|Burn, Baby, Burn!
The Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Lessons from the tertiary dominica, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Jeremiah 38: 4-6, 8-10.
• Psalm 40: 2-4, 18.
• Hebrews 12: 1-4.
• Luke 12: 49-53.
When the Vigil of the Assumption is observed in the evening, lessons from the proper:*
• I Chronicles 15: 3-4, 15-16; 16: 1-2.
• Psalm 132: 6-7, 9-10, 13-14.
• I Corinthians 15: 54-57.
• Luke 11: 27-28.
The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost; and, the Commemoration of the Second Class Vigil of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.**
Lessons from the dominica, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Galatians 3: 16-22.
• Psalm 73: 20, 19, 22.
• Luke 17: 11-19.
The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost; a Prefestive Day of the Dormition;*** the Feast of the Holy Prophet Micah; and, the Feast of the Translation of the Relics of Our Father Theodosius, Hegumen of the Pecherskaja Lavra.
First & third lessons from the pentecostarion, second & fourth from the menaion for the Hegumen, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• I Corinthians 16: 13-24.
• Hebrews 13: 7-16.
• Matthew 21: 33-42.
• Matthew 11: 27-30.
8:26 AM 8/14/2016 — We have had such a busy weekend here at the Shrine, with yesterday’s celebration, and the Solemnity of the Assumption tomorrow, that I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare a homily for today’s seemingly difficult Scripture lessons … not to mention that it’s beastly hot, and none of us want to be here any longer than we have to be. But I believe I’ve hit upon a solution which, though brief, will be of spiritual benefit to you.
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Luke 22: 49 RM3). Of course, had our Blessed Lord “tweeted” that remark, he would receive a visit from Homeland Security; but, our Lord is not contemplating a terrorist act; he’s using the word “fire” like so many prophets and poets before Him and after Him: as a symbol of love. In fact, throughout the Holy Scriptures fire is used to describe the love of God, a love so intense that it “burns” within one, the love of God in particular being a love that purifies, as fire does, everything with which it comes in contact. Psalm 38: “…my heart burned within me, the fire kindled by my thoughts, so that at last I kept silence no longer” (Psalm 39: 4-5 Knox).†
We may convince ourselves that we’ve experienced that kind of love. We fell in love, we married, we believed for all the world that our hearts were on fire with love. We may have believed that our love for someone was like—as it says in the Book of Proverbs—the fire that never says, “Enough!” (Prov. 30: 16). But we’re wrong. No matter how intense a love we believed we’ve felt at some point in our lives, it doesn’t even register on the love-o-meter compared to the love of God. In fact, it’s only by analogy that we can even approach an appreciation of God’s love. Our Lord does help us along, giving us mental images that should be familiar to us: “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,” He says, “and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12: 50 NABRE). And those who have been in love know what it’s like when that love is one-sided, when one has to wonder if that love one feels is felt on the other side; we become impatient, we want it to be “accomplished,” we are in “anguish” until the matter is settled and we know one way or the other if our love will ever be returned. But we have to put the breaks on, and realize that when our Lord speaks of the “baptism with which [He] must be baptized,” He’s talking about His death. It’s His death on the Cross that is the accomplishment of His love.
And that’s why the Gospel lesson today continues right after this with mental images that are not at all pleasing to us: a household of five divided three against two, a father against his son, a mother against her daughter, in-laws against in-laws. These images, too, are things with which we are familiar, at least if we grew up in anything resembling a normal family, and they are not the family memories with which we associate love. That’s because the love of God is radically different from the love of man. Our mistake is in equating love with an emotion. The love of God is not a feeling; it’s a determined decision, a decision that is rooted in sacrifice. When these kinds of arguments and divisions arise in a family, what’s it usually about? Someone thinks something is true or false, right or wrong, and everyone else disagrees. The family member clinging to the truth wants what’s best for those he or she loves; the others think that love is best served by abandoning the alleged truth for the sake of unity and getting along. It’s twice in the last month that I’ve quoted to those who attend Mass here regularly the words spoken so often by Pope Saint John Paul II: “There is no such thing as love separated from truth.” And when one is dedicated to the truth, one’s lot is destined to be sacrifice.
In the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, used everywhere before the reforms after Vatican II, the priest performing a wedding does not preach a homily like he does in most places; instead, he reads an exhortation straight out of the Missal, word for word. It isn’t because the Church doesn’t trust her priests to know what to say, but because there are certain facts about true love that never change. The words of that exhortation are as prescient today as they were when they were written, and can be of spiritual benefit to all of us, regardless of whether we’ve been in love, or think we’ve been; and, I’ll conclude my thoughts today with some of them. If you’re not married or plan to be, you may think they have nothing to say to you, but you’re wrong; for, if you listen to them properly, you’ll find they can apply to everyone’s life in a very broad way, because the love of which the exhortation speaks is not just the love of husband and wife; it’s also the love of God for us and ours for Him, especially on those occasions when we may not feel his love:
This union, then, is most serious, because it will bind you together for life in a relationship so close and so intimate, that it will profoundly influence your whole future. That future, with its hopes and disappointments, its successes and its failures, its pleasures and its pains, its joys and its sorrows, is hidden from your eyes. You know that these elements are mingled in every life, and are to be expected in your own. And so not knowing what is before you, you take each other for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death.
Truly, then, these words are most serious. It is a beautiful tribute to your undoubted faith in each other, that recognizing their full import, you are, nevertheless, so willing and ready to pronounce them. And because these words involve such solemn obligations, it is most fitting that you rest the security of your wedded life upon the great principle of self-sacrifice. And so you begin your married life by the voluntary and complete surrender of your individual lives in the interest of that deeper and wider life which you are to have in common. Henceforth you will belong entirely to each other; you will be one in mind, one in heart, and one in affections. And whatever sacrifices you may hereafter be required to make to preserve this mutual life, always make them generously. Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome. Only love can make it easy, and perfect love can make it a joy. We are willing to give in proportion as we love. And when love is perfect, the sacrifice is complete. God so loved the world that He gave, his only-begotten Son, and the Son so loved us that He gave Himself for our salvation. "Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
No greater blessing can come to your married life than pure conjugal love, loyal and true to the end. May, then, this love with which you join your hands and hearts today never fail, but grow deeper and stronger as the years go on. And if true love and the unselfish spirit of perfect sacrifice guide your every action, you can expect the greatest measure of earthly happiness that may be allotted to man in this vale of tears. The rest is in the hands of God.
* This handling of the obligation for a solemnity falling on a Monday, when it is not transfered to another day or the obligation is suppressed, is often misunderstood. An evening Mass offered on this Sunday may be either for the Sunday or for the Solemnity the following day; however, two obligations cannot be fulfilled by assisting at one Mass. Regardless of which Mass is offered this evening, it may be used to satisfy either obligation, but not both. Therefore, if one assists at Mass this evening to fulfill the Sunday obligation, one must assist at Mass tomorrow; if one assists at Mass this evening to fulfill the obligation for the Solemnity on Monday, it is presumed that one has already assisted at Sunday Mass earlier today. Holy Communion may be received at both Masses, but not a third time. To put it banally: if you slept in today and only got to Mass this evening, you have to go to Mass tomorrow, even if the texts and lessons of the Mass you attended were for tomorrow's solemnity. In the United States, the obligation is suppressed because Americans, apparently, will turn into pumpkins if they attend Mass two days in a row.
** In the extraordinary form, the term “vigil” does not refer to the evening before, as in the ordinary form; rather, the vigil of a first class feast designates the entire day before the feast, which has texts and lessons of it’s own. Were this day not a Sunday, the Vigil of the Assumption would be observed as a feria of the second class, combined with a commemoration of St. Eusebius, Confessor; however, because today is a Sunday, a Mass is not permitted for the vigil, and a commemoration of it is made by an additional Collect, Secret and Postcommunion added to the Mass of the Sunday, with the commemoration of St. Eusebius entirely suppressed. In the Divine Office, an additional versical, antiphon and collect from the vigil are added after the collect of the Sunday at lauds, but is not observed at the other hours.
*** In the Byzantine Tradition, major feast days are marked by prefestive and postfestive periods. While there is no corresponding tradition in the West regarding prefestive days, the postfestive period is concomitant with the concept of an octave in the Latin Church, though it's duration is not necessarily eight days depending on the importance of the feast. The last day of the postfestive period is called the "Leave-Taking," Otdanije in Slavonic, actually a verb meaning "to return." The liturgy on the day of Otdanije mirrors that of the feast with minor variations. The Otdanije of the Transfiguration was yesterday.
† Msgr. Knox, following the Vulgate, numbers the Psalms according to the Greek Psalter; the Roman Missal, along with most modern translations, uses the numbering of the Hebrew Psalter.