Sunday, January 23, 2011


“St. Francis de Sales”
Artist and Date UNKNOWN 


Biographical Information about St. Francis de Sales[1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales

Readings and Commentary:

Ephesians 3:8-12

Brothers and sisters:
To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given,
to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ,
and to bring to light for all what is the plan of the mystery
hidden from ages past in God who created all things,
so that the manifold wisdom of God
might now be made known through the Church
to the principalities and authorities in the heavens.
This was according to the eternal purpose
that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,
in whom we have boldness of speech
and confidence of access through faith in him.

Commentary on
Eph 3:8-12

St. Paul’s dialogue on the unity of all the faithful in Christ is continued in this passage. The apostle pronounces Gentiles as coheirs to the salvation offered by God in Jesus. St. Paul uses the analogy of the “body” to signify the degree to which all are united. He concludes this passage with a summary of the grace and richness offered in proclaiming Christ to the world, using himself as an example.

CCC: Eph 3:8 424; Eph 3:9-12 221; Eph 3:9-11 772; Eph 3:9 1066; Eph 3:12 2778
Psalm 37:3-4, 5-6, 30-31

R. (30a) The mouth of the just murmurs wisdom.

Trust in the LORD and do good
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart's requests.

R. The mouth of the just murmurs wisdom.
Commit to the LORD your way;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make justice dawn for you like the light;
bright as the noonday shall be your vindication.

R. The mouth of the just murmurs wisdom.
The mouth of the just tells of wisdom
and his tongue utters what is right.
The law of his God is in his heart,
and his steps do not falter.

R. The mouth of the just murmurs wisdom.
Commentary on
Ps 37:3-4, 5-6, 30-31

Psalm 37 is a lament containing the plea to be faithful to God and remain steadfast in the time of adversity. The psalmist sings that the faith of the people will bring them salvation and that the Lord is faithful and intercedes for them against the wicked. Salvation comes from the Lord alone is the common message.

This selection of Psalm 37 (the main thrust or which is evil is passing but God and His Law are eternal) exhorts the listener to trust in God and the “light” of truth will show the way of righteousness. The psalm appropriately extols the true teaching of God.

John 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father's commandments
and remain in his love.

“I have told you this so that my joy be in you
and your joy be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one's life for one's friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”

Commentary on
Jn 15:9-17

The discourse on the union of Jesus with his disciples continues. His words become a monologue and go beyond the immediate crisis of Christ’s departure. In this passage Jesus focuses on the chain of love from the Father, through the Son, to his adopted sons and daughters.

There is much made of the use of the difference in the Greek words for"love" used in this discourse. When Jesus says: "No one has greater love than this…" the word agapao (intimate, selfless love) is used, while when he says: "You are my friends…" the word phileo (casual "friendly" (brotherly) type of love) is used. St. John uses the two words synonymously so the message is clear, reiterated at the end of the passage: "Love one another."

St. John also distinguishes the disciples' new relationship with God saying, “I no longer call you slaves…I have called you friends.” Jesus designates the disciples “friends of God.” This designation is supported and defined in other places in sacred scripture. It separates the disciples from Moses, Joshua, and David who carried the designation “Servants of the Lord” (see Deuteronomy 34:5Joshua 24:29, and Psalm 89:21). Calling them “friends” of God establishes the same relationship as that enjoyed by Abraham (see James 2:23): “Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,' and he was called 'the friend of God.'"[3] The clear reference was that they, like Abraham, would be patriarchs of the New Covenant.

CCC: Jn 15:9-10 1824; 15:9 1823; 15:12 459, 1823, 1970, 2074; 15:13 363, 609, 614; 15:15 1972, 2347; 15:16-17 2745; 15:16 434, 737, 2615, 2815

As Christians, we are always and in every way challenged to live as Christ taught us, to “love one another as I love you.” It is difficult for us to do when we encounter people who do not reciprocate. It is even more difficult when people actively dislike us and make those feelings known. We are, in addition, invited to look at the language used in the Gospel. If we were asked to quote that passage without looking at the printed word, most of us would say: "love one another as I loved you.” The love of Christ refers not to the past tense, but to the present. Even after all we have done or not done in his name the love of Christ continues, inviting us, pleading with us to love all those with whom we come in contact, who are likewise his sons and daughters.

We dwell extensively on this aspect of Christ’s teaching on the feast day of St. Francis de Sales because that was part of his heroic virtue. He loved, unreservedly, all those he met, especially those who hated him. He came into his vocation in at time of bitter division within the Christian ranks. He was born in the Duchy of Savoy, 21 August, 1567 and died at Lyons, 28 December, 1622. He served the Church during those post-reformation years when people were being killed for their stance on the divisions in our ranks. His fame came because he was such an exceptional apologist, bringing back to the Church many of those who had been convinced otherwise. The only way an apologist or an evangelist can effectively and authentically proclaim their Gospel message is by evidencing, in their relations with those hearing them, that they live Christ’s Great Commandment and love them as Christ most assuredly loves the speaker.

The history and writings of the great saint and intellect that is St. Francis demonstrates that he lived Christ’s commandments most thoroughly and thereby “remains in his love.” We see his example and we are strengthened by his fidelity in the face of hurtful challenges. We ask for his prayers especially on his day, that we may also find the strength to remain steadfast, being an image of God’s will for everyone, loving them as Christ loves us.


[1] The picture is “St. Francis de Sales” Artist and Date 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 re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only. 
[3] St. James synthesizes Isaiah 41:8 and 2 Chronicles 20:7 in which Abraham is called God’s friend.

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