Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Saint Jerome, Priest, Doctor

A commentary on Isaiah by St Jerome

Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ
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I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: Search the Scriptures, and Seek and you shall find. Christ will not say to me what he said to the Jews: You erred, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God. For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.
  Therefore, I will imitate the head of a household who brings out of his storehouse things both new and old, and says to his spouse in the Song of Songs: I have kept for you things new and old, my beloved. In this way permit me to explain Isaiah, showing that he was not only a prophet, but an evangelist and an apostle as well. For he says about himself and the other evangelists: How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news, of those who announce peace. And God speaks to him as if he were an apostle: Whom shall I send, who will go to my people? And he answers: Here I am; send me.
  No one should think that I mean to explain the entire subject matter of this great book of Scripture in one brief sermon, since it contains all the mysteries of the Lord. It prophesies that Emmanuel is to be born of a virgin and accomplish marvellous works and signs. It predicts his death, burial and resurrection from the dead as the Saviour of all men. I need say nothing about the natural sciences, ethics and logic. Whatever is proper to holy Scripture, whatever can be expressed in human language and understood by the human mind, is contained in the book of Isaiah. Of these mysteries the author himself testifies when he writes: You will be given a vision of all things, like words in a sealed scroll. When they give the writings to a wise man, they will say: Read this. And he will reply: I cannot, for it is sealed. And when the scroll is given to an uneducated man and he is told: Read this, he will reply: I do not know how to read.
  Should this argument appear weak to anyone, let him listen to the Apostle: Let two or three prophets speak, and let others interpret; if, however, a revelation should come to one of those who are seated there, let the first one be quiet. How can they be silent, since it depends on the Spirit who speaks through his prophets whether they remain silent or speak? If they understood what they were saying, all things would be full of wisdom and knowledge. But it was not the air vibrating with the human voice that reached their ears, but rather it was God speaking within the soul of the prophets, just as another prophet says: It is an angel who spoke in me; and again, Crying out in our hearts, Abba, Father’, and I shall listen to what the Lord God says within me.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels

A sermon of Pope St Gregory the Great

The word "angel" denotes a function rather than a nature
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You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels. And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.
  Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. In that holy city, where perfect knowledge flows from the vision of almighty God, those who have no names may easily be known. But personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they came among us. Thus, Michael means “Who is like God”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; and Raphael is “God’s Remedy.”
  Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying: I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High. He will be allowed to remain in power until the end of the world when he will be destroyed in the final punishment. Then, he will fight with the archangel Michael, as we are told by John: A battle was fought with Michael the archangel.
  So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle. Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Saints Laurence Ruiz and his Companions, Martyrs

St Polycarp's letter to the Philippians

Let us arm ourself with justice
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Brethren, I am writing to you about righteousness, not of my own initiative but because you asked me. I am not able — no-one like me is able — to follow the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who, when he was among you in the presence of the men of that time, taught accurately and steadfastly the word of truth, and also when he was absent wrote letters to you. Study those letters and you will be able to build yourselves up into the faith given you. Faith is the mother of us all, going forward with hope following and with love of God and Christ and neighbour leading the way. If a man is among these then he has fulfilled the commandment of righteousness, for he who has love is far from all sin.
  But the beginning of all evils is the love of money. Therefore, knowing that we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it, let us arm ourselves with the armour of righteousness, and let us first of all teach ourselves to walk in the commandment of the Lord. Next let us teach our wives to remain in the faith given to them, in love and purity, tenderly loving their husbands in all truth, and loving all others equally in all chastity, and to educate their children in the fear of God. Let us teach the widows to be discreet in the faith of the Lord, praying ceaselessly for all men, being far from all slander, evil speaking, false witness, love of money, and all evil, knowing that they are the altar of God, and that all offerings are tested, and that nothing escapes him: not reasoning, not thought, not the secret things of the heart.
  Knowing then that God is not mocked we ought to journey through life in a way that is worthy of his precepts and his glory. In the same way, the deacons must be blameless before his righteousness, being the servants of God and Christ and not of man —not slanderers, not double-tongued, not lovers of money, temperate in all things, compassionate, careful, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who was the servant of all. If we please him in this present world we shall receive from him the world which is to come; for he promised us to raise us from the dead. If we are worthy citizens of his community, we shall also reign with him, if only we have faith.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

St Polycarp's letter to the Philippians

You have been saved by grace
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Polycarp and the Elders with him, to the Church of God sojourning in Philippi: all mercy and peace to you, from God Almighty and Jesus Christ our Saviour.
  When you welcomed those copies of the True Love and took the opportunity of setting them forward on their road, I rejoiced with you in Jesus Christ. The chains that bound them were the badges of saints, the diadems of men truly chosen by our Lord and God. I rejoiced too that your firmly rooted faith, so well-known since the earliest times, still flourishes and bears fruit for our Lord Jesus Christ. He bore the burden of our sins even as far as suffering death, and God raised him up, releasing him from the pains of the underworld; you did not see him but still you believed in him, in unspeakably glorious joy. Many desire to come into this joy, knowing that you are saved by grace, not by works, – not by your actions but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.
  So gird up your loins and serve God in fear and sincerity. Leave aside empty vanities and vulgar error, believing in him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and gave him glory and a throne on his right hand, to whom are subject all things in heaven and earth, whom everything that has breath serves, who is coming as the judge of the living and of the dead: God will require vengeance for his blood from any who disobey him.
  Now he who raised him from the dead will also raise us up if we do his will and walk according to his commandments and love the things which he loved, if we refrain from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, and false witness, if we do not render evil with evil, abuse for abuse, blow for blow, or curse for curse, but if we remember what the Lord taught when he said, Do not judge, that you may not be judged; forgive and you will be forgiven; be merciful and you will receive mercy. For whatever you measure out to other people will be measured out to you also… Blessed are the poor, and they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saints Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs

From a sermon by Saint Augustine

The martyrs' deaths are made precious by the death of Christ
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African Marytrs

Through such glorious deeds of the holy martyrs, with which the Church blossoms everywhere, we prove with our own eyes how true it is, as we have just been singing, that precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints; seeing that it is precious both in our sight and in the sight of him for the sake of whose name it was undertaken. But the price of these deaths is the death of one man. How many deaths were bought with one dying man, who was the grain of wheat that would not have been multiplied if he had not died! You have heard his words when he was drawing near to our passion, that is, when he was drawing near to our redemption: Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
  On the cross, you see, Christ transacted a grand exchange; it was there that the purse containing our price was untied; when his side was laid open by the lance of the executioner, there poured out from it the price of the whole wide world. The faithful were bought, and the martyrs; but the faith of the martyrs has been proved, and their blood is the witness to it. The martyrs have paid back what was spent for them, and they have fulfilled what Saint John says: Just as Christ laid down his life for us, so we too should lay down our lives for the brethren. And in another place it says, You have sat down at a great table; consider carefully what is set before you, since you ought to prepare the same kind of thing yourself. It is certainly a great table, where the Lord of the table is himself the banquet. No-one feeds his guests on himself; that is what the Lord Christ did, being himself the host, himself the food and drink. Therefore the martyrs recognised what they ate and drank, so that they could give back the same kind of thing.
  But from where could they give back the same kind of thing, if the one who made the first payment had not given them the means of giving something back? What shall I pay back to the Lord for all the things he has paid back to me? I will receive the cup of salvation. What is this cup? The bitter but salutary cup of suffering, the cup which the invalid would fear to touch if the doctor did not drink it first. That is what this cup is; we can recognise this cup on the lips of Christ, when he says, Father, if it can be so, let this cup pass from me. It is about this cup that the martyrs said, I will receive the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.
  So are you not afraid of failing at this point? No? Why not? Because I will call upon the name of the Lord. How could the martyrs ever conquer, unless that one conquered in them who said Rejoice, since I have conquered the world? The emperor of the heavens was governing their minds and tongues, and through them overcoming the devil on earth and crowning the martyrs in heaven. O, how blessed are those who drank this cup thus! They have finished with suffering and have received honour instead.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday of week 25 in Ordinary Time

St Augustine's sermon On Pastors
All good shepherds are in the one Shepherd
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We have seen that Christ feeds you with judgement, and he distinguishes the sheep that are his from those that are not. The sheep that are mine, he says, hear my voice and follow me.
  Here I see all good shepherds wrapped up in the one shepherd. It is not that there are no good shepherds but that they are all part of the one. To be many means to be divided, and so here the Lord speaks of one shepherd because it is unity that he is commending. The Lord does not avoid talking about “shepherds” in the plural because he cannot find anyone to take care of his sheep. He did find shepherds, since he found Peter – and by the very choice of Peter he commended unity. The Apostles were many and to only one of them did he say Feed my sheep. May it never happen that we truly lack good shepherds! May it never happen to us! May God’s loving kindness never fail to provide them!
  Now if there are good sheep then it follows that there are good shepherds, since a good sheep will naturally make a good shepherd. But all good shepherds are in the one Shepherd, and in that sense they are not many but one. When they feed the sheep it is Christ who is doing the feeding. In the same way the bridegroom’s friends do not speak with their own voices, but when they hear the bridegroom’s voice they are filled with joy. Thus it is that Christ is feeding the sheep when the shepherds are feeding them. He says “I feed” because it is with his voice that they are speaking and with his love that they are loving. For even as he gave his sheep into Peter’s charge, like one man passing responsibility to another, he was really seeking to make Peter one with him. He handed over his sheep so that he himself might be the head and Peter, as it were, the body – that is, the Church – so that like a bridegroom and bride they might be two in one flesh.
  Before he handed his sheep over to Peter he made sure that he would not be entrusting them to someone quite separate: Peter, do you love me? And he responded, I love you. Again: do you love me? And he responded, I love you. And a third time: do you love me? And he responded, I love you. He makes certain of love and gives a firm foundation to unity. He, the one shepherd, feeds the sheep in these many shepherds, and they, the many, feed them in him, the one.
  Scripture is silent about shepherds and yet not silent. The shepherds boast, but whoever boasts, let him boast in the Lord. This is what it means for Christ to feed the sheep; this is what it means to feed the sheep for Christ, to feed them in Christ and not to feed oneself apart from Christ. When he said I will feed my sheep Christ did not mean “I have no-one else to give them to,” as if the Prophet had foretold a bad time when there would be too few shepherds. Even when Peter and the Apostles were still walking this earth, Christ, in whom alone all are one, said I have other sheep that are not of this flock, and these I have to lead as well so that there will be only one flock, and one shepherd.
  So let them all be in the one shepherd and speak with the one shepherd’s voice, for the sheep to hear and follow their shepherd – not just any shepherd, but the one. Let all shepherds speak with one voice in him and not with separate voices: I beseech you, my brethren: say the same thing, all of you, and let there be no divisions among you. May that voice, cleansed of all division and purged of all error, be the voice that the sheep hear as they follow the shepherd who says The sheep that are mine hear my voice and follow me.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Thursday of week 25 in Ordinary Time

St Augustine's sermon On Pastors

I shall feed my sheep on good pasture
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I shall gather them together from foreign nations and bring them back to their own land. I shall pasture them on the mountains of Israel... As the mountains of Israel, he has set up the authors of the holy Scriptures. Feed on these and you will feed in safety. Whatever you hear from them will do you good; whatever you hear from elsewhere, spit it out. Listen to the voice of your shepherd lest you lose your way and wander into the mist. Gather together on the mountains of holy Scripture. There you will find the delight of your heart: nothing poisonous, nothing strange – the richest of pastures. Simply come in good health, and feed in good health on the mountains of Israel.
  ...In the ravines and in every inhabited place in the land. From these mountains of Scripture flow the streams of the gospel preaching, whose sound has gone forth into all the earth so that every inhabited place of the earth has become a rich and fertile pasture for the sheep.
  I shall feed them in good pasturage; the high mountains of Israel will be their grazing ground. There will they rest. That is, where they will say, “It is good here,” where they will say, “It is true, it is clear, we are not deceived.” They will take their rest in the glory of God as in their own shelters. They will sleep and take their rest in the midst of delight.
  They will browse in rich pastures on the mountains of Israel. I have already spoken of the mountains of Israel, the good mountains, the mountains to which we lift up our eyes so that help will come to us from them. But remember, our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. So to prevent us putting our hope in the mountains, as soon as he had said I shall pasture them on the mountains of Israel he added at once I shall feed my sheep. Yes, lift your eyes up to the mountains from which your help will come; but wait for him to say I shall feed. For your help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
  And finally he says I shall feed them with judgement. Note that it is he alone who feeds them with judgement. For what man can judge another man? Wherever you look, you see rash judgements. Someone we have despaired of suddenly turns round and becomes the best of people. Someone of whom we have had high expectations suddenly fails and sinks into uselessness. There is no certainty in our foreboding, there is no certainty in our love.
  Take any man. What is he today? He hardly knows himself. He has some slight idea, perhaps, of what he is today, but as for tomorrow – nothing. So the Lord feeds us all with judgement, distributing what is appropriate to each of us: this to one person, that to others, to each what they ought to have, one thing to one and another to another. For he knows what he is doing. He feeds us with judgement, us whom he redeemed after he had himself been judged. So he feeds us all with judgement.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Saint Pius of Pietrelcina

    St Augustine's sermon On Pastors

Do what they say, not what they do
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Saint Pio
Well then, shepherds, hear the word of the Lord!” What must you shepherds hear? Thus says the Lord God: behold, I am above the shepherds and I will call them to account for the sheep in their hands.
  Listen, sheep of God, listen and learn: God will call the bad shepherds to account for his sheep and for their deaths. As he says elsewhere in Ezekiel: Son of man, I have appointed you as sentry to the House of Israel. When you hear a word from my mouth, warn them in my name. If I say to a wicked man, “Wicked wretch, you are to die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked man to renounce his ways, then he shall die for his sin but I will hold you responsible for his death. If, however, you do warn a wicked man to renounce his ways and repent, and he does not repent, then he shall die for his sin but you yourself will have saved your life.
Saint Pio
  You see, brethren? Do you see how dangerous it is to keep quiet? If you remain silent, you die; and rightly. You die for your impiety and sin – it is your negligence that kills you. He who has said, As I live, says the Lord might have found a living shepherd – but since the shepherd was negligent, not warning those he had been given authority over, those whose sentry he was, he will die justly and the sentry will be justly condemned. But if – the Lord continues – you say “you are to die” with one I have threatened with the sword, and he does not avoid the sword and it comes and kills him, he will die in his sin but you will have set your soul free. That is why we must not keep silent – and you, even if we did keep silent, must listen to the words of the true Shepherd in holy Scripture.
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Padre Pio as a young man
  Since I raised the question, let us see if he takes the sheep from the dead shepherds and gives them to good ones. I certainly see him taking the sheep from the bad shepherds: I am above the shepherds, and I shall take my flock back from them and I shall not allow them to feed my flock. In this way the shepherds will stop feeding themselves. For when I say to them, “Feed my sheep,” they feed themselves and not my sheep. I shall not allow them to feed my flock.
  How does he stop them from looking after his sheep? Do whatever they say, but do not do what they do. It is as if he were saying, “Their words are my words but their actions are their own.” When you avoid what the bad shepherds do, they are not in charge of you any more: when you follow what they say, it is my words you are following and it is I who am tending you.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Saint Januarius, Bishop, Martyr

 St Augustine's sermon On Pastors

Offer the bandage of consolation
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Scripture says: God chastises every son whom he acknowledges. But the bad shepherd says: “Perhaps I will be exempt.” If he is exempt from the suffering of his chastisements, then he is not numbered among God’s sons. You will say: “Does God indeed punish every son?” Yes, every one, just as he chastised his only Son. His only Son, born of the substance of the Father, equal to the Father in the form of God, the Word through whom all things were made, he could not be chastised. For this reason he was clothed with flesh so that he might know chastisement. God punishes his only Son who is without sin; does he then leave unpunished an adopted son who is with sin? The Apostle says that we have been called to adoption. We have been adopted as sons, that we might be co-heirs with the only Son, and also that we might be his inheritance: Ask of me and I will give you the nations as your inheritance. Christ gave us the example by his own sufferings.
  But clearly one who is weak must neither be deceived with false hope nor broken by fear. Otherwise he may fail when temptations come. Say to him: Prepare your soul for temptation. Perhaps he is starting to falter, to tremble with fear, perhaps he is unwilling to approach. You have another passage of Scripture for him: God is faithful. He does not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength. Make that promise while preaching about the sufferings to come, and you will strengthen the man who is weak. When someone is held back because of excessive fear, promise him God’s mercy. It is not that temptations will be lacking, but that God will not permit anyone to be tempted beyond what he can bear. In this manner you will be binding up the broken one.
Saint Januarias
  When they hear of the trials that are coming, some men arm themselves more and, so to speak, are eager to drain the cup. The ordinary medicine of the faithful seems to them but a small thing; for their part they seek the glorious death of the martyrs. Others hear of the temptations to come, and when they do arrive, as arrive they must, they become broken and lame. Yet it is right that such things befall the Christian, and no one esteems them except the one who desires to be a true Christian.
  Offer the bandage of consolation, bind up what has been broken. Say this: “Do not be afraid. God in whom you have believed does not abandon you in temptations. God is faithful. He does not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength. It is not I who say this, but the Apostle, and he says further: Are you willing to accept his trial, the trial of Christ who speaks in me? When you hear this you are hearing it from Christ himself, you are hearing it from the shepherd who gives pasture to Israel. For of him it was said: You will give us tears to drink in measure. The Apostle says: He does not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength. This is also what the prophet intends by adding the words: in measure. God rebukes but also encourages, he brings fear and he brings consolation, he strikes and he heals. Do not reject him.”

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Saint Robert Bellarmine, Bishop, Doctor Thursday 17 September 2015

St Robert Bellarmine, 'On the Ascent of the Soul to God'

Turn my heart to your decrees
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O Lord, good and forgiving and abounding in steadfast love, who would not serve you with all his heart, when he has begun at least to taste the sweetness of your fatherly rule? What do you order your servants to do, Lord? ‘Take my yoke upon you,’ you say. What is your yoke?—’my yoke is easy,’ you say, ‘and my burden is light.’ Who would not willingly carry a yoke which does not press down but gives strength, and a burden which does not weigh heavily but refreshes? With justification, then, you also say, ‘and you will find rest for your souls’. What is this yoke of yours that does not tire but brings rest? It is that ‘great and first commandment: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart’. For what is easier, better and more agreeable than to love goodness, beauty and love, all of which you are, O Lord my God?
  Do you not offer a reward to those who keep the commandments, which are more desirable than a heap of gold and sweeter than honey from the comb? So in every way you offer a very ample reward, as James the apostle says: ‘The Lord has prepared the crown of life for those who love him.’ What is the crown of life? It is a good greater than all we can think of or desire: Paul quotes these words from Isaiah: ‘No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.’
  There is much reward in keeping your commandments. That first and great commandment is not only profitable for the man who keeps it or for God who commands it: the other commandments of God also make perfect him who obeys them, improve him, instruct him and make him illustrious; in a word, they make him good and holy. If you understand this, realise that you have been created for the glory of God and for your own eternal salvation; this is your end, this is the object of your soul and the treasure of your heart. You will be blessed if you reach this goal, but miserable if you are cut off from it.
  Therefore consider that to be for your real good which brings you to your goal, and that to be really bad which cuts you off from this goal. Prosperity and adversity, riches and poverty, health and sickness, honour and ignominy, life and death should not be sought after for themselves by the wise man nor are they to be avoided for themselves; if they contribute to the glory of God and your eternal happiness, they are good and to be sought after; if they are obstacles to this, they are evil and to be avoided.