Wednesday, February 23, 2011

O LORD, Great Peace Have They Who Love Your Law.

Memorial of Saint Polycarp, bishop and martyr
Reading I
Sirach 4:11-19
Wisdom breathes life into her children
and admonishes those who seek her.
He who loves her loves life;
those who seek her will be embraced by the Lord.
He who holds her fast inherits glory;
wherever he dwells, the LORD bestows blessings.
Those who serve her serve the Holy One;
those who love her the LORD loves.
He who obeys her judges nations;
he who hearkens to her dwells in her inmost chambers.
If one trusts her, he will possess her;
his descendants too will inherit her.
She walks with him as a stranger
and at first she puts him to the test;
Fear and dread she brings upon him
and tries him with her discipline
until she try him by her laws and trust his soul.
Then she comes back to bring him happiness
and reveal her secrets to them
and she will heap upon him
treasures of knowledge and an understanding of justice.
But if he fails her, she will abandon him
and deliver him into the hands of despoilers.
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Psalm 119
R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
Those who love your law have great peace,
and for them there is no stumbling block.
R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
I keep your precepts and your decrees,
for all my ways are before you.
R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
My lips pour forth your praise,
because you teach me your statutes.
R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
May my tongue sing of your promise,
for all your commands are just.
R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
I long for your salvation, O LORD,
and your law is my delight.
R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
Let my soul live to praise you,
and may your ordinances help me.
R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
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Mark 9:38-40
John said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”
Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.
There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.”
St. Polycarp
(d. 156)

Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey), disciple of St. John the Apostle and friend of St. Ignatius of Antioch was a revered Christian leader during the first half of the second century.

St. Ignatius, on his way to Rome to be martyred, visited Polycarp at Smyrna, and later at Troas wrote him a personal letter. The Asia Minor Churches recognized Polycarp’s leadership by choosing him as a representative to discuss with Pope Anicetus the date of the Easter celebration in Rome—a major controversy in the early Church.

Only one of the many letters written by Polycarp has been preserved, the one he wrote to the Church of Philippi in Macedonia.

At 86, Polycarp was led into the crowded Smyrna stadium to be burned alive. The flames did not harm him and he was finally killed by a dagger. The centurion ordered the saint’s body burned. The “Acts” of Polycarp’s martyrdom are the earliest preserved, fully reliable account of a Christian martyr’s death. He died in 156.

Polycarp was recognized as a Christian leader by all Asia Minor Christians—a strong fortress of faith and loyalty to Jesus Christ. His own strength emerged from his trust in God, even when events contradicted this trust. Living among pagans and under a government opposed to the new religion, he led and fed his flock. Like the Good Shepherd, he laid down his life for his sheep and kept them from more persecution in Smyrna. He summarized his trust in God just before he died: “Father... I bless Thee, for having made me worthy of the day and the hour... .” (Martyrdom, Chapter 14).

“Stand fast, therefore, in this conduct and follow the example of the Lord, ‘firm and unchangeable in faith, lovers of the brotherhood, loving each other, united in truth,’ helping each other with the mildness of the Lord, despising no man” (Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians).

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