Creation and Recreation, 5th Monday (I), February 6, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions
February 6, 2017
Gen 1:1-19, Ps 104, Mk 6:53-56

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • After having completed a four week meditation on the Letter to the Hebrews, by which we’re able to see everything in the light of God’s definitive Word, Jesus Christ, and learn how to keep our eyes firmly fixed on him, today we begin a study of the beginning of the Book of the Beginning — Genesis — that will accompany us for the text two weeks. It has an opportunity for us to “re-read” the beginning with the prism of what we have just learned in Hebrews.
  • Genesis begins with a focus on the phases of Creation and how good it was. After the creation of light and its separation from darkness, after the creation of the sky and the earth, after the creation of the waters from land, after the creation of vegetation and fruit, after the creation of the Sun and the moon and the stars, Genesis says “God saw how good it was.” Tomorrow we’ll continue seeing this goodness in the creation of the creatures of the sea and the animals, which likewise were good, and arrive at the culmination of the human person whom God saw was “very good.” The goodness of creation leads us to exclaim in the Psalm, “May the Lord be glad in his works!” It ponders the earth, the ocean, the mountains, the streams, the wind, the mountains, the birds, the trees, and then exults, “How manifold are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you have wrought them all— the earth is full of your creatures; Bless the Lord, O my soul!” How important for us spiritually to enter into a hymn of praise for the essential goodness of creation.
  • In the Gospel, however, we see the breakdown. It’s a corruption of that goodness we’ll see on Friday with the account of the original sin and Eve and Adam. Even though creation was ontologically good, moral evil entered. And that brought about a disharmony that was never originally intended. It partially ruptured the communion that was meant to exist between creatures and God, between creatures and each other, and within creatures themselves. That breakdown caused by sin was the source of the introduction of illnesses and what they lead to, death. We get a glimpse of that pain and suffering in the Gospel. As Jesus disembarked in Gennesaret, “people immediately recognized him. They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak.” Such enormous pain and suffering! It was like whole towns were hospitals. And they came to the Divine Physician. They must have heard about the miracle of the woman with the hemorrhage who was cured of her 12-year illness by touching the edge of his garment because St. Mark tells us that they were all trying to touch even the tassel of his cloak with faith and that as many as touched it were healed.
  • There was a tremendous physical transformation that points to an even greater spiritual one. They were able to appreciate their new state even more than if they had never been ill, because they knew the gift they had received in contrast to its opposite, whereas those who have never experienced the deprivation can easily take it for granted.
  • Every Christmas morning we ponder that Jesus came into the world not just to restore the goodness of creation but to redeem and surpass it. In Latin, we pray, “Deus, qui humanae substantiae dignitatem mirabiliter condidisti et mirabilius reformasti,” which means, “O God, you who wondrously created the dignity of human substance and even more wondrously reformed it.” These are words that have traditionally been said by the priest quietly at Mass at the offertory as he prepares the chalice, as he prays that we might enter fully into that wondrous reform: “da nobis per hujus aquae et vini mysterium, ejus divinitatis esse consortes, qui humanitatis nostrae fieri dignatus est particeps.” (“Grant us, by the mystery of this water and wine to become shares of the divinity of him who humbled himself to become a participant of our humanity.”). That’s what God does coming into the world. He wants not just to restore us but to raise us beyond where we were before. And if in creation we praise the Lord, how much more must we sing his praises for redemption?
  • Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Paul Miki and his 25 Companion Martyrs, who were crucified in Japan in 1597. They were the first of the nearly 35,000 Japanese converts who died heroically for the faith between 1597-1639. Because the imperial minister Toyotomi Hideyoski feared that missionaries from the Philippines were actually Spanish insurgents seeking to overthrow Japan, he responded by sentencing these 26 Catholics — 3 native Jesuits, 17 lay Catholics including children and six  Franciscan missionaries — to death by crucifixion. They were marched an unbelievable 600 miles to Nagasaki, suffering so many indignities and tortures along the way to try to frighten any Japanese from seeking to convert to Christianity, but even in the midst of torture, they sang a Te Deum to God. When they were being crucified, they had their last opportunity to evangelize those who were present for the spectacle, and they didn’t miss their chance. In the most powerful pulpit of his life, St. Paul Miki gave his last will and testament: “The sentence of judgment says these men came to Japan from the Philippines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true Japanese. The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you to become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ’s example I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.” God had blessed the Japanese with many natural virtues. But he was blessing them with something far greater in the redemption, and that’s a treasure not only that they would never give up but that they wanted others to have. This greatness of the “more wondrous” redemption is captured by today’s opening prayer: “O God, strength of all the saints, who through the Cross were pleased to call the Martyrs Saint Paul Miki and companions to life….” The Cross, a sign of death, of suffering, of sin, was transformed into a Tree not just of life, but of eternal life. We see in their martyrdom the surpassing of creation in all its starkness, as they enter full into the Paschal Mystery of death and resurrection.
  • They heard David’s inspired words, “Be courageous and be a man” and they responded! They received Jesus’ last will and testament, given during the Last Supper not only with words but with his own body and blood, and
  • As we come forward today to receive from this sanctuary the same gifts that made them courageous until the end, we ask through their intercession that we all may be courageous and mature as we preach the Gospel by our words and witness in life, in death, and even after. Praised be Jesus Christ!
  • St. Paul Miki and his companions received their strength to be faithful to the Lord until the end by the power of the Word of God and the Word made flesh.  They were willing to give their own body and blood in memory of him who gave His Body and Blood to make a truly Christian death not an ignominious thing but something wondrous, a passage to eternity with God. Every Mass is meant to strengthen us in a similar way, because that’s where not only the miracle of the transformation of wine with a drop of water is transformed into Jesus’ blood, but we, mysteriously, are given a share in Christ’s divinity, of the new Creation. Today we do more than touch the tassel of Jesus’ cloak. We receive him fully within. May we indeed become sharers in the divinity of him we’re about to receive who out of love lowered himself to take on our humanity, take all our sins against the goodness of the created order away, and take us in him to bless the Lord body and soul.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 Gn 1:1-19

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,
the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss,
while a mighty wind swept over the waters.Then God said,
“Let there be light,” and there was light.
God saw how good the light was.
God then separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”
Thus evening came, and morning followed–the first day.Then God said,
“Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters,
to separate one body of water from the other.”
And so it happened:
God made the dome,
and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it.
God called the dome “the sky.”
Evening came, and morning followed–the second day.Then God said,
“Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin,
so that the dry land may appear.”
And so it happened:
the water under the sky was gathered into its basin,
and the dry land appeared.
God called the dry land “the earth,”
and the basin of the water he called “the sea.”
God saw how good it was.
Then God said,
“Let the earth bring forth vegetation:
every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth
that bears fruit with its seed in it.”
And so it happened:
the earth brought forth every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth that
bears fruit with its seed in it.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed–the third day.Then God said:
“Let there be lights in the dome of the sky,
to separate day from night.
Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years,
and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky,
to shed light upon the earth.”
And so it happened:
God made the two great lights,
the greater one to govern the day,
and the lesser one to govern the night;
and he made the stars.
God set them in the dome of the sky,
to shed light upon the earth,
to govern the day and the night,
and to separate the light from the darkness.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed–the fourth day.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 104:1-2a, 5-6, 10 and 12, 24 and 35c

R. (31b) May the Lord be glad in his works.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
You are clothed with majesty and glory,
robed in light as with a cloak.
R. May the Lord be glad in his works.
You fixed the earth upon its foundation,
not to be moved forever;
With the ocean, as with a garment, you covered it;
above the mountains the waters stood.
R. May the Lord be glad in his works.
You send forth springs into the watercourses
that wind among the mountains.
Beside them the birds of heaven dwell;
from among the branches they send forth their song.
R. May the Lord be glad in his works.
How manifold are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you have wrought them all—
the earth is full of your creatures;
Bless the LORD, O my soul! Alleluia.
R. May the Lord be glad in his works.

Alleluia See Mt 4:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom
and cured every disease among the people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 6:53-56

After making the crossing to the other side of the sea,
Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret
and tied up there.
As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him.
They scurried about the surrounding country
and began to bring in the sick on mats
to wherever they heard he was.
Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered,
they laid the sick in the marketplaces
and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak;
and as many as touched it were healed.