Father, I have come to the understanding that Jesus asks very little from us, only that we accept him as our friend and love him and care for one another. How simple! And yet how difficult! Please give me grace not to disappoint him, who has given his all for me. I ask this in Jesus's name, Amen.
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St. Cyril of Alexandria
Saints are not born with halos around their heads. Cyril, recognized as a great teacher of the Church, began his career as archbishop of Alexandria, Egypt, with impulsive, often violent, actions. He pillaged and closed the churches of the Novatian heretics (who required those who denied the faith to be rebaptized), participated in the deposing of St. John Chrysostom (September 13) and confiscated Jewish property, expelling the Jews from Alexandria in retaliation for their attacks on Christians. Cyril's importance for theology and Church history lies in his championing the cause of orthodoxy against the heresy of Nestorius, who taught that in Christ there were two persons, one human and one divine.
The controversy centered around the two natures in Christ. Nestorius would not agree to the title "God-bearer" for Mary (January 1). He preferred "Christ-bearer," saying there are two distinct persons in Christ (divine and human) joined only by a moral union. He said Mary was not the mother of God but only of the man Christ, whose humanity was only a temple of God. Nestorianism implied that the humanity of Christ was a mere disguise.
Presiding as the pope's representative at the Council of Ephesus (431), Cyril condemned Nestorianism and proclaimed Mary truly the "God-bearer" (the mother of the one Person who is truly God and truly human). In the confusion that followed, Cyril was deposed and imprisoned for three months, after which he was welcomed back to Alexandria as a second Athanasius (the champion against Arianism).
Besides needing to soften some of his opposition to those who had sided with Nestorius, Cyril had difficulties with some of his own allies, who thought he had gone too far, sacrificing not only language but orthodoxy. Until his death, his policy of moderation kept his extreme partisans under control. On his deathbed, despite pressure, he refused to condemn the teacher of Nestorius.
Lives of the saints are valuable not only for the virtue they reveal but also for the less admirable qualities that also appear. Holiness is a gift of God to us as human beings. Life is a process. We respond to God's gift, but sometimes with a lot of zigzagging. If Cyril had been more patient and diplomatic, the Nestorian Church might not have risen and maintained power so long. But even saints must grow out of immaturity, narrowness and selfishness. It is because they—and we—do grow, that we are truly saints, persons who live the life of God.
Cyril's theme: "Only if it is one and the same Christ who is consubstantial with the Father and with men can he save us, for the meeting ground between God and man is the flesh of Christ. Only if this is God's own flesh can man come into contact with Christ's divinity through his humanity. Because of our kinship with the Word made flesh we are sons of God. The Eucharist consummates our kinship with the word, our communion with the Father, our sharing in the divine nature—there is very real contact between our body and that of the Word" (New Catholic Encyclopedia).
Lord, help me to be fully alive to your Holy presence. Enfold me in your love. Let my heart become one with yours.
Lord grant me the grace to have freedom of the spirit. Cleanse my heart and soul so I may live joyously in your love.
In the presence of my loving Creator, I look honestly at my feelings over the last day, the highs, the lows and the level ground. Can I see where the Lord has been present?
The Word of God
Monday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 377
Reading 1 AM 2:6-10, 13-16
Thus says the LORD: For three crimes of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke my word; Because they sell the just man for silver, and the poor man for a pair of sandals. They trample the heads of the weak into the dust of the earth, and force the lowly out of the way. Son and father go to the same prostitute, profaning my holy name. Upon garments taken in pledge they recline beside any altar; And the wine of those who have been fined they drink in the house of their god.
Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorites before them, who were as tall as the cedars, and as strong as the oak trees. I destroyed their fruit above, and their roots beneath. It was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, and who led you through the desert for forty years, to occupy the land of the Amorites.
Beware, I will crush you into the ground as a wagon crushes when laden with sheaves. Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong man shall not retain his strength; The warrior shall not save his life, nor the bowman stand his ground; The swift of foot shall not escape, nor the horseman save his life. And the most stouthearted of warriors shall flee naked on that day, says the LORD.
R. (22a) Remember this, you who never think of God. "Why do you recite my statutes, and profess my covenant with your mouth, Though you hate discipline and cast my words behind you?"
R. Remember this, you who never think of God. "When you see a thief, you keep pace with him, and with adulterers you throw in your lot. To your mouth you give free rein for evil, you harness your tongue to deceit."
R. Remember this, you who never think of God. "You sit speaking against your brother; against your mother's son you spread rumors. When you do these things, shall I be deaf to it? Or do you think that I am like yourself? I will correct you by drawing them up before your eyes."
R. Remember this, you who never think of God. "Consider this, you who forget God, lest I rend you and there be no one to rescue you. He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me; and to him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God."
R. Remember this, you who never think of God. Alleluia PS 95:8
R. Alleluia, alleluia. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MT 8:18-22
When Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other shore. A scribe approached and said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus answered him, "Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head." Another of his disciples said to him, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father." But Jesus answered him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead."
Some thoughts on today's scripture
Jesus uses the starkest possible words to stress the radicality of his calling. Unlike us, he is not so interested in numbers but in the quality of the commitment of the disciple, in the readiness to follow in the footsteps of the Master. 'The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head'. Jesus was born in a manger and died on the cross, outside the city walls. No wonder that we discover that following him means some renunciation of material goods and comforts for everyone, though to different degrees.
What is stirring in me as I pray? Am I consoled, troubled, left cold? I imagine Jesus himself standing or sitting at my side and share my feelings with him.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Optional Memorial)
Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead. (Matthew 8:22)
Have you ever heard of the Shurhold Trap?
Sold in 1912, the Shurhold Trap was an animal trap that used an unusual strategy: the trapper would put a cone-shaped container narrow side down into the ground and place food inside of it. The trap had pointy screws encircling the opening. So when a raccoon reached in and made a fist to grab the food, the screws would prevent it from pulling its paw out unless it dropped its treasure. Determined to keep the food, the raccoon would refuse to open its fist and would be stuck there, ready for the trappers to catch it. It could have easily escaped by leaving the food behind, but for some reason, that rarely happened—not even to save its life.
Perhaps this concept of letting go of something in order to be free can help us understand today's Gospel reading. Here we see Jesus issuing the ultimate challenge of discipleship: release your earthly treasure so that you can be free to follow me and delight in the richness of the life I have for you.
Now, Jesus isn't telling us to abandon our families. No, he wants us to release those things—or those thoughts—that hold us back from living fully with him. Remember, the disciples left their homes rather quickly, but they had a harder time letting go of their prejudices against Samaritans, their perceptions of Gentiles, and their desire to sit on thrones of power. Did abandoning those thought patterns make them sad or lessen their lives in any way? No. It brought them nothing but a new joyous life in Christ—the radiant joy that became a trademark of the early Church.
Today, try to think about what things or ideas you may be grasping that you need to release. Ask the Spirit to show you any prejudice, anger, or material possessions that may be holding you back from following God's plans for your life. Take the first step by loosening your grip on just one thing you embrace like a treasure. You'll find yourself just as free and joyful as the first believers!
"Lord, help me to let go of anything that inhibits my ability to love and follow you freely. Jesus, I want to follow your plans for my life."