MAY 31 Mon The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Feast
Zep 3:14-18a or Rom 12:9-16/Lk 1:39-56
JUNE 1 Tue Saint Justin, Martyr (Ninth Week in Ordinary Time)
Memorial Tb 2:9-14/Mk 12:13-17
2 Wed Weekday [Saints Marcellinus and Peter, Martyrs]
Tb 3:1-11a, 16-17a/Mk 12:18-27
3 Thu Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs Memorial
Tb 6:10-11; 7:1bcde, 9-17; 8:4-9a/Mk 12:28-34
4 Fri Weekday Tb 11:5-17/Mk 12:35-37
5 Sat Saint Boniface, Bishop and Martyr Memorial Tb 12:1, 5-15, 20/Mk 12:38-44
6 SUN THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST (Corpus Christi) Solemnity
Ex 24:3-8/Heb 9:11-15/Mk 14:12-16, 22-26
A feast of Mary occurs every month in the calendar. This month it’s the Visitation (May 31), placed between the Feast of the Annunciation (March 15) and the Birth of John the Baptist (June 24) Mary brings good news to her older cousin Elizabeth, who will give birth to John. Mary always brings the Good News of her Son to us too.Three years ago, we dedicated our Mary Garden.
The memorials in the calendar signify important saints for remembrance. Charles Lwanga and Companions, June 3rd, recall the spread of the gospel to Japan; Boniface, June 5th, recalls the gospel reaching the Germanic peoples. The Martyr Justin, June 1st, is remembered for introducing the gospel to the philosophers of the Roman world.
The Book of Tobit is our first reading most of the week. Listen as this good man wrestles with the challenge of exile, blindness and the fears that come from personal loss. In the distance, rescue waits. Great story.
Our selections in our liturgy from the Book of Sirach end today with an old man’s reflections on growing in faith from his childhood. Far from the drudgery of rote learning, Sirach saw it take place in prayer and celebrating the Jewish feasts, bringing him wisdom and joy:
“When I was young and innocent, I sought wisdom openly in my prayer. I prayed for her before the temple and I will seek her until the end…My heart delighted in her, my feet kept to the level path because I was familiar with her.”
The journey of faith begins from childhood. Fortunate are those who, like Sirach, get to know faith from the beginning of their lives and never cease to be instructed in her “secrets”. They will keep to the right path.
Sirach, “Ecclesiasticus”, was a staple source for the catechesis of the early Christian church. You can see why. The learning Sirach describes is not knowing short questions and answers and then you got it. Catechesis, as you see in Sirach, is a introduction to the mystery of God, which begins from childhood and carries on until the end. It’s not a lesson in human behavior. It’s a prayerful search into what was, what is and what ever shall be. It goes far beyond the human world.
It’s learning by doing, and blessed are those who meet with this kind of “great instruction”.
“Saint” Sirach pray for us and may we follow your example.
In today’s readings in our liturgy from the Book of Sirach, the kindly Jewish father and grandfather offers advice on what people to follow, who are examples showing us how to live? He picks saints over celebrities. Some are remembered by society, some are not.
For 6 chapters (44-50) Sirach cites names celebrated in Jewish history, from Adam to Nehemiah “who rebuilt our ruined walls.” They gave themselves to building up the people of Israel; they’re not just people in the news. They helped others and their nation achieve something. For Sirach they’re Israel’s litany of saints. He tells those who come after him to follow them.
Good advice for us too. In a society today obsessed with celebrities we need to study and follow the saints. Our church calendar offers a selection of them on certain days of the year, some recognized the world over, like Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the apostles, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Theresa of Avila. They teach us how to live and are examples to follow.
There are saints and blessed men and women from our own countries who guide us too. Here in America, we have saints like St. Elizabeth Seton, St. Elizabeth Cabrini, St. John Neumann, Dorothy Day, the North American martyrs, to name of few.
What’s more, the saints to follow may not be formally recognized, the Book of Sirach notes. They’re saints we know and live with. Like Sirach, Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudete et exultate” calls attention to ordinary holiness in our world found in “the saints next door”: “Their lives may not always have been perfect, yet even amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord.” (3)
Ordinary men and women we’ve known, the “saints next door”, guide and support us through life. God’s wisdom and grace is given through them. They’re there and they’re never mentioned in the media.
This week we’re reading selections in the lectionary from the Book of Sirach. The Book of Sirach, written in the early 2nd century BC, is a compilation of a Jewish father’s or grandfather’s advice to his son or grandson. Formerly, it was called the Book of Ecclesiasticus, because it was used extensively by the church to teach catechumens and young people about right living and morality.
It’s more than a book of do’s and dont’s, of memorized commandments or little gems of human wisdom. It puts human life and creation itself in the context of God’s plan.
You can see that in today’s reading:
“How beautiful are all his works!
even to the spark and fleeting vision!
The universe lives and abides forever;
to meet each need, each creature is preserved.
All of them differ, one from another,
yet none of them has he made in vain,
For each in turn, as it comes, is good;
can one ever see enough of their splendor?” (Sirach 42:20-25)
The simplest, smallest thing that passes quickly away, like a spark or fleeting vision, is beautiful–like the small pollinators at work now in our garden or the spring fireflies in our night sky, Each thing has its place in the universe, Sirach says. “All of them differ, one from another, yet none of them has God made in vain.”
Sirach sees creation as Pope Francis does in Laudato si’. “For each in turn, as it comes, is good; can one ever see enough of their splendor?” Creation is given to us, not to be exploited or judged by our needs, but to reveal God’s glory. We live in a world of mutuality and interconnectedness, where the smallest have a place.
That way of looking at creation is also the way to look at humanity, Sirach tells his son and grandson. Be humble and don’t miss those who live humbly, the poor, the widow, the suffering, the sick. Be honest and truthful and generous and kind. See God in humanity, especially where God seems in disguise.
Does Sirach, an old catechetical work, offer a framework for catechesis today, which may be too humanly oriented in its approach? I think it does.
For the next 6 months we’re living in what our liturgical calendar calls “Ordinary Time,” which follows the Feast of Pentecost. It’s the time of the Holy Spirit. We’re not orphans. As Jesus promised the Holy Spirit will teach us all things and lead us on our way. The lenten and easter seasons, recalling the death and resurrection of Jesus, are over. The seasons of Advent and Christmas are months away.
We’re living in the time of the church, when the Holy Spirit dwelling within forms us to be “children of God,” who cry out to God, “Abba, Father!” (Romans 8,14-17) We’re a holy people, saints of God.
Saints? But aren’t saints perfect? Far from perfect, we’re rather like that field of weeds and wheat God’s word falls on, sometimes heard, sometimes not. Yet God sows grace in us, calling us to be holy as God is holy.
The universal call to holiness is one of the most important teachings of the Second Vatican Council, and it’s one of Pope Francis’ favorite topics which, in his letter on Christian holiness, “Gaudete et Exultate,” he explores in his homey concrete style.
Don’t miss “the saints next door,” he says. “These witnesses may include our own mothers, grandmothers or other loved ones (cf. 2 Tim 1:5). Their lives may not always have been perfect, yet even amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord.”
“I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it’s a holiness found in our next-door neighbors, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them “the middle class of holiness”. (7]
“Each in his or her own way,” we’re called to holiness, the Vatican Council says. Each of us has to discern God’s call, to find our own path, to discover the gifts God gives. We don’t have to follow someone else’s path or have someone else’s gifts. To be holy means to grow with the gifts we have from God.
Ordinary time begins today with a feast of Mary, Mother of the Church, mother of saints. Faithful hearer of the Spirit, she knows the meaning of daily patience. To use a term from Pope Francis, she’s Mary “next door.” She’s with us day by day. She’s at home with the day by day saints. She’s Mother of the Church.
O God, Father of mercies, your Only Begotten Son, as he hung upon the Cross, chose the Blessed Virgin Mary, his Mother, to be our Mother also. Grant, we pray, that with her loving help your Church may be more fruitful day by day and by the holiness of her children, draw to her embrace all the families of the earth.. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
The Venerable Bede (672-735), whose feast day is May 25th, was destined from his birth to be a monk. Born near Wearmouth Abby in England,, he spent his life in that monastery from his earliest years, and became a scholar, teacher and spiritual guide. His commentaries on scripture and the history of England were known far beyond the place where he lived. He is considered the most learned man of his time.
“It’s ever been my delight to learn, to teach and to write,” he said, and he shared his learning with those he lived with; his wisdom inspires us today. Besides the scriptures and historical studies, Bede delighted in music, mathematics and learning about the natural world. He’s honored as a Doctor of the Church.
You can see from an account of his life by Cuthbert, a contemporary, that his brothers in the monastery liked him and held him in esteem. And he liked them. Until the day of his death he continued to think and teach and write. On the day he died he was finishing up one of his studies, a commentary on the scriptures. When it was done “on the floor of his cell, he sat and sang “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit”; and as he named the Spirit, the Breath of God, he breathed the last breath from his own body. With all the labour that he had given to the praise of God, there can be no doubt that he went into the joys of heaven that he had always longed for.”
Before he died, he wrote this:
“Before setting forth on that inevitable journey, none is wiser than the man who considers—before his soul departs hence—what good or evil he has done, and what judgement his soul will receive after its passing.”
Lord, give us a love of learning and a delight in your wisdom and truth.
When Patrick John Mahoney was born March 4th, one of the first questions Christine and Kevin were asked was: “What are you calling him?” That’s the question we asked when they brought him to church on Saturday, May 22nd : “What is his name?” “Patrick John”, they said. Then, we asked them why they brought him here. “For Baptism,” they said.
We welcomed him with the Sign of the Cross, the sign Jesus Christ offers to his own. Many of Patrick John’s family, there too, welcomed him.
In our baptismal service, Jesus speaks in four important readings related to this sacrament. Jesus tells Nicodemus, in John’s gospel, you must be born again of water and the Holy Spirit to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (John 3:1-6) In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to go out to the whole world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”. (Matthew 28:18-20) The Baptism of Jesus, who goes into the waters of the Jordan River, is recalled in Mark’s gospel. (Mark 1:9-11) Finally, in another reading from Mark, Jesus says “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belong to such as these.” (Mark 10:13-16)
I commented on Mark’s gospel, about the Baptism of Jesus who went into the waters of the Jordan and was baptized.
The day after Kevin and Christine were married August 24, 2019, I went down to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC, to see an exhibit called “Deep Time”, about the beginnings of our universe over 4.5 billion years ago. One part of the exhibit, for kids, caught my attention.
“Your body through time. Your body is the result of 3.7 billion years of evolution.” A reminder we don’t just come from mommy and daddy, we come through 3.7 billion years of evolution. We’re related to the world of the past and to what it’s meant to be in the future. Through it all one element is constant– water. There’s no life without it. Where did the waters come from? Like all of creation–God.
When Jesus went into the waters of the Jordan River he identified himself with all life. The Son of God signified his willingness to live in our world as a human and give it– past, present, and future– the promise of eternal life.
We prayed Saturday over the water that was our Jordan, in Christ Our Light church, Cherry Hill, NJ.
Father, you give us grace through sacramental signs which tell us of your unseen power. In baptism we use your gift of water, a rich symbol of your grace.
At the very dawn of creation, your Spirit breathed on the waters making them the wellspring of holiness.
The waters of the great flood you made a sign of the waters of baptism that end sin and bring new goodness.
Through the waters of the Red Sea you led Israel out of slavery to be your holy people.
By the power of your Spirit, give to this fount the power of your Son
We baptized Patrick John with water, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” and the Spirit came upon him. A voice from heaven called him his son in whom he was pleased.
We prayed to Jesus Christ with all the heavenly host and our families’ holy ones:
By the mystery of your death and resurrection, bathe this child of light, give him the new light of baptism and welcome him into your church”
Through baptism and confirmation, make him your faithful follower and a witness to your gospel.
Lead him by a holy life to the joys of God’s kingdom.
Make the lives of his parents and godparents examples of faith to inspire him.