Third Sunday of Advent – C

111.jpg“I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.’  “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

Advent Prayer

Father in heaven, the day draws near when the glory of your Son will make radiant the night of the waiting world. May the lure of greed not impede us from the joy which moves the hearts of those who seek him. May the darkness not blind us to the vision of wisdom which fills the minds of those who find him. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.

COLLECT

O God, who see how your people

faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity,

enable us, we pray,

to attain the joys of so great a salvation

and to celebrate them always

with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reign with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Zep 3:14-18a

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!

Sing joyfully, O Israel!

Be glad and exult with all your heart,

O daughter Jerusalem!

The LORD has removed the judgment against you

he has turned away your enemies;

the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,

you have no further misfortune to fear.

On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:

Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!

The LORD, your God, is in your midst,

a mighty savior;

he will rejoice over you with gladness,

and renew you in his love,

he will sing joyfully because of you,

as one sings at festivals.

The Word of the Lord

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 722 The Holy Spirit prepared Mary by his grace. It was fitting that the mother of him in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily”1 should herself be “full of grace.” She was, by sheer grace, conceived without sin as the most humble of creatures, the most capable of welcoming the inexpressible gift of the Almighty. It was quite correct for the angel Gabriel to greet her as the “Daughter of Zion”: “Rejoice.”2 It is the thanksgiving of the whole People of God, and thus of the Church, which Mary in her canticle3 lifts up to the Father in the Holy Spirit while carrying within her the eternal Son.

CCC 2676 This twofold movement of prayer to Mary has found a privileged expression in the Ave Maria:

Hail Mary [or Rejoice, Mary]: the greeting of the angel Gabriel opens this prayer. It is God himself who, through his angel as intermediary, greets Mary. Our prayer dares to take up this greeting to Mary with the regard God had for the lowliness of his humble servant and to exult in the joy he finds in her.4

Full of grace, the Lord is with thee: These two phrases of the angel’s greeting shed light on one another. Mary is full of grace because the Lord is with her. The grace with which she is filled is the presence of him who is the source of all grace. “Rejoice. .. O Daughter of Jerusalem. .. the Lord your God is in your midst.”5 Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is “the dwelling of God. .. with men.”6 Full of grace, Mary is wholly given over to him who has come to dwell in her and whom she is about to give to the world.

Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. After the angel’s greeting, we make Elizabeth’s greeting our own. “Filled with the Holy Spirit,” Elizabeth is the first in the long succession of generations who have called Mary “blessed.”7 “Blessed is she who believed. .. ”8 Mary is “blessed among women” because she believed in the fulfillment of the Lord’s word. Abraham. because of his faith, became a blessing for all the nations of the earth.9 Mary, because of her faith, became the mother of believers, through whom all nations of the earth receive him who is God’s own blessing: Jesus, the “fruit of thy womb.”

1 Col 2:9.

2 Cf. Zeph 3:14; Zech 2:14.

3 Cf. Lk 1:46-55.

4 Cf. Lk 1:48; Zeph 3:17b.

5 Zeph 3:14,17a.

6 Rev 21:3.

7 Lk 1:41, 48.

8 Lk 1:45.

9 Cf. Gen 12:3.

APPLICATION

It is very probable that neither Zephaniah nor his hearers saw the full meaning of the consoling words he uttered and that matters not. But we see their full meaning now in their fulfillment and we have every reason to do what the prophet said: “to shout for joy.” God has come to dwell amongst us. He, Christ, is head of the new Israel, the Church. We are its members. “I am the vine, you are the branches” he said; while we remain united with him in grace and love we are producing fruit for eternal life, we are progressing daily towards our perfection.

The Israelites of old were indeed thankless and mean towards God, they forgot him and went after false Gods, and God resented this, and we would all say “how right he was”! But what about ourselves? We have seen proof of God’s love, exceedingly greater than anything the Israelites saw–his Son came amongst us–and actually died the most shameful and painful death for our sakes! Could we ever forget that? We can and we do, unfortunately. We too desert God and go after idols, false gods of our own making, the pleasures, the riches and the power of this passing world.

Let us stop and think today of our privileged status. We have been made adopted sons of God, brothers of Christ, who lowered himself to become one of us so that he would raise us up to become one with him forever. Would we swap our birthright of adopted son-ship of God for a mess of valueless pottage? Would we exchange an eternal happiness for some passing pleasure, some trivial material gain, some foolish sop to our false pride? This has been known to have happened, it can happen again. God forbid it should happen to me!

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Is 12:2-3, 4, 5-6.

Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

God indeed is my savior;

I am confident and unafraid.

My strength and my courage is the LORD,

and he has been my savior.

With joy you will draw water

at the fountain of salvation.

Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;

among the nations make known his deeds,

proclaim how exalted is his name.

 Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;

let this be known throughout all the earth.

Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,

for great in your midst

is the Holy One of Israel!

Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel. 

READING II

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Phil 4:4-7

Brothers and sisters:

Rejoice in the Lord always.

I shall say it again: rejoice!

Your kindness should be known to all.

The Lord is near.

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.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2633 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.1 It is with this confidence that St. James and St. Paul exhort us to pray at all times.2

1 Cf. Jn 14:13.

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

APPLICATION

St. Francis of Assisi tried in his daily life to follow Christ as closely as possible. He was one of the happiest and most joyful of men for this very reason. He was often ill, often hungry, often cold and often fatigued but he was never known to have been sad. He had taken this exhortation of St. Paul to his heart. Whenever he saw one of his early followers gloomy and sad–there were some evidently who were as yet only following from afar–he told him go to confession as he must be in mortal sin. There seemed no other true explanation for sadness in a true Christian’s life. Is there? We are really pilgrims, exiles on this earth, but every day we live is a day nearer to our true and lasting home which is heaven. Would an exile on his home-journey complain of the few hardships and discomforts he may meet with on his journey? Not if his heart is really set on coming home.

Troubles and trials there must be in every individual’s life, but of this we have been forewarned by our Savior himself–“if anyone will come after me let him take up his cross daily and follow me.” The crosses we meet are not impediments to our progress towards heaven but rather necessary aids on our journey. If accepted willingly they will keep us closer to our Leader who carried his cross to Calvary for our sake.

St. Paul tells us today to pray for all our needs, always with thanksgiving. Such prayers, especially if we stress the thanksgiving we owe God already for the wonderful gifts he has given us, will lighten the cross and even perhaps make us grasp it closely rather than want to cast it from us. We are very mean if we refuse to undergo a little suffering for God who did so much for us and suffered so much for us.

GOSPEL

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Lk 3:10-18

The crowds asked John the Baptist,

“What should we do?”

He said to them in reply,

“Whoever has two cloaks

should share with the person who has none.

And whoever has food should do likewise.”

Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,

“Teacher, what should we do?”

He answered them,

“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”

Soldiers also asked him,

“And what is it that we should do?”

He told them,

“Do not practice extortion,

do not falsely accuse anyone,

and be satisfied with your wages.”

Now the people were filled with expectation,

and all were asking in their hearts

whether John might be the Christ.

John answered them all, saying,

“I am baptizing you with water,

but one mightier than I is coming.

I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor

and to gather the wheat into his barn,

but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Exhorting them in many other ways,

he preached good news to the people.

The Gospel of the Lord.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 535 Jesus’ public life begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan.1 John preaches “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.2 A crowd of sinners3 – tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees and Sadducees, and prostitutes- come to be baptized by him. “Then Jesus appears.” The Baptist hesitates, but Jesus insists and receives baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, “This is my beloved Son.”4 This is the manifestation (“Epiphany”) of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God.

CCC 696 Fire. While water signifies birth and the fruitfulness of life given in the Holy Spirit, fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions. The prayer of the prophet Elijah, who “arose like fire” and whose “word burned like a torch,” brought down fire from heaven on the sacrifice on Mount Carmel.5 This event was a “figure” of the fire of the Holy Spirit, who transforms what he touches. John the Baptist, who goes “before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah,” proclaims Christ as the one who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”6 Jesus will say of the Spirit: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!”7 In the form of tongues “as of fire,” the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and fills them with himself8 The spiritual tradition has retained this symbolism of fire as one of the most expressive images of the Holy Spirit’s actions.9 “Do not quench the Spirit.”10

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.11 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.12 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:13

He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none and he who has food must do likewise.14 But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you.15 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?16

1 Cf. Lk 3:23; Acts 1:22.

2 lK 3:3.

3 Cf. Lk 3:10-14; Mt 3:7; 21:32.

4 Mt 3:13-17.

5 Sir 48:1; cf. 1 Kings 18:38-39.

6 Lk 1:17; 3:16.

7 Lk 12:49.

8 Acts 2:3-4.

9 Cf. St. John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love, in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, tr. K. Kavanaugh, OCD, and O. Rodriguez, OCD (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1979), 577 ff.

10 1 Thess 5:1.

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

12 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

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

14 Lk 3:11.

15 Lk 11:41.

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

APPLICATION

The Baptist’s words are still very much to the point for all of us. We are all to a greater or lesser degree tax collectors and sinners. They had the honesty to admit it and asked John what they should do in order to be ready to welcome the Messiah, Christ. Let me ask today too what I should do if I mean to welcome Christ sincerely at Christmas. And the answer is in the words I have just heard. Am I just and charitable to my fellow-men? If I am an employer am I paying a just wage to those who are producing my wealth for me? If I am an employee am I doing an honest day’s work for the pay I am getting? And both employer and employee must in justice and charity think of the consumer–the third party, when fixing or causing the price of what they produce.

If the employer, through desire for excessive profit, or the employee through not earning his pay, cause prices to rise then the third party, the consumer, is treated unjustly. Our world today is full of such injustices and sad to say, the Christian countries whose citizens profess to be followers of Christ not only do nothing to prevent this state of affairs but instead are even worse offenders than those who have not yet heard of Christ. I may shrug my shoulders and say what can I do about the injustice that abounds on all sides? But stop and think, there are things I can do. I can put my own conscience in order. I can put myself right with God and neighbor by acting justly, “giving every man his due” from this day forward. I can thus become an example to lead others to do likewise.

The true Christian in the world is the leaven which will convert the dough into wholesome healthy bread. I can be, and I should be, that energizing leaven. If I will not and if I do not strive to become so, Christ’s winnowing-fan on my day of judgment will put me among the chaff which is destined for the unquenchable fire.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Real Point of Christmas

Why do we really celebrate Christmas despite the wretchedness, turmoil, and isolation that are still man’s lot and are if anything intensifying rather than lessening? What is the real point of Christmas?… Is it not consoling to see how, despite all the misunderstandings, the message of Jesus of Nazareth is heard? It is not only conflict that the message has produced but also and even more the miracle of understanding, so that across ages and cultures, and even across the boundaries between religions, human beings find one another in his name. Distance vanishes and people are drawn together when this name is spoken… For Christmas says to us, amid all our doubts and bewilderment: God exists. Not as an infinitely distant power that can at best terrify us; not as being’s ultimate ground that is not conscious of itself. Rather he exists as One who can be concerned about us; he is such that everything we are and do lies open to his gaze. But that gaze is the gaze of Love. For anyone who accepts this in faith and knows it by faith, there is no longer any ultimate isolation. He is here. The light that one man became in history and for history is not an accident or something powerless, but Light from Light. The hope and encouragement that emanate from this light thus acquire a wholly new depth. But precisely because it is an entirely divine hope, we can and should accept it as also an entirely human hope and pass it on to others.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

PRAYER TO OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE

By Pope John-Paul II In Mexico, January, 1979.

O Immaculate Virgin, Mother of the true God and Mother of the Church!, who from this place reveal your clemency and your pity to all those who ask for your protection, hear the prayer that we address to you with filial trust, and present it to your Son Jesus, our sole Redeemer.

Mother of Mercy, Teacher of hidden and silent sacrifice, to you, who come to meet us sinners, we dedicate on this day all our being and all our love. We also dedicate to you our life, our work, our joys, our infirmities and our sorrows. Grant peace, justice and prosperity to our peoples; for we entrust to your care all that we have and all that we are, our Lady and Mother. We wish to be entirely yours and to walk with you along the way of complete faithfulness to Jesus Christ in His Church; hold us always with your loving hand.

Virgin of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas, we pray to you for all the Bishops, that they may lead the faithful along paths of intense Christian life, of love and humble service of God and souls. Contemplate this immense harvest, and intercede with the Lord that He may instill a hunger for holiness in the whole people of God, and grant abundant vocations of priests and religious, strong in the faith and zealous dispensers of God’s mysteries.

Grant to our homes the grace of loving and respecting life in its beginnings, with the same love with which you conceived in your womb the life of the Son of God. Blessed Virgin Mary, protect our families, so that they may always be united, and bless the upbringing of our children.

Our hope, look upon us with compassion, teach us to go continually to Jesus and, if we fall, help us to rise again, to return to Him, by means of the confession of our faults and sins in the Sacrament of Penance, which gives peace to the soul.

We beg you to grant us a great love for all the holy Sacraments, which are, as it were, the signs that your Son left us on earth.

Thus, Most Holy Mother, with the peace of God in our conscience, with our hearts free from evil and hatred, we will be able to bring to all true joy and true peace, which come to us from your son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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Second Sunday of Advent

AN00034989_001_l.jpg  “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Prayer for a Happy Death

O God, great and omnipotent judge of the living and the dead, we are to appear before you after this short life to render an account of our works. Give us the grace to prepare for our last hour by a devout and holy life, and protect us against a sudden and unprovided death. Let us remember our frailty and mortality, that we may always live in the ways of your commandments. Teach us to “watch and pray” (Lk 21:36), that when your summons comes for our departure from this world, we may go forth to meet you, experience a merciful judgment, and rejoice in everlasting happiness. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty and merciful God,

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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Bar 5:1-9

Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery;

put on the splendor of glory from God forever:

wrapped in the cloak of justice from God,

bear on your head the mitre

that displays the glory of the eternal name.

For God will show all the earth your splendor:

you will be named by God forever

the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.

Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights;

look to the east and see your children

gathered from the east and the west

at the word of the Holy One,

rejoicing that they are remembered by God.

Led away on foot by their enemies they left you:

but God will bring them back to you

borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones.

For God has commanded

that every lofty mountain be made low,

and that the age-old depths and gorges

be filled to level ground,

that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.

The forests and every fragrant kind of tree

have overshadowed Israel at God’s command;

for God is leading Israel in joy

by the light of his glory,

with his mercy and justice for company.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,

we were like men dreaming.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

and our tongue with rejoicing.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us;

we are glad indeed.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the torrents in the southern desert.

Those who sow in tears

shall reap rejoicing.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Although they go forth weeping,

carrying the seed to be sown,

They shall come back rejoicing,

carrying their sheaves.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

 APPLICATION

To help us prepare for the commemoration of Christ’s coming on earth at Christmas the Church has chosen these words of the Old Testament which spoke of the new Jerusalem, the new kingdom which the Messiah would set up when he came. As the Jews of old looked forward with hope to that day, we now should look back to it with joy and especially with thanksgiving. God created us, he gave us great gifts, we abused these gifts to insult him, yet he not only was willing to forgive us but he went to the length of sending his divine son to become like one of us, to live with us and die for us. Only God could have such love, such mercy, such a forgiving spirit.

It is only by our actions that we can show the gratitude we owe to him and the actions he expects are described in the prophecy you have heard read, justice and true worship. We are dedicated to God by our baptism–the words “holy to God” were written on our foreheads by the water and holy oil of baptism. Let us try to live up to this holy dedication by our justice and fidelity to God and to our neighbor. This is true worship of God. We were remembered by him when he gave us our Christian vocation–sinners though we were. Let us never forget him, who not only brought us back from exile, but has made us sons and heirs of his eternal kingdom. “What can I render to God for all he has given me?” the psalmist asked. My answer is very little indeed but he is willing to accept that little, will I refuse even that little?

READING II

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Phil 1:4-6, 8-11

Brothers and sisters:

I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you,

because of your partnership for the gospel

from the first day until now.

I am confident of this,

that the one who began a good work in you

will continue to complete it

until the day of Christ Jesus.

God is my witness,

how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer:

that your love may increase ever more and more

in knowledge and every kind of perception,

to discern what is of value,

so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,

filled with the fruit of righteousness

that comes through Jesus Christ

for the glory and praise of God.

The word of the Lord.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2632 Christian petition is centered on the desire and search for the Kingdom to come, in keeping with the teaching of Christ.1 There is a hierarchy in these petitions: we pray first for the Kingdom, then for what is necessary to welcome it and cooperate with its coming. This collaboration with the mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit, which is now that of the Church, is the object of the prayer of the apostolic community.2 It is the prayer of Paul, the apostle par excellence, which reveals to us how the divine solicitude for all the churches ought to inspire Christian prayer.3 By prayer every baptized person works for the coming of the Kingdom.

CCC 2636 The first Christian communities lived this form of fellowship intensely.4 Thus the Apostle Paul gives them a share in his ministry of preaching the Gospel5 but also intercedes for them.6 The intercession of Christians recognizes no boundaries: “for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions,” for persecutors, for the salvation of those who reject the Gospel.7

1 Cf. Mt 6:10, 33; Lk 11:2,13.

2 Cf. Acts 6:6; 13:3.

3 Cf. Rom 10:1; Eph 1:16-23; Phil 1911; Col 1:3-6; 4:3-4, 12.

4 Cf. Acts 12:5; 20:36; 21:5; 2 Cor 9:14.

5 Cf. Eph 6:18-20; Col 4:3-4; 1 Thess 5:25.

6 Cf. 2 Thess 1:11; Col 1:3; Phil 1:3-4.

7 2 Tim 2:1; cf. Rom 12:14; 10:1.

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 judgment, 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 be 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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Lk 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,

when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,

and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,

and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region

of Ituraea and Trachonitis,

and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,

during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,

the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.

John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,

proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,

as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:

A voice of one crying out in the desert:

“Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.

Every valley shall be filled

and every mountain and hill shall be made low.

The winding roads shall be made straight,

and the rough ways made smooth,

and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/120918.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC – 535 Jesus’ public life begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan.1 John preaches “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.2 A crowd of sinners3 – tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees and Sadducees, and prostitutes- come to be baptized by him. “Then Jesus appears.” The Baptist hesitates, but Jesus insists and receives baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, “This is my beloved Son.”4 This is the manifestation (“Epiphany”) of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God.

1 Cf. Lk 3:23; Acts 1:22.
2 lK 3:3.
3 Cf. Lk 3:10-14; Mt 3:7; 21:32.
4 Mt 3:13-17.

APPLICATION

The preaching of John the Baptist, quoting Isaiah, which echoed and re-echoed around the Jordan valley nearly two thousand years ago, should ring in our ears today too. We are preparing for the coming of Christ at Christmas, and the prophet tells us how we should prepare ourselves if the welcome we give our Savior is to be sincere and true. Even the best and the holiest amongst us will have to admit that our paths–our dealings with God–over the past twelve months have been far from straight and smooth.

How much time have we given to God and the things of God since this time last year? How far has God and our Christian religion influenced our lives, our work, our recreation, since last Christmas? Have we thanked God even once a day during the past year for the marvelous gifts he has given us–the gift of life with the promise and the means of earning an eternal life? Have we rather begrudged the paltry half-hour on Sunday out of the 168 hours in each week?

Alas, looking back over the past year, most, if not all of us, will have to feel ashamed of our meanness, our ingratitude towards the good God, to whom we owe everything we have.

However, Christmas is the commemoration of that greatest gift of his mercy which God bestowed on this world, and if we but humbly beat our breasts and admit our meanness–if we lower the mountains of selfish pride and fill up the valleys of laziness and forgetfulness by turning to him with hearts full of gratitude and repentance, there will be mercy in abundance even for the greatest sinner amongst us. Christ will come to us with the “salvation of God” and we can confidently hope to live the coming year as we should, as grateful children of our loving Father in heaven.

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

BENEDICTUS

John the Baptist in Advent

Let us gaze on John the Baptist. Challenging and active he stands before us, a “type” of the manly vocation. In harsh terms he demands metanoia, a radical transformation of attitudes. Those who would be Christians must be “transformed” ever again. Our natural disposition, indeed, finds us always ready to assert ourselves to pay like with like, to put ourselves at the center. Those who want to find God need, again and again, that inner conversion, that new direction. And this applies also to the total outlook on life. Day by day we encounter the world of visible things. It assaults us through billboards, broadcasts, traffic, and all the activities of daily life, to such an enormous extent that we are tempted to assume there is nothing else but this. Yet the truth is that what is invisible is greater and much more valuable than anything visible. One single soul, in Pascal’s beautiful words, is worth more than the entire visible universe. But in order to have a living awareness of this, we need conversion, we need to turn around inside, as it were, to overcome the illusion of what is visible, and to develop the feeling, the ears and the eyes, for what is invisible. This has to be more important than anything that bombards us day after day with such exaggerated urgency. Metanoeite: change your attitude, so that God may dwell in you and, through you, in the world. John himself was not spared this painful process of change, of turning around.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Advent Prayer

Father, in the wilderness of the Jordan you sent a messenger to prepare people’s hearts for the coming of your Son. Help me to hear his words and repent of my sins, so that I may clearly see the way to walk, the truth to speak, and the life to live for Him, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 

ADVENT WREATH PRAYER

Week Two

Let us pray.

O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotton Son,

that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure souls.

Through the same Christ our Lord.

Amen.

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’

 

Posted in Catholic

First Sunday of Advent – C

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“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Advent Prayer

Father, in the wilderness of the Jordan you sent a messenger to prepare people’s hearts for the coming of your Son. Help us to hear his words and repent of my sins, so that we may clearly see the way to walk, the truth to speak, and the life to live for Him, our Lord Jesus Christ. 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

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Jer 33:14-16

The days are coming, says the LORD,

when I will fulfill the promise

I made to the house of Israel and Judah.

In those days, in that time,

I will raise up for David a just shoot ;

he shall do what is right and just in the land.

In those days Judah shall be safe

and Jerusalem shall dwell secure;

this is what they shall call her:

“The LORD our justice.”

APPLICATION

On this the first Sunday of Advent the Church wishes to remind us of what Advent means–a period of preparation for the Advent–the Coming–of Christ our Savior. This

prophecy of Jeremiah intended to encourage the Jews to trust in God in spite of all their present difficulties, can and should encourage us too. The fulfillment of the ancient prophecies in Christ (this particular one was made six centuries before he came on earth) are a guarantee for us of the truth of his claims–he was the Messiah promised to Abraham, David and the Chosen People. He was the descendant of Abraham, the royal son of David, who would bring back not only Abraham’s people but all nations to the true God. But he was much more than a son of Abraham or of David, he was as well the true Son of God.

In the Christmas festival each year we commemorate his coming on earth. What the Jews of old looked forward to, we can see fulfilled. The great central hope of their religion and of their history–their expectancy of One who was to come, has taken place in our history. The Son of God has come on earth to bring us to heaven. He became man, like one of ourselves, so that we could become like to God, adopted sons of the Father. He suffered during the course of his earthly life so that we could enjoy an eternal happiness in heaven. This is the great mystery, the mystery of God’s love for us which we commemorate and call to mind each Christmas. It should hardly be necessary to urge any Christian–even a lukewarm one–to try to make himself, not worthy, but a little less unworthy, to welcome into his heart and his home the God of love who deigned to share our weak human nature so that we could share in his divinity.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;

teach me your paths,

Guide me in your truth and teach me,

for you are God my savior,

and for you I wait all the day.

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

Good and upright is the LORD;

thus he shows sinners the way.

He guides the humble to justice,

and teaches the humble his way.

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

All the paths of the LORD are kindness and constancy

toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

The friendship of the LORD is with those who fear him,

and his covenant, for their instruction.

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

READING II

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1 Thes 3:12-4:2

Brothers and sisters:

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love

for one another and for all,

just as we have for you,

so as to strengthen your hearts,

to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father

at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.

Finally, brothers and sisters,

we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that,

as you received from us

how you should conduct yourselves to please God

and as you are conducting yourselves

you do so even more.

For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

APPLICATION

The teaching of Christ, the Christian faith, is for all races, all places and all times. St. Paul is telling us today what he told the Thessalonians nineteen centuries ago, to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ–the great day of judgement, by living each day as God wants us to live it, namely by living in love and peace with God and our neighbor. Some of the Thessalonians at that time were expecting the Second Coming–the general judgement–in their own day. It didn’t come then, it hasn’t come yet, but the particular judgement came to them, and it will come to us, in our day and sooner, rather than later, than we expect it. And that particular judgement, when we draw our last earthly breath, will decide our eternal fate. Advent–the preparation for Christmas, Christ’s First Coming, is a most suitable occasion to prepare ourselves for that day. If I were called today to face my particular judgement how would I fare? This is the most important question I could ever put to myself–my eternity depends on the answer. But I can still

put things right. I can still get back on the road God has mapped out for me and he is ever ready to forgive the past mistakes. I should be very foolish to delay another moment.

GOSPEL

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Lk 21:25-28, 34-36

Jesus said to his disciples:

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,

and on earth nations will be in dismay,

perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

People will die of fright

in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,

for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

And then they will see the Son of Man

coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

But when these signs begin to happen,

stand erect and raise your heads

because your redemption is at hand.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy

from carousing and drunkenness

and the anxieties of daily life,

and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.

For that day will assault everyone

who lives on the face of the earth.

Be vigilant at all times

and pray that you have the strength

to escape the tribulations that are imminent

and to stand before the Son of Man.”

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

That this earth is not our permanent home nobody denies, yet many people live and act as if it were. They see funerals and read of the death of friends and fellow-men every day, yet they try to persuade themselves that somehow they will not have to go the same road. But go they must and render an account they must, to the “Son of Man coming with power and in great glory.” We have been forewarned and the words of Christ read in today’s gospel should awaken us to the true facts of life and of death. He does not ask us to ignore or despise this earth or this life but he does ask us to estimate it for what it is–a period of transit which properly used will earn for us our eternal home. If we judge ourselves daily we need not fear the day of judgement. If we are loyal and faithful to our

Christian vocation, our end on earth will not be an end but the beginning of our true life.

What better occasion could we have for taking a serious, sincere look at ourselves and at our attitude to life and the things of this life, than this Advent period. If we can welcome the humble Babe of Bethlehem at Christmas with a sincere and open heart–a heart grateful for all the gifts already given us, and sorrowful for all the meanness and thanklessness we have shown in the past, we can trust and hope that the second and glorious coming of Christ will not be for us a catastrophe but rather the culmination of all our dearest hopes and desires–the beginning of a never-ending Christmas of happiness and joy.

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

BENEDICTUS

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 the kingdom. It becomes especially clear during a time of illness that man is always waiting. Every day 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 a 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

God of power and mercy, open our hearts in welcome. Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy, so that we may share his wisdom and become one with him when he comes in glory, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

* * *

ADVENT WREATH PRAYER

The following are the Advent wreath prayers that change every week.

They are prayed at the lighting of each candle every evening during Advent.

Week One:

The first candle is lit, and the prayer for the first week is said.

Let us pray.

Stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, O Lord,

and come, so that we may escape through Thy protection

and be saved by Thy help from the dangers

that threaten us because of our sins.

Who livest and reigns for ever and ever.

All: Amen.

During the first week one candle is left burning during the evening meal, or during prayers.

Week Two:

Two candles are lit on the second Sunday and allowed to burn as before. The prayer for the week is:

Let us pray.

O Lord, stir up our hearts

that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son,

that through His coming

we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure souls.

Through the same Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Week Three:

Three candles, including the rose candle, are lit on Gaudete, the third Sunday, and during that week. The following prayer is said:

Let us pray.

We humbly beg Thee, O Lord,

to listen to our prayers;

and by the grace of Thy coming

bring light into our darkened minds.

Who livest and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen.

Week Four:

All four candles are lit on the fourth Sunday and allowed to burn as before. The prayer said the fourth week is:

Let us pray.

Stir up Thy might, we pray Thee, O Lord, and come;

rescue us through Thy great strength so that salvation,

which has been hindered by our sins,

may be hastened by the grace of Thy gentle mercy.

Who livest and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen.

Posted in Advent, agnostic, athiest, Benedictine oblate, Bible Study, Catholic, Christian, Christmas, Divine Mercy, faith, Heaven, hell, Holy Spirit, Liturgy, Mary, mercy, Oblate, prayer, The Word of God, Uncategorized, Virgin Mary

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

 

 

 

 

 

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“For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.

Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer to Christ the King

Christ Jesus, I acknowledge You King of the universe.

All that has been created has been made for You.

Make full use of Your rights over me.

I renew the promises I made in Baptism,

when I renounced Satan and all his pomps and works,

and I promise to live a good Christian life

and to do all in my power

to procure the triumph of the rights of God

and Your Church.

Divine Heart of Jesus,

I offer you my efforts

in order to obtain that all hearts

may acknowledge your Sacred Royalty,

and that thus the Kingdom of Your peace

may be established throughout the universe.

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

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Dn 7:13-14

As the visions during the night continued, I saw

one like a Son of man coming,

on the clouds of heaven;

when he reached the Ancient One

and was presented before him,

the one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship;

all peoples, nations, and languages serve him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

that shall not be taken away,

his kingship shall not be destroyed.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 440 Jesus accepted Peter’s profession of faith, which acknowledged him to be the Messiah, by announcing the imminent Passion of the Son of Man.1 He unveiled the authentic content of his messianic kingship both in the transcendent identity of the Son of Man “who came down from heaven”, and in his redemptive mission as the suffering Servant: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”2 Hence the true meaning of his kingship is revealed only when he is raised high on the cross.3 Only after his Resurrection will Peter be able to proclaim Jesus’ messianic kingship to the People of God: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”4

CCC 664 Being seated at the Father’s right hand signifies the inauguration of the Messiah’s kingdom, the fulfillment of the prophet Daniel’s vision concerning the Son of man: “To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”5 After this event the apostles became witnesses of the “kingdom [that] will have no end”.6

1 Cf. Mt 16:16-23.

2 Jn 3:13; Mt 20:28; cf. Jn 6:62; Dan 7:13; Is 53:10-12.

3 Cf. Jn 19:19-22; Lk 23:39-43.

4 Acts 2:36.

5 Dan 7:14.

6 Nicene Creed.

APPLICATION

Today’s feast day was instituted as a rallying-call to all Christians to acknowledge the sovereignty of Christ our King over all earthly powers, kingdoms and peoples. This call was very necessary in an age when worldliness and earthly ambitions were drawing the minds of men further away from God and Christ, and from their own eternal interests. Our twentieth century has seen not only pagan countries denying the existence of God and a future life but nations that were once Christian have been forced to live under atheistic regimes which forbid the public practice of religion. It was to counteract and stem this growing infidelity that Pope Pius XI instituted the feast in honor of Christ the King; he wanted to remind Christians of the fidelity and loyalty they owed to Christ who by his incarnation had made them adopted children of God and future citizens and heirs of the kingdom of heaven.

Today’s extract from the Book of Daniel, written two centuries before Christ came on earth, tells us that the son of man would receive from God his Father, dominion and sovereignty over all peoples, nations and languages. He would be the king of kings and the lord of glory and his kingdom would last forever. Many other messianic prophecies in the Old Testament give Christ the Messiah the title of King. The prophet Nathan promised King David (c. 1000 B.C.) that a descendant of his would come “who would establish his throne forever” (2 Sm. 7: 16). Isaiah says of the future Messiah: “he will sit on David’s kingly throne, to give it lasting foundations of justice and right” (Is. 9: 6-7; see 1-5). In the prophet Jeremiah we read: “a time is coming, the Lord says, when I will raise up from the stock of David a faithful descendant at last” (Jer. 23: 3). To crown and confirm the Davidic typology, the Virgin Mary is told by the angel that the child she is to conceive “shall be known as the Son of the Most High; the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David . . . and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk. 1: 32).

We are called on today to honor Christ our King. The other feasts of our Lord which we celebrate throughout the year remind us of all that Christ has done for us, but today’s should call to our minds what we are to do for him in return. Unlike the kings of earthly kingdoms who rightly expect their loyal subjects to die for them and their nation if need be, our King, Christ, died for us in order to make us free citizens of his kingdom. He does expect us to be ready to die for him and for his kingdom if the occasion should arise, and down through his Church’s history many of his loyal subjects have gladly done so. But from the vast majority of his subjects, Christ does not demand this supreme sacrifice. What he does expect and demand is not that we should die for him but that we should live for him. This we can and should do by faithfully living our Christian life day by day.

The loyal, honest citizen of any country will keep the law of the land of which he is a citizen. A Christian has double citizenship: he is a citizen of his homeland and he is a citizen of Christ’s kingdom. He must, therefore, be loyal to his country and loyal to Christ but as the Christian law commands obedience to the lawful civil authority the two obligations are identical in many cases. As Christians, however, we have some extra duties to perform above and beyond what our country demands of us. These can be summed up briefly in the double commandment of charity, love of God and love of neighbor.

While most civilized states have laws preventing their citizens from publicly insulting God or religion, and all states prohibit citizens from injuring their neighbor in his person or in his property, the Christian law demands a positive approach. The Christian is bound to love, reverence and obey God. The first three commandments spell out for him how this is to be done. Likewise, the Christian rule of life not only forbids a Christian to injure his neighbor, it commands him positively to help his neighbor–in fact to love him as he loves himself.

How loyal are we to Christ? Are we worthy citizens of his kingdom on earth and so working our way toward his eternal kingdom in heaven? Our answer is the answer to the question: do we sincerely love God and our neighbor? Only we can give a true answer to this question and it is we ourselves who will reap the reward or suffer the eternal consequence of the positive or negative answer which our consciences give to this vital question.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 93:1, 1-2, 5

The LORD is king; he is robed in majesty.

The LORD is king, in splendor robed;

robed is the LORD and girt about with strength.

The LORD is king; he is robed in majesty.

And he has made the world firm,

not to be moved.

Your throne stands firm from of old;

from everlasting you are, O LORD.

The LORD is king; he is robed in majesty.

Your decrees are worthy of trust indeed;

holiness befits your house,

O LORD, for length of days.

The LORD is king; he is robed in majesty.

READING II

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Rv 1:5-8

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness,

the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,

who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father,

to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.

Behold, he is coming amid the clouds,

and every eye will see him,

even those who pierced him.

All the peoples of the earth will lament him.

Yes. Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, ” says the Lord God,

“the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 784 On entering the People of God through faith and Baptism, one receives a share in this people’s unique, priestly vocation: “Christ the Lord, high priest taken from among men, has made this new people ‘a kingdom of priests to God, his Father.’ The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood.”1

CCC 1546 Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.”2 The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are “consecrated to be. .. a holy priesthood.”3

CCC 2854 When we ask to be delivered from the Evil One, we pray as well to be freed from all evils, present, past, and future, of which he is the author or instigator. In this final petition, the Church brings before the Father all the distress of the world. Along with deliverance from the evils that overwhelm humanity, she implores the precious gift of peace and the grace of perseverance in expectation of Christ’s return By praying in this way, she anticipates in humility of faith the gathering together of everyone and everything in him who has “the keys of Death and Hades,” who “is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”4

Deliver us, Lord, we beseech you, from every evil and grant us peace in our day, so that aided by your mercy we might be ever free from sin and protected from all anxiety, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.5

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.6 The ruler of this world has mendaciously attributed to himself the three titles of kingship, power, and glory.7 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.8

1 LG 10; Cf. Heb 5:1-5; Rev 1:6.

2 Rev 1:6; cf. Rev 5:9-10; 1 Pet 2:5,9.

3 LG 10 § 1.

4 Rev 1:8,18; cf. Rev 1:4; Eph 1:10.

5 Roman Missal, Embolism after the Lord’s Prayer, 126: Libera nos, quaesumus, Domine, ab omnibus malis, da propitius pacem in diebus nostris, ut, ope misericordiae tuae adiuti, et a peccato simus semper liberi, et ab omni perturbatione securi: expectantes beatam spem et adventum Salvatoris nostri Iesu Christi.

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

7 Cf. Lk 4:5-6.

8 1 Cor 15:24-28.

APPLICATION

As one would expect on this special feast day of Christ our King, the readings chosen from sacred Scripture stress the kingly glory and dignity of Christ after his triumph over sin and death, while they also remind us of how much we owe him. This kingly glory will be visible to all men at his second coming–a vision which will delight his faithful ones but which will strike terror into his enemies. In his Apocalypse, St. John reminds us first and foremost of all that Christ has done for us. During his life among us, he has revealed his loving Father. It was his own divine love that made him come as the incarnate Son of God and give his life for us. He triumphed over death and continues to love us in heaven. He established his messianic kingdom, in which we, his subjects, are given the power and the privilege of serving God with a true service–for he has joined us to himself who alone could give fitting service to his Father.

John then reminds the faithful followers of Christ and Christ’s opponents as well that Christ will return in glory and majesty to demand a reckoning from each one. This is a sobering thought for all of us. Each will have to stand before the tribunal of Christ one day and see one’s life work laid bare. On that day we shall see all our thoughts, words and actions as they really were. Here on earth, our prejudices and our pride and selfishness can minimize our faults and exaggerate our virtues, but in the presence of the omniscient Judge we will see ourselves as we truly are. We shall have no excuses to offer because we will see the emptiness, the folly of the excuses with which we silenced our consciences here below. Instead of making too much of our good deeds and our virtues, we will realize how little we have done for him who humbled himself even to the death of the cross for our sakes. The saints of God regretted that they had not done more for the Savior and King who had gone to such lengths in order to bring them into his heavenly kingdom.

We thank God that the dread moment has not yet arrived. We have still time left in which to put our conscience and our spiritual affairs in order. Today’s feast gives each one of us the opportunity of seeing how we stand in relation to Christ. Are we loyal subjects faithfully trying to carry out his laws? Are we sincerely grateful to him who put heaven within our reach, showed us the way to go there and is daily helping us? If so, let us promise that with the help of God’s grace we will continue to be loyal and grateful.

If, on the other hand, some of us will have to admit to ourselves, and to Christ, that we have been far from faithful and too often entirely ungrateful for his divine love and mercy we still have a chance to put things right before our judgment day arrives. Christ is ever ready to forgive and welcome back the prodigal sons. Today our King is calling to us to return home to him who “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.” He died on a cross so that we should have eternal life. He is ready to forgive and forget all our past disloyalties, if only we will turn to him and ask for forgiveness. Our verdict on the day of our judgment will depend on the decision which we take today. Our eternity of happiness or of misery depends on that verdict. With our eternal future at stake should we allow the trivial, transient things of this life to come between us and Christ, the King of Kings?

GOSPEL

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Jn 18:33b-37

Pilate said to Jesus,

“Are you the King of the Jews?”

Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own

or have others told you about me?”

Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I?

Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.

What have you done?”

Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.

If my kingdom did belong to this world,

my attendants would be fighting

to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.

But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”

So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?”

Jesus answered, “You say I am a king.

For this I was born and for this I came into the world,

to testify to the truth.

Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 160 To be human, “man’s response to God by faith must be free, and. .. therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act.”1 “God calls men to serve him in spirit and in truth. Consequently they are bound to him in conscience, but not coerced. .. This fact received its fullest manifestation in Christ Jesus.”2 Indeed, Christ invited people to faith and conversion, but never coerced them. “For he bore witness to the truth but refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke against it. His kingdom. .. grows by the love with which Christ, lifted up on the cross, draws men to himself.”3

CCC 217 God is also truthful when he reveals himself – the teaching that comes from God is “true instruction”.4 When he sends his Son into the world it will be “to bear witness to the truth”:5 “We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to know him who is true.”6

CCC 549 By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death,7 Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below,8 but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God’s sons and causes all forms of human bondage.9

CCC 559 How will Jerusalem welcome her Messiah? Although Jesus had always refused popular attempts to make him king, he chooses the time and prepares the details for his messianic entry into the city of “his father David”.10 Acclaimed as son of David, as the one who brings salvation (Hosanna means “Save!” or “Give salvation!”), the “King of glory” enters his City “riding on an ass”.11 Jesus conquers the Daughter of Zion, a figure of his Church, neither by ruse nor by violence, but by the humility that bears witness to the truth.12 And so the subjects of his kingdom on that day are children and God’s poor, who acclaim him as had the angels when they announced him to the shepherds.13 Their acclamation, “Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord”,14 is taken up by the Church in the “Sanctus” of the Eucharistic liturgy that introduces the memorial of the Lord’s Passover.

CCC 600 To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of “predestination”, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace: “In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”15 For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness.16

CCC 2471 Before Pilate, Christ proclaims that he “has come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.”17 The Christian is not to “be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord.”18 In situations that require witness to the faith, the Christian must profess it without equivocation, after the example of St. Paul before his judges. We must keep “a clear conscience toward God and toward men.”19

1 DH 10; cf. CIC, can. 748 # 2.

2 DH 11.

3 DH 11; cf. Jn 18:37; 12:32.

4 Mal 2:6.

5 Jn 18:37.

6 I Jn 5:20; cf. Jn 17:3.

7 Cf. Jn 6:5-15; Lk 19:8; Mt 11:5.

8 Cf. Lk 12 13-14; Jn 18:36.

9 Cf. Jn 8:34-36.

10 Lk 1:32; cf. Mt 21:1-11; Jn 6:15.

11 Ps 24:7-10; Zech 9:9.

12 Cf. Jn 18:37.

13 Cf. Mt 21:15-16; cf. Ps 8:3; Lk 19:38; 2:14.

14 Cf. Ps 118:26.

15 Acts 4:27-28; cf. Ps 2:1-2.

16 Cf. Mt 26:54; Jn 18:36; 19:11; Acts 3:17-18.

17 Jn 18:37.

18 2 Tim 1:8.

19 Acts 24:16.

APPLICATION

In today’s two previous readings we have seen that the prophets foretold the kingship of Christ and the Apostle John described him as the founder of our kingdom who one day would judge all mankind. In today’s gospel, we have our divine Lord’s own statement that he is a king–the king of a new and everlasting kingdom which is not of this world. He made this statement to the Roman governor to whom he had been handed over by the priests and leaders of the Jewish people to be put to death by crucifixion. Long before, he had foreseen this death and had accepted it as part of his Father’s plan for making atonement for the sins of mankind. He knew Pilate did not believe that he was the leader of a rebellion against the Roman authorities, but he did not try to influence Pilate’s decision in his favor for he wanted the will of his Father carried out to the letter.

Five centuries before, the prophet second-Isaiah had described the Messiah who was to come as the Servant of God who suffered torments on our behalf. The prophet says: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… surely, he has borne our grief’s and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. We like sheep have gone astray… and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, like a sheep before its shearers he opened not his mouth” (Is. 53: 3-7). Had Pilate known this prophecy he would not have been surprised that Jesus uttered no word in his own defense. His Father had sent him to raise up mankind and to make atonement for men’s sins; his death on the cross was that supreme act of atonement and without objection he accepted it.

The kings of this earth demand of their subjects that they should be ready, if necessary, to lay down their lives to defend their king and realm. Men have always accepted this and millions have gladly given their lives to defend their country and rulers. We have a king who laid down his life for us and set us an example unlike that of any earthly king. Following his Father’s will, he did this to make us worthy to share in the Father’s eternal kingdom. The incarnation, which made us adopted children of God, and the crucifixion, which obtained remission of our sins, surely prove to us the love and the esteem in which God holds us. It should also show how important is our future life. Christ did not come on earth to make us healthy, happy or prosperous in this world; he came to open heaven for us where we could be happy forever. This was God’s purpose in creating us. This is his purpose for us still. All our other interests in this life are secondary when compared with this.

In honoring Christ today as our King, let us especially thank him for all the humiliations and sufferings he endured on our behalf. If our Christian way of living makes some demands on us let us not forget how trivial they are when compared with what Christ’s earthly life cost him. He made these severe sacrifices for us; we are asked to make our small offerings for ourselves. Our self-interest alone should inspire us, but our gratitude to Christ should especially move us to play our part. Let us promise to be grateful and loyal subjects of his for the rest of our days. He has made us members of his kingdom on earth–the Church–and is preparing a place for us in his everlasting kingdom. Let no one be so foolish as to forfeit an eternal happiness because of some earthly attachment to the passing things of this world.

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

BENEDICTUS

Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified son of a carpenter, is so intrinsically king that the title “king” has actually become his name. By calling ourselves Christians, we label ourselves as followers of the king, as people who recognize him as their king. But we can understand properly what the kingship of Jesus Christ means only if we trace its origin in the Old Testament, where we immediately discover a surprising fact. It is obvious that God did not intend Israel to have a kingdom. The kingdom was, in fact, a result of Israel’s rebellion against God and against his prophets, a defection from the original will of God. The law was to be Israel’s king, and, through the law, God himself… But Israel was jealous of the neighboring peoples with their powerful kings… Surprisingly, God yielded to Israel’s obstinacy and so devised a new kind of kingship for them. The son of David, the king, is Jesus; in him God entered humanity and espoused it to himself… God does not have a fixed plan that he must carry out: on the contrary, he has many different ways of finding man and even of turning his wrong ways into right ways. We can see that, for instance, in the case of Adam, whose fault became a happy fault, and we see it again in all the twisted ways of history. This, then, is God’s kingship – a love that is impregnable and an inventiveness that finds man by ways that are always new… God’s kingship means that we must have an unshakeable confidence… No one has reason to fear or to capitulate. God can always be found.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to Christ the King

Let us praise Jesus Christ our king

for the wonderful things he has done.

He sends out his word to heal us.

He satisfies the thirsty with the water of life.

He fills the hungry with the abundance of his kingdom.

Let us praise Jesus, redeemer and renewer of all things.

May we always trust in his goodness and love,

And have faith in his grace and mercy,

May we always believe he cares about justice and righteousness,

And draw our life from his eternal purposes.

Let us praise Jesus Christ our king and savior,

May we be filled with the hope and promise of his coming,

And give our lives to follow him.

May we be gripped by his kingdom ways,

And walk with assurance and trust into his grace and peace.

Amen.

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Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for Renewal

Glory to you, O Lord our God, Your love calls us to be your people. By sharing our many and diverse gifts we share in your mission. We ask you, Lord, to shape us into a community of faith. Nourish us by your word and sacraments that we may grow into the image of Jesus. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, heal us that we, in turn, may heal the wounded. Form us to be instruments of love, justice, and peace in our land, and send us to proclaim your saving work.

RENEW us, Lord, that we may renew the face of the earth, and when you do come to claim your people, we may gain the eternal merit won by Christ.

Amen.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1650

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 you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

READING I

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Dn 12:1-3

In those days, I Daniel,

heard this word of the Lord:

“At that time there shall arise

Michael, the great prince,

guardian of your people;

it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress

since nations began until that time.

At that time your people shall escape,

everyone who is found written in the book.

“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake;

some shall live forever,

others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.

“But the wise shall shine brightly

like the splendor of the firmament,

and those who lead the many to justice

shall be like the stars forever.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 992 God revealed the resurrection of the dead to his people progressively. Hope in the bodily resurrection of the dead established itself as a consequence intrinsic to faith in God as creator of the whole man, soul and body. The creator of heaven and earth is also the one who faithfully maintains his covenant with Abraham and his posterity. It was in this double perspective that faith in the resurrection came to be expressed. In their trials, the Maccabean martyrs confessed:

The King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.1 One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him.2

CCC 998 Who will rise? All the dead will rise, “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”3

1 2 Macc 7:9.

2 2 Macc 7:14; cf. 7:29; Dan 12:1-13.

3 Jn 5:29; cf. Dan 12:2.

APPLICATION

The Church begins and ends her liturgical year with lessons that remind us of our end and the end of the world. In the new liturgical arrangement, the Feast of Christ the King is celebrated on the last Sunday of the year and therefore the Church places the reminder of death, judgement and resurrection on this the penultimate Sunday. Today’s reading from the Book of Daniel puts before our eyes the fact that this world will have an end marked by great upheavals and disasters. However, these will be followed immediately by a new and everlasting existence. This new life will be one of unending joy and happiness for those who are found worthy. For the others who did not think of it or prepare for it, it will be a life of unending shame and sorrow.

Here, surely, we have a solemn reminder of what is ahead of us and of what we ought to do about it. Every businessman worthy of the name annually takes a serious look at his business affairs to see how he stands. If he finds that all is going well he resolves to continue or to improve things if improvement is possible. If his business is going down, he will search for the causes of this decline and resolve to do all in his power to check the defects that are causing the decline. Today, we are all called on to make this stock-taking of our progress or decline. Our duty to have this stock-taking is of infinitely greater importance than that of the businessman. If his business fails it is not the end of him, he can find other ways of making a living. He has other options open to him. If we fail to be prepared for heaven, we have no second chance, our failure is final and for all eternity.

This is a thought that should make us stop and think. We have one life only on earth—a life of a few short years. Our real life, the eternal life of happiness or misery depends on how we spend these years on earth. We can waste them and arrive empty-handed at the end of our journey, or we can spend them well and hear the welcome words: “Come you blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you,” when we die. To which class would we like to belong when our end on earth comes? The choice and the answer is entirely in our hands, no one can make this decision for us. Our dearest and nearest will be helpless in this regard. Generously and gladly God will help us but we must cooperate with that help. In baptism he has already given us our passport to heaven. Each day in the sacraments and prayers of his Church he is offering us the necessary travel expenses. Again and again through his ministers he advises us to stay on the right road, but all in vain if we refuse to accept these gifts.

The rules of the road to heaven, the regulations which God asks us to keep, are not severe sacrifices or tasks beyond our power to fulfill. His ten commandments are not impossible or unreasonable restrictions, but rather rules which make life on earth civilized and happy. Where they are observed we have peace and harmony between neighbors and nations. Where the Fatherhood of God is revered and kept in mind, the brotherhood of man is recognized and his rights respected, there is true fraternity on earth. Somebody has said that if God did not exist it would be necessary for us to invent him–if life on earth was to be livable. But he does exist and in his goodness and mercy he has made life on earth livable and reasonably enjoyable–by laying down the sound rules which should govern our lives as rational creatures.

God is not a tyrant who will take pleasure in punishing those who ignore him and his laws. Rather is he a loving Father who wants all his children to share his eternal happiness. Therefore, his laws are not imposed on us as restrictions and burdens but as helps to guide us safely to our eternal home.

Today’s lesson from Daniel is one of God’s ways of reminding the forgetful ones of him and their own eternal destiny. Let them wake up and take stock of how they stand in relation to God; are they on the right road or are they wandering in the wilderness from whence they may never return?

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11

You are my inheritance, O Lord!

O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,

you it is who hold fast my lot.

I set the LORD ever before me;

with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

You are my inheritance, O Lord!

Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,

my body, too, abides in confidence;

because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,

nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.

You are my inheritance, O Lord!

You will show me the path to life,

fullness of joys in your presence,

the delights at your right hand forever.

You are my inheritance, O Lord!

READING II

 

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Heb 10:11-14, 18

Brothers and sisters:

Every priest stands daily at his ministry,

offering frequently those same sacrifices

that can never take away sins.

But this one offered one sacrifice for sins,

and took his seat forever at the right hand of God;

now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.

For by one offering

he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.

Where there is forgiveness of these,

there is no longer offering for sin.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1544 Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, the “one mediator between God and men.”1 The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, “priest of God Most High,” as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique “high priest after the order of Melchizedek”;2 “holy, blameless, unstained,”3 “by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified,”4 that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross.

1 2 Tim 2:5.

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

3 Heb 7:26.

4 Heb 10:14.

APPLICATION

“By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” This prayer, which the priest says when mixing a drop of water with the wine in the chalice at the offertory of the Mass, gives in a nutshell the profound meaning that the incarnation of Christ has for us. The drop of water is our human nature; it is absorbed in the wine–the divine infinity; and it shares in the incredible glory of becoming the precious blood of Christ. When the Son of God took our human nature, he made us capable of becoming sharers in the eternal glory, and happiness of the Infinite God.

If only we could fully realize what the loving God has done for us through the sending of his Son to “dwell among us,” we would never stop praising, thanking and loving him. We are mere creatures, higher than all the other creatures on this earth because of the extra gifts he gave us–but still mere creatures–nothing in comparison with the omnipotent and infinite God. Out of an infinite goodness which our minds cannot even begin to grasp, he raised us up to the status of adopted children. He had no need of us, he did not require our company or our adoration, he is infinitely perfect and happy in himself. Yet, out of sheer benevolence he wished to confer on us a gift which we are to value and appreciate with our intelligence and freewill–but a gift which we could never even dream of expecting.

To give us the gift the incarnation took place: “the word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Christ became our brother; we became, through him, adopted sons of God and therefore heirs to heaven. The sins of mankind which had corrupted the world brought about the death of Christ on the cross–“a death he freely accepted.” Through that death and as our representative and senior brother, he made a perfect atonement to God the Father for all our sins. His triumph over sin and death was our triumph; ever since his ascension, the incarnate Son of God is in the seat of glory in heaven, interceding for us sinners; he is preparing a place for us, his brothers, which will be ours when life on this earth ends.

Therefore, there is no comparison, as the epistle to the Hebrews stresses, between the intercession that the Levitical priesthood could make for the Chosen People of the Old Testament, and the intercession that Christ has made and continues to make for us. The sacrifices they offered were but shadows and symbols of the real sacrifice offered by Christ. Any value which they had derived from the true sacrifice which was to come. The members of the Chosen People who did God’s will earned heaven through the merits of Christ and only after his ascension. Because of God’s loving generosity these infinite merits of Christ were applied to all Jews and Gentiles, who, before Christ, lived according to their lights. They will be applied to all who have lived since his incarnation, provided they act according to the revealed or the natural knowledge of God which is given them.

We know this and our gratitude to God should be boundless. The years left to us on earth are long enough to enable us to earn eternity. Those who have weaknesses, temptations and trials must never forget that they are not on their own; they are not left to fend for themselves, they have Christ, their brother, in heaven pleading with the Father of mercies on their behalf. With such an advocate, with such a defending counsel, we cannot lose our inheritance, provided we do our best to be true and loyal to him. God grant that we shall never be among the ungrateful ones but rather that we may willingly and gladly cooperate with God to earn the eternal merit won by Christ.

GOSPEL

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Mk 13:24-32

Jesus said to his disciples:

“In those days after that tribulation

the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light,

and the stars will be falling from the sky,

and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

“And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’

with great power and glory,

and then he will send out the angels

and gather his elect from the four winds,

from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.

“Learn a lesson from the fig tree.

When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves,

you know that summer is near.

In the same way, when you see these things happening,

know that he is near, at the gates.

Amen, I say to you,

this generation will not pass away

until all these things have taken place.

Heaven and earth will pass away,

but my words will not pass away.

“But of that day or hour, no one knows,

neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 474 By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal.1 What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.2

CCC 673 Since the Ascension Christ’s coming in glory has been imminent,3 even though “it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.”4. This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are “delayed”.5

CCC 2612 In Jesus “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”6 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.7 In communion with their Master, the disciples’ prayer is a battle; only by keeping watch in prayer can one avoid falling into temptation.8

1 Cf. Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:18-20, 26-30.

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

3 Cf. Rev 22:20.

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

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

6 Mk 1:15.

7 Cf. Mk 13; Lk 21:34-36.

8 Cf. Lk 22:40, 46.

APPLICATION

There are some obscurities in this extract from St. Mark. Firstly, because Christ was discussing and answering questions on two distinct topics: the destruction of the temple and the end of the world. Secondly, because we may not have the “ipsissima verba” of Christ here, as many exegetes suggest. The message we must learn from today’s gospel comes across without any ambiguity or doubt: we must always be ready to face our judgement for we know not the day nor the hour when we will be called from this life. When or how this world will end is of no great importance to us; what is important is that we shall leave this world very soon and our eternity will depend on the state of our consciences at the moment of our departure.

This is the steadying thought the Church, in her wisdom, wishes to put before our minds today. We all know that we must die someday. We are strangers and pilgrims on this earth; we have not here a lasting city, as St. Augustine says. No sane person among us will try to deny this and yet, many of us are so immersed in the things of this world that we forget or try to forget that we must leave this world soon. This is very natural: life is a precious gift and as our earthly life is the only one of which we have experience our every inclination is to hold on to it at all costs. Even when our intelligence tells us that it can, in spite of all our endeavors, end very soon we try to convince ourselves that that “very soon” is really in the distant future.

We have God’s word for it and the example of Christ’s resurrection to a life of glory. Let us appreciate the truth that our death on earth is not the end of life but rather the beginning of the true life that will never end. As the liturgy says in the Mass for the Dead: “Life is changed (by death) not taken away.” Our death is the doorway through which we pass into the unending life. The years on earth are a gift of God to enable us to earn the infinitely greater gift which in his loving mercy he has prepared for us from all eternity.

God in his mercy is calling on each one of us to be ready when our call comes. We can do nothing about the when or the where of that call, but we can do much about the state of our relationship with God when death comes; in fact, aided by God’s grace we can ensure that all will be well with us. We cannot avoid a sudden death, but we can avoid an unprepared death by striving always to live in peace with God. This does not mean that we must be always on our knees praying to God and that we must take no interest in the things and the joys of this world. Far from it. God wants us to use the things of this world, but to use them so that they will not hinder us on our journey.

A very practical way to see how we stand in relation to God and to the things of this world, is for each one of us to ask himself today: “How would I fare if I were called to render an account of stewardship tonight?” This is the practical question that God, through today’s readings, is asking us to put to ourselves. If, to our dismay, we find there are several things which have to be put right before facing our judge we will start right away to put them right. We may get another chance, another warning, and we may not. If we value our eternal happiness we will take this warning; we will put our books in order; we will make peace with God and our neighbors–and with God’s grace we will do all in our power to persevere in this good resolution.

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

BENEDICTUS

Judgement and Hope

It is not simply – as one might expect – God, the infinite, the unknown, the eternal, who judges. On the contrary, he has handed the judgement over to one who, as man, is our brother. It is not a stranger who judges us but he whom we know in faith. The judge will not advance to meet us as the other, but as one of us, who knows human existence from inside and has suffered. Thus over the judgment glows the dawn of hope; it is not only the day of wrath but also the second coming of our Lord. One is reminded of the mighty vision of Christ with which the Book of Revelation begins (1: 9-19): the seer sinks down as though dead before this being full of sinister power. But the Lord lays his hand on him and says to him as once in the days when they were crossing the Lake of Gennesaret in wind and storm: “Fear not, it is I” (1: 17). The Lord of all power is the Jesus whose comrade the visionary had once been in faith. The Creed’s article about the judgment transfers this very idea to our meeting with the judge of the world. On that day of fear the Christian will be allowed to see in happy wonder that he “to whom all power is given in heaven and on earth” (Mt 28: 18) was the companion in faith of his days on earth, and it is as if through the words of the Creed Jesus were already laying his hands on him and saying: Be without fear, it is I. Perhaps the problem of the intertwining of justice and mercy can be answered in no more beautiful way than that it is the idea that stands in the background of our Creed.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

The Prayer, Majestic Queen of Heaven

Majestic Queen of Heaven and Mistress of the Angels, thou didst receive from God the power and commission to crush the head of Satan; wherefore we humbly beseech thee, send forth the legions of heaven, that, under thy command, they may seek out all evil spirits, engage them everywhere in battle, curb their insolence, and hurl them back into the pit of hell!  “Who is like unto God?”

O good and tender Mother, thou shalt ever be our hope and the object of our love.

O Mother of God, send forth the holy Angels to defend me and drive far from me the cruel foe.

Holy Angels and Archangels, defend us and keep us.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1995

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Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Prayer for Trust

O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness,

Give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength.

Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power,

So that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You,

We shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will through all things.

We ask this in your holy name.

Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty and merciful God,

graciously keep from us all adversity,

so that, unhindered in mind and body alike,

we may pursue in freedom of heart

the things that are yours.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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1 Kgs 17:10-16

In those days, Elijah the prophet went to Zarephath.

As he arrived at the entrance of the city,

a widow was gathering sticks there; he called out to her,

“Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink.”

She left to get it, and he called out after her,

“Please bring along a bit of bread.”

She answered, “As the LORD, your God, lives,

I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar

and a little oil in my jug.

Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks,

to go in and prepare something for myself and my son;

when we have eaten it, we shall die.”

Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid.

Go and do as you propose.

But first make me a little cake and bring it to me.

Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son.

For the LORD, the God of Israel, says,

‘The jar of flour shall not go empty,

nor the jug of oil run dry,

until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth.'”

She left and did as Elijah had said.

She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well;

the jar of flour did not go empty,

nor the jug of oil run dry,

as the LORD had foretold through Elijah.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2583 After Elijah had learned mercy during his retreat at the Wadi Cherith, he teaches the widow of Zarephath to believe in The Word of God and confirms her faith by his urgent prayer: God brings the widow’s child back to life.1

The sacrifice on Mount Carmel is a decisive test for the faith of the People of God. In response to Elijah’s plea, “Answer me, O LORD, answer me,” the Lord’s fire consumes the holocaust, at the time of the evening oblation. The Eastern liturgies repeat Elijah’s plea in the Eucharistic epiclesis.

Finally, taking the desert road that leads to the place where the living and true God reveals himself to his people, Elijah, like Moses before him, hides “in a cleft of he rock” until the mysterious presence of God has passed by.2 But only on the mountain of the Transfiguration will Moses and Elijah behold the unveiled face of him whom they sought; “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God [shines] in the face of Christ,” crucified and risen.3

1 Cf. 1 Kings 17:7-24.

2 Cf. 1 Kings 19:1-14; cf. Ex 33:19-23.

3 2 Cor 4:6; cf. Lk 9:30-35.

APPLICATION

“Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and, anyone who welcomes a holy man because he is a holy man will have a holy man’s reward. If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward” (Mt. 10: 41-42). These are the words of Christ, the Son of God, when recommending his poor disciples to the charity of the people. Doubtless his mention of prophet and the cup of cold water, would recall to the minds of his hearers the story of Elijah and the kind-hearted widow of Zarephath. Elijah was one of the most popular and best-remembered prophets of the Old Testament. On another occasion (Lk. 4: 25), our Lord reminded his doubting hearers in his home-town of Nazareth how God sent Elijah to this good widow of Sidon, who was not one of the Chosen People, although there were many widows in Israel then in need of help but unworthy of it. They would not have shared their last morsel of bread with a stranger even though he was God’s representative.

The lesson of today’s reading–reemphasized as it is by our divine Lord’s own word–is clear for us. We must be charitable towards a needy neighbor, not only when we have some superfluous goods which we can give away, but even when we have only the bare essentials for ourselves. We are expected to share these with one who has not even that little. But is not this demanding too much of us? Can Christian charity command us to shorten our own lives in order to prolong those of a needy neighbor for a few days or weeks? The answer is very clearly “yes”: we must be ready not only to risk our own lives in order to save that of a neighbor but we must be ready to lay down our lives willingly, if needs be, to save a neighbor. “Greater love than this no man has, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15: 13); this is the ultimate in Christian charity, our Lord tells us. He put it into practice for us and he expects us to be willing to imitate him should the need arise.

We are grateful to God that Christ has had followers who fulfilled his command to the letter. They gave their lives to save others. Their noble sacrifice not only earned eternal life for them, but inspired many with a new love for God and neighbor. While making this earth a better place in which to live, it put heaven within the reach of many who would otherwise not have attained it. Most of us will never have the privilege of being called on to make the supreme sacrifice for our neighbor’s sake–but we are all called on to sacrifice some of our possessions to help a neighbor in need. Today’s story emphasizes that we must be ready to share even our scanty means with one in greater need. It also adds that God will not let such charity go unrecorded. The widow of Zarephath and her son could have had one last modest meal before they died of the famine, but her generosity made her share even that little with a stranger. She was rewarded: the little supply she had never diminished and she lived in frugal comfort all through the famine. God can never be outdone in generosity. All we have and all that we are we owe to his kindness. If we show our willingness to share with those who are in want, he will not forget our charity–he will not see us in want.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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

Praise the Lord, my soul!

The LORD keeps faith forever,

secures justice for the oppressed,

gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets captives free.

Praise the Lord, my soul!

The LORD gives sight to the blind.

The LORD raises up those who were bowed down;

the LORD loves the just.

The LORD protects strangers.

Praise the Lord, my soul!

The fatherless and the widow he sustains,

but the way of the wicked he thwarts.

The LORD shall reign forever;

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

Praise the Lord, my soul!

READING II

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Heb 9:24-28

Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands,

a copy of the true one, but heaven itself,

that he might now appear before God on our behalf.

Not that he might offer himself repeatedly,

as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary

with blood that is not his own;

if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly

from the foundation of the world.

But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages

to take away sin by his sacrifice.

Just as it is appointed that human beings die once,

and after this the judgment, so also Christ,

offered once to take away the sins of many,

will appear a second time, not to take away sin

but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1544 Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, the “one mediator between God and men.”1 The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, “priest of God Most High,” as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique “high priest after the order of Melchizedek”;2 “holy, blameless, unstained,”3 “by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified,”4 that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross.

1 2 Tim 2:5.

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

3 Heb 7:26.

4 Heb 10:14.

APPLICATION

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is evidently writing to Jews who had become followers of Christ. Again and again he stressed the superiority of the Christian religion over that of the Old Testament which they had left. The Jewish high priesthood, appointed by God through Moses, was one held in great esteem and importance all through Old Testament times, but especially after the return from Babylon–when the high priest became their political as well as their religious leader. It was the high priest who regulated all the services of the Jerusalem temple. On their great annual Day of Atonement, he alone could offer sacrifice for the sins of the people and for his own sins. On that day, he alone could enter the holy of holies–the inner sanctuary of the temple in which were kept the tables of the commandments in the Ark of the Covenant. This Ark was called God’s throne on earth. The Ark was missing from the inner sanctuary since before the destruction of the temple by the Babylonians (587 B.C.), because the prophet Jeremiah hid it in a cave on Mount Nebo according to 2 Mc. 2: 4-8. The high priest, however, still carried out the ritual of the Day of Atonement. He entered the holy of holies and sprinkled the blood of the sacrifices where the Ark used to rest. This ritual was repeated each year.

The author of Hebrews says that Christ, our high priest, was superior in every way to the Jewish high priest, important though he was in the eyes of religious Jews. Christ did not have to repeat his sacrifice annually, his offering of himself as atonement for the sins of the whole world, of Jews and Gentiles, sufficed once for all. His sacrifice, unlike the temple sacrifices, was of infinite value. It was not the blood of goats and oxen that Christ offered to his Father, but the sacred blood of his body which he, the Son of God, assumed in order to become one of us and to be able to die for us. It was not into the inner sanctuary of the Jerusalem temple that Christ sent his precious offering, but into the real holy of holies, the eternal throne of his Father in heaven.

Therefore, there is no real comparison between the Jewish high priesthood and the real effective priesthood of Christ. Any effectiveness which the intermediation of the Jewish high priest had, or any value which the temple sacrifices could claim, came to the Chosen People from God’s loving mercy which had the incarnation in view. They were types and the shadows of the real intercession, the real sacrifice which God’s Son would offer not only for the Chosen People of old but for all mankind and for all time.

Do we Christians really appreciate the favors and the blessings God showered on us by sending his divine Son in human nature? By the fact of the incarnation we became brothers of Christ and adopted sons of God. This was the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan for mankind. In the meantime sin had entered our world. To atone for the sins of the world the incarnate Son of God willingly accepted to undergo his passion and death by crucifixion so that his heavenly Father would remit the spiritual death our sins merited. Thus we would be able to share in the eternal inheritance which the incarnation won for us.

Do we really appreciate the greatness of God’s love for us in planning this eternal future happiness for us and at such cost–the humiliation, sufferings and death of his only-begotten Son? With a future such as this, could we be so foolish as to let anything or any person on this earth come between us and the eternal crown God has prepared for us? Let St. Paul, the man who loved God with every fiber of his being, and gladly spent his life to bring the knowledge of God’s love for us to all the world, answer for us: “I consider that the sufferings of this life are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us . . . If God is for us who is against us? He did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecutions or famine or nakedness or peril or sword . . . nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rm. 8 :18 ff).

St. Paul is in heaven. We shall be there too if we follow his advice.

GOSPEL

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Mk 12:38-44

In the course of his teaching Jesus said to the crowds,

“Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes

and accept greetings in the marketplaces,

seats of honor in synagogues,

and places of honor at banquets.

They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext

recite lengthy prayers.

They will receive a very severe condemnation.”

He sat down opposite the treasury

and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.

Many rich people put in large sums.

A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.

Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them,

“Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more

than all the other contributors to the treasury.

For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth,

but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had,

her whole livelihood.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 678 Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment of the Last Day in his preaching.1 Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light.2 Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God’s grace as nothing be condemned.3 Our attitude to our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love.4 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.”5

CCC 2444 “The Church’s love for the poor… is a part of her constant tradition.” This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor.6 Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to “be able to give to those in need.”7 It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty.8

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

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

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

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

5 Mt 25:40.

6 CA 57; cf. Lk 6:20-22, Mt 8:20; Mk 12:41-44.

7 Eph 4:28.

8 Cf. CA 57.

APPLICATION

Our Lord’s severe condemnation of those Scribes whose exaggerated opinion of their own importance made a mockery of the religion they professed to live, is a serious warning to all his followers not to look for the praise and esteem of their neighbors when doing their good works, but rather to hope for God’s praise and esteem in the future world. In another context, he said to his followers: “Because of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven . . . when you give alms do not let your left hand know what your right is doing . . . and your Father who sees in secret will reward you . . . when you pray go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father . . . who sees in secret and will reward you” (Mt. 6: 1-6).

It is hardly necessary to say that our Lord is not referring to community prayers or services here. What he is condemning is the hypocrisy of the Scribes, who lengthened their garments and their prayers not in order to give glory to God but to earn the glory of their fellowmen for themselves. Pride was their predominant vice–the vice which caused the fall of angels and of man. It so governed their lives that even their best actions were vitiated by it. There is a strong inclination to pride in every one of us. The reason is that we have great gifts from God and great capabilities; but we are tempted to claim the credit for these gifts and capabilities for ourselves–whereas we owe them all to God’s generosity.

A proud Christian is surely a contradiction in terms. A Christian is a follower of Christ whose humility can never be equaled. He was God as well as man. While on earth he emptied himself, as St. Paul puts it, of his divine glory so that he could be like one of us. A follower of Christ should not try to make display of gifts which are not his own, nor try to exalt himself above his neighbor because of something he has which was not given to his neighbor. If Christ wanted to be, and indeed was like the least one among us, we must never try to raise ourselves above our neighbor. Love of neighbor is the second of the two essential commandments–there can be no true love of neighbor where there is pride.

The second incident in today’s Gospel story highlights true humility and true charity. The poor widow, forgetful of herself and of her own needs gave her all, her last penny, to help others who were in need. She made this sacrifice without publicity and without seeking the praise of her neighbors. It is this deep contrast between her outlook on life and on religion, and that of the Scribes in the first that connects the two incidents. While the Scribes sought to earn the respect and praise of their fellow-Jews–as well as all the financial gain they could come by–from the practice of the externals of their religion, this poor widow’s religion was practiced in secret and it was to God alone that she looked for any reward that he might deign to give her.

As we saw in today’s first reading: we can be sure that she was not left without the reward she deserved. The widow of Zarephath was given a temporal reward. The same generous God did not let the similar act of supreme generosity on the part of the widow in Jerusalem go unnoticed. Christ’s judgment on the Scribes implies this: They will receive the greater condemnation for their pride, and abuse of religion for their own temporal gain. On the other hand the widow’s religion was an act of complete self-renunciation: “she has put in everything she had, her whole living.”

We may never be called on to share our last morsel with a starving neighbor but if we are, we must remember that Christ gave his very life for us and has asked us to do likewise, if necessary. It may never be necessary for us to make this supreme act of self-renunciation. If, however, we are sincerely practicing our religion, we must be ever-ready to help a neighbor in need even if this cuts into our hard-earned reserves. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward.

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

BENEDICTUS

Suffering and Love

Pain is a part of being human. Anyone who really wanted to get rid of suffering would have to get rid of love before anything else, because there can be no love without suffering, because it always demands an element of self-sacrifice, because, given temperamental differences and the drama of situations, it will always bring with ti renunciation and pain. When we know that the way of love – this exodus, this going out of oneself – is the true way by which man becomes human, then we also understand that suffering is the process through which we mature. Anyone who has inwardly accepted suffering becomes more mature and more understanding of others, becomes more human. Anyone who has consistently avoided suffering does not understand other people; he becomes hard and selfish… If we say that suffering is the inner side of love, we then also understand why it is so important to learn how to suffer – and why, conversely, the avoidance of suffering renders someone unfit to cope with life. He would be left with an existential emptiness, which could then only be combined with bitterness, with rejection, and no longer with any inner acceptance or progress toward maturity.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

A Prayer for the Virtue of Humility

Lord Jesus, when You walked the earth,

Your humility obscured Your Kingship.

Your meekness confused the arrogant,

Hindering them from grasping Your purpose,

Your nobleness attending to the destitute.

Teach me to model after Your eminence,

To subject my human nature to humility.

Grant me a natural inclination

To never view myself greater than anyone.

Banish all lingering sparks of self-importance

That could elevate me greater than You.

Let my heart always imitate Your humility.

We ask this through your most holy name,

Lord Jesus Christ, King of all salvation.

Amen.

Here is a special gift!

http://www.vatican.va/various/cappelle/sistina_vr/

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Posted in Catholic

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, 

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

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Act of Love

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

Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty and merciful God,

by whose gift your faithful offer you

right and praiseworthy service,

grant, we pray,

that we may hasten without stumbling

to receive the things you have promised.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Dt 6:2-6

Moses spoke to the people, saying:

“Fear the LORD, your God,

and keep, throughout the days of your lives,

all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you,

and thus have long life.

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

that you may grow and prosper the more,

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

to give you a land flowing with milk and honey.

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

Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God,

with all your heart,

and with all your soul,

and with all your strength.

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Dt 6:45.

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

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

4 Mt 11:29; Jn 14:6.

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

6 Jn 15:12.

7 Cf. Mk 8:34.

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

9 Gal 3:24.

10 Cf. Rom 3:20.

11 Mt 22:36.

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

13 Rom 13:9-10.

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

15 Deut 6:4.

16 Cf. Deut 6:4-5.

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

18 Rom 13:8-10.

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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

I love you, Lord, my strength.

I love you, O LORD, my strength,

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

I love you, Lord, my strength.

My God, my rock of refuge,

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

Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,

and I am safe from my enemies.

I love you, Lord, my strength.

The LORD lives! And blessed be my rock!

Extolled be God my savior.

You who gave great victories to your king

and showed kindness to your anointed.

I love you, Lord, my strength.

READING II

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Heb 7:23-28

Brothers and sisters:

The levitical priests were many

because they were prevented by death from remaining in office,

but Jesus, because he remains forever,

has a priesthood that does not pass away.

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

since he lives forever to make intercession for them.

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

holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners,

higher than the heavens.

He has no need, as did the high priests,

to offer sacrifice day after day,

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

he did that once for all when he offered himself.

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

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

appoints a son,

who has been made perfect forever.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 John Paul II, RH II.

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

3 I Jn 2:1 Heb 7:25.

4 Heb 9:24.

5 Jn 12:32.

6 Heb 9:24.

7 Heb 7:25.

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

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

10 Cf. 1 Jn 1:8-10.

11 Cf. Mt 13:24-30.

12 Paul VI, CPG § 19.

13 Cf. LG 40; 48-51.

14 John Paul II, CL 16,3.

15 CL 17, 3.

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

17 Cf. Heb 7:25-27.

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

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

20 Cf. Mal 2:7-9.

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

22 2 Tim 2:5.

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

24 Heb 7:26.

25 Heb 10:14.

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

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

28 Heb 7:25.

29 Rom 8:26-27.

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

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

GOSPEL

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Mk 12:28b-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,

“Which is the first of all the commandments?”

Jesus replied, “The first is this:

Hear, O Israel!

The Lord our God is Lord alone!

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

with all your soul,

with all your mind,

and with all your strength.

The second is this:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

There is no other commandment greater than these.”

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

You are right in saying,

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

And ‘to love him with all your heart,

with all your understanding,

with all your strength,

and to love your neighbor as yourself’

is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,

he said to him,

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

And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Cf. Mk 12:29-31

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

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

4 Mk 12:29-30

5 Cf. Mk 12:35-37.

6 Lateran Council IV: DS 800.

7 Lk 2:34.

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

9 Jn 7:48-49.

10 Cf Lk 13:31.

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

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

13 Cf. Mt 6:18.

14 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.

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

16 Rom 13:8-10.

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

BENEDICTUS

How Love is Possible

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

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Thank You God!

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

Amen.

 

Posted in Catholic

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Prayer to Discover and Follow my Vocation

My Lord and my God, you are Love itself, and the source of all love and goodness. Out of love you created me to know you, love you, and serve you in a unique way, as no one else can. I believe that you have a plan for my life, that you have a task in your Kingdom reserved just for me. Your plan and your task are far better than any other I might choose: they will glorify you, fulfill the desires of my heart, and save those souls who are depending on my generous response.

Lord, grant me the light I need to see the next step in that plan; grant me the generosity I need to set aside my own plans in favor of yours; and grant me the strength I need to put my hands to your plough and never turn back. You know me better than I know myself, so you know that I am sinful and weak. All the more reason that I need your grace to uphold the good desires of my heart, O Lord!

Show me your will for me, O gentle and eternal God, and help me to say with Mary, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word,” and to say with Jesus, “Let not my will be done, but yours.”  Amen.

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COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

increase our faith, hope and charity,

and make us love what you command,

so that we may merit what you promise.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Jer 31:7-9

Thus says the LORD:

Shout with joy for Jacob,

exult at the head of the nations;

proclaim your praise and say:

The LORD has delivered his people,

the remnant of Israel.

Behold, I will bring them back

from the land of the north;

I will gather them from the ends of the world,

with the blind and the lame in their midst,

the mothers and those with child;

they shall return as an immense throng.

They departed in tears,

but I will console them and guide them;

I will lead them to brooks of water,

on a level road, so that none shall stumble.

For I am a father to Israel,

Ephraim is my first-born.

APPLICATION

While granting that the prophet uses some hyperbole in his description of the return of the “remnant” of Israel, as he also does in describing the return of Judah in the following chapters, the fact that God did forgive and bring back such unworthy children is proof beyond compare of his infinite mercy and love. His Chosen People in both the northern and southern kingdom (Israel and Judah) had insulted and betrayed him for centuries, before he allowed the pagan nations they imitated to take them into captivity. They were the very people to whom he had been a kind father for centuries. He had brought them out of Egypt, set them up in Canaan–a country he gave them to be their own, had protected them again and again from aggressive enemies, yet these ungrateful ones forgot all this and abandoned the living God for idols of wood and stone. For generations he tolerated their apostasy; he sent his prophets to recall them to their senses, but in vain; finally, as a last resort, he allowed both kingdoms to be overrun by pagan powers who took his people as slaves into exile.

Although his Chosen People had abandoned him, he did not abandon them. He watched over them in exile and when he found that their exile had wrought a change of heart in some of his rebellious children, he brought them back to their homeland where once more they could be his elected ones. There in the Promised Land of Canaan they remained until the time was ripe for the sending of his divine Son on earth–in the human nature which he was to take from these same Chosen People, as he had promised to Abraham and his descendants.

This prophecy of Jeremiah, then, foretelling the return of a remnant of the Chosen People from exile is not merely a bit of Bible history which we should learn, it is a reminder to us Christians that God was thinking of us and preparing the way for our salvation centuries before Christ came on earth. According to God’s long-standing promise: the Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham, a son of David; he would be born in Bethlehem. But if some of the Chosen People had not been brought back from exile this could not have happened. Thus this return of the exiles, foretold by Jeremiah and later effected by God, was his preparation for the sending of Christ among us to be our Savior.

The first lesson we must learn from this bit of Bible history is, that God was planning for us and thinking of us from all eternity. We are not mere blobs of humanity groping our way in the dark on earth; we are individual human beings, very important in the eyes of God; individuals for whom he has planned a happiness, and he has been planning it from all eternity. The eighteen centuries of God’s dealings with his Chosen People, as described in the Old Testament, are but a short chapter of the history of God’s planning for our eternal happiness. However, it is a short chapter from which we can learn so much of his loving concern for us. If God has thought and planned for so long for our eternal happiness, surely we should be self-interested enough to make this, our eternal happiness, the governing thought of our short lives.

We, Christians, can surely “sing with gladness” today, as the prophet tells us, for the merciful and loving God has saved us. He has put us on the straight path to heaven, on a path made smooth and easy by the life, death and resurrection of his beloved Son whom he sent to lead us back to our merciful Father.

There is a second lesson for all of us in this prophecy of Jeremiah. It is: God’s mercy is without limit and he is ready to bestow it on us at the first sign we give him that we need it. Most of us have offended God and perhaps deserted him for long periods. Like the Chosen People, we did not appreciate all he had done and was doing for us. We were unfaithful to him and went after worldly idols perhaps, getting ourselves swamped in worldly ambitions and pleasures. But we are dealing with the same God of infinite mercy and forgiveness who brought back the unworthy Chosen People from the exile that their sins had brought on them. Can we have any doubt that he will bring us, too, back from that self-induced exile which our sins imposed on us? He is waiting for our word of petition, our humble request for forgiveness to take us back to his fatherly bosom. In fact, he is sending out his fatherly appeals to us to return to the path of virtue. He is sending them in many ways and guises, telling us that he is still our Father–that we are his first-born. Today’s reading is one of these loving calls. There may be other calls for us but there may not; let us not ignore this one–our eternal future depends on our response.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

 Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,

we were like men dreaming.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

and our tongue with rejoicing.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us;

we are glad indeed.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the torrents in the southern desert.

Those that sow in tears

shall reap rejoicing.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Although they go forth weeping,

carrying the seed to be sown,

They shall come back rejoicing,

carrying their sheaves.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

READING II

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Heb 5:1-6

Brothers and sisters:

Every high priest is taken from among men

and made their representative before God,

to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.

He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring,

for he himself is beset by weakness

and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself

as well as for the people.

No one takes this honor upon himself

but only when called by God,

just as Aaron was.

In the same way,

it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest,

but rather the one who said to him:

You are my son:

this day I have begotten you;

just as he says in another place:

You are a priest forever

according to the order of Melchizedek.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 784 On entering the People of God through faith and Baptism, one receives a share in this people’s unique, priestly vocation: “Christ the Lord, high priest taken from among men, has made this new people ‘a kingdom of priests to God, his Father.’ The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood.”1

CCC 1537 The word order in Roman antiquity designated an established civil body, especially a governing body. Ordinatio means incorporation into an ordo. In the Church there are established bodies which Tradition, not without a basis in Sacred Scripture,2 has since ancient times called taxeis (Greek) or ordines. And so the liturgy speaks of the ordo episcoporum, the ordo presbyterorum, the ordo diaconorum. Other groups also receive this name of ordo: catechumens, virgins, spouses, widows,…

CCC 1539 The chosen people was constituted by God as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”3 But within the people of Israel, God chose one of the twelve tribes, that of Levi, and set it apart for liturgical service; God himself is its inheritance.4 A special rite consecrated the beginnings of the priesthood of the Old Covenant. The priests are “appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”5

CCC 1540 Instituted to proclaim the Word of God and to restore communion with God by sacrifices and prayer,6 this priesthood nevertheless remains powerless to bring about salvation, needing to repeat its sacrifices ceaselessly and being unable to achieve a definitive sanctification, which only the sacrifice of Christ would accomplish.7

CCC 1564 “Whilst not having the supreme degree of the pontifical office, and notwithstanding the fact that they depend on the bishops in the exercise of their own proper power, the priests are for all that associated with them by reason of their sacerdotal dignity; and in virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, after the image of Christ, the supreme and eternal priest, they are consecrated in order to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful as well as to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Testament.”8

CCC 1578 No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed no one claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God.9 Anyone who thinks he recognizes the signs of God’s call to the ordained ministry must humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church, who has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive orders. Like every grace this sacrament can be received only as an unmerited gift.

1 LG 10; Cf. Heb 5:1-5; Rev 1:6.

2 Cf. Heb 5:6; 7:11; Ps 110:4.

3 Ex 19:6; cf. Isa 61:6.

4 Cf. Num 1:48-53; Josh 13:33.

5 Heb 5:1; cf. Ex 29:1-30; Lev 8.

6 Cf. Mal 2:7-9.

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

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

9 Cf. Heb 5:4.

APPLICATION

Through the incarnation of his divine Son, God has given us a High Priest who offered, once and for all, his own body on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. He entered the real holy of holies on our great day of atonement and will remain there as our intermediary with the Father until the last man has been saved. It is of this basic truth of our Christian faith that the Epistle to the Hebrews reminds us today. As the author was writing to Judaeo-Christians, who knew the Jewish cultic regulations of the temple in Jerusalem, he uses terms connected with the temple cult to bring home to his readers the full meaning that the death and glorification of Christ have for them.

It was God himself who appointed Aaron, Moses’ mouthpiece, to be the first high priest to have charge of the services of the Tent of the Meeting, when the Israelites fled from Egypt. His eldest son was to succeed him as high priest, and his other sons were also priests. This was to continue down through the ages. The high priest was the intermediary between the Chosen People and God. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, he offered the sacrifice which made atonement for all the sins of the people. The high priest, therefore, had a very special place–the most important religious position–in the Jewish community. The Jewish converts to Christianity would understand very well what the author of this epistle meant when he called Christ our High Priest, appointed by God to make atonement for all the sins of the world. They already knew how this atonement was made. They knew who this high priest was–the Son of God who took human nature in which he could make this sacrifice which was of infinite value, and surpassed all the sacrifices offered by all the high priests of Jewish history. They knew that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was for all men–not for the Jews alone, but for each and every member of the human race for all time.

We, Christians of the 20th century, know all of this as did the Christians of the seventies of the 1st century. We know God has planned from all eternity to give us a place in heaven when we die. We know the humiliations and sufferings his divine Son endured so that we could be made worthy of this honor, and therefore we should know how important it is that we do the little expected of us in order to fulfill God’s plan for us. Yet, there are many Christians today who are so entangled in the passing things of this world that they have no time or inclination to look to their eternal future. They live and act in this world as if it were to be their eternal world, and have no thought or time to prepare themselves for the future home which God has planned for them.

There will be a rude awakening when they are called to judgment. When they realize what they have lost, and when they look back on the follies and foibles on which they spent their days on earth, how they will despise themselves! Today, out of true Christian charity, let us pray that such deluded Christians will be very few in number.

GOSPEL

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Mk 10:46 52

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd,

Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,

sat by the roadside begging.

On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth,

he began to cry out and say,

“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”

And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.

But he kept calling out all the more,

“Son of David, have pity on me.”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called the blind man, saying to him,

“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”

He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.

Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”

The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”

Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”

Immediately he received his sight

and followed him on the way.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 548 The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him.1 To those who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask.2 So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father’s works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God.3 But his miracles can also be occasions for “offence”;4 they are not intended to satisfy people’s curiosity or desire for magic Despite his evident miracles some people reject Jesus; he is even accused of acting by the power of demons.5

CCC 2616 Prayer to Jesus is answered by him already during his ministry, through signs that anticipate the power of his death and Resurrection: Jesus hears the prayer of faith, expressed in words (the leper, Jairus, the Canaanite woman, the good thief)6 or in silence (the bearers of the paralytic, the woman with a hemorrhage who touches his clothes, the tears and ointment of the sinful woman).7 The urgent request of the blind men, “Have mercy on us, Son of David” or “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” has-been renewed in the traditional prayer to Jesus known as the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”8 Healing infirmities or forgiving sins, Jesus always responds to a prayer offered in faith: “Your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

St. Augustine wonderfully summarizes the three dimensions of Jesus’ prayer: “He prays for us as our priest, prays in us as our Head, and is prayed to by us as our God. Therefore let us acknowledge our voice in him and his in us.”9

CCC 2667 This simple invocation of faith developed in the tradition of prayer under many forms in East and West. The most usual formulation, transmitted by the spiritual writers of the Sinai, Syria, and Mt. Athos, is the invocation, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners.” It combines the Christological hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 with the cry of the publican and the blind men begging for light.10 By it the heart is opened to human wretchedness and the Savior’s mercy.

1 cf. Jn 5:36; 10:25, 38.

2 Cf. Mk 5:25-34; 10:52; etc.

3 Cf. Jn 10:31-38.

4 Mt 11:6.

5 Cf. Jn 11:47-48; Mk 3:22.

6 Cf. Mk 1:40-41; 5:36; 7:29; Cf. Lk 23:39-43.

7 Cf. Mk 25; 5:28; Lk 7:37-38.

8 Mt 9:27, Mk 10:48.

9 St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 85, 1: PL 37, 1081; cf. GILH 7.

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

APPLICATION

This blind man of Jericho was one of the very lucky men in the gospel story. He got the last chance of appealing in person to Jesus for the gift of his eyesight. He used that chance in spite of opposition, his faith and trust in Jesus were so strong that nobody could stop him from expressing them. He made his request while proclaiming his faith. He got, not only what he asked–the physical gift, but a spiritual insight was added as well and he became a faithful follower of Christ.

Our Lord had passed through Jericho a few times during his public ministry. Jericho was on the route from Galilee to Jerusalem. Bartimaeus was very probably sitting on the roadside begging for alms on these occasions also, but influenced by the lack of interest of his fellow-citizens he, too, had no time for all this talk about a Messiah and a miracle-worker. In any case, it was only on the occasion of Christ’s last journey through Jericho that his faith moved him to appeal aloud for help from the one and only person whom he was convinced could grant him his request. His appeal was heard.

There is a deep spiritual lesson for all of us in today’s gospel story. Like Bartimaeus, many of us have been sitting by the roadside for years, not moving a foot toward our eternal destination. We have been blind to our true interests; our sole preoccupation seems to be to collect the paltry alms that this world would deign to drop in our laps. But we are even more to be pitied than Bartimaeus–he knew that he was blind; we are not aware of our spiritual blindness–we think everything in the garden is rosy and colorful when we see only the colors we want to see and are blind to the things that really matter.

We said above that it is probable that Bartimaeus ignored the passing-by of Jesus on earlier occasions; it is certain that in, our case we have ignored the presence of Jesus in the many reminders he has sent us up to now. That parish retreat we did not attend; that sudden death of a close friend; that illness of a near relative; that car accident from which we miraculously escaped; these and many other incidents are examples of the many times our loving Lord passed close to us–ready to cure our spiritual blindness; but we did not see him.

It is possible that our Lord saw Bartimaeus sitting by the roadside on his earlier journeys through Jericho. Perhaps he could not help him, for the blind man was engaged in collecting alms with no thought for the greater gift–the return of his eyesight. It is certain that our Lord has often been near to us, anxious to give us back our spiritual vision. But like Bartimaeus, we were so busy gathering up this world’s paltry donations that we did not even think of the far greater grace we needed.

In the twenty centuries of our Christian history there have been some who have deliberately shut the eyes of their minds to the many calls to repentance which Jesus sent. This is a danger and a fatal mistake we can all avoid if we learn today’s gospel message. This story of the blind man of Jericho was not inspired and preserved for some literary reason, but as an instruction for us. It is read to us today, to make us examine our consciences and see the true state of our spiritual standing in the eyes of God. Are we steadily moving on toward heaven, carrying out daily duties to God and to our neighbor, bearing life’s crosses cheerfully–knowing that they come to us from a loving Father as part of our training for heaven? Or are we sitting idly by the roadside, engrossed and enmeshed in the affairs of this world, oblivious of our real purpose in life and turning deaf ears and blind eyes to all the danger signals that Christ our Savior regularly is sending out to us?

For some among us today this may be Christ’s last call. Will we be so utterly disinterested in our own eternal welfare as to ignore it? For all of us it is a call to put our house in order. We may not have been sitting by the roadside, but have we been keeping faithfully to the road to heaven–marked out for us by our Christian faith? Let us all call on Jesus, son of David and Son of God today, to give us the grace to see ourselves as we are–and then to see ourselves as, we ought to be. “Master, let me receive my sight.”

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

BENEDICTUS

We are Meant to Rely on Receiving

Man is redeemed by the cross; the crucified Christ, as the completely opened being, as the true redemption of man – this is the central principle of Christian faith…  in the last analysis of man, it expresses the primacy of acceptance over action, over ones own achievement…  Accordingly, from the point of view of the Christian faith, man comes in the profoundest sense to himself not through what he does but through what he accepts.  He must wait for the gift of love, and love can only be received as a gift.  It cannot be “made” on one’s own, without anyone else; one must wait for it, let it be given to one.  And one cannot become wholly man in any other way than by being loved, by letting oneself be loved.  That love represents simultaneously both man’s highest possibility and his deepest need, and that this most necessary thing is at the same time the freest and the most unenforceable means precisely that for his “salvation” man is meant to rely on receiving.  If he declines to let himself be presented with the gift, then he destroys himself.  Activity that makes itself into an absolute, that aims at achieving humanity by its own efforts alone, is in contradiction with man’s being…  The primacy of acceptance is not intended to condemn man to passivity; it does not mean that man can now sit idle.  On the contrary, it alone makes it possible to do the things of this world in a spirit of responsibility, yet at the same time in an uncramped, cheerful, free way, and to put at them at the service of redemptive love.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

For Healing

Lord, You invite all who are burdened to come to You.

Allow your healing hand to heal me.

Touch my soul with Your compassion for others.

Touch my heart with Your courage and infinite love for all.

Touch my mind with Your wisdom, that my mouth may always proclaim Your praise. Teach me to reach out to You in my need, and help me to lead others to You by my example.

Most loving Heart of Jesus, bring me health in body and spirit that I may serve You with all my strength.

Touch gently this life which You have created, now and forever. Amen.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=75

Posted in Catholic

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

 

Deposition_of_Christ_from_the_Cross_St_Stephens__52993.1435101149.1000.1200_grande.jpeg

“Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;

whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Supplication of Christ in Agony (Ps 143: 1-10)

Hear my prayer, O God, give ear to my supplications! In your faithfulness answer me,in your righteousness! Enter not into judgment with your servant for no one living is righteous before you.

For the enemy has pursued me, has crushed my life to the ground, and has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. I remember the days of old, I meditate on all that you have done; I muse on what your hands have wrought, I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

Make haste to answer me, O God, My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the Pit, Let me hear in the mourning of your steadfast love, for in you I put my trust.

Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Deliver me, O God, from my enemies.

I have fled to you for refuge.

Teach me to do your will for you are my God!

Let your good spirit lead me on a level path!

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

Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

grant that we may always conform our will to yours

and serve your majesty in sincerity of heart.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Is 53:10-11

The LORD was pleased

to crush him in infirmity.

If he gives his life as an offering for sin,

he shall see his descendants in a long life,

and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.

Because of his affliction

he shall see the light in fullness of days;

through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,

and their guilt he shall bear.

APPLICATION

The lesson to be learned from these two verses of second-Isaiah (it would be well to read the entire prophecy, or Fourth Servant Oracle as it is called, in Is. 52: 13-53 : 12), is that God in his extraordinary, infinite love for us men and for our salvation, decreed that his divine Son in his assumed human nature, should suffer torture and death so that we might live eternally. The leaders of the Jews plotted his death, and forced the Roman authorities to condemn him to the shameful death of crucifixion, but this was all in God’s plan for us before he created the world. Christ, the Son of God, knew this all along; he tried to prepare his disciples for the shock his death and sufferings would cause them by foretelling on three distinct occasions, that he would suffer and be put to death, but that he would triumph over death and rise again (see Mk. 8: 31-33; 9: 30-32; 10: 32-34). In the garden of Gethsemane, as his hour drew near, he suffered agony because his human nature shrank from the tortures which he vividly foresaw; nevertheless he accepted what his Father had planned and humbly and submissively said: “yet not what I will but what thou wilt ” (Mk. 14: 36).

That Christ our Lord was the suffering obedient Servant foretold by the prophet is evident from the gospel story. He was “rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering . . . yet ours were the sufferings he bore, our sorrows he carried . . . he was crushed for our sins . . . We had all gone astray like sheep . . . Yahweh burdened him with the sins of us all . . . like a lamb that is led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers, never opening his mouth” (Is. 53: 3-7). This prophecy had its literal fulfillment in Christ. This is testified by all four gospels. It is not so much the fact that one might be tempted to question, but rather the reason, the necessity, why it had to be thus. Could not God have found other ways of bringing men to heaven without subjecting his divine Son to humiliations and sufferings?

God alone has the full and satisfying answer to this question, and part of our joy in heaven will be to learn the answers to this and to other theological questions which trouble us on earth. Both the Old and New Testaments indicate at least a partial answer to this particular question: when they tell us this was an effect of God’s infinite love for us. We, of course, can form no adequate idea of what infinite love is and does. But even finite love, if true and meaningful, can and does go to great extremes for the sake of those loved. For instance, true patriots in all ages have never hesitated to sacrifice their lives for their country and their fellow countrymen. Their finite love was sufficient to move them to make the supreme sacrifice. God was not dealing with the preservation of a country’s freedom or its liberation from an oppressor, he was dealing with the eternal freedom and happiness of the whole human race. The task was great, the end desired was of everlasting value, the life sacrificed was God’s own Son in his human nature–but the love of God which his Son shared with him, was infinite and therefore capable of any sacrifice.

Furthermore, if we knew our own weak, lazy, human nature as well as God knows it, we would see another reason for the extraordinary manifestation of his love. The cross of Christ, the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, the cruel nails through the hands and feet, are reminders that will touch a chord even in the coldest Christian heart. With these reminders of God’s love for us many of us are still all too slow to show our appreciation of all God has done for us. How much less responsive, how much less appreciative of what eternal life is worth, would such Christians be, if God had opened heaven for them in a less impressive way?

Our Savior took human nature–an act of extreme humiliation, in order to make us his brothers and therefore sons of God. He came into a world of sin where God the Creator was practically forgotten. He told those who “had ears to hear,” of God and of his desire to give unending life in his own eternal kingdom, to all who would follow the Christian precepts. He established a society–the Church–on earth which would continue until the end of time to proclaim God’s mercy and love. He was tortured and put to the cruelest of deaths because of the opposition and hatred of some of the Jews among whom he lived. But as God, and with God his Father, he foresaw all this and in the full knowledge that he would rise again, willingly accepted it notwithstanding the agonies it would cause him. While the resurrection made his life and death a success and an eternal triumph it did not make the pains of his passion any easier.

We may not understand what infinite love is, but we cannot fail to see the glorious effects that the infinite love of God has earned for us. We are citizens of heaven. We must expect to meet some obstacles on the way–there will be troubles and trials in our lives, but one look at our crucifix should make us realize how little we are asked to suffer for our own salvation when compared with what Christ has suffered to make salvation possible.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 64 Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all, to be written on their hearts.1 The prophets proclaim a radical redemption of the People of God, purification from all their infidelities, a salvation which will include all the nations.2 Above all, the poor and humble of the Lord will bear this hope. Such holy women as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Judith and Esther kept alive the hope of Israel’s salvation. The purest figure among them is Mary.3

CCC 440 Jesus accepted Peter’s profession of faith, which acknowledged him to be the Messiah, by announcing the imminent Passion of the Son of Man.4 He unveiled the authentic content of his messianic kingship both in the transcendent identity of the Son of Man “who came down from heaven”, and in his redemptive mission as the suffering Servant: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”5 Hence the true meaning of his kingship is revealed only when he is raised high on the cross.6 Only after his Resurrection will Peter be able to proclaim Jesus’ messianic kingship to the People of God: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”7

CCC 579 This principle of integral observance of the Law not only in letter but in spirit was dear to the Pharisees. By giving Israel this principle they had led many Jews of Jesus’ time to an extreme religious zeal.8 This zeal, were it not to lapse into “hypocritical” casuistry,9 could only prepare the People for the unprecedented intervention of God through the perfect fulfillment of the Law by the only Righteous One in place of all sinners.10

CCC 601 The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of “the righteous one, my Servant” as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin.11 Citing a confession of faith that he himself had “received”, St. Paul professes that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.”12 In particular Jesus’ redemptive death fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering Servant.13 Indeed Jesus himself explained the meaning of his life and death in the light of God’s suffering Servant.14 After his Resurrection he gave this interpretation of the Scriptures to the disciples at Emmaus, and then to the apostles.15

CCC 615 “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”16 By his obedience unto death, Jesus accomplished the substitution of the suffering Servant, who “makes himself an offering for sin”, when “he bore the sin of many”, and who “shall make many to be accounted righteous”, for “he shall bear their iniquities”.17 Jesus atoned for our faults and made satisfaction for our sins to the Father.18

CCC 1502 The man of the Old Testament lives his sickness in the presence of God. It is before God that he laments his illness, and it is of God, Master of life and death, that he implores healing.19 Illness becomes a way to conversion; God’s forgiveness initiates the healing.20 It is the experience of Israel that illness is mysteriously linked to sin and evil, and that faithfulness to God according to his law restores life: “For I am the Lord, your healer.”21 The prophet intuits that suffering can also have a redemptive meaning for the sins of others.22 Finally Isaiah announces that God will usher in a time for Zion when he will pardon every offense and heal every illness.23

1 Cf. Isa 2:2-4; Jer 31:31-34; Heb 10:16.

2 Cf. Ezek 36; Isa 49:5-6; 53:11.

3 Cf. Ezek 2:3; Lk 1:38.

4 Cf. Mt 16:16-23.

5 Jn 3:13; Mt 20:28; cf. Jn 6:62; Dan 7:13; Is 53:10-12.

6 Cf. Jn 19:19-22; Lk 23:39-43.

7 Acts 2:36.

8 Cf. Rom 10:2.

9 Cf. Mt 15:31; Lk 11:39-54.

10 Cf Is 53:11; Heb 9:15.

11 Is 53:11; cf. 53:12; Jn 8 34-36; Acts 3:14.

12 1 Cor 15:3; cf. also Acts 3:18; 7:52; 13:29; 26:22-23.

13 Cf. Is 53:7-8 and Acts 8:32-35.

14 Cf. Mt 20:28.

15 Cf. Lk 24:25-27, 44-45.

16 Rom 5:19.

17 Is 53:10-12.

18 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1529.

19 Cf. Pss 6:3; 38; Isa 38.

20 Cf. Pss 32:5; 38:5; 39:9, 12; 107:20; cf. Mk 2:5-12.

21 Ex 15:26.

22 Cf. Isa 53:11.

23 Cf. Isa 33:24.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22

Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

Upright is the word of the LORD,

and all his works are trustworthy.

He loves justice and right;

of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.

Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,

upon those who hope for his kindness,

To deliver them from death

and preserve them in spite of famine.

Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

Our soul waits for the LORD,

who is our help and our shield.

May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us

who have put our hope in you.

Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

READING II

Jesus-Tree-of-Life.jpg

Heb 4:14-16

Brothers and sisters:

Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,

Jesus, the Son of God,

let us hold fast to our confession.

For we do not have a high priest

who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,

but one who has similarly been tested in every way,

yet without sin.

So let us confidently approach the throne of grace

to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

APPLICATION

We Christians are God’s chosen people of today. Compared with his Chosen People of the Old Testament, we have infinitely greater blessings and advantages. They knew of the existence of the one true and only God, the Creator of all things, and they knew he was interested in them. Although they knew that he existed they knew very little else about him, and their chief interest in him was to obtain from him all earthly blessings: health, wealth and progeny. They had only a very hazy idea of the future life or what it held for them, yet they did know they were chosen by God so that through them God would send a great blessing on all nations; somehow, sometime they would have a share in that blessing.

We Christians are indeed fortunate that we know much more about God and our real purpose in life. Through the incarnation we have learned that God loves us so much that he sent his divine Son to live among us in order to make us heirs to heaven. That divine Son of God suffered and died in his human nature in order to make perfect atonement to his Father in our behalf. This, surely, was divine love for us creatures. Not only did God make us heirs to his eternal kingdom through the incarnation, but he gave us his own divine Son to be our leader and intermediary between himself and us.

Unlike the Jews of old we know clearly what our real purpose in life is. It is not to be found on this earth, it is the eternal happiness that awaits us after death. Life on earth is but a preparation for the real life to come. This knowledge coupled with the assurance that Christ our brother is pleading for us at the throne of grace, should fill every Christian with courage and hope. Christ knows our weaknesses and should we give in to them and the temptations of life, he is ready to obtain from our Father in heaven pardon the moment we repent of our fall.

We are fortunate to have such a loving and all-powerful high priest who has entered heaven before us and is preparing a place for us. No true Christian can ever despair. God has proved how much he loves us, and how anxious he is to share his heaven with us. Christ, the Son of God, endured the humiliation of the incarnation and the sufferings and pains of his life on earth, and his cruel death on the cross, because he gladly cooperated with the Father in making us heirs of heaven.

With such an intermediary and helper how can we fail to reach our goal? With God and his divine Son on our side, who is against us?

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 784 On entering the People of God through faith and Baptism, one receives a share in this people’s unique, priestly vocation: “Christ the Lord, high priest taken from among men, has made this new people ‘a kingdom of priests to God, his Father.’ The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood.”1

CCC 1537 The word order in Roman antiquity designated an established civil body, especially a governing body. Ordinatio means incorporation into an ordo. In the Church there are established bodies which Tradition, not without a basis in Sacred Scripture,2 has since ancient times called taxeis (Greek) or ordines. And so the liturgy speaks of the ordo episcoporum, the ordo presbyterorum, the ordo diaconorum. Other groups also receive this name of ordo: catechumens, virgins, spouses, widows,…

CCC 1539 The chosen people was constituted by God as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”3 But within the people of Israel, God chose one of the twelve tribes, that of Levi, and set it apart for liturgical service; God himself is its inheritance.4 A special rite consecrated the beginnings of the priesthood of the Old Covenant. The priests are “appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”5

CCC 1540 Instituted to proclaim the Word of God and to restore communion with God by sacrifices and prayer,6 this priesthood nevertheless remains powerless to bring about salvation, needing to repeat its sacrifices ceaselessly and being unable to achieve a definitive sanctification, which only the sacrifice of Christ would accomplish.7

CCC 1564 “Whilst not having the supreme degree of the pontifical office, and notwithstanding the fact that they depend on the bishops in the exercise of their own proper power, the priests are for all that associated with them by reason of their sacerdotal dignity; and in virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, after the image of Christ, the supreme and eternal priest, they are consecrated in order to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful as well as to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Testament.”8

CCC 1578 No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed no one claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God.9 Anyone who thinks he recognizes the signs of God’s call to the ordained ministry must humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church, who has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive orders. Like every grace this sacrament can be received only as an unmerited gift.

1 LG 10; Cf. Heb 5:1-5; Rev 1:6.

2 Cf. Heb 5:6; 7:11; Ps 110:4.

3 Ex 19:6; cf. Isa 61:6.

4 Cf. Num 1:48-53; Josh 13:33.

5 Heb 5:1; cf. Ex 29:1-30; Lev 8.

6 Cf. Mal 2:7-9.

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

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

9 Cf. Heb 5:4.

GOSPEL

Crucifixion flyer.jpg

Mk 10:35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him,

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?”

They answered him, “Grant that in your glory

we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”

Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.

Can you drink the cup that I drink

or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

They said to him, “We can.”

Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink,

and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;

but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give

but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.

Jesus summoned them and said to them,

“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles

lord it over them,

and their great ones make their authority over them felt.

But it shall not be so among you.

Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;

whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.

For the Son of Man did not come to be served

but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/102118.cfm

APPLICATION

Our own natural inclination most likely would be to react like the other ten Apostles and become vexed with James and John and to tell them what we thought of their selfish worldly ambitions. However, our Lord’s gentle answer: “you do not know what you are asking” shows us that ignorance of the nature of the kingdom he was going to set up, was the cause of their very human ambitions. They, with the other Apostles, had still the common Jewish idea of the messianic kingdom. They thought the Messiah–and they were now convinced that Jesus was the promised Messiah–would set up a political kingdom in Palestine, oust the pagan Romans and eventually extend his kingdom to all nations. That this kingdom he would set up would be universal, extending to all nations, was indicated in almost all the, messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, but that this kingdom would be spiritual not political, was not grasped by most of Christ’s contemporaries including the Apostles.

Jesus, knowing that his Apostles still had this wrong idea, was gentle with James and John. He took this opportunity to tell them that he would set up a glorious kingdom but that his sufferings and death would be a necessary prelude to its establishment. He had already referred to his sufferings and death three times, but the mention fell on deaf ears. Their argument was: how could he suffer death when he has still to establish his earthly kingdom? The truth in fact was that it was by means of his sufferings and death that he would establish his glorious kingdom. He challenged the two Apostles then to know if they were willing to pay the price for a high place in his glorious kingdom: were they prepared to follow him through suffering and death? He accepted their affirmation, knowing it to be true, but told them their position of honor depended on his Father’s decision. Once they realized the nature of his glorious kingdom they would be the last to look for positions of honor in it.

While no Christian today thinks that Christ came on earth in order to make us wealthy, happy and prosperous during our few years on earth, there are, unfortunately, many Christians who are unwilling to accept Christ’s teaching that the way to heavenly glory is the way of the cross. “All this and heaven too” is their motto. It would, of course, be marvelous if all our days on earth were days of peace, happiness and prosperity to be followed by eternal happiness–when we “shuffle off this mortal coil.” But any man who has the use of reason sees that our world is inhabited by weak, sin-inclined and usually sinful mortals, himself included–weak mortals who can and do disturb the peace and harmony that could regulate our mortal lives. There are “accidents” on our roads and highways every day of the year, frequently causing death or grave injury to hundreds. The rules of the road, if kept by all, would prevent ninety-nine per cent of such accidents–the other one per cent are caused by mechanical failure. Would any man be so naive as to expect that we could have even one day free from car accidents?

Because man has a free-will he is liable to abuse it by choosing what is sinful and wrong. Most of the crosses and trials we meet in life are caused by violations–by ourselves and others–of the rules of life and the laws of charity and justice. To prevent this abuse of free-will, God would have to deprive men of that essential gift which, with his intellect, makes him a man. Likewise, we could prevent all road accidents by removing the steering wheels from cars but then we would have no cars. Let us face the fact, almost all the hardships and sufferings which we have to bear in life, are caused by the unjust and uncharitable actions of our fellowman: and even God himself, following his own wise pattern of life for men on earth, cannot prevent such evil actions.

Would God want to prevent all such injustices and all this inhumanity of man toward his fellowman? Not that he approves of it, much less causes it, but can he not have a purpose in permitting it? How would we, his children on earth, earn heaven if this world were an earthly paradise? What loving father would keep his children from school because they found it a hardship, and when they could be so happy playing at home all day and every day? School is absolutely necessary for those children’s future, and it is because fathers are truly kind to their children that they compel them to undergo this temporary hardship. God is the kindest of fathers. He wants us all in heaven. He has mapped out the road which will lead us there. He allows these hardships to come our way so that we can prepare for our real future life.

With James and John, let us tell our divine Lord that we are ready to follow him on the path to Calvary; that we are ready to drink the cup of sufferings which he drank and to be immersed in the sorrows which he endured. He went through all of this for us; we are doing it for our own sakes. He carried the real cross–ours is light when compared with his; furthermore, he will help us to bear our daily trial and struggles. How could any Christian become weary and faint-hearted when he has Christ helping him on the road?

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 548 The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him.1 To those who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask.2 So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father’s works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God.3 But his miracles can also be occasions for “offence”;4 they are not intended to satisfy people’s curiosity or desire for magic Despite his evident miracles some people reject Jesus; he is even accused of acting by the power of demons.5

CCC 2616 Prayer to Jesus is answered by him already during his ministry, through signs that anticipate the power of his death and Resurrection: Jesus hears the prayer of faith, expressed in words (the leper, Jairus, the Canaanite woman, the good thief)6 or in silence (the bearers of the paralytic, the woman with a hemorrhage who touches his clothes, the tears and ointment of the sinful woman).7 The urgent request of the blind men, “Have mercy on us, Son of David” or “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” has-been renewed in the traditional prayer to Jesus known as the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”8 Healing infirmities or forgiving sins, Jesus always responds to a prayer offered in faith: “Your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

St. Augustine wonderfully summarizes the three dimensions of Jesus’ prayer: “He prays for us as our priest, prays in us as our Head, and is prayed to by us as our God. Therefore let us acknowledge our voice in him and his in us.”9

CCC 2667 This simple invocation of faith developed in the tradition of prayer under many forms in East and West. The most usual formulation, transmitted by the spiritual writers of the Sinai, Syria, and Mt. Athos, is the invocation, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners.” It combines the Christological hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 with the cry of the publican and the blind men begging for light.10 By it the heart is opened to human wretchedness and the Savior’s mercy.

1 cf. Jn 5:36; 10:25, 38.

2 Cf. Mk 5:25-34; 10:52; etc.

3 Cf. Jn 10:31-38.

4 Mt 11:6.

5 Cf. Jn 11:47-48; Mk 3:22.

6 Cf. Mk 1:40-41; 5:36; 7:29; Cf. Lk 23:39-43.

7 Cf. Mk 25; 5:28; Lk 7:37-38.

8 Mt 9:27, Mk 10:48.

9 St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 85, 1: PL 37, 1081; cf. GILH 7.

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

BENEDICTUS

Mission and Loosing Self

The encounter with the Word is a gift for us, too, which was given to us so that we might give it to others, freely, as we have received it.  God made a choice… and we can only acknowledge in humility that we are unworthy messengers who do not proclaim ourselves but rather speak with a holy fear about something that is not ours but that comes from God.  Only in this way can the missionary task be understood…  The model for the missions is clearly prescribed in the way of the Apostles and of the early Church, especially in the commissioning discourses of Jesus.  Missionary work requires, fors and foremost, being prepared for martyrdom, a willingness to lose oneself for the sake of the truth and for the sake of others.  Only in this way does it become believable; again and again this has been the situation with the missions, and so it will always be.  For only then do Christians raise the standard of primacy of the truth… The truth can and must have no other weapon but itself.  Someone who believes has found in the truth the pearl of which he is ready to give everything, even himself.  For he knows that he finds himself by losing himself, that only the grain of wheat that has died bears much fruit.  Someone who can both believe and say, “We have found Love,” has to pass this gift on.  He knows that in doing so he does no one violence, does not destroy anyone’s identity, does not disrupt cultures, but rather sets them free to realize their own great potential; he knows that he is fulfilling a responsibility.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

The Jesus Prayer

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God,

have mercy on me, a sinner.

Posted in Catholic

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“You are lacking in one thing.  Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Prayer for the Gift of Wisdom

Great is the wisdom of the Lord!

God Almighty, Your Wisdom includes

An understanding of what is fair,

What is logical, what is true,

What is right and what is lasting.

It mirrors Your pure intellect!

I entreat You to grant me such Wisdom,

That my labors may reflect Your insight.

Your Wisdom expands in Your creations,

Displaying complexity and multiplicity.

Your Wisdom is an eternity ahead of man.

May Your wisdom flourish forever!

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=772

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

Wis 7:7-11

I prayed, and prudence was given me;

I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.

I preferred her to scepter and throne,

and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her,

nor did I liken any priceless gem to her;

because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand,

and before her, silver is to be accounted mire.

Beyond health and comeliness I loved her,

and I chose to have her rather than the light,

because the splendor of her never yields to sleep.

Yet all good things together came to me in her company,

and countless riches at her hands.

The word of the Lord.

APPLICATION

Though this Book of Wisdom was written over two thousand years ago, the message we have read from it today is so timely and practical for us Christians that it might well

have been written last week! The reason is that real wisdom is unchangeable. It is a correct knowledge and understanding of the eternal truths that God has revealed to us and as these truths are unchanged and unchangeable so is our knowledge of them. The author clearly realized that reaching eternal life was the one and only aim worth striving for in this life; all his other occupations here below were only temporary and transient while eternal life is permanent and therefore well worth the sacrifice of all earthly attractions.

He was willing to forego all earthly wealth: gold, silver and precious gems, and all earthly power including a king’s throne, rather than desert wisdom which would lead him to everlasting wealth. This is what all sane men would and should do when they are convinced that an unending life of happiness awaits them. No Christian doubts this. The very meaning of Christianity is a rule of life which directs our actions while on this earth, so that we shall enter heaven when we die. Christ did not come on earth without a purpose; he did not suffer and die in vain. He became man and suffered and died so that those who would follow him and keep the rules he laid down for them would enter into heaven when they breathed their last breath.

It was not then to make life here hard for us but to put eternal life within our reach that he commanded us to bear our crosses, our troubles and trials in life. He told us not to let ourselves be ensnared by the attractions of this world, its wealth, its positions of honor, its pleasures. But he did not forbid us to use wisely, that is, in moderation and within his rules, the pleasures, power and goods of this world. As Christians, we can enjoy the pleasures and happiness of family life; we can own property; we can accept positions of authority–provided always that these things will not come between us and our real life which is eternal life.

It is here that too many Christians fail. They let themselves become so absorbed in their pursuit of pleasure, or in the acquisition of wealth or power, that they leave themselves no time for the things of God, the things that really matter. If such people only stopped and asked themselves the question: during the two thousands years of Christianity did any of those who lost heaven because they became too absorbed in the things of earth, ever get real happiness and satisfaction out of their few years on earth? Was there ever a rich man who was truly happy with all he had, and deliberately stopped getting richer? Was there ever a pleasure-lover who could say that he was content with all the pleasure he had received? Did not these very pleasures interfere with his health and shorten the already too-short span he had to enjoy himself?

No, chasing after the will-of-the-wisp attractions of this life is not the occupation of a sane man, much less of the truly wise man–as a Christian is by his profession. We have been given a period of time here during which we can earn our future reward; any days,

months or years wasted on other pursuits will be hard to replace. The mercy of God is infinite, and while there have been from time to time exceptional cases of deathbed conversions, the only sure way of passing our final examination is to have learned, during the years God gave us for this purpose here below, the answers to the questions we shall be asked.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17

Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!

Teach us to number our days aright,

that we may gain wisdom of heart.

Return, O LORD! How long?

Have pity on your servants!

Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,

that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.

Make us glad, for the days when you afflicted us,

for the years when we saw evil.

Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!

Let your work be seen by your servants

and your glory by their children;

and may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours;

prosper the work of our hands for us!

Prosper the work of our hands!

Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!

READING II

Saint-Paul-the-Apostle-5.jpg

Heb 4:12-13

Brothers and sisters:

Indeed the word of God is living and effective,

sharper than any two-edged sword,

penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow,

and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.

No creature is concealed from him,

but everything is naked and exposed to

the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.

The word of the Lord.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 302 Creation has its own goodness and proper perfection, but it did not spring forth complete from the hands of the Creator. The universe was created “in a state of journeying” (in statu viae) toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it. We call “divine providence” the dispositions by which God guides his creation toward this perfection:

By his providence God protects and governs all things which he has made, “reaching mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and ordering all things well”. For “all are open and laid bare to his eyes”, even those things which are yet to come into existence through the free action of creatures.1

1 Vatican Council I, Dei Filius 1: DS 3003; cf. Wis 8:1; Heb 4:13.

APPLICATION

The sacred author of this epistle, writing for Jewish converts who presumably knew their history, is urging them not to make the same mistake as did their ancestors in the desert. They did not believe God’s promise and they disobeyed him. For that reason they did not enter into the Promised Land of Canaan, they died in the desert. Now Christians through Christ have been promised and are made heirs of God’s place of eternal rest, but unless they live their faith and obey God they too will end up like their disobedient ancestors in the desert.

Some of his intended readers may have been foolish themselves–pretending externally to be Christians while their thoughts and intentions were not. He reminds them of God’s omniscience. He knows not only their external actions but their every thought and their most secret intentions. Therefore, external observance will not earn the heavenly rest for them, their heart and spirit must be in their daily observance of the Christian way of life.

There is a warning here for all of us and it is that not a single thought or action of our lives can remain unknown to the God who will be our Judge on our day of reckoning. We can fool ourselves, and fool our neighbors by carrying out the externals of the Christian law while in our hearts we have evil thoughts, evil intentions and sentiments of rebellion against our Creator. The Christian who behaves in this way is foolish in the extreme and he is fooling only himself. He cannot hide his wrong intentions or his rebellious inclinations from God who reads his heart and his mind. Unless he changes his relations with God and humbly submits himself to God’s will he has little hope of entering the promised land of heaven.

Among us there are others who spoil and make useless those Christian acts that would earn heaven for them–by their refusal to repent of a sin or sins they have committed. To their friends and neighbors they may appear as model Christians but in the eyes of God they are proud and stubborn subjects who will not bend their knee to God and ask for the pardon which he is ever willing to give even to the greatest sinners. While they are in this state of sin they can earn no merit for heaven. Our God is a God of mercy, he has gone to incredible lengths to share his kingdom with us. He knows all our weaknesses and is ever ready to raise us up again when we fall–if we repent and turn to him. There is no sin we can commit, no matter how serious it be, that he cannot forgive and blot out

if only we ask him to do so. Of those Christians whom God will have to condemn on the judgement day not one will be condemned because he sinned: but he will be condemned because he did not repent and ask God’s pardon for his sins.

Let us never forget that God’s eyes are always on us, not only to see our innermost faults but also to be ever ready to succor and help us. He is a loving Father and he will not give us a cross too heavy to bear. If, when we have crosses, we stay close to him and ask for his help he will most certainly answer our call.

GOSPEL

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Mk 10:17-30

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,

knelt down before him, and asked him,

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?

No one is good but God alone.

You know the commandments: You shall not kill;

you shall not commit adultery;

you shall not steal;

you shall not bear false witness;

you shall not defraud;

honor your father and your mother.”

He replied and said to him,

“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,

“You are lacking in one thing.

Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor

and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

At that statement his face fell,

and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,

“How hard it is for those who have wealth

to enter the kingdom of God!”

The disciples were amazed at his words.

So Jesus again said to them in reply,

“Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle

than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,

“Then who can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said,

“For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.

All things are possible for God.”

Peter began to say to him,

“We have given up everything and followed you.”

Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you,

there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters

or mother or father or children or lands

for my sake and for the sake of the gospel

who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age:

houses and brothers and sisters

and mothers and children and lands,

with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1618 Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social.1 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.2 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.”3

CCC 1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.”4 The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.

CCC 2728 Finally, our battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer: discouragement during periods of dryness; sadness that, because we have “great possessions,”5 we have not given all to the Lord; disappointment over not being heard according to our own will; wounded pride, stiffened by the indignity that is ours as sinners; our resistance to the idea that prayer is a free and unmerited gift; and so forth. The conclusion is always the same: what good does it do to pray? To overcome these obstacles, we must battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance.

1 Cf. Lk 14:26; Mk 10:28-31.

2 Cf. Rev 14:4; 1 Cor 7:32; Mt 2:56.

3 Mt 19:12.

4 Mk 10:19.

5 Cf. Mk 10:22.

APPLICATION

By coming to Jesus with his problem this man has done all Christians a good turn. We have learned from Christ’s answer that over-attachment to worldly goods is one of the big obstacles to entering heaven. The man in this story was a good-living man, he kept all the commandments from his youth upward and he had an interest in eternal life, while many of his compatriots of that day had not. Reading this man’s heart like an open book, Christ saw that not only was he fit for eternal life but that he was one who could have a very high place in heaven if he would leave everything and become a close follower of his. Not only would be become a saint, but he would lead many to sanctity.

The price to pay for this privilege, however, seemed too high to this “good man.” “He had great possessions” and he was too attached to them so he could not accept Christ’s offer, “his countenance fell and he went away sorrowful.” Although his case was exceptional, Christ saw in him the makings of a saint and he asked him to make an exceptional sacrifice, one which he did not and does not ask of all his followers; his remark to the disciples later: “how hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God” holds for all time and for all mankind.

This statement of Christ, however, does not mean that a follower may not possess any of this world’s goods. He may possess and use those goods, but what he must not do is to allow them to take such a hold on him that he has no time for acquiring everlasting goods–the Christian virtues. Unfortunately, there are Christians whose whole purpose in this life is the accumulation of worldly goods. Concentration on such accumulation is wrong, but in many cases the methods of acquisition are unjust: defrauding laborers of their just wages; overcharging customers; cheating in business deals; giving false measures and many other devices which produce unearned wealth.

All this is far from Christian justice, and those who have let such sinful greed to regulate their lives are certainly not on the road, to heaven. There are other sins, of course, which can keep us from heaven, but of all the sins a man can commit this irrational greed for the wealth of this world seems the most unreasonable of them all. How utterly inane and foolish to have spent a lifetime collecting something from which we shall soon be parted forever! The rich man’s bank-book and his gilt-edged shares will be not only valueless in the after-life but they, if unjustly acquired, will be witnesses for the prosecution at the judgement on which one’s eternal future depends. While most of us are not guilty of such excessive greed for wealth, we all do need to examine our consciences as to how we acquire and use the limited wealth we have. There are very rich men who have acquired their wealth honestly and justly and who spend much of their wealth on charitable causes. Their wealth will not hinder them from reaching heaven. On the other hand, there are many in the middle and lower income-bracket who may be offending against justice through the means they use to acquire what they have, and in the little helps which they refuse to a needy neighbor. We may not be able to found a hospital for the poor, or pay an annuity to support the family of a disabled fellow workman, but we are not excused from bringing a little gift to our neighbors who are in hospital, or from supplying even part of a meal for the dependents of the injured workman.

Remember that Christ praised the widow who put a mite (a cent) into the collection-box for the poor in the temple area, and he also said that a cup of cold water given in his name would not go without reward. We need not be rich in order to be charitable; often

our own exaggerated sense of our poverty can make us hard-hearted and mean toward our fellowman who look to us for help. The true Christian, whose principal purpose in life is to serve God, will not overburden himself with unnecessary pieces of luggage; instead he will travel light and be ever ready to help others also to carry their burdens.

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

BENEDICTUS

God Becomes Our Richness

The poverty that Jesus means – that the prophets mean – presupposes above all inner freedom from the greed for possession and the mania for power. This is a greater reality than merely a different distribution of possessions, which would still be in the material domain and thereby make hearts even harder. It is first and foremost a matter of purification of heart, through which one recognizes possession as responsibility, as a duty towards others, placing oneself under God’s gaze and letting oneself be guided by Christ, who from being rich became poor for our sake (cf. 2 Cor 8: 9). Inner freedom is the prerequisite for overcoming the corruption and greed that devastate the world today. This freedom can only be found if God becomes our richness; it can only be found in the patience of daily sacrifices, in which, as it were, true freedom develops. It is the King who points out to us the way to this goal: Jesus, whom we acclaim on Palm Sunday, whom we ask to take us with him on his way… He comes in all cultures and all parts of the world, everywhere, in wretched huts and in poor rural areas as well as in the splendor of cathedrals. He is the same everywhere, the One, and thus all those gathered with him in prayer and communion are also united in one body. Christ rules by making himself our Bread and giving himself to us. It is in this way that he builds his kingdom.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate the splendor of true love, to you we turn with trust. Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families too may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division: may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth, may the Synod of Bishops make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God’s plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,

graciously hear our prayer.

Amen

Posted in Uncategorized

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

Jesus-and-Children.jpg

“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

A Marriage Blessing Prayer

We thank you, O God, for the Love You have implanted in our hearts. May it always inspire us to be kind in our words, considerate of feeling, and concerned for each other’s needs and wishes. Help us to be understanding and forgiving of human weaknesses and failings. Increase our faith and trust in You and may Your Prudence guide our life and love. Bless our Marriage O God, with Peace and Happiness, and make our love fruitful for Your glory and our Joy both here and in eternity.

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

who in the abundance of your kindness

surpass the merits and the desires of those

who entreat you,

pour out your mercy upon us

to pardon what conscience dreads

and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Gn 2:18-24

The LORD God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone.

I will make a suitable partner for him.”

So the LORD God formed out of the ground

various wild animals and various birds of the air,

and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them;

whatever the man called each of them would be its name.

The man gave names to all the cattle,

all the birds of the air, and all wild animals;

but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.

So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man,

and while he was asleep,

he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.

The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib

that he had taken from the man.

When he brought her to the man, the man said:

“This one, at last, is bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

this one shall be called ‘woman, ‘

for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother

and clings to his wife,

and the two of them become one flesh.

The word of the Lord.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 343 Man is the summit of the Creator’s work, as the inspired account expresses by clearly distinguishing the creation of man from that of the other creatures.1

CCC 369 Man and woman have been created, which is to say, willed by God: on the one hand, in perfect equality as human persons; on the other, in their respective beings as man and woman. “Being man” or “being woman” is a reality which is good and willed by God: man and woman possess an inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their Creator.2 Man and woman are both with one and the same dignity “in the image of God”. In their “being-man” and “being-woman”, they reflect the Creator’s wisdom and goodness.

CCC 371 God created man and woman together and willed each for the other. The Word of God gives us to understand this through various features of the sacred text. “It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him.”3 None of the animals can be man’s partner.4 The woman God “fashions” from the man’s rib and brings to him elicits on the man’s part a cry of wonder, an exclamation of love and communion: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”5 Man discovers woman as another “I”, sharing the same humanity.

CCC 372 Man and woman were made “for each other” – not that God left them half-made and incomplete: he created them to be a communion of persons, in which each can be “helpmate” to the other, for they are equal as persons (“bone of my bones. ..”) and complementary as masculine and feminine. In marriage God unites them in such a way that, by forming “one flesh”,6 they can transmit human life: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”7 By transmitting human life to their descendants, man and woman as spouses and parents cooperate in a unique way in the Creator’s work.8

CCC 1605 Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: “It is not good that the man should be alone.”9 The woman, “flesh of his flesh,” his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a “helpmate”; she thus represents God from whom comes our help.10 “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.”11 The Lord himself shows that this signifies an unbreakable union of their two lives by recalling what the plan of the Creator had been “in the beginning”: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”12

CCC 1607 According to faith the disorder we notice so painfully does not stem from the nature of man and woman, nor from the nature of their relations, but from sin. As a

break with God, the first sin had for its first consequence the rupture of the original communion between man and woman. Their relations were distorted by mutual recriminations;13 their mutual attraction, the Creator’s own gift, changed into a relationship of domination and lust;14 and the beautiful vocation of man and woman to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth was burdened by the pain of childbirth and the toil of work.15

CCC 1616 This is what the Apostle Paul makes clear when he says: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her,” adding at once: “‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one. This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church.”16

CCC 1625 The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and woman, free to contract marriage, who freely express their consent; “to be free” means:

– not being under constraint;

– not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law.

CCC 1644 The love of the spouses requires, of its very nature, the unity and indissolubility of the spouses’ community of persons, which embraces their entire life: “so they are no longer two, but one flesh.”17 They “are called to grow continually in their communion through day-to-day fidelity to their marriage promise of total mutual self-giving.”18 This human communion is confirmed, purified, and completed by communion in Jesus Christ, given through the sacrament of Matrimony. It is deepened by lives of the common faith and by the Eucharist received together.

CCC 1652 “By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory.”19

Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves. God himself said: “It is not good that man should be alone,” and “from the beginning [he] made them male and female”; wishing to associate them in a special way in his own creative work, God blessed man and woman with the words: “Be fruitful and multiply.” Hence, true married love and the whole structure of family life which results from it, without diminishment of the other ends of marriage, are directed to disposing the spouses to cooperate valiantly with the love of the Creator and Savior, who through them will increase and enrich his family from day to day.20

CCC 2335 Each of the two sexes is an image of the power and tenderness of God, with equal dignity though in a different way. The union of man and woman in marriage is a way of imitating in the flesh the Creator’s generosity and fecundity: “Therefore a man

leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.”21

All human generations proceed from this union.22

CCC 2417 God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image.23 Hence it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. They may be domesticated to help man in his work and leisure. Medical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives.

1 Cf. Gen 1-26.

2 Cf. Gen 2:7, 22.

3 Gen 2:18.

4 Gen 2:19-20.

5 Gen 2:23.

6 Gen 2:24.

7 Gen 1:28.

8 Cf. GS 50 # 1.

9 Gen 2:18.

10 Cf. Gen 2:18-25.

11 Gen 2:24.

12 Mt 19:6.

13 Cf. Gen 3:12.

14 Cf. Gen 2:22; 3:16b.

15 Cf. Gen 1:28; 3:16-19.

16 Eph 5:25-26, 31-32; Cf. Gen 2:24.

17 Mt 19:6; cf. Gen 2:24.

18 FC 19.

19 GS 48 # 1; 50.

20 GS 50 # 1; cf. Gen 2:18; Mt 19:4; Gen 1:28.

21 Gen 2:24.

22 Cf. Gen 4:1-2, 25-26; 5:1.

23 Cf. Gen 2:19-20; 9:1-4.

APPLICATION

Although polygamy, that is one man with many wives, and divorce were widely practiced not alone among their pagan neighbors but also among the Israelites themselves. When the Yahwistic writer composed this source of Genesis, the author courageously expressed the will and intention of God in this regard. God intended woman to be man’s helper and mate for life; she was not his slave or chattel. She was his equal and had a right to be treated as an equal. One of the many evil effects of polygamy and divorce was and is the lowering of the status of woman. Where polygamy is practiced, each wife is but a special slave in the household. She is a chattel which her lord can use when it suits him, but she has no claim on him. However, that one evil has disappeared “officially” from our Western world, but the worse evil of divorce, instead of disappearing, is on the increase.

Here again it is the woman who is humiliated, and sad to say there are women who agree to and encourage this humiliation of their own sex. Apart from the humiliation of woman there is a worse effect of divorce–it is a violation of God’s law, as is clearly revealed to us in the text from Genesis that we have read; this text is again confirmed by Christ in today’s Gospel. God created human nature in two sexes so that one would be a complement of the other and together they were given the power to reproduce themselves and thus continue the human race on earth. To do this–to procreate children and to educate them, is a life-long task and demands the greatest cooperation between husband and wife. Their task is no easy one, difficulties and differences of opinion can and do often arise; but it was God himself who gave married couples this vocation and with it he gives many consolations and moments of deep happiness and contentment as well.

Added to these divine blessings and to fulfill their duties, Christians have the graces of the sacrament which Christ instituted to help those who marry. Not only is their union blessed by God on the day of their marriage but the grace of the sacrament remains with them to aid them all through their married lives. Yet, there are many Christian nations today which have made laws permitting the dissolution of a valid marriage, and there are Christians who avail themselves of this legal loophole to get rid of the partner they took for life. They often enter a new matrimonial bond which not only has not the blessing of God but is directly against his will–as revealed in both the Old and New Testaments.

The nations who have passed this law which directly contravenes the law of the Creator, and the people who avail themselves of such a law are Christian only in name. Their outlook is purely and exclusively worldly, selfishness plays a leading part in their decision. They feel that all crosses must be removed from their paths, they do not wish to climb any Calvary.

Alone among the Christian communities the Catholic Church has stood firm against the violation of God’s law in this matter of divorce, and firm, please God, it will continue to stand. Even among Catholics today, there are isolated voices raised here and there in favor of a relaxation of the indissolubility of marriage. The reasons they bring forward are humane–or is it humanist?  They know of husbands and wives who are incompatible with each other, who are continually quarreling; would they not be better off materially and spiritually if they were separated?  They can be separated, for the Church allows separation where things have become well-nigh impossible, and they may remain apart until peace descends once more upon them, as it often does.

However, this is not what our advocates of a relaxation of the laws of marriage want. They would go as far as allowing the separated partners to undertake a new union wherein they would each find a new happiness.  Would they find that happiness?  The history of the past few decades in the nations where the civil power allows divorce, with re-marriage, would seem to prove the opposite.  No, the Christian who violates the law of God for his own selfish happiness is not likely to get happiness in a new marriage venture nor can he hope to earn eternal happiness.

To our faithful husbands and wives I would say:  continue in your fidelity. You have many trials and troubles, but they are the new crosses that will raise you up and keep you near God. Be quick to forgive and ever ready to forget. Even though one may be right in a row, let one not be too proud to be first to break the ice and reopen relations. Your marriage partner may not be an angel, but he or she is a saint in the making, and you are doing your part to make him or her just that. You, too, are on the road to heaven; you will kick some hard stones and hurt your toes many times during your journey, but when you see your reward you will realize how little you have done and how

unprofitable a servant you have been.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6

May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.

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.

May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine

in the recesses of your home;

your children like olive plants

around your table.

May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.

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.

May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.

May you see your children’s children.

Peace be upon Israel!

May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.

READING II

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Heb 2:9-11

Brothers and sisters:

He “for a little while” was made “lower than the angels, ”

that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

For it was fitting that he,

for whom and through whom all things exist,

in bringing many children to glory,

should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering.

He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated

all have one origin.

Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them ‘brothers.’

The word of the Lord.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 624 “By the grace of God” Jesus tasted death “for every one”.1 In his plan of salvation, God ordained that his Son should not only “die for our sins”2 but should also “taste death”, experience the condition of death, the separation of his soul from his body, between the time he expired on the cross and the time he was raised from the dead. The state of the dead Christ is the mystery of the tomb and the descent into hell. It is the mystery of Holy Saturday, when Christ, lying in the tomb,3 reveals God’s great sabbath rest4 after the fulfillment5 of man’s salvation, which brings peace to the whole universe.6

1 Heb 2:9.

2 I Cor 15:3.

3 Cf. Jn 19:42.

4 Cf. Heb 4:7-9.

5 Cf. Jn 19:30.

6 Cf Col 1: 18-20.

APPLICATION

The inspired author of this epistle sets out to strengthen the faith of his readers who had become lax in the practice of their faith (see 10: 24). He recalls to their minds that Christ is high priest who has entered into the holy of holies–heaven–to make atonement for the sins of mankind, offering to God not the blood of sacrificed animals but his own precious blood which he shed for mankind on Calvary. He does not enter into heaven alone; he enters rather as the pioneer, the leader of all the faithful ones who will follow him here on earth. He is God’s own Son through whom the universe was created. He is, therefore, immeasurably above the angels. He condescended to become lower than they by taking our ordinary humanity here on earth. And this he did for love of us, to make us his brothers and heirs to heaven. He “tasted death” for all of us. Because of this, death can no longer hold us in its grip: we too shall rise from the dead as Christ did and we shall enter into the glory of heaven if we remain his faithful followers.

Surely, when a Christian realizes how much God has done for him in order to bring him to the eternal happiness of heaven, he cannot and should not find it too difficult to carry some few crosses in life. The author of this letter to the Hebrews compares our Christian life to a pilgrimage, to the heavenly sanctuary (4: 16; 12: 22). In days gone by, making a pilgrimage to some far-off shrine implied a willingness to make many sacrifices–but the thought of seeing the sacred place and kneeling in prayer there made the difficulties of the journey seem as nothing. Let us meditate more often on heaven. We too can make light of the hardships of the earthly journey.

If those in the past who have failed to merit heaven were given a second chance, do we think for a moment that they would let the difficulties and trials of life prevent them from reaching their eternal home? How gladly would they snatch up the crosses which perhaps we are throwing down? How cheerfully would they not forego the illicit pleasures of life, and how quickly would they not turn their backs on the treasures of this world, for now they see the full meaning of that warning: “what does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his (eternal) life?”

When tempted by our passions or by greed or by our pride and selfishness, let us look ahead and see ourselves at the judgement seat of God. It will help to cast these temptations far from us. I should imagine that the greatest shock those who are lost will get on their judgement day will be to realize the folly which moved them to exchange the eternity of happiness offered them for the empty baubles, the nothingness of this world’s pleasures and gains. If one had all the possible pleasures of this life and never a pain or ache or sorrow of any kind, and had all the gold in Fort Knox he still would have to leave them all at death. What then?

The Son of God came on earth, emptied himself of his divine glory and lived a life of poverty and hardship among us. He let himself be put to death—the shameful death of a criminal and outcast–so that we could merit heaven. In order to reap the great, almost incredible, reward which he won for us, we are asked merely to accept the crosses life brings us and to plod along cheerfully on the road mapped out for us by our loving Lord. He has opened heaven for us, he has shown us the way there; he has left us all the aids we need on our journey. He cannot force our free will, but is there a sane man or woman with such disdain for his or her own true interest as to refuse to follow him on the Christian road to eternal happiness? May God grant us all the grace to avoid such extreme folly!

GOSPEL

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Mk 10:2-16

The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked,

“Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”

They were testing him.

He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”

They replied,

“Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce

and dismiss her.”

But Jesus told them,

“Because of the hardness of your hearts

he wrote you this commandment.

But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother

and be joined to his wife,

and the two shall become one flesh.

So they are no longer two but one flesh.

Therefore what God has joined together,

no human being must separate.”

In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.

He said to them,

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another

commits adultery against her;

and if she divorces her husband and marries another,

she commits adultery.”

And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them,

but the disciples rebuked them.

When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them,

“Let the children come to me;

do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to

such as these.

Amen, I say to you,

whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child

will not enter it.”

Then he embraced them and blessed them,

placing his hands on them.

The Gospel of the Lord.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 699 The hand. Jesus heals the sick and blesses little children by laying hands on them.1 In his name the apostles will do the same.2 Even more pointedly, it is by the Apostles’ imposition of hands that the Holy Spirit is given.3 The Letter to the Hebrews lists the imposition of hands among the “fundamental elements” of its teaching.4 The Church has kept this sign of the all-powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in its sacramental epicleses.

CCC 1244 First Holy Communion. Having become a child of God clothed with the wedding garment, the neophyte is admitted “to the marriage supper of the Lamb”5 and receives the food of the new life, the body and blood of Christ. The Eastern Churches maintain a lively awareness of the unity of Christian initiation by giving Holy Communion to all the newly baptized and confirmed, even little children, recalling the Lord’s words: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them.”6 The Latin Church, which reserves admission to Holy Communion to those who have attained the age of reason, expresses the orientation of Baptism to the Eucharist by having the newly baptized child brought to the altar for the praying of the Our Father.

CCC 1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,”7 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

CCC 1625 The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and woman, free to contract marriage, who freely express their consent; “to be free” means:

– not being under constraint;

– not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law.

 

CCC 1639 The consent by which the spouses mutually give and receive one another is sealed by God himself.8 From their covenant arises “an institution, confirmed by the divine law,. .. even in the eyes of society.”9 The covenant between the spouses is integrated into God’s covenant with man: “Authentic married love is caught up into divine love.”10

CCC 1650 Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ –

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery”11 the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence.

CCC 2364 The married couple forms “the intimate partnership of life and love established by the Creator and governed by his laws; it is rooted in the conjugal covenant, that is, in their irrevocable personal consent.”12 Both give themselves definitively and totally to one another. They are no longer two; from now on they form one flesh. The covenant they freely contracted imposes on the spouses the obligation to preserve it as unique and indissoluble.13 “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”14

CCC 2380 Adultery refers to marital infidelity. When two partners, of whom at least one is married to another party, have sexual relations – even transient ones – they commit adultery. Christ condemns even adultery of mere desire.15 The sixth commandment and the New Testament forbid adultery absolutely.16 The prophets denounce the gravity of adultery; they see it as an image of the sin of idolatry.17

CCC 2382 The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble.18 He abrogates the accommodations that had slipped into the old Law.19

Between the baptized, “a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death.”20

1 Cf. Mk 6:5; 8:23; 10:16.

2 Cf. Mk 16:18; Acts 5:12; 14:3.

3 Cf. Acts 8:17-19; 13:3; 19:6.

4 Cf. Heb 6:2.

5 Rev 19:9.

6 Mk 10 14.

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

8 Cf. Mk 10:9.

9 GS 48 # 1.

10 GS 48 # 2.

11 Mk 10:11-12.

12 GS 48 # 1.

13 Cf. CIC, can. 1056.

14 Mk 109; cf. Mt 19:1-12; 1 Cor 7: 10-11.

15 Cf. Mt 5:27-28.

16 Cf. Mt 5:32; 19:6; Mk 10:11; 1 Cor 6:9-10.

17 Cf. Hos 2:7; Jer 5:7; 13:27.

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

19 Cf. Mt 19:7-9.

20 CIC, can. 1141.

APPLICATION

On the “divorce” section of this Gospel see today’s first reading. Christ clearly states that from the very beginning, God’s plan for marriage was that it should be a life-long unity of one man and one woman. Its purpose is the procreation of children and their education, as well as the mutual love and fulfillment of the husband and wife. These demand this life-long bond. Divorce, which tries to break this bond, breaks the law of the Creator who decreed what was best for the temporal and spiritual welfare of the human race.

The last four verses of today’s Gospel describe an incident which is in no way connected with the previous discussion but which has a very useful lesson for all Christians. It describes Christ’s love for children and while manifesting this love he stresses the need

for all his true followers to be childlike.  “I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”  To receive the kingdom of God is to accept the teaching of Christ and live according to it in his kingdom on earth. He who does this will enter, after death, into the eternal kingdom of heaven. Christ says, however, that we must accept “like a child”: his kingdom on earth, his teaching and the Church he founded to carry on that teaching. It does not mean: in a childish way, an unthinking, uneducated way, but in a child-like way–a humble, grateful, receptive way. A child is unselfconscious, content to be dependent on others’ care and generosity. Christianity is a gift of the generous God to us, we have done nothing and never could do anything to merit it.  We must accept it simply and gratefully as a gift; we could never deserve it.

While Christianity is a religion of reason and conforms in all its aspects to the rational nature of man–its basis is the revelation of God who is the author and foundation of all rationality–yet it is the heart of man rather than his intellect which Christ means to capture. The assent of the intellect to the doctrine revealed by Christ is not sufficient of itself for a Christian to earn the eternal kingdom; faith is the total acceptance and commitment of the believer to God through Jesus Christ. The man of true faith commits himself to God with a filial childlike trust, assured that if he does all that in him lies God will do the rest.

Therefore, our Christian faith must be childlike, a trusting, humble and obedient faith. This is the kind of faith that will move mountains–the mountains that loom so large in the vision of too many Christians today–the mountains of doubt, selfishness, unwillingness to be subjected to authority.  Christ asks us, if we would be his followers: to take up our daily cross and climb the way to Calvary after him. This daily cross is made of the troubles and trials of life from which no one can escape.  They can be borne with reluctance and grumbling, or they can be accepted as the loving God’s means of training us for the future life.  Every true Christian accepts his trials in the latter way, for if he is true to his faith he knows that his years on earth are his apprenticeship to prepare him for his eternal life.

God is surely not asking too much of us when he asks us to live our Christian faith in childlike humility, candor and confidence during the days of our pilgrimage on this earth.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Bond of Marriage

The question of the right relationship between man and woman sinks its roots in the most profound essence of the human being, and can only find its answer in the latter.  It cannot be separated from the always ancient and always new question of man about himself: Who am I?  Does God exist?  And, who is God?  What is his face really like?  The Bible’s answer to these questions is unitary and consequential:  Man is created in the image and likeness of God, and God himself is love.  For this reason, the vocation to love is what makes man the authentic image of God:  He becomes like God in the measure that he becomes someone who lives.  From this fundamental bond between God and man another is derived:  The indissoluble bond between spirit and body.  Man is, in fact, soul that expresses itself in the body and [the] body that is vivified by an immortal spirit.  Also, the body of man and of woman has, therefore, so to speak, a theological character, it is not simply body, and what is biological in man is not only biological, but an expression and fulfillment of our humanity…  In this way, from the two bonds, that of man with God and – in man – that of the body with the spirit, arises a third bond:  the one that exists between person and institution.  The totality of man includes the dimension of time, and man’s “yes” goes beyond the present moment:  In his totality, the “yes” means “always,” it constitutes the area of fidelity.  Only in his interior can this faith grow which gives a future and allows the children, the fruit of love, to believe in man and in his future in difficult times.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer of Spouses

O Lord, holy Father, omnipotent and eternal God, we give you thanks and we bless your holy name. You created man and woman in your image and blessed their union, so that each would be for the other a help and support. Remember us today. Protect us and grant that our love may be in the image of the devotion and love of Christ for his Church. Grant us a long and fruitful life together, in joy and in peace, so that, through your Son and in the Holy Spirit, our hearts may always rise to you in praise and goods works.

Amen.

 

Posted in Catholic

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.  “Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

Parents’ Prayer for Their Children

O God the Father of mankind, who hast given unto me these my children, and committed them to my charge to bring them up for Thee, and to prepare them for eternal life: help me with Thy heavenly grace, that I may be able to fulfill this most sacred duty and stewardship. Teach me both what to give and what to withhold; when to reprove and when to forbear; make me to be gentle, yet firm; considerate and watchful; and deliver me equally from the weakness of indulgence, and the excess of severity; and grant that, both by word and example, I may be careful to lead them in the ways of wisdom and true piety, so that at last I may, with them, be admitted to the unspeakable joys of our true home in heaven, in the company of the blessed Angels and Saints. Amen.

O Heavenly Father, I commend my children to Thy care. Be Thou their God and Father; and mercifully supply whatever is lacking in me through frailty or negligence. Strengthen them to overcome the corruptions of the world, whether from within or without; and deliver them from the secret snares of the enemy. Pour Thy grace into their hearts, and strengthen and multiply in them the gifts of Thy Holy Spirit, that they may daily grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; and so, faithfully serving Thee here, may come to rejoice in Thy presence hereafter. Amen.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=71

COLLECT

O God, who manifest your almighty power

above all by pardoning and showing mercy,

bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us

and make those hastening to attain your promises

heirs to the treasures of heaven.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Nm 11:25-29

The LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses.

Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses,

the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders;

and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.

Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad,

were not in the gathering but had been left in the camp.

They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent;

yet the spirit came to rest on them also,

and they prophesied in the camp.

So, when a young man quickly told Moses,

“Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp, ”

Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses?aide, said,

“Moses, my lord, stop them.”

But Moses answered him,

“Are you jealous for my sake?

Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!

Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!”

APPLICATION

The close personal interest of God in his Chosen People–not only when bringing them from Egypt to Canaan, but all through their history–must strike even a casual reader of the Old Testament. He was a true Father to them, even though more often than not they proved themselves to be unworthy children. At times he had to chastise them as has any true father to chastise the children he loves, but his anger against them never lasted long. His constant aim was to make of them a loving and obedient family. In the desert, on their journey from Egypt to Canaan, he provided for their bodily and spiritual needs; while in Canaan he helped them to overcome their enemies and establish themselves in the land he had promised their patriarchs; and through his prophets he tried to protect them from the idolatrous practices of their pagan neighbors.

If one had read only the Old Testament story, and had never heard of the New Testament, one would surely find it difficult to understand why God–the God of the universe and of all nations–gave so much of his loving care to this one nation, while practically excluding all others. Such a reader would be like a man who read only the preface to a book while omitting the book itself. The Old Testament is in fact an introduction, a preface to the story of God’s real love for all men. God picked Abraham and his descendants to prepare the way for the coming of his Son as man, in order to make all men sons of God and candidates for heaven. While favoring the Israelites then, he was preparing a far greater favor for all nations–he had not forgotten or neglected them. Through the Israelites they would receive the blessings he had planned from all eternity for the whole human race.

The incident described in today’s reading shows God’s interest in the temporal and spiritual welfare of the Chosen People in their desert wanderings. It is also a foreshadowing of the power of the Spirit which Christ would give to the new Chosen People–the Church, for its spiritual government and guidance. Moses and his assistants were types of Peter and the other Apostles. They and their successors would do for the Church of Christ what Moses and his helpers did for the Israelites–they would teach and guide it on the way of truth, they would lead it on its journey through this life to the gates of eternity.

The scene in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost day, when the Holy Spirit descended with visible signs and effects on the Apostles, was a replica of what happened in the desert to the Chosen People after they had left Mount Sinai; but the Jerusalem event had a meaning and a value which would extend through all time into eternity. The Church was to be taught the full knowledge of God as seen in the incarnation. It was to be taught the true destination of man. That destination was not Canaan or any other earthly kingdom, but unending life in God’s kingdom. The Church was to be taught how to reach that goal. Peter and his assistants were given all the necessary helps which the members of the Church would need for their spiritual life.

God was good to the Israelites and near to them, he is much nearer to us and greater are the divine gifts he has given us. He did not visit us in a cloud, he came in the person of his divine Son and lived among us. That divine Son suffered torments and death in his human nature so that we could live forever. He founded for us a Church, a living institution in which we have all the helps we need, including infallible guidance, when necessary, from the leaders he has appointed for us. They are the successors of Peter and the Apostles. While we live loyally in the Church, striving in all sincerity to carry out its laws, we need have no fear for our eventual salvation.

Among the Israelites were some who resisted the authority of Moses and his assistants even though God had given his spirit to them. In Christ’s Church also are some who challenge the authority of the divinely appointed leaders–the successors of Peter and the Apostles; the disobedient Israelites died in the desert, they did not see nor enter the Promised Land.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1541 The liturgy of the Church, however, sees in the priesthood of Aaron and the service of the Levites, as in the institution of the seventy elders,1 a prefiguring of the ordained ministry of the New Covenant. Thus in the Latin Rite the Church prays in the consecratory preface of the ordination of bishops:

God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,. .. by your gracious word

you have established the plan of your Church.

From the beginning,

you chose the descendants of Abraham to be your holy nation.

You established rulers and priests

and did not leave your sanctuary without ministers to serve you. ..2

1 Cf. Num 11:24-25.

2 Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Bishops 26, Prayer of Consecration.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14

The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.

The law of the LORD is perfect,

refreshing the soul;

the decree of the LORD is trustworthy,

giving wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.

The fear of the LORD is pure,

enduring forever;

the ordinances of the LORD are true,

all of them just.

The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.

Though your servant is careful of them,

very diligent in keeping them,

Yet who can detect failings?

Cleanse me from my unknown faults!

The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.

From wanton sin especially, restrain your servant;

let it not rule over me.

Then shall I be blameless and innocent

of serious sin.

The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.

READING II

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Jas 5:1-6

Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries.

Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten,

your gold and silver have corroded,

and that corrosion will be a testimony against you;

it will devour your flesh like a fire.

You have stored up treasure for the last days.

Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers

who harvested your fields are crying aloud;

and the cries of the harvesters

have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.

You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure;

you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.

You have condemned;

you have murdered the righteous one;

he offers you no resistance.

APPLICATION

The unscrupulous rich to whom St. James is referring most likely were not Christians. He is, nevertheless, warning all Christians to beware of the danger of concentrating on the accumulation of earthly wealth, especially if that wealth is acquired through injustice to the poor and helpless who labor for them. At the same time, he is consoling his fellow-Christians who are suffering and are without hope of redress at the hands of the unscrupulous ones. The sufferings of the Christians will bring them an eternal reward, while the wealth collected by the rich will be as additional instruments in the punishment which judgement so very soon will inflict on them.

There is a reminder for all of us in these words of St. James. We have not here a lasting city; our purpose in life is not to collect the goods of this world in order to spend our years in luxury and pleasure, but to use this world as a stepping-stone toward our real goal in the life hereafter. Unfortunately, this earth with its wealth and pleasures, has a certain attraction for all of us. For some they become so alluring that they obscure, and sometimes exclude, the real purpose of life. While far from approving of this foolish mentality, we can nevertheless understand it. We are creatures of this earth, our life began here and here it would all have ended if God in his goodness had not planned otherwise. If this earth were the sole stage on which our life’s drama was to run its course, then any sane man would try to get all he could out of this life. If death were the end, then surely we should try to pack all the pleasure and luxury possible into our few years on earth.

As Christians we know the true purpose of our life on earth. We know God’s loving plan for us. An eternity of happiness awaits us after death, if we live according to the rules he has laid down for us. With such a future awaiting us, God is not asking too much of us when he demands of us to be relatively detached from the things of earth. “Relatively,” we say, because we may acquire within reason the goods of this world according to our needs, and we may enjoy the pleasures of this life that are according to our state in life, not against the commandments.

For many the difficulty is to control “within reason” the acquisition of worldly goods and to see that these goods are acquired within the laws of justice. Today, in our Western world, because of the solidarity of laborers through their unions and associations, it is not quite so easy for employers to deprive their employees of just wages. What is often forgotten, however, is that the employees can and do at times act unjustly by failing, through idleness and unjustified abstention from work, to earn the wages given them. The worker, as well as the employer, is bound by the laws of justice.

It is perhaps in the underdeveloped countries today that the words of St. James are still literally fulfilled. There the unscrupulous are amassing wealth at the expense, and by the exploitation, of the poor and helpless natives. To our shame, many of these oppressors of the poor are Christian at least in name, but they have forgotten Christian justice and their true purpose in life. As individuals, we cannot do much to right such shameful wrongs, but there are groups formed or being formed in the Western world to promote world justice and peace; by joining such groups and helping them financially, if possible, we can do much to stop such seriously sinful violations of the Christian code and the code of simple human justice.

Today, let us examine our consciences in relation to this world’s goods. Are we acquiring more than we need? Are we acquiring these goods justly? If we are employers: are we paying our workers a just wage? Are we treating them as fellowman, fellow-Christians, fellow-travelers to heaven? If we are employees: are we earning justly the wages we collect? Have we an interest in our employer’s business and property? Do we act justly toward all our fellow-workers? If each of us can answer “yes” to our questions we are laying up “treasure for ourselves in heaven where neither moth nor woodworm destroy them nor can thieves break in and steal them” (Mt. 6: 21).

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1867 The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are “sins that cry to heaven”: the blood of Abel,1 the sin of the Sodomites,2 the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt,3 the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan,4 injustice to the wage earner.5

CCC 2409 Even if it does not contradict the provisions of civil law, any form of unjustly taking and keeping the property of others is against the seventh commandment: thus, deliberate retention of goods lent or of objects lost; business fraud; paying unjust wages; forcing up prices by taking advantage of the ignorance or hardship of another.6  The following are also morally illicit: speculation in which one contrives to manipulate the price of goods artificially in order to gain an advantage to the detriment of others; corruption in which one influences the judgment of those who must make decisions according to law; appropriation and use for private purposes of the common goods of an enterprise; work poorly done; tax evasion; forgery of checks and invoices; excessive expenses and waste. Willfully damaging private or public property is contrary to the moral law and requires reparation.

CCC 2435 Recourse to a strike is morally legitimate when it cannot be avoided, or at least when it is necessary to obtain a proportionate benefit. It becomes morally unacceptable when accompanied by violence, or when objectives are included that are not directly linked to working conditions or are contrary to the common good.

CCC 2445 Love for the poor is incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish use:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you.7

1 Cf. Gen 4:10.

2 Cf. Gen 18:20; 19:13.

3 Cf. Ex 3:7-10.

4 Cf. Ex 20:20-22.

5 Cf. Deut 24:14-15; Jas 5:4.

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

7 Jas 5:1-6.

GOSPEL

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Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

At that time, John said to Jesus,

“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,

and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”

Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.

There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name

who can at the same time speak ill of me.

For whoever is not against us is for us.

Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink

because you belong to Christ,

amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,

it would be better for him if a great millstone

were put around his neck

and he were thrown into the sea.

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.

It is better for you to enter into life maimed

than with two hands to go into Gehenna,

into the unquenchable fire.

And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.

It is better for you to enter into life crippled

than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.

And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.

Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye

than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,

where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'”

APPLICATION

There are two very practical lessons we must learn from today’s Gospel: the grave obligation we have of not causing scandal to our fellow-Christians or indeed to any man or woman and secondly, the willingness we should have to sacrifice any earthly possession which is a cause of sin to us.

Scandal, the sin of being a cause or an occasion of another’s sin, is doubly sinful involving one’s own sin and the sin of the person scandalized. Scandal can be caused by word–that is, by teaching or propagating wrong doctrine or by giving sinful advice, and it can be caused by one’s own sinful deeds which may be imitated by others. Those in positions of authority such as parents whose duty it is to bring up their children in the Christian faith, are especially liable to give scandal if they fail to live truly Christian lives. Christian parents who fail to live according to their faith will be held accountable not only for their own sins, but for the sins of their children and perhaps their children’s children for generations to come.

Much, if not all of today’s moral laxity and permissiveness can be blamed on parents who have failed to give the example of true Christian living in the home and in dealings with their neighbors. To children of such parents, Christianity is only a label; it does not inform or inspire their lives, hence they are only nominal Christians. It is true that there may be “black sheep” in the best of Christian homes. When, however, all the children of a home are “black sheep” the whiteness, the sincerity, of the parents of such a home must certainly be called into question. There may be many bad influences at work outside the home but the good example of truly Christian parents can counteract these influences. Let parents see to it that they will not be a cause of scandal and a cause of eternal loss to the children God put into their charge.

The second lesson for all of us in today’s Gospel is that we should ever realize that eternal life is worth any sacrifice which we may be called on to make. The road we have to travel in life is not an easy one. As our Lord says in another place: “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. But the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mt. 7: 13). We wish to reach heaven, therefore we must be prepared to follow Christ; we must not allow others to lead us astray but be prepared and determined to conquer and resist our own evil inclinations also.

The world and our own human nature will put many obstacles in our way. For that reason God gave us the Ten Commandments which spell out for us what we are to avoid and what we are to do if we wish to have eternal life. For many, keeping these commandments is no easy task–they make severe demands at times, but our Lord makes it crystal clear that we must endure the hardship because the prize, the reward, is everlasting happiness. When he said that we must be ready to deprive ourselves of a foot or a hand or an eye if they should be obstacles to us, he was speaking metaphorically: to stress that we must be ready if necessary to give up what is nearest and dearest to our nature. The less of earthly luggage we carry with us and the less of earthly attachments we give way to, the easier and safer will be our journey.

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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.1 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he “will send his angels, and they will gather. .. all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,”2 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!”3

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

2 Mt 13:41-42.

3 Mt 25:41.

BENEDICTUS

Becoming Like the Angels

Faith gives joy.  When God is not there, the world becomes desolate, and everything becomes boring, and everything is completely unsatisfactory.  It’s easy to see today how a world empty of God is also increasingly consuming itself, how it has become a wholly joyless world.  The great joy comes from the fact that there is this great love, and that is the essential message of faith.  You are unswervingly loved.  This also explains why Christianity spread first predominantly among the weak and suffering.  To that extent it can be said that the basic element of Christianity is joy…  It is joy in the proper sense.  A joy that exists together with a difficult life and also makes this life livable…  Faith also makes man light.  To believe means that we become like angels.  We can fly, because we no longer weigh so heavy in our own estimation.  To become a believer means to become light, to escape our own gravity, which drags us down, and thus to enter the weightlessness of faith…  Catholics are not promised an “exterior” happiness but rather a deep interior security through communion with the Lord.  That he  is an ultimate light of happiness in one’s life is in fact a part of all this…  We are so alienated from God’s voice that we simply do not recognize it immediately as his.  But I would still say that everyone who is in some sense attentive can experience and sense for himself that now he is speaking to me.  And it is a chance for me to get to know him.  Precisely in catastrophic situations he can suddenly break in, if I am awake and if someone helps me decipher the message.

Pope Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

St. Francis of Assisi’s Vocation Prayer

Most High, Glorious God, enlighten the darkness of our minds. Give us a right faith, a firm hope and a perfect charity, so that we may always and in all things act according to Your Holy Will. Amen.

St. Francis of Assisi Feast day October 4th

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