In the Entrance Antiphon, we acknowledge the enormity of our sins and God’s unlimited Forgiveness to those of us who repent. We then, in the First Reading (Isaiah 25:6-10), look with Faith and Hope towards the infinite happiness of Heaven which will be ours if we have striven, in this life, to stay close to our Father. All trials and evils, including death, which result from the Fall into Original Sin, (and which sometimes appear to monopolise the daily news) will be no more!
This theme of joyful hope continues in the Responsorial Psalm, (Psalm 22) in which, through the refrain to the verses (which we often sing as “The Lord’s my Shepherd”) we proclaim our belief that, “In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever”.
In the Second Reading, Saint Paul (Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20), while thanking those who have selflessly supported him in various ways in his mission, underlines that all he has achieved (and will achieve) has been possible only because of the strength given him by God; every good that we do is a positive response to God’s Grace just as an evil deed involves a refusal of this Life of the Soul. Through the Alleluia Verse we echo this Truth, proclaiming Christ, the Word made flesh, to be the Source of the “...power to become children of God”.
The Uninvited Wedding Guest, an oil on panel painting dating from 1631 by the Flemish painter
Vincent Malo (c.1595-1649) which is currently on display in the Brukenthal National Museum in Romania
Finally, in the Gospel, (Matthew 22:1-14) Our Lord makes it very clear that Salvation, first offered to (and through) His Chosen People is, of course, offered to all; The Magi at the Nativity stood for all the Gentile (non-Jewish) races, also called to be saved and live the Life of Grace. As the Parable of the Wedding Feast makes abundantly clear, those who will, one day, be told, “Come, Blessed of my Father…” into everlasting Joy, will be those who truly wished (and made the effort) to get to Heaven.
We may, sadly often, through sin, damage or lose the Wedding Garment of God’s Grace, but as long as earthly life remains we may, through repentance and the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), ‘repair’ or ‘restore’ this Garment. Unlike those in the Parable who refused the initial invitation through material preoccupations or through wilfully failing to ‘come up to the mark’, may we ever set God as our priority in life!
Our prayer might well be, in the words of Blessed John Henry Newman, whose memorial we have recently celebrated, “Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom...”. How can we err if we keep the ‘eyes’ of our Soul fixed on the light which can never fail!?
As we know, Our Father has created each us to know, love and serve Him, and so fulfil His Plan that we live eternally with Him in Heaven. As we also know, Adam and Eve, through disobedience, lost for themselves and us, original Innocence and the joy of going straight to Heaven. As we proclaim in the Creed, in His Infinite Love, God sent His Son, who took on Human flesh and was born of Mary. Perfect man, through total and loving obedience to the Will of His Father, while living on Earth, He founded the Catholic Church and died on the Cross to atone for sins committed since the beginning of the world and for all that will be committed until the end of time. Having perfectly paid the ‘debt’, Our Lord Rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven, having promised that He would be with us, ‘until the end of time..’.
How was this promise carried out? The immediate answer is through the Church He established, passing His Godly Power and Authority to the Apostles, the first Pope, Bishops and Priests, commanding them to teach and make people holy, bringing Grace to us through the Mass and the Sacraments and ever proclaiming Truth and correcting error. The Bishops had the power to ordain men who would carry on this mission on His behalf until the end of time. Pope Francis, Archbishop Peter and Bishop Pat are part of an unbroken line reaching back to the Apostles at the Last Supper, back, therefore to God Himself. Every Priest has that link with the Saviour; he is ordained to be an alter Christus (another Christ) especially when, at Mass, with Christ’s Power, he re-enacts the once-for-all Sacrifice of Calvary and, in Confession when he absolves (forgives) us from our sins.
Since Holy Mother Church was founded, She has celebrated countless men and women who, through their example and, sometimes through sacrificing their lives, have given great lessons in living the Faith. We also celebrate the Angels, spirits created to serve God (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church 325ff). The following is a summary, given in the hope that it will provide a stimulus for research.
Friday, 29th September. Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels: Michael (Revelation 12:7), credited with leading the Angels obedient to God against the rebellion of Satan. Those who came to be known as fallen angels, in refusing to serve God, literally sent themselves to that eternal separation from the Creator we call Hell. Pope Leo XIII composed the prayer seeking his intercession (‘Holy Michael Archangel….’). Very sorely needed today, you can find the full text in the prayer section of our Parish Website. Gabriel (Luke 26ff) brought Mary the news of her Vocation to be Mother of our Redeemer. Raphael appears in the Old Testament book of Tobit.
Saturday, 30th September: Saint Jerome a Doctor (particularly, a teacher of Theology or Doctrine) of the Church who, most notably, translated the Bible, a lot of it originally written in Greek and, perhaps Hebrew, into Latin, still the language of the Universal Church.
In the Entrance Antiphon (from Daniel 3:31) today we acknowledge God’s Rightful Justice in condemning sin, while also expressing our faith that, should we repent, there is no limit to His Loving Forgiveness.
Ezekiel (18:25-28), warns the Israelites that, having chosen what is manifestly against God’s Will, it is illogical and unjust to blame God for the consequences arising from their sins, actions through which they have chosen to leave the safe road of loving obedience. How often do we hear someone (maybe ourselves) ask, “Why did God do this (make this happen) to me?” when the question should be, “Why did I let go of God’s protecting Hand to do what He has told me is wrong?” As we know well, God has given each one of us a spiritual Soul, Intelligence, Reason and Free will; in His Love he will not force us to ‘do as we are told’; to attain Heaven (or not to) is our choice! We suffer, in this world, because of the wrongful choices made by ourselves and others.
We will reach Heaven by heading determinedly God’s Way, however challenging; by God’s Grace we will recover from falls into sin along the way, ‘picking ourselves up’ and continuing the journey! In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps.24) we cry out, ‘Remember your Mercy, Lord’ but honesty compels us to acknowledge that God, in His Infinite Goodness, is constantly showing us the way we must go. It is we who are the forgetful ones, not God. We can stay on the safe path or, thinking, with the worldly-wise, that we ‘know better’, head into mortal danger!
Saint Paul (Phil 2: 1-11) urges us to go forward, in union with our Saviour, and with each other. We are not to consider ourselves superior in any way to others; We are not ‘in competition’ with our Brothers and Sisters, who we should consider before ourselves, neither may we presume to judge them. We must look honestly at our own shortcomings. Judgement is to be left to God Who, alone knows us ‘...through and through...’. Paul holds before us the supreme example, Jesus, the most reliable rôle model we have. To reach our Heavenly Home, we must model our lives on Christ’s. His earthly Life, lived in loving and humble submission to the Father and leading to His Passion, Death and Resurrection, is our guarantee that we will, having done our best in life, one day, be greeted in Heaven by Him Who re-opened the way closed by Adam and Eve.
In the Alleluia Verse we, again, affirm the vital necessity of backing up our declarations of love for God by living as He has wisely decreed. If we strive to go steadfastly towards God, we cannot fail to meet Him in Heaven!
In the Gospel (Mt. 21:28-32), Jesus, in the parable of the two sons, makes it very clear that ‘actions speak louder than words’. However much of an outward ‘show’ one may make of being a Christian, in the end it is the effort made which will tell. As the Saints have demonstrated, Peter and Paul among them, while one cannot guarantee that one will live a consistently perfect life it is those who, having the humility to recognise, repent of and correct their faults, however much they may, in consequence, be ‘looked down upon’ by others, who will ‘…endure to the end…’ and ‘…be saved..’.
In the Entrance Antiphon today we are reminded that the Lord is ‘…Saviour of all people…’ who, unlike even the best intentioned earthly friend, will be ‘…always there…’ and, very significantly, is unlimited in His ability to help us through life. We are expected, of course, to actively seek and use these opportunities to attain Salvation!
Isaiah (55:6-9), very wisely, urges us to seize every opportunity offered us by our Creator while we live on Earth, and ‘Seek the Lord while He is still to be found’. Until we draw our final breath we can, should we sin, repent and be assured of God’s Forgiveness; not that we should gamble our eternity on living apart from God and ‘getting in at the last moment’. God, who is so superior to His creatures, nevertheless leaves the final choice with us! As the Responsorial Psalm (From Ps. 144), recalls to mind, God ‘…is close to all who call Him….” How aware are we of our constant need to examine our conscience and make sure that we are not living in ways that take us further away from God?
Saint Paul (Phil. 1:20-24, 27), while looking with longing towards his entry into Heaven, acknowledges that, while he lives on earth, he has a vital role (as does each one of us) to play in the Salvation of Mankind. Paul’s ‘rule of thumb’ for the here and now, which will stand us in good stead when we die, is to keep from anything in our everyday life which will set us off in an opposing direction to God. Our Saviour, knowing our weaknesses, has left us the Sacrament of Reconciliation, through which we can, as long as life lasts, keep close to or even return to God. God, who clearly sees our exact knowledge of good and evil and our intentions, cannot lose any soul which, in all honesty, has striven to be faithful to Him.
Previously we have recalled our duty to correct error. Today we look at a basic condition for being, ourselves, forgiven by God, which is that we forgive, ‘…those who trespass against us’. Straight away, not mincing his words, the writer of Ecclesiasticus condemns emotions which so often set up barriers to our forgiving those who hurt or offend us: “Resentment and anger…foul things…found with the sinner.” Whilst we must certainly ‘hate the sin’ we know that we must ‘love the sinner’. If we set ourselves up to judge and condemn any person, we become, in a way, like them. We are presented with the undeniable logic that we cannot reasonably expect God to approve plans to ‘get our own back’ for wrongs done to us, or to be able to show us Compassion if we deny this to our Neighbour. The extract finishes with what is (or should be) a chilling reminder that, as we deal with offences from our fellow humans, so will the same, in justice, be meted out to us at our Judgement!
The Responsorial Psalm highlights the attributes of our Creator, “…compassion…love…slow to anger…rich in mercy”, which, in spite of our fallen nature can, should we wish, sustain us in the ups and downs of life.
Saint Paul, writing to the Romans, simply reminds us that both here on earth and in the hereafter, we are all God’s creatures and, however much we may think that we live in ‘our own little bubble’, each life lived has an effect on others. How often do we think of this? Do we attract others to God, or do we undermine their search for the Truth? Do those around us, seeking meaning and purpose in life, perceive that we look, as the Alleluia verse proclaims, to God Who, alone, can bring us to Eternal Happiness?
In the Gospel our Lord, very emphatically, removes any limits to forgiveness. In a dramatic Parable, He delivers a stern warning that, just as the servant who refused to forgive a comparatively ‘trivial’ debt owed by a fellow servant was, as a result, severely punished for his own much greater debt to his Master, so our own forgiveness (or not) will determine the Judgement we receive at the end of our life.
We need to recognise, of course, that Jesus is not saying that we shall not be wronged, perhaps deeply, during the course of our life. We may well be unable to forget grave wrongs done to us or our loved ones. We must, however (and we have some profoundly moving examples following recent terrorist murders) strive to forgive, whatever effort this may cost, those who have set out to hurt us. We may well recall, also, how the Mother of Saint Maria Goretti forgave Alessandro, who had attempted to rape and had then killed her daughter, Maria (who also had forgiven him on her deathbed). Also the example of Saint Pope John Paul II who, following his life-saving treatment in hospital, visited Mehmet Ali Ağca, his would-be murderer, in prison, publicly forgiving this man who had shot him with the intention of killing him. How many examples might we, personally, recall of, perhaps, very ‘costly’ forgiveness?
Thoughts on the traditional teachings, devotions, seasons and matters of the Catholic Church