Archbishop of Hyderabad Many people want to speak about God’s word. How do they go about it? Well, they open the Bible, read a passage from one or other of its pages and say a whole lot of sentences about that passage. Finally what are we hearing? God’s word or the speaker’s thoughts about what he had just read aloud saying ‘this is the word of the Lord’? Quite a puzzle to figure out what is what!

To understand what is meant by ‘God’s word’ we begin by noting that any person expresses himself or herself to another person in intelligible words and actions. Likewise if our Creator decides to relate personally to any human person He too has to express Himself in intelligible words and actions. The Bible is a history book which records the interpersonal transactions of our Creator with specific persons with whom He chose to relate. And the first such person was Abraham. If we read His transactions with Abraham in the book of Genesis we discover that He related to Abraham’s personal life in word and deeds. The substance of His inter-personal transactions is about receiving the future He has in mind for him through a life of obedience to Him: ‘Leave your father’s house and go to the country I will show you. I will bless you …make you a great nation… and I will bless all the nations through you (Gen.12:1-3). God’s word to each one of us today is on the same lines. It is about the everlasting future for which He has created every human being, namely the everlasting bodily life in the Holy Spirit which His eternal only-begotten Son ‘born of a woman and born under the Law (Gal.4:4)’ obtained in His bodily resurrection from the dead in the Holy Spirit from God the Father through His perfect fulfillment of the just requirements of the Law unto death on a cross in order to obtain this blessed life for His human body from His eternal Father. The first one to whom God’s incarnate Son Jesus manifested Himself in His human body in this blessed condition of immortality and glory was Mary Magdalene. But to His eleven chosen Apostles with Peter as their head, God’s incarnate Son as ‘the Risen Jesus’ in His human nature not only showed Himself in this blessed bodily condition of immortality and glory but He also commanded them to make known to all human persons until the end of time this blessed life for which they have been given their human bodies like His own: ‘Go throughout the whole world and proclaim the gospel to all mankind. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does believe will be condemned.’ Thus God’s word to everyone of us in today’s world is about whether or not one wants to get the same blessed life for his or her human body through its resurrection from the death in the Holy Spirit by the glory of the eternal Father. One’s answer is yes or no. If one’s answer is yes, He tells us to learn the work to be done to get this blessed life for our bodies from His incarnate Son the Risen Jesus and with the help He gives through the Holy Spirit, do the work of faith, hope and charity until one’s death according to the teaching His Son gives for it in His holy gospels and arrive at His judgment seat to be elected for the bodily resurrection from the dead on the day God has set the give His final judgment on every member of the human race. So, clearly not any one can speak this word of God to others in the modern world. The Son our Lord Jesus Christ says that only the one ‘who keeps the least of my commandments and teaches others to do so (Mt.5:19b)’ can communicate this definitive word uttered by God through His incarnate Son’s bodily resurrection from the dead in the Holy Spirit, to others. This is the word which ‘God has spoken to us in His Son in these last days (Heb.1:2).’

ST. TERESA OF KOLKATA

mother teresaThe Church celebrates on September 5 the feast of Mother Teresa, a universal symbol of God’s merciful and preferential love for the poor and forgotten. Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on August 26, 1910, in Skopje, Macedonia, the youngest of three children. She attended a youth group called Sodality, run by a Jesuit priest at her parish, and her involvement opened her to the call of service as a missionary nun.

She joined the Sisters of Loretto at age 17 and was sent to Calcutta where she taught at a high school. She contracted Tuberculosis and was sent to rest in Darjeeling. It was on the train to Darjeeling that she received her calling - what she called “an order” from God to leave the convent and work and live among the poor. At this point she did not know that she was to found an order of nuns, or even exactly where she was to serve. “I knew where I belonged, but I did not know how to get there,” she said once, recalling the moment on the train.

Confirmation of the calling came when the Vatican granted her permission to leave the Sisters of Loretto and fulfill her calling under the Archbishop of Calcutta. She started working in the slums, teaching poor children, and treating the sick in their homes. She was joined a year later by some of her former students and together they took in men, women, and children who were dying in the gutters along the streets and cared for them.

In 1950 the Missionaries of Charity were born as a congregation of the Diocese of Calcutta and in 1952 the government granted them a house from which to continue their service among Calcutta’s forgotten. The congregation very quickly grew from a single house for the dying and unwanted to nearly 500 around the world. Mother Teresa set up homes for AIDS sufferers, for prostitutes, for battered women, and orphanages for poor children. She often said that the poorest of the poor were those who had no one to care for them and no one who knew them. And she often remarked with sadness and desolation of milliions of souls in the developed world whose spiritual poverty and loneliness was such an immense cause of suffering. She was a fierce defender of the unborn saying: “If you hear of some woman who does not want to keep her child and wants to have an abortion, try to persuade her to bring him to me. I will love that child, seeing in him the sign of God’s love.” Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997 and was beatified only six years later, on October 19, 2003. Mother Teresa once said, “A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.” She also said, “give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.” On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of faith: “We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory.” The pope proclaimed this dogma only after a broad consultation of bishops, theologians and laity. There were few dissenting voices. What the pope solemnly declared was already a common belief in the Catholic Church.

We find homilies on the Assumption going back to the sixth century. In following centuries, the Eastern Churches held steadily to the doctrine, but some authors in the West were hesitant. However by the 13th century there was universal agreement. The feast was celebrated under various names—Commemoration, Dormition, Passing, Assumption—from at least the fifth or sixth century. Today it is celebrated as a solemnity.

Scripture does not give an account of Mary’s Assumption into heaven. Nevertheless, Revelation 12 speaks of a woman who is caught up in the battle between good and evil. Many see this woman as God’s people. Since Mary best embodies the people of both Old and New Testaments, her Assumption can be seen as an exemplification of the woman’s victory. Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 15:20, Paul speaks of Christ’s resurrection as the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. Since Mary is closely associated with all the mysteries of Jesus’ life, it is not surprising that the Holy Spirit has led the Church to believe in Mary’s share in his glorification. So close was she to Jesus on earth, she must be with him body and soul in heaven.

In the light of the Assumption of Mary, it is easy to pray her Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55) with new meaning. In her glory she proclaims the greatness of the Lord and finds joy in God her savior. God has done marvels to her and she leads others to recognize God’s holiness. She is the lowly handmaid who deeply reverenced her God and has been raised to the heights. From her position of strength she will help the lowly and the poor find justice on earth, and she will challenge the rich and powerful to distrust wealth and power as a source of happiness.

Source: Catholic News Agency

The Catholic Church celebrates today the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary on its traditional fixed date of September 8, nine months after the December 8 celebration of her Immaculate Conception as the child of Saints Joachim and Anne. The circumstances of the Virgin Mary’s infancy and early life are not directly recorded in the Bible, but other documents and traditions describing the circumstances of her birth are cited by some of the earliest Christian writers from the first centuries of the Church.

These accounts, although not considered authoritative in the same manner as the Bible, outline some of the Church’s traditional beliefs about the birth of Mary. The “Proto-evangelium of James,” which was probably put into its final written form in the early second century, describes Mary’s father Joachim as a wealthy member of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Joachim was deeply grieved, along with his wife Anne, by their childlessness. “He called to mind Abraham,” the early Christian writing says, “that in the last day God gave him a son Isaac.” Joachim and Anne began to devote themselves extensively and rigorously to prayer and fasting, initially wondering whether their inability to conceive a child might signify God’s displeasure with them.

mother maryAs it turned out, however, the couple were to be blessed even more abundantly than Abraham and Sarah, as an angel revealed to Anne when he appeared to her and prophesied that all generations would honor their future child: “The Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth, and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world.” After Mary’s birth, according to the Protoevangelium of James, Anne “made a sanctuary” in the infant girl’s room, and “allowed nothing common or unclean” on account of the special holiness of the child. The same writing records that when she was one year old, her father “made a great feast, and invited the priests, and the scribes, and the elders, and all the people of Israel.”

“And Joachim brought the child to the priests,” the account continues, “and they blessed her, saying: ‘O God of our fathers, bless this child, and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations’... And he brought her to the chief priests, and they blessed her, saying: ‘O God most high, look upon this child, and bless her with the utmost blessing, which shall be forever.’” The protoevangelium goes on to describe how Mary’s parents, along with the temple priests, subsequently decided that she would be offered to God as a consecrated Virgin for the rest of her life, and enter a chaste marriage with the carpenter Joseph.

Saint Augustine described the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary as an event of cosmic and historic significance, and an appropriate prelude to the birth of Jesus Christ. “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley,” he said. The fourth-century bishop, whose theology profoundly shaped the Western Church’s understanding of sin and human nature, affirmed that “through her birth, the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.”

Source: Catholic News Agency

THE EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS

Early in the fourth century, Saint Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ’s life. She razed the second-century Temple of Aphrodite, which tradition held was built over the Savior’s tomb, and her son built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher on that spot. During the excavation, workers found three crosses. Legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman. The cross immediately became an object of veneration. At a Good Friday celebration in Jerusalem toward the end of the fourth century, according to an eyewitness, the wood was taken out of its silver container and placed on a table together with the inscription Pilate ordered placed above Jesus’ head: Then “all the people pass through one by one; all of them bow down, touching the cross and the inscription, first with their foreheads, then with their eyes; and, after kissing the cross, they move on.”

exhaltation of the crossTo this day, the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox alike, celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the September anniversary of the basilica’s dedication. The feast entered the Western calendar in the seventh century after Emperor Heraclius recovered the cross from the Persians, who had carried it off in 614, 15 years earlier. According to the story, the emperor intended to carry the cross back into Jerusalem himself, but was unable to move forward until he took off his imperial garb and became a barefoot pilgrim.

The cross is today the universal image of Christian belief. Countless generations of artists have turned it into a thing of beauty to be carried in procession or worn as jewelry. To the eyes of the first Christians, it had no beauty. It stood outside too many city walls, decorated only with decaying corpses, as a threat to anyone who defied Rome’s authority—including Christians who refused sacrifice to Roman gods. Although believers spoke of the cross as the instrument of salvation, it seldom appeared in Christian art unless disguised as an anchor or the Chi-Rho until after Constantine’s edict of toleration.

Source: Franciscan Media

ST. MATTHEW, APOSTLE & EVANGELIST

Little is known about St. Matthew, except that he was the son of Alpheus, and he was likely born in Galilee. He worked as a tax collector, which was a hated profession during the time of Christ. According to the Gospel, Matthew was working at a collection booth in Capernaum when Christ came to him and asked, “Follow me.” With this simple call, Matthew became a disciple of Christ.

From Matthew we know of the many doings of Christ and the message Christ spread of salvation for all people who come to God through Him. The Gospel account of Matthew tells the same story as that found in the other three Gospels, so scholars are certain of its authenticity. His book is the first of the four Gospels in the New Testament.

st mathewMany years following the death of Christ, around 41 and 50 AD, Matthew wrote his gospel account. He wrote the book in Aramaic in the hope that his account would convince his fellow people that Jesus was the Messiah and that His kingdom had been fulfilled in a spiritual way. It was an important message at a time when almost everyone was expecting the return of a militant messiah brandishing a sword.

It is thought he departed for other lands to escape persecution sometime after 42 AD. According to various legends he fled to Parthia and Persia, or Ethiopia. Nothing is recorded of Matthew’s passing. We do not know how he died, if his death was natural or if he was martyred.

Saint Matthew is often depicted with one of the four living creatures of Revelation 4:7, which reads, “The first living creature was like a lion, the second like a bull, the third living creature had a human face, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.” Matthew was a tax collector and is therefore the patron saint of bankers. The Church established St. Matthew’s feast day as September 21.

O Glorious St. Matthew, in your Gospel you portray Jesus as the longed-for Messiah who fulfilled the Prophets of the Old Covenant and as the new Lawgiver who founded a Church of the New Covenant. Obtain for us the grace to see Jesus living in his Church and to follow his teachings in our lives on earth so that we may live forever with him in heaven.

Source: catholic.org

SAINTS MICHAEL, GABRIEL, AND RAPHAEL, ARCHANGELS

It is a principle of Catholic theology that salvation is mediated, that individual man does not go to God alone, and that God does not come to man alone. This means that there are layers of words, symbols, art, priests, nuns, catechists, music, books, churches, shrines, and endless other things and places and people that channel God to us. Even using the name “God” or “Father” or “Jesus Christ” presupposes the mediation of language. So although someone may say they want to “cut out the middle man” of the Church and go directly to God, they can’t. At some point in their youth they absorbed who God was from others, so even the most basic, apparently innate knowledge we have of God is mediated, even if only by nature itself. Today’s feast is about the created spiritual beings known as angels who fill the space between God and man, communicating His message, protecting man from harm, and battling against the armies of Satan. The Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael transmit some of God’s most important messages.

st michael st raphaelMichael leads the war cry in a mysterious, metaphysical battle against the Devil and his minions in the Book of Daniel. “There is no one with me who contends against these princes except Michael, your prince” (Dan.10:21), and “At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise” (Dan.12:1). Michael means “Who is like God.”

Gabriel is an essential figure in the events surrounding the Incarnation. We first meet him in the Jerusalem temple, announcing the birth of Saint John the Baptist to his father Zachary: “I am Gabriel, I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news” (Luke1:19). He later conveys the message of all messages to the Virgin Mary, eliciting her “Yes” to God’s sublime invitation. Gabriel means “the strength of God.”

Raphael appears in the disguise of a man in the Book of Tobit, guiding the young Tobiah along his journey. “… God sent me to heal you and Sarah your daughter-inlaw. I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ready and enter before the glory of the Lord” (Tobit 12:14-15). Raphael means “God heals.”

The Old Testament description of the angels worshipping before the throne of God is one of fierce power: “…each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:2-3). These beings are far from the pudgy, pillow-soft, fatcheeked baby angels so often depicted in art. Today’s feast is for the mighty sixwinged angels, the deadly serious ministers of God’s messages. These Archangels engage in consequential spiritual battle, know that God and His word are not frivolous, and carry out their missions as emissaries of the Most-High. We invoke them now just as Saint Patrick did in the fifth century: “I arise today through the strength of the love of cherubim, in the obedience of angels, in the service of archangels, in the hope of resurrection to meet with reward.” Amen.

Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, we invoke your powerful intercession before the throne of God in heaven. By your spiritual assistance, protect us from harm, heal us of our infirmities, and convey to us God’s will for our lives. Source: mycatholic.life

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