For we must make an offering to God, and show ourselves in every way grateful to him who made us – in purity of thought, in sincerity of faith, in fervent hope and burning love – as we offer the first fruits of the things he has created and that are his. This offering the Church makes alone to her creator, making it with gratitude from his creation.
For we are offering him the things that are his, preaching our fellowship and union and proclaiming the resurrection of body and soul. Just as bread that comes from the earth, once the words of consecration have been said, is no longer ordinary bread but becomes the Eucharist, made of two things, earthly and heavenly, so our bodies, receiving it, are no longer corruptible but have the hope of resurrection within them.
From the treatise "Against the Heresies" by St Irenaeus
The pure offering made by the Church
The Lord taught the Church to make an offering throughout the whole world, and God accepts this as a pure sacrifice. It is not that God needs any sacrifice that we might offer, but that whoever offers something is glorified in the act of offering – if, that is, his gift is accepted. Making a gift to a king shows our honour and loyalty to him – and it was because the Lord wanted us to make our offerings in all innocence and without ulterior motives that he said: When you are offering your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there at the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, and then come back and offer your gift.
We ought to offer to God the first fruits of his creation, as even Moses said: Do not come empty-handed into the presence of the Lord your God. Thus whatever we are grateful for, we can show our gratitude to God by gifts and receive back the honour that God can give us.
The new law does not abolish offerings. There were offerings under the old law and there are offerings now. Then, sacrifice was made by the people, now it is made by the Church. The only change is that the sacrifice is not now offered by slaves but by free men. The Lord remains one and the same – but an offering made by a slave is of a characteristic kind, and so too is an offering made by a free man: its nature is a sign of his free status. With God, nothing is purposeless, or meaningless, or without a good reason. Thus under the old law they consecrated one tenth of their possessions, while those who have received their freedom set aside everything they have for the Lord’s use. They cheerfully and freely give more than the bare minimum because they have more than the bare minimum of hope. The poor widow put all that she possessed into the Temple treasury.
Day 54: The Tribe of Levi
Fr. Mike clarifies the relationship between the Tribe of Levi and the priesthood and talks about what it means to be held to a higher standard as a leader in your community. Numbers 3, Deuteronomy 3, and Psalm 87.
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#GospelToday (Mt 6:7-15)
"In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
This is how you are to pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one.
If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."
When he had said “Amen” and finished the prayer, the officials at the pyre lit it. But, when a great flame burst out, those of us privileged to see it witnessed a strange and wonderful thing. Indeed, we have been spared in order to tell the story to others. Like a ship’s sail swelling in the wind, the flame became as it were a dome encircling the martyr’s body. Surrounded by the fire, his body was like bread that is baked, or gold and silver white-hot in a furnace, not like flesh that has been burnt. So sweet a fragrance came to us that it was like that of burning incense or some other costly and sweet-smelling gum.
From a letter on the martyrdom of Saint Polycarp by the Church of Smyrna
A rich and pleasing sacrifice
When the pyre was ready, Polycarp took off all his clothes and loosened his under-garment. He made an effort also to remove his shoes, though he had been unaccustomed to this, for the faithful always vied with each other in their haste to touch his body. Even before his martyrdom he had received every mark of honour in tribute to his holiness of life.
There and then he was surrounded by the material for the pyre. When they tried to fasten him also with nails, he said: “Leave me as I am. The one who gives me strength to endure the fire will also give me strength to stay quite still on the pyre, even without the precaution of your nails.” So they did not fix him to the pyre with nails but only fastened him instead. Bound as he was, with hands behind his back, he stood like a mighty ram, chosen out for sacrifice from a great flock, a worthy victim made ready to be offered to God.
Looking up to heaven, he said: “Lord, almighty God, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have come to the knowledge of yourself, God of angels, of powers, of all creation, of all the race of saints who live in your sight, I bless you for judging me worthy of this day, this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ, your anointed one, and so rise again to eternal life in soul and body, immortal through the power of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among the martyrs in your presence today as a rich and pleasing sacrifice. God of truth, stranger to falsehood, you have prepared this and revealed it to me and now you have fulfilled your promise.
“I praise you for all things, I bless you, I glorify you through the eternal priest of heaven, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. Through him be glory to you, together with him and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.”
The Bible in a Year (with Fr. Mike Schmitz)
Day 53: The Twelve Tribes of Israel
Fr. Mike talks about the twelve tribes of Israel and explains why the book of Numbers introduces them based on the number of decedents they each had. Today we read Numbers 2, Deuteronomy 2, and Psalm 85.
And upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. On this strong foundation, he says, I will build an everlasting temple. The great height of my Church, which is to penetrate the heavens, shall rise on the firm foundation of this faith.
The gates of hell shall not silence this confession of faith; the chains of death shall not bind it. Its words are the words of life. As they lift up to heaven those who profess them, so they send down to hell those who contradict them.
Blessed Peter is therefore told: To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth is also bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven.
The authority vested in this power passed also to the other apostles, and the institution established by this decree has been continued in all the leaders of the Church. But it is not without good reason that what is bestowed on all is entrusted to one. For Peter received it separately in trust because he is the prototype set before all the rulers of the Church.
From a sermon of Saint Leo the Great, pope
The Church of Christ rises on the firm foundation of Peter's faith
Out of the whole world one man, Peter, is chosen to preside at the calling of all nations, and to be set over all the apostles and all the fathers of the Church. Though there are in God’s people many shepherds, Peter is thus appointed to rule in his own person those whom Christ also rules as the original ruler. Beloved, how great and wonderful is this sharing of his power that God in his goodness has given to this man. Whatever Christ has willed to be shared in common by Peter and the other leaders of the Church, it is only through Peter that he has given to others what he has not refused to bestow on them.
The Lord now asks the apostles as a whole what men think of him. As long as they are recounting the uncertainty born of human ignorance, their reply is always the same.
But when he presses the disciples to say what they think themselves, the first to confess his faith in the Lord is the one who is first in rank among the apostles.
Peter says: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replies: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” You are blessed, he means, because my Father has taught you. You have not been deceived by earthly opinion, but have been enlightened by inspiration from heaven. It was not flesh and blood that pointed me out to you, but the one whose only-begotten Son I am.
He continues: And I say to you. In other words, as my Father has revealed to you my godhead, so I in my turn make known to you your pre-eminence. You are Peter: though I am the inviolable rock, the cornerstone that makes both one, the foundation apart from which no one can lay any other, yet you also are a rock, for you are given solidity by my strength, so that which is my very own because of my power is common between us through your participation.
#GospelToday (Mt 16:13-19)
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
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