Sunday, February 14, 2016

The First Sunday of Lent, 14 February 2016


The First Sunday of Lent

14 February 2016

“Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation!” II Cor. 6:2

 

            Today, the Church initiates the penitential season of Lent in order to prepare us for the glorious resurrection at Easter. In today’s Epistle (II Cor. 6:1-10) St. Paul reminds us of the spiritual warfare we all face in working out our salvation.    “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation!” The  Gospel (Mt. 4:1-11), warns us in the three  temptations of Jesus to arm ourselves with God’s Word in order to conquer  Satan who continually tempts us to do evil works that serve his kingdom.  In The Liturgical Year Vol. 5 by Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., we find the traditional teaching of the Church on how these temptations relate to Lent and the spiritual life.

 

The Spiritual Battle against the Devil

Dom Gueranger dismisses those commentators of his day (19th Century) and, even more so, in our day, that St. Paul is not to be taken literally because he was writing only for the early days of the Church when the Christians were continually facing death. This false interpretation “is full of that discretion which meets with the applause of our cowardice, and it easily persuades us to be at rest, just as though we had no dangers to fear, and no battle to fight; whereas, we have both: for there is the devil, the world, flesh and blood. ....That such a misfortune may not befall us, the Church cries out to us, in the words of St. Paul: “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation!’” II Cor. 6:2 (p. 131)  We have the example of St. Paul who tells us of all the sufferings and the indifference and hatred of some of the Corinthians to his apostolic work: “We give no offense to anyone, that our ministry may not be blamed...in much patience; in tribulations, in hardships, in distress; ...in honour and dishonour, in evil report and good report...as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet enriching many, as having nothing yet possessing all things.”  II Cor. 6: 3-10 Only by overcoming the world, the flesh and the devil will we attain eternal life.

 

“The World, the Flesh and the Devil”

In his commentary on today’s gospel, Dom Gueranger tells how we need to overcome our enemies: “We have three enemies to fight against; our soul has three dangers; for, as the beloved disciple says, all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life (cf. Jn. 2:16).  By the concupiscence of the flesh is meant the love of sensual things, which covets whatever is agreeable to the flesh, and, when not curbed, draws the soul into unlawful pleasures.  Concupiscence of the eyes expresses the love of the goods of this world, such as riches, and possessions; these dazzle the eye, and then seduce the heart. Pride of life is that confidence in ourselves, which leads us to be vain and presumptuous, and makes us forget that all we have, our life and every good gift, we have from God.

“Every one of our sins comes from one of these three sources; every one of the temptations aims at making us accept the concupiscence of the flesh, or the concupiscence of the eyes (the world), or the pride of life (the devil).  Our Saviour, then who would be our model in all things, deigned to subject Himself to these three temptations.” Gueranger, p. 125

 

The Three Temptations of Satan

            Dom Gueranger shows us how the three temptations of Jesus by Satan correspond to the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life (cf. Jn. 2:16) p. 125: First of all Satan tempts Him in what regards the flesh: he suggests to him to satisfy the cravings of hunger, by working a miracle, and changing the stones into bread. If Jesus consents, and shows an eagerness in giving this indulgence to His body, the tempter will conclude that He is but a frail mortal, subject to concupiscence like other men.  When he tempts us, who have inherited evil concupiscence from Adam, his suggestions go further than this: he endeavours to defile the soul by the body. But the sovereign holiness of the Incarnate Word could never permit Satan to use upon Him the power which he has received of tempting man in his outward senses. The lesson, therefore, which the Son of God here gives us, is one of temperance: but we know that, for us, temperance is the mother of purity, and that intemperance excites our senses to rebel.

            “The second temptation is to pride: ‘Cast thyself down; the angels shall bear thee up in their hands.’ Ps. 90:11 The enemy is anxious to see if the favours of heaven have produced in Jesus’ soul that haughtiness, that ungrateful self-confidence, which makes the creature arrogate God’s gifts to itself, and forget its benefactor. Here, also, he is foiled; our Redeemer’s humility confounds the pride of the rebel angel.

            “He then makes a last effort: he hopes to gain over by ambition Him who has given such proofs of temperance and humility. He shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and says to Him: ‘All these will I give thee, if falling down, Thou wilt adore me.’ Mt. 4:9  Jesus rejects the wretched offer, and drives from Him the seducer, the prince of this world (cf. Jn. 14:30); hereby teaching us that we must despise the riches of this world, as often as keeping or getting them is to be on the condition of our violating the law of God and paying homage to Satan.” Gueranger, p. 125-6

 

Overcome Satan with the Word of God

“But let us observe how it is that our divine Model, our Redeemer, overcomes the tempter. Does he hearken to His words?  Does He allow the temptation time, and give it strength by delay?  We did so, when we were tempted; and we fell. But our Lord immediately meets each temptation with the shield of God’s word.  He says: ‘It is written: Not on bread alone doth man live.’ Deut. 8:3 ‘It is written: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.’ Deut. 6:16 ‘It is written: The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and Him only shalt thou serve.’ Deut. 6:13.  This then, must be our practice for the time to come. Eve brought perdition on herself and on the whole human race because she listened to the serpent. He that dallies with temptation is sure to fall.” Gueranger, p. 126-7

 

Holy Season of Lent

Dom Gueranger again reminds us how the Church prepares us for the glory of Easter Sunday if we are faithful to the example of Jesus Christ: “We are now in the season (Lent) of extraordinary grace; our hearts are on the watch, dangerous occasions are removed, everything that savours of worldliness is laid aside; our souls, purified by prayer, fasting, and alms deeds, are to rise with Christ, to a new life; but, shall we persevere?  All depends upon how we behave under temptation. Here, at the very opening of Lent, the Church gives us this passage of the holy Gospel, that we may have not only precept but example. If we be attentive and faithful, the lesson she gives us will produce its fruit; and when we come to the Easter Solemnity, we shall have those sure pledges of perseverance: vigilance, self-diffidence, prayer, and the never-failing help of divine grace.” Gueranger, p. 126  Let us do all that we can during this holy penitential season of Lent.  Jesus told us that “...unless you repent, you will all perish in the same manner.” Lk. 13:3   Let us deny ourselves in all things as the Angel told the three little children at Fatima: “Make everything a sacrifice!”   In this time of great evil in the world Our Lady at Fatima asked us to “Pray the rosary,” and “Pray and sacrifice for many souls go to Hell because no one prays and sacrifices for them.”   Let us do all that we can this Lent to save our own soul and the souls of our families, our friends and the world.

 

St. Maximilian Kolbe on Our Lady

 

 "By a special divine grace only Mary, the Mother of God, from the first moment of Her existence, avoided original sin and for this reason became the worthy Mother of  the Man-God, who is unlimited purity and infinite sanctity." (SK #1203)

 

 "Whoever does not want to have Mary Immaculate for Mother will neither have Christ the Lord for brother, God the Father will not send him the Son, the Son will not descend in his soul, the Holy Spirit will not form by His graces the mystical body according to the pattern of Christ, because all of this takes place in Mary Immaculate, full of grace, and only in Her." (SK #1295)

 

 "I adore you, O our Heavenly Father, because you placed in the most pure womb of Mary your only begotten Son.  I adore you, O Son of God, because you condescended to enter Her womb and you became truly, really, Her Son.  I adore you, o Holy Spirit, because you deigned to form in Her immaculate womb the body of the Son of God.  I adore you, O Most Holy Trinity,  one God in the Holy Trinity, for having ennobled the Immaculate in such a divine way." (SK #1305)

 

"Who are you, O Lady?  Who are you, O Immaculate?...You are not just a creature, you are not just an adoptive daughter, but you are the Mother of God and not just an adoptive mother, but the true Mother of God." (SK #1305)

 

"For all eternity, O Immaculate, God will call you 'My Mother'…He who established the fourth commandment will honour you for all eternity, always…Who are you, O Divine Lady?  He Himself, God Incarnate, loved to call Himself, 'the Son of Man'.  But men did not understand Him.  And today as well, how few are those souls who understand Him, and still how imperfectly they understand Him." (SK #1305)   

 

 

Quinquagesima Sunday, 7 February 2016


Quinquagesima Sunday

7 February  2016

 

“And if I distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, yet do not have charity, it  profits me nothing.”  I Cor. 13: 3

 

            In this last Sunday before the holy season of Lent, the Church gives us scriptural readings that are most appropriate for this penitential season. In the  Epistle (I Cor. 13:1-13), St.  Paul tells us of the importance of charity in the spiritual life: “And if I distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, yet do not have charity, it profits me nothing.”  I Cor. 13:3 Without charity, we are nothing, even if we could perform miracles, prophesy, and have faith to move mountains.  In the Gospel (Lk. 18:31-43), Jesus, who is charity itself (cf. I Jn. 4:16) cures the blind man who, according Pope St. Gregory the Great, represents the human race: “The man born blind of whom the Gospel tells is surely the human race. Ever since man has been turned out of Paradise in the person of our first father, he has not known the light of heaven, and therefore has suffered through being plunged into the darkness of condemnation.”   Jesus speaks to the Apostles about His impending passion and death on the cross to prepare them for  the ultimate proof of His love for the human race.  This is why He is headed for Jerusalem:  “Behold, we are going to Jerusalem, and all things that have been written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished...and after they have scourged him, they will put him to death; and on the third day he will rise again.”  Lk. 18:33 With charity and the cross, we see the two great teachings of the spiritual life, not only for Lent but also for the whole of the liturgical year.  Sadly, many are blind to the importance of charity and the cross.  This is why the miracle Jesus works on the blind man (whose name is Bartimeus in St. Mark’s Gospel) is most significant; he is blind but so also are the Apostles who do not understand that Jesus must suffer to enter into His glory.  The blind man has faith in Jesus and is cured.  The Apostles will only see the truth of the cross after the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The people of Corinth are also “blind” and this is why St. Paul has to tell them how important charity is in comparison to the charismatic gifts of tongues, prophesy, knowledge and even faith. If we are going to enter into the truth of charity and the cross, we too need a miracle of grace that only Jesus can give us.   Charity and the cross go together and cannot be separated; without charity, the cross is purposeless and the cross without charity “profits nothing.” I Cor. 13:3

 

Without Charity, the Cross is nothing

 

Dom Prosper Gueranger in his classic work, The Liturgical Year Vol. 4 comments on today’s epistle:  How appropriate for this Sunday is the magnificent eulogy of charity, here given by our apostle!  This virtue, which comprises the love both of God and of our neighbour, is the light of our souls. Without charity we are in darkness, and all our works are profitless.  The very power of working miracles cannot give hope of salvation, unless he who does them has charity.  Unless we are in charity, the most heroic acts of other virtues are but one snare more for our souls. Let us beseech our Lord to give us this light.  But let us not forget that, however richly He may bless us with it here below, the fullness of its brightness is reserved for when we are in heaven; and that the sunniest day we can have in this world, is but darkness when compared with the splendour of our eternal charity. Faith will then give place, for we shall be face to face with all truth; hope will have no object, for we shall possess all good; charity alone will continue, and, for this reason, is greater than faith and hope, which must needs accompany her in this present life.  This being the glorious destiny reserved for man when redeemed and enlightened by Jesus, is it to be wondered at that we should leave all things, in order to follow such a Master?  What should surprise us, and what proves how degraded is our nature by sin is to see Christians, who have been baptized in this faith and this hope, and have received the first-fruits of this love, indulging, during these days, in every sort of worldliness, which is only the more dangerous because it is fashionable. ...If there be charity within our souls, it will make us feel these offences that are committed against our God, and inspire us to pray to Him to have mercy on these poor blind sinners, for they are our brethren.” Gueranger, p. 188-9

 

Blindness of the Body and the Soul

 

Today’s Gospel sets before us additional  examples of two types of blindness:  the most apparent is that of the blind man at Jericho; the second blindness  is that of the Apostles who cannot understand what Jesus is saying about His coming passion and death.  In the passage for today’s gospel in St. Matthew (and also in St. Mark), the mother of two of the Apostles, James and John, wants her sons to “sit one at thy right hand and one at thy left hand, in thy kingdom.” Mt. 20:21. Ironically, this is right after Jesus spoke of His coming passion. The blind man is cured, but the Apostles will not be cured of their blind ambition until the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost when they will realize that Jesus had to suffer death and rise again in order to redeem mankind.  The Apostles were blinded by their hopes that Jesus would establish an earthly kingdom in which they would be leaders of the people.  The blind man recognizes Jesus as the Messiah, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Lk. 18:38.  Even when he is told to be quiet, he cried out all the louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” Lk. 18:39   Jesus recognizes His faith and asks him what he wishes.  The blind man said, “’Lord, that I may see.’ And Jesus said, to him, ‘Receive thy sight, thy faith has saved thee.’”  Lk. 18:   41-42. 

 

“Lord, that I may see.”  Lk. 18:41

 

            The lesson for today’s gospel is that we all need to cry out with the blind man, “Lord, that I may see.”  Lk. 18:41.  He was physically blind, but he could see spiritually that Jesus could cure him.  The Corinthians in today’s Epistle are blinded by their charismatic gifts and fail to see the need to practice charity.  The Apostles are blinded by ambition and fail to see the need of the cross. Only with charity, does the suffering of the cross take on its fullest meaning: “...and if I give my body to be burned, yet do not have charity, it profits me nothing.” I Cor. 13:3.  St. Augustine remarked: “It is not the martyrdom that makes the martyr, but the motive for it.  A fanatic can give his life for a cause which is not right or just.”  (The Preacher’s Encyclopaedia, p. 686) 

 

What is Charity?

 

St. Paul reminds the Corinthians that charity is the most important virtue for the Christian.  It is better than all the charismatic gifts:  “And I point out to you a yet more excellent way, If I should speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have charity, I have become a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And If I know prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith to remove mountains, yet do not have charity, I am nothing...” I Cor. 13:1-2.   Charity encompasses all the virtues:  “Charity is patient, is kind; charity does not envy, is not pretentious, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, is not self-seeking, is not provoked; thinks no evil, does not rejoice over wickedness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  I Cor. 13:4-7   There is nothing greater in this world than charity, and there is no explanation of charity better nor more lyrical than St. Paul’s: “Charity is patient, is kind; charity does not envy ...”

 

 

Ash Wednesday, February 2016

 

“Remember, man, that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return.” (cf. Gen. 3:19)

 

            Let us make this Lent a season of penance and prayer for our world. Our Lady said at Fatima that “whole nations could be annihilated.”  This is certainly possible in these times when nation threatens nation. Let us meditate on these words from II Chronicles 7:14: “...if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn away from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” II Chronicles 7:14

 

 

 

St. Maximilian Kolbe on Confession  

How to Achieve Heaven Even Here on Earth.

 

            “In any case, those who on this earth have had a chance to taste in advance a little bit of heaven can get some idea of what it will be like.  Now everyone can have this experience.  All he needs to do is to go to confession with sincerity, diligence, a deep sorrow for his sins and a firm resolve to amend his life. He will suddenly feel a peace and happiness compared with which all the fleeting, unworthy pleasures of this world are really an odious torment.  Let everyone seek to come and receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist with proper preparation.   Let him never permit his soul to remain in sin, but let him purify it immediately. Let him do his duty manfully. Let him address humble and frequent prayers to God’s throne, especially through the hand of the Immaculate Virgin.  Let him welcome his brethren with a charitable heart, bearing for God’s sake the sufferings and difficulties of  life.  Let him do good to all, even his enemies, solely for the love of God and not in order to be praised or even thanked by men.  Then he will come to understand what it means to have a foretaste of paradise; and perhaps more than once he will find peace and joy even in poverty, suffering, disgrace and illness.”  

 

“…regaining lost  joy ...”

 

            Pope John Paul in his Apostolic Exhortation, Reconciliation and Penance, 2 December, 1984, 31, III tells us that every contrite Confession is, “a drawing near to the holiness of God, a rediscovery of one’s true identity, which has been upset and disturbed by sin, a liberation in the very depths of one’s self and thus a regaining of lost joy, the joy of being saved, which the majority of people in our time are no longer capable of experiencing.”

 

Sexagesima Sunday, 31 January 2016


Sexagesima Sunday

31 January  2016

 

To you it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God, but to the rest in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’”Lk. 8:10

 

As we learned last week, in these three  Sundays before Lent,  the texts of the Liturgy help us  recognize ourselves as weak sinners who need to repent in preparation for the Lenten and Paschal mysteries.  With this in mind, we can understand   the explanation Jesus gave to the Apostles about why He spoke in parables.  It is not to confuse people, but to make them search more into their own hearts in order to understand what Jesus  teaches through the recognizable (or memorable, or well-known) images and events found in His  parables. Dom Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Year Vol. 4, (Septuagesima), comments on today’s liturgy:  “The Church offers to our consideration, during this week of Sexagesima, the history of Noah and the deluge... This awful chastisement of the human race by the deluge was a fresh consequence of sin.  This time, however, there was found just one man; and it was through him and his family that the world was restored. Having once more mercifully renewed His covenant with His creatures, God allows the earth to be repeopled, and makes the three sons of Noah become the fathers of the three great families of the human race....This is the mystery of the Divine Office during the week of Sexagesima. The mystery expressed in today’s Mass is full of greater importance.  The earth is deluged by sin and heresy. But the word of God, the seed of life, is ever producing a new generation: a race of men, who like Noah, fear God. It is the word of God that produces those happy children, of whom the beloved disciple speaks, saying: ‘They are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ Jn. 1:13 ...What we have to do, during these days of Sexagesima, is to escape from the deluge of worldliness, and take shelter in the Ark of salvation; we have to become that good soil, which yields a hundredfold from the heavenly seed.  Let us flee from the wrath to come, lest we perish with the enemies of God: let us hunger after the word of God, which converteth and giveth life to souls” (cf. Ps. 18).  Gueranger, p. 148-150.  We can see how many fail to produce fruit from the word of God  in today’s Gospel (Luke 8:4-15) where Jesus’ Parable of the Sower reveals that three out of the four types of soil do not bear fruit. The fourth   kind of soil is the good ground which will yield fruit “a hundredfold.” St. Paul in today’s Epistle (II Cor. 11: 19-33; 12:1-9) shows how he has yielded much fruit in all the sufferings he underwent for the gospel.  

 

St. Paul, a true Apostle

In all the epistles of St. Paul, Corinthians alone is full of many examples of what  this loyal Apostle had to endure to spread the gospel of  Jesus Christ.  St. Paul is not boasting, but he wants to show his followers what he has  suffered for them and the gospel. He first reminds them, “For you gladly put up with fools, because you are wise yourselves! For you suffer it if a man enslaves you, if a man devours you, if a man takes from you, if a man is arrogant, if a man slaps your face!” I Cor. 11: 19-20.  These pseudo- apostles,” and “ministers of Satan” (II Cor. 11:13-5)--- “those brethren from Jerusalem ... had come to Corinth boasting of their pure-blooded Judaism  and casting suspicions on St. Paul’s Apostolic Mission. It is only the need of his Corinthian flock that drives the Apostle to that boasting of his origin and his work—which in other circumstances he would have despised, and even now in his heart regards as foolish. ”  Msgr. Patrick Boylan, “The Sunday Epistle and Gospels,” p. 135.    “Are they ministers of Christ?  I—to speak as a fool—am more: many labours, in prisons more frequently, in lashes above measure, often exposed to death. From the Jews five times I received forty lashes less one. Thrice I was scourged, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and day I was adrift on the sea, in journeyings often, in perils from floods, in perils from robbers, in perils from my own nation....” II Cor. 12:23-26  St Paul recounted the litany of his sufferings to prove how much he was a true apostle  and thus refute his adversaries.  No one can read the summary of his sufferings without being impressed  by the many  trials  he endured for preaching the gospel. Later, he mentions that the Lord sent him “a thorn in  the flesh, messenger from Satan, to buffet me.”  ( II Cor. 12:7) lest he puffed up with pride.  Like a true Apostle, he will suffer it for the Lord: “Gladly therefore I will glory in my infirmities, that the strength of Christ may dwell in me.” II Cor. 12: 9 St. Paul’s life  yielded fruit not just a hundredfold but a thousandfold and more than a thousandfold.

 

Souls without fruit

In today’s parable of  The Sower,” we see that those who do not bear fruit are represented by three of the four types of  ground in which the seed is sown.  The seed is good, but the fruit  it bears is dependent on the place where it is sown. Fr. Gabriel of St. Magdalen in his book of meditations, Divine Intimacy tells us the meaning of soil: The hard ground: souls that are frivolous, dissipated, open to all distractions, rumors, and curiosity; admitting all kinds of creatures and earthly affections.  The word of God hardly reaches their heart when the enemy (the devil), having free access, carries it off, thus preventing it from taking root.  The stony ground: superficial souls with only a shallow layer of good earth, which will be rapidly blown away, along with the good seed, by the winds of passion. These souls easily grow enthusiastic, but do not persevere and ‘in time of temptation fall away.’ (Lk. 8:13) They are unstable, because they have not the courage to embrace renunciation and to make the sacrifices which are necessary if one wishes to remain faithful to the word of God and to put it into practice in all circumstances. Their fervor is a straw fire which dies down and goes out in the face of the slightest difficulty.  The ground covered with thorns:  souls that are preoccupied with worldly things, pleasures, material interests and affairs. The seed takes root, but the thorns soon choke it by depriving it of air and light. Excessive solicitude for temporal things eventually stifles the rights of the spirit.” Fr. Gabriel, OCD, Divine Intimacy, p. 249 

 

“And other seed fell upon good ground, and sprang up and yielded fruit a hundredfold.” Lk. 8:8

Lastly, the good ground is compared by Jesus to those who, ‘with a right and good heart, having heard  the word, hold it fast, and bear fruit in patience.’ Lk. 8:15  The good and upright heart is the one which always gives first place to God, which seeks before everything else the kingdom of God and His justice.  The seed of the divine word will bear abundant fruit in proportion to the good dispositions it finds in us: recollection, a serious and profound interior life, detachment, sincere seeing for the things of God above  and beyond all earthly things, and finally perseverance without which the word of God cannot bear its fruit in us.” Divine Intimacy, p. 249  Those “with a right and good heart” (Lk. 8:15) will yield fruit a hundredfold  as God’s grace is always fruitful: “And other seed fell upon good ground, and sprang up and yielded fruit a hundredfold.” Lk. 8: 8.   All we have to do is to look at the lives of the saints, like St. Paul in today’s II Epistle to the Corinthians, and we can see God’s grace bear fruit even beyond a hundredfold to a thousandfold and even more.  

         

Who are saved?

          If we apply the message of today’s Gospel to our world, we might not see a pretty picture.   Things have not changed with human nature.  Jesus knew what kind of men his listeners were.  So too today!  The vast majority of souls are those who are represented by the seed on the wayside path, the rocky ground, and thorny bushes.  They are not interested in God’s word.    If  they do have some interest, the cares of the world and pleasures of  riches distract them.  In his treatise, “The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved,”  St. Leonard of Port Maurice*** quotes St. Augustine: “The ark (Noah’s Ark)  was the figure of the Church. And these eight people who were saved signify that very few Christians are saved, because there are very few who sincerely renounce the world, and those who renounce it only in words do not belong to the mystery represented by that ark.” p. 5   Were it not for the grace of God which comes to us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and through the hands of our  Immaculate Mother, there would be little hope for all of humanity.  This is why Our Lady at  Fatima in 1917 asked us to pray and sacrifice because she said that “many souls go to hell because no one prays and sacrifices for them.”  This is why Our Lady begged us to pray the Rosary.  Let us pray the Holy Rosary in the family and make sacrifices, and then many souls, especially in our families, will be saved and  go to heaven.  

*** This treatise of St. Leonard’s is in our repository.   Or contact lanhernefriars@talktalk.net

 

“Could you not, then, watch one hour with Me?” Mt. 26:40

            St. Ambrose tells us  how Jesus is the leaven to change the whole world. We have Jesus as true leaven and the Bread of Life in the Blessed Sacrament.  We need to go to Jesus in the Sacred Host and ask Him to take over our lives. “Therefore, if the Lord is wheat (as He Himself says in John 12:24), the Lord is the leaven, too, since leaven is usually made only of wheaten flour. Therefore, the Lord is rightly compared to leaven for when He was in the form of man, made small by humility and despised for His weakness, He contained within Himself such power of wisdom that the world itself could scarcely contain His doctrine. When He began to diffuse Himself throughout the world by virtue of His divinity, He immediately drew the entire human race into His substance by His power so that He might place the yoke of His Holy Spirit upon all of them, that is, make all Christians to be what Christ is....so Christ (like leaven) is broken up and dissolved by His various sufferings, and His moisture, that is, His precious blood, was poured out for our salvation, that it might by mingling  itself with the whole human race, consolidate that race, which lay scattered abroad.”  St. Ambrose in Cornelius A Lapide,  Commentary on John’s Gospel, p. 29-30

 

 

The First Friday,  5 February 2016

 

Now is a good time to continue (or begin) the  devotion to the “Nine  First Fridays” of the Month.   The Sacred Heart of Jesus promised to St. Margaret Mary:  "I promise thee in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Divine heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment."  There is no better way of  honouring the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus than in receiving Holy Communion on  the “Nine First Fridays.”.

 

The First Saturday: 

6 February 2016

Our Lady told Sr. Lucia in 1925 “…I promise to assist at the hour of death, with all the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months go to confession and receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary and keep me company for a quarter of an hour while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me."  If only we would do what Our Lady asks, we would be assured of eternal salvation.  Our Lady promises us all the graces necessary for our salvation if we keep The Five First Saturdays! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sexagesima Sunday

31 January  2016

 

To you it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God, but to the rest in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’”Lk. 8:10

 

As we learned last week, in these three  Sundays before Lent,  the texts of the Liturgy help us  recognize ourselves as weak sinners who need to repent in preparation for the Lenten and Paschal mysteries.  With this in mind, we can understand   the explanation Jesus gave to the Apostles about why He spoke in parables.  It is not to confuse people, but to make them search more into their own hearts in order to understand what Jesus  teaches through the recognizable (or memorable, or well-known) images and events found in His  parables. Dom Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Year Vol. 4, (Septuagesima), comments on today’s liturgy:  “The Church offers to our consideration, during this week of Sexagesima, the history of Noah and the deluge... This awful chastisement of the human race by the deluge was a fresh consequence of sin.  This time, however, there was found just one man; and it was through him and his family that the world was restored. Having once more mercifully renewed His covenant with His creatures, God allows the earth to be repeopled, and makes the three sons of Noah become the fathers of the three great families of the human race....This is the mystery of the Divine Office during the week of Sexagesima. The mystery expressed in today’s Mass is full of greater importance.  The earth is deluged by sin and heresy. But the word of God, the seed of life, is ever producing a new generation: a race of men, who like Noah, fear God. It is the word of God that produces those happy children, of whom the beloved disciple speaks, saying: ‘They are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ Jn. 1:13 ...What we have to do, during these days of Sexagesima, is to escape from the deluge of worldliness, and take shelter in the Ark of salvation; we have to become that good soil, which yields a hundredfold from the heavenly seed.  Let us flee from the wrath to come, lest we perish with the enemies of God: let us hunger after the word of God, which converteth and giveth life to souls” (cf. Ps. 18).  Gueranger, p. 148-150.  We can see how many fail to produce fruit from the word of God  in today’s Gospel (Luke 8:4-15) where Jesus’ Parable of the Sower reveals that three out of the four types of soil do not bear fruit. The fourth   kind of soil is the good ground which will yield fruit “a hundredfold.” St. Paul in today’s Epistle (II Cor. 11: 19-33; 12:1-9) shows how he has yielded much fruit in all the sufferings he underwent for the gospel.  

 

St. Paul, a true Apostle

In all the epistles of St. Paul, Corinthians alone is full of many examples of what  this loyal Apostle had to endure to spread the gospel of  Jesus Christ.  St. Paul is not boasting, but he wants to show his followers what he has  suffered for them and the gospel. He first reminds them, “For you gladly put up with fools, because you are wise yourselves! For you suffer it if a man enslaves you, if a man devours you, if a man takes from you, if a man is arrogant, if a man slaps your face!” I Cor. 11: 19-20.  These pseudo- apostles,” and “ministers of Satan” (II Cor. 11:13-5)--- “those brethren from Jerusalem ... had come to Corinth boasting of their pure-blooded Judaism  and casting suspicions on St. Paul’s Apostolic Mission. It is only the need of his Corinthian flock that drives the Apostle to that boasting of his origin and his work—which in other circumstances he would have despised, and even now in his heart regards as foolish. ”  Msgr. Patrick Boylan, “The Sunday Epistle and Gospels,” p. 135.    “Are they ministers of Christ?  I—to speak as a fool—am more: many labours, in prisons more frequently, in lashes above measure, often exposed to death. From the Jews five times I received forty lashes less one. Thrice I was scourged, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and day I was adrift on the sea, in journeyings often, in perils from floods, in perils from robbers, in perils from my own nation....” II Cor. 12:23-26  St Paul recounted the litany of his sufferings to prove how much he was a true apostle  and thus refute his adversaries.  No one can read the summary of his sufferings without being impressed  by the many  trials  he endured for preaching the gospel. Later, he mentions that the Lord sent him “a thorn in  the flesh, messenger from Satan, to buffet me.”  ( II Cor. 12:7) lest he puffed up with pride.  Like a true Apostle, he will suffer it for the Lord: “Gladly therefore I will glory in my infirmities, that the strength of Christ may dwell in me.” II Cor. 12: 9 St. Paul’s life  yielded fruit not just a hundredfold but a thousandfold and more than a thousandfold.

 

Souls without fruit

In today’s parable of  The Sower,” we see that those who do not bear fruit are represented by three of the four types of  ground in which the seed is sown.  The seed is good, but the fruit  it bears is dependent on the place where it is sown. Fr. Gabriel of St. Magdalen in his book of meditations, Divine Intimacy tells us the meaning of soil: The hard ground: souls that are frivolous, dissipated, open to all distractions, rumors, and curiosity; admitting all kinds of creatures and earthly affections.  The word of God hardly reaches their heart when the enemy (the devil), having free access, carries it off, thus preventing it from taking root.  The stony ground: superficial souls with only a shallow layer of good earth, which will be rapidly blown away, along with the good seed, by the winds of passion. These souls easily grow enthusiastic, but do not persevere and ‘in time of temptation fall away.’ (Lk. 8:13) They are unstable, because they have not the courage to embrace renunciation and to make the sacrifices which are necessary if one wishes to remain faithful to the word of God and to put it into practice in all circumstances. Their fervor is a straw fire which dies down and goes out in the face of the slightest difficulty.  The ground covered with thorns:  souls that are preoccupied with worldly things, pleasures, material interests and affairs. The seed takes root, but the thorns soon choke it by depriving it of air and light. Excessive solicitude for temporal things eventually stifles the rights of the spirit.” Fr. Gabriel, OCD, Divine Intimacy, p. 249 

 

“And other seed fell upon good ground, and sprang up and yielded fruit a hundredfold.” Lk. 8:8

Lastly, the good ground is compared by Jesus to those who, ‘with a right and good heart, having heard  the word, hold it fast, and bear fruit in patience.’ Lk. 8:15  The good and upright heart is the one which always gives first place to God, which seeks before everything else the kingdom of God and His justice.  The seed of the divine word will bear abundant fruit in proportion to the good dispositions it finds in us: recollection, a serious and profound interior life, detachment, sincere seeing for the things of God above  and beyond all earthly things, and finally perseverance without which the word of God cannot bear its fruit in us.” Divine Intimacy, p. 249  Those “with a right and good heart” (Lk. 8:15) will yield fruit a hundredfold  as God’s grace is always fruitful: “And other seed fell upon good ground, and sprang up and yielded fruit a hundredfold.” Lk. 8: 8.   All we have to do is to look at the lives of the saints, like St. Paul in today’s II Epistle to the Corinthians, and we can see God’s grace bear fruit even beyond a hundredfold to a thousandfold and even more.  

         

Who are saved?

          If we apply the message of today’s Gospel to our world, we might not see a pretty picture.   Things have not changed with human nature.  Jesus knew what kind of men his listeners were.  So too today!  The vast majority of souls are those who are represented by the seed on the wayside path, the rocky ground, and thorny bushes.  They are not interested in God’s word.    If  they do have some interest, the cares of the world and pleasures of  riches distract them.  In his treatise, “The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved,”  St. Leonard of Port Maurice*** quotes St. Augustine: “The ark (Noah’s Ark)  was the figure of the Church. And these eight people who were saved signify that very few Christians are saved, because there are very few who sincerely renounce the world, and those who renounce it only in words do not belong to the mystery represented by that ark.” p. 5   Were it not for the grace of God which comes to us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and through the hands of our  Immaculate Mother, there would be little hope for all of humanity.  This is why Our Lady at  Fatima in 1917 asked us to pray and sacrifice because she said that “many souls go to hell because no one prays and sacrifices for them.”  This is why Our Lady begged us to pray the Rosary.  Let us pray the Holy Rosary in the family and make sacrifices, and then many souls, especially in our families, will be saved and  go to heaven.  

*** This treatise of St. Leonard’s is in our repository.   Or contact lanhernefriars@talktalk.net

 

“Could you not, then, watch one hour with Me?” Mt. 26:40

            St. Ambrose tells us  how Jesus is the leaven to change the whole world. We have Jesus as true leaven and the Bread of Life in the Blessed Sacrament.  We need to go to Jesus in the Sacred Host and ask Him to take over our lives. “Therefore, if the Lord is wheat (as He Himself says in John 12:24), the Lord is the leaven, too, since leaven is usually made only of wheaten flour. Therefore, the Lord is rightly compared to leaven for when He was in the form of man, made small by humility and despised for His weakness, He contained within Himself such power of wisdom that the world itself could scarcely contain His doctrine. When He began to diffuse Himself throughout the world by virtue of His divinity, He immediately drew the entire human race into His substance by His power so that He might place the yoke of His Holy Spirit upon all of them, that is, make all Christians to be what Christ is....so Christ (like leaven) is broken up and dissolved by His various sufferings, and His moisture, that is, His precious blood, was poured out for our salvation, that it might by mingling  itself with the whole human race, consolidate that race, which lay scattered abroad.”  St. Ambrose in Cornelius A Lapide,  Commentary on John’s Gospel, p. 29-30

 

 

The First Friday,  5 February 2016

 

Now is a good time to continue (or begin) the  devotion to the “Nine  First Fridays” of the Month.   The Sacred Heart of Jesus promised to St. Margaret Mary:  "I promise thee in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Divine heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment."  There is no better way of  honouring the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus than in receiving Holy Communion on  the “Nine First Fridays.”.

 

The First Saturday: 

6 February 2016

Our Lady told Sr. Lucia in 1925 “…I promise to assist at the hour of death, with all the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months go to confession and receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary and keep me company for a quarter of an hour while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me."  If only we would do what Our Lady asks, we would be assured of eternal salvation.  Our Lady promises us all the graces necessary for our salvation if we keep The Five First Saturdays! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Septuagesima Sunday, 24 January 2016


Septuagesima Sunday

24  January 2016

 

 “But about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing about,  and he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here all the day idle?’” Mt. 20:6

 

            This Sunday begins the period in the Church’s liturgy that indicates a transition between the joys of Christmas and Epiphany and the rigours of Lent.  Pope St. Gregory the Great established these Sundays before Easter: Septuagesima (70 days), Sexagesima (60 days) and Quinquagesima  (50 days) in order to prepare the faithful, both in body and spirit, for the Lenten period of penance. “The Church through the appropriate liturgical texts, tries to make the Christian realize the misery of their state as sinners and their own weakness, in order to prepare them for the need of penance and unite them to the one sacrifice of Christ, which is commemorated in the Lenten cycle.”  (The Preacher’s Encyclopaedia, p. 586-7)  The period of Septuagesima has been compared to the seventy years of Babylonian captivity where the Jews wept for their sins and longed to return to Jerusalem. So, too, the Church calls us to weep for our sins and long for the joys of the resurrection and of heaven. We see how this is true in today’s Epistle (I Cor. 9:24-27; 10:1-5) where St. Paul reminds the Corinthians to deprive themselves like good athletes in order to prepare for the struggle for the crown of eternal salvation: “...but I chastise my body and bring it into subjection, lest perhaps after preaching to others I myself should be rejected.” I Cor. 9:27   In the Gospel (Mt. 20:1-16) parable of “The Labourers in the Vineyard,” Jesus shows us how important it is to labour in His vineyard, that is, the temporal world, for the reward of the kingdom of heaven.  All are invited to work in the vineyard: “Why do you stand here all the day idle?” Mt. 20:6 All are invited to work for their eternal salvation, and no one should be idle and careless in doing the things which will bring this great reward.

 

“Do you not know that those who run in a race, all indeed run, but one receives the prize?  So run to obtain it.”  I Cor. 9 24

St. Paul uses the analogy of the runner to show how one must train vigorously to win the prize of a heavenly crown.  According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the Christian runs a spiritual race that demands great effort:  “Even in the spiritual race, one only receives the prize—he who perseveres to the end. Run, then, for victory; (this) indicates first the effort, then the purpose, lastly the prize.” (The Preacher’s Encyclopaedia, p. 588)   Like all good athletes, St. Paul demands that the faithful who are aiming at the goal of eternal life should do penance and chastise their bodies lest they lose the eternal crown: “...but I chastise my body and bring it into subjection, lest perhaps after preaching to others I myself should be rejected.” I Cor. 9:27 St. Paul reminds his followers that it is not enough to belong to the chosen race.  He reminds them that the Jews were brought out of Egypt and received great graces from God, but some sinned and died in the desert: “Yet with most of them God was not well-pleased, for ‘they were laid low in the desert.’” I Cor. 10:5   The lesson from St. Paul is self-evident: “The Christian is an athlete; and it is not enough for him to cry Lord, Lord, from the gallery. He must be in the arena to fight for his life!” (The Preacher’s Encyclopaedia, p. 489)

 

“Even so the last shall be first, and the first last; for many are called, but few are chosen.” Mt. 20:16

These mysterious words of Our Lord become clear when one considers the spiritual meaning of this parable in its allegorical sense. The vineyard is our life in the world where we must strive for the reward of our labours: instead of a  denarius for our day’s work, we will gain eternal life. Quoting St. Gregory the Great and St. Augustine, Dom Prosper Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Life Vol. 4 says that the various hours of the day represent the stages of life: “It signifies the calling given by God to each of us individually, pressing us to labour, during this life, for the kingdom prepared for us.  The morning is our childhood. The third hour, according to the division used by the ancients in counting their day at sunrise; it is our youth. The sixth hour, by which name they called our midday, is manhood. The eleventh hour, which immediately preceded sunset, is old age. The Master of the house calls His labourers at all these various hours.”  Gueranger, p. 126   All those called must go at the time when they are summoned as they are not certain that they will be called later. The same happens to us in life: no one is certain that he will live to old age.  We need to accept the call to live our faith when we are called.  We also need to accept the wage which we are promised.  Interestingly, the denarius is a coin comprising ten other coins; so the good Christian must keep the Ten Commandments if he hopes to save his life.  Jesus calls all to the kingdom of heaven, but not everyone accepts the invitation.  Some who thought that they were special because they came first, may be last; and those who were called last, may be first in the kingdom of heaven.   

 

“Have I not a right to do what I choose?  Or art thou envious because I am generous?” Mt. 20:15

When the first labourers came for their wages, they reasoned that they should have a higher wage since they had worked all day. In reality, they were envious of the good fortune of those who worked only part of the day.   It seems to be another example of the typical reaction of the Pharisees at Jesus’ generosity to sinners and other non-Jews.  Fr. Boylan in “The Sunday Epistles and Gospels,” explains it thus: “The Pharisees were like the early hired workers; they had professed to walk in the ways of the Lord, and for their ‘works of the Law’, they thought themselves fully entitled to demand payment, as wages earned, from God.  Against this outlook the parable is a protest. The Kingdom of Heaven has been offered to all—but in the goodness and mercy of God, and not as a wage definitely earned by work done.  Those who might have expected to enter it first of all are likely to be the last to do so, and those whom the Pharisees despised—the ‘people of the land’ and sinners—are among the first to enter the Kingdom.” p. 131  The Pharisees are the people to whom Jesus often refers  in the  scriptures who want special favours for being His followers yet they lack His spirit:  “’We ate and drank in thy presence, and thou didst teach in our streets.’ And he shall say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me all you workers of iniquity.”  Lk. 13: 26-7  Let us be thankful for having been called to be a follower of Christ, and let us wish that all our fellow men would also accept Jesus’ call even if it is at “the eleventh hour”.

 

The Capital Sin of Envy

Envy implies sorrow at the happiness and prosperity of our neighbour.  For which reason the envious man is never without sadness or trouble. Are his neighbour’s fields green and fertile? Is his house a happy one?  Is he not lacking interior and spiritual happiness?  All these signs of prosperity increase the illness and disturb the mind of the envious man.  St. Basil tells of the evil effects of envy: “The envious man is hurt by the good fortune of a friend; the joy of his brothers causes him pain; he cannot look with favour on the riches of another and considers the prosperity of his neighbour as a misfortune for himself. If he wished to tell the truth, he would be forced to confess this; but since he does not wish to make it manifest, he keeps this hatred in his heart, where it gnaws away at his entrails.”  St. Basil, “Homily 11 on Envy”

 

What are the  Capital Sins?  There are seven capital sins: pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth.

 

Which are the six sins against the Holy Ghost?

1.Presumption, 2. Despair, 3. Resisting the known truth, 4. Envy of another’s spiritual good, 5. Obstinacy in sin, 6. Final impenitence (From The Penny Catechism

 

St. Maximilian Kolbe on Our Lady

 

"Let us entrust to the Immaculate our entire being, all the faculties of our soul, that is to say, our intellect, our memory and our will, all the faculties of our body, that is, all of our senses and each one individually, our strength, our health or our infirmity; let us entrust to Her our entire life and all of its events whether they be pleasing, displeasing or indifferent.  Let us entrust to Her our death, in whatever moment, place or way it may happen.  And lastly, let us entrust to Her all of our eternity." (SK #1331)

 

"All graces come to souls from the hands of the Mediatrix of all graces and there is not one instant in which new graces are not flowing into each soul: graces to enlighten the intellect, to fortify the will, to spur us on to do good; ordinary and extraordinary graces, graces directly regarding temporal life and the sanctification of the soul." (SK #1313)