Saturday, April 17, 2010

Prayers today: You are a people God claims as his own, to praise him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light, alleluia. (1 Pet 2:9)

God our Father, look upon us with love, you redeem us and make us your children in Christ. Give us true freedom and bring us to the inheritance you promised. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who liveth and reigneth world without end. Amen. Alleluia.

St. Benedict Joseph Labre (d. 1783)

Benedict Joseph Labre was truly eccentric, one of God's special little ones. Born in France and the eldest of 18 children, he studied under his uncle, a parish priest. Because of poor health and a lack of suitable academic preparation he was unsuccessful in his attempts to enter the religious life. Then, at 16 years of age, a profound change took place. Benedict lost his desire to study and gave up all thoughts of the priesthood, much to the consternation of his relatives. He became a pilgrim, travelling from one great shrine to another, living off alms. He wore the rags of a beggar and shared his food with the poor. Filled with the love of God and neighbour, Benedict had special devotion to the Blessed Mother and to the Blessed Sacrament. In Rome, where he lived in the Colosseum for a time, he was called "the poor man of the Forty Hours Devotion" and "the beggar of Rome." The people accepted his ragged appearance better than he did. His excuse to himself was that "our comfort is not in this world." On the last day of his life, April 16, 1783, Benedict Joseph dragged himself to a church in Rome and prayed there for two hours before he collapsed, dying peacefully in a nearby house. Immediately after his death the people proclaimed him a saint. He was officially proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo XIII at canonization ceremonies in 1883.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (6.16~21)

When evening came the disciples of Jesus went down to the sea, got into a boat and went across for Capharnaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come back to them. A strong wind blew and the sea began to stir. They had rowed some twenty five or thirty furlongs when they saw Jesus walking on the sea and approaching the boat. They were afraid, but He said to them: "It is I. Do not fear." Then they took Him on board willingly enough and very soon the boat reached the shore to which they were going.

The New Moses
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

Our passage today is from the Gospel of St John, and one of the many connections this Gospel makes is that between Jesus Christ and Moses. At the outset of the Gospel, in its very prologue, Christ is compared with two prophets before him: John the Baptist and Moses. John the Baptist “was not the Light; he was sent to bear witness to the Light.” It is Jesus Christ who “is the true Light” (1:8-9). Through Moses “the law was given to us; through Jesus Christ grace came to us, and truth” (1:17). The hint is that Jesus Christ is a new and much greater Moses. In the sixth chapter of the Gospel, Christ gives a great “sign” that led the people present to identify him as “the Prophet who is to come into the world.” The Scriptures had pronounced that there had never been a prophet equal to Moses, and Moses himself had spoken of the Prophet who would come. They were to listen to him — suggesting that he would be a greater Prophet than Moses. The “sign” (6:14) that Christ had given of feeding the multitudes on the other side of the Sea of Tiberius away from their homes (perhaps suggesting “the wilderness”), surely conjured up the memory of Moses at the head of his people in the wilderness. Moses had appealed to God and God had sent manna from heaven. Here was a new Moses — “the Prophet,” no less. This “sign” given, our Lord presumably directs his disciples to make their way back across the Lake to Capernaum, which they proceeded to do. Evening had come, and perhaps our Lord was busy still in the ministry of the day or had withdrawn to pray. He indicated to them that he would follow, which they interpreted to mean that he would follow them in one of the other boats. So they set off across the water, and “it was already dark, but Jesus had not come to them” (6:17). Imagine the scene — “the sea was rising, because a strong wind was blowing” (6:18). Long before, the children of Israel had passed across the Red Sea with Moses at their head. The disciples are in difficulty and there before them is Jesus “walking on the sea, and drawing near to the boat” (6:19).

Moses had been the great liberator raised up by God to bring the children of Israel out of slavery to the Promised Land. He had been the redeemer of the people from the thraldom of Egypt. He had led them across the Red Sea into the wilderness, and there, as a result of his prayer to God, the people had been fed daily with manna from heaven. Thus they eventually passed through the desert into the land given by God to their forefathers and promised to them through the mouth of Moses. A new and much greater Moses has now come. There is no difficulty he cannot save us from. Whatever be the storms that beat about our craft — the craft of our own individual lives, or the craft of the Church — our Moses is always near at hand. Many times in the course of history the Church has been subjected to appalling vicissitudes. Let us think of the three centuries — three centuries! — following the death and resurrection of Christ and his command to make disciples of all the nations. There were centuries of repeated and ruthless persecutions. Then finally a springtime arrived, and it was shown that Christ had been with them on the turbulent Sea. He had been repeating to them all along, Do not be afraid. It is I! I am with you. These words of Christ to his disciples are themselves very evocative. They mirror the words of Yahweh God speaking to Moses from the Burning Bush. Moses had asked for his name so as to tell the people which God (among the various gods) had sent him. The answer was given: I am — I am who I am! Let us remember that Jesus Christ was and is the Word made flesh. Those stunning words had come from the one God, who would be revealed to be triune. That is to say, they had come from the Word, who now was flesh. Here on the turbulent water he utters them again to his disciples and through them to his Church down through the ages in the midst of their recurring vicissitudes. I am, and I am with you in the midst of everything, come what may. Significantly, when the disciples heard him they willingly received him on board, and “soon” they reached the shore.

Not only does God’s chosen people have a new liberator, a new Moses, but all of mankind does. God has sent his Son to lead his people across the sea of life and sin into the Promised Land of life in God. The new Moses is Jesus Christ, risen from the dead and now with his people as they bring this good news to all the nations. The nations have a new vocation: it is to be disciples of Jesus Christ, through whom have come grace and truth. He is always near, and he is our Saviour. Let us always hear his words, uttered once to Moses, repeated to his disciples, and passed on to us: “It is I! Do not be afraid!” (John 6:16-21)



May your behaviour and your conversation be such that everyone who sees or hears you can say: This man reads the life of Jesus Christ.
(The Way, no. 2)

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