By Deacon Don Griffith
In the Collect, the let us pray (which is not a period of waiting for the altar server to take the missal to the priest- it’s a time when each of us should be in mental prayer to offer our intentions and then these intentions are then collected and offered to God in the prayer) Christ’s holy priest prayed that what we relive in remembrance which is the sacrifice of Christ; His love- no greater love than this- is made present to us in the Eucharist, in the memorial of the Lord’s passion and resurrection we may always hold to in what we do-that we may remain in His love. In St. John’s letter, we hear In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. St. Paul says that God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. I remind you of this dear sisters and brothers because in the holy Gospel we hear our Lord say If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love and it sounds as though we must first keep His commandments- to pursue virtue and lead a morally upright life and then we can remain in His love. In hearing this, we must keep in mind the primacy of God’s initiative. St. Augustine reminds us that Remain in My love means to remain in His grace; and, If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, means our keeping of His commandments will be evidence to us that we remain in His love. It is not that we keep His commandments first, and that then He loves; but that He loves us, and then we keep His commandments. This is that grace, which is revealed to the humble, but hidden from the proud. It is not easy for us, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance. Christ’s gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues (CCC 1811). The theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity inform and give life to all the moral virtues (CCC 1813). Our Lord’s command to love as He loves makes charity the new commandment (CCC 1823). We are called to love as He loves and to keep His commandments as He kept the Father’s even unto accepting death on a cross. The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: “Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (CCC 1384). To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion (CCC 1385). Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.” (CCC 1858). In the prayer after communion, Christ’s holy priest will pray increase in us the fruits of this paschal Sacrament and pour into our hearts the strength of this saving food. The fruits of Holy Communion are covered in the catechism beginning with paragraph 1391, which I encourage you to pray about later today, but I do want to mention 2 fruits. First, as bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens our charity, which tends to be weakened in daily life, so we can more and more love as He loves. (CCC 1394). Second, Holy Communion also preserves and increases the life of grace received at Baptism so that with His grace we may keep His commandments and remain in His love (CCC 1392) in order that His joy may be in us and our joy might be complete.
Believing in Love
By Deacon Mike Jacobs
Jn 15:9-17; 1Jn 4:7-10; Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
When creating us, God loved us so much that He made us to His own image and likeness; when redeeming us, He loved us so much that He made Himself to our image!
God is Love! An immense treasure is contained in these words, and it is the treasure which God discloses to souls who devoutly contemplate the Incarnate Word. Until we comprehend that God is infinite love and infinite benevolence, who gives Himself and extends Himself to all men in order to communicate to them His goodness and His happiness, our spiritual life has still just begun, it has not yet developed or deepened. Only when the soul, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, has penetrated the mystery of divine charity, only then does its spiritual life attain to full maturity.
We cannot better understand the infinite love of our God, than by drawing near to the humble manager where He lies, made flesh for us. “The virtues and attributes of God are known in God, through the mysteries of God made man,” (St. John of the Cross) and among these attributes the first is charity, which constitutes the very essence of God. From the silent, loving contemplation of the Infant Jesus, there is easily aroused in us a more profound and penetrating sense of His infinite love: we no longer merely believe, but in a certain way, we know by experience God’s love for us. Then our will fully accepts what faith teaches; it accepts it with love, with all its strength, and our soul believes unreservedly in God’s infinite love. God is Love; this truth, fundamental for all Christian life, has penetrated to the depths of the soul; it feels it, it lives it, because it has, so to say, almost touched it in its Incarnate God. One who so believes in infinite love will know how to give itself to Him without measure; to give itself totally.
What I have given you is a meditation on today’s readings. Hear the word, meditate/reason on the word and then speak. Two ears one mouth, we should listen twice as much we talk. It is a development of prayer from vocal, to meditative, to contemplative. St Catherine of Siena a doctor of the Church has many very good examples of conversations with the Lord. Let us listen in to her conversation with the Lord. This is something that all of us are called to, to have a deeper conversation with our God, Lord and Savior.
Lord, I believe in Your love for me! How could I still doubt it? “You have come down from the great height of Your divinity to the mire of our humanity, because the lowness of my intellect could neither understand nor behold such height. In order that my littleness might see Your greatness, You became a little child, concealing the greatness of Your Divinity in the littleness of our humanity. And so You manifest Yourself to us in the Word, Your only-begotten Son; thus have I know You, O abyss of charity! O blush with shame, blind creature, so exalted and honored by your God, not to know that God, in His immeasurable charity, came down from the height of His infinite Divinity to the lowliness of your humanity! O immeasurable love! What do you say, O my soul? I say to You, eternal Father, I beseech You, most merciful God, that You give us and all Your servants a share in the fire of Your charity” (St Catherine of Siena)
O God, how great is my need to know Your infinite love! To know in order to believe, to believe in order to love, to love in order to give myself entirely to You, with no reservation, just as you have given Yourself entirely to me. O my God, how much I want to repay You for this immeasurable gift! Alas! You who are all, have given me all, whereas I, who am nothing, can give You only this nothing! Yes how slow, indolent, and miserly I am in giving You this nothing, how much I try to spare myself, to give myself with measure, with prudence…. Oh, Your love knew no measure; it did not calculate the infinite distance between the Creator and creature, but surpassed, exceeded and engulfed this distance by uniting human nature with the divine Person of the Word. How true it is that love knows no obstacles, overcomes everything, and adapts itself to everything in order to attain its end! O loving Infant Jesus, my God, my Savior, give me the grace of an ever-increasing understanding of the greatness and depth of Your Love; make me penetrate this boundless abyss, whose bottom no creature can ever touch! The more I enter into it, the more I feel new strength born in me, a new impulse which urges me irresistibly to give myself wholly to you. You know how necessary it is for this strength to grow and become established in me, so as to make me truly generous, ready for every sacrifice, every gift of myself. O Lord, grant that I may understand Your infinite charity! Give me a firm faith in it and never let me refuse anything to Your love: this is the gift I beg of You on this day
“Whoever is without love does not know God for God is love”. (Jn 4:8) Only love makes your life meaningful and worth living. What I have shown you today is our prayer life being fully developed. Yes we can have a conversation with our Father, our Brother and we will be entering into their dialogue which is the Spirit.
By Deacon John Hackett
If you had lived in or around Albany N.Y. a few years back on February 24th, and you read an article in your local newspaper entitled An ordinary couple’s extraordinary love story, then here’s what you would have read…
“Gordon and Margie Brandon were an ordinary couple, except when it came to love. Their love story made them extraordinary. Working-class and frugal, they enjoyed life’s simple pleasures, especially things that were free. They were walkers in the city, taking daily rambles from their home on Bertha Street off Delaware Avenue….uptown one day and downtown the next. Even into their 80s and bent with age, they completed loops of up to five miles on foot. They liked to walk hand in hand. When they could no longer climb the stairs to their second-floor bedroom, and heart disease placed them both on hospice care, they cleared out the dining room and put two hospital beds there. If each one moved to the side of the bed and reached out as far as possible, they could still manage to hold hands.
They died, two days apart, after 65 years of marriage. He died on Monday, at 88. She was barely hanging on, fading in and out. But despite her frailty, she insisted that they lift her out of bed, place her in a wheelchair, and let her sit alongside her husband’s bed. ‘She wanted to hold his hand,’ their son Marty said. She died on Wednesday at age 90. The couple had a joint service on Friday, (a simple affair at the funeral home), a few blocks from the unadorned wood-frame house where they lived for 58 years. They didn’t want a fancy affair at the Lutheran church nearby, where she taught Sunday school. They asked the pastor to say a few words at the funeral home, followed by burial at the church’s cemetery. They had picked out their plot and gravestones decades ago. ‘They knew what they wanted and made sure their children didn’t have to worry about it,’ said their son.
Gordon was born in Brooklyn and raised by a single mother who relocated to Albany at age 10. Margie grew up in the South End. They met in Sunday school at Trinity Church when he was 11 and she was 13. ‘It was love at first sight. He was head-over-heels in love with my mom from day one,’ their son said. Neither ever dated anyone else. Their courtship ran throughout their teenage years. He dropped out of school and lied about his age to get hired by the New York Central Railroad when he was 16, two years before the railroad’s minimum employment age.
They wrote love letters back and forth during World War II, the only time they were apart. She served as a stenographer in New Guinea with the Women’s Army Corps. The couple married in 1946. She was a homemaker who raised three children and kept the household running during his 39 years with the railroad. He was a brakeman and foreman on freight trains, a job that took him away on runs along the Eastern seaboard — often with only a few hours’ notice before a job. He frequently returned home in the wee hours, when the kids were asleep. He would call her to say he was on his way. She always got up, no matter the hour, and had a hot meal waiting for him. There were hard times, too, as with any marriage. But theirs was a union built to last. ‘They both said they worked hard at it,’ the son said. ‘They said marriage was not like a Disney movie. The key to why it lasted is that both worried more about the other than about himself or herself.’ When a heart attack in 2002 left him in a coma and doctors gave him a 30 percent chance of survival, his son said: ‘My mom said she wanted to die first so she could go to heaven and get ready to take care of my dad’.
They were not big talkers and chose to live by example for their three children, 10 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren — with twins on the way. Marty recalled how his dad was not prone to shows of emotion. Because of his frugality, he could not bring himself to spend a lot of money on flowers or candy for Valentine’s Day. Instead, he made a homemade card and wrote a few heartfelt words. This [year], as Valentine’s Day approached, he was sent to a rehab center for a short stay. He asked his son to find something with hearts on it, along with a pencil and scissors. He cut out a pattern and wrote, ‘Love you, Margie.’ She insisted that the homemade sentiment be taped to a table next to her bed.
Shortly before she died, she asked her son to take the card upstairs for safekeeping. She instructed him to put it under her jewelry box. That’s when he discovered that his mother had saved all the homemade cards her husband ever gave her, dozens of them. They were simple cards, ordinary even. But they spoke of a love that was most extraordinary.”
In the gospel passage we heard today, “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’” (John 15:12-13) Sixty-five years spent nourishing the other –that was the marriage of Gordon and Margie. And such is the challenge Jesus puts to you and me today, living more for others than for ourselves.