Friday, August 7, 2009


“St Sixtus Entrusts
the Church Treasures to Lawrence”
by Fra Angelico, 1447-49


Biographical Information about St. Sixtus II [1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Sixtus II

Readings and Commentary:

Wisdom 3:1-9

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed they be punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their visitation they shall shine,
and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;
They shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the LORD shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.
Commentary on
Wis 3:1-9

This passage, while frequently used on the feasts of martyrs, can be understood as an early description of the process of achieving a place in the heavenly kingdom by all those who went before us in faith. The flow of this description provides a good picture of the purification of all the faithful that takes place in the transition from life, through purification in Purgatory (“…chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed”), to new life with the Father.

Psalm 126:1 be-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6

R. (5) Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.

When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing.
R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.

Then they said among the nations,
"The LORD has done great things for them."
The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad indeed.
R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like the torrents in the southern desert.
Those who sow in tears
shall reap rejoicing.
R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.

Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves.
R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
Commentary on
Ps 126:1 be-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6

Psalm 126 is a song of praise. It rejoices here in the return of the captives placed in servitude during the Diaspora and seeks the Lord’s blessings in hopes of returning to their former prosperity.

Matthew 10:28-33

Jesus said to his Apostles:
"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."
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 lack of 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

Pope St. Sixtus II and his companions were martyred in Rome in 258 AD during the persecution of Emperor Valerian who had promulgated an edict that all Bishops, Priest, and Deacons be summarily executed in an attempt to destroy the young Church and seize its riches. Pope Sixtus and four of his deacons were captured and beheaded while a fifth, St. Lawrence, as commanded to bring the emperor the wealth of the Church. When, four days later, came before the magistrate responsible for carrying out the edict, he presented a large number of the poor people of Rome claiming they were the treasure of the Church, he too was executed.

Pope St. Sixtus’ example of fidelity to Christ, even under the threat of death, reminds us of our Lord’s promise, that now one who believes in him will ever truly die. Rather as the Gospel from St. Matthew says, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.” How can anyone take from the steadfast person that which God has instilled in them? It is like trying to remove flavor from a savory dish; it cannot be done. The spiritual essence of the faithful follower of Christ is an indelible mark, inscribed first at Baptism. This mark – for Saints such as Pope St. Sixtus was strengthened through prayer so that even when they destroyed his body, that immortal soul lives on.

In this time in our world, the Church is once more under attack from those who would see it destroyed and its property seized. Deluded people and governments see the Christian as a threat to their power and in possession of wealth they covet (although they do now know the true wealth of the Church any more than did Valerian). We are called by our Church once more to stand firm in our convictions and united in our love for Christ. By the prayers of St. Sixtus, may we be given the strength to stand as witnesses to the power of Christ in the world.


[1] The picture is “St Sixtus Entrusts the Church Treasures to Lawrence” by Fra Angelico, 1447-49
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

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