Commentary on The Reading of the day provided by:
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997),
founder of the Missionary Sisters of Charity
No Greater Love
“Lying at his door was a poor man”
Christ said, “I was hungry and you gave me food” (Mt 25,35).
He was hungry not only for bread but for I the understanding love of being loved, of being known, of being someone to someone.
He was naked not only of clothing but of human dignity and of respect, through the injustice that is done to the poor, who are looked down upon simply because they are poor.
He was dispossessed not only of a house… but because of the dispossession of those who are locked up, of those who are unwanted and unloved, of those who walk through the world with no one to care for them.
You may go out into the street and have nothing to say, but maybe there is a man standing there on the corner and you go to him.
Maybe he resents you, but you are there, and that presence is there.
You must radiate that presence that is within you, in the way you address that man with love and respect.
Because you believe that is Jesus.
Jesus cannot receive you – for this, you must know how to go to Him.
He comes disguised in the form of that person there.
Jesus, in the least of His brethren (Mt 25,40), is not only hungry for a piece of bread, but hungry for love, to be known, to be taken into account.
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 5:2-11
It is not strange that the world feels drawn to the Augustines and Magdalenes of every age. The world knows its guilt and is ashamed.
With the lives of such saints placed warmly and tactfully before us, it is impossible to abandon hope.
From the tumbleweed of sin many saints have grown.
Margaret was born at Laviano, in Tuscany, Italy, about 1247, of poor farm people. Her mother died when she was only seven years old, and two years later her father married again.
His new wife was a strong, masterful woman, who had little sympathy for her pleasure-loving stepdaughter.
Margaret had always yearned for love and it was always denied her at home.
It is not hard to understand, then, how the pretty young girl fell prey to the prospect of love and luxury offered her by a rich young cavalier (whose name she never divulged) from a neighbouring village.
She went away with him one night and lived with him as his mistress for the next nine years, during which time she gave birth to a son.
During all those years Margaret remained faithful to her lover, even though she was an object of scorn to the townspeople, who regarded her as a depraved woman.
The sudden and brutal murder of her lover brought Margaret to the realization of God’s grace.
Ashamed and horrified by her own behaviour, she went immediately to her father’s house to beg forgiveness.
Although he was willing to accept her, her stepmother for a second time turned Margaret away from the love she needed so badly.
She had heard of the Friars Minor (Franciscans) and of their reputation for gentleness and patience with sinners.
By this time, utterly depressed, she travelled to Cortona, where she begged admittance into the Third Order as a penitent.
For the first three years of her conversion she was guided in the spiritual life by Fra Giunta Bevegnati, her confessor. It is to him we are indebted for the story of her life.
Margaret began to earn her living by nursing the ladies of the city, but soon gave it up in order to devote herself to caring for the sick poor, depending on alms for her existence.
She persuaded the leading citizen of Cortona to aid her in starting the hospital of Our Lady of Mercy, staffed by Franciscans tertiaries whom Margaret formed into a congregation called Poverelle.
She also founded the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mercy, which was pledged to support the hospital and to search out and assist the poor.
Her son was sent to school at Arezzo, and he later became a Franciscan friar.
As Margaret continued to advance in holiness, Christ became the dominating feature in her life.
She was favored with visions in which Christ spoke to her and addressed her as the third light granted to the Order of my beloved Francis, that is, exceeded in glory only by Saint Francis and Saint Clare.
Margaret was also favored with visions of her guardian angel.
The people of Cortona had observed the holiness of Margaret’s life, and they sought her payers in 1279, when Charles of Anjou, king of Sicily, threatened to invade Tuscany.
After fervent prayer it was revealed to her that an armistice had been arranged and peace would follow.
Toward the latter part of her life our Lord said to her: Show now that thou art converted; cry out and call others to repentance.
Margaret was obedient to the call and saw that she must lead a more active life. She carried on this new mission successfully, drawing many lapsed Catholics back to the Church, and she was called on many times to perform miraculous cures.
The day and hour of her death were revealed to her, and she died at the age of fifty in 1297.
Her fame is mostly confined to Tuscany, where the people of Cortona refer to their patron as the lily of the valley.
(SOURCE: The Catholic Press, The Lives of the Saints for every day of the year)
“Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”‘ – Matthew 5:43-48.
“Thus says the Lord GOD: If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him; he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced.
Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked? says the Lord GOD. Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live?
And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil, the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does, can he do this and still live?
None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered, because he has broken faith and committed sin; because of this, he shall die.
You say, “The LORD’S way is not fair!”
Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When a virtuous man turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if a wicked man, turning from the wickedness he has committed, does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins which he committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.” – Ezekiel 18:21-28.
“While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgement the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgement the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.” – Luke 11:29-32.
Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”” – Matthew 25:31-46.
Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who assisted the martyrs during the persecution under Claudius II.
His great virtue and influence became known, and he was apprehended and brought before the emperor’s tribunal.
Why, Valentine, do you want to be the friend of our enemies and reject our friendship?
The Christian priest replied, My Lord, if you knew the gift of God, you would be happy, and your empire with you; you would reject the cult of your idols and would adore the true God and His Son Jesus Christ.
One of the judges interrupted, asking the martyr what he thought of Jupiter and Mercury.
That they were miserable, and spent all their lives in debauchery and crime!
The judge, furious, cried, He has blasphemed against the gods and against the empire!
The emperor nonetheless continued his questioning with curiosity, pleased to have this opportunity to know what Christians thought.
Valentine had the courage to exhort him to do penance for the blood of Christians which he had shed. Believe in Jesus Christ, be baptized and you will be saved, and already in this life you will insure your empire’s glory and the triumph of your arms.
Claudius began to be convinced, and said to those in attendance, Hear the beautiful doctrine this man is teaching us!
But the prefect of Rome, dissatisfied, cried out, See how this Christian is seducing our prince! Claudius, weakening, abandoned the holy priest to another judge.
This man, named Asterius, had a little girl who had been blind for two years.
Hearing of Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, he asked Valentine if he could convey that light to his child.
Saint Valentine placed his hand on her eyes and prayed: Lord Jesus Christ, true Light, illuminate this blind child!
The child saw, and the Judge with all his family confessed Christ and received Baptism.
The emperor, hearing of this, would have turned his gaze away from these conversions, but fear caused him to betray his sense of justice.
With several other Christians Saint Valentine was tortured and martyred in the year 268.
This illustrious martyr has always been held in great honor in Rome, where there still exists a catacomb named for him.
(SOURCE: Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Livesof the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).)