Monthly Archives: August 2013

Dominic Barberi, CP

In today’s reading at Mass from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians the apostle tells them to remember those who brought them to faith. The gospel came to them, not in words alone, but through holy people.

Today, the Passionists remember one of their holy people, Blessed Dominic Barberi, born in Viterbo, Italy, in 1792. He was devoted to the cause of Christian unity and in 1842 went to England with a dream of bringing the English church and the Catholic church together as one.

He received John Henry Newman, the great Oxford scholar, into the Catholic church. Newman admired the zeal and humility of this holy man.

Though he never mastered the English language, Dominic preached tirelessly throughout England, especially to poor immigrants coming into the country to work in factories built during the Industrial Revolution.

Before coming to England, Dominic wrote to the scholars of Oxford about his dream of a united church:

“The time will surely come when we shall all with one voice glorify God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. That time is not far distant. We shall see it with our own eyes. I feel this hope in the depths of my soul. In the meantime, let us do penance in sackcloth and ashes, as we await the blessed hope. Not only the French, but also the Italians, Spaniards, Germans and all other Catholics join you in this. With you they hope, with you they long for the day when it will be possible to embrace one another as brothers and sisters and to be gathered into one fold under one shepherd. Let there be one fold and one shepherd soon! Amen. Amen.”

Still a dream to believe in and work for.

Wherever you go, I will go

The story of Ruth, the Moabite woman, who stays with her mother-in-law after her own husband’s death and devotes herself to the older woman after she returns to her own people, is one of the most beautiful stories of the Old Testament. We read a portion of it today at Mass.

“Do not ask me to forsake you or abandon you,” Ruth says to her, “for wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God will be my God.”

The Book of Ruth is more than a story of love and loyalty, however. The author of Ruth reminds us over and over that she’s a Moabite, from a people often enemies of the Jews. The tender story is placed among the books of Joshua and Judges which often call for fighting and exterminating foreigners. Be careful, this story says. Your enemies may be better and more loving than you. Don’t demonize outsiders. Admire and imitate what you see.

If we look, stories of love are found everywhere. What’s more, Ruth is among the ancestors of Jesus Christ, whose love extends to all. “Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse, the father of David,” Matthew writes, tracing his family roots. (Matthew 1, 5-6)

Like her, he never forsakes or abandons us. We are his people and he is our God.

The Transfiguration of Jesus

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Today’s Feast of the Transfiguration was celebrated as far back as the 4th century by the Syrian church. Then, it spread to other eastern churches, and finally in the 15th century came into our Roman liturgy, probably through western pilgrims to the Holy Land who visited the great mountain shrine of the Transfiguration in Galilee and brought the feast back to Europe. Some of our feasts have come to us like this– from pilgrims to the Holy Land.

All three synoptic gospels have the account of Jesus ascending the mountain with Peter, James and John after he has announced his passion and death. He’s transfigured before them. His face is changed in appearance,“dazzling like the sun,” Matthew’s gospel says. “His clothes are dazzling white;” the other gospels say, reflecting a body we can’t look at directly. It happens “while he was praying,” Luke says, who always sees prayer opening up the mysteries of God.

The mountain in the scriptures is a favorite place where God reveals himself. It’s where you can take in everything, everywhere. Later this week in our readings from Deuteronomy (4,32-40), Moses tells the children of Israel to remember that God’s voice came from the heavens and spoke to them from the mountain of Horeb and led them by a cloud to a land that was their heritage.

Now, God speaks from the Mount of Transfiguration. A cloud envelopes Jesus and his disciples. “This is my chosen Son; listen to him,” God says. “Keep this mystery in mind,” Peter says in his letter; it’s “like a lamp shining in a dark place, until the first streaks of dawn appear and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

Our liturgy today tells us that Jesus “revealed his glory to his disciples to strengthen them for the scandal of the cross,” that’s the dark place God wishes to lighten. “His glory shone in a body like our own, to show that the Church, which is his body, would one day share his glory,” our liturgy says. So our bodies share this mystery with him.

Moses and Elijah are there speaking to him, Luke says, “about his passage, which he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem.” The passage from Egypt to the Promised Land will take place now through the mystery of his passion and resurrection.

The disciples fall silent after experiencing this mystery. They can’t explain it, even if they wanted to. So they fall back on the familiar stories of Moses and Elijah who spoke to God face to face. The mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus is a mystery we anticipate, we cannot explain. Later, his disciples will say simply: “We have seen the Lord. He is risen, as he said.”