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Arch Bishop Micheal Ralph Vendegna S.O.S.M.A.

Spiritual Reading

  • Tuesday 4 May 2021

    Tuesday of the 5th week of Eastertide 

    Spiritual Reading

    Your Second Reading from the Office of Readings:

    Tuesday of the 5th week of Eastertide

    From a commentary on the gospel of John by Saint Cyril of Alexandria, bishop
    I am the vine, you are the branches

    The Lord calls himself the vine and those united to him branches in order to teach us how much we shall benefit from our union with him, and how important it is for us to remain in his love. By receiving the Holy Spirit, who is the bond of union between us and Christ our Saviour, those who are joined to him, as branches are to a vine, share in his own nature.
    On the part of those who come to the vine, their union with him depends upon a deliberate act of the will; on his part, the union is effected by grace. Because we had good will, we made the act of faith that brought us to Christ, and received from him the dignity of adoptive sonship that made us his own kinsmen, according to the words of Saint Paul: He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.
    The prophet Isaiah calls Christ the foundation, because it is upon him that we as living and spiritual stones are built into a holy priesthood to be a dwelling place for God in the Spirit. Upon no other foundation than Christ can this temple be built. Here Christ is teaching the same truth by calling himself the vine, since the vine is the parent of its branches, and provides their nourishment.
    From Christ and in Christ, we have been reborn through the Spirit in order to bear the fruit of life; not the fruit of our old, sinful life but the fruit of a new life founded upon our faith in him and our love for him. Like branches growing from a vine, we now draw our life from Christ, and we cling to his holy commandment in order to preserve this life. Eager to safeguard the blessing of our noble birth, we are careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, and who makes us aware of God’s presence in us.
    Let the wisdom of John teach us how we live in Christ and Christ lives in us: The proof that we are living in him and he is living in us is that he has given us a share in his Spirit. Just as the trunk of the vine gives its own natural properties to each of its branches, so, by bestowing on them the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, the only-begotten Son of the Father, gives Christians a certain kinship with himself and with God the Father because they have been united to him by faith and determination to do his will in all things. He helps them to grow in love and reverence for God, and teaches them to discern right from wrong and to act with integrity.


    In other parts of the world and other calendars:

    The English Martyrs

    From a sermon of Pope Paul VI at the canonization of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales
    Unshakeable loyalty to God-given vocation

    To all those who are filled with admiration in reading the records of these Forty Holy Martyrs, it is perfectly clear that they are worthy to stand alongside the greatest martyrs of the past; and this not merely because of their fearless faith and marvellous constancy, but by reason of their humility, simplicity and serenity, and above all the spiritual joy and that wondrously radiant love with which they accepted their condemnation and death.
    The unity existing between these men and women depends from the deeply spiritual cast of mind which they had in common. In so many other respects they were completely different — as different as any large group usually is: in age and sex, in culture and education, in social status and occupation, in character and temperament, in their qualities, natural and supernatural, in the external circumstances of their lives. So we find among these Forty Holy Martyrs priests, secular and regular, religious of different orders and grades; and we have, amongst the laity, men of the highest nobility and those who rank as ordinary, married women and mothers of families. What unites them all is that interior quality of unshakeable loyalty to the vocation given them by God — the sacrifice of their lives as a loving response to that call.
    The high tragedy in the lives of these martyrs was that their honest and genuine loyalty came into conflict with their fidelity to God and with the dictates of their conscience illumined by the Catholic faith. Two truths especially were involved: the Holy Eucharist and the inalienable prerogatives of the successor of Peter who, by God’s will, is the universal shepherd of Christ’s Church. Faced with the choice of remaining steadfast in their faith and of dying for it, or of saving their lives by denying that faith, without a moment’s hesitation and with a truly supernatural strength they stood for God and joyfully confronted martyrdom. At the same time such was the greatness of their spirit that many of them died with prayers on their lips for the country they loved so much, for the King or Queen, and not least for those directly responsible for their capture, their sufferings, and the degradation and ignominy of their cruel deaths.
    May our thanksgiving go up to God who, in his providential goodness, saw fit to raise up these martyrs.


    The Beatified Martyrs of England and Wales

    From the homily of Pope Paul VI at the canonization of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales
    The witness of martyrdom

    This age of ours needs especially the example of those who have given the perfect witness of their love for Christ and his Church: “No one has greater love than he who lays down his life for his friends.” These words of our Divine Master, which refer in the first instance to his own sacrifice of the cross, when he offered himself for the salvation of all mankind, may be properly applied to the vast and chosen band of martyrs of every era, from the first persecutions of the infant Church down to those of our own day, which are none the less cruel for being more hidden. The Church of Christ came to birth in the sacrificial death of Christ on the Cross, and her growth and development depends on the heroic love of those who are most truly her children.
    Tertullian wrote: “The blood of Christ is the seed that is sown.” As it was with the shedding of Christ’s own blood, so it is with the sacrificial offering of her martyrs in union with his: a source of life and of spiritual fecundity for the Church and the entire world. As the Constitution Lumen Gentium reminds us:
    “By martyrdom, a disciple is transformed into the image of his Master who freely accepted death for the world’s salvation, and he becomes perfectly conformed to him in the shedding of his blood. So it is that the Church considers martyrdom as a supreme gift, and as the highest proof of love.”
    What most truly makes a man a man, at the fine point of his being and the root of his personality, is his capacity for loving, for loving to the uttermost, for giving himself in a love which is stronger than death and which reaches out into eternity.
    The martyrdom of the Christian is the most sublime expression and sign of this love, not merely because the martyr remains faithful to it even to the shedding of his blood, but also because this sacrifice is motivated by the highest and noblest kind of love: the love, that is, for him who created and redeemed us, who loves us as only he can love, and who expects from us in return a total and unconditional gift of self: a love, in fine, which is worthy of our God.


    Blessed Angel Prat Hostench and Companions, Religious, Martyrs

    From the letters of Saint Cyprian, bishop and martyr
    Those who wish to reach the promises of the Lord should imitate him in everything

    I greet you, dear brothers, hoping also myself to enjoy your company if circumstances permit me to come to you. For what more agreeable or joyful thing could happen to me now than to be close to you, that you might embrace me with those hands which, being pure, innocent and keeping faith in the Lord have rejected sacrilegious sacrifices?
    What would be more delightful and sublime than to be able to now kiss your lips, that have solemnly confused the Lord, and what would I desire with more ardour than to be contemplated with the same eyes, which, having despised the world, have you appeared worthy in the sight of God?
    But since opportunity to be present for this joy is not given, I send you this letter, as my substitute for me, for your eyes and ears. In it I congratulate you, and at the same time I urge you to persevere with perseverance and strength in confession of heavenly glory; and, since you have begun to walk the path that the Lord traveled, to continue in the strength of the Spirit until you receive the crown, having as protector and guide the same Lord who said: ‘And behold, I am with you always, even unto the consummation of the world.’
    O blessed prison, illuminated by your presence! O blessed prison, which sends men of God to heaven! O darkness more resplendent that the sun itself and brighter than the light of this world, where the temples of God have been built and your members have been sanctified.
    Now let not anything be considered in your hearts and minds but divine precepts and the heavenly commandments by which the Holy Spirit has always animated us for the endurance of suffering. Let no one think of death, but of immortality, nor punishment in time, but glory everlasting, since it is written: ‘Precious in the eyes of God is a contrite spirit: a heart contrite and humbled God does not despise.’
    And again, where divinely inspired Scripture speaks of the torments which consecrate and sanctify martyrs of God by the very trial of suffering: ‘For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; and, chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. In the time of their visitation they shall shine;… they shall judge nations and rule over peoples and the Lord shall be their King forever.’
    When, therefore, you reflect that you will judge and reign with Christ the Lord, you must exult and tread under foot present sufferings in the joy of what is to come, knowing that it has been ordained from the beginning of the world that immediately in the very beginning of the world that this same justice should struggle in the world conflict since, immediately in the very beginning, Abel the just was killed and thenceforth all the just men and the prophets and the apostles who were sent forth. For all these, the Lord also set an example in Himself, teaching that only those come to His kingdom who have followed Him in His way, saying: ‘He who loves his life in this world will lose it; and he who hates his life in this world will keep in unto life everlasting.’ And again: ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather be afraid of him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.’
    Paul exhorts us that we who wish to attain the promises of the Lord ought to imitate the Lord in all things. ‘We are,’ he says, ‘sons of God. But if we are sons, we are heirs of God also, indeed joint heirs with Christ, provided, however, we suffer with him that we may also be glorified with him.’

    Copyright © 1996-2021 Universalis Publishing Limited: see www.universalis.com. Scripture readings from the Jerusalem Bible are published and copyright © 1966, 1967 and 1968 by Darton, Longman & Todd, Ltd and Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc, and used by permission of the publishers. Text of the Psalms: Copyright © 1963, The Grail (England). Used with permission of A.P. Watt Ltd. All rights reserved.