Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time



“And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions” (Hebrews 11:32-33.)

In commenting on these verses from today’s First Reading, Saint John Chrysostom writes:

“And what shall I more say? For time would fail me to tell.” After this Paul no longer puts down the names, but, having ended with a harlot and put them to shame by the quality of the person, he no longer enlarges on the histories, lest he should be thought tedious. However, he does not set them aside but runs over them, doing both very judiciously, avoiding satiety without spoiling the closeness of the argument. He was neither altogether silent, nor did he speak so as to annoy, for he effected both points. For when a person is contending vehemently in argument, if he persists in contending, he wears out the hearer, annoying him when he is already persuaded and gaining the reputation of vain ambitiousness. For he ought to accommodate himself to what is expedient. “And what more do I say?” he says. “For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets.”

Some find fault with Paul because he puts Barak, Samson and Jephthah in these places. What do you say? After having introduced the harlot, shall he not introduce these? For do not tell me of the rest of their life but only whether they did not believe and shine in faith. “And the prophets,” he says, “who through faith conquered kingdoms.” Do you see that he does not here testify to their life as being illustrious, for this was not the point in question; the inquiry thus far was about their faith. For tell me whether they did not accomplish all by faith?” (On the Epistle to the Hebrews, 27.)



“In contrast to these triumphs, the author next describes the terrible trials faced by the believers. Instead of triumphing "they were tortured." The contrast cannot be more complete. But it is enlightened immediately by two remarks that will cast light on all that follows. The first remark corrects the passive aspect of the statement. The believers were not passive; they voluntarily faced the affliction; they did not accept the deliverance offered them in return for a denial of their faith. The other remark shows the vitality of their hope. Their affliction was not a grim impasse. It was the way of "a better resurrection." These afflictions are, in reality, the occasion of still more heroic and fruitful victories: more heroic because it takes more courage to refuse deliverance than to race to the fight; more fruitful because that resistance obtains "a better resurrection," not just a simple return to life on earth, but a definitive entry into God's rest. The author here is alluding to historical facts.” (Cardinal Albert Vanhoye, The Letter to the Hebrews: A New Commentary. Paulist Press 978-0809149285, pages 192-193.)






Collect
Grant us, Lord our God,
that we may honor You with all our mind,
and love everyone in truth of heart.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.



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

 






The hearts and minds of all believers were one



Bishop and Father of the Church

An excerpt from his Commentary on Psalm 132

Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell in unity! It is good and pleasant for brothers to dwell in unity, because when they do so their association creates the assembly of the Church. The term “brothers” describes the bond of affection arising from their singleness of purpose.

We read that when the apostles first preached, the chief instruction they gave lay in this saying: The hearts and minds of all believers were one. So it is fitting for the people of God to be brothers under one Father, to be united under one Spirit, to live in harmony under one roof, to be limbs of one body.

It is pleasant and good for brothers to dwell in unity. The prophet suggested a comparison for this good and pleasant activity when he said: It is like the ointment on the head which ran down over the beard of Aaron, down upon the collar of his garment. Aaron’s oil was made of the perfumes used to anoint a priest. It was God’s decision that his priest should have his consecration first, and that our Lord should be so anointed, but not visibly, by those who are joined with him. Aaron’s anointing did not belong to this world; it was not done with the horn used for kings, but with the oil of gladness. So afterward Aaron was called the anointed one as the Law prescribed.

When this oil is poured out upon men of unclean heart, it snuffs out their lives, but when it is received as an anointing of love, it exudes the sweet odor of harmony with God. As Paul says, we are the goodly fragrance of Christ. So just as it was pleasing to God when Aaron was anointed priest with this oil, so it is good and pleasant for brothers to dwell in unity.

Now the oil ran down from his head to his beard. A beard adorns a man of mature years. We must not be children before Christ except in the restricted scriptural sense of being children in wickedness but not in our way of thinking. Now Paul calls all who lack faith, children, because they are too weak to take solid food and still need milk. As he says: I fed you with milk rather than the solid food for which you were not yet ready; and you are still not ready.



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

 






Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time



“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6.)

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

“But if I must utilize a bold explanation indeed, I think that perhaps it was through the word that is measured by virtue and justice that the Lord presents himself to the desire of the hearers. He was born as wisdom from God for us, and as justice and sanctification and redemption. He is “the bread that comes down from heaven” and “living water,” for which the great David himself thirsted. He said in one of his psalms, “My soul has thirsted for you, even for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God?” “I shall behold your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied in beholding your glory.” This then, in my estimation, is the true virtue, the good unmingled with any lesser good, that is, God, the virtue that covers the heavens, as Habakkuk relates.” (Fragment 83)



Collect
Grant us, Lord our God,
that we may honor You with all our mind,
and love everyone in truth of heart.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.



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









Christ has called us to his kingdom and glory



Bishop, Apostolic Father of the Church and Martyr

An excerpt from his The Letter to the Church of Smyrna

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From Ignatius, known as Theophorus, to the Church of God the Father and of Jesus Christ, his beloved, at Smyrna in Asia, wishing you all joy in an immaculate spirit and the Word of God. By his mercy you have won every gift and lack none, filled as you are with faith and love, beloved of God and fruitful in sanctity.

I celebrate the glory of Jesus Christ as God, because he is responsible for your wisdom, well aware as I am of the perfection of your unshakeable faith. You are like men who have been nailed body and soul to the cross of Jesus Christ, confirmed in love by his blood.

In regard to the Lord, you firmly believe that he was of the race of David according to the flesh, but God’s son by the will and power of God; truly born of the Virgin and baptized by John, that all justice might be fulfilled; truly nailed to a cross in the flesh for our sake under Pontius Pilate and the Tetrarch Herod, and of his most blessed passion we are the fruit. And thus, by his resurrection he raised up a standard over his saints and faithful ones for all time (both Jews and Gentiles alike) in the one body of his Church. For he endured all this for us, for our salvation; and he really suffered, and just as truly rose from the dead.

As for myself, I am convinced that he was united with his body even after the resurrection. When he visited Peter and his companions, he said to them: Take hold of me, touch me and see that I am not a spirit without a body. Immediately they touched him and believed, clutching at his body and his very spirit. And for this reason they despised death and conquered it. In addition, after his resurrection, the Lord ate and drank with them like a real human being, even though in spirit he was united with his Father.

And so I am giving you serious instruction on these things, dearly beloved, even though I am aware that you believe them to be so.



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 Thomas Aquinas
Priest and Doctor of the Church



“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go...” (Hebrews 11:8.)

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

“Let [the one who is waiting for the Lord’s second coming] therefore wait for that time then which is, necessarily, in the same time frame as the development of humanity. For even while Abraham and the patriarchs desired to see the promised better things, they did not stop seeking the heavenly country. This is what the apostle says when he declares that even now they are in a condition of hoping for that grace: “God having provided some better thing for us,”6 according to the words of Paul, “that they without us should not be made perfect.” If those then, who by faith alone and by hope saw the good things “afar off” and “embraced them” — if they bear the delay as the apostle bears witness, and if they place the certainty that they will enjoy the things for which they hoped in the fact that they “judged him faithful who has promised,” what should the rest of us do who perhaps do not have a grasp of that better hope from the character of our own lives?

Even the prophet’s soul fainted with desire, and in his psalm he confesses this passionate love, saying that his “soul has a desire and longing to be in the courts of the Lord.” [He still has this desire] even if he has to be demoted to a place amongst the lowest, since it is a greater and more desirable thing to be last there than to be first among the ungodly tents of this life. Nevertheless he was patient during the delay, considering, indeed, the life there blessed, and accounting a brief participation in it more desirable than “thousands”[of days] of time. For, he says, “one day in your courts is better than thousands.” And yet, he did not become dejected at the necessary dispensation concerning existing things. He thought it was sufficient bliss for a person to have those good things even by way of hope. This is why he says at the end of the psalm, “O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that hopes in you.” (On the Making of Man, 22.)


“In this long paragraph, the author invites us to see the faith of Abraham in several episodes of which the text of the Book of Genesis says nothing, and he passes over the only episode of which the text does speak, stating that after an improbable prom- ise of God, "Abraham believed in the Lord, who reckoned it to him as righteousness" (Gen 15:6). Saint Paul, however, quotes this declaration several times (Gal 3:6; Rom 4:3, 9) and bases his doctrine of justification by faith on it. Our author, for his pan, does not insist explicitly on faith as adherence to the word of God, but he stresses first of all the dynamism of obedience engen- dered by faith: "By faith, Abraham, on being called, obeys by depaning." Faith stans Abraham on his way, because God com- mands him to "depan" (Gen 12:1 LXX) from his country. The author then shows the relation between faith and hope, because Abraham's move is directed "to a place he was to receive as an inheritance" (Heb 11:8). The author then shows the paradoxical situations in which faith places us, a situation of panial obscurity: Abraham knows he has to depan, but he does not know where he is going, because God has simply said to him, Go "toward the country I shall show you" (Gen 12: 1); then a disconcening situa- tion: living as nomads in the promised land! But that situation gives rise to desires above eanhly horizons, toward "the city that has foundations and has God as architect and builder" (Heb 11:10). The idea of the city built by God himself that therefore provided a perfect relation with God will be taken up and devel- oped in the central subdivision (11:13-16), which generalizes it” (Cardinal Albert Vanhoye. The Letter to the Hebrews: A New Commentary. Paulist Press 978-0809149285, page 184.)



Collect
O God,
Who made Saint Thomas Aquinas
outstanding in his zeal for holiness
and his study of sacred doctrine,
grant us, we pray,
that we may understand what he taught
and imitate what he accomplished.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
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





The cross exemplifies every virtue



Priest and Doctor of the Church

An excerpt from a Conference

Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act.

It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.

If you seek the example of love: Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends. Such a man was Christ on the cross. And if he gave his life for us, then it should not be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for his sake.

If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the cross. Great patience occurs in two ways: either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things which one is able to avoid and yet does not avoid. Christ endured much on the cross, and did so patiently,because when he suffered he did not threaten; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter and he did not open his mouth. Therefore Christ’s patience on the cross was great. In patience let us run for the prize set before us, looking upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before him, bore his cross and despised the shame.

If you seek an example of humility, look upon the crucified one, for God wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.

If you seek an example of obedience, follow him who became obedient to the Father even unto death. For just as by the disobedience of one man, namely, Adam, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous.

If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Upon the cross he was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to drink.

Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because they divided my garments among themselves. Nor to honors, for he experienced harsh words and scourgings. Nor to greatness of rank, for weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on my head. Nor to anything delightful, for in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.



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 Third Week in Ordinary Time



“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence; it will have great recompense.” (Hebrews 10:35.)

In commenting on these verses from today’s First Reading, Saint John Chrysostom writes:

“In the next place, having praised them, he says, “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” What do you mean? He did not say, “you have cast it away, and recovered it.” Rather he tended more to strengthen them when he says, “you have it.” For to recover again that which has been cast away requires more labor, but not to lose that which is held fast does not. To the Galatians he says the very opposite, “My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you,” and he says this with good reason, for they were more indifferent and needed a sharper word.

These, however, were more faint-hearted, so that they rather needed what was more soothing. “Therefore do not throw away,” he says, “your confidence,” so that they were in great confidence toward God. “Which has,” he says, “a great reward.” “And when shall we receive them?” someone might say. “Behold! All things on our part have been done.” Therefore he anticipated them on their own supposition, saying in effect, if you know that you have in heaven a better substance, seek nothing here. “For you have need of endurance,” not of any addition to your labors, that you may continue in the same state, that you may not throw away what has been put into your hands. You need nothing else but to stand as you have stood, that when you come to the end, you may receive the promise. “For,” he says, “you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised.”

You have need of one thing only, to bear with the delay, not that you should fight again. You are at the very crown, he means. You have borne all the combats of bonds, of afflictions; your goods have been spoiled. What then? Henceforward you are standing to be crowned. Endure this only — the delay of the crown. Oh, the greatness of the consolation! It is as if one should speak to an athlete who had overthrown all and had no antagonist and then was to be crowned but could not show up for the ceremony in which the president of the games comes and places the crown upon him. Instead, he is so impatient that he wishes to go out and escape, as though he could not bear the thirst and the heat. He then also says, so as to hint in this direction: “Yet a little while and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry.” For lest they should say, “And when will he come?” he comforts them from the Scriptures. For thus also when he says in another place, “salvation is nearer,” he comforts them, because the remaining time is short. And this he says not of himself but from the Scriptures. But if from that time it was said, “Yet a little while and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry,” it is plain that now he is even nearer.” (On the Epistle to the Hebrews, 21.)


“To define our new situation as Christians, which has been obtained thanks to Christ’s sacrifice, the author actually declares that we have “full assurance for entry into the sanctuary thanks to the blood of Jesus” (10:19). Jesus himself “through his own blood entered into the sanctuary” (9:12); “He entered it as a forerunner for us” (6:20) because His blood purifies our conscience “from dead works” and makes us able to “pay worship to the living God” (9:14). That is what gives us “full assurance for entry into the sanctuary.” This sentence shows that the “perfection” communicated to Christians through the mediation of Christ has the value of a priestly consecration.” (Cardinal Albert Vanhoye. The Letter to the Hebrews: A New Commentary. Paulist Press 978-0809149285, pages 174-175.)



Collect
Almighty ever-living God,
direct our actions
according to Your good pleasure,
that in the Name of Your beloved Son
we may abound in good works.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
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

 






The wonderful works of God



Bishop and Martyr

An excerpt from his Commentary on Psalm 101

Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

First God freed Israel from the bondage of Egypt by performing many signs and wonders. He permitted them to cross the Red Sea dry-shod. He fed them in the desert with food from heaven in the form of manna and quail. When they were suffering from thirst he produced an everflowing spring of water from the hardest rock. He gave them victory over all the enemies who made war against them. He forced the river to flow backward for a time. He divided the promised land and distributed it among them according to the number of their tribes and families.

Yet even though he treated them so lovingly and generously, the Israelites were ungrateful and seemed forgetful to all of this. They abandoned the worship of God and more than once they were guilty of the abominable sin of idolatry.

Then he also took pity on us, when we were pagans who went off to mute idols wherever we were led. He severed us from the wild olive tree of paganism and, breaking our natural branches, he grafted us onto the true olive tree of Judaism and made us share in the root of his grace and its richness. Finally, he did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, an offering and a sacrifice to God in a fragrant odor, that he might redeem us from all our iniquity and cleanse for himself an acceptable people.

Now all these things are not merely certain arguments but also clear proof of his deep love and kindness for us. And yet we are the most ungrateful of men. Indeed, we have gone beyond the bounds of ingratitude: we give no thought to his love, nor do we recognize the extent of his kindnesses to us. Rather we reject the one who lavishes so many favors and even appear to despise him; and the remarkable mercy that he has continually shown to sinners does not move us to form our lives and conduct according to his most holy command.

Clearly these things are worthy to be written down in the second generation so as to preserve their memory for ever. Thus all who are still to be counted among Christians will know the great kindness of God toward us and never cease singing his divine praises.



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 Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops



“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God for the promise of life in Christ Jesus...” (2 Timothy 1:1.)

In commenting on these verses from today’s First Reading, Saint John Chrysostom writes:

“From the outset Paul lifts up Timothy’s mind: Do not tell me of dangers in this life. They make us ready for eternal life, where there are no dangers, grief or mourning. God has not made us apostles that we might meet dangers but to be prepared to suffer and die. But Paul did not recount to him his own troubles, as this would merely increase his grief. Rather Paul begins immediately with offering comfort, saying, “According to the promise of life which is in Jesus Christ.” But if it is a “promise,” do not seek it here. For “hope that is seen is not hope.” (Homilies on 2 Timothy)



Collect
O God,
Who adorned Saints Timothy and Titus
with apostolic virtues, grant,
through the intercession of them both,
that, living justly and devoutly
in this present age,
we may merit to reach our heavenly homeland.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
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

 




I have fought the good fight



Bishop and Father of the Church

An excerpt from his Homily 2: In Praise of Saint Paul

Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops

Though housed in a narrow prison, Paul dwelt in heaven. He accepted beatings and wounds more readily than others reach out for rewards. Sufferings he loved as much as prizes; indeed he regarded them as his prizes, and therefore called them a grace or gift. Reflect on what this means. To depart and be with Christ was certainly a reward, while remaining in the flesh meant struggle. Yet such was his longing for Christ that he wanted to defer his reward and remain amid the fight; those were his priorities.

Now, to be separated from the company of Christ meant struggle and pain for Paul; in fact, it was a greater affliction than any struggle or pain would be. On the other hand, to be with Christ was a matchless reward. Yet, for the sake of Christ, Paul chose the separation.

But, you may say: “Because of Christ, Paul found all this pleasant.” I cannot deny that, for he derived intense pleasure from what saddens us. I need not think only of perils and hardships. It was true even of the intense sorrow that made him cry out: Who is weak that I do not share the weakness? Who is scandalized that I am not consumed with indignation?

I urge you not simply to admire but also to imitate this splendid example of virtue, for, if we do, we can share his crown as well.

Are you surprised at my saying that if you have Paul’s merits, you will share that same reward? Then listen to Paul himself: I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth a crown of justice awaits me, and the Lord, who is a just judge, will give it to me on that day—and not to me alone, but to those who desire his coming. You see how he calls all to share the same glory?

Now, since the same crown of glory is offered to all, let us eagerly strive to become worthy of these promised blessings.

In thinking of Paul we should not consider only his noble and lofty virtues or the strong and ready will that disposed him for such great graces. We should also realize that he shares our nature in every respect. If we do, then even what is very difficult will seem to us easy and light; we shall work hard during the short time we have on earth and someday we shall wear the incorruptible, immortal crown. This we shall do by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom all glory and power belongs now and always through endless ages. Amen.



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