11 July 2009

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Extraordinary Form)

Holy Church reminds us today of the effects of the two great Sacraments: Baptism and the Eucharist, which she has conferred at Easter and Pentecost (The Roman Missal 1962).

Introit (Psalm 27:8, 9)
The Lord is the strength of His people, and the protector of the salvation of His anointed: save, O Lord, Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance, and rule them forever. Psalm ibid. 1. Unto Thee will I cry, O Lord: O my God, be not Thou silent to me, lest if Thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit. Glory be to the Father… The Lord is the strength…

The Lord chose us, thus His people in the truest sense are those who also choose Him, those who are baptized, and He is their protector and their Saviour; we are His inheritance. He is our strength because He is our Food which nourishes and strengthens our souls. Prophetically, we accept the word “salvation” as eternal life. The Hebrew text, however, literally translates as the plural “salvations,” which means that we also need to apply these verses from the Psalm to this life also. The Lord saved the Patriarchs, the Prophets, His chosen people during the Exodus, and King David from danger: these are examples of how God is also a Saviour in this life’s occurrences. The Father’s of the Church apply verse 1 of this Psalm, “Until Thee will I cry…” to the suffering, death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. There’s a bit of a twist in Saint Jerome’s Vulgate that deals with the physical senses. “Be not Thou silent to me” deals more with the sense of speech (sileas) as the psalmist pleads with the Lord to not be silent, that is, please answer my prayer. Saint Jerome’s Vulgate, however, deals more with the sense of hearing (obsurdescas) as it translates to mean: “Be not Thou deaf to me.”

O God of hosts, to Whom all that is best doth belong, graft in our hearts the love of Thy Name, and grant us an increase of religion: that Thou mayest foster what is good, and with tender zeal guard what Thou hast fostered. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of…

It is the Name above all names, the Name in which every knee should bow, writes Saint Paul (cf. Philippians 2:9-10). And for those who love Him, it is the Name that protects with a “tender zeal.” For His enemies, however, it is a Name which instills fear: “What have we to do with Thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Art Thou come to destroy us?” (Mark 1:24). “That it may be no farther spread among the people, let us threaten them that they speak no more in this Name to any man. And calling them, they charged them not to speak at all, nor teach in the Name of Jesus” (Acts 4:17-18). Perhaps a great way for us to foster love and a healthy fear for the Name of Jesus is through the frequent praying of the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus.

Epistle, Romans 6:3-11
Gospel, Mark 8:1-9

Saint Paul teaches us that through the Sacrament of Baptism we are buried with Christ and rise to a new life in Him. In the early Church, Baptisms were always done by immersion which gives one a real sense of death. The “old man” dies and the “new man” rises to serve sin no more. Being faithful to our Baptism is a serious responsibility: to serve Christ with all our hearts while making every effort to avoid the occasions of sin.

Jesus said: “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus is stating the reality, not what He desires. And in this highly secularized culture of our day, it’s hard to argue with what Jesus said.

There’s a predominating mindset today which accepts that if God is Love, He is Love to a fault. From a Catholic perspective it means: I’m really a good person, but I don’t need to go to Mass. God is Love, therefore no one will go to hell, and if anyone does go to hell, it’s only the really evil people. It’s a nice thought but contrary to the Gospel. There’s power in numbers: If you get enough people to accept something, right or wrong, it changes an entire culture. What we have in today’s culture is a universality that is based on untruth; that Gospel values are insignificant. Jesus said the road to life is narrow and few find it. Few! Being among the few begins with being faithful to our Baptism.

In the Gospel is the very familiar story of the multiplication of loaves and fishes. Jesus desires to feed His flock. It is his His disciples who distribute the loaves and fishes, which points this story to the Eucharist. Jesus feeds us with His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity through the hands of His priests. But how many take those privileged steps to the priest to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament without being faithful to their Baptism, having serious sin on their soul?

What remained was gathered up by the disciples. There’s something to be said here about our moral outlook: avoiding greed, desiring that which is sufficient as our Lord said to Saint Paul: “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Corinthians 12:9). And interestingly for some, the grace of the Eucharist was all that was needed to sustain them in this life. Temporal food was not consumed. Thus, when we pray: “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are asking for what we need as judged and determined by our all-knowing God; we are not asking for any surplus.

One can become discouraged or shy away from using their gifts and talents for fear of rejection, or perhaps embarrassment. Whatever it is that makes us timid, even if well-founded, can be completely transformed when placed into the Hands of Jesus. If we place what little we think we have into the Hands of Jesus, watch what happens. Remember it was fishermen who became the pillars of the Church; it was the language of pagans that turned into the “official” language of worship for the Church. Jesus says to us: “Give Me what you have, and I will use it for the greater glory of the Kingdom.” That is another lesson that can be taken from seven loaves and a few fishes feeding a multitude.

Finally, fifth century theologian, Theodoret, teaches that the works of Jesus in this Gospel passage verifies His promise that if we seek first the Kingdom of God, all necessary things shall be added unto us. And seeking the Kingdom of God “first,” takes us right back to being faithful to our baptism.