Tuesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time



“Then his mother and his brothers came to him but were unable to join him because of the crowd...” (Luke 8:19.)

Saint Cyril of Alexandria comments on this verse from the Gospel proclaimed at Mass today:

“The present lesson teaches us that obedience and listening to God are the causes of every blessing. Some entered and spoke respectfully about Christ’s holy mother and his brothers. He answered in these words, “My mother and my brothers are they who hear the word of God and do it.”

Now do not let any one imagine that Christ scorned the honor due to his mother or contemptuously disregarded the love owed to his brothers. He spoke the law by Moses and clearly said, “Honor your father and your mother, that it may be well with you.” How, I ask, could he have rejected the love due to brothers, who even commanded us to love not merely our brothers but also those who are enemies to us? He says, “Love your enemies.” What does Christ want to teach? His object is to exalt highly his love toward those who are willing to bow the neck to his commands. I will explain the way he does this. The greatest honors and the most complete affection are what we all owe to our mothers and brothers. If he says that they who hear his word and do it are his mother and brothers, is it not plain to every one that he bestows on those who follow him a love thorough and worthy of their acceptance? He would make them readily embrace the desire of yielding themselves to his words and of submitting their mind to his yoke, by means of a complete obedience.” (Commentary on Luke, Homily 42)



Collect
O God,
Who founded all the commands
of your sacred Law
upon love of you and of our neighbor,
grant that, by keeping your precepts,
we may merit to attain eternal life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen


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The Church, like a vine, spreads everywhere in her growth



Bishop and Great Western Father of the Church

An excerpt from a sermon On Pastors (Sermon 46)

Tuesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

They were scattered on every mountain, and on every hill and over the entire face of the earth. What is the meaning of the phrase: They were scattered over the entire face of the earth? Some men continually strive for all the goods of the world, the goods that are so evident on the face of the earth; yes, they love and prize them. They do not want to die, to have their lives buried in Christ. Over the entire face of the earth: such men love earthly things; moreover such straying sheep are to be found over the entire face of the earth. They dwell in different places, but one mother, pride, has given birth to them all, just as one mother, our Catholic Church, has given birth to all faithful Christians scattered over the entire world.

Small wonder that pride gives birth to division, and love to unity. But our catholic mother is herself a shepherd; she seeks the straying sheep everywhere, strengthens the weak, heals the sick, and binds up the injured. They may not know one another, but she knows all of them because she reaches out to all her sheep.

Thus she is like a vine that is spread out everywhere in its growth. The straying sheep are like useless branches which because of their sterility are deservedly cut off, not to destroy the vine but to prune it. When these branches were cut down, they were left lying there. But the vine grew and flourished, and it knew both the branches that remained upon it and those that had been cut off and left lying beside it.

She calls the stray sheep back, however, because the Apostle said in reference to the broken branches: God has the power to graft them on again. Call them sheep straying from the flock or branches cut off from the vine, God is equally capable of calling back the sheep or of grafting the branches on again, for he is equally the chief shepherd and the true farmer. And they were scattered over the entire face of the earth, and there was no one to search for them, no one to call them back, that is to say, no one among those wicked shepherds. There was no one to search for them, that is, no one among men.

Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: I live, says the Lord God. Notice the beginning of this passage; it is as if God were taking an oath, giving testimony to his own life. I live, says the Lord. The shepherds are dead, but the sheep are safe, for the Lord lives. I live, says the Lord God. Which shepherds are dead? Those who seek what is theirs and not what is Christ’s. But will there be shepherds who seek what is Christ’s and not what is theirs, and will they be found? There will indeed be such shepherds, and they will indeed be found; they are not lacking, nor will they be lacking in the future.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 


Monday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time



“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light...” (Luke 8:16.)

Origen of Alexandria (part 2 of Pope Benedict’s reflections on Origen) comments on this verse from the Gospel proclaimed at Mass today:

“Scripture does not say this about a tangible lamp but about a comprehensible one. One does not “light” the lamp and conceal it “with a vessel” or put it “under a bed, but on the lamp stand” within himself. The vessels of the house are the powers of the soul. The bed is the body. “Those who go in” are those who hear the teacher.

He calls the holy church a “lamp stand.” By its proclamation, the Word of God gives light to all who are in this world and illuminates those in the house with the rays of the truth, filling the minds of all with divine knowledge.” (Fragments on Luke, 120, 122.)




Collect
O God,
Who founded all the commands
of your sacred Law
upon love of you and of our neighbor,
grant that, by keeping your precepts,
we may merit to attain eternal life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.




Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen


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Welcome or unwelcome, insist upon the message

Bishop and Great Western Father of the Church

An excerpt from a sermon On Pastors (Sermon 46)

Monday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

The straying sheep you have not recalled; the lost sheep you have not sought. In one way or another, we go on living between the hands of robbers and the teeth of raging wolves, and in light of these present dangers we ask your prayers. The sheep moreover are insolent. The shepherd seeks out the straying sheep, but because they have wandered away and are lost they say that they are not ours. “Why do you want us? Why do you seek us?” they ask, as if their straying and being lost were not the very reason for our wanting them and seeking them out. “If I am straying,” he says, “if I am lost, why do you want me?” You are straying, that is why I wish to recall you. You have been lost, I wish to find you. “But I wish to stray,” he says: “I wish to be lost.”

So you wish to stray and be lost? How much better that I do not also wish this. Certainly, I dare say, I am unwelcome. But I listen to the Apostle who says: Preach the word; insist upon it, welcome and unwelcome. Welcome to whom? Unwelcome to whom? By all means welcome to those who desire it; unwelcome to those who do not. However unwelcome, I dare to say: “You wish to stray, you wish to be lost; but I do not want this.” For the one whom I fear does not wish this. And should I wish it, consider his words of reproach: The straying sheep you have not recalled; the lost sheep you have not sought. Shall I fear you rather than him? Remember, we must all present ourselves before the judgment seat of Christ.

I shall recall the straying; I shall seek the lost. Whether they wish it or not, I shall do it. And should the brambles of the forests tear at me when I seek them, I shall force myself through all straits; I shall put down all hedges. So far as the God whom I fear grants me the strength, I shall search everywhere. I shall recall the straying; I shall seek after those on the verge of being lost. If you do not want me to suffer, do not stray, do not become lost. It is enough that I lament your straying and loss. No, I fear that in neglecting you, I shall also kill what is strong. Consider the passage that follows: And what was strong you have destroyed. Should I neglect the straying and lost, the strong one will also take delight in straying and in being lost.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 


Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time



“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.” (Matthew 20:1)

In an ancient work known as the Incomplete Work on Matthew, an anonymous Ancient Christian Writer (ACW) offers the following insight on these verses from today’s Gospel:

“To hire laborers for his vineyard.” What is the vineyard of God here? Not men, as elsewhere; for men are called the cultivators of the vineyard. The vineyard is justice and in it different kinds of virtues are placed like vines. For example, gentleness, chastity, patience, high-mindedness, and countless other good qualities which are all in general called virtues. So let us note how earnestly we should cultivate the heavenly vineyard. Adam was put in paradise to cultivate it and work it, but because he neglected it he was thrown out of it. We have been put here to cultivate justice; if we neglect it, we will be cast out, just as the Jews also were cast out, of whom it was written: “Add iniquity to their iniquity, that they may not enter thy justice.” The fall of those going before should be a warning for those following. But if we the followers have also fallen into ruin, those who were the first to fall deserve pardon more than we who follow. A hired hand placed in the vineyard will not only lose his pay if he neglects it, but he will also be charged with the loss of the abandoned vineyard. So we too, if we neglect the justice committed to us, will not only have no reward, but we will also be charged for the justice that has been abolished. For God’s vineyard is not outside us but has been planted inside our very selves. So anyone who commits sin destroys the justice of God within himself; but anyone who does good works cultivates it in himself. The well-cultivated justice of God within you brings forth grapes, that is, Christ. For those who do just deeds form Christ in themselves, as is written: “My little children, with whom I am again in travail, until Christ be formed in you.

Anyone who consigns a vineyard to another to work consigns it not so much for the other’s benefit as for his own; but God, giving his justice to our understanding, gave it not for his own benefit but for ours. God does not need our labor, but we who do just work may live because of it. The owner who consigned the vineyard to someone else for his own benefit expects to receive it back in the same condition as he handed it over. How then will justice not be demanded back from us in as immaculate a condition as he created it in us, particularly as he gave it not for his own benefit but for our salvation?

Be aware that we have been hired as laborers. If we have been hired as laborers, we ought to know what our tasks are, for a hired laborer cannot be without a task. Our tasks are the works of justice, not to till our fields and vineyards; not to amass riches and pile up honors but to benefit our neighbors. And though we can do this tilling and amassing without sin, yet they are not our tasks but our daily occupations.

No one hires a laborer to work only so that the laborer may eat. So we too have been called by Christ to do not merely what pertains to our own benefit but to do what pertains to the glory of God. The hired hand, who only works so that he may fill his belly, wanders purposelessly about the house. So we too, if we do only what pertains to our benefit, live without reason on the earth. And just as the hired hand first looks to his work and then to his wages, so we too are Christ’s hired hands and first ought to look at what pertains to God’s glory and to the benefit of our neighbors …. Charity and true love toward God “does not insist on its own way” but desires to perform everything to the wish of the beloved—then to what pertains to our own benefit.” (Incomplete Work on Matthew, «Homily 34»)



Collect
O God,
Who founded all the commands of your sacred Law
upon love of you and of our neighbor,
grant that, by keeping your precepts,
we may merit to attain eternal life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen





On weak Christians



Bishop and Great Western Father of the Church

An excerpt from his homily, On Pastors (46)

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

You have failed to strengthen the weak, says the Lord. He is speaking to wicked shepherds, false shepherds, shepherds who seek their own concerns and not those of Christ. They enjoy the bounty of milk and wool, but they take no care at all of the sheep, and they make no effort to heal those who are ill. I think there is a difference between one who is weak (that is, not strong) and one who is ill, although we often say that the weak are also suffering from illness.

My brothers, when I try to make that distinction, perhaps I could do it better and with greater precision, or perhaps someone with more experience and insight could do so. But when it comes to the words of Scripture, I say what I think so that in the meantime you will not be deprived of all profit. In the case of the weak sheep, it is to be feared that the temptation, when it comes, may break him. The sick person, however, is already ill by reason of some illicit desire or other, and this is keeping him from entering God’s path and submitting to Christ’s yoke.

There are men who want to live a good life and have already decided to do so, but are not capable of bearing sufferings even though they are ready to do good. Now it is a part of the Christian’s strength not only to do good works but also to endure evil. Weak men are those who appear to be zealous in doing good works but are unwilling or unable to endure the sufferings that threaten. Lovers of the world, however, who are kept from good works by some evil desire, lie sick and listless, and it is this sickness that deprives them of any strength to accomplish good works.

The paralytic was like that. When his bearers could not bring him in to the Lord, they opened the roof and lowered him down to the feet of Christ. Perhaps you wish to do this in spirit: to open the roof and to lower a paralytic soul down to the Lord. All its limbs are lifeless, it is empty of every good work, burdened with its sins, and weak from the illness brought on by its evil desires. Since all its limbs are helpless, and the paralysis is interior, you cannot come to the physician. But perhaps the physician is himself concealed within; for the true understanding of Scripture is hidden. Reveal therefore what is hidden, and thus you will open the roof and lower the paralytic to the feet of Christ.

As for those who fail to do this and those who are negligent, you have heard what was said to them: You have failed to heal the sick; you have failed to bind up what was broken. Of this we have already spoken. Man was broken by terrible temptations. But there is at hand a consolation that will bind what was broken: God is faithful. He does not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 






Memorial of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest



“When a large crowd gathered, with people from one town after another journeying to him, he spoke in a parable...” (Luke 8:4.)

Origen of Alexandria (part 2 of Pope Benedict’s reflections on Origen) comments on this verse from the Gospel proclaimed at Mass today:

“He says, “He sent me to preach the gospel to the poor.” The “poor” stand for the Gentiles, for they are indeed poor. They possess nothing at all: neither God, nor the law, nor the prophets, nor justice and the rest of the virtues. For what reason did God send him to preach to the poor? “To preach release to captives.” We were the captives. For many years Satan had bound us and held us captive and subject to himself. Jesus has come “to proclaim release to captives and sight to the blind.” By his word and the proclamation of his teaching the blind see. Therefore his “proclamation” should be understood not only of the “captives” but also of the “blind.” “To send broken men forth into freedom.” What being was so broken and crushed as man, whom Jesus healed and sent away? “To preach an acceptable year to the Lord.” But all of this has been proclaimed so that we may come to “the acceptable year of the Lord,” when we see after blindness, when we are free from our chains, and when we have been healed of our wounds.” (Homilies on the Gospel of Luke, 32.)




Collect
Almighty ever-living God,
Who, by a singular grace,
gave the Priest Saint Pius
a share in the Cross of your Son
and, by means of his ministry,
renewed the wonders of your mercy,
grant that through his intercession
we may be united constantly
to the sufferings of Christ,
and so brought happily
to the glory of the resurrection.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.




Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen


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The vocation of priests to the life of perfection



Second Vatican Council
An excerpt from Presbyterorum Ordinis

Memorial of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest

Priests are made in the likeness of Christ the Priest by the Sacrament of Orders, so that they may, in collaboration with their bishops, work for the building up and care of the Church which is the whole Body of Christ, acting as ministers of him who is the Head. Like all other Christians they have received in the sacrament of Baptism the symbol and gift of such a calling and such grace that even in human weakness they can and must seek for perfection, according to the exhortation of Christ: Be you therefore perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Priests are bound, however, to acquire that perfection in special fashion. They have been consecrated by God in a new manner at their ordination and made living instruments of Christ the Eternal Priest that they may be able to carry on in time his marvelous work whereby the entire family of man is again made whole by power from above. Since, therefore, every priest in his own fashion acts in place of Christ himself, he is enriched by a special grace, so that, as he serves the flock committed to him and the entire People of God, he may the better grow in the grace of him whose tasks he performs, because to the weakness of our flesh there is brought the holiness of him who for us was made a High Priest holy, guiltless, undefiled not reckoned among us sinners.

Christ, whom the Father sanctified, consecrated and sent into the world, gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and cleanse for himself an acceptable people, pursuing good works, and thus through suffering entered into his glory. In like fashion, priests consecrated by the anointing of the Holy Spirit and sent by Christ must mortify the works of the flesh in themselves and give themselves entirely to the service of men. It is in this way that they can go forward in that holiness with which Christ endows them to perfect man.

Hence, those who exercise the ministry of the spirit and of justice will be confirmed in the life of the spirit, so long as they are open to the Spirit of Christ, who gives them life and direction. By the sacred actions which are theirs daily as well as by their entire ministry which they share with the bishop and their fellow priests, they are directed to perfection in their lives. Holiness does much for priests in carrying on a fruitful ministry. Although divine grace could use unworthy ministers to effect the work of salvation, yet for the most part God chooses, to show forth his wonders, those who are more open to the power and direction of the Holy Spirit, and who can by reason of their close union with Christ and their holiness of life say with Saint Paul: And yet I am alive; or rather, not I; it is Christ that lives in me.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 

 





Friday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time



“For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.” (I Timothy 6:10.)

Saint Gregory of Nyssa (part 2 of the background of Saint Gregory of Nyssa is found here) offers the following insight on this verse from today’s First Reading:

“The tree, then, from which comes this fruit of mixed knowledge is among those things which are forbidden. Its fruit is combined of opposite qualities, and therefore for this reason perhaps has the serpent to commend it. For the evil is not exposed in its nakedness, thereby appearing in its own proper nature; for wickedness would surely fail of its effect were it not decked with some fair color to entice to the desire of it him whom it deceives. But now the nature of evil is in a manner mixed and thus keeps destruction like some snare concealed in its depths and displays some phantom of good in the deceitfulness of its exterior. The beauty of the substance seems good to those who love money.” (On the Making of Man, 20.)


Collect
Look upon us, O God,
Creator and ruler of all things,
and, that we may feel the working of Your mercy,
grant that we may serve You with all our heart.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 


Prepare your soul for temptation



Bishop and Great Western Father of the Church

An excerpt from his homily, On Pastors (46)

Friday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

You have already been told about the wicked things shepherds desire. Let us now consider what they neglect. You have failed to strengthen what was weak, to heal what was sick, and to bind up what was injured, that is, what was broken. You did not call back the straying sheep, nor seek out the lost. What was strong you have destroyed. Yes, you have cut it down and killed it. The sheep is weak, that is to say, its heart is weak, and so, incautious and unprepared, it may give in to temptations.

The negligent shepherd fails to say to the believer: My son, come to the service of God, stand fast in fear and in righteousness, and prepare your soul for temptation. A shepherd who does say this strengthens the one who is weak and makes him strong. Such a believer will then not hope for the prosperity of this world. For if he has been taught to hope for worldly gain, he will be corrupted by prosperity. When adversity comes, he will be wounded or perhaps destroyed.

The builder who builds in such manner is not building the believer on a rock but upon sand. But the rock was Christ. Christians must imitate Christ’s sufferings, not set their hearts on pleasures. He who is weak will be strengthened when told: “Yes, expect the temptations of this world, but the Lord will deliver you from them all if your heart has not abandoned him. For it was to strengthen your heart that he came to suffer and die, came to be spit upon and crowned with thorns, came to be accused of shameful things, yes, came to be fastened to the wood of the cross. All these things he did for you, and you did nothing. He did them not for himself, but for you.”

But what sort of shepherds are they who for fear of giving offense not only fail to prepare the sheep for the temptations that threaten, but even promise them worldly happiness? God himself made no such promise to this world. On the contrary, God foretold hardship upon hardship in this world until the end of time. And you want the Christian to be exempt from these troubles? Precisely because he is a Christian, he is destined to suffer more in this world.

For the Apostle says, All who desire to live a holy life in Christ will suffer persecution. But you, shepherd, seek what is yours and not what is Christ’s, you disregard what the Apostle says: All who want to live a holy life in Christ will suffer persecution. You say instead: “If you live a holy life in Christ, all good things will be yours in abundance. If you do not have children, you will embrace and nourish all men, and none of them shall die.” Is this the way you build up the believer? Take note of what you are doing and where you are placing him. You have built him on sand. The rains will come, the river will overflow and rush in, the winds will blow, and the elements will dash against that house of yours. It will fall, and its ruin will be great. Lift him up from the sand and put him on the rock.

Let him be in Christ, if you wish him to be a Christian. Let him turn his thoughts to sufferings, however unworthy they may be in comparison to Christ’s. Let him center his attention on Christ, who was without sin, and yet made restitution for what he had not done. Let him consider Scripture, which says to him: He chastises every son whom he acknowledges. Let him prepare to be chastised, or else not seek to be acknowledged as a son.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen