Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the Second Week of Advent
Memorial of St. Ambrose
December 7, 2015
Is 35:1-10, Ps 85, Lk 5:17-26
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- Throughout Advent, we’ve been speaking of the triple dynamism of Christ’s coming to us, our going to meet him, and, having been transformed by the encounter, traveling with him forward. Yesterday, St. John the Baptist reminded us of our need to prepare the way for this encounter and make straight the paths. Today the Prophet Isaiah tells us that this path is a highway called “the holy way,” which is “for those with a journey to make,” the an exodus on which “the redeemed will walk.” He makes clear that “no one unclean may pass over it,” that we need to be healed by converting to God’s mercy. On Saturday, Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah who will feed us, quench our thirst and teach us will speak to us from behind and say, “This is the path. Walk in it!” That’s precisely what God is doing throughout Advent, showing us the path, helping us to clean it and ourselves, and begin journeying, because this holy highway is not for the inert, but for those with a “journey to make.”
- In the Gospel we see that the journey begins with conversion. Jesus seeks to heal us just like he healed the paralyzed man. But then it continues in charity, as we seek to bring our friends — like the friends of the paralytic brought him — to encounter Jesus in his healing, reconstitutive mercy.
- These are very powerful thoughts as we prepare tomorrow for the beginning of the Jubilee of Mercy. This ecclesiastic holy year is for those with a journey to make. It’s a highway on which the redeemed will walk, those who by God’s mercy and the response of conversion are unencumbered of the uncleanness that would make it impossible to pass. It’s also a year in which we’re seeking to bring the whole world to receive that mercy.
- It’s important that we make some resolutions before the year. I’m urging everyone I meet to make three:
- First, come to receive God’s mercy frequently and profoundly in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I know, Sisters, that you have the practice of going to receive God’s forgiveness each week, something that doubtless pleases God very much. But there’s always room to grow in the way we examine our consciences, the way we beg for the gift of sorrow, the manner we make and keep resolutions, and the way we depend on God’s action in the Sacrament more than our own. We’ll have a chance to talk more about this as the Jubilee Year continues, but I’d urge you to look at this Sacrament as on-ramp to the Holy Highway, because it’s there where we meet God in all his mercy, we make him rejoice more than for 99 righteous people, and he fills us with that joy.
- Second, get to know and live what Jesus revealed to St. Faustina in the 1930s about growing in love of his mercy. He wanted his mercy adored, in a similar way that we adore his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in Eucharistic Adoration. And he revealed five practices to do so.
- He asked us to stop what we’re doing every day at 3 pm, the moment he mercifully died for us on the Cross, and unite ourselves to his mercy. It can be just a minute. Simply say, “I unite myself to your mercy, O Lord, for me and for the world” or something similar. But this moment can transform a day.
- Second he asked us to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, offering to the Father Jesus in the Eucharist in expiation for our sins and those of the whole world. It takes just a few minutes. I’d urge you to try to pray this every day. Since one of you told me a few months back that I wasn’t giving you five minutes to make a thanksgiving after receiving Holy Communion — I confess that I lose total track of chronos when I’m in the kairos of my own prayer after receiving God within — I have been praying certain vocal prayers quietly after I sit down after the purification, simply so that I can have a better sense of time. On October 5, the vocal prayers I used were the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and it can be prayed well during those five minutes as we, united with Christ in his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, offer him and ourselves together with him to the Father for mercy on us and on others.
- Third, he wanted us to behold his mercy and he showed St. Faustina an image with the rays of his mercy, as blood and water, coming from his heart, with his blessing us, and with the words, “Jesus, I trust in you!” Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to install such an image in this chapel during the Jubilee Year, to make it even more beautiful?
- Fourth, he asked us to make a novena to his mercy between Good Friday and the first Sunday after Easter, which is Divine Mercy Sunday. In that novena, we pray for nine different groups of people — sinners and all mankind, priests and religious, the devout and faithful, pagans and those who do not yet know Jesus, heretics and schismatics, humble souls, those who venerate his mercy, the souls in Purgatory and the lukewarm — and I’d urge you not only to plan to make this novena then, but to take one group of these people and pray each day continuously over the course of the year. Perhaps one of these groups can be added each day to the prayers of the faithful.
- Finally, he asked for us to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday as a great celebration. I’d urge you to circle April 3 on your calendar and make the plans to maximize the celebration that day.
- The third and last practice I’d propose is that throughout this year, you make the time to do each and every one of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy at least once and, for those routine works of mercy you do, to be more conscious that these are works in which you’re extending to others the same mercy God has given to you. Yesterday an infamous preacher publicly said that by your life you illustrate the manifold beauty of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: your constant prayer for mercy for the whole world, your care for women in the most desperate of circumstances and accompaniment of families in need, your bringing so many women and men to experience the depth of God’s mercy after having made choices that now they wish with all their hearts they could make differently, your bringing food cards to the hungry and thirsty, your welcoming strangers and sheltering women with nowhere else to turn, your clothing young naked babies, your burying and praying for those who have died, your teaching others the faith and counseling those with doubts, your comforting those afflicted in the present and about the past, your helping them to learn how to forgive those who have wronged them, and your giving a powerful testimony that God seeks and can bring good out of evil and that Christian hope is real. This is a year to strengthen your intentionality and to fill in some of the gaps, because these show us the breadth of God’s merciful love for us and our participation in sharing that mercy with others.
- Today we celebrate the feast of a great saint who received God’s mercy and was so transformed by it that he was able to lead for Christ many people along the holy way of the redeemed. In his young 30s, St. Ambrose was prefect of Gaul — an enormous responsibility — during the 370s. He believed the Christian faith but he hadn’t yet been baptized. After the death of the Bishop of Milan, he went to where the election was to take place to make sure that there were no fights between the Orthodox Catholics of the time and the heretic Arians (who believed that Jesus was the greatest man who ever lived and chosen by God but not God). He gave a little speech reminding everyone of Christ’s teachings on peace and mutual love, at which point someone in the crowd began to shout “Ambrose, Bishop!” It soon started to be echoed by everyone, Catholics and Arians alike. He tried to run away from the responsibilities, but when the emperor Valentinian heard of the election, he consented to it, proud that he had chosen as Prefect someone with the virtues capable of serving as a Bishop. Eventually Ambrose was baptized, then ordained a deacon, a priest, and a bishop, on this day in 374. After his ordinations, he set himself to learning the Christian faith in such detail that he could really feed others with this nourishment — becoming eventually a doctor of the Church, one of the greatest teachers in the history of the faith. And he taught by his example, constantly seeking to remind people of God’s mercy and making it a rule of life, harmonizing battling emperors, family members and others. St. Augustine, who was converted under his guidance, wrote that whenever he tried to speak with Ambrose, Ambrose was surrounded by a crowd of the needy, whom we would treat with great patience, helping to address their problems as if he were still addressing the great problems of the entire Province of Gaul. When a famine broke out, he sold many of the sacred vessels in order to care for the poor. When people suffered injustice, he risked his own life to challenge the wrong-doers, including the emperor. He is a great model for us of what God is calling each of us to in life and what he will strengthen us to do even more during this Jubilee Year. Let us ask Christ to strengthen us to become merciful like St. Ambrose, merciful like our Heavenly Father, as we enter into communion with Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity and offer ourselves with him to the Father in atonement for our sins and the sins of the world.
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Reading 1 IS 35:1-10
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
They will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
Then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water;
The abode where jackals lurk
will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus.
A highway will be there,
called the holy way;
No one unclean may pass over it,
nor fools go astray on it.
No lion will be there,
nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it.
It is for those with a journey to make,
and on it the redeemed will walk.
Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
They will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.
Responsorial Psalm PS 85:9AB AND 10, 11-12, 13-14
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD –for he proclaims peace to his people.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R. Our God will come to save us!
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. Our God will come to save us!
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.
R. Our God will come to save us!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold the king will come, the Lord of the earth,
and he himself will lift the yoke of our captivity.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 5:17-26
Pharisees and teachers of the law,
who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem,
were sitting there,
and the power of the Lord was with him for healing.
And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed;
they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence.
But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd,
they went up on the roof
and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles
into the middle in front of Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said,
“As for you, your sins are forgiven.”Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves,
“Who is this who speaks blasphemies?
Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply,
“What are you thinking in your hearts?
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 said to the one who was paralyzed,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”He stood up immediately before them,
picked up what he had been lying on,
and went home, glorifying God.
Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God,
and, struck with awe, they said,
“We have seen incredible things today.”