Wednesday, December 30, 2009


“Pope St. Sylvester”
Artist and Date are


Biographical Information about St. Sylvester I[1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Sylvester

Readings and Commentary:

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 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: 12-14; Luke 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
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,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
 Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply,
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Commentary on
Mt 16:13-19

St. Matthew’s story of how Jesus asked about what people were saying about him has a profound impact on the Church. Here, when challenged by Jesus with the question, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon answers, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” The second title is not present in St. Mark’s version of this encounter. The title adds an understanding that Jesus is not just the Messiah, but also the Son of God. Given this response, Jesus confers upon Simon a new name “Kephas” which comes from the root Aramaic word Kepa or “Rock.” When translated into Greek it is Petros, and from there to Peter. The name, however, becomes the foundation for the Church. Peter, as a consequence of this exchange is given Christ’s authority, an authority that is passed down through Papal Succession to the Pope who sits on the Chair of Peter today.

CCC: Mt 16-18 1969; Mt 16:16-23 440; Mt 16:16 424, 442; Mt 16:17 153, 442; Mt 16:18-19 881; Mt 16:18 424, 442, 552, 586, 869; Mt 16:19 553, 1444

The question Jesus asks of his disciples is asked of each of us: "But who do you say that I am?" We pray our answer is pleasing to the Lord and matches that given by St. Peter, our first pontiff. Ultimately, our answer to the question is one that is lived not just spoken. Our actions and responses to the world tell the Lord who we say he is. It has been this way from the beginning of man’s encounter with God in Christ.

Some of those who have gone before us have answered St. Peter's question with eloquence and virtue so profound, that we latter day disciples look upon them as being iconic examples of faith and devotion to our Lord. Such a person was Pope St. Sylvester. His papacy was from 314 to 335, an important and difficult time for the early Church. He was a contemporary of Constantine and is credited with numerous gifts to the Church. His papacy saw the building of the basilica and baptistery of the Lateran near the former imperial palace where the pope lived, the basilica of the Sessorian palace (Santa Croce), and the Church of St. Peter in the Vatican. He was instrumental in forming our understanding of what Christ calls us to be and for that we are eternally grateful.

In many parts of the world, this last day of the calendar year is known as St. Sylvester’s Day, or the Feast of Sylvester, and his legacy is remembered with fidelity. On his day this year let us ask for his intercession, may he pray that our response to the Lord’s question be as clear with our actions as it is with our words when we quote our first Pope saying "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."


[1] The icon is “Pope St. Sylvester” Artist and Date are UNKNOWN 
[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. 
[3]The Navarre Bible: “Major Prophets”, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, © 2002, pp.733
[4] See NAB footnote on Ps 23:5
[5] ibid

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