Friday, January 3, 2020

JANUARY 3 - MEMORIAL OF SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON, RELIGIOUS


“Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.“ 
artist and date were not cited



No proper readings have been assigned by USCCB or ICEL. These readings are posted at the Universalis site.  Alternate Readings for this memorial may be taken from the Common of Holy Men and Women.

Readings:

Reading I: Genesis 12:1-4a

The Lord said to Abram:
“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk
and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.

“I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you
and curse those who curse you.
All the communities of the earth
shall find blessing in you.”

Abram went as the Lord directed him.
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Commentary on Gn 12:1-4a

The genealogy of the Hebrew generations that ended with Abram and his wife migrating from the land of Ur (Genesis 11:27ff) sets this reading as a formal introduction. Abram (later Abraham) is chosen by God to become a great leader of people in holiness. "The universalism that marked Genesis chapters 1-11 having now failed, the Lord begins anew, singling out one Mesopotamian - in no way distinguished from his peers as yet - and promising to make of him a great nation, not numbered in the seventy nations of chapter 10.  What the Lord promises Abram (his name is changed to "Abraham" only in Chapter 17) - land, numerous offspring, and blessing - constitutes to a large extent a reversal of some of the curses on Adam and Eve - exile, pain in childbirth, and uncooperative soil (Genesis 3:16-24)." [3]

The blessing provided here is discussed at some length in the notes on this section: “Shall find blessing in you: the sense of the Hebrew expression is probably reflexive, "shall bless themselves through you" (i.e., in giving a blessing they shall say, "May you be as blessed as Abraham"), rather than passive, "shall be blessed in you." Since the term is understood in a passive sense in the New Testament (Acts 3:25Galatians 3:8), it is rendered here by a neutral expression that admits to both meanings; so also in the blessings given by God to Isaac (Genesis 26:4) and Jacob (Genesis 28:14).” [4]

CCC: Gn 12:1-4 145; Gn 12:1 59; Gn 12:2 762, 1669; Gn 12:3 706, 2676; Gn 12:3 LXX 59; Gn 12:4 2570
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Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.

R. (40:5a) Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
or: R. (2a) Blessed are they who delight in the law of the Lord.
or: R. (92:13-14) The just will flourish like the palm tree in the garden of the Lord.

He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.

R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
or: Blessed are they who delight in the law of the Lord.
or: R. The just will flourish like the palm tree in the garden of the Lord.

Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.

R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
or: Blessed are they who delight in the law of the Lord.
or: R. The just will flourish like the palm tree in the garden of the Lord.
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Commentary on Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Psalm 1 serves as a preface to the whole book of psalms. The psalmist here exalts those who follow the Lord’s commands, and reflects upon the blessings they will receive. As in Romans 6:19ff, this selection emphasizes the contrast between the salvation of the just and the punishment of the wicked.

This wisdom psalm begins by extolling the virtue of those who follow the law. The focus is to look to God for guidance, and not to trust only in the counsel of men. Those who reject the law will be blown away like “chaff,” an image used in the Gospel as well (Matthew 3:12).

This portion of the psalm is later echoed in Isaiah 48:17-19, like an overlapped formula of covenant.  Blessed is the man who “delights in the law day and night,” but “the way of the wicked vanishes.” It also takes up the theme of following right paths and staying true to the teachings of God: “Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, but delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on his law day and night.

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Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12a

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”
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Commentary on Mt 5:1-12a

This section of the Sermon on the Mount begins the first of five great discourses in St. Matthew’s Gospel. He begins using a formula common in the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament with “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”(Job 5:17Proverbs 3:13Sirach 25:8-9) This designation identifies those without material resources, completely dependent upon God. (This distinction is for the devout poor.) The discourse continues, blessing those who mourn, who are meek, who “hunger” for righteousness (to adopt the Lord’s law of love in their hearts), the merciful, the clean of heart (those who are reconciled to God), the peacemakers, the persecuted, and finally those who will be reviled because they profess faith in Christ.

The litany of praises for those to be blessed by the Lord has an overarching theme. It holds up the spiritual strength of complete dependence on God for life, health, and prosperity. St. Matthew captures the strength in that dependence, and God’s promise of salvation through the words of the Savior.

It is noteworthy that the word “blessed” [μακάριοι (makάrios) in Greek and beati in Latin] is translated “happy” in many Old Testament texts.  The idea of happiness or peace as a blessing from God is an important understanding about the intent of this discourse.

CCC: Mt 5:1 581; Mt 5:3-12 1716; Mt 5:3 544, 2546; Mt 5-7 2763; Mt 5-6 764; Mt 5:8 1720, 2518; Mt 5:9 2305, 2330; Mt 5:11-12 520
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Reflection:

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821) is a remarkable example of a journey of faith coupled with a dedication to her family and to God.  She is a convert from the Anglican faith tradition who discovered the Catholic Church while on a voyage to Rome because of her husband’s illness.  She lodged with a Catholic family while there and her natural interest in things spiritual were fulfilled in Catholic worship and traditions.

Through many trials she persevered, becoming the foundress of the first Catholic school in the United States, and later the foundress of the Sisters of Charity, the first religious order founded in this country.  She did all of this while raising her five children.

Her heroic virtue in the face of tremendous obstacles is an example of the lived Gospel.  Her love of God moved her to reach out to the poor, the orphan, and the children of her time.  She was the embodiment of our Holy Mother’s love for us.

What lesson do we take away from her story?  We find ourselves still in the octave of Christmas, at time of peace and joy throughout the whole Church.  Within this holy season, we are confronted by the example of one who, like the incarnate Christ, showed the love of God to the world through her example of selfless dedication to the least of God’s children while taking care of those of her flesh and blood. 

Are we not called to do the same?  Can we claim our roles as bread-winner or stay at home parent detract us from our duty to service to others?  These are of course rhetorical questions.  We are called to be saints as well.  St. Elizabeth showed us how that might be accomplished.  Today we ask for her prayers; may we find the strength to live the Gospel as she did and, in doing so, forge our bond with the Heavenly Kingdom.

Pax


[1] The picture is “Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.“ artist and date were not cited.
[2] The readings are taken from the New American Bible, with the exception of the psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This republication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[3] The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, © 2004 p. 30
[4] See NAB footnote on Genesis 12:1-4

Sunday, November 24, 2019

NOVEMBER 25 SAINT CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA, VIRGIN AND MARTYR


“Catherine of Alexandria” by Caravaggio, c. 1598


Readings and Commentary: [2]
Below are the readings suggested for this Memorial. However, readings for the Memorial may also be taken from the Common of Martyrs (#713-718), or the Common of Virgins (#731-736).

Reading 1: Revelation 21:5-7

Then he said, "Write these words down,
for they are trustworthy and true."
He said to me, "They are accomplished.
I am the Alpha and the Omega,
the beginning and the end.

To the thirsty I will give a gift
from the spring of life-giving water.
The victor will inherit these gifts,
and I shall be his God,
and he will be my son."
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Commentary on Rv 21:5-7

In this passage from the Revelation of St. John, the evangelist speaks of the reign of God having already begun (“I make all things new…” and “They are accomplished”). The “victor[s]” referred to are Christians who have been faithful in the face of trials, and the promise given is the adoption by Christ in Baptism.

CCC: Rv 21:1-22:5 117; Rv 21:5 1044; Rv 21:6 694, 1137; Rv 21:7 2788
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Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 124:2-3, 4-5, 7cd-8

Had not the LORD been with us—
When men rose up against us,
then would they have swallowed us alive,
When their fury was inflamed against us.
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us;
The torrent would have swept over us;
over us then would have swept the raging waters.
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.

Broken was the snare,
and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.
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Commentary on Ps 124:2-3, 4-5, 7cd-8

The psalm is one of thanksgiving to the Lord for his gift of salvation: salvation from physical enemies and salvation from nature’s fury. The song thanks God who rescues us if we but reach out to him.

CCC: Ps 124:8 287
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Gospel: Mt 10:28-33

Jesus said to the Twelve:
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body
but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father."
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Commentary on Mt 10:28-33

Jesus concludes his instructions to the Apostles as he sends them out. He tells them not to fear the persecution he has told them they will face. This fear should be absent because, while the body may be killed, their souls are safe with him. He concludes this passage telling them that the Father is watching over them and they have nothing to fear.

CCC: Mt 10:28 363, 1034; Mt 10:29-31 305; Mt 10:32-33 1816; Mt 10:32 14, 2145
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Reflection:

St. Catherine lived in the late third century in Alexandria, Egypt.  She was known to be a brilliant student and at a very young age (18 according to early tradition) became very learned in all manner of academic studies as well as a devout Christian.  As the daughter of Constus, the governor of Alexandria during the reign of the emperor Maximian (286–305), she went to Maximian and confronted him over his vicious persecution of Christians. The emperor was amazed at her audacity and attempted to have her dissuaded from her faith by his own academicians and advisors.  Not only did they fail in their attempts but in many cases, they too were converted to the faith, even though it meant instant martyrdom.

St. Catherine (also known as Catherine of the Wheel) got this later assignation because Maximian attempted to execute her on a spiked wheel.  Catherine touched the intended instrument of her torture and death and it shattered.  Outraged by this miracle, Maximian commanded that she be beheaded. Angels transported her body to the highest mountain (now called Mt. Saint Catherine) next to Mount Sinai. In 850, her incorrupt body was discovered by monks from the Sinai Monastery.

The heroic virtue of St. Catherine should serve to remind us that God, through our Savior Jesus, his son, sends us into an unforgiving world as well.  "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” we are told in the Gospel.  Those words require action based upon belief. We are reminded of a young child who was caught on the second floor of a burning building and a stranger below called to the child to jump into his arms, assuring her he would catch her.  She could not jump, not because she did not know her situation, but because she could not trust the stranger to catch her.  When her father ran up below and told her to jump, she immediately leapt into his arms.

St. Catherine had that kind of faith in our Lord.  We are called to have that same unfaltering faith.  On St. Catherine’s feast day, we ask for her intercession. May she ask our Father to give us the courage to face all resistance to the Lord with courage and words to persuade others of the way to life through Christ.

Pax


[1] The picture is “Catherine of Alexandria” by Caravaggio, c. 1598
[2] The readings are taken from the New American Bible, with the exception of the psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This republication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.