|The Fool Has Said in His Heart, "Where Is That in the Bible?"
The Thirty-First Friday of Ordinary Time.
Lessons from the primary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Romans 15: 14-21.
• Psalm 98: 1-4.
• Luke 16: 1-8.
The Twenty-Third Friday after Pentecost; and, the Commemoration of the Four Holy Crowned Martyrs.
Lessons from the dominica,* according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Philippians 3: 17-21; 4: 1-3.
• Psalm 43: 8-9.
• Matthew 9: 18-26.
… or, if a Mass for the Martyrs is offered …
First lesson from the proper, second & third from the common:
• Hebrews 11: 33-39.
• Exodus 15: 11, 6 (in place of the psalm).
• Matthew 5: 1-12.
The Twenty-Third Friday after Pentecost; and, the Feast of Our Holy Father Paul the Confessor, Archbishop of Constantinople.
First & third lessons from the pentecostarion, second from the menaion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:**
• I Thessalonians 5: 9-13, 24-28.
• Hebrews 8: 3-6.
• Luke 12: 2-12.
2:46 PM 11/6/2015 — Today we commemorate the First Friday of the month, as we are always fond of doing whenever the Missal allows, with a Votive Mass of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. And, as we typically do, directly after the Post-Communion Prayer, we will expose the Blessed Sacrament and pray together the Litany of the Sacred Heart before our Eucharistic Lord. You will then have the opportunity to keep company with our Lord until one-twenty, when we will conclude our Holy Hour with Benediction. During the Holy Hour, I will return to the confessional for the benefit of anyone who was not able to confess before Mass. And, yes, a confession made today does fulfill the obligation for those keeping the First Five Saturdays; and, if you're planning to be here for tomorrow's Mass and Holy Hour as well, you might consider making your confession today rather than waiting until tomorrow, as it might help to ease the number of those not here today who will be looking to make their First Saturday devotion tomorrow.
More than any other month of the year, Holy Mother Church acts like a good mother in November by directing our thoughts toward the faithful departed. On All Souls Day we touched on the subject briefly in relationship to the Virtue of Hope which, all these past few months, I've been telling you is the “forgotten virtue”; but, I had chosen, as the first lesson for that Mass, the passage from Second Maccabees which serves as the Scriptural basis for the Church's whole theology regarding the reality of Purgatory and the place of the faithful departed in the Communion of the Saints; and, I should like to look at that passage with you in some detail today on the First Friday of the month dedicated to praying for the dead, so please bare with me as I repeat it for you:
Judas rallied his army and went to the city of Adullam. As the seventh day was approaching, they purified themselves according to custom and kept the sabbath there. On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his companions went to gather up the bodies of the fallen and bury them with their kindred in their ancestral tombs. But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had fallen. They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection in mind; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin (2 Maccabees 12: 38-46 NABRE).
Now, the historical context of the two books of Maccabees is the revolt of the Jews, led by Judas Maccabeus, against their pagan captors. This can be a little confusing if you attempt to read them straight through, since the one is not a sequel to the other; in fact, the human author of Second Maccabees tells us that his book is really an abridgment of a five-volume history of the Jewish revolt which no longer survives. Nevertheless, the book is filled with a lot of important theology, not the least of which being that it's the first mention in Holy Writ of a belief in the resurrection of the dead, albeit in a non-Christian context. You might recall, from a couple of homilies last year,—or is that wishful thinking?—we discussed the sub-plot beneath our Lord's frequent sparring matches with the Scribes and the Pharisees, and how these two groups of rabbis were very different from one another in their theology: the Scribes represented the “old guard,” the guardians of the ancient Jewish tradition which did not include a belief in a well-defined after-life, and which restricted Jewish worship to the Temple in Jerusalem; the Pharisees were a new group who introduced a lot of innovations that upset the Scribes, such as the Synagogue service which allowed worship in a place other than the Temple, and, most particularly, the notion of an after-life and a resurrection from the dead. In the practice of their religion, our Lord and His disciples were clearly Pharisees, as they worshiped regularly in the Synagogue and preached a resurrection; and, it's here in Second Maccabees, less than two hundred years before our Lord's incarnation, that we have the first appearance in Scripture of the resurrection theology that would give rise to the pharisaical tradition of our Lord's day.
So, here in Second Maccabees we find Judas Maccabeus discovering, on the bodies of his fallen soldiers, evidence that they had lapsed into pagan practices, and he becomes convinced that this is why they lost the battle and were killed: God was punishing them for having abandoned their faith. So, he orders that a collection be taken up, and that this be sent to Jerusalem so that sacrifices might be offered in the Temple for the repose of their souls, so that, even after death, they might be released from punishment. Not only does it point to the existence of a state of punishment and purification which is not eternal—which we call Purgatory—but also points to the fact that these souls can and are helped in that process by the prayers and sacrifices of the living. And it shouldn't require too much mental gymnastics to see how Holy Mother Church has preserved this Biblical tradition, as we are well familiar with the custom of making a donation to have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered for the repose of the souls of those we have lost, so that the real Sacrifice of the true Altar, of which the sacrifice in the Temple was only a symbol, can speed these souls on their journey and keep them safe until the final resurrection.
And as you all know, the early Christians in Rome, fleeing official persecution, often gathered in the city's underground cemeteries to offer the Holy Sacrifice in secret; and, as the persecutions grew in their ferocity, those catacombs began to fill with the bodies of the saints. More often than not, the Holy Sacrifice was offered using the tombs of these saints as altars, which would lead to the practice of embedding a relic of a martyr in every consecrated altar, a practice the Church continues to observe to this day. Every day, I announce the intention for which the Holy Sacrifice as been requested; and, while it's not always for the dead, often it is. And we know that we, too, can give a donation to have a Mass offered for our intentions, the intentions of others and, most appropriately, for the souls of our loved ones who have passed.
So, on this First Friday of the month of November, I encourage you to remember in your Holy Hour today the souls of the faithful departed, that, through our prayers and the Most Holy Sacrifice of our Lord's Body and Blood, our Blessed Lord will speed their souls on their journey and keep them safe until the end of all things, when this world will pass away, and we shall all see our God face to face.
* In the extraordinary form, on ferias outside of privileged seasons, the lessons from the preceding Sunday are repeated. A Mass for the commemoration would only be offered for a serious reason, such as if the saints remembered are the patrons of the parish; otherwise, the commemoration is made only at Lauds.
** The Gospel lesson for the saint from the menaion is Luke 12: 8-12, but since it overlaps the lesson for the day, only one Gospel lesson is read.