Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saint John Bosco, priest

From a letter by Saint John Bosco, priest

          I have always laboured out of love
First of all, if we wish to appear concerned about the true happiness of our foster children and if we would move them to fulfill their duties, you must never forget that you are taking the place of the parents of these beloved young people. I have always labored lovingly for them, and carried out my priestly duties with zeal. And the whole Salesian society has done this with me.
  My sons, in my long experience very often I had to be convinced of this great truth. It is easier to become angry than to restrain oneself, and to threaten a boy than to persuade him. Yes, indeed, it is more fitting to be persistent in punishing our own impatience and pride than to correct the boys. We must be firm but kind, and be patient with them.
  I give you as a model the charity of Paul which he showed to his new converts. They often reduced him to tears and entreaties when he found them lacking docility and even opposing his loving efforts.
  See that no one finds you motivated by impetuosity or wilfulness. It is difficult to keep calm when administering punishment, but this must be done if we are to keep ourselves from showing off our authority or spilling out our anger.
  Let us regard those boys over whom we have some authority as our own sons. Let us place ourselves in their service. Let us be ashamed to assume an attitude of superiority. Let us not rule over them except for the purpose of serving them better.
  This was the method that Jesus used with the apostles. He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity. He treated sinners with a kindness and affection that caused some to be shocked, others to be scandalised, and still others to hope for God’s mercy. And so he bade us to be gentle and humble of heart.
  They are our sons, and so in correcting their mistakes we must lay aside all anger and restrain it so firmly that it is extinguished entirely.
  There must be no hostility in our minds, no contempt in our eyes, no insult on our lips. We must use mercy for the present and have hope for the future, as is fitting for true fathers who are eager for real correction and improvement.
  In serious matters it is better to beg God humbly than to send forth a flood of words that will only offend the listeners and have no effect on those who are guilty.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday of the 3rd week in ordinary time

A commentary on Psalm 101 by St John Fisher

The wonders of God
First of all God freed the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, with many signs and wonders. Then he let them cross the Red Sea dry-shod; in the desert he fed them with food from heaven in the form of manna and quails; when they were thirsty he gave them an inexhaustible spring of water, bubbling from the rock. He gave them victory over enemies that attacked them; he made the Jordan flow backwards for them; he took the land he had promised them and divided it between them according to their tribes and clans. Although he had dealt with them so lovingly and generously, the ungrateful people abandoned the worship of God, as if they had utterly forgotten everything, and shackled themselves with the crime of idol-worship – not once but many times.
  Then God took us, although we were pagans, and irresistibly drawn towards dumb idols, if anything. He cut us off from the wild olive tree of our gentile nature and grafted us on to the true olive tree of the Jewish people, pruning away its existing branches and making us sharers in its grace, its richness, and the nourishment that came from its roots. Finally God did not spare his own Son but gave him up to benefit us all, a victim and fragrant offering to God to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own.
  All these things are not mere arguments but genuine signs of God’s love and God’s generosity. We men, on the other hand, are supremely ungrateful: we have gone far beyond the boundaries of all previous ingratitude. We pay no attention to God’s love, we do not recognise the scale of his generosity, but we spurn the source and giver of all these good things and practically hold him in contempt. Not even the outstanding mercy he shows to sinners moves us to order our lives and actions according to his holy law.
  Clearly these acts of God deserve to be written down in the next generation, so that they are remembered for ever. Thus all who in future bear the name of Christians will recognise God’s goodness to us and will never at any time cease from offering praise to him.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thursday of the 3rd week in ordinary time

From a sermon by John the Serene, bishop

Love the Lord and walk in his ways
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? How great was that servant who knew how he was given light, whence it came, and what sort of man he was when he was favoured by that light. The light he saw was not that which fades at dusk, but the light which no eye has seen. Souls brightened by this light do not fall into sin or stumble on vice.
  Our Lord said: Walk while you have the light in you. What other light did he mean but himself? For it was he who said: I came as a light into the world, so that those who have eyes may not see and the blind may receive the light. The Lord then is our light, the sun of justice and righteousness, who has shone on his Catholic Church spread throughout the world. The prophet spoke as a figure of the Church when he cried: The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
  The spiritual man who has been thus illumined does not limp or leave the path, but bears all things. Glimpsing our true country from afar, he puts up with adversities; he is not saddened by the things of time, but finds his strength in God. He lowers his pride and endures, possessing patience through humility. That true light which enlightens every man who comes into the world bestows itself on those who reverence it, shining where it wills, on whom it wills, and revealing itself according to the will of God the Son.
  When this light begins to shine upon the man who sat in darkness and the shadow of death, in the darkness of evil and the shadow of sin, he is shocked, he calls himself to account, repents of his misdeeds in shame, and says: The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? Great is this salvation, my brethren, which fears neither sickness nor lethargy and disregards pain. We should then in the fullest sense not only with our voice but with our very soul cry out, The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? If he enlightens and saves me, whom shall I fear? Even though the dark shadows of evil suggestions crowd about, The Lord is my light. They can approach, but cannot prevail; they can lay siege to our heart, but cannot conquer it. Though the blindness of concupiscence assails us, again we say: The Lord is my light. For he is our strength; he gives himself to us and we give ourselves to him. Hasten to this physician while you can, or you may not be able to find him when you want him.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest, Doctor

From a conference by Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest

The Cross exemplifies every virtue
Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act.
  It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.
  If you seek the example of love: Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends. Such a man was Christ on the cross. And if he gave his life for us, then it should not be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for his sake.
  If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the cross. Great patience occurs in two ways: either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things which one is able to avoid and yet does not avoid. Christ endured much on the cross, and did so patiently, because when he suffered he did not threaten; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter and he did not open his mouth. Therefore Christ’s patience on the cross was great. In patience let us run for the prize set before us, looking upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before him, bore his cross and despised the shame.
  If you seek an example of humility, look upon the crucified one, for God wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.
  If you seek an example of obedience, follow him who became obedient to the Father even unto death. For just as by the disobedience of one man, namely, Adam, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous.
  If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Upon the cross he was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to drink.
  Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because they divided my garments among themselves. Nor to honours, for he experienced harsh words and scourgings. Nor to greatness of rank, for weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on my head. Nor to anything delightful, for in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Saint Angela Merici, Virgin

From the Spiritual Testament by Saint Angela Merici, virgin

He has disposed all things pleasantly
Mothers and sisters most dear to me in Christ: in the first place strive with all your power and zeal to be open. With the help of God, try to receive such good counsel that, led solely by the love of God and an eagerness to save souls, you may fulfil your charge.
  Only if the responsibilities committed to you are rooted firmly in this twofold charity will they bear beneficial and saving fruit. As our Saviour says: A good tree is not able to produce bad fruit.
  He says: A good tree, that is, a good heart as well as a soul inflamed with charity, can do nothing but good and holy works. For this reason Saint Augustine said: Love, and do what you will, namely, possess love and charity and then do what you will. It is as if he had said: Charity is not able to sin.
  I also beg you to be concerned about every one of your daughters. Bear them, so to speak, engraved upon your heart – not merely their names, but their conditions and states, whatever they may be. This will not be difficult for you if you embrace them with a living love.
  Mothers of children, even if they have a thousand, carry each and every one fixed in their hearts, and because of the strength of their love they do not forget any of them. In fact, it seems that the more children they have the more their love and care for each one is increased. Surely those who are mothers in spirit can and must act all the more in the same way, because spiritual love is more powerful than the love that comes from a blood relationship.
  Therefore, mothers most dear to me, if you love these your daughters with a living and unaffected charity, it will be impossible for you not to have each and every one of them engraved upon your memory and in your mind.
  I beg you again, strive to draw them by love, modesty, charity, and not by pride and harshness. Be sincerely kind to every one according to the words of our Lord: Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart. Thus you are imitating God, of whom it is said: He has disposed all things pleasantly. And again Jesus said: My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
  You also ought to exercise pleasantness toward all, taking great care especially that what you have commanded may never be done by reason of force. For God has given free will to everyone, and therefore he forces no one but only indicates, calls, persuades. Sometimes, however, something will have to be done with a stronger command, yet in a suitable manner and according to the state and necessities of individuals; but then also we should be impelled only by charity and zeal for souls.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops

Deuteronomy 24:1-25:4 ©
 Relations with one's neighbor
Supposing a man has taken a wife and consummated the marriage; but she has not pleased him and he has found some impropriety of which to accuse her; so he has made out a writ of divorce for her and handed it to her and then dismissed her from his house; she leaves his home and goes away to become the wife of another man. If this other man takes a dislike to her and makes out a writ of divorce for her and hands it to her and dismisses her from his house (or if this other man who took her as his wife happens to die), her first husband, who has repudiated her, may not take her back as his wife now that she has been defiled in this way. For that is detestable in the sight of the Lord, and you must not bring guilt on the land that the Lord your God gives for your inheritance.
  If a man is newly married, he shall not join the army nor is he to be pestered at home; he shall be left at home free of all obligations for one year to bring joy to the wife he has taken.
  No man may take a mill or a millstone in pledge; that would be to take life itself in pledge.
  If anyone is found kidnapping one of his brothers, one of the sons of Israel, whether he makes him his slave or sells him, that thief must die. You must banish this evil from your midst.
  In a case of leprosy, take care you faithfully observe and follow exactly all that the levitical priests direct you to do. You are to keep and observe all that I have commanded them. Remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam when you were on your way out of Egypt.
  If you are making your fellow a loan on pledge, you are not to go into his house and seize the pledge, whatever it may be. You must stay outside, and the man to whom you are making the loan shall bring the pledge out to you. And if the man is poor, you are not to go to bed with his pledge in your possession; you must return it to him at sunset so that he can sleep in his cloak and bless you; and it will be a good action on your part in the sight of the Lord your God.
  You are not to exploit the hired servant who is poor and destitute, whether he is one of your brothers or a stranger who lives in your towns. You must pay him his wage each day, not allowing the sun to set before you do, for he is poor and is anxious for it; otherwise he may appeal to the Lord against you, and it would be a sin for you.
  Fathers may not be put to death for their sons, nor sons for fathers. Each is to be put to death for his own sin.
  You must not pervert justice in dealing with a stranger or an orphan, nor take a widow’s garment in pledge. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and that the Lord your God redeemed you from there. That is why I lay this charge on you.
  When reaping the harvest in your field, if you have overlooked a sheaf in that field, do not go back for it. Leave it for the stranger, the orphan and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings.
  When you beat your olive trees you must not go over the branches twice. Let anything left be for the stranger, the orphan and the widow.
  When you harvest your vineyard you must not pick it over a second time. Let anything left be for the stranger, the orphan and the widow.
  Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt. That is why I lay this charge on you.
  If men have any dispute they must go to court for the judges to decide between them; these must declare the one who is right to be in the right, the one who is wrong to be in the wrong. If the one who is in the wrong deserves a flogging, the judge shall make him lie down and have him flogged in his presence with the number of strokes proportionate to his offence. He may impose forty strokes but no more, lest the flogging be too severe and your brother be degraded in your eyes.
  You must not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the corn.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday of the 3rd week in ordinary time

From the constitution on the sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council

Christ is present to his Church
Christ is always present to his Church, especially in the actions of the liturgy. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, in the person of the minister (it is the same Christ who formerly offered himself on the cross that now offers by the ministry of priests) and most of all under the eucharistic species. He is present in the sacraments by his power, in such a way that when someone baptizes, Christ himself baptizes. He is present in his word, for it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. Finally, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he himself promised: Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst.
  Indeed, in this great work which gives perfect glory to God and brings holiness to men, Christ is always joining in partnership with himself his beloved Bride, the Church, which calls upon its Lord and through him gives worship to the eternal Father.
  It is therefore right to see the liturgy as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ, in which through signs addressed to the senses man’s sanctification is signified and, in a way proper to each of these signs, made effective, and in which public worship is celebrated in its fullness by the mystical body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the head and by his members.
  Accordingly, every liturgical celebration, as an activity of Christ the priest and of his body, which is the Church, is a sacred action of a pre-eminent kind. No other action of the Church equals its title to power or its degree of effectiveness.
  In the liturgy on earth we are given a foretaste and share in the liturgy of heaven, celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem, the goal of our pilgrimage, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, as minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle. With the whole company of heaven we sing a hymn of praise to the Lord; as we reverence the memory of the saints, we hope to have some part with them, and to share in their fellowship; we wait for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, until he, who is our life, appears, and we appear with him in glory.
  By an apostolic tradition taking its origin from the very day of Christ’s resurrection, the Church celebrates the paschal mystery every eighth day, the day that is rightly called the Lord’s day. On Sunday the Christian faithful ought to gather together, so that by listening to the word of God and sharing in the Eucharist they may recall the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God who has given them a new birth with a lively hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Lord’s day is therefore the first and greatest festival, one to be set before the loving devotion of the faithful and impressed upon it, so that it may be also a day of joy and of freedom from work. Other celebrations must not take precedence over it, unless they are truly of the greatest importance, since it is the foundation and the kernel of the whole liturgical year.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop, Doctor

From The Introduction to the Devout Life by Saint Francis de Sales, bishop

Devotion must be practiced in different ways
When God the Creator made all things, he commanded the plants to bring forth fruit each according to its own kind; he has likewise commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each one in accord with his character, his station and his calling.
  I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.
  Tell me, please, my Philothea, whether it is proper for a bishop to want to lead a solitary life like a Carthusian; or for married people to be no more concerned than a Capuchin about increasing their income; or for a working man to spend his whole day in church like a religious; or on the other hand for a religious to be constantly exposed like a bishop to all the events and circumstances that bear on the needs of our neighbor. Is not this sort of devotion ridiculous, unorganized and intolerable? Yet this absurd error occurs very frequently, but in no way does true devotion, my Philothea, destroy anything at all. On the contrary, it perfects and fulfills all things. In fact if it ever works against, or is inimical to, anyone’s legitimate station and calling, then it is very definitely false devotion.
  The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them. True devotion does still better. Not only does it not injure any sort of calling or occupation, it even embellishes and enhances it.
  Moreover, just as every sort of gem, cast in honey, becomes brighter and more sparkling, each according to its color, so each person becomes more acceptable and fitting in his own vocation when he sets his vocation in the context of devotion. Through devotion your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince becomes more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable.
  It is therefore an error and even a heresy to wish to exclude the exercise of devotion from military divisions, from the artisans’ shops, from the courts of princes, from family households. I acknowledge, my dear Philothea, that the type of devotion which is purely contemplative, monastic and religious can certainly not be exercised in these sorts of stations and occupations, but besides this threefold type of devotion, there are many others fit for perfecting those who live in a secular state.
  Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday of the 2nd week in ordinary time

Diadochus of Photiké "On Spiritual Perfection"

We should love God alone
Whoever is in love with himself is unable to love God. The man who loves God is the one who abandons his self-love for the sake of the immeasurable blessings of divine love. Such a man never seeks his own glory but only the glory of God. If a person loves himself he seeks his own glory, but the man who loves God loves the glory of his Creator.
  Anyone alive to the love of God can be recognized from the way he constantly strives to glorify him by fulfilling all his commandments and by delighting in his own submission. It is fitting that God should receive glory, because of his great majesty; but it is fitting for us as human beings to submit ourselves to God and thereby become his friends. Then we too will rejoice in his glory as Saint John the Baptist did, and we shall never stop repeating: His fame must increase, but mine must diminish.
  I knew someone who was sad that he could not love God as he would have wanted, but who nevertheless loved God so much that his soul was always in the grip of desire for God, for God’s glory to manifest itself in him, for himself to be as nothing in comparison. Such a person cannot be touched by verbal praise or convinced of his being, since his overwhelming humility means that he simply does not think about his own dignity or status. He celebrates the liturgy as, according to the law, priests should; but his love of God blinds him to all awareness of his own dignity. He buries any glory that might come his way in the depth of his love of God, so that he never sees himself as anything more than a useless servant: he is estranged, as it were, from a sense of his own dignity by his desire for lowliness. This is the sort of thing we ought to do, to flee from any honour or glory that is offered us, for the sake of the immense riches of our love of God who has so loved us.
  Anyone who loves God in the depths of his heart has already been loved by God. In fact, the measure of a man’s love for God depends upon how deeply aware he is of God’s love for him. When this awareness is keen it makes whoever possesses it long to be enlightened by the divine light, and this longing is so intense that it seems to penetrate his very bones. He loses all consciousness of himself and is entirely transformed by the love of God.
  Such a man lives in this life and at the same time does not live in it, for although he still inhabits his body, he is constantly leaving it in spirit because of the love that draws him toward God. Once the love of God has released him from self-love, the flame of divine love never ceases to burn in his heart and he remains united to God by an irresistible longing. As St Paul says: If we are taken out of ourselves it is for the love of God; if we are brought back to our senses it is for your sake.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Saint Vincent, Deacon, Martyr

A sermon of St Augustine on the feast day of St Vincent

Vincent was victorious in him by whom the world was vanquished
To you, said the Apostle Paul, it has been granted for Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.
  Vincent had received both these gifts; he had received them, and he kept them. After all, if he had not received them, what would he have had? But he did have faithfulness in his words, he did have endurance in his sufferings.
  So do not any of you be too self-assured when offering a word; do not be too confident in your own powers when suffering trials or temptations; because it is from him that we have the wisdom to speak good things wisely, from him the patience to endure bad things bravely.
  Call to mind the Lord Christ warning and encouraging his disciples in the gospel; call to mind the king of martyrs equipping his troops with spiritual weapons, indicating the wars to be fought, lending assistance, promising rewards; first saying to his disciples, In this world you will have distress; then immediately adding words that would allay their terrors: But have confidence: I myself have vanquished the world.
  So why should we be surprised, dearly beloved, if Vincent was victorious in him by whom the world was vanquished? In this world, he says, you will have distress; such that, even if it distresses, it cannot oppress you; even if it knocks you down, it cannot knock you out. The world mounts a double attack on the soldiers of Christ. It wheedles in order to lead them astray; but it also terrifies, in order to break them. Let us not be held fast by our own pleasures, let us not be terrified by someone else’s cruelty, and the world has been vanquished.
  At each attack, Christ comes running to the defence, and the Christian is not vanquished. If, in this passion of Vincent’s, one only gave thought to human powers of endurance, it would begin to look unbelievable; but if one acknowledges divine power, it ceases even to be wonderful.
  Such hideous cruelty was being unleashed on the martyr’s body, and such calm serenity was displayed in his voice; such harsh, savage punishments being applied to his limbs, but such assurance echoing in his words, that we would have imagined that in some marvelous way, while Vincent was suffering, that it was someone else and not the speaker that was being tortured.
  And indeed, my dearest brethren, that is how it was; undoubtedly that is how it was: someone else was speaking. Christ, you see, promised even this to his witnesses in the gospel, when he was preparing them for this sort of contest. For he said: Do not think beforehand about how or what you are to speak. For it is not you that are speaking, but the Spirit of my Father who is speaking in you.
  So the flesh was suffering, and the Spirit was speaking. And while the Spirit was speaking, not only was ungodliness being confounded and convicted, but weakness was even being strengthened and comforted.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

St. Agatha, Martyr

From a treatise On Virgins by Saint Ambrose, bishop
Too young to be punished, yet old enough for a martyr's crown
Today is the birthday of a virgin; let us imitate her purity. It is the birthday of a martyr; let us offer ourselves in sacrifice. It is the birthday of Saint Agnes, who is said to have suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve. The cruelty that did not spare her youth shows all the more clearly the power of faith in finding one so young to bear it witness.
  There was little or no room in that small body for a wound. Though she could scarcely receive the blow, she could rise superior to it. Girls of her age cannot bear even their parents’ frowns and, pricked by a needle, weep as for a serious wound. Yet she shows no fear of the blood-stained hands of her executioners. She stands undaunted by heavy, clanking chains. She offers her whole body to be put to the sword by fierce soldiers. She is too young to know of death, yet is ready to face it. Dragged against her will to the altars, she stretches out her hands to the Lord in the midst of the flames, making the triumphant sign of Christ the victor on the altars of sacrilege. She puts her neck and hands in iron chains, but no chain can hold fast her tiny limbs.
  A new kind of martyrdom! Too young to be punished, yet old enough for a martyr’s crown; unfitted for the contest, yet effortless in victory, she shows herself a master in valour despite the handicap of youth. As a bride she would not be hastening to join her husband with the same joy she shows as a virgin on her way to punishment, crowned not with flowers but with holiness of life, adorned not with braided hair but with Christ himself.
  In the midst of tears, she sheds no tears herself. The crowds marvel at her recklessness in throwing away her life untasted, as if she had already lived life to the full. All are amazed that one not yet of legal age can give her testimony to God. So she succeeds in convincing others of her testimony about God, though her testimony in human affairs could not yet be accepted. What is beyond the power of nature, they argue, must come from its creator.
  What menaces there were from the executioner, to frighten her; what promises made, to win her over; what influential people desired her in marriage! She answered: “To hope that any other will please me does wrong to my Spouse. I will be his who first chose me for himself. Executioner, why do you delay? If eyes that I do not want can desire this body, then let it perish.” She stood still, she prayed, she offered her neck.
  You could see fear in the eyes of the executioner, as if he were the one condemned; his right hand trembled, his face grew pale as he saw the girl’s peril, while she had no fear for herself. One victim, but a twin martyrdom, to modesty and to religion; Agnes preserved her virginity, and gained a martyr’s crown.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday of 2nd week in Ordinary Time Monday 19 January 2015

Moses speaks to the people

These are the words that Moses spoke beyond Jordan to the whole of Israel:
  ‘Now, Israel, take notice of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them, that you may have life and may enter and take possession of the land that the Lord the God of your fathers is giving you. You must add nothing to what I command you, and take nothing from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God just as I lay them down for you. You can see with your own eyes what the Lord has done at Baal-peor; all the followers of the Baal of Peor have been wiped out from among you by the Lord your God; but all of you who stayed faithful to the Lord your God are still alive today. See, as the Lord my God has commanded me, I teach you the laws and customs that you are to observe in the land you are to enter and make your own. Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding. When they come to know of all these laws they will exclaim, “No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation.” And indeed, what great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him? And what great nation is there that has laws and customs to match this whole Law that I put before you today?
  ‘Put this question, then, to the ages that are past, that went before you, from the time God created man on earth: Was there ever a word so majestic, from one end of heaven to the other? Was anything ever heard? Did ever a people hear the voice of the living God speaking from the heart of the fire, as you heard it, and remain alive? Has any god ventured to take to himself one nation from the midst of another by ordeals, signs, wonders, war with mighty hand and outstretched arm, by fearsome terrors – all this that the Lord your God did for you before your eyes in Egypt?
  ‘This he showed you so that you might know that the Lord is God indeed and that there is no other. He let you hear his voice out of heaven for your instruction; on earth he let you see his great fire, and from the heart of the fire you heard his word. Because he loved your fathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out from Egypt, openly showing his presence and his great power, driving out in front of you nations greater and more powerful than yourself, and brought you into their land to give it you for your heritage, as it is still today.
  ‘Understand this today, therefore, and take it to heart: the Lord is God indeed, in heaven above as on earth beneath, he and no other. Keep his laws and commandments as I give them to you today, so that you and your children may prosper and live long in the land that the Lord your God gives you for ever

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday of the 2nd week in ordinary time

From the Letter to the Ephesians by Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr

The harmony of unity
It is right for you to give glory in every way to Jesus Christ who has given glory to you; you must be made holy in all things by being united in perfect obedience, in submission to the bishop and the presbyters.
  I am not giving you orders as if I were a person of importance. Even if I am a prisoner for the name of Christ, I am not yet made perfect in Jesus Christ. I am now beginning to be a disciple and I am speaking to you as my fellow-disciples. It is you who should be strengthening me by your faith, your encouragement, your patience, your serenity. But since love will not allow me to be silent about you, I am taking the opportunity to urge you to be united in conformity with the mind of God. For Jesus Christ, our life, without whom we cannot live, is the mind of the Father, just as the bishops, appointed over the whole earth, are in conformity with the mind of Jesus Christ.
  It is fitting, therefore, that you should be in agreement with the mind of the bishop as in fact you are. Your excellent presbyters, who are a credit to God, are as suited to the bishop as strings to a harp. So in your harmony of mind and heart the song you sing is Jesus Christ. Every one of you should form a choir, so that, in harmony of sound through harmony of hearts, and in unity taking the note from God, you may sing with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father. If you do this, he will listen to you and see from your good works that you are members of his Son. It is then an advantage to you to live in perfect unity, so that at all times you may share in God.
  If in a short space of time I have become so close a friend of your bishop – in a friendship not based on nature but on spiritual grounds – how much more blessed do I judge you to be, for you are as united with him as the Church is to Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ to the Father, so that all things are in harmony through unity. Let no one make any mistake: unless a person is within the sanctuary, he is deprived of God’s bread. For if the prayer of one or two has such power, how much more has the prayer of the bishop and the whole Church.