|Be Not Afraid.
The Thirty-First Saturday of Ordinary Time; or, the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday.
Lessons from the primary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Romans 16: 3-9, 16, 22-27.
• Psalm 145: 2-5, 10-11.
• Luke 16: 9-15.
The Fourth Class Feria of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday.
Lessons from the common, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Ecclesiasticus 24: 14-16.
• Benedícta et venerábilis es …*
• Luke 11: 27-28.
The Twenty-Third Saturday after Pentecost; the Feast of the Holy Thirty-Three Martyrs at Melitene; and, the Feast of Our Venerable Father Lazarus, the Wonder-Worker, Who Fasted in the Hills of Galilee.
First & third lessons from the pentecostarion, second & fourth from the menaion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:**
• II Corinthians 11: 1-6.
• Ephesians 6: 10-17.
• Luke 9: 1-6.
• Luke 12: 8-12.
9:04 AM 11/7/2015 — For those of you who were not here yesterday, we had observed the First Friday of this month of November with a Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart, as we usually do whenever the Missal allows, but focused our thoughts on the faithful departed, as November is particularly directed to them. Today, as we observe the First Saturday of the month, and seek to fulfill the conditions expressed by the Mother of God at Fatima for keeping the devotion of the Five First Saturdays, I've chosen to use the Votive Mass entitled “Our Lady, Mother of the Church,” in recognition of the concerns expressed by so many of you, both in and out of confession, for Holy Mother Church and the direction she seems to be taking under the current human administration. Notice I said “seems,” since we have to rely on outside sources, mostly secular, for whatever we think we know; I also said “human administration,” since we know the Church is ultimately guided and governed by our Blessed Lord, Who is only assisted by the men chosen to lead her in this world. Whether those men act in accord with or contrary to our Lord's Holy Will we won't know until the end of all things, when everything will be revealed; in the mean time, we cultivate the virtue of Hope, confident in our Lord's promise that He will be with us until the end of time.
As is our custom here on First Saturday, we will expose our Eucharistic Lord following the Prayer after Communion, pray together using Cardinal Newman's translation of the Litany of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and conclude our Holy Hour at one-twenty with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. And for anyone who was unable to confess before Holy Mass, I will return to the confessional during the Holy Hour, so that everyone will have the opportunity to fulfill that part of their First Saturday devotion.
As you know, one of the conditions for successfully keeping the First Saturday devotion is fifteen minutes of meditation on a mystery or mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary, and I would like to give you some “seeds of contemplation,” to use Thomas Merton's phrase, to help you with that; and, because of the theme I've already given you, focus our attention on the First Joyful Mystery, even though today we have prayed with the Glorious: the Annunciation, because this mystery has a lot to do with trust and the virtue of Hope as practiced by Mary, our spiritual model.
Make no mistake: the Blessed Virgin did not ask to be the Mother of God; She didn't apply for the job, in spite of the fact that God prepared Her for it by her Immaculate Conception. As I mentioned last Sunday on the Feast of All Saints, I fear sometimes that we so mystify and embellish the saints so as to think that their will was somehow less free than ours, and that tasks which they appear to embrace without anxiety—so fancily and histrionically written about in your Lives of the Saints—came easily to them because of their holiness. Even the Mother of God, conceived without sin, was not immune to human doubt and human fear, otherwise She wouldn't have been human.
That's why Mary's life is the perfect example for all of us. Just as it was for Her, the circumstances of our lives are often not choices we make for ourselves, and we may very well doubt our ability to be faithful in the difficulties they present. But as our Lord said in St. John, “It was not you that chose me, it was I that chose you” (John 15: 16 Knox); and, because He has chosen us, He will not abandon us. We can pretend that He has, because we don't want to admit to our failures. But that's only because we forget that the gift of Sufficient Grace is not a guarantee that our lives will be problem free. Our Lord said that Himself: “If any man has a mind to come my way, let him renounce self, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9: 23 Knox).
Now, those words may not sound particularly pleasant to us, but what the angel said to Mary at her Annunciation, our Lord has also said to each one of us: He said it to me on the day I was ordained, He said it to many of you on the day you were married, He said it to each one of us on the day of our baptism: “Be not afraid.” If you go to a web site that searches Bible verses for you—and there are a few out there—and type in that phrase, you'll get hundreds of citations; I don't think there's a phrase that occurs more often throughout both the Old and New Testaments than “Be not afraid.” That one simple sentence, spoken by God through all eternity, sums up the entire Gospel on the subject of grace.
But so often we are afraid. We’re afraid of obligation. We’re afraid of sacrifice. We are afraid of uncertainty. And to overcome this fear we have to accept what we so often don't want to accept, especially when things aren't going that well: that God has not abandoned us. We must respond as Mary did: “… let it be unto me according to thy word.” Saying that did not mean that Mary understood it all, and I think it is unreasonable to assume that She did, for She did not have clairvoyance. What She did have was Hope. Hope enough to say, " I will not be afraid." Just as we must say every single day: I will not be afraid of following the Lord. I will not be afraid of responsibility and obligation. I will not be afraid of living with a sudden and unexpected loss. I will not be afraid of marriage. I will not be afraid of the priesthood. I will not be afraid of the Gospel. I will not be afraid of the cross. I will not be afraid of things not going my way. I will not be afraid of doing what is right, no matter what the consequences. I will not be afraid of life.
There is an episode from Matthew's Gospel that keeps popping up in my mind whenever I pray the first Joyful Mystery, even though it has nothing to do with the Annunciation; it's our Blessed Lord casting a devil out of a young man:
And Jesus checked him with a word, and the devil came out of him; and from that hour the boy was cured. Afterwards, when they were alone, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Why was it that we could not cast it out?” Jesus said to them, “Because you had no faith. I promise you, if you have faith, though it be but like a grain of mustard seed, you have only to say to this mountain, 'Remove from this place to that,' and it will remove; nothing will be impossible to you” (Matt. 17: 17-19 Knox).***
* The Gradual in non-Scriptural: "Blessed and venerable are you, O Virgin Mary, who, with unsullied virginity, were found to be the Mother of the Savior. O Virgin, Mother of God, He Whom the whole world does not contain, becoming man, shut Himself in your womb. Alleluia, alleluia. After childbirth you remained a pure virgin, O Mother of God, intercede for us. Alleluia."
** The lessons from the menaion are for the Martyrs; there are no lessons for the Wonder-Worker.
*** Consistent with the practice of his time, Msgr. Knox does not supply quotation marks in his translation. When citing it, I supply the punctuation for the sake of clarity.