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

Spiritual Reading

  • Wednesday 4 May 2022

    Wednesday of the 3rd week of Eastertide 

    Spiritual Reading

    Your Second Reading from the Office of Readings:

    Wednesday of the 3rd week of Eastertide

    From the first apology in defence of the Christians by Saint Justin, martyr
    Baptismal regeneration

    Through Christ we received new life and we consecrated ourselves to God. I will explain the way in which we did this. Those who believe what we teach is true and who give assurance of their ability to live according to that teaching are taught to ask God’s forgiveness for their sins by prayer and fasting and we pray and fast with them. We then lead them to a place where there is water and they are reborn in the same way as we were reborn; that is to say, they are washed in the water in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the whole universe, of our Saviour Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit. This is done because Christ said: Unless you are born again you will not enter the kingdom of heaven, and it is impossible for anyone, having once been born, to re-enter his mother’s womb.
    An explanation of how repentant sinners are to be freed from their sins is given through the prophet Isaiah in the words: Wash yourselves and be clean. Remove the evil from your souls; learn to do what is right. Be just to the orphan, vindicate the widow. Come, let us reason together, says the Lord. If your sins are like scarlet, I will make them white as wool; if they are like crimson, I will make them white as snow. But if you do not heed me, you shall be devoured by the sword. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.
    The apostles taught us the reason for this ceremony of ours. Our first birth took place without our knowledge or consent because our parents came together, and we grew up in the midst of wickedness. So if we were not to remain children of necessity and ignorance, we needed a new birth of which we ourselves would be conscious, and which would be the result of our own free choice. We needed, too, to have our sins forgiven. This is why the name of God, the Father and Lord of the whole universe, is pronounced in the water over anyone who chooses to be born again and who has repented of his sins. The person who leads the candidate for baptism to the font calls upon God by this name alone, for God so far surpasses our powers of description that no one can really give a name to him. Anyone who dares to say that he can must be hopelessly insane.
    This baptism is called “illumination” because of the mental enlightenment that is experienced by those who learn these things. The person receiving this enlightenment is also baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Spirit, who through the prophets foretold everything concerning Jesus.


    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 © 1996-2022 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.