Biblical Readings for each day's Mass,
(as listed in the Liturgical Calendar for Ireland, 2017)

19 October, 2017. Thursday of Week 28

Saint Paul of the Cross, priest; Saints John de Brebeuf and Isaac Jogues, priests and Companions, martyrs

1st Reading: Romans 3:21-30

All have sinned, but are freely justified by faith in Jesus Christ

But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.

Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one.

Gospel: Luke 11:47-54

In attacking Jesus, the Pharisees take sides with those who killed the prophets of old

Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,' so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering."

When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile toward him and to cross-examine him about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

Bible

The Blood of Martyrs

Paul here offers the basis of his gospel and entire ministry: that all human beings, whatever their race, are spiritually dependent on Jesus. By contrast, today's gospel is similar to the "woe" or "curse" passages of the Old Testament.

Many significant expressions bring depth and Old Testament resonance to Paul's writings, each with its own specific nuance of meaning. Such words include: justice of God, the glory of God, redemption, blood, the law or Torah, choice by God, divine favour, mystery, fullness of time, Christ's headship. For our meditation we choose one of these, namely blood, which occurs in all three readings for today. Through Christ's blood he achieves expiation for all who believe; his blood joins that of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world (Luke). Clearly a positive life-giving meaning is assigned to the blood of Christ.

When Paul writes to the Romans, "through his blood God made Christ the means of expiation for all who believe," he is saying that Christ's death and resurrection have established a bond of life in all who are one in Christ Jesus. The focus of attention is not on the death (even though this agonizing event is not to be overlooked), but on the new life which the risen Christ suffuses into our midst. Because this "life" or "blood" of Christ is so pure, vigorous and divine, we are cleansed of all impurities within our system and are granted a supernatural energy and perception.

Jesus mentions the blood of martyrs in his controversy with Pharisees and lawyers. When he condemns them for putting monumental tombs over the graves of the prophets, it is not that he is opposed to honouring the prophets. Typical of the blood-symbolism, Jesus wants to honour the dead, not so much by concentrating on their dead bones nor even on their dead memory, but by continuing their life and imitating their selfless concern for others, especially for the poor and for others in desperate need; we too are meant to stand up for the cause of justice, for other people's dignity and rights.


Being both teachers and learners

Jesus criticizes the lawyers, the experts in the Jewish Law, the Law of God, for taking away the key of knowledge. They have failed to come to know God themselves, as Jesus reveals Him, and have prevented others from coming to know God. Their calling was to be teachers of the ways of God, but they have not been true to that calling. Jesus himself was the key to the knowledge of God, because he reveals God more fully than any other human being could. In rejecting Jesus, the lawyers were taking away the key of knowledge, failing to recognize God at work in Jesus for themselves and not allowing others to discover God in Jesus either. God has given us the key to knowing him, by giving us Jesus. Jesus is the key to the knowledge of God, and we are all learners. Indeed, we will always be learners when it comes to God. The mistake is to think ourselves learned and clever when it comes to God. On the contrary we are more like infants, always having much to learn. Only if we recognize that will we come to know God more fully. That is why Jesus prayed a little earlier in Luke's gospel, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the learned and the clever and have revealed them to infants."


Saints John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues and companions, martyrs

Jean de Brébeuf (1593-1649) was a French Jesuit missionary who went to New France (Canada) in 1625 and worked primarily with the Huron for the rest of his life, having learned their language and culture. In an Iroquois raid the missionaries were captured, ritually tortured and martyred on March 16, 1649. Isaac Jogues (1607-1646) was a Jesuit priest, missionary and martyr who worked in 17th century North America. He was martyred by the Mohawk in present-day New York state.

Saint Paul of the Cross, priest

Paolo Francesco Danei (1694-1775), from Ovada, Piedmont, northern Italy, the second of sixteen children, only six of whom survived infancy, was from an early age aware of the reality of death and suffering. After an early education from a priest who kept a school for boys, by age fifteen he left school and for a time taught catechism in churches near his home. He had a conversion to a life of prayer at the age of 19 and his prayer focussed on the Passion of Christ. At age 26 he felt drawn to form a community of evangelical life, promoting the love of God as revealed in the Passion of Jesus. This later came to be known as the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ, or the Passionists, and Paul was their first superior general. He was one of the most popular preachers of his day, conducting parish missions in many parts of Italy. Many of his letters, most of them of spiritual direction, have been preserved. He died in Rome at the Retreat of Saints John and Paul (SS. Giovanni e Paolo) and was canonised in 1867.