Homily on the Song of Solomon

By Saint Bernard, Abbott

Where can the weak find a place of firm security and peace, except in the wounds of the Savior? Indeed, the more secure is my place there, the more he can do to help me. The world rages, the flesh is heavy, and the devil lays his snares, but I do not fall, for my feet are planted on firm rock. I may have sinned gravely. My conscience would be distressed, but it would not be in turmoil, for I would recall the wounds of the Lord: he was wounded for our iniquities. What sin is there so deadly that it cannot be pardoned by the death of Christ? And so if I bear in mind this strong, effective remedy, I can never again be terrified by the malignancy of sin.

Surely the man who said: My sin is too great to merit pardon, was wrong. He was speaking as though he were not a member of Christ and had no share in his merits, so that he could claim them as his own, as a member of the body can claim what belongs to the head. As for me, what can I appropriate that I lack from the heart of the Lord who abounds in mercy? They pierced his hands and feet and opened his side with a spear. Through the openings of these wounds I may drink honey from the rock and oil from the hardest stone: that is, I may taste and see that the Lord is sweet.

He was thinking thoughts of peace, and I did not know it, for who knows the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? But the piercing nail has become a key to unlock the door, that I may see the good will of the Lord. And what can I see as I look through the hole? Both the nail and the wound cry out that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. The sword pierced his soul and came close to his heart, so that he might be able to feel compassion for me in my weaknesses.

Through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of his heart, the great mystery of love, the sincerity of his mercy with which he visited us from on high. Where have your love, your mercy, your compassion shone out more luminously than in your wounds, sweet, gentle Lord of mercy? More mercy than this no one has than that he lay down his life for those who are doomed to death.

My merit comes from his mercy; for I do not lack merit so long as he does not lack pity. And if the Lord’s mercies are many, then I am rich in merits. For even if I am aware of many sins, what does it matter? Where sin abounded grace has overflowed. And if the Lord’s mercies are from all ages for ever, I too will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever. Will I not sing of my own righteousness? No, Lord, I shall be mindful only of your justice. Yet that too is my own; for God has made you my righteousness.

[Source: Liturgy of the Hours | Office of Readings | Wednesday, 3rd Week of Ordinary Time]

Meditation on 2 Samuel

Who am I, Lord God . . . that you have brought me to this point? Yet even this you see as too little. (2 Samuel 7:18-19)

Self-help programs have been popular for decades, and it’s no wonder. First, you identify an area of your life that you want to change or a good habit you want to foster. Then, you find a book outlining steps that are supposed to bring about the desired result. But often, the outcome is a change in outward behavior, not an inner shift. So the old ways return easily, and you look for yet another program or book to help you.

David had just received a word from the Lord through Nathan. Not only would God continue to bless David, but he had also promised that “your house and your kingdom are firm forever before me” (2 Samuel 7:16). David had seen God’s power and authority many times in his life before this. Yet in this moment, he knew that God wanted to show him more. He saw God’s complete generosity. And that revelation overwhelmed the mighty king.

David sat before the Lord in total awe. Almost speechless, he finally found his voice to praise and worship God. He no longer wanted his ways, he wanted God’s ways; he only wanted to lay his life before God and allow God to do the work that he had promised to do.

It may be hard to imagine, but asking God to reveal who he is really can change our lives—and far more powerfully than a self-help book ever could. He wants to plant his revelation deep in our hearts. He wants to show us newer and newer facets of his love, his justice, his mercy, and his compassion. Revelations like these can break through any barriers we may have set up between ourselves and him—or between ourselves and the people around us. They can fill us with joy and change our perspective on any circumstance.

We have a very generous God. No matter what he has already shown us, he still considers it “too little” (2 Samuel 7:19). Isn’t it wonderful to have a God like this?

“Father, come and open my heart to know you more. Because you are fathomless, there is no end to what you want to show me. Lord, let me see your face!”

Psalm 132:1-5, 11-14
Mark 4:21-25

[Originally posted on “The Word Among Us,” January 28, 2016 (paywall)]

Homily on Saint Paul

By Saint John Chrysostom

Though housed in a narrow prison, Paul dwelt in heaven. He accepted beatings and wounds more readily than others reach out for rewards. Sufferings he loved as much as prizes; indeed he regarded them as his prizes, and therefore called them a grace or gift. Reflect on what this means. To depart and be with Christ was certainly a reward, while remaining in the flesh meant struggle. Yet such was his longing for Christ that he wanted to defer his reward and remain amid the fight; those were his priorities. Now, to be separated from the company of Christ meant struggle and pain for Paul; in fact, it was a greater affliction than any struggle or pain would be. On the other hand, to be with Christ was a matchless reward. Yet, for the sake of Christ, Paul chose the separation.

But, you may say: “Because of Christ, Paul found all this pleasant.” I cannot deny that, for he derived intense pleasure from what saddens us. I need not think only of perils and hardships. It was true even of the intense sorrow that made him cry out: Who is weak that I do not share the weakness? Who is scandalized that I am not consumed with indignation?

I urge you not simply to admire but also to imitate this splendid example of virtue, for, if we do, we can share his crown as well.

Are you surprised at my saying that if you have Paul’s merits, you will share that same reward? Then listen to Paul himself: I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth a crown of justice awaits me, and the Lord, who is a just judge, will give it to me on that day — and not to me alone, but to those who desire his coming.

You see how he calls all to share the same glory?

Now, since the same crown of glory is offered to all, let us eagerly strive to become worthy of these promised blessings.

In thinking of Paul we should not consider only his noble and lofty virtues or the strong and ready will that disposed him for such great graces. We should also realize that he shares our nature in every respect. If we do, then even what is very difficult will seem to us easy and light; we shall work hard during the short time we have on earth and someday we shall wear the incorruptible, immortal crown. This we shall do by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom all glory and power belongs now and always through endless ages. Amen.

[Source: Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings | Tuesday, January 26, 2016 | DivineOffice.org]

Meditation on Psalm 56:12

In God I trust without fear; what can flesh do against me? (Psalm 56:12)

Around the world today, the feast days of four very different saints will be celebrated.

Fructuosus was a Spanish bishop in an era of intense persecution by the Roman Empire. After refusing to deny his belief in God, he was burned at the stake in a.d. 259; as he and his brother deacons waited for the flames to take their lives, Christians pushed past the guards to ask for the martyrs’ prayers. Fructuosus called out, “I am bound to bear in mind the whole universal church, from east to west.”

Fifty years later, the persecution of Christians revived. Agnes, a beautiful young Roman girl, was reported to the authorities by suitors whose lustful advances she had rejected. She was cruelly executed, earning the title of patron saint of chastity.

On the slopes of the Alps, Einsiedeln Abbey will commemorate its ninth-century founder, Meinrad, who forswore his aristocratic lifestyle to become a hermit there. Over the years, pilgrims flocked to his hermitage, and he hosted them all. One evening he welcomed in two thieves, who murdered him. For this reason, he is the patron saint of hospitality, a man who loved his enemies to the end.

Elsewhere, the Archdiocese of Daegu in South Korea will remember a man who tended his farm, cared for his family, and taught catechesis in the 1860s. For these simple commitments, John Yi Yun-il was arrested, whipped, and beheaded under the anti-Catholic persecution in Korea. He is venerated as the last of the 103 Korean Martyrs.

Faithfulness, hospitality, and chastity: most of us won’t be called on to die for these gospel values, but we should be reminded of their importance by the stories of today’s saints.

All four of these martyrs were remarkable people, but in many ways, they did nothing special other than pursue the call God had given them, even when it led to their death. God doesn’t need you to be a spiritual superhero; he just asks you to be attentive to the call of discipleship he gives anew each day and to hold fast to it in all circumstances.

“Thank you, Lord, for the example of faithful men and women; help me to be faithful to what you have called me to.”

1 Samuel 18:6-9; 19:1-7
Mark 3:7-12

[Originally posted on “The Word Among Us,” January 21, 2016 (paywall)]

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