Saturday, February 14, 2009

FEBRURAY 14 SAINTS CYRIL AND METHODIUS

“Saints Cyril and Methodius”
by Zahari Zograf c. 1840
FEBRUARY 14
 
SAINTS CYRIL AND METHODIUS, BISHOPS MEMORIAL


Biographical Information about St. Cyril

Biographical Information about St. Methodius

Readings for the Memorial of Sts Cyril and Methodius[1][2]

Readings and Commentary:

FIRST READING: 

Acts 13:46-49

Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said,
"It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first,
but since you reject it
and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life,
we now turn to the Gentiles.
For so the Lord has commanded us,
I have made you a light to the Gentiles,
that you may be an instrument of salvation
to the ends of the earth. "

The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this
and glorified the word of the Lord.
All who were destined for eternal life came to believe,
and the word of the Lord continued to spread
through the whole region.
 

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Commentary on
Acts 13:46-49

This excerpt from St. Paul’s first missionary journey finds Paul and Barnabas in Antioch. They have attempted to present the Gospel to the Jews but are rejected. We note that Luke acknowledges that this word came first to the Hebrews, but since they have rejected it, the Gentiles inherit the salvation they were offered. The Gospel now is presented to the Gentiles who receive it with enthusiasm.

CCC: Acts 13:48 2640
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RESPONSORIAL PSALM:
 
Psalm 117:1bc, 2

R. (Mark 16:15) Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
or: Alleluia. 


Praise the LORD, all you nations;glorify him, all you peoples! 
R. Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
or: Alleluia.
 


For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.
 

R. Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
or: Alleluia.
 

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Commentary on
Ps 117:1bc, 2

“This shortest of hymns calls on the nations to acknowledge God's supremacy. The supremacy of Israel's God has been demonstrated to them by the people's secure existence, which is owed entirely to God's gracious fidelity.”[3] Using a refrain from St. Mark’s Gospel, the psalm is one of praise for the Good News of God’s salvation.


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GOSPEL:
Luke 10:1-9

The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two other disciples
whom he sent ahead of him in pairs
to every town and place he intended to visit.
He said to them,
"The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way;
behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;
and greet no one along the way.
Into whatever house you enter, first say,
`Peace to this household.'
If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to you.
Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you,
for the laborer deserves his payment.
Do not move about from one house to another.
Whatever town you enter and they welcome you,
eat what is set before you,
cure the sick in it and say to them,
`The Kingdom of God is at hand for you."'
 

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Commentary on
Lk 10:1-9
 
It is only in the Gospel of St. Luke that we hear the story of Jesus sending the seventy (two). This event is supported by other non-biblical writings (see Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 265-c. 340) Church History, Book. 1). The instructions given to those sent out are very similar to the instructions given to the Twelve, as was the message they were sent to proclaim.

This selection emphasizes Jesus' early struggle to accomplish what he came to do by himself. We sense the humanness as he says: "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few." We also find this event and statement in St. Matthew’s Gospel where instead of the 72 he names the 12 (Matthew 10:1-8). While in St. Matthew’s story Jesus sends them first to the Hebrew people, St. Luke makes no such distinction.

This effort by Jesus was modeled on Moses’ leadership structure in which 70 elders were appointed (Numbers 11:24-25). It is also possible that the reference number 70 relates to the number of nations mentioned in Genesis 10. The disciples were sent two by two, a custom that would be replicated later in the post-resurrection missionary activities of the Church (see Acts 8:14; 15:39-40).

In another historical similarity, the disciples were sent without possessions, presumably depending upon the traditionally required hospitality for their support. Similar instructions were given by the Prophet Elisha as he sent his servant in 2 Kings 4:29.

The Lord’s instructions concerning this hospitality “…laborer deserves payment” is also quoted in St. Paul’s first letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 5:18b) and has further support in 1 Corinthians 9:7, 14. Those who labor on behalf of the Gospel and cannot take time to support themselves deserve the support of the community. In a final twist, the Lord’s instruction to “…eat what is set before you” sets aside Mosaic dietary laws (also 1 Corinthians 10:27 and Acts 10:25). It is a clear indication that the scope of their mission is to call all peoples to the Gospel.

CCC: Lk 10:1-2 765; Lk 10:2 2611; Lk 10:7 2122

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Reflection:
 
You called us to preach the Gospel of your Christ and to encourage them to lives and works pleasing to you.”

These words are attributed to St. Cyril at the end of his earthly mission. We see in them the attitude and zeal of the Apostles, and understand why our brothers and sisters of the Eastern Rite consider them “Equal to the Apostles.” He is credited with bringing Christianity to the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe and, along with St. Methodius, they were named co-patrons of Europe with Saint Benedict of Nursia by Pope John Paul II in 1980.

As part of their mission to bring the Gospel to the Slavs they created an alphabet, translated the liturgy and related scripture into a form that could communicate both worship and Word effectively to the people they served. This heroic effort and tireless service earned them a special place in the hearts of the Churches (East and West), and a home in the heavenly kingdom.

The message they reinforce from scripture is that God offers us knowledge of salvation through the promise of Christ. We are told again and again in sacred scripture that this treasure is not to be kept by a chosen few. In the reading from the Acts of Apostles, we see the attitude of the Hebrew community who thought God came only for them. To compound their error, they refused to accept that the invitation was to all mankind. God offered the gift and they refused. He then offered it to the world, and happy are those who hear and believe. St. Luke’s Gospel shows Christ himself sending out his friends so the world might know the great love of God. The word he sent was “The Kingdom of God is at hand for you." This was offered after the power of God was demonstrated as the cured the sick; those thought by the Jews the be afflicted by God for some unknown transgression.

Today we remember Sts. Cyril and Methodius who followed in the tradition of the Seventy-Two, and that of St. Paul and St. Barnabas and all those who hear the call of Christ and take his word into the world. We thank God for sending such noble souls to serve mankind.

Pax

[1] Readings and Psalm taken from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. 
[2] The picture used is “Saints Cyril and Methodius” by Zahari Zograf c. 1840
[3] See NAB footnote on Psalm 117

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