SEPTEMBER 26 Mon Weekday[StsCosmas and Damian, Martyrs] Jb 1:6-22/Lk9:46-50
27 Tue Saint Vincent de Paul, Priest Memorial Jb 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23/Lk 9:51-56
28 Wed Weekday [Saint Wenceslaus, Martyr; Saint Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs] Jb 9:1-12, 14-16/Lk 9:57-62
29 Thu Sts Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels Feast
Dan 7:9-10, 13-14 or Rv 12:7-12a/Jn 1:47-51
30 Fri Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor Memorial Jb 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5/Lk 10:13-16 (4
OCTOBER 1 Sat Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
Memorial Jb 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17/Lk 10:17-24
2 SUN TWENTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Hb 1:2-3; 2:2-4/2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14/Lk 17:5-10
The first readings for most of this week are taken from the Book of Job, the dramatic story of a just man facing the problem of evil. Job is not an historical figure, but he represents all humanity in his questions. Why does God permit evil?
Luke’s gospel this week prepares for Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem which is described in Luke 9:51-18:14. The journey ends in his Resurrection.
A number of important saints are remembered this week in our church calendar. The memorial of St. Therese, the Little Flower, follows that of St.Jerome, the great scripture scholar. Both are doctors of the church, but so unlike as persons. One approached the scriptures mainly as a scholar, through the mind. Therese approached them through the heart.
The Vincent de Paul, the founder of the Vincentian tradition, is remembered on Monday.
The Philippines celebrates St. Lawrence Ruiz and his companions on Wednesday. In our neigborhood, they will be celebrating on Sunday.
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”
Today the Passionists celebrate the feast of St. Vincent Strambi, CP (1745-1824). In his early years as a Passionist priest Strambi was a well known preacher, writer and spiritual director. He was a close associate of St. Paul of the Cross and wrote his biography after his death.
He was chosen to be bishop of Marcerata during tumultuous years in Italian history when Napoleon moved to take over Italy, the papacy and the Catholic Church. Strambi was an heroic supporter of the pope and fought for the freedom of the church.
To understand most saints you have to understand the times in which they lived. They’re antidotes for the poison of their time. Unfortunately historians pay little notice to the challenging times Vincent Strambi lived in.
In 1789, following the French Revolution, a Reign of Terror struck the church in France, religious orders were suppressed, priests and religious were imprisoned, exiled, put to death. Word of the terror quickly reached Italy and Rome; the defenseless Italian peninsula would be the next target for France’s fierce revolution.
Pope Pius VI asked for prayers that Rome be spared, and he called on Vincent Strambi, then one of the church’s best preachers, to prepare the people for a blow sure to come. In packed churches and piazzas in Rome Strambi promised that God would not abandon his people. The Roman people gained strength from his words.
In 1796 Napoleon Bonaparte turned to Italy, demanding heavy tribute from the Pope and the Papal States. The murder of the French General Duhot in Rome gave him the pretext for invading the city, deposing and imprisoning the pope and declaring the Papal States a Republic.
Religious houses were suppressed, their goods systematically confiscated. Strambi, a well-known opposition figure, fled to Monte Argentario, a Passionist sanctuary on the Mediterranean Sea.
In 1799 Pius VI died in exile and was succeeded by Pius VII who, in 1801, appointed Strambi bishop of Macerata and Tolentino, two important cities in the Papal States along Italy’s Adriatic coast, poverty-stricken from years of political and military turmoil.
The bishops of the Papal States were largely responsible for temporal as well as spiritual affairs and Bishop Strambi became a champion of the poor in his diocese. He lived sparingly himself, without signs of wealth or position. The poor were constantly on his mind. “Don’t you hear the cries of the poor?” he said one day to the treasurer of his seminary, looking out his window.
The education of poor children interested him especially and he urged his priests to care for them. In sermons he constantly looked to the Passion of Jesus for wisdom in the struggles of the time. His devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus was influenced, at least in part, from reflection on the bloodshed the Napoleonic Wars brought to millions in Europe. Almost 4 million died as warfare rose to a level never seen before. Their blood was precious to God.
On May 5, 1809, after occupying Rome and most of the Papal States. Napoleon declared the region under French control and the temporal power of the pope abrogated. On June 6, 1809 Pius VII placed notices on church doors throughout Rome excommunicating anyone cooperating with the French. July 6, the French general Radet arrested the pope and brought him north to Savona.
Napoleon then demanded bishops sign an oath of loyalty to his new government. Refusal meant exile and imprisonment, signing was an act of disloyalty to the pope.
“I am ready for prison and for death. I am with the pope,” Strambi declared. On September 28,1808 he left his diocese under guard for northern Italy where he remained for 5 years under house arrest.
After Napoleon’s defeat in 1814 the church’s exiled leaders returned. Bishop Strambi returned to his diocese in May, 1814; immediately the pope asked him to come to Rome to preach a nine day “retreat of reconciliation” in late July and early August. Not all met the French invasion heroically.
In 1816 a typhoid epidemic followed invading armies. Food shortages and inflation spread through the bishop’s diocese. He opened hospitals for the dying and sought supplies for his suffering flock.
Physically frail from birth, Bishop Strambi became increasingly ill and found it harder to manage his diocese. By 1814, the world too had changed. The Papal States had no bishops in the long chaotic period of the Napoleonic invasion and new forces demanding change came to power. Strambi recognized it was too much for him.
In 1823 he asked the new pope, Leo XII, to allow him to retire. The pope accepted his resignation on one condition, that he come and live with him as an advisor in the Quirinal Palace, then the pope’s residence in Rome. A local commentator said of the departing bishop: “ He was a man who lived a holy life, giving alms to all and content with only the necessary for himself. We are sorry to see him go, for we lose a good pastor. The cries of the poor are especially loud, for they lose one who cared for and sustained them.”
Vincent died in Rome on January 1, 1824, having offered his life to the Lord in place of that of the pope who was seriously ill.
Pope Leo ordered the process for his canonization 8 days after his death. He was declared a Saint in 1950 and his relics now rest in Macerata, the city where he was a zealous pastor for twenty-two years.
With the help of the Holy Spiirt, I on my part will do all I can that the living image of Jesus crucified be imprinted in the hearts of each of you. I do this gladly, not counting the cost. I consider myself fortunate to give my lifeblood so that Christ might be formed in you. I can say, like the apostle, that because of my love for you, I want to share with you “not only God’s message, but our very lives, so dear have you have become to us.”
I urge you, then, to look attentively on the Image of the Crucified, the bishop of your souls, on his throne of grace. In that way I shall fulfill my obligation to announce to you the death of the Lord, an obligation arising from my profession in the Congregation of the Holy Cross and Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. I shall do all I can to urge you all to fulfill your duty to love him who first loved us, who offered himself on the altar of the cross for us, who shed his blood for us.
( Letter to the people of Marcerata on becoming their bishop)
While they were all amazed at his every deed, he said to his disciples, “Pay attention to what I am telling you. The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.” But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
Where do catechisms come from? They’re recent instruments for forming people in their faith. Martin Luther was the first to compose a catechism in question and answers for ordinary people in the 15th century.
In response to Luther, the Dutch Jesuit Peter Canisius composed the first Catholic catechism in 1555 followed by three others afterwards. The Council of Trent directed a catechism be written as a resource for the clergy and that appeared in 1556. Robert Bellarmine later composed an important catechism requested by Pope Clement VIII and after that bishops from all over the world composed catechisms for their people. I can still recite questions and answers from the Baltimore Catechism of my youth.
Catechesis was done in earlier centuries without catechisms, through preaching, sacraments, the feasts and seasons of the year. The Second Vatican Council changed the language of the liturgy from latin to the language of the people and revised the liturgical prayers and rites so that they better serve as catechesis. Some today want to maintain the primacy of the catechism in catechesis but, while they’re still useful, we need to catechize more through the liturgy, sacraments, feasts and seasons. It’s a task of the Second Vatican Council remaining to be done.
Today’s the feast of Padre Pio, the Italian Capuchin friar who’s one of the most popular saints of modern times. I would say he’s a saint who’s a catechism. He was a stigmatic, who carried the wounds of Christ in his body. Church officials were wary of him;investigation after investigation questioned his credibility, but ordinary people recognized his holiness. To them he was a striking sign of God’s presence in an ordinary human being. Padre Pio taught that, not through a book, but through himself.
In 2006 the bishops of the USA published the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, which interspersed stories of saints and others as examples of the faith expounded in the book. They were acknowledging what we all know: people are better catechisms than books.
Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, “John has been raised from the dead”; others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.” But Herod said, “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see him.
Jews usually turned away as they passed the customs place where Matthew, the tax-collector, was sitting. But look at our gospel for today:
“As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.”
To celebrate their new friendship, Matthew invited Jesus to a banquet at his house with his friends – tax collectors like himself – and Jesus came with some of his disciples. They were criticized immediately for breaking one of Capernaum’s social codes. “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus’ answer was quick: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words `I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Hardly anything is known of Matthew’s part in Jesus’ later ministry, yet surely the tradition must be correct that says he recorded much of what Jesus said and did. Tax collectors were good at keeping books. Was Matthew’s task to keep memories? Did he remember some things that were especially related to his world?
The gospels say that wherever Jesus went he was welcomed by tax collectors. When he entered Jericho, Zachaeus, the chief tax collector of the city, climbed a tree to see him pass, since the crowds were so great. Did Matthew point out the man in the tree to Jesus, a tax collector like himself, who brought them all to his house, where Jesus left his blessing of salvation? And did tax collectors in other towns come to Jesus because they recognized one of their own among his companions?
Probably so. Jesus always looked kindly on outsiders like Matthew who were targets of suspicion and resentment. True, they belonged to a compromised profession tainted by greed, dishonesty and bribery. Their dealings were not always according to the fine line of right or wrong.
But they were children of God and, like lost sheep, Jesus would not let them be lost.
Pope Francis said he got his vocation to be a priest on the Feast of St. Matthew, when he went to confession and heard God’s call, a call of mercy.
The gospels themselves recall little about Matthew, an apostle of Jesus. We have his name, his occupation and a brief story of a banquet that took place with Jesus and some of his friends after his call. ( Mt 9: 9-13; Mk 2:3-12; Lk5:18-26) As it is, the gospels concentrate on the ministry and teaching of Jesus.
In the early centuries, those who knew Jesus told his story and brought his message to the world. As they died, writings about him gradually appeared, but there are only scarce references to who wrote them. St. Justin Martyr in the early 2nd century speaks of the “memoirs of the apostles”, without indicating any author by name. Later in that century, St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, writing against the Gnostics who claim a superior knowledge of Jesus Christ attributes the gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are eyewitnesses who really know Jesus firsthand; they have given us their “memoirs.”
Scholars today are less likely to credit Matthew’s Gospel to the tax-collector from Capernaum whom Jesus called. Some of his memoirs perhaps may be there– after all he came from a profession good at accounting for things. But too many indications point to other sources. Why would Matthew, if he is an eyewitness, depend on Mark’s Gospel as he does? Language, the structure of the gospel, the circumstances it addresses, point to a Jewish-Christian area beyond Palestine as its source, probably Antioch in Syria, probably written around the year 8o, after the Gospel of Mark.
Traditions says that Matthew preached in Ethiopia and Persia, but they have no historical basis.
He is remembered as a martyr who died for the faith, but again there is no historical basis.
Better to see Matthew as the gospel sees him: one of the first outsiders whom Jesus called. And he would not be the last..
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”