Tuesday, November 24, 2009


The Last Communion and
Martyrdom of Saint Denis,
by Henri Bellechose,
perhaps begun
by Malouel, completed 1416



Alternate Readings for the Common of Martyrs
Readings and Commentary:

2 Chronicles 24:18-22

The princes of Judah forsook the temple of the LORD,
the God of their fathers,
and began to serve the sacred poles and the idols;
and because of this crime of theirs,
wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem.
Although prophets were sent to them to convert them to the LORD,
the people would not listen to their warnings.
Then the spirit of God possessed Zechariah,
son of Jehoiada the priest.
He took his stand above the people and said to them:
"God says, 'Why are you transgressing the Lord's commands,
so that you cannot prosper?
Because you have abandoned the LORD, he has abandoned you."'
But the people conspired against him,
and at the king's order they stoned him to death
in the court of the LORD'S temple.
Thus King Joash was unmindful of the devotion shown him
by Jehoiada, Zechariah's father, and slew his son.
And as he was dying, he said, "May the LORD see and avenge."

Commentary on
2 Chronicles 24:18-22

This passage from the 2 Chronicles is set in an era where Judah has been invaded by Syrians. Consecrated funds from the temple have been used to “buy off” the invaders but the people have fallen into idolatry. The Prophet Zechariah (almost certainly the Zechariah mentioned in
Luke 11:51, Matthew 23:35 and by inference Isaiah 8:2) calls the people back to faithfulness but King Joash did not want to hear of the Lord’s possible vengeance against his kingdom and had Zechariah stoned, a martyr for the faith, he calls upon the Lord of justice to come to his aid.



2 Maccabees 6:18, 21, 24-31

Eleazar, one of the foremost scribes,
a man of advanced age and noble appearance,
was being forced to open his mouth to eat pork.
Those in charge of that unlawful ritual meal took the man aside privately, because of their long acquaintance with him,
and urged him to bring meat of his own providing,
such as he could legitimately eat,
and to pretend to be eating some of the meat of the sacrifice
prescribed by the king.

He told them:
"At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense;
many young men would think the ninety-year-old Eleazar
had gone over to an alien religion.
Should I thus pretend for the sake of a brief moment of life,
they would be led astray by me,
while I would bring shame and dishonor on my old age.
Even if, for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men,
I shall never, whether alive or dead,
escape the hands of the Almighty.
Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now,
I will prove myself worthy of my old age,
and I will leave to the young a noble example
of how to die willingly and generously for the revered and holy laws."

He spoke thus,
and went immediately to the instrument of torture.
Those who shortly before had been kindly disposed
now became hostile toward him because what he had said
seemed to them utter madness.
When he was about to die under the blows,
he groaned and said:
"The LORD in his holy knowledge knows full well that,
although I could have escaped death,
I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging,
but also suffering it with joy in my soul
because of my devotion to him."
This is how he died,
leaving in his death a model of courage
and an unforgettable example of virtue
not only for the young but for the whole nation.

Commentary on
2 Mc 6:18-31

The story of Eleazar given from the Second Book of Maccabees is the companion story to that of the mother and her seven sons (see
2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14). These stories while intended to serve as examples of heroic courage and fidelity to God’s Law were popular with early Christians because they gave a solid theological underpinning to “Martyrology. “



2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14

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


2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-23, 27b-29

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.

Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother,
who saw her seven sons perish in a single day,
yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the LORD.
Filled with a noble spirit that stirred her womanly heart with manly courage
she exhorted each of them
in the language of their forefathers with these words:
"I do not know how you came into existence in my womb;
it was not I who gave you the breath of life,
nor was it I who set in order
the elements of which each of you is composed.
Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe
who shapes each man's beginning,
as he brings about the origin of everything,
he, in his mercy,
will give you back both breath and life,
because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law."

"Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months,
nursed you for three years, brought you up,
educated and supported you to your present age.
I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth
and see all that is in them;
then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things;
and in the same way the human race came into existence.
Do not be afraid of this executioner,
but be worthy of your brothers and accept death,
so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with them."

Commentary on
2 Mc 7:1, 20-23, 27b-29

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.



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.



Sirach 51:1-8

I give you thanks, O Lord and King;
I praise you, O God my savior!
I will make known your name,
for you have been a helper and a protector to me.
You have kept back my body from the pit,
and from the scourge of a slanderous tongue,
from lips that went over to falsehood.
And in the sight of those who stood by, you have delivered me,
According to the multitude of the mercy of your name,
and from them that did roar, prepared to devour me,
And from the power of those who sought my life;
from many a danger you have saved me,
from flames that hemmed me in on every side;
From the midst of unremitting fire when I was not burnt
from the deep belly of the nether world;
From deceiving lips and painters of lies,
from the arrows of dishonest tongues.
My soul was at the point of death,
my life was nearing the depths of the nether world;
They encompassed me on every side,
but there was no one to help me,
I looked for one to sustain me, but could find no one.
But then I remembered the mercies of the LORD,
his kindness through ages past;
For he saves those who take refuge in him,
and rescues them from every evil.

Commentary on
Sirach 51:1-8

This song of thanksgiving for deliverance from danger is found at the very end of the Book of Sirach in what is referred to as the “appendix”. In it the singer gives thanks for God for his mercy and salvation (“…you have been a helper and a protector to me. You have kept back my body from the pit.”) The merciful Lord has saved his servant from the fires of Hell and rescued him from all the powers that would have destroyed him. This salvation, the psalmist concludes, is given to those who are faithful.



First Option

Acts 7:55-60

Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened
and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
But they cried out in a loud voice,
covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out,
"Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice,
"Lord, do not hold this sin against them";
and when he said this, he fell asleep.

Commentary on
Acts 7:55-60

St. Stephen is martyred for proclaiming Jesus Christ risen. He is the first Christian martyr, stoned outside of Jerusalem with the consent of one of the representatives of the Sanhedrin (“The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.”) who we know later became St. Paul.

We note how St. Luke draws a parallel between the martyrdom of Stephen and the death of Jesus.  Both asked the Father to forgive their persecutors in their last moments (see Luke 23:34) and both called out to God to receive their spirits (see Luke 23:46).

CCC: Acts 7:56 659; Acts 7:60 2635

Second Option

Revelation 7:9-17

I, John, had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:

"Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb."

All the angels stood around the throne
and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They prostrated themselves before the throne,
worshiped God, and exclaimed:

"Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
be to our God forever and ever. Amen."

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me,
"Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?"
I said to him, "My lord, you are the one who knows."
He said to me,
"These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes
and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.

"For this reason they stand before God's throne
and worship him day and night in his temple.
The One who sits on the throne will shelter them.
They will not hunger or thirst anymore,
nor will the sun or any heat strike them.
For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them
and lead them to springs of life-giving water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Commentary on
Rev 7:9-17

St. John’s vision of the heavenly kingdom unfolds in this passage with an image of those who have gone from this life to the next and now stand before the throne of God. They praise God without ceasing, giving thanks for salvation which comes from the Lamb of God, the Christ. The palm branches recall the Saviors triumphant entry into Jerusalem, here signifying his lordship over the New Jerusalem – God’s Heavenly Kingdom.

“…these wearing white robes” is a reference to martyrs who have given their lives for Christ during the great persecutions of Christians. These, St. John recounts, have received what is known as the “Baptism of Blood”. The Lord “…lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

CCC: Rv 7:9 775, 1138; Rv 7:10-12 2642

Third Option

Revelation 12:10-12b

I, John, heard a loud voice in heaven say:
"Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed.
For the accuser of our brothers is cast out,
who accuses them before our God day and night.
They conquered him by the Blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
love for life did not deter them from death.
Therefore, rejoice, you heavens,
and you who dwell in them."

Commentary on
Rev 12:10-12a

St. John refers in this passage to the “accuser” in Hebrew “Satan” who was cast down when Christ defeated death. His accusation was directed at the disciples. In the final sentences reference is made to the martyrdom of the Apostles of whom St. John was the youngest and last (and the only one not martyred).

CCC:Rv 12 1138; Rv 12:11 2853

Fourth Option

The One who was seated on the throne said:
"Behold, I make all things new."
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."

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


First Option

Psalm 31:3cd-4, 6 and 8ab, 16bc and 17

R. (6) Into your hands, 0 Lord, I commend my spirit.

Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name's sake you will lead and guide me.

R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy.

R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

Rescue me from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors,
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your kindness.

R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Commentary on
Ps 31:3cd-4, 6 and 8ab, 16bc and 17

The psalmist gives us a song of faith very appropriate for the one who is put to the test for their faith. It is a prayer for rescue and a submission of will to God's saving power.


Second Option

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.
Commentary on
Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

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.

CCC: Ps 34:3 716; Ps 34:8 336

Third Option

Psalm 124:2-3, 4-5, 7cd-8

R. (7) Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.

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.
Commentary on
Ps 124:2-3. 4-5, 7-8

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

Fourth Option

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

Psalm 126 is a lament. In this short psalm, the singer rejoices at the return of Israel following the Diaspora, the conquering of Israel and its enslavement. In this hymn, the people remember the greatness of God as he restores their nation and brings them back to their own land ("Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, they shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves"). The sense is one of being overflowing with thanksgiving.




Romans 5:1-5

Brothers and sisters:
Since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith
to this grace in which we stand,
and we boast in hope of the glory of God.
Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions,
knowing that affliction produces endurance,
and endurance, proven character,
and proven character, hope,
and hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Commentary on
Rom 5:1-5
In this passage St. Paul declares the peace of Christ which flows to the faithful from the Father through Jesus who cast out sin and death for our salvation. The complete acceptance of our earthly station is made possible by the Holy Spirit who flows from the Father and the Son into our hearts.

“Popular piety frequently construed reverses and troubles as punishment for sin; cf
John 9:2. Paul therefore assures believers that God's justifying action in Jesus Christ is a declaration of peace. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ displays God's initiative in certifying humanity for unimpeded access into the divine presence. Reconciliation is God's gift of pardon to the entire human race.”[3]
CCC: Rom 5:3-5 2734, 2847; Rom 5:5 368, 733, 1820, 1964, 2658


Romans 8:31b-39

Brothers and sisters:
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son
but handed him over for us all,
how will he not also give us everything else along with him?
Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones?
It is God who acquits us.
Who will condemn?
Christ Jesus it is who died—or, rather, was raised
who also is at the right hand of God,
who indeed intercedes for us.
What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?

As it is written:
For your sake we are being slain all the day;
we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.

No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Commentary on
Rom 8:31b-39

St. Paul bursts into a hymn proclaiming the victory over death and suffering experienced by the faithful, lifted up by God in Christ. The premise that the love of God assures salvation to the faithful is strengthened as the evangelist asks the rhetorical question “What will separate us from the love of Christ?” Over all obstacles (human, physical, and metaphysical – “height and depth” probably referred to ancient astrological terms indicating the closest proximity and the most distant star from the zenith), is the love of God expressed in Christ as the unshakable foundation of Christian life and hope.

The Apostle quotes Psalm 44:23 as his song denies that even death is a barrier between the faithful and God’s love. No earthly or spiritual force can stand against such love as that shown in Christ Jesus.
CCC: Rom 8:26-39 2739; Rom 8:31 2852; Rom 8:32 603, 706, 2572; Rom 8:34 1373, 2634


2 Corinthians 4:7-15

Brothers and sisters:
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
For we who live are constantly being given up to death
for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since, then, we have the same spirit of faith,
according to what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke,
we too believe and therefore speak,
knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus
will raise us also with Jesus
and place us with you in his presence.
Everything indeed is for you,
so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people
may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.

Commentary on
2 Cor 4:7-15

St. Paul is speaking to the Corinthians about suffering and death in the human existence of this life, in spite of living in the faith. The image he uses, fragile earthen pots, speaks of God’s instruments being easily broken but nonetheless effective. The image of small terracotta lamps in which light is carried is mentioned elsewhere. The point the evangelist makes contrasts our mortality with God’s omnipotence and power, our death in the flesh with life in the spirit of Christ. With such a spirit at work within us, we must, like St. Paul, spread that news to others (“…we too believe and therefore speak”).

CCC: 2 Cor 4:7 1420; 2 Cor 4:14 989


2 Corinthians 6:4-10

Brothers and sisters:
In everything we commend ourselves as ministers of God,
through much endurance, in afflictions, hardships, constraints,
beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts;
by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness,
in the Holy Spirit, in unfeigned love, in truthful speech,
in the power of God;
with weapons of righteousness at the right and at the left;
through glory and dishonor, insult and praise.
We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful;
as unrecognized and yet acknowledged;
as dying and behold we live;
as chastised and yet not put to death;
as sorrowful yet always rejoicing;
as poor yet enriching many;
as having nothing and yet possessing all things.

Commentary on
2 Cor 6:4-10

St. Paul’s main message in this passage is to encourage those of the faith to remain steadfast as he and his companions have done. He describes nine different trials they have encountered (“afflictions, hardships, constraints, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts”) and provides a litany of seven contrasting negative external perceptions with positive internal spiritual realities.
CCC: 2 Cor 6:4 859


2 Timothy 2:8-13; 3:10-12

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David:
such is my Gospel, for which I am suffering,
even to the point of chains, like a criminal.
But the word of God is not chained.
Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen,
so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus,
together with eternal glory.
This saying is trustworthy:

If we have died with him
we shall also live with him;
if we persevere
we shall also reign with him.
But if we deny him
he will deny us.
If we are unfaithful
he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny himself.

You have followed my teaching, way of life,
purpose, faith, patience, love,
endurance, persecutions, and sufferings,
such as happened to me in Antioch, lconium, and Lystra,
persecutions that I endured.
Yet from all these things the Lord delivered me.
In fact, all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus
will be persecuted.

Commentary on 2 Tm 2:8-13; 3:10-12

In the first line of this passage, St. Paul reminds St. Timothy that Christ came fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah would come from the line of Kind David. The apostle explains the baptismal idea expressed in the death to sin expressed and the rising with Christ as a new creation. As Paul implies, this is not an easy path and Christians must endure trails. He concludes with the promise that those who remain faithful will receive the reward, those who fall away will not.

The apostle concludes with a statement of fact that, just as he had been vigorously persecuted through out his missionary travels, “…all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
CCC: 2 Tm 2:8 437; 2 Tm 2:11-13 2641;2 Tm 3:12 2847


Hebrews 10:32-36

Brothers and sisters:
Remember the days past when,
after you had been enlightened,
you endured a great contest of suffering.
At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction;
at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated.
You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison
and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property,
knowing that you had a better and lasting possession.
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence;
it will have great recompense.
You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.

Commentary on
Heb 10:32-36

Hebrews instructs the faithful in the practical aspects of living the faith they have been given. The author calls on the readers to recall a time of great trial following their baptism into Christ (enlightenment in this context refers to baptism rather than just hearing the Gospel). The author refers to a persecution that was endured and now calls them to persevere.

CCC: Heb 10:32 1216; Heb 10:36 2826


James 1:2-4, 12

Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters,
when you encounter various trials,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
And let perseverance be perfect,
so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation,
for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life
that he promised to those who love him.

Commentary on Jas 1:2-4, 12

In these opening verses the author addresses the value of trials and temptation. The objective of these obstacles is to bring the Christian to spiritual maturity. The final verse of the reading promises the victors crown to those who persevere, avoid secular temptation and remain faithful to Christ.



1 Peter 3:14-17

Even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you.
Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them,
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.
Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,
but do it with gentleness and reverence,
keeping your conscience clear,
so that, when you are maligned,
those who defame your good conduct in Christ
may themselves be put to shame.
For it is better to suffer for doing good,
if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.

Commentary on
1 Pt 3:14-17

St. Peter exhorts the churches to which his letter is addressed to be courageous in their faith and to be fearless in the face of persecution. If they are attacked and suffer because of doing what is right, they are blessed (see also
Matthew 5:10-11 and Isaiah 59:9) and need only keep the hope of Jesus alive and holy in their hearts. Their attackers will be shamed in such actions because they do evil to the innocents.



1 Peter 4:12-19

Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you,
as if something strange were happening to you.
But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ,
so that when his glory is revealed
you may also rejoice exultantly.
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you,
for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
But let no one among you be made to suffer
as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer.
But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed
but glorify God because of the name.
For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God;
if it begins with us, how will it end
for those who fail to obey the Gospel of God?

And if the righteous one is barely saved,
where will the godless and the sinner appear?

As a result, those who suffer in accord with God's will
hand their souls over to a faithful creator as they do good.

Commentary on
1 Pt 4:12-19

The suffering to which the author has already frequently referred is presented in more severe terms. This has led some scholars to see these verses as referring to an actual persecution. Others see the heightening of the language as only a rhetorical device used at the end of the letter to emphasize the suffering motif.

CCC: 1 Pt 4:14 693; 1 Pt 4:17 672


1 John 5:1-5

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God,
and everyone who loves the Father
loves also the one begotten by him.
In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God
and obey his commandments.
For the love of God is this,
that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome,
for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.
And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Commentary on
1 Jn 5:1-5

The beginning of this chapter from St. John’s first letter provides us with an understanding of Christ and God being of the same essence. “Children of God are identified not only by their love for others (1 John 4:7-9) and for God (1 John 5:1-2) but by their belief in the divine sonship of Jesus Christ. Faith, the acceptance of Jesus in his true character and the obedience in love to God's commands (1 John 5:3), is the source of the Christian's power in the world and conquers the world of evil (1 John 5:4-5), even as Christ overcame the world (John 16:33
CCC: 1 Jn 5:1 2780, 2790



Matthew 10:17-22

Jesus said to his Apostles:
"Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved."

Commentary on
Mt 10:17-22

Jesus gives his disciples instructions on how to deal with the persecution they are to undergo at the hands of those who do not accept him, especially those in power. His instruction is one that relies on faith that the Father, through the Holy Spirit will supply the words. There is also a presumption that there will be loss of life. Here the Lord tells us that those who are steadfast in their faith cannot die a spiritual death.

CCC: Mt 10:19-20 728; Mt 10:22 161, 1821


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

This passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel is taken from Jesus’ missionary journey in Galilee. Here he teaches the Apostles, in rather dualistic terms of Greek philosophy, that the soul is eternal but the body may be killed. They are not to despair in cases were the body is threatened, God who is pleased even with small sacrifices (“Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?”) will be merciful to those who sacrifice themselves for his sake. The passage concludes with a call to profess faith in Christ (“Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.”).

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


Matthew 10:34-39

Jesus said to his Apostles:
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set
a man 'against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one's enemies will be those of one's household.'

"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

Commentary on
Mt 10:34-39

The final remarks of Jesus to the Apostles as they go out to preach and heal are given in this passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel. He reminds them that even though the word they spread reflects God’s love, they will be received badly by many, dividing households and families.

He goes on to tell them that those who will fully accept him and his word will undergo persecution because of him and, even if they lose their lives on His account, they will be saved. The reward given to those who accept this word and follow in his way will be great in heaven.

This discourse, recalled many years after Christ’s death and resurrection has the advantage of seeing the persecution of those who spread the word in the early Church and embodies a fuller understanding of the meaning of Christ’s teaching.

CCC: Mt 10:37 2232; Mt 10:38 1506


Luke 9:23-26

Jesus said to all,
"If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
yet lose or forfeit himself?
Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words,
the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory
and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."

Commentary on
Lk 9:23-26

The Gospel takes up the theme of life and death as Jesus first informed his disciples that he will undergo the “Passion” at the hands of the Jewish hierarchy (v.22) and be raised. He then provides this invitation to life by contrasting, as Moses did in
Deuteronomy 30:15-20, the (spiritual) salvation brought about through faith and the (eternal) death that awaits the faithless.

CCC: Lk 9:23 1435


John 12:24-26

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me."

Commentary on
Jn 12:24-26

Jesus has made his final entry into Jerusalem.  His hour is at hand and, in the presence of Gentiles as well as his disciples he reflects on his salvific mission.  St. John’s passage, given here, is foundational to our understanding of the Pascal Mystery. Using the analogy of the grain of wheat, the Lord invites us to his own sacrifice. 

"Beautifully, Christ begins to elucidate the mystery of his atoning death.  If it be thought strange that he must die in order to bring life, let it be remembered that this paradox already exists in nature.  The grain of wheat left to itself produces nothing; only when it appears to have died and has been buried does it bring forth fruit - in far greater abundance than itself (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:36)." [6]

Out of the Lord's analogy, wheat that comes from the seemingly dead and buried seed becomes the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Into the body's death to sin in Baptism, we are invited to share the salvation that comes from following Christ from death to life.

CCC: Jn 12:24 2731

John 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves 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 ).[7]  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


John 17:11b-19

Lifting his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying:
"Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me,
so that they may be one just as we are one.
When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me,
and I guarded them, and none of them was lost
except the son of destruction,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
But now I am coming to you.
I speak this in the world
so that they may share my joy completely.
I gave them your word, and the world hated them,
because they do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
I do not ask that you take them out of the world
but that you keep them from the Evil One.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth.
Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them,
so that they also may be consecrated in truth."

Commentary on
Jn 17:11b-19

This passage is a continuation of the “High Priestly Prayer” started earlier in St. John’s Gospel (John 17:1-11a). This part of the prayer begins with a plea for unity between the Father and the disciples (note the reference here to Judas Iscariot as the “son of destruction"). Still speaking directly to God, Jesus again says he is going to the Father, and that the disciples should share his joy at this prospect. He then asks the Father to keep them safe from the poison of sin (similar here to the petition in the Lord’s Prayer) and to consecrate them in truth (defining truth as the Word). In this instance“…but that you keep them from the Evil One,” it appears to refer specifically to the devil as opposed to some generic evil.

Clear reference is given here about how the world will receive these friends he sends into the world (“I gave them your word, and the world hated them”). This is why he asks at the outset: "Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one.

CCC: Jn 17:11 2747, 2749, 2750, 2750, 2815, 2849; Jn 17:12 2750, 2750; Jn 17:13 2747, 2749; Jn 17:15 2750, 2850; Jn 17:17-20 2821; Jn 17:17-19 2812; Jn 17:17 2466; Jn 17:18 858; Jn 17:19 611, 2747, 2749, 2812

[1] 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. 
[2] The picture is "The Last Communion and Martyrdom of Saint Denis" by Henri Bellechose, perhaps begun by Malouel, completed 1416
[3] See NAB footnote on Romans 5:1-11[4] See NAB footnote on 1 Peter 4:12-19 
[5] See NAB footnote on 1 Jn 5:1-5
[6] Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall, Inc., © 1968, 63:131, pp. 449
[7] Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, © 2010, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA. p. 161

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