26Sep September 26th. Saturday, Week 25

Saints Cosmas and Damian, martyrs (see below)

1st Reading: Zechariah 2:5-11

Jerusalem will be a centre of peace where many will come to dwell

For I will be a wall of fire all around it, says the Lord, and I will be the glory within it.”

Up, up! Flee from the land of the north, says the Lord; for I have spread you abroad like the four winds of heaven, says the Lord. Up! Escape to Zion, you that live with daughter Babylon. For thus said the Lord of hosts (after his glory sent me) regarding the nations that plundered you: Truly, one who touches you touches the apple of my eye. See now, I am going to raise my hand against them, and they shall become plunder for their own slaves. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me.

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst, says the Lord. Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in your midst. And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.

Gospel: Luke 9:43-45

Jesus’ prophesies his death. The disciples fear to ask about its meaning

And all the crowd were astounded at the greatness of God. While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.” But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

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Saints Cosmas and Damian, martyrs (see below)

The twin brothers, Cosmas and Damian, were Christian physicians in Cilicia, Turkey. Arrested during the Diocletian persecution, they refused to recant and after savage tortures they were beheaded, along with their three younger brothers. In the Eastern Orthodox Church they are venerated as the Unmercenary Physicians (anargyroi, “without money”). In Rome pope Felix IV (526–530) rededicated the Library of Peace in the Forum of Vespasian as the basilica of Ss Cosmas and Damian. The church still has sixth-century mosaics illustrating the martyr twins. Cosmas and Damian are invoked in the Roman Canon of the Mass and are held as the patrons of physicians and surgeons. Icons depict them vested as holding medicine boxes and a spoon with which to dispense medicine

Life’s possibilities

The text from Zechariah is taken from a series of visions in the early part of the prophecy. Visions are necessary for survival when times are bleak, and Zechariah lived during the early postexilic period when the temple was still in ruins, the people indifferent to the temple and their high priest Joshua was clad in filthy garments (Zech 3:3). This was prophet who coined the phrase, “day of small beginnings” (4:10), but under the impact of other prophets (Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Isaiah), Zechariah dreams of a better future and of a Jerusalem so peaceful that no walls are needed, having the glory of the Lord in its midst.

Zechariah’s message is that we don’t need to stay gloomy and pessimistic. Each sorrow can be transformed into a reason for hope. The prophet speaks in God’s name, “I will favour Jerusalem and the house of Judah; do not fear. These are the things you should do: speak the truth to one another; let there be honesty and peace in the judgments at your gates.” He combined visions with earthy practicality, for he appears also as a moral reformer. Zechariah strikes us as the type of young person to whom the wisdom writings were addressed, “Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart, the vision of your eyes.”

In the Gospel Jesus was preparing himself and his disciples for the difficult time ahead, when he will be “delivered into the hands of men.” If the disciples failed to understand this, it was because they were unwilling to believe their ears. They would not question him about it, lest Jesus repeat what they thought he said. But he repeated the warning as he drew closer to Jerusalem. Hope for resurrection grew out of the reality of death. Like Zechariah, Jesus could see visions to sustain him through the bleakness of life and arrive at life’s eternal possibilities.

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What really drives us?

The admiration of others can be quite fickle. It can be there one day and gone the next. Jesus was very aware of that in regard to himself. At times everyone was full of admiration for all that he did. But at the very moment when he was highly admired as a celebrity he says to his disciples, “the Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men.” Jesus was not driven by the need for celebrity. He was driven by the desire to do God’s will, to complete the work God had given him. That is why he had to go to Jerusalem, dangerous as it was, because that city too needed to hear the goods news of the presence of God’s rule in Jesus’ life and ministry. The life of Jesus invites us to ask ourselves, “What is it that drives us?” Is it the need for human approval and recognition or is it something deeper? We are all called to make Jesus’ desires and priorities our own, to be about God the Father’s business as he was, to keep doing God’s will and sharing in God’s work, in keeping with whatever energies and gifts we have at this particular time and place in our life. Then we will know not just the surface pleasure that comes with human approval but the deeper joy that comes from living in tune with God’s purpose for our lives. [Martin Hogan]


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