ulster, in County Down.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (10.1~12)
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.' But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.' I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)
In Nazareth there are, of course, well-known Christian churches that honour the Incarnation. There is the large Catholic basilica of the Annunciation with its House of Mary underneath, commemorating the conception of Christ in the womb of the Virgin Mary. There is impressive archaeological work associated with that church. There is the associated church of St Joseph, commemorating the dwelling of the Holy Family. There is also the Greek Orthodox church of what is called the Spring of Mary, commemorating the spring where Mary would have come to draw water. The Greek Orthodox take the Annunciation to have occurred while Mary was at that spring of water. In the same large city of Nazareth — now grown far beyond its size at the time of Christ — there are mosques, and in particular the White Mosque. I have visited that mosque and I could not but be impressed by the religious practice of the Moslems attending that famous mosque. The menfolk entered, prayed and left in a reverent manner. I was instinctively led to compare in my own mind the two religions that are represented so strikingly in the city of Christ’s childhood, youth and manhood. Islam honours the one and only God as it conceives and imagines him. Allah is high, transcendent, holy, merciful. Above all, Allah is very high and very great — indeed, even distant. He is a strong counterweight against the polytheism of the religions of man. There is no other God but he, and Islam characteristically interprets the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity as denying the oneness of Allah. How different is the Christian religion! Of course the Christian rejoices that Islam has profited so directly by the absolute monotheism of the Judaeo-Christian revelation. But the God of Abraham, Moses, the prophets, draws very near to his chosen people, speaking of himself as a Husband to the people of his choice. This nearness is surpassed and brought to its ultimate term in Jesus Christ. God has actually become man. God the Son, truly God and truly man, trod a chosen land and associated freely and easily with us his brothers. In speaking familiarly with him, people were speaking familiarly with the great God himself. The all-high God made himself wondrously near to us. In Jesus Christ, God became our brother and our friend.
Yes, for the one who by divine grace has discerned the divinity of Jesus Christ — for his humanity is evident — and who by baptism is in Christ, God the Son is his brother. Further, for that same person who by baptism is in Jesus Christ, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ is his Father — and all this by the power of the Holy Spirit. God has crossed the distance and become our best of friends. For Islam, this is no way to speak of God, for the one God is our exalted Master and Lord. The pivotal element in the Christian religion is personal friendship with Jesus Christ, living, risen, unseen. By means of friendship with Jesus, established by the Sacraments and nourished by his word and personal prayer, we live in God who is our brother and our father. But there is a distinctive character to this friendship with Jesus Christ — and this brings us to our Gospel today (Luke 10: 1-12). Friendship with Jesus is not just a matter of being with Jesus in, we might even say, a sedentary sense. We are not, as Christians, simply sitting in a room with Jesus for the whole of our Christian life. By that I mean that our grasp of the outstretched hand of Jesus our Saviour does not end there. Yes, he extends his hand to us to take away our sins and to share his divine life with us. But very importantly, he also wishes to draw us into his mission. As our brother and our friend he wants us to join with him in his work. He wants his friends to help bring him and his grace to the world. He wants us to bear fruit, fruit that will last. Life for the Christian is life in union with our divine brother, saviour and friend, a life that is very much a “working” life. It is a life of immersion in the work of Jesus Christ our brother. We are all called to collaborate with Christ in bringing salvation in him to the world. And so it is that we read in our Gospel today that our Lord “appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go!” We must work and pray for it.
For this reason many decades ago the Venerable Pope Pius XII taught that an essential element of the Christian life is that it be apostolic. This teaching was repeated with insistence by the Second Vatican Council and developed by subsequent popes. No matter what our calling in life, if we aspire to friendship with the living Jesus — and sanctity consists of this — we must aspire to be one with Jesus in his mission. This is part and parcel of putting on the mind of Christ, as St Paul chooses to express it. Today is the feast of St Patrick, outstanding missionary. Christ calls us to an apostolic friendship with him, and the character and shape of this will vary from calling to calling and circumstance to circumstance. Let us then strive to grow in the desire to bring others to Jesus Christ, for He is the life of man.