ORDINARY TIME, Week 7: Saturday



“And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.” (Mark 10:13.)


Saint Augustine of Hippo comments on this verse from the Gospel proclaimed during today’s Mass:

“When any people, you see, who are already of an age to make free decisions of will, approach the sacraments of the faithful, they cannot begin the new life unless they repent of the old. It’s only babies that are exempt from this kind of repentance when they are baptized; after all they are not yet capable of making free choices.

However, the faith of those who present them for baptism can avail them for sanctification and the remission of original sin; thus whatever defilement of wrongdoing they may have contracted through others, of whom they have been born, they can be purged of it through the interrogation of these others and the replies they give.” (Sermon 351)




Collect
Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that, always pondering spiritual things,
we may carry out in both word and deed
that which is pleasing to You.
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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Approach the Lord and receive his light



Bishop

An excerpt from his Commentary on Ecclesiastes, Book 10.

Ordinary Time, Week 7: Saturday

In the words of Ecclesiastes: Light itself is delightful, and it is a great boon for the eye to have sight of the sun. Devoid of light, the world would be without beauty and life would be lifeless. That was why Moses, who saw God, said in anticipation: And God saw the light and said that it was good. To reflect on the true and eternal light is even more fitting for us. This light is Christ who enlightens every man who comes into the world, the savior and redeemer of the world. He is the one who became man and sank to the very depths of the human condition. As David said: Sing to God a hymn to his name, make a highway for him who rises to the west. His name is the Lord, rejoice before him!

This light he called delightful and foretold that it would be good to see the sun of glory. In the days of his incarnation, he said: I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness but will possess the light of life. On another occasion he said: This is the judgment: the light has come into the world.

Sunlight, then, is a symbol. What we see with our eyes foretells the coming of the Sun of Justice. He was a most delightful light for those who were worthy to be instructed by him personally. He was also a radiance to those who saw him with their bodily eyes when he lived on earth as a man among men. It was not just any man they saw, for he was true God. He made the blind see, the lame walk, and the deaf hear. He cleansed the lepers, and by a simple command he raised the dead back to life.

Now it is our supreme delight to behold him and contemplate his divine splendor with the eyes of our spirit. When we participate in and associate with that beauty, we are enlightened and adorned and this is our delight. We take delight in being saturated with the sweetness of the Spirit, in being clothed in holiness, in achieving wisdom. Finally we are filled with a joy that comes from God and endures through all the days of our earthly life. In the wise words of Ecclesiastes: A man may live for many years, but he will experience happiness throughout his days. For all who gaze upon the Sun of Justice, he is their supreme delight. David spoke of them: Let them be joyful before God and be jubilant with joy. Indeed he even said: Rejoice in the Lord, you who are just, for praise befits those who are upright.

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

 






ORDINARY TIME, Week 7: Friday



“The Pharisees approached and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him.” (Mark 10:2.)

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

“Of those who came to Jesus and interrogated him, some put questions to him simply to trick him. If our glorious Savior was tested in this way, should any of his disciples called to teach be annoyed when questioned by some who probe, not from the desire to know, but from the intent to trip up?” (Commentary on Matthew, 14.)




Collect
Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that, always pondering spiritual things,
we may carry out in both word and deed
that which is pleasing to You.
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









Exult, my soul, in the Lord



Bishop

An excerpt from his Commentary on Ecclesiastes

Ordinary Time, Week 7: Friday

Come, eat your bread in gladness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for your works have been pleasing to God. If we would interpret this text in its obvious and ordinary sense, it would be correct to call it a righteous exhortation, in which Ecclesiastes counsels us to embrace a simple way of life and to be led by doctrines which involve a genuine faith in God. Then we may eat our bread in gladness and drink our wine with a cheerful heart. We will not fall into slanderous speech nor be involved in anything devious; rather we should think that which is right, and, insofar as we can, we should help the poor and destitute with mercy and generosity, truly dedicated to those pursuits and good deeds which please God.

But a spiritual interpretation of the text leads us to a loftier meaning and teaches us to take this as the heavenly and mystical bread, which has come down from heaven, bringing life to the world, and to drink a spiritual wine with a cheerful heart, that wine which flowed from the side of the true vine at the moment of his saving passion. Of this the Gospel of our salvation says: When Jesus had taken bread and had blessed it, he said to his holy disciples and apostles, Take, eat; this is my body which is broken for you for the forgiveness of sins; and in like manner, he took the cup and said, All of you, drink of this: this is my blood of the new covenant, which will be shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. For whoever eats this bread and drinks this mystical wine enjoys true happiness and rejoices, exclaiming: You have put gladness into my heart.

Indeed, I think this is the bread and this is the wine that is referred to in the book of Proverbs by God’s subsistent Wisdom, Christ our Savior, saying: Come, eat my bread and drink the wine I have mixed for you, hereby referring to our mystical sharing in the Word. For those worthy to receive this are ever clothed in the works of light, which shine like a bright light as the Lord says in the Gospel: Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. And, indeed, oil appears to flow continually over their heads, the oil that is the Spirit of truth, guarding and preserving them from all the harm of sin.

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: Saint Polycarp - Bishop, Apostolic Father and Martyr



“... where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’” (Mark 9:48.)

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 Gospel proclamation:

“Nor, too, does anything which afflicts the senses here equal in torment the future life of sinners. Even if we denote some of those torments by terms familiar to us here, the difference is not slight. When you hear the word “fire,” you have been taught to think of it differently from ordinary fire, since a new factor is added. For that fire is not quenched, while experience has devised many ways to quench the fire we know. And there is a great difference between fire which is quenched and that which cannot be put out. They are, therefore, different, and not the same. Then again, when a person hears the word “worm,” the analogy must not be misapplied directly from the creature we know to the eternal. For the addition of the phrase “that does not die” suggests the thought that this worm is not simply the creature we know.” (Catechetical Oration, 40.)



Collect
God of all creation,
who were pleased to give the Bishop Saint Polycarp
a place in the company of the Martyrs,
grant, through his intercession,
that, sharing with him in the chalice of Christ,
we may rise through the Holy Spirit to 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

 


A rich and pleasing sacrifice



Bishop, Apostolic Church Father and Martyr

An excerpt from a Letter on the Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp by the Church of Smyrna

MEMORIAL: Saint Polycarp


When the pyre was ready, Polycarp took off all his clothes and loosened his under-garment. He made an effort also to remove his shoes, though he had been unaccustomed to this, for the faithful always vied with each other in their haste to touch his body. Even before his martyrdom he had received every mark of honor in tribute to his holiness of life.

There and then he was surrounded by the material for the pyre. When they tried to fasten him also with nails, he said: “Leave me as I am. The one who gives me strength to endure the fire will also give me strength to stay quite still on the pyre, even without the precaution of your nails.” So they did not fix him to the pyre with nails but only fastened him instead. Bound as he was, with hands behind his back, he stood like a mighty ram, chosen out for sacrifice from a great flock, a worthy victim made ready to be offered to God.

Looking up to heaven, he said: “Lord, almighty God, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have come to the knowledge of yourself, God of angels, of powers, of all creation, of all the race of saints who live in your sight, I bless you for judging me worthy of this day, this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ, your anointed one, and so rise again to eternal life in soul and body, immortal through the power of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among the martyrs in your presence today as a rich and pleasing sacrifice. God of truth, stranger to falsehood, you have prepared this and revealed it to me and now you have fulfilled your promise.

“I praise you for all things, I bless you, I glorify you through the eternal priest of heaven, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. Through him be glory to you, together with him and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.”

When he had said “Amen” and finished the prayer, the officials at the pyre lit it. But, when a great flame burst out, those of us privileged to see it witnessed a strange and wonderful thing. Indeed, we have been spared in order to tell the story to others. Like a ship’s sail swelling in the wind, the flame became as it were a dome encircling the martyr’s body. Surrounded by the fire, his body was like bread that is baked, or gold and silver white-hot in a furnace, not like flesh that has been burnt. So sweet a fragrance came to us that it was like that of burning incense or some other costly and sweet-smelling gum.



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

 






FEAST: The Chair of Saint Peter



“And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1Peter 5:4.)

Saint Augustine of Hippo comments on this verse from the Gospel proclaimed at Mass today:

“While thinking of him self as a martyr to be, Cyprian did not allow himself to forget that he was still a bishop and was more anxious about the account he was to give to the chief shepherd concerning the sheep committed to him than he was about the answer he would give to the unbelieving proconsul, concerning his own faith.” (Sermon 309)



Collect
Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that no tempests may disturb us,
for you have set us fast
on the rock of the
Apostle Peter’s confession of faith.
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 of Christ rises on the firm foundation of Peter’s faith



Bishop of Rome and Father of the Church

An excerpt from Sermo 4

FEAST: The Chair of Saint Peter

Out of the whole world one man, Peter, is chosen to preside at the calling of all nations, and to be set over all the apostles and all the fathers of the Church. Though there are in God’s people many shepherds, Peter is thus appointed to rule in his own person those whom Christ also rules as the original ruler. Beloved, how great and wonderful is this sharing of his power that God in his goodness has given to this man. Whatever Christ has willed to be shared in common by Peter and the other leaders of the Church, it is only through Peter that he has given to others what he has not refused to bestow on them.

The Lord now asks the apostles as a whole what men think of him. As long as they are recounting the uncertainty born of human ignorance, their reply is always the same.

But when he presses the disciples to say what they think themselves, the first to confess his faith in the Lord is the one who is first in rank among the apostles.

Peter says: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus replies: Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven. You are blessed, he means, because my Father has taught you. You have not been deceived by earthly opinion, but have been enlightened by inspiration from heaven. It was not flesh and blood that pointed me out to you, but the one whose only-begotten Son I am.

He continues: And I say to you. In other words, as my Father has revealed to you my godhead, so I in my turn make known to you your pre-eminence. You are Peter: though I am the inviolable rock, the cornerstone that makes both one, the foundation apart from which no one can lay any other, yet you also are a rock, for you are given solidity by my strength, so that which is my very own because of my power is common between us through your participation.

And upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. On this strong foundation, he says, I will build an everlasting temple. The great height of my Church, which is to penetrate the heavens, shall rise on the firm foundation of this faith.

The gates of hell shall not silence this confession of faith; the chains of death shall not bind it. Its words are the words of life. As they lift up to heaven those who profess them, so they send down to hell those who contradict them.

Blessed Peter is therefore told: To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth is also bound in heaven. Whatever you lose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven.

The authority vested in this power passed also to the other apostles, and the institution established by this decree has been continued in all the leaders of the Church. But it is not without good reason that what is bestowed on all is entrusted to one. For Peter received it separately in trust because he is the prototype set before all the rulers of the Church.

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

 





ORDINARY TIME, Week 7: Tuesday



“... But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.” (Mark 9:32.)

In commenting on these verses from today’s Gospel Proclamation, Saint John Chrysostom writes:

“It is remarkable how, when Peter had been rebuked, and Moses and Elijah had discoursed, and had seen the glory of what was coming, and the Father had uttered a voice from above, and so many miracles had been done, and the resurrection was right at the door (for he said, he should by no means abide any long time in death, but should be raised the third day), even after all that they did not fathom what was happening. Rather they were troubled, and not merely troubled, but exceedingly mournful. Now this arose from their being ignorant as yet of the force of his sayings.

If ignorant, how could they be sorrowful? Because they were not altogether ignorant. They knew that he was soon to die, for they had continually been told about it. But just what this death might mean, they did not grasp clearly, nor that there would be a speedy recognition of it, from which innumerable blessings would flow. They did not see that there would be a resurrection. This is why they grieved.” (The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 58.)





Collect
Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that, always pondering spiritual things,
we may carry out in both word and deed
that which is pleasing to You.
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

 






There is a time to be born, and a time to die



Bishop and Father of the Church

An excerpt from his Homily on Ecclesiastes, Homily 6

ORDINARY TIME, Week 7: Tuesday


There is a time to be born and a time to die. The fact that there is a natural link between birth and death is expressed very clearly in this text of Scripture. Death invariably follows birth and everyone who is born comes at last to the grave.

There is a time to be born and a time to die. God grant that mine may be a timely birth and a timely death! Of course no one imagines that the Speaker regards as acts of virtue our natural birth and death, in neither of which our own will plays any part. A woman does not give birth because she chooses to do so; neither does anyone die as a result of his own decision. Obviously, there is neither virtue nor vice in anything that lies beyond our control. So we must consider what is meant by a timely birth and a timely death.

It seems to me that the birth referred to here is our salvation, as is suggested by the prophet Isaiah. This reaches its full term and is not stillborn when, having been conceived by the fear of God, the soul’s own birth pangs bring it to the light of day. We are in a sense our own parents, and we give birth to ourselves by our own free choice of what is good. Such a choice becomes possible for us when we have received God into ourselves and have become children of God, children of the Most High. On the other hand, if what the Apostle calls the form of Christ has not been produced in us, we abort ourselves. The man of God must reach maturity.

Now if the meaning of a timely birth is clear, so also is the meaning of a timely death. For Saint Paul every moment was a time to die, as he proclaims in his letters: I swear by the pride I take in you that I face death every day. Elsewhere he says: For your sake we are put to death daily and we felt like men condemned to death. How Paul died daily is perfectly obvious. He never gave himself up to a sinful life but kept his body under constant control. He carried death with him, Christ’s death, wherever he went. He was always being crucified with Christ. It was not his own life he lived; it was Christ who lived in him. This surely was a timely death – a death whose end was true life.

I put to death and I shall give life, God says, teaching us that death to sin and life in the Spirit is his gift, and promising that whatever he puts to death he will restore to life again.


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