Set Apart for the Work To Which God has Called Us, Fourth Wednesday of Easter, April 29, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Church of the Holy Family, New York, NY
Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena
April 29, 2015
Acts 12:24-13:5, Ps 67, Jn 12:44-50


Today’s homily was not recorded. The following points were considered: 

  • One of the most important realities to ponder during this Year of Consecrated Life is the whole meaning of Christian consecration. In a 2009 Chrism Mass homily, Pope Benedict concisely described it. “What does ‘consecrate” mean?,’ he asked before replying, “First of all it must be said that really only God is ‘consecrated’ or ‘holy.’ ‘To consecrate’ therefore means ‘to transfer’ a reality – a person or a thing – to become the property of God. And two complementary aspects are present in this: on the one hand, removing them from ordinary things, segregating, ‘setting them apart’ from the context of personal human life so that they may be totally given to God; and on the other, this segregation, this transferal into God’s sphere, has the very meaning of ‘sending,’ of mission: precisely because he or she is given to God, the reality, the consecrated person, exists ‘for’ others, is given to others. Giving to God means no longer existing for oneself, but for everyone. Whoever, like Jesus, is segregated from the world and set apart for God with a view to a task is for this very reason fully available to all. For the disciples the task will be to continue Jesus’ mission, to be given to God and thereby to be on mission for all. The Risen One, appearing to his disciples on Easter evening, was to say to them: ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you’” (Jn 20:21). Being consecrated with Christ beings being separated from worldliness to be with him in such a way that we now together with him seek to fulfill his salvific mission.
  • That’s a very good introduction to understanding today’s readings and today’s Feast. In the passage we have today from the Acts of the Apostles, God asked for the special consecration of Barnabas and Saul. “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them,” the Holy Spirit said. God had already called them to himself as disciples — something they were showing by their “worshipping the Lord and fasting” — and for the previous year they were working to spread the faith, but now there would be a special consecration within that more general one. And the culmination of that special consecration would be their mission: “They, sent forth by the Holy Spirit,
    went down to Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived in Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues.” That would just be the beginning, as we’re going to be seeing over upcoming weeks. Consecration has this calling to discipleship and apostolate, to being with Jesus so that he might send us forth, to being “cut off” (sacer) from other things to be “with” (con) God to such a degree that we share his mission for the salvation of the world.
  • In today’s Gospel, Jesus, the supreme Consecrated One, who described himself as one with the Father, describes some of the ways in which he remains one with the Father in the midst in his mission. ““Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me,” he says. Later, he adds, “The words that I spoke … I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak. … what I say, I say as the Father told me.” That’s the way it’s always supposed to be with those who are consecrated. That we speak with joy and faith the words God has spoken to us, that we unite ourselves to the One who has sent us in such a way that we begin to share his attributes. We become united with him to such a degree that we decrease and he increases, that others in accepting us, or rejecting us, are accepting or rejecting him. We’ll see this reality played out in a special way in St. Paul’s life. He would eventually say, “I have been crucified with Christ and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me” (Gal 2:18-20).
  • We also see this reality play out in the life of St. Catherine of Siena whom the Church celebrates today. From a young age, St. Catherine was set apart by God. When she was six she had a remarkable mystical experience: looking up into the sky, she beheld the Lord seated in glory with St. Peter, St. Paul and St. John. Jesus looked upon her, smiled at her, extended his hand toward her and blessed her. From that point she was in a special way his and sought to live by prayer despite the various sufferings caused by her family for her not wanting to be like her many siblings or other children her age. She began to have interior dialogues with God, dwelled in a “cell” within her family home, and spent her formative years cut off in a sense from the world to be with God. She was mystically wed to him, with the Lord’s placing a ring on her finger invisible to everyone except her but one that would leave a mark finally visible to all upon her death.
  • But all of that was a preparation for the mission her consecration would take. God told her one day, “I desire to become more closely united with you through charity toward your neighbor,” and so the Lord began to manifest himself to her in this way. She went out to care for all the sick in hospitals or on the streets due to normal illness and the epidemic of the plague. She visited prisons and ministered in a special way to those who were on death row. She went to towns that had lost their faith to try to bring about religious revivals. She began to become a spiritual director and mother to many. She went on missions to try to bring the Pope back from Avignon to Rome, which succeeded. After the Pope returned to Rome, she sought by her letters to bring everyone into union. With St. Teresa of Avila, she eventually became one of the two first female doctors of the Church. She was docta, learned, taught by God, so that she could become a doctor and help others grow in the same holy science. Within the context of the Year of Consecrated Life, we could also stress two important points: St. Catherine was both a lay woman and a third-order Dominican. Her life was a flourishing of the graces of her baptismal consecration and of her profession as a Dominican. As a friend of mine, a Dominican nun reminded me in a recent email, “During her time she would have been considered living a ‘religious life’ because she followed a regula— that of the Dominican laity who do make profession as Dominicans but proper to their state in life and are considered as fully Dominicans as the friars and the nuns.  But she was still considered a lay woman, knew she was, wanted to be and did not want to be a nun, which makes her even more remarkable!”
  • And the way St. Catherine grew in her baptismal consecration and consecrated as a third-order Dominican was precisely through consecrating herself with Jesus to the Father in the Holy Eucharist. For the last many years of her life she lived literally only on the nourishment she received in the Eucharist, eating nothing else. She drew her life from her union with Jesus in the Eucharist and discovered that that was a source of endless dynamism, the dynamism that united herself to him in charity. Today as we prepare to receive the same Lord Jesus, he says to us, “I desire to become more closely united to you through charity toward your neighbor.” He calls us to be set apart from ordinary things for the work to which he has called us, so that he might send us out to serve others in communion with the love flowing out from his heart. May we respond to this grace of consecration, especially abundant in this holy year, like St. Paul did, like St. Barnabas did, like St. Catherine of Siena did, so that we might share their joy and Christ-united sufferings in this life and their joy and Christ-united glory forever!


The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1 Acts 12:24—13:5a

The word of God continued to spread and grow.After Barnabas and Saul completed their relief mission,
they returned to Jerusalem,
taking with them John, who is called Mark.Now there were in the Church at Antioch prophets and teachers:
Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene,
Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said,
“Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul
for the work to which I have called them.”
Then, completing their fasting and prayer,
they laid hands on them and sent them off.So they, sent forth by the Holy Spirit,
went down to Seleucia
and from there sailed to Cyprus.
When they arrived in Salamis,
they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6 and 8

R. (4) O God, let all the nations praise you!
R. Alleluia.
May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!
R. Alleluia.
May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!
R. Alleluia.
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!
R. Alleluia.

Gospel Jn 8:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Jn 12:44-50

Jesus cried out and said,
“Whoever believes in me believes not only in me
but also in the one who sent me,
and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me.
I came into the world as light,
so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.
And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them,
I do not condemn him,
for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.
Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words
has something to judge him: the word that I spoke,
it will condemn him on the last day,
because I did not speak on my own,
but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.
And I know that his commandment is eternal life.
So what I say, I say as the Father told me.”