treasure in earthly vessels:
wisdom from the catholic tradition v
God said to saint Catherine: The just soul, for who finishes life in the affection of charity and the bonds of love, cannot increase in virtue, her time having come to an end, but she can always love with the affection with which she comes to me, and the measure that is measured to her (Lk 6:38). She always desires me, and loves me, and her desire is not in vain—being hungry, she is satisfied, and being satisfied, she is still hungry, but the tediousness of satiety and the pain of hunger are far from her. In love, the blessed souls rejoice in my eternal vision, participating in that good that I have in myself, everyone according to their measure, that is, so say, the measure of love with which they have come to me is measured out to them.
Because they have lived in love of me and of their neighbor, they are united together in love… They rejoice and exult, participating in each other’s good with the affection of love, besides the universal good that they enjoy all together. And the saints rejoice and exult with the angels with whom they are placed… They have a special participation with those whom they closely loved with particular affection in the world. With this affection they grew in grace and increased virtue; each one was the occasion for the other to manifest the glory and praise of my name… In everlasting life, they have not lost their love, but keep it still. The joy they have at the happiness of others increases their own happiness with more abundance.
If each of us could clearly see the truth of our condition in God’s sight, it would be our duty to depart neither upwards nor downwards from that level, but to conform to the truth in all things. God’s judgment, however, is now in darkness and his word is hidden from us… So, it is certainly the better thing, the safer thing, to follow the advice of him who is truth, and choose for ourselves the last place. Afterwards we may be promoted from there with honor… If you pass through a low doorway you suffer no hurt however much you bend, but if you raise your head higher than the doorway, even by a finger’s breadth, you will dash it against the lintel and injure yourself. So also a man has no need to fear any humiliation, but he should quake with fear before rashly yielding to even the least degree of self-exaltation.
So then, beware of comparing yourself with your betters or your inferiors, with a particular few or with even one. For how do you know but that this one person, whom you perhaps regard as the vilest and most wretched of all, whose life you recoil from and spurn as more befouled and wicked, not merely than yours, for you trust you are a sober-living man and just and religious, but even than all other wicked men; how do you know, I say, but that in time to come, with the aid of the right hand of the Most High, he will not surpass both you and them if he has not done so already in God’s sight? That is why God wished us to choose neither a middle seat nor the second to the last, nor even one of the lowest rank; but he said, “Sit down in the lowest place,” Thus you will not dare to compare yourself, still less to prefer yourself, to anyone.
Christ’s cross supports the human race: upon this column is his house built. When I speak of the cross I’m not thinking about its wood but about the Passion. This cross is to be found as much in Britain as in India, and in the entire world… Happy are they who bear the cross and resurrection in their hearts and the place of Christ’s birth and place of ascension too. Happy are they who possess Bethlehem in their hearts and in whose heart Christ is born each day… Happy are they in whose heart Christ rises to life each day because each day they do penance for their sins, even the lightest. Happy are they who ascend each day from the Mount of Olives to the Kingdom of heaven where the olives are fat ones and the light of Christ is born… It is not because we have been to Jerusalem but because we have lived a good life in Jerusalem that we should pride ourselves. The city we are to seek is not that which killed the prophets and shed the blood of Christ but that which a stream gladdens in its flood (Ps 45,5), which, built on a mountain top, cannot be hidden (Mt 5,12), which the apostle Paul declares to be mother of the saints and in which he rejoices to dwell with the just (cf. Gal 4,26-27).
Our Lord Jesus Christ established guides and teachers for the whole world as well as “administrators of the mysteries of God.” (1 Cor 4:1) He commanded them to shine and to give light like torches not only in the land of the Jews…, but everywhere under the sun, for people living on the whole earth. Thus the word of Saint Paul is true: “One does not take this honor on his own initiative, but only when called by God.” (Heb 5:4)…
If he believed that he had to send his disciples just as the Father had sent him (Jn 20:21), it was necessary for those who were called to imitate him to discover for what task the Father had sent his Son. Thus he explained to us in various ways the nature of his own mission. On one occasion he said: “I have not come to invite the self-righteous to a change of heart, but sinners.” (Lk 5:32) And again: “it is not to do my own will that I have come down from heaven, but to do the will of him who sent me.” (Jn 6:38) And another time: “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (Jn 3:17)
He summed up the apostles’ function in a few words when he said that he sent them just as the Father had sent him. By this they would know that they had the responsibility to call the sinners to conversion, to care for the sick, both physically and spiritually; in their function as administrators, never to seek to do their own will, but the will of him who sent them; and finally, to save the world to the extent to which it would accept the Lord’s teachings.
With regard to the Gospel’s words: “A man took it and sowed it in his garden”, who do you think is this man who sowed the seed he had received like a mustard seed in his garden plot? I myself think it is he of whom the Gospel says: “Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the council, from Arimathea”… He went to Pilate. He asked permission to take down the Lord’s body and bury it. When permission was granted he placed it in the tomb he had prepared in his garden (cf. Lk 23,50-53). That is why Scripture says: “A man took it and buried it in his garden”. In Joseph’s garden there mingled the scent of many different flowers but such a seed as this had never yet been placed there. The spiritual garden of his soul was embalmed with the scent of his virtue but Christ’s embalmed body had not yet occupied its place. When he buried the Savior in the memorial place of his garden, he received him even more deeply into the crevice of his heart.
It is obvious that a week comprises seven days: God gave us six of them on which to work and one on which to pray, take our rest and be freed from our sins… I am going to expound to you the reasons for which our tradition of keeping Sundays and abstaining from work has been transmitted to us. When the Lord entrusted the sacrament to his disciples: “He took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying: ‘Take, eat: this is my body, broken for you for the remission of sins.’ In the same way, he gave them the cup, saying: ‘Drink from it all of you: this is my blood, the blood of the New Covenant, shed for you and for many for the remission of sins. Do this in remembrance of me’” (Mt 26,26f.; 1Cor 11,24).
Thus the holy day of Sunday is that on which we make a memorial of the Lord. That is why it is called “the Lord’s day”. And it is, as it were, the lord of days. In fact, before the Passion of the Lord, it was not called “the Lord’s day” but “the first day”. It was on this day that the Lord established a foundation for the resurrection, that is to say he carried out the work of creation; on this day he gave the world the firstfruits of the resurrection; on this day, as we have said, he ordained the celebration of the holy mysteries. Thus this day has become a beginning for us of every grace: the beginning of the creation of the world, the beginning of the resurrection, the beginning of the week. This day, which encloses within itself three beginnings, prefigures the primacy of the Holy Trinity.
But when the Lord who spoke to Moses came to fulfill his own law, he likewise gave a clear explanation to his disciples, laying bare the meaning of what had previously been said in a figure when he said: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine “ (Lk 9,23) and not “If any man will go before me.” And to the one asking about eternal life he proposes the same thing, for he says: “Come, follow me” (Lk 18,22). Now, he who follows sees the back. So Moses, who eagerly seeks to behold God, is now taught how he can behold Him: to follow God wherever he might lead is to behold God… Someone who does not know the way cannot complete his journey safely in any other way than by following behind his guide. He who leads, then, by his guidance shows the way to the one following. He who follows will not turn aside from the right way if he always keeps the back of his leader in view. For he who moves to one side or brings himself to face his guide assumes another direction for himself than the one his guide shows him. Therefore God says to the one who is led: “My face is not to be seen”, that is, “Do not face your guide”. If he does so, his course will certainly be in the opposite direction… You see how it is so great a thing to learn how to follow God… No longer does any offense which comes about through evil withstand the one who thus follows him.
Alas for me! My conscience accuses me, and Truth does not excuse me so that he can say: “For he knew not what he did.” By virtue of the price of your precious blood, therefore, forgive me all my sins, O Lord, whether committed knowingly or not… Lord, truly I have sinned by my own will and much, after I had received the knowledge of the truth, and I have offered an affront to the Spirit of grace. After receiving from him the free remission of my sins in baptism, after receiving the knowledge of the truth, I have returned to those sins “like a dog to his vomit” (2Pt 2,22; Prv 26,11).
But have I spurned you also, Son of God? I have spurned you, if I have denied you, although I should not think that Peter trod you underfoot, for all that he came to deny you. He loved you most ardently even while declaring once, twice, and even thrice that he did not know you… Satan has sought out my faith sometimes, to sift it as wheat; but your prayer has reached even to me, so that my faith in you should never fail (Lk 22, 31-32)… You know that my mind has always wanted to abide in your faith; preserve it in me unto the end.
I have always believed in you… I have always loved you, even when I sinned against you. I shall be sorry for my sin until I die; but I shall never repent of having loved you unless it be because I did not love you as I ought.
We give you thanks, Father, Faithful and full of compassion, For giving us Jesus your Son, Our Lord and brother. His love has been made known To the poor and the sick, to little ones and to sinners. He has not turned aside from any distress. His life and message are our proof That you are a God who cares for us As a father cares for his children. And so we praise and glorify you, We celebrate your goodness and faithfulness And in the company of all the angels and saints We sing the hymn of your glory… May we who are about to receive his body and blood be strengthened and renewed in his image… Grant to all the members of your Church That they may know how to read the signs of the times And grow in fidelity to the Gospel. Make us attentive to all That, in charity, we may share Their sorrows and sufferings, Their hopes and their joys And may show them the way of salvation.
Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? In other words: “Do not imagine that I have come to offer people a sensual, worldly, and unruly peace that will enable them to be united in their vices and achieve earthly prosperity. No, I tell you, I have not come to offer that kind of peace, but rather division – a good, healthy kind of division, physical as well as spiritual. Love for God and desire for inner peace will set those who believe in me at odds with wicked men and women, and make them part company with those who would turn them from their course of spiritual progress and from the purity of divine love, or who attempt to hinder them.”
Good, interior, spiritual peace consists in the repose of the mind in God, and in a rightly ordered harmony. To bestow this peace was the chief reason for Christ’s coming. This inner peace flows from love. It is an unassailable joy of the mind in God, and it is called peace of heart. It is the beginning and a kind of foretaste of the peace of the saints in heaven – the peace of eternity.
Keep away from every bad man, my son, and from all his kind. Never give way to anger, for anger leads to homicide. Likewise refrain from fanaticism, quarrelling, and hot-temperedness, for these too can breed homicide. Beware of lust, my son, for lust leads to fornication. Likewise refrain from unclean talk and the roving eye, for these too can breed adultery… Have nothing to do with witchcraft, astrology, or magic; do not even consent to be a witness of such practices, for they too can all breed idolatry. Tell no lies, my son, for lying leads to theft. Likewise do not be over-anxious to be rich or to be admired, for these too can breed thievishness. Do not be a grumbler, my son, for this leads to blasphemy. Likewise do not be too opinionated, and do not harbor thought of wickedness, for these too can breed blasphemy. Learn to be meek, for “the meek are to inherit the earth” (Mt 5,5). School yourself to forbearance, compassion, guilelessness, calmness, and goodness; and never forget to respect the teaching you have had (cf. Is 66,2). Do not parade your own merits, or allow yourself to behave presumptuously, and do not make a point of associating with persons of eminence, but choose the companionship of honest and humble folk. Accept as good whatever experience comes your way, in the knowledge that nothing can happen without God.
It is right and holy, brethren, to obey God rather than to follow those who, through pride and sedition, have become agitators… Let us cleave to those who cultivate peace with godliness, and not to those who hypocritically profess to desire it. For Scripture says in a certain place: “This people honors me with their lips alone though their hearts are far from me” (Is 29,13; Mk 7,6). And again: “They bless with their mouths but inwardly they curse” (Ps 61,5). And again it says: “They flattered him with their mouths and lied to him with their tongues though their hearts were not steadfast towards him, nor were they faithful to his covenant” (Ps 77,36)… For Christ belongs to those who are humble-minded, and not to those who exalt themselves over his flock. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the sceptre of the majesty of God, did not come in the pomp of pride or arrogance – although he might have done so – but in a lowly condition, as the Holy Spirit declared regarding him: “Lord, who has believed our report? To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? We have declared our message in his presence. He is, as it were, a child, and like a shoot from the parched earth; There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, no appearance that would attract us to him” (Is 53,1-3)… Now you see, beloved, what is the example given to us; for if the Lord thus humbled himself, what shall we do who have, through him, come under the yoke of His grace?
Saint Thomas Aquinas from On the Apostles' Creed (Collationes in Symbolum apostolorum, art. 4 § 64.70.72-76)
What need was there that the Son of God should suffer for us? There was great need: and indeed it can be assigned to two reasons. The first is that it was a remedy against sin, and the second is for an example of what we should do… For the Passion of Christ can bring about a complete reformation of our lives… If you seek an example of charity, then “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15,13)… If you seek an example of patience, you will find it in its highest degree on the cross… Christ suffered greatly upon the cross and with all patience, because “when he was insulted, he returned no insult” (1Pt 2,23), “like a lamb led to the slaughter, he opened not his mouth” (Is 53,7)… “Let us persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame” (Heb 12,1-2).
If you seek an example of humility, look upon him who is crucified; although he was God, he chose to be judged by Pontius Pilate and put to death… If you seek an example of obedience, imitate him who was obedient to the Father “even to death” (Phil 2,8). “For just as through the disobedience of one person, Adam, the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous” (Rom 5,19)… If you seek an example of contempt for earthly things, imitate him who is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1Tm 6,15), “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2,3). On the cross he was stripped naked, ridiculed, spat upon, bruised, crowned with thorns, given to drink of vinegar and gall.
“What shall I do?” There was a ready response to this: “I will satisfy hungry souls, open up my barns, call in everyone in need… I will speak out words of generosity: all you who are short of bread, come to me; each according to your needs, take your share of God’s gifts flowing like a public fountain”. Yet you, you foolish rich man, are very far from doing this! And why? Jealous of seeing others enjoy their wealth you give yourself up to wretched calculations: you are not anxious about how to distribute to each according to their need but how to take everything and deprive everyone else of the profit they might have drawn from it…
So then, my brethren, take care you don’t experience the same fate as that man! If Scripture gives us this example it is so that we can avoid behaving in the same way. Imitate the earth: bear fruit and don’t prove yourself worse than it, soulless as it is. It yields crops, not for its own pleasure but to serve you. To the contrary, all the fruit of the kindnesses you show will be gathered for yourself since the graces that arise from good works return to those who bestow them. You have given to the hungry and what you gave remains with you and even comes back to you with increase. As the grain of wheat that fell into the earth brings profit to the sower so the bread given to the hungry will bring you superabundant profit later on. May the end of all your labours be for you the commencement of your sowing in heaven.
Do you believe in Christ ? Do the works of Christ so that your faith may live; love will animate your faith, deed will reveal it… If you say you abide in Christ you ought to walk as he walked. But if you seek your own glory, envy the successful, slander the absent, take revenge on those who injure you, this Christ did not do. You profess to know God, yet reject him by your deeds… “Such a one honors me with his lips, but his heart is far from me” (Is 29,13; Mt 15,8)… You see then that right faith will not make a man righteous unless it is enlivened by love. Someone who has no love has no means of loving the Bride, Christ’s Church. But on the other hand, deeds, however righteous, cannot make the heart righteous without faith. Who would call a person righteous who does not please God? But “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11,6). And God cannot please the one who is not pleasing to him; for if God is pleasing to someone, that person cannot displease God. Furthermore, if God is not pleasing to that person, neither is his Bride, the Church. How then can he be righteous who loves neither God nor God’s Church, to whom is said: “The righteous love you”? (Sg 1,3 Vg.). If therefore neither faith without good works nor good works without faith suffice for a man’s righteousness, we, my brothers, who believe in Christ, should strive to ensure that our behavior and desires are righteous. Let us raise up both our hearts and hands to God, that our whole being may be righteous, our righteous faith being revealed in our righteous actions. So we shall be lovers of the Bride, the Church, and loved by the Bridegroom Jesus Christ our Lord, who is God, blessed for ever.
When the Lord tells us in the gospel that anyone who wants to be his follower must renounce himself, the injunction seems harsh; we think he is imposing a burden on us. But an order is no burden when it is given by one who helps in carrying it out. To what place are we to follow Christ if not where he has already gone? We know that he has risen and ascended into heaven: there, then, we must follow him. There is no cause for despair — by ourselves we can do nothing but we have Christ’s promise. Heaven was beyond our reach before our Head ascended there (Col 1,18), but now, if we are his members, why should we despair of arriving there ourselves? Is there any reason? True, many fears and afflictions confront us in this world; but if we follow Christ, we shall reach a place of perfect happiness, perfect peace, and everlasting freedom from fear. Yet let me warn anyone bent on following Christ to listen to Saint John the Apostle: “One who claims to abide in Christ ought to walk as he walked” (1Jn 2,6). Would you follow Christ? Then be humble as he was humble; do not scorn his lowliness if you want to reach his exaltation.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is on the Cross today and we are celebrating this so that you might realize that the cross is indeed a spiritual celebration. In former times the cross represented a sentence, now it has become an object of honor. Formerly a symbol of punishment, it is now the principle of our salvation. For it is the source of innumerable blessings for us: it has freed us from error so as to be illumined in the darkness and reconciled with God. We had become his enemies and foreigners from far away and it has given us his friendship and brought us close to him. It is for us the destruction of enmity, the promise of peace, the treasure house of a thousand blessings. Thanks to the Cross we will no longer go astray in the desert for we know the right path. We will no longer live outside the royal palace for we have found the door. We do not fear the flaming darts of the devil for we have found the spring. Thanks to it we are no longer living in widowhood since we have found our Spouse again. We have no fear of the wolf for we have the good shepherd. Thanks to the Cross we do not dread the usurper since we sit at the King’s side. This is why we rejoice as we celebrate the memory of the Cross. Saint Paul himself invites us to the feast in honor of the Cross: “let us celebrate the feast, then, he says, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1Cor 5,8). And he gave us the reason for this when he said: “For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed” (1Cor 5,7).
The glorious Virgin paid our ransom as a courageous woman who loved with the compassionate love of Christ. In Saint John it is said: “When a woman is in labor she is sad that her time has come.” (Jn 16:21) The Blessed Virgin did not feel the pain that precedes childbirth because she did not conceive following the sin of Eve, against whom the curse was spoken. She felt her pain later: she gave birth under the cross. Other women know bodily pain, she felt that of the heart. Others suffer from physical change; she from compassion and love.
The Blessed Virgin paid our ransom as a courageous woman who loved the world and above all the christian people with merciful love. “Can a mother forget her infant or be without tenderness for the child of her womb?” (Isa 49:15) This can make us understand that the entire Christian people has come forth from the womb of the glorious Virgin. What a loving Mother we have! Let us take our Mother as our model and let us follow her in her love. She had compassion for souls to such an extent that she counted all material loss and every physical suffering as nothing. “(We) have been purchased … at a great price.” (1 Cor 6:20)
How long are we going to put off obeying Christ, who calls us into his heavenly Kingdom? Aren’t we going to purify ourselves? Won’t we resolve to forsake our customary way of life to follow the Gospel radically?… We claim to want the Kingdom of God yet without bothering to concern ourselves with the means of obtaining it.
What is more, in the conceitedness of our souls, without taking the least trouble to obey the Lord’s commandments, we think ourselves worthy to receive the same reward as those who have resisted sin to the death! But how could anyone sit and sleep at home at the time of sowing and then gather in sheaves by the armful at harvest? Who has ever brought in the grapes without having planted and tended the vine? Fruit is for those who have toiled; rewards and crowns for those who have conquered. Has anyone ever crowned an athlete who did not even strip to fight his opponent? And yet, not only must we win but we must also “fight according to the rules”, as the apostle Paul says, that is to say according to the commandments we have been given…
God is good; but he is also just…: “The Lord loves justice and right” (Ps 32,5); that is why “Of kindness and judgement I will sing” (Ps 100,1)… See how wisely the Lord exercises kindness. He is not gracious without consideration, nor does he judge without mercy, for “Gracious is the Lord and just” (Ps 115,5). So don’t underestimate God: his love for men should not become a pretext for negligence on our part.
The fact of being a man or a woman involves no limitation here, just as the salvific and sanctifying action of the Spirit in man is in no way limited by the fact that one is a Jew or a Greek, slave or free, according to the well-known words of Saint Paul: “For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
This unity does not cancel out diversity. The Holy Spirit, who brings about this unity in the supernatural order of sanctifying grace, contributes in equal measure to the fact that “your sons will prophesy”(Jl 3,1) and that “your daughters will prophesy”. “To prophesy” means to express by one’s words and one’s life “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2: 11), preserving the truth and originality of each person, whether woman or man. Gospel “equality”, the “equality” of women and men in regard to the “mighty works of God” – manifested so clearly in the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth – constitutes the most obvious basis for the dignity and vocation of women in the Church and in the world. Every vocation has a profoundly personal and prophetic meaning. In “vocation” understood in this way, what is personally feminine reaches a new dimension: the dimension of the “mighty works of God”, of which the woman becomes the living subject and an irreplaceable witness.
“Put out into deep water,” that is to say, into the high seas of debate. Is there any depth that is comparable to the abyss of “the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge” of the Son God, (Rom 11:33), to the proclamation of his divine filiation? … The Church is led by Peter to the high seas of the testimony, so as to contemplate the risen Son of God and the Holy Spirit who is poured forth.
What are those nets of the apostles, which Christ orders them to lower? Are they not the linking of words, the twists in discourse, the depth of arguments, which don’t allow those whom they have caught to escape? This fishing tackle of the apostles doesn’t make the fish they have caught perish; rather, it preserves them, drawing them out of the abyss towards the light, leading them from the lowest depths to the heights…
“Master,” Peter said, “we have been hard at it all night long and have caught nothing; but if you say so, I will lower the nets.” I too, Lord, know that it is night for me when you do not command me. I have not yet converted anyone through my words; it is still night. I spoke on the day of Epiphany: I lowered the net, but I haven’t caught anything yet. I lowered the net during the day. I am waiting for you to give me the order. Upon your word, I will lower it again. Self-confidence is empty, but humility is fertile. Those who had not caught anything until then, have now, at the Lord’s voice, caught an enormous catch of fish.
‘Son of man, I have appointed you as watchman to the house of Israel.’ Note that Ezekiel, whom the Lord sent to preach his word, is described as a watchman. Now a watchman always takes up his position on the heights so that he can see from a distance whatever approaches. Likewise whoever is appointed watchman to a people should live a life on the heights so that he can help them by taking a wide survey.
Lead me away, meanwhile, my refuge and my strength, into the heart of the desert as once you led your servant Moses; lead me where the bush burns, yet is not burnt up, where the holy soul that… is all aflame with the I fullness of the fire of your Holy Spirit, and, burning like the seraphim, is not consumed but cleansed… The soul attains to the holy place where none may stand or take another step, except he be bare-footed—having loosed the shoe-strings of all fleshly hindrances… This is the place where He Who Is, who cannot be seen as he is, is notwithstanding heard to say, “I Am Who Am,” the place where, for the time, the soul must cover her face so that she does not see the face of God, and yet in humble obedience must use her ears to hear what the Lord God will say concerning her. Hide me then in the day of evil, O Lord, in the secret place of your tabernacle, in the hidden recesses of your face, “far from the strife of tongues” (Ps 26,5; 30,21); for your yoke is easy and the burden you have laid on me is light (Mt 11,30). And when you show me the difference between your service and the service of the world, gently and tenderly you ask me if it is not better to serve you, the living God, than to serve strange gods (Cf 2 Chron 12,8). And I, for my part, adore the hand that lays the load, I kiss the yoke, and I embrace the burden; and it is very sweet to me to sweat beneath its weight. For masters other than you have long possessed me… I acknowledge your yoke, and your light burden that lifts me up and does not crush me down.
“At Nazareth, on the Sabbath day, Jesus stood up to read. Unrolling the scroll he found the passage in Isaiah where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has anointed me’” (Is 61,1). It was not simply by chance but by an intervention of Divine Providence that Jesus unrolled this particular book and found the text of the chapter prophesying about himself. If it is written: “Not a sparrow falls into the snare without your Father’s will, the hairs of your head… are all numbered” (cf. Mt 10,29-30), could it be the result of a chance that the choice of the book of Isaiah… expressed the mystery of Christ?… Indeed, this text reminds Christ… For Jesus says: He has sent me to bring Good News to the poor”. Now “the poor” refer to the pagans. These were indeed poor, possessing absolutely nothing: neither God, nor the Law, nor prophets, nor righteousness, nor any other virtue. It was for this reason that God sent him as a messenger to the poor, to bring glad tidings, proclaim liberty to captives”… Is there anyone more oppressed and more wounded than man before he has been set free and healed by Jesus?… …“Rolling up the scroll after he had read this, Jesus handed it to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.” At this very moment, if you so desire… in our own congregation, you can gaze intently at the Lord. If you turn your gaze from the depths of your heart towards contemplation of Wisdom. Truth and the only-begotten Son of the God, then you are gazing intently at Jesus. Oh how blessed the gathering of which Scripture itself declares that “their eyes were fixed on him intently”! How I should love this congregation to receive a similar testimony! May everybody here, catechumens and faithful, women, men and children have… the eys of their hearts occupied in gazing at Jesus! When you gaze at him his light will make your faces more radiant and you will be able to say: “The light of your face, O Lord, has set its seal upon us” (Ps 4,7 LXX).
“God’s word is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword.” (Heb 4:12)… It acts in the creation of the world, in the world’s running and in its redemption. For what is more effective and stronger? “Who can tell the mighty deeds of the Lord, or proclaim all his praises?” (Ps 106:2)
The Word’s effectiveness manifests itself in its works; it also manifests itself in preaching. The Word does not return to God without having produced its effect, but all to whom it is sent benefit from it (Isa 55:11). It is “effective and sharper than any two-edged sword” when it is received with faith and love. What is impossible to the person who believes, what is difficult to the person who loves? When the words of God ring out, they pierce the believer’s heart like “sharp arrows of a warrior.” (Ps 120:4) They enter the heart like spears and settle in its most intimate depths. Yes, this Word is sharper than a two-edged sword, for it is more incisive than any other strength or power, more subtle than every subtlety of the human genius, sharper than every learned perception by the human word.
The Evangelist John tells us that when Jesus sees Nathaniel approaching, he exclaims: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!” (Jn 1,47). This is praise reminiscent of the text of a Psalm: “Blessed is the man… in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Ps 32,2), but provokes the curiosity of Nathaniel who answers in amazement: “How do you know me?”. Jesus’ reply cannot immediately be understood. He says: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you”. We do not know what had happened under this fig tree. It is obvious that it had to do with a decisive moment in Nathaniel’s life. His heart is moved by Jesus’ words, he feels understood and he understands: “This man knows everything about me, he knows and is familiar with the road of life; I can truly trust this man”. And so he answers with a clear and beautiful confession of faith: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
In this confession is conveyed a first important step in the journey of attachment to Jesus. Nathaniel’s words shed light on a twofold, complementary aspect of Jesus’ identity: he is recognized both in his special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the Only-begotten Son, and in his relationship with the People of Israel, of whom he is the declared King, precisely the description of the awaited Messiah. We must never lose sight of either of these two elements because if we only proclaim Jesus’ heavenly dimension, we risk making him an ethereal and evanescent being; and if, on the contrary, we recognize only his concrete place in history, we end by neglecting the divine dimension that properly qualifies him.
O my God, how wonderful is your love for us! You are infinitely worthy of being loved, praised and glorified! We are without either heart or spirit sufficient to this but your wisdom and goodness have given us the means to do so. For you have given us your Son’s Spirit and heart to become our own spirit and heart as you promised us through your prophet: “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you” (Ez 36,26). And that we might know what this new heart and new spirit are, you added: “I will put my spirit,” namely my heart, “within you” (v.27). Only the Spirit and heart of a God could be worthy of loving and praising God, able to bless and love him according to his measure. That is why you have given us your heart, the heart of Jesus, your Son, as well as the hearts of his divine mother and all the saints and angels who, together, make a single heart just as the head and members make a single body (Eph 4,16)… So, my brothers, set aside your own heart, your own spirit, your own will, your own self-esteem. Give yourselves to Jesus so that you can enter into the depths of his heart, containing that of his mother and all the saints, and lose yourselves in that abyss of love, humility and patience. If you love your neighbour and have an act of charity to perform, love him and act towards him as you ought to do from within the heart of Jesus. If it is a case of humbling yourselves, let it be with the humility of that heart. If you should praise, adore and give thanks to God, let it be in union with the adoration, praise and thanksgiving bestowed on us through that great heart… Whatever you do, do all things in the spirit of this heart, renouncing your own and giving yourselves to Jesus so that you may act in the Spirit that animates his heart.
There are two ways of teaching and of power, the one of light and the other of darkness; and there is a great difference between the two ways… But the way of the Black One is crooked and full of a curse. For it is a way of eternal death with punishment wherein are the things that destroy men’s souls–idolatry, boldness, exhalation of power, hypocrisy, doubleness of heart, adultery, murder, plundering, pride, transgression, treachery, malice…, covetousness, absence of the fear of God; persecutors of good men, hating the truth…, paying no heed to the widow and the orphan…, not pitying the poor man…, oppressing him that is afflicted…
It is good therefore to learn the ordinances of the Lord, as many as have been written above, and to walk in them. For he that does these things shall be glorified in the kingdom of God; whereas he that chooses their opposites shall perish together with his works. For this cause is the resurrection, for this the recompense. I entreat you: keep amongst you those to whom you may do good. Fail not.
After you are satisfied, give thanks thus: “We give you thanks, Holy Father, for your holy name, which you have made dwell in our hearts, and for knowledge and faith and immortality, which you have made known to us through Jesus your servant; glory to you forever. Amen!… Above all we thank you that you are mighty; glory to you forever. Amen! Remember, Lord, your church, to save it from all evil and to make it perfect in your love, and gather it together in its holiness from the four winds, into your kingdom which you have pre-pared for it. For the power and the glory are yours forever. Amen! Let your favour come and this world pass away. Hosanna to the God of David! If anyone is holy, let him come; if anyone is not, let him repent. “Lord, come quickly! Amen” (Rv 22,20)… “Be watchful” for your life; “your lamps must not go out,” and you must not be unprepared, but be ready, for “you do not know the hour when our Lord is coming” (Lk 12,35; Mt 24,42f.). Gather together often to seek the things that benefit your souls, for the whole time of your faith will not profit you unless you are found perfect at the last.
“The five foolish ones took no oil with them, but the wise ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps.” The brightness of glory is signified by the oil, and the small containers are our hearts, in which we carry all that we think. The wise virgins have oil in their flasks, because they keep the brightness of glory within their consciences. So Paul testified when he said: “Our glory is this, the witness of our conscience” (2Cor 1,12). But the five foolish virgins take no oil with them, because when they seek glory from the mouths of their neighbors they do not have it within their consciences… “At midnight a cry arose: ‘See, the bridegroom is coming; go forth to meet him’”… Then all the virgins arise… The lamps of the foolish virgins go out, because their works, which appeared outwardly evident to people at the judge’s coming, are hidden within; and they find no recompense from God, because they have received from men the praises which they loved.
The Jordan, filled with fear at thy coming in the flesh, was driven back trembling, and John, fulfilling the ministry of the Spirit, drew back in awe. The ranks of angels stood amazed, beholding thee in the streams baptized in the flesh. And all those in darkness were filled with light, singing the praise of thee who art made manifest and givest light to all.
The memory of the just is praised, but thou art well please, O Forerunner, with the testimony of the Lord. For thou hast verily been shown forth as more honoured than the prophets since thou wast counted worthy to baptize in the stream him whom they foretold. Therefore, having mightily contended and suffered for the truth, with joy thou hast preached also to those in hell the good tidings of God made manifest in the flesh, who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1,29) and grants us great mercy.
The glorious martyrdom of the Forerunner has been a step in the work of salvation since even in the dwelling place of the dead he announced the coming of the Savior. Let Herodias now groan, she who is guilty of the impious murder, for it was neither God’s law nor life eternal that she loved but the illusions of a moment.
The interior life is primordial… The active life is the consequence of the interior life and has no value unless it depends upon it. We should like to do everything to the best of our ability, perfectly. But if it isn’t linked to our interior life it is to no purpose. All the value of our life and activity stems from our interior life, the life of love for God and the Virgin Mary, the Immaculate: not in theories or sweetness but in the practice of a love that consists in the union of our will with the will of the Immaculate Virgin. Above and over all we must deepen this interior life. If it is truly a case of spiritual life then supernatural means are required. Prayer, prayer, and prayer alone is what is needed to undertake the interior life and its flowering. Interior recollection is necessary. Let us not be anxious about unnecessary things but gently, peacefully, let us try to preserve recollection of spirit and be attentive to God’s grace. That is why silence helps us.
Saint John Chrysostom from Homily for Good Friday ``The Cross and the criminal`` (Migne 2000, p. 277)
What did that criminal do that he received a share in the paradise following the cross?… While Peter denied Christ, this criminal, high on the cross, bore witness to him. I’m not saying this to denigrate Peter but to draw attention to the criminal’s greatness of soul… While a whole rabble were standing around him, murmuring, yelling and heaping oaths and abuse on them both, this criminal paid no attention. He didn’t even consider the wretched condition of the crucifixion right before his eyes. All this he passed over with a glance full of faith… He turned towards our heavenly Lord and entrusted himself to him and said: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23,42). Let us not casually avoid this criminal’s example or be ashamed of taking as teacher the man whom our Lord was not ashamed to lead first into paradise…
He didn’t say to him, as he said to Peter: “Come after me, and I will make you a fisher of men” (Mt 4,19). Nor did he say to him as to the Twelve: “You will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt 19,28). He favored him with no title, showed him no miracle. This criminal did not see him raise a dead man nor cast out demons; he did not see the sea obeying him. Christ said nothing to him about the Kingdom nor yet about hell. And yet he bore witness to him before all and inherited the Kingdom.
We should live detached from our possessions and our own will if we would be followers of him who had “nowhere to rest his head” (Lk 9,58) and who came “not to do his own will but he will of the one who sent him” (Jn 6,38)… We already know by experience what the Truth promised to whoever forsakes everything and follows him: “he will receive a hundred times more now… and eternal life in the age to come” (Mk 10,30). Indeed, the gift of a hundred times more sustains us on the journey and possession of eternal life will be our joy for ever in our heavenly homeland.
But what does this hundred times more mean? Briefly, the consolations of the Spirit, sweet as honey, his visits and his firstfruits. It is the witness of our conscience, the happy and joyful expectation of the righteous; it is the remembrance of God’s overwhelming goodness and, in truth, the greatness of his sweetness. Those who have had experience of these gifts have no need for anyone to tell them about them. And as for those who do not have it, who could describe it in plain words?
No one should say to himself, even when he regards others who have left a great deal behind: “I want to imitate those who despise this world, but I have nothing to leave behind.” You leave a great deal behind, my friends, if you renounce your desires. Our external possessions, no matter how small, are enough for the Lord: he weighs the heart and not the substance, and does not measure the amount we sacrifice to him but the effort with which we bring it…. The kingdom of God has no assessment value put on it, but it is worth everything you have… To Peter and Andrew it was worth the nets and boat they gave up; to the widow it was worth two small coins (Lk 21,2); to another person it was worth a cup of cold water (Mt 10,42). The kingdom of God, as I said, is worth everything you have. Think about it, my friends, what has less value when you purchase it, what is more precious when you possess it? But perhaps a cup of cold water offered to someone who needs it is not enough; even then the Word of God gives us assurance…: “Peace on earth to men of good will!” (Lk 2,14). In the sight of God no hand is ever empty of a gift if the deep places of the heart are filled with good will… Although I have no gifts to offer outwardly, yet I find within myself something to place on the altar of your praise…: you are better pleased with an offering of our heart (cf. Ps 55,13).
The heavenly sacrifice that Christ instituted is indeed the inheritance bequeathed to us through his new covenant. He left it to us on the night he was delivered up to be crucified as a token of his presence. It is viaticum for our journey, food on our life’s path until we come to it on quitting this world. That is why our Lord said: “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you do not have life within you.”
He wished his deeds of kindness to remain among us and the souls he redeemed by his precious blood always to be made holy in the image of his own Passion. This is why he commanded his faithful disciples, instituted as the first priests of his Church, to celebrate these mysteries of eternal life in perpetuity… Thus all the faithful would have before their eyes day by day a representation of Christ’s Passion. Taking him in our hands, receiving him in our mouths and hearts, we will hold fast to an indelible remembrance of our redemption.
The bread should be made with the flour of innumerable grains of wheat mixed with water and finished off in the fire. Thus we shall find a close likeness of the body of Christ in it for, as we know, he forms a single body with the multitude of humankind brought to completion by the fire of the Holy Spirit… In the same way, the wine of his blood is taken from many grapes – that is to say the fruit of vine he planted – is crushed beneath the press of his cross, poured into the hearts of the faithful and ferments within them by means of his own power.
This is the Passover sacrifice bringing salvation to all those set free from bondage of Egypt and Pharaoh, that is to say the devil. Receive it in union with us with all the eagerness of a pious heart.
Today, the holy and living ark of the living God, the one whose womb carried her own Creator, rests in the Lord’s temple, a temple not built by human hands. David, her ancestor and God’s relative, dances for joy (2 Sam 7:14); the angels dance in unison, the archangels applaud, and the powers of the heavens sing her glory…
She who enabled true life to spring forth for everyone, how could she fall into the power of death? Certainly, as a daughter of the old Adam, she submitted to the sentence that was pronounced against him, for her Son, who is Life itself, did not shy away from it. But as the mother of the living God, it is just that she be raised up to him… How could she who received in her womb Life itself, without beginning or end, not be alive for all eternity? In times past, the first parents of our mortal race, drunk with the wine of disobedience…, with a heavy spirit because of the intemperance of sin, fell asleep in the sleep of death. The Lord had chased and exiled them from the paradise of Eden. Now she who did not commit any sin and who bore the child of obedience to God and to the Father, how could paradise not welcome her, not joyfully open its doors to her? … Since Christ, who is Life and Truth, said: “Where I am, there will my servant be” (Jn 12:26), how could his mother, all the more so, not share in his dwelling place? …
So now «that the heavens are rejoicing», may all the angels acclaim her. “Let the earth rejoice,” (Ps 96:11), let human beings leap for joy. Let the air resound with songs of joy; let the night reject its darkness and its cloak of mourning… For the living city of the Lord, the God of powers is exalted. From the sanctuary of Zion, kings bring invaluable gifts (Ps 68:30). Those whom Christ established as princes over all the earth, the apostles, escort the Mother of God, ever a virgin, into the Jerusalem on high, which is free and our mother (Gal 4:26).
According to his plan from the beginning, God created man and woman in his image. Scripture says: “In the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27) In the book of Genesis it is thus important to understand this great truth: the image of himself, which God placed in the human person, is also given in the complementarity of the sexes. The man and the woman who unite in marriage reflect the image of God and are in some way the “revelation” of his love. Not only of the love which God has for the human being, but also of the mysterious communion, which characterizes the intimate life of the three divine persons. Moreover, one can consider the act of begetting itself to be the image of God, who makes of the family a sanctuary of life. The apostle Paul said that all parenthood derives its name from God (Eph 3:15). He is the ultimate source of life. We can thus affirm that the genealogy of every person plunges its roots into the eternal. By begetting a child, the parents act as God’s collaborators. A truly sublime mission! It is thus not surprising that Jesus wanted to raise marriage to the dignity of a sacrament, and that Saint Paul spoke of it as a “great mystery”, seeing it in relation to Christ’s union with his Church (Eph 5:32).
Everyone is God’s debtor and has his brother as debtor. Indeed, who is there who owes nothing to God except the one in whom no sin could be found? And who has no brother as his debtor if not the one whom no one has offended? Do you think you can find a single person in all humankind who is not answerable to his brother for some fault or other? So each of us is a debtor and has debtors. That is why the righteous God gives you a rule of conduct regarding your debtor which he follows with regard to his. For there are two works of mercy able to set us free that the Lord himself teaches us in a few words in his Gospel: “Forgive and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given you” (Lk 6,37f.)… This refers to indulgence and kindness. This is what he teaches us about forgiveness: you want to be forgiven for your sins and you also have sins to forgive others. The same applies to charity: a beggar asks you an alms and you are God’s beggar, for we are all beggars of God when we pray to him. We stand – or rather, we prostrate ourselves – before our Father’s door, before his great bounty. Groaning, we implore him, anxious to receive something from him: now, this ‘something’ is God himself. But what is the beggar asking you? Bread? As for you, what are you asking God if not Christ, who said: “I am the living bread come down from heaven” (Jn 6,51). Do you wish to be forgiven? “Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Do you wish to receive? “Give, and it will be given you.”
Bridegroom and Bride, that is Christ and the Church, are as one, be it in receiving confession or in bestowing absolution. All this makes clear why Christ had to tell each of us: “Go, show yourself to the priest” (Mt 8,4)… It follows that apart from Christ the Church cannot grant forgiveness and that Christ has no will to forgive apart from the Church. The Church’s authority to forgive extends only to the repentant, to those, that is, whom Christ has already touched; Christ, on his part, has no intention of regarding as forgiven one who despises the Church. Doubtless, Christ need accept no restraints to his power of baptizing, consecrating the Eucharist, ordaining ministers, forgiving sins and the like, but the humble and faithful Bridegroom prefers to confer such blessings with the cooperation of his Bride. “What God,” then, “has joined, let no man put asunder” (Mt 19,6). “I say this is a great mystery and refers to Christ and the Church” (Eph 5,32)… To remove the Head from the Body (Col 1,18) were to ruin the whole Christ irreparably. Christ apart from the Church is no more the whole Christ than the Church is complete if separated from Christ. Head and Body go to make the whole and entire Christ.
We should live detached from our possessions and our own will if we would be followers of him who had “nowhere to rest his head” (Lk 9,58) and who came “not to do his own will but he will of the one who sent him” (Jn 6,38)… We already know by experience what the Truth promised to whoever forsakes everything and follows him: “he will receive a hundred times more now… and eternal life in the age to come” (Mk 10,30). Indeed, the gift of a hundred times more sustains us on the journey and possession of eternal life will be our joy for ever in our heavenly homeland.
But what does this hundred times more mean? Briefly, the consolations of the Spirit, sweet as honey, his visits and his firstfruits. It is the witness of our conscience, the happy and joyful expectation of the righteous; it is the remembrance of God’s overwhelming goodness and, in truth, the greatness of his sweetness. Those who have had experience of these gifts have no need for anyone to tell them about them. And as for those who do not have it, who could describe it in plain words?
“He shall rule the world with justice and the peoples with his truth.” (Ps 96:13) Which justice and which truth? He will gather to him his chosen ones (Mk 13:27); the others he will separate, for he will place the former at his right and the latter at his left (Mt 25:33). What will be more just, more true than that? Those who did not want to practice mercy before the judge came, will not expect mercy from the judge. Those who wanted to practice mercy, will be judged with mercy (Lk 6:37). For he will say to those whom he has placed at his right: “Come. You have my Father’s blessing! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.” And he will attribute acts of mercy to them: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink” and all that follows (Mt 25:31ff.)…
Because you are unjust, will the judge not be just? Because you sometimes lie, will truth not be truthful? If you want to meet a merciful judge, be merciful before he comes. Forgive if someone has offended you; give away the possessions of which you have an abundance… Give what you have received from him: “Name something you have that you have not received.” (1 Cor 4:7) These are the sacrifices that are very pleasing to God: mercy, humility, gratitude, peace, charity. If that is what we bring in sacrifice, we will await with assurance the coming of the judge, of him who “shall rule the world with justice and the peoples with his truth.”
Blessed John Henry Newman from Sermon ``The Tears of Christ at the Grace of Lazarus`` PPS, vol. 3, no. 10
Christ went to raise Lazarus, and the fame of that miracle was the immediate cause of His seizure and crucifixion (Jn 11,46)… He felt that Lazarus was wakening to life at His own sacrifice; that He was descending into the grave which Lazarus left. He felt that Lazarus was to live and He to die; the appearance of things was to be reversed; the feast was to be kept in Martha’s house (Jn 12,1f.), but the last passover of sorrow remained for Him. And Jesus knew that this reverse was altogether voluntary with Him. He had come down from His Father’s bosom to be an Atonement of blood for all sin, and thereby to raise all believers from the grave, as He was then about to raise Lazarus; and to raise them, not for a time, but for eternity… Contemplating then the fulness of His purpose while now going about a single act of mercy, He said to Martha, “I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me, shall never die.” Let us take to ourselves these comfortable thoughts, both in the contemplation of our own death, or upon the death of our friends. Wherever faith in Christ is, there is Christ Himself. He said to Martha, “Believest thou this?” Wherever there is a heart to answer, “Lord, I believe,” there Christ is present. There our Lord vouchsafes to stand, though unseen—whether over the bed of death or over the grave; whether we ourselves are sinking or those who are dear to us. Blessed be his name! nothing can rob us of this consolation: we will be as certain, through His grace, that He is standing over us in love, as though we saw Him. We will not, after our experience of Lazarus’s history, doubt an instant that He is thoughtful about us and that he stands at our side.
Just as there is a harvest for inanimate sheaves of wheat, so for the rational wheat which is the human race, there is a harvest that cuts people away from unbelief, and gathers into faith those who accept the proclamation of the Good News. The reapers of this harvest are the Lord’s apostles and their successors, and in the course of time the teachers of the Church Of them the Lord said: The reaper receives his wages, and gathers a crop for eternal life” (Jn 4,36)… But there is yet another harvest: the transfer of each one of us by death from this present life into that which is to come. The reapers of this harvest are not the apostles but the angels, who have a greater responsibility than the apostles, because after the harvesting they sort out the good and separate them from the wicked like wheat from darnel… As for us, who in this present age are God’s “” (1Pt 2,9), the Church of the living God separated from all the impious and ungodly, may we be found separated from the darnel in the age to come as well, and united to those who are saved in Christ our Lord, who is blessed for ever.
In the Gospel we read : « Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains but a single grain ; but if it dies it bears much fruit » (Jn 12,24). Our Lord Jesus is the grain of wheat but he is also the yeast… When he came, a man and alone, into the world, the Lord Jesus gave everyone the opportunity to become what he is himself. Anyone who is united to the yeast that is Christ also becomes yeast, useful to the self and of value to all. That person will be saved and will save others. Before it is mixed into a bowl of flour, the yeast is beaten, crushed, and crumbed; it is completely dissolved. But it is then that, in one and the same fermentation, it take on the same appearance as the numerous dispersed grains of flour. It brings together into a solid lump a substance that, of itself, used to be as inconsistent as dust. In fact it creates a serviceable dough out of what seemed to be nothing but a scattering of dust. Thus the Lord Jesus Christ, yeast of the whole world, has been crushed by much suffering, pierced and destroyed. And his sap – that is to say, his precious blood – was poured out for us so as to solidify all humankind that was scattered by becoming mingled with them,. We who used to be like a people of flour, see how we are now brought together as by yeast. We who were miserably lying all over the earth, scattered and crushed: see how we are reunited with Christ’s body thanks to the power of his Passion.
The miracles wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ are truly divine works, (which lead the human mind through visible things to a perception of the Godhead. God is not the kind of being that can be seen with the eyes, and small account is taken of the miracles by which he rules the entire universe and governs all creation because they recur so regularly. Scarcely anyone bothers to consider God’s marvelous, his amazing artistry in every tiny seed. And so certain works are excluded from the ordinary course of nature, works which God in his mercy has reserved for himself, so as to perform them at appropriate times. People who hold cheap what they see every day are dumbfounded at the sight of extraordinary works even though they are no more wonderful than the others. Governing the entire universe is a greater miracle than feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread, yet no one marvels at it… Who is even now providing nourishment for the whole world if not the God who creates a field of wheat from a few seeds? Christ did what God does. Just as God multiplies a few seeds into a whole field of wheat so Christ multiplied the five loaves in his hands. For there was power in the hands of Christ Those five loaves were like seeds, not because they were cast on the earth but because they were multiplied by the one who made the earth.
The Word of God was born once for all according to the flesh. But, because of his great love for us, he desires to be born unceasingly according to the spirit for those who desire him. He makes himself a little child and forms himself within them along with the virtues. He makes himself known in the measure that he knows the one who receives him is capable. By acting in this way, it is not by demand that he reduces the splendour of his own greatness but because he judges and assesses the capacity of those who wish to see him. Thus God’s Word is always revealed to us in the way that best suits us and yet he remains invisible to all because of the immensity of his mystery. That is why the inimitable apostle, considering the power of this mystery, wisely says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever” (Heb 13,8). He was contemplating that ever new mystery that the mind will never finish examining. Christ, who is God, becomes a child…, he who enabled everything that exists to come forth out of nothing… God become perfect man, without rejecting anything from human nature except sin, which in any case is not inherent to this nature…Yes, the incarnation of God is a great mystery and remains a mystery… Faith alone can grasp this mystery, which is at the bottom of everything surpassing our comprehension and is beyond anything we can express.
O man, be like the earth. Bear fruit like her and do not fall short of what mere inanimate matter can achieve. The earth bears crops not for her own benefit but for yours. You, on the other hand, when you give to the poor, are bearing fruit which you will gather in for yourself, since the reward for good deeds goes to those who perform them. Give to a hungry man, and what you give becomes yours, and indeed it returns to you with interest. Just as the wheat that falls on the ground falls there to the great profit of the one who sowed it, so the bread given to a hungry man will bring you great profit in the world to come. Let your husbandry be aimed at sowing this heavenly seed: as scripture says, Sow integrity for yourselves.
You are going to leave your money behind you here whether you want to or not. As for whatever share of glory you have received through your good works, that you can take with you to the Lord. All the people will stand round you in the presence of him who judges you all: they will acclaim you as one who feeds the hungry and gives to the poor, they will name you as a merciful benefactor.
Do you not see how people throw away their wealth for a moment’s glory, for the shouts and praise of the crowds in the theatre, at sporting events, at fights with wild beasts in the arena? Where can you get that sort of glory for yourself if you hold on to your money or spend it meanly? God will give his approbation; the angels will praise you; all people who have existed since the beginning of the world will call you blessed. You will receive eternal glory and the crown of righteousness as a prize for rightly disposing of your wealth – wealth that in any case cannot last and must decay.
Why do you think nothing of the future hopes that are stored up by those who despise the cares of the present time? Come, spread your wealth around, be generous, give splendidly to those who are in need. Then it will be said of you as it is in the psalms: He gave alms and helped the poor: his righteousness will endure for ever.
How grateful you should be to your own benefactor; how cheerful you should be at the honour he has conferred on you, that you do not have to make a nuisance of yourself at other people’s doors, but other people come and bother you at your own! But at the moment you are grumpy and no-one can get to you. You avoid meeting people in case you might be obliged to part with even a little of what you have. You can say only one thing: “I have nothing to give you. I am only a poor man.” Indeed you are poor and utterly destitute. Poor in love, poor in humanity, poor in faith in God, and destitute of any hope of eternal happiness.
The whole work contained in the holy books announces by word, reveals by deeds and sets forth by examples, the coming of Jesus Christ our Lord who, sent by the Father, became man by being born of a virgin through the action of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, throughout the whole course of creation, it is he who, by means of true and manifest prefigurations, begets, washes, sanctifies, chooses, sets apart or redeems the Church in the patriarchs: through Adam’s sleep, Noah’s flood, Abraham’s justification, Isaac’s birth, Jacob’s servitude. In a word, through the whole unfolding of time, all the prophecies, those demonstrations of God’s secret plan, were given to us in his kindness so that we might know his coming incarnation… In every person, every period, every deed, the prophecies in their entirety display as though in a mirror the image of his coming, his preaching, his Passion, his resurrection and our gathering together in one Church… Starting from Adam, the point of departure for our knowledge of humankind, from the beginning of the world we find announced in numerous prefigurations everything that has received its complete fulfilment in the Lord.
The Son of God himself, who is before all ages, the invisible, the incomprehensible, the bodiless, the beginning from the beginning, light from the light, source of life and immortality, image of the archetype, immovable seal, unchangeable image, the Father’s definition and Word, he it is who came to his own image (Gn 1,27) and took to himself flesh for the sake of our flesh. Then he united himself with an intelligent soul for my soul’s sake, purifying like by like. He took to himself all that is human, except sin… He who enriches others becomes poor. He took to himself the poverty of my flesh so that I might obtain the riches of his godhead (2 Cor 8,9). He who is full empties himself. He emptied himself of his godhead for a brief time so that I might share in his fulness. What is this wealth of goodness ? What is this mystery that touches me ? I received the divine image and I did not keep it. He receives my flesh to save the image and grant immortality to the flesh. This, his second communion with us, is far more marvellous than the first… It was necessary that holiness be conferred on man through the humanity God took to himself. In this way, conquering the tyrant by force, he freed us and led us back to himself through his Son, the mediator. The Son brought this about to the honour of the Father to whom, in all things, he is seen to defer.
Let us cry out with David; let us hear him weep and let us shed tears with him. Let us see how he rises up again and let us rejoice with him: “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness.” (Ps 51:3) Let us place before the eyes of our soul a man who is seriously injured, almost on the point of breathing his last breath, and who is lying naked in the dust. In his desire to see a doctor arrive, he is moaning and begging the person who understands his condition to have pity. Now sin is a wound to the soul. You who are this wounded person, learn that your doctor is within you, and show him the wounds of your sins. May he to whom every secret thought is known hear the moaning of your heart. May your tears move him, and if you have to seek him with some insistence, let deep sighs rise up to him from the bottom of your heart. May your pain come to him and may you also be told, like David: “The Lord… has forgiven your sin.” (2 Sam 12:13)…
“Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness.” The people who belittle their fault because they do not know this great tenderness, only draw a little tenderness to themselves. As for me, I fell far, I sinned with full knowledge. But you, almighty doctor, correct those who scorn you; you teach those who do not know their fault, and you forgive those who admit it to you.
The Lord said: “Whoever welcomes this little child on my account welcomes me.” (Lk 9:48) The smaller our brother is, the more Christ is present. For when we welcome a great personality, we often do so out of vainglory; but the person who welcomes someone unimportant, does so with a pure intention and for Christ. He said: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” And again: “As often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for me.” (Mt 25:35.40) Since he is talking about a believer and a brother, no matter how unimportant he is, Christ comes in with him. Open your house and welcome him.
“He who welcomes a prophet because he bears the name of prophet receives a prophet’s reward.” Thus, the person who welcomes Christ will receive the reward of Christ’s hospitality. Do not doubt his words, trust them. He himself told us: “In them, I am presenting myself.” And so that you do not doubt them, he decreed the punishment for those who do not welcome him and the honors for those who do welcome him (Mt 25:31ff.). He would not do this if he were not personally touched by honor or scorn. He says: “You welcomed me into your house; I will welcome you in the Kingdom of my Father. You freed me from hunger; I will free you from your sins. You saw me in chains; I will let you see your liberation. You saw me a stranger; I will make of you a citizen of heaven. You gave me bread; I will give you the Kingdom as your inheritance that is entirely yours. You helped me in secret; I will proclaim it publicly and I will say that you are my benefactor and that I am in your debt.”
You can be a witness to Christ every day. You were tempted by the spirit of impurity but… you considered that chastity of spirit and body should not be soiled: you are a martyr or, in other words, a witness to Christ… You were tempted by the spirit of pride but, seeing the poor and needy, you were seized by tender compassion and preferred humility to arrogance: you are a witness to Christ. Better still: you have not given your witness in word alone but in deed as well. What is the surest kind of witness? “Anyone who acknowledges that Jesus Christ came among us in the flesh” (cf. 1Jn 4,2) and who keeps the commands of the Gospel… How many there are each day of these hidden martyrs of Christ who confess the Lord Jesus! The apostle Paul knew that kind of martyrdom and witness of faith rendered to Christ, he who said: “Our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience” (2Cor 1,12). For how many people have made a confession of faith exteriorly but denied it interiorly!… So be faithful and courageous in interior persecutions so that you may also win the victory in exterior persecutions. There are “kings and rulers”, judges of formidable power, in the persecutions within, likewise. You have an example of these in the temptations undergone by our Lord (Mt 4,1ff.)
I have written to you, beloved, concerning Jesus who was persecuted, and the righteous [of the Old Testament] who were persecuted, in order that those who today are persecuted for the sake of the persecuted Jesus, may be comforted. For he wrote for us and himself gave us comfort when he said, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. And they will indeed persecute you because you do not belong to the world any more than I belong to it.” (Jn 15:19-20; 17:14). For he wrote beforehand for us: “Your fathers and your brothers and your family will deliver you up, and all men shall hate you for my name’s sake”. And again he taught us, “When they shall bring you before rulers and magistrates and kings that govern the world, do not worry beforehand what you shall say, and how you shall make defence. I will give you a mouth and wisdom such that your enemies will not be able to overcome you, because it is not you who will be speaking, but the Spirit of your Father who will be speaking in you.”
This is the spirit which spoke by the mouth of Jacob to Esau, his persecutor; and the spirit of wisdom which spoke before Pharaoh by the mouth of Joseph when he was persecuted; and the spirit which spoke by the mouth of Moses in all the wonders which he did in the land of Egypt…; and the spirit that uttered psalms by the mouth of David when he was persecuted, by which he used to sing psalms and soothe Saul his persecutor from the evil spirit; and the spirit which clothed Elijah, and through him reproved Jezebel and Ahab his persecutor…; and the spirit which strengthened Jeremiah, so that he stood boldly, and by it reproved Zedekiah; and the spirit that preserved Daniel and his brethren in the land of Babylon; and the spirit that delivered Mordecai and Esther in the place of their captivity…
Hear, beloved, these names of martyrs, of confessors, and of the persecuted: Abel, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Jephthah, Samson, Gideon and Barak, David, Samuel, Hezekiah, Elijah, Elisha, Micah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Hananiah and his brothers, Judas Maccabeus and his brothers… But greater and more excellent is the martyrdom of Jesus. He surpassed in affliction and in confession all who were before or after.
There are plenty of people who, wanting to be well-ordered on the surface and filled with beautiful feelings about God within, stop there…; they are satisfied with the sweet colloquies they hold with God in prayer… Don’t let us deceive ourselves: our whole task consists in passing over into acts. And so true is this that the apostle, Saint John, tells us that our works are the only thing to accompany us into the next life (Rev 14,13). So let us think this over: never more than in our own day are there many who seem to be virtuous, and indeed are so, but who nevertheless tend towards a way that is easy and gentle rather than to hard-working, straightforward devotion.
The Church is like a great harvest in need of laborers – but laborers who work! Nothing is more in keeping with the Gospel than to draw light and strength for one’s soul in prayer, reading and solitude on the one hand, but then to go and distribute this spiritual nourishment to other people. This is to do what our Lord did and, after him, his apostles; it is to unite Martha’s task with that of Mary; it is to imitate the dove who digests half the food she has taken and then places the rest with her beak into that of her little ones to feed them. This is what we ought to do, too; this is how we ought to show God by our works how much we love him. Our whole task consists in passing over into act.
Like the woman suffering from a haemorrhage, I prostrate myself before you, Lord, so that you might deliver me from suffering and grant me the forgiveness of my faults, and that I might cry out with compunction of heart: “Savior, save me!” …
She went to you concealing herself, O Savior, for she thought you were a simple human being, but her healing taught her that you are at the same time God and man. Secretly, she touched your fringe, fearing in her soul…, and she said to herself: “How could I make myself be seen by him who observes everything, I who bear the shame of my faults? If the All-Pure sees the flow of blood, he will distance himself from me who am impure, and it will be more terrible for me than my wound if he turns away from me in spite of my cry: Savior, save me.
“When people see me, everyone pushes me: ‘Where are you going? Be aware of your shame, woman, know who you are and to whom you want to draw near now. You, the impure, drawing near to the All-Pure! Go and purify yourself, and when you have wiped away the stain that you bear, then you will go towards him crying out: Savior, save me.’
Do you want to give me greater pain than my own ill? I know he is pure, and that is why I shall go to him, that I may be freed from disgrace and infamy. Do not stop me… from crying out: Savior, save me.
The source pours forth its torrents for everyone. What right have you to stop it up? … You witness his healings… Every day he encourages us when he says: ‘Come to me, you who are overwhelmed with ills. I will be able to give you relief.’ (cf. Mt 11,28) He likes to give the gift of good health to everyone. And you, why do you treat me harshly by preventing me from crying out to him: Savior, save me?” …
He who knows everything … turns and says to his disciples: “Who touched my clothing?” (Mk 5:30)… Peter, why do you tell me that a large crowd is pressing in on me? They are not touching my divinity, but this woman grasped my divine nature when she touched my visible clothing, and she attained good health when she cried out to me: Lord, save me…
“For now, take courage, woman… From now on, be in good health… This is not the work of my hands, but the work of your faith. For many have touched my fringe, but they did not attain strength because they did not bring faith with them. You have touched me with great faith, you have received good health; that is why I have now placed you before everybody so that you might say: Savior, save me.”
Adam’s sin was passed on to all humankind, to all his descendants… Therefore it is necessary that Christ’s righteousness be passed on to all humankind. Just as Adam, through sin, caused life to be lost to his posterity, so Christ, through his righteousness, will give life to his children (cf. Rom 5, 18f.)…
At the conclusion of the ages Christ received a soul and our flesh from Mary. It was this flesh he came to save; he did not abandon it to the nether world (Ps 16,10); he united it to his own spirit and made it his own. Therein lies the marriage of the Lord, his union with one flesh so that, according to “that great mystery”, “the two might become one flesh: Christ and the Church” (Eph 5,31). The christian people, on whom the Spirit of the Lord descended, was born of this union. This sowing, come down from heaven, has been immediately assimilated into the substance of our souls and mixed into them. After this we develop in our Mother’s womb and, growing up within her breast, receive life in Christ. This is what made the apostle Paul say: “The first man, Adam, became a living being; the last Adam a life-giving spirit,” (1Cor 15,45).
Thus it is that Christ begets children in the Church through his priests, as the same apostle says: “I became your father in Christ,” (1Cor 4,15). And in this way Christ brings the new man to birth, formed in his Mother’s womb and sent into the world in the waters of baptism through the hands of the priest, with faith for witness… So we should believe that we can be brought to birth… and that it is Christ who gives life to us. As the apostle John says: “To those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God,” (Jn 1,12).
There was a wonderful providence behind these words of the Savior, and they can be of very great help to us. They show once again how much he cares for our souls, for he is good and| as Scripture says: “He wants everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1Tm 2,4). Even so, this saying of his may surprise us. As always, Christ had to be patient with Thomas when he said he would not believe and with the other disciples too when they thought they were seeing a ghost. Because of his desire to convince the whole world, he most willingly showed them the marks of the nails and the wound in his side; because he wished those who sought this evidence as a support for their faith to have no possible reason for doubt, he even took food although he had no need for it (Lk 24,41)… But when anyone accepts what he has not seen, believing on the word of his teacher, the faith by which he honors the one his teacher proclaims to him is worthy of great praise. Blessed, therefore, is everyone who believes the message of the holy apostles who, as Saint Luke says, were eyewitnesses of Christ’s actions and “ministers of the word” (Lk 1,2). If we desire eternal life and long for a dwelling place in heaven, we must listen to them.
“And there people brought to him a paralytic.” Saint Matthew merely says that this paralytic was carried to Jesus. Other evangelists describe how he was let down through an opening in the roof and placed before the Lord without expressing any particular request, leaving it to him to assess the healing,,,
“When Jesus saw their faith”, the Gospel says, that is to say, the faith of those who had brought the man to him. Consider how sometimes Christ pays no attention to the faith of the sick person: perhaps because the latter is incapable of it, being unconscious or possessed with an evil spirit. However, in this case, this paralytic had great trust in Jesus; otherwise, would he have allowed them to let him down in front of him? Christ responds to this trust with an extraordinary miracle. With the power of God himself he forgives this man’s sins. Thus he showed that he is equal to the Father, a truth he had already shown when he said to the leper: “I will do it; be made clean” (Mt 8,3)… and when, with a word, he stilled the tempestuous sea (Mt 8,26), or when, as God, he had cast out the demons who recognized in him their ruler and their judge (Mt 8,32). So here, he shows his adversaries, to their great astonishment, that he is equal to the Father.
And once more the Savior shows here how he turns away from anything spectacular or a source of vainglory. On all sides the crowd is pressing him yet he is in no hurry to work a visible miracle by healing the external paralysis of this man… He begins with an invisible miracle by healing the man’s soul. This kind of healing is far more beneficial for him and, outwardly speaking, less glorious for Christ.
Many people never stop saying – I have heard them myself – “If only we had lived in the days of the apostles, and been counted worthy to gaze upon Christ as they did, we should have become holy like them.” Such people do not realize that the Christ who spoke then and the Christ who speaks now throughout the whole world is one and the same… The position now is not the same as it was then, but our situation now, in the present day, is very much better. It leads us more easily to a deeper faith and conviction than seeing and hearing him in the flesh would have done.
Then he appeared to the uncomprehending as a man of lowly station: now he is proclaimed to us as true God. Then in his body he associated with tax collectors and sinners and ate with them: now he is seated at the right hand of God the Father, and is never in any way separated from him… Then even those of lowliest condition held him in contempt. They said: “Is not this the son of Mary, and of Joseph the carpenter?” (Mk 6,3; Jn 6,42) Now kings and rulers worship him as Son of the true God, and himself true God… Then he was thought to be mortal and corruptible like the rest of humankind. He was no different in appearance from other men. The formless and invisible God, without change or alteration, assumed a human form and showed himself to be a normal human being. He ate, he drank, he slept, he sweated, and he grew weary. He did everything other people do, except that he did not sin. For anyone to recognize him in that human body, and to believe that he was the God who made heaven and earth and everything in them was very exceptional… It is certain, therefore, that anyone who now hears Christ cry out daily through the holy gospels and proclaim the will of his blessed Father, but does not obey him with fear and trembling and keep his commandments: it is certain that such a person would have refused to believe in him then.
The characteristic effect produced by God and His angels in their spiritual operations is a genuine lightness of heart and spiritual joy, eliminating all the disturbing sadness engendered by the enemy, whilst his characteristic activity is to resist such lightness of heart and spiritual comfort, alleging specious reasons, subtle suggestions and sophistries without end. Spiritual comfort with no previous occasion giving rise to it comes from our Lord God alone. It is the Creator’s prerogative to come into and leave the soul, to move it with inspirations of love for His Divine Majesty. “With no previous occasion” means without any preceding awareness or knowledge of anything which might induce such comfort in the soul… It is typical of the evil spirit to transform himself into an angel of light, to go in by the devout soul’s way but to come out his own way; I mean he introduces sound and pious thoughts, suited to the piety of that soul; but then, little by little, he tries to achieve his own purposes, by dragging the soul down to his secret designs and corrupt purposes. We should pay great attention to the entire train of thought. If beginning, middle and end are wholly sound, tending to what is completely innocent, this is a sign of the good angel; but the train of thought suggested sometimes leads to something that is bad or at least distracting, or less good than what the soul had originally proposed to do; sometimes it undermines our strength of mind or disturbs us by destroying our peace and tranquillity of mind and the unperturbed condition already obtaining: these are clear signs that the thoughts come from the evil spirit, the enemy of our progress and everlasting salvation… When souls are advancing from good to better, the touch of the good angel is soft, light and gentle, like a drop of water making its way into a sponge. The touch of the evil angel is rough, accompanied by noise and disturbance, like a drop of water falling on stone.
The mountain of the Transfiguration is the place of mysteries, the place of ineffable realities, the rock of hidden secrets, the summit of the heavens. Here the symbols of the future kingdom were revealed: the mystery of the crucifixion, the beauty of God’s reign, Christ’s descent at his second coming in glory. On this mountain, the luminous cloud covered the splendor of the righteous; the future good was already realized. The cloud enveloping this mountain prefigures the carrying away of the righteous on the clouds; it shows us already today what we will look like in the future, our configuration with Christ…
While he walked with his disciples, Jesus told them about his reign and his second coming in glory. But perhaps because they were not sure enough about what he had told them concerning his reign, he wanted them to end up being very firmly convinced in the depth of their heart, and he wanted present events to help them to believe in the future events. That is why he let them see that marvelous divine manifestation on Mount Tabor as a prefigurative image of the kingdom of heaven. It was as if he were telling them: “So that your gaze might not bring forth incredulity in you, soon, even now ‘I assure you, among those standing here’ and listening to me ‘there are some who will not experience death before they see the Son of Man come in his kingship.’” (Mt 16:28) “Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. He was transfigured before their eyes.” …
“How awesome is this place! This is nothing else but an abode of God, and this is the gateway to heaven!” (Gen 28:17) We must hasten to this gateway.
This country… is very dangerous as the inhabitants – who are full of treachery – often mix poison with the food and drink. That is why no one can be found to go and concern themselves with Christians. Yet these have need of spiritual teaching and of someone to baptize them in order to save their souls. That is the reason I feel an obligation to lose my bodily life so as to bring help to my neighbor’s spiritual life… I place my hope and confidence in God our Lord together with the desire to conform myself, according to my poor, weak means, to the word of Christ, our Redeemer and Lord: “Whoever wishes to save their life will lose it; and whoever loses their life for my sake, will keep it”…
It is certainly easy to understand the words and general meaning of this saying of our Lord; however when one wants to put it into practice and make up one’s mind to lose one’s life for God so as to find it again in him, when one exposes oneself to dangers in which one pushes the probability of leaving one’s life among them…, then everything becomes so dark that these words, although so clear, become darkened too. In cases such as this, it seems to me, he alone will come to understand – however learned he may be – to whom God our Lord, in his infinite mercy, condescends to explain it in his particular circumstances. It is then one realizes the condition of our mortal flesh, namely how weak and feeble it is.
(The) thicket of God’s wisdom and knowledge is so deep and immense that no matter how much the soul knows, she can always enter it further; it is vast and its riches incomprehensible, as St. Paul exclaims: “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how incomprehensible are His judgments and unsearchable His ways.” (Rom 11:33)
Yet the soul wants to enter this thicket and incomprehensibility of judgments and ways because she is dying with the desire to penetrate them deeply. Knowledge of them is an inestimable delight surpassing all understanding…
Oh! If we could but now fully understand how a soul cannot reach the thicket and wisdom of the riches of God … without entering the thicket of many kinds of suffering, finding in this her delight and consolation; and how a soul with an authentic desire for divine wisdom, wants first to suffer in order to enter this wisdom by the thicket of the cross!… The gate entering into these riches of His wisdom is the cross, which is narrow, and few desire to enter by it, but many desire the delights obtained from entering there.
Faith is the gateway to the mysteries. What the eyes of the body are for palpable things, faith is for the hidden eyes of the soul. The Fathers say that just as our body has two eyes, so our soul has two spiritual eyes, and each one has its own vision. Through one eye, we see the secrets of God’s glory hidden in the beings of God’s creation, which is to say, God’s power, his wisdom, and his eternal providence, which surrounds us and which we understand when we consider the greatness of the heights to which God leads us. With that same eye, we also contemplate the celestial orders, the angels, our companions and fellow servants (Rev 22:9).
And with the other eye we contemplate the glory of God’s holiness, when he wants to make us enter into his spiritual mysteries and when he opens up the ocean of faith to our intelligence.
Brothers, when it comes to fulfilling my duties as bishop, I discover that I am weak and slack, weighed down by the weakness of my own condition, while at the same time, I want to act generously and courageously. However, I draw my strength from the untiring intercession of the almighty and eternal Priest who, like us but equal to the Father, lowered his divinity to the level of man and raised humankind to the level of God. The decisions he made give me a just and holy joy. For when he delegated many pastors to care for his flock, he did not abandon watching over his beloved sheep. Thanks to that fundamental and eternal help, I in turn have received the protection and support of the apostle Peter, who also does not abandon his function. This solid foundation, on which the whole of the Church is built, never grows tired of carrying the whole weight of the building that rests on it.
The firmness of faith, for which the first of the apostles was praised, never fails. Just as everything that Peter professed in Christ remains, so what Christ established in Peter remains… The order willed by God’s truth remains. Saint Peter perseveres in the solidity that he received; he has not abandoned the governance of the Church, which was placed in his hands. That, my brothers, is what that profession of faith inspired by God the Father obtained in the heart of the apostle. He received the solidity of a rock, which no assault can shake. In the entire Church, Peter says every day: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Gen 1:26) A simple commandment had brought forth the other beings in creation: “Let there be light!” or “Let there be a dome!” This time, God did not say: “Let there be human beings”, but he said rather: “Let us make man.” For he considered it to be proper that this image of himself, which is superior to all the other creatures, be formed by his own hands. This work was particularly close to him; he loved it with a great love… Adam is the image of God because he bears the effigy of the Only Son…
In a certain sense, Adam was created simple and at the same time double. Eve was hidden in him. Even before they existed, humanity was destined for marriage, which would gather them, man and woman, together again in one single body, like in the beginning. No quarrel, no discord was to arise between them. They would be of one mind, would have one single will… The Lord formed Adam out of dust and water; he drew forth Eve from the flesh, the bones and the blood of Adam. The first man’s deep sleep anticipated the mysteries of the crucifixion. The opening of his side was the lance’s blow given to the Only Son; his sleep: death on the cross; the blood and water: the fruitfulness of baptism (Jn 19:34)… But the water and blood that flowed from the Savior’s side are at the origin of the world of the Spirit…
Adam did not suffer because of something being removed from his flesh; what had been taken from him was returned to him transfigured through beauty. The blowing of the wind, the murmuring of the trees, the singing of the birds called to those who were betrothed: “Arise, you have slept enough! You are expected at the wedding feast!”… Adam saw Eve at his side, she who was of his flesh and his bones, his daughter, his sister, his spouse. Covered in a garment of light, they arose into the smiling day. They were in Paradise.
“In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you.” (Isa 49:8) After quoting this, the apostle Paul continues with the words: “Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor 6:2). I, in turn, call upon you to witness that now the days of redemption have come, now has come, in a sense, the moment of spiritual healing. We can take care of all of the stains from our vices, all the wounds from our sins, if we pray constantly to the doctor of our souls, if …we do not neglect any of his prescriptions…
The doctor is our Lord Jesus who said: “It is I who bring forth both death and life.” (Deut 32:39). The Lord first brings forth death and then he gives back life. Through baptism, he destroys in us adulteries, homicides, murders and theft; then he brings us back to life as new persons in eternal immortality. We die to our sins, of course, through baptism, we return to life in the Spirit of life… Let us surrender to our doctor with patience in order to regain health. Everything that he will have detected in us that is unworthy, soiled through sin, eaten by ulcers, he will trim, he will cut it, he will take it away, so that once all the wounds inflicted by the demon have been eliminated, only what belongs to God will remain.
This is his first prescription: to consecrate forty days to fasting, to prayer, to vigils. Fasting heals flabbiness, prayer nourishes the reverent soul, vigils reject the devil’s traps. After this period of time given to all these observances, the soul that is purified and exhausted from so many practices, comes to baptism. It regains strength by plunging into the waters of the Spirit: everything that had been burnt in the flames of illness is born again in the dew of heaven’s grace… By means of a new birth, we are born again changed.
Embrace the poor Christ. Look upon him who became contemptible for you and follow him, making yourself contemptible in this world for him. Gaze, consider, contemplate, desiring to imitate your spouse, who though more beautiful than the children of men became, for your salvation, the lowliest of men, was despised, struck, scourged untold times throughout his entire body, and then died amid the sufferings of the cross!
If you suffer with him, you will reign with him; weeping with him, you will rejoice with him; dying on the cross of tribulation with him, you will possess heavenly mansions with him among the splendor of the saints and in the Book of Life your name will be called glorious among the peoples. Because of this you shall share always and forever the glory of the kingdom of heaven in place of what is earthly and passing, and everlasting treasures instead of those that perish, and you shall live forever and ever.
There are three actions, my brethren, on which faith stands firm, in which piety consists and by which virtue is upheld: prayer, fasting, mercy. Prayer knocks at the door; fasting obtains; mercy receives. Prayer, mercy, fasting: these three make up one thing and, all together, give life to each other. Thus, fasting is the soul of prayer and mercy is the life of fasting. Let no one set them apart; the three together cannot be separated. Anyone who puts only one or two of them into practice has done nothing at all. Therefore, the one who prays must fast, and the one who fasts must have mercy. Let him hear the man who asks and who, in asking, wishes to be heard. Whoever does not refuse to listen to others when they plead to him will be listened to by God.
Whoever practises fasting must understand what fasting is, that is to say, he must sympathise with the hungry man if he wants God to sympathise with his own hunger. Whoever hopes to obtain mercy must show mercy; whoever wants to benefit from kindness must practise it; whoever would like someone to give him something must be someone who gives… So be yourself the measure of the mercy to be shown to you: if you would like others to show you mercy in such-and-such a way, according to such a measure and with just such a readiness, then show mercy yourself to others with the same sort of readiness, according to the same measure, and in the same way.
And so prayer, mercy, fasting must make up one, single sponsor to recommend us to God, one defense, one prayer in our favour under this threefold form.
Christ on the cross cries out in a loud voice… He proffers peace, addressing himself to you, desiring to see you embrace love…: Consider this, O beloved! I, the boundless Creator, have espoused myself to flesh so that I might be born of a woman. I, God, have made myself known to the poor as their friend. A humble mother is the one I have chosen. Publicans were those with whom I ate. Sinners inspired in me no aversion. With persecutors I bore. I underwent the lash and “humbled myself even to death on a cross,” (Phil 2,8). “What more was there to do that I had not done?” (Is 5,4). I opened my side to the lance. I suffered them to pierce my hands and my feet. Why do you not look at my bleeding flesh? How can you fail to consider my bowed head? I have consented to be accounted among the guilty and behold how, overwhelmed with suffering, I die for you in order that you should live for me. If you are not paying much heed to yourself, if you are not trying to withdraw yourself from the snares of death, now at least repent for my sake who poured out for you the exceedingly precious balm of my own blood. Look at me on the point of death and restrain yourself on the brink of sin. Yes, cease your sinning; you have cost me so dear!
For you I became incarnate and for you I was born; for you I became subject to the Law; for you I was baptised, was overcome with disgrace, seized, tortured, covered with spittle, mocked, scourged, wounded, nailed to the cross, given vinegar to drink and, at the last, sacrificed for you. My side is open: lay hold of my heart. Run, throw your arms around my neck: I am offering you my kiss. I have won you as my inheritance so that now none other may have you in possession. Surrender yourself wholly to me who have been wholly given up for you.
Just as desire for the light follows from healthy eyes, so a desire to pray follows from fasting conducted with discernment. When someone begins to fast, he wants to commune with God in the thoughts of his heart. Indeed, the fasting body cannot endure sleeping on its bed the whole night through. When fasting has sealed a man’s lips, he carries out his meditation in a spirit of compunction: his heart prays, his face is serious, evil thoughts depart from him; he is the enemy of lust and vain conversation. Never has anyone been seen who fasts with discernment and is enslaved by evil desires. Fasting with discernment is like a great dwelling place that shelters every sort of good…
For fasting is the command set before our nature from the beginning to keep it from eating the fruit of the tree (Gn 2:17), and it is from this that what deceives us comes forth… This is also what the Saviour began with when he was revealed to the world in the Jordan. For after baptism the Spirit led him into the desert, where he fasted forty days and forty nights.
All who set out to follow him do the same: that is the foundation on which they set the beginning of their combat, since this weapon has been forged by God… And when the devil now sees this weapon in a man’s hand, that enemy and tyrant begins to be afraid. He thinks at once of the defeat inflicted on him by the Saviour in the desert, remembers what happened and his power is broken. He shrivels away at the sight of the weapon given us by the one who leads us into combat. What more powerful weapon is there that so revives our courage in the fight against the evil spirits?
Forgiveness is the Law
God will only forgive those who have forgiven: that is the Law. The saints are without hatred, without venom, they forgive everyone and always esteem that they merit far more for the sins they themselves have committed against God. As soon as we hate our neighbor, God pays back that hatred: this is a characteristic that rebounds against ourselves. On one occasion I said to someone: “But don’t you want to go to heaven that you don’t wish to see this person? – Oh yes, indeed!… But we try hard to stay distanced from one another and not see each other.” These will not have that distress for heaven’s door is closed to hatred.
In heaven there is no resentment. Therefore sound, lowly hearts that take abuse and calumny with joy or with indifference begin their heaven in this world, and those who hold on to their resentment are the unfortunate ones (…) The way to overturn the devil when he stirs up hateful thoughts in us against those who do us wrong is to pray for them without delay. This is how we come to conquer evil by good and this is what the saints are like.
My friends, if we were to run through the various ages of the world, everywhere we would see the earth covered with the mercies of the Lord and people surrounded by his favors. No, my friends: it is not a question of the sinner coming back to God to beg for his forgiveness; God himself runs after the sinner and brings about his return… He is waiting for repentant sinners and he invites them by the interior stirring of his grace and the voice of his ministers.
Look at how he acted towards Nineveh, that great and wicked city. Before punishing its inhabitants, he ordered his prophet, Jonah, to go on his behalf and proclaim that, in forty days, he was going to punish them. Instead of going to Nineveh, Jonah fled by another way. He wanted to cross the sea but, far from leaving the Ninevites without warning before he punished them, God performed a miracle to preserve his prophet in the belly of a whale for three days and three nights, which, after three days, vomited him onto dry land. Then the Lord said to Jonah: “Go and tell the great city that in forty days more it will perish”. He set no conditions at all. When he had gone, the prophet announced to Nineveh that in forty days it would perish.
At this news all of them, from peasant to king, fell to repentance and weeping. “Who knows,” said the king to them, “whether the Lord will not yet have pity on us?” The Lord, seeing them take refuge in repentance, seemed to take delight in forgiving them. Jonah, seeing that the time for their punishment had expired, withdrew outside the city to wait for fire from heaven to fall on them. But when he saw that it wasn’t coming down, Jonah exclaimed: “Ah, Lord! Are you going to make me pass for a false prophet? Rather, let me die. Oh, I well know you to be too generous! All you want to do is forgive!” – “Now, Jonah!” said the Lord to him: “do you want me to cause so many people to perish who have humbled themselves before me? Oh no! no! Jonah. I wouldn’t have the heart for it; to the contrary, I will love and preserve them.”
“If you bring your gifts to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you…go first and be reconciled with your brother”
“The measure with which you measure shall be measured out to you” (Mt 7:2). And the servant who, after having had all his debt forgiven him by his master, would not forgive his fellow-servant, is confined to prison. Because he was unwilling to forgive his fellow-servant, he lost the forgiveness which had been granted him by the Lord (Mt 18:23f). And these things Christ sets forth still more strongly in his precepts by the greater force of his censure. He says: “When you stand praying, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may turn forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your transgressions” (Mk 11:25)…
For God commands us to be peacemakers and of one heart and of one mind in his house. And such as he has made us by a second birth, so by a second birth he wishes to preserve us , that we who are the children of God may abide in the peace of God, and that we who have one spirit may have one heart and mind. Thus God does not receive the sacrifice of a person who is in disagreement but commands him to go back from the altar and first be reconciled to his brother, that so God also may be appeased by the prayers of the peacemaker. The greater sacrifice to God is our peace and fraternal concord and a people united in the unity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“Of your kindness, Lord, the earth is full; teach me your statues” (Ps 118:64). In what way is the earth filled with this kindness of the Lord if not through the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ of which the psalmist, seeing it from afar, is celebrating the promise?… It is “full” because remission of sins has been given to all. The sun’s orders are to rise over all and it happens every day. It is for all that the Sun of Justice (Mal 3:20) in a mystical sense has arisen. He has come for all, suffered for all and it is for all he was raised. And if he suffered this was to “take away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29)…
But if someone has no faith in Christ he deprives himself of this universal blessing. If someone prevents the sun’s rays from entering by closing his shutters it cannot be said that the sun has risen for all since that person has hidden from its heat. Where the sun is concerned it makes no difference; for the person lacking wisdom, he is depriving himself of the grace of a light presented to all.
God makes of himself a teacher: he lights up each one’s soul, shedding on it the brightness of knowing him, but always on condition that you open the door of your heart and receive the brightness of heavenly grace. When you doubt make haste to search, for “the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks the door will be opened” (Mt 7:8).
If we wish to prefer a petition to men of high station, we do not presume to do it without humility and respect; how much more ought we to supplicate the Lord God of all things with all humility and pure devotion. And let us be sure that we shall not be heard for our much speaking, but for purity of heart and tears of compunction. Our prayer, therefore, ought to be short and pure, unless it chance to be prolonged by the impulse and inspiration of divine grace.
If someone gives ninety-nine poor men but reviles, chastises or sends away another one who remains empty handed, to whom do you think he does this? Of course to Christ himself who has said, who continues to say, who never ceases saying and will one day say again: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me”?… For in all these it is still him whom we feed in every beggar. In the same way, if someone has provided for all the bodily needs of the poor on one day, but, being able to do so on the next day, neglects some of his brethren and leaves them to die of hunger, thirst and cold, then he has neglected and left die him who said: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of my brethren, you have done it to me”…
If our Lord was pleased to assume the likeness of every poor man and compared himself to every poor man it was in order that none who believe in him should exalt himself over his brother… but should take the poor man in and honor him, and be ready to exhaust all his means in helping him, just as our Lord Jesus Christ exhausted his blood for our salvation… All this may appear too hard to people and they may think it right to say to themselves: “Who can strictly follow all this, satisfying and feeding everyone and leaving no one unsatisfied?” Let them listen to Saint Paul who says clearly: “The love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died” (2Cor 5:14).
Mercy is the image of God and the man who is merciful is, in truth, a God dwelling on earth. Just as God is merciful to all, without distinction of persons, so the man who is merciful pours out his deeds of generosity equally upon all.
My son, be merciful and extend generosity to all so as to be raised to the level of divinity… Take care not to let yourself be led astray by this thought, which you may find attractive: “It would be better for me to be merciful to the one who is a believer than to one who is outside us.” That is not the perfect mercy in imitation of God, who pours out his deeds of generosity upon all, without jealousy, “for he makes his sun rise and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike” (Mt 5,45)…
“God is love” (1Jn 4,8); his being is love, and love is his being itself. It was through his love that our Creator was compelled to bring about our creation. The man who possesses charity is God indeed amongst men.
If anyone wants a high office let him want the labor it entails not the honor it will bring him. He should desire to serve and minister to everyone and not expect everyone to serve and minister to him. For the desire to be served comes from the supercilious attitude of the Pharisees; the desire to serve, from the teaching of Christ. Those who canvass for positions of honor are the ones who exalt themselves; those who delight in serving and caring for others are the ones who humble themselves so as to be exalted by God.
Note that it is not those whom the Lord exalts who will be humbled, but those who exalt themselves, and similarly it is those who of their own accord humble themselves who will be exalted by the Lord… After specifically reserving the office of teaching to himself, Christ immediately went on to give as the rule of his teaching that whoever wants to be the greatest should be the servant of all. And he gave the same rule in other words when he said: “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart,” (Mt 11:29).
Anyone, therefore, who wants to be Christ’s disciple must hasten to learn the lesson he professes to teach, for a perfect disciple will be like his master. Otherwise, if he refuses to learn his master’s lesson, far from being a master himself he will not even be a disciple.
When I say that God does not incline his ear to the rich man, don’t go so far as to think, my friends, that God fails to answer those who have gold and silver, servants and lands. If they were born in that state and occupy that class of society let them call to mind the saying of the apostle Paul: “Tell the rich in the present world not to yield to pride” (1Tm 6:17). People who do not yield to pride are poor before God, who inclines his ear to the poor and needy (Ps 85:1). Indeed, they know their hope does not lie in gold or silver or in those things of which they have an abundance for a time. It suffices that possessions are not causing their loss and that, if they do nothing for their salvation, at least they aren’t an obstacle to it… Therefore, when someone despises those things that feed one’s pride he is one of God’s poor and God inclines his ear towards him, for he knows the troubles of his heart.
It’s true, my brethren, that poor man Lazarus, covered with sores, who lay at the rich man’s door, was carried by angels into the bosom of Abraham. This is what we read and believe. Whereas the rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and feasted splendidly every day was thrown down to the torments of hell. But was it really the merit of his destitution that won for the poor man his being carried away by angels? And was the rich man delivered up to torment because of his lavish lifestyle? We need to acknowledge that it was humility that was honored in that poor man and what was punished in the rich man was pride.
When, in these last days, the Word of God was born of Mary, clothed in flesh and revealed to the world, what was seen of him was something other than the mind could discern. The appearance of his body was clear to all, but knowledge of his divinity was only granted to some. Similarly, when the Word of God speaks to us through the Old Law and the prophets, he shows himself beneath the veil of the appropriate garments. In his incarnation he is clothed with flesh; in the Holy Scriptures he is clothed with the veil of the letter. The veil of the letter can be compared to his humanity and the spiritual sense of the Law to his divinity. In the book of Leviticus we find the rites of sacrifice, the various sacrificial animals, the priestly liturgical service (…): blessed the eyes that discern the divine Spirit hidden beneath the veil (…)
“Whenever a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed (…), and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” says the apostle Paul (2 Cor 3:16-17). Thus it is to the Lord himself, the Spirit himself, we must pray, that he will deign to remove every obscurity so we can behold in Jesus the wonders of the spiritual meaning of the Law, like the man who said: “Open my eyes that I may see the wonders of your Law” (Ps 119:18).
The fact that, of all the passengers in the boat, Peter is the one who dares to call back and ask for a command to walk towards the Lord over the waters, reveals the disposition of his heart at the time of the Passion. He alone at that time, following behind the Lord and heedless of the world’s tumult – like that of the sea – accompanied him with the same bravery in despite of death. However, his lack of confidence reveals the weakness under temptation that awaited him since, in spite of daring to move forward, he sank. Weakness of the flesh and fear of death forced him to go as far as the disaster of denial. Nevertheless, he cried out and begged the Lord to save him. That cry is the groaning plea of his repentance. (…)
Yet there is one thing to bear in mind about Peter: he preceded all the others in faith. For while they were still in ignorance, he was the first to acknowledge: “You are the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). He was the first to reject the Passion, thinking it to be a disaster (Mt 16:22), the first to swear he would die and never deny his Lord (Mt 26:35), the first to refuse to have his feet washed (Jn 13:8), and he was also the one who drew his sword against those who seized the Lord (Jn 18:10). The calm experienced by wind and sea when the Lord got into the boat represents the peace and tranquillity of the eternal Church that will follow the Lord’s glorious return when he will come revealing himself. Genuine astonishment will cause them all to say: “Truly, you are the Son of God”. Then everyone will make clear and public confession that the Son of God has restored peace to the Church, not in the lowliness of the flesh but in the glory of heaven.
Each of the saints had to flee the “broad and spacious way” (Mt 7:13) to dwell alone, apart, and there live a virtuous life: Elijah, Elisha (…), Jacob (…). Solitude and the forsaking of life’s tumult gains a man the friendship of God. Thus Abraham, when he left the land of the Chaldeans, was called “the friend of God” (Jas 2:23). The great Moses, too, when he left the land of Egypt (…) spoke with God face to face, was saved from the hands of his enemies and crossed the desert. All these are an image of our departure from shadows to wonderful light and of our ascending to the city that is in heaven (Hb 11:16), the prefiguration of true happiness and everlasting joy.
Whereas we have with us the reality announced by shadows and symbols, I mean the Father’s own image, our Lord Jesus Christ (Col 2:17; 1:15). If we always receive him as our food and mark the doors of our souls with his blood, we shall be freed from Pharaoh’s labors and from his overseers (Ex 12:7; 5,6f) (…) Now we have found the road to pass from earth to heaven (…) In former times the Lord went before the children of Israel in a pillar of fire and a cloud; but now he calls us to himself, saying: “If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink; from whoever believes in me will flow rivers of living water springing up to eternal life” (Jn 7:37f.).
Therefore let everyone prepare themselves with ardent desire to go to this feast : let them listen to the Savior calling since it is he who comforts us all and each one in particular. Let anyone who is hungry come to him: he is the true bread (Jn 6:32). Let anyone who is thirsty come to him: he is the fountain of living water (Jn 4:10). Let the sick person come to him: he is the Word of God who heals the sick. If anyone is bowed down by the burden of sin and repents, let him take refuge at his feet: he is rest and the harbor of salvation. Let the sinner have confidence for he has said: “Come to me, you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).
The Church of the first millennium was born of the blood of the martyrs: “Sanguis martyrum – semen christianorum” (Tertullian). Historical events (…) could never have ensured the development of the Church as it occurred during the first millennium if it had not been for the seeds sown by the martyrs and the heritage of sanctity which marked the first Christian generations. At the end of the second millennium, the Church has once again become a Church of martyrs. The persecutions of believers —priests, Religious and laity—has caused a great sowing of martyrdom in different parts of the world. The witness to Christ borne even to the shedding of blood has become a common inheritance of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants, as Pope Paul VI pointed out (…). This witness must not be forgotten (…).
In our own century the martyrs have returned, many of them nameless, “unknown soldiers” as it were of God’s great cause. As far as possible, their witness should not be lost to the Church (…) Local Churches should do everything possible to ensure that the memory of those who have suffered martyrdom should be safeguarded, gathering the necessary documentation.
This gesture cannot fail to have an ecumenical character and expression. Perhaps the most convincing form of ecumenism is the ecumenism of the saints and of the martyrs. The communio sanctorum speaks louder than the things which divide us (…) The greatest homage which all the Churches can give to Christ on the threshold of the third millennium will be to manifest the Redeemer’s all-powerful presence through the fruits of faith, hope and charity present in men and women of many different tongues and races who have followed Christ in the various forms of the Christian vocation.
The Lord Jesus’s response: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house ?” (Lk 2:49) does not state that God is his Father in order to affirm that Joseph is not. How are we to prove this? With Scripture, which continues (…): “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them” (v. 51). To whom was he obedient? Wasn’t it to his parents? So both of them were his parents. (…) They were his parents in time and God was his Father from all eternity. They were the parents of the Son of man; the Father, of the Word and his Wisdom (1Cor 1:24), the power by which he created all things. (…)
And so don’t be surprised that the evangelists give us the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph rather than Mary (Mt 1:1 ; Lk 3:23). If Mary became mother apart from the desire of the flesh, Joseph became father apart from any carnal union. Therefore he is able to be the point of departure for the Savior’s genealogy even though he is not his father according to the flesh. His great purity only confirms his paternity. His wife, Mary, wished to put his name in first place: “See, your father and I have been searching for you with great anxiety” (Lk 2:48) (…)
If Mary bore the Savior apart from the laws of nature, the Holy Spirit was also at work in Joseph and therefore working equally in both of them. “Joseph was a just man,” says Matthew the evangelist (1:19). The husband was just, his wife was just: the Holy Spirit rested upon both these just people and gave a son to both of them.
“Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live; and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” What is being said? “Whoever believes in me, even if he is dead like Lazarus, will live” because God is not God of the dead but God of the living. Already, concerning Abraham, Isaac and Jacob those long-dead patriarchs, Jesus had given the same reply: “He is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob; he is not God of the dead but of the living, for to him all are alive” (Lk 20:37-38). Believe, then; and though you were dead, you will live! But if you do not believe, then although you may be living, actually, you are dead. (…) From where comes death in the soul? From the fact that faith is no longer there. From where comes the death of the body? From the fact that the soul is no longer there. The soul’s soul is faith..
“Whoever believes in me, even though he die in body will be alive in soul until the body itself rises again to die no more. And whoever lives in the flesh and believes in me, although he must die in his body for a season, will not die for ever because of the life of the Spirit and immortality of the resurrection.”
That is what Jesus’ reply to Martha meant (…): “Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she answered, “I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world. Believing this, I have believed you are the resurrection; I have believed you are the life; I have believed that whoever believes in you, though he die, will live; I have believed that whoever lives and believes in you will never die eternally.”
The grace of God is a seed that should not be stifled but should also not be over exposed. It should be nourished in one’s heart and not allowed to appear too much to human sight.
There are two kinds of graces, small in appearance but from which, nevertheless, both our perfection and our salvation can depend: I. A light that discloses a truth we should carefully gather up and watch over lest it is extinguished through our own fault. We should use it as a rule in all our actions, see where it is taking us, etc. II. A movement that leads us to carry out some virtuous deed on certain occasions. We should be faithful to these movements of the soul since this fidelity is sometimes the essence of our happiness.
An act of mortification God inspires in us on certain occasions, if we listen to his voice, may possibly produce very great fruits of sanctity in us; whereas the contempt we would show to this little grace could have very sad consequences, as has happened when favorites have fallen into disgrace because they have lacked a readiness to oblige in very small things.
Our Lord Jesus Christ frequently and insistently repeated : “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24) (…) And elsewhere: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor,” after which he adds: “then come, follow me” (Mt 19:21).
For someone who understands it, the parable of the merchant is saying the same thing : “The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Undoubtedly, the precious pearls here refer to the Kingdom of heaven and our Lord shows us that it is impossible to gain it unless we give up all we possess: wealth, esteem, high birth, and those things that other people greedily seek after.
Our Lord has also declared that it is impossible to be properly busied about one’s tasks when the mind is distracted by all sorts of things: “No one can serve two masters,” he said (Mt 6:24). That is why the “treasure in heaven” is the only one we should choose to fix our heart on: “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Mt 6:21) (…) To sum up, it is a matter of our raising our hearts to the life of heaven in such a way that we would be able to say: “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil 3:20). Above all, it is to begin to be like Christ, who: “though he was rich, made himself poor for our sake” (2 Cor 8:9).
“How shall I repay the Lord ?” (Ps 115[116B],12). Not with holocausts or sacrifices or the observances of the legal cult, but with my whole life itself. And this is why, says the psalmist, “The cup of salvation I will take” (v.13). The labor he underwent in the struggles of his filial devotion to God and the constancy with which he resisted sin even to death : this is what the psalmist calls his cup.
It was concerning this cup that our Lord himself expressed himself in the Gospels : “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me” (Mt 26:39). And again, to his disciples: “Can you drink the cup that I shall drink?” He intended to speak of that death he desired to suffer for the salvation of the world. Therefore, he says: “The cup of salvation I will take up”, namely, my whole being is reaching out, parched, towards the consummation of martyrdom, even to the point of holding the torments endured in the struggles of filial love as rest, and not as suffering for soul and body. I too, he says, will offer myself to the Lord as a sacrifice and oblation. (…) And I am ready to pay these vows before all the people, for: “My vows to the Lord I will pay in the presence of all his people!” (v.14).
If Europe wants to be faithful to itself, it must be able to gather all the living forces of this continent, respecting the original character of each region, but rediscovering in its roots a common spirit. The member countries of your Council are aware that they are not the whole of Europe. In expressing the ardent wish to see intensified the cooperation, already taking shape, with other nations, particularly those of the centre and east, I have the feeling of gathering together the desire of millions of men and women who know that they are bound together by a common history and who await a destiny of unity and solidarity on the scale of this continent.
Over the centuries Europe has played a considerable role in other parts of the world. We must admit that while it has not always given her best in the encounter with other civilizations, no one can deny that it fortunately shared many of the values which it had developed over the years. If Europe wants to play a role today, it must, in unity, clearly base its action on that which is most human and most generous in its heritage…
By coming today before the first international parliamentary Assembly constituted in the world, I am conscious of addressing the official representatives of the peoples who, in fidelity to their origins, have desired to come together in order to affirm their unity and to be open to the other nations of all continents in respect for the truth about man. I can attest to the readiness of Christians to take an active part in the tasks of your Institutions. My wish for your Council is that you work with success to make the soul of Europe ever more alive and generous.
In one of the psalms the prophet says: “My soul pines for your salvation; I hope in your word” (119:1) (…) Who is it expressing this ardent desire if not “the chosen race, the royal priesthood, the people set apart for God” (1 Pt 2:9), each in their own day, in each one of those who have lived, are living or will live from humanity’s first beginning until the end of the world? (…) That is why our Lord himself says to his disciples: “Many prophets and righteous men have wanted to see what you see.” It is their voice, then, we must recognise in this psalm (…) Their longing has never come to an end in the saints, nor does it end even now in “the Body of Christ, the Church” (Col 1:18) until “the Desired of all nations” comes (Hag 2:8 Vg) (…)
So the beginning of the Church’s era, before the Virgin had given birth, comprised saints who longed to see Christ’s coming in the flesh; and the period where we are now, following the Ascension, comprises other saints who long to see the revealing of Christ to judge the living and the dead. From the beginning to the end of time the Church’s longing has never lost its intensity, excepting only when our Lord was alive on earth in the company of his disciples.
Perfection is to be found in the sanctification of our souls and of each soul. It does not take place over the years but at every moment. No moment that lies before us will ever return. If it is well lived, it can count for eternity. This is the truth. (…)
Each moment is in our hands but we often forget this. We worry about what might happen, what this or that person is going to think, what difficulty we are going to have… What a shame! The most enriching thought is knowing that we only have the present moment. We live the present moment fully if we do the will of God. So that all these moments may be fully lived, Mary Immaculate must live them in our place. We give ourselves to her so that we can profit from all these moments and it may be she who thinks and acts through us.
The value of the present moment does not depend on what we do or the manner in which we do it, but on the fact that we work either out of love for God or from self-love. We must be sanctified at each present moment because we are not certain whether the evening will be ours. The more perfectly we fulfil the task that is ours, the more perfectly we give glory to God – and the more perfectly we fulfil the will of Mary Immaculate.
The present moment is very precious and we should often call to mind how we must be sanctified in it. When the soul wants to sanctify each moment, it begins to discover a new world, a wealth of thoughts and perfections.
Bad christians lack faith and do not deny it; but they claim to be excused in that they have no reasons for believing. Because of this there is nothing as common as this speech in the mouths of many people: “If I had witnessed a miracle I should be a saint”! “Evil and unfaithful generation! It seeks a sign!” (Mt 12:39). The wicked look for signs.
What is even more remarkable about this is that, although they have seen many that take place daily before their eyes, that they are, so to speak, entirely surrounded, they never stop looking for more, like the scribes and Pharisees; they would like to see them in heaven when they have seen them on earth. But neither the dead raised up during the life of the Savior, nor the eclipse of the sun at death, make them believers; their envy becomes stronger, their hatred more malicious; each goes as far as raging yet their unbelief is not healed by it. It used to be like this regarding those who, living badly, wait for miracles in order to believe: “They will not be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead” (Lk 16:31). (…)
All the difficulties that halt unbelievers, all the contradictions they encounter in the dogmas of faith, everything they find apparent contradiction, everything that seems new to them, surprising, contrary to common sense, contrary to reason, inconceivable, impossible, all their arguments, all their so-called demonstrations, all of this far from shaking me, strengthens me even more, makes me immovable in my religion. (…) Every new doubt is for me new reason to believe.
“When this which is corruptible in us clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself in immortality” (1 Cor 15:54), then there will be perfect sweetness, perfect rejoicing, endless praise and love without fear. (…) And here below? Do we not enjoy any kind of joy? (…) Certainly we find joy here below; here we taste in hope of the life to come a joy that will satisfy us completely in heaven.
However, the wheat has much to bear in the midst of the darnel. The seed is mixed up with the straw and the lily grows among the thorns. (…) And indeed, what is it that was spoken to the Church? “As a lily among thorns, so is my beloved among my maidens” (Sg 2:2). It said, “Among my maidens” and not among foreigners. O Lord, what are the consolations you give us? What the comfort? Or rather, what the alarm? Are you calling your own maidens “thorns”? By their behavior they are thorns, he answers, but maidens through my sacraments. (…)
But where is the christian to take refuge, then, if he is not to groan in the midst of false brethren? Where is he to go? What is he to do? Is he to fly away to the desert? Occasions for falling will follow him. Will he who is doing so well separate himself to the extent of not putting up with a single one of his confreres? What about him, then? Supposing nobody was able to put up with him before his conversion? (…) So if, under the pretext of making progress, he cannot bear with anyone else, by this very fact it is clear he hasn’t progressed as yet. Pay careful attention to these words: “Bear with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4:2-3). Isn’t there anything in you that another has to bear?
Who among us can know all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden in Christ and buried within the poverty of his flesh? For, “for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty, you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). Since he came in order to assume our mortal condition and lay low death itself, he appeared as one who was poor. But he who has promised us distant riches has by no means lost those from which he is kept away. “How great is his abundant goodness which he keeps in store for those who fear him; he satisfies those who hope in him” (cf. Ps 31:20). (…)
So that we might be able to lay hold of it, he who is equal to the Father, having the nature of God, became like us by taking the nature of a servant and recreates us in God’s likeness. Having become son of man, the only Son of God transforms numberless men into sons of God. And after having sustained his servants by his own visible nature of a servant, he sets them free to contemplate the nature of God. For “we are God’s children; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he really is” (1 Jn 3:2). For in what do these treasures of wisdom and knowledge and these divine riches consist? In what this abundant goodness? All we know is that it is this that satisfies us.
About the sabbath (…) he also tells them: “I have no patience with your new moons and sabbaths” (Is 1:13). You can see what he is saying there: “It is not these sabbaths of the present age that I find acceptable, but the one of my own appointment: the one that, after I have set all things at rest, is to usher in the Eighth Day, the commencement of a new world.” And we too rejoice in celebrating the eighth day; because that was when Jesus rose from the dead, and showed Himself again, and ascended into heaven.
We come now to the matter of the Temple; and I will show you how mistaken these miserable folk were in pinning their hopes to the building itself, as if that were the home of God, instead of to God their own Creator. (…) But what we have to ask next is: Can there be any such thing as a temple of God at all? To be sure there can – but where He Himself tells us that He is building it and perfecting it. For it is written: “When the week draws to its close, then a Temple of God will be built gloriously in the Name of the Lord” (cf. Tb 14:5). From this I must infer that there is indeed such a thing as a temple. Only, mark that it is to be “built in the Name of the Lord”, for in the days before we believed in God, our hearts were a rotten, shaky abode, and a temple only too truly built with hands, since by our persistent opposition to God we had made them into a chamber of idolatry and a home for demons.
But now “it will be built in the Name of the Lord”. Make sure, too, that this temple of the Lord shall be built “gloriously”, and listen to the way in which this can be done. When we were granted remission of our sins, and came to put our hopes in His Name, we were made new, created all over again from the beginning; and as a consequence of that, God is at this moment actually dwelling within us in that poor habitation of ours.
“I give praise to you,” Jesus says, “because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned.” What? Is he glad at the loss of those who don’t believe in him? Certainly not. How wonderful are God’s designs for people’s salvation! When they turn away from the truth and refuse to accept it, God never forces them but lets them be. Their wandering away stimulates them to find the path again. Returning to their senses, they hastily seek out the grace of the call to faith they had rejected before. As for those who had remained faithful, their devotion becomes even stronger like this. So Christ is glad these things are revealed to some but saddened they are hidden from others. This is made known when he weeps over the city (Lk 19:41). Saint Paul writes in the same spirit: “Thanks be to God! You were once slaves of sin but you have become obedient from the heart” to the Gospel (Rom 6:17). (…)
Who are the wise Jesus is talking about here? The scribes and the Pharisees. He says this to hearten his disciples by showing them of what privileges they have been accounted worthy. Simple fishermen that they are, they have received the illumination that the wise and learned despised. These latter are wise in name only; they think themselves wise but are false scholars. That is why Christ did not say: “You have revealed them to the ignorant” but to “the childlike”, that is to say, simple, honest people. (…) In this way he teaches us to utterly renounce important things and seek out simplicity. Saint Paul goes even further: “If anyone considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool so as to become wise” (1Cor 3:18).
“He was transfigured before them” (Mt 17:2). Mold yourself on this figure as though with soft wax so to imprint the image of Christ on it, of whom it is said: “His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as snow.” In this passage you should keep in mind four things: the face, the sun, the clothing and the snow. In the front of the head, which is called a man’s face, there are three senses that are ordered and disposed in a wonderful way. These are sight, smell, taste. In the same sort of way, in the face of our souls, there are the vision of faith, the smell of discretion and the taste of contemplation. (…)
In the sun there is brightness, whiteness and heat. The brightness of the sun accords perfectly with the vision of faith that, together with the clarity of its light, perceives and believes invisible realities. May the countenance of our souls shine like the sun! May what we see by faith shine in our deeds! May the good we perceive through our interior eyes be brought to fruition externally in the purity of our actions; may what we taste of God in contemplation be transformed to heat in love of neighbor. So, like that of Jesus, our faces “will shine like the sun.”
Christ, who always practiced in his life what he preached, before beginning his ministry spent forty days and forty nights in prayer and fasting, and began his public mission with the joyful message: “The kingdom of God is at hand.” To this he added the command: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”(Mk 1:15) These words constitute, in a way, a compendium of the whole Christian life. The kingdom of God announced by Christ can be entered only by a “change of heart” (“metanoia”) that is to say through an intimate and total change and renewal of the entire man. (…) The invitation of the Son to “metanoia” becomes all the more inescapable inasmuch as he not only preaches it but himself offers an example. Christ, in fact, is the supreme model for those doing penance. He willed to suffer punishment for sins which were not his but those of others.
In the presence of Christ man is illumined with a new light and consequently recognizes the holiness of God and the gravity of sin. Through the word of Christ a message is transmitted to him that invites him to conversion and grants forgiveness of sins. These gifts he fully attains in baptism. This sacrament, in fact, configures him to the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord, and places the whole future of the life of the baptized under the seal of this mystery. Therefore, following the Master, every Christian must renounce himself, take up his own cross and participate in the sufferings of Christ. Thus transformed into the image of Christ’s death, he is made capable of meditating on the glory of the resurrection. Furthermore, following the Master, he can no longer live for himself, but must live for him who loves him and gave himself for him.(Gal 2:20) He will also have to live for his brethren, completing “in his flesh that which is lacking in the sufferings of Christ (…) for the benefit of his body, which is the church”(Col 1:24).
It is yours to grant our prayer, yours to bring our seeking to its term, yours to open the door where we knock (Lk 11:9). For you see us to be naturally dulled by some sort of spiritual laziness, and our spirit’s feebleness (…) prevents us from understanding your mysteries. (…) Here, then, is our expectation: that you will strengthen the first beginnings of this daunting project, affirm the progress of our enterprise and call us to participate in the Spirit who guided your prophets and apostles. In this way we won’t understand their words in a different sense to the one they intended. (…)
Indeed, we will affirm what they declared in their sacred teaching: that you, eternal God, are the Father of the eternal God, your only Son. You alone are the only one not to have been born and our Lord Jesus Christ is the only one to have been born of you by an eternal birth, yet without differing from you to the extent of suggesting there to be really two gods. Yes indeed, we must make it known that he who is the Only God was fathered by you. We must firmly declare it: he is nothing other than true God born of you, our true God and Father.
Therefore grant us to give these words their true meaning, pour light into our minds (…) and set our faith firmly in the truth. Enable us to say what we believe (…): that you are one God and Father and that there is one Lord Jesus Christ. May we acclaim you (…), may we revere you, one God who yet is not alone, and may we declare him to be, himself, true God.
My brethren, when was it that the Lord made himself recognized? When he broke the bread. So we ourselves are convinced, too, that when we break the bread we recognize the Lord. If he hadn’t wanted to be recognized until that moment it was for our sakes, we who were not to see him in the flesh but who were yet to eat him in the flesh. So you who believe in him, whoever you are, you who do not bear the name of christian in vain, who do not come casually into church, who hear the word of God in fear and hope: for you the broken bread will be a consolation. Our Lord’s absence is not a real absence. Trust, be faithful and he is with you even if you do not see him.
When the Lord hailed them, the disciples had no faith. They did not believe in his resurrection, they did not even hope that he might be raised. They had lost faith; they had lost hope. They were dead men walking alongside a living one; they were walking, dead, with life. Life was walking with them but, in their hearts, life was not as yet renenewed.
And do you long for life? Imitate the disciples and you will recognize the Lord. They offered hospitality; our Lord seemed determined to proceed on his way but they held him back (…) You too, then, keep hold of the stranger if you wish to recognize your Savior (…) Learn where to look for the Lord, where to possess him, where to recognize him: in breaking bread with him.
A Church which “goes forth” is a Church whose doors are open. (…) The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open (…) Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. This is especially true of the sacrament which is itself “the door”: baptism. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. (…) But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.
If the whole Church takes up this missionary impulse, she has to go forth to everyone without exception. But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbours, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked, “those who cannot repay you” (Lk 14:14). There can be no room for doubt or for explanations which weaken so clear a message. Today and always, “the poor are the privileged recipients of the Gospel” (Benedict XVI) (…) We have to state, without mincing words, that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them.
Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ. (…) If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. (…) At our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mt 14:16; Mk 6:37; Lk 9:13).
How can someone with little or no faith be made to realize that an ant grows wings, a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, and many other strange and unexpected things happen in nature, so that in this way he shakes off the sickness of unbelief and despair, himself acquires wings and buds in spiritual knowledge like a tree? “I am He,” God says, “who makes the dry tree flourish; I give life to dry bones” (cf. Ezek 17:24; 37:1-14). (…)
Sometimes our soul grows despondent at the huge swarm of its sins and temptations, and says: “Our hope is gone and we are lost” (Ezek 37:11 LXX). Yet God, who does not despair of our salvation, says to us: “You shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezek 37:6).To the soul that doubts how it can ever give birth to Christ through great acts of holiness, these words are said: “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you” (Lk 1:35). Where the Holy Spirit is present do not expect anymore the sequence and laws of nature and habit. The Holy Spirit whom we worship is all-powerful, and in an astonishing way he brings into existence what does not as yet exist within us. The intellect that was previously defeated he now makes victorious.
For the Paraclete who in compassion comes upon us from above “is higher than all” (Jn 3:31), and he raises us above all natural impulses.
“The commandment of the Lord shines clearly, enlightening the eyes” (Ps 18 :9). Receive O Christ, receive power to see, receive your light, that you may plainly recognize both God and man. (…) Let us open ourselves to the light and so to God. Let us open ourselves to the light and become disciples of the Lord. (…) Let us shake off forgetfulness of truth, shake off the mist of ignorance and darkness that dims our eyes, and contemplate the true God. (…) For upon us who are buried in darkness, imprisoned in the shadow of death, a heavenly light has shone, a light of a clarity surpassing the sun’s, and of a sweetness exceeding any this earthly life can offer. That light is eternal life, and those who receive it live. Night, on the other hand, is afraid of the light, and melting away in terror gives place to the day of the Lord. Unfailing light has penetrated everywhere, and sunset has turned into dawn.
This is the meaning of the new creation (Gal 6:15; Rv 21:1) for the Sun of Righteousness (Mal 3:20), pursuing his course through the universe, visits all alike, in imitation of his Father, “who makes his sun rise upon all” (Mt 5:45) and bedews everyone with his truth. (…) He it is who has changed sunset into dawn and death into life by his crucifixion; he it is who has snatched the human race from perdition and exalted it to the skies. Transplanting what was corruptible to make it incorruptible he has transformed earth into heaven. (…)
He deifies us by his heavenly teaching, by “instilling his laws into our minds, and writing them on our hearts. That all, be they of high estate or low, shall know that I am God. And I will be merciful to them,” God says, “and I will remember their sin no more” (Jr 31:33f.). Let us accept the laws of life, then; let us obey God’s promptings; let us learn to know him.
The Shepherd of all has descended;
he sought out Adam, his sheep that was lost.
On his shoulders he bore him and returned;
he made sacrifice of himself to the Lord of the flock (Lk 15:4; Jn 10:11).
Blessed be his coming down to us!
Life-giving dew and vivifying rain,
he fell upon Mary’s thirsty ground.
As a grain of wheat he descended to earth
and rose up, a sheaf and new-baked bread (Jn 12:24).
Blessed be his offering! (…)
From the heights has power come down for us,
from the Virgin’s womb hope has shone for us,
from the tomb has life appeared for us
and sits at the Father’s right as king for us.
In the heights he flowed down like a river;
he came from Mary like a shoot;
he hung on the tree like a fruit
and returned as firstfruit to heaven.
Blessed be his will!
Father, you give us grace through sacramental signs,
which tells us of the wonders of your unseen power.
In baptism we use your gifts of water,
which you have made a rich symbol
of the grace you give us in this sacrament.
At the very dawn of creation
your Spirit breathed on the waters,
making them the wellspring of all holiness.
The waters of the great flood
you made a sign of the waters of baptism,
that make an end of sin and a new beginning of goodness.
Through the waters of the Red Sea
you led Israel out of slavery,
to be an image of God’s holy people,
set free from sin by baptism.
By the waters of the Jordan
your Son was baptised by John
and anointed with the Spirit.
Your Son willed that water and blood
should flow from his side
as he hung upon the cross.
After his resurrection, he told his disciples:
‘Go out and teach all nations,
baptising them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’
Father, look now with love upon your Church,
and unseal for her the fountain of baptism.
By the power of the Spirit
give to the water of this font
the grace of your Son.
You created humankind in your own likeness:
cleanse us from sin in a new birth of innocence
by water and the Spirit.
We ask you, Father, with your Son,
to send the Holy Spirit upon the waters of this font.
May all who are buried with Christ
in the death of baptism
rise also with him to newness of life.
Jesus entrusted to [the fearful, astounded disciples] the gift of “forgiving sins”, a gift that flows from the wounds in his hands, his feet, and especially from his pierced side. From there a wave of mercy is poured out over all humanity.
Let us relive this moment with great spiritual intensity. Today the Lord also shows us his glorious wounds and his heart, an inexhaustible source of light and truth, of love and forgiveness. The Heart of Christ! His “Sacred Heart” has given men everything: redemption, salvation, sanctification. (…)
Through the mystery of this wounded heart, the restorative tide of God’s merciful love continues to spread over the men and women of our time. Here alone can those who long for true and lasting happiness find its secret. “Jesus, I trust in you”. This prayer, dear to so many of the faithful, clearly expresses the attitude with which we too would like to abandon ourselves trustfully into your hands, O Lord, our only Savior.
You are burning with the desire to be loved, O Jesus, and those in tune with the sentiments of your heart learn how to build the new civilization of love. A simple act of abandonment is enough to overcome the barriers of darkness and sorrow, of doubt and desperation. The rays of your divine mercy restore hope, in a special way, to those who feel overwhelmed by the burden of sin.
Duc in altum! “let us cast out into deep waters!” (Lk 5:4). Let us go forward in hope! A new millennium is opening before the Church like a vast ocean upon which we shall venture, relying on the help of Christ. The Son of God, who became incarnate two thousand years ago out of love for humanity, is at work even today: we need discerning eyes to see this and, above all, a generous heart to become the instruments of his work. (…) “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). The missionary mandate accompanies us into the Third Millennium and urges us to share the enthusiasm of the very first Christians: we can count on the power of the same Spirit who was poured out at Pentecost and who impels us still today to start out anew, sustained by the hope “which does not disappoint” (Rom 5:5).
At the beginning of this new century, our steps must quicken as we travel the highways of the world. Many are the paths on which each one of us and each of our Churches must travel, but there is no distance between those who are united in the same communion, the communion which is daily nourished at the table of the Eucharistic Bread and the Word of Life. Every Sunday, the Risen Christ asks us to meet him as it were once more in the Upper Room where, on the evening of “the first day of the week” (Jn 20:19) he appeared to his disciples in order to “breathe” on them his life-giving Spirit and launch them on the great adventure of proclaiming the Gospel.
After his resurrection the Lord appeared to his disciples and greeted them, saying: “Peace be with you!” Peace is what this saving salutation truly is since the word “salutation” derives from the word for “salvation”. What more could one hope for? Man receives greetings of salvation in person, for our salvation is Christ. Yes, he is our salvation, he who was wounded for our sake and nailed to the tree then descended from the tree and placed in a tomb. But he is risen from the tomb and his wounds are healed although still keeping their scars. That his scars remain is a help to his disciples so that the wounds in their hearts might be healed. What wounds are these? The wounds of their unbelief. He appeared before their eyes in a genuine bodily form and “they thought they were seeing a ghost”. This is no light wound to their heart. (…)
But what does the Lord Jesus say? “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?” It is good for man, not that thoughts should arise in his heart but that his heart should arise – arise, that is to say, to where the apostle Paul wanted to set the hearts of the faithful when he said to them: “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory” (Col 3:1-4). What glory is this? The glory of the resurrection. (…)
As for us, we believe in the word of these disciples without their having shown us the Savior’s risen body. (…) But at that time such an event seemed unbelievable. And so our Savior led them to believe, not by sight alone but by touch, so that by means of the senses faith might enter their hearts and be preached throughout the world to those who had neither seen nor touched but who, nevertheless, would believe unhesitatingly (cf. Jn 20:29).
Brethren, let us turn to the account of Christ’s appearances to his disciples after the Resurrection, which are most important, first, as showing that such an unconscious communion with him is possible; next, that it is likely to be the sort of communion now granted to us, from the circumstance that in that period of forty days after the Resurrection, he began to be in that relation towards his Church, in which he is still, and probably intended to intimate to us thereby what his presence with us is now.
Now observe what was the nature of His presence in the Church after his Resurrection. It was this, that he came and went as he pleased; that material substances, such as the fastened doors, were no impediments to his coming; and that when he was present his disciples did not, as a matter of course, know him. (…) The two disciples on the way to Emmaus do not seem to have been conscious of this at the time, but on looking back, they recollected that as having been, which did not strike them while it was. “Did not,” they say, “did not our heart burn within us?” (…)
Let us observe, too, when it was that their eyes were opened… when he consecrated and brake the Bread. There is evidently a stress laid on this in the gospel… for so it was ordained, that Christ should not be both seen and known at once; first he was seen, then he was known. Only by faith is he known to be present… He removed his visible presence, and left but a memorial of himself. He vanished from sight that he might be present in a sacrament; and in order to connect his visible presence with his presence invisible, He for one instant manifested himself to their open eyes; manifested himself, if I may so speak, while he passed from his hiding-place of sight without knowledge, to that of knowledge without sight.
The King of all reigns forever and there is neither beginning nor end to His kingdom. To those, then, who choose to serve Him and who for His sake strive to attain holiness, He grants a reward infinitely greater than that granted by any earthly ruler. The honors of this present life, however splendid, come to an end when we die; but the honors bestowed by God on those whom He regards as worthy are incorruptible and so endure forever. (…)
It is written: “I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall come to all people” (Lk 2:10), not just to some people. Again, it is written: “Let all the earth worship thee and sing to thee” (Ps 65:4 LXX), not just part of the earth. This singing is an expression not of grief but of rejoicing. Since this is so, let us not despair but pass through this present life cheerfully, conscious of its joys. Yet we should temper our gladness with the fear of God, keeping in mind the words: “Rejoice in the Lord with trembling” (Ps 2:11 LXX). Mary Magdalene and the women with her ran from Christ’s tomb with both fear and great joy (cf. Mt 28:8), and perhaps we, too, shall one day come out of our spiritual tomb with fear and joy. I should be surprised if we were to do so without fear, for there is no one without sin, not even Moses or the apostle Peter. But, at the time of the departure of such men from this life, God’s love proves victorious and casts out fear (1 Jn 4:18).
If you wish to be called wise, intelligent, and the friend of God, strive to present your soul to the Lord in the same state as you received it from him: pure, innocent, completely undefiled. Then you will be crowned in heaven and the angels will call you blessed.
Here is a wise saying: “The day of prosperity makes one forget adversity” (Sir 11:25). Today the first sentence passed against us has been forgotten – more! not just forgotten but cancelled! This day has wiped away completely all remembrance of our condemnation. In former times childbearing took place in pain; now we are born without suffering. Formerly we were no more than flesh, born of the flesh; today, what is born is spirit, born of the Spirit. Yesterday we were born mere children of men; today we are born children of God. Yesterday we were cast out of heaven to the earth; today, he who reigns in the heavens makes us citizens of heaven. Yesterday, death reigned because of sin; today, thanks to him who is the Life, righteousness regains its might.
In former times one man opened for us the gates of death; today, the one man brings us back to life. Yesterday, life was lost to us because of death; but today, Life has destroyed death. Yesterday, shame caused us to hide ourselves beneath the fig tree; today, glory draws us towards the tree of life. Yesterday, disobedience expelled us from Paradise; today, our faith causes us to enter it. Once again the fruit of life is held out to us to be enjoyed as much as we wish. Once again the stream of Paradise, whose water irrigates us through the four rivers of the gospels (cf. Gn 2:10), comes to refresh the whole face of the Church. (…)
From now on what are we to do but imitate the mountains and hills of the prophecies in their leaping for joy: “Mountains, skip like rams; hills, like lambs of the flock!” (Ps 114:4). “Come, then, let us sing joyfully to the Lord!” (Ps 95:1). He has broken the power of the enemy and raised up the great trophy of the cross… So let us say: “The Lord is a great God and a great king above all gods!” (Ps 95,3). He blesses the year by crowning it with his bounty (cf. Ps 65:12) and he gathers us together in spiritual chorus in Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory for endless ages. Amen.
On one occasion the good Lord said: “All shall be well.” On another: “You will see for yourself that all shall be well.” In these two sayings the soul discerns (…) that not only does he care for great and noble things, but equally for little and small, lowly and simple things as well. This is his meaning: “All shall be well.”
We are to know that the least thing will not be forgotten. Another is this: we see deeds done that are so evil, and injuries inflicted that are so great, that it seems to us quite impossible that any good can come of them. As we consider these, sorrowfully and mournfully, we cannot relax in the blessed contemplation of God as we ought. This is caused by the fact that our reason is now so blind, base, and ignorant that we are unable to know that supreme and marvellous wisdom, might, and goodness which belong to the blessed Trinity. (…) It is as if he were saying: “Be careful now to believe and trust, and in the end you will see it all in its fullness and joy.” (…)
There still remains a deed which the blessed Trinity will do at the last Day – at least so I see it – yet when and how it will be done is unknown to all God’s creatures under Christ, and will remain so until it takes place. The reason why he wants us to know about this deed is that he would have us more at ease in our minds and more at peace in our love, and not be concerned with those storms and stresses that stop us from truly enjoying him. This great deed, ordained by the Lord God from before time, and treasured and hid within his blessed heart, is known only to himself. By it he will make everything to turn out well. For just as the blessed Trinity made everything out of nothing, in the same way shall he make all that is wrong to turn out for the best.
“If the Law calls them gods to whom the word of God came, and scripture cannot be set aside,how can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” Yes indeed, if God has spoken to us so that we might be called ‘gods’, how could the Word of God, the Word that is in God, not be God? If we have been made sharers in his nature and have become gods because God speaks to us, how could this Word, through which this gift comes to us, not be God? (…) As for you, you approach the Light and receive it and are counted among the children of God, but if you draw back you become dark and are counted among the children of darkness (cf. 1 Thes 5:5). (…)
“Believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I in the Father.” The Son of God does not say “the Father is in me and I in the Father” in the same sense as we are able to do. In effect, if our thoughts are good, we are in God; if our lives are holy, God is in us. When we are sharers in his grace and enlightened by his light then we are in him and he in us. But (…) recognize what is proper to the Lord and what is a gift made to his servant. What is proper to the Lord is his equality with the Father, but the gift granted to his servant is to participate in the Savior.
“Then they tried to seize him.” If only they had seized him! But by faith and intellect, not so as to mock and put him to death! At this very moment, as I speak to you (…), all of us, both you and I, are wanting to seize Christ. To ‘seize’, what does that mean? You have ‘seized’ when you have understood. But Christ’s enemies were looking for something different. You have seized in order to possess but they wanted to seize him in order to get rid of him. And because this was how they wanted to seize him, what does Jesus do? “He escaped from their power.” They were unable to seize him because they did not have the hands of faith. (…) We truly seize Christ if our minds grasp the Word.
Blessed Columba Marmion from Our faith, the victory over the world (Christ, the Ideal of the Monk, rev.)
By faith we adhere to Christ and the edifice of our spiritual life becomes thereby firm and stable. Christ makes us share in the stability of the divine rock against which even hell’s fury cannot prevail (Mt 16:18).
Thus divinely sustained, we are conquerors over the assaults and temptations of the world and of the devil, the prince of this world (1 Jn 5:4). The devil, and the world which the devil uses as an accomplice, offer violence to us or solicit us; by faith in the word of Jesus we come out victorious from these attacks. (…)Now, the devil is “the father of lies and the prince of darkness” (cf. Eph 6:12) while God is ” the Truth” and “in Him is no darkness” (cf. Jn 14:6; 1 Jn 1:5). If we always listen to God, we shall always be victorious. When our Lord, who is our model in all things, was tempted, he repulsed temptation by placing the authority of God’s Word in opposition to each solicitation of the Evil One. We ought to do the same and repulse hell’s attacks by faith in Jesus’s word. (…)
What is true of the devil is true of the world: it is by faith that we overcome it. When people have a living faith in Christ, they fear neither difficulties nor opposition, nor the world’s judgments because they know that Christ abides in us by faith and because they rely on Him.
Wonder is the source from which philosophers draw their great learning. They encounter and reflect on the marvels of nature, such as earthquakes or thunder (…) or eclipses of the sun and moon, for example. Moved by these wonders, they seek out their cause. Thus, by patient research and extensive investigation, they attain remarkable knowledge and subtlety, which men call “natural philosophy”.
But there is another, even higher form of philosophy, above that of nature, to which one likewise attains through wonder: this is the philosophy of christians. And there is no question that, of all that characterises christian doctrine, it is particularly wonderful and marvellous that the Son of God, for love of man, consented to be crucified and to die on the cross (…). Is it not astonishing that he, for whom we should have the most respectful awe, felt such fear that he sweated water and blood? (…) Is it not astonishing that he, who gives life to every creature, should have endured so humiliating, cruel and painful a death?
And so, those who strive to meditate on and wonder at so extraordinary a “book” as is the cross, with sensitive heart and sincere faith, will attain a far more fruitful knowledge than many another who daily studies and meditates on ordinary books. For the true christian this book is sufficient as an object of study for all the days of his life.
The Lord Jesus, the Savior of all, “made himself all things to all men” (1 Cor 9:22) in such a way that he revealed himself as being smaller than the small, he who was greater than the great. To save a soul who was surprised in adultery and accused by the demons, he lowered himself to the point of writing on the ground with his finger (…). He himself is the holy and sublime ladder that the traveler Jacob saw in his sleep (Gen 28:12) (…), the ladder that was set up from the earth to God and that God held out to the earth. When he wants, he goes up to God. Sometimes he is accompanied by a few people (…) and sometimes no one can follow him. And when he wants, he joins the crowd (…), he heals lepers, eats with publicans and sinners (…), touches the sick to heal them.
Blessed is the soul that can follow the Lord Jesus wherever he goes, going up to the rest of contemplation (…) and on the other hand, coming down by the practice of charity, following him to the point of lowering itself in service, of loving poverty, of bearing with (…) fatigue, work, tears, prayer, and finally compassion and the passion. For he came in order to obey even to death, to serve and not to be served, not to give gold or silver but his teaching and his help to the many, his life for the many (Mk 10:45) (…)
So, brethren, may this be the model for your life: (…) to follow Christ by going up to the Father, (…) to follow Christ by going down to your neighbor, refusing no practice of charity, making yourselves all things to all persons.
“Lazarus, come out!” Laid to rest in the tomb, you heard the resounding call. Is there any voice greater than that of the Word? Then you came out, you who were dead not merely for four days but for a very long time indeed. You were raised with Christ (…); your burial bands fell to the ground. Do not fall back again now into death; do not rejoin those who dwell in the tombs; do not allow yourself to be stifled by the burial bands of your sins. For would you be able to come back to life once again? Would you be able to bring out from the death of here below the resurrection of all men at the end of time? (…)
So let the Lord’s call resound in your ears! Do not close them today to the teaching and admonitions of the Lord. If you used to be blind, without light in your tomb, open your eyes lest you sink into the sleep of death. In the light of the Lord, behold light; in the Spirit of God, fix your eyes on the Son. If you take to yourself the Word in its entirety then you focus onto your soul all the power of Christ who heals and restores to life (…). Don’t be afraid to put some work into preserving your baptismal purity and set the ways that lead to the Lord within your heart. Take care to preserve the act of acquittal, which you received through pure grace (…).
Let us be light, as the disciples learned from he who is the great Light: “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5,14). Let us be lamps in this world by holding up on high the Word of life, by being a life force for others. Let us set out in search of God, in search of the one who is the first and purest of lights.
Christ instituted this new covenant, the new testament, that is to say, in His Blood, calling together a people made up of Jew and gentile, making them one, not according to the flesh but in the Spirit. This was to be the new People of God (…): “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people . . . who in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God” (1Pt 2:9-10)
This messianic people, although it does not actually include all men, and at times may look like a small flock, is nonetheless a lasting and sure seed of unity, hope and salvation for the whole human race. Established by Christ as a communion of life, charity and truth, it is also used by Him as an instrument for the redemption of all, and is sent forth into the whole world as the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Mt 5:13f.)… God gathered together as one all those who in faith look upon Jesus as the author of salvation and the source of unity and peace, and established them as the Church that for each and all it may be the visible sacrament of this saving unity.
While it transcends all limits of time and confines of race, the Church is destined to extend to all regions of the earth and so enters into the history of mankind. Moving forward through trial and tribulation, the Church is strengthened by the power of God’s grace, which was promised to her by the Lord, so that in the weakness of the flesh she may not waver from perfect fidelity, but remain a bride worthy of her Lord, and moved by the Holy Spirit may never cease to renew herself, until through the Cross she arrives at the light which knows no setting.
Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
you fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone
Where have you hidden? This is like saying: “O Word, my Spouse, show me where you are hidden”. In her petition she seeks the manifestation of his divine essence, because the hiding place of the Word of God is, as St. John asserts, the bosom of the Father (Jn 1:18), that is, the divine essence, which is hidden from every mortal eye and hidden from every human intellect. Isaiah proclaimed in speaking to God: “Indeed, you are a hidden God “(Is. 45:15).
It is noteworthy that, however elevated God’s communications and the experiences of his presence are, and however sublime a person’s knowledge of him may be, these are not God essentially, nor are they comparable to him because, indeed, he is still hidden to the soul. Hence, regardless of all these lofty experiences, a person should think of him as hidden and seek him as one who is hidden, saying: “Where have you hidden?” Neither the sublime communication nor the sensible awareness of his nearness is a sure testimony of his gracious presence, nor are dryness and the lack of these a reflection of his absence. As a result, the prophet Job exclaims: “If he comes to me I shall not see him, and if he goes away I shall not understand” (Jb 9:11).
It must be understood from this that if a person experiences some elevated spiritual communication or feeling or knowledge, it should not be thought that the experiences are similar to the clear and essential vision or possession of God, or that the communication, no matter how remarkable it is, signifies a more notable possession of God or union with him. It should be known, too, that if all these sensible and spiritual communications are wanting and individuals live in dryness, darkness, and dereliction, they must not thereby think that God is any more absent… The soul’s chief aim in this verse is not to ask for sensible devotion, in which there is neither certain nor clear possession of the Bridegroom in this life, but for the manifest presence and vision of his divine essence, in which she desires to be secure and satisfied in the next life.
In the beginning the Lord, who had created humankind, used to talk to man himself in such a way that man could hear him. That is how he used to talk to Adam (…) and, later, with Noah and Abraham. So too, even when humankind had thrown itself into the abyss of sin, God did not break his relationship with them, even though it was necessarily less familiar since they had made themselves unworthy of it. He consented to renew his kindly feelings towards them although as by letters, as with an absent friend. Thus, in his goodness, he could bind all humankind to himself again. Moses was he who was the bearer of the letters God sent us.
Let us open these letters : what are their first words ? “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”. Isn’t that wonderful ? (…) Moses, who came into the world many centuries afterwards, was truly inspired from above to give us an account of the wonders God made at the world’s creation. (…) Doesn’t he appear to tell us clearly : “Did men teach me what I’m about to make known ? Not at all. The Creator alone, who wrought all these marvels, is the one who guides my tongue to teach you them. From now on, I beg you, put to silence every argument of human reasoning. Don’t just listen to this account as though it were only Moses’ word. It is God himself who speaks to you ; Moses is only his interpreter.” (…)
So, brethren, let us receive the Word of God with thankful and humble hearts. (…) For God is he who created all things, he it is who prepares everything and sets it wisely in order. (…) He it is who leads man by what can be seen to a knowledge of the Creator of the universe. He it is who teaches man to contemplate the supreme Worker in his works in such a way that he might be able to worship his Creator.
Go down, my brothers, and put on the Holy Spirit in the waters of baptism;
be united with those spiritual beings who serve our God.
Blessed be He who instituted baptism for the forgiveness of Adam’s sons!
This water is the secret fire that marks his flock with a sign:
with the three spiritual names that confound the Evil one (cf. Rev 3:12). (…)
John bore witness concerning our Saviour: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Mt 3:11).
Here, my brethren, in the true baptism, is that fire and that Spirit.
For baptism is more powerful than Jordan, that little stream;
Its waves of water and oil wash away all human sin.
Elisha, by initiating it seven times, purified Naaman of his leprosy (2 Kgs 5:10);
whereas baptism purifies us of sins hidden in our souls.
Moses baptized the people in the sea (1 Cor. 10:2)
yet could not cleanse their hearts from within,
Stained, as they were, by sin.
And now here is a priest, like Moses, who cleanses the soul from its stains
and with oil he marks with a sign lambs newborn for the Kingdom. (…)
With the water that flowed from the rock, the people’s thirst was quelled (Ex 17:1f.);
See how, through Christ and his spring, is quenched the thirst of nations. (…)
See how, from Christ’s side, there flows a life-giving stream (Jn 19:34);
peoples who thirst have drunk from it and there forgot their affliction.
Pour your dew on my weakness, Lord;
By your blood, forgive my sins.
“Whoever examines the majesty of God will be crushed by his glory” (Prv 25:27 Vg). God can do works that pass man’s understanding. (…) Faith is required of you and sincerity of life; not high intelligence, nor penetrating knowledge of the mysteries of God. If you do not understand nor grasp what is below you, how will you comprehend what is above you? Be subject to God, submit your feeling to the faith, and the light of knowledge will be given to you as much as you need and can use.
Some have grave temptations concerning faith and sacrament; which are not to be imputed to them, but rather to the enemy. Take no notice, do not argue with your thoughts, nor answer the doubts with which the devil attacks you; believe God’s word, believe his saints and prophets, and the wicked enemy will be routed. It is often most profitable to God’s servant to endure such things. For the devil does not tempt the infidel or sinner, of whom he has already secure possession; but he uses various means to tempt and harass the devout faithful.
Go on then with simple unquestioning faith, and approach the Sacrament with reverent beseeching. Anything you cannot understand, commit it surely to God who is omnipotent. God does not deceive you; the over-confident person deceives himself. God walks in step with the simple ones, He shows himself to the humble ones, He grants understanding to the little ones; “He reveals hidden meanings to little ones” and hides away his grace from the inquisitive and the proud. Human reason is feeble and fallible; but true faith cannot be deceived. All use of reason, all human inquiry should walk in the footsteps of faith; it should not go on in front of it nor call it in question.
All-powerful God, Benefactor and Creator of the universe,
hearken to my groaning in my peril.
Deliver me from fear and anguish;
free. me by the strength of your might, you who can do all…
O Lord Christ, cut the threads of my net
with the sword of your triumphant cross, with the weapon of life.
This net encompasses me on every side,
holding me captive so as to bring me to my death;
Guide to their rest my tottering and unsteady steps;
heal the stifling fever of my heart.
I stand guilty before you: take away from me my distress, the devil’s ploy;
remove the darkness of my anguished soul…
Renew in my soul the light-filled image of the glory of your name,
so great and so powerful.
Intensify the brilliance of your grace upon the beauty of my face
and on the image of the eyes of my spirit, I who am born of the earth (Gn 2:7).
Let my darkness vanish in a radiant purity, sinner that I am.
Drown my soul in your living, eternal, heavenly divine light
so that the likeness of God the Trinity may increase within me.
You alone, O Christ, are blessed, together with the Father
for the praise of your Holy Spirit
for endless ages. Amen.