Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Prayers today: Come to the waters, all who thirst; though you have no money, come and drink with joy. (See Is 55:1)

Father, may our Lenten observance prepare us to embrace the paschal mystery and to proclaim your salvation with joyful praise. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, . .

St. Clement Mary Hofbauer (1751-1820)

Clement might be called the second founder of the Redemptorists, as it was he who carried the congregation of St. Alphonsus Liguori to the people north of the Alps. John, the name given him at Baptism, was born in Moravia into a poor family, the ninth of 12 children. Although he longed to be a priest there was no money for studies, and he was apprenticed to a baker. But God guided the young man's fortunes. He found work in the bakery of a monastery where he was allowed to attend classes in its Latin school. After the abbot there died, John tried the life of a hermit but when Emperor Joseph II abolished hermitages, John again returned to Vienna and to baking. One day after serving Mass at the cathedral of St. Stephen, he called a carriage for two ladies waiting there in the rain. In their conversation they learned that he could not pursue his priestly studies because of a lack of funds. They generously offered to support both him and his friend, Thaddeus, in their seminary studies. The two went to Rome, where they were drawn to St. Alphonsus' vision of religious life and to the Redemptorists. The two young men were ordained together in 1785. Newly professed at age 34, Clement Mary, as he was now called, and Thaddeus were sent back to Vienna. But the religious difficulties there caused them to leave and continue north to Warsaw, Poland. There they encountered numerous German-speaking Catholics who had been left priestless by the suppression of the Jesuits. At first they had to live in great poverty and preached outdoor sermons. They were given the church of St. Benno, and for the next nine years they preached five sermons a day, two in German and three in Polish, converting many to the faith. They were active in social work among the poor, founding an orphanage and then a school for boys. Drawing candidates to the congregation, they were able to send missionaries to Poland, Germany and Switzerland. All of these foundations had eventually to be abandoned because of the political and religious tensions of the times. After 20 years of difficult work Clement himself was imprisoned and expelled from the country. Only after another arrest was he able to reach Vienna, where he was to live and work the final 12 years of his life. He quickly became "the apostle of Vienna," hearing the confessions of the rich and poor, visiting the sick, acting as a counsellor to the powerful, sharing his holiness with all in the city. His crowning work was the establishment of a Catholic college in his beloved city. Persecution followed him, and there were those in authority who were able for a while to stop him from preaching. An attempt was made at the highest levels to have him banished. But his holiness and fame protected him and the growth of the Redemptorists. Due to his efforts, the congregation, upon his death in 1820, was firmly established north of the Alps. He was canonized in 1909.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (5.1~16)

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie— the blind, the lame, the paralysed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, Do you want to get well? Sir, the invalid replied, I have no-one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me. Then Jesus said to him, Get up! Pick up your mat and walk. At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat. But he replied, The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.' So they asked him, Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk? The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you. The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted Him.

Jesus Christ
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

One gets the impression that on the occasion of this miracle our Lord was in Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews in a somewhat private capacity, without publicity. There is no mention of crowds thronging around him, no mention of his publicly teaching in the Temple, although he undoubtedly had some of his disciples with him — such as John who reports the incident. Our Lord may have been visiting for the Feast in this incognito manner to avoid the mounting hostility of the religious leaders, while being able to visit the House of his beloved Father in heaven. So let us observe him quietly mingling with the crowd, his dress similar to the rest, with a cloth headpiece protective against the weather hanging down and perhaps serving also to disguise his features. He is accompanied by John, perhaps Simon Peter, James and some others. Gaze on this Man of the ages! There he stands, there he moves forward, filled with love and peace, the Light of the world! He sees the truth, and he is the Truth. He is intent on entering the House of his dear Father, his Abba. My Father! he whispers to himself. My dear Father! How I long to see you glorified! Father, dear Father, is the refrain that sings in his heart. This Man has come from the Father himself. His Person was with the Father from age to age. From all eternity the two had been together, united in a third Person, the one who leads him now — the Spirit! The Spirit fills his heart and prompts his powerful and loving prayer that unceasingly rises to the highest heavens and captivates the Father of all, the Origin of origins. There he is, moving ahead. Oh, how marvellous is this Man we watch! We follow him with John and the others. We see his figure, calm, powerful, so utterly good, so very beautiful in his entire being. He is the heart and the head of the whole world, the entire universe. He is the King, the Lord, the One long promised. Is it not a staggering and wondrous thought that this Man who now stops and gazes on an invalid is the very Son of God? We behold in him no mere magnificent prophet, no singular and even unique religious teacher and leader. We are gazing on the living God.

He stops. Perhaps it is a disciple who mentions to him this particular invalid. This incapacitated man has lain there a long time — his presence at the Bethesda pool began before Jesus was born. He had been there at the pool during those years when the adolescent Jesus accompanied his parents to Jerusalem for the annual Feast. Ah! Think of the adolescent Jesus! What a boy he was! The boy who was God made man! So great in nature and grace, growing in his marvellous humanity, preparing for the titanic work ahead in which he would take away the sin of the world, bring the Spirit to all who asked for it, and found his Church whereby he, the Saviour, would reach the ends of the earth and every person. A titanic work indeed, and here he is now, the Man. Pilate would say to the enemies of Christ, Behold the Man! Let us continue to behold him as he stops now and speaks to the invalid. “He asked him, Do you want to get well? Sir, the invalid replied, I have no-one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me. Then Jesus said to him, Get up! Pick up your mat and walk. At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked” (John 5: 1-16). It seems that that was all that happened, and Jesus moved on, mingling unknown amid the crowd, on his way to the Temple. The man who had been healed had no idea who it was who had healed him, so effective was our Lord’s obscurity during these moments. Our Lord stopped, healed, moved on. Now, let us remember that though our Lord is not visible, he is very much with us. Moreover, he sees all our difficulties. Why did he not heal this paralytic long before? We do not know. Thirty-eight years! But the moment finally came — and someone mentioned the invalid. Let us never give up on Jesus Christ for all our needs, and for the needs of others! The same Man said, ask and you will receive, seek and your will find. The one who asks always receives. Let us keep in his presence then, and never forget who it is to whom we are praying!

Let us never take Jesus Christ for granted, in effect forgetting who he is. He is the Man of men, the unique person of human history. He is truly man, man in every way except that he had no sin, no tendency to sin, no moral fault of any kind because he was literally and truly God. Man though he is, in the first instance he is God, for he is one of the three divine Persons. He took to himself a human nature, and in his humanity suffered and died for us, taking away the sin of the world. Let us love and follow him then! There is no one like him.

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