When you are old, you will stretch out your hands and another
will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go
Today we commemorate St. Peter and St. Paul. This day honors the martyrdom of the two saints, sometime between AD 64 and 68. While the church recognizes that they may not have died on the same day, tradition says that this is the day that they were both martyred in Rome by Emperor Nero. Peter was the rock on which Christ formed His Church, and became the first Pope as the specialized Shepard of Christ’s Flock on Earth. Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament, with 13 letters ascribed to his name (most scholars agree that 7 are objectively his, yet the other 6 are of contested authorship). St. Paul (born as Saul) is often considered to be the most important person after Jesus in the history of Christianity. His epistles (letters) have had enormous influence on Christian theology, especially on the relationship between God the Father and Jesus, and on the mystical human relationship with the divine. St. Peter and St. Paul had been imprisoned in the infamous Mamertine Prison of Rome and both had foreseen their approaching death. While I was reading today more information about apostles Peter and Paul I was inspired to talk about one thing from the Bible. I read John 21:15-19. In this chapter Jesus is talking to Peter and here is what it says:
”When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
While reading Bible for today I was very touched with this last sentence saying:” …when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” This sentence brought me back to some memories that I have experienced almost 13 years ago. In 2009, when I was preparing to become a novice in order to become an orthodox monk I was instructed by my spiritual father (abbot) that before moving to monastery I should serve the army and I was told to serve civil army in Gerontology Centre. This is how we call the nursing home for old and week people. I applied for the civil army and in that year I spent 9 months helping and serving people in need who were users of the services of the Centre and who lived there. There were more than 300 people mostly between 70 and 90. Many of them were left alone. Their children (if they had them) usually were living far away and there were no cousins or friends to help them in their daily needs. Such as preparing food for them, bringing medicines or accompanying them to the doctor. I remember that many of them were suffering on daily level. Few times I even witnessed some of them dying. At that time I was readying Bible every day and I was regularly attending prayers in the local church. While caring the old sometimes I used a chance to spontaneously mention Jesus. If they were eager to learn more about Jesus we kept the conversation in that direction. And I remember a very important thing that I was regularly noticing between old and sick who were atheists and those who were believers. Atheists were usually depressed and often unhappy. They were feeling that they are at the final period of their life. Left alone, sick and depending on the care of Gerontology Centre workers. With one word depressed and hopeless. And they were often complaining. Another group was a group of the people in the same position. Same old, same sick and same alone. But actually they were not alone. They were not complaining. They were thankful for having people around them, thankful for the rest of their life, thankful for everything. Their mindset was positive and the only thing that distinguished these two groups was faith in God. The happy group was alone, but actually not alone. They had God, they had joy and happiness. Today in readings I found another important sentence that I may bring into correlation to the story that I shared. We read in 1 Timothy 6:17-18:
”Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”
The sentence that I would like to pay attention to advises us to put our hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment and in the other hand not to put our hope in wealth. Again I remember my experience from working and helping in nursing home for old people for nine months. There were people who were rich for the local Serbian standard. They could afford better service in the Gerontology center, with private nice equipped apartment and additional health care service. But still, they were not very happy. Additionally there were old people from poor background who could only afford a bed. They had shared bathroom, shared room and poor conditions. But those among them who were having Jesus were really happy, relaxed, grateful and complete. In the end of this sermon I would like to bring the message to all of you that as Jesus said. Maybe one day when we are older and sick another will dress us up and take care of us, maybe we would be alone or even feeling hopeless. But also let us then remember that God also says we should put our hope in God and surely our life will have much better quality and with Jesus we would be complete, happy and loved. Also, I would be happy if this sermon help you remember your neighbor who might be old and sick and might be needing help. Let us help to those in need and let us be blessed with prayers of the apostles Peter and Paul. Glory be to our God. Amen.
Today we commemorate St. Catherine of Siena (25 March 1347 – 29 April 1380), a lay member of the Dominican Order. She was a mystic, activist and author who had a great influence on Italian literature and on the Catholic Church. She was canonized in 1461, and she is also famous as a Doctor of the Church. As a teenager, she took a vow of perpetual virginity and gave herself over to prayer and worship. To thwart her family’s attempts to marry her off, Catherine cut her hair off, scalded herself, and became a nun. Catherine of Siena is one of only four women who were named doctor of the church, meaning that her writings, including the mystical The Dialogue and her prayers and letters, have special authority in Roman Catholicism. She was an important defender of the papacy (at that time) and a patron saint of Europe and of Italy. At the beginning of this sermon let us all pray to her saying – St. Catherine of Siena pray for us to Lord Jesus to encourage us in our everyday life and give us strength to live in the prayer and Christian purity. Amen.
When I was reading about the life of St. Catherine I remembered the time when I was 17 years old. The time when I started thinking of becoming a monk. I remember October 2004 when I was travelling over Greece visiting historical places. I visited orthodox monasteries in a place called Meteora. The Meteora (Μετέωρα [meˈteora]) is a rock formation in central Greece hosting one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries, second in importance only to Mount Athos. This place is so beautiful. It makes you want to pray and it calms you down. In this place for the first time in my life I had a feeling that nothing material is as important as being with Jesus and having a prayer in your mouth. I remember that at that time I used to read eastern Christian books and the desire of becoming a monk was getting bigger and bigger. As I read in St. Catherine biography as a teenager she took a vow of perpetual virginity and gave herself over to prayer and worship. I remember that at that time, when I was a teenager visiting Greece I had the same desire.
Now, when I am 35 I am thinking about the fact that even though lost virginity we cannot be back, but – what about the lost prayer? As you can guess, prayer and worship we can always get back in our life. And this is a beautiful possibility available to everyone. We all have daily struggles, problems of various types. Sometimes this life routine can keep us away from prayer or to hold us a bit away from the Church. Sometimes even, in the opposite situation when everything is going great and when our life seems to be happy and complete we might also forget about prayer or even neglect the church. In each situation it is good to remember that the prayer is something we can always have. And this is what in my personal opinion gives very beautiful sense to our Christian life. Recently I experienced how prayer, believe in God and trust to God is a special gift from heaven. I had a difficult period because I lost my job. And in my country it is usually hard to get a new one. I had to cancel my rental and even go back to my parents` house. This might not be something very usual in the USA or in the UK but in Balkan countries we have this uncertainty and sometimes life can be very hard and full of negative surprises. What I would like to share to all of you today is how actually grateful to God I am. In my life I experienced various situations when I was feeling hopeless. Losing a so called stable job, losing the salary I make a living with, losing a loving family members or friends or even losing partner are situations when people can feel how everything is temporal. Everything has its expiry date. In this temptations I usually remember St. Job, the righteous man from the Old Testament. A man who lost all but had never lost his faith and prayer. I learnt a lesson from him and I try to believe that whatever is happening to us, it is happening with some deeper reason. It might seem to be illogic or unjust or painful. But God knows why it is good for. God is in control. Today`s Bible reading refers us to John 6:1-15 the story about how Jesus feed 5.000 people who were hungry. I would like to read together this paragraph and to meditate on this miracle. Let us read:
Sometime after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberius), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
After we read this paragraph from the Bible let us truly see what Jesus has done. He took five small loaves and two small fish and he feed five thousand people. What would happen if Jesus come today and we go with a crowd of five thousand people to hear His message and if there is no fast food restaurant around? Would we trust Jesus that we will be feed. Five thousand of us, with only two fish and five small breads (not to even mention that some of us are vegans, or gluten intolerant). This is a question that I would like us all to think about today? Think about our daily struggles. Maybe we are not only physically hungry but maybe we are hungry for righteousness, hungry for friendship, hungry for a new job, a life stability, or the thing I consider the most important – hungry for the love. If Jesus feed five thousand people. He can feed us too. Let us all remain faithful and trust to Jesus. May He bless us all with the prayer of St. Catherine of Siena.
Reading I: 1 Pt 5:5b-14
Responsorial Psalm: 89:2-3, 6-7, 16-17
Alleluia: 1 Cor 1:23a-24b
Gospel: Mk 16:15-20
Liturgical Colour: Red.
Feast of At Mark The Evangelist
My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ,
In the midst of our Church Easter season this year we now come together to commemorate the feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist. Mark was not actually one of the twelve apostles, but from the Acts of the Apostles, We know that he was a disciple of Saint Peter.
Saint Peter refers to Mark as “my son” in his first letter, which could mean that Mark had been baptized by Peter. Mark was not an eyewitness to the actions and teachings of Jesus; he learned the details of Jesus’ Ministry which he put into his Gospel from Peter. For this reason Saint Mark’s Gospel has sometimes been called the “Gospel of Peter”. Saint Mark’s Gospel can be read easily in a single sitting, as it is the shortest of the four Gospels. It wouldn’t be a bad thing for us all to read his Gospel again ourselves today.
Mark also accompanied Saint Paul on a mission to Cyprus, after going from Jerusalem to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. Saint Paul even speaks of Mark as his coworker and his consoler during his imprisonment in Rome.
According to the historian Eusebius, Mark ended his days as bishop of Alexandria.
Saint Mark is the patron saint in Venice and his relics were brought there from Alexandria in the ninth century. Atop the basilica is the figure of a lion because the lion is the symbol for Saint Mark’s Gospel.
Mark is represented as a lion because his Gospel begins with the voice of John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness. The voice of one crying in the desert: Make ready the way of the Lord.
The Lion is also a symbol of courage, and Saint Mark courageously faced a martyr’s death. While he was celebrating Mass in Alexandria, his persecutors seized him, tied a rope around him and dragged him through the streets, then imprisoned and killed him.
We are today reminded of that which we were told by our Lord Christ in our Gospel reading today, that being to “Go out to the whole world, and preach the Gospel to all creation.”
May Saint Mark’s example and prayers help us all to carry out the Gospel of Christ throughout the world, proclaiming it to all creation, for the Glory of God and Salvation of souls.
Let us Pray:
O Glorious St Mark, through the grace of God our Father, you became a great Evangelist, preaching the Good News of Christ. May you help us to know Him well, so that we may faithfully live our lives as followers of Christ.
Growing in faith through suffering and Adversity, St Elizabeth Ann Seton.
Reading I: 1 Jn 4:7-10
Responsorial Psalm: 72:1-2, 3-4, 7-8
Alleluia: Lk 4:18
Gospel: Mk 6:34-44
Liturgical colour: White.
My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ,
Today we commemorate the Memorial of an extremely Strong woman, who firmly hung onto and even strengthened her faith, despite much suffering and adversity in her life. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton who is my name saint within the Order of preachers Independent, this St Name was bestowed upon me (Sr Lady Elizabeth), due to the fact that my order Prior (and Presiding Bishop) felt that there are many similarities between the life of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and that of my own life. I feel so blessed and humbled, to be granted this strong faithed saint as my name saint.
All Throughout Biblical history and even in the times in which we live today, we sometimes tend to come across people who have endured so very much suffering and adversity within their lives and who, regardless of that fact, the person remains strong and devout within their faith and even sees their faith strengthened by the sufferings they have endured. Today we remember St Elizabeth, whom is one such person from whose life, heart and sheer devotion to the Lord in her strength of faith, which we can all take inspiration and to try to emulate such within our own spiritual lives.
Elizabeth was the first native-born citizen of the United States to be Canonized to sainthood.
Elizabeth was born as Elizabeth Ann Bayley in New York city on the 28th August in the year 1774, and she was a child of the Revolutionary war. She was raised Episcopalian which was the faith of her parents.
Elizabeth married at the tender young age of only nineteen years old, to a man named William Magee Seton. He was a young but wealthy merchant and together they parented a total of five children.
Elizabeth had a very deep devout faith and concern for the poor even as a very young woman and she shared this devotion with her sister-in-law, who was Rebecca Seton, and with whom she became very close friends. Together, Elizabeth and Rebecca undertook various missions for the poor and for the needy of their region and they adopted the name of the ‘Protestant Sisters of Charity` for their mission works.
Elizabeth’s life changed after only the short time of four years of marriage and her life became rather burdensome in nature. Elizabeth and her husband were left with the responsibility for seven half-brothers and sisters of William’s father when he died in the year 1798.
Elizabeth suffered even further in the year 1801, when her own father with whom she had a very close relationship, especially since the loss of her mother at aged only three, himself passed into the care of the Lord.
Then yet again she suffered after only another two years, when both her husband’s business and his health failed. Filing for bankruptcy, Elizabeth and her husband sailed to Italy to help his health and to try to revive his business.
Whilst in Italy, Elizabeth suffered even further, as William’s condition worsened. He was quarantined and subsequently died of Tuberculosis in December of 1803. Elizabeth remained in Italy for several months after his death and during this time, was more fully exposed to the Catholic faith.
Elizabeth returned to New York city in June of 1804, only to suffer yet again with the loss of her dear friend and sister-in=law, Rebecca Seton, in the very next month.
At only the young thirty years of age, Elizabeth had endured the loss of so many who were close to her and she seemed to have the weight of the world upon her shoulders. Even so, throughout all this, Elizabeth still remained fervent in her faith.
The months ahead were life-changing for Elizabeth and she seemed ever more drawn to the Catholic faith and to the Mother Church, much to the horror of her friends and her remaining family who were firmly Protestant.
Elizabeth Ann Seton was received into the Catholic Church on the 4th March 1805. Her conversion cost her dearly in the areas of her friendships and in the support from her remaining family.
Elizabeth relocated to the Baltimore area and there she established a school for girls. She also founded a religious community along with two other young women and she took vows before the Archbishop Carroll as a member of the Sisters of Charity of St Joseph. From this time forward, Elizabeth was known as Mother Seton and she left a legacy of care and education for the poor. She even established the first free Catholic school of the nation.
In so many ways, the journey into the Catholic faith, helped Elizabeth to much more appreciate and to embrace her faith even more profoundly. Elizabeth was willing to endure all things to follow Christ. In her journal, she even wrote, ‘If I am right Thy grace impart still in the right to stay. If I am wrong Oh, teach my heart to find the better way’.
Many of us who have chosen the Catholic faith have experienced some setbacks and have had to endure issues with relationships, but for this brave and devout woman of faith, the cost was even greater.
Elizabeth died aged only 46 on January 4th 1821 from Tuberculosis and she was Canonized on September 14th 1975.
On this your special day, St Elizabeth Ann Seton, Pray for all of us who follow your pathway of faith. Pray that we likewise to yourself will say yes and will accept all that will come to us in the years ahead, and to allow our earthly endurance to further our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed Martin de Porres was born in the city of Lima, in the Viceroyalty of Peru, on December 9, 1579, the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a black former slave. He grew up in poverty; when his mother could not support him and his sister, Martin was confided to a primary school for two years, and then placed with a barber/surgeon to learn the medical arts. This caused him great joy, though he was only ten years old, for he could exercise charity to his neighbor while earning his living. Already he was spending hours of the night in prayer, a practice that increased rather than diminished as he grew older.
At the age of 15, he asked for admission to the Dominican Convent of the Rosary in Lima and was received first as a servant boy; as his duties grew, he was promoted to almoner. Eventually he felt the call to enter the Dominican Order, and was received as a tertiary. Years later, his piety and miraculous cures led his superiors to drop the racial limits on admission to the friars, and he was made a full Dominican. It is said that when his convent was in debt, he implored them: “I am only a poor mulatto, sell me.” Martin was deeply attached to the Blessed Sacrament, and he was praying in front of it one night when the step of the altar he was kneeling on caught fire. Throughout all the confusion and chaos that followed, he remained where he was, unaware of what was happening around him.
When he was 34, after he had been given the habit of a Coadjutor Brother, Martin was assigned to the infirmary, where he was placed in charge and would remain in service until his death at the age of sixty. His superiors saw in him the virtues necessary to exercise unfailing patience in this difficult role, and he never disappointed them. It was not long before miracles were attributed to him. Saint Martin also cared for the sick outside his convent, often bringing them healing with only a simple glass of water. He begged for alms to procure necessities the Convent could not provide, and Providence always supplied.
One day an aged beggar, covered with ulcers and almost naked, stretched out his hand, and Saint Martin, seeing the Divine Mendicant in him, took him to his own bed. One of his brethren reproved him. Saint Martin replied: “Compassion, my dear Brother, is preferable to cleanliness.”
When an epidemic struck Lima, there were in this single Convent of the Rosary sixty friars who were sick, many of them novices in a distant and locked section of the convent, separated from the professed. Saint Martin is said to have passed through the locked doors to care for them, a phenomenon which was reported in the residence more than once. The professed, too, saw him suddenly beside them without the doors having been opened. Martin continued to transport the sick to the convent until the provincial superior, alarmed by the contagion threatening the religious, forbade him to continue to do so. His sister, who lived in the country, offered her house to lodge those whom the residence of the religious could not hold. One day he found on the street a poor Indian, bleeding to death from a dagger wound, and took him to his own room until he could transport him to his sister’s hospice. The superior, when he heard of this, reprimanded his subject for disobedience. He was extremely edified by his reply: “Forgive my error, and please instruct me, for I did not know that the precept of obedience took precedence over that of charity.” The superior gave him liberty thereafter to follow his inspirations in the exercise of mercy.
Martin would not use any animal as food—he was a vegetarian.
In normal times, Saint Martin succeeded with his alms to feed 160 poor persons every day, and distributed a remarkable sum of money every week to the indigent. To Saint Martin the city of Lima owed a famous residence founded for orphans and abandoned children, where they were formed in piety for a creative Christian life. This lay brother had always wanted to be a missionary, but never left his native city; yet even during his lifetime he was seen elsewhere, in regions as far distant as Africa, China, Algeria and Japan. An African slave who had been in irons said he had known Martin when he came to relieve and console many like himself, telling them of heaven. When later the same slave saw him in Peru, he was very happy to meet him again and asked him if he had had a good voyage; only later did he learn that Saint Martin had never left Lima. A merchant from Lima was in Mexico and fell ill; he said aloud: “Oh, Brother Martin, if only you were here to care for me!” and immediately saw him enter his room. And again, this man did not know until later that he had never been in Mexico.
Martin was a friend of both Saint John de Massias and Saint Rose of Lima. When he died in Lima on November 3, 1639, Martin was known to the entire city. Word of his miracles had made him known as a saint throughout the region. As his body was displayed to allow the people of the city to pay their respects, each person snipped a tiny piece of his habit to keep as a relic. It is said that three habits were taken from the body. His body was then interred in the grounds of the monastery.
Pope Gregory XVI beatified Martin de Porres in 1837. Nearly one hundred and twenty-five years later, Blessed Martin was canonized in Rome by Pope John XXIII on May 6, 1962. His feast day is November 3. He is the Patron Saint of people of mixed race, innkeepers, barbers, public health and more besides.
In iconography, Martin de Porres is often depicted as a young mulatto friar (he was a Dominican brother, not a priest, as evidenced by the black scapular and capuce he wears, while priests of the Dominican order wear all white) with a broom, since he considered all work to be sacred no matter how menial. He is sometimes shown with a dog, a cat and a mouse eating in peace from the same dish.
Reading I: Rv 21:9b-14
Responsorial Psalm: 145:10-11, 12-13, 17-18
Gospel: Jn 1:45-51
Liturgical colour: Red.
Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of Bartholomew the apostle. Bartholomew is a relatively difficult saint to celebrate because we hardly know anything truly about him. There are some who may believe that Bartholomew is the same person as Nathaniel –scholars have been known to argue about the truth or otherwise of this. What we do know is that In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, that Bartholomew is listed as being one of the twelve Apostles of the Lord.
Ancient writers on the history of the Christian faith write that Bartholomew was an apostle to India – possibly is the region of Mumbai (Bombay). Along with his fellow apostle Jude, Bartholomew is reputed to have brought Christianity to Armenia in the 1st century. By tradition, Bartholomew is said to have been flayed alive, before being crucified upside down, thus becoming the patron saint of Leather-workers. In painting and sculpture, Bartholomew is often represented as holding a knife, with his own skin neatly draped over his arm. Bartholomew has also always been associated with healing, so there are a number of hospitals which have been named after him.
Bartholomew is also believe to be associated with the small Italian Island of Lipari, where he may have been buried. During World War II, the regime looked for ways to finance its activities, and ordered that a silver statue of Saint Bartholomew from the cathedral in Lipari was to be melted down. But when the statue was weighed, it was found to only actually weigh just a few grams so it was returned to its place in the Cathedral of Lipari. However, In reality, this same statue is made wholly of solid silver and therefore should indeed be very heavy in weight. This is a fairly recent miracle that has been associated with St Bartholomew.
About Bartholomew himself we know almost nothing, except that he was an Apostle of Jesus. Far from being a negative thing, I think this is the most important thing about this rather mysterious and anonymous apostle. For this teaches us that the call to serve is not really anything whatsoever to do with worldly status or fame. If we Look around us today, we will see much evidence of the reign of ego and of worldly fame, perhaps it is media stars and celebrities which tend to be the best known for this. An increasing number of children, when asked what they want to do when they grow up, say that they want to be famous, to be a celebrity or a star– and that the goal of reaching fame has become for them their vocation. Some of our politicians can also seem rather the same way. But the church isn’t entirely exempt either: we see evangelists on religious tv stations, pastors of megachurches, and, unfortunately, some bishops and clergy who just love being in the spotlight, have who love self-publicity. I once heard someone say that their church was OK but it was hard to see God because the Vicar always got in the way. It’s a temptation clergy are aware of and must always resist – our job is to point people to God, not towards ourselves.
So Bartholomew’s anonymity shows us ‘it’s not all about us’. Our job as Christians is to get out of the way and to enable people to catch a glimpse of the God and Father whom we serve. We also know, from the life of this mysterious and anonymous apostle, that we actually don’t need worldly fame, because God loves us, and that is all we need – we ought to need no other adulation than that!!
Each and every one of us eventually will join the ranks of anonymous Christians who have served God throughout the ages. In 2000 years’ time – and most likely long before that – we will all have been forgotten, except perhaps by the odd ancestor hunter who might still be digging our names out of archives and searching church registers to find historical information.
This might seem rather disheartening, but it definitely needn’t be such, because we know we are each p of God’s creation and of his redeeming: we are each loved by God more than we could ever hope imagine! Part of our job as Christians, is to try to discover more of this love as we go about living our lives. When we truly understand even a little bit of this love that God our Father and our creator, truly has for us, our anxieties about worldly status, worldly importance and worldly fame, begin to lose their hold over us. In God’s love we truly have everything we need.
So often we see the lives of the rich and famous descend into tragedy or disaster. Worldly riches and fame often don’t bring true and lasting happiness. The ordinariness of our lives is something which we as Christians should celebrate, if, like Bartholomew, our lives are built on the rock of faith and we have the knowledge of God’s true and eternal love, like a hidden jewel, burning deep inside of us.
So Bartholomew is one of us: he is a follower, a disciple, and a servant of Our Lord Jesus Christ. An anonymous, unshowy person who gave of his best. Bartholomew may well be Someone we don’t know all that much about, but we do know that his soul is now residing with God where that great love will, at last, be fully known.
That is all that is needed. All that truly matters. Amen
Reading I: Sgs 3:1-4b OR: 2 Cor 5:14-17
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
Gospel: Jn 20:1-2, 11-18
Liturgical colour: White.
My dearest brothers and sisters -in-Christ,
There are a many Marys within the Holy Scriptures —the New Testament mentions six altogether! The Mary we know as Mary Magdalene, whose memorial we celebrate today, draws her title from Magdala, the city of her origin. Luke tells us that Jesus cast seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2). Afterward, she became His disciple.
John’s Gospel tells us that she was one of the Marys present at the crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus:”Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” (John 19:25, NIV).
And Mary Magdalene was also the very first witness to the Lord’s resurrection: Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’ Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (John 20:11–16, NIV).
Mary’s devotion to the Lord Jesus put her in the spotlight of several writings told to us within the Holy Gospels. The life and the faith of Mary Magdalene, both have such a lot to teach us about following Jesus. Here are three lessons we can learn from Mary Magdalene.
1. We don’t have to be defined by our past: There’s a lot of speculation about Mary’s background. Many People have tied Mary to the sinful woman in Luke 7:36–50. Many also assume that Mary was a prostitute or a woman of ill repute. But there truly isn’t any biblical evidence whatsoever for portraying Mary in that light.
As Luke tells us, Mary had seven demons cast out of her. Whatever her background had been before she met Jesus, as is also true for the rest of us even today, Mary isn’t defined by who she was before meeting the Lord. All that is important is who Mary became after discovering Him.
Like Mary, we don’t have to let our pasts dictate how we see ourselves, nor should dictate how others may see us. Paul explains it this way, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)!
2. Jesus should be the center of our lives: After Mary’s first encounter with Our Lord Jesus, Luke tells us:
“After this, Jesus travelled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, And also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means” (Luke 8:1–3, NIV).
Not only did Mary follow the Lord Jesus and His disciples from town to town, but she and some other women also helped to support Christ and the disciples financially. This role continued throughout His earthly ministry.
Matthew tells us that they were present at the crucifixion, and followed Jesus all the way to Galilee to take care of Him: “Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons” (Matthew 27:55–56, NIV).
It’s no surprise then, that Mary Magdalene would find herself in a prominent position at the Lord’s resurrection, also.
We should live our lives by following Mary’s example. When we encounter Jesus, we shouldn’t return to the life we previously lived. Our Lord and Saviour changes everything! Our whole life ought to become about following and serving Him until—like Mary—our story becomes intertwined and indistinguishable from His own.
3. Jesus uses the weak things of the world to shame the strong: In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul talks about the gospel as being foolishness. The world doesn’t understand it, so they discount and dismiss it.
According to Paul, God did that on purpose: “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:27–29).
We see a perfect example of this principle in Jesus’ relationship with Mary Magdalene. In a time when women were seen as second class citizens with no real authority, Jesus demonstrated a special tenderness and care for women. We see this in His choice to reveal Himself to Mary first after the resurrection.
This is the most critical event in history, and Jesus made a woman the first witness. He even encourages her to tell the disciples (John 20:17). The irony is that they didn’t believe Mary and the other women (Luke 24:11).
We need to be extremely careful in our lives, to ensure that we never dismiss things that don’t follow our human expectations, because Jesus doesn’t always do things in the way in which we may expect. Our Lord delights in working out His plan in the most wonderful, yet unlikeliest of ways. He did that through Mary, and if we let Him, He’ll do such through us, too!
Dear sisters and brothers, today our Holy Church commemorates birthday of Saint John, the Baptist. At the beginning of this sermon let us pray and read how God foretold the nativity of this Saint.
The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
What I personally find interesting when I think about Christian commemoration of the saints is that we most often commemorate the day of one saint`s death. Only if a Saint was a very big and special saint we celebrate his or her birthday. We celebrate Jesus` birthday, birthday of St. Mary, mother of God and birthday of St. John. St. Mary`s birthday is commemorated as she was the one participating God`s plan for the Son of Man to be born. On the other hand Saint John was the one participating in God`s plan for the Son of God to start His heavenly mission. Before meeting John and before being baptized Jesus didn`t start his heavenly work. Two key roles of Jesus were played with the help of Mary and John. And so, the Church commemorates two more birthdays along with the Birthday of Our Lord Jesus.
The same thing happens in life of every Christian. When we are born by our mothers we are born for this world. We are material sons and daughters of human. But what happens when we are baptized. After being baptized we start our spiritual journey through this life. We start something that should have been called – heavenly path. This path is not easy. We may have daily struggling with many things and temptations. Laziness, anger, stress, lack of time, negative thoughts, excessive sexual desire and imagination, bad mood, injustice that we see every day… all those can be factors that would lead us away from God over and over again. But we should always at least do our sign of cross and say “God, I know you are here, glory be to you always“. Doing cross sign is what reminds us on our baptism. Since we were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Doing our sign of cross is like we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. We remember that we are on our way of passion as Jesus was. And we all have our own cross.
Today we will talk mostly about the nativity of Saint John but as I said at the beginning of this text, it is interesting that not many nativities are commemorated by the Church. What we do commemorate is – death! This looks scary, right? Well, it might only look that way but it is interesting to make correlation between death and baptism. When we die we are buried under ground. There is a symbolic burying under the water when a person is baptized. Baptism is also symbol of death. But when we, Christians, say the word “death“ we should refer it to being dead for the sin and for the evil acts. We are washed, spiritually purified, justified by faith, saved by grace and dead for the sin and should be jumping out of the water of baptism as a new man. Born for the life, born for the love and born for God. Often when I think about saints, commemorations and Christian holidays I try to think how we can use and apply what we learn from these commemorations in our everyday life. When I think about the water of baptism I like to think that our blanket on our bed may be also a good reminder of who we are in Christ. When we lay in bed to sleep it is like laying in the tomb of baptism. When you wake up in the morning and you remove your cover and stand up remember that Jesus raised you up for this day. Christianity is full of beautiful symbols everywhere. Be thankful and pray or at least do your sign of the cross. Do it with faith and love. See how blessed you are. If you have time read your Bible. Make a habit to practice it every day. Here I would like to share a part from the Bible to see more about Nativity of John the Baptist.
The Birth of John the Baptist
57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit[d]; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.
As we are remembering the importance of the baptism, and meditate on what we have read from the Bible. As we practice gratefulness for all the blessings may we pray today to Saint John and give glory to our God for ever. Amen.
Saint Philip and James – witnesses of Jesus’ miracles
Whenever we celebrate the feast of an apostle, we are overwhelmed by the desire to learn as much as possible about his life. But this desire can only be modestly granted in this world because the information about most of the apostles is rather meager. This also applies to St. Philip and James the Younger, which we celebrate together today.
We find both apostles on all four apostolic lists in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and in the Acts of the Apostles. Philip is in fifth place, and James the younger, son of Alphaeus, in ninth place. According to the Gospel of John, Philip, like Andrew and Peter, came from Bethsaida on the Lake of Gennesaret. He is mentioned in five places in the Gospel of John.
“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. However, he met Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me!’ Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Peter and Andrew. Philip met Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the Law, and the Prophets too! This is Jesus, the son of Joseph of Nazareth. ‘-‘ Can anything good come out of Nazareth? ‘Nathanael told him. “Come and see,” replied Philip “(Jn 1: 43-46). Philip was a youthful friend of the writer of the fourth gospel, with whom he belonged together to the discipleship of John the Baptist. That is why in his Gospel he erected this wonderful monument to him, which speaks of Philip’s first encounter with Jesus, as well as of his zeal to win another zealous disciple for Jesus as the promised Messiah. In his Gospel, John brings Philip to the stage and describes how Jesus miraculously fed five thousand people.
Then Jesus lifted up his eyes, and when he saw a great multitude coming to him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ Sam knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred loaves of bread would not suffice for everyone to get a little” (John 6: 5-7). It is also a very beautiful scene in the gospel when the Gentiles seek Jesus. “Among the pilgrims who came to worship on the feast were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Lord, we would like to see Jesus.’ Philip went to tell Andrew. Andrew and Philip went to tell Jesus ”(Jn 12: 20-30). And finally, at the farewell with the disciples, here again Philip comes to the fore. Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through me. If you knew me, you would know my Father. You already know him and have seen him! Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we have had enough.’ He who has seen me has seen the Father. So how do you say: Show us the Father! Do you not believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me? I do not speak for myself the words that I say to you: The Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me: I am in the Father and the Father is in me! If not, believe because of the works themselves ”(Jn 14: 6-11).
According to later tradition, Philip lived with his three daughters in Hierapolis in Asia Minor, where he died. Archaeologists even think they found his grave there. According to the church writers Polycrates and Papias, quoted by Eusebius, Philip’s daughters had the gift of prophecy. The relics of St. Philip the Apostle are worshiped in Rome in the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles, where the General Curia of the Franciscan-Conventuals is today.
St. James the Younger, son of Alphaeus, himself a writer of a New Testament scripture, except in the list of the apostles, is nowhere specifically mentioned in the Gospels. Sv. Paul in the Epistle to the Galatians mentions him as one of the most eminent figures of the early Church, while in the Acts of the Apostles he stands out as the bishop of Jerusalem. His message is very serious. It is full of admonition, rebuke and threat. In its 108 lines we find 60 imperatives. It can always serve us as a very useful and saving spiritual reading against the hardening of our conscience.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
28.IV.2021 GEVGELIJA/MACEDONIA Dominican Hermitage & Oratory of St’s Sebastian and Peregrine
She was the youngest but one of a very large family. Her father, Giacomo di Benincasa, was a dyer; her mother, Lapa, the daughter of a local poet. They belonged to the lower middle-class faction of tradesmen and petty notaries, known as “the Party of the Twelve”, which between one revolution and another ruled the Republic of Siena from 1355 to 1368. From her earliest childhood Catherine began to see visions and to practice extreme austerities. At the age of seven she consecrated her virginity to Christ; in her sixteenth year she took the habit of the Dominican Tertiaries, and renewed the life of the anchorites of the desert in a little room in her father’s house. After three years of celestial visitations and familiar conversation with Christ, she underwent the mystical experience known as the “spiritual espousals”, probably during the carnival of 1366. She now rejoined her family, began to tend the sick, especially those afflicted with the most repulsive diseases, to serve the poor, and to labor for the conversion of sinners. Though always suffering terrible physical pain, living for long intervals on practically no food save the Blessed Sacrament, she was ever radiantly happy and full of practical wisdom no less than the highest spiritual insight. All her contemporaries bear witness to her extraordinary personal charm, which prevailed over the continual persecution to which she was subjected even by the friars of her own order and by her sisters in religion. She began to gather disciples round her, both men and women, who formed a wonderful spiritual fellowship, united to her by the bonds of mystical love. During the summer of 1370 she received a series of special manifestations of Divine mysteries, which culminated in a prolonged trance, a kind of mystical death, in which she had a vision of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, and heard a Divine command to leave her cell and enter the public life of the world. She began to dispatch letters to men and women in every condition of life, entered into correspondence with the princes and republics of Italy, was consulted by the papal legates about the affairs of the Church, and set herself to heal the wounds of her native land by staying the fury of civil war and the ravages of faction. She implored the pope, Gregory XI, to leave Avignon, to reform the clergy and the administration of the Papal States, and ardently threw herself into his design for a crusade, in the hopes of uniting the powers of Christendom against the infidels, and restoring peace to Italy by delivering her from the wandering companies of mercenary soldiers. While at Pisa, on the fourth Sunday of Lent, 1375, she received the Stigmata, although, at her special prayer, the marks did not appear outwardly in her body while she lived.
Mainly through the misgovernment of the papal officials, war broke out between Florence and the Holy See, and almost the whole of the Papal States rose in insurrection. Catherine had already been sent on a mission from the pope to secure the neutrality of Pisa and Lucca. In June, 1376, she went to Avignon as ambassador of the Florentines, to make their peace; but, either through the bad faith of the republic or through a misunderstanding caused by the frequent changes in its government, she was unsuccessful. Nevertheless she made such a profound impression upon the mind of the pope, that, in spite of the opposition of the French king and almost the whole of the Sacred College, he returned to Rome (17 January, 1377). Catherine spent the greater part of 1377 in effecting a wonderful spiritual revival in the country districts subject to the Republic of Siena, and it was at this time that she miraculously learned to write, though she still seems to have chiefly relied upon her secretaries for her correspondence. Early in 1378 she was sent by Pope Gregory to Florence, to make a fresh effort for peace. Unfortunately, through the factious conduct of her Florentine associates, she became involved in the internal politics of the city, and during a popular tumult (22 June) an attempt was made upon her life. She was bitterly disappointed at her escape, declaring that her sins had deprived her of the red rose of martyrdom. Nevertheless, during the disastrous revolution known as “the tumult of the Ciompi”, she still remained at Florence or in its territory until, at the beginning of August, news reached the city that peace had been signed between the republic and the new pope. Catherine then instantly returned to Siena, where she passed a few months of comparative quiet, dictating her “Dialogue”, the book of her meditations and revelations.
In the meanwhile the Great Schism had broken out in the Church. From the outset Catherine enthusiastically adhered to the Roman claimant, Urban VI, who in November, 1378, summoned her to Rome. In the Eternal City she spent what remained of her life, working strenuously for the reformation of the Church, serving the destitute and afflicted, and dispatching eloquent letters in behalf of Urban to high and low in all directions. Her strength was rapidly being consumed; she besought her Divine Bridegroom to let her bear the punishment for all the sins of the world, and to receive the sacrifice of her body for the unity and renovation of the Church; at last it seemed to her that the Bark of Peter was laid upon her shoulders, and that it was crushing her to death with its weight. After a prolonged and mysterious agony of three months, endured by her with supreme exultation and delight, from Sexagesima Sunday until the Sunday before the Ascension, she died. Her last political work, accomplished practically from her death-bed, was the reconciliation of Pope Urban VI with the Roman Republic (1380).
Among Catherine’s principal followers were Fra Raimondo delle Vigne, of Capua (d. 1399), her confessor and biographer, afterwards General of the Dominicans, and Stefano di Corrado Maconi (d. 1424), who had been one of her secretaries, and became Prior General of the Carthusians. Raimondo’s book, the “Legend”, was finished in 1395. A second life of her, the “Supplement”, was written a few years later by another of her associates, Fra Tomaso Caffarini (d. 1434), who also composed the “Minor Legend”, which was translated into Italian by Stefano Maconi. Between 1411 and 1413 the depositions of the surviving witnesses of her life and work were collected at Venice, to form the famous “Process”. Catherine was canonized by Pius II in 1461. The emblems by which she is known in Christian art are the lily and book, the crown of thorns, or sometimes a heart–referring to the legend of her having changed hearts with Christ. Her principal feast is on the 30th of April, but it is popularly celebrated in Siena on the Sunday following. The feast of her Espousals is kept on the Thursday of the carnival.
The works of St. Catherine of Siena rank among the classics of the Italian language, written in the beautiful Tuscan vernacular of the fourteenth century. Notwithstanding the existence of many excellent manuscripts, the printed editions present the text in a frequently mutilated and most unsatisfactory condition. Her writings consist of
the “Dialogue”, or “Treatise on Divine Providence”; a collection of nearly four hundred letters; and a series of “Prayers”.
The “Dialogue” especially, which treats of the whole spiritual life of man in the form of a series of colloquies between the Eternal Father and the human soul (represented by Catherine herself), is the mystical counterpart in prose of Dante’s “Divina Commedia”.
A smaller work in the dialogue form, the “Treatise on Consummate Perfection”, is also ascribed to her, but is probably spurious. It is impossible in a few words to give an adequate conception of the manifold character and contents of the “Letters”, which are the most complete expression of Catherine’s many-sided personality. While those addressed to popes and sovereigns, rulers of republics and leaders of armies, are documents of priceless value to students of history, many of those written to private citizens, men and women in the cloister or in the world, are as fresh and illuminating, as wise and practical in their advice and guidance for the devout Catholic today as they were for those who sought her counsel while she lived. Others, again, lead the reader to mystical heights of contemplation, a rarefied atmosphere of sanctity in which only the few privileged spirits can hope to dwell. The key-note to Catherine’s teaching is that man, whether in the cloister or in the world, must ever abide in the cell of self-knowledge, which is the stable in which the traveler through time to eternity must be born again.
Born: March 25, 1347 at Siena, Tuscany, Italy
Died: April 29, 1380 of a mysterious and painful illness that came on without notice, and was never properly diagnosed
Canonized: July 1461 by Pope Pius II
Representation: cross; crown of thorns; heart; lily; ring; stigmata
Patronage: against fire, bodily ills, diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA, Europe, fire prevention, firefighters, illness, Italy, miscarriages, nurses, nursing services, people ridiculed for their piety, sexual temptation, sick people, sickness, Siena Italy, temptations