Drawing Strength from and Rejoicing in the Triumph of Faithful Love, 13th Thursday (II), June 30, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Thursday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome
June 30, 2016
Amos 7:10-17, Ps 19, Mt 9:1-8

 

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

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • In the Opening Prayer of today’s Mass, celebrated in honor of the first Martyrs of the Church of Rome, we asked God, “that with firm courage we may together draw strength from so great a struggle and ever rejoice at the triumph of faithful love.” The struggles of those who have gone before us is a source of strength to us as we rejoice at the victory of faithful love that sustained them to the end. Today, we see that in three different ways.
  • First, we see it in the triumph of Jesus’ faithful love in the Gospel. In this Jubilee of Mercy, it’s key for us to grasp that at times mercy is opposed. Jesus’ extension of mercy to the paralyzed man was opposed in the Gospel by the Scribes who objected that Jesus was blaspheming, pretending to be God who alone can forgive sins, but using that objection as a justification to articulate their opposition to Jesus’ ministry toward sinners. But Jesus persevered through that opposition, called out the evil they were thinking in their hearts, and to manifest his authority, his divine authority, to forgive sins, healed the man’s paralysis. We, too, will often be opposed for our continuing Jesus’ mission of mercy, but we’re called to draw strength from Jesus’ own triumph of love.
  • Second, we see it in Amos in today’s first reading. He was a layman, called from his sheep and shady Sycamores in Judah to proclaim God’s word in the north, in the Kingdom of Israel. But the call to conversion God placed on his lips seeking to open the Israelites up to repentance and mercy, was opposed by the high priest of Bethel, Jeroboam, who sent word to the King not that Amos was speaking falsities, but that he was seditious: ““Amos has conspired against you here within Israel;
    the country cannot endure all his words. For this is what Amos says: Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be exiled from its land.” Then Amaziah attacked Amos saying, ““Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.” He implied that Amos was prophesying for the money — a sign of his own motives perhaps — and declared that the sanctuary and temple were not God’s but the king’s. Amos nevertheless persevered, letting Amaziah know what would happen to him and to the kingdom because of the necessary consequences of the disintegration caused by sin. Amos’ faithful persevering love is a source of courage to all of us when the message of God placed on our lips is likewise opposed.
  • Finally, we see the inspiring triumph of faithful love in today’s martyrs, simple men and women, boys and girls, who were slaughtered by Nero as scapegoats for his having set the fire of Rome that took so many lives and destroyed more than two-thirds of the city so that Nero could build an egophanic “golden house.” He brought them to the Vatican, to the circus of Caligula and Nero, where now the Vatican Gardens, St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square are. The Roman pagan history Tacitus, a 7 year old eyewitness, wrote down for us 34 years later what he had observed: “To scotch the rumor [that he had set the fire], Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians. Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus, and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judaea, the home of the disease, but in the capital itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue. First, then, the confessed members of the sect were arrested; next, on their disclosures, vast numbers were convicted, not so much on the count of arson as for hatred of the human race. And derision accompanied their end: they were covered with wild beasts’ skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fastened on crosses, and, when daylight failed were burned to serve as lamps by night. Nero had offered his Gardens for the spectacle, and gave an exhibition in his Circus, mixing with the crowd in the habit of a charioteer, or mounted on his car. Hence, in spite of a guilt which had earned the most exemplary punishment, there arose a sentiment of pity, due to the impression that they were being sacrificed not for the welfare of the state but to the ferocity of a single man.”
  • Pope St. Clement, alive at the time of their persecution, wrote in the 90s what lesson we should all draw from their suffering: “These things, beloved, we write unto you, not merely to admonish you of your duty, but also to remind ourselves. For we are struggling on the same arena, and the same conflict is assigned to both of us. Wherefore let us give up vain and fruitless cares, and approach to the glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling. Let us attend to what is good, pleasing, and acceptable in the sight of Him who formed us. Let us look steadfastly to the blood of Christ and see how precious that blood is to God which, having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world.”
  • And so we look to Christ’s blood, the blood that forgave the sins of the paralyzed man and all of us, the blood to which Amos prophesied, the blood that flowed through the veins of his mystical body in the protomartyrs of the Church of Rome, the blood that gives us strength for our own witness so that we, too, may experience the triumph of faithful love and give an example to those who have come after us just as the example of Christ, Amos and the Roman Martyrs, give us an inspiring example today.

 

The readings for the Mass were: 

Reading 1 AM 7:10-17

Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent word to Jeroboam,
king of Israel:
“Amos has conspired against you here within Israel;
the country cannot endure all his words.
For this is what Amos says:
Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
and Israel shall surely be exiled from its land.”To Amos, Amaziah said:
“Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah!
There earn your bread by prophesying,
but never again prophesy in Bethel;
for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.”
Amos answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet,
nor have I belonged to a company of prophets;
I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.
The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me,
‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’
Now hear the word of the LORD!”You say: prophesy not against Israel,
preach not against the house of Isaac.
Now thus says the LORD:
Your wife shall be made a harlot in the city,
and your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword;
Your land shall be divided by measuring line,
and you yourself shall die in an unclean land;
Israel shall be exiled far from its land.

Responsorial Psalm PS 19:8, 9, 10, 11

R. (10cd) The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
They are more precious than gold,
than a heap of purest gold;
Sweeter also than syrup
or honey from the comb.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.

Alleluia 2 COR 5:19

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 9:1-8

After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town.
And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,
“Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”
At that, some of the scribes said to themselves,
“This man is blaspheming.”
Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said,
“Why do you harbor evil thoughts?
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
But that you may know that the Son of Man
has authority on earth to forgive sins”–
he then said to the paralytic,
“Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
He rose and went home.
When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe
and glorified God who had given such authority to men.

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