The Entrance Antiphon (cf Psalm 97:1-2) expresses joy: Our Lord has very clearly shown us the way forward and, indeed, saved us and, throughout life, we must seek and cooperate with Grace so that we may attain Eternal Salvation.
In the First Reading (Acts 9:26-31) we hear of the newly converted Saint Paul’s meeting with the, understandably wary Disciples. Paul might be thought of as a type of Saint George, fearless unto death in his living and preaching the often ‘unpalatable’ and challenging Truth. We hear how, having declared himself a follower of Christ, Paul had immediately faced strong and hostile opposition. This fact, as well as the account of his Conversion, was enough to convince the Disciples that he (formerly named Saul) was indeed a worthy ally. Saints George, Mark and Paul, Martyrs all, are outstanding role models for us. We shall probably never be called to ‘lay our life on the line’ but, as we hear constantly through the media, many of our brothers and Sisters are still martyred for their fidelity to God. Christians, even here in England, Mary’s Dowry, can experience concerted opposition, even, at times, backed by law. Sometimes this may be through ignorance and misunderstanding, but sometimes, sadly, it is because our hearers know, ‘deep down’, that we are right. However tough a time we may have as a Christians, we can take heart, as Saint Paul did, that God will ultimately prevail over opposition to His Truth.
The Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 21:26-28, 30-32 response v26) again looks to the centrality of God in our lives and the ongoing and irresistible spread of Faith, Truth and Justice, as more are gathered into the one true fold.
Saint John, in the Second reading (1 Jn. 3:18-24) emphasises the inescapable fact that belief in Jesus cannot be merely verbal assent but, if it is to be credible to all, it must influence our relations with and our treatment of others. As the maxim states, ‘actions speak louder than words’. Our conscience, formed by the Teachings of the Church, will help us to remain faithful and confident in our loving obedience to God’s Laws, whatever obstacles may be placed in our path. The Commandments are our sure Rule of Life, our ‘Route-Map’. This fruitful closeness to our Father is echoed in the Alleluia Verse (John 15:4-5) and underlined later on in the Communion Antiphon (cf John 15:1-5).
The Gospel (Jn. 15:1-8) presents us with the beautiful discourse of Jesus on our essential and close, therefore fruitful, union with Him; only by growing on the Vine can Branches flourish and bear fruit. Our Lord delivers the stark warning that the roads to Heaven and Hell, to our Eternity, are our choice. We are called to oppose the materialism and the so-called ‘modern moral standards’ so widely and forcefully presented as ‘cool’ and to be constantly aware that, however much the ‘majority’ may appear to prevail, every single person created will appear before God’s Judgement Seat. Be prepared to suffer opposition now in order to, one day, hear the words’…Well done, Good and Faithful Servant…’ (Matthew 25:21, 23) from our Loving Father.
Today we continue to rejoice in the Victory of Christ over evil. Through the words of the Entrance Antiphon (Psalm 32:5-6), we proclaim God’s Goodness and Infinite Creative Power. On reflection, how have we, God’s highest creation, used (or not used) our share in these attributes, “…in what I have done and in what I have failed to do…”? How diligently do we make use of the resources, spiritual and physical, which He has given us?
In the First Reading (Acts:4: 8-12), our first Pope, Peter, points those who had just witnessed his miraculous cure of a cripple, beyond his actions to Christ who was working through him as indeed He continues to this day though our Pope, Bishops and Priests. Those who refused to accept the Truth, through ignorance, at that time were, as all people still are today, offered the chance to repent. We affirm our belief in Christ’s vital foundational role in the Response to the Psalm (Psalm.117:22). Where do we stand when we hear the arrogant challenges made to God’s Authority in our modern world in which, so often, we are told that we can happily achieve all we do without God! Are we prepared to correct a fellow Catholic if they act in ways contrary to Christ’s Teachings, even if, as a consequence, we might be labelled ‘unchristian’.
In the Second reading (1 John 3:1-2), Saint John emphasises the wonderful fact that we are loved as God’s children and that consequently, should we live as befits such children, we may often (as is evident around the world) suffer rejection as did Our Lord. Looking in hope beyond the sufferings of this world Saint John assures us that, should we live faithfully as our Father created us to do we shall, in Heaven, ‘…be like Him because we shall see Him as He really is…’. The Church, the Mass, the Sacraments, Sanctifying Grace and our gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity are ‘weapons’ equipping us in our fight against evil.
We are reminded that Jesus came, not just to offer Salvation to those who choose to believe and be baptised, namely ourselves, but that His Mission, through us, extends to all, ‘…who are not of this fold…’ who, through faithful Catholic witness, will be drawn to seek and accept the Gift of Faith, bringing true Unity, ‘…one flock and one Shepherd…’, uncompromisingly living in the Truth.
In the upper side windows (two above the Reconciliation room and the Sacred Heart shrine, and two on the opposite wall) we see the symbols of the four Evangelists (Gospel Writers). These images are related to accounts contained in the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (1:1-21), the Book of Revelation (4:6-8) and the writings of Saint Irenaeus.
Matthew, shown as a winged man, begins his Gospel with Jesus’ family tree, His Incarnation and Birth (Mt:1&2).
Mark, depicted as a winged lion, begins his Gospel, quoting the Prophet Isaiah and telling of the last of the Prophets, Saint John the Baptist, ‘…the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord…’.
Luke is represented by a winged ox. Animals featured prominently in Old Testament Sacrifices, but would be superseded in the New Testament by the Once-for-All Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Luke’s Gospel begins with an Angel telling the aged and childless Zechariah of the forthcoming birth of his son, Saint John the Baptist (Lk:1).
John appears as an eagle. His Gospel begins at the Source of all things: the one God in Three Divine persons.
For further explanation of the symbolism, see HERE, and also, for a far more detailed insight, see the article by Father William Saunders in Catholic Exchange.
This eight-part ‘tour’, has, of course, merely ‘scratched the surface’ of the treasury of knowledge. How much of this treasury do we know? Visual symbols provide a simple, yet vital, resource in leading our children and indeed ourselves to a deeper understanding and practice of the Faith, and in keeping young ones focussed on the Mass until they can use Mass books. We are all, even the ‘not so young’, prone to distractions and may sometimes, forget why we have come into church. There is much here that can draw us back into contemplation of our Faith. Literate as we are, there is much to be said for the simpler, more visual, aids to contemplation, which, independent of language, can be understood by all, according to their ability. They graphically demonstrate our equality before our Creator.
Of course, whatever the Evangelists recorded for their widely differing Converts, there is one figure who, chosen by God, is a pivotal figure in all accounts of our Salvation, namely our Blessed Lady, whose, “…Let it be done to me according to your word…” (her “Yes!” to God; in Latin, her “fiat”), opened the way for the Incarnation. Although we can certainly pray directly to Our Lord, we may be familiar with the expression, “To Jesus through Mary”. As far as we know, at every one of her appearances on earth, Mary has called on her hearers to, “Pray the Rosary”.
With our Catholic Faith under constant threat, we are reassured by Christ’s words to St Peter, “...on this rock I shall build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.”. (Mt16: 18-19). However, we must not be complacent. Jesus gave us the paradigm of prayer throughout His life, including His great gift to us of the Our Father, an integral part of that powerful prayer, the Holy Rosary, given to us via St Dominic.
The Novena may, of course, be said at other times, too. The nine intentions can provide a basis for an Examination of Conscience. On the final day, Jesus’ words are particularly challenging: “Today bring to Me souls who have become lukewarm, and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: “Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.” For them, the last hope (65) of salvation is to flee to My mercy.” (Diary of Saint Faustina, 1228). Are we Apostles of Divine Mercy to the lukewarm?
Of course, our final bliss in Heaven is dependent, not just on God’s Mercy but upon each of us having freely co-operated with his Grace. As the highest of God’s creations, we are endowed, from conception, with a spiritual Soul and Free-Will; we are capable of coming to know and understand His Will for us, aided in the formation of our Conscience by our Parents, Priests and Catholic schools and, as we mature (a status marked by the Sacrament of Confirmation) by our own careful study of the Teachings of the Church. We must pray, often, that we will clearly discern exactly what Vocation (or call) God is giving us. As we see, in following the news media, the traps set by Satan are numerous and, in some cases, presented under the guises of ‘Human Rights’ and ‘Love’, of which they are, in truth, a denial.
One might say that the “bottom line”, regarding our hope for Mercy, lies in the words we say, sometimes, sadly, with little thought, virtually every day of our Life: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” or, to put it another way “Do not forgive me if I refuse to forgive others”. That is not to say that to forgive is easy; ‘scars’ may well remain and it may be hard, if not impossible, to forget wrongs done to us. We have the beautiful example of Saint Pope John Paul II who, following Mehmet Ali Ağca’s attempt on his life, visited and publicly forgave his would-be assassin in prison. In the end, it is Satan who ‘thrives’ on hatred and unforgiveness.
As Christians, we are called to be merciful as God is merciful. That means that we must, as well as forgiving, not forget our duty to correct error; it is just as merciless to, for instance, fail to warn someone we know to be living in a sinful state as it is to refuse to forgive those who repent and ask forgiveness of us. It is NOT being judgmental and may see us fall in the ‘popularity ratings’ but this duty supersedes our possible inclinations. God, grant us the Graces we need to spread your Divine Mercy! Saint Faustina and Saint Pope John Paul II, Pray for us!
From St. Bart's
Thoughts on the traditional teachings, devotions, seasons and matters of the Catholic Church