Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost - 8th September 2013

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
 8 September  2013
“For everyone who exalts himself shall be
humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be
exalted.”  Lk. 14:11
In today’s liturgy, we are given
passages which celebrate the incredible riches of
the coming  of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  In the
Epistle (Ephesians  3:13-21), St. Paul, although he
is in chains in Rome, celebrates “the unfathomable
riches of Christ.”  Eph. 3:8 Today’s Gospel ( Luke
14:1-11), describes the miraculous ability of Jesus
to cure  the man with dropsy and shows how Our
Lord’s divine wisdom counteracts the pride of the
Pharisees in the “Parable of Choosing the Lowest
Place at Table.” Only divine wisdom could have
challenged the Pharisees in their custom of
choosing the first place for themselves at banquets.
By telling them to humble themselves and pick the
lowest place at table, Jesus rebukes them for their
prideful attack on Him for curing the man of
dropsy on the Sabbath. He also  reveals their own
covetousness for honours and esteem before men.
In teaching them the need to be humble, Jesus
reveals the importance of humility in order to enter
the heavenly kingdom He has prepared for them.
Earlier, in the first chapter of the  Epistle to the 
Ephesians, St. Paul had extolled this wonderful
plan of God for all mankind: “Blessed be the God
and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has
blessed us with every spiritual blessing on high in
Christ.  Even as he chose us in him before the
foundation of the world that we should be holy
and without blemish in his sight in love.”  Eph. 1:
3-4  In today’s Epistle, St. Paul praises the blessed
calling of all Christians:   “...and to have Christ
dwelling through faith in your hearts: so that
being rooted and grounded in love, you may be
able to comprehend with all the saints what is the
breadth and length and height and depth, and to
know Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge, in
order that you may be filled unto all fullness of
God.” Eph. 3: 17-19
The Mystery of Christ Dwelling in Man
Dom Prosper Gueranger in his book,  The
Liturgical Life Vol. 11 comments on the plenitude
of God which is given to the soul who believes in
Jesus Christ. “For, God alone, as he tells us in the
music we have just heard, can strengthen in us
the inward man enough to make us understand,
as the saints do, the dimensions (‘breadth, length,
height and depth’) of the great mystery of
Christ ‘dwelling’ in man, and ‘dwelling’ in him
for the purpose  of ‘filling him with the plenitude
of God.’ Therefore is it, that falling on his knees
before him from whom flows every perfect gift,
and who has begotten us in truth by his love (cf.
Jas. 1:17-8), our apostle (Paul) asks God to
open, by faith and charity, the eyes of our heart,
that we may be able to understand the splendid
riches of the inheritance He reserves to His
children, and the exceeding greatness of the
divine power used in our favour, even  in this
life.” Gueranger, p. 359   The Holy Spirit opens to
us the riches of God’s grace for those who will
penetrate the mystery of the predestination to
holiness in love for all those who will be “the
praise of the glory of his grace.” (Eph. 1:6)  Dom
Gueranger comments on this high calling of the
followers of Christ: “It is there that divine
Wisdom reveals to the perfect that great secret
of love, which is not  known by the wise  and the
princes of this world—secret which the eye had
not before seen, nor the ear heard, nor the heart
even suspected as possible (cf. I Cor. 2: 6-9)
...The  world was not as yet existing (“before the
foundation of the world” Eph. 1: 4), and already
God saw us in His Word (Christ) (cf. Eph. 1:4);
to each one among us, He assigned the place he
was to hold in the body of His Christ (cf. I Cor.
12:12-31; Eph. 4:12-16)), already, His fatherly
eye beheld us clad with that grace (cf. Eph. 1:6)
which made Him  well-pleased with the ManGod; and He predestinated us (cf. Eph. 1:4-5),
as being  members of this His beloved Son, to sit
with Him, on His right hand, in the highest
heavens.. It is from the voluntary and culpable
death of sin (cf. Eph. 2:1-5) that he calls us to
that life which is His own life... Let us then be
holy for the sake of giving praise to the glory of
such grace (cf. Eph. 1: 4, 6) ...Thus, too, is to be
wrought that mystery which, from all eternity,
was the object of God’s eternal designs: the
mystery, that is, of divine union, realized by our
Lord Jesus uniting, in His own Person, in
infinite love, both earth and heaven.” Gueranger,
p. 361-2 Oh, how exalted is the calling of men to
be Sons of God and  “the praise of His glory”  in
heaven for all eternity.
The Heavenly Marriage Banquet
In a metaphorical way, the essential
message of today’s Gospel is the practical
fulfilment of what St. Paul is speaking about in
today’s Epistle the predestination of  the elect to
the heavenly marriage banquet. Dom Gueranger
comments  on this calling:  “The wedding spoken
of in today’s Gospel is that of heaven, of which
there is a prelude given here below, by the union
effected in the sacred banquet of Holy
Communion. The divine invitation is made to
all; and the invitation is not like that which is
given on the occasion of earthly weddings, to
which the bridegroom and bride invite their
friends and relatives as simple witnesses to the
union contracted between two individuals. In
the Gospel wedding, Christ is the Bridegroom,
and the Church is the bride (cf. Apoc. 19:7)....
But, for the attainment of all  this—that is, that
our Lord Jesus Christ may have that full control
over the soul and its powers which makes her to
be truly His, and  subjects her to Him as the
bride to her Spouse  (cf. I Cor. 11:8-10) – it is
necessary that all alien competition be entirely
and definitively put aside.” Gueranger, p. 365.
“...he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”
Lk. 14:11
Dom Gueranger commenting on the
Loss of Spiritual Ardour
In today’s Gospel, we see how Jesus
stresses the importance of seeking God alone and 
not the honours of men in order to attain divine
union. In a dramatic manner, as the Pharisees watch
Him to see if  He will break the Sabbath by curing
the man with dropsy, Jesus not only cures the man
with dropsy, but He reveals the serious sickness in
the souls of the Pharisees. According to Dom
Gueranger, quoting St. Ambrose, the man with
dropsy represents “a morbid exuberance of
humours, which stupefy the soul, and induce
total extinction of spiritual ardour.” Gueranger,
p. 367-6    Ven. Bede also shows that this loss of 
spiritual ardour is caused by lustful desires: “The
dropsical man represents one who is weighed
down by an overflowing stream of carnal
pleasures, for it is a sickness named after the
watery humour. But specifically the dropsical
man is the covetous rich man who, the more he
abounds in riches, the more ardently desires
them, says St. Augustine.” The Commentary of
Cornelius a Lapide, p. 540   Jesus cures the
dropsical man of his covetousness for this world’s
goods so that he can seek the riches of God. In
reading the minds of  the Pharisees, He also shows
how His cure is just exactly what everyone else
would do: “Which of you shall have an ass or a an
 ox fall into a pit, and will not immediately draw
him up on the Sabbath.” Lk. 14: 5. The pride
of the Pharisees has blinded them so that they
condemn Jesus for delivering a man from sickness,
even though  they themselves would do the same 
for one of their  own animals
evil attitude of the Pharisees tells us of the
importance of humility if we are going  to be
accepted in the heavenly feast as Christ’s bride: 
“But, as above all, it is to the constant attitude of
humility that he must especially direct his
attention  who would secure a prominent place
in the divine feast of the nuptials.” Gueranger, p.
366   Jesus had spoken the “Parable of the First
Seats at Table” to show that the Pharisees are
ambitious and proud to presume to take the first
places at a wedding banquet.“Now Christ
demonstrates how unbecoming it is to vie for the
first seat at table, and thereby he silently
demonstrates, by way of analogy, how
unbecoming ambition is in any matter
whatsoever. For sin continues to be sin, although
the matter may differ from one case to the
next.”  A Lapide, p. 341-2.  Although Jesus is
commenting on the ambition of seeking the first
place, He is primarily teaching us all that the only
way to the heavenly banquet table is one of
humility.  “For everyone who exalts himself shall
be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be
exalted.”  Lk. 14:11  Those who wrongfully desire
the praise of men will not be worthy to enter the
heavenly banquet as brides of Christ.
How to attend Holy Mass
“The Holy Mass is a prayer itself, even
the highest prayer that exists. It is the sacrifice,
dedicated by our Redeemer at the Cross, and
repeated every day on the altar.  If you wish
to hear Mass, as it should be heard, you must
follow with eye, heart, and mouth all that
happens at the altar. Further, you must pray
with the Priest the holy words said by him in
the Name of Christ and which Christ says by
him.  You have to associate your heart with the
holy feelings which are contained in these words,
and in this manner you ought to follow all that
happens at the altar. When acting in this way,
you have prayed Holy Mass.”
 His Holiness, Pope St. Pius X
“The Little Number of Those Who
Are Saved”
by St. Leonard of Port Maurice
Saint Leonard of  Port Maurice was a most
holy Franciscan friar who lived at the monastery of
Saint Bonaventure in Rome. He was one of the greatest
missioners in the history of the Church. He used to
preach to thousands in the open square of every city and
town where the churches could not hold his listeners.
So brilliant and holy was his eloquence that once when
he gave a two weeks' mission in Rome, the Pope and
College of Cardinals came to hear him. The Immaculate
Conception of the Blessed Virgin, the adoration of the
Blessed Sacrament and the veneration of the Sacred
Heart of Jesus were his crusades. He was in no small
way responsible for the definition of the Immaculate
Conception made a little more than a hundred years after
his death. He also gave us the Divine Praises, which
are said at the end of Benediction. But Saint Leonard's
most famous work was his devotion to the Stations of
the Cross. He died a most holy death in his seventy-fifth
year, after twenty-four years of uninterrupted preaching.
One of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice's most
famous sermons was  "The Little Number of Those
Who Are Saved." It was the one he relied on for the
conversion of great sinners. This sermon, like his other
writings, was submitted to canonical examination during
the process of canonization. In it he reviews the various
states of life of Christians and concludes with the little
number of those who are saved, in relation to the totality
of men.
The reader who meditates on this remarkable
text will grasp the soundness of its argumentation, which
has earned it the approbation of the Church. Here is the
great missionary's vibrant and moving sermon. (to be
continued next and subsequent weeks)