Thursday, October 10, 2019


Below are the readings suggested for this Memorial. However, readings for the Memorial may also be taken from the Common of Pastors: For a Pope (#719-724).

“Saint John XXIII, Pope”
photographer and date are unknown.

Readings and Commentary [2]

Reading 1: Ezekiel 34:11-16

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
As a shepherd tends his flock
when he finds himself among his scattered sheep,
so will I tend my sheep.
I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered
when it was cloudy and dark.
I will lead them out from among the peoples
and gather them from the foreign lands;
I will bring them back to their own country
and pasture them upon the mountains of Israel
in the land's ravines and all its inhabited places.
In good pastures will I pasture them,
and on the mountain heights of Israel
shall be their grazing ground.
There they shall lie down on good grazing ground,
and in rich pastures shall they be pastured
on the mountains of Israel.
I myself will pasture my sheep;
I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD.
The lost I will seek out,
the strayed I will bring back,
the injured I will bind up,
the sick I will heal,
but the sleek and the strong I will destroy,
shepherding them rightly.
Commentary on Ez 34:11-16

The prophet presents the allegory of God, the shepherd. In this oracle, the vision is that God the Father, like a shepherd, will gather the people of Israel from the foreign lands to which they have been driven, and bring them back to “the mountains of Israel.

"This beautiful oracle resounds in our Lord's parable of the Good Shepherd who takes care of his sheep (cf. John 10:1-21), in what he says about the Father's joy on finding the lost sheep (cf. Matthew 18: 12-14Luke 15:4-7), and in things he has to say about the Last Judgment as reported by St Matthew (Matthew 25:31-46)." [3]

CCC: Ez 34:11-31 754

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 23:1-3a, 4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul. 
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage. 
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. 
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come. 
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Commentary on Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

Psalm 23 is one of the most familiar songs in the entire psalter. “God's loving care for the psalmist is portrayed under the figures of a shepherd for the flock (Psalm 23:1-4) and a host's generosity toward a guest (Psalm 23:5-6). The imagery of both sections is drawn from traditions of the exodus (Isaiah 40:1149:10Jeremiah 31:10).” [4] While the theme of shepherd is mentioned in the first strophe, the psalm really speaks to the peace given to those who follow the Lord and place their trust in him, even into the “dark valley.

The reference in the third strophe above: “'You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes' occurs in an exodus context in Psalm 78:19. As my enemies watch: my enemies see that I am God's friend and guest. Oil: a perfumed ointment made from olive oil, used especially at banquets (Psalm 104:15Matthew 26:7Luke 7:3746John 12:2).” [5]

CCC: Ps 23:5 1293

Gospel: Jn 21:15-17

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and
eaten breakfast with them, he said to Simon Peter,
"Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?"
Simon Peter answered him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs."
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
"Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
Simon Peter answered him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
He said to him, "Tend my sheep."
He said to him the third time,
"Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
"Do you love me?" and he said to him,
"Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you."
Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep."
Commentary on Jn 21:15-17

Following the third revelation to the disciples, as they were fishing at the Sea of Tiberias, Jesus now focuses on Peter, making sure he understands his role in the foundation of the Church. The triple confession of Peter reverses his earlier denial of the Lord the night of the Passion (Matthew 26:69ffMark 14:29-3166-72John 13:36-3818:15-1818:25-27). This is also a key passage, identified by the Church as Christ’s post-resurrection assignment of Peter to be the shepherd of the Church, essentially establishing the beginning of apostolic succession.

CCC: Jn 21:13-15 645; Jn 21:15-17 553, 881, 1429, 1551

On many occasions our Lord Jesus Christ, has made reference to shepherds and their importance.  In St. John XXIII we see a true shepherd of our modern Church.  In another age, were he canonized with a descriptive suffix, he would have been called St. John “the Reformer” based upon what he did for the Church he loved.  He is known first and foremost for convening the Second Vatican Council with its mandate to reform the Church.  However, even before he did that, he was changing the role of the Church in world affairs.  It was St. John XXIII who first told the bishops of Italy to stop interfering in local elections.  He understood that the Church must rule the spirit of the people, but the people must decide how their civic leaders will lead them.

"The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ. It is also the flock of which God himself foretold that he would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are unfailingly nourished and led by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep.” (CCC 754)

As members of the flock formed by such shepherds we are bound to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before us.  We have as our first model the holiest of shepherds, Jesus Christ.  His example and commandments guide all we do.  If that were our only model of holiness, we would certainly be discouraged since no one can hope to come close to the image of perfect love and obedience to the Father shown to us by our Savior.  So we are given other saints to provide us with examples.  St. John the Twenty-third is one of these.  We see in him the discipline of holiness, his constant love and concern for those who walk that same pilgrim way.  And his success in achieving a place among the heavenly hosts gives us hope.  Today, on his feast day, we ask for his intercession.  May we too always seek to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.


[1] The photograph is “Saint John XXIII, Pope” photographer and date are unknown.
[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 Navarre Bible: “Major Prophets”, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, © 2002, p.733.
[4] NAB footnote on Psalm 23
[5] Ibid.

Friday, September 27, 2019

September 28 - Memorial of Saint Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs

#645A – Memorial of Saint Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs

“St. Lawrence Ruiz”
 artist and date are unknown

Readings and Commentary [3]

It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested
and tortured with whips and scourges by the king,
to force them to eat pork in violation of God's law.
One of the brothers, speaking for the others, said:
"What do you expect to achieve by questioning us?
We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors."

At the point of death, the second brother said:
"You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life,
but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.
It is for his laws that we are dying."

After him the third suffered their cruel sport.
He put out his tongue at once when told to do so,
and bravely held out his hands, as he spoke these noble words:
"It was from Heaven that I received these;
for the sake of his laws I disdain them;
from him I hope to receive them again."
Even the king and his attendants marveled at the young man's courage,
because he regarded his sufferings as nothing.

After he had died,
they tortured and maltreated the fourth brother in the same way.
When he was near death, he said,
"It is my choice to die at the hands of men
with the hope God gives of being raised up by him;
but for you, there will be no resurrection to life."
Commentary on 2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14

This selection from the Second Book of Maccabees provides examples of courage in the face of extreme cruelty based upon belief in the resurrection on the last day. This is one of the important theological ideas expounded upon in the book, and provides a framework for our later understanding of the importance of Christ’s sacrifice and promise.

CCC: 2 Mc 7:9 992; 2 Mc 7:14 992
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (5) The Lord delivered me from all my fears.

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. The Lord delivered me from all my fears.

Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
R. The Lord delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the afflicted man called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. The Lord delivered me from all my fears.

The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. The Lord delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 34 is a song of thanksgiving and a favorite for celebrating the heroic virtue of the saints. The psalmist, fresh from the experience of being rescued (Psalm 34:5, 7), can teach the "poor," those who are defenseless, to trust in God alone. This psalm, in the words of one being unjustly persecuted, echoes hope for deliverance and freedom. The promise of salvation for those who follow the Lord gives hope to the poor and downtrodden.

CCC: Ps 34:3 716; Ps 34:8 336
Gospel: John 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples:
"If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
and I have chosen you out of the world,
the world hates you.
Remember the word I spoke to you,
'No slave is greater than his master.'
If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
And they will do all these things to you on account of my name,
because they do not know the one who sent me."
Commentary on Jn 15:18-21

Jesus gives the disciples a paradox in telling them that, while they are part of the world, they do not belong to the world. John gives us three different meanings of "the world."  In this instance it probably refers to fallen Israel - the spear of the devil that opposes God and hates the truth.  In other instances it refers to the universe created by God (John 1:10) and the fallen family of mankind in need of redemption. (John 3:17 ). [4]  The disciples are separated from that society through their association with Christ. He then reminds them that because they are his, they too will suffer persecution by those he came to save.

CCC: Jn 15:19-20 675; Jn 15:20 530, 765

St. Lawrence Ruiz and his companions were the first saints from the Philippines and he was the first saint to be beatified outside of Rome (St. John Paul II was amazing).  His journey to martyrdom certainly captures the spirit of St. John’s Gospel.  St. Lawrence fled persecution in his own country, traveling to Japan with other Christian companions (Dominican priests: Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet, and Miguel de Aozaraza, a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz; and a layman named Lazaro, a leper) to Japan, which at that time was vigorously persecuting Christians. (“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.”) Ultimately they all joined the Nagasaki Martyrs, dying heroically for their faith.

We see their example and marvel at their ability to remain steadfast in the face of torture and death, fearless, knowing that God’s salvation, forged by Christ’s blood, was waiting for them.  We all ask ourselves the same question when we contemplate the martyr’s fidelity, “If I am faced with the option of torture and death or giving up my belief in Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, could I make that choice?”  Could I look my torturer in the face and say as these martyrs did – “I am Christian and remain so.” 

We ask this question today.  In our daily walk through life, we are challenged to be counter-cultural.  We are faced with a secular morality that says: human life has no value and it’s all right to kill unwanted babies; and if we or our relatives get very sick, it’s fine to opt for doctor-assisted suicide. We are told by law that gender confusion is normal and that people should be allowed to ignore human physiology and choose the gender they want to identify as, or choose sexual partners randomly with no consideration for traditional morality. These evolving cultural norms are eroding the fabric of our families.  Do we, as Christians, resist these changing social values?  Do we, in school, socially, or at work, defend life, marriage, and Christian families as the standard we live by?  Or do we remain silent for fear of being called “hater” or “bigot”?

We have been warned that accepting the great gift of eternal life with God would come at a price.  We were shown by Christ’s own passion what would happen if we were heralds of God’s Kingdom.  We are reminded of that today in the persons of St. Lawrence Ruiz and his companions who showed us, by their example, what faithfulness can mean.  We ask for their intercession, may we be strong in the face of persecution and courageous in our fight to preserve Christian values in a world that rejects them.


[1] These readings are suggested by the USCCB.  No formal Proper has been approved.  Readings for the Memorial may also be taken from the Common of Martyrs (#713-718).
[2] The picture is “St. Lawrence Ruiz,” artist and date are unknown.
[3] 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.
[4] Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, © 2010, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA. p. 161