This day celebrates the memory of Saint Patrick, missionary and bishop to the people of Ireland, centuries ago! Sadly, in this country, among others, this day has become a day for excess. An excuse to suspend the requirements of Lent; and indulge in an excess consumption of food and alcohol; shamrocks, and leprechauns!
It is time to remember again what Patrick’s life was truly about; proclaiming the Gospel of Christ, by word and deed. He helped bring about the conversion of a nation!
Saint Patrick’s Breastplate (Abridged)
I arise today Through a mighty strength,the invocation of the Trinity. Through belief in the Threeness, Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation. I arise today Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His Baptism. Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial. Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension, Through the strength of His descent for the judgement of doom. I arise today Through the strength of the love of cherubim, In the obedience of angels, In the service of archangels, In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward… Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. I arise today. Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through belief in the Threeness, Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.
Saint Patrick, pray for us, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.
Genesis 15: 5-12, 17-18; Philippians 3: 17-4:1; Luke 9: 28b-36
A long, long, loooong time ago, I had an opportunity to spend a fall and winter season, working in a National Park, Big Bend National Park, to be precise, in southern Texas. I was assigned to the Lodge and Cabin area that was located in the Chisos Basin. I was to be a night watchman, needed because part of the lodging was made up of wooden cabins, built during the Great Depression, by WPA workers (Works Progress Administration). I was there to raise the alarm, in case there should be (God forbid) a fire; because those cabins would burn real fast. So it was important to get the word out quickly. I began making the nightly patrols. Now on my first night, I went out and saw for the first time a full night sky, without city lights obscuring the view. It was spectacular, the star field immense, and I was in awe.
Today’s Gospel, is St. Luke’s version of the Transfiguration. Jesus brings Peter, James and John, with him, up the mountain to pray. There, Jesus is transfigured, becoming like light, and Moses and Elijah appearing next to Him! And his three disciples were witnessing all this; and they were in awe at the sight. So much so that they were not sure what to say! They were so affected by the experience, that they did not, perhaps could not, tell any of the other disciples what had happened! At least not“at that time;” Luke writes.
Now after the death of Jesus, at the hands of the Romans, it was expected that his followers would disperse. Many probably did, but the Twelve remained in Jerusalem. I would like to think that at that moment, Peter, James, and John, revealed what they had seen, what they had experienced on the mountain with Jesus, to the rest of the apostles. Maybe this helped them to have the courage, the hope, to remain in Jerusalem. And on Easter morning, when the Resurrected Jesus appeared their midst, their hearts, their eyes were opened, and they were in awe!
Now we are all gathered here, in this place, around this altar. We are about to participate in something wondrous; witness something awesome. Now there are times when we gather, that we bring with us not only our joys, our blessings; but also our sorrows, our burdens, our worries. And Jesus invites us to lay them all down, here at the foot of the altar, and be to present to what is soon about happen! For Father will pick up the Host, take up the Cup of Wine, say the words of consecration, and they will become the Body and Blood of Christ; and I pray that we all will watch in awe!
But! We cannot remain silent as Peter, James, and John did, at first. We need to go out share this experience with the rest of our families , friends, acquaintances, and even strangers; by our words, by how we live our lives of faith! If we strive to that, then I know we will encourage others to join with us; to witness the glories of God as we do; and we will all be in awe!
Jacoba of Settesoli was born in the year 1190 into a noble Italian family. She married into a wealthy Roman family, and she and her husband would have children, including two sons. Sadly, her husband passed away.
While managing her household and caring for her children, she began to hear of an itinerant preacher, by the name of Francis. What she heard stirred her heart; and she desired to meet him.
An opportunity came when Francis and his band of brothers came to the city of Rome. Francis was seeking the Pope’s approval of his Rule of Life for his growing community. Lady Jacoba was able to speak to him about how she could live a more spiritual life, following Jesus. Francis advised her to continue caring for her family; that it was possible to live the Gospel life as both a mother and a householder. She followed his advice, although she did turn over management of the family lands to her two sons. She began living a life of prayer and charity. Francis and his brothers would visit her when they were in Rome. She gave a gift of land to the friars so that they could establish a shelter and hospital for local lepers.
During his final illness, he sent word to Jacoba, asking her to come to Assisi, with cloth to make a burial shroud. And he also asked her to bring some of those almond cookies she used to bake for him when he visited her home. She left Rome immediately.
When she reached Assisi; there was an argument among the brothers if it was appropriate for a woman to enter the friary! Francis settled the issue when he commanded them to let “Brother Jacoba” come in. She was present when he died; and mourned with the brothers.
Lady Jacoba remained to Assisi for the rest of her life. She died on February 8, 1273, and is buried in crypt of the Basilica of St Francis; near his tomb.
“Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
In today’s Gospel, we learn about the rich young man, who came to meet Jesus. Now, picture this, Jesus is ready to depart on a journey; he has his Apostles and other disciples with him. He begins to leave, when up comes this young man, who, by his dress, is obviously a wealthy man. And he comes to ask a question “What must I do to earn eternal life?” Jesus is ready to go, so you can hear the impatience in his voice; he gives the standard reply any rabbi would give; he quotes from the the commandments. The young man replies with fervor that he has keep the commandments since he was young. Jesus stop short, he hears the intensity in the reply, he senses the possibilities in this young man. And he gives a reply from his heart, a personal teaching to this young man. And the young man cannot accept it! He walks away!
At that moment, I can imagine the disappointment that Jesus must have felt. You can hear it in his voice when he he tells his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the people are flabbergasted by this statement. Now keep in mind, the societal structure in Jesus’ time was much different from our own today! We have a class society made up of the wealthy, middle class, low income, poor, and destitute. In Jesus time, there was, as one scripture scholar put it, the haves and the have nots! The haves were nobles, rich landowners, merchants who catered to the rich, political leaders, and leaders of the Temple in Jerusalem. The have nots, were farmers, herdsmen, laborers, craftsmen, fishermen; who, because of Roman taxes, could barely scratch up enough money to survive! To people like these, they dreamed of being wealthy, to have wealth meant they had made it. And to have Jesus tell them that the wealthy could not enter the kingdom of God, must have blown their minds! You can hear the disbelief in their voices! If the rich cannot make it, how can we? Jesus tells them, tells us that to follow, to live the Gospel, will come with trials and persecutions; but with it also a fellowship of believers, to support each other along the way; and to eternal life at the end of the journey!
Now we are a society that is fascinated with the lives of the rich and famous, I mean, who has not watched at lest one episode of the Housewives series, or have not read at lest one society magazine, like “People,” or the tabloids. We envy the rich,we wish we could have a tenth, a fraction of their wealth. Yet, Jesus cautions us, in very strong terms, that success and wealth does not guarantee entrance into the kingdom. Remember the prime commandants, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart! And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus is inviting us to cross the threshold into a new way of looking at the world, a new way of living in this world. One in which we share what we have with the poor and needy. That we look on each person that we come in contact with as a brother or a sister; a fellow traveler in this journey of life and faith, supporting and comforting each other during the hard times. And accepting each other. Standing together against a world where only money and status count, and might, whether through wealth or force of arms, makes right. If we can stand against that, then the blessings Jesus has promised will indeed be ours; and we will enter into eternal life in the age to come!
Saint Clare of Assisi was born in 1194. A daughter of a noble Italian family of the city of Assisi. This young lady, who was not particularly interested in entering a noble marriage, heard Saint Francis preaching, and wanted to live the Gospel life he espoused. Because of the social strictures of her times, she began living the Gospel life behind the walls of a monastery.
From behind those walls, she was still able to inspire people to follow Christ. Women came to be admitted to her community located around the chapel of San Damiano, one of the first churches Francis repaired. They lived a simple life of prayer and work. They claimed nothing for their own, no dowries, no financial endowments. People came from all around Assisi, seeking her advice and guidance.
Her influence could be felt beyond the Italian borders; when a noble woman, Agnes of Prague, inspired by lives of Franciscan friars in Hungary, sought Clare’s advice. Agnes would herself establish a Franciscan monastery. Clare, would advise her in several letters. In her second letter to Agnes, she wrote:
O most noble Queen, gaze upon Him, consider Him, contemplate Him, as you desire to imitate Him. If you suffer with Him, you will reign with Him. If you weep with Him, you shall rejoice with Him; If you die with Him on the cross of tribulation, you shall possess heavenly mansions in the splendor of the saints and,in the Book of Life, your name shall be called glorious among men.
“Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages.
A person should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity; devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked with gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ, a pasch, that is, a passing over. Through the branches of the cross, he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulcher, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’”
– From “Journey of the Mind to God” By Saint Bonaventure, Seventh Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans)
“Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.” We see Jesus taking an important step in his ministry in the Galilee. Up to now, it has been just him proclaiming the Good News; just him healing the sick; and those suffering from demons and evil spirits. Now, he was sending his twelve disciples out, to proclaim the glory, the mercy of God; sending them out drive out demons, and heal the sick. In a sense, he was sending them out as his front men, to get the word out to a wider audience, to give hope to more people of the Galilee. I would have loved to know what pairings of the Apostles were. Who was Judas paired with? How did that go? Some ago, a book came out, based on the TV mini-series; “Jesus of Nazareth;” a novelization of the mini-series. In the telling of this story, Peter, the rough, tough fisherman was paired with the Matthew, the tax collector! Not exactly a match made in heaven. The story goes on telling how Matthew worked at keeping Peter out of trouble because of his temper. All of the Apostles fulfilled the mission, given to them by Jesus. The groundwork had been done, that when Jesus went into greater Galilee, thousands of people came to see him, came to hear him, came to be healed by him.
We seemed to have turned the corner on this pandemic we are going through, though this variant has people worried. Our churches are fully opened, people are being invited back; yet, the mainstream press, secular and religious, are reporting a severe drop in the number of people attending church, a drop in the number of people who identify themselves as Catholic, or even Christian. Now, there could be many reasons for this, going to church is no longer a habit, people have found other things to fill their time, people have been put off by the division in the some areas of the Church, they felt alone, scared, and losing hope, and for whatever reason, they feel nobody is reaching out to them.
Now, there are programs and approaches to answer this growing situation , all coming under the umbrella of the “New Evangelization;” but in the light of today’s Gospel, I would suggest that each one of us are called to bearers of the Good News, to be evangelists. Now some may object, “I do not have training!” I would agree, we do need trained evangelists. But we also need people who have strived to live the Gospel, at home, on the job, with family, friends and strangers. Amos was not a trained prophet, he was shepherd, something of a gardener. The Apostles were mostly fisherman, who probably knew just enough Hebrew that they could read, barely, the Torah. Matthew was probably the most educated, he had to know some arithmetic, and enough Latin or Greek to communicate with his Roman overseers. But they were ordinary folks, like you and me, but they were inspired by the Gospel that Jesus preached; they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
We, who strive to live the Gospel, try to put into practice the commandments to love God with all our mind, with all our heart, with all our soul; and love our neighbors as ourselves, with all that it implies; have that same Spirit within us. And people will recognize that, recognize the authenticity of our lives, both with the struggles and joys. And they will be drawn to Christ, drawn to the God who loves us and cares for us.
I would remind us again what Saint Paul said to the Ephesians; “In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit;”. May the Holy Spirit guide us, inspire us to be evangelists for others, by the example of our lives, our lives of faith.
“O Lord and Master of my life, grant me not a spirit of sloth, meddling, love of power and idle talk. But give to me, your servant, a spirit of sober-mindedness, humility, patience, and love. Yes, Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother, since you are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen.”
Saint Ephrem, a Syriac Christian, was born around 306 AD, in ancient Mesopotamia. Baptized as a young man, he also was ordained a Deacon. He acquired fame as teacher of the Faith, and as an author of hymns. His hymns were written again to promote and defend the Christian faith, as well to give praise to God. With his fellow Christians, he was forced to flee his homeland for ancient Edessa. He died in 373. He was proclaimed a “Doctor of the Church” by Pope Benedict XV, in 1920.
Once more, people of Irish descent; and those would like to be Irish, are celebrating the Feast day of St. Patrick. In this country, on this “holy” day, people would celebrate in bars and pubs, although maybe not so much during these COVID days! Individuals and families will feast corned beef and cabbage; and there will be the wearing of the green. Real, and what passes for “real” Irish music will blaring out in homes, stores and cars.
Sadly, we tend to forget what the churches are asking us to remember today, the story of a man of faith. As a young man living in ancient Britain, Patrick was kidnap by Irish raiders; taken to wild Ireland and sold as a slave. He would later escape, returning to his homeland. But he felt called to return to Ireland as a missionary. He would study and was ordained a priest; he was later consecrated a bishop, and sent to Ireland to establish the Christian faith there. He would be successful in his efforts. A Celtic style of Christianity would soon developed, which disappeared for awhile, but is experiencing a rebirth. Eventually, it would be Irish monks, coming over into Europe, that would lead to a rebirth of Christianity in Europe itself, as it recovered from the Dark Ages.
The following is part of a prayer, attributed to Saint Patrick, it speaks to his deep spirituality; Saint Patrick’s Breastplate:
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me. Christ beside me, Christ to win me. Christ to win me. Christ to comfort me and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me. Christ in quiet, Christ in danger. Christ in hearts of all that love me. Christ in mouth of friend or stranger.
“Blessed be God, in his angels and in His saints!”