04 July 2009

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Extraordinary Form)

“The Liturgy presents to us today a great lesson in Christian charity. We must live in union with one another. We are children of God, and we must love Him and our neighbour, who participates as we do in the divine nature” (The Roman Missal 1962).

Introit (Psalm 26:7, 9)
“Hear, O Lord, my voice with which I have cried to Thee: be Thou my helper, forsake me not, do not Thou despise me, O God my Saviour.” Psalm ibid. 1. “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? Glory be to the Father… -- Hear, O Lord, my voice…”

Great words to begin a Liturgy! Because of our sinfulness, we hope for God’s leniency and His mercy. He Who is Love surely cannot despise. Saint Augustine tells us that God gives both light and strength, so that no enemy can hurt His servants. And with confidence in Him, we praise Him with the Trinitarian doxology: Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.

“O God, Who hast prepared for them that love Thee such good things as pass understanding: pour into our hearts such love towards Thee, that we, loving Thee in all things and above all things, may obtain Thy promises which exceed all that we can desire. Through our Lord…”

This prayer reflects the words found in 1 Corinthians 2:9. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father’s house, the heavenly Jerusalem, and paradise (cf. CCC 1027). Perhaps we could relate to this better by reflecting on when we were children on Christmas Eve. We knew some goodies were coming our way but were never quite sure what it would be. Now, as adults, but still children of God, this prayer calls us to not only live with that same anticipation and excitement as kids on Christmas Eve, but also to fall head over heels in love with the gift Giver.

Epistle, 1 Peter 3:8-15
The Epistle begins with that beautiful Latin word, “Carissimi” – “Beloved” or even “Dearly Beloved”; and yet it sets the tone for what Saint Peter means by “Be ye all of one mind.” We need to be loved and we need to love. Peter expounds on this by giving examples of how we go about doing that: “Having compassion on one another, being lovers of the brotherhood,” or being lovers of the family of God; being “modest, humble, not rendering evil for evil” but instead giving a “blessing.” This sort of echoes the words of the psalmist: “Turn away from evil and do good” (Psalm 33:15).

These instructions come from our first Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ on earth. These are not mere suggestions, but, as he tells us, “unto this you are called.” These are heavenly commands. We live in a trouble world that could use a heaping dose of love; but when engaged in spiritual battle, there’s bound to be suffering but Saint Peter tells us that when that happens, “blessed are ye.”

He closes with the words we heard often in our modern day from Pope John Paul II: “Be not afraid.” Let us sanctify the Lord in our hearts.

Gospel, Saint Matthew 5:20-24
Our Lord Jesus Christ continues with same theme of Saint Peter. The example that we see offered to us in this very secularized culture is one of which our Saviour instructs us to rise above: “Except your justice abound more than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” Strong words! The Scribes and Pharisees were actually held in great honor by many. We see something quite similar today. People are chasing after an ideology that is very appealing: relativism, being my own god, my own pope, I will decide what’s good for me and what isn’t; there is no such thing as absolute truth. Jesus not only calls us to something different, but something quite difficult and elevated. Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that our Redeemer delivered such strong words to show us that He desires us to live at a great height of perfection. It is not enough to simply believe, but to keep even the very least of His Commandments. We do this through grace. It is the power of the Spirit of the law at work in the letter of the law.

Jesus also touches on the subject of anger. He says that “whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment.” Anger comes in stages but need not ever leave the first stage. Harboring anger leads to more serious stages even to the point to which our Lord says “shall be in danger of hell fire.” Allowing anger to fester makes it quite difficult to heed to Saint Peter’s words: “Sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts.”

“If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath anything against thee, leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother.” Jesus, even after all His suffering before arriving at Calvary, harbored no anger, nor had anything against anyone; and thus He was able to offer the gift of Himself on the Altar of the Cross. Cultivating a humble heart and the process of conversion of heart is a daily, ongoing process.