Sunday Reflection – 11 February 2018 – 6th Sunday of Year B – Pope Benedict and St John Paul
In liturgical prayer, especially the Eucharist and – formats of the liturgy – in every prayer, we do not speak as single individuals, rather we enter into the “we” of the Church that prays. And we need to transform our “I” entering into this “we”. Pope Benedict XVI is one of the great liturgists of our age. His seminal book, “The Spirit of the Liturgy”, written when he was still Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, is required reading in most seminaries and should be read by every Catholic.
“It is not the individual – priest or layman – or the group that celebrates the liturgy but it is primarily God’s action through the Church, which has its own history, its rich tradition and creativity. This universality and fundamental openness, which is characteristic of the entire liturgy is one of the reasons why it can not be created or amended by the individual community or by experts but must be faithful to the forms of the universal Church.
The entire Church is always present, even in the liturgy of the smallest community. For this reason there are no “foreigners” in the liturgical community. The entire Church participates in every liturgical celebration, heaven and earth, God and man. The Christian liturgy, even if it is celebrated in a concrete place and space and expresses the “yes” of a particular community, it is inherently Catholic, it comes from everything and leads to everything, in union with the Pope, the Bishops , with believers of all times and all places. The more a celebration is animated by this consciousness, the more fruitful the true sense of the liturgy is realised in it.
Dear friends, the Church is made visible in many ways: in its charitable work, in mission projects, in the personal apostolate that every Christian must realise in his or her own environment. But the place where it is fully experienced as a Church is in the liturgy : it is the act in which we believe that God enters into our reality and we can meet Him, we can touch Him. It is the act in which we come into contact with God, He comes to us and we are enlightened by Him.
So when in the reflections on the liturgy we concentrate all our attention on how to make it attractive, interesting and beautiful, we risk forgetting the essential: the liturgy is celebrated for God and not for ourselves, it is His work, He is the subject and we must open ourselves to Him and be guided by Him and His Body, which is the Church.
Let us ask the Lord to learn every day to live the sacred liturgy, especially the Eucharistic celebration, praying in the “we” of the Church, that directs its gaze not in on itself but to God and feeling part of the living Church, of all places and of all time.”…Pope Benedict XVI – Wednesday Audience 3 Oct 2012
“I have been able to celebrate Holy Mass in chapels built along mountain paths, on lakeshores and seacoasts. I have celebrated it on altars built in stadiums and in city squares….This varied scenario of celebrations of the Eucharist, has given me, a powerful experience of its universal and, so to speak, cosmic character – YES, cosmic! Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always, in some way, celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation!” St Pope John Paul “Ecclesia de Eucharista no 8”
One Minute Reflection – 2 February – Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life
Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered...Hebrews 5: 7-9
REFLECTION – “When Mary let Simeon take the Son of the Promise into his arms, the old man began to sing of his dreams. Whenever she puts Jesus in the midst of His people, they encounter joy. For this alone will bring back our joy and hope, this alone will save us from living in a survival mentality. Only this will make our lives fruitful and keep our hearts alive: putting Jesus where He belongs, in the midst of His people…Hence, it is all the more important for consecrated men and women to be one with Jesus, in their lives and in the midst of these great changes (in the world)…Putting Jesus in the midst of His people means having a contemplative heart, one capable of discerning how God is walking through the streets of our cities, our towns and our neighbourhoods. Putting Jesus in the midst of His people means taking up and carrying the crosses of our brothers and sisters. It means wanting to touch the wounds of Jesus in the wounds of a world in pain, which longs and cries out for healing.”…Pope Francis on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life – 2 February 2017
PRAYER – May the Lord renew in you and in all consecrated people each day the joyful response to His freely given and faithful love. Dear brothers and sisters, like lighted candles, always and everywhere shine with the love of Christ, Light of the world. May Mary Most Holy, the consecrated Woman, help you to live to the full, your special vocation and mission in the Church for the world’s salvation. And may we all follow our Lord in obedience. Amen!
One Minute Reflection – 30 January – Gospel of the Day Mark 5:21-43 Year B
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”…Mark 5:27-28
REFLECTION – “The second episode, that of the woman with the haemorrhage, again manifests how Jesus came to liberate human beings in their totality. In fact, the miracle takes place in two stages: first there is the physical healing but this is closely linked to the deeper healing, that which grants God’s grace to those who welcome Him in faith. Jesus says to the woman: ‘Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be healed of the evil that afflicts you!’ (Mark 5:34). These two stories of healing are an invitation for us to overcome the purely horizontal and materialistic vision of life. We rightly ask God for so many healings from our problems, from concrete necessities. But what we must ask for insistently, is a more solid faith, so that the Lord might renew our life and a firm trust in His love, in His providence that does not abandon us.”…Pope Benedict XVI July 2012
PRAYER – Almighty Father, grant that our trust and faith may grow each day. Help us to be secure in Your unfailing love and help. Even in our times of fear, pain and distress, give us the trust to know that You are always with us and that Your healing grace does indeed work miracles in our lives. Grant us strength, O Lord, to overcome all our fears with confidence in Your loving care. Through Jesus Christ in union with the Holy Spirit, one God forever, amen.
Thought for the Day – 28 January – The Memorial of St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Doctor angelicus (Angelic Doctor) and Doctor communis (Common Doctor)
Pope John Paul II, recalled that “the Church has been justified in consistently proposing St Thomas as a master of thought and a model of the right way to do theology” (n. 43). It is not surprising that, after St Augustine, among the ecclesiastical writers mentioned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, St Thomas is cited more than any other, at least 61 times! He was also called the Doctor Angelicus, perhaps because of his virtues and, in particular, the sublimity of his thought and the purity of his life.
The last months of Thomas’ earthly life remain surrounded by a particular, I would say, mysterious atmosphere. In December 1273, he summoned his friend and secretary Reginald to inform him of his decision to discontinue all work because he had realised, during the celebration of Mass subsequent to a supernatural revelation, that everything he had written until then “was worthless”. This is a mysterious episode that helps us to understand not only Thomas’ personal humility but also the fact that, however lofty and pure it may be, all we manage to think and say about the faith is infinitely exceeded by God’s greatness and beauty which will be fully revealed to us in Heaven.
The life and teaching of St Thomas Aquinas could be summed up in an episode passed down by his ancient biographers. While, as was his wont, the Saint was praying before the Crucifix in the early morning in the chapel of St Nicholas in Naples, Domenico da Caserta, the church sacristan, overheard a conversation. Thomas was anxiously asking whether what he had written on the mysteries of the Christian faith was correct. And the Crucified One answered him: “You have spoken well of me, Thomas. What is your reward to be?”.And the answer Thomas gave him was what we too, friends and disciples of Jesus, always want to tell him: “Nothing but Yourself, Lord!”…Pope Benedict XVI – First in the series of Catechesis on St Thomas Aquinas – 2 June 2010
One Minute Reflection – 26 January – Memorial of Sts Timothy and Titus, Disciples and Companions of the Apostle Paul and Bishops of the Catholic Church
Proclaim the Gospel; insist on it in season and out of season, convince, rebuke and exhort, do all with patience and in a manner which will teach men….2 Timothy 4:2
REFLECTION – “…The sources we have on Timothy and Titus underline their willingness to take on the different tasks, which often consisted in representing Paul even in difficult circumstances. In other words, they teach us to serve the Gospel with generosity...”I want you to insist on these points, that those who have believed in God be careful to devote themselves to good works; these are excellent and beneficial to others” (Titus 3:8). With our concrete commitment, we must and can discover, the truth of these words and carry out …good works to open the doors of the world to Christ, our Saviour.”…Pope Benedict 13 December 2006
PRAYER – Almighty God, You endowed Saints Timothy and Titus with power to preach Your Word. Grant that, living a life of integrity and holiness in this world, reaching out to teach the Gospel both by our lives and our words, we may, through their prayers, come to our true home in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, in union with the Holy Spirit, one God forever, amen.
Series on the Catechesis of Pope BENEDICT XVI on St Paul
“Speaking of St Paul ” No 1 – Wednesday, 2 July 2008
Religious and Cultural Environment
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I would like to begin a new cycle of Catechesis focusing on the great Apostle St Paul. As you know, this year is dedicated to him, from the liturgical Feast of Sts Peter and Paul on 29 June 2008 to the same Feast day in 2009. The Apostle Paul, an outstanding and almost inimitable yet stimulating figure, stands before us as an example of total dedication to the Lord and to his Church, as well as of great openness to humanity and its cultures. It is right, therefore, that we reserve a special place for him in not only our veneration but also in our effort to understand what he has to say to us as well, Christians of today. In this first meeting let us pause to consider the environment in which St Paul lived and worked. A theme such as this would seem to bring us far from our time, given that we must identify with the world of 2,000 years ago. Yet this is only apparently and, in any case, only partly true for we can see that various aspects of today’s social and cultural context are not very different from what they were then.
A primary and fundamental fact to bear in mind is the relationship between the milieu in which Paul was born and raised and the global context to which he later belonged. He came from a very precise and circumscribed culture, indisputably a minority, which is that of the People of Israel and its tradition. In the ancient world and especially in the Roman Empire, as scholars in the subject teach us, Jews must have accounted for about 10 percent of the total population. Later, here in Rome, towards the middle of the first century, this percentage was even lower, amounting to three percent of the city’s inhabitants at most. Their beliefs and way of life, is still the case today, distinguished them clearly from the surrounding environment and this could have two results: either derision, that could lead to intolerance, or admiration which was expressed in various forms of sympathy, as in the case of the “God-fearing” or “proselytes”, pagans who became members of the Synagogue and who shared the faith in the God of Israel. As concrete examples of this dual attitude we can mention on the one hand the cutting opinion of an orator such as Cicero who despised their religion and even the city of Jerusalem (cf. Pro Flacco, 66-69) and, on the other, the attitude of Nero’s wife, Poppea, who is remembered by Flavius Josephus as a “sympathiser” of the Jews (cf. Antichità giudaiche 20, 195, 252); Vita 16), not to mention that Julius Caesar had already officially recognised specific rights of the Jews which have been recorded by the above-mentioned Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (cf. ibid., 14,200-216). It is certain that the number of Jews, as, moreover, is still the case today, was far greater outside the land of Israel, that is, in the Diaspora, than in the territory that others called Palestine.
It is not surprising, therefore, that Paul himself was the object of the dual contradictory assessment that I mentioned. One thing is certain: the particularism of the Judaic culture and religion easily found room in an institution as far-reaching as the Roman Empire. Those who would adhere with faith to the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, Jew or Gentile, were in the more difficult and troubled position, to the extent to which they were to distinguish themselves from both Judaism and the prevalent paganism. In any case, two factors were in Paul’s favour. The first was the Greek, or rather Hellenistic, culture which after Alexander the Great had become a common heritage, at least of the Eastern Mediterranean and of the Middle East and had even absorbed many elements of peoples traditionally considered barbarian. One writer of the time says in this regard that Alexander “ordered that all should consider the entire oecumene as their homeland… and that a distinction should no longer be made between Greek and barbarian” (Plutarch, De Alexandri Magni fortuna aut virtute, 6, 8). The second factor was the political and administrative structure of the Roman Empire which guaranteed peace and stability from Britain as far as southern Egypt, unifying a territory of previously unheard of dimensions. It was possible to move with sufficient freedom and safety in this space, making use, among other things, of an extraordinary network of roads and finding at every point of arrival basic cultural characteristics which, without affecting local values, nonetheless represented a common fabric of unification super partes, so that the Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of Paul himself, praised the Emperor Augustus for “composing in harmony all the savage peoples, making himself the guardian of peace” (Legatio ad Caium, 146-147).
There is no doubt that the universalist vision characteristic of St Paul’s personality, at least of the Christian Paul after the event on the road to Damascus, owes its basic impact to faith in Jesus Christ, since the figure of the Risen One was by this time situated beyond any particularistic narrowness. Indeed, for the Apostle “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3: 28). Yet, even the historical and cultural situation of his time and milieu could not but have had an influence on his decisions and his work. Some have defined Paul as “a man of three cultures”, taking into account his Jewish background, his Greek tongue and his prerogative as a “civis romanus [Roman citizen], as the name of Latin origin suggests. Particularly the Stoic philosophy dominant in Paul’s time which influenced Christianity, even if only marginally, should be recalled. Concerning this, we cannot gloss over certain names of Stoic philosophers such as those of its founders, Zeno and Cleanthes and then those closer to Paul in time such as Seneca, Musonius and Epictetus: in them the loftiest values of humanity and wisdom are found which were naturally to be absorbed by Christianity. As one student of the subject splendidly wrote, “Stoicism… announced a new ideal, which imposed upon man obligations to his peersbut at the same time set him free from all physical and national ties and made of him a purely spiritual being” (M. Pohlenz, La Stoa, I, Florence, 2, 1978, pp. 565 f.). One thinks, for example, of the doctrine of the universe understood as a single great harmonious body and consequently of the doctrine of equality among all people without social distinctions, of the equivalence, at least in principle, of men and women and then of the ideal of frugality, of the just measure and self-control to avoid all excesses. When Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil 4: 8), he was only taking up a purely humanistic concept proper to that philosophical wisdom.
In St Paul’s time a crisis of traditional religion was taking place, at least in its mythological and even civil aspects. After Lucretius had already ruled polemically a century earlier that “religion has led to many misdeeds” (De rerum natura, 1, 101, On the Nature of Things), a philosopher such as Seneca, going far beyond any external ritualism, taught that “God is close to you, he is with you, he is within you” (Epistulae morales to Lucilius, 41, 1). Similarly, when Paul addresses an audience of Epicurean philosophers and Stoics in the Areopagus of Athens, he literally says: “God does not live in shrines made by man,… for in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17: 24, 28). In saying this he certainly re-echoes the Judaic faith in a God who cannot be represented in anthropomorphic terms and even places himself on a religious wavelength that his listeners knew well. We must also take into account the fact that many pagan cults dispensed with the official temples of the town and made use of private places that favoured the initiation of their followers. It is, therefore, not surprising that Christian gatherings (ekklesiai) as Paul’s Letters attest, also took place in private homes. At that time, moreover, there were not yet any public buildings. Therefore, Christian assemblies must have appeared to Paul’s contemporaries as a simple variation of their most intimate religious practice. Yet the differences between pagan cults and Christian worship are not negligible and regard the participants’ awareness of their identity as well as the participation in common of men and women, the celebration of the “Lord’s Supper”, and the reading of the Scriptures.
In conclusion, from this brief over-view of the cultural context of the first century of the Christian era, it is clear that it is impossible to understand St Paul properly without placing him against both the Judaic and pagan background of his time. Thus he grows in historical and spiritual stature, revealing both sharing and originality in comparison with the surrounding environment. However, this applies likewise to Christianity in general, of which the Apostle Paul, precisely, is a paradigm of the highest order from whom we all, always, still have much to learn. And this is the goal of the Pauline Year: to learn from St Paul, to learn faith, to learn Christ, and finally to learn the way of upright living.
On the Memorial of Blessed Marcelo Spínola y Maestre, Cardinal-Priest (1835-1906) – 19 January
As today we have been thinking of all our Priests, let us pray:
Pope Benedict’s Prayer for Priests
LORD JESUS CHRIST,
Eternal High Priest, You offered Yourself to the
Father on the altar of the Cross and through the
outpouring of the Holy Spirit gave Your priestly
people a share in Your redeeming sacrifice.
Hear our prayer for the sanctification of our priests.
Grant that all who are ordained to the ministerial
priesthood may be ever more conformed to You,
the divine Master.
May they preach the
Gospel with pure heart and clear conscience.
Let them be shepherds according to Your own Heart,
single- minded in service to You and to the Church
and shining examples of a holy,simple and joyful life.
Through the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
Your Mother and ours,draw all priests and the flocks
entrusted to their care to the fullness of eternal life where
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
One Minute Reflection – 9 January – Gospel Mark 1:21-28 – Pope Benedict on the “Messianic Secret”
” I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him…Mark 1: 24-26
REFLECTION – “For the moment, Jesus does not want anyone outside the restricted group of His disciples to know that He is the Christ, the Son of God. This is why He often admonishes the apostles and the sick people whom He heals to not reveal His identity to anyone. Not only does Jesus chase demons out of people, freeing them from the worst slavery but He prohibits the demons themselves from revealing His identity. Christ insists on this secret because the fulfilment of His mission is at stake, on which our salvation depends.”…Pope Benedict XVI (Angelus 1 Feb 2009)
PRAYER – O Lord, You who came to save us, teach us all to live and breathe our love for You and Your teachings. Help us all to realise and give thanks for Your love for us. our life of pain and sorrow, lived to save us, is our only guide. Through Mary, Your holy and loving Mother and our Mother, grant us courage and gratitude, amen.
Thought for the Day – 8 January 2018 – Christmastide ends with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord – Remembering and Celebrating our Baptisms – Adding a new date to our Calendars!
Today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord ends the Christmas season and invites us to think of our Baptism. Jesus willed to receive the baptism preached and administered by John the Baptist in the river Jordan. It was a baptism of penance: all those who approached it expressed the desire to be purified from sin and, with God’s help, committed themselves to begin a new life.
We understand then the great humility of Jesus, He who had not sinned, put himself in the queue with the penitents, mixing among them, to be baptised in the waters of the river. What humility Jesus has! And, by doing so, He manifested what we celebrated at Christmas: Jesus’ willingness to immerse Himself in the river of humanity, to take upon himself the failures and weaknesses of men, to share their desire of liberation and to overcome all that distances one from God and renders brothers strangers. As at Bethlehem, along the banks of the Jordan God keeps His promise to take charge of the human being’s fate and Jesus is the tangible and definitive sign of it. He took charge of all of us, He takes charge of all of us, in life, in the days.
The feast of Jesus’ Baptism invites every Christian to remember his own Baptism. I can’t ask you the question if you remember the day of your Baptism, because the majority of you were babies, like me…. However, I can ask you another question? Do you know the date on which you were baptised? …And if you don’t know the date or have forgotten it, when you go home ask your mother, your grandmother, your uncle, your aunt, your grandfather, your godfather, your godmother – what was date?
And we must always have that date in our memory, because it’s a date of celebration,it’s the date of our initial sanctification; it’s the date in which the Father gave us the Holy Spirit who pushes us to walk, it’s the date of the great forgiveness. Don’t forget: what’s the date of my Baptism?
We invoke the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy so that all Christians can understand increasingly the gift of Baptism and commit themselves to live it with coherence, witnessing the love of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. – Pope Francis, Angelus Address, 7 January 2018
So let us do exactly this, this is a date in need of remembrance and celebration, this date of our new birth – I am certainly going to do this for all my family.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Jesus’ solidarity with us “Jesus shows His solidarity with us, with our efforts to convert and to be rid of our selfishnesss, to break away from our sins in order to tell us that if we accept Him in our life He can uplift us and lead us to the heights of God the Father. And Jesus’ solidarity is not, as it were, a mere exercise of mind and will. Jesus truly immersed himself in our human condition, lived it to the end, in all things save sin and was able to understand our weakness and frailty. For this reason He was moved to compassion, He chose to “suffer with” men and women, to become a penitent with us. This is God’s work which Jesus wanted to carry out: the divine mission to heal those who are wounded and give medicine to the sick, to take upon himself the sin of the world.” ….. From Homily of Pope Benedict XVI on feast of the Baptism of the Lord 2013