To counteract bad culture it is often necessary to take it on and overcome it. The idea of Joseph the laborer as a true model for workers everywhere is an important teaching. This feast, like so many of our major feasts, falls on a day that is recognized by the prevailing culture and transforms it. This feast takes a flawed human understanding of work and transforms it into a correct view of humans and importance and the dignity of the work we do.
It also recalls, in this month of Mary, the importance of Joseph to the success of Mary's "yes" and the raising and guiding of Jesus.
St. Joseph, patron of the Church and workers, pray for us!
Man, created in God’s image, has been commissioned to master the earth and all it contains, and so rule the world in justice and holiness. He is to acknowledge God as the creator of all, and to see himself and the whole universe in relation to God, in order that all things may be subject to man, and God’s name be an object of wonder and praise over all the earth.
This commission extends to even the most ordinary activities of everyday life. Where men and women, in the course of gaining a livelihood for themselves and their families, offer appropriate service to society, they can be confident that their personal efforts promote the work of the Creator, confer benefit on their fellowmen, and help to realize God’s plan in history.
So far from thinking that the achievements gained by man’s abilities and strength are in opposition to God’s power, or that man with his intelligence is in some sense a rival to his Creator, Christians are, on the contrary, convinced that the triumphs of the human race are a sign of God’s greatness and the effect of his wonderful providence.
The more the power of men increases, the wider is the scope of their responsibilities, as individuals and as communities.
It is clear, then, that the Christian message does not deflect men from the building up of the world, or encourage them to neglect the good of their fellowmen, but rather places on them a stricter obligation to work for these objectives.
Human activity, to be sure, takes its significance from its relationship to man. Just as it proceeds from man, so it is ordered toward man. For when a man works he not only alters things and society, he develops himself as well. He learns much, he cultivates his resources, he goes outside of himself and beyond himself. Rightly understood this kind of growth is of greater value than any external riches which can be garnered. A man is more precious for what he is than for what he has. Similarly, all that men do to obtain greater justice, wider brotherhood, a more humane disposition of social relationships has greater worth than technical advances. For these advances can supply the material for human progress, but of themselves alone they can never actually bring it about.
Hence, the norm of human activity is this: that in accord with the divine plan and will, it harmonize with the genuine good of the human race, and that it allow men as individuals and as members of society to pursue their total vocation and fulfill it.
-- Gaudium et Spes, 34-35, Vatican II
The feast of Athanasius reminds us of the struggle against the easy way out that human rationality so often provides us. It also reminds us of the whole point of that struggle. If God had wished to merely restore Creation then *poof* it would be done. But that is not how the Father, with the Son and the Spirit created. Athanasius reminds us that the freewill we exercised in the Garden and to today is integral to Creation. The *poof* God provided was the exercise of freewill. The Father freely chose to send His Son, Jesus chose to freely take on the "form of a slave" in order to freely exercise the will of the Father. As Jesus shows us in his freely accepting the Cross, even death has meaning. Every aspect of Creation (aside from our sinfulness) has meaning. Nothing is chance or accident. Emmanuel (God with us) would have no meaning without this action.
As for death, today is appropriate, for we laid to rest a loved one. May their soul and the soul of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
The last line of today's quote sums up the truth and reality of the action of God that Athanasius defends.
The Word of God, ...[o]ut of his loving-kindness for us...came to us, and we see this in the way he revealed himself openly to us. Taking pity on mankind’s weakness, and moved by our corruption, he could not stand aside and see death have the mastery over us; he did not want creation to perish and his Father’s work in fashioning man to be in vain. He therefore took to himself a body, no different from our own, for he did not wish simply to be in a body or only to be seen.
If he had wanted simply to be seen, he could indeed have taken another, and nobler, body. Instead, he took our body in its reality....
The immortal Son of God, united with all men by likeness of nature, thus fulfilled all justice in restoring mankind to immortality by the promise of the resurrection.
The corruption of death no longer holds any power over mankind, thanks to the Word, who has come to dwell among them through his one body.
-- From a discourse by Athanasius
So many feasts of the apostles are lumped into the Easter Season - fitting of course as they give everything for the message so real and important to them.
In this crowd, it is James we know the most about; related to Jude and Jesus, and head of the Church in Jerusalem, we know of his martyrdom. Philip's fate is lost in obscurity. What we know so well from the Gospels is that Philip often seemed to miss the point of things and we get Jesus' almost exasperated responses. But it is Philip's role to bring the Greek believers to Jesus and for that we celebrate him.
Brothers in the Lord, it is only the happy coincidence of the transfer of the relics to Rome on the same day that brings their feasts together.
Jesus said to Thomas, "I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him."
Philip said to him,
"Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us."
Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
-- John 14:6-9
"See something, say something."
I have heard this statement applied to several situation, and it seems to ring true. But it is a shame that our morality has been reduced to a slogan, a bumper sticker.
John and his fellow Carthusian monks signed the amended Act of Supremacy but balked when the act was reverted back the the original language. He petitioned Thomas Cromwell for an exemption with the argument that they had already signed and did not need to sign again but that was rejected and they were arrested.
The irony here is that John had a vow of silence and so did not defend himself in court. The jury originally found no fault but changed their verdict when threatened.
John became the first martyr of the English Reformation. We can see in the trials of the likes of John and Thomas More the sticky situation caused at that time. It was difficult to prove the charge of malice toward the king and crown or the country as a whole and those put forth for trail created constant situations for ambiguity. It is only later when the law overcame the humanity that wholesale intolerance became common.
John and the others with him held tight to the Truth even in silence and paid a high price, but he shows us that acting and not just words speaks loudly.
Lo, dost thou not see that these blessed fathers be how as cheerful going to their deaths, as bridegrooms to their marriages? Wherefore thereby mayest thou see (mine own good daughter) what a difference there is between such as have in effect spent all their days in a strait, hard, penitential, and painful life religiously, and such as have in the world, like worldly wretches, as thy poor father hath done, consumed all the time in pleasure and ease licentiously. For God, considering their long-continued life in most sore and grievous penance, will not longer suffer them to remain here in this vale of misery, and iniquity, but speedily hence take them to the fruition of his everlasting deity: whereas thy silly father that, like a most wicked caitiff, hath passed forth the whole course of his miserable life most pitifully, God, thinking him not worthy so soon to come to that eternal felicity, leaveth him here yet, still in the world further to be plunged and turmoiled with misery.
-- Thomas More to his daughter Meg on seeing John and others leaving the Tower for execution
Most often we hear of the movement of monastic missionaries from Europe out into the world at large - it is not often that we hear of them coming to Europe to save the Church.
Angelus and his twin brother were baptized when their mother converted and then were ordained and became one of the first Carmelites to leave the Middle East to preach the Faith in Europe. He even preached in Rome where he met Francis and predicted his stigmata; to return the favor Francis praised him for his upcoming martyrdom.
Angelus initially retreated into a solitary life of a hermit but emerged to travel to Italy and then began preaching to convert and call back those who had fallen away. He was martyred at the behest of a man he was trying to convert.
Just shows that we should never be too proud to listen to those, especially outsiders, who call us to true repentance away from our sins and true conversion away from false belief.
Now Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. But then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia. They found they could not get the better of him because of his wisdom, and because it was the Spirit that prompted what he said. So they procured some men to say, ‘We heard him using blasphemous language against Moses and against God.’ Having in this way turned the people against him as well as the elders and scribes, they took Stephen by surprise, and arrested him and brought him before the Sanhedrin. There they put up false witnesses to say, ‘This man is always making speeches against this Holy Place and the Law. We have heard him say that Jesus the Nazarene is going to destroy this Place and alter the traditions that Moses handed down to us.’ The members of the Sanhedrin all looked intently at Stephen, and his face appeared to them like the face of an angel.
...When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep.
-- Acts 6:8-15, 7:54-60
Today's readings just seemed very appropriate.
This is also the feast of François de Laval. We in the North American Church owe him a great debt of gratitude. Though the Spanish tried very hard to establish the structure for the Faith here, especially in the Gulf South, it is Francois who accomplished it. "But in the heart of all this turmoil, we must not be demoralized; if men have the power to destroy, Our Lord’s hand is infinitely more powerful to build. We need only be faithful to Him and let Him work."
Then Peter responded,
"Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people,
who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?"
He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 10:46b-48)
Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.
In this way the love of God was revealed to us:
God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.
In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. (1 John 4:7-10)
Jesus said to his disciples:
"As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love.
"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another." (John 15:9-17)
It certainly is something you do not see everyday. On Pentecost in 351, during the reign of Constantius (the son of Constantine), the sign of the Cross appeared over Jerusalem. Saint Cyril (Archbishop of Jerusalem), in his letter to the Emperor says, "At about the third hour of the day, an enormous Cross, formed of light, appeared in the heaven above holy Golgotha and reaching to the holy Mount of Olives, being seen not by one or two only, but manifest with perfect clarity to the whole multitude of the city; not, as one might suppose, rushing swiftly past in fancy, but seen openly above the earth many hours in plain sight, and overcoming the beams of the sun with its dazzling rays"
What a great feast at that time of difficulty in the Church; I guess that is basically true all of the time.
The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the learning of the learned I will set aside.” Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
-- 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
You may not recognize his name but if you have ever been to Rome and gone to the Pantheon, then you know some of his his work: Boniface transformed the Pantheon from a pagan temple to a church and consecrated it to "St. Mary and the Martyrs", thus preserving it for all time, at least until Contstans II and later the Barberinis stripped it of its bronze ("Quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini!").
But if that were all he did, then history would be the only memory of him. We name him "saint" for his charity and his holiness.
This maternal gaze, which instills confidence and trust, helps us to grow in faith. Faith is a bond with God that engages the whole person; to be preserved, it needs the Mother of God. Her maternal gaze helps us see ourselves as beloved children in God’s faithful people, and to love one another regardless of our individual limitations and approaches. Our Lady keeps us rooted in the Church, where unity counts more than diversity; she encourages us to care for one another. Mary’s gaze reminds us that faith demands a tenderness that can save us from becoming lukewarm. Tenderness: the Church of tenderness. Tenderness is a word that today many want to remove from the dictionary. When faith makes a place for the Mother of God, we never lose sight of the center: the Lord, for Mary never points to herself but to Jesus; and our brothers and sisters, for Mary is mother.
The gaze of the Mother, and the gaze of every mother. A world that looks to the future without a mother’s gaze is shortsighted. It may well increase its profits, but it will no longer see others as children. It will make money, but not for everyone. We will all dwell in the same house, but not as brothers and sisters. The human family is built upon mothers. A world in which maternal tenderness is dismissed as mere sentiment may be rich materially, but poor where the future is concerned. Mother of God, teach us to see life as you do. Turn your gaze upon us, upon our misery, our poverty. Turn to us your eyes of mercy.
– Pope Francis, from the homily for the Solemnity Of Mary, Mother Of God, 2019
How often do we give our lives over to God? That is to say, how often do we attribute events in our lives to God and the intercession of the saints such that we then live like we believe that happened and allow it to guide our life choices and influence others?
And thank you George for encouraging the laity to be catechists.
Dearly beloved, those days which intervened between the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension did not pass by in uneventful leisure, but great mysteries were confirmed within them and deep truths were revealed.
In those days the fear of death was removed with all its terrors, and the immortality not only of the soul but also of the flesh was established. During that time the Holy Spirit is poured upon all the Apostles through the Lord’s breathing upon them, and to the blessed Apostle Peter, set above the rest, the keys of the kingdom are entrusted and the care of the Lord’s flock.
It was during that time that the Lord joined the two disciples as a companion on the way, and, to sweep away all the clouds of uncertainty forever, reproached them for the slowness of their timid and trembling hearts. Their enlightened hearts catch the flame of faith, and lukewarm as they have been, they are made to burn while the Lord unfolds the Scriptures. In the breaking of bread also their eyes are opened as they eat with him. How much more blessed is that opening of their eyes, to the glorification of their nature, than the time when our first parents’ eyes were opened to the disastrous consequences of their transgression.
Dearly beloved, through all this time which elapsed between the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension, God’s Providence had this in end in sight, to teach his own people and impress upon their eyes and their hearts that the Lord Jesus Christ had risen, risen as truly as he had been born and had suffered and died.
Hence the most blessed Apostles and all the disciples, who had been both bewildered at his death on the cross and backward in believing his Resurrection, were so strengthened by the clearness of the truth that when the Lord entered the heights of heaven, not only were they affected with no sadness, but were even filled with great joy.
-- From a sermon of Leo the Great
We all have stories that affect us. For reasons which I cannot explain (or even seek explanation), Fr. Damien's story touched me at an early age after I read it and has affected me my whole life. There is then, something to be said for reading the lives of the holy even those who are not saints, especially to the young. To re-enforce that truth, today is also Teresa of Avila - another powerful example to us all.
I find my consolation in the only companion of mine who never leaves me, that is, our divine Savior in the holy Eucharist.
It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength we need in our isolation. Without the Blessed Sacrament, a situation like mine would not be sustainable. But with the Lord at my side, well then! I continue to be always happy and content. With this gaiety of heart and a smile on my lips, I work with zeal for the good of the poor unfortunate lepers, and little by little, without much fuss, good is done.
-- Letter to his Brother, 1881