|Training Ourselves to Expect the Unexpected.
The Memorial of Saint Irenaeus, Bishop & Martyr.*
Lessons from the secondary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Amos 3: 1-8; 4: 11-12.
• Psalm 5: 4-8.
• Matthew 8: 23-27.
The Second Class Vigil of the Apostles Peter & Paul.**
Lessons from the proper, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Acts 3: 1-10.
• Psalm 18: 5, 2.
• John 21: 15-19.
The Sixth Tuesday of the Apostles Fast; the Feast of the Translation of the Relics of the Holy Unmercenary Physicians Cyrus & John; the Feast of the Translation of the Relics of the Holy Martyr Theodore Romzha, Bishop of Mukacevo; and, the Remembrance of the Blessed Venerable Martyrs Severian Baranyk & Joachim Senkivskyj.***
Lessons from the pentecostarion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• I Corinthians 6: 20—7: 12.
• Matthew 14: 1-13.
9:35 AM 6/28/2016 — “What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?” (Matt. 8: 27 RM3). It begs a disturbing question: why are the disciples so amazed at our Lord's ability to command nature? This episode is from chapter eight of Matthew's Gospel, which is a pretty action-packed chapter. The chapter begins right off the bat with our Lord curing a leper, then he cures a centurion's servant of a palsy, then he stops by Peter's house and cures the Apostle's mother-in-law of a fever (it's hard to choose what's more remarkable there: our Lord curing his mother-in-law or the fact that Peter wants his mother-in-law cured), then he gets into the boat to cross over and performs this meteorological feat. And the chapter's not over yet: when he gets to the other side, he runs into two possessed men and casts their demons into the Gadarene swine; that would be our lesson for tomorrow were it not displaced by the feast of the Apostles. Even the first lesson of today's Mass illustrates this disturbing point, as the Prophet Amos, giving voice to God, reminds the Israelites of the wonders God has shown them, “Yet you returned not to me, says the Lord” (Amos 4: 11 RM3).
So, the question is: on the heals of all of these impressive miracles and cures, why are they so amazed to see our Lord calming the sea? Not to make light of our Lord's miracles, but how many times does one have to see a card trick before you come to expect it? I think the answer might be a defect of our fallen nature which is shared by all of us: we resist accepting the reality of things which don’t fit our predetermined view of the world. And this can be a real hindrance in our interior life; because, if there’s anything that makes a barrier to spiritual growth and union with God, it’s the inability to deal with the unexpected.
I don’t think you could find a priest ordained for any length of time who will tell you that the priesthood is exactly what he thought it would be when he was in the seminary. And you can judge for yourselves how accurate was your prediction of what marriage would be like when you were engaged. Not to suggest that how it turned out is bad, but I think you’ll admit that it’s certainly different in many ways. But our ability to adjust our expectation is what enables us to persevere in these vocations—and not only persevere, but make them even more special than we had imagined.
In the interior life, if our hearts are not open to accepting whatever the Lord chooses to throw our way, we run the risk of ending up bitter and frustrated, and in danger of losing our faith. As a priest I see this pattern repeated in people’s lives again and again: something will happen to change our life, and because it doesn’t fit our plan—because we view it as too much a burden—we just reject it as part of God's plan for us, as if we, ourselves, are the measure of all things. Maybe we tried but failed, and we don’t like to think of ourselves as failures, so we declare that what is being required of us is wrong because we, after all, are perfect. But who is the person who tries something once then quits. We usually call that person a loser.
For those who choose to follow the Lord, regardless of their state in life, the road is always filled with potholes and detours. Our ability to deal with them and emerge from these trials calmly and with our heads still facing forward is a measure of our faith. Let us ask Saint Irenaeus, whose memorial we observe today, and who so successfully defended the Faith against popular heresies that they killed him for it, to share with us the grace our Lord gave him: the grace to do whatever the Lord requires of us, no matter how surprising or unexpected it may seem.
* A disciple of St. Polycarp, who was himself a disciple of the Blessed Apostle John, Irenaeus (125-203) locked horns principally with the Gnostics, who polluted the integrity of the Faith with secular philosophy and a watered-down, populist theology. Before his death, he succeeded the martyred St. Pothinus as Bishop of Lyons.
** In the Roman Rite, the concept of a vigil differs completely between the ordinary and extraordinary forms. While in the ordinary form a vigil is simply a celebration of the feast the evening before, in the extraordinary form the word “vigil” designates the entire day before a First Class Feast, and the Mass on that day takes place in the morning. The texts and lessons, while proper to the vigil, are always different from that of the feast itself, and no obligation is satisfied. If a feast carries an obligation, this must be satisfied on the feast itself; the extraordinary form does not offer the opportunity to satisfy an obligation on the evening before. The vigil of a first class feast is a feria of the second class, and takes precedence over any third class feast that may fall on that day: in this case, that of St. Irenaeus, which is transfered to July 3rd.
** The remains of Cyrus and John were discovered in Kanoba, Egypt, and brought to Alexandria by Patriarch Theophilus (358-412). His successor, also named Cyrus, transferred them to the town of Manota, where legend has it a pagan temple crumbled as the relics approached. The remains finally came to rest near the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
Theodore Romzha (1911-1947), Bishop of Mukachevo in present day Slovakia, suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Communists with the complicity of the Russian Orthodox Church which, although itself under persecution, acted as a willing pawn to help purge the region of Catholic "uniates." Over the objections of the Orthodox that his death by poison did not involve the shedding of blood, he was nevertheless beatified as a martyr by Pope St. John Paul II on June 27th, 2001, the first Ruthenian Catholic raised to the altar. His relics were tranferred on this day to the Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Uzhorod, birthplace of the Ruthenian Church. The politically correct biography of him on the web site of the Holy See avoids offending the Orthodox by praising his apostolic zeal without mentioning the circumstances of his death. A homily for his feast can be found here, from my time as pastor of a Ruthenian Catholic parish.