Monday, February 21, 2011

All Wisdom Comes From The LORD, And Remains With Him Forever.

Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading I
Sirach 1:1-10
All wisdom comes from the LORD
and with him it remains forever, and is before all time
The sand of the seashore, the drops of rain,
the days of eternity: who can number these?
Heaven’s height, earth’s breadth,
the depths of the abyss: who can explore these?
Before all things else wisdom was created;
and prudent understanding, from eternity.
The word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom
and her ways are everlasting.
To whom has wisdom’s root been revealed?
Who knows her subtleties?
To whom has the discipline of wisdom been revealed?
And who has understood the multiplicity of her ways ?
There is but one, wise and truly awe-inspiring,
seated upon his throne:
There is but one, Most High all-powerful
creator-king and truly awe-inspiring one,
seated upon his throne and he is the God of dominion.
It is the LORD; he created her through the Holy Spirit,
has seen her and taken note of her.
He has poured her forth upon all his works,
upon every living thing according to his bounty;
he has lavished her upon his friends.
+++    +++    +++    +++
Psalm 93
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
The LORD is king, in splendor robed;
robed is the LORD and girt about with strength.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
And he has made the world firm,
not to be moved.
Your throne stands firm from of old;
from everlasting you are, O LORD.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
Your decrees are worthy of trust indeed:
holiness befits your house,
O LORD, for length of days.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
+++    +++    +++    +++
Mark 9:14-29
As Jesus came down from the mountain
with Peter, James, John
and approached the other disciples,
they saw a large crowd around them
and scribes arguing with them.
Immediately on seeing him,
the whole crowd was utterly amazed.
They ran up to him and greeted him.
He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”
Someone from the crowd answered him,
“Teacher, I have brought to you
my son possessed by a mute spirit.
Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down;
he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid.
I asked your disciples to drive it out,
but they were unable to do so.”
He said to them in reply,
“O faithless generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you? Bring him to me.”
They brought the boy to him.
And when he saw him,
the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions.
As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around
and foam at the mouth.
Then he questioned his father,
“How long has this been happening to him?”
He replied, “Since childhood.
It has often thrown him into fire
and into water to kill him.
But if you can do anything,
have compassion on us and help us.”
Jesus said to him, “‘If you can!’
Everything is possible to one who has faith.”
Then the boy’s father cried out,
“I do believe, help my unbelief!”
Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering,
rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it,
“Mute and deaf spirit, I command you:
come out of him and never enter him again!”
Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions,
it came out.
He became like a corpse,
which caused many to say, “He is dead!”
But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.
When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private,
“Why could we not drive the spirit out?”
He said to them,
“This kind can only come out through prayer.”
St. Peter Damian

Maybe because he was orphaned and had been treated shabbily by one of his brothers, Peter Damian was very good to the poor. It was the ordinary thing for him to have a poor person or two with him at table and he liked to minister personally to their needs.

Peter escaped poverty and the neglect of his own brother when his other brother, who was archpriest of Ravenna, took him under his wing. His brother sent him to good schools and Peter became a professor.

Already in those days Peter was very strict with himself. He wore a hair shirt under his clothes, fasted rigorously and spent many hours in prayer. Soon, he decided to leave his teaching and give himself completely to prayer with the Benedictines of the reform of St. Romuald at Fonte Avellana. They lived two monks to a hermitage. Peter was so eager to pray and slept so little that he soon suffered from severe insomnia. He found he had to use some prudence in taking care of himself. When he was not praying, he studied the Bible.

The abbot commanded that when he died Peter should succeed him. Abbot Peter founded five other hermitages. He encouraged his brothers in a life of prayer and solitude and wanted nothing more for himself. The Holy See periodically called on him, however, to be a peacemaker or troubleshooter, between two abbeys in dispute or a cleric or government official in some disagreement with Rome.

Finally, Pope Stephen IX made Peter the cardinal-bishop of Ostia. He worked hard to wipe out simony (the buying of church offices), and encouraged his priests to observe celibacy and urged even the diocesan clergy to live together and maintain scheduled prayer and religious observance. He wished to restore primitive discipline among religious and priests, warning against needless travel, violations of poverty and too comfortable living. He even wrote to the bishop of Besancon, complaining that the canons there sat down when they were singing the psalms in the Divine Office.

He wrote many letters. Some 170 are extant. We also have 53 of his sermons and seven lives, or biographies, that he wrote. He preferred examples and stories rather than theory in his writings. The liturgical offices he wrote are evidence of his talent as a stylist in Latin.

He asked often to be allowed to retire as cardinal-bishop of Ostia, and finally Alexander II consented. Peter was happy to become once again just a monk, but he was still called to serve as a papal legate. When returning from such an assignment in Ravenna, he was overcome by a fever. With the monks gathered around him saying the Divine Office, he died on February 22, 1072.

In 1828 he was declared a Doctor of the Church.

Peter was a reformer and if he were alive today would no doubt encourage the renewal started by Vatican II. He would also applaud the greater emphasis on prayer that is shown by the growing number of priests, religious and laypersons who gather regularly for prayer, as well as the special houses of prayer recently established by many religious communities.

“...Let us faithfully transmit to posterity the example of virtue which we have received from our forefathers” (St. Peter Damian).

Saint of the Day


Sarah in the tent said...

'This kind can only come out through prayer.'

When Jesus appeared walking towards the crowd, the frustrated disciples must have felt their prayers had been answered. The sceptical crowd must also have been impressed - Jesus' name had just been invoked for a healing and now here He was! Perhaps this simple impulse to call on Jesus is the first requirement for prayer.

The child's persistent deaf-mute state is a sign of absent faith - the faithless generation. During Baptism, the word Ephphatha (be opened) opens our hearts to the gift of faith that we ask from the Church. When the boy's father prays 'I believe; help my unbelief' he is like someone entering the sacrament of Baptism. It is a pure, unhypocritical prayer.

When Our Lord says, 'This kind can only come out through prayer' I first assume he is referring to the demon of mute-deaf epilepsy so dramatically present when the child starts fitting: I therefore imagine that, in demonic classification, 'this kind' must be a triple-A-starred fiend! But first assumptions are not necessarily right. In everything Our Lord says during this incident, He seems much more gravely concerned about lack of faith. Perhaps faithlessness is the demon of that generation, the bad spirit of the age, which requires prayer to cast it out.

Prayer certainly nurtures faith and, like the child who appeared dead, it restores us to spiritual life. Before we pray for anything, we should pray for faith, not because it will make a healing 'work' (a faith-healing), but to protect us from the far graver consequence of loss of faith if/when our hopes are dashed.

(I know people who have had their faith reinforced by healings granted, but also others who lost their faith because God ignored their prayers - especially the trusting, pure prayers of their childhood.)

Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

There were three distinct groups of people at the foot of Mount Tabor when Jesus and the three disciples returned from the summit: the other disciples, the scribes and pharisees who had been arguing with them, and a large crowd of bystanders.

When Jesus asked his disciples, "What have you been arguing about with them?" it was the boy's father who answered: "I brought my son to be healed. I asked your disciples, but they weren't able to do so."

Jesus' response "O faithless generation. How long will I endured you. Bring him to me. His frustration is with his own disciples, who seem to be "slow learners."

Sarah, your observation that "'this kind' must be a triple-A-starred fiend" is well taken. But even more to the point is your comment that "first assumptions are not necessarily right".

For the father, for the crowd, for the Pharisees, it may seem that there are some demons that seem more powerful than others. But for Jesus, there is no significant distinction between one demon and another: they are creatures; he is God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.

The lesson of this gospel story is Jesus' message to the father: "Everything is possible to one who has faith." Yet we must take heed of the father's response to Jesus: "I believe. Help my unbelief." The key is trust in divine providence.