Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious
Reading 1 2 KGS 19:9B-11, 14-21, 31-35A, 36
with this message:
“Thus shall you say to Hezekiah, king of Judah:
‘Do not let your God on whom you rely deceive you
by saying that Jerusalem will not be handed over
to the king of Assyria.
You have heard what the kings of Assyria have done
to all other countries: they doomed them!
Will you, then, be saved?’”Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it;
then he went up to the temple of the LORD,
and spreading it out before him,
he prayed in the LORD’s presence:
“O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned upon the cherubim!
You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth.
You have made the heavens and the earth.
Incline your ear, O LORD, and listen!
Open your eyes, O LORD, and see!
Hear the words of Sennacherib which he sent to taunt the living God.
Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations
and their lands, and cast their gods into the fire;
they destroyed them because they were not gods,
but the work of human hands, wood and stone.
Therefore, O LORD, our God, save us from the power of this man,
that all the kingdoms of the earth may know
that you alone, O LORD, are God.”Then Isaiah, son of Amoz, sent this message to Hezekiah:
“Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel,
in answer to your prayer for help against Sennacherib, king of Assyria:
I have listened!
This is the word the LORD has spoken concerning him:“‘She despises you, laughs you to scorn,
the virgin daughter Zion!
Behind you she wags her head,
daughter Jerusalem.“‘For out of Jerusalem shall come a remnant,
and from Mount Zion, survivors.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.’“Therefore, thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria:
‘He shall not reach this city, nor shoot an arrow at it,
nor come before it with a shield,
nor cast up siege-works against it.
He shall return by the same way he came,
without entering the city, says the LORD.
I will shield and save this city for my own sake,
and for the sake of my servant David.’”That night the angel of the LORD went forth and struck down
one hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp.
So Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, broke camp,
and went back home to Nineveh.
Responsorial Psalm PS 48:2-3AB, 3CD-4, 10-11
Great is the LORD and wholly to be praised
in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, fairest of heights,
is the joy of all the earth.
R. God upholds his city for ever.
Mount Zion, Athe recesses of the North,”
is the city of the great King.
God is with her castles;
renowned is he as a stronghold.
R. God upholds his city for ever.
O God, we ponder your mercy
within your temple.
As your name, O God, so also your praise
reaches to the ends of the earth.
Of justice your right hand is full.
R. God upholds his city for ever.
Alleluia JN 8:12
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MT 7:6, 12-14
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine,
lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the Law and the Prophets.“Enter through the narrow gate;
for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction,
and those who enter through it are many.
How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.
And those who find it are few.”
Commentary on Matthew 7:6, 12-14 from Living Space
Sermon on the Mount (cont’d):
Today’s passage contains three apparently unrelated teachings of Jesus. Vv. 7-11 on prayer, which intervene, are omitted. (We need to remind ourselves that the Sermon on the Mount is not a verbatim record of a “sermon” preached by Jesus. It is a highly edited collection of sayings on the general theme of the qualities to be found in a true disciple of Jesus.)
a, “Do not give to dogs what is holy.” That is, consecrated meat from animals sacrificed in the Temple should not be given as food for dogs. We need to remember that for the Jews (as for the Muslims) dogs are unclean animals, so that is an extra reason for not giving them meat consecrated for purposes of divine worship. We may remember the remark of Jesus to the Syro-phoenician woman about not giving the food of children to dogs, a reference to Gentiles who were also thought to be unclean. Or the humiliation of Lazarus in Luke’s parable who was so helpless that he could not prevent dogs licking his sores.
Similarly something as precious as pearls should not be given to pigs, another unclean animal. Again we remember in the parable of the Prodigal Son, how after hitting rock bottom the only job he could find was to feed pigs and he was so hungry he would have eaten the pigs’ food.
In other words, Jesus is advising his followers not indiscriminately to expose their beliefs to all and sundry. While, in one sense, the Christian way is for all there are people who are not ready to hear it and will not just reject it but subject it to ridicule. This would especially apply to certain Christian practices such as the celebration of the Eucharist or other sacraments. We do not accept people into the Catholic community except after a long period of formation and initiation. Faith in Christ is a gift and not everyone receives it at once.
b, The second saying is the famous ‘Golden Rule’, which is not exclusive to Christianity or the Gospel. It is known in other cultures. What might be emphasised here is its being expressed in positive terms. There is also a negative form, ‘Do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you’. There is a difference between the two. You can observe the negative maxim by doing nothing at all. The positive can only be observed by doing some good action to others and is therefore much more in line with the general teaching of Jesus.
c, The contrast between the narrow gate and the wide road. To follow the wide road is to do just about anything you feel like doing. It is to follow your likes and dislikes, your instincts and whims wherever they lead you. That is going to include following roads of greed and self-centredness, of lies and deceit, perhaps even of violence and hurt. It is clearly not a way of life.
It is a hard road only in the sense that it requires discipline and it is true that relatively few people find it. In the long run it is the easier way because it conforms more to the deepest needs and desires of the human person. (It is important to be aware that the Way of Jesus is not an eccentric choice of lifestyle, one religion among many, but that it is in total harmony with all that human life is meant to be.) But there is no doubt that the wide undisciplined road is the easier one to follow even though in the long run it does not bring happiness.
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 Kg 19:9-11, 14-21, 31-36; Ps 47:2-4,10-11; Matt 7:6.12-14 ]
“Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls in front of pigs.” It is a fact of life that there are some people who would not be receptive to what we have to say and what we would like to share with them. There could be many reasons why they are not receptive. They could be arrogant and proud, like Sennacherib, King of the Assyrians in the first reading. He thought too highly of himself, of his strength and might. With disdain and scorn, he said, “Do not let your God on whom you are relying deceive you, when he says: Jerusalem shall not fall into the power of the king of Assyria. You have learnt by now what the kings of Assyria have done to every country, putting them all under the ban. Are you likely to be spared?” For others, like the religious leaders of Israel, it could be due to fear, prejudice and blindness. For yet others, it could simply be due to ignorance and the lack of capacity to understand.
Does it mean then that Jesus is telling us to ignore them and let them go to their own perdition? Certainly not! What Jesus is telling us is the reality of the situation. In our goodwill to spread the Good News, to help people to walk the way of truth and lead them back to God, we will at times be met with rebuff, opposition and even persecution. Indeed, Jesus said, “they may trample them and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.” So we should not be surprised. If words cannot reach out to them because the intellect is weak and the mind is shallow, then we need to devise other means of proclaiming the Good News. Otherwise, whatever we say would simply be a waste of time because nothing is absorbed by them.
What, then, is a more effective way of transmitting the Good News? St Francis of Assisi reminded his disciples to preach the gospel, but he qualified it by saying, “only if necessary, use words!” Indeed, the best argument for the Good News is not what we say but how we live out our Christian life. Those whose minds are closed, we can at least find a way to their hearts. And the way to the hearts of people is always through a living witness of Christian life. When it comes to life and love, everyone can understand. No one can argue over it, unlike over words and doctrines. Silent witnessing in such a situation would be the most effective, a life of faith expressed in love, hope and compassion for others.
That is why Jesus invites us to be proactive in charity and compassion. He said, “So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.” In most religions and philosophy of life, we are taught “Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you.” This philosophy of life is inward looking and negative. We are called not to hurt others so that we will not get hurt. This is basic human relationship which itself is good because at least we do not hurt our fellowmen. If every man were to practice this principle then there would be less evil and sin in the world. However, we can end up like the rich man in the gospel in his attitude towards Lazarus, the poor man. We can be oblivious to the sufferings of others. We might not do evil but this is insufficient.
We are called to do good, not just avoid evil. Hence, Jesus exhorts us to go beyond the negative form of the Golden Rule of life. We must be proactive in love and works of compassion. We must put ourselves in their shoes and if we could identify with them in their suffering or pain or poverty, then we would know what they need and how they want to be helped. In this way, we will do for them what we hope others will do for us if we were in their shoes. “Do to others what we would like others to do for us” must therefore be proactive. If all of us compete in serving, caring and looking after each other, this will be a happy world.
To identify ourselves with others in their suffering and privation, we need humility. King Hezekiah in the first reading demonstrated his humility before God. Although he was King, he recognized the Lordship of God. He did not supplant His position. He knew his finiteness and limitations. In the face of a possible onslaught by the Assyrians, he went down on his knees to pray to God for divine intervention and assistance. Truly, those who do not know their place in life will get hurt one day. The haughty and proud people will suffer a fall that they will not be able to take it. This is the strategy of the Evil One. He tempts us to self-conceit and smugness so that when we fall one day, the fall will be so hard that it breaks us completely because of shame and shock.
But for those of us who are conscious of our inadequacy and limitations in life, we turn to God in prayer. We must not ever think that people are converted to the Lord because of our ingenious presentation of the gospel through preaching, teaching, music and drama. This would be too egoistical of us. Rather, docility and reception of what we say is not dependent on the speaker or the listener, it depends on the Holy Spirit who opens the hearts of our listeners. Unless the Holy Spirit opens their minds and hearts, they would not be ready to receive our message, regardless how well it is communicated. We are only the voice of the Word of God, Christ our Teacher, but it is the inner teacher, the Holy Spirit that opens the hearts of our listeners. So, if we want to spread the Good News, we must pray for our listeners and audience. If we want to do all things well for the Lord, we must rely on the power of intercession and not just on human eloquence, preaching and programs. It is prayer and fasting that make the program fruitful. To take credit when people are touched by our words is to think that we are responsible for the conversion of others and not God Himself.
So today, we are asked to take the narrow path in the proclamation of the Good News. “Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” We need to follow the narrow gate which is that of Jesus. It calls for self-discipline. It calls for discipleship! We are to follow Jesus in humble service and compassion for others, especially those who are sick and those without proper food, accommodation and medical care. This is the narrow road that leads to life because if we follow the gospel and take the Word of our Lord seriously, then we will find our life more peaceful and joyful.
Unfortunately, many are not ready to enter by the narrow gate. We all want quick results and short-cuts. There are certain things that take time to develop. There are some forms of spirituality that promise us that we can reach the mystical stage of prayer without having the need to go through the ascetical and purgative stages of our prayer life. So what they offer is a pseudo-psychological peace, not the peace that comes from Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Hence, we are called to enter the narrow gate, which means that we are willing to suffer, learn and grow. Discipleship requires perseverance and commitment. If we take the path of growing in discipleship through prayer, meditation and the study of the Word of God and then serving the poor and offering our service to the Church, the community or the nation, we will find life.
Indeed, the Lord will be on our side as He promised Hezekiah that the Lord would fight the battle for him. And indeed as prophesied, the King of Assyria did not enter the city. We read of the power of divine intervention, for on “that same night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. Sennacherib struck camp and left; he returned home and stayed in Nineveh.” So let us trust in the Lord and pray to Him like Hezekiah, not just in times of crisis but every day. We pray especially for the conversion of hearts, the conversion of our children and our spouse who have given up on God, the Church and on themselves. If a prophet is not accepted in his own country, and words cannot be used to proclaim the truth of God’s love, let our lives be a testimony of His love.
Today is the Feast of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga. Mother Teresa liked to tell this story about him.
One day, as Aloysius took a few moments to relax by playing billiards, one of his friends in seminary said to him, “Aloysius, you are wasting your time. If you knew you would be meeting God face to face today, what would you be doing?”
Aloysius said, “I’d be here playing pool.”
He wasn’t worried because he was following The Word of God in his daily life — and he had faith!
St. Aloysius was born in Castiglione, Italy. The first words St. Aloysius spoke were the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. He was destined for the military by his father (who was in service to Philip II), but by the age of 9 Aloysius had decided on a religious life, and made a vow of perpetual virginity. To safeguard himself from possible temptation, he would keep his eyes persistently downcast in the presence of women. St. Charles Borromeo gave him his first Holy Communion.
A kidney disease prevented St. Aloysius from a full social life for a while, so he spent his time in prayer and reading the lives of the saints. Although he was appointed a page in Spain, St. Aloysius kept up his many devotions and austerities, and was quite resolved to become a Jesuit. His family eventually moved back to Italy, where he taught catechism to the poor. When he was 18, he joined the Jesuits, after finally breaking down his father, who had refused his entrance into the order.
He served in a hospital during the plague of 1587 in Milan, and died from it at the age of 23, after receiving the last rites from St. Robert Bellarmine. The last word he spoke was the Holy Name of Jesus. St. Robert wrote the Life of St. Aloysius.
Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, October 30, 2013 — Will we be able to enter the narrow door? (Saint Luke’s version of Jesus’ narrow gate sermon)
“Of all the uncanonized servants of God whose lives I have read, he most resembles a canonized Saint.”
—Catholic Church historian, Frederick William Faber, in his “Growth in Holiness” — Speaking of Jean-Jacques Olier
Tags: 2 KGS 19:9 - 36, Aloysius Gonzaga., Black Death, Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before swine, Enter through the narrow gate, Hezekiah, June 21 2016, king of Judah, Mother Teresa, Mt 7:6 and 12-14, plague, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 48, Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Aloysius Gonzaga