8th Week: May 24-29:
May 24 Monday (Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church)
One of the most recent architectural additions to Saint Peter’s Square is the mosaic of Mary “Mother of the Church,”with the inscription Totus Tuus, yet another sign of Pope St. John Paul II’s great love for Our Lady. On Saturday, March 3, 2018, Pope Francis declared that, thenceforward, the Monday after Pentecost Sunday would be celebrated as the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. The Memorial was to be observed annually. It has been added to the General Roman Calendar, the Roman Missal, and the Liturgy of the Hours with the Holy Father’s wish that this new feast day foster Marian piety and the maternal sense of the Church. Pentecost was the birth of the Church – the Mystical Body of Christ. As Mother of Christ, the Head of the Church, Mary is also the Mother of the Church, for she was with the apostles for that great event. In Catholic Mariology, Mother of the Church (Mater Ecclesiae) is a title officially given to Mary at the closing of the Second Vatican Council, by Pope St. Paul VI. The title was first used in the 4th century by Saint Ambrose of Milan. The same title was used by Pope Benedict IV in 1748 and then by Pope Leo XIII in 1885. Pope St. Paul VI made the pronouncement of the title Mother of the Church during his speech upon the closing of the third session of the Second Vatican Council on November 21, 1964: “For the glory of the Virgin and our consolation, we proclaim Mary the Most Holy Mother of the Church, that is, the Mother of the whole People of God, both the faithful and the pastors.” Later, the title was used by Pope St. John Paul II, and is also found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states that Mary joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its Head.” (CCC #963). “At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church.” (CCC # 507).
Pope St. John Paul II used the encyclical “Redemptoris Mater” (March 25, 1987), to explain how Jesus gave his mother to the care of John the apostle and how she became the Mother of the whole Church. The Pope said, “in her new motherhood in the Spirit, Mary embraces each and every one in the Church, and embraces each and every one through the Church.” Pope Benedict XVI addressed the issue of the relationship between Roman Catholic Mariology and ecclesiology quoting the theologian Hugo Rahner, SJ [elder brother of Karl Rahner SJ] that Mariology was originally ecclesiology. The Church is like Mary. The Church is virgin and mother, she is immaculate and carries the burdens of history. She suffers, and she is assumed into heaven. She is carrying the mystery of the Church. That is why in 2018 Pope Francis decreed that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church be inserted into the Roman Calendar on the Monday after Pentecost and that it be celebrated every year. The decree was signed on 11 February 2018, the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, at the 160th anniversary of the Lourdes apparitions. The decree was issued on 3 March 2018.
As St. Augustine once said: “Mary is more blessed because she embraces Faith in Christ than because she conceives the flesh of Christ.” As St. Ambrose taught, “The Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of Faith, Charity, and the perfect union with Christ.” She serves as the ultimate role model for all Christians in her willingness to cooperate with God’s will. So, while we rightfully acknowledge her as the Mother of God, the Theotokos, we also acknowledge her sanctity and her willingness to do God’s will. This is why another ancient name attributed to her will officially appear on the Church’s calendar for the first time this year. “The Cross, the Eucharist, and the Mother of God are three mysteries that God gave to the world in order to structure, fructify, and sanctify our interior life and lead us to Jesus.” (Robert, Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; retired February 20, 2021). Let us honor Mary the Mother of the Church by imitating her virtues of faith, humility ant total surrender. Fr. Tony(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
May 25 Tuesday (St Bede the Venerable, Doctor of the Church), St. Gregory VII, Pope (, St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Virgin (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-mary-magdalene-de-pazzi): Mk 10:28-31:
The context: A rich young man approached Jesus asking how to gain eternal life. Jesus asked him to sell his possessions share the money with the poor and then become his disciple. But the rich man went away refusing Jesus’ terms and conditions. Watching this scene, Peter declares that he and his fellow Apostles, all Jesus’ followers, have left everything and followed Jesus, and he asks what their reward will be.
Jesus’ warning and promise: Jesus wants every Christian to embrace the virtue of poverty of spirit by practicing real and effective austerity in the possession and use of material things. But those who are specially called to Christian ministry, particularly the Apostles and their successors in priestly and religious ministry, should practice absolute detachment from property, time, family, etc. so that they can be fully available to everyone, imitating Jesus himself. Such detachment gives them lordship over all things. They are no longer the slaves of things and the burden things involve. They will be able to share St. Paul’s attitude and live, “As having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Cor 6:10). Jesus also considers persecutions and troubles as rewards because they help us to give powerful witness to the Good News and opportunities to grow in maturity and responsibility. Jesus assures Peter and the Apostles (and us), that anyone who has generously left behind his possessions will be rewarded a hundred times over in this life and will have eternal bliss in the next life. By shedding their selfishness in this way, they will acquire charity, and, having charity, they will gain everything. In place of material wealth, Jesus promises all his disciples the blessing and joy of rich fellowship with the community of believers. These words of our Lord particularly apply to those who by Divine vocation embrace celibacy, giving up their right to form a family. They will become members of every family, and they will have many brothers, sisters and spiritual children.
Life message: Let us try to become true disciples of Jesus by sacrificially sharing our blessings with those around us, thereby inheriting additional blessings from a generous God. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
May 26 Wednesday: St. Philip Neri, Priest
The context: For the third time, (Mk 8:31, 9:31, 10:32), Jesus predicts his own death. In spite of Jesus’ two previous predictions, James and John, still sharing the Jewish belief that the Messiah would be a political king sitting on David’s throne and ruling over a re-united Israel, consider Jesus to be a revolutionary freedom-fighter. They are sure that Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem is being made to overthrow the Roman rulers. Hence, James and John want an assurance from Jesus that he will make them his first and second in command in the Messianic Kingdom of God.
The request and the reaction: James and John are mistaken in their understanding of leadership roles in Christ’s Church as positions of power and prestige. Hence, Jesus challenges them asking, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Jesus uses the images of the cup and baptism to describe the price to be paid. Jesus insists that his disciples must drink from his cup of suffering if they want to reign with him in his kingdom. Without fully understanding what Jesus means, James and John quickly affirm that they can share in their master’s cup and baptism. They have no understanding of the personal cost that lies behind these two images. [History tells us that James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:2), and that John suffered deeply when he heard regularly for years, of the persecution of his fellow Christians, saw the rise of heretics in the Churches, suffered exile himself, and saw the deaths of the rest of the Twelve, leaving him alive, the oldest survivor among them, faithful to the end, dying in his bed at nearly 100 years old.]
A challenge to achieve greatness through humble, sacrificial service: Jesus tells his disciples plainly what his mission is, how he is going to accomplish it and what the criterion for greatness among his disciples should be. He summarizes his mission in one sentence: “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”(Jn 10:45) Jesus also explains that he is going to accomplish his mission by undergoing crucifixion, offering himself as a sacrifice to save people from their sins. Hence, Jesus challenges his apostles to share not only his power, but his service, by sacrificing themselves for others as he would do. According to Jesus, greatness consists, not in what we have, or in what we can get from others, but in what we give to others.
Life Messages: 1) We are challenged to give our lives in loving service to others. The best place to begin the process of “self-giving,” is in our own homes, classrooms, parishes, and in workplaces. 2) We are taught that suffering and service go hand in hand. In today’s Gospel, Jesus connects service with suffering. First, service always involves suffering because we can’t help another without some sacrifice on our part. Second, God always invites those who suffer to put their suffering at the service of others by uniting it with the suffering of Jesus. Third, we must learn to be sensitive to the suffering of those around us. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
May 27 Thursday: St. Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop
The context: Jesus was on his way to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem along with a band of pilgrims. It was customary for rabbis to teach the pilgrims on the way. The pilgrims were generous in giving alms to the beggars on the roadside. Bartimaeus was one of the blind beggars lined up on the road begging for alms. When he heard people speaking about the approach of Jesus, the miracle worker from Nazareth, he started shouting for mercy. He believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the son of David who could give him eyesight, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah, “The eyes of the blind will see” (Is 29:18).
Bartimaeus encounters Jesus: People walking in front of Jesus listening to his teaching tried, in vain, to silence Bartimaeus, but finally he got the attention of Jesus. Jesus was impressed by Bartimaeus’ declaration of Faith in the healing power of the Messiah and asked him what he wanted. Bartimaeus replied, “Master, let me receive my sight.” Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your Faith has made you well.” Immediately he received his sight, and he promptly followed Jesus to Jerusalem as His disciple.
Life messages: 1) We are very often blinded by our pride and prejudice and the innate tendency to be judgmental. Hence, we are badly in need of healing from our spiritual blindness. But we require trusting Faith in the power and mercy of God and the humility to pray persistently, as Bartimaeus did, to receive healing from God. Let us pray for this grace during the Mass today. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
May 28 Friday: Mk 11:11-26:
The context: Today’s Gospel gives us the dramatic account of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem after symbolically drying out a fruitless fig tree, which represented the sterility of Israel and its infidelity to God. He drove out the merchants and money-changers with moral indignation at their unjust commercialization of God’s House of Prayer and at their exploitation of poor pilgrims in the name of religion. The merchants sold animals for sacrifices at exorbitant prices, and the money-changers charged unjust commissions for the required exchange of pagan coins for Temple coins. The Temple Jesus cleansed was the Temple in Jerusalem, originally built by Solomon in 966 BC, rebuilt by Zerubbabel in 515 BC after the Babylonians had destroyed it, and finally renovated by King Herod the Great starting in 20 BC. The abuses which infuriated Jesus were 1) the conversion of God’s place of prayer to a noisy marketplace, and 2) the unjust business practices of animal merchants and money-changers encouraged by the Temple authorities. Hence, Jesus made a whip of cords and drove away the animals and the money-changers, and, as He did so, quotied the prophet Jeremiah, commanding, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace”(Jer 7: 11).
Life messages: 1) We need to avoid the business mentality of loss and profit in Divine worship. Our relationship with God must be that of a child to his parent, with no thought of loss or gain, but only of mutual love, respect and the common good. 2) We need to remember that we are the temples of the Holy Spirit. Hence, we have no right to desecrate God’s temple by impurity, injustice, pride, hatred or jealousy. 3) We need to love our parish Church and use it. Our Church is the place where we come together as a community to praise and worship God, to thank Him for His blessings, to ask pardon and forgiveness for our sins and to offer our lives and petitions on the altar. Let us make our Church an even more holy place by adding our prayers and songs to community worship and by offering our time and talents in the various ministries of our parish. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
May 29 Saturday: St. Paul VI, Pope
The context: After casting out animal merchants and money- changers from the Temple immediately after the Palm Sunday procession, Jesus started teaching in the Temple courts. Hence, the chief priests and elders of the people approached Jesus questioning his authority for entering the city in a triumphal procession, for allowing the children to acclaim him, for curing the sick, for casting out merchants and moneychangers, and for teaching in the Temple area. This was a trap. If Jesus claimed that his authority was Divine as the Messiah, they would arrest him as a blasphemer. If he claimed that his authority was human, he would be arrested as a mad zealot damaging the people’s simple Faith in the Temple and what it stood for. Since Jesus did not want to risk his life and mission a few days ahead of time, he silenced them by asking a challenging counter-question about John the Baptist and his message – was this from God or man? Was this Divine or human?
If they answered that it was Divine, the questioners would be asked to explain why they did not accept John’s message and his witness-bearing that Jesus was the Messiah. If they answered that it was human, they would have to face the anger of the crowd who had accepted John as a prophet. Hence, they kept silent opting for a shameful self-humiliation.
Life messages: 1) In religious matters we should not ask whether our stand is safe or useful. Instead, we need to stand for Truth with the courage of our Christian convictions even if it costs our life. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)