Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

holy2b10.jpg

“They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for Trust in Jesus

St. Ignatius of Loyola

O Christ Jesus,

when all is darkness

and we feel our weakness and helplessness,

give us the sense of Your presence,

Your love, and Your strength.

Help us to have perfect trust

in Your protecting love

and strengthening power,

so that nothing may frighten or worry us,

for, living close to You,

we shall see Your hand,

Your purpose, Your will through all things, in Christ our Lord.  Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty and merciful God,

graciously keep from us all adversity,

so that, unhindered in mind and body alike,

we may pursue in freedom of heart,

the things that are yours.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

 

images

2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14

It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested

and tortured with whips and scourges by the king,

to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law.

One of the brothers, speaking for the others, said:

“What do you expect to achieve by questioning us?

We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.”

At the point of death he said:

“You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life,

but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.

It is for his laws that we are dying.”

After him the third suffered their cruel sport.

He put out his tongue at once when told to do so,

and bravely held out his hands, as he spoke these noble words:

“It was from Heaven that I received these;

for the sake of his laws I disdain them;

from him I hope to receive them again.”

Even the king and his attendants marveled at the young man’s courage,

because he regarded his sufferings as nothing.

After he had died,

they tortured and maltreated the fourth brother in the same way.

When he was near death, he said,

“It is my choice to die at the hands of men

with the hope God gives of being raised up by him;

but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 922 From apostolic times Christian virgins1 and widows2, called by the Lord to cling only to him with greater freedom of heart, body, and spirit, have decided with the Church’s approval to live in the respective status of virginity or perpetual chastity “for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.”3

1 Cf. Cor 7:34-36.

2 Cf. John Paul II, Vita consecrata 7.

3 Mt 19:12

APPLICATION

The example of these seven sons who, in the presence of one another and in the presence of their loving mother, were one by one slowly martyred for their faith, is an example that deserves to be forever preserved (and it is) in the annals of human history. Whether they expressed in words all that the inspired author attributes to them is not of great importance. They certainly expressed it in their pious and patient acceptance of their tortures at the hands of irreligious and inhuman tyrants. They were sustained and strengthened in their suffering by the pious exhortations of their truly loyal and faith-inspired mother. More especially were they sustained by the firm conviction that the God of the universe, the God of justice and love, for whose laws they were losing their earthly lives, had a glorious and eternal life in store for them.

Millions of Christians have died as noble martyrs for their faith, down through the ages. There are millions who are suffering slow martyrdom for that same faith today. They, however, had and have the example of Christ, the Son of God made man, who suffered the slow and cruel martyrdom of crucifixion for their takes. So in a sense the mother and seven brothers of today’s reading deserve greater admiration. However, it was the same God who gave the necessary grace to all martyrs. It is in the presence of that same God that all Jewish and Christian martyrs, and others who have died for conscience sake, are enjoying together their eternal reward today.

All of these are held up to us for our admiration, and we must indeed admire them. The atheist who has esteem for intellectual integrity and uprightness must admire one who is willing to sacrifice his life in defence of his convictions. However, for us Christians, admiration is not enough. Attempted imitation, at least is necessary. We may shrink now from the thought of ever having to face even half of what our martyrs suffered. They, too, most probably shivered at the very thought of what awaited them. But when the moment of trial came the grace of God gave them all the strength they needed. God’s grace would also come to our aid, if ever we were called on to suffer and die for our faith. Our only sure guarantee, however, is the present strength and meaningfulness of our faith in our daily lives.

There were many Jews in the days of the Maccabees who gave up their faith when the persecution began. There were many Christians, too, who went over to the enemy in order to save their earthly lives and property. There are many leaders of the anti-God and anti-Christian campaign today, who were once Christians of a kind. No martyr ever died willingly for a cause in which he did not believe. No Christian ever died for the faith unless he believed firmly in it and lived his daily life in accordance with its precepts.

This is a test which we can all apply to ourselves. We need not ask ourselves whether we would willingly accept torture and death for the sake of our faith. We must, however, ask ourselves if we are willingly and truly living that faith in our daily lives. That in itself is not an easy, painless effort for any one of us. For some it is one prolonged martyrdom. But think of the firm convictions that strengthened that Jewish mother and her seven sons. These convictions should be more firmly established still in the minds of all true Christians. If we are loyal to God, he will reward us. If we are faithful to his laws, he will be true to his promises. If, when called on to do so, we give our earthly lives for his sake, he has an eternal life of unending joy and happiness ready for us when we close our eyes in death.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

christ uncreated light.jpg

Ps 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15

Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

Hear, O LORD, a just suit;

attend to my outcry;

hearken to my prayer from lips without deceit.

Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

My steps have been steadfast in your paths,

my feet have not faltered.

I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;

incline your ear to me; hear my word.

Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

Keep me as the apple of your eye,

hide me in the shadow of your wings.

But I in justice shall behold your face;

on waking I shall be content in your presence.

Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

READING II

MostHolyTrinity-icon1200dpi-crop.jpg

 

2 Thes 2:16-3:5

Brothers and sisters:

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,

who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement

and good hope through his grace,

encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed

and word.

Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us,

so that the word of the Lord may speed forward and be glorified,

as it did among you,

and that we may be delivered from perverse and wicked people,

for not all have faith.

But the Lord is faithful;

he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.

We are confident of you in the Lord that what we instruct you,

you are doing and will continue to do.

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God

and to the endurance of Christ.

APPLICATION

St. Paul was a man of God and one full of human understanding. He knew and appreciated the difficulties that converts from paganism to Christianity had to endure. He was ever ready to help them. He tells them that he is begging Christ, and God the Father, to console and strengthen them so that they may continue to live their faith.

He then asks for their prayers. These prayers are not for any personal needs of his own, and he had temporal and spiritual needs, but that the Gospel, the word of the Lord, might make progress, might reach out to more and more people. He is making this very same request of us today, through this reading from his Epistle.

We are living in one of the most troubled periods of man’s history on earth. A great part of our world has made immense progress in science, technology, medicine and other branches of learning, has raised the standard of living, increased the comforts of life and lengthened life expectancy. Yet, man’s social conscience has not kept pace with his material improvement. In fact, individual men and whole nations, have become more selfish and less inclined to take a human interest in their less fortunate neighbors.

There are millions living in destitution, not only in the underdeveloped parts of our globe but amidst the wealth and luxury of the richer nations too. Communism has been proposed and is being put into action in parts of the world as a cure for the unequal distribution of this world’s goods. However, the poor and the powerless under communism find that they have exchanged one set of selfish masters for a more selfish and more merciless set of tyrants. The theory of the common ownership of all things is based on the false premise that all men are equally honest, and that each will play his full part in producing the goods necessary for all. A more basic error still in the communist theory, is that man’s life ends like the cow or the ass, in the grave. There is no God and therefore no future life according to the communist preachers. If that theory were true, by what right could the rulers expect honesty, truth, self-sacrifice, brotherly love, from their subjects? If there is no higher law-giver and no higher ruler than the whip of the slave-driver, why should any sane man exert himself or put himself out to provide for the common good, as long as he can escape the eye of the whip-holder? What have men in common, if they are no different and have no higher end or purpose in life, than that of a herd of cattle in a field? What basis is this for brotherly love or interest in one’s neighbor?

Bad philosophy and worse theology can never cure this world’s ills. We need the truths of Christianity put into daily practise by rich and by poor, by nations as well as by individuals. All men on earth are adopted sons of God. All men on earth are brothers of one another, because they are brothers of Christ who became one of us, in order to bring all of us into the family of God. We must let these basic truths govern our lives and our actions. We must do all in our power to give the knowledge of these truths of the Christian faith to all the nations of the earth. St. Paul asks us today, to pray that this will come to pass. We must listen to his request. We should never allow a day to pass without fervently begging God to spread his kingdom throughout the whole world.

We must also give the lesson of good example to all those with whom we come in contact. We must take an active part and give whatever aid we can to those truly Christian societies which are working so hard to improve the lot of the underprivileged at home and abroad. We must exert our Christian influence on public opinion and on national politics. It should not be the success of one particular party that should interest us but the Christian principles of our public representatives. If the Christian nations were truly Christian, brotherly love would spread out from them to the whole world. The causes of unrest and strife within nations would be removed. Fear of aggression among nations would gradually disappear. Vast sums wasted on weapons of war could be spent in the improvement of the underprivileged nations.

The greatest need of our world today is a return to the open acknowledgement of the Fatherhood of God and the true brotherhood of all men. When these basic truths penetrate the social consciences of men and of nations, we can expect an end to hatred and division, to wars and to the wanton destruction of the gifts which God gave us. He gave us these to make our lives less difficult and more productive of good works.

GOSPEL

holy2b10

Lk 20:27-38

Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection,

came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying,

“Teacher, Moses wrote for us,

If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child,

his brother must take the wife

and raise up descendants for his brother.

Now there were seven brothers;

the first married a woman but died childless.

Then the second and the third married her,

and likewise all the seven died childless.

Finally the woman also died.

Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?

For all seven had been married to her.”

Jesus said to them,

“The children of this age marry and remarry;

but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age

and to the resurrection of the dead

neither marry nor are given in marriage.

They can no longer die,

for they are like angels;

and they are the children of God

because they are the ones who will rise.

That the dead will rise

even Moses made known in the passage about the bush,

when he called out ‘Lord, ‘

the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;

and he is not God of the dead, but of the living,

for to him all are alive.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 330 As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness.1

1 Cf. Pius XII, Humani generis: DS 3891; Lk 20:36; Dan 10:9- 12.

APPLICATION

We can thank the Sadducees today. They came to our Lord with what they thought was a case that would make the doctrine of the resurrection look very ridiculous. It would have appeared so, if it were understood in the crude sense which they gave it, namely, that we would come forth again from the grave in the very same bodies which we now have, with all their needs and instincts.

Our Lord corrected that erroneous idea. We shall all rise to a new and eternal life, in a form and an existence very different from that of our present life. Thus, the question of ownership of wives or property will not, and cannot, arise in our new life. He gave us a brief but basic description of what our risen bodies will be. I am sure that most of us would love to know a lot more about what our future state will be like. But if we knew all, then where would our faith and trust in God come in? Some saints are said to have had brief visions of the joys of heaven. They wanted to die immediately in order to get there. God wants each one of us to earn heaven, by living our life on earth, and trusting in his word that heaven will be our eternal home if we do our part here below.

In his brief answer to the Sadducees, Christ gives us the essential facts concerning our future status. First, he affirms that all those who have proved themselves worthy while in this life will rise to an eternal life. In that life we will become like angels. We will not be angels, pure spirits without bodies, but we will be like them in that our bodies will become “spiritual.” They will lose all the restrictions and limitations imposed on them now, as mere material composites. They will no longer be subject to decline and decay as they now are. Therefore, they can never suffer from pain or sickness or weakness of any sort.

Second, he clearly affirmed that those risen from the dead are no longer liable to death. Leaving aside the other greater joys of heaven, such as the Beatific Vision, and the close association with Christ our Savior in his risen humanity, the meeting with our Blessed Mother and with all the Saints, including our relatives and friends, what a source of happiness and joy will it be for us, to know that we can never die again! The happiness and joy which we shall have will never end. We all have had moments of happiness in this life, great as these moments were, the thought that they had to end too soon cast a shadow on our joy. There will be no shadow to darken or lessen our future joy and happiness.

Many Christians, even good, pious Christians, fear death and try to keep the very thought of it far from their minds. This is very understandable for one who believes (if there is such a one) that death is the end. To a certain degree it is understandable in the case of the believer or the Christian, whose conscience is not at peace with God. That latter, however, has the means of removing his fears by removing his sins, and by putting himself right with God. The normal, pious Christian should see death as what it is, an end of his time of probation and the door to his eternal reward. It is not normal for a student to dread his graduation day. Death for the God-fearing, honest Christian is graduation day. Therefore, no Christian should be afraid of it.

Of course, part of the fears which death instills come from the fear of the judgment which accompanies it. If we think every now and then, that our death is around the comer, we will turn to the God of mercy, to our loving Father, and ask for his forgiveness. He never refuses pardon to those who with a sincere heart, ask for it.

Let each one of us look into his own conscience this morning. Let him ask himself, how he would fare if death should claim him tonight. If there are sins on my conscience, which I would not want there when facing my just Judge, I still have time to approach the merciful Father. The Christian who does this daily, or even weekly, will not worry when death calls. He can rest assured that it is the beginning of the true and everlasting life, planned for him by God before time began.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

What Heaven Means

If heaven means being in Christ, then it also means co-being with all those who together form the one Body of Christ. There is no isolation in heaven. It is the open society of the saints and, consequently, also the fulfillment of all human togetherness, not in competition with the Beatific Vision, but rather in consequence thereof. Christian veneration of the saints depends on this knowledge, not on a mythical omniscience about the saints, but simply on the inviolable openness of every member of the whole Body of Christ to every other member, which presumes the unlimited closeness of love and is sure of finding God in everyone and everyone in God. There results from this an anthropological component. The integration of the I into the Body of Christ, its being at the disposal of the Lord and of everyone else, is not a dissolution of the I but its purification, which, at the same time, fulfills its highest potential. That is why heaven is different for each individual. Everyone sees God in his own way; everyone receives the love of the whole Body in his own unalterable uniqueness.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to Our Holy Guardian Angels

Heavenly Father, Your infinite love for us has chosen a blessed angel in heaven and appointed him our guide during this earthly pilgrimage. Accept our thanks for so great a blessing. Grant that we may experience the assistance of our holy protector in all our necessities. And you, holy, loving angel and guide, watch over us with all the tenderness of your angelic heart. Keep us always on the way that leads to heaven, and cease not to pray for us until we have attained our final destiny, eternal salvation. Then we shall love you for all eternity. We shall praise and glorify you unceasingly for all the good you have done for us while here on earth. Especially be a faithful and watchful protector of our children. Take our place, and supply what may be wanting to us through human frailty, short-sightedness, or sinful neglect. Lighten, O you perfect servants of God, our heavy task. Guide our children, that they may become like unto Jesus, may imitate Him faithfully, and persevere till they attain eternal life. Amen.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=849

 

Posted in Catholic

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

holy2b10.jpg

“They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for Trust in Jesus

St. Ignatius of Loyola

O Christ Jesus,

when all is darkness

and we feel our weakness and helplessness,

give us the sense of Your presence,

Your love, and Your strength.

Help us to have perfect trust

in Your protecting love

and strengthening power,

so that nothing may frighten or worry us,

for, living close to You,

we shall see Your hand,

Your purpose, Your will through all things, in Christ our Lord.  Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty and merciful God,

graciously keep from us all adversity,

so that, unhindered in mind and body alike,

we may pursue in freedom of heart,

the things that are yours.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

images

2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14

It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested

and tortured with whips and scourges by the king,

to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law.

One of the brothers, speaking for the others, said:

“What do you expect to achieve by questioning us?

We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.”

At the point of death he said:

“You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life,

but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.

It is for his laws that we are dying.”

After him the third suffered their cruel sport.

He put out his tongue at once when told to do so,

and bravely held out his hands, as he spoke these noble words:

“It was from Heaven that I received these;

for the sake of his laws I disdain them;

from him I hope to receive them again.”

Even the king and his attendants marveled at the young man’s courage,

because he regarded his sufferings as nothing.

After he had died,

they tortured and maltreated the fourth brother in the same way.

When he was near death, he said,

“It is my choice to die at the hands of men

with the hope God gives of being raised up by him;

but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 922 From apostolic times Christian virgins1 and widows2, called by the Lord to cling only to him with greater freedom of heart, body, and spirit, have decided with the Church’s approval to live in the respective status of virginity or perpetual chastity “for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.”3

1 Cf. Cor 7:34-36.

2 Cf. John Paul II, Vita consecrata 7.

3 Mt 19:12

APPLICATION

The example of these seven sons who, in the presence of one another and in the presence of their loving mother, were one by one slowly martyred for their faith, is an example that deserves to be forever preserved (and it is) in the annals of human history. Whether they expressed in words all that the inspired author attributes to them is not of great importance. They certainly expressed it in their pious and patient acceptance of their tortures at the hands of irreligious and inhuman tyrants. They were sustained and strengthened in their suffering by the pious exhortations of their truly loyal and faith-inspired mother. More especially were they sustained by the firm conviction that the God of the universe, the God of justice and love, for whose laws they were losing their earthly lives, had a glorious and eternal life in store for them.

Millions of Christians have died as noble martyrs for their faith, down through the ages. There are millions who are suffering slow martyrdom for that same faith today. They, however, had and have the example of Christ, the Son of God made man, who suffered the slow and cruel martyrdom of crucifixion for their takes. So in a sense the mother and seven brothers of today’s reading deserve greater admiration. However, it was the same God who gave the necessary grace to all martyrs. It is in the presence of that same God that all Jewish and Christian martyrs, and others who have died for conscience sake, are enjoying together their eternal reward today.

All of these are held up to us for our admiration, and we must indeed admire them. The atheist who has esteem for intellectual integrity and uprightness must admire one who is willing to sacrifice his life in defence of his convictions. However, for us Christians, admiration is not enough. Attempted imitation, at least is necessary. We may shrink now from the thought of ever having to face even half of what our martyrs suffered. They, too, most probably shivered at the very thought of what awaited them. But when the moment of trial came the grace of God gave them all the strength they needed. God’s grace would also come to our aid, if ever we were called on to suffer and die for our faith. Our only sure guarantee, however, is the present strength and meaningfulness of our faith in our daily lives.

There were many Jews in the days of the Maccabees who gave up their faith when the persecution began. There were many Christians, too, who went over to the enemy in order to save their earthly lives and property. There are many leaders of the anti-God and anti-Christian campaign today, who were once Christians of a kind. No martyr ever died willingly for a cause in which he did not believe. No Christian ever died for the faith unless he believed firmly in it and lived his daily life in accordance with its precepts.

This is a test which we can all apply to ourselves. We need not ask ourselves whether we would willingly accept torture and death for the sake of our faith. We must, however, ask ourselves if we are willingly and truly living that faith in our daily lives. That in itself is not an easy, painless effort for any one of us. For some it is one prolonged martyrdom. But think of the firm convictions that strengthened that Jewish mother and her seven sons. These convictions should be more firmly established still in the minds of all true Christians. If we are loyal to God, he will reward us. If we are faithful to his laws, he will be true to his promises. If, when called on to do so, we give our earthly lives for his sake, he has an eternal life of unending joy and happiness ready for us when we close our eyes in death.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

christ uncreated light.jpg

Ps 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15

Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

Hear, O LORD, a just suit;

attend to my outcry;

hearken to my prayer from lips without deceit.

Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

My steps have been steadfast in your paths,

my feet have not faltered.

I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;

incline your ear to me; hear my word.

Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

Keep me as the apple of your eye,

hide me in the shadow of your wings.

But I in justice shall behold your face;

on waking I shall be content in your presence.

Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

READING II

MostHolyTrinity-icon1200dpi-crop.jpg

2 Thes 2:16-3:5

Brothers and sisters:

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,

who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement

and good hope through his grace,

encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed

and word.

Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us,

so that the word of the Lord may speed forward and be glorified,

as it did among you,

and that we may be delivered from perverse and wicked people,

for not all have faith.

But the Lord is faithful;

he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.

We are confident of you in the Lord that what we instruct you,

you are doing and will continue to do.

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God

and to the endurance of Christ.

APPLICATION

St. Paul was a man of God and one full of human understanding. He knew and appreciated the difficulties that converts from paganism to Christianity had to endure. He was ever ready to help them. He tells them that he is begging Christ, and God the Father, to console and strengthen them so that they may continue to live their faith.

He then asks for their prayers. These prayers are not for any personal needs of his own, and he had temporal and spiritual needs, but that the Gospel, the word of the Lord, might make progress, might reach out to more and more people. He is making this very same request of us today, through this reading from his Epistle.

We are living in one of the most troubled periods of man’s history on earth. A great part of our world has made immense progress in science, technology, medicine and other branches of learning, has raised the standard of living, increased the comforts of life and lengthened life expectancy. Yet, man’s social conscience has not kept pace with his material improvement. In fact, individual men and whole nations, have become more selfish and less inclined to take a human interest in their less fortunate neighbors.

There are millions living in destitution, not only in the underdeveloped parts of our globe but amidst the wealth and luxury of the richer nations too. Communism has been proposed and is being put into action in parts of the world as a cure for the unequal distribution of this world’s goods. However, the poor and the powerless under communism find that they have exchanged one set of selfish masters for a more selfish and more merciless set of tyrants. The theory of the common ownership of all things is based on the false premise that all men are equally honest, and that each will play his full part in producing the goods necessary for all. A more basic error still in the communist theory, is that man’s life ends like the cow or the ass, in the grave. There is no God and therefore no future life according to the communist preachers. If that theory were true, by what right could the rulers expect honesty, truth, self-sacrifice, brotherly love, from their subjects? If there is no higher law-giver and no higher ruler than the whip of the slave-driver, why should any sane man exert himself or put himself out to provide for the common good, as long as he can escape the eye of the whip-holder? What have men in common, if they are no different and have no higher end or purpose in life, than that of a herd of cattle in a field? What basis is this for brotherly love or interest in one’s neighbor?

Bad philosophy and worse theology can never cure this world’s ills. We need the truths of Christianity put into daily practise by rich and by poor, by nations as well as by individuals. All men on earth are adopted sons of God. All men on earth are brothers of one another, because they are brothers of Christ who became one of us, in order to bring all of us into the family of God. We must let these basic truths govern our lives and our actions. We must do all in our power to give the knowledge of these truths of the Christian faith to all the nations of the earth. St. Paul asks us today, to pray that this will come to pass. We must listen to his request. We should never allow a day to pass without fervently begging God to spread his kingdom throughout the whole world.

We must also give the lesson of good example to all those with whom we come in contact. We must take an active part and give whatever aid we can to those truly Christian societies which are working so hard to improve the lot of the underprivileged at home and abroad. We must exert our Christian influence on public opinion and on national politics. It should not be the success of one particular party that should interest us but the Christian principles of our public representatives. If the Christian nations were truly Christian, brotherly love would spread out from them to the whole world. The causes of unrest and strife within nations would be removed. Fear of aggression among nations would gradually disappear. Vast sums wasted on weapons of war could be spent in the improvement of the underprivileged nations.

The greatest need of our world today is a return to the open acknowledgement of the Fatherhood of God and the true brotherhood of all men. When these basic truths penetrate the social consciences of men and of nations, we can expect an end to hatred and division, to wars and to the wanton destruction of the gifts which God gave us. He gave us these to make our lives less difficult and more productive of good works.

GOSPEL

holy2b10

Lk 20:27-38

Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection,

came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying,

“Teacher, Moses wrote for us,

If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child,

his brother must take the wife

and raise up descendants for his brother.

Now there were seven brothers;

the first married a woman but died childless.

Then the second and the third married her,

and likewise all the seven died childless.

Finally the woman also died.

Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?

For all seven had been married to her.”

Jesus said to them,

“The children of this age marry and remarry;

but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age

and to the resurrection of the dead

neither marry nor are given in marriage.

They can no longer die,

for they are like angels;

and they are the children of God

because they are the ones who will rise.

That the dead will rise

even Moses made known in the passage about the bush,

when he called out ‘Lord, ‘

the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;

and he is not God of the dead, but of the living,

for to him all are alive.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 330 As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness.1

1 Cf. Pius XII, Humani generis: DS 3891; Lk 20:36; Dan 10:9- 12.

APPLICATION

We can thank the Sadducees today. They came to our Lord with what they thought was a case that would make the doctrine of the resurrection look very ridiculous. It would have appeared so, if it were understood in the crude sense which they gave it, namely, that we would come forth again from the grave in the very same bodies which we now have, with all their needs and instincts.

Our Lord corrected that erroneous idea. We shall all rise to a new and eternal life, in a form and an existence very different from that of our present life. Thus, the question of ownership of wives or property will not, and cannot, arise in our new life. He gave us a brief but basic description of what our risen bodies will be. I am sure that most of us would love to know a lot more about what our future state will be like. But if we knew all, then where would our faith and trust in God come in? Some saints are said to have had brief visions of the joys of heaven. They wanted to die immediately in order to get there. God wants each one of us to earn heaven, by living our life on earth, and trusting in his word that heaven will be our eternal home if we do our part here below.

In his brief answer to the Sadducees, Christ gives us the essential facts concerning our future status. First, he affirms that all those who have proved themselves worthy while in this life will rise to an eternal life. In that life we will become like angels. We will not be angels, pure spirits without bodies, but we will be like them in that our bodies will become “spiritual.” They will lose all the restrictions and limitations imposed on them now, as mere material composites. They will no longer be subject to decline and decay as they now are. Therefore, they can never suffer from pain or sickness or weakness of any sort.

Second, he clearly affirmed that those risen from the dead are no longer liable to death. Leaving aside the other greater joys of heaven, such as the Beatific Vision, and the close association with Christ our Savior in his risen humanity, the meeting with our Blessed Mother and with all the Saints, including our relatives and friends, what a source of happiness and joy will it be for us, to know that we can never die again! The happiness and joy which we shall have will never end. We all have had moments of happiness in this life, great as these moments were, the thought that they had to end too soon cast a shadow on our joy. There will be no shadow to darken or lessen our future joy and happiness.

Many Christians, even good, pious Christians, fear death and try to keep the very thought of it far from their minds. This is very understandable for one who believes (if there is such a one) that death is the end. To a certain degree it is understandable in the case of the believer or the Christian, whose conscience is not at peace with God. That latter, however, has the means of removing his fears by removing his sins, and by putting himself right with God. The normal, pious Christian should see death as what it is, an end of his time of probation and the door to his eternal reward. It is not normal for a student to dread his graduation day. Death for the God-fearing, honest Christian is graduation day. Therefore, no Christian should be afraid of it.

Of course, part of the fears which death instills come from the fear of the judgment which accompanies it. If we think every now and then, that our death is around the comer, we will turn to the God of mercy, to our loving Father, and ask for his forgiveness. He never refuses pardon to those who with a sincere heart, ask for it.

Let each one of us look into his own conscience this morning. Let him ask himself, how he would fare if death should claim him tonight. If there are sins on my conscience, which I would not want there when facing my just Judge, I still have time to approach the merciful Father. The Christian who does this daily, or even weekly, will not worry when death calls. He can rest assured that it is the beginning of the true and everlasting life, planned for him by God before time began.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

What Heaven Means

If heaven means being in Christ, then it also means co-being with all those who together form the one Body of Christ. There is no isolation in heaven. It is the open society of the saints and, consequently, also the fulfillment of all human togetherness, not in competition with the Beatific Vision, but rather in consequence thereof. Christian veneration of the saints depends on this knowledge, not on a mythical omniscience about the saints, but simply on the inviolable openness of every member of the whole Body of Christ to every other member, which presumes the unlimited closeness of love and is sure of finding God in everyone and everyone in God. There results from this an anthropological component. The integration of the I into the Body of Christ, its being at the disposal of the Lord and of everyone else, is not a dissolution of the I but its purification, which, at the same time, fulfills its highest potential. That is why heaven is different for each individual. Everyone sees God in his own way; everyone receives the love of the whole Body in his own unalterable uniqueness.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to Our Holy Guardian Angels

Heavenly Father, Your infinite love for us has chosen a blessed angel in heaven and appointed him our guide during this earthly pilgrimage. Accept our thanks for so great a blessing. Grant that we may experience the assistance of our holy protector in all our necessities. And you, holy, loving angel and guide, watch over us with all the tenderness of your angelic heart. Keep us always on the way that leads to heaven, and cease not to pray for us until we have attained our final destiny, eternal salvation. Then we shall love you for all eternity. We shall praise and glorify you unceasingly for all the good you have done for us while here on earth. Especially be a faithful and watchful protector of our children. Take our place, and supply what may be wanting to us through human frailty, short-sightedness, or sinful neglect. Lighten, O you perfect servants of God, our heavy task. Guide our children, that they may become like unto Jesus, may imitate Him faithfully, and persevere till they attain eternal life. Amen.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=849

 

Posted in Catholic

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

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‘He is One and there is no other than he.’  And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Act of Love

O My God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart, mind and soul, because you are all-good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me, and ask pardon of all whom I have injured.

Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty and merciful God,

by whose gift your faithful offer you

right and praiseworthy service,

grant, we pray,

that we may hasten without stumbling

to receive the things you have promised.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Dt 6:2-6

Moses spoke to the people, saying:

“Fear the LORD, your God,

and keep, throughout the days of your lives,

all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you,

and thus have long life.

Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them,

that you may grow and prosper the more,

in keeping with the promise of the LORD, the God of your fathers,

to give you a land flowing with milk and honey.

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!

Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God,

with all your heart,

and with all your soul,

and with all your strength.

Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 201 To Israel, his chosen, God revealed himself as the only One: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”1 Through the prophets, God calls Israel and all nations to turn to him, the one and only God: “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. .. To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. ‘Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength.’”2

CCC 368 The spiritual tradition of the Church also emphasizes the heart, in the biblical sense of the depths of one’s being, where the person decides for or against God.3

CCC 459 The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”4 On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: “Listen to him!”5 Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: “Love one another as I have loved you.”6 This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.7

CCC 708 This divine pedagogy appears especially in the gift of the Law.8 God gave the Law as a “pedagogue” to lead his people toward Christ.9 But the Law’s powerlessness to save man deprived of the divine “likeness,” along with the growing awareness of sin that it imparts,10 enkindles a desire for the Holy Spirit. The lamentations of the Psalms bear witness to this.

CCC 2055 When someone asks him, “Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?”11 Jesus replies: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.”12 The Decalogue must be interpreted in light of this twofold yet single commandment of love, the fullness of the Law:

The commandments: “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.13

CCC 2083 Jesus summed up man’s duties toward God in this saying: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”14 This immediately echoes the solemn call: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD.”15

God has loved us first. The love of the One God is recalled in the first of the “ten words.” The commandments then make explicit the response of love that man is called to give to his God.

CCC 2093 Faith in God’s love encompasses the call and the obligation to respond with sincere love to divine charity. The first commandment enjoins us to love God above everything and all creatures for him and because of him.16

CCC 2196 In response to the question about the first of the commandments, Jesus says: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”17

The apostle St. Paul reminds us of this: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,‘ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”18

1 Dt 6:45.

2 Is 45:22-24; cf. Phil 2:10-11.

3 Cf. Jer 31:33; Dt 6:5; 29:3; Is 29:13; Ezek 36:26; Mt 6:21; Lk 8:15; Rom 5:5.

4 Mt 11:29; Jn 14:6.

5 Mk 9:7; cf. Dt 6:4-5.

6 Jn 15:12.

7 Cf. Mk 8:34.

8 Cf. Ex 19-20; Deut 1-11; 29-30.

9 Gal 3:24.

10 Cf. Rom 3:20.

11 Mt 22:36.

12 Mt 22:37-40; cf. Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18.

13 Rom 13:9-10.

14 Mt 22:37; cf. Lk 10:27:“… and with all your strength.”

15 Deut 6:4.

16 Cf. Deut 6:4-5.

17 Mk 12:29-31; cf. Deut 6:4-5; Lev 19:18; Mt 22:34-40; Lk 10:25-28.

18 Rom 13:8-10.

APPLICATION

The relationship between God and man is a relationship of love. God is love and because he is love he created the universe and made man the master and masterpiece of that creation. Love, like heat, is self-diffusive, that is, its nature is to spread itself out. The spreading out of God’s love was creation; he made things and beings who could share his love with him. Chief among his created beings was man to whom he gave the capacity to appreciate love and to return it. Now, God could have given a limited portion of his love to men, that is, he could have let men, like the other creatures on earth, be content with whatever gifts of God’s love they could receive in this world. In other words, earthly death could have been their final end.

However, God’s love, being infinite, went far beyond this as regards men. In creating them, God gave them the faculties which place them away above all other earthly creatures. He made men capable of appreciating love and of reciprocating it–something the other creatures on earth cannot do. God saw that in the short space of this earthly life men could not satisfy the faculty for loving and being loved. He, therefore, planned for men a future life–a life wherein men could fully appreciate the immensity of divine love and return to the that fullness of love according to our own created capacity.

In the “fullness of time,” centuries and centuries after he had created man, God began to make preparations for putting his plan into action. By this time, men had more or less completely forgotten their divine Benefactor, but God had not forgotten them. He called Abraham out of the pagan land of Ur of the Chaldees, and made him a believer in the true God. He brought him over to Canaan–promising to give his descendants that country as their ‘ fatherland. God did so in order to have one people on earth who would know and reverence him, and from whom his divine Son would take his human nature. The incarnation was God’s loving way of making man fit and worthy to win the gift of the future life he had planned for him.

God took a special interest in the descendants of Abraham whom he made his own Chosen People. Having led them out of the slavery of Egypt he made a covenant or pact with them–through their leader Moses on Mount Sinai. God promised to bring them into the Promised Land of Canaan and establish them there; they on their part, were to keep the commandments he gave them. These commandments regulated their lives, their relationship with God and their neighbor. The basis of these relationships was a proper appreciation of all that God had done for them; this appreciation they would show and prove by their reciprocal love for him.

Unfortunately for themselves, the Chosen People did not always keep their part of this covenant of Sinai. Instead of loving God and thanking him for all his gifts to them, they became involved in worldly affairs and turned to the false gods of their pagan neighbors. The result: they were decimated by pagan conquerors and by exile. Notwithstanding their infidelity God was faithful to his promise. A remnant was saved and from that came eventually the human nature which the Son of God took on himself.

We may be shocked at the behavior of God’s Chosen People who were never really grateful for all he did for them, but how much more blameworthy are we Christians, when we forget to love and reverence him. What he did for Abraham’s descendants was but a shadow of what he has done for us. He made them his Chosen People–he has made us his adopted children. He gave them the land of Canaan–he has promised us heaven as our homeland. He gave them Moses to lead them out of the slavery of Egypt–he has given us his divine Son to lead us from the sin and slavery of this world to heaven. Moses, as leader of the stubborn Israelites, led a life of contradiction and troubles–Christ our Leader suffered the death of the cross for us.

We do owe so much more than the Chosen People to God; are we trying to repay that immense debt? Do we love God as we should?

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51

I love you, Lord, my strength.

I love you, O LORD, my strength,

O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.

I love you, Lord, my strength.

My God, my rock of refuge,

my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!

Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,

and I am safe from my enemies.

I love you, Lord, my strength.

The LORD lives! And blessed be my rock!

Extolled be God my savior.

You who gave great victories to your king

and showed kindness to your anointed.

I love you, Lord, my strength.

READING II

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Heb 7:23-28

Brothers and sisters:

The levitical priests were many

because they were prevented by death from remaining in office,

but Jesus, because he remains forever,

has a priesthood that does not pass away.

Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him,

since he lives forever to make intercession for them.

It was fitting that we should have such a high priest:

holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners,

higher than the heavens.

He has no need, as did the high priests,

to offer sacrifice day after day,

first for his own sins and then for those of the people;

he did that once for all when he offered himself.

For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests,

but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law,

appoints a son,

who has been made perfect forever.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 519 All Christ’s riches “are for every individual and are everybody’s property.”1 Christ did not live his life for himself but for us, from his Incarnation “for us men and for our salvation” to his death “for our sins” and Resurrection “for our justification”.2 He is still “our advocate with the Father”, who “always lives to make intercession” for us.3 He remains ever “in the presence of God on our behalf, bringing before him all that he lived and suffered for us.”4

CCC 662 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”5 The lifting up of Jesus on the cross signifies and announces his lifting up by his Ascension into heaven, and indeed begins it. Jesus Christ, the one priest of the new and eternal Covenant, “entered, not into a sanctuary made by human hands. .. but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”6 There Christ permanently exercises his priesthood, for he “always lives to make intercession” for “those who draw near to God through him”.7 As “high priest of the good things to come” he is the center and the principal actor of the liturgy that honors the Father in heaven.8

CCC 827 “Christ, ‘holy, innocent, and undefiled,’ knew nothing of sin, but came only to expiate the sins of the people. The Church, however, clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”9 All members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners.10 In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time.11 Hence the Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ’s salvation but still on the way to holiness:

The Church is therefore holy, though having sinners in her midst, because she herself has no other life but the life of grace. If they live her life, her members are sanctified; if they move away from her life, they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for those offenses, of which she has the power to free her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.12

CCC 828 By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors.13 “The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history.”14 Indeed, “holiness is the hidden source and infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal.”15

CCC 1085 In the liturgy of the Church, it is principally his own Paschal mystery that Christ signifies and makes present. During his earthly life Jesus announced his Paschal mystery by his teaching and anticipated it by his actions. When his Hour comes, he lives out the unique event of history which does not pass away: Jesus dies, is buried, rises from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father “once for all.”16 His Paschal mystery is a real event that occurred in our history, but it is unique: all other historical events happen once, and then they pass away, swallowed up in the past. The Paschal mystery of Christ, by contrast, cannot remain only in the past, because by his death he destroyed death, and all that Christ is – all that he did and suffered for all men – participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being made present in them all. The event of the Cross and Resurrection abides and draws everything toward life.

CCC 1364 In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ’s Passover, and it is made present the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present.17 “As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which ‘Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed’ is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.”18

CCC 1366 The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit:

[Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper “on the night when he was betrayed,” [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.19

CCC 1540 Instituted to proclaim the Word of God and to restore communion with God by sacrifices and prayer,20 this priesthood nevertheless remains powerless to bring about salvation, needing to repeat its sacrifices ceaselessly and being unable to achieve a definitive sanctification, which only the sacrifice of Christ would accomplish.21

CCC 1544 Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, the “one mediator between God and men.”22 The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, “priest of God Most High,” as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique “high priest after the order of Melchizedek”;23 “holy, blameless, unstained,”24 “by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified,”25 that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross.

CCC 1564 “Whilst not having the supreme degree of the pontifical office, and notwithstanding the fact that they depend on the bishops in the exercise of their own proper power, the priests are for all that associated with them by reason of their sacerdotal dignity; and in virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, after the image of Christ, the supreme and eternal priest, they are consecrated in order to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful as well as to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Testament.”26

CCC 2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners.27 He is “able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”28 The Holy Spirit “himself intercedes for us. .. and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”29

CCC 2741 Jesus also prays for us – in our place and on our behalf. All our petitions were gathered up, once for all, in his cry on the Cross and, in his Resurrection, heard by the Father. This is why he never ceases to intercede for us with the Father.30 If our prayer is resolutely united with that of Jesus, in trust and boldness as children, we obtain all that we ask in his name, even more than any particular thing: the Holy Spirit himself, who contains all gifts.

1 John Paul II, RH II.

2 I Cor 15:3; Rom 4:25.

3 I Jn 2:1 Heb 7:25.

4 Heb 9:24.

5 Jn 12:32.

6 Heb 9:24.

7 Heb 7:25.

8 Heb 9:11; cf. Rev 4:6-11.

9 LG 8 § 3; Cf. UR 3; 6; Heb 2:17; 726; 2 Cor 5:21.

10 Cf. 1 Jn 1:8-10.

11 Cf. Mt 13:24-30.

12 Paul VI, CPG § 19.

13 Cf. LG 40; 48-51.

14 John Paul II, CL 16,3.

15 CL 17, 3.

16 Rom 6:10; Heb 7:27; 9:12; cf. Jn 13:1; 17:1.

17 Cf. Heb 7:25-27.

18 LG 3; cf. 1 Cor 5:7.

19 Council of Trent (1562): DS 1740; cf. 1 Cor 11:23; Heb 7:24, 27.

20 Cf. Mal 2:7-9.

21 Cf. Heb 5:3; 7:27; 101-4.

22 2 Tim 2:5.

23 Heb 5:10; cf. 6:20; Gen 14:18.

24 Heb 7:26.

25 Heb 10:14.

26 LG 28 cf. Heb 5:1-10; 7:24; 9:11-28; Innocent I, Epist. ad Decentium:PL 20,554A; St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 2,22:PG 35,432B.

27 Cf. Rom 8:34; 1 Jn 2:1; 1 Tim 2:5-8.

28 Heb 7:25.

29 Rom 8:26-27.

30 Cf. Heb 5:7; 7:25; 9:24

APPLICATION

In today’s first reading we saw how privileged we are when compared with the Chosen People of the Old Testament. These six verses from Hebrews, which form our second reading today are given over to the same theme: our high priest, our mediator with God, is incomparably greater and more efficacious than any intermediaries they had, for he is none other than God’s own divine Son. But, lest we be tempted to see discrimination or acceptance of persons on the part of God, we must realize that God’s plan for man’s salvation was put into operation gradually–as he found men’s minds fit to receive his revelation.

The Israelites, whom God selected to be the recipients of his partial revelation in the Old Testament times, were evidently more worthy of this honor than any of their contemporaries. Yet, they were only a few steps removed from paganism and were ever in danger of reverting to it. However, God dealt with them mercifully and patiently. He quickly forgave their many lapses, and again and again he protected them from their pagan enemies during their twelve hundred years in Canaan. Even when the exile–which their disloyalty brought upon them–should have ended their history as a separate race forever, he brought back a “remnant” to Jerusalem and Judah from whom the promised Messiah took his human nature.

His revelation of himself to them, and of his great purpose for man, was partial and limited because they were not yet sufficiently developed in their religious outlook. They were given only a vague idea of life after death. The rewards promised for fidelity to him and to his commandments were temporal, earthly rewards. But running like a golden thread through the tapestry of their history, was the promise and, therefore, the hope of a great blessing to come through them for all mankind. The prophets gradually developed this promise and hope. By the time Christ came–as the fulfillment of that promise first made to Abraham–sharing in this blessing was much more important to the true, loyal chosen ones of God than were temporal rewards or blessings.

While thus preparing his Chosen People for the incarnation God was also preparing the pagan nations for the coming of Christ. The following were all preparations for the speedy spread of the gospel when Christ came: Alexander’s conquest of the known world toward the end of the 4th century B.C.–with the consequent spread of the Greek language; the rise of the Roman empire which strengthened the unity of its various subjects by sound laws and safe means of travel; the decline in almost all parts of the empire–the then known world–of the belief in the pagan gods. In these and in many other ways, God was patiently and wisely preparing the world for the astounding act of divine love toward mankind which was revealed in the incarnation.

We are Christians today because God wanted it so from all eternity. He worked quietly and efficiently down through the ages to make this possible. As regards our knowledge of God and the purpose he has for us, we are much better informed than were the Chosen People and the pagan nations of the past. But they will be judged according to their knowledge; their religious ignorance will excuse many a fault. We, on the other hand, will be expected to make a return to him in proportion to the many talents he has given us. Our excuses at the judgement seat will be very few and very flimsy. Our Judge will be the very Son of God who made himself our high priest, in order to open heaven for us and make our entrance there safe and relatively easy. He is ever present, pleading our case at the throne of mercy. The Christian who turns his back on Christ his advocate during life, will surely find it hard to face him as his judge when he comes to die.

GOSPEL

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Mk 12:28b-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,

“Which is the first of all the commandments?”

Jesus replied, “The first is this:

Hear, O Israel!

The Lord our God is Lord alone!

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,

with all your soul,

with all your mind,

and with all your strength.

The second is this:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.

You are right in saying,

‘He is One and there is no other than he.’

And ‘to love him with all your heart,

with all your understanding,

with all your strength,

and to love your neighbor as yourself’

is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,

he said to him,

“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/103016.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 129 Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself.1 Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament.2 As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.3

CCC 202 Jesus himself affirms that God is “the one Lord” whom you must love “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”.4 At the same time Jesus gives us to understand that he himself is “the Lord”.5 To confess that Jesus is Lord is distinctive of Christian faith. This is not contrary to belief in the One God. Nor does believing in the Holy Spirit as “Lord and giver of life” introduce any division into the One God:

We firmly believe and confess without reservation that there is only one true God, eternal infinite (immensus) and unchangeable, incomprehensible, almighty and ineffable, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; three persons indeed, but one essence, substance or nature entirely simple.6

CCC 575 Many of Jesus’ deeds and words constituted a “sign of contradiction”,7 but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply “the Jews”,8 than for the ordinary People of God.9 To be sure, Christ’s relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;10 Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.11 Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God’s people: the resurrection of the dead,12 certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),13 the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.14

CCC 2196 In response to the question about the first of the commandments, Jesus says: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”15

The apostle St. Paul reminds us of this: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,‘ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”16

1 Cf. Mk 12:29-31

2 Cf. I Cor 5:6-8; 10:1-11.

3 Cf. St. Augustine, Quaest. in Hept. 2, 73: PL 34,623; Cf. DU 16.

4 Mk 12:29-30

5 Cf. Mk 12:35-37.

6 Lateran Council IV: DS 800.

7 Lk 2:34.

8 Cf. Jn 1:19; 2:18; 5:10; 7:13; 9:22; 18:12; 19:38; 20:19.

9 Jn 7:48-49.

10 Cf Lk 13:31.

11 Cf. Lk 7:36; 14:1.

12 Cf. Mt 22:23-34; Lk 20:39.

13 Cf. Mt 6:18.

14 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.

15 Mk 12:29-31; cf. Deut 6:4-5; Lev 19:18; Mt 22:34-40; Lk 10:25-28.

16 Rom 13:8-10.

APPLICATION

The personal lesson which comes over loud and clear for every sincere Christian from today’s gospel, is that the solid foundation of our Christian religion is love of God and neighbor. As our Lord says: “there is no other commandment greater than these.” All the other commandments are expansions of these two and indications of how we are to put these two commandments into daily practice. For example: why am I forbidden to murder my neighbor? Simply because he belongs to God; it was God who gave him his life, and God has commanded me to love and respect him. Taking his life is interfering with God’s rights, and disobeying him as well. Likewise, the prohibition of idolatry, refraining from insulting God’s name, keeping the Sabbath day holy are the principal ways of indicating how we should love God.

One may ask: how can I love God? He is infinitely perfect, he needs nothing from me, what therefore can I do for him? I can understand loving my neighbor–for a neighbor can need help, advice, encouragement and consolation. I can prove my love by giving these to my neighbor, but God has no such needs. It is quite true that true love is not theoretical but pragmatic, it means doing some good for somebody. While the infinite God has no needs that I can supply, he has claims on my service, on my respect, on my gratitude–claims so basic and so great that I must be ready to suffer persecution and even death rather than deny or dishonor him (Mt. 5: 10; Lk. 6: 23). It was God who gave me existence and every gift that I have. It was God, through the incarnation of his own divine Son, who made me his adopted child and heir to heaven. Everything that I am and have and hope to be, I owe to God’s generosity; therefore, he has an unquestionable right to my gratitude, my reverence, my respect–these are the ways in which I can show my love for him.

The keeping of God’s commandments, the prayers of thanksgiving, praise and petition which daily we offer, the attendance at Mass and other liturgical functions, these are the means God gives us of showing our love, our recognition of total dependence on him and our gratitude for all he has done and is doing for us. God does not need any of these signs of our submission and reverence and respect, but we need them absolutely, for they are the means he has given us of fulfilling his purpose in creating us—to share his eternal glory with him. To love God then, is not an obligation imposed on us by some demanding superior but a privilege granted us so that we can become worthy of the greater gifts he has in store for us.

Loving our neighbor–and in the Christian code this means all men no matter what may be their color, race or religion–is, according to our divine Lord, another most effective way of proving to God that we love him. Because of our common humanity we should be inclined to help our fellow-men, our neighbors, but the Christian law spiritualizes this natural inclination, by commanding us to help our neighbor because he is God’s child. We are all fellow-children of God, members of the one family. Our heavenly Father loves each one of us and wants our salvation. If we love our common Father we will do all we can to help his other children also to attain salvation. It will earn for us God’s favor.

If we observe these two commandments we are “fulfilling the whole law and the prophets,”; we are serving God and showing our gratitude to him for all his goodness to us. The Christian who is following Christ in love is already active in the earthly kingdom of God and traveling safely toward God’s eternal kingdom of peace and happiness.”

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscan Press,

BENEDICTUS

How Love is Possible

Love of neighbor is thus shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus. It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend. Going beyond exterior appearances, I perceive in others an interior desire for a sign of love, of concern. This I can offer them not only through the organizations intended for such purposes, accepting it perhaps as a political necessity. Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave… If I have no contact whatsoever with God in my life, then I cannot see in the other anything more than the other, and I am incapable of seeing in him the image of God. But if in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be “devout” and to perform my “religious duties,” then my relationship with God will also grow arid. It becomes merely “proper,” but loveless. Only my readiness to encounter my neighbor and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbor can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me.

Pope Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Thank You God!

Dear Loving and Compassionate God, Giver of all gifts, we pray especially today for the mercy and love You give us. Open our hearts and minds to You. Give us the grace to accept your mercy. As we live each day, we pray for those less fortunate, especially those who are hurting, and whose wounds need to be healed. Help us become involved in ways that show them how deeply we care. Give us the personal courage to listen to their concerns and help them find the solutions to which they are entitled as Your children and our brothers and sisters. We ask this and all our prayers through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Posted in Catholic

Solemnity of All Saints

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‘Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

In Praise of the Saints

How shining and splendid are your gifts, O Lord

which you give us for our eternal well-being

Your glory shines radiantly in your saints, O God

In the honor and noble victory of the martyrs.

The white-robed company follow you,

bright with their abundant faith;

They scorned the wicked words of those with this world’s power.

For you they sustained fierce beatings, chains, and torments,

they were drained by cruel punishments.

They bore their holy witness to you

who were grounded deep within their hearts;

they were sustained by patience and constancy.

Endowed with your everlasting grace,

may we rejoice forever

with the martyrs in our bright fatherland.

O Christ, in your goodness,

grant to us the gracious heavenly realms of eternal life.

Unknown author, 10th century

COLLECT

God our Father,

source of all holiness,

the work of your hands is manifest in your saints,

the beauty of your truth is reflected in their faith.

May we who aspire to have part in their joy

be filled with the Spirit that blessed their lives,

so that having shared their faith on earth

we may also know their peace in your kingdom.

Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

READING I

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Rv 7:2-4, 9-14

He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels

who were given power to damage the land and the sea,

“Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees

until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”

I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal,

one hundred and forty-four thousand marked

from every tribe of the children of Israel.

After this I had a vision of a great multitude,

which no one could count,

from every nation, race, people, and tongue.

They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,

wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.

They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,

and from the Lamb.”

All the angels stood around the throne

and around the elders and the four living creatures.

They prostrated themselves before the throne,

worshiped God, and exclaimed:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,

honor, power, and might

be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me,

“Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”

I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.”

He said to me,

“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;

they have washed their robes

and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 163 Faith makes us taste in advance the light of the beatific vision, the goal of our journey here below. Then we shall see God “face to face”, “as he is”.1 So faith is already the beginning of eternal life:

When we contemplate the blessings of faith even now, as if gazing at a reflection in a mirror, it is as if we already possessed the wonderful things which our faith assures us we shall one day enjoy.2

CCC 1023 Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they “see him as he is,” face to face:3

By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints. .. and other faithful who died after receiving Christ’s holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died,. .. or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death,. ..) already before they take up their bodies again and before the general judgment – and this since the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into heaven – have been, are and will be in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels. Since the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face, without the mediation of any creature.4

CCC 1161 All the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ: as are sacred images of the holy Mother of God and of the saints as well. They truly signify Christ, who is glorified in them. They make manifest the “cloud of witnesses”5 who continue to participate in the salvation of the world and to whom we are united, above all in sacramental celebrations. Through their icons, it is man “in the image of God,” finally transfigured “into his likeness,”6 who is revealed to our faith. So too are the angels, who also are recapitulated in Christ:

Following the divinely inspired teaching of our holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church (for we know that this tradition comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in her) we rightly define with full certainty and correctness that, like the figure of the precious and life-giving cross, venerable and holy images of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, our inviolate Lady, the holy Mother of God, and the venerated angels, all the saints and the just, whether painted or made of mosaic or another suitable material, are to be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, in houses and on streets.7

CCC 1692 The Symbol of the faith confesses the greatness of God’s gifts to man in his work of creation, and even more in redemption and sanctification. What faith confesses, the sacraments communicate: by the sacraments of rebirth, Christians have become “children of God,”8 “partakers of the divine nature.”9 Coming to see in the faith their new dignity, Christians are called to lead henceforth a life “worthy of the gospel of Christ.”10 They are made capable of doing so by the grace of Christ and the gifts of his Spirit, which they receive through the sacraments and through prayer.

CCC 2345 Chastity is a moral virtue. It is also a gift from God, a grace, a fruit of spiritual effort.11 The Holy Spirit enables one whom the water of Baptism has regenerated to imitate the purity of Christ.12

CCC 2519 The “pure in heart” are promised that they will see God face to face and be like him.13 Purity of heart is the precondition of the vision of God. Even now it enables us to see according to God, to accept others as “neighbors”; it lets us perceive the human body – ours and our neighbor’s – as a temple of the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of divine beauty.

CCC 2772 From this unshakeable faith springs forth the hope that sustains each of the seven petitions, which express the groanings of the present age, this time of patience and expectation during which “it does not yet appear what we shall be.”14 The Eucharist and the Lord’s Prayer look eagerly for the Lord’s return, “until he comes.”15

CCC 2822 Our Father “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”16 He “is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish.”17 His commandment is “that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”18 This commandment summarizes all the others and expresses his entire will.

1 1 Cor 13:12; I Jn 3:2.

2 St. Basil De Spiritu Sancto 15, 36: PG 32, 132; cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 4, 1.

3 1 Jn 3:2; cf. 1 Cor 13:12; Rev 22:4.

4 Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1000; cf. LG 49.

5 Heb 12:1.

6 Cf. Rom 8:29; 1 Jn 3:2.

7 Council of Nicaea II: DS 600.

8 Jn 1:12; 1 Jn 3:1.

9 2 Pet 1:4.

10 Phil 1:27.

11 Cf. Gal 5:22.

12 Cf. 1 Jn 3:3.

13 Cf. 1 Cor 13:12; 1 Jn 3:2.

14 1 Jn 3:2; Cf. Col 3:4.

15 1 Cor 11:26.

16 1 Tim 2:3-4.

17 2 Pet 3:9; cf. Mt 18:14.

18 Jn 13:34; cf. 1 Jn 3; 4; Lk 10:25-37.

APPLICATION

This vision of St. John is chosen for today’s reading in order to encourage us to persevere in our Christian faith. Firstly, those on earth (ourselves) have to be prepared to meet opposition in our Christian lives. From the very beginning Christ had his followers and opponents. Christ, the innocent lamb, was “led to the slaughter and opened not his mouth.” As our representative and Savior he saw that the perfect obedience which he was to give to his Father demanded that his enemies’ wicked plan should be carried out. Likewise, during the first three centuries of the Church thousands of his followers had to give their lives for his sake and for their faith. In the intervening centuries, up to and including our own day, thousands have been put to death because of their loyalty to Christ.

If not for most of us today, at least for many, it is not a quick martyrdom that is threatening us, but a subtle persecution which is trying to make us disloyal to Christ and to our Christian principles. Under various pretexts the enemies of Christ and of God are trying to undermine our faith. Open atheism is not the most dangerous of these enemies. Few sane men can be convinced that there is no God or nothing for man but the grave. That is the fate only of the dumb beast. The dangerous enemy is the one who, in theory, admits that there is a God and a future life, but that what we do in this life has no connexion with God or our future. We are free agents, they say. We can and should do what we like. Why should we accept any restrictions on our personal liberty? Why keep the commandments? Why control our natural instincts? We should get all the pleasure and wealth we can in this life and the next will look after itself.

Today, we are reminded that every Christian on earth and everyone who wants to go to heaven must face opposition. But St. John tells us that the followers of Christ are given the necessary graces to face and overcome this opposition. Their foreheads are imprinted with the seal of the servants of God. Try to remember this when the advocates of earthly pleasures, the agents of the powers of evil, are using their wiles to make you forget that you are God’s chosen servant. His grace is there for the taking. The Christian who perseveres is he who lives his daily life at peace with God and neighbor, drawing on the sources of God’s grace–prayer and the sacraments.

Another source of encouragement for us today, on this the feast day of all of God’s saints, is the countless numbers John saw in heaven. These countless numbers were men and women of flesh and blood like ourselves. They had the same weaknesses, the same human inclinations, the same faults and failings in many cases as we have. They never forgot God, they never gave up trying to live the Christian life. They died at peace with God and so went to heaven. Many good-living Christians would almost laugh if they were told that they will be saints. Yet, that is what they will be. The reason why they would laugh at this statement of fact is the wrong idea that some spiritual writers have given us of the essence of a saint. The few saints who are canonized by the Church, and whose lives are written to encourage and inspire us, were exceptional individuals. We have no written lives of the ordinary men and women who were not exceptional in any way but who lived in God’s friendship and died in his grace. They now are saints in heaven.

Christ died to save all mankind. His death on the cross was not for St. Paul or St. Augustine or St. Francis only. It was for plain Mrs. Murphy and Franz Allesmanner and Signora Benvenuta also. They didn’t work miracles or do anything extraordinary, but they fully lived the very ordinary, humdrum daily Christian life. Thanks to God’s infinite mercy and thanks to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, there are countless saints in heaven today. One day soon you and I, please God, will increase their number. There are close relatives of each one of us in heaven. Let us ask them and all the other millions today to intercede for us. We are anxious to get to heaven and we are anxious to do the things that will get us there. Each day we have to meet much opposition. This will obtain for us God’s grace and “we shall overcome.” We too will be saints in heaven praising and thanking the good God who brought us there.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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PS 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;

the world and those who dwell in it.

For he founded it upon the seas

and established it upon the rivers.

Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?

or who may stand in his holy place?

One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,

who desires not what is vain.

Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,

a reward from God his savior.

Such is the race that seeks him,

that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.

Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

READING II

jesus-682x346.jpg

1 Jn 3:1-3

Beloved:

See what love the Father has bestowed on us

that we may be called the children of God.

Yet so we are.

The reason the world does not know us

is that it did not know him.

Beloved, we are God’s children now;

what we shall be has not yet been revealed.

We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,

for we shall see him as he is.

Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure,

as he is pure.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 163 Faith makes us taste in advance the light of the beatific vision, the goal of our journey here below. Then we shall see God “face to face”, “as he is”.1 So faith is already the beginning of eternal life:

When we contemplate the blessings of faith even now, as if gazing at a reflection in a mirror, it is as if we already possessed the wonderful things which our faith assures us we shall one day enjoy.2

CCC 1023 Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they “see him as he is,” face to face:3

By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints. .. and other faithful who died after receiving Christ’s holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died,. .. or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death,. ..) already before they take up their bodies again and before the general judgment – and this since the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into heaven – have been, are and will be in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels. Since the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face, without the mediation of any creature.4

CCC 1161 All the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ: as are sacred images of the holy Mother of God and of the saints as well. They truly signify Christ, who is glorified in them. They make manifest the “cloud of witnesses”5 who continue to participate in the salvation of the world and to whom we are united, above all in sacramental celebrations. Through their icons, it is man “in the image of God,” finally transfigured “into his likeness,”6 who is revealed to our faith. So too are the angels, who also are recapitulated in Christ:

Following the divinely inspired teaching of our holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church (for we know that this tradition comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in her) we rightly define with full certainty and correctness that, like the figure of the precious and life-giving cross, venerable and holy images of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, our inviolate Lady, the holy Mother of God, and the venerated angels, all the saints and the just, whether painted or made of mosaic or another suitable material, are to be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, in houses and on streets.7

CCC 1692 The Symbol of the faith confesses the greatness of God’s gifts to man in his work of creation, and even more in redemption and sanctification. What faith confesses, the sacraments communicate: by the sacraments of rebirth, Christians have become “children of God,”8 “partakers of the divine nature.”9 Coming to see in the faith their new dignity, Christians are called to lead henceforth a life “worthy of the gospel of Christ.”10 They are made capable of doing so by the grace of Christ and the gifts of his Spirit, which they receive through the sacraments and through prayer.

CCC 2345 Chastity is a moral virtue. It is also a gift from God, a grace, a fruit of spiritual effort.11 The Holy Spirit enables one whom the water of Baptism has regenerated to imitate the purity of Christ.12

CCC 2519 The “pure in heart” are promised that they will see God face to face and be like him.13 Purity of heart is the precondition of the vision of God. Even now it enables us to see according to God, to accept others as “neighbors”; it lets us perceive the human body – ours and our neighbor’s – as a temple of the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of divine beauty.

CCC 2772 From this unshakeable faith springs forth the hope that sustains each of the seven petitions, which express the groanings of the present age, this time of patience and expectation during which “it does not yet appear what we shall be.”14 The Eucharist and the Lord’s Prayer look eagerly for the Lord’s return, “until he comes.”15

CCC 2822 Our Father “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”16 He “is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish.”17 His commandment is “that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”18 This commandment summarizes all the others and expresses his entire will.

1 1 Cor 13:12; I Jn 3:2.

2 St. Basil De Spiritu Sancto 15, 36: PG 32, 132; cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 4, 1.

3 1 Jn 3:2; cf. 1 Cor 13:12; Rev 22:4.

4 Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1000; cf. LG 49.

5 Heb 12:1.

6 Cf. Rom 8:29; 1 Jn 3:2.

7 Council of Nicaea II: DS 600.

8 Jn 1:12; 1 Jn 3:1.

9 2 Pet 1:4.

10 Phil 1:27.

11 Cf. Gal 5:22.

12 Cf. 1 Jn 3:3.

13 Cf. 1 Cor 13:12; 1 Jn 3:2.

14 1 Jn 3:2; Cf. Col 3:4.

15 1 Cor 11:26.

16 1 Tim 2:3-4.

17 2 Pet 3:9; cf. Mt 18:14.

18 Jn 13:34; cf. 1 Jn 3; 4; Lk 10:25-37.

APPLICATION

We are celebrating the Feast of all Saints, that is, of the millions of men and women who are today in heaven. St. John’s words are intended to help us to persevere in our heavenward journey. The great, encouraging thought that John puts before us is the fact that God the Father has already placed us more than half-way on our road to heaven by making us his adopted children through the incarnation.

No father can forget his children. He is ever ready to protect, help and guide them. Could the heavenly, all-powerful, all-loving Father forget his children? Their adoption caused the humiliation of his beloved Son in taking human nature and the sacrifice of that same beloved Son on the cross of Calvary.

A human father can be inhuman and desert and neglect his human children. God can never be ungodlike. He cannot change his nature which is Love itself. He cannot forget us, his adopted children. This is surely an encouragement for us. At times we may find the uphill climb to heaven hard. But if we remember the all-loving, omnipotent Father who is watching over us, we can never despair, no matter how dark our nights of struggle and sorrow may seem.

We must never forget that a loving father may have to appear severe at times in order to be truly kind. The human father has to correct his child at times. He has to make him learn obedience, to do things necessary for his health and soundness of body. If he is to prepare him to face life and earn his living he has to make him study his lessons, a thing most children would gladly avoid. Most of this discipline can appear cruel to the unthinking child. Instead it is true love and kindness.

So it is with our heavenly Father’s dealings with us. We would all love to be free from all temptations, free from all anxieties, free from all physical pain but our loving Father sees otherwise. He sends us these messengers of his love in order to prepare us to face our true life and earn for ourselves an eternal living in the future. When we are looking down from heaven on the troubles and misfortunes that we thought no kind God should let us suffer, we shall see their purpose. We shall heartily thank God for having provided them to help us on our way to heaven.

The reward for a few years of very limited suffering here on earth will be an eternity of happiness in the company of God and all his saints. As St. John says, we have only a limited revelation as to the nature of our existence in heaven, but we have enough knowledge of heaven to make us exert all our endeavors to get there. We shall be in the presence of God, the source and author of all that is good and enjoyable. We shall see the Son of God in his human nature. In him we shall understand the love of God for us which brought about the incarnation and all that it entailed for Christ of humiliations and sufferings for our sake. We shall be in the company of our blessed Mother and all our fellow human beings who will be intimately united with us in singing the praises of God, our common Father. Added to these joys will be the certainty that this state of happiness will last forever. Never again shall anxiety or suffering enter our lives. Pain, death and separation from those we love will never again cast a shadow on our existence. We shall feel safe with God for all eternity.

God grant that every one of us will meet in this happy state some day in the future!

GOSPEL

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Mt 5:1-12a

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,

and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.

He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart,

for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,

for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you

and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.

Rejoice and be glad,

for your reward will be great in heaven.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110116.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 520 In all of his life Jesus presents himself as our model. He is “the perfect man”,1 who invites us to become his disciples and follow him. In humbling himself, he has given us an example to imitate, through his prayer he draws us to pray, and by his poverty he calls us to accept freely the privation and persecutions that may come our way.2

CCC 544 The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to “preach good news to the poor”;3 he declares them blessed, for “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”4 To them – the “little ones” the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned.5 Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst and privation.6 Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom.7

CCC 581 The Jewish people and their spiritual leaders viewed Jesus as a rabbi.8 He often argued within the framework of rabbinical interpretation of the Law.9 Yet Jesus could not help but offend the teachers of the Law, for he was not content to propose his interpretation alongside theirs but taught the people “as one who had authority, and not as their scribes”.10 In Jesus, the same Word of God that had resounded on Mount Sinai to give the written Law to Moses, made itself heard anew on the Mount of the Beatitudes.11 Jesus did not abolish the Law but fulfilled it by giving its ultimate interpretation in a divine way: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old. .. But I say to you. ..”12 With this same divine authority, he disavowed certain human traditions of the Pharisees that were “making void the word of God”.13

CCC 764 “This Kingdom shines out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ.”14 To welcome Jesus’ word is to welcome “the Kingdom itself.”14 The seed and beginning of the Kingdom are the “little flock” of those whom Jesus came to gather around him, the flock whose shepherd he is.16 They form Jesus’ true family.17 To those whom he thus gathered around him, he taught a new “way of acting” and a prayer of their own.18

CCC 1454 The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the Ten Commandments, the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings.19

CCC 1716 The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching. They take up the promises made to the chosen people since Abraham. The Beatitudes fulfill the promises by ordering them no longer merely to the possession of a territory, but to the Kingdom of heaven:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Rejoice and be glad,

for your reward is great in heaven.20

CCC 1720 The New Testament uses several expressions to characterize the beatitude to which God calls man:

– the coming of the Kingdom of God;21 – the vision of God: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”22

– entering into the joy of the Lord;23

– entering into God’s rest:24

There we shall rest and see, we shall see and love, we shall love and praise. Behold what will be at the end without end. For what other end do we have, if not to reach the kingdom which has no end?25

CCC 2305 Earthly peace is the image and fruit of the peace of Christ, the messianic “Prince of Peace.”26 By the blood of his Cross, “in his own person he killed the hostility,”27 he reconciled men with God and made his Church the sacrament of the unity of the human race and of its union with God. “He is our peace.”28 He has declared: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”29

CCC 2518 The sixth beatitude proclaims, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”30 “Pure in heart” refers to those who have attuned their intellects and wills to the demands of God’s holiness, chiefly in three areas: charity;31 chastity or sexual rectitude;32 love of truth and orthodoxy of faith.33 There is a connection between purity of heart, of body, and of faith:

The faithful must believe the articles of the Creed “so that by believing they may obey God, by obeying may live well, by living well may purify their hearts, and with pure hearts may understand what they believe.”34

CCC 2546 “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”35 The Beatitudes reveal an order of happiness and grace, of beauty and peace. Jesus celebrates the joy of the poor, to whom the Kingdom already belongs:36

The Word speaks of voluntary humility as “poverty in spirit”; the Apostle gives an example of God’s poverty when he says: “For your sakes he became poor.”37

CCC 2763 All the Scriptures – the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms – are fulfilled in Christ.38 The Gospel is this “Good News.” Its first proclamation is summarized by St. Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount;39 the prayer to our Father is at the center of this proclamation. It is in this context that each petition bequeathed to us by the Lord is illuminated:

The Lord’s Prayer is the most perfect of prayers. .. In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them.40

1 GS 38; cf. Rom 1 5:5; Phil 2:5.

2 Cf. Jn 13:15; Lk 11:1; Mt 5:11-12.

3 Lk 4:18; cf. 7:22.

4 Mt 5:3.

5 Cf. Mt 11:25.

6 Cf. Mt 21:18; Mk 2:23-26; Jn 4:6 1; 19:28; Lk 9:58.

7 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

8 Cf Jn 11:28; 3:2; Mt 22:23-24, 34-36.

9 Cf. Mt 12:5; 9:12; Mk 2:23-27; Lk 6:6-g; Jn 7:22-23.

10 Mt 7:28-29.

11 Cf. Mt 5:1.

12 Mt 5:33-34.

13 Mk 7:13; cf. 3:8.

14 LG 5.

15 LG 5.

16 Lk 12:32; cf. Mt 10:16; 26:31; Jn 10:1-21.

17 Cf. Mt 12:49.

18 Cf. Mt 5-6.

19 Cf. Mt 5-7; Rom 12-15; 1 Cor 12-13; Gal 5; Eph 4-6; etc.

20 Mt 5:3-12.

21 Cf. Mt 4:17.

22 Mt 5:8; cf. 1 Jn 2; 1 Cor 13:12.

23 Mt 25:21-23.

24 Cf. Heb 4:7-11.

25 St. Augustine, De civ. Dei 22, 30, 5: PL 41,804.

26 Isa 9:5.

27 Eph 2:16 J.B.; cf. Col 1:20-22.

28 Eph 2:14.

29 Mt 5:9.

30 Mt 5:8.

31 Cf. 1 Tim 4:3-9; 2 Tim 2:22.

32 Cf. 1 Thess 4:7; Col 3:5; Eph 4:19.

33 Cf. Titus 1:15; 1 Tim 1:3-4; 2 Tim 2:23-26.

34 St. Augustine, Defide et symbolo 10, 25: PL 40, 196.

35 Mt 5:3.

36 Cf. Lk 6:20.

37 St. Gregory of Nyssa, De beatitudinibus 1: PG 44, 1200D; cf. 2 Cor 8:9.

38 Cf. Lk 24:44.

39 Cf. Mt 5-7.

40 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 83, 9.

APPLICATION

The eight Beatitudes are a resume of the Christian charter. They are the boundaries within which the Christian life is successfully lived. We are celebrating today the Feast of All Saints, that is, of all those who have lived their Christian life according to the ideals that Christ placed before them in the Sermon on the Mount. They have succeeded. They have reached heaven because they followed the rules which Christ laid down for them. They loved God and they showed that love in their daily living. They kept his commandment not only according to the letter but in spirit and in truth.

They bore the trials and troubles of life patiently, as part of God’s plan for their sanctification. They loved their neighbor and proved it by their deeds of charity and mercy. They forgave those who persecuted and injured them. They lived in peace with God and with their neighbor. They helped to promote peace among their fellowman wherever and whenever they could.

Some of the saints whose feasts we are celebrating today were outstanding in their sanctity. They lived their lives of mortification far beyond what was required of them. They loved God with an intensity that is not expected of ordinary mortals. They served their neighbor with a life-long dedication. They set an example and made an impression on the life of their contemporaries which will never be forgotten. God be thanked for such noble examples of saintly Christians!

But there are millions of others in heaven, saints of God also, who did nothing except their ordinary Christian duties. They did them sincerely and willingly. Their names are not inscribed in the Church’s Martyrology but they are written in the “Book of Life” in heaven. Most of us can only admire the first group from afar and thank God for the graces which their very saintly lives obtained, and are still obtaining, for the Church of God. However, we can all feel a little more confident today because of the lesser saints. What they did, we can do. Where they succeeded we too can succeed. With the help of God’s grace and the assistance of the major and minor saints in heaven we will and we shall succeed.

Heaven is the eternal home that God has planned for all men of goodwill. It was to raise us up to son-ship with God that Christ came down and lived and died as a man on earth. It was to help us on the way that he founded the Church and gave her the sacraments that sinners and weak mortals would need on their road to heaven. God knows the material of which we are made. He knows too how to make something far greater out of that same weak material. He has done so already with millions of very ordinary human beings. He is doing it daily and will continue to do it.

All that is needed is that we put ourselves in his hands. That he fashioned Adam out of a lump of clay may be a fact or a poetic description. What he can and will make out of me is a saint, a citizen of the kingdom of eternal happiness if only I will let him. May God give me the sense and the grace to do just that, so that when I close my eyes in death, I shall see God and become one of the millions of saints whose feast I am honoring today. So be it.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan OFM and used with permission of Ignatius Press.

BENEDICTUS

The great feasts that structure the year of faith are feasts of Christ and precisely as such are ordered toward the one God who revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush and chose Israel as the confessor of faith in his uniqueness. In addition to the sun, which is the image of Christ, there is the moon, which has no light of its own but shines with a brightness that comes from the sun. This is a sign to us that we men are in constant need of a “little” light, whose hidden light helps us to know and love the light of the Creator, God one and triune. That is why the feasts of the saints from earliest times have formed part of the Christian year. We have already encountered Mary, whose person is so closely interwoven with the mystery of Christ that the development of the Christmas cycle inevitably introduced a Marian note into the Church’s year. The Marina dimension of the christological feasts was made visible. Then, in addition, come the commemorations of the Apostles and martyrs and, finally, the memorials of the saints of every century. One might say that the saints are, so to speak, new Christian constellations, in which the richness of God’s goodness is reflected. Their light, coming from God, enables us to know better the interior richness of God’s great light, which we cannot comprehend in the refulgence of its glory.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Almighty God,

your saints are one with you

in the mystical body of Christ:

give us grace to follow them

in all virtue and holiness

until we come to those inexpressible joys

which you have prepared for those

who truly love you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who is alive with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God now and for ever.

Amen.

 

 

Posted in Catholic

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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‘for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

OPENING PRAYER

Humility Prayer – For A Change In Me

Dear Lord, I am coming to realize how dangerous pride is in the life of a believer and how important true, godly humility is to the heart of God.

I read in Your word that pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall and I begin to see the devastating and destructive nature of pride and the true blessing that comes from a heart that is humble and contrite in spirit.

Keep me from falling prey to the many temptations that pride seems to scatter in my path, where I want to be the center of attention and desire to receive all the acclaim, the glory, that rightly belongs to You.

Teach me Your ways and show me how I may clothe myself in godly humility toward one another, for Peter teaches that, “God opposes the proud but shows grace to the humble. Thank You for opening up Your Word to me and helping me to see the beautiful truth about humility – and I ask that You would work a good work in my life day by day, until I am more like Christ and less like me, in Jesus name I pray,   Amen

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

increase our faith, hope and charity,

and make us love what you command,

so that we may merit what you promise.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Sir 35:12-14, 16-18

The LORD is a God of justice,

who knows no favorites.

Though not unduly partial toward the weak,

yet he hears the cry of the oppressed.

The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan,

nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint.

The one who serves God willingly is heard;

his petition reaches the heavens.

The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds;

it does not rest till it reaches its goal,

nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds,

judges justly and affirms the right,

and the Lord will not delay.

APPLICATION

This wise and pious Jewish writer of the second century B.C. had some very instructive advice for his contemporaries on the qualities which prayers of petition should possess. His advice is still of great value for all of us. While there were truly pious Jews whose prayers were acts of adoration of God, praise for his infinite goodness and mercy and thanksgiving for his manifold gifts to men, the vast majority turned to God only when they needed some temporal favor.

Sirach reminds such people that God is a God of justice, that is, that he will give to each according to his merits. Unlike earthly judges or rulers, he will not be bribed. He will have no favorites. The man who has ignored or forgotten him while all his temporal affairs were prospering, cannot and should not expect a divine intervention when adverse fortune hits him. Nor will he depart from this strict justice even though the petitioner is weak (in health or worldly possessions) through his own fault. But where the petitioner is in dire need because of circumstances beyond his control, as is the case of the oppressed, the orphan and the widow, God will come to his aid.

The prayer of the humble man whose purpose in life is to serve God in all his goings and comings, in all his day’s work, will always be heard. His prayer will “pierce the clouds and reach heaven.” For “God judges justly and affirms the right.” The prayer of the true lover of God, of the truly humble servant of his Lord, will be that God’s will may be always done, even if, as may be, that will of God entails earthly sufferings or trials for himself.

In the light of what this inspired man of God has told us today, we would do well, all of us, to have another look at our life of prayer, or at what part prayer plays in our life. For far too many of us, prayer means asking God for something when we are in need. The more important parts of prayer, adoration, praise and thanksgiving, are almost, if not entirely, forgotten. How many people who would claim to be good Christians, say “thank you, God, for giving me another day,” when they wake up in the morning? How many of us show our gratitude for having health, for having enough to eat, for having a roof over our heads? As long as their earthly life runs along smoothly, and while they have good health and a reasonably comfortable life, God is forgotten by many.

When misfortune strikes, however, they suddenly remember that there is a God who is omnipotent. He can and he should come to their aid immediately, they think. Should he? The Just God judges justly. He gives to each according to his merit. If I have forgotten God, except for the casual attendance at Sunday Mass to avoid mortal sin, all through my years of prosperity, can I in all decency expect him to take notice now of me when something goes wrong?

Do you mean then, that we must be always praying to God! That is all right for nuns or monks who have nothing else to do! We have the cares of the world to attend to, we need relaxation and recreation after our hard day’s work. Your answer is in today’s lesson: “he who serves God willingly is heard.” Your day’s work, if offered for the honor and glory of God and your day’s recreation as well, are prayers pleasing in the sight of God. God never intends us to spend our days on our knees. He intends us to be up and doing, earning our daily bread honestly but joyfully, for each day’s work performed in justice and with the intention of doing our duty, thereby honoring God, is a day nearer to heaven.

Those who act in this simple but at the same time sublimely Christian way can approach God with the utmost confidence, if and when the trials they meet in life seem beyond their strength. Their prayers will “pierce the clouds and reach heaven” and when they receive their answer, they will quickly return to say a sincere “thank you” to their just and loving Father who is in heaven.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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Ps 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23

The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall be ever in my mouth.

Let my soul glory in the LORD;

the lowly will hear me and be glad.

The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

The LORD confronts the evildoers,

to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.

When the just cry out, the Lord hears them,

and from all their distress he rescues them.

The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;

and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.

The LORD redeems the lives of his servants;

no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him.

The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

READING II

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2 Tm 4:6-8, 16-18

Beloved:

I am already being poured out like a libation,

and the time of my departure is at hand.

I have competed well; I have finished the race;

I have kept the faith.

From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,

which the Lord, the just judge,

will award to me on that day, and not only to me,

but to all who have longed for his appearance.

At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf,

but everyone deserted me.

May it not be held against them!

But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength,

so that through me the proclamation might be completed

and all the Gentiles might hear it.

And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat

and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.

To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2015 The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle.1 Spiritual progress entails the ascetics and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes:

He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.2

1 Cf. 2 Tim 4.

2 St. Gregory of Nyssa, Hom. in Cant. 8: PG 44, 941C.

APPLICATION

What a wonderful thing, what a source of courage and consolation it would be for us, if we could, like St. Paul, say on our death-beds: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”! There are few followers of Christ in the history of the Christian Church who did, and suffered for the faith of Christ, what Paul did and suffered. He was exceptional even among exceptional saints. Then of course, his was an exceptional vocation. The Risen Christ appeared to him while he was on his way to persecute and arrest the Christians of Damascus, having already done great damage to the infant Church in Jerusalem. That appearance, and the words of Christ, turned a fanatical adversary of the faith into an ardent Apostle of Christ. He devoted every moment of his remaining thirty years to bringing the knowledge of Christ and the good news of the Incarnation, that act of infinite love of God for men, to the Gentile world.

We cannot and we should not hope to imitate him in death, as we did not, nor were we called on, to imitate him in life. That, however, does not mean that each one of us could not repeat his words of courage and confidence on our very ordinary death-beds. There are outstanding saints in heaven, and it will be part of our eternal happiness to meet them and admire them, or maybe rather to admire the omnipotent God who was able to make such saints of them. Let us never forget that there are, please God, millions of ordinary saints in heaven, men and women like ourselves, who were not called on to do anything very extraordinary here below, but who lived the ordinary Christian life well. That last word “well” is the secret of their success.

These citizens of heaven have got there through the grace of God and through living their hum-drum daily Christian lives as God wished them to be lived. Because they lived each day as faithful Christians, keeping the laws of God, accepting the rough with the smooth, measuring their daily actions with the yard-stick of eternity, they could (on the day or night that God decided to call them to himself) say with St. Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” With that same assurance as St. Paul, they could expect the reward which the just judge had in store for them.

Most of us have the wrong idea of what a saint is. We hear only of men and women who lived lives of severe mortifications, men and women who were completely detached from all that this world has, who never seemed to have any earthly interests or joys. There were some such people and they are now in heaven. But they are a tiny minority. Heaven is for the Toms, Dicks, and Harry’s, as well as for the Paul’s, Patrick’s and Teresa’s. If not, Christ and Christianity would be sad failures!

No, heaven is for all of us. Getting there is much easier than what our pious literature would suggest. Judging by the legends that hagiographers collected or invented most of their saints were born not made. The facts are otherwise. These men and women became saints because they lived Christian, but at the same time, human lives. They did not spend their days gazing heavenwards, with hands joined in prayer. They did an honest day’s work, and earned their livelihood. They were not always weeping and bemoaning the sins of the world and their own. They were instead full of joy and were the most cheery of companions. The great reformer of the Carmelites, St. Teresa of Avila, who lived a strict life of poverty and personal mortification, is said to have uttered the prayer: “May God protect me from sour-faced saints!”

Granted that heaven is for all of us and granted that most of us are not called on to do anything extraordinary in life, we are called on to live our very ordinary day in a Christian manner. Each ordinary day that we offer to God, and live for him, as well as for our own earthly necessities, brings us a day nearer to the death-bed on which we can truly say with St. Paul : “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” The rest I can safely leave to the good and just God.

GOSPEL

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Lk 18:9-14

Jesus addressed this parable

to those who were convinced of their own righteousness

and despised everyone else.

“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;

one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.

The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,

‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —

greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.

I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’

But the tax collector stood off at a distance

and would not even raise his eyes to heaven

but beat his breast and prayed,

‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’

I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;

for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,

and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102316.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 588 Jesus scandalized the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners as familiarly as with themselves.1 Against those among them “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others”, Jesus affirmed: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”2 He went further by proclaiming before the Pharisees that, since sin is universal, those who pretend not to need salvation are blind to themselves.3

CCC 2559 “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.”4 But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or “out of the depths” of a humble and contrite heart?5 He who humbles himself will be exalted;6 humility is the foundation of prayer, Only when we humbly acknowledge that “we do not know how to pray as we ought,”7 are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. “Man is a beggar before God.”8

CCC 2613 Three principal parables on prayer are transmitted to us by St. Luke:

– The first, “the importunate friend,”9 invites us to urgent prayer: “Knock, and it will be opened to you.” To the one who prays like this, the heavenly Father will “give whatever he needs,” and above all the Holy Spirit who contains all gifts.

– The second, “the importunate widow,”10 is centered on one of the qualities of prayer: it is necessary to pray always without ceasing and with the patience of faith. “And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

– The third parable, “the Pharisee and the tax collector,”11 concerns the humility of the heart that prays. “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” The Church continues to make this prayer its own: Kyrie Ellison!

CCC 2631 The first movement of the prayer of petition is asking forgiveness, like the tax collector in the parable: “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”12 It is a prerequisite for righteous and pure prayer. A trusting humility brings us back into the light of communion between the Father and his Son Jesus Christ and with one another, so that “we receive from him whatever we ask.”13 Asking forgiveness is the prerequisite for both the Eucharistic liturgy and personal prayer.

CCC 2667 This simple invocation of faith developed in the tradition of prayer under many forms in East and West. The most usual formulation, transmitted by the spiritual writers of the Sinai, Syria, and Mt. Athos, is the invocation, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners.” It combines the Christological hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 with the cry of the publican and the blind men begging for light.14 By it the heart is opened to human wretchedness and the Savior’s mercy.

CCC 2839 With bold confidence, we began praying to our Father. In begging him that his name be hallowed, we were in fact asking him that we ourselves might be always made more holy. But though we are clothed with the baptismal garment, we do not cease to sin, to turn away from God. Now, in this new petition, we return to him like the prodigal son and, like the tax collector, recognize that we are sinners before him.15 Our petition begins with a “confession” of our wretchedness and his mercy. Our hope is firm because, in his Son, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”16 We find the efficacious and undoubted sign of his forgiveness in the sacraments of his Church.17

1 Cf. Lk 5:30; 7:36; 11:37; 14:1.

2 Lk 18:9; 5:32; cf. Jn 7:49; 9:34.

3 Cf. Jn 8:33-36; 9:40-41.

4 St. John Damascene, Defide orth. 3, 24: PG 94,1089C.

5 Ps 130:1.

6 Cf. Lk 18:9-14.

7 Rom 8:26.

8 St. Augustine, Sermo 56, 6, 9: PL 38, 381.

9 Cf. Lk 11:5-13.

10 Cf. Lk 18:1-8.

11 Cf. Lk 18:9-14.

12 Lk 18:13.

13 1 Jn 3:22; cf. 1:7-2:2.

14 Cf. Mk 10:46-52; Lk 18:13.

15 Cf. Lk 15:11-32, 18:13.

16 Col 1:14; Eph 1:7.

17 Cf. Mt 26:28; Jn 20:23.

APPLICATION

During his hidden life in Nazareth, and especially during his public life when he traveled through the towns and villages of Palestine, our Lord met sinners of all kinds. There is not a single record of a harsh word spoken by him to any of them. In fact, he was accused of mixing too freely with them. His answer was that “it was those who were ill who needed a doctor, not those, who were in good health.” The sinners he met knew that they were ill. They regretted their sins. He forgave them.

There was one group, however, and only one, against whom he uttered condemnation and for whom he foretold an unhappy ending. These were the Pharisees. In Mt. 23, the whole chapter is devoted to Christ’s condemnation of them. It contains eight “woes” which he utters against them. He calls them by many unflattering names. One was “whited sepulchers, appearing beautiful to men on the outside but full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness within” (23:27). Such harshness, coming from the gentle Christ, may surprise us, but knowing as he did that pride, the first and basic sin of mankind and the root of all other evil in the world, was so ingrained in their very hearts, that they could never seek forgiveness, he stated nothing but the truth concerning them or to them.

In this parable which he addressed to the Pharisees themselves, he tells them once more where their pride will lead them. They will be excluded from the kingdom of God, because they will not admit or repent of their pride and their lack of charity. Instead of thanking God for the many gifts he had given them, they almost demanded thanks from God for being such pious people. They had virtues. They avoided serious injustices. They did not commit adultery. They fasted often. They paid all their Temple dues, but it was all done, not for the honor and glory of God, but for their own honor and glory. They told the world about it. They demanded the first places in the synagogs, and special marks of reverence on the streets. They had to be called “masters” as they claimed to represent and interpret Moses to the ordinary people.

One thing that we can learn from this sad story of the Pharisees is that, while God approves of no sin, his mercy and his forgiveness is available for all sinners except the proud. It isn’t that God cannot or will not forgive the sin of pride but that the proud man will not ask for God’s forgiveness.

We must all be on our guard against this insidious and destructive vice. It is insidious because it can grow in us almost without our knowing it, and once it has taken root it is difficult to eradicate. It is destructive because it spoils every other virtue we practice and every good work we do. Charity, or brotherly love, cannot flourish in a proud heart, for a proud heart is so full of self that it has no room for others. No true love of God can exist in a proud heart, for even the very acts of religion which a proud man performs, are done for the motive of self-glory and not for the glory of God. The Pharisee in this parable proves that fact. He boasted of his good works.

A few simple straight questions can tell us whether or not we are proud. Do we like others to see and hear of our good works, or do we prefer to do them in secret? Do we give as generously to charitable causes when no list of benefactors is published? Do we willingly take part among the rank and file in parish activities or do we feel offended if we are not the leaders? Do we criticize offhand those who are not all they should be, or do we thank God that we were saved from similar temptations? Do we always try to find an excuse for the failings of others or have we excuses for our own faults only? God forbid that anyone in this congregation should be suffering from this, the worst of all vices. If anyone recognizes that he is, let him pray to God from the bottom of his heart for the opposite virtue, the true Christian virtue of humility, and look for every possible occasion to practice it. Let us all remember the two men praying in the Temple. One was full of himself and boasted to God and to all present, of his many good works. The Other just humbly beat his breast and asked for mercy–he had nothing to boast of. Yet, he left the Temple forgiven, the other returned home a worse sinner than when he had entered the temple.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscan Press

BENEDICTUS

The Saints as Constellations

The great feasts that structure the year of faith are feasts of Christ and precisely as such are ordered toward the one God who revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush and chose Israel as the confessor of faith in his uniqueness. In addition to the sun, which is the image of Christ, there is the moon, which has no light of its own but shines with the brightness that comes from the sun. This is a sign to us that we men are in constant need of a “little” light, whose hidden light helps us to know and love the light of the Creator, God one and triune. That is why the feasts of the saints from earliest times have formed part of the Christian year. We have already encountered Mary, whose person is so closely interwoven with the mystery of Christ that the development of the Christmas cycle inevitably introduced a Marian note into the Church’s year. The Marian dimension of the Christological feasts was made visible. Then, in addition, come the communion of the Apostles and martyrs and, finally, the memorials of the saints of every century. One might say that the saints are, so to speak, new Christian constellations, in which the richness of God’s goodness is reflected. Their light, coming from God, enables us to know better the interior richness of God’s great light, which we cannot comprehend in the refulgence of its glory.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer of Saint Augustine of Hippo

Lord Jesus, Let Me Know Myself

Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know You,

And desire nothing save only You.

Let me hate myself and love You.

Let me do everything for the sake of You.

Let me humble myself and exalt You.

Let me think of nothing except You.

Let me die to myself and live in You.

Let me accept whatever happens as from You.

Let me banish self and follow You,

And ever desire to follow You.

Let me fly from myself and take refuge in You,

That I may deserve to be defended by You.

Let me fear for myself, let me fear You,

And let me be among those who are chosen by You.

Let me distrust myself and put my trust in You.

Let me be willing to obey for the sake of You.

Let me cling to nothing save only to You,

And let me be poor because of You.

Look upon me, that I may love You.

Call me that I may see You,

And for ever enjoy You.

Amen.

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Twenty – Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

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Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.

OPENING PRAYER

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Prayer of St. Michael From The Liturgy of St. James

O most glorious Prince, Michael the Archangel, be mindful of us, here and everywhere: pray always unto the Son of God for us, Alleluia, Alleluia.

In the sight of Angels I will sing to Thee, O God.

I will worship facing Thy holy temple and confess Thy name.

O God, who in a marvelous order hast established the ministries of angels and of men, mercifully grant that as Thy holy Angels ever do Thee service in heaven, so at all times they may succor us here upon earth.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

grant that we may always conform our will to yours

and serve your majesty in sincerity of heart.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Ex 17:8-13

In those days, Amalek came and waged war against Israel.

Moses, therefore, said to Joshua,

“Pick out certain men,

and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle.

I will be standing on top of the hill

with the staff of God in my hand.”

So Joshua did as Moses told him:

he engaged Amalek in battle

after Moses had climbed to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur.

As long as Moses kept his hands raised up,

Israel had the better of the fight,

but when he let his hands rest,

Amalek had the better of the fight.

Moses’ hands, however, grew tired;

so they put a rock in place for him to sit on.

Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands,

one on one side and one on the other,

so that his hands remained steady till sunset.

And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people

with the edge of the sword.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2577 From this intimacy with the faithful God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,1 Moses drew strength and determination for his intercession. He does not pray for himself but for the people whom God made his own. Moses already intercedes for them during the battle with the Amalekites and prays to obtain healing for Miriam.2 But it is chiefly after their apostasy that Moses “stands in the breach” before God in order to save the people.3 The arguments of his prayer – for intercession is also a mysterious battle – will inspire the boldness of the great intercessors among the Jewish people and in the Church: God is love; he is therefore righteous and faithful; he cannot contradict himself; he must remember his marvelous deeds, since his glory is at stake, and he cannot forsake this people that bears his name.

1 Cf. Ex 34:6.

2 Cf. Ex 17:8-12; Num 12:13-14.

3 Ps 106:23; cf. Ex 32:1-34:9.

APPLICATION

The lesson from this incident in the history of Israel is evident. Although it happened about thirty-two centuries ago it is as true today as it was then, for neither God nor human nature has changed in the meantime. The lesson is that God wants us to pray for the very gifts which he wants to give us. He is ready to give them to us. He certainly didn’t want Amalek to prevent his Chosen People from getting to Canaan, the land he had promised them. Amalek was resisting by force of arms. Israel must overcome him by force of arms. But as their fighting force was much smaller, he willed to give them extra strength on condition that they ask him for it. Moses represented the Israelites. He was their intermediary with God. When he prayed, Israel prayed. While he prayed all went well with Israel’s fighting men.

Some wiseacre may object: if God willed they would reach Canaan, which he definitely did, why should they have to ask him for help whenever there were obstacles to overcome? The reason was that he was still training them. They had to learn that all that they were and all that they had, they owed to him. He was not only their Creator and Lord, but he was their Benefactor as well. They must learn to appreciate this and they must therefore turn to him in all their needs. Whenever they did this, all through their history, God befriended them; he answered their prayers. Whenever they forgot this lesson, or refused to see its meaning, and trusted in their own strength and wisdom instead, they fared badly.

As we said above, God has not changed and we humans have not changed. We too need to learn this lesson and its full meaning. God wants all of us in heaven, the eternal home he has promised us, and he is willing and glad to help us on the way. He wants us to ask him for this help, not for any personal gain for him, but for our own personal advantage. He wants us to remember always, that he is our Creator, Lord and Benefactor. We show our recognition and our appreciation of all he is and has done for us every time we pray to him. For every prayer, even of petition, is a recognition of our relationship with God.

He was a Benefactor and a Savior of the Israelites all through their history, but what he did for them was but a pale shadow of all he has done and is doing for us Christians. He gave them Moses to lead them into the promised land of Canaan. He has given us Christ, his only begotten Son, to lead us to heaven. He gave them Moses as their mediator to intercede for them. He gave us Christ, who is seated at his right hand in heaven, continually presenting our adorations and petitions to him. Moses’ outstretched arms won the battle against Amalek and other enemies of the Israelites. The outstretched arms of Christ on the cross won for us, once and for all, the battle against death and evil.

Some of the Israelites whom he led out of Egypt and helped on the way, forgot him and offended him. They did not reach the Promised Land, notwithstanding Moses’ intercession for them. So too, will there be Christians who will fail to reach the promised heaven he has prepared for them, notwithstanding the sufferings and death of Christ on the cross on their behalf. But any Christian who prays frequently will not be among that number. For even if we offend him through human weakness, if we have the humility to turn to him and ask his pardon, he will forgive. The sinner who prays cannot remain long a sinner, the saint who gives up prayer will not remain a saint for very long.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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Ps 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth

I lift up my eyes toward the mountains;

whence shall help come to me?

My help is from the LORD,

who made heaven and earth.

Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

May he not suffer your foot to slip;

may he slumber not who guards you:

indeed he neither slumbers nor sleeps,

the guardian of Israel.

Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

The LORD is your guardian; the LORD is your shade;

he is beside you at your right hand.

The sun shall not harm you by day,

nor the moon by night.

Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

The LORD will guard you from all evil;

he will guard your life.

The LORD will guard your coming and your going,

both now and forever.

Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

READING II

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2 Tm 3:14-4:2

Beloved:

Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed,

because you know from whom you learned it,

and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures,

which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation

through faith in Christ Jesus.

All Scripture is inspired by God

and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction,

and for training in righteousness,

so that one who belongs to God may be competent,

equipped for every good work.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,

who will judge the living and the dead,

and by his appearing and his kingly power:

proclaim the word;

be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;

convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”1

“For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.”2

CCC 1794 A good and pure conscience is enlightened by true faith, for charity proceeds at the same time “from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith.”3

The more a correct conscience prevails, the more do persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and try to be guided by objective standards of moral conduct.4

1 DV 11.

2 DV 11; cf. Jn 20:31; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pt 1:19-21; 3:15-16.

3 1 Tim 5; cf. 8:9; 2 Tim 3; 1 Pet 3:21; Acts 24:16.

4 GS 16.

APPLICATION

“The heavens declare the glory of God, the vault of heaven reveals his handiwork” say the psalmist (Ps. 19: 1). A true saying surely. Any thinking man who observes this universe with its unity in diversity, with its multiplicity of being, their constitutional laws written in their very nature, and none having an internal explanation for its own existence must rationally conclude that some supremely intelligent and supremely powerful Being brought this universe into existence. St. Paul, following the author of the book of Wisdom (13: 1-9). says that the pagans are inexcusable when they claim ignorance of the true God, for “ever since God created the world, his everlasting power and deity—however invisible—have been there for the mind to see in the things he has made” (Rom. 1: 18-32).

God has made himself known to man therefore through his creatures–“the work of his hands.” He knew the weakness and the narrow outlook of man who frequently fails to raise himself above the things of earth. Furthermore, he had planned for man’s elevation to a supernatural status. And so he chose Abraham to be the ancestor of the One who would elevate man. A much more detailed knowledge of himself was given to Abraham and his descendants in God’s dealings with them and in his special revelations to them. He saw to it that this detailed knowledge would be preserved and guaranteed for all time by making himself the co-author of the sacred books of scripture.

It is of this act of generosity and love toward us on the part of God, that St. Paul reminds Timothy in the verses we have read today. We could and should recognize God–a supreme, omnipotent, omniscient Being–as our Creator to whom we should give honor and thanks. And by so doing, we could reach the destiny which God has planned for us from all eternity, as many pagans have done and will do. But this kind of relationship with a Creator, to whom we owed everything, would be a rather cold and legalistic one, that of slave to Master, when compared with the warm relationship of children to their loving father, which his special revelation has brought to our knowledge.

The Old Testament sacred books, to which St. Paul is referring today, show us God as a Father of infinite love, of infinite generosity, of infinite patience with stubborn, ungrateful children. He made the descendants of Abraham his special Chosen People. He gave them innumerable temporal blessings. He was a true Father to them all through their history, even though they were often unruly and ungrateful children. He did all of this in order to prepare the way for the advent of his divine Son in human nature. He became one of us by his Incarnation and thus raised us up to the status of brothers of his and therefore, sons of God.

This was the divine plan before creation began. God saw to it that the record of its period of preparation would be preserved forever in the books of the Old Testament. The story of the fulfillment would be preserved in the New. He moved the will of the human authors of these books to write them. He enlightened and assisted their intellects in the collection and arrangement of the material. He saw to it, by his special assistance, that what they wrote was the truth and nothing but the truth. This was the teaching of the Jewish authorities. It has been the teaching of the Christian Church down through the centuries. We have sacred books whose co-Author is none other than God himself. In these sacred books we can get a knowledge of God which surpasses any and all the conclusions which our human intellects could deduce from the work of his hands, which we see about us in creation.

While the knowledge of God, which our human intellects could and should discover, was true and valuable for salvation, the knowledge of him which we get from his inspired books is much more intimate and more detailed. We, know that he is a Father who loves us. He sent his Son to become one of us. That Son represented us and by his perfect obedience “even unto the death on the cross,” he obtained for us pardon for all our acts of disobedience. By sharing in our humanity he earned for us a share in the divinity. By dying he saved us from eternal death. By his resurrection he became the first-fruits of the return of all men from their graves, to live forever in the future world.

This is what our Bible contains–the history of God’s intimate relations with man and the facts concerning his eternal plans for our everlasting happiness. No wonder it has been called “the greatest story ever told.” No wonder it has and will always be a “best-seller.” Other books are useful, they help us in one way or another to earn a livelihood, and make our way through this life. This Bible is essential. It helps us to get to know God and his loving plans for us. It enables us (coupled with the other aids which Christ has left to his Church) to fulfill our real purpose in life, and to reach the reward prepared so lovingly for us after our death.

GOSPEL

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Lk 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always

without becoming weary.  He said, “There was a judge in a certain town

who neither feared God nor respected any human being.

And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,

‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’

For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,

‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,

because this widow keeps bothering me

I shall deliver a just decision for her

lest she finally come and strike me.'”

The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.

Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones

who call out to him day and night?

Will he be slow to answer them?

I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.

But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 675 Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.1 The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth2 will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.3

CCC 2098 The acts of faith, hope, and charity enjoined by the first commandment are accomplished in prayer. Lifting up the mind toward God is an expression of our adoration of God: prayer of praise and thanksgiving, intercession and petition. Prayer is an indispensable condition for being able to obey God’s commandments. “[We] ought always to pray and not lose heart.”4

CCC 2573 God renews his promise to Jacob, the ancestor of the twelve tribes of Israel.5 Before confronting his elder brother Esau, Jacob wrestles all night with a mysterious figure who refuses to reveal his name, but he blesses him before leaving him at dawn. From this account, the spiritual tradition of the Church has retained the symbol of prayer as a battle of faith and as the triumph of perseverance.6

CCC 2613 Three principal parables on prayer are transmitted to us by St. Luke:

– The first, “the importunate friend,”7 invites us to urgent prayer: “Knock, and it will be opened to you.” To the one who prays like this, the heavenly Father will “give whatever he needs,” and above all the Holy Spirit who contains all gifts.

– The second, “the importunate widow,”8 is centered on one of the qualities of prayer: it is necessary to pray always without ceasing and with the patience of faith. “And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

– The third parable, “the Pharisee and the tax collector,”9 concerns the humility of the heart that prays. “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” The Church continues to make this prayer its own: Kyrie eleison!

1 Cf. Lk 18:8; Mt 24:12.

2 Cf. Lk 21:12; Jn 15:19-20.

3 Cf. 2 Th 2:4-12; I Th 5:2-3; 2 Jn 7; I Jn 2:1 8, 22.

4 Lk 18:1.

5 Cf. Gen 28:10-22.

6 Cf. Gen 32:24-30; Lk 18:1-8.

7 Cf. Lk 11:5-13.

8 Cf. Lk 18:1-8.

9 Cf. Lk 18:9-14.

APPLICATION

There are many devout Christians who are deeply puzzled by what they think is God’s indifference to their fervent pleas for spiritual favors, which to them appear essential in their journey heavenwards. These people would readily admit that God has good reasons for not granting temporal favors–they might not be for their eternal good. Why refuse or delay granting their spiritual needs? The man or woman who has dedicated his or her life exclusively to the service of God still suffers from human weaknesses. He or she is attracted to worldly things, is finding humility and obedience very difficult, suffers from dryness in prayer or worse still is scrupulous to a degree that makes the religious life almost unbearable. Such people could work so much better for God and for their neighbor if only God would remove these weaknesses which, in fact, he could so easily do. .

Or again, why should whole nations of devout Christians suffer persecution from atheistic tyrants? See their children brought up deprived of the right to practice their faith, or, worse still, taught to despise it? Surely God should answer the prayers of these good people and the fervent prayers of millions of their fellow-Christians on their behalf …

These and many similar questionings arise in our minds because our limited, human intellects can see but one small section of the immense tapestry which God is weaving for the human race. We would all like immediate results in our own tiny comer of that tapestry while the all-wise God is occupied with the whole picture. He is not forgetting us either. If he delays in answering our urgent appeals, we can be certain that the reason is not that he wants to punish us, but rather to help us. There are many saints in heaven who would perhaps never have become saints if God had not allowed them to struggle on longer than they would have wished, against trials and difficulties–spiritual as well as physical.

Our divine Lord teaches us, in this parable, the need for perseverance in prayer. This perseverance develops our trust and confidence in God. It helps us to become humble and to realize how weak we are when left to ourselves. It keeps us close to God, as we learn how dependent we are on his generosity. If we only would realize that God is perhaps never closer to us than when we think he is forgetting us! The trials of life, spiritual or temporal, which he allows us to suffer are not obstacles to our spiritual progress but rather step-ping-stones without which we could not cross the rivers of life at all.

God wants every one of us in heaven but just as no two men on earth have the same identical features, so also no two men on earth have the same road to lead them to heaven. God is supervising the journey of each one of us. He is ever there to help if the obstacle on one’s road is insurmountable. We may and we must, keep asking God for the spiritual and temporal favors which we feel we need. We must never grow despondent or feel that God has lost interest in us, if he delays in granting these favors. When we shall look back on our earthly journey from the happy vantage point of heaven, we shall see how effectively and how lovingly God regulated our journey. When he did not grant a certain favor it was because he had a much more important one to give us, one we did not ask for or even realize we needed.

“Ask and you shall receive,” not perhaps what you wanted, but what God knew you needed. “Seek and you shall find,” not the easy way which you thought you deserved, but the harder way which would make you more deserving of heaven. “Knock and it shall be opened unto you,” not the door you were standing at, which would have delayed or endangered your progress, but the door further down the street where refreshment and new courage to continue on your upward climb were awaiting you.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Christianity as Revelation

We can say of the Christian faith, in line with the faith of Abraham, that no one simply finds it there as his possession. It never comes out of what we have ourselves. It breaks in from outside. That is still always the way. Nobody is born a Christian, not even in a Christian world and of Christian parents. Being Christian can only ever happen as a new birth. Being a Christian begins with Baptism, which is death and Resurrection (Rom ^), not with biological birth… The Christian faith is not the product of our experiences; rather, it is an event that comes to us from without. Faith is based on our meeting something (or someone) for which our capacity for experiencing things is inadequate. IT is not our experience that is widened or deepened… but something happens. The categories of “encounter,” “otherness;” “event,” describe the inner origins of the Christian faith and indicate the limitations of the concept of “experience.” Certainly, what touches us there effects an experience in us, but experience as the result of an event, not of reaching deeper into ourselves. This is exactly what is meant by the concept of revelation: something not ours, not to be found in what we have, comes to me and takes me out of myself, above myself, creates something new. That also determines the historical nature of Christianity, which is based on events and not on becoming aware of the depths of one’s own inner self, what is called “illumination.” The Trinity is not the object of our experience but is something that has to be uttered from outside, that comes to me from outside as “revelation.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

God, our Father, I pray that through the Holy Spirit I might hear the call of the New Evangelization to deepen my faith, grow in confidence to proclaim the Gospel and boldly witness to the saving grace of your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

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Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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‘Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for God’s Guidance

Father in Heaven, You made me Your child and called me to walk in the Light of Christ. Free me from darkness and keep me in the Light of Your Truth. The Light of Jesus has scattered the darkness of hatred and sin. Called to that Light, I ask for Your guidance. Form my life in Your Truth, my heart in Your Love. Through the Holy Eucharist, give me the power of Your Grace that I may walk in the Light of Jesus and serve Him faithfully.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=712

COLLECT

May your grace, O Lord, we pray,

at all times go before us and follow after

and make us always determined

to carry out good works.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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2 Kgs 5:14-17

Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times

at the word of Elisha, the man of God.

His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child,

and he was clean of his leprosy.

Naaman returned with his whole retinue to the man of God.

On his arrival he stood before Elisha and said,

“Now I know that there is no God in all the earth,

except in Israel.

Please accept a gift from your servant.”

Elisha replied, “As the LORD lives whom I serve, I will not take it;”

and despite Naaman’s urging, he still refused.

Naaman said: “If you will not accept,

please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth,

for I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice

to any other god except to the LORD.”

APPLICATION

God miraculously cured Naaman of his leprosy, through the instrumentality of his prophet Elisha. This might seem strange to us, for this man was a pagan who adored false gods and came from a pagan land. That he would work miracles on behalf of his Chosen People, the children of Abraham, in the land of Canaan which he gave to them, we can easily understand. But why this favor for one who did not even know him or respect him?

God was the God of all peoples and all nations. He created them and he had planned heaven for them all. If he chose a certain people from among the nations of the world it does not mean that he had no interest in the others. If he revealed himself more fully and took a more active interest in the descendants of Abraham, he did this so that the salvation he had planned for all mankind, would come in due time to them all, as well as to his Chosen People.

In the meantime the pagan peoples who did not know the true God were able to honor him in their own way. If they followed their consciences and kept their local customs and practices, even though these customs included giving honor to idols, man-made gods, he could and did tolerate this error and read into their false worship their human intent to give honor to their Master, and true God.

The Chosen People had been given greater gifts, but God judged the pagan nations according to the gifts which he had given them. He judged the Jews according to the greater gifts he had given them. Both Jews and pagans were raised to the status of adopted sons of God, when the Incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ, the Son of God, took place. Its effects were retroactive. Heaven was opened for all mankind on the resurrection day and those who had acted in conformity with their knowledge and their consciences, whether Jews or pagans, were admitted to God’s eternal mansions.

Does this mean that we need not or should not bring Christ’s message to those still living in paganism, whether they are in pagan lands or in lands which were once Christian? By no means. Firstly, because we have a command from Christ to preach his Gospel to all peoples and secondly, true love for God which any sincere Christian must have, should make him do all in his power to get all God’s children to know him and to love him.

Though the pagan can get assistance or grace directly from God if he is striving to live according to his lights, we who are Christians, and have the wonderful sources of grace which Christ left to his Church at our disposal, often find difficulty in living an upright life. How much more difficult for those poor people who have not the knowledge of God’s infinite love for man, or of the mystery of the Incarnation, and who have not the sacraments to assist them?

The Christian’s journey to heaven may be compared to that of a man who goes by train from New York to San Francisco. He has some restrictions placed on his freedom. He cannot get out and tarry at some town on the way. His night’s sleep may be disturbed by the shakings and rumblings of the speeding train. He has to be content with the food served by the dining car service. He has to associate with and put up with the talk and manners of his fellow-passengers. He is anxious above all, to get safely to San Francisco and if so he will count these difficulties as of very minor importance. The pagan’s journey is like the man who has to make the same journey on foot. He will get to San Francisco if he perseveres. He will get help on the way, but the going is hard. He can stop where he likes, he can avoid unpleasant company but nevertheless it will be a tiring and a trying journey. He would certainly be grateful to the true friend who would buy him a ticket so that he too could go by rail.

This we can do, and there are numerous ways open to us in which we can help our fellowman, still ignorant of God and of Christ. We can help to get them to know about God and about his plan for their eternal happiness. While staying on our train to heaven and while thanking God that he gave us our rail-ticket, let us help those who will otherwise have to make the journey on foot, if they are able. We can do so by example, by prayer and, if possible by alms.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4

The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done wondrous deeds;

his right hand has won victory for him,

his holy arm.

The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

The LORD has made his salvation known:

in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.

He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness

toward the house of Israel.

The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

All the ends of the earth have seen

the salvation by our God.

Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands:

break into song; sing praise.

READING II

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2 Tm 2:8-13

Beloved:

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David:

such is my gospel, for which I am suffering,

even to the point of chains, like a criminal.

But the word of God is not chained.

Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen,

so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus,

together with eternal glory.

This saying is trustworthy:

If we have died with him

we shall also live with him;

if we persevere

we shall also reign with him.

But if we deny him

he will deny us.

If we are unfaithful

he remains faithful,

for he cannot deny himself.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 437 To the shepherds, the angel announced the birth of Jesus as the Messiah promised to Israel: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”1 From the beginning he was “the one whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world”, conceived as “holy” in Mary’s virginal womb.2 God called Joseph to “take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”, so that Jesus, “who is called Christ”, should be born of Joseph’s spouse into the messianic lineage of David.3

CCC 1010 Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”4 “The saying is sure: if we have died with him, we will also live with him.”5 What is essentially new about Christian death is this: through Baptism, the Christian has already “died with Christ” sacramentally, in order to live a new life; and if we die in Christ’s grace, physical death completes this “dying with Christ” and so completes our incorporation into him in his redeeming act:

It is better for me to die in (eis) Christ Jesus than to reign over the ends of the earth. Him it is I seek – who died for us. Him it is I desire – who rose for us. I am on the point of giving birth. .. Let me receive pure light; when I shall have arrived there, then shall I be a man.6

CCC 1499 “By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of the priests the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord, that he may raise them up and save them. And indeed she exhorts them to contribute to the good of the People of God by freely uniting themselves to the Passion and death of Christ.”7

CCC 2641 “[Address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.”8 Like the inspired writers of the New Testament, the first Christian communities read the Book of Psalms in a new way, singing in it the mystery of Christ. In the newness of the Spirit, they also composed hymns and canticles in the light of the unheard-of event that God accomplished in his Son: his Incarnation, his death which conquered death, his Resurrection, and Ascension to the right hand of the Father.9 Doxology, the praise of God, arises from this “marvelous work” of the whole economy of salvation.10

1 Lk 2:11.

2 Jn 10:36; cf. Lk 1:35.

3 Mt 1:20; cf. 1:16; Rom 1:1; 2 Tim 2:8; Rev 22:16.

4 Phil 1:21.

5 2 Tim 2:11.

6 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom.,6,1-2:Apostolic Fathers,II/2,217-220.

7 LG 11; cf. Jas 5:14-16; Rom 8:17; Col 1:24; 2 Tim 2:11-12; 1 Pet 4:13.

8 Eph 5:19; Col 3:16.

9 Cf. Phil 2:6-11; Col 1:15-20; Eph 5:14; 1 Tim 3:16; 6:15-16; 2 Tim 2:11-13.

10 Cf. Eph 1:3-14; Rom 16:25-27; Eph 3:20-21; Jude 24-25.

APPLICATION

Timothy, a faithful follower of Christ and of his teacher, St. Paul, and a man who spent his life preaching the Christian faith, and finally gave his life for it. If he needed reminding of the essence of Christianity, how much more do we Christians of the twentieth century need this reminder. We too have died and risen to a new life with Christ in our baptism. In parenthesis. I hope the Church will bring back baptism by total immersion, it expressed so vividly the death of the natural man in imitation of Christ’s death and burial, and the rising up from the grave to a new supernatural life in and with Christ. However, this is exactly what the baptism received by all and which made us Christians, members of Christ’s mystical body, signified and actuated in us. We were made new men, raised to the supernatural status of sons of God, and set on the road to heaven, the eternal heritage which the Incarnation won for US.

How often during the weeks, months, years of our lives do we really think seriously of what being a Christian means to us? How many mornings in our lives as we dress and prepare for another day’s work do we remember that the coming twenty-four hours are bringing us another day nearer to our final examination on which all our eternity depends? It is not the work we do that makes any difference. It is the right intention with which we approach it and the honesty with which we carry it out.

The monk who from his vocation gives his day to prayer and spiritual exercises, but who gives it grudgingly and completely forgetting God who has registered twenty-four hours on the debit page of his life’s record. The bricklayer who had barely time to make a short morning offering, but who made it, and honestly spent his day laying one monotonous brick on another, doing so for the honor and glory of God, as part of his life’s task, has his twenty-four hours written in gold on his account book.

It is not our vocation in life, nor the occupation or place we hold in the society in which we live, that will assure or impede our success or failure in our final examination. It is the intention and the manner in which we carry out whatever role in life God has allotted to us. Shakespeare, a man of wisdom, says this world is a stage whereon each man must play his part. The success of any play depends on how each member of the cast plays his or her role. The little servant-maid who brings the coffee-tray to the queen or the star, and who does it properly with a true appreciation of her humble role, is as responsible for the play’s success as the queen or star may be.

We pass across the stage of this life only once. We have no rehearsals or no repeats. If we are sincere Christians, we know where we are going, we’ll go off the stage through the right door. God is infinitely merciful and pardons sins and mistakes again and again. The Christian who ignores the calls to repentance sent him so often in his lifetime, can hardly be surprised if he ignores the last and final call also, and finds himself unrepentant at God’s judgment seat.

Let us listen to the voice of God today. We have yet time to put things right, if up to now we have been neglectful in our duty as Christians. We died with Christ in baptism. We promised to live for and with him during our stay on this earth. He promised us a resurrection to an eternally happy life if we kept our word. Baptism has already put us on the right road to heaven. There are obstacles and difficulties scattered along that road but we are forewarned and therefore forearmed to face them. Paul, Timothy, Peter, Andrew and all the other thousands of saints who are today in heaven met the same obstacles which we have to meet and even greater ones. They were as human and as weak as we are. They won their battles–so can we. The same graces which God gave them he is only too glad to give us. All we need to do is to ask for them and then to use them.

Christ became man so that I could become a son of God. Christ died so that I might live eternally. Christ was raised from the dead and went to heaven to prepare a place for me there. I, too, shall rise from the dead and occupy that place which he has prepared for me, if I live my short life on earth as my Christian faith tells me I should live it.

GOSPEL

ten-lepers-icon

Lk 17:11-19

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,

he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.

As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.

They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,

“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”

And when he saw them, he said,

“Go show yourselves to the priests.”

As they were going they were cleansed.

And one of them, realizing he had been healed,

returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;

and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.

He was a Samaritan.

Jesus said in reply,

“Ten were cleansed, were they not?

Where are the other nine?

Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”

Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;

your faith has saved you.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 586 Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation of his future Church.1 He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God’s definitive dwelling-place among men.2 Therefore his being put to bodily death3 presaged the destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation: “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”4

1 Cf. Mt 8:4; 16:18; 17:24-27; Lk 17:14; Jn 4:22; 18:20.

2 Cf. Jn 2:21; Mt 12:6.

3 Cf. Jn 2:18-22.

4 Jn 4:21; cf. 4:23-24; Mt 27:5; Heb 9:11; Rev 21:22.

APPLICATION

This incident of the ten lepers happened as our Lord was on his way to Jerusalem, where he was to die on the cross so that we could live eternally. The Church brings it before our minds today, not so much to remind us of the mercy and kindness of Jesus to all classes, even the outcasts, as lepers were, as to make us see and be amazed at the depths of ingratitude to which men can sink.

This is but one of many such examples of ingratitude that occurred during Christ’s public ministry, most of those he miraculously cured forget to thank him. In today’s incident there was one, and he was the one least expected to do so, who had the decency to return and thank his benefactor. This pleased our Lord and led him to remark on the ingratitude of the others. “Were not all ten made whole, where are the other nine?”

He was surprised and also sad for their sakes, not for his own. They missed greater graces through this lack of appreciation and gratitude.

All ten showed great faith and confidence in Jesus’ power to heal. They had not heard him preach nor had they seen any of his miracles. They lived in isolation camps, yet they believed the reports they had heard. They all were very obedient too. They set off for Jerusalem to carry out the command of Jesus, even though their leprosy had not yet left them.

In all of this it was their own self-interest which came first in the minds of the nine Jews. Once they found their leprosy gone all they thought of was their own good fortune. Their Benefactor was quickly forgotten. The Samaritan’s first thought, on the other hand, was of the one who had healed him. He was as delighted as the others with his cure but being generous and thoughtful for others, he felt it his bounden duty to return and thank the man who had done him this miraculous good turn.

While we are ashamed of our fellow-men who were so ungrateful, and who treated the loving Jesus so shamefully, let us see if we have improved very much in our way of acting towards our Savior. Those Jewish lepers did not know that he was the Son of God who assumed human nature, became man, in order to raise us up to a new supernatural status. He gave them the gift of physical health for thirty, forty, or maybe sixty years more. We know that he has come to give us an eternal life–a life that will last forever, a life free from all troubles and worries “where all tears will be wiped away and death shall be no more.”

With this knowledge then of what Christ means to us, of what his Incarnation has won for us, of the eternal freedom from all sickness and death which his human life, death and resurrection have put at our disposal, how can any real Christian ever cease thanking him, could there be such a being as an ungrateful Christian ever on earth?

Unfortunately, there is not only one such ungrateful being, but there are millions of them. How many of us here present are numbered amongst these ungrateful ones? There are those of us who think of God only when we are in difficulties. While things are going well, when there is no sickness in the home, when our business is prospering, when there is peace all around us, how many times in the week do we say “thank you, God, you are very good to me.” When trouble strikes it is a different matter. We rush to church, we implore God to have pity on us, we make novenas to our special saints. This is not wrong. What is wrong, however, is that we forgot to thank God all the time that he was giving us spiritual and temporal favors.

Think for a moment. If those nine ungrateful lepers were struck again with disease some months later and returned to implore Christ for a cure, would you blame him if he refused? Most of us would refuse. Yet we expect him to listen to our urgent pleas the minute we make them, while we have not given him a thought and never said one “thank you, Lord,” while things were going well with us.

We all need to be more grateful to God every day of our lives–more grateful than we have been. He has not only given us life on this earth with its joys and its sorrows, but he has prepared for us a future life where there will be no admixture of sorrows. It is for that life that we are working. It is because there is a heaven after death that we are Christians. God has already done his part in preparing this heaven for us. He is assisting us daily to get there. We need a lot of that assistance and one of the surest ways of getting further benefits from God (as well as from men) is to show true gratitude for the benefits already received.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Making God Present in Society

We all ask ourselves what the Lord expects of us… There is a desire to reduce God to the private sphere, to a sentiment… As a result, everyone makes his or her own plan in life. But this vision, presented as though it were scientific, accepts as valid only what can be proven. With a God who is not available for immediate experimentation, this vision ends by also injuring society. The result is in fact that each one makes his own plan and in the end finds himself opposed to the other. As can be seen, this is definitely an unliveable situation. We must make God present again in our society. This is the first essential element: that God be once again present in our lives, that we do not live as though we were autonomous, authorized to invent what freedom and life are. We must realize that we are creatures, aware that there is a God who has created us and that living in accordance with his will is not dependence but a gift of love that makes us alive. Therefore, the first point is to know God, to know him better and better, to recognize that God is in my life, and that God has a place… The second point, therefore, is recognizing God who has shown us his face in Jesus, who suffered for us, who loved us to the point of dying, and thus overcame violence. It is necessary to make the living God present in our “own” lives first of all… a God only thought of, but a God who has shown himself, who has shown his being and his face. Only in this way do our lives become true, authentically human: hence, the criteria of true humanism emerge in society.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Praise to God (psalm 67)

O God, be gracious and bless us and let Your face shed its light upon us. So will Your ways be known upon earth and all nations learn Your saving help.

Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.

Let the nations be glad and exult for You rule the world with justice. With fairness You rule the peoples, You guide the nations on earth.

Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.

The earth has yielded its fruit for God, our God, has blessed us. May God still give us His blessing till the ends of the earth revere Him.

Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.

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Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

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“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for Respect of Life

Heavenly Father,

the beauty and dignity of human life

was the crowning of your creation.

You further ennobled that life

when your Son became one with us in his incarnation.

Help us to realize the sacredness of human life

and to respect it from the moment of conception

until the last moment at death.

Give us courage to speak with truth

and love and with conviction in defense of life.

Help us to extend the gentle hand of mercy and forgiveness

to those who do not reverence your gift of life.

To all, grant pardon for the times we have failed

to be grateful for your precious gift of life

or to respect it in others.

We ask this in the name of Jesus.

Amen.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1664

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

who in the abundance of your kindness

surpass the merits and the desires of those

who entreat you,

pour out your mercy upon us

to pardon what conscience dreads

and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Hb 1:2-3; 2:2-4

How long, O LORD? I cry for help

but you do not listen!

I cry out to you, “Violence!”

but you do not intervene.

Why do you let me see ruin;

why must I look at misery?

Destruction and violence are before me;

there is strife, and clamorous discord.

Then the LORD answered me and said:

Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets,

so that one can read it readily.

For the vision still has its time,

presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;

if it delays, wait for it,

it will surely come, it will not be late.

The rash one has no integrity;

but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.

APPLICATION

There are many Christians who, like this prophet Habakkuk, want God quickly to punish sinners, especially those who unjustly oppress their fellowman or make life difficult for those who are trying to live honestly and uprightly. God told this prophet to be patient, that he would eventually put all things right; even if he seemed to be slow in reacting, his judgment was certain to come.

Now in the Old Testament times, when a future life was rarely thought of and all retribution was expected on this earth, there was some excuse for the impatience of the prophet. For a follower however of Christ, who came to save sinners, and wished not the death of any sinner but that all might be converted and live, there is no such excuse. Christ tells us expressly: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who maltreat you” (Lk. 6: 27). This is no doubt a difficult command for our weak human nature, but it comes from our Lord who himself set us the example. During his life on earth he dealt with and fraternized with sinners of all kinds. This was one of the “crimes” which the Pharisees accused him of. He met adulterers, murderers, robbers, backbiters, unjust employers and dishonest employees. Did he ever utter one harsh word against any of them? Most of those he healed were sinners. He frequently told them not to sin any more, but he did not refuse to heal them because of their past sins. The crowning act of forgiveness of enemies was on Calvary. As he hung on the cross to which his enemies had unjustly and cruelly nailed him, one of his last words was a prayer for those very enemies : “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”

He was the all-innocent Son of God who had put himself to the humiliation of taking our human nature in order to give us a share in his divinity. He never did and never could injure anybody. “He went about doing good,” yet he bore the insults, the treachery, the thanklessness, the sacrilegious defamation of character when he was called a blasphemer. All these injuries he bore without even a murmur of complaint, although they were heaped on him by the very people whom he had come to save.

Is he asking too much of us then when he asks us to forgive our enemies? There are very few of us who are not guilty of having, at one time or another, offended God and our neighbor. We ourselves have often asked pardon of God and received it. Could we be so mean as not to forgive a neighbor who like ourselves has all the weaknesses of human nature? Worse still could we be so forgetful of our own eternal welfare as to refuse that pardon, for one condition on which we can get God’s pardon is that we first pardon our fellowman. When we pray the Our Father we say: “forgive us the wrong we have done as we forgive those who wrong us.” What we are saying to God then if we do not forgive our neighbor is: “do not forgive us as we will not forgive our neighbor?” What a foolish, what a dreadful prayer to utter!

Life is hard enough for the vast majority of mankind. But keeping up enmities between members of the family, between neighbors, between nations adds a hundred per cent more hardship to our life on earth. Today, billions of dollars and pounds are being wasted, billions which could feed all the hungry of the earth. They are being wasted because nations insist on keeping up enmities instead of getting together as human, rational beings should do and admitting their faults (which are not all on one side), thus establishing a bond of friendship. While we can only use the influence we have, and we are bound to use it, to put an end to the scandal of national hatreds and distrust, let us begin at home to do what is entirely within our own power. Let us forgive all enemies and all injuries real or imaginary (they so often are imaginary), let us live in peace with all our neighbors and prove ourselves worthy to be called followers of Christ on whose forgiveness our eternal salvation depends.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

the-samaritan-woman2

Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;

let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;

let us joyfully sing psalms to him.

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us bow down in worship;

let us kneel before the LORD who made us.

For he is our God,

and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice:

“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,

as in the day of Massah in the desert,

Where your fathers tempted me;

they tested me though they had seen my works.”

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

READING II

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2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14

Beloved:

I remind you, to stir into flame

the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice

but rather of power and love and self-control.

So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,

nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;

but bear your share of hardship for the gospel

with the strength that comes from God.

Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me,

in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit

that dwells within us.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 84 The apostles entrusted the “Sacred deposit” of the faith (the depositum fidei),1 contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church. “By adhering to [this heritage] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. So, in maintaining, practicing and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful.”2

CCC 857 The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:

she was and remains built on “the foundation of the Apostles,”3 the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself;4

with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching,5 the “good deposit,” the salutary words she has heard from the apostles;6

she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, “assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor”:7

You are the eternal Shepherd

who never leaves his flock untended.

Through the apostles

you watch over us and protect us always.

You made them shepherds of the flock

to share in the work of your Son. ..8

CCC 1202 The diverse liturgical traditions have arisen by very reason of the Church’s mission. Churches of the same geographical and cultural area came to celebrate the mystery of Christ through particular expressions characterized by the culture: in the tradition of the “deposit of faith,”9 in liturgical symbolism, in the organization of fraternal communion, in the theological understanding of the mysteries, and in various forms of holiness. Through the liturgical life of a local church, Christ, the light and salvation of all peoples, is made manifest to the particular people and culture to which that Church is sent and in which she is rooted. The Church is catholic, capable of integrating into her unity, while purifying them, all the authentic riches of cultures.10

CCC 1556 To fulfill their exalted mission, “the apostles were endowed by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them, and by the imposition of hands they passed on to their auxiliaries the gift of the Spirit, which is transmitted down to our day through episcopal consecration.”11

CCC 1577 “Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination.”12 The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry.13 The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.14

CCC 2471 Before Pilate, Christ proclaims that he “has come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.”15 The Christian is not to “be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord.”16 In situations that require witness to the faith, the Christian must profess it without equivocation, after the example of St. Paul before his judges. We must keep “a clear conscience toward God and toward men.”17

1 DV 10 § 1; cf. 1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:12-14 (Vulg.).

2 DV 10 § 1; cf. Acts 2:42 (Greek); Pius XII, apostolic constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, 1 November 1950:AAS 42 (1950), 756, taken along with the words of St. Cyprian, Epist. 66, 8:CSEL 3/2,733: “The Church is the people united to its Priests, the flock adhering to its Shepherd.”

3 Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14.

4 Cf. Mt 28:16-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Cor 9:1; 15:7-8; Gal 1:1; etc.

5 Cf. Acts 2:42.

6 Cf. 2 Tim 1:13-14.

7 AG 5.

8 Roman Missal, Preface of the Apostles I.

9 2 Tim 1:14 (Vulg.).

10 Cf. LG 23; UR 4.

11 LG 21; cf. Acts 1:8; 24; Jn 20:22-23; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6-7.

12 CIC, can. 1024.

13 Cf. Mk 3:14-19; Lk 6:12-16; 1 Tim 3:1-13; 2 Tim 1:6; Titus 1:5-9; St. Clement of Rome, Ad Cor. 42,4; 44,3:PG 1,292-293; 300.

14 Cf. John Paul II, MD 26-27; CDF, declaration, Inter insigniores: AAS 69 (1977) 98-116.

15 Jn 18:37.

16 2 Tim 1:8.

17 Acts 24:16.

APPLICATION

At the time that St. Paul wrote this letter he was expecting his execution at any moment. He knew not when or how it would come. But Paul is not thinking of himself, or of what fate awaits him; “he has fought the good fight, he has kept the faith,” he confidently leaves the rest to God. He is much more concerned with the spread of the Christian message and with its preservation in its pristine purity, than he is with his own personal affairs, hence this letter to Timothy, Bishop of Ephesus, as well as another to Titus whom he had appointed Bishop of Crete. The theme of both letters is very similar. They consist of exhortations and encouragements to two somewhat young men, recently appointed to direct the Christian community in these important places.

They had many difficulties to contend with. The majority of the inhabitants in both places were still pagan, with a large sprinkling of Jews. These Jews were bitterly opposed to Christ and his Gospel, even more so than the pagans, and were often influential enough to stir up the pagan authorities against the Christians. Added to this was the difficulty that pagan converts met with from their families and neighbors who thought that the self-mortification for the sake of some future happiness, which to them seemed doubtful, was really the height of folly.

So these young bishops had need of their beloved teacher’s exhortations and advice. It was not given in vain. Within a generation of Paul’s martyrdom, the island of Crete and not only the city of Ephesus but almost all the surrounding districts, were predominantly Christian. Like Paul, his two disciples fought the good fight. They preserved and spread the faith. Nor did they count the cost. Like their teacher, tradition maintains that they both laid down their lives for the sake of Christ and are numbered among the saints in heaven.

To become a Christian in the first century was not exactly like becoming a member of the Retired Businessmen’s Club, or an honorary member of the Old Ladies’ Cultural Society. One had to be ready to face and bear with opposition from all sides. Giving up one’s long-practiced pagan vices was not easy, nor was excommunication from one’s family a trifling thing. Then, there was the continual threat of persecution, arrest and imprisonment on the flimsiest pretext. These persecutions often resulted in martyrdom. If, as Tertullian said, “the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians,” it was no wonder that the number of Christians increased so rapidly. There was no shortage of the seed of martyrs’ blood during that first century.

Living the Christian faith in our twentieth century is not quite so dangerous or so difficult perhaps. But living it fully and sincerely can and does make serious demands on weak, human nature. The true Christian today has to face opposition which, while it is not so open and so evident, is all the more dangerous and insidious because of its secrecy and its clever camouflage. The man who thinks he has outgrown childish practice by lolling in bed when he ought to be attending Mass on Sunday morning, and who nags his wife all day for disturbing him when she got up to do her duty towards God, is no better than the pagan husband of Timothy’s day, who forcibly kept his Christian wife from attending her Christian meetings.

The scandal given by those who in their youth offered their lives to serve God and their neighbor, but who now in their mature years find plausible excuses to return to worldly pleasures and pursuits makes them little different from the Judaizers who troubled and seriously disturbed the faith of the Gentile converts. The emphasis on sex and the right of the individual to do as he pleases is nothing less than neo-paganism, which, not content with claiming license for its own devotees, wants everyone else to join its ranks.

The corruption and bribery that is rife in political life and in big business in most countries makes it extremely difficult for a Christian who believes that the seventh commandment should be kept. If he keeps the commandment he’ll very soon find himself out of a job. If he holds on to his job he’ll find himself out with God and his faith.

In most countries of what we call the Western World, leaving out the communist countries, Christianity is not persecuted openly. There is no immediate threat of martyrdom for those who profess it. There is, however, an insidious ground-swell of opposition which comes not only from the non-baptized and they are numerous, but also from those who were baptized but who have found the yoke of Christ too burdensome.

It was never easy to be a loyal follower of Christ. It never will be easy. Yet those who follow him are on the right road. They have to fight the good fight, but the reward is worth the struggle. We who are trying to be loyal must heed Paul’s words to Timothy—we must stir into flame the gift of faith that is in us. We must never be ashamed of the faith which we profess, the cross is a sign of our eternal salvation and the symbol of our present obligations. It is through the cross that we shall earn the crown. It is by climbing Calvary with Christ that we shall reach our Mount of Ascension.

GOSPEL

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Lk 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”

The Lord replied,

“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,

you would say to this mulberry tree,

‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

“Who among you would say to your servant

who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,

‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?

Would he not rather say to him,

‘Prepare something for me to eat.

Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.

You may eat and drink when I am finished’?

Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?

So should it be with you.

When you have done all you have been commanded,

say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;

we have done what we were obliged to do.'”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/100216.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 162 Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.”1 To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith;2 it must be “working through charity,” abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church.3

1 1 Tim 1:18-19.

2 Cf. Mk 9:24; Lk 17:5; 22:32.

3 Gal 5:6; Rom 15:13; cf. Jas 2:14-26.

APPLICATION

Although the words we have read were addressed to the Apostles, they apply to all of us, each in his own station in life. Following the example of the Apostles, we must all pray for greater trust in God. Most of us are inclined to forget God and his providence when our earthly affairs are going well. How often do we thank him when we are enjoying good health, and when our home-life and business are going smoothly? How many Catholics make a novena of thanksgiving for all the gifts they have received and are receiving daily from God’s providence. How many, rather, pat themselves on the back for what they claim as their own successes?

It is only when a storm arises in their lives that they think of him. Remember that storm on the Lake of Gennesaret. The Apostles were rowing cheerfully across the lake. They were probably telling tall yarns about the size and the number of fish they had caught there in their day. They may have been striving against one another to show who was the strongest oarsman. They did not seem to notice that Jesus was sleeping soundly in the bow of the boat. They thought of him only when the storm arose, and then when they realized that they were in danger they shouted to him for help (Mk. 5: 37). They didn’t realize that both the calm and the storm were under his province.

Too many of us also, forget God and fail to give him the thanks and the credit for our well-being which we owe him. We rush to him only when trouble strikes. In his infinite goodness he often answers such panic prayers. If, however, we had thought of him every day and realized his place in our lives with how much more confidence would we then approach him in our hour of special need? If our own personal lives were stronger how much more readily would we accept the adversities and the trials that he sends us or allows to befall us for our eternal good? We can all ask God today to “increase our faith.”

As regards our work for God’s kingdom and for the salvation of ourselves and of our neighbor we are, like the Apostles, servants of God, and we should be proud of our status. We should be glad, that is, that he allows us to cooperate with him in the building of his heavenly kingdom. Are we really dutiful servants in this regard? Let each one of us ask himself seriously today : What have I done up to now to help to make God known to my neighbor who is ignorant of God and never thinks of what will happen him after death? I may not be able to put in words very clearly what I know and believe about God and the future life, but I can speak to him far more convincingly by my way of living, by my daily actions. I once knew a customs officer whose work was in a whiskey distillery to see that excise duty was paid on all spirits sold. He had two non-Catholic, in fact non-baptized, assistants working in his office. One of their privileges was three free drinks a day, one in the morning before work began, one at mid-day, one at 6 p.m. before leaving the office. A devout Catholic, the officer recited his Angelus before taking the refreshment. His assistants, out of respect, stood up in silence while he recited his prayer–they jokingly called it the “grace before drinks.” After a while they began to question this evidently sincere man. He explained that the prayer recalled to us the coming of Christ, the Son of God, on earth to bring us to heaven. They eventually took instructions and became devout Catholics. A “grace before drinks” said with sincerity can be apostolic work.

The sincere Christian can find many ways to help to make Christ known to his neighbor without going on the foreign missions. There are pagans and unbelievers, often such through no fault of their own, and there are many lax Christians all around us. We should, and we can, have an effective influence on them and on their eternal future, if we ourselves live our Christian lives as Christ expects us to do. A quiet word, a charitable gesture, a truly unselfish interest in a neighbor’s troubles, coming from a sincere lay-man can do more good than a series of sermons given by a renowned theologian in the parish church.

Look around you today. Think of your fellow-workers and those living in your own street. Many of them need help and need it badly. You can help them, God expects you to help them. It is his plan for getting you to help yourself to get to heaven. If you fail to cooperate with God by helping to bring his stray children back to him, you may find that you will be a straying child on your day of reckoning. God forbid.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

The World’s Need for Transformation

The holy mystery of God, the mustard seed of the Gospel, cannot be identified with the world but is rather destined to permeate the whole world. That is why we must find again the courage to embrace what is sacred, the courage to distinguish what is Christian – not in order to segregate it, but in order to transform it – the courage to be truly dynamic. In an interview in 1975, Eugene Ionesco, one of the founders of the theater of the absurd, expressed this with all the passion of seeking and searching that characterizes the person of our age. I quote a few sentences from that interview: “The Church does not want to lose her current clientele; but she does want to gain new members. The result is a kind of secularization that is truly pitiful. The world is losing its way; the Church is losing herself in the world… I once heard a priest say in church: ‘Let us be happy; let us shake hands… Jesus is pleased to wish you a pleasant good day!’ Before long they will be setting up a bar in Church for Communion of bread and wine and offering sandwiches and Beaujolais… Nothing is left to us; nothing solid. Everything is in flux. But what we need is a rock.” It seems to me that if we listen to the voices of our age, of people who are consciously living, suffering, and loving in the world today, we will realize that we cannot serve this world with a kind of banal officiousness. It has no need of confirmation but rather transformation, of the radicalism of the Gospel.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to Our Lady of the Rosary

O Virgin Mary, grant that the recitation of thy Rosary may be for me each day, in the midst of my manifold duties, a bond of unity in my actions, a tribute of filial piety, a sweet refreshment, an encouragement to walk joyfully along the path of duty. Grant, above all, O Virgin Mary, that the study of thy fifteen mysteries may form in my soul, little by little, a luminous atmosphere, pure, strengthening, and fragrant, which may penetrate my understanding, my will, my heart, my memory, my imagination, my whole being. So shall I acquire the habit of praying while I work, without the aid of formal prayers, by interior acts of admiration and of supplication, or by aspirations of love. I ask this of thee, O Queen of the Holy Rosary, through Saint Dominic, thy son of predilection, the renowned preacher of thy mysteries, and the faithful imitator of thy virtues. Amen.

 

October is the Month of the Holy Rosary, and one of the reasons that Pope Leo XIII designated it so is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, which falls on October 7. Like many Marian feasts, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary celebrates the protection of Christians through the intercession of the Mother of God; and, like many feasts toward the end of the liturgical year, it commemorates a struggle with the forces of Islam.

In this case, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary celebrates the victory of Christian naval forces at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. At a time when Christian Europe was being torn apart by internal strife and the Reformation, Don John of Austria destroyed the Turkish fleet in the Gulf of Lepanto. His victory was attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom rosaries were offered and processions were made in Rome on the day of the battle.

The feast was instituted by Pope St. Pius V shortly after the victory, and Pope Clement XI extended it to the entire Church in celebration of another victory over the Turkish Muslims in 1716.

Posted in Catholic

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – C

 

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‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for the Poor

Who is Jesus to me?

Jesus is the Word made Flesh.

Jesus is the Bread of Life.

Jesus is the Victim offered for our sins on the Cross.

Jesus is the Sacrifice at Holy Mass for the sins of the world and mine.

Jesus is the Word – to be spoken.

Jesus is the Truth – to be told.

Jesus is the Way – to be walked.

Jesus is the Light – to be lit.

Jesus is the Life – to be loved.

Jesus is the Joy – to be shared.

Jesus is the Sacrifice – to be given.

Jesus is the Bread of Life – to be eaten.

Jesus is the Hungry – to be fed.

Jesus is the Thirsty – to be satiated.

Jesus is the Naked – to be clothed.

Jesus is the Homeless – to be taken in.

Jesus is the Sick – to be healed.

Jesus is the Lonely – to be loved.

Jesus is the Unwanted – to be wanted.

Jesus is the Leper – to wash his wounds.

Jesus is the Beggar – to give him a smile.

Jesus is the Drunkard – to listen to him.

Jesus is the Little One – to embrace him.

Jesus is the Dumb – to speak to him.

Jesus is the Crippled – to walk with him.

Jesus is the Drug Addict – to befriend him.

Jesus is the Prostitute – to remove from danger and befriend her.

Jesus is the Prisoner – to be visited.

Jesus is the Old – to be served.

To me Jesus is my God, Jesus is my Spouse, Jesus is my Life, Jesus is my only Love, Jesus is my All in All, Jesus is my Everything.

Amen.

(By Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

COLLECT

O God, who manifest your almighty power

above all by pardoning and showing mercy,

bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us

and make those hastening to attain your promises

heirs to the treasures of heaven.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Am 6:1a, 4-7

Thus says the LORD the God of hosts:

Woe to the complacent in Zion!

Lying upon beds of ivory,

stretched comfortably on their couches,

they eat lambs taken from the flock,

and calves from the stall!

Improvising to the music of the harp,

like David, they devise their own accompaniment.

They drink wine from bowls

and anoint themselves with the best oils;

yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph!

Therefore, now they shall be the first to go into exile,

and their wanton revelry shall be done away with.

APPLICATION

This warning of the prophet Amos, who was only an uneducated shepherd before God called him to the prophetic ministry, does not come from Amos but from God, in whose name he spoke. God’s Chosen People, to whom he had in his goodness given the land of Canaan to be their homeland for all time, were about to lose their land and their freedom, because they had forgotten their divine Benefactor and thought only of themselves and their own comfort.

While the well-to-do, to whom Amos speaks, were wallowing in luxury and sin, there were thousands of their fellow citizens who went short of the bare necessities of life. This did not worry these selfish, self-centered egoists. Nor did the warning sent them through the prophet awaken any sense of guilt in their long-silenced consciences. They continued their licentious way of life until finally the wrath of God caught up with them. They lost not only their luxuries; they lost their freedom and their homeland forever.

Is there not a very practical lesson for our day and age in these words uttered nearly three thousand years ago? Four fifths of the wealth of our world is in the hands of one fifth of the population of this earth. To translate this into practical cash means that for every 80 dollars a relatively wealthy man has to spend on himself, four of his less fortunate brothers have to survive on 5 dollars each. The proportion is even worse in parts of our world. There are thousands dying of sheer hunger in many parts of the under-developed nations, while most, if not all, of these countries are continually living on the border-line of starvation.

Even in the wealthy parts of our world the inequitable distribution of goods, which God gave for all, is a disgrace to our humanity. The leftovers from a banquet of company directors would feed a poor family of ten for a week. The price of the second or third car in the rich family’s garage–a mere status symbol to keep up with the Joneses–would keep three poor families in bread and milk for more than a year. We wonder why our world is in turmoil. We are annoyed by protest marches and shocked by the absurd demands of civil rights groups. Agitators and up-setters of our “status quo,” we call them! Lazy, good-for-nothings is what they are! We ask why they do not provide for themselves, though we have taken all the provisions! We are disgusted that they will not bake bread for themselves when we have locked all the flour in our safes!

Communists have come forward with a specious answer–the state own everything, no individual has any rights to possess personal property, each one works for the common good and all things are evenly divided. An excellent solution for the proper distribution of the goods which God put in this world for man’s use if, but what an if, all men were honest and free from sinful selfishness. There are millions in the communist countries who know from sad experience that, apart from any religious tenets, the system of common possession of all the goods of the earth, will not work unless men become angels and then they will not need the goods of this earth!

The answer to this pressing problem is, of course, a return to Christian justice and charity. Thank God, there are moves in this direction in the last decade. We have societies giving of their time and of their personal property, to help their less fortunate brethren at home and abroad. We have brave, generous young men and women who are dedicating their lives to teaching others how to help themselves. Every true Christian should be ready to lend a hand to help these apostles of Christian justice and charity. Many cannot do much because of their own straitened circumstances, but there are few who cannot spare a little of their time and of their possessions to help a neighbor who is in greater need.

Today, take a little time out to look at your way of living. It may not be the type of luxury condemned by God through Amos. It may have lots of little comforts and extras however, which you would not miss but which would be a boon and a god-send for a poorer neighbor. Please God you may be able to boast that you have never been unjust to a fellowman, but were you always, and are you now, charitable to all your neighbors? If your Christian justice and charity are as they should be you are playing a big part in making this world what it ought to be and what God wants it to be–a home for all his children.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 146:7, 8-9, 9-10

Praise the Lord, my soul!

Blessed he who keeps faith forever,

secures justice for the oppressed,

gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets captives free.

Praise the Lord, my soul!

The LORD gives sight to the blind.

The LORD raises up those who were bowed down;

the LORD loves the just.

The LORD protects strangers.

Praise the Lord, my soul!

The fatherless and the widow he sustains,

but the way of the wicked he thwarts.

The LORD shall reign forever;

your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia.

Praise the Lord, my soul!

READING II394px-hieronymus_bosch_013

1 Tm 6:11-16

But you, man of God, pursue righteousness,

devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.

Compete well for the faith.

Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called

when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses.

I charge you before God, who gives life to all things,

and before Christ Jesus,

who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession,

to keep the commandment without stain or reproach

until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ

that the blessed and only ruler

will make manifest at the proper time,

the King of kings and Lord of lords,

who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light,

and whom no human being has seen or can see.

To him be honor and eternal power. Amen.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 52 God, who “dwells in unapproachable light”, wants to communicate his own divine life to the men he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons in his only-begotten Son.1 By revealing himself God wishes to make them capable of responding to him, and of knowing him and of loving him far beyond their own natural capacity.

CCC 66 “The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”2 Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.

CCC 2145 The faithful should bear witness to the Lord’s name by confessing the faith without giving way to fear.3 Preaching and catechizing should be permeated with adoration and respect for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

CCC 2641 “[Address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.”4 Like the inspired writers of the New Testament, the first Christian communities read the Book of Psalms in a new way, singing in it the mystery of Christ. In the newness of the Spirit, they also composed hymns and canticles in the light of the unheard-of event that God accomplished in his Son: his Incarnation, his death which conquered death, his Resurrection, and Ascension to the right hand of the Father.5 Doxology, the praise of God, arises from this “marvelous work” of the whole economy of salvation.6

1 1 Tim 6:16, cf. Eph 1:4-5.

2 DV 4; cf. 1 Tim 6:14; Titus 2:13.

3 Cf. Mt 10:32; 1 Tim 6:12.

4 Eph 5:19; Col 3:16.

5 Cf. Phil 2:6-11; Col 1:15-20; Eph 5:14; 1 Tim 3:16; 6:15-16; 2 Tim 2:11-13.

6 Cf. Eph 1:3-14; Rom 16:25-27; Eph 3:20-21; Jude 24-25.

APPLICATION

All Christians are “men of God,” for through our baptism we have been made new men, sons of God. We are no longer mere mortal men. We are no longer mere citizens of this world. We are destined for a new, everlasting life in heaven. So even though we are not bishops or official leaders in the Church, we are all, in our own way, preachers of the Christian faith to others. St. Paul’s instruction to Timothy therefore, applies to all of us. Each one of us must be a witness, a testimony, to our fellow-Christians and to non-Christians, of the faith that is ours.

We must seek after “integrity” that is, our lives must correspond with our faith. The Christian who is unjust in his dealings with his fellowman is not only sinning against God and his neighbor, he is also betraying the faith he professes. Instead of being a light to lead others to the faith, he is a hindrance to people who might feel attracted to it. He will have a lot to answer for.

We must practice the virtues of faith, hope and charity, but especially charity, the queen of all the virtues. It is how one treats one’s neighbors who need spiritual or temporal aid, that it will distinguish the true Christian from the nominal one. There are Christians who try to excuse themselves from helping others by saying that they have more than enough to do to look after themselves. If they act on that false premise, they certainly will have more than enough to do to get to heaven, in fact they will fail ignominiously. The Christian who ignores his neighbor on the road will not stay long on the right road himself. He has left it already when he makes such a statement.

We must be “steadfast” in our Christian way of living. Life has many difficult moments for all of us. We must be ready to take the rough as well as the smooth. The boxer in the ring, whom Timothy is told to imitate, must be ready, and know how to take blows as well as to give them. He knows he is not dealing with a punch-bag. So, too, we must be willing to bear sufferings when God sends them to us, and to remain as close to God in the storm as we do in the calm. This is steadfastly living the Christian faith.

We must develop a gentle spirit, a spirit of kindliness towards all. Many devout Christians seem to think that they are obliged to frown all the time on this sinful world of ours. They often see evil where there is none. They feel they must have the hard word of disapproval for even minor departures from their own Christian standard. The gentle, kindly Christian, will always try to make allowances for others’ weaknesses, and when out of true Christian charity he corrects his erring brother, it will be in a truly gentle and kindly way. St. Francis de Sales said one catches more flies with a spoon of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.

Finally, we must “take a firm hold of the everlasting life to which we were called,” on our baptism day. We were then made brothers of Christ, heirs to heaven and adopted sons of God. Our life’s span on earth is really a homeward voyage to our true home. We must ever keep our eyes on the compass of faith, we must see to it that no storm blows us off course. When the going gets hard let us remember our leader, Christ Jesus, who for our sakes bore the tortures of crucifixion. Our sufferings will never be as severe as his, and we are suffering for our own sake.

GOSPEL

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Lk 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees:

“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen

and dined sumptuously each day.

And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,

who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps

that fell from the rich man’s table.

Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.

When the poor man died,

he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.

The rich man also died and was buried,

and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,

he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off

and Lazarus at his side.

And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me.

Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,

for I am suffering torment in these flames.’

Abraham replied,

‘My child, remember that you received

what was good during your lifetime

while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;

but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.

Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established

to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go

from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’

He said, ‘Then I beg you, father,

send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers,

so that he may warn them,

lest they too come to this place of torment.’

But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets.

Let them listen to them.’

He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham,

but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,

neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/092516.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 336 From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession.1 “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.”2 Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.

CCC 633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” – Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek – because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.3 Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”:4 “It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.”5 Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.6

CCC 1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.7 The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others.8

CCC 1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart9 do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

CCC 2831 But the presence of those who hunger because they lack bread opens up another profound meaning of this petition. The drama of hunger in the world calls Christians who pray sincerely to exercise responsibility toward their brethren, both in their personal behavior and in their solidarity with the human family. This petition of the Lord’s Prayer cannot be isolated from the parables of the poor man Lazarus and of the Last Judgment.10

1 Cf. Mt 18:10; Lk 16:22; Pss 34:7; 91:10-13; Job 33:23-24; Zech 1:12; Tob 12:12.

2 St. Basil, Adv. Eunomium III, I: PG 29, 656B.

3 Cf. Phil 2:10; Acts 2:24; Rev 1:18; Eph 4:9; Pss 6:6; 88:11-13.

4 Cf. Ps 89:49; I Sam 28:19; Ezek 32:17-32; Lk 16:22-26.

5 Roman Catechism 1, 6, 3.

6 Cf. Council of Rome (745): DS 587; Benedict XII, Cum dudum (1341): DS 1011; Clement VI, Super quibusdam (1351): DS 1077; Council of Toledo IV (625): DS 485; Mt 27:52-53.

7 Cf. 2 Tim 1:9-10.

8 Cf. Lk 16:22; 23:43; Mt 16:26; 2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23; Heb 9:27; 12:23.

9 Cf. Mk 3:5-6; Lk 16:19-31.

10 Cf. Lk 16:19-31; Mt 25:31-46.

APPLICATION

We have here a story of two men whose states, both in this life and in the next, are dramatically opposed. The rich man had everything a man could desire on this earth and he set his heart on this wealth, to such a degree that he excluded all thought of God or of what followed after death. It was not that he was ignorant of God or of a future life (our Lord was addressing the parable to the Pharisees); he admits that he had Moses and the prophets, but he paid no heed to them. He was too busy trying to squeeze the last ounce of pleasure out of his few years on earth.

On the other half of the picture we have a beggar, a man not only in dire destitution, but suffering bodily pains as well. He bore his lot patiently. He was quite content if he got the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table, which he probably did not always get. He must have been disappointed that this rich man never thought of giving him a helping hand but there is no mention of his ever criticizing or blaming him. He left these things to God.

Both men die eventually. The beggar goes straight to heaven to a state of endless happiness. His bodily sufferings have ended forever, he will never be in want again. The rich man fares very differently. His enjoyments are over forever. He is now in torments and he is told that he can expect no relief. They will have no end. Abraham tells him why he is in his present state: he abused his time on earth. He sees the truth of this. He knows that he has no one to blame but himself which must add greatly to his torments. It is also a cause of additional grief to him that his bad example will lead his brothers (his fellowman) to a like fate.

All the parables of our Lord are based on everyday happenings. While we hope and pray that the case of the rich man described here is not an everyday occurrence. We cannot doubt but that such cases have happened and will happen again. This rich man is not in eternal torments because he was rich and even very rich, but because he let his wealth become his master and forgot God and his neighbor and his own real welfare, eternal life. There are men like him in our world today, men who completely ignore their real future. While they are convinced that their stay on this earth is of very short duration and that they will have to leave it very, very, soon, they still act and live as if they had a permanent home here.

This is true not only of those who try (ineffectively most probably) to keep from their minds all thought of a future life, but even of some who openly profess to be Christians and who recite so often the words of the Creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” Yet, they are so busy trying to get the wealth and the pleasures of this life, or to increase all they have of them already, that they haven’t a moment to spare for the thing that really matters–their future unending life after death.

God forbid that any of us should be numbered amongst these foolish people, for there is no greater folly on earth than to miss the real and only purpose in life because of a few trivial, passing attractions. We are not forbidden to have some of this world’s goods. We need some, and God it was who provided them for our use. But we must use them properly and we must not set them up as idols to be adored. On all sides of us there are Lazarus’s placed at our gates by God to give us an opportunity to exercise fraternal charity. Be a true brother to them now and you will not have to envy them hereafter.

If on the other hand your lot is that of a Lazarus–and many there are whose life is one long, continual struggle against poverty, disease and hardship–try to carry your cross patiently. Envy of your neighbor and rebellion against God will only add to, and do not cure, your ills. The day of judgment, which for you will be the day of reward, if you are humble and patient, is around the corner. Eternal happiness is worth twenty lives of earthly ill-fortune.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

The Theology of Littleness

The theology of littleness is a basic category of Christianity. After all, the tenor of our faith is that God’s distinctive greatness is revealed precisely in powerlessness. That in the long run, the strength of history is precisely in those who love, which is to say, in a strength that, properly speaking, cannot be measured according to categories of power. So in order to show who he is, God consciously revealed himself in the powerlessness of Nazareth and Golgotha. Thus, it is not the one who can destroy the most who is the most powerful – in the world, of course, destructive capacity is still the real proof of power – but, on the contrary, the least power of love is already greater than the greatest power of destruction… The essence of religion is the relation of man beyond himself to the unknown reality that faith calls God. It is man’s capacity to go beyond all tangible, measurable reality and to enter into this primordial relation. Man lives in relationships, and the ultimate goodness of his life depends on the rightness of his essential relationships… But none of these relationships can be right if the first relationship, the relationship with God, is not right. This relationship itself, I would say, is, properly speaking, the content of religion.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

The Ship of Life

Steer the ship of my life, Lord, to your quiet harbor, where I can be safe from the storms of sin and conflict. Show me the course I should take. Renew in me the gift of discernment, so that I can see the right direction in which I should go. And give me the strength and the courage to choose the right course, even when the sea is rough and the waves are high, knowing that through enduring hardship and danger in your name we shall find comfort and peace.

Saint Basil of Caesarea (ca. 330-379)

http://www.catholicity.com/prayer/ship-of-life.html

Posted in Catholic

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – C

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No servant can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for Charity in Truth

Father, your truth is made known in your Word.

Guide us to seek the truth of the human person.

Teach us the way to love because you are Love.

Jesus, you embody Love and Truth.

Help us to recognize your face in the poor.

Enable us to live out our vocation to bring love and justice to your people.

Holy Spirit, you inspire us to transform our world.

Empower us to seek the common good for all persons.

Give us a spirit of solidarity and make us one human family.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

This prayer is based on Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s 2009 encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth)

COLLECT

O God, who founded all the commands of your sacred Law

upon love of you and of our neighbor,

grant that, by keeping your precepts,

we may merit to attain eternal life.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I0615amos-prophet0010

Am 8:4-7

Hear this, you who trample upon the needy

and destroy the poor of the land!

When will the new moon be over,” you ask,

that we may sell our grain,

and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat?

We will diminish the ephah,

add to the shekel,

and fix our scales for cheating!

We will buy the lowly for silver,

and the poor for a pair of sandals;

even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!”

The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:

Never will I forget a thing they have done!

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2269 The fifth commandment forbids doing anything with the intention of indirectly bringing about a person’s death. The moral law prohibits exposing someone to mortal danger without grave reason, as well as refusing assistance to a person in danger.

The acceptance by human society of murderous famines, without efforts to remedy them, is a scandalous injustice and a grave offense. Those whose usurious and avaricious dealings lead to the hunger and death of their brethren in the human family indirectly commit homicide, which is imputable to them.1

Unintentional killing is not morally imputable. But one is not exonerated from grave offense if, without proportionate reasons, he has acted in a way that brings about someone’s death, even without the intention to do so.

CCC 2409 Even if it does not contradict the provisions of civil law, any form of unjustly taking and keeping the property of others is against the seventh commandment: thus, deliberate retention of goods lent or of objects lost; business fraud; paying unjust wages; forcing up prices by taking advantage of the ignorance or hardship of another.2

The following are also morally illicit: speculation in which one contrives to manipulate the price of goods artificially in order to gain an advantage to the detriment of others; corruption in which one influences the judgment of those who must make decisions according to law; appropriation and use for private purposes of the common goods of an enterprise; work poorly done; tax evasion; forgery of checks and invoices; excessive expenses and waste. Willfully damaging private or public property is contrary to the moral law and requires reparation.

CCC 2449 Beginning with the Old Testament, all kinds of juridical measures (the jubilee year of forgiveness of debts, prohibition of loans at interest and the keeping of collateral, the obligation to tithe, the daily payment of the day-laborer, the right to glean vines and fields) answer the exhortation of Deuteronomy: “For the poor will never cease out of the land; therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor in the land.’”3 Jesus makes these words his own: “The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”4 In so doing he does not soften the vehemence of former oracles against “buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals. ..,” but invites us to recognize his own presence in the poor who are his brethren:5

When her mother reproached her for caring for the poor and the sick at home, St. Rose of Lima said to her: “When we serve the poor and the sick, we serve Jesus. We must not fail to help our neighbors, because in them we serve Jesus.”6

1 Cf. Am 8:4-10.

2 Cf. Deut 25:13-16; 24:14-15; Jas 5:4; Am 8:4-6.

3 Deut 15:11.

4 Jn 12:8.

5 Am 8:6; cf. Mt 25:40.

6 P. Hansen, Vita mirabilis (Louvain, 1668).

APPLICATION

The words of Amos could be addressed to many, far too many, of the business people and others in any town or city of the so-called Christian world today. What a shock for our pride in our humanity, for our boast of the great improvements in our culture and civilization, to learn that on the whole we are no better than the people who lived in Israel two thousand seven hundred years ago, as far as the virtue of justice is concerned. The wealthy are growing more wealthy today on the backs of the poor, just as the godless Israelites did in the days of Amos. Landlords are rack-renting their tenants and driving them into slum-lands that are nothing but slave-dwellings. Merchants and businessmen are cheating their customers, if not always by using false weights and measures, by other more subtle means.

Injustices between nations have caused wars. Injustice practiced between citizens of the same country, in varied ways, has caused and will continue to cause fratricidal strife. The oppression of the poor is one of the sins crying to heaven for vengeance. God has heard that cry in the past. He will hear it again, if not during the life-time of the offenders then when they face his judgment–which is far worse for them.

What has been said above may not, please God, apply to very many, if any, of our Catholic people. As a general rule they are not among the upper, wealthy classes, nor are they very numerous in the ranks of the big business men. Nevertheless, we Catholics can and do offend against justice in many ways, even if on a smaller scale. The smaller store-keeper, if guilty of injustice in his dealings, cannot injure so many people as bigger concerns can and do, but in injuring anyone he is sinning against justice and against God.

Business dealings apart, there are many other ways in which injustice is committed, in our dealings with the state, with insurance companies, with local authorities. In the question of employment there are two ways of offending. The employer can be unjust if he does not pay a living wage. There are public and state remedies which can, and are generally invoked today in most countries, to remedy and put an end to this evil. There is the other side to this injustice, which is generally forgotten by the employee and against which the employer often has no redress. This is dishonesty on the part of the employee who fails to do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. The employee, whether in dungarees or white-collar, whether he is employed by the state or by a private citizen, who draws a wage which he does not earn, is guilty of injustice and will some day have to render an account of his ill-gotten gains.

It would be well for all of us to listen to the words of the prophet Amos today, and to examine our consciences carefully on this virtue of justice. Do we deserve any of the censures which he passed on the Israelites? Are we just, fair and honest in our dealings with our neighbor? If not, we still have time to put our affairs in order before God calls us to render an account of our stewardship. We still have time to avoid an exile worse, far worse, than that which befell the unjust Israelites. We can avoid exclusion from eternal happiness.

RESPONSORIAL PSALMjesus-raises-the-widow-of-nains-son-icon

Ps 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8

Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.

Praise, you servants of the LORD,

praise the name of the LORD.

Blessed be the name of the LORD

both now and forever.

Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.

High above all nations is the LORD;

above the heavens is his glory.

Who is like the LORD, our God, who is enthroned on high

and looks upon the heavens and the earth below?

Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.

He raises up the lowly from the dust;

from the dunghill he lifts up the poor

to seat them with princes,

with the princes of his own people.

Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.

READING IIHolyEucharist-Icon-1

1 Tm 2:1-8

Beloved:

First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers,

petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone,

for kings and for all in authority,

that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life

in all devotion and dignity.

This is good and pleasing to God our savior,

who wills everyone to be saved

and to come to knowledge of the truth.

For there is one God.

There is also one mediator between God and men,

the man Christ Jesus,

who gave himself as ransom for all.

This was the testimony at the proper time.

For this I was appointed preacher and apostle

I am speaking the truth, I am not lying —,

teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray,

lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1 God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.

CCC 74 God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”:1 that is, of Christ Jesus.2 Christ must be proclaimed to all nations and individuals, so that this revelation may reach to the ends of the earth:

God graciously arranged that the things he had once revealed for the salvation of all peoples should remain in their entirety, throughout the ages, and be transmitted to all generations.3

CCC 618 The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the “one mediator between God and men”.4 But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery” is offered to all men.5 He calls his disciples to “take up [their] cross and follow [him]”,6 for “Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps.”7 In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries.8 This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering.9

Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.10

CCC 851 Missionary motivation. It is from God’s love for all men that the Church in every age receives both the obligation and the vigor of her missionary dynamism, “for the love of Christ urges us on.”11 Indeed, God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”;12 that is, God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is found in the truth. Those who obey the prompting of the Spirit of truth are already on the way of salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted, must go out to meet their desire, so as to bring them the truth. Because she believes in God’s universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary.

CCC 956 The intercession of the saints. “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness. .. They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus. .. So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.”13

Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.14

I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.15

CCC 1256 The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in the Latin Church, also the deacon.16 In case of necessity, anyone, even a nonbaptized person, with the required intention, can baptize17, by using the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The intention required is to will to do what the church does when she baptizes. The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation.18

CCC 1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,”19 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

CCC 1349 The Liturgy of the Word includes “the writings of the prophets,” that is, the Old Testament, and “the memoirs of the apostles” (their letters and the Gospels). After the homily, which is an exhortation to accept this Word as what it truly is, the Word of God,20 and to put it into practice, come the intercessions for all men, according to the Apostle’s words: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings, and all who are in high positions.”21

CCC 1821 We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will.22 In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end”23 and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for “all men to be saved.”24 She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven:

Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.25

CCC 1900 The duty of obedience requires all to give due honor to authority and to treat those who are charged to exercise it with respect, and, insofar as it is deserved, with gratitude and good-will.

Pope St. Clement of Rome provides the Church’s most ancient prayer for political authorities:26 “Grant to them, Lord, health, peace, concord, and stability, so that they may exercise without offense the sovereignty that you have given them. Master, heavenly King of the ages, you give glory, honor, and power over the things of earth to the sons of men. Direct, Lord, their counsel, following what is pleasing and acceptable in your sight, so that by exercising with devotion and in peace and gentleness the power that you have given to them, they may find favor with you.”27

CCC 2240 Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country:

Pay to all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.28

[Christians] reside in their own nations, but as resident aliens. They participate in all things as citizens and endure all things as foreigners. .. They obey the established laws and their way of life surpasses the laws. .. So noble is the position to which God has assigned them that they are not allowed to desert it.29

The Apostle exhorts us to offer prayers and thanksgiving for kings and all who exercise authority, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.”30

CCC 2574 Once the promise begins to be fulfilled (Passover, the Exodus, the gift of the Law, and the ratification of the covenant), the prayer of Moses becomes the most striking example of intercessory prayer, which will be fulfilled in “the one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”31

CCC 2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners.32 He is “able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”33 The Holy Spirit “himself intercedes for us. .. and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”34

CCC 2822 Our Father “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”35 He “is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish.”36 His commandment is “that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”37 This commandment summarizes all the others and expresses his entire will.

1 1 Tim 2:4.

2 cf. Jn 14:6.

3 DV 7; cf. 2 Cor 1:20; 3:16-4:6.

4 1 Tim 2:5.

5 GS 22 # 5; cf. # 2.

6 Mt 16:24.

7 I Pt 2:21.

8 Cf Mk 10:39; Jn 21:18-19; Col 1:24.

9 Cf. Lk 2:35.

10 St. Rose of Lima: cf. P. Hansen, Vita mirabilis (Louvain, 1668).

11 2 Cor 5:14; cf. AA 6; RMiss 11.

12 1 Tim 2:4.

13 LG 49; cf. 1 Tim 2:5.

14 St. Dominic, dying, to his brothers.

15 St. Therese of Lisieux, The Final Conversations, tr. John Clarke (Washington: ICS, 1977), 102.

16 Cf. CIC, can. 861 # 1; CCEO, can. 677 # 1.

17 CIC, can. 861.2.

18 Cf. 1 Tim 2:4.

19 Mk 10 14; cf. 1 Tim 2:4.

20 Cf. 1 Thess 2:13.

21 1 Tim 2:1-2.

22 Cf. Rom 8:28-30; Mt 7:21.

23 Mt 10:22; cf. Council of Trent DS 1541.

24 1 Tim 2:4.

25 St. Teresa of Avila, Excl. 15:3.

26 Cf. as early as 1 Tim 2:1-2.

27 St. Clement of Rome, Ad Cor. 61: SCh 167,198-200.

28 Rom 13:7.

29 Ad Diognetum 5, 5 and 10; 6, 10: PG 2, 1173 and 1176.

30 1 Tim 2:2.

31 1 Tim 2:5.

32 Cf. Rom 8:34; 1 Jn 2:1; 1 Tim 2:5-8.

33 Heb 7:25.

34 Rom 8:26-27.

35 1 Tim 2:3-4.

36 2 Pet 3:9; cf. Mt 18:14.

37 Jn 13:34; cf. 1 Jn 3; 4; Lk 10:25-37.

APPLICATION

What St. Paul is telling Timothy, the bishop of Ephesus, to teach his congregation is the necessity and the obligation of prayer. This was one of the basic duties of a Christian as our Lord himself taught his disciples both by example and by precept. The gospels tell us that he prayed frequently to his Father and he told the disciples that they should alway pray (Lk. 18 : 1). That the disciples learned this lesson and put it into practice is evident from the Acts. After the Ascension they returned from the Mount of Olives to the upper room where they were staying and “joined in continuous prayer, (Acts 1: 14); before they elected a successor to Judas “they prayed” (1: 24). When, after Pentecost day, Jewish converts were joining in thousands “they remained faithful to the teaching of the Apostles . . . to the breaking of bread and to the prayers” (2: 42). When Peter and John, arrested by the Sanhedrin for preaching the “resurrection of Jesus,” were set free, the whole community “lifted up their voice to God all together” and prayed their prayer of thanksgiving (4: 24).

From the very beginning of the Christian Church, therefore, prayer was a basic, an essential, part of Christian living. This was the teaching of Christ himself. St. Paul taught this doctrine to all his converts and this Timothy knew already. What St. Paul is urging on Timothy in today’s epistle is the need and the obligation to pray for the conversion of “those in authority” the civil powers, local and central.

Their conversion would enable Christians to lead undisturbed, tranquil lives in piety and dignity. More important still, it would help to fulfill the wish of God which is “that all men be saved and come to know the truth.” This is the primary petition in the “Our Father,” the form of prayer Christ gave his disciples when they asked him to teach them how to pray: “may your name be held holy, may your kingdom come (the kingdom of Christ on earth), may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This, then, is the duty of which St. Paul is reminding Timothy and through him, all of us today : the duty of praying always and everywhere for the conversion of all men to the knowledge and the service of God, their Father.

This duty, this obligation, was never more pressing on the true followers of Christ and lovers of God, than it is today. We are living in a world which is torn by strife and divisions. We have localized but bitter wars doing on in several parts of our little world, we are living under the shadow of a possible world conflagration which, with the present means of destruction, invented by men, could exterminate the greater part of the human race in a few weeks, if not in a few hours.

The cause of all this is simply that men refuse to admit the brotherhood of man, because they will not admit the fatherhood of God and his plans for their true happiness. If only men would come to see that they are put here on earth, by a loving Father, who gave them great gifts of mind and body, through the proper use of which they can earn an unending life after a few short years here, they would then see all other men as their brothers who are on the same journey as themselves. Instead of impeding their brothers by the abuse of the gifts God gave them, they would share these gifts with them and make the journey easier and safer for all.

This, of course, is easier said than done. That does not excuse us Christians from using the means which Christ himself gave us and commanded us to use, to obtain this grace—the acceptance of God’s kingdom, the submission to God’s dominion over his creation by all men in all places and times. Let us heed the words of St. Paul today, and begin to pray fervently for the conversion of all mankind. God wants all the races and nations of the world to earn heaven. All true lovers of God must wish and want the same. Atheists, agnostics, pagans, Jews, Moslems, Christians of all denominations, are our brothers. They are all sons of God, heirs to heaven, because of the Incarnation, and we must want them all to be with us in heaven for they are our brothers and this is God’s wish and intention for all of us.

Pray fervently then, and pray frequently, that all men will come to know the truth, namely, that there is but one God, who is Father of all and loves all. That he has arranged an eternity of happiness for all his children, we know. He has done so by sending his divine Son to share in our humanity so that we could thus share in his divinity. May God give the light of faith to all his children so that they may come to see how infinite his love for them is; once they see this they cannot but love him in return.

GOSPELrichyoungruler-836x1024

Lk 16:1-13

Jesus said to his disciples,

A rich man had a steward

who was reported to him for squandering his property.

He summoned him and said,

What is this I hear about you?

Prepare a full account of your stewardship,

because you can no longer be my steward.’

The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do,

now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me?

I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.

I know what I shall do so that,

when I am removed from the stewardship,

they may welcome me into their homes.’

He called in his master’s debtors one by one.

To the first he said,

How much do you owe my master?’

He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.’

He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note.

Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’

Then to another the steward said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’

He replied, ‘One hundred kors of wheat.’

The steward said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note;

write one for eighty.’

And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.

For the children of this world

are more prudent in dealing with their own generation

than are the children of light.

I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,

so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

The person who is trustworthy in very small matters

is also trustworthy in great ones;

and the person who is dishonest in very small matters

is also dishonest in great ones.

If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth,

who will trust you with true wealth?

If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another,

who will give you what is yours?

No servant can serve two masters.

He will either hate one and love the other,

or be devoted to one and despise the other.

You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/091816.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 523 St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way.1 “Prophet of the Most High”, John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last.2 He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother’s womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being “the friend of the bridegroom”, whom he points out as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.3 Going before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah”, John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom.4

CCC 952 “They had everything in common.”5 “Everything the true Christian has is to be regarded as a good possessed in common with everyone else. All Christians should be ready and eager to come to the help of the needy. .. and of their neighbors in want.”6 A Christian is a steward of the Lord’s goods.7

CCC 2382 The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble.8 He abrogates the accommodations that had slipped into the old Law.9

Between the baptized, “a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death.”10

CCC 2424 A theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable. The disordered desire for money cannot but produce perverse effects. It is one of the causes of the many conflicts which disturb the social order.11

A system that “subordinates the basic rights of individuals and of groups to the collective organization of production” is contrary to human dignity.12 Every practice that reduces persons to nothing more than a means of profit enslaves man, leads to idolizing money, and contributes to the spread of atheism. “You cannot serve God and mammon.”13

1 Cf. Acts 13:24; Mt 3:3.

2 Lk 1:76; cf. 7:26; Mt 11:13.

3 Jn 1 29; cf. Acts 1:22; Lk 1:41; 16:16; Jn 3:29.

4 Lk 1:17; cf. Mk 6:17-29.

5 Acts 4:32.

6 Roman Catechism 1, 10, 27.

7 Cf. Lk 16:1, 3.

8 Cf. Mt 5:31-32; 19:3-9; Mk 10 9; Lk 16:18; 1 Cor 7:10-ll.

9 Cf. Mt 19:7-9.

10 CIC, can. 1141.

11 Cf. GS 63 # 3; LE 7; 20; CA 35.

12 GS 65 # 2.

13 Mt 6:24; Lk 16:13.

APPLICATION

These words of Christ warning those who would follow him on the road to heaven not to become the slaves of earthly things are applicable to all of us.

Most of us may feel that this warning is for millionaires and business magnates. Our Lord didn’t say so. There was not a single millionaire in his audience. He meant it for all of us, for what he warned against was not the just acquisition of this world’s goods but their unjust acquisition, and the dishonest use of them when they were justly acquired. It was God who created all that exists in this world. He intended these goods for the use of man. We are only managers therefore, of these worldly goods. It is on our way of managing these goods, not on the quantity we had to manage, that our judgment will be based. Millionaires can get to heaven while all paupers have no guarantee that they will make it. Our Lord deduces two lessons for us from the parable of the unjust manager or steward. Firstly, the enterprise which he showed in providing for his earthly happiness when he would lose his employment, was greater and keener than that shown by most of us in providing for our eternal happiness.

If we take an honest look at last week as a sample of our lives, how many of its 168 hours did I spend on earning merit for any future life? Granted the 96 hours spent in work and sleep, I still had 72 hours which I could call my very own. How many of them did I devote to spiritual things? In my favor I can count my 40 hours of work if they were devoted to honest labor and also my 56 hours of sleep and rest. Honest recreation can also count in my favor–but all this supposes that I had at least a virtual intention of dedicating my week to the honor and glory of God and for my eternal salvation.

Did I give one hour a day to God and the things of God, helping the needy, learning more about my religion, giving a hand in parochial affairs, advising those in difficulties, spiritual or temporal, praying for my own and my neighbor’s needs–yet even if I did, it is less than one tenth of the free time I had at my own disposal.

If I did not, if I barely managed to get in the Sunday Mass and a few hasty prayers, could anyone suggest that I was showing great interest and was very enterprising as far as my future life was concerned? God is very generous with me. He gives me lots of time for providing for my health and temporal needs each week, and a lot of free time besides. I should not express surprise if he is disappointed at how little of that wonderful gift of time I am willing to give back to him. The unjust steward was far more enterprising as regards earthly provision for himself.

The second lesson our Lord wishes to teach us is that we should use what we can spare of our earthly possessions in helping those who are in need of our help. By doing that, we will be making friends who will help us at the judgment seat to get a lasting reception in heaven. Remember that description of the judgment which our Lord gave when he said, “I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me”? What we do for the needy we do for him. Those whom we help, as far as we can, will be witnesses testifying for us when our final examination, on which our eternity will depend, comes upon us.

Two resolutions worthy of your serious consideration today in relation to earthly goods are: Never let them take up all your time. You have a far more serious purpose in life. Give it a little more thought and enterprise than you have been doing. Secondly, be grateful to God for what he has given you in this life. You might like to have a lot more, but God knows best. Work honestly and be generous with what you have. You are serving God, not money. God will be waiting for you where there is no currency, and where the one bank account that matters will be the good use that you made of your time and your share of this world’s goods while you were alive.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Trusting in Truth

It was foretold that the struggle between humanity and the serpent, that is, between man and the forces of evil and death, would continue throughout history. It was also foretold, however, that the “offspring” of a woman would one day triumph and would crush the head of the serpent to death; it was foretold that the offspring the woman – and in this offspring the woman and the mother herself – would be victorious and that thus, through man, God would triumph. The human being does not trust God. Tempted by the serpent, he harbors the suspicion that, in the end, God takes something away from his life, that God is a rival who curtails our freedom and that we will be fully human only when we have cast hem aside; in brief, that only in this way can we fully achieve our freedom. The human being lives in the suspicion that God’s love creates a dependence and that he must rid himself wants to obtain from the tree of knowledge the power to shape the world, to make himself a god, raising himself to God’s level, and to overcome death and darkness with his own efforts. He does not want to rely on love that to him seems untrustworthy; he relies solely on his own knowledge since it confers power upon him. Rather than on love, he sets his sights on power, with which he desires to take his own life autonomously in hand. And in doing so, he trusts in deceit rather than in truth and thereby sinks with his life into emptiness, into death.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 1

Blessed is the man who does not walk

in the counsel of the wicked,

Nor stand in the way of sinners,

nor sit in company with scoffers.a=

Rather, the law of the LORD is his joy;

and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree

planted near streams of water,

that yields its fruit in season;

Its leaves never wither;

whatever he does prospers.

But not so are the wicked, not so!

They are like chaff driven by the wind.

Therefore the wicked will not arise at the judgment,

nor will sinners in the assembly of the just.

Because the LORD knows the way of the just,

but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.

Posted in Uncategorized

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – C

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‘there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.'”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for the Conversion of Sinners.

Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful Savior of the world, we humbly beseech You, by Your most Sacred Heart, that all the sheep who stray out of Your fold may in one days be converted to You, the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls, who lives and reigns with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, world without end.

Amen.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1949

COLLECT

Look upon us O God,

Creator and ruler of all things,

and, that we may feel the working of your mercy,

grant that we may serve you with all our heart,

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

 

moses_b

READING I

Ex 32:7-11, 13-14

The LORD said to Moses,

Go down at once to your people,

whom you brought out of the land of Egypt,

for they have become depraved.

They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them,

making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it,

sacrificing to it and crying out,

This is your God, O Israel,

who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’

I see how stiff-necked this people is, ” continued the LORD to Moses.

Let me alone, then,

that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them.

Then I will make of you a great nation.”

But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying,

Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people,

whom you brought out of the land of Egypt

with such great power and with so strong a hand?

Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,

and how you swore to them by your own self, saying,

I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky;

and all this land that I promised,

I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.’”

So the LORD relented in the punishment

he had threatened to inflict on his people.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 210 After Israel’s sin, when the people had turned away from God to worship the golden calf, God hears Moses’ prayer of intercession and agrees to walk in the midst of an unfaithful people, thus demonstrating his love.1 When Moses asks to see his glory, God responds “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you my name ‘the LORD’ [YHWH].”2 Then the LORD passes before Moses and proclaims, “YHWH, YHWH, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”; Moses then confesses that the LORD is a forgiving God.3

CCC 2577 From this intimacy with the faithful God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,4 Moses drew strength and determination for his intercession. He does not pray for himself but for the people whom God made his own. Moses already intercedes for them during the battle with the Amalekites and prays to obtain healing for Miriam.5 But it is chiefly after their apostasy that Moses “stands in the breach” before God in order to save the people.6 The arguments of his prayer – for intercession is also a mysterious battle – will inspire the boldness of the great intercessors among the Jewish people and in the Church: God is love; he is therefore righteous and faithful; he cannot contradict himself; he must remember his marvelous deeds, since his glory is at stake, and he cannot forsake this people that bears his name.

1 Cf. Ex 32; 33: 12-17.

2 Ex 33:18-19.

3 Ex 34:5-6; cf. 34:9.

4 Cf. Ex 34:6.

5 Cf. Ex 17:8-12; Num 12:13-14.

6 Ps 106:23; cf. Ex 32:1-34:9.

APPLICATION

No doubt most people who read or hear of this ingratitude which the Israelites showed toward God are shocked and disgusted. How could they forget the good God who set them free from the slavery of Egypt and worked so many extraordinary miracles to do so, and promised them a home-land, a country that would be their own, on the one condition that they would be loyal and obedient to him?

How could they turn away from their divine benefactor and accept the idol of their previous slave-Masters as their God? But we must remember that they had been brought up practically as pagans in Egypt. Any recollection that they may have had of the God of Abraham was very hazy, if many of them had even heard of him. Yet, it is true that what Yahweh, the God of Abraham, whom Moses had again brought to their notice, had done for them so recently should not have been forgotten so quickly. They were an ungrateful people, “Stiff-necked” God called them, and stiff-necked, ungrateful, and proud the vast majority of them remained, down through their history.

The intercession of Moses, however, saved them on this occasion. God was moved to mercy by the prayer of one faithful member of an ungrateful race. He would still fulfill the promise given to Abraham. He would still send “the blessing,” the One who would intercede not only for Abraham’s descendants but for the whole human race. The One who would reconcile mankind to God and make us all sharers in his divinity by sharing in our humanity, was Christ our Lord.

The Israelites indeed were ungrateful and disloyal to God who had done such great things for them. He has done greater things still for us Christians and yet we too are often ungrateful and disloyal. We may not set up graven images or golden calves to take God’s place but we turn our own vices into idols and serve them as our God. Our pride, our desire for worldly wealth, our ambitions for power, our sensual pleasures, become our idols. How often do these push God out of our thoughts and out of our lives and calculations. We have all, at one time or another, succumbed to one or other of these vices and gravely insulted God and Christ our Savior. Every time we committed a mortal sin we deserved to be cut off forever from the inheritance that Christ won for us. We have a mediator more influential than Moses could ever be. He is Christ, the Son of God and our brother in the one divine Person. He is always interceding with the Father on our behalf, and no sinner, no matter how serious or how numerous his sins, should ever despair. There is no prodigal son, no matter how long he has been absent from home, that the Father will not receive back because of Christ’s intercession. The one danger is that the prodigal may delay his return until it is too late. If he does, even the all-merciful, all powerful God cannot pardon him, for he cannot then ask for pardon.

Grateful Christians, and a large majority of them are grateful, will serve God willingly because of what he has done for them. They will follow Christ, who took the hard road to Calvary for their sake, and they will carry their own crosses cheerfully behind him, because he has asked them to do so. There is no place for idols in the hearts of the true followers of Christ. They love the Lord their God with their whole heart and their whole mind, because he loves them with an infinite love. And they love Christ his divine Son, who not only died that they might live, but is always interceding for them at the throne of God’s mercy.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19

(Lk 15:18) I will rise and go to my father.

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;

in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.

Thoroughly wash me from my guilt

and of my sin cleanse me.

I will rise and go to my father.

A clean heart create for me, O God,

and a steadfast spirit renew within me.

Cast me not out from your presence,

and your Holy Spirit take not from me.

I will rise and go to my father.

O Lord, open my lips,

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;

a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

I will rise and go to my father.

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READING II

1 Tm 1:12-17

Beloved:

I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord,

because he considered me trustworthy

in appointing me to the ministry.

I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant,

but I have been mercifully treated

because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.

Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant,

along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance:

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

Of these I am the foremost.

But for that reason I was mercifully treated,

so that in me, as the foremost,

Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example

for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life.

To the king of ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God,

honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 142 By his Revelation, “the invisible God, from the fullness of his love, addresses men as his friends, and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into his own company.”1 The adequate response to this invitation is faith.

CCC 545 Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”2 He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father’s boundless mercy for them and the vast “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents”.3 The supreme proof of his love will be the sacrifice of his own life “for the forgiveness of sins”.4

1 DV 2; cf. Col 1:15; I Tim 1:17; Ex 33:11; Jn 15:14-15; Bar 3:38 (Vulg.).

2 Mk 2:17; cf. l Tim 1:15.

3 Lk 15:7; cf. 7:11-32.

4 Mt 26:28.

APPLICATION

St. Paul spent his Christian life regretting his sinful past and wondering at the infinite mercy of Christ, the Son of God, who not only forgave all his past sins but showered his graces on him so abundantly. He realized that his past crimes against Christ, whom he judged as an impostor who was perverting the Chosen People of God, and also his persecution of the Jewish converts to Christ, were caused by his own pride. Yet he blames himself for the ignorance which caused this pharisaical pride in him, while Christ on the other hand excused him because of this ignorance. The conclusion he rightly draws from this is that there is no sinner so wicked but can be forgiven, and will be forgiven, if only he listens to the call of Christ.

There is a consoling lesson here for all of us. We have all sinned in one way or another. We have all offended Christ. We have not offended him as seriously as Paul did perhaps, but then Paul did not know who Christ was at that time. We can have no doubts as to the identity of Christ. St. Paul’s conversion and his absolute dedication to the work of telling the world who Christ was, is alone a convincing proof for use of the divinity of Christ. That the fanatic defender of Judaism, a member of the strict sect of the Pharisees, whose basic doctrine was the strictest monotheism, could turn around and preach the divinity of Christ demanded more than a miracle. It was in fact, something greater than a miracle. It was the very appearance of the Risen Christ in person to him on the road to Damascus.

This appearance of Christ, and his converse with him, convinced Paul that Christ was the Son of God who had assumed human nature in order to live amongst men. By his perfect obedience to his father as man, he had earned for all men forgiveness of their sins and sonship with God: he, Christ, had become their brother. From that moment Paul, who up to now had thought that Christ’s claim to be God was absolute blasphemy, became the most convinced preacher and the most fearless defender of the divine sonship of Christ.

While we thank God for having given us this most convincing proof of Christ’s divinity in the conversion of St. Paul, let us not forget to imitate the same Paul in his life-long sense of sorrow for the offenses he committed against Christ and his followers before his conversion. We too have offended Christ and with far less excuse than Paul had. Christ’s mercy is there in abundance for us also. He came on earth to bring us sinners to heaven. He will bring us there if only we allow him. He has left us in his sacrament of penance all the means necessary to wipe out our past offenses, and if penance is not available to us, he will accept a sincere act of repentance made directly to himself.

Our God is a God of love. He wants to share his eternal happiness with us. To do this he planned the Incarnation through which our lowly human nature was united with the divine nature in Christ. Mankind was raised to brotherhood with Christ and therefore sonship with God and inheritance of heaven. The God who has shown such infinite love for us does not want any of us adopted sons to lose the eternal happiness he has planned for us. He wants us all in heaven, and there we will be, if we are found free from serious sin when leaving this life.

What man could be so foolish, so utterly uninterested in his own eternal welfare, as to refuse to put on the wedding-garment of grace which will admit him to heaven? The merciful, generous God not only gives it freely to him, but implores him, for his own sake, to accept it.

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GOSPEL

LK 15:1-10

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,

but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,

This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So to them he addressed this parable.

What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them

would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert

and go after the lost one until he finds it?

And when he does find it,

he sets it on his shoulders with great joy

and, upon his arrival home,

he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,

Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’

I tell you, in just the same way

there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents

than over ninety-nine righteous people

who have no need of repentance.

Or what woman having ten coins and losing one

would not light a lamp and sweep the house,

searching carefully until she finds it?

And when she does find it,

she calls together her friends and neighbors

and says to them,

Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’

In just the same way, I tell you,

there will be rejoicing among the angels of God

over one sinner who repents.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/091116.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 545 Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”1 He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father’s boundless mercy for them and the vast “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents”.2 The supreme proof of his love will be the sacrifice of his own life “for the forgiveness of sins”.3

CCC 589 Jesus gave scandal above all when he identified his merciful conduct toward sinners with God’s own attitude toward them.4 He went so far as to hint that by sharing the table of sinners he was admitting them to the messianic banquet.5 But it was most especially by forgiving sins that Jesus placed the religious authorities of Israel on the horns of a dilemma. Were they not entitled to demand in consternation, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”6 By forgiving sins Jesus either is blaspheming as a man who made himself God’s equal, or is speaking the truth and his person really does make present and reveal God’s name.7

CCC 1423 It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father8 from whom one has strayed by sin.

It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.

CCC 1439 The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father:9 the fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father’s house; the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his fortune; his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, and still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate; his reflection on all he has lost; his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father; the journey back; the father’s generous welcome; the father’s joy – all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life – pure worthy, and joyful – of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of his family, which is the Church. Only the heart Of Christ Who knows the depths of his Father’s love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way.

CCC 1443 During his public life Jesus not only forgave sins, but also made plain the effect of this forgiveness: he reintegrated forgiven sinners into the community of the People of God from which sin had alienated or even excluded them. A remarkable sign of this is the fact that Jesus receives sinners at his table, a gesture that expresses in an astonishing way both God’s forgiveness and the return to the bosom of the People of God.10

CCC 1468 “The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship.”11 Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. For those who receive the sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation “is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation.”12 Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true “spiritual resurrection,” restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God.13

CCC 1700 The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God (article 1); it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude (article 2). It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment (article 3). By his deliberate actions (article 4), the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience (article 5). Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth (article 6). With the help of grace they grow in virtue (article 7), avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves as did the prodigal son14 to the mercy of our Father in heaven (article 8). In this way they attain to the perfection of charity.

CCC 1846 The Gospel is the revelation in Jesus Christ of God’s mercy to sinners.15 The angel announced to Joseph: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”16 The same is true of the Eucharist, the sacrament of redemption: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”17

CCC 2795 The symbol of the heavens refers us back to the mystery of the covenant we are living when we pray to our Father. He is in heaven, his dwelling place; the Father’s house is our homeland. Sin has exiled us from the land of the covenant,18 but conversion of heart enables us to return to the Father, to heaven.19 In Christ, then, heaven and earth are reconciled,20 for the Son alone “descended from heaven” and causes us to ascend there with him, by his Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension.21

CCC 2839 With bold confidence, we began praying to our Father. In begging him that his name be hallowed, we were in fact asking him that we ourselves might be always made more holy. But though we are clothed with the baptismal garment, we do not cease to sin, to turn away from God. Now, in this new petition, we return to him like the prodigal son and, like the tax collector, recognize that we are sinners before him.22 Our petition begins with a “confession” of our wretchedness and his mercy. Our hope is firm because, in his Son, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”23 We find the efficacious and undoubted sign of his forgiveness in the sacraments of his Church.24

1 Mk 2:17; cf. l Tim 1:15.

2 Lk 15:7; cf. 7:11-32.

3 Mt 26:28.

4 Cf. Mt 9:13; Hos 6:6.

5 Cf. Lk 15:1-2, 22-32.

6 Mk 2:7.

7 Cf. Jn 5:18; 10:33; 17:6,26.

8 Cf. Mk 1:15; Lk 15:18.

9 Cf. Lk 15:11-24.

10 Cf. Lk 15; 19:9.

11 Roman Catechism, II, V, 18.

12 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1674.

13 Cf. Lk 15:32.

14 Lk 15:11-32

15 Cf. Lk 15.

16 Mt 1:21.

17 Mt 26:28.

18 Cf. Gen 3.

19 Jer 3:19-4:1a; Lk 15:18, 21.

20 Cf. Isa 45:8; Ps 85:12.

21 Jn 3:13; 12:32; 14 2-3; 16:28; 20:17; Eph 4:9-10; Heb 1:3; 2:13.

22 Cf. Lk 15:11-32, 18:13.

23 Col 1:14; Eph 1:7.

24 Cf. Mt 26:28; Jn 20:23.

APPLICATION

The lesson that these stories, made up by our Lord himself, has for us is clearly a lesson of hope and confidence in the infinite mercy of God in his dealings with us. We are all sinners in one way or another. We have all gone astray, got lost like the sheep and the coin in those stories, sometime or other. What is worse, we are all capable of going astray from God again at any moment. If we had only the justice of God to deal with we might well despair, our chances of reaching heaven would be slight indeed.

We are dealing, however, with a God of infinite mercy, who loves us with a love we cannot grasp or understand. All this infinite mercy of God is there for our benefit as long as we have the breath of life in us in this world. The whole of the Old Testament is full of examples and proofs of this mercy of God for man. It is in the New Testament, however, which begins with that almost incredible act of divine mercy, the Incarnation, that the infinite mercy of God for all mankind is seen in its fullness. The coming of the Son of God on earth in our human nature, his teaching, his sufferings and death, his resurrection were all accomplished for us, so that we could rise glorious from the dead and share the joys of heaven, to which we have no claim whatever, except the merciful goodness and generosity of God.

God does not need us to make his existence happy. He is all-powerful, all-perfect, all-happy in himself. Because he is a God of love, a God of infinite generosity, he wants to give us a share in his happiness. At times one must wonder how any man who knows of God’s generosity and of what that generosity has led him to do for us, could ever think of abandoning that loving God, or get lost in futile earthly folly. Yet that does happen when we sin grievously.

God does not cast us out forever as sinners unworthy of his gifts. Instead, he foresees such folly on our part, and has left us lessons of encouragement, as in today’s parables, and set up in the Church ways and means to carry on his work of mercy for weak, mortal men. During his life on earth, Christ dealt mostly with sinners–he said he came to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He told the Pharisees that it was the sick who needed a doctor, not those who were well. The Pharisees in their pride thought they were not sick but they were, and he was only too ready to heal them too if only they would let him.

He spent his days then among sinners, the tax-gatherers, the robbers, the adulterers, the usurers. The twelve special friends he chose from amongst his followers had more than their share of human failings. James and John were more interested in getting good profitable positions in the earthly kingdom which they thought he would set up, than they were in heavenly things. Peter shamelessly and openly denied him on Holy Thursday night to save himself from the clutches of the Sanhedrin. Judas actually sold him for thirty mean pieces of silver. Yet, he never uttered a harsh word against any of these sinners. He forgave the weaknesses of his Apostles and they became the solid foundation of his Church soon afterwards. He offered Judas forgiveness when he called him “friend” in the garden of Gethsemani. But Judas did not avail of his generous offer.

We are all sinners to a greater or lesser degree. With this knowledge and conviction, which any true Christian must have, of the infinite mercy of God, no sinner need ever, and should never, despair. No sinner was ever lost and no sinner will ever be lost, because of his sins. Sinners are lost only because they will not trust and believe in God’s mercy and turn to him to ask for pardon.

Not a day passes but our merciful Father sends out and calls to us his erring children to return to our Fathers household. Today, one of those calls is in the very words of the parables you have heard. There may be another call for the sinners amongst us. There may not. Heed this one and the other call will not be necessary. Turn to God today with a truly contrite heart. God will do the rest.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

The Personal Dimension of Forgiveness

As sin, despite all our bonds with the human community, is ultimately something totally personal, so also our healing with forgiveness has to be something totally personal. God does not treat us as part of a collectivity. He knows each one by name, and he calls him personally and saves him if he has fallen into sin. Even if in all the sacraments, the Lord addresses the person as an individual, the personalist nature of the Christian life is manifested in a particularly clear way in the sacrament of Penance. That means that the personal confession and the forgiveness directed to this person are constitutive parts of the sacrament… Of course, the confession of one’s own sin can seem to be something heavy for the person, because it humbles his pride and confronts him with his poverty. It is this that we need: we suffer exactly for this reason: we shut ourselves up in our delirium of guiltlessness and for this reason we are closed to others and to any comparison with them. In psychotherapeutic treatments a person is made to bear the burden of profound and often dangerous revelations of his inner self. In the sacrament of Penance, the simple confession of one’s guilt is presented with confidence in God’s merciful goodness. It is important to do this without falling into scruples, with the spirit of trust proper to the children of God. In this way confession can become an experience of deliverance, in which the weight of the past is removed from us and we can feel rejuvenated by the merit of the grace of God who each time gives back the youthfulness of the heart.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 6

O Lord, reprove me not in your anger, nor chastise me in your wrath.

Have pity on me, O Lord, for I am languishing ; heal me, O Lord, for my body is in terror ;

My soul, too, is utterly terrified ; but you, O Lord, how long?

Return, O Lord, save my life ; rescue me because of your kindness,

For among the dead no one remembers you ; in the nether world who gives you thanks?

I am wearied with sighing ; every night I flood my bed with weeping ; I drench my couch with my tears.

My eyes are dimmed with sorrow ; they have aged because of all my foes.

Depart from me, all evildoers, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping ;

The Lord has heard my plea ; the Lord has accepted my prayer.

All my enemies shall be put to shame in utter terror ; they shall fall back in sudden shame.

Posted in Benedictine oblate, Catholic, Liturgy, The Word of God, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

01-jesus-christ-pantocrator_fullIf anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

OPENING PRAYER

The Passion Of Christ, Strengthen Me Prayer

Passion of Christ, strengthen me! Strengthen me under the pressure of temptation. Strengthen me when principle is at stake. Strengthen me to do Your Will, My God. Strengthen me in moments of suffering, in times of loneliness, in periods of depression. Strengthen me that I may never swerve from You, dear Christ, nor weaken through human respect, through a desire to be popular, through hope of social distinction. Strengthen me to accept my cross and carry it generously to the end. On the battlefield of life, stand by me that I may never prove a traitor in the ranks. Stand by me that I may not be dazzled by the glitter and glow of the enemy camp.

Amen

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1687

COLLECT

O God, by whom we are redeemed and receive adoption,

look graciously upon your beloved sons and daughters,

that those who believe in Christ

may receive true freedom

and an everlasting inheritance.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

holyspirit

Wis 9:13-18b

Who can know God’s counsel,

or who can conceive what the LORD intends?

For the deliberations of mortals are timid,

and unsure are our plans.

For the corruptible body burdens the soul

and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns.

And scarce do we guess the things on earth,

and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty;

but when things are in heaven, who can search them out?

Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom

and sent your holy spirit from on high?

And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.

APPLICATION

We can never thank God sufficiently for his goodness in revealing himself to us, and in unveiling the plans he had for us when we were created. By the use of reason, we could prove that we were created by some all-wise, all-powerful being. That would, however, be but cold philosophical knowledge. We would still not see any purpose in life except to get what we could out of it, and that would in fact be very little because life is so short, and the amount of good we could get in its short span of time is so limited.

God has revealed that he has planned an unending life for us once we have completed our term on this earth. This is surely a revelation which satisfies every human ambition that we find in ourselves, and which gives a meaning to this life which human reasoning could never of itself discover. What is more, this revelation gives us an idea of God which no human philosophy could deduce from the knowledge of a Creator. It tells us our Creator is a God of love, a God who has a very personal interest in man, the masterpiece of his creative act. He not only gave us existence for a space of time on this earth, as he gave to the other beings about us. He intended also that unending existence for us afterwards.

Fortunate indeed are we who have this revelation of God from God. The author of the Book of Wisdom was grateful for the limited knowledge that the Old Testament contained. How much more grateful should we Christians be, who have seen the love of God personified and living amongst us and dying for us in the humanity of the Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ? “Greater love than this no man has than that a man lay down his life for his friends.” These are the words of Christ himself, but when it is God-made-man who does this for his mere creatures “the work of his hands:” how much greater, how much more beyond expectation is that love!

This is what God’s love has done for us. What does he ask in return? He asks that we should love and respect him in our limited little way. There isn’t much that we can give, but he accepts our tiny tokens. One way in which we can show how we appreciate all that he has done for us, is to try, by word and example, to make the infinite love of God for mankind known, to those who have not yet received the Christian faith, or who once had it but lost it through their human folly.

God loves the whole human race. He intends heaven for each one of us. There is room there for all. Men will be perverse and abuse the gifts of intellect and will which he gave them. They will even turn against himself and refuse the eternal reward which he has in store for them. He cannot force their free-will. He depends on us to act on his behalf. Every true Christian is an apostle. Every man who appreciates God’s goodness and love, must prove to his neighbor by his life that he has the “pearl of great price.” His place must show that he has the true answer to the enigma of life, and his confidence emphasize that the innate ambitions and desires of mankind are to be, and will be, fulfilled in him who serves God faithfully, according to his lights, during his few years on earth.

Thank you, God, for the Wisdom you have sent us from heaven. Give us the grace to live up to it always, and to be ready to share it with our neighbor on every available occasion. Thus may we arrive at the gates of heaven accompanied by many fellowmen, our brothers, who would otherwise have missed the road there.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17

In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

You turn man back to dust,

saying, “Return, O children of men.”

For a thousand years in your sight

are as yesterday, now that it is past,

or as a watch of the night.

In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

You make an end of them in their sleep;

the next morning they are like the changing grass,

Which at dawn springs up anew,

but by evening wilts and fades.

In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

Teach us to number our days aright,

that we may gain wisdom of heart.

Return, O LORD! How long?

Have pity on your servants!

In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,

that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.

And may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours;

prosper the work of our hands for us!

Prosper the work of our hands!

In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

READING II

-1

Phmn 9-10, 12-17

I, Paul, an old man,

and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus,

urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus,

whose father I have become in my imprisonment;

I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you.

I should have liked to retain him for myself,

so that he might serve me on your behalf

in my imprisonment for the gospel,

but I did not want to do anything without your consent,

so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary.

Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while,

that you might have him back forever,

no longer as a slave

but more than a slave, a brother,

beloved especially to me, but even more so to you,

as a man and in the Lord.

So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.1 The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others.2

CCC 2188 In respecting religious liberty and the common good of all, Christians should seek recognition of Sundays and the Church’s holy days as legal holidays. They have to give everyone a public example of prayer, respect, and joy and defend their traditions as a precious contribution to the spiritual life of society. If a country’s legislation or other reasons require work on Sunday, the day should nevertheless be lived as the day of our deliverance which lets us share in this “festal gathering,” this “assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven.”3

1 Cf. 2 Tim 1:9-10.

2 Cf. Lk 16:22; 23:43; Mt 16:26; 2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23; Heb 9:27; 12:23.

3 Heb 12:22-23.

APPLICATION

In all his other Epistles we see St. Paul as the great apostle, the great lover of Christ, who counted suffering, imprisonment and even death as gain, so far as they were for Christ. We see the great theologian who expounds the depths and the riches and the greatness of God’s love for us as proved by the Incarnation. We see the saint who is devoting every gift of his mind, and every muscle and sinew of his body, to the service of his Master, Jesus Christ. In today’s short epistle we see Paul the warm-hearted man, who forgets himself and his own needs in order to reconcile two brothers. They are each dear to him. He wants to make them just as dear to one another. He succeeded, we can feel sure.

It is good for us to know that the great saints of God were not like the cold statues of them which we see in our churches. They were men and women of flesh and blood, like ourselves. Becoming saints did not make them less but more human. There was a period in the history of the Church when the lives of saints were so written as to leave almost nothing human in them. This was done to edify the reader, or so the authors thought. But the fact was that instead of such lives attracting the ordinary faithful, they had the opposite effect. Who could imitate a saint who was one from birth, who not only never did anything wrong, but almost never did anything human. How could we, very human people, become saints if that was the stuff saints were made of.

Of course, it was not. They had the same human nature that we have. They had the same attachment to family and to friends that we have. They had the same weaknesses that we have. Some of them, like St. Augustine and many others, gave in to those weaknesses for a time. Eventually they overcame them. Most of the saints whose feasts are celebrated by the Church did outstanding and even extraordinary things for God and for the Church, but there are millions of others in heaven. These are saints who did nothing very big or extraordinary. They did the small things of life well, while they lived a very “ordinary” life in the grace of God.

We need have no doubt but that there are millions of such saints in heaven. If there are not, then Christ’s salvific work has been in vain. The few thousand who figure in the calendar of the Church would be a very poor harvest, in two thousand years, from the seed which Christ planted.

Yes, the ordinary, good Christian goes to heaven. He may have stumbled and fallen many a time on the way. But, aided by God’s grace, he always rose up again and kept on the road that his faith had marked out for him. We have every reason, every one of us here present, to feel confident that we will make the grade. We are dealing with a God of mercy who understands our weak, human nature, better than we ourselves can understand it. We are dealing with the God of infinite love who proved his love for us in the Incarnation. He is sorry for our sakes when we forget him and offend him. He is ever ready to receive us back with open arms when we see our folly and repent of our sins.

One of the great proofs, I would venture to say, that the Church is not a human invention, is the sacrament of penance. What human mind would be big enough to say that a sinner would be pardoned, no matter how seriously and how often he sinned, provided the sinner was truly repentant. Peter suggested that the forgiving of an enemy seven times would be stretching things a bit, but Christ who was divine had a different view.

Yes, think over St. Paul’s very human nature today. Think of the very human nature of millions of others who have gone to heaven before us. What they did, we can do. We have the same helps for the same weak human nature which they had. Let us use these helps. Let us do our very ordinary day’s work well. Let us try always to stay in God’s grace, or if temptation should overcome us, let us get back quickly to God’s grace through the sacrament of divine mercy. Very likely, we shall not get our names in the Church calendar of canonized saints, but we can get them in the heavenly calendar.

GOSPEL

Banner+Top+2+-+Plain+2

Lk 14:25-33

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus,

and he turned and addressed them,

If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,

wife and children, brothers and sisters,

and even his own life,

he cannot be my disciple.

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me

cannot be my disciple.

Which of you wishing to construct a tower

does not first sit down and calculate the cost

to see if there is enough for its completion?

Otherwise, after laying the foundation

and finding himself unable to finish the work

the onlookers should laugh at him and say,

This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’

Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down

and decide whether with ten thousand troops

he can successfully oppose another king

advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?

But if not, while he is still far away,

he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.

In the same way,

anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions

cannot be my disciple.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/090416.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 575 Many of Jesus’ deeds and words constituted a “sign of contradiction”,1 but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply “the Jews”,2 than for the ordinary People of God.3 To be sure, Christ’s relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;4 Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.5 Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God’s people: the resurrection of the dead,6 certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),7 the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.8

CCC 588 Jesus scandalized the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners as familiarly as with themselves.9 Against those among them “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others”, Jesus affirmed: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”10 He went further by proclaiming before the Pharisees that, since sin is universal, those who pretend not to need salvation are blind to themselves.11

1 Lk 2:34.

2 Cf. Jn 1:19; 2:18; 5:10; 7:13; 9:22; 18:12; 19:38; 20:19.

3 Jn 7:48-49.

4 Cf Lk 13:31.

5 Cf. Lk 7:36; 14:1.

6 Cf. Mt 22:23-34; Lk 20:39.

7 Cf. Mt 6:18.

8 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.

9 Cf. Lk 5:30; 7:36; 11:37; 14:1.

10 Lk 18:9; 5:32; cf. Jn 7:49; 9:34.

11 Cf. Jn 8:33-36; 9:40-41.

APPLICATION

The essential condition for true discipleship, demanded by Christ, was, and still is, total dedication, total commitment of oneself to him. There can be no such person as a half- Christian. “He that is not with me is against me,” he said on another occasion. We cannot be for Christ on Sunday and against him for the other six days of the week. To be his true disciples, his true followers, we must live our Christian life every day and all day.

Following Christ means making our way to heaven. It is a life-journey. We have a limited time in which to complete this journey. Therefore, we must travel a certain distance each day. This does not mean that we must spend every day in prayer and meditation. There are other tasks to be done, but we must Christianize these other tasks. Even the members of religious orders who “leave the world,” that is, who are set free from the family and financial cares of this world by their vows of chastity and poverty, have to busy themselves with other cares like teaching, nursing, tilling the soil perhaps, house-keeping, writing and many such activities. They cannot and do not spend all their day and every day in prayer and meditation. Nor does Christ demand this of them.

Much less, therefore, does he demand this of the ninety-nine per cent of his followers who have to take on themselves financial and family cares. It is by fulfilling these worldly duties in a Christian way that they are dedicating themselves to his service. This is their total commitment to Christ. The married man or woman who is loyal to his or her life-partner and to the family, if there is one, and who provides diligently and honestly for his own and the family’s spiritual and temporal welfare, and who always does this with the intention of pleasing God, is following Christ and is moving steadily day by day towards heaven.

This, of course, is more easily said than done. There are temptations, there are pit-falls on every side. While we are in this life we are travelers. We have not yet seen the beauty, the joy, the happiness toward which we are traveling, whereas this world, with its attractions, its own limited joys and pleasures, is here under our eyes. This is what makes the going difficult for most, if not all, of us. Of this we have been forewarned–we must take up our cross daily–we must “turn our backs” on these earthly attractions if and when they threaten to impede or obstruct our heavenward journey.

We must Christianize our daily work therefore by accepting it and honestly carrying it out as a necessary condition of Christian discipleship. If we offer our day’s work to God for his honor and glory, it will be a continuous prayer. We are working for God and moving a step closer to heaven each day. If in spite of our honest labor we often find it harder to make ends meet, and we have done everything possible to better our situation, we must remember our Savior who “had not whereon to lay his head.” That extra bit of income we so much desire might not turn out to be the blessing we think it would. God is not forgetting us. These times of difficulty may be the very moments when he is nearest to us.

On the other hand, those amongst us who find life running almost too smoothly, who have no family or financial difficulties, could well look into their consciences. If they never seem to have a cross to carry, they may be forgetting God. Their financial success may not be built on Christian honesty. Their peace in their house may not be the result of Christian discipline. The children who get every material thing that they desire, and are permitted by their parents to do as they wish, are not having their feet set on the road to heaven. They will not thank their over-generous parents later on, and those parents will pay for their folly, if not in this life, assuredly in the next.

To be true Christians, therefore, we must act as Christians all our lives. We must not let this world detain us on our journey home. We must use it and not let it use us. We must be ready to give up and turn our backs on anyone or anything, no matter how near or dear to us, if it is an impediment to us on our way to heaven. On the day that we were made Christians, we set out to build a tower that will reach to heaven. We decided to win a battle against whatever foe we met in life. By perseverance, we shall win our battles, we shall finish our tower, we shall reach the home which God has prepared for us.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Imitating Jesus

The call to imitation is concerned not simply with a human agenda or with the human virtues of Jesus, but with his entire way, “through the curtain” (Heb 10:20). What is essential and innovative about the way of Jesus Christ is exactly that he opens this way for us, for only in this manner do we come out into the open, into freedom. Imitation has the dimension of moving toward the divine communion, and this is why it is tied to the paschal mystery. For this reason the saying of Jesus about following him that comes after Peter’s profession of faith states “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mk 8: 34). This is not a narrow moralism that views life principally from the negative side, nor is it a kind of masochism for those who do not like themselves. We also do not track down the real meaning of Jesus’ words if we understand them the other way around, as an exalted moralism for heroic souls who are determined to be martyrs. Jesus’ call can only be comprehended from the broad paschal context of the entire exodus, which goes “through the curtain.” From this goal the age-old wisdom of humans acquires its meaning – that only they who lose themselves find themselves, and only they who give life receive life (Mk 8: 35)… “The plan of God and our Redeemer for human beings consists in calling them back from exile and bringing them back from the alienation which came about because of disobedience?… For the perfection of life it is necessary to imitate Christ, not only in terms of the meekness and patience exhibited in his life, but also in terms of his death.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Birth of the Virgin; The Hours of Catherine of Cleves – Byzantine Liturgy of the Hours

Come, all you faithful, let us hasten to the Virgin: for long before her conception in the womb, the one who was to be born of the stem of Jesse was destined to be the Mother of God. The one who is the treasury of virginity, the flowering Rod of Aaron, the object of the prophecies, the child of Joachim and Anne, is born today and the world is renewed in her. Through her birth, she floods the church with her splendor. O holy Temple, Vessel of the Godhead, Model of virgins and Strength of kings: in you the wondrous union of the two natures of Christ was realized. We worship Him and glorify your most pure birth, and we magnify you. (441-442)

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