Category Archives: Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments

Feast of the The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily, Italy. 12th-13th cenFrom a Homily by John Paul II, 14 September 2003:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Cross is the “privileged place” where the love of God is revealed and shown to us. On the Cross human misery and divine mercy meet. The adoration of this unlimited mercy is for man the only way to open himself to the mystery which the Cross reveals.

The Cross is planted in the earth and would seem to extend its roots in human malice, but it reaches up, pointing as it were to the heavens, pointing to the goodness of God. By means of the Cross of Christ, the Evil One has been defeated, death is overcome, life is given to us, hope is restored, light is imparted.

In the Garden of Eden, at the foot of the tree, there was a woman, Eve (cf. Gen 3). Seduced by the Evil One, she takes possession of what she thinks is divine life. Instead it is a seed of death which enters into her (cf. Jas 1:15; Rom 6:23).

On Calvary, at the foot of the tree of the cross, there was another woman, Mary (cf. Jn 19:25-27). Accepting God’s plan, she shares intimately in the Son’s gift of self to the Father for the life of the world and, receiving from Jesus the entrustment of John the Apostle, she becomes the Mother of all mankind.

Image: Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily, Italy. 12th-13th century.

Exaltation of the Holy Cross


He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24)

Today is the solemnity of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It is our firm and certain belief that Jesus’ death transfigures us into true life. The Cross is the key to Heaven. Today, we are reminded again that that Jesus Christ’s Death and Resurrection changed everything!

Ave Crux Spes Unica!

Transfiguration of the Lord

transfiguration-fresco-visoki-decani-monastery-serbiaIn 1999, Saint John Paul preached this idea: “In the event of the Transfiguration we contemplate the mysterious encounter between history, which is being built every day, and the blessed inheritance that awaits us in heaven in full union with Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.”

The faith requires our openness to the surprising work of God. Today we hear the call of the Lord in the narrative of the Transfiguration; this biblical datum is given to us twice in the liturgical year. For those interested not only in the theology of the feast but also in language we should consider the origins of the word. In the Greek, the word is metamorphoo, from which our English “metamorphosis” comes, and connotes transformation. This word is used in speaking of the transfiguration in Matthew and Mark, but also appears in Paul’s letters, usually translated as “transformed” or “changed.” While secularism pushed the notion of life-changing events as important and a marketable commodity, the Lord and his Apostle have something else to offer us. Today as we tackle the meaning of the Lord’s  own transfiguration and our own, we too have to climb the mountain with Jesus to witness the intimacy of his glory and to see the Father’s power at work in Jesus. This event, like that of the Baptism of the Lord, reveals Jesus’ belovedness and divine sonship. At this time in the summer we see caterpillars becoming beautiful butterflies. In Romans 12:2,  Saint Paul urges us to “be transfigured by the renewing of our minds.” Turn from sin to grace.

St. Cyril of Alexandria makes an experiential connection with change in theological terms. “He who receives Communion is made holy and Divinized in soul and body in the same way that water, set over a fire, becomes boiling. … Communion works like yeast that has been mixed into dough so that it leavens the whole mass: … Just as by melting two candles together you get one piece of wax, so, I think, one who receives the Flesh and Blood of Jesus is fused together with Him by this Communion, and the soul finds that he is in Christ and Christ is in him.”

So we come to believe as John Paul II taught: “we are made for eternity and eternity begins at this very moment, since the Lord is among us and lives with and in his Church.”

August feasts


Good Samaritan

good samaratinMoving through the summer, we arrive today at the 15th Sunday through the Church Year when we hear from Saint Luke (10:25-37): the parable of the Good Samaritan — love your neighbor. This not a nice story. You are familiar with the narrative not only because it is memorable but because it is challenging and a most difficult thing in being a true follower of Jesus Christ. Most clearly, the work of conversion to holiness, our companionship with Christ and our life in the Church includes the content of this gospel pericope. You might think of linking this parable with Matthew 25 where it speaks about the Kingdom and the works of mercy.

It is clear from the Lord’s perspective we need to love all people (the neighbor), even loving our enemy. No one gets to pick and choose who to love and who not to love. The power of the holy gospel is that it is not tribal but universal. The power of the gospel knows no need other need than to know, love and serve God and our neighbor as ourself. The Gospel does not admit socio-economic, racial or gender theories into its message. Least of all the gospel is not a mere trend. We know something radically different here. Love is not a sentiment, it is a verb with much content; it generates a new human person made in God’s image and likeness. Love is showing concern for the other person’s eternal destiny. It is about wholeness and beauty, about relationality and perfection (as God would have it).

The question arises: who is my neighbor? It is the person nearest, or neediest? Is it both? What does it mean to be a neighbor in the 21st century? How do we judge? What is the criteria? We have to answer as the man asked by Jesus, who most proved to be the neighbor’ to the man in need? How am I ‘neighbor’ to others? This gospel given to us by the Church for today is very connected to the violence we are experiencing now in the USA. Our neighbor is not a definition. A way to get to the heart of knowing the meaning of what it means to be a neighbor: while we are called to be good as the samaritan was. Can the despised, hated person be the person we need to be a part of our life so as to know and love the Kingdom of God on earth, and in heaven? In this way a new humanity is generated by the act of mercy; a new creation is made known to the world. Remember, Samaritans and Jews are enemies in the time of Jesus. Jerusalem is symbolic of heaven, the way we ought to be by God’s grace; Jerecho is symbolic of sin, a city of dysfunction. As the narrative goes, a man gets robbed and beaten going from Jerusalem to Jericho and he cannot help himself and needs someone. The priest and Levite represent the officials of religion and are twisted in the spiritual life and refuse to help the man in need. The Samaritan, the outsider, whose gaze is compassionate. Think of the samaritan and how he, the hated person of Israel, helps the person who hates him. The Samaritan for us is Jesus Christ –the outsider, the hated man, the one who is a slave (as St Paul would say) — He pours into our souls oil and wine (the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination and the Eucharist). July is the month of the Precious Blood and here we believe that Christ pours into us His life-giving blood. Thus, making Jesus the Savior –the one who heals. Just as the Good Samaritan brings the man to an inn and pays the price for the service; we read and hear this narrative and know that Jesus Christ brings us to the community of faith, the Church and pays the price for our healing, to save us.

Would Jesus be partial in His concern, his love if He loved only those who agreed with Him, and did what He said to do? Recall Jesus’ interchange on with the people around Him as He hung on the Cross. Jesus asks in today’s parable who cared most for the victim. The answer came: the one who treated the man with mercy. The response Jesus gave was, “Go and do likewise.” Is it possible for us to live in this manner?

Our meditation and our Christian work today is to ponder and to act upon this final sentence: go and do likewise. The teaching is clear: ‘real mercy (compassion) drives action’. This is a story of our fall and redemption. Yet, this gospel narrative is more than just identifying the neighbor, doing good, and being the best we can be –it is about how God the Father calls us into His presence by forgiving our sin and redeeming us through the sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son.

The patristic theologian Origen once said, “The saying: Be imitators of me as I am of Christ makes it clear that we can imitate Christ by showing mercy to those who have fallen into the hands of brigands. We can go to them, bandage their wounds after pouring in oil and wine, place them on our own mount, and bear their burdens.”

And if you need more help,

Saint Gregory Nazianzen taught: “You who are strong, help the weak. You who are rich, help the poor. You who stand upright, help the fallen and the crushed. You who are joyful, comfort those in sadness. You who enjoy all good fortune, help those who have met with disaster. Give something in thanksgiving to God that you are of those who can give help, and not of those who stand and wait for it.”

The human way of proceeding is usually one in which it is easier to show mercy for people we don’t see (hungry children of Africa, earthquake victims drug abusers); we can give money in the collection and not have to personally engage the other. Yet, some spurn the weak and hate their fellow man and woman. The challenge, therefore with the Christian, is to have mercy for those who we might not expect to have or to show mercy upon. In mercy, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom is made manifest. Ultimately, both those we do not see AND those we do see, need to have our mercy and the mercy of God (my sister, my alcoholic priest, my boss who knows only anger and resentment, the policeman, the person who does not obey traffic laws). Follow Jesus, and live the unexpected grace offered.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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