Monday, November 18, 2013

Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost 17th November 2013

Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost 17 November 2013 (Epistle & Gospel, of 6th Sunday after Epiphany) “I will open my mouth in parables; things hidden since the world was made I will announce.” Mt. 13:35 In today’s readings, we have the fulfilment of the gospel parables, The Mustard Seed and The Leaven, in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Thessalonians (1:2-10). St. Paul praises the faith of the Thessalonians:“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great tribulation with joy in the Holy Spirit, so that you became a pattern for all believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. I Thess. 1:6-7 In the Gospel (Mt,13:31-35), Jesus speaks of The Parable of the Mustard Seed which “is the smallest of all the seeds; but when it grows up it is larger than any herb and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and dwell in its branches.” Mt. 13:32. Jesus also speaks of The Parable of the Leaven “which a woman took and buried in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.” Mt. 13:33. Both parables speak of the Kingdom of God, the Church upon earth, and how it will grow from the Twelve Apostles throughout the whole world and will influence all peoples with the gospel message. This fruitful growth of the Church among the pagan people through the preaching of St. Paul is evident in the Epistle to the Thessalonians. For their faithfulness, sacrifice, and good example the Thessalonians became an example to all the other Churches in Greece: “We thank God always for all of you when we make mention of you in our prayers for we unceasingly remember your active faith, your energetic charity and your unwavering hope in our Lord Jesus Christ before the face of God, our Father.” I Thess. 1:2-3. The Parable of the Mustard Seed Although it is the smallest of seeds, the mustard seed grows into a tree so large that the birds of the air dwell in its branches. So, too, the Church Jesus founded upon the Twelve Apostles would grow until it encompassed almost all of the known world at that time. Similarly, within three centuries the Church would be established throughout the entire Roman Empire. St. Augustine comments on the spiritual significance of the mustard seed: “At first glance it seems small, worthless, despised, not marked by any flavour, not surrounded by any odour, nor giving any sign of sweetness; but once it is bruised, it sheds abroad its odour, displays its sharpness and exhales nourishment of a fiery taste. ...Thus, too, the Christian Faith, at first sight, appears small, worthless and frail, not manifesting its power, nor carrying any semblance of pride, nor conferring grace. But as soon as it begins to be bruised by divers temptations, immediately it manifests its vigour, indicates its sharpness, breathes the warmth of belief in the Lord, and is possessed with so great ardour of divine fire, that both itself is hot and it compels those who participate to be fervent also. As the two disciples said in the holy gospel, when the Lord spoke with them after His passion, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us by the way, while the Lord Jesus opened to us the Scriptures.’ (Lk. 24:32) A grain of mustard, then, warms the inward members of our bodies, but the power of faith burns up the sins of our hearts. The one indeed takes away piercing cold; the other expels the devil’s frost of transgressions. A grain of mustard, I say, purges away corporeal humours, but faith puts an end to the flux of lusts. By the one, medicine is gained for the head; but by faith our spiritual Head, Christ the Lord, is often refreshed. Moreover, we enjoy the sacred odour of faith, according to the analogy of mustard seed, as the blessed Apostle saith, ‘We are a sweet savour of Christ unto God.’’’ (II Cor. 2:15) A Lapide, Commentary on St. Matthew’s Gospel, p. 27 The Parable of the Leaven The Parable of the Leaven flows naturally from The Parable of the Mustard Seed because as the Church grows, so will it influence the whole world just as the leaven (yeast) permeates all the dough. Interestingly, the three measures of bread is quite large and will feed eighteen people for five days. Jesus makes it so large to emphasize that the Church will influence the whole world. St. Ambrose also applies this to Christ in a spiritual meaning of the leaven: “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.” A Lapide, p. 29-30 The Growth of the Church at Thessalonica After St. Paul was expelled by the Jewish leaders at Philippi, he went to the port city of Thessalonica where he found the inhabitants of that city open to the message of the gospel. At first, St. Paul went to the Jewish residents of the city, but after a few weeks with little success, he turned to the Gentiles. There he met with so much success that the Jewish leaders brought charges of treason (preaching about another king) against the Christian missionaries, and St. Paul and his companions had to flee. While at Athens, St. Paul sent Timothy to learn how the Church at Thessalonica fared during the persecution. Timothy reported later, when Paul was at Corinth, that the converts were heroic in the practice of the faith: “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great tribulation with joy in the Holy Spirit, so that you became a pattern for all believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. From you the word of the Lord has been spread abroad not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone forth, so that we need say nothing further.” I Thess. 1:6-8. The Thessalonians are a joy to the heart of Paul, as they not only embraced the faith from their pagan ways, but they have even imitated Paul and his companions, Silvanus and Timothy, and spread the faith by their good example throughout the land and the other seaports. Early Christians a reproach to us today Dom Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Life, Vol. 4, tells us how the early Christians are a strong reproach to us to imitate them in their lives: “The praise which the apostle here gives to the Thessalonians for their fervour in the faith they had embraced, conveys a reproach to the Christians of our times. These neophytes of Thessalonica, who, a short time before, were worshippers of idols, had become so earnest in the practice of the Christian religion, that even the apostle is filled with admiration. We are the descendants of the countless Christian ancestors; we received our regeneration by Baptism at our first coming into the world; we were taught the doctrine of Jesus Christ from our earliest childhood: yet, our faith is not so strong, nor our lives so holy, as were those of the early Christian. Their main occupation was serving the living and true God, and waiting for the coming of their Saviour. Our hope is precisely the same as that which made their hearts so fervent; how comes it that our faith is not like theirs in its generosity? We love this present life, as though we had no firm conviction that it is to pass away.” Gueranger, p. 102 Good Example The power of good example is the reason why the Thessalonians followed Paul and his companions and why other Greeks followed the example of the Thessalonians. Despite persecution, they kept the faith and awaited the coming of the Lord. So, too, should we, as the parables in today’s gospel suggest, try to build up the kingdom of God by our good example and permeate all of society. This is what Our Lady requested at Fatima when she asked us to pray and sacrifice for the souls of so many in our time who are in danger of being lost for all eternity unless they get a miracle of God’s grace: “Pray and sacrifice for many souls will go to hell, unless someone prays and sacrifices for them.” (Fatima, 1917) “The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved” Part VII by St. Leonard of Port Maurice One day Saint John Chrysostom, preaching in the cathedral in Constantinople and considering these proportions, could not help but shudder in horror and ask, "Out of this great number of people, how many do you think will be saved?" And, not waiting for an answer, he added, "Among so many thousands of people, we would not find a hundred who are saved, and I even doubt for the one hundred." What a dreadful thing! The great Saint believed that out of so many people, barely one hundred would be saved; and even then, he was not sure of that number. What will happen to you who are listening to me? Great God, I cannot think of it without shuddering! Brothers, the problem of salvation is a very difficult thing; for according to the maxims of the theologians, when an end demands great efforts, few only attain it. That is why Saint Thomas, the Angelic Doctor, after weighing all the reasons pro and con in his immense erudition, finally concludes that the greater number of Catholic adults are damned. He says, "Because eternal beatitude surpasses the natural state, especially since it has been deprived of original grace, it is the little number that are saved." So then, remove the blindfold from your eyes that is blinding you with self-love, that is keeping you from believing such an obvious truth by giving you very false ideas concerning the justice of God, "Just Father, the world has not known Thee," said Our Lord Jesus Christ. He does not say "Almighty Father, most good and merciful Father." He says "just Father," so we may understand that out of all the attributes of God, none is less known than His justice, because men refuse to believe what they are afraid to undergo. Therefore, remove the blindfold that is covering your eyes and say tearfully: Alas! The greater number of Catholics, the greater number of those who live here, perhaps even those who are in this assembly, will be damned! What subject could be more deserving of your tears? King Xerxes, standing on a hill looking at his army of one hundred thousand soldiers in battle array, and considering that out of all of them there would be not one man alive in a hundred years, was unable to hold back his tears. Have we not more reason to weep upon thinking that out of so many Catholics, the greater number will be damned? Should this thought not make our eyes pour forth rivers of tears, or at least produce in our heart the sentiment of compassion felt by an Augustinian Brother, Ven. Marcellus of St. Dominic? One day as he was meditating on the eternal pains, the Lord showed him how many souls were going to hell at that moment and had him see a very broad road on which twenty-two thousand reprobates were running toward the abyss, colliding into one another. The servant of God was stupefied at the sight and exclaimed, "Oh, what a number! What a number! And still more are coming. O Jesus! O Jesus! What madness!" Let me repeat with Jeremiah, "Who will give water to my head, and a fountain of tears to my eyes? And I will weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people." Poor souls! How can you run so hastily toward hell? For mercy's sake, stop and listen to me for a moment! Either you understand what it means to be saved and to be damned for all eternity, or you do not. If you understand and in spite of that, you do not decide to change your life today, make a good confession and trample upon the world, in a word, make your every effort to be counted among the littler number of those who are saved, I say that you do not have the faith. You are more excusable if you do not understand it, for then one must say that you are out of your mind. To be saved for all eternity, to be damned for all eternity, and to not make your every effort to avoid the one and make sure of the other, is something inconceivable. (To be continued)