Second Sunday of Advent – B

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“A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Almighty and most merciful Father, we come to the season of Advent with the brokenness of the world in our eyes, the cries of our fellow human beings in our ears and our own sinfulness in our hearts.  We come to Bethlehem, as those who need a Savior.  We come to the light because the darkness has almost overwhelmed us, but the darkness can never overcome You.  We come to Bethlehem as invited guests; to see, to wonder and to be changed by the Child Messiah who is Jesus.  For his sake, and by his grace, forgive us our sins.  Give us hope and eternal life.  Help us to move through a worldly holiday of excess to a worshipful Advent and joyful Christmas. For Jesus’ sake, and through Jesus we pray.  Amen.

–Michael Spencer

COLLECT

Almighty and merciful God,

may no earthly undertaking hinder those

who set out in haste to meet your Son,

but may our learning of heavenly wisdom

gain us admittance to his company.

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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Is 40:1-5, 9-11

Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated;
indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Go up on to a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;
cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

APPLICATION

The prophet’s words of comfort and consolation, addressed to his fellow exiles in Babylon, apply to Christians with infinitely greater force and meaning. The exiles were told that their liberation from enemy captivity was at hand. God would bring them back to Judea, to end their earthly days in freedom, but not without much struggle and strife. These same words have their real fulfillment in Christ. For us they have a meaning which goes beyond the confines of this world and of this limited life. The liberation from Babylon was but a shadow of the messianic redemption brought to all men by the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ.

The knowledge that we are made brothers of Christ and heirs to heaven is surely the most consoling and comforting fact in every thinking man’s life. That we must all die and leave this world nobody can ever deny. Death is one of the acknowledged, stark realities of life. For the confirmed atheist and unbeliever (if such exists) death is the end of all our aspirations and hopes, we are nothing any more but a small mound of dust in a graveyard, or an urn of ashes kept for awhile on the family mantelpiece. What an inglorious end, what an unsatisfying finale to life’s drama! Man, with all his gifts of intelligence, ambitions and desires to live on, is worse off than the beast of the field or the tree in the forest. They have not intelligence and therefore no thoughts of a future. The cow knows of no tomorrow for it thinks not. Man, because of his highly developed faculties, cannot avoid thinking and planning for the future. What a sad existence, what a cruel fate man’s life would be if all were to end in the grave!

But there is comfort and consolation for those of us who accept God’s revelation and who know all that God has done through the incarnation of his Son. We were created not only by an intelligent Creator but by a loving Father. He intended an eternal life for us. This eternal life was earned for us by the incarnation. Our death on earth is not the end but the beginning. “Our life is not taken from us but is changed” to the new and glorious form of existence.

The “Lord God has come with might” indeed, and “has brought his reward with him.” He has raised us to the status of adopted sons and made us heirs to heaven—if we do our part on earth. And we are not alone in our efforts to merit this rich reward for ourselves; Christ has remained with us in his Church as our Good Shepherd and our divine helper. No sincere Christian need ever despair. Whatever be our temptations and weaknesses, if we call on our shepherd he will be there to help us.

Let us meditate and think often during these weeks of Advent on what the Christmas event means to us. Let us try to show our heartfelt gratitude to God who planned so lovingly our eternity, and to his divine Son who went to such lengths of humiliation and suffering in order to bring us to heaven. It must surely comfort and console us to be assured of an unending life of happiness after death, if only we use, as God wants us, the few short years given us here below. The reward and the recompense are exceeding great. To refuse to strive for that would be the act of a fool or a madman.

The Jerusalem of old rejoiced in the good tidings of the temporal liberation from exile. The new Jerusalem, the Church of Christ, can and should rejoice exceedingly in the good news given it by Christ, the gospel of eternal liberation and exaltation. This is what Christmas means for us. This is what we must ever strive for. Aided by our loving shepherd this is what we shall obtain when our days on earth come to an end.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 719 John the Baptist is “more than a prophet.”1 In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah.2 He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the “voice” of the Consoler who is coming.3 As the Spirit of truth will also do, John “came to bear witness to the light.”4 In John’s sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels.5 “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. .. Behold, the Lamb of God.”6

CCC 754 “The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ. It is also the flock of which God himself foretold that he would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are unfailingly nourished and led by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep.”7

1 Lk 7:26.

2 Cf. Mt 11:13-14.

3 Jn 1:23; cf. Isa 40:1-3.

4 Jn 1:7; cf. Jn 15:26; 5:35.

5 Cf. 1 Pet 1:10-12.

6 Jn 1:33-36.

7 LG 6; cf. Jn 10:1-10; Isa 40:11; Ezek 34:11-31; Jn 10:11; 1 Pet 5:4; Jn 10:11-16.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD?for he proclaims peace to his people.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and prepare the way of his steps.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

READING II

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Pt 3:8-14

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved,
that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years
and a thousand years like one day.
The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,”
but he is patient with you,
not wishing that any should perish
but that all should come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief,
and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar
and the elements will be dissolved by fire,
and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.

Since everything is to be dissolved in this way,
what sort of persons ought you to be,
conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion,
waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God,
because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames
and the elements melted by fire.
But according to his promise
we await new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you await these things,
be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 671 Though already present in his Church, Christ’s reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled “with power and great glory” by the King’s return to earth.1 This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ’s Passover.2 Until everything is subject to him, “until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons of God.”3 That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten Christ’s return by saying to him:4 Marana tha! “Our Lord, come!”5

CCC 677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.6 The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven.7 God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.8

CCC 972 After speaking of the Church, her origin, mission, and destiny, we can find no better way to conclude than by looking to Mary. In her we contemplate what the Church already is in her mystery on her own “pilgrimage of faith,” and what she will be in the homeland at the end of her journey. There, “in the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity,” “in the communion of all the saints,”9 the Church is awaited by the one she venerates as Mother of her Lord and as her own mother.

In the meantime the Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise she shines forth on earth until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God.10

CCC 1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;11 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance”:12

Father, accept this offering

from your whole family.

Grant us your peace in this life,

save us from final damnation,

and count us among those you have chosen.13

CCC 1042 At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed:

The Church. .. will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ.14

CCC 1043 Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, “new heavens and a new earth.”15 It will be the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single head “all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.”16

CCC 1405 There is no surer pledge or dearer sign of this great hope in the new heavens and new earth “in which righteousness dwells,”17 than the Eucharist. Every time this mystery is celebrated, “the work of our redemption is carried on” and we “break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ.”18

CCC 2822 Our Father “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”19 He “is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish.”20 His commandment is “that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”21 This commandment summarizes all the others and expresses his entire will.

1 Lk 21:27; cf. Mt 25:31.

2 Cf. 2 Th 2:7.

3 LG 48 # 3; cf. 2 Pt 3:13; Rom 8:19-22; I Cor 15:28.

4 Cf. I Cor 11:26; 2 Pt 3:11-12.

5 1 Cor 16:22; Rev 22:17,20.

6 Cf. Rev 19:1-9.

7 Cf Rev 13:8; 20:7-10; 21:2-4.

8 Cf. Rev 20:12 2 Pt 3:12-13.

9 LG 69.

10 LG 68; Cf. 2 Pet 3 10.

11 Cf. Council of Orange II (529): DS 397; Council of Trent (1547):1567.

12 2 Pet 3:9.

13 Roman Missal, EP I (Roman Canon) 88.

14 LG 48; Cf. Acts 3:21; Eph 1:10; Col 1:20; 2 Pet 3:10-13.

15 2 Pet 3:13; Cf. Rev 21:1.

16 Eph 1:10.

17 2 Pet 3:13.

18 LG 3; St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Eph. 20, 2: SCh 10, 76.

19 1 Tim 2:3-4.

20 2 Pet 3:9; cf. Mt 18:14.

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

APPLICATION

The “day of Christ,” the day of the parousia or of his coming in glory to judge the whole world, was anxiously looked for in the early Church. Many of the first generation Christians thought it would come in their life-time. Christ did not reveal when his Second Coming would be, but be did tell us to be always ready. This much we know, each one of us will appear before him to be judged at the moment of our death and that moment will decide for us how his Second Coming will affect us. And the decision, granted God’s grace, is up to each one of us.

We have all scored points for or against ourselves already, but owing to the infinite mercy of God we have the means of erasing the guilty marks and so we can put ourselves in readiness at a moment’s notice. But will we get the moment’s notice? There have been death-bed conversions, but foolish indeed is the man who would presume such a grace. Of the hundreds of thousands who die each day less than one in a thousand believes he is about to die. Am I going to be the exception?

Therefore, to make sure of a happy death, that is, of a successful judgement, there is but one guarantee and it is to lead a successful, a true, Christian life. God has been so good to us, he has created us, he has redeemed us, be has prepared a place in heaven for us and has given us all the necessary means of reaching that place, could we be so thankless, so mean to him and so neglectful of our own greatest good, as not to use those means and make sure of the eternal happiness God has planned for us?

Today is the opportune, the right moment, to answer this question and to answer it sensibly–if I do not, nobody else, not even God himself, can answer it for me.

GOSPEL

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Mk 1:1-8

The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”
John the Baptist appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People of the whole Judean countryside
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel’s hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121017.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 422 ‘But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.’1 This is ‘the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’:’2 God has visited his people. He has fulfilled the promise he made to Abraham and his descendants. He acted far beyond all expectation – he has sent his own ‘beloved Son’.3

CCC 515 The Gospels were written by men who were among the first to have the faith4 and wanted to share it with others. Having known in faith who Jesus is, they could see and make others see the traces of his mystery in all his earthly life. From the swaddling clothes of his birth to the vinegar of his Passion and the shroud of his Resurrection, everything in Jesus’ life was a sign of his mystery.5 His deeds, miracles and words all revealed that “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”6 His humanity appeared as “sacrament”, that is, the sign and instrument, of his divinity and of the salvation he brings: what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive mission.
1 Gal 4:4-5.

2 Mk 1:1.

3 Mk 1:11; cf. Lk 1:5, 68.

4 Cf. Mk 1:1; Jn 21:24.

5 Cf Lk 2:7; Mt 27: 48; Jn 20:7.

6 Col 2:9.

APPLICATION

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” In twelve words St. Mark sums up the initiation of the greatest event that ever occurred in our human history, an event whose culmination would be not on earth but in heaven. God fulfilled the plan he had for us when creation began. He raised us up to the dignity of divine sonship by the incarnation. The eternal Son of God “humbled himself” and joined our human nature to his divinity, thus making us his brothers and capable of sharing with him the eternal kingdom of his Father.

Mark’s story was, in fact, the greatest “good news” that man had ever received on earth. It is still the greatest, most astounding and, at the same time, most consoling news for us today. But just as there were those in Palestine who did not accept Christ’s claim to be what he manifested himself to be; “he came unto his own but his own received him not” (Jn. 1: 12); so today, there are many, too many alas, who do not receive him. The causes for rejecting his message, and his promise of everlasting happiness are the same today as they were for the Scribes and Pharisees of the first century A.D.

It was their stubborn pride and self-centeredness, the exaggerated sense of their own dignity and perfection, which blinded the eyes of their intellects. The result was that they could not see their Messiah, their Savior, in Christ. He had brought himself down to the level of man, by assuming man’s human nature. The Son of God assumed our human nature in order to live amongst us, to teach us how valuable God made us. He did so in order to die for us in that nature and to atone for all the sins of the human race.

The same stubborn pride, that same exaggerated sense of their own dignity, blinds the intellects of many today who not only refuse to accept Christ and his good tidings, but seem impelled also to prevent others from accepting him. The mad rush for earthly possessions and pleasures, the casting-off of all reasonable restraints and restrictions, which are so necessary for human society to survive, the rejection of all things spiritual in man’s make-up and life-purpose, the general incitement to the animal instincts in man—all these, and many more, are the evident signs of the rejection of Christ which are so actively propagated by many in our world now.

Let each one of us ask himself today am I for Christ or against him? Am I on the road to heaven or am I facing in the opposite direction? A brief examination of conscience will give the answer. How Christian is my daily conduct in my home, and in my place of work and recreation? Do I love God? Do I appreciate all he has done for me by sending his Son to raise me up, one day, to heaven? Do I really have my own best interests at heart, by striving always to be ready for Christ’s second coming when I breathe my last? Christmas recalls to us his first appearance on earth. Let us use these days of preparation for Christmas to prepare ourselves for his second coming. This will occur for each one of us on the day of our death.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Witness of John the Baptist

John appears in the wilderness as a man dedicated to God. First of all he preaches repentance, purification, and the gathering together of the people for the coming of God. In a sense this proclamation summarizes the whole of prophecy at the very moment when history is reaching its goal. His mission is to open the door for God, so that Israel is ready to welcme him and to prepare for his hour in history. The important things are first his call to repentance, which continues what all the prophets said, and second his witness to Christ, which again makes prophecy concrete in the image of the lamb, which is the Lamb of God. Let us recall the stories of Abraham, the stories of Isaac, the sacrifices that involve a lamb, especially the paschal sacrifice, in which a lamb is sacrificed. These substitutes now find their fulfillment. Basically, the Paschal Lamb stands in place of us men. Now Christ is sent by God to become the Paschal Lamb, and he shares our fate and thereby transforms it… John says that Christ is not just some historical personage, but is the one who goes before us all, who comes forth from the eternity of God and is an intimate part of that eternity.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Stir up our hears, I Lord, to prepare the ways of Your On;y-begotten Son, that we may attain to serve You with purified minds, through His advent. Who with You, live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

Dear friends:

The world is in great need of prayer. Please, if you don’t already, pick up your Rosary and begin to pray every day for the conversion of sinners and the reparation of souls in purgatory. You will be abundantly comforted and blessed by our Mother.

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First Week of Advent – B

the-last-judgement-jan-ii-provost.jpg Jesus said to his disciples:
  “Be watchful! Be alert! 
 You do not know when the time will come.”

OPENING PRAYER

Father, all-powerful God, your eternal Word took flesh on our earth when the Virgin Mary placed her life at the service of your plan. Lift our minds in the same watchful hope to hear the voice which announces his glory and open our minds to receive the Spirit who prepares us for his coming. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

COLLECT

Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,

the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ

with righteous deeds at his coming,

so that, gathered at his right hand,

they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.

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

a048f62a4d97bc553b4bce3aa34d4f60--art-roman-school-posters.jpg           Is 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7

 

You, LORD, are our father, 
our redeemer you are named forever.  
Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways,
 and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?
  Return for the sake of your servants,
 the tribes of your heritage.
  Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
 with the mountains quaking before you,
 while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, 
such as they had not heard of from of old.
  No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you
 doing such deeds for those who wait for him.
  Would that you might meet us doing right,
 that we were mindful of you in our ways!
  Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful;
 all of us have become like unclean people, 
all our good deeds are like polluted rags;
 we have all withered like leaves, 
and our guilt carries us away like the wind.
  There is none who calls upon your name,
 who rouses himself to cling to you;
 for you have hidden your face from us
 and have delivered us up to our guilt.
  Yet, O LORD, you are our father;
 we are the clay and you the potter: 
we are all the work of your hands.

APPLICATION

Advent is the holy season in which the Church calls on us to prepare ourselves worthily to commemorate the anniversary of the coming of Christ amongst us. The lesson we have read has many instructions for us. If we take them to heart, they can help us to prepare ourselves for the great feast of Christmas. The pious Jews; Third-Isaiah was one; looked forward anxiously and eagerly to a second coming of Yahweh amongst them. They had no very clear idea of how this would take place. They hoped and prayed that this coming would be very soon; otherwise the iniquities of the majority would destroy the whole Chosen People.

We are now living in the Christian age and have this marvelous advantage over the pious Jews of old: we have seen the realization of all their hopes and prayers. We know that God has come amongst us in a way that they in their wildest dreams could not have hoped for. God the Son became man–one of us. He joined our human nature to his divine nature. This made us his brothers and therefore adopted sons of his eternal Father.

The Jews could call God their Father because he had revealed himself to them and had made them into a chosen race; a people set apart from all the other nations; and had established them in the promised land of Canaan. They called him their Redeemer because he had led them out of the slavery of Egypt and protected them during their long journey toward their homeland.

However, all this was but a shadow when compared with the reality. It was a foretaste of the tremendous act of fatherly love and compassion which the infinite God has since shown, not to one race or one people but to the whole human race in the Incarnation of his only-begotten Son. The Jews could call God their Father because he had united them into a Chosen People. With much more right and with infinitely more truth we can and do call him our Father. He has united us to his divine Son and made us his true children, brothers of Christ.

God was the Redeemer of the Chosen People. By his mighty hand he set them free from the slavery of Egypt, and later from other oppressions. He gave them a homeland to live in. But what was this redemption compared with what God has done for us through Christ? Through the Incarnation God has made available to all mankind an eternal home of peace and happiness. There we shall be free from sin and from all earthly limitations, imperfections and dangers. By becoming man the second person of the Blessed Trinity made us children of God and heirs to heaven. By dying for us and rising from the dead he has conquered our death. Because of this, death is not the end of life for us but the beginning of our true life–everlasting life.

The prophet’s prayer has been heard, his devout wish has been fulfilled. We are preparing ourselves to commemorate this extraordinary act of divine love for us; the coming of the Son of God as a baby, born of a lowly, human mother in the midst of poverty. We are preparing to celebrate the great feast of Christ, the birthday of Christ, our divine Redeemer. Like the prophet, we must confess that we too are unworthy of God’s love and of God’s pardon. How many times have we offended our loving Father during the past year? How often have we forgotten him in our daily pursuit of earthly things?

There is still time to repent of our sins and to make ourselves worthy of all that Christmas means. We are the adopted sons of the Father of infinite mercy. If, truly repentant, we turn to him he will forgive us and make us worthy to be his children and call him by the loving name of “Father.”

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19

Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
  Rouse your power, 
and come to save us.


Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Once again, O LORD of hosts, 
look down from heaven, and see;
 take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted 
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.


Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

May your help be with the man of your right hand,
with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
 give us new life, and we will call upon your name.


Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

READING II

Paul-icon.jpg

1 Cor 1:3-9

Brothers and sisters:
  Grace to you and peace from God our Father
 and the Lord Jesus Christ.

  I give thanks to my God always on your account
 for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus,
 that in him you were enriched in every way,
 with all discourse and all knowledge,
 as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you,
 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
 as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  He will keep you firm to the end,
 irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  God is faithful, 
and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son,
 Jesus Christ our Lord.

APPLICATION

On reading these few verses of St. Paul’s first letter to his Corinthian converts, our first thought should be to return thanks and heartfelt gratitude to God for the supernatural gift of the Christian faith which he has given us. Like the Corinthians, we were made adopted children of God and brothers of Christ when we received the sacrament of baptism. This Christian faith is not only a satisfactory answer to the questions which our sojourn on this earth raises, but it is the only true answer to the basic question which every thinking man must ask himself: “Why do I exist?”

Our Christian faith teaches us that we were created by God. Through the incarnation we were given the privilege of divine adoption, which means an eternal life with the Blessed Trinity in heaven. Christ, the Son of God has won this for us and has revealed it to us. He has promised us this happy ending to our earthly life provided we keep his commandments and live our earthly lives as faithful followers of his—as true Christians.

During the four weeks of Advent, the Church in her liturgy keeps reminding us of these basic truths of our faith. In helping us to prepare ourselves to welcome the birth of Christ at Christmas, the stress is always on the necessity of living our Christian lives, so that at whatever moment he calls us we shall be ready to meet him and be found worthy to enter eternal life. This is what St. Paul taught the Corinthian Christians. This is what he is teaching each one of us today.

St. Paul may have expected the second coming of Christ, as Judge (the parousia), to take place in the early days of the Church for he had no revelation concerning the when or the how of this coming. Although the general judgment did not come then, the particular judgment–meeting Christ as judge–did take place for each Christian at death. Each one’s eternity depends on his spiritual state when he meets Christ as Judge.

For us, the end of the world and the last judgment may or may not be far off, but the particular judgment is nearer to each one of us than we might care to admit. It is for this particular meeting with Christ that we must prepare. As the Apostle reminds us today, we have Christ with us sustaining us to the end. The loving God who called us into the fellowship of his Son has put us on the right road to heaven. He will keep us on that road if we follow his instructions, and use the aids Christ left us in his Church.

Let us prepare ourselves to welcome the first coming of Christ amongst us. Had we been there then, knowing what we now know, how gladly, how eagerly, would we not have taken him into our homes and our hearts! But we can still show our appreciation of what Christ has done for us, by welcoming him spiritually into a true Christian home this Christmas, and by receiving him sacramentally into a heart free from sin and from all worldly attachments.

If we do this each Christmas, and if we continue through the year to appreciate what Christmas and Christ’s first coming mean to us, then it will not be as a severe judge but as a loving brother and Savior that we shall meet him in his second coming.

GOSPEL

9f8048fa1e7bb6e50dde9a5d6a9a13b1--byzantine-art-orthodox-icons.jpg

Mk 13:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples:
”  Be watchful! Be alert! 
 You do not know when the time will come.  
It is like a man traveling abroad.  
He leaves home and places his servants in charge, 
each with his own work, 
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
  Watch, therefore; 
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
 whether in the evening, or at midnight,
 or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
  May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
 What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120317.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 672 Before his Ascension Christ affirmed that the hour had not yet come for the glorious establishment of the messianic kingdom awaited by Israel1 which, according to the prophets, was to bring all men the definitive order of justice, love and peace.2 According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by “distress” and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church3 and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching.4

CCC 2612 In Jesus “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”5 He calls his hearers to conversion and faith, but also to watchfulness. In prayer the disciple keeps watch, attentive to Him Who Is and Him Who Comes, in memory of his first coming in the lowliness of the flesh, and in the hope of his second coming in glory.6 In communion with their Master, the disciples’ prayer is a battle; only by keeping watch in prayer can one avoid falling into temptation.7

CCC 2849 Such a battle and such a victory become possible only through prayer. It is by his prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the outset of his public mission and in the ultimate struggle of his agony.8 In this petition to our heavenly Father, Christ unites us to his battle and his agony. He urges us to vigilance of the heart in communion with his own. Vigilance is “custody of the heart,” and Jesus prayed for us to the Father: “Keep them in your name.”9 The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch.10 Finally, this petition takes on all its dramatic meaning in relation to the last temptation of our earthly battle; it asks for final perseverance. “Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake.”11

1 Cf. Acts 1:6-7.
2 Cf. Is 11:1-9.
3 Cf. Acts 1:8; I Cor 7:26; Eph 5:16; I Pt 4:17.
4 Cf. Mt 25:1, 13; Mk 13:33-37; I Jn 2:18; 4:3; I Tim 4:1.
5 Mk 1:15.
6 Cf. Mk 13; Lk 21:34-36.
7 Cf. Lk 22:40, 46.
8 Cf. Mt 4:1-11; 26:36-44.
9 Jn 17:11; Cf. Mk 13:9, 23, 33-37; 14:38; Lk 12:35-40.
10 Cf. 1 Cor 16:13; Col 4:2; 1 Thess 5:6; 1 Pet 5:8.
11 Rev 16:15.

APPLICATION

Advent is the holy season in which the Church calls on us to prepare ourselves worthily to commemorate the anniversary of the coming of Christ amongst us. The lesson we have read has many instructions for us. If we take them to heart, they can help us to prepare ourselves for the great feast of Christmas. The pious Jews; Third-Isaiah was one; looked forward anxiously and eagerly to a second coming of Yahweh amongst them. They had no very clear idea of how this would take place. They hoped and prayed that this coming would be very soon; otherwise the iniquities of the majority would destroy the whole Chosen People.

We are now living in the Christian age and have this marvelous advantage over the pious Jews of old: we have seen the realization of all their hopes and prayers. We know that God has come amongst us in a way that they in their wildest dreams could not have hoped for. God the Son became man–one of us. He joined our human nature to his divine nature. This made us his brothers and therefore adopted sons of his eternal Father.

The Jews could call God their Father because he had revealed himself to them and had made them into a chosen race; a people set apart from all the other nations; and had established them in the promised land of Canaan. They called him their Redeemer because he had led them out of the slavery of Egypt and protected them during their long journey toward their homeland.

However, all this was but a shadow when compared with the reality. It was a foretaste of the tremendous act of fatherly love and compassion which the infinite God has since shown, not to one race or one people but to the whole human race in the Incarnation of his only-begotten Son. The Jews could call God their Father because he had united them into a Chosen People. With much more right and with infinitely more truth we can and do call him our Father. He has united us to his divine Son and made us his true children, brothers of Christ.

God was the Redeemer of the Chosen People. By his mighty hand he set them free from the slavery of Egypt, and later from other oppressions. He gave them a homeland to live in. But what was this redemption compared with what God has done for us through Christ? Through the Incarnation God has made available to all mankind an eternal home of peace and happiness. There we shall be free from sin and from all earthly limitations, imperfections and dangers. By becoming man the second person of the Blessed Trinity made us children of God and heirs to heaven. By dying for us and rising from the dead he has conquered our death. Because of this, death is not the end of life for us but the beginning of our true life–everlasting life.

The prophet’s prayer has been heard, his devout wish has been fulfilled. We are preparing ourselves to commemorate this extraordinary act of divine love for us; the coming of the Son of God as a baby, born of a lowly, human mother in the midst of poverty. We are preparing to celebrate the great feast of Christ, the birthday of Christ, our divine Redeemer. Like the prophet, we must confess that we too are unworthy of God’s love and of God’s pardon. How many times have we offended our loving Father during the past year? How often have we forgotten him in our daily pursuit of earthly things?

There is still time to repent of our sins and to make ourselves worthy of all that Christmas means. We are the adopted sons of the Father of infinite mercy. If, truly repentant, we turn to him he will forgive us and make us worthy to be his children and call him by the loving name of “Father.”

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

BENEDICTUS

Advent Waiting

One aspect of Advent is a waiting that is full of hope. In this, Advent enables us to understand the content and meaning of Christian time and of history as such… Man is always waiting in his life… Mankind has never been able to cease hoping for better times. Christians have always hoped that the Lord will always be present in history and that he will gather up all our tears and all our troubles so that everything will be explained and fulfilled in his kingdom. It becomes especially clear during a time of illness that man is always waiting. Everyday we are waiting for a sign of improvement and in the end for a complete cure. At the same time, however, we discover how many different ways there are of waiting. When time itself is not filled with a present that is meaningful, waiting becomes unbearable. If we have to look forward to something that is not there now – if, in other words, we have nothing here and now and the present is completely empty, every second of our life seems too long. Waiting itself becomes too heavy a burden to bear, when we cannot be sure whether we really have anything at all to wait for. When, on the other hand, time itself is meaningful and every moment contains something especially valuable, our joyful anticipation of the greater experience that is still to come makes what we have in the present even more precious and we are carried by an invisible power beyond the present moment. Advent helps us to wait with precisely this kind of waiting. It is the essentially Christian form of waiting and hoping.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Advent Prayer

Lord God,

I sense your power, your might

and I stand in awe, painfully aware

of how poor and weak I am before you.

As I begin this Advent journey,

teach me to turn to you in my fear and sorrow.

I don’t want to keep making my heart hard against you

turning a deaf ear to your invitation.

Only you can help me to soften,

to be like the clay in your gentle potter’s hands.

May the Lord bless us,

protect us from all evil

and bring us to everlasting life.

Amen.

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The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe – A — BENEDICAMUS DOMINO

‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ OPENING PRAYER Prayer for Resignation to God Lord, if what I seek be according to our will, then let it come to pass and let success attend the outcome. But if not, my God, let […]

via The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe – A — BENEDICAMUS DOMINO

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The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe – A

christ-the-king-icon-914.jpg‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for Resignation to God

Lord, if what I seek be according to our will, then let it come to pass and let success attend the outcome. But if not, my God, let it not come to pass. Do not leave me to my own devices, for you know how unwise I can be. Keep me safe under your protection Lord my God, and in your own gentle way guide me and rule me as you know best.
Amen

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

whose will is to restore all things

in your beloved Son, the King of the universe,

grant, we pray,

that the whole creation, set free from slavery,

may render your majesty service

and ceaselessly proclaim your praise.

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

good-shepherd-icon-570.jpgEz 34:11-12, 15-17

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
As a shepherd tends his flock
when he finds himself among his scattered sheep,
so will I tend my sheep.
I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered
when it was cloudy and dark.
I myself will pasture my sheep;
I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD.
The lost I will seek out,
the strayed I will bring back,
the injured I will bind up,
the sick I will heal,
but the sleek and the strong I will destroy,
shepherding them rightly. 

As for you, my sheep, says the Lord GOD,                                                                    I will judge between one sheep and another,                                                    between rams and goats.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 754 “The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ. It is also the flock of which God himself foretold that he would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are unfailingly nourished and led by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep.”1

1 LG 6; cf. Jn 10:1-10; Isa 40:11; Ezek 34:11-31; Jn 10:11; 1 Pet 5:4; Jn 10:11-16.

APPLICATION

In his infinite love and kindness God consoled and encouraged the Jewish exiles in Babylonia through the prophet Ezekiel. He told them that they would return to their own country where they would once more be a Chosen People directly under his divine care. The earthly rulers he had placed over them had failed in their duty. Now he himself would be their ruler and he would rule mercifully, kindly and justly.

He described the relationship between his people and himself under the image of a flock of sheep and its shepherd. It’s an image often found in the Old Testament. That God was referring to the future messianic kingdom, to the new Chosen People, is evident from the fact that our divine Lord, the Messiah, applied this passage of Ezekiel to himself in John 10: 1-18. Speaking to the Pharisees whose pride and prejudice had blinded them so that they could not see him as the promised Messiah, Jesus told them that he was the true “shepherd” who would lay down his life for his sheep. He had come, he said, so that his sheep might have life and have it to the full (eternal life). There were other sheep who up to then did not belong to God’s fold (referring to the Gentiles) but those too he would lead to life, they would eventually be one flock and one shepherd. This prophecy given by God over 500 years before Christ came on earth was fulfilled to the letter in Christ, as Christ himself declared and as history has proved. The Son of God came on earth as man to give all men eternal life. He founded the new sheepfold, the new Chosen People, the kingdom of God on earth, to prepare for entry into heaven all who will enter its gates. We are fortunate to belong to that kingdom. We have a king who has proved his love by dying for us in order to give us life. By his sufferings our wounds were healed; by his death on the cross he has conquered death; by his resurrection he has made our physical death the doorway that leads to everlasting life.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

READING II

The+Resurrection+of+the+Christ_an+Orthodox+icon.jpg

1 Cor 15:20-26, 28

Brothers and sisters:
Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since death came through man,
the resurrection of the dead came also through man.
For just as in Adam all die,
so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,
but each one in proper order:
Christ the first-fruits;
then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ;
then comes the end,
when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father,
when he has destroyed every sovereignty
and every authority and power.
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
When everything is subjected to him,
then the Son himself will also be subjected
to the one who subjected everything to him,
so that God may be all in all.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 130 Typology indicates the dynamic movement toward the fulfillment of the divine plan when “God [will] be everything to everyone.”1 Nor do the calling of the patriarchs and the exodus from Egypt, for example, lose their own value in God’s plan, from the mere fact that they were intermediate stages.

CCC 294 The glory of God consists in the realization of this manifestation and communication of his goodness, for which the world was created. God made us “to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace”,2 for “the glory of God is man fully alive; moreover man’s life is the vision of God: if God’s revelation through creation has already obtained life for all the beings that dwell on earth, how much more will the Word’s manifestation of the Father obtain life for those who see God.”3 The ultimate purpose of creation is that God “who is the creator of all things may at last become ”all in all“, thus simultaneously assuring his own glory and our beatitude.”4

CCC 411 The Christian tradition sees in this passage an announcement of the “New Adam” who, because he “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross”, makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience, of Adam.5 Furthermore many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the Protoevangelium as Mary, the mother of Christ, the “new Eve”. Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ’s victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.6

CCC 655 Finally, Christ’s Resurrection – and the risen Christ himself is the principle and source of our future resurrection: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. .. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”7 The risen Christ lives in the hearts of his faithful while they await that fulfillment. In Christ, Christians “have tasted. .. the powers of the age to come”8 and their lives are swept up by Christ into the heart of divine life, so that they may “live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”9

CCC 668 “Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”10 Christ’s Ascension into heaven signifies his participation, in his humanity, in God’s power and authority. Jesus Christ is Lord: he possesses all power in heaven and on earth. He is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion”, for the Father “has put all things under his feet.”11 Christ is Lord of the cosmos and of history. In him human history and indeed all creation are “set forth” and transcendently fulfilled.12

CCC 671 Though already present in his Church, Christ’s reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled “with power and great glory” by the King’s return to earth.13 This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ’s Passover.14 Until everything is subject to him, “until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons of God.”15 That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten Christ’s return by saying to him:16 Marana tha! “Our Lord, come!”17

CCC 674 The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by “all Israel”, for “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” in their “unbelief” toward Jesus.18 St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.”19 St. Paul echoes him: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?”20 The “full inclusion” of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of “the full number of the Gentiles”,21 will enable the People of God to achieve “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”, in which “God may be all in all”.22

CCC 954 The three states of the Church. “When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is”’:23

All of us, however, in varying degrees and in different ways share in the same charity towards God and our neighbors, and we all sing the one hymn of glory to our God. All, indeed, who are of Christ and who have his Spirit form one Church and in Christ cleave together.24

CCC 1008 Death is a consequence of sin. The Church’s Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man’s sin.25 Even though man’s nature is mortal God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin.26 “Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned” is thus “the last enemy” of man left to be conquered.27

CCC 1130 The Church celebrates the mystery of her Lord “until he comes,” when God will be “everything to everyone.”28 Since the apostolic age the liturgy has been drawn toward its goal by the Spirit’s groaning in the Church: Marana tha!29 The liturgy thus shares in Jesus’ desire: “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you. .. until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”30 In the sacraments of Christ the Church already receives the guarantee of her inheritance and even now shares in everlasting life, while “awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus.”31 The “Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come. .. Come, Lord Jesus!”’32

St. Thomas sums up the various aspects of sacramental signs: “Therefore a sacrament is a sign that commemorates what precedes it- Christ’s Passion; demonstrates what is accomplished in us through Christ’s Passion – grace; and prefigures what that Passion pledges to us – future glory.”33

CCC 1326 Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.34

CCC 2550 On this way of perfection, the Spirit and the Bride call whoever hears them35 to perfect communion with God:

There will true glory be, where no one will be praised by mistake or flattery; true honor will not be refused to the worthy, nor granted to the unworthy; likewise, no one unworthy will pretend to be worthy, where only those who are worthy will be admitted. There true peace will reign, where no one will experience opposition either from self or others. God himself will be virtue’s reward; he gives virtue and has promised to give himself as the best and greatest reward that could exist. .. “I shall be their God and they will be my people. .. ” This is also the meaning of the Apostle’s words: “So that God may be all in all.” God himself will be the goal of our desires; we shall contemplate him without end, love him without surfeit, praise him without weariness. This gift, this state, this act, like eternal life itself, will assuredly be common to all.36

CCC 2804 The first series of petitions carries us toward him, for his own sake: thy name, thy kingdom, thy will! It is characteristic of love to think first of the one whom we love. In none of the three petitions do we mention ourselves; the burning desire, even anguish, of the beloved Son for his Father’s glory seizes us:37 “hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done. .. ” These three supplications were already answered in the saving sacrifice of Christ, but they are henceforth directed in hope toward their final fulfillment, for God is not yet all in all.38

CCC 2855 The final doxology, “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever,” takes up again, by inclusion, the first three petitions to our Father: the glorification of his name, the coming of his reign, and the power of his saving will. But these prayers are now proclaimed as adoration and thanksgiving, as in the liturgy of heaven.39 The ruler of this world has mendaciously attributed to himself the three titles of kingship, power, and glory.40 Christ, the Lord, restores them to his Father and our Father, until he hands over the kingdom to him when the mystery of salvation will be brought to its completion and God will be all in all.41

1 1 Cor 15:28.

2 Eph 1:5-6.

3 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4,20,7: PG 7/1,1037.

4 AG 2; cf. 1 Cor 15:28.

5 Cf. 1 Cor 15:21-22,45; Phil 2:8; Rom 5:19-20.

6 Cf. Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus: DS 2803; Council of Trent: DS 1573.

7 I Cor 15:20-22.

8 Heb 6:5.

9 2 Cor 5:15; cf. Col 3:1-3.

10 Rom 14:9.

11 Eph 1:20-22.

12 Eph 1:10; cf. 4:10; 1 Cor 15:24, 27-28.

13 Lk 21:27; cf. Mt 25:31.

14 Cf. 2 Th 2:7.

15 LG 48 # 3; cf. 2 Pt 3:13; Rom 8:19-22; I Cor 15:28.

16 Cf. I Cor 11:26; 2 Pt 3:11-12.

17 1 Cor 16:22; Rev 22:17,20.

18 Rom I 1:20-26; cf. Mt 23:39.

19 Acts 3:19-21.

20 Rom 11:15.

21 Rom 11:12, 25; cf. Lk 21:24.

22 Eph 4:13; I Cor 15:28.

23 LG 49; cf. Mt 25:31; 1 Cor 15:26-27; Council of Florence (1439): DS 1305.

24 LG 49; cf. Eph 4:16.

25 Cf. Gen 2:17; 3:3; 3:19; Wis 1:13; Rom 5:12; 6:23; DS 1511.

26 Cf. Wis 2:23-24.

27 GS 18 § 2; cf. 1 Cor 15:26.

28 1 Cor 11:26; 15:28.

29 1 Cor 16:22.

30 Lk 22:15.

31 Titus 2:13.

32 Rev 22:17, 20.

33 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 60, 3.

34 Cf. 1 Cor 15:28.

35 Cf. Rev 22:17.

36 St. Augustine, De civ. Dei, 22, 30: PL 41, 801-802; cf. Lev 26:12; cf. 1 Cor 15:28.

37 Cf. Lk 22:14; 12:50.

38 Cf. 1 Cor 15:28.

39 Cf. Rev 1:6; 4:11; 5:13.

40 Cf. Lk 4:5-6.

41 1 Cor 15:24-28.

APPLICATION

It is very fitting that the Church should dedicate the last Sunday of the liturgical year to honoring Christ, her founder and Savior, as King of the universe. Through the divine intervention, in the Incarnation of the Son of God in human history, mankind has been raised to the sonship with God which was planned before creation began. The sins of the world have been atoned for, and men are made citizens of God’s kingdom on earth with the promise of citizenship in the eternal kingdom if they do the little that is expected of them while they are on earth.

All this we owe to Christ the Son of God “who emptied himself” of his divine glory and deigned to become man so that we mortals could become sons of God. We close our liturgical year, therefore, with a feastday which honors Christ as man and we give him the highest title a man can have as we proclaim him our King. Although this title was introduced only in recent times by Pius XI, its meaning and understanding go back to the very beginning of Christianity. St. Paul tells us in today’s reading that Christ began his triumphant reign at the moment of his resurrection and that it will continue on earth until his last opponent is overcome. That will be on the day of the final judgment. Christ’s kingdom on earth will then pass into the Father’s eternal kingdom of heaven, where Christ as God will reign in majesty together with the Father and Holy Spirit.

We have every reason, therefore, to rejoice in Christ today and to render him all the gratitude and glory of which our human nature is capable. We have the great blessing of being members of his kingdom after death. Christ lived and died for us. He lived to teach us the truth and show us the way to heaven. He died to conquer our death and earn for us eternal life. He rose from the dead to prove he had overcome sin and death and to open the gates of heaven for us. Christ is “the way, the truth and the life.” If we follow him we are following the king who can lead us to victory.

Let us thank our Savior for all he has done for us. Our, thanks will be sincere only if we renew our pledge of loyal service to him. Earthly kings regulate the temporal lives of their subjects, Christ is preparing for us an unending life. Earthly kings sometimes reward their outstanding subjects; Christ has promised an everlasting reward to all who serve him–the lowly of the world as well as the highest in the land. Only those who refuse to have him to reign over them–those who have no king but Caesar–will fail to receive his reward.

Christ is our king in this world. Let us make sure that he will be our king for all eternity by doing our best to be his loyal subjects here on earth.

GOSPEL

www-St-Takla-org--Damiana-Monastery-icon-Coming.jpg

Mt 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112617.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 331 Christ is the center of the angelic world. They are his angels: “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him. .. ”1 They belong to him because they were created through and for him: “for in him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.”2 They belong to him still more because he has made them messengers of his saving plan: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?”3

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”;4 he declares them blessed, for “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”5 To them – the “little ones” the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned.6 Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst and privation.7 Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom.8

CCC 598 In her Magisterial teaching of the faith and in the witness of her saints, the Church has never forgotten that “sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured.”9 Taking into account the fact that our sins affect Christ himself,10 the Church does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon Jesus, a responsibility with which they have all too often burdened the Jews alone:

We must regard as guilty all those who continue to relapse into their sins. Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to contempt. And it can be seen that our crime in this case is greater in us than in the Jews. As for them, according to the witness of the Apostle, “None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” We, however, profess to know him. And when we deny him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on him.11

Nor did demons crucify him; it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.12

CCC 671 Though already present in his Church, Christ’s reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled “with power and great glory” by the King’s return to earth.13 This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ’s Passover.14 Until everything is subject to him, “until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons of God.”15 That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten Christ’s return by saying to him:16 Marana tha! “Our Lord, come!”17

CCC 678 Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment of the Last Day in his preaching.18 Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light.19 Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God’s grace as nothing be condemned.20 Our attitude to our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love.21 On the Last Day Jesus will say: “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”22

CCC 679 Christ is Lord of eternal life. Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world. He “acquired” this right by his cross. The Father has given “all judgment to the Son”.23 Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself.24 By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one’s works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love.25

CCC 954 The three states of the Church. “When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is”’:26

All of us, however, in varying degrees and in different ways share in the same charity towards God and our neighbors, and we all sing the one hymn of glory to our God. All, indeed, who are of Christ and who have his Spirit form one Church and in Christ cleave together.27

CCC 1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: “He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”28 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.29 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self- exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.”

CCC 1034 Jesus often speaks of “Gehenna” of “the unquenchable fire” reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.30 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he “will send his angels, and they will gather. .. all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,”31 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!”32

CCC 1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”33

Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where “men will weep and gnash their teeth.”34

CCC 1038 The resurrection of all the dead, “of both the just and the unjust,”35 will precede the Last Judgment. This will be “the hour when all who are in the tombs will hear [the Son of man’s] voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”36 Then Christ will come “in his glory, and all the angels with him. .. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. .. And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”37

CCC 1373 “Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us,” is present in many ways to his Church:38 in his word, in his Church’s prayer, “where two or three are gathered in my name,”39 in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned,40 in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But “he is present. .. most especially in the Eucharistic species.”41

CCC 1397 The Eucharist commits us to the poor. To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren:

You have tasted the Blood of the Lord, yet you do not recognize your brother,… You dishonor this table when you do not judge worthy of sharing your food someone judged worthy to take part in this meal. .. God freed you from all your sins and invited you here, but you have not become more merciful.42

CCC 1503 Christ’s compassion toward the sick and his many healings of every kind of infirmity are a resplendent sign that “God has visited his people”43 and that the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Jesus has the power not only to heal, but also to forgive sins;44 he has come to heal the whole man, soul and body; he is the physician the sick have need of.45 His compassion toward all who suffer goes so far that he identifies himself with them: “I was sick and you visited me.”46 His preferential love for the sick has not ceased through the centuries to draw the very special attention of Christians toward all those who suffer in body and soul. It is the source of tireless efforts to comfort them.

CCC 1825 Christ died out of love for us, while we were still “enemies.”47 The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself.48

The Apostle Paul has given an incomparable depiction of charity: “charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”49

CCC 1932 The duty of making oneself a neighbor to others and actively serving them becomes even more urgent when it involves the disadvantaged, in whatever area this may be. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”50

CCC 2443 God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them: “Give to him who begs from you, do not refuse him who would borrow from you”; “you received without pay, give without pay.”51 It is by what they have done for the poor that Jesus Christ will recognize his chosen ones.52 When “the poor have the good news preached to them,” it is the sign of Christ’s presence.53

CCC 2447 The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.54 Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.55 Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God:56

He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none and he who has food must do likewise.57 But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you.58 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?59

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.’”60 Jesus makes these words his own: “The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”61 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:62

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.”63

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.64

1 Mt 25:31.

2 Col 1:16.

3 Heb 1:14.

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

5 Mt 5:3.

6 Cf. Mt 11:25.

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

8 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

9 Roman Catechism I, 5, 11; cf. Heb 12:3.

10 Cf. Mt 25:45; Acts 9:4-5.

11 Roman Catechism I, 5, 11; cf. Heb 6:6; 1 Cor 2:8.

12 St. Francis of Assisi, Admonitio 5, 3.

13 Lk 21:27; cf. Mt 25:31.

14 Cf. 2 Th 2:7.

15 LG 48 # 3; cf. 2 Pt 3:13; Rom 8:19-22; I Cor 15:28.

16 Cf. I Cor 11:26; 2 Pt 3:11-12.

17 1 Cor 16:22; Rev 22:17,20.

18 Cf. Dan 7:10; Joel 3-4; Mal 3: 19; Mt 3:7-12.

19 Cf Mk 12:38-40; Lk 12:1-3; Jn 3:20-21; Rom 2:16; I Cor 4:5.

20 Cf. Mt 11:20-24; 12:41-42.

21 Cf. Mt 5:22; 7:1-5.

22 Mt 25:40.

23 Jn 5:22; cf. 5:27; Mt 25:31; Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2 Tim 4:1.

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

25 Cf. Jn 3:17; 5:26. 588 Cf. Jn 3:18; 12:48; Mt 12:32; I Cor 3:12-15; Heb 6:4-6; 10:26-31.

26 LG 49; cf. Mt 25:31; 1 Cor 15:26-27; Council of Florence (1439): DS 1305.

27 LG 49; cf. Eph 4:16.

28 1 Jn 3:14-15.

29 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

30 Cf. Mt 5:22, 29; 10:28; 13:42, 50; Mk 9:43-48.

31 Mt 13:41-42.

32 Mt 25:41.

33 Mt 7:13-14.

34 LG 48 # 3; Mt 22:13; cf. Heb 9:27; Mt 25:13, 26, 30, 31 46.

35 Acts 24:15.

36 Jn 5:28-29.

37 Mt 25:31, 32, 46.

38 Rom 8:34; cf. LG 48.

39 Mt 18:20.

40 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

41 SC 7.

42 St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in 1 Cor. 27, 4: PG 61, 229-230; cf. Mt 25:40.

43 Lk 7:16; cf. Mt 4:24.

44 Cf. Mk 2:5-12.

45 Cf. Mk 2:17.

46 Mt 25:36.

47 Rom 5:10.

48 Cf. Mt 5:44; Lk 10:27-37; Mk 9:37; Mt 25:40, 45.

49 1 Cor 13:4-7.

50 Mt 25:40.

51 Mt 5:42; 10:8.

52 Cf. Mt 25:31-36.

53 Mt 11:5; cf. Lk 4:18.

54 Cf. Isa 58:6-7; Heb 13:3.

55 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

56 Cf. Tob 4:5-11; Sir 17:22; Mt 6:2-4.

57 Lk 3:11.

58 Lk 11:41.

59 Jas 2:15-16; cf. 1 Jn 3:17.

60 Deut 15:11.

61 Jn 12:8.

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

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

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

APPLICATION

Christ himself in this description of the last judgment, describes his role as that of a king. He will “sit on a glorious throne.” As a “king” he will pronounce judgment on all mankind; he will separate the good from the bad. His decision will be final and forever. This gospel reading, therefore, reminds us of the Kingship of Christ who “humiliated himself” in the Incarnation for our sakes, but was raised again to glory by the Father and so gave all men the possibility and means to raise themselves to eternal glory.

This gospel reading brings out also the very necessary lesson which we must learn if we are to serve Christ as faithful subjects while on earth and so come into our eternal kingdom when we die. We serve him, he tells us himself today, by serving his needy members. These we will always have with us, so that we shall never be short of the opportunity to show our love and gratitude to Christ.

The hungry, sick, naked, imprisoned provide us with opportunities for serving Christ. If there are none of these in our immediate neighborhood, there are millions in other parts of our world today and we need not search far for means of helping them. There are hundreds of associations dedicated to serving those in need of the corporal works of mercy. Let us be as generous as our means will allow in our donations to one or other of these associations.

Let us not forget either, that our Lord’s reference to his needy members was not restricted to those in bodily need only. There are many of our fellowmen, Christians and non-Christians, who are hungry and thirsty for spiritual things; others are spiritually sick through worldliness and sin; many others who are so imprisoned in their own earthly ambitions that they have no time to think of their future life. To help such neighbors out of their difficulties, self-inflicted or not, is to serve Christ. He wants all men for heaven. He came on earth for that purpose. He expects us to cooperate with him in bringing them there, and he gives us these opportunities so that we can prove our love for him now on earth and later for all eternity, rejoice with those we helped.

On this feast of Christ our King, let us renew our pledge of loyalty to him, and so that this pledge will not be an empty formula, let each one of us resolve to study once more the spiritual and corporal works of mercy and see how well we put them into practice. If we have failed in the past, let us resolve to begin again today. Many of us may feel that we ourselves need all we can get for our bodily needs, and those of our families. If that is really so, Christ will understand it, but this will not excuse us from carrying out the spiritual works of mercy. The fervent prayer; the sincere Christian advice for an erring neighbor; the prudent counsel to parents in disagreement or to parents neglecting their children’s Christian upbringing; these works of charity, aided by God’s grace, can work miracles. They have done so time and time again in the past; they will do so again in the future.

Let us help one another by bearing one another’s burdens. This is what Christ asks of us. This is how we can prove ourselves loyal and grateful subjects. This is what we will be judged on when we meet him on our last day. If we love our neighbor with an active and practical love for Christ’s sake, we are thereby loving God, and are keeping “the two greatest commandments on which the whole law and the prophets depend.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from 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 appearance, 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 Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

O Jesus Christ,

I acknowledge you as universal King. All that has been made has been created for You. Exercise all Your rights over me. I renew my Baptismal Vows. I renounce Satan, his pomps and his works; I promise to live as a good Christian. And, in particular do I pledge myself to labor, to the best of my ability, for the triumph of the rights of God and of Your Church.

Divine Heart of Jesus, to You do I offer my poor services, laboring that all hearts may acknowledge Your sacred kingship, and that thus the reign of Your peace be established throughout the whole universe.   We ask this and all things through Christ our Lord, Amen.

 

 

 

 

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Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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“Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.  For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

OPENING PRAYER

Bless Me, Heavenly Father

Bless me, Heavenly Father,

forgive my erring ways.

Grant me strength to serve Thee,

put purpose in my days.

Give me understanding,

enough to make me kind,

so I may judge all people

with my heart and not my mind.

Teach me to be patient

in everything I do,

Content to trust Your wisdom

and to follow after You.

Help me when I falter

and hear me when I pray,

And receive me in Thy kingdom

to dwell with Thee someday.

Amen.

COLLECT

Grant us, we pray, O Lord our God,

the constant gladness of being devoted to you,

for it is full and lasting happiness

to serve with constancy

the author of all that is good.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with youn in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Prv 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31

When one finds a worthy wife,
her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her,
has an unfailing prize.
She brings him good, and not evil,
all the days of her life.
She obtains wool and flax
and works with loving hands.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her fingers ply the spindle.
She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her a reward for her labors,
and let her works praise her at the city gates.

APPLICATION

While it is possible that it is “wisdom” (the theme of his book) that the author of Proverbs is personifying here in his praise of the ideal wife, the fact remains that what is said is eminently true of a faithful wife. Such a woman, faithful to God, to her husband and children, is more valuable to a man than all the gold, silver and pearls he could ever collect. With an ideal wife of this kind and thank God for it, the vast majority of wives are of this kind, a man can safely leave his home and his possessions in her care. He is free to devote all his energies to providing the necessities of life. In this provision the ideal wife can and will lend a helping hand, as Proverbs and history tell us. Even within the walls of her home a faithful, zealous wife will find time to do work that will supplement the weekly income.

A wise old saying tells us that: “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” that is, the mothers of families are those who regulate and stabilize this world’s affairs. If this is true of all good mothers, it is doubly true of Christian and religiously-minded mothers, for these not only rule this world but play a very big part in arranging and deciding men’s fate in the world-to-come. Read the lives of most of our greatest canonized saints and see the important and even decisive role their mothers played in their sanctification. St. Monica comes to mind. She spent years in prayer and self-mortification beseeching God to give the grace of conversion to her heretical and morally lax son, Augustine.

She followed him all the way from Carthage in North Africa to Milan in Italy to try to move him, as she was trying to move God, by her tears and entreaties. She succeeded, and the result: St. Augustine. the great doctor of the Church.

What is true of so many of our canonized saints is surely true of the millions of non-canonized saints who are today enjoying the bliss of heaven because of the influence their mothers had an their lives.

Christian mothers, try never to forget the absolutely necessary role you have been given by God in his plan for populating heaven. He has made you necessary for producing citizens of this world but that was only the preliminary step to making them citizens of heaven. In this task the mother must play the essential role. It is at your knees that your children will learn about their Father in heaven. It is in your home from your example and advice that they will learn to serve that heavenly Father during their lives and so reach their eternal home where you will be joyfully awaiting them.

Charm and beauty are trivial and passing possessions but the woman who fears, that is faithfully serves, the Lord is a precious treasurer which will last forever.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
Your children like olive plants
around your table.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

READING II

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1 Thes 5:1-6

Concerning times and seasons, brothers and sisters,
you have no need for anything to be written to you.
For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come
like a thief at night.
When people are saying, “Peace and security, ”
then sudden disaster comes upon them,
like labor pains upon a pregnant woman,
and they will not escape.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness,
for that day to overtake you like a thief.
For all of you are children of the light
and children of the day.
We are not of the night or of darkness.
Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do,
but let us stay alert and sober.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 673 Since the Ascension Christ’s coming in glory has been imminent,1 even though “it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.”2. This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are “delayed”.3

CCC 675 Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.4 The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth5 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.6

CCC 1216 “This bath is called enlightenment, because those who receive this [catechetical] instruction are enlightened in their understanding. ..”7 Having received in Baptism the Word, “the true light that enlightens every man,” the person baptized has been “enlightened,” he becomes a “son of light,” indeed, he becomes “light” himself:8

Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift. .. We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship.9

CCC 2849 Such a battle and such a victory become possible only through prayer. It is by his prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the outset of his public mission and in the ultimate struggle of his agony.10 In this petition to our heavenly Father, Christ unites us to his battle and his agony. He urges us to vigilance of the heart in communion with his own. Vigilance is “custody of the heart,” and Jesus prayed for us to the Father: “Keep them in your name.”11 The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch.12 Finally, this petition takes on all its dramatic meaning in relation to the last temptation of our earthly battle; it asks for final perseverance. “Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake.”13

1 Cf. Rev 22:20.

2 Acts 1:7; Cf. Mk 13:32.

3 Cf. Mt 24:44; I Th 5:2; 2 Th 2:3-12.

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

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

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

7 St. Justin, Apol. 1, 61, 12: PG 6, 421.

8 Jn 1:9; 1 Thess 5:5; Heb 10:32; Eph 5:8.

9 St. Gregory Of Nazianzus, Oratio 40, 3-4: PG 36, 361C.

10 Cf. Mt 4:1-11; 26:36-44.

11 Jn 17:11; Cf. Mk 13:9, 23, 33-37; 14:38; Lk 12:35-40.

12 Cf. 1 Cor 16:13; Col 4:2; 1 Thess 5:6; 1 Pet 5:8.

13 Rev 16:15.

APPLICATION

The parousia or second coming of Christ has not yet taken place and we still have no idea as to when it will be. But what has taken place, ever since the days of the Thessalonians, is that Christ has come to billions of men and women at the moment of their death to decide their eternal fate, This is what concerns each one of us today; the moment when we will meet Christ as our judge. In God’s wise providence this most important moment of our earthly lives is hidden from us.

Many of us will say: “why does God not tell us when our death will take place so that we properly could prepare ourselves?” Would we in fact, or could we do so? God knows our weak nature infinitely better than we do. How many of us would postpone our conversion and continue to enjoy the illicit joys of life until the last week before our appointed moment of death? And granted the infinite mercy of God who has accepted death-bed conversions, how many of us would be able to turn to God sincerely and honestly after such a life?

Furthermore God has allotted a life’s work to each one of us. He has given a certain number of talents to each and expects us to produce spiritual fruits with these talents. What of the years wasted if we left our conversion to the last week? The inspector who finds a factory-worker laboring diligently each time he comes to the workshop, but finds no end product during the remaining hours of the day, could hardly be expected to keep that worker in his employment and reward him handsomely! Our service of God is a labor of love and gratitude for all he has done for us. It is not slave labor controlled by the taskmasters whip. We serve God, we keep his commandments because we love him and we are trying to repay a little the infinite kindness he has showered upon us.

The fact. therefore, that the moment of our death is hidden from us is a blessing for even the best of us–it keeps us on our toes–and a necessity for the lazy and luke-warm among us. Our own self-interest in the future life, and the uncertainty of the moment of final decision, will spur us on to love and thank God and to endeavor to remain ever in his friendship.

This is what St. Paul urges his converts to do; it’s his message for us today. We have the light of the gospel; the illumination of the true faith. If we continue to live in that light, to lead our lives under that illumination, death’s advent cannot be in the darkness. We shall be spiritually prepared for it.

GOSPEL

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Mt 25:14-30

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.

After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five.
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
‘Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111917.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 546 Jesus’ invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching.1 Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything.2 Words are not enough, deeds are required.3 The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word?4 What use has he made of the talents he has received?5 Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to “know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven”.6 For those who stay “outside”, everything remains enigmatic.7

CCC 1029 In the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill God’s will in relation to other men and to all creation. Already they reign with Christ; with him “they shall reign for ever and ever.”8

CCC 1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”9
Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where “men will weep and gnash their teeth.”
10

CCC 1720 The New Testament uses several expressions to characterize the beatitude to which God calls man:
– the coming of the Kingdom of God;
11 – the vision of God: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”12
– entering into the joy of the Lord;
13
– entering into God’s rest:
14
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?
15

CCC 1936 On coming into the world, man is not equipped with everything he needs for developing his bodily and spiritual life. He needs others. Differences appear tied to age, physical abilities, intellectual or moral aptitudes, the benefits derived from social commerce, and the distribution of wealth.16 The “talents” are not distributed equally.17

CCC 2683 The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom,18 especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were “put in charge of many things.”19 Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.

1 Cf. Mk 4:33-34.
2 Cf. Mt 13:44-45; 22:1-14.
3 Cf. Mt 21:28-32.
4 Cf. Mt 13:3-9.
5 Cf. Mt 25:14-30.
6 Mt 13:11.
7 Mk 4:11; cf. Mt 13:10-15.
8 Rev 22:5; cf. Mt 25:21, 23.
9 Mt 7:13-14.
10 LG 48 # 3; Mt 22:13; cf. Heb 9:27; Mt 25:13, 26, 30, 31 46.
11 Cf. Mt 4:17.
12 Mt 5:8; cf. 1 Jn 2; 1 Cor 13:12.
13 Mt 25:21-23.
14 Cf. Heb 4:7-11.
15 St. Augustine, De civ. Dei 22, 30, 5: PL 41,804.
16 Cf. GS 29 # 2.
17 Cf. Mt 25:14-30; Lk 19:27.
18 Cf. Heb 12:1.
19 Cf. Mt 25:21.

APPLICATION

The lesson of this parable, like all the teaching of the gospel, is as applicable to us today as it was to the first generation of Christians. In its relation to Christ and to his divine Father our world today is very similar to first century Palestine. Christ and God have opponents and followers. Their opponents today have the very same reasons that moved the Pharisees and leaders of the people in Christ’s day. They want their messianic kingdom here on earth, a kingdom of pleasure and plenty; they want no limits set to their freedom to follow their own earthly inclinations. Their pride in their own self-exalted dignity will not let them bow the head to any deity or divine authority which does not conform to their standards. Like the Pharisees they keep on trying to convince themselves that Christianity is not true, that Christ will not reign, that there will be no day of reckoning.

Yet with all their efforts to get rid of Christ and God, the small inner voice of conscience is not completely silenced. It has the nasty habit of reminding them of their folly. They have their troubled moments when the epicurean motto “eat, drink, sleep and be merry” does not somehow ring true.

For the followers of Christ who are sincere in their efforts, the parable has a message of encouragement and consolation. At times the road we have to travel seems strewn with obstacles, our battles seem never-ending, yet God has provided each one of us with the necessary helps to ensure the final victory. These helps are given according to each one’s need. Those servants in the parable who received five and two talents used them faithfully and successfully. He who received one talent needed only one, and could have succeeded with it had he been a faithful servant.

Eternal happiness is the divine reward for an earthly service faithfully rendered. The false excuse of the third servant is repeated in many forms among us still: “God is too austere, he could not expect me to make such sacrifices. I have to provide for myself, his promises and threats may be only empty words. He may never return to demand a reckoning, to settle accounts with us.” These and all other such excuses are proved false in this parable.

God is a kind Father who has our eternal interests at heart. He does expect us to make the necessary sacrifices. He showed us the way on Calvary. When working for God we are really providing for our own future; his external glory and our eternal salvation are the fruits of the same labor. He will certainly return to settle accounts—it will then be too late to make any changes. Let us be wise and make the changes now while we have time and then our books will be in order on the day of reckoning.

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

BENEDICTUS

God Comes to People Through People

Part of the essence of Christianity – and this is included in the concept of the Church – is that our relationship to God is not just an inner one, one made up of my “I” and his “Thou,” but is also a matter of being spoken to, of being led. A meeting is part of every path to conversion. The Church is there so that people who have searched for the door and found it can be in her. Among all the variety of temperaments, there will always be someone who suits me and who has the right word to say to me. As human beings we are there so that God can come to people by way of other people. He always comes to people through people. So we, too, always come to him through other people who are being led by him, in whom he himself meets us and opens us up to him. If we could lift ourselves up to the ultimate degree simply by reading Holy Scripture, then this would be just another philosophical movement, without this element of community that is such a vital element in faith.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

A Prayer for those who do not know Jesus

Lord Jesus! You,
Who in the most bitter moments of Your passion
showed an ardent thirst for souls,
grant that we may share in this thirst.
Give us the light to grow
in the knowledge of Your word
and grant us strength so that,
by collaborating in preaching this word
at every moment of our lives,
we may bring to You,
through Your holy Church,
and the intercession of Your holy Mother,
innumerable souls who live far from the truth.
Grant this so that with You,
through You and in You,
they may be reconciled to the Eternal Father,
in union with whom,
together with the Holy Spirit,
You live and reign forever and ever.

Amen.

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Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’  But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

PRAYER TO TURN FROM SIN

Father, Your Love never fails. Keep me from danger and provide for all my needs. Teach me to be thankful for Your Gifts. Confident in Your Love, may I be holy by sharing Your Life, and grant me forgiveness of my sins. May Your unfailing Love turn me from sin and keep me on the way that leads to you. Help me to grow in Christian love. We ask this and all things through Christ our Lord. Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty Father,

strong is your justice and great is your mercy.

Protect us in the burdens and challenges of life.

Shield our minds from the distortion of pride

and enfold our desire with the beauty of truth.

Help us to become more aware of your loving design

so that we may more willingly give our lives in service to all.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

READING I

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Wis 6: 12-16

Resplendent and unfading is wisdom,
and she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire;
Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed,
for he shall find her sitting by his gate.
For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever for her sake keeps vigil
shall quickly be free from care;
because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her,
and graciously appears to them in the ways,
and meets them with all solicitude.

APPLICATION

If you were driving along an open road and stopped to give a hitch-hiker a ride and to ask him where he was going and he told you he did not know, nor did he know where he came from, you might be wise not to take him with you. He might be dangerous. There are many men and women on the road of life today who do not know, or at least declare that they do not know, where they came from or whither are they bound. Their journey is only from the cradle to the grave, they say, and their purpose in life is to fit into those few short years all the pleasures and joys that this lowly earth has to give. They have enclosed themselves in mental ghettoes mostly of their own making. They refuse to open their minds to the light of true wisdom, lest it should disturb their consciences and their earthly plans.

Nor are they content to sit alone in their self-made cave of darkness; they want others to join them, like the tailless fox in the fable. Hence the flood of pagan philosophy and false propaganda to prove to all that man has no purpose in this life except to cram into it all the pleasure and plenty he can. From this it appears that our so-called cultured and enlightened society is, if anything, even worse than the pagan society of Egypt of the second century B.C., against which the author of Wisdom warned his fellow-Jews. At least the Egyptians of that day did not have twenty centuries of Christianity to learn from, nor the clear teaching on the meaning of life which Christ’s life, death and resurrection brought to the world. This true knowledge, this divine wisdom is within reach of any person of ordinary intelligence who wishes to know the basic facts of life and death that concern him personally.

We Christians who have all the knowledge we need, not only as to our purpose and end in life, but also as regards the ways and means available to us to reach that end, must not be selfish in grasping this wisdom to ourselves. We must do everything we can to make our fellowman study and learn this same divine wisdom. God has planned heaven for them; he expects us to help him in bringing them there. We must first and foremost live our own lives in strict conformity with the divine wisdom given us so generously by God. Then we must be ready to advise and instruct a neighbor who is on the wrong road. whether from ignorance or malice. As individuals we may not be sufficiently versed in our theology to stand up and refute the pagan philosophies of atheists and others, but we can help by aiding the societies engaged in this work. Where there is a will there is a way. Where there is true love of God, a way will be found to prove that love for God, by helping a neighbor.

The Christian who shares his wisdom and knowledge with his needy neighbor is the true Christian whose personal wisdom will be ever “radiant and unfading.”

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.

My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.

My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.

My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

I will remember you upon my couch,
and through the night-watches I will meditate on you:
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.

My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

READING II

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1 Thes 4: 13-18

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,
about those who have fallen asleep,
so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose,
so too will God, through Jesus,
bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord,
that we who are alive,
who are left until the coming of the Lord,
will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord himself, with a word of command,
with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God,
will come down from heaven,
and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive, who are left,
will be caught up together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air.
Thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Therefore, console one another with these words.

APPLICATION

We have many philosophies which try to solve the problems of man’s life on this earth but no human philosophy has found a satisfactory solution for the problem of man’s death. Materialists may hold that our world had no rational Creator and that all that is came about by mere chance. They must surely be taken aback by the perfection (especially the intelligent mind) which this blind chance brought to man. But it leaves them in the unhappy state of having only a few short years to enjoy the irrepressible desire for happiness which his intelligence creates in him. Such an accident of fate was surely very blind and cruel to man. The sapling oak we plant is far better off because it will be there two hundred years after we are gone and it will never have a moment of worry in its long life.

On the other hand, those who admit a rational Creator but deny a future life for man, make that Creator very irrational and cruel. He has put the qualities and desires for lasting happiness in man but makes their fulfillment impossible if earthly death is man’s final end. Man is evidently the master and masterpiece of all creation but if real life ends for him after a few short years he is in a worse position than that of all the rest of creation. Such a Creator would be not a benefactor but a cruel jester.

Human philosophy, if properly used, can lead the way to solving man’s greatest problem, but it is only in Christian revelation that the full and true answer to the problem of earthly death is found. We are fortunate to have that knowledge. We know that just as and because Christ rose from the dead, we too shall rise again in glorified bodies, or rather as glorified persons, to live on forever in God’s kingdom in heaven. There all tears, all pains, all worries will be ended forever, and all our desires will be completely fulfilled in the beatific vision of God. Even though our bodies will not be the same as those we had on earth, we shall be able to identify one another and to enjoy one another’s company in God’s presence, and this happy state will never have an end.

What a consoling thought! No wonder it is that the great saints of God were willing to undergo any hardship in this life in order to reach that happy state. If we would meditate and ponder over our future life a little more often, we should be better able to take the “slings and arrows” of the fortunes of this life in our stride as the saints did. Death is not something to be feared by the man who believes in God and lives up to that belief. It is a welcome departure from sorrow and an arrival at the abode of eternal peace.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 989 We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day.1 Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity:
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you.2

CCC 1001 When? Definitively “at the last day,” “at the end of the world.”3 Indeed, the resurrection of the dead is closely associated with Christ’s Parousia:
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.4

CCC 1012 The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of the Church:5
Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.6

CCC 1025 To live in heaven is “to be with Christ.” The elect live “in Christ,”7 but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name.8
For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom.9

CCC 1687 The greeting of the community. A greeting of faith begins the celebration. Relatives and friends of the deceased are welcomed with a word of “consolation” (in the New Testament sense of the Holy Spirit’s power in hope).10 The community assembling in prayer also awaits the “words of eternal life.” The death of a member of the community (or the anniversary of a death, or the seventh or 30th day after death) is an event that should lead beyond the perspectives of “this world” and should draw the faithful into the true perspective of faith in the risen Christ.
1Cf. Jn 6:39-40.
2 Rom 8:11; cf. 1 Thess 4:14; 1 Cor 6:14; 2 Cor 4:14; Phil 3:10-11.
3 Jn 6: 39-40,44,54; 11:24; LG 48 § 3.
4 1 Thess 4:16.
5 Cf. 1 Thess 4:13-14.
6 Roman Missal, Preface of Christian Death I.
7 Phil 1:23; cf. Jn 14:3; 1 Thess 4:17.
8 Cf. Rev 2:17.
9 St. Ambrose, In Luc., 10, 121: PL 15, 1834A.
10 Cf. 1 Thess 4:18.

GOSPEL

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Mt 25: 1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

APPLICATION

Although commentators and writers have found difficulty in explaining many of the details in this parable, the general lesson is clear enough. Our Lord described an incident that happened or could have happened at a wedding festival in order to bring home to his listeners the need for being ever vigilant and ready in his service if they wish to avoid the calamity of being excluded from the heavenly and eternal nuptials on the last day. In the other parable in which our Lord uses a wedding feast to describe his kingdom, the lesson concerns those who refused the invitation and will not come to the wedding. Here it concerns those who gladly accepted the invitation.

The ten bridesmaids, or maidens, in the parable represent all Christians. On receiving the sacrament of baptism, the Christian starts on the road to heaven; he gets his invitation to the heavenly nuptials but this is only the beginning. From the moment he comes to the use of reason he is expected to prepare himself, by living according to the law of God, for the great moment when the call will go forth: “Behold the bridegroom Come to meet him.” This moment will be, first, at the hour of death for each individual when each one’s eternal fate will be decided, and again at the general judgement of the human race. During their lifetime all are invited to the heavenly wedding, and all have the necessary means to get ready. But, like the foolish bridesmaids, many will fail to make use of these means and will realize their folly when it is too late. Sad. but true.

A certain number of those for whom Christ died on the cross, and to whom he gave the gift of his revelation and offered all the helps they needed, will never reach heaven because they exchanged their heavenly birthright for a mess of earthly pottage. That the foolish bridesmaids in the parable lost a golden opportunity through their negligence is evident and we can all sympathize with them up to a point, but the thoughts of very few will turn to the bride and groom who were so seriously insulted by this act of negligence on the part of chosen friends.

So too, every Christian lost is a grievous insult to the God who created and redeemed him. Christians have received the fullness of God’s revelation, and have been offered a special place in his marriage festival; they have received a privileged invitation not given to others. Is it not a serious and deliberate insult to God not to comply with the conditions of that generous offer?

Providing themselves with oil was the obligation imposed on the bridesmaids in the parable. It was surely a trivial condition when compared with the reward offered them: a very special place at the marriage feast. The obligations imposed on us Christians are surely trivial too when compared with the reward offered us in return: an eternity of happiness in heaven. It seems incredible that there are many among us this very day who, like the foolish bridesmaids, doze and sleep contentedly holding empty lamps in their hands, while at any moment they may be awakened by: “Behold, the bridegroom comes! Go forth to meet him.” It will be too late then to do anything; even their best friends cannot help them. Each one must stand before the judge just as he is, there can be no borrowing of the oil of merit from others and there will be no time to buy any.

Now is the time for all of us to say: ‘Lord, Lord, open to us.” open to us the doors of your mercy and kindness. Open to us the eyes of our understanding that we may see our defects and remedy them while there is yet time.

It is up to us now to decide, aided by God’s grace, where we shall be found on the last day—with the wise bridesmaids or with the foolish.

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 692 Before his Ascension Christ affirmed that the hour had not yet come for the glorious establishment of the messianic kingdom awaited by Israel1 which, according to the prophets, was to bring all men the definitive order of justice, love and peace.2 According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by “distress” and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church3 and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching.4

CCC 796 The unity of Christ and the Church, head and members of one Body, also implies the distinction of the two within a personal relationship. This aspect is often expressed by the image of bridegroom and bride. The theme of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church was prepared for by the prophets and announced by John the Baptist.5 The Lord referred to himself as the “bridegroom.”6 The Apostle speaks of the whole Church and of each of the faithful, members of his Body, as a bride “betrothed” to Christ the Lord so as to become but one spirit with him.7 The Church is the spotless bride of the spotless Lamb.8 “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her.”9 He has joined her with himself in an everlasting covenant and never stops caring for her as for his own body:10
This is the whole Christ, head and body, one formed from many. .. whether the head or members speak, it is Christ who speaks. He speaks in his role as the head (
ex persona capitis) and in his role as body (ex persona corporis). What does this mean? “The two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church.”11 And the Lord himself says in the Gospel: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”12 They are, in fact, two different persons, yet they are one in the conjugal union,. .. as head, he calls himself the bridegroom, as body, he calls himself “bride.”13

CCC 1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”14
Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where “men will weep and gnash their teeth.”15

CCC 1618 Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social.16 From the very beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is coming.17 Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model:
“For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”18

1 Cf. Acts 1:6-7.
2 Cf. Is 11:1-9.
3 Cf. Acts 1:8; I Cor 7:26; Eph 5:16; I Pt 4:17.
4 Cf. Mt 25:1, 13; Mk 13:33-37; I Jn 2:18; 4:3; I Tim 4:1.
5 Jn 3:29.
6 Mk 2:19.
7 Cf. Mt 22:1-14; 25:1-13; 1 Cor 6:15-17; 2 Cor 11:2.
8 Cf. Rev 22:17; Eph 1:4. 5:27.
9 Eph 5:25-26.
10 Cf. Eph 5:29.
11 Eph 5:31-32.
12 Mt 19:6.
13 St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 74:4: PL 36, 948-949.
14 Mt 7:13-14.
15 LG 48 # 3; Mt 22:13; cf. Heb 9:27; Mt 25:13, 26, 30, 31 46.
16 Cf. Lk 14:26; Mk 10:28-31.
17 Cf. Rev 14:4; 1 Cor 7:32; Mt 2:56.
18 Mt 19:12.

BENEDICTUS

Christian experience begins in the everyday world of communal experience. Today, the interior space in which Church is experienced is, for many, a foreign world. Nevertheless, this world continues to be a possibility, and it will be the taks of religious education to open doors on the experiential space – Church – and to encourage people to take an interest in this kind of experience. When people share the same faith, when they pray, celebrate, rejoice, suffer, and live together, Church becomes “community” and thus a real living space that enables humanity to experience faith as a life-bringing force in daily life and in the crises of existence. One who truly believes, who opens himself to the maturing effects of faith, begins to be a light for others; he becomes a bulwark where others can find help. The saints, as the living models of a faith that has been tried and found steadfast, of transcendence that has been experienced and confirmed, are, so to speak, themselves the living spaces into which one can turn, in which faith as experience is simultaneously stored up, anthropologically conditioned, and approximated to our life. Specifically Christian experience, in the intrinsic meaning of the word, can ultimately grow by its gradually maturing and deepening participation in such experiences – this is what the language of the Psalms and of the New Testament calls “tasting the heavenly gifts” (Ps 34: (; 1 Pt 2: 3; Heb 6: 4). By it one touches reality itself and is no longer merely a “second-hand” believer.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to Live in God’s Presence

God, my Father, You have promised to remain forever with those who do what is just and right. Help me to live in Your presence. The loving plan of Your Wisdom was made known when Jesus, your Son, became man like us. I want to obey His commandment of love and bring Your peace and joy to others. Keep before me the wisdom and love You have made known in Your Son. Help me to be like Him in word and deed.

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Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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“Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.

Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Act of Right Intention

My dear Redeemer,

it is not from custom or human respect

that I come to receive Thee:

but it is solely to love and be united to Thee,

to live by Thee and for Thee,

to be delivered from my miseries,

to clothe myself with Thy virtues,

to strengthen myself against my enemies;

it is to ask from Thee the exaltation of the Church,

thy beloved spouse,

the conversion of sinners,

perseverance for the just,

and deliverance for the poor souls in Purgatory.

Purify more and more my intentions,

rectify them, O my Jesus,

render them conformable to Thee;

this is my sole desire.

COLLECT

God of power and mercy,

only with your help

can we offer you fitting service and praise.

May we live the faith we profess

and trust your promise of eternal life.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Mal 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10

A great King am I, says the LORD of hosts,

and my name will be feared among the nations.

And now, O priests, this commandment is for you:

If you do not listen,

if you do not lay it to heart,

to give glory to my name, says the LORD of hosts,

I will send a curse upon you

and of your blessing I will make a curse.

You have turned aside from the way,

and have caused many to falter by your instruction;

you have made void the covenant of Levi,

says the LORD of hosts.

I, therefore, have made you contemptible

and base before all the people,

since you do not keep my ways,

but show partiality in your decisions.

Have we not all the one father?

Has not the one God created us?

Why then do we break faith with one another,

violating the covenant of our fathers?

APPLICATION

This first reading for today has been chosen because of its similarity to today’s gospel. Like the Pharisees in the time of Christ the priests of the temple in Malachi’s day were the leaders to whom the people looked for guidance and example. Both failed the people miserably.

Those priests to whom God spoke through his prophet had made a mockery of religion. They cheated (or tried to cheat) God and led the people to do likewise. Their service of the temple was dishonest and purely external; they brought the true religion into disrepute. They did not teach the law of God to their people for their own faith and belief were lukewarm, if not altogether lost.

In spite of all this infidelity, God was able to preserve the true faith in a remnant of his people, until the time came to fulfill the purpose for which he had chosen them: the coming of Christ. God can tolerate unworthy human helpers. His plans cannot be frustrated by them, but unfortunately, those unfaithful servants can and do frustrate their own true purpose in life.

There is perhaps a very apposite application of that sad period of the Jewish history to present-day, disturbing happenings in the Church. We read of priests and people who not only question the authority and the teaching of the Church of God, but who abandon their vocation and their faith, to the great scandal of devout believers. But we should not be scandalized. These defections did not happen overnight. They were long in preparation through the lukewarm faith and practice of past generations in many countries, through worldliness in some high places, through lack of sound education in things spiritual and through the all-pervading materialism which embraces today’s world.

Nevertheless, God is still in this world and his plans for our eternal welfare will not be thwarted by the desertion of some of his weak helpers. What he did in the days of Malachi he is doing again today. He is using these upheavals to strengthen and fortify the faith and practice of his true followers. We have a part to play here and it is a big part. Each one of us must live our faith to the full. There are millions waiting for our good example, million who are groping in the dark to find their purpose in life. We can light their way for them by the faithful fulfillment of our baptism covenant with God.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 775 “The Church, in Christ, is like a sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men.”1 The Church’s first purpose is to be the sacrament of the inner union of men with God. Because men’s communion with one another is rooted in that union with God, the Church is also the sacrament of the unity of the human race. In her, this unity is already begun, since she gathers men “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues”;2 at the same time, the Church is the “sign and instrument” of the full realization of the unity yet to come.

CCC 1138 “Recapitulated in Christ,” these are the ones who take part in the service of the praise of God and the fulfillment of his plan: the heavenly powers, all creation (the four living beings), the servants of the Old and New Covenants (the twenty-four elders), the new People of God (the one hundred and forty-four thousand),3 especially the martyrs “slain for the word of God,” and the all-holy Mother of God (the Woman), the Bride of the Lamb,4 and finally “a great multitude which no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and tongues.”5

CCC 1296 Christ himself declared that he was marked with his Father’s seal.6 Christians are also marked with a seal: “It is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has commissioned us; he has put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”7 This seal of the Holy Spirit marks our total belonging to Christ, our enrollment in his service for ever, as well as the promise of divine protection in the great eschatological trial.8

CCC 2642 The Revelation of “what must soon take place,” the Apocalypse, is borne along by the songs of the heavenly liturgy9 but also by the intercession of the “witnesses” (martyrs).10 The prophets and the saints, all those who were slain on earth for their witness to Jesus, the vast throng of those who, having come through the great tribulation, have gone before us into the Kingdom, all sing the praise and glory of him who sits on the throne, and of the Lamb.11 In communion with them, the Church on earth also sings these songs with faith in the midst of trial. By means of petition and intercession, faith hopes against all hope and gives thanks to the “Father of lights,” from whom “every perfect gift” comes down.12 Thus faith is pure praise.

1 LG 1.
2 Rev 7:9.
3 Cf. Rev 4-5; 7:1-8; 14:1; Isa 6:2-3.
4 Rev 6:9-11; Rev 21:9; cf. 12.
5 Rev 7:9.
6 Cf. Jn 6:27.
7 2 Cor 1:21-22; cf. Eph 1:13; 4,30.
8 Cf. Rev 7:2-3; 9:4; Ezek 9:4-6.
9 Cf. Rev 4:8-11; 5:9-14; 7:10-12.
10 Rev 6:10.
11 Cf. Rev 18:24; 19:1-8.
12 Jas 1:17.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM Ps 131:1, 2, 3

In you, Lord, I have found my peace.

O LORD, my heart is not proud,

nor are my eyes haughty;

I busy not myself with great things,

nor with things too sublime for me.

In you, Lord, I have found my peace.

Nay rather, I have stilled and quieted

my soul like a weaned child.

Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap,

so is my soul within me.

In you, Lord, I have found my peace.

O Israel, hope in the LORD,

both now and forever.

In you, Lord, I have found my peace.

READING II

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1 Thes 2:7b-9, 13

Brothers and sisters:

We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children.

With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you

not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well,

so dearly beloved had you become to us.

You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery.

Working night and day in order not to burden any of you,

we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly,

that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us,

you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God,

which is now at work in you who believe.

APPLICATION

We, too, have accepted the Christian faith as God’s word, God’s revelation to us. We know it is not a human philosophy invented by man: it is instead the theological truth concerning God’s plan for man and his realization of that plan among us. The Old Testament tells us of God’s plan for us; the New Testament describes how the coining of Christ as man put that plan into action. God’s love was frequently proved in the Old Testament. Calvary was the final irrefutable proof of it.

Today, our world is full of man-made philosophies which offer solutions for all the problems of life, but man’s greatest problem is not life but death. No human philosophy solves this problem. It is only through God’s revelation that we can understand death, and see in it not an end to our activities, but the door to eternal, unending activity and life.

If we are true Christians, like the Thessalonians, this revealed knowledge of God’s purpose for us, must influence our whole lives and every action of each day. We are moving steadily and quickly toward that doorway which opens into eternal life. While most of our daily activities are concerned with the material and transient things of this life, they are, or should be made spiritual stepping-stones which help us to cross over to the shores of eternity. Their value can be made eternal if they are done with the right intention.

Look back over your own past life and judge if your ordinary daily occupations were a help toward heaven. They were a help, an essential help, if they were done with the intention of honoring God and earning eternal life. They were at best time lost, or else that were done for some worldly, personal ambition which excluded God and his purpose for you. The hour or two out of the 168 hours of each week which we spend in prayer will not be sufficient to earn heaven for us; in fact, they too will be time lost, unless our Christian faith puts spiritual life and values into the remaining 166 hours.

Let us imitate the Thessalonians today; let us have our Christian faith “at work in us” every hour of our lives. Our lives will still be very ordinary, but if they are lived with the proper and right intentions, they will have an extraordinary end, they will end in the eternal life of happiness that God in his goodness has prepared for us.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 104 In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, “but as what it really is, the word of God”.1 “In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them.”2

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,3 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.”4

1 Th 2:13; cf. DV 24.
2 DV 21.
3 Cf. 1 Thess 2:13.
4 1 Tim 2:1-2.

GOSPEL

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Mt 23:1-12

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,

“The scribes and the Pharisees

have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.

Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,

but do not follow their example.

For they preach but they do not practice.

They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry

and lay them on people’s shoulders,

but they will not lift a finger to move them.

All their works are performed to be seen.

They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.

They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,

greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’

As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’

You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.

Call no one on earth your father;

you have but one Father in heaven.

Do not be called ‘Master’;

you have but one master, the Christ.

The greatest among you must be your servant.

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;

but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/110517.cfm

APPLICATION

As this picture of the Pharisees is painted by none other than Christ himself, we can have no doubt but that the description given is the truth and nothing but the truth. In spite of their great knowledge of “the law and the prophets”–the divine revelation God had given to the Chosen People–and of their many strict observances of that law, they were not pleasing to God. All their good works and all their learning were spoiled by the vice of pride which made them seek earthly glory for themselves and prevented them from giving glory or thanks to God. Their religion was an empty external cloak which they used to attract attention and honor to themselves. Internally, they were so full of their own importance that there was no room for God in their hearts.

Our divine Lord warned his disciples, and through them all of us, to avoid that pernicious vice of pride. It should not be hard for any true Christian to avoid this vice. We know that every material and spiritual talent we have has been given us by God, so we must give glory to God for any gifts we possess and not ourselves. St. Paul reminds us of this when he asks us: “What have you that you have not received, and if you have received it why glory in it as if it were your own?” We owe everything we have to God and we should use all the gifts he has given us for his honor and glory, and for that purpose alone.

Do we always do this? Are we never tempted to look down on our less fortunate brothers? If we have got on well in our temporal affairs do we attribute our success to our own skill and hard work or do we thank God for the opportunities he gave to us and not to others. If, aided by God’s grace, we are keeping his commandments, do we show contempt for those who give in to temptations which we did not have to meet? The best of us can profit from an examination of conscience along these lines. If our external observance of the Christian rule of life is motivated solely by love and gratitude to God all is well. But if our hearts are far from God and our motives in our religious behavior is self-glorification, we are in a dangerous position. The sinners and harlots of Christ’s day repented and were received into his kingdom; the Pharisees, unable to repent, were left outside.

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 526 To become a child in relation to God is the condition for entering the kingdom.1 For this, we must humble ourselves and become little. Even more: to become “children of God” we must be “born from above” or “born of God”.2 Only when Christ is formed in us will the mystery of Christmas be fulfilled in us.3 Christmas is the mystery of this “marvelous exchange”:
O marvelous exchange! Man’s Creator has become man, born of the Virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.
4

CCC 2367 Called to give life, spouses share in the creative power and fatherhood of God.5 “Married couples should regard it as their proper mission to transmit human life and to educate their children; they should realize that they are thereby cooperating with the love of God the Creator and are, in a certain sense, its interpreters. They will fulfill this duty with a sense of human and Christian responsibility.”6

1 Cf. Mt 18:3-4.
2 Jn 3 7; 1:13; 1:12; cf. Mt 23:12.
3 Cf. Gal 4:19.
4 LH, 1 January, Antiphon I of Evening Prayer.
5 Cf. Eph 3:14; Mt 23:9.
6 GS 50 # 2.

BENEDICTUS

The Law as the Visibility of the Truth

The law is the visibility of the truth, the visibility of God’s countenance, and so it gives us the possibility of right living. Are not these our questions: Who am I? Where am I going? What shall I do to put my life in order? The hymn to God’s word that we find in Psalm 119 expresses this joy of being delivered, the joy of knowing God’s will. For his will is our truth and therefore our way; it is what all men are looking for… It is characteristic of the Messiah – he who is “greater than Moses” – that he brings the definitive interpretation of the Torah, in which the Torah is itself renewed, because now its true essence appears in all its purity and its character as grace becomes undistorted reality… The Torah of the Messiah is the Messiah, Jesus, himself. It is to him that the command, “Listen to him,” refers. In this way the “Law” becomes universal; it is grace, constituting a people which becomes such by hearing the word and undergoing conversion. In this Torah, which is Jesus himself, the abiding essence of what was inscribed on the stone tablets at Sinai is now written in living flesh, namely, the twofold command of love. This is set forth in Philippians 2: 5 as “the mind of Christ.” To imitate him, to follow him in discipleship, is therefore to keep the Torah, which has been fulfilled in him once and for all. Thus the Sinai covenant is indeed superseded. But once what was provisional in it has been swept away, we see what is truly definitive in it.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer for Humility

Lord Jesus Christ, I pray that you may fortify me with the grace of your Holy Spirit, and give your peace to my soul, that I may be free from all needless anxiety and worry. Help me to desire always that which is pleasing and acceptable to you, so that your will may be my will.

Grant that I may be free from unholy desires, and that , for your love, I may remain obscure and unknown in this world, to be known only to you.

Do not permit me to attribute to myself the good that you perform in me and through me, but rather, referring all honor to you, may I admit only to my infirmities, so that renouncing sincerely all vainglory which comes from the world, I may aspire to that true and lasting glory that comes from you. Amen

St. Frances Cabrini

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Solemnity of All Saints

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“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of 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

OPENING PRAYER FOR THE MASS

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

I, John, saw another angel come up from the East,

holding the seal of the living God.

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

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

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

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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.”

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 sonship 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.

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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

OPENING PRAYER

I Came to You Late

I came to You late, O Beauty so ancient and new. I came to love You late. You were within me and I was outside where I rushed about wildly searching for You like some monster loose in Your beautiful world. You were with me but I was not with You. You called me, You shouted to me, You wrapped me in Your Splendor, You broke past my deafness, You bathed me in Your Light, You sent my blindness reeling. You gave out such a delightful fragrance and I drew it in and came breathing hard after You. I tasted, and it made me hunger and thirst; You touched me, and I burned to know Your Peace.

St. Augustine of Hippo

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 eve and ever.

READING I

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Ex 22: 20-26

Thus says the Lord: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you do afflict them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

“If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be to him as a creditor, and you shall not exact interest from him. If ever you take your neighbor’s garment in pledge, you shall restore it to him before the sun goes down; for that is his only covering, it is his mantle for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.”

APPLICATION

The law of fraternal charity, the obligation to love their neighbor, was imposed by God on the Israelites from their very beginning as a people. For the most part, down through their history, they practiced it among themselves only. That was due to the fact that they lived apart from their pagan neighbors lest they should be tempted to follow the pagans’ false gods. But as the first precept of charity mentioned today shows, they were to be just and charitable also to any pagan who came to live peaceably among them.

Whether the Israelites kept these precepts of charity or, more often than not, ignored them is not our concern today. What must strike us in today’s reading is the merciful condescension of God. He legislates for those of his human creatures who need help and protection (the stranger, widows, orphans, the poor). From the very beginning of his self-revelation to man, he showed that he was the kind Father of all men. He created man for an eternal life, but man’s bodily needs during his mortal existence on earth were also his concern. That he could provide for all men’s needs is beyond doubt; he could so arrange things that there would be no displaced persons, no widows. orphans, poor; but he chose this other way, so that men could cooperate with him and thus work their way to the eternal life.

Just think for a moment. If everyone on earth had perfect health, had all he needed of this world’s goods, had absolute security and peace, would God be loved and praised by everybody, or rather would he be completely forgotten and ignored in such an earthly paradise? God does not need any love or thanks from us. It is through showing him love and thanks that we can earn our place in heaven, and it is by loving and helping our neighbor that we can prove our love for God and our gratitude to him for all he has given, and has promised to give us.

He has therefore allowed the trials and troubles of life, which naturally follow from our mortal and temporal existence on earth, to take their course. The needy and the poor, who are very often in the majority, have a golden opportunity of learning patience and trust in God. For many these very trials bind them to God. Without them they would not reach heaven. On the other hand, the succor and help which the more fortunate can give to their fellow-men in need, are some of their greatest opportunities for thanking God and keeping close to him.

Meditate today on the commandment of fraternal charity. Are you just and kind to the stranger, of whatever race, religion or color, who is in your neighborhood? Do you help the needy as much as you could? Do you thank God for giving you this opportunity for showing your real love for him? If you are one of the many who are so much in need of so many earthly things, do you try to realize that God has reason for asking us to bear these earthly sufferings? You were in his divine plan from all eternity; you are very much in his divine plan just now. If you cooperate willingly with him, you will see his eternal plan brought to realization in you before very long. Not only will you be saved but you will have been the instrument which enabled others to reach their salvation.

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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1 Th 1: 5-10.

You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit; so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us what a welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 442 Such is not the case for Simon Peter when he confesses Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God”, for Jesus responds solemnly: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”1 Similarly Paul will write, regarding his conversion on the road to Damascus, “When he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles. ..”2 “And in the synagogues immediately [Paul] proclaimed Jesus, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’”3 From the beginning this acknowledgment of Christ’s divine sonship will be the center of the apostolic faith, first professed by Peter as the Church’s foundation.4

1 Mt 16:16-17.
2 Gal 1:15-16.
3 Acts 9:20.
4 Cf. I Th 1:10; Jn 20:31; Mt 16:18.

APPLICATION

What the good example of a truly Christian life did in the early Church it also has done down through the ages and can still do today. But how few Christians today really give this good example! In spite of the neo-paganism of our age there is still a longing for God in the hearts of the vast majority of those who pretend, or try to persuade themselves, that they can do without him. What they need is a Christian neighbor who is truly Christian, the man who will live by and stand up for his Christian principles no matter what the cost. There are, thank God, some such Christians, but they are too few and far between. We need millions of such sincere, active Christians to stem the flood of materialism and worldliness which has been let loose on us in recent times.

The anti-God world of today, and it is not all behind iron or bamboo curtains, is a reaction to the failure of Christians in the past to live their Christianity. Communism would never have arisen if the justice and charity of the Christian faith had been practiced in the countries where it arose. Religion was called the “opium of the people” because Christian rulers and the divided Christian Church used religion as a cover for their injustices toward, and exploitation of, the working class, the vast majority of the people. In Marxist theory God “became” only the projection of human ideals of love, peace, justice and power–and Marx pushed people to cease worshipping the ideal and grab the power to make these qualities come true in their own lives God had been rejected before then–philosophically by Feuerbach (accepted quite uncritically by Marx) and by working people because of illiteracy combined with an identification of God and a Church aligned with capitalist oppressors.

When the founders of communism wrongly thought that God wanted the majority of men to be serfs and slaves on this earth in order to get to heaven, they naturally abandoned such a God and such a heaven. But they and their followers have not found a substitute for heaven nor a replacement for God, yet they are still seeking happiness. Many, even most of them, know that true and lasting happiness cannot be found on this earth. It is, therefore, our duty to show them the way to this true happiness and the only way this can be done is by the good example of our own Christian life.

An old proverb and a wise one says: “If each man would sweep in front of his own house we would have clean streets.” We as individuals cannot convert the world but each one of us can do his part in his own neighborhood. There are those around us who are looking for the light and the truth. We have that light and truth to give them–the truth of our Christian faith. If put sincerely into daily practice this faith will be a shinning light to those who are in darkness of disbelief. Would we refuse that help to our fellowmen, and through that refusal risk losing our own as well as our brother’s eternal salvation?

GOSPEL

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Mt 22: 34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the law and the prophets.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/102917.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 581 The Jewish people and their spiritual leaders viewed Jesus as a rabbi.9 He often argued within the framework of rabbinical interpretation of the Law.10 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”.11 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.12 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. ..”13 With this same divine authority, he disavowed certain human traditions of the Pharisees that were “making void the word of God”.14

CCC 1824 Fruit of the Spirit and fullness of the Law, charity keeps the commandments of God and his Christ: “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.”15

CCC 2055 When someone asks him, “Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?”16 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.”17 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.18

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.”19 This immediately echoes the solemn call: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD.”20
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 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.”21
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.”22

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 Jn 11:28; 3:2; Mt 22:23-24, 34-36.
10 Cf. Mt 12:5; 9:12; Mk 2:23-27; Lk 6:6-g; Jn 7:22-23.
11 Mt 7:28-29.
12 Cf. Mt 5:1.
13 Mt 5:33-34.
14 Mk 7:13; cf. 3:8.
15 Jn 15:9-10; cf. Mt 22:40; Rom 13:8-10.
16 Mt 22:36.
17 Mt 22:37-40; cf. Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18.
18 Rom 13:9-10.
19 Mt 22:37; cf. Lk 10:27:“… and with all your strength.”
20 Deut 6:4.
21 Mk 12:29-31; cf. Deut 6:4-5; Lev 19:18; Mt 22:34-40; Lk 10:25-28.
22 Rom 13:8-10.

APPLICATION

The Pharisees may not have had evil intentions when asking Christ the question as to the greatest commandment. But they have done us a good service by getting this crystal clear answer from him. In this answer he tells us that the man who loves God and neighbor fulfills all his obligations, and carries out all the duties that God’s self-revelation in “the law and the prophets” imposes on him. God revealed himself to us in the Old Testament as our Creator and divine benefactor. He had no need of us, since he is infinitely perfect in himself, but out of his infinite goodness he wished to share his eternal kingdom of happiness with mankind and so he created us. That we should love such a benefactor and be grateful to him is not asking much of us; such love should surely be the spontaneous reaction of a rational being, and yet there were and there are many who fail to acknowledge any such obligation.

No Christian, worthy of the name, can ever be among such thoughtless and thankless people. We have greater proofs of God’s love for us than “the law and the prophets” gave to the Israelites. We have the added proofs of God’s infinite interest in us brought to us by the Incarnation. We have been raised to the sublime status of adopted sons of God.

Where Christians can, and too often do fail, is in their true love of neighbor. Yet Christ says that this commandment is like the first. Love of neighbor is an essential part of our obligations toward God. If we fail in this we fail in our love for God, for we refuse to carry out this sacred duty. If we do not recognize our neighbor as our brother, we do not recognize God as our Father and we do not love him. As St. John puts it: “anyone who says : ‘I love God’ and hates (does not love) his neighbor is a liar” (1 Jn. 3:20).

Let each one of us ask himself today how seriously he takes this law of fraternal charity and how faithfully he carries it out. Not all of us may be able to give material help to a neighbor in need but the poorest of us can spare a kindly word, an encouraging word, for a neighbor weighed down with cares and troubles. All of us can pray for a neighbor who needs spiritual and temporal help. Most of us can deny ourselves some unnecessary luxuries in order to give a needed loaf of bread to a hungry fellowman, while those who have an abundance of this world’s goods need not look far afield to find cases and causes worthy of their Christian charity.

Remember that whatever spiritual or material help is given out of true charity to a neighbor in need, is given to God, and whatever is given to God is soundly invested in heaven, and heaven pays handsome dividends.

In the Apostolic Letter of May 1971, the Pope has spelled out the way in which we can and should act to give the example of Christian living to the modem world. It involves a study of social problems, prayer to the Holy Spirit about them, reflection on how the gospel applies to them, and then real political commitment to change.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Creating Reason is Love

It is important to be attentive to the Lord’s gestures on our journey. He speaks to us through events, through people, through encounters; it is necessary to be attentive to all of this. It is necessary to enter into real friendship with Jesus in a personal relationship with him and not to know who Jesus is only from others or from books, but to live an ever deeper personal relationship with Jesus, where we can begin to understand what he is asking of us… The more we can delve into the world with our intelligence, the more clearly the plan of creation appears. In the end to reach the definitive question I would say: God exists or he does not exist. There are only two options. Either one recognizes the priority of reason, of creative Reason that is at the beginning of all things and is the principle of all things – the priority of reason is also the priority of freedom – or one holds the priority of the irrational, inasmuch as everything that functions on our earth and in our lives would be only accidental, marginal, or irrational result – reason would be a product of irrationality. One cannot ultimately “prove” either project, but the great opinion of Christianity is the option for rationality and for the priority of reason. This seems to me to be an excellent option, which shows us that behind everything is a great Intelligence to which we can entrust ourselves… Therefore, we can confidently work out a vision of the world based on this priority of reason, on this trust that the creating Reason is love and that this love is God.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to Love God Above All Things

God, my Father, may I love You in all things and above all things. May I reach the joy which You have prepared for me in Heaven. Nothing is good that is against Your Will, and all that is good comes from Your Hand. Place in my heart a desire to please You and fill my mind with thoughts of Your Love, so that I may grow in Your Wisdom and enjoy Your Peace, through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

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Twenty-Nineth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

 

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He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

OPENING PRAYER

Offering and Prayer of St. Ignatius Loyola – “Suscipe”

Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more.

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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IS 45: 1, 4-6

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus,

whose right hand I grasp,

subduing nations before him,

and making kings run in his service,

opening doors before him

and leaving the gates unbarred:

For the sake of Jacob, my servant,

of Israel, my chosen one,

I have called you by your name,

giving you a title, though you knew me not.

I am the LORD and there is no other,

there is no God besides me.

It is I who arm you, though you know me not,

so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun

people may know that there is none besides me.

I am the LORD, there is no other.

APPLICATION

God is indeed the lord of the universe. As he used the pagan king Cyrus in the sixth century B.C., so is he using the neo-pagans of today to carry out his divine plans for mankind. Cyrus did not know the true God and was unaware that he was cooperating with him, and neither do today’s atheists realize that they are helping to fulfill the plans of the very God whose existence they theoretically or practically deny. They will earn no merit for their unwilling cooperation, but nevertheless, willy nilly, they are agents under God’s command. They would wish to expel God from the universe he created, and from the minds of men. Their puny efforts not only will be in vain but, unknown to themselves, they are helping God in his overall plan for his world. God will still be master of his world when they are dead and long forgotten.

How foolish can we become! Because we know much more about the laws that govern our planet, there are men who say we can run it now without any help from any god. God was only an invention of the ages of ignorance, when man did not know the true nature of things! We do not need him now! Can any scientist, any really learned man, admit for a moment that these laws of nature which science has discovered, were made by blind chance? Does not a law need a lawmaker, one who has a purpose in view and decides how that purpose can best be achieved? The intricate, complicated laws that govern not only this earth and all that exists in it, but all of the wider universe which we have so far discovered, do these not demand not only a superior mind but a superhuman mind?

We have still much more to learn about the nature and purposes of created things. But even when we know all there is to know about our universe, we can only admit that we have found what was put in that universe by God. True science should lead to God, not away from him.

We Christians, thank God, are not depending on science or on the laws of nature to learn of God’s existence. We have his revelation. We know he is more than a legislator, a lawmaker; he is a loving Father who put us on earth and gave us all there is for our use. This is not the home he has prepared for us, it is only a place of transit. Let us use it, gratefully, to help us reach our eternal home. Unlike Cyrus and all those others who unwittingly and unwillingly cooperate with God, let us give him a cheerful, willing service. “God loves the cheerful giver.”

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 96: 1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10 

Give the Lord glory and honor.

Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing to the LORD, all you lands.

Tell his glory among the nations;

among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.

Give the Lord glory and honor.

For great is the LORD and highly to be praised;

awesome is he, beyond all gods.

For all the gods of the nations are things of nought,

but the LORD made the heavens.

Give the Lord glory and honor.

Give to the LORD, you families of nations,

give to the LORD glory and praise;

give to the LORD the glory due his name!

Bring gifts, and enter his courts.

Give the Lord glory and honor.

Worship the LORD, in holy attire;

tremble before him, all the earth;

say among the nations: The LORD is king,

he governs the peoples with equity.

Give the Lord glory and honor.

READING II

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1 Thes 1: 1-5B

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians

in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

grace to you and peace.

We give thanks to God always for all of you,

remembering you in our prayers,

unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love

and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ,

before our God and Father,

knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God,

how you were chosen.

For our gospel did not come to you in word alone,

but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.

APPLICATION

We, today, have the self-same faith as the Thessalonians of the year 50 A.D. All the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to them to prove that the Christian faith which St. Paul taught them, was true, were given also for our sakes. We, like them, know that God is our loving Father, that Jesus Christ is his divine Son who became man in order to bring us to heaven. We know that the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, is in the Christian Church today, helping its members, just as he was with the infant Church in St. Paul’s day. His presence may not be accompanied by as many external signs and charisms but it is no less powerful and active.

We have the same faith then, and the same true purpose in life as had the Thessalonians. But is that faith as sincere and as active as it was in the daily lives of those first Christians? If St. Paul were to write a letter to the assembly or congregation gathered here today, could he thank God for our “work of faith” our “labor of love” and our “steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ”? Does our Christian faith influence and affect every action of each day, its work as well as its recreation, its difficulties as well as its pleasures? Or is it, as the Sunday missal was, something locked away in a bookcase, to be brought out on Sunday morning Is the keeping of the ten commandments and of the precepts of the Christian religion a “labor of love” or a load on our shoulders which if carried at all, is done so with reluctance? Is our hope in the future life which Jesus Christ won for us, and promised to us, the guiding star of our lives, the yardstick with which our earthly plans are measured and ruled?

These five verses from St. Paul’s first letter to the converts of Thessalonica are chosen by the Church today, not for us simply to admire such great faith, hope and charity in the first converts but that we would try to imitate them. What they did we too can do. What Christ expected of them, he expects of us too. What he promised them he is promising to us, but on condition that like them we live a life of faith, a life of hope and a life of charity.

GOSPEL

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Mt 22: 15-21

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. 

They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying,

“Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man

and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.

And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion,

for you do not regard a person’s status.

Tell us, then, what is your opinion:

Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”

Knowing their malice, Jesus said,

“Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?

Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”

Then they handed him the Roman coin.

He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”

They replied, “Caesar’s.”

At that he said to them,

“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar

and to God what belongs to God.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/102217.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2242 The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”1 “We must obey God rather than men”:2
When citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence, they should still not refuse to give or to do what is objectively demanded of them by the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the Law of the Gospel.3

1 Mt 22:21.
2 Acts 5:29.
3 GS 74 # 5.

APPLICATION

Notwithstanding the malicious intention the Pharisees had in putting this question to our Lord, they did us all a good turn by getting his answer. That answer is forceful and final. It lays down a norm which solves for all time the problems that can arise from our dual citizenship on this earth.

God’s plan for man on earth was that he should live in the society of his fellowman. Society must be governed, there must be authority which will direct the actions of the component members toward the common good, which common good is principally, though not exclusively, the material welfare of the members as a whole. As his ultimate end, however, man has his spiritual welfare. This government, this temporal power to rule and direct the human groups or societies or states, comes, therefore, from God for it is his will that such societies should exist. The answer of our Lord explicitly restates this fundamental norm of the divine natural law. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s”; the state authorities have a right to the obedience and cooperation in all things that tend to the material welfare of the state, provided always the spiritual welfare of the members is not impeded by the rulers’ demands.

As a partly spiritual being man is destined to be a Citizen of a spiritual eternal kingdom, and while on this earth he has the duty and the possibility of preparing himself for citizenship in that kingdom. And since this kingdom is of a higher and much more important nature, man’s primary aim in life must be to reach that kingdom. He must, in other words, find out and fulfill his duties toward God; he must “give to God what is God’s.”

This dual citizenship of man and the dual obligations that arise from it are the common knowledge of all from the natural law but are made more explicit still in divine revelation of which today’s answer, given by Christ to the Pharisees, is a precise and perfect resume. We have duties to God and duties to our country and the fulfillment of the latter is part of the fulfillment of the former. We Christians have no doubts as to our obligations under these two headings. We fulfill our duties to God by being faithful, loyal, active members of the spiritual kingdom, the Church, which Christ established on earth in order to lead us to our eternal kingdom. We fulfill our duties to our country by loyally obeying the just laws of the State, by paying all lawful taxes, and by contributing our share, whenever called on, toward the common good.

Both St. Peter (1 Pet. 2: 13-14) and St. Paul (Rom. 13 :1-7), stressed the obligation on the early Christians of being an example to all in their loyalty as citizens of the state. The same necessity obliges us too. We who know the divine, positive and natural law so much better than many others, must help to enlighten those others by our faithful observance of these laws. And our loyalty, too, will give the lie to those enemies of the faith who, in their ignorance and foolish opposition to things spiritual, are only too ready to think that loyalty to our Church and our God must of necessity make us disloyal to our country. History already has given the lie to such calumnies, for the loyal Christian has ever been the loyal citizen, but we must keep on writing such history in glaring lights of daily deeds, for there are, and there always will be, those enemies who cannot read history books.

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

BENEDICTUS

Image of God

The human being is created in God’s image and likeness (Gn 1: 26-27). In the human being God enters into his creation; the human being is directly related to God. The human being is called by him. God’s words in the Old Testament are valid for every individual human being: “I call you by name and you are mine.” Each human being is known by God and loved by him. Each is willed by God, and each is God’s image. Precisely in this consists the deeper and greater unity of humankind – that each of us, each individual human being, realizes the one project of God and has his or her origin in the same creative idea of God. Hence the Bible says that whoever violates a human being violates God’s property (Gn (9: 5). Human life stands under God’s special protection, because each human being, however wretched or exalted he or she may be, however sick or suffering, however good-for-nothing or important, whether born or unborn, whether incurably ill or radiant with health – each one bears God’s breath in himself or herself, each one is God’s image. This is the deepest reason for the inviolability of human dignity, and upon it is founded ultimately every civilization. When the human person is no longer seen as standing under God’s protection and bearing God’s breath, then the human being begins to be viewed in utilitarian fashion. It is then that the barbarity appeared that tramples upon human dignity. And vice versa: When this is seen, then a high degree of spirituality and morality is plainly evident.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 139

O Lord, you search me and you know me, you know my resting and my rising, you discern my purpose from afar. You mark when I walk or lie down, all my ways lie open to you.

Before ever a word is on my tongue you know it. O Lord, through and through, Behind and before you besiege me, your hand ever laid upon me. Too wonderful for me, this knowledge, too high. Beyond my reach.

For it was you who created my being, knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank you for the wonder of my being, for the wonders of all your creation.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

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Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence.  Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’  Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

OPENING PRAYER

Gracious and Holy Father,
Please give me:
intellect to understand you,
reason to discern you,
diligence to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
a spirit to know you,
a heart to meditate upon you,
ears to hear you,
eyes to to see you,
a tongue to proclaim you,
a way of life pleasing to you,
patience to wait for you
and perseverance to look for you.

Grant me a perfect end,
your holy presence,
a blessed resurrection
and life everlasting.

Amen.

St. Benedict of Norcia
ca. 480-547

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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Is 25:6-10a

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
a feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
the web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from every face;
the reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.
On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.

APPLICATION

Seven hundred years or so before Christ came on earth the prophet Isaiah described the result of that coming under the image of a bountiful banquet in which those taking part would find everlasting happiness and contentment. He was referring, of course, to heaven, the second and final stage of the messianic kingdom. There all tears will be wiped away, there death will no longer have sway. There every desire for what is good and what is perfect will be satisfied, and man’s natural desire for perfect happiness will be fulfilled.

What the prophet foretold Christ brought to pass. He who was God’s Son took our human nature. He made us his brothers and co-heirs with him of heaven, thus fulfilling God’s plan for mankind. God intended that we should share his eternal kingdom of happiness when we die. This we can now do because through the Incarnation of his Son we have been made his adopted sons.

Heaven, therefore, is ours for the taking. God the Father intended it for us, God the Son has earned it for us, God the Holy Spirit is ready at every moment of our lives to assist us to obtain it. We have very few descriptions of heaven in our revelation, because our minds are incapable of grasping its infinite happiness and perfection. St. Paul’s negative description is perhaps the best we can get. He had been given a vision of heaven but he said he could not describe it in human language, nor could anyone, while still alive on earth, understand him even if Paul could describe it. He says that “no (human) eye has seen, no human ear has heard, no human mind can grasp all that God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

Negative though our descriptions are, we can form a sufficient picture of it to make us want to reach it. Who would not want to have: eternal freedom from all cares and worries; eternal freedom from pain, sickness and death; eternal union with all friends and relatives and with all the saints of God, the eternal company of Mary the Virgin Mother, and the assured and lasting friendship and love of Christ our Savior in his human nature, and to crown all, the beatific vision of God in the three divine persons?

Is it any wonder that many saints, including St. Paul himself, longed to put off this mortal life so that they could be in the happy possession of heaven! Unfortunately for ourselves, we ordinary Christians do not give enough thought to heaven. If we meditated more often on the future life, we would see world for what it is; a journey, a very short journey, often unpleasant and difficult, but a journey by means of which we can reach that future home if we travel as God wants us. Too many of us mistake this world for the future one. We try to get our perfect happiness here on earth even though the most thoughtless among us shall have to leave this world. Not even the merciful God himself can take us into his eternal banquet unless we have traveled through this world on the path he has laid down for us, or repented of our sins if we have strayed from that path.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.

I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

READING II

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Phil 4:12-14, 19-20

Brothers and sisters:
I know how to live in humble circumstances;
I know also how to live with abundance.
In every circumstance and in all things
I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry,
of living in abundance and of being in need.
I can do all things in him who strengthens me.
Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.

My God will fully supply whatever you need,
in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.

 

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 273 Only faith can embrace the mysterious ways of God’s almighty power. This faith glories in its weaknesses in order to draw to itself Christ’s power.1 The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this faith, for she believed that “nothing will be impossible with God”, and was able to magnify the Lord: “For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”2

CCC 1460 The penance the confessor imposes must take into account the penitent’s personal situation and must seek his spiritual good. It must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed. It can consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear. Such penances help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all. They allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, “provided we suffer with him.”3


The satisfaction that we make for our sins, however, is not so much ours as though it were not done through Jesus Christ. We who can do nothing ourselves, as if just by ourselves, can do all things with the cooperation of “him who strengthens” us. Thus man has nothing of which to boast, but all our boasting is in Christ. .. in whom we make satisfaction by bringing forth “fruits that befit repentance.” These fruits have their efficacy from him, by him they are offered to the Father, and through him they are accepted by the Father.4

1 Cf. 2 Cor 12:9; Phil 4:13.
2 Lk 1:37, 49.
3 Rom 8:17; Rom 3:25; 1 Jn 2:1-2; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1690.
4 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1691; cf. Phil 4:13; 1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17; Gal 6:14; Lk 3:8.

APPLICATION

The generous unsolicited aid which the Christian converts of Philippi gave to St. Paul should be an example and encouragement to all Christians to help in the spread of the gospel. We have St. Paul’s word for it that such generosity will not go unrewarded in this life and the next. What is given for God’s work for our fellowman is not lost but invested; it will reap an abundant harvest perhaps when we least expect it. Our surest and most direct entry to heaven is when we help to bring as many of our fellowmen as we can with us. The “loner” who excludes others from his life and prayer is a non-starter in the heavenly journey.

There is another important lesson too for all of us in today’s few short verses from St. Paul. It is our need for a complete and unquestioning trust in God and the firm conviction that he is regulating all the affairs of our lives. Our Lord himself tells us: “can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair in your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid, you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows” (Mt. 10: 29).

St. Paul had learned this lesson well and put it into daily practice. He faced trials and troubles as gladly as he faced peace and plenty. for he was convinced that God allowed la7i these things to happen for his salvation and for the spread of God’s kingdom, the Church. We too must learn this lesson. We must have complete confidence in God. Our whole lives are in his capable hands. If he allows temporal or spiritual trials to assail us, he has a good purpose in so doing. We may not see that purpose, but we can be certain it is there. If the little sparrow is under his care how much more so are not we—his chosen children. If the hairs of our head are numbered by God, how much more so are not our daily sorrows and joys his concern?

To make a statue from a lump of stone the sculptor has to chip and cut and hew. If the stone could object, it would most likely tell that sculptor how unjust and unmerciful he was. But when the statue is finished that which was once a lump of rough stone will be a thing of beauty and dignity on a pedestal for all to see. God is the perfect Sculptor. He intends to place us on an everlasting pedestal of glory. To do this he has to cut and hew and chip away at us all through our life. Those of us who realize God’s divine plan for us will, instead of complaining, thank him for the infinite love which makes him take such pains to make us what we ought to be.

GOSPEL

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Mt 22:1-14

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people
in parables, saying,
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants
to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
“Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”‘
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/101517.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 796 The unity of Christ and the Church, head and members of one Body, also implies the distinction of the two within a personal relationship. This aspect is often expressed by the image of bridegroom and bride. The theme of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church was prepared for by the prophets and announced by John the Baptist.4 The Lord referred to himself as the “bridegroom.”5 The Apostle speaks of the whole Church and of each of the faithful, members of his Body, as a bride “betrothed” to Christ the Lord so as to become but one spirit with him.6 The Church is the spotless bride of the spotless Lamb.7 “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her.”8 He has joined her with himself in an everlasting covenant and never stops caring for her as for his own body:9

This is the whole Christ, head and body, one formed from many. .. whether the head or members speak, it is Christ who speaks. He speaks in his role as the head (ex persona capitis) and in his role as body (ex persona corporis). What does this mean? “The two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church.”10 And the Lord himself says in the Gospel: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”11 They are, in fact, two different persons, yet they are one in the conjugal union,. .. as head, he calls himself the bridegroom, as body, he calls himself “bride.”12

CCC 1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”13

Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where “men will weep and gnash their teeth.”14

1 Mk 2:17; cf. l Tim 1:15.
2 Lk 15:7; cf. 7:11-32.
3 Mt 26:28.
4 Jn 3:29.
5 Mk 2:19.
6 Cf. Mt 22:1-14; 25:1-13; 1 Cor 6:15-17; 2 Cor 11:2.
7 Cf. Rev 22:17; Eph 1:4. 5:27.
8 Eph 5:25-26.
9 Cf. Eph 5:29.
10 Eph 5:31-32.
11 Mt 19:6.
12 St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 74:4: PL 36, 948-949.
13 Mt 7:13-14.
14 LG 48 # 3; Mt 22:13; cf. Heb 9:27; Mt 25:13, 26, 30, 31 46

APPLICATION

How foolish the Pharisees were in not listening to our Lord’s warnings. He gave them every opportunity to turn away from the false path which their pride had chosen for them. His divine heart was ever ready to embrace them if only they would say “mea culpa.” “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets, and stone them that are sent to you, how often would I have gathered together your children, as the hen does her chickens under her wings, and you would not?” (Mt. 23:37). “God created us without our cooperation,” says St. Augustine, “but he cannot save us unless we cooperate.”

We too could make the Pharisees’ mistake. We have the invitation to the wedding feast; in fact, we are already in the banquet hall, since our baptism; but are we wearing the wedding garment of virtue and grace? If not, we are no better off than those who rejected the invitation. The king may come in at any moment and cast out those who are not properly dressed. Being a member of the Church on earth is a wonderful privilege, and a sure guarantee that we will reach heaven, if we do what is expected of us. But the same obstacles which prevented the Pharisees from entering the kingdom–love of this world, its wealth and its pleasures–can impede us too, unless we are on our guard. The world with its allurements is very close to us; heaven seems very far away. Thus we must be prepared to do violence to our ordinary inclinations, to go against them whenever and wherever “the things that are Caesar’s” tend to blot out or make us forget “the things that are God’s.”

This implies a daily carrying of the cross, a daily struggle against our evil inclinations, a daily endeavor to acquire true love of God and neighbor. This may sound superhuman, but Christ did not ask anyone to do the impossible. He led the way, and millions have followed him to eternal glory. He has called us too and has placed within our easy reach in his Church all the grace we need. If we fail to use these divine helps, if we are found without the wedding garment, we will have no one to blame but ourselves. We have been called with the many. We can be among the “chosen.”

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

BENEDICTUS

Sharing God’s Wisdom

Wisdom is a sharing in God’s ability to see and judge things as they really are. God reveals himself as God by his just judgements; as God, he sees things without disguise, as they really are, and deals with each according to his truth. Wisdom is a sharing in God’s way of seeing reality. But there are, obviously, certain preconditions to this knowing from God’s perspective. We cannot possess it unless we are united with God. This, in turn, means that this last and deepest mode of knowledge is not just an intellectual experience. In all that is essential, the incorruptibility of God himself belongs to this deepest kind of knowledge, then there belongs to it also that purity of the “I” without which man is not incorruptible. From this, the meaning of the concepts “gifts of God” and “sharing in God’s way of thinking” also become clear. Only if we let ourselves be cleansed of the corruptibility of the “I” and come thus gradually to live by God, to be united with God, do we come to a true inner freedom of judgement, to a fearless independence of thinking and deciding, that no longer cares about the approval or disapproval of others but clings only to truth. Such a purification is always a process of opening oneself and, at the same time, of receiving oneself. It cannot take place without the suffering of the vine that is pruned. But it makes possible the only form of power that leads, not to slavery, but to freedom.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 138

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart,

you have heard the words of my mouth.

In the presence of the angels I will bless you.

I will adore before your holy temple.

I thank you for your faithfulness and love

which excel all we ever knew of you.

On the day I called, you answered;

you increased the strength of my soul.

All earth’s kings shall thank you

when they hear the words of your mouth.

They shall sing of the Lord’s ways:

How great is the glory of the Lord!”

Glory to the Father, and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning,

is now and ever shall be

world without end. Amen.

 

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Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’  They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.  What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”

OPENING PRAYER

Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ,

for all the benefits which you have given us,

for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us.

Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,

may we know you more clearly,

love you more dearly,

and follow you more nearly,

day by day.

Amen.

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 live and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Is 5:1-7

Let me now sing of my friend,

my friend’s song concerning his vineyard.

My friend had a vineyard

on a fertile hillside;

he spaded it, cleared it of stones,

and planted the choicest vines;

within it he built a watchtower,

and hewed out a wine press.

Then he looked for the crop of grapes,

but what it yielded was wild grapes.

Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah,

judge between me and my vineyard:

What more was there to do for my vineyard

that I had not done?

Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes,

did it bring forth wild grapes?

Now, I will let you know

what I mean to do with my vineyard:

take away its hedge, give it to grazing,

break through its wall, let it be trampled!

Yes, I will make it a ruin:

it shall not be pruned or hoed,

but overgrown with thorns and briers;

I will command the clouds

not to send rain upon it.

The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel,

and the people of Judah are his cherished plant;

he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed!

for justice, but hark, the outcry!

APPLICATION

This image of a vineyard. carefully laid out and cared for by its owner, expressed very vividly the Chosen People’s relationships with God. It was a self-evident image in a wine- growing country, and is repeated in today’s gospel. The Chosen People of Isaiah’s day were well aware of all that God had done for them in the past. Ever since the call of Abraham (about 1800 B.C.), and especially since the Exodus (1300 B.C.), their history was handed down from generation to generation and was one continuous reminder of God’s benevolence towards them. But the return they made for this divine benevolence and love was a reluctant, cold service at its best, and a complete forgetfulness of him and his past favors at its worst.

However, this reading from Isaiah was not put before us today to have us say how deserving the Jews were of the fate their disloyalty brought on them, but rather that we, the new Chosen People of God, might apply this word of God to ourselves. If God did so much for his Chosen People of the Old Testament, how incomparably greater is the benevolence and love he has shown us Christians? The love God showed his Chosen People was but a shadow, A foretaste, of the love he has shown to his chosen ones of the New Testament. He sent his prophets to reveal himself and his message to the Jews; to us he sent his own divine Son, in human nature, to live and die among us and prove his love for us. He gave the land of Canaan to the Jews to be their homeland; through the Incarnation he has made us heirs of his own eternal kingdom of heaven. In spite of the overflowing love which God has shown us, how ungrateful we Christians can be and are. How often do we not only forget him, but positively offend him through our sinful attachment to the goods and pleasures of this world. How often must our heavenly Father have said of Christians whom he had adopted as sons: “what more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done for it?” When he expected loving gratitude and generosity from his privileged children, be received instead cold indifference and disloyalty from so many of them. Sunk in their own selfishness, they did not recognize their divine benefactor. Over-interested as they were in this world, they had no time for God’s interests or their own true interest. They sold their eternal inheritance for a mess of earthly pottage.

Such Christians are the vineyard which the heavenly Father says he will lay waste and destroy. There is a dire threat in it for the worst of us. But if we heed the warning, the merciful Father will remove his threat and will take us back once more as his beloved children.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

A vine from Egypt you transplanted;

you drove away the nations and planted it.

It put forth its foliage to the Sea,

its shoots as far as the River.

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

Why have you broken down its walls,

so that every passer-by plucks its fruit,

The boar from the forest lays it waste,

and the beasts of the field feed upon it?

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

Once again, O LORD of hosts,

look down from heaven, and see;

take care of this vine,

and protect what your right hand has planted

the son of man whom you yourself made strong.

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

Then we will no more withdraw from you;

give us new life, and we will call upon your name.

O LORD, God of hosts, restore us;

if your face shine upon us, then we shall be saved.

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

READING II

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Phil 4:6-9

Brothers and sisters:

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,

by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,

make your requests known to God.

Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding

will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters,

whatever is true, whatever is honorable,

whatever is just, whatever is pure,

whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,

if there is any excellence

and if there is anything worthy of praise,

think about these things.

Keep on doing what you have learned and received

and heard and seen in me.

Then the God of peace will be with you.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1803 “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”1

A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.

The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.2

CCC 2683 When we share in God’s saving love, we understand that every need can become the object of petition. Christ, who assumed all things in order to redeem all things, is glorified by what we ask the Father in his name.3 It is with this confidence that St. James and St. Paul exhort us to pray at all times.4

1 Phil 4:8.

2 St. Gregory of Nyssa, De beatitudinibus, 1: PG 44, 1200D.

Cf. Jn 14:13.

4 Cf. Jas 1:5-8; Eph 5:20; Phil 4:6-7; Col 3:16-17; 1 Thess 5:17-18.

APPLICATION

These words of encouragement and comfort which St. Paul wrote to his converts in Philippi, have encouragement and comfort too for us Christians of today. The world and its ways have changed since, but the road to heaven has not altered and human nature has not changed. Getting to heaven was then a strenuous upward climb, there were many worldly attractions which tempted men to linger on the way or turn off the main road. It is no different today. Keeping the Christian law is still something which is beyond the power of weak human nature, if left to itself. But it is not left to itself. By baptism we are made members of Christ’s mystical body and have the channels of divine grace open to us. All we have to do is to switch on the current of grace, and St. Paul tells us how to do this today.

He tells us to make our needs known to God through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. The primary purpose of prayer is adoration–man recognizes God as his creator and benefactor and pays him homage. The second end of prayer is thanksgiving–the creature shows gratitude to God for the many gifts he has so gratuitously received. It is only when a man has fulfilled these two obligations, that he can ask God for further spiritual and temporal favors. This is, as St. Paul tells us today, the true prayer that will bring us the peace of God; peace of mind in this life and eternal peace and happiness in the life to come, for it will keep us united closely with our brother, Christ, who is ever interceding for us in heaven.

The true Christian life is a life of continual prayer. Our Lord himself told his disciples that they should pray continually (Lk. 18: 1). But many will object: how can we do this, we have so many cares and distractions in life, earning our livelihood is a full-time occupation, where can we find time for prayer? The answer is, of course, that our daily chores are prayers if offered to God. Using the muscles and brawn of our bodies in manual labor, or the gifts of intellect and mind in office or professional work, is and should be a way of thanking God for giving us these gifts. And, done with the intention of thanking him, these daily occupations give honor and glory to God.

Prayer is not only the few moments of each day or each week which we spend on our knees; it is the dedication of our whole life to God, our recreation and rest as well as our labor. Our life was thus dedicated to God in our baptism, but we need to renew that dedication again and again during our lives. Today we are reminded to renew that dedication once more. It is of the essence of a Christian life, it is through the daily prayer of our work and recreation, interspersed and activated by verbal or oral prayer in the home or in church, that we can earn the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding. It is the guarantee of our happiness in this life.

GOSPEL

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Mt 21:33-43

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:

“Hear another parable.

There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,

put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.

Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.

When vintage time drew near,

he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.

But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,

another they killed, and a third they stoned.

Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,

but they treated them in the same way.

Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking,

‘They will respect my son.’

But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,

‘This is the heir.

Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’

They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.

What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”

They answered him,

“He will put those wretched men to a wretched death

and lease his vineyard to other tenants

who will give him the produce at the proper times.”

Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:

The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone;

by the Lord has this been done,

and it is wonderful in our eyes?

Therefore, I say to you,

the kingdom of God will be taken away from you

and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/100817.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 755 “The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about again. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly cultivator. Yet the true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ, without whom we can do nothing.”1

CCC 756 “Often, too, the Church is called the building of God. The Lord compared himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was made into the corner-stone. On this foundation the Church is built by the apostles and from it the Church receives solidity and unity. This edifice has many names to describe it: the house of God in which his family dwells; the household of God in the Spirit; the dwelling-place of God among men; and, especially, the holy temple. This temple, symbolized in places of worship built out of stone, is praised by the Fathers and, not without reason, is compared in the liturgy to the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. As living stones we here on earth are built into it. It is this holy city that is seen by John as it comes down out of heaven from God when the world is made anew, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.”2

1 LG 6; cf. 1 Cor 39; Rom 11:13-26; Mt 21:32-43 and parallels; Isa 51-7; Jn 15:1-5.

2 LG 6; Cf. 1 Cor 3:9; Mt 21:42 and parallels; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet 2:7; Ps 118:22; 1 Cor 3:11; 1 Tim 3:15; Eph 2:19-22; Rev 21:3; 1 Pet 2:5; Rev 21:1-2.

APPLICATION

There are two leading thoughts that come to the mind of any true believer on hearing this parable: the infinite goodness, patience and mercy of God in his dealings with mankind, and the unsounded depths of wickedness and ingratitude to which men can sink. To his Chosen People of the Old Testament God had given a fertile and fully-equipped vineyard: his revelation, his protection, a homeland of their own in Canaan, and all this in order to prepare them for the future Messiah, who would bring them an eternal home in God’s own kingdom. All he asked in return was their cooperation.

But they had other plans; they wanted their kingdom on earth. Yet God was patient with them; again and again he pardoned their infidelities. He sent them prophet after prophet to recall them to their senses, but they maltreated these messengers of God and refused to heed their warnings.

Then “the fullness of time” came and he sent his divine Son on earth in human form. He took his human nature from one of their race, lived among them and preached his gospel of love and peace to them. He tried to soften their hard hearts, and made them the final offer of the Fathers mercy and pardon. But instead of accepting God’s offer of mercy the chief priests and elders only made it an occasion of an even greater sin. To their crimes of infidelity and injustice they added the murder of God’s Messiah and Son.

In God’s plan of love and mercy the tragedy of Calvary turned out to be the great “triumph of failure.” That death brought life to the world and opened the gates of God’s eternal kingdom for all nations and races. The Gentiles rallied around the standard of Christ. A new vineyard was set up in which all men could work for their Father in heaven and for their own eternal interests.

We Christians today are the successors of the first Gentile followers of Christ. We too have been called to work in God’s vineyard. Are we working honestly and devotedly? Are we producing the grapes and the wine that our divine Master expects of us? If our answer is “yes, I am living a true Christian life, I am working for God’s honor and glory and for my own eternal salvation,” then we can say a heartfelt “thank you” to our merciful Father, and ask him to keep us ever on this right path. But if our answer is “no,” then let us pay heed to today’s lesson. What happened to the chief priests and elders can and will happen to unfaithful Christians if they persevere in their infidelity and disobedience. But we can still put ourselves right with God. Let us do it today; tomorrow may be too late.

 

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

BENEDICTUS

Respect for Creator and Creation

There is a story that goes as follows: Francis told the brother responsible for the garden never to plant the whole area with vegetables but to leave part of the garden for flowers, so that at every season of the year it may produce our sisters, the flowers, out of love for her who is called “the flower of the field and the lily of the valley” (Song 2:1). In the same way he wanted there always to be a particularly beautiful flower bed, so that, at all times, people would be moved by the sight of flowers to praise God, “for every creature calls to us: God has made me for thy sake, O man” (Mirror of Perfection 11:118). We cannot take this story and simply leave the religious element to one side as a relic of a bygone age, while accepting its refusal of mean utility and its appreciation of the wealth of species. This would in no way correspond to what Francis did and intended… When man himself is out of joint and can no longer affirm himself, nature cannot flourish. On the contrary: man must first be in harmony with himself; only then can he enter into harmony with creation and it with him. And this is only possible if he is in harmony with the Creator who designed both nature and us. Respect for man and respect for nature go together, but ultimately both can only flourish and find their true measure if, in man and nature, we respect the Creator and his creation. The two only harmonize in relationship with the Creator. We shall assuredly never find the lost equilibrium if we refuse to press forward and discover this relationship. Let Francis of Assisi, then, make us reflect; let him set us on the right path.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Canticle of Sirach

39: 13-16, 32-33

Listen, my faithful children: open up your petals,

like roses planted near running waters;

send up the sweet odor of incense,

break forth in blossoms like the lily.

Send up the sweet odor of your hymn of praise;

bless the Lord for all he has done!

Proclaim the greatness of his name,

loudly sing his praises,

with music on the harp and all stringed instruments;

sing out with joy as you proclaim:

All the works of the Lord are very good.

When the time is right, he gives whatever is needed.

so now, sing with all your heart and voice,

and bless the name of the Lord!

Glory be to the Father and to the Son,

and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning,

is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen. Alleluia!

 

 

 

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