These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, love is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
(1 Cor 13:4-8)
Saints Cornelius and Cyprian were both caught up in the persecutions of Christians: Cornelius, bishop of Rome, Cyprian, bishop of Carthage. Although they died at different times and in different places, they are celebrated together for their witness to Christ and to the “Love that never fails.”
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
Today’s feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is tied to the feast of yesterday, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The disciple “whom he loved” is unnamed in the scene beneath the Cross. And even though the church has always wanted to say that this disciple was “John” (to associate the gospel with one of the Twelve), the gospel writer was very clear. When we look at the 11th chapter of the Fourth Gospel, we see the remarkable triple identification of the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved:
So the sisters sent word to him [Jesus], saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” (Jn 11:3)
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. (Jn 11:5)
And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” (Jn 11:35-36)
Could Lazarus be the Beloved Disciple? Perhaps, and maybe most likely . . . but the most important teaching that the gospel writer leaves us in the scene beneath the Cross is that by not putting a name on the Beloved Disciple it allows each one of us to be that Beloved Disciple to whom Jesus entrusts his mother. And like Beloved Disciples everywhere, we take her into our home.
Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
To have the same the same attitude as Christ . . . means to have the mind and heart of Christ. We want to accept the cross not as an obligation, but rather out of love. To be able to imitate Christ who emptied himself, so that Christ may now live in us.
The picture today is of the San Damiano Cross that now hangs in the Basilica of Saint Clare in Assisi.
Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
hate not your neighbor; and overlook faults.
In the Rule of Saint Benedict the monk was counseled: To keep death daily before one's eyes. This is not some dark purpose to keep monks perpetually depressed . . . rather as that particular chapter of the Rule suggests it’s one of the “instruments of good works.” Saint Benedict knew, as well as the writer of the book of Sirach, that in the light of eternity the everyday squabbles that arise from living in community don’t really amount to much. If we can keep death before our eyes we might be able to “set enmity aside . . . and overlook faults” especially the faults of others. Forgiveness is not optional. As Jesus says:
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart (Mt 18:35).
The cup of blessing that we bless,
is it not a participation in the Blood of Christ?
The bread that we break,
is it not a participation in the Body of Christ?
Because the loaf of bread is one,
we, though many, are one Body,
for we all partake of the one loaf.
(1 Cor 14:16-17)
Our communion in the Body and Blood of Christ satisfies the deepest hunger of the human heart. And today as we celebrate the Most Holy Name of Mary, we remember her hymn of praise as she blesses the One who fills "the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty" (Lk 1:53).
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 84)
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest
in which she puts her young—
Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my king and my God!
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
I remember this day 19 years ago when I was on retreat at Saint Meinrad Seminary. After my session with my spiritual director, he told me that something had happened and that I should go directly to the television in the faculty lounge. It was terrible to watch in real time as reporters and the whole country tried to figure out exactly what was taking place. But the seminary had no problem . . . we knew just what to do. We all gathered in the chapel to pray. As the psalmist says: How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
“Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful.
Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
So many riches in the readings for today’s Mass! To be merciful just as our Father is merciful . . . well, that’s the secret of the saints! Which is why we remember with great devotion those who have followed the Way of Jesus. Of course, there are selfish, narcissistic people who are incapable of understanding self-sacrifice and who will stand at the tombs of saints and of those who laid down their lives for others and ask the question: “I don’t get it . . . what’s in it for them?” As people of faith, we “get it” and we know that giving of ourselves as the Lord gave himself for us all on the Cross is the full measure of devotion. As the Lord himself says: there is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).
The photo today is from the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Belleau, France. The inscription on the cross reads: "To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die."