Archive for the ‘Mass readings’ category

Psalm 121

October 16, 2010

In doing a bit of lectio divina on this Sunday’s Mass readings, I spent some extra time on the Responsorial Psalm, finding that Pope Benedict XVI had given a teaching on this one.  In fact, it was in only his second General Audience since becoming Pope that he taught on Psalm 121:

[1] I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
[2] My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
[3] He will not let your foot be moved,
he who keeps you will not slumber.
[4] Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
[5] The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade
on your right hand.
[6] The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
[7] The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
[8] The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and for evermore.

(Revised Standard Version – Second Catholic Edition)

The Holy Father first points out the twofold meaning of the mountains, the second of which would probably be missed by most of us (it never occurred to me!):

The song begins with the Psalmist raising his eyes “to the mountains”, that is, to the hills crowned by Jerusalem: from up there comes help, for there, in his temple, the Lord dwells (cf. vv. 1-2).

However, the word “mountains” can also conjure up images of idolatrous shrines in the so-called “high places”, which are frequently condemned in the Old Testament (cf. I Kgs 3: 2; II Kgs 18: 4). In this case, there would have been a contrast: while the pilgrim was advancing towards Zion, his eyes would have lit on pagan temples that were a great temptation to him. But his faith was steadfast and he was certain of one thing alone: “My help shall come from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps 121[120]: 2).

After covering other aspects of Psalm 121, Pope Benedict concludes by introducing us to Barsanuphius of Gaza, from whom he quotes an encouraging litany of blessings.

In the chapter on Psalm 121 in their book “Praying the Psalms with the Early Christians,” co-authors Mike Aquilina and Christopher Bailey present an excerpt from St Augustine’s preaching on this psalm, which includes this explanation:

How are feet moved?
….nothing moves the feet, except pride:  nothing moves the feet to a fall, except pride.  Charity moves them to walk and to improve and to ascend; pride moves them to fall….
Choose for yourself him who will neither sleep nor slumber, and your foot shall not be moved.

There are some aspects of my life that are currently a source of distracting anxiety for me.  This psalm is truly a reminder to me of the vigilant love that my Heavenly Father has for me.  At the same Mass in which I hear/pray this psalm tomorrow, I will have an encounter with Jesus, and receive his sacramental Presence.  I will strive to have unfailing trust that He will be with me through the power of the Holy Spirit to guide me through the vicissitudes of life.

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Perfect thanks

October 10, 2010

When I attend Mass, I do my best to be fully engaged.  I concentrate on the Scripture readings, the homily, and the prayers.  I’m not easily distracted at Mass. My post-Communion prayer is always a time when I express my gratitude to our Lord.  Still, I’m sometimes left with the feeling after Mass that my thanksgiving to God has been feeble, lacking, insufficient.  In his teaching on this Sunday’s Gospel, Msgr Pope helps me to understand why I feel that way:

We cannot thank God the Father adequately, but Jesus can. And in every Mass we join our meager thanksgiving to his perfect thanksgiving. Jesus takes up the cup of salvation and shows it to us at every Mass through the priest. This is the perfect and superabundant thanks that only Jesus can offer the Father. And he joins us to his perfect sacrifice of thanks in every Mass. This is how we give thanks in a way commensurate with the manifold blessings we have received.

Stay humble!

October 2, 2010

Feeling perhaps a little too self-satisfied after our wonderful Catholic Men’s Day today, I was brought back to sobriety when I hit this line in section #4 of Msgr Pope’s exposition of this Sunday’s Scripture readings:

If we have good works, they are not our gift to God, they are His gift to us.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus

June 11, 2010

Today, “the Feast of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,” is also the conclusion of “the Year for Priests” which was initiated by Pope Benedict XVI last year on this same great feast of Christ’s love. The reading from today’s mass recalled the teaching of Jesus concerning the Shepherd’s tender care for his sheep. He told the parable of the 100 sheep and the one who wandered away. He explains that there is more joy over one repentant sinner than for the 99 who had no need to repent. Jesus reminds us of the incredible value of each soul. On this feast of the Sacred Heart, we are reminded of the prophet Jeremiah speaking prophetically uttered these words: “I have loved you with an everlasting love and my love for you is constant.” St. Paul tells us in this letter to the Romans [chapter 5, verse 5]: “the love of God has been poured into your hearts by the Holy Spirit.” The Shepherd pours His love from the Cross and gives that love to us. The heart of the Christian life is love, so it stands to reason that the heart of the Priestly life must be love.

Abp Sheen on today’s Gospel

May 16, 2010

Abp Fulton J. SheenHere’s what Abp Fulton Sheen wrote about today’s Gospel reading at Mass (John 17:20-26) in Life of Christ:

The most profound preoccupations of His Sacred Heart embraced the dimensions of the universe, both of time and of space.  He would not only have His Apostles united in love with Him but would have all believing souls, through their ministry, also one with Him.  Their oneness with Him would not be global and confused, but personal and intimate, for He said, “I call my sheep by name.”  Though He was now addressing only eleven men, He had in mind all the millions who would later believe in Him through them and their successors.  A bond of unity must exist between believers and Him, built on that higher unity that exists between Him and the Father.  Since the Father and He are one in the Spirit, in a few minutes He would tell them that this Spirit must come upon them to make them truly one.  The Spirit He called the “Spirit of Truth,” i.e., His Spirit.  As the body is one because it has one soul, so shall humanity be one when it has the same Spirit which makes the Father and the Son one in heaven.  The unity which believers were to have with Him was to be through the intermediary of the Apostles.

He Who now said that He had completed His earthly work designated his followers as a community, or a fellowship.  At the beginning of the prayer, He had merely solicited His Father, saying, “It is for these I pray.”  Now He becomes more categorical and expresses His will, “This, Father, is my desire.”  He recognized that this unity is something that would be completely and perfectly achieved only in glory and in eternity.  This glory all the members of His Mystical Body would one day see when they are with Him; then would be revealed the glory that he had before He “the Word made flesh and dwelt amongst us,” the glory that was His “before the foundation of the world.”

Ordained Lectors?

April 13, 2010

After Vatican II in the reformation of the liturgy the Western rite did away with the minor orders. These are still retained to a degree in the Eastern rites of the church. I was listening to a great radio program called ‘Light of the East’where they were interviewing a man who was recently ordained into the minor order of Lector.  Though they are principally referring to the Mass as celebrated in the Eastern Rites where the lector Chants the epistles, I think the discussion could bear fruit the Western Rite as well.

Here is a bit of paraphrasing  the transcript from that program

The minor order of lector has kind of slipped by the wayside in the Eastern rites principally because it is expedient  to have a person act as a lector in the liturgy without being ordained, especially in the Eastern churches where we are small and we don’t necessarily have much of a ‘bench’.  In other words we don’t have a lot of ‘go-to’ people we in our small parishes.   At the same time doesn’t this represent perhaps a kind of lowering of the bar of what we’re really offering back to God in our sense of liturgy?  Once we figure, ”well this person can do it”, it becomes the norm and we settle for that standard. When really at the time when the lectorate really was more common and ordination was more official for the practice it seemed like they had a higher standard for liturgy. In other words not everyone can do this part of the liturgy. Even though they could physically do it, there was more to it than that. They had to have a certain quality, a certain as it were — professionalism, or character to it.

What would it be like if you’re at a parish where there was no ordained cantor? They would not be allowed to have the phrases chanted and the parish would have to speak the Divine liturgy. What would that be like? What if you had to have an ordained lector and in order to hear the epistle you had to have one?  What would that liturgy be like?   Even today if we have a parish that has no priests and you can’t find one, you cannot have the Divine liturgy. So why is there an exception for the other orders? It’s an interesting problem. One priest explained to me when I asked him “why is it that we don’t ordain cantors anymore”, he gave a very interesting answer that is worth discussion.   He said “it is not necessary any longer for the cantor to have the graces of the sacrament of being ordained a cantor in order to fulfill his ministry.”  I think that approach to things is a great temptation today in putting a kind of a spin on what is actually a lowering of the standards.  In other words ” this is good enough so why do we need this or that.” And secondly this whole idea of function  — just because someone does something, doesn’t mean that it is enough. Just because a person reads the epistle doesn’t mean that they have fulfilled the function.  How you do something is important. Some of these things are an art. If we really want to communicate the Word of God, the vital life-giving Word of God that nourishes us in preparation for our salvation as well is our proper living on this eart — it has to be delivered.  Anything worthwhile has to be brought to someone in the right way otherwise they may not get it. And in fact that is often times what happens. When you have anyone doing a reading for expedience sake, or even if you are at a small parish and this is all you have to volunteer, but when you’re reading the readings they may be going through it in a way where it’s not as effective as someone who is truly qualified. So the listener in a sense his short changed a bit. Short changed in regard to receiving the life-giving message. Especially now in our Rite, unlike in the Roman tradition – people in our church don’t have the reading in front of them ;so if the lector doesn’t chant clearly and with the proper emphasis ;the laity may have to wait until they get home to check their Bible if they want to understand what the reading was.  Plus you have to consider acoustics that may jumble the words so the people lose that message. So for everything in the liturgy there really is, to use the term – an art to it. It is a calling, it is not just that you do it, but it is important how it is done.  And how it is done is determined by the person’s qualifications, they’re  being qualified to deliver it in a proper way.  So I guess you could say I am all for the reinstitution of ordained cantors and ordained lector’s. Because that re-emphasizes the great lofty dignity of each part of the liturgy and each ministry in the liturgy. The liturgy is vital. You come here that one time to have that message delivered to you, and it’s got to be delivered in a meaningful way.  Just think of going to a play or an opera where they just flow through it. No — every detail of their performance would be labored over so that the essence of that performance is communicated to the audience in a way that moves them, forms then, changes them, touches them. So much more so for liturgy. The liturgy should be a transformational experience. Every time you go to liturgy you should walk out changed in some way for the betterment of our salvation. In the anaphora of the Eucharistic prayer of the Byzantine liturgy, when the priest prays over the gifts and he calls down the Holy Spirit-he is talking about change. And the sequence actually is -in so many words  -the prayers say we do this so that we will be changed and then the bread will be changed. In other words the purpose of liturgy is not to make Jesus as it were, Jesus is always present. But it is to have him become physically present so that we can change.  So that we are transformed.  We enter the liturgy transformed by having touched God this intimately and we leave  to touch the world and change the world. Which is why I think it would be wonderful if cantors were given by grace of ordination because I think of the grace as being the presence of God. And I don’t want to minister to the people as a cantor or choir director lector without the presence of God.  Good intentions are good, sincerity is good but you also need the gifts.  Grace builds on nature.  As St. Paul says God gave a each different gifts to further his kingdom.

 What do you think?

A prophet in his home town

January 30, 2010

It’s less than a year until the 10th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (“At the Beginning of the New Millennium”).  In it, he challenges us with this:

…is it not the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make his face shine also before the generations of the new millennium?
Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated his face.
.                                                                                             — NMI, n. 16

This Sunday’s Gospel reading is an especially fertile passage for contemplating the face of Christ.  Here are some of the ‘faces of Christ’ that I found:

  • 1 – the face of Christ upon whom all eyes were fixed
    2 – the face of Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit
    3 – the  face of Christ declaring truth
    4 – the face of Christ secure in the knowledge that the Father was “well pleased” with him (cf. Lk 3:22)
    5 – the face of Christ confident in his role as Son of God
    6 – the face of Christ faithfully revealing his mission
    7 – the face of Christ desiring that his people would embrace this news of their long-awaited restoration
    8 – the face of Christ hopeful that his people would recognize and accept their Messiah
    9 – the face of Christ sensing the doubt arising in the hearts of his hearers
    10 – the face of Christ recognizing the dissipation of their acceptance of him
    11 – the face of Christ hearing the doubt expressed verbally by some in the assembly
    12 – the face of Christ aligning himself with the great prophets rejected by Israel
    13 – the face of Christ delivering the hard word
    14 – the face of Christ reminding the people of how, when their ancestors were unfaithful, blessings were instead sent to Gentiles
    15 – the face of Christ being subjected to the anger and abuse of the crowd
    16 – the face of Christ being forced out of the city
    17 – the face of Christ devoid of even the slightest desire to return violence for violence, passing through the angry mob unharmed

A Catholic unfamiliar with Jewish law might not realize that when the mob “led him to the brow of the hill…to hurl him down headlong,” they intended to stone him to death, and this was just the initial step in that process.  This is explained by Henri Daniel-Rops in his book “Daily Life in the Time of Jesus“:

…the condemned man was to be taken to a cliff the ‘height of two men’ and one of the accusers was to throw him down backwards, obviously to stun him by the fall or to break his back; it was only after this that the stones were to be thrown, and the first was to be aimed at his heart.

Msgr Romano Guardini, commenting on this Gospel passage in his book “The Lord,” makes the following observation:

At the bottom of the human heart, side by side with longing for the eternal source and fulfillment of all things, lurks resistance to that source:  elementary sin in its lair.  Seldom does it confront holiness openly; almost always it strikes at the bearer of holiness: at the prophet, the apostle, the saint, the confirmed believer.  Such people do irritate.  Something in us finds the very presence of one dedicated to God unbearable.  We revolt against him, ‘justifying’ our distaste with his shortcomings (naturally, there are always shortcomings) or with his sins.  How could such a person be a bearer of sanctity!  Or perhaps it is only his weaknesses (which from our dour viewpoint of rejection immediately swell perniciously), or his eccentricities that are so maddening – nothing is more trying than the eccentricities of a saint!  In short, the fact that he is a human, finite being is too much to bear……And the sharpest criticism, the most impatient rejection of holiness is always to be found in the prophet’s own home.

In “Praying the Gospels,” Fr Lovasik includes these sentiments in his prayer based upon this passage of Sacred Scripture:

I can imagine what Your Heart feels as you are seized and led away to death through the streets of Your home town by those who were Your neighbors and townsmen, and to whom You had surely shown much kindness…Teach me to be patient in bearing the disappointments caused by my own friends.