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GOSPEL Reading and Reflections for the Mass of the day
March 18, 1998
Wednesday, March 18:
Weekday in the Third Week of Lent
Optional feast of SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, Bishop and Doctor
First Reading: Deuteronomy 4: 1, 5-9
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 147: 12-13, 15-16, 19-20
Gospel Reading: Matthew 5: 17-19
SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, BISHOP AND DOCTOR
Born in Jerusalem in 315, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem was ordained by Saint Maximus and was charged to teach the catechumens until he succeeded Maximus as bishop of Jerusalem in 349. However, after eight years the Arian heresy reared its ugly head and the Arian bishop of Caesarea Acacius claimed ecclesiastical charge over Jerusalem and had Cyril not only expelled, but condemned by an Arian synod on the false charges of selling Church possessions. Cyril was forced to retreat to Tarsus where he bided his time until 357 when the Council of Selucia reinstated him. But Acacius retaliated by convincing the Roman Emperor Constantius II by having him expelled again. However, when Constantius died two years later his successor Julian the Apostate recalled Cyril. This roller coaster continued in 367 when the new emperor Valens expelled all ecclesiastics who Julian had reinstated. Nine years later Cyril finally returned to Jerusalem but was still under investigation. In an effort to clear his name and the situation the Council of Antioch dispatched Saint Gregory of Nyssa to Palestine to do a thorough investigation. Gregory's findings, which unearthed the corruption within the Arian administration in Jerusalem, totally exonerated Cyril of any wrong doing and upheld him as an orthodox bishop who had been loyal to the faith throughout his life. In 381 Cyril and Gregory took an active role in the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople which officially recognized Cyril's authenticity as bishop of Jerusalem. At that same council the Nicene Creed was made official and Cyril concurred with everything within its text. A life-long opponent of Arianism, which denied Christ's divinity and the Holy Spirit, Cyril signed a document which condemned those who held to any kind of Arian thoughts, especially the peoples of Macedonia. After 35 years as a bishop, Cyril died peacefully in 386. Nearly fifteen centuries later Cyril was finally recognized as a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1882, largely because of the authenticity, clarity and truth of his 24 catechetical lessons that had been passed down through the ages.
March 19, 1998
Thursday, March 19:
Solemnity of SAINT JOSEPH, Foster father of Jesus, Protector and Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
First Reading: 2 Samuel 7: 4-5, 12-14, 16
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 89: 2-5, 27, 29, 37
Second Reading: Romans 4: 13, 16-18, 22
Gospel Reading: Matthew 1: 16, 18-21, 24 or Luke 2: 41-51
SAINT JOSEPH, FOSTER FATHER OF JESUS, PROTECTOR AND SPOUSE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
So much has been said about this very special, holy, pure and quiet saint...and yet, so little is really known about Saint Joseph.
No one can pinpoint the exact year he died, but we do know he died a happy, peaceful death richly deserved because of his obedience to the Will of God in being the earthly guardian of God's Own Son and the Immaculate Mother Mary through whom He chose to fulfill the Act of Redemption. Saint Joseph is the saint most often invoked for the grace of a happy death and the assurance that Jesus is spiritually present at that time with every dying soul. While Mary was the heart of the Holy Family, Joseph was the head, yet always submitting to a higher Power in all things...from accepting Mary's virgin birth as truly from God to rallying the family in the cold of the night to flee from Herod's wrath into a land he knew nothing about, only that God would not abandon him or those he was charged to protect. Every virtue can be attributed to this saint who bridged the Old Law, born into the royal family of David's lineage, and the New Law and guided to maturity his foster Son Jesus Christ, our Savior. Because of his role in protecting the Holy Family he has been designated Protector of Holy Mother Church as well. Yet, it is surprising to discover that this pivotal saint was not really recognized until the fourth century and then that veneration was in the Eastern Church because of the apocryphal History of Joseph. In the Western Church only in the ninth century was there first any mention of Joseph and that was in Irish circles. It wasn't until the fifteenth century that Joseph began receiving widespread veneration in the West when his feast was introduced into the Roman Calendar in the year 1479. It took two great saints to promote his cause for universal appeal - that of Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint Francis de Sales, both doctors of the Church. This recognition finally came in 1870 when Pope Pius IX declared him Patron of the Universal Church. More honors were extended to Joseph in 1889 when Pope Leo XIII made Joseph the model for all fathers in his encyclical Quanquam pluries in which he confirmed "that his pre-eminent sanctity places him next to the Blessed Virgin among the saints." Other recent Popes have also extended special titles on Joseph, among them "Protector of the worker" by Pope Benedict XV, "Patron of Social Justice" by Pope Pius XI and an additional feast day was added in 1955 by Pope Pius XII - May 1 to observe the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker.
March 18, 1998 volume 9, no. 54 LITURGY