Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

OPENING PRAYER

Humility Prayer – For A Change In Me

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

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

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

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

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

increase our faith, hope and charity,

and make us love what you command,

so that we may merit what you promise.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Sir 35:12-14, 16-18

The LORD is a God of justice,

who knows no favorites.

Though not unduly partial toward the weak,

yet he hears the cry of the oppressed.

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

nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint.

The one who serves God willingly is heard;

his petition reaches the heavens.

The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds;

it does not rest till it reaches its goal,

nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds,

judges justly and affirms the right,

and the Lord will not delay.

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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

The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall be ever in my mouth.

Let my soul glory in the LORD;

the lowly will hear me and be glad.

The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

The LORD confronts the evildoers,

to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.

When the just cry out, the Lord hears them,

and from all their distress he rescues them.

The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;

and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.

The LORD redeems the lives of his servants;

no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him.

The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

READING II

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2 Tm 4:6-8, 16-18

Beloved:

I am already being poured out like a libation,

and the time of my departure is at hand.

I have competed well; I have finished the race;

I have kept the faith.

From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,

which the Lord, the just judge,

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

but to all who have longed for his appearance.

At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf,

but everyone deserted me.

May it not be held against them!

But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength,

so that through me the proclamation might be completed

and all the Gentiles might hear it.

And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat

and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.

To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

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

1 Cf. 2 Tim 4.

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

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOSPEL

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Lk 18:9-14

Jesus addressed this parable

to those who were convinced of their own righteousness

and despised everyone else.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the tax collector stood off at a distance

and would not even raise his eyes to heaven

but beat his breast and prayed,

‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’

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

for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,

and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Ps 130:1.

6 Cf. Lk 18:9-14.

7 Rom 8:26.

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

9 Cf. Lk 11:5-13.

10 Cf. Lk 18:1-8.

11 Cf. Lk 18:9-14.

12 Lk 18:13.

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

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

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

16 Col 1:14; Eph 1:7.

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

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BENEDICTUS

The Saints as Constellations

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

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer of Saint Augustine of Hippo

Lord Jesus, Let Me Know Myself

Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know You,

And desire nothing save only You.

Let me hate myself and love You.

Let me do everything for the sake of You.

Let me humble myself and exalt You.

Let me think of nothing except You.

Let me die to myself and live in You.

Let me accept whatever happens as from You.

Let me banish self and follow You,

And ever desire to follow You.

Let me fly from myself and take refuge in You,

That I may deserve to be defended by You.

Let me fear for myself, let me fear You,

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

Let me distrust myself and put my trust in You.

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

Let me cling to nothing save only to You,

And let me be poor because of You.

Look upon me, that I may love You.

Call me that I may see You,

And for ever enjoy You.

Amen.

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Twenty – Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

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

OPENING PRAYER

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

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

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

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

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

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

grant that we may always conform our will to yours

and serve your majesty in sincerity of heart.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Ex 17:8-13

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

Moses, therefore, said to Joshua,

“Pick out certain men,

and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle.

I will be standing on top of the hill

with the staff of God in my hand.”

So Joshua did as Moses told him:

he engaged Amalek in battle

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

As long as Moses kept his hands raised up,

Israel had the better of the fight,

but when he let his hands rest,

Amalek had the better of the fight.

Moses’ hands, however, grew tired;

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

Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands,

one on one side and one on the other,

so that his hands remained steady till sunset.

And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people

with the edge of the sword.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

1 Cf. Ex 34:6.

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

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

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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

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

I lift up my eyes toward the mountains;

whence shall help come to me?

My help is from the LORD,

who made heaven and earth.

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

May he not suffer your foot to slip;

may he slumber not who guards you:

indeed he neither slumbers nor sleeps,

the guardian of Israel.

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

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

he is beside you at your right hand.

The sun shall not harm you by day,

nor the moon by night.

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

The LORD will guard you from all evil;

he will guard your life.

The LORD will guard your coming and your going,

both now and forever.

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

READING II

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2 Tm 3:14-4:2

Beloved:

Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed,

because you know from whom you learned it,

and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures,

which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation

through faith in Christ Jesus.

All Scripture is inspired by God

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

and for training in righteousness,

so that one who belongs to God may be competent,

equipped for every good work.

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

who will judge the living and the dead,

and by his appearing and his kingly power:

proclaim the word;

be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;

convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

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

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

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

1 DV 11.

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

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

4 GS 16.

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOSPEL

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Lk 18:1-8

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

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

who neither feared God nor respected any human being.

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

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

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

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

because this widow keeps bothering me

I shall deliver a just decision for her

lest she finally come and strike me.'”

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

Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones

who call out to him day and night?

Will he be slow to answer them?

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

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Lk 18:1.

5 Cf. Gen 28:10-22.

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

7 Cf. Lk 11:5-13.

8 Cf. Lk 18:1-8.

9 Cf. Lk 18:9-14.

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BENEDICTUS

Christianity as Revelation

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

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

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

Amen.

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Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for God’s Guidance

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

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

COLLECT

May your grace, O Lord, we pray,

at all times go before us and follow after

and make us always determined

to carry out good works.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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2 Kgs 5:14-17

Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times

at the word of Elisha, the man of God.

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

and he was clean of his leprosy.

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

On his arrival he stood before Elisha and said,

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

except in Israel.

Please accept a gift from your servant.”

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

and despite Naaman’s urging, he still refused.

Naaman said: “If you will not accept,

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

for I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice

to any other god except to the LORD.”

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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

The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done wondrous deeds;

his right hand has won victory for him,

his holy arm.

The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

The LORD has made his salvation known:

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

He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness

toward the house of Israel.

The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

All the ends of the earth have seen

the salvation by our God.

Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands:

break into song; sing praise.

READING II

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2 Tm 2:8-13

Beloved:

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

such is my gospel, for which I am suffering,

even to the point of chains, like a criminal.

But the word of God is not chained.

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

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

together with eternal glory.

This saying is trustworthy:

If we have died with him

we shall also live with him;

if we persevere

we shall also reign with him.

But if we deny him

he will deny us.

If we are unfaithful

he remains faithful,

for he cannot deny himself.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

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

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

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

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

1 Lk 2:11.

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

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

4 Phil 1:21.

5 2 Tim 2:11.

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

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

8 Eph 5:19; Col 3:16.

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

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

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOSPEL

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Lk 17:11-19

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,

he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.

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

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

“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”

And when he saw them, he said,

“Go show yourselves to the priests.”

As they were going they were cleansed.

And one of them, realizing he had been healed,

returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;

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

He was a Samaritan.

Jesus said in reply,

“Ten were cleansed, were they not?

Where are the other nine?

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

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

your faith has saved you.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

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

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

3 Cf. Jn 2:18-22.

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

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BENEDICTUS

Making God Present in Society

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

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Praise to God (psalm 67)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for Respect of Life

Heavenly Father,

the beauty and dignity of human life

was the crowning of your creation.

You further ennobled that life

when your Son became one with us in his incarnation.

Help us to realize the sacredness of human life

and to respect it from the moment of conception

until the last moment at death.

Give us courage to speak with truth

and love and with conviction in defense of life.

Help us to extend the gentle hand of mercy and forgiveness

to those who do not reverence your gift of life.

To all, grant pardon for the times we have failed

to be grateful for your precious gift of life

or to respect it in others.

We ask this in the name of Jesus.

Amen.

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

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

who in the abundance of your kindness

surpass the merits and the desires of those

who entreat you,

pour out your mercy upon us

to pardon what conscience dreads

and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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

How long, O LORD? I cry for help

but you do not listen!

I cry out to you, “Violence!”

but you do not intervene.

Why do you let me see ruin;

why must I look at misery?

Destruction and violence are before me;

there is strife, and clamorous discord.

Then the LORD answered me and said:

Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets,

so that one can read it readily.

For the vision still has its time,

presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;

if it delays, wait for it,

it will surely come, it will not be late.

The rash one has no integrity;

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

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

the-samaritan-woman2

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

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

Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;

let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;

let us joyfully sing psalms to him.

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

Come, let us bow down in worship;

let us kneel before the LORD who made us.

For he is our God,

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

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

Oh, that today you would hear his voice:

“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,

as in the day of Massah in the desert,

Where your fathers tempted me;

they tested me though they had seen my works.”

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

READING II

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2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14

Beloved:

I remind you, to stir into flame

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

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice

but rather of power and love and self-control.

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

nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;

but bear your share of hardship for the gospel

with the strength that comes from God.

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

in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit

that dwells within us.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

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

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

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

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

You are the eternal Shepherd

who never leaves his flock untended.

Through the apostles

you watch over us and protect us always.

You made them shepherds of the flock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14.

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

5 Cf. Acts 2:42.

6 Cf. 2 Tim 1:13-14.

7 AG 5.

8 Roman Missal, Preface of the Apostles I.

9 2 Tim 1:14 (Vulg.).

10 Cf. LG 23; UR 4.

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

12 CIC, can. 1024.

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

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

15 Jn 18:37.

16 2 Tim 1:8.

17 Acts 24:16.

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOSPEL

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Lk 17:5-10

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

The Lord replied,

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

you would say to this mulberry tree,

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

“Who among you would say to your servant

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

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

Would he not rather say to him,

‘Prepare something for me to eat.

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

You may eat and drink when I am finished’?

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

So should it be with you.

When you have done all you have been commanded,

say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;

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

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

1 1 Tim 1:18-19.

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

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

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BENEDICTUS

The World’s Need for Transformation

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

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to Our Lady of the Rosary

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

 

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

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

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

Posted in Catholic

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – C

 

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

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for the Poor

Who is Jesus to me?

Jesus is the Word made Flesh.

Jesus is the Bread of Life.

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

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

Jesus is the Word – to be spoken.

Jesus is the Truth – to be told.

Jesus is the Way – to be walked.

Jesus is the Light – to be lit.

Jesus is the Life – to be loved.

Jesus is the Joy – to be shared.

Jesus is the Sacrifice – to be given.

Jesus is the Bread of Life – to be eaten.

Jesus is the Hungry – to be fed.

Jesus is the Thirsty – to be satiated.

Jesus is the Naked – to be clothed.

Jesus is the Homeless – to be taken in.

Jesus is the Sick – to be healed.

Jesus is the Lonely – to be loved.

Jesus is the Unwanted – to be wanted.

Jesus is the Leper – to wash his wounds.

Jesus is the Beggar – to give him a smile.

Jesus is the Drunkard – to listen to him.

Jesus is the Little One – to embrace him.

Jesus is the Dumb – to speak to him.

Jesus is the Crippled – to walk with him.

Jesus is the Drug Addict – to befriend him.

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

Jesus is the Prisoner – to be visited.

Jesus is the Old – to be served.

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

Amen.

(By Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

COLLECT

O God, who manifest your almighty power

above all by pardoning and showing mercy,

bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us

and make those hastening to attain your promises

heirs to the treasures of heaven.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Am 6:1a, 4-7

Thus says the LORD the God of hosts:

Woe to the complacent in Zion!

Lying upon beds of ivory,

stretched comfortably on their couches,

they eat lambs taken from the flock,

and calves from the stall!

Improvising to the music of the harp,

like David, they devise their own accompaniment.

They drink wine from bowls

and anoint themselves with the best oils;

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

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

and their wanton revelry shall be done away with.

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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

Praise the Lord, my soul!

Blessed he who keeps faith forever,

secures justice for the oppressed,

gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets captives free.

Praise the Lord, my soul!

The LORD gives sight to the blind.

The LORD raises up those who were bowed down;

the LORD loves the just.

The LORD protects strangers.

Praise the Lord, my soul!

The fatherless and the widow he sustains,

but the way of the wicked he thwarts.

The LORD shall reign forever;

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

Praise the Lord, my soul!

READING II394px-hieronymus_bosch_013

1 Tm 6:11-16

But you, man of God, pursue righteousness,

devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.

Compete well for the faith.

Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called

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

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

and before Christ Jesus,

who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession,

to keep the commandment without stain or reproach

until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ

that the blessed and only ruler

will make manifest at the proper time,

the King of kings and Lord of lords,

who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light,

and whom no human being has seen or can see.

To him be honor and eternal power. Amen.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Eph 5:19; Col 3:16.

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

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

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOSPEL

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Lk 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees:

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

and dined sumptuously each day.

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

who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps

that fell from the rich man’s table.

Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.

When the poor man died,

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

The rich man also died and was buried,

and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,

he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off

and Lazarus at his side.

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

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

for I am suffering torment in these flames.’

Abraham replied,

‘My child, remember that you received

what was good during your lifetime

while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;

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

Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established

to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go

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

He said, ‘Then I beg you, father,

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

so that he may warn them,

lest they too come to this place of torment.’

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

Let them listen to them.’

He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham,

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

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

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

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Roman Catechism 1, 6, 3.

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

7 Cf. 2 Tim 1:9-10.

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

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

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

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BENEDICTUS

The Theology of Littleness

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

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

The Ship of Life

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

Saint Basil of Caesarea (ca. 330-379)

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

Posted in Catholic

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – C

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

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for Charity in Truth

Father, your truth is made known in your Word.

Guide us to seek the truth of the human person.

Teach us the way to love because you are Love.

Jesus, you embody Love and Truth.

Help us to recognize your face in the poor.

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

Holy Spirit, you inspire us to transform our world.

Empower us to seek the common good for all persons.

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

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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

COLLECT

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

upon love of you and of our neighbor,

grant that, by keeping your precepts,

we may merit to attain eternal life.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I0615amos-prophet0010

Am 8:4-7

Hear this, you who trample upon the needy

and destroy the poor of the land!

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

that we may sell our grain,

and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat?

We will diminish the ephah,

add to the shekel,

and fix our scales for cheating!

We will buy the lowly for silver,

and the poor for a pair of sandals;

even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!”

The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:

Never will I forget a thing they have done!

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Cf. Am 8:4-10.

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

3 Deut 15:11.

4 Jn 12:8.

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

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

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.

Praise, you servants of the LORD,

praise the name of the LORD.

Blessed be the name of the LORD

both now and forever.

Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.

High above all nations is the LORD;

above the heavens is his glory.

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

and looks upon the heavens and the earth below?

Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.

He raises up the lowly from the dust;

from the dunghill he lifts up the poor

to seat them with princes,

with the princes of his own people.

Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.

READING IIHolyEucharist-Icon-1

1 Tm 2:1-8

Beloved:

First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers,

petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone,

for kings and for all in authority,

that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life

in all devotion and dignity.

This is good and pleasing to God our savior,

who wills everyone to be saved

and to come to knowledge of the truth.

For there is one God.

There is also one mediator between God and men,

the man Christ Jesus,

who gave himself as ransom for all.

This was the testimony at the proper time.

For this I was appointed preacher and apostle

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

teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

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

lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 1 Tim 2:4.

2 cf. Jn 14:6.

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

4 1 Tim 2:5.

5 GS 22 # 5; cf. # 2.

6 Mt 16:24.

7 I Pt 2:21.

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

9 Cf. Lk 2:35.

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

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

12 1 Tim 2:4.

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

14 St. Dominic, dying, to his brothers.

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

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

17 CIC, can. 861.2.

18 Cf. 1 Tim 2:4.

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

20 Cf. 1 Thess 2:13.

21 1 Tim 2:1-2.

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

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

24 1 Tim 2:4.

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

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

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

28 Rom 13:7.

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

30 1 Tim 2:2.

31 1 Tim 2:5.

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

33 Heb 7:25.

34 Rom 8:26-27.

35 1 Tim 2:3-4.

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

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

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOSPELrichyoungruler-836x1024

Lk 16:1-13

Jesus said to his disciples,

A rich man had a steward

who was reported to him for squandering his property.

He summoned him and said,

What is this I hear about you?

Prepare a full account of your stewardship,

because you can no longer be my steward.’

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

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

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

I know what I shall do so that,

when I am removed from the stewardship,

they may welcome me into their homes.’

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

To the first he said,

How much do you owe my master?’

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

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

Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’

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

He replied, ‘One hundred kors of wheat.’

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

write one for eighty.’

And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.

For the children of this world

are more prudent in dealing with their own generation

than are the children of light.

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

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

The person who is trustworthy in very small matters

is also trustworthy in great ones;

and the person who is dishonest in very small matters

is also dishonest in great ones.

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

who will trust you with true wealth?

If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another,

who will give you what is yours?

No servant can serve two masters.

He will either hate one and love the other,

or be devoted to one and despise the other.

You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Acts 4:32.

6 Roman Catechism 1, 10, 27.

7 Cf. Lk 16:1, 3.

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

9 Cf. Mt 19:7-9.

10 CIC, can. 1141.

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

12 GS 65 # 2.

13 Mt 6:24; Lk 16:13.

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BENEDICTUS

Trusting in Truth

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

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 1

Blessed is the man who does not walk

in the counsel of the wicked,

Nor stand in the way of sinners,

nor sit in company with scoffers.a=

Rather, the law of the LORD is his joy;

and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree

planted near streams of water,

that yields its fruit in season;

Its leaves never wither;

whatever he does prospers.

But not so are the wicked, not so!

They are like chaff driven by the wind.

Therefore the wicked will not arise at the judgment,

nor will sinners in the assembly of the just.

Because the LORD knows the way of the just,

but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.

Posted in Uncategorized

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – C

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

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for the Conversion of Sinners.

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

Amen.

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

COLLECT

Look upon us O God,

Creator and ruler of all things,

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

grant that we may serve you with all our heart,

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

 

moses_b

READING I

Ex 32:7-11, 13-14

The LORD said to Moses,

Go down at once to your people,

whom you brought out of the land of Egypt,

for they have become depraved.

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

making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it,

sacrificing to it and crying out,

This is your God, O Israel,

who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’

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

Let me alone, then,

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

Then I will make of you a great nation.”

But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying,

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

whom you brought out of the land of Egypt

with such great power and with so strong a hand?

Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,

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

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

and all this land that I promised,

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

So the LORD relented in the punishment

he had threatened to inflict on his people.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

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

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

2 Ex 33:18-19.

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

4 Cf. Ex 34:6.

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

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

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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

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

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

in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.

Thoroughly wash me from my guilt

and of my sin cleanse me.

I will rise and go to my father.

A clean heart create for me, O God,

and a steadfast spirit renew within me.

Cast me not out from your presence,

and your Holy Spirit take not from me.

I will rise and go to my father.

O Lord, open my lips,

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;

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

I will rise and go to my father.

slide04

READING II

1 Tm 1:12-17

Beloved:

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

because he considered me trustworthy

in appointing me to the ministry.

I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant,

but I have been mercifully treated

because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.

Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant,

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

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance:

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

Of these I am the foremost.

But for that reason I was mercifully treated,

so that in me, as the foremost,

Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example

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

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

honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 142 By his Revelation, “the invisible God, from the fullness of his love, addresses men as his friends, and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into his own company.”1 The adequate response to this invitation is faith.

CCC 545 Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”2 He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father’s boundless mercy for them and the vast “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents”.3 The supreme proof of his love will be the sacrifice of his own life “for the forgiveness of sins”.4

1 DV 2; cf. Col 1:15; I Tim 1:17; Ex 33:11; Jn 15:14-15; Bar 3:38 (Vulg.).

2 Mk 2:17; cf. l Tim 1:15.

3 Lk 15:7; cf. 7:11-32.

4 Mt 26:28.

APPLICATION

St. Paul spent his Christian life regretting his sinful past and wondering at the infinite mercy of Christ, the Son of God, who not only forgave all his past sins but showered his graces on him so abundantly. He realized that his past crimes against Christ, whom he judged as an impostor who was perverting the Chosen People of God, and also his persecution of the Jewish converts to Christ, were caused by his own pride. Yet he blames himself for the ignorance which caused this pharisaical pride in him, while Christ on the other hand excused him because of this ignorance. The conclusion he rightly draws from this is that there is no sinner so wicked but can be forgiven, and will be forgiven, if only he listens to the call of Christ.

There is a consoling lesson here for all of us. We have all sinned in one way or another. We have all offended Christ. We have not offended him as seriously as Paul did perhaps, but then Paul did not know who Christ was at that time. We can have no doubts as to the identity of Christ. St. Paul’s conversion and his absolute dedication to the work of telling the world who Christ was, is alone a convincing proof for use of the divinity of Christ. That the fanatic defender of Judaism, a member of the strict sect of the Pharisees, whose basic doctrine was the strictest monotheism, could turn around and preach the divinity of Christ demanded more than a miracle. It was in fact, something greater than a miracle. It was the very appearance of the Risen Christ in person to him on the road to Damascus.

This appearance of Christ, and his converse with him, convinced Paul that Christ was the Son of God who had assumed human nature in order to live amongst men. By his perfect obedience to his father as man, he had earned for all men forgiveness of their sins and sonship with God: he, Christ, had become their brother. From that moment Paul, who up to now had thought that Christ’s claim to be God was absolute blasphemy, became the most convinced preacher and the most fearless defender of the divine sonship of Christ.

While we thank God for having given us this most convincing proof of Christ’s divinity in the conversion of St. Paul, let us not forget to imitate the same Paul in his life-long sense of sorrow for the offenses he committed against Christ and his followers before his conversion. We too have offended Christ and with far less excuse than Paul had. Christ’s mercy is there in abundance for us also. He came on earth to bring us sinners to heaven. He will bring us there if only we allow him. He has left us in his sacrament of penance all the means necessary to wipe out our past offenses, and if penance is not available to us, he will accept a sincere act of repentance made directly to himself.

Our God is a God of love. He wants to share his eternal happiness with us. To do this he planned the Incarnation through which our lowly human nature was united with the divine nature in Christ. Mankind was raised to brotherhood with Christ and therefore sonship with God and inheritance of heaven. The God who has shown such infinite love for us does not want any of us adopted sons to lose the eternal happiness he has planned for us. He wants us all in heaven, and there we will be, if we are found free from serious sin when leaving this life.

What man could be so foolish, so utterly uninterested in his own eternal welfare, as to refuse to put on the wedding-garment of grace which will admit him to heaven? The merciful, generous God not only gives it freely to him, but implores him, for his own sake, to accept it.

icon-confession

GOSPEL

LK 15:1-10

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,

but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,

This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So to them he addressed this parable.

What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them

would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert

and go after the lost one until he finds it?

And when he does find it,

he sets it on his shoulders with great joy

and, upon his arrival home,

he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,

Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’

I tell you, in just the same way

there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents

than over ninety-nine righteous people

who have no need of repentance.

Or what woman having ten coins and losing one

would not light a lamp and sweep the house,

searching carefully until she finds it?

And when she does find it,

she calls together her friends and neighbors

and says to them,

Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’

In just the same way, I tell you,

there will be rejoicing among the angels of God

over one sinner who repents.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/091116.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 545 Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”1 He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father’s boundless mercy for them and the vast “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents”.2 The supreme proof of his love will be the sacrifice of his own life “for the forgiveness of sins”.3

CCC 589 Jesus gave scandal above all when he identified his merciful conduct toward sinners with God’s own attitude toward them.4 He went so far as to hint that by sharing the table of sinners he was admitting them to the messianic banquet.5 But it was most especially by forgiving sins that Jesus placed the religious authorities of Israel on the horns of a dilemma. Were they not entitled to demand in consternation, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”6 By forgiving sins Jesus either is blaspheming as a man who made himself God’s equal, or is speaking the truth and his person really does make present and reveal God’s name.7

CCC 1423 It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father8 from whom one has strayed by sin.

It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.

CCC 1439 The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father:9 the fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father’s house; the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his fortune; his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, and still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate; his reflection on all he has lost; his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father; the journey back; the father’s generous welcome; the father’s joy – all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life – pure worthy, and joyful – of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of his family, which is the Church. Only the heart Of Christ Who knows the depths of his Father’s love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way.

CCC 1443 During his public life Jesus not only forgave sins, but also made plain the effect of this forgiveness: he reintegrated forgiven sinners into the community of the People of God from which sin had alienated or even excluded them. A remarkable sign of this is the fact that Jesus receives sinners at his table, a gesture that expresses in an astonishing way both God’s forgiveness and the return to the bosom of the People of God.10

CCC 1468 “The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship.”11 Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. For those who receive the sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation “is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation.”12 Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true “spiritual resurrection,” restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God.13

CCC 1700 The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God (article 1); it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude (article 2). It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment (article 3). By his deliberate actions (article 4), the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience (article 5). Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth (article 6). With the help of grace they grow in virtue (article 7), avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves as did the prodigal son14 to the mercy of our Father in heaven (article 8). In this way they attain to the perfection of charity.

CCC 1846 The Gospel is the revelation in Jesus Christ of God’s mercy to sinners.15 The angel announced to Joseph: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”16 The same is true of the Eucharist, the sacrament of redemption: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”17

CCC 2795 The symbol of the heavens refers us back to the mystery of the covenant we are living when we pray to our Father. He is in heaven, his dwelling place; the Father’s house is our homeland. Sin has exiled us from the land of the covenant,18 but conversion of heart enables us to return to the Father, to heaven.19 In Christ, then, heaven and earth are reconciled,20 for the Son alone “descended from heaven” and causes us to ascend there with him, by his Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension.21

CCC 2839 With bold confidence, we began praying to our Father. In begging him that his name be hallowed, we were in fact asking him that we ourselves might be always made more holy. But though we are clothed with the baptismal garment, we do not cease to sin, to turn away from God. Now, in this new petition, we return to him like the prodigal son and, like the tax collector, recognize that we are sinners before him.22 Our petition begins with a “confession” of our wretchedness and his mercy. Our hope is firm because, in his Son, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”23 We find the efficacious and undoubted sign of his forgiveness in the sacraments of his Church.24

1 Mk 2:17; cf. l Tim 1:15.

2 Lk 15:7; cf. 7:11-32.

3 Mt 26:28.

4 Cf. Mt 9:13; Hos 6:6.

5 Cf. Lk 15:1-2, 22-32.

6 Mk 2:7.

7 Cf. Jn 5:18; 10:33; 17:6,26.

8 Cf. Mk 1:15; Lk 15:18.

9 Cf. Lk 15:11-24.

10 Cf. Lk 15; 19:9.

11 Roman Catechism, II, V, 18.

12 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1674.

13 Cf. Lk 15:32.

14 Lk 15:11-32

15 Cf. Lk 15.

16 Mt 1:21.

17 Mt 26:28.

18 Cf. Gen 3.

19 Jer 3:19-4:1a; Lk 15:18, 21.

20 Cf. Isa 45:8; Ps 85:12.

21 Jn 3:13; 12:32; 14 2-3; 16:28; 20:17; Eph 4:9-10; Heb 1:3; 2:13.

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

23 Col 1:14; Eph 1:7.

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

APPLICATION

The lesson that these stories, made up by our Lord himself, has for us is clearly a lesson of hope and confidence in the infinite mercy of God in his dealings with us. We are all sinners in one way or another. We have all gone astray, got lost like the sheep and the coin in those stories, sometime or other. What is worse, we are all capable of going astray from God again at any moment. If we had only the justice of God to deal with we might well despair, our chances of reaching heaven would be slight indeed.

We are dealing, however, with a God of infinite mercy, who loves us with a love we cannot grasp or understand. All this infinite mercy of God is there for our benefit as long as we have the breath of life in us in this world. The whole of the Old Testament is full of examples and proofs of this mercy of God for man. It is in the New Testament, however, which begins with that almost incredible act of divine mercy, the Incarnation, that the infinite mercy of God for all mankind is seen in its fullness. The coming of the Son of God on earth in our human nature, his teaching, his sufferings and death, his resurrection were all accomplished for us, so that we could rise glorious from the dead and share the joys of heaven, to which we have no claim whatever, except the merciful goodness and generosity of God.

God does not need us to make his existence happy. He is all-powerful, all-perfect, all-happy in himself. Because he is a God of love, a God of infinite generosity, he wants to give us a share in his happiness. At times one must wonder how any man who knows of God’s generosity and of what that generosity has led him to do for us, could ever think of abandoning that loving God, or get lost in futile earthly folly. Yet that does happen when we sin grievously.

God does not cast us out forever as sinners unworthy of his gifts. Instead, he foresees such folly on our part, and has left us lessons of encouragement, as in today’s parables, and set up in the Church ways and means to carry on his work of mercy for weak, mortal men. During his life on earth, Christ dealt mostly with sinners–he said he came to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He told the Pharisees that it was the sick who needed a doctor, not those who were well. The Pharisees in their pride thought they were not sick but they were, and he was only too ready to heal them too if only they would let him.

He spent his days then among sinners, the tax-gatherers, the robbers, the adulterers, the usurers. The twelve special friends he chose from amongst his followers had more than their share of human failings. James and John were more interested in getting good profitable positions in the earthly kingdom which they thought he would set up, than they were in heavenly things. Peter shamelessly and openly denied him on Holy Thursday night to save himself from the clutches of the Sanhedrin. Judas actually sold him for thirty mean pieces of silver. Yet, he never uttered a harsh word against any of these sinners. He forgave the weaknesses of his Apostles and they became the solid foundation of his Church soon afterwards. He offered Judas forgiveness when he called him “friend” in the garden of Gethsemani. But Judas did not avail of his generous offer.

We are all sinners to a greater or lesser degree. With this knowledge and conviction, which any true Christian must have, of the infinite mercy of God, no sinner need ever, and should never, despair. No sinner was ever lost and no sinner will ever be lost, because of his sins. Sinners are lost only because they will not trust and believe in God’s mercy and turn to him to ask for pardon.

Not a day passes but our merciful Father sends out and calls to us his erring children to return to our Fathers household. Today, one of those calls is in the very words of the parables you have heard. There may be another call for the sinners amongst us. There may not. Heed this one and the other call will not be necessary. Turn to God today with a truly contrite heart. God will do the rest.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Personal Dimension of Forgiveness

As sin, despite all our bonds with the human community, is ultimately something totally personal, so also our healing with forgiveness has to be something totally personal. God does not treat us as part of a collectivity. He knows each one by name, and he calls him personally and saves him if he has fallen into sin. Even if in all the sacraments, the Lord addresses the person as an individual, the personalist nature of the Christian life is manifested in a particularly clear way in the sacrament of Penance. That means that the personal confession and the forgiveness directed to this person are constitutive parts of the sacrament… Of course, the confession of one’s own sin can seem to be something heavy for the person, because it humbles his pride and confronts him with his poverty. It is this that we need: we suffer exactly for this reason: we shut ourselves up in our delirium of guiltlessness and for this reason we are closed to others and to any comparison with them. In psychotherapeutic treatments a person is made to bear the burden of profound and often dangerous revelations of his inner self. In the sacrament of Penance, the simple confession of one’s guilt is presented with confidence in God’s merciful goodness. It is important to do this without falling into scruples, with the spirit of trust proper to the children of God. In this way confession can become an experience of deliverance, in which the weight of the past is removed from us and we can feel rejuvenated by the merit of the grace of God who each time gives back the youthfulness of the heart.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 6

O Lord, reprove me not in your anger, nor chastise me in your wrath.

Have pity on me, O Lord, for I am languishing ; heal me, O Lord, for my body is in terror ;

My soul, too, is utterly terrified ; but you, O Lord, how long?

Return, O Lord, save my life ; rescue me because of your kindness,

For among the dead no one remembers you ; in the nether world who gives you thanks?

I am wearied with sighing ; every night I flood my bed with weeping ; I drench my couch with my tears.

My eyes are dimmed with sorrow ; they have aged because of all my foes.

Depart from me, all evildoers, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping ;

The Lord has heard my plea ; the Lord has accepted my prayer.

All my enemies shall be put to shame in utter terror ; they shall fall back in sudden shame.

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Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

01-jesus-christ-pantocrator_fullIf anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

OPENING PRAYER

The Passion Of Christ, Strengthen Me Prayer

Passion of Christ, strengthen me! Strengthen me under the pressure of temptation. Strengthen me when principle is at stake. Strengthen me to do Your Will, My God. Strengthen me in moments of suffering, in times of loneliness, in periods of depression. Strengthen me that I may never swerve from You, dear Christ, nor weaken through human respect, through a desire to be popular, through hope of social distinction. Strengthen me to accept my cross and carry it generously to the end. On the battlefield of life, stand by me that I may never prove a traitor in the ranks. Stand by me that I may not be dazzled by the glitter and glow of the enemy camp.

Amen

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1687

COLLECT

O God, by whom we are redeemed and receive adoption,

look graciously upon your beloved sons and daughters,

that those who believe in Christ

may receive true freedom

and an everlasting inheritance.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

holyspirit

Wis 9:13-18b

Who can know God’s counsel,

or who can conceive what the LORD intends?

For the deliberations of mortals are timid,

and unsure are our plans.

For the corruptible body burdens the soul

and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns.

And scarce do we guess the things on earth,

and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty;

but when things are in heaven, who can search them out?

Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom

and sent your holy spirit from on high?

And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.

APPLICATION

We can never thank God sufficiently for his goodness in revealing himself to us, and in unveiling the plans he had for us when we were created. By the use of reason, we could prove that we were created by some all-wise, all-powerful being. That would, however, be but cold philosophical knowledge. We would still not see any purpose in life except to get what we could out of it, and that would in fact be very little because life is so short, and the amount of good we could get in its short span of time is so limited.

God has revealed that he has planned an unending life for us once we have completed our term on this earth. This is surely a revelation which satisfies every human ambition that we find in ourselves, and which gives a meaning to this life which human reasoning could never of itself discover. What is more, this revelation gives us an idea of God which no human philosophy could deduce from the knowledge of a Creator. It tells us our Creator is a God of love, a God who has a very personal interest in man, the masterpiece of his creative act. He not only gave us existence for a space of time on this earth, as he gave to the other beings about us. He intended also that unending existence for us afterwards.

Fortunate indeed are we who have this revelation of God from God. The author of the Book of Wisdom was grateful for the limited knowledge that the Old Testament contained. How much more grateful should we Christians be, who have seen the love of God personified and living amongst us and dying for us in the humanity of the Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ? “Greater love than this no man has than that a man lay down his life for his friends.” These are the words of Christ himself, but when it is God-made-man who does this for his mere creatures “the work of his hands:” how much greater, how much more beyond expectation is that love!

This is what God’s love has done for us. What does he ask in return? He asks that we should love and respect him in our limited little way. There isn’t much that we can give, but he accepts our tiny tokens. One way in which we can show how we appreciate all that he has done for us, is to try, by word and example, to make the infinite love of God for mankind known, to those who have not yet received the Christian faith, or who once had it but lost it through their human folly.

God loves the whole human race. He intends heaven for each one of us. There is room there for all. Men will be perverse and abuse the gifts of intellect and will which he gave them. They will even turn against himself and refuse the eternal reward which he has in store for them. He cannot force their free-will. He depends on us to act on his behalf. Every true Christian is an apostle. Every man who appreciates God’s goodness and love, must prove to his neighbor by his life that he has the “pearl of great price.” His place must show that he has the true answer to the enigma of life, and his confidence emphasize that the innate ambitions and desires of mankind are to be, and will be, fulfilled in him who serves God faithfully, according to his lights, during his few years on earth.

Thank you, God, for the Wisdom you have sent us from heaven. Give us the grace to live up to it always, and to be ready to share it with our neighbor on every available occasion. Thus may we arrive at the gates of heaven accompanied by many fellowmen, our brothers, who would otherwise have missed the road there.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17

In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

You turn man back to dust,

saying, “Return, O children of men.”

For a thousand years in your sight

are as yesterday, now that it is past,

or as a watch of the night.

In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

You make an end of them in their sleep;

the next morning they are like the changing grass,

Which at dawn springs up anew,

but by evening wilts and fades.

In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

Teach us to number our days aright,

that we may gain wisdom of heart.

Return, O LORD! How long?

Have pity on your servants!

In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,

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

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

prosper the work of our hands for us!

Prosper the work of our hands!

In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

READING II

-1

Phmn 9-10, 12-17

I, Paul, an old man,

and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus,

urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus,

whose father I have become in my imprisonment;

I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you.

I should have liked to retain him for myself,

so that he might serve me on your behalf

in my imprisonment for the gospel,

but I did not want to do anything without your consent,

so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary.

Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while,

that you might have him back forever,

no longer as a slave

but more than a slave, a brother,

beloved especially to me, but even more so to you,

as a man and in the Lord.

So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.1 The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others.2

CCC 2188 In respecting religious liberty and the common good of all, Christians should seek recognition of Sundays and the Church’s holy days as legal holidays. They have to give everyone a public example of prayer, respect, and joy and defend their traditions as a precious contribution to the spiritual life of society. If a country’s legislation or other reasons require work on Sunday, the day should nevertheless be lived as the day of our deliverance which lets us share in this “festal gathering,” this “assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven.”3

1 Cf. 2 Tim 1:9-10.

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

3 Heb 12:22-23.

APPLICATION

In all his other Epistles we see St. Paul as the great apostle, the great lover of Christ, who counted suffering, imprisonment and even death as gain, so far as they were for Christ. We see the great theologian who expounds the depths and the riches and the greatness of God’s love for us as proved by the Incarnation. We see the saint who is devoting every gift of his mind, and every muscle and sinew of his body, to the service of his Master, Jesus Christ. In today’s short epistle we see Paul the warm-hearted man, who forgets himself and his own needs in order to reconcile two brothers. They are each dear to him. He wants to make them just as dear to one another. He succeeded, we can feel sure.

It is good for us to know that the great saints of God were not like the cold statues of them which we see in our churches. They were men and women of flesh and blood, like ourselves. Becoming saints did not make them less but more human. There was a period in the history of the Church when the lives of saints were so written as to leave almost nothing human in them. This was done to edify the reader, or so the authors thought. But the fact was that instead of such lives attracting the ordinary faithful, they had the opposite effect. Who could imitate a saint who was one from birth, who not only never did anything wrong, but almost never did anything human. How could we, very human people, become saints if that was the stuff saints were made of.

Of course, it was not. They had the same human nature that we have. They had the same attachment to family and to friends that we have. They had the same weaknesses that we have. Some of them, like St. Augustine and many others, gave in to those weaknesses for a time. Eventually they overcame them. Most of the saints whose feasts are celebrated by the Church did outstanding and even extraordinary things for God and for the Church, but there are millions of others in heaven. These are saints who did nothing very big or extraordinary. They did the small things of life well, while they lived a very “ordinary” life in the grace of God.

We need have no doubt but that there are millions of such saints in heaven. If there are not, then Christ’s salvific work has been in vain. The few thousand who figure in the calendar of the Church would be a very poor harvest, in two thousand years, from the seed which Christ planted.

Yes, the ordinary, good Christian goes to heaven. He may have stumbled and fallen many a time on the way. But, aided by God’s grace, he always rose up again and kept on the road that his faith had marked out for him. We have every reason, every one of us here present, to feel confident that we will make the grade. We are dealing with a God of mercy who understands our weak, human nature, better than we ourselves can understand it. We are dealing with the God of infinite love who proved his love for us in the Incarnation. He is sorry for our sakes when we forget him and offend him. He is ever ready to receive us back with open arms when we see our folly and repent of our sins.

One of the great proofs, I would venture to say, that the Church is not a human invention, is the sacrament of penance. What human mind would be big enough to say that a sinner would be pardoned, no matter how seriously and how often he sinned, provided the sinner was truly repentant. Peter suggested that the forgiving of an enemy seven times would be stretching things a bit, but Christ who was divine had a different view.

Yes, think over St. Paul’s very human nature today. Think of the very human nature of millions of others who have gone to heaven before us. What they did, we can do. We have the same helps for the same weak human nature which they had. Let us use these helps. Let us do our very ordinary day’s work well. Let us try always to stay in God’s grace, or if temptation should overcome us, let us get back quickly to God’s grace through the sacrament of divine mercy. Very likely, we shall not get our names in the Church calendar of canonized saints, but we can get them in the heavenly calendar.

GOSPEL

Banner+Top+2+-+Plain+2

Lk 14:25-33

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus,

and he turned and addressed them,

If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,

wife and children, brothers and sisters,

and even his own life,

he cannot be my disciple.

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me

cannot be my disciple.

Which of you wishing to construct a tower

does not first sit down and calculate the cost

to see if there is enough for its completion?

Otherwise, after laying the foundation

and finding himself unable to finish the work

the onlookers should laugh at him and say,

This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’

Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down

and decide whether with ten thousand troops

he can successfully oppose another king

advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?

But if not, while he is still far away,

he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.

In the same way,

anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions

cannot be my disciple.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/090416.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 575 Many of Jesus’ deeds and words constituted a “sign of contradiction”,1 but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply “the Jews”,2 than for the ordinary People of God.3 To be sure, Christ’s relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;4 Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.5 Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God’s people: the resurrection of the dead,6 certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),7 the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.8

CCC 588 Jesus scandalized the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners as familiarly as with themselves.9 Against those among them “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others”, Jesus affirmed: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”10 He went further by proclaiming before the Pharisees that, since sin is universal, those who pretend not to need salvation are blind to themselves.11

1 Lk 2:34.

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

3 Jn 7:48-49.

4 Cf Lk 13:31.

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

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

7 Cf. Mt 6:18.

8 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.

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

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

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

APPLICATION

The essential condition for true discipleship, demanded by Christ, was, and still is, total dedication, total commitment of oneself to him. There can be no such person as a half- Christian. “He that is not with me is against me,” he said on another occasion. We cannot be for Christ on Sunday and against him for the other six days of the week. To be his true disciples, his true followers, we must live our Christian life every day and all day.

Following Christ means making our way to heaven. It is a life-journey. We have a limited time in which to complete this journey. Therefore, we must travel a certain distance each day. This does not mean that we must spend every day in prayer and meditation. There are other tasks to be done, but we must Christianize these other tasks. Even the members of religious orders who “leave the world,” that is, who are set free from the family and financial cares of this world by their vows of chastity and poverty, have to busy themselves with other cares like teaching, nursing, tilling the soil perhaps, house-keeping, writing and many such activities. They cannot and do not spend all their day and every day in prayer and meditation. Nor does Christ demand this of them.

Much less, therefore, does he demand this of the ninety-nine per cent of his followers who have to take on themselves financial and family cares. It is by fulfilling these worldly duties in a Christian way that they are dedicating themselves to his service. This is their total commitment to Christ. The married man or woman who is loyal to his or her life-partner and to the family, if there is one, and who provides diligently and honestly for his own and the family’s spiritual and temporal welfare, and who always does this with the intention of pleasing God, is following Christ and is moving steadily day by day towards heaven.

This, of course, is more easily said than done. There are temptations, there are pit-falls on every side. While we are in this life we are travelers. We have not yet seen the beauty, the joy, the happiness toward which we are traveling, whereas this world, with its attractions, its own limited joys and pleasures, is here under our eyes. This is what makes the going difficult for most, if not all, of us. Of this we have been forewarned–we must take up our cross daily–we must “turn our backs” on these earthly attractions if and when they threaten to impede or obstruct our heavenward journey.

We must Christianize our daily work therefore by accepting it and honestly carrying it out as a necessary condition of Christian discipleship. If we offer our day’s work to God for his honor and glory, it will be a continuous prayer. We are working for God and moving a step closer to heaven each day. If in spite of our honest labor we often find it harder to make ends meet, and we have done everything possible to better our situation, we must remember our Savior who “had not whereon to lay his head.” That extra bit of income we so much desire might not turn out to be the blessing we think it would. God is not forgetting us. These times of difficulty may be the very moments when he is nearest to us.

On the other hand, those amongst us who find life running almost too smoothly, who have no family or financial difficulties, could well look into their consciences. If they never seem to have a cross to carry, they may be forgetting God. Their financial success may not be built on Christian honesty. Their peace in their house may not be the result of Christian discipline. The children who get every material thing that they desire, and are permitted by their parents to do as they wish, are not having their feet set on the road to heaven. They will not thank their over-generous parents later on, and those parents will pay for their folly, if not in this life, assuredly in the next.

To be true Christians, therefore, we must act as Christians all our lives. We must not let this world detain us on our journey home. We must use it and not let it use us. We must be ready to give up and turn our backs on anyone or anything, no matter how near or dear to us, if it is an impediment to us on our way to heaven. On the day that we were made Christians, we set out to build a tower that will reach to heaven. We decided to win a battle against whatever foe we met in life. By perseverance, we shall win our battles, we shall finish our tower, we shall reach the home which God has prepared for us.

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

BENEDICTUS

Imitating Jesus

The call to imitation is concerned not simply with a human agenda or with the human virtues of Jesus, but with his entire way, “through the curtain” (Heb 10:20). What is essential and innovative about the way of Jesus Christ is exactly that he opens this way for us, for only in this manner do we come out into the open, into freedom. Imitation has the dimension of moving toward the divine communion, and this is why it is tied to the paschal mystery. For this reason the saying of Jesus about following him that comes after Peter’s profession of faith states “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mk 8: 34). This is not a narrow moralism that views life principally from the negative side, nor is it a kind of masochism for those who do not like themselves. We also do not track down the real meaning of Jesus’ words if we understand them the other way around, as an exalted moralism for heroic souls who are determined to be martyrs. Jesus’ call can only be comprehended from the broad paschal context of the entire exodus, which goes “through the curtain.” From this goal the age-old wisdom of humans acquires its meaning – that only they who lose themselves find themselves, and only they who give life receive life (Mk 8: 35)… “The plan of God and our Redeemer for human beings consists in calling them back from exile and bringing them back from the alienation which came about because of disobedience?… For the perfection of life it is necessary to imitate Christ, not only in terms of the meekness and patience exhibited in his life, but also in terms of his death.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Birth of the Virgin; The Hours of Catherine of Cleves – Byzantine Liturgy of the Hours

Come, all you faithful, let us hasten to the Virgin: for long before her conception in the womb, the one who was to be born of the stem of Jesse was destined to be the Mother of God. The one who is the treasury of virginity, the flowering Rod of Aaron, the object of the prophecies, the child of Joachim and Anne, is born today and the world is renewed in her. Through her birth, she floods the church with her splendor. O holy Temple, Vessel of the Godhead, Model of virgins and Strength of kings: in you the wondrous union of the two natures of Christ was realized. We worship Him and glorify your most pure birth, and we magnify you. (441-442)

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Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

extreme humility

For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

OPENING 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 destitutes.

Teach me to model after Your eminence,

To subject my human nature to humility.

Grant me with 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!

COLLECT

God of might, giver of every good gift,

put into our hearts the love of your name,

so that, by deepening our sense of reverence,

you may nurture in us what is good

and, by your watchful care,

keep safe what you have nurtured.

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

1AN52-E__88693.1316243297.500.500

Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29

My child, conduct your affairs with humility,

and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.

Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,

and you will find favor with God.

What is too sublime for you, seek not,

into things beyond your strength search not.

The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs,

and an attentive ear is the joy of the wise.

Water quenches a flaming fire,

and alms atone for sins.

APPLICATION

Humility, the virtue recommended to all of us in today’s man of the Old Testament times, is the quotation from Sirach, a wise and saintly basic virtue of a Christian life. It is the one virtue our divine Lord told us to copy from him: “Learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart.” He had all the other virtues to the highest degree and he did not mean that we should ignore them, but as humility is the foundation on which all the other Christian virtues are built, if we have it, the others will grow from it as the tree comes from the root.

What is humility? It is an honest, truthful estimation of ourselves. Whatever we are or have, we owe to God. We did not bring ourselves into being, God created us. If we have healthy bodies, sound limbs and senses, bright and alert intellects, it was God who gave them to us. If we have used these gifts of God properly and acquired some of this world’s goods and honors, we did so because God gave us the materials with which to work. In other words, everything we are and have is a loan from God, and therefore we cannot boast of it, or grow proud because of it.

Yet the world is full of pride. Pride has been the besetting sin of man from the beginning of time. It is the original sin, the cause of all other sins, and it has been copied by generation after generation down to our own day. Puny, finite man came to realize that he had gifts which raised him above all the other beings that inhabited the earth. Instead of using his gift of reasoning he abused it by claiming these gifts as his own, shutting his eyes to the fact, which was evident, that he could not have given these gifts to himself. He not only forgot his Creator, but he turned against him, and refused to admit that the Creator had any claims on his gratitude or obedience.

This was the beginning, very early in man’s history on earth, of human opposition to God and disobedience to the wise laws of God which should regulate life on earth. It was consequently the beginning of man’s opposition to his fellowman and the cause of the wars, the strife between individuals and between races and nations, which have been the blot and disgrace of the history of man on this planet.

As the proverb says : “There is no use crying over spilt milk.” It will help in no way to waste time lamenting over the havoc that pride has caused down through the ages. What we must do is try to eradicate this human vice by cultivating its opposite virtue, humility. Each one must begin with himself. “What have I.” St. Paul reminds me, “that I have not received, and if I have received it why glory in it as if it were my own?” All I am and have are from God. Once I realize this and keep it in my mind, I will resist any temptation to look down on my neighbor or lord it over him, if he happens to have less gifts from God than I.

If I am physically or mentally stronger than my neighbor, and if I have acquired more of the goods of this world because of these extra gifts, I must give the credit to God and not to myself. I must by ready to share my surplus with those who received lesser gifts from the Creator. If I happen to be a citizen of a nation which has exploited successfully its greater natural wealth and consequently has a higher standard of education and living, I must not despise other nations or races who are less fortunate in the portion of this earth which falls to their lot. Rather, if I realize and admit that everything, both I and my nation have, is from God. I must be willing and ready to help in every possible way to alleviate the material and spiritual deprivations of those less fortunate neighbors of mine who are children of the same human family of God.

Thank God that this spirit of true humility, the realization of God’s dominion over all the gifts which he has given to mankind, is spreading today more than ever before among the peoples of this earth. We Christians should be in the vanguard in this movement of true fraternity and charity. We will be, if we give the virtue of true humility the place it should have in our lives, the place of honor among our Christian virtues.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11

God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.

The just rejoice and exult before God;

they are glad and rejoice.

Sing to God, chant praise to his name;

whose name is the LORD.

God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.

The father of orphans and the defender of widows

is God in his holy dwelling.

God gives a home to the forsaken;

he leads forth prisoners to prosperity.

God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.

A bountiful rain you showered down, O God, upon your inheritance;

you restored the land when it languished;

your flock settled in it;

in your goodness, O God, you provided it for the needy.

God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.

READING II

crown-of-thorns-icon-of-immense-humility

Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a

Brothers and sisters:

You have not approached that which could be touched

and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness

and storm and a trumpet blast

and a voice speaking words such that those who heard

begged that no message be further addressed to them.

No, you have approached Mount Zion

and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,

and countless angels in festal gathering,

and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven,

and God the judge of all,

and the spirits of the just made perfect,

and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant,

and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.1 The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others.2

CCC 2188 In respecting religious liberty and the common good of all, Christians should seek recognition of Sundays and the Church’s holy days as legal holidays. They have to give everyone a public example of prayer, respect, and joy and defend their traditions as a precious contribution to the spiritual life of society. If a country’s legislation or other reasons require work on Sunday, the day should nevertheless be lived as the day of our deliverance which lets us share in this “festal gathering,” this “assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven.”3

1 Cf. 2 Tim 1:9-10.

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

3 Heb 12:22-23.

APPLICATION

The reason why the Church has selected these verses for our reading today is the same reason that the author of this Epistle had when he wrote them. He wanted to impress on the Jewish converts the superiority of the Christian religion over that of the Old Testament, which they had practiced until their conversion. We, too, must never forget that our Christian religion is based on love, on the infinite love of God for mankind.

The Jews served God out of fear. They did not and could not know him as we know him. He gave them a partial revelation of himself through his dealings with them, and through the prophets and sacred writers. However, to us he has given the fullness of revelation through his divine Son who lived amongst us. The Incarnation is an act of divine love which no finite, human mind can ever fully understand in this life. That the Son of God could so humiliate himself as to take our created human nature, empty himself of his divinity, of the glory which was his as God, and live amongst us as one of ourselves, is a mystery of love which surpasses human understanding.

Add to that the extra humiliations which we sinful men, whom he had come to raise up to sonship of the Father, heaped upon him during his stay on earth. He was accused by his opponents of being a liar, a deceiver, of being in league with the devil, of being an enemy of the people, of being a blasphemer who claimed to be God. On this last accusation they had him put to the ignominious death of the cross. His very friends, the Apostles and disciples who admired his teaching and believed in his miracles, were little better. One of them sold him to his enemies for thirty pieces of silver. The others deserted him when he was arrested. Peter denied that he ever knew him. While he hung in agony on the cross, John alone, with the blessed Mother and a few women, was near him. The others stood far off lest they should endanger their lives by associating themselves with him.

Yet all this did not prevent the Son of God from fulfilling the mission that the Father gave him. Through perfect obedience in his human nature, he reconciled disobedient mankind with God; and through sharing in our human nature, he gave us a share in the divinity.

While we cannot in this life fully appreciate the mystery of the divine love which went to such lengths in order to raise us up to the height of sonship with God, we can and do understand enough of this mystery to make us try to love him in return. We are now adopted sons of God. We have heaven as our eternal home. What does God ask of us in return? What must we do to get possession of that inheritance? Nothing very difficult. Nothing beyond our human powers, aided by the means of grace that Christ made available to us in his Church. We need not leave the world and enclose ourselves within the walls of a monastery. A few do that, but it is only for the few. We can and must live our ordinary earthly lives, using the goods of this earth which God has put here for our use. We can enjoy the normal pleasures of life. We can and must take an interest in the welfare of our families, our cities and our states.

While our Christian lives are to all external appearances very ordinary, they are extra-ordinary and special in this: they are lived within the commandments of God and the regulations and teaching of Christ’s Church. This is not something too much to expect of us, if we are true followers of Christ. Millions have done this before us and attained to Christian perfection. We can do it too, and with God’s help we will do it, and thus reach the “city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” where “Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant” will be waiting to welcome us.

GOSPEL

PalmSunday-01

Lk 14:1, 7-14

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine

at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,

and the people there were observing him carefully.

He told a parable to those who had been invited,

noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.

When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet,

do not recline at table in the place of honor.

A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,

and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say,

Give your place to this man,’

and then you would proceed with embarrassment

to take the lowest place.

Rather, when you are invited,

go and take the lowest place

so that when the host comes to you he may say,

My friend, move up to a higher position.’

Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.

For every one who exalts himself will be humbled,

but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Then he said to the host who invited him,

When you hold a lunch or a dinner,

do not invite your friends or your brothers

or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,

in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.

Rather, when you hold a banquet,

invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;

blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.

For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/082816.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 575 Many of Jesus’ deeds and words constituted a “sign of contradiction”,1 but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply “the Jews”,2 than for the ordinary People of God.3 To be sure, Christ’s relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;4 Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.5 Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God’s people: the resurrection of the dead,6 certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),7 the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.8

CCC 588 Jesus scandalized the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners as familiarly as with themselves.9 Against those among them “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others”, Jesus affirmed: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”10 He went further by proclaiming before the Pharisees that, since sin is universal, those who pretend not to need salvation are blind to themselves.11

1 Lk 2:34.

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

3 Jn 7:48-49.

4 Cf Lk 13:31.

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

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

7 Cf. Mt 6:18.

8 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.

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

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

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

APPLICATION

This parable was intended in the first instance for the Pharisees but it was preserved in the inspired Gospel because it has a lesson for all men. A proud Christian, that is, a proud follower of the humble Christ, is a contradiction in terms. Christ, the Son of God, lowered himself to our level when he took our human nature. He was born in a stable, reared in the obscure village of Nazareth; earned his meager meals as a country carpenter; died on a cross as a malefactor with two thieves as companions; was buried in a stranger’s grave. Could he have done more to induce us to listen to his counsel when he said: “Learn of me, for I am humble of heart?”

Yet, there are Christians who are proud. Like the Pharisees of old, they thank God that they are not like the rest of men. They shun any contact with sinners. They cover their ears when any scandal is mentioned. Yet they never miss the gossip, and are always ready to condemn offhand the unfortunate giver of scandal, without knowing the extenuating circumstances.

The authorities placed by Christ over them in the Church do not escape their severe censorship. The normal, humble Christian knows that pastors and individual bishops are not infallible, and that they can make mistakes at times, but to the proud, self-opinionated Christian they are always wrong except when their decisions agree to the letter with his opinions.

Worse still, the proud Christian sets himself up as a critic of God’s wisdom. He muses: God forgives sinners too easily, God doesn’t know them as well as I do. That conversion cannot be trusted, it will not last, he says. The “sinners” prosper, they are blessed with good health, a happy family, more than their share of the world’s goods, and here am I who never failed God, who always did what was right and even more, and I am neglected by God. God doesn’t know his real friends!

These are the questionings of a proud soul. Such Christians raise themselves above their neighbors in their own minds. They choose the first places, and from their self-appointed heights they look down on their fellow guests at God’s banquet. Thank God, there are few whose pride leads them to these extremes, but there are far too many who set themselves up as judges over their neighbor and appoint themselves as the models to be imitated by all others.

There is a little demon of pride in every one of us. There is a natural inclination in each one to esteem himself a little better in most ways, if not in all, than his neighbor. We must keep this demon in check and not let him grow in us. Any gifts of mind or body that we have are from God–our duty is to use them properly and to thank God for the loan of them. If he gave greater gifts to another, I thank God for it. That other was able to make better use of them than I would. I have enough to go on with. I shall not be judged on the use or abuse of gifts which I did not receive.

If I use all the gifts which God gave me, to help my neighbor, the spiritually poor, the lame and blind, to heaven, instead of keeping myself aloof from them as the Pharisees did, then my judgment will be easy, I shall be “repaid in the resurrection of the just.”

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

BENEDICTUS

The Meaning of a Christian Feast

In a world in which, despite all its progress, injustice and affliction are perhaps more than ever before exercising their fearful reign in many forms: In such a world it must seem like a gesture of contempt when those who are able to do so escape into the happy forgetfulness or expensive pomp of a festive celebration. Well, if celebration means simply a self-satisfied enjoyment of one’s own affluence and security, then there is really no place for that kind of celebration today. But is this really the meaning of celebration? It is certainly not the original meaning of a Christian feast. A Christian feast – the birth of the Lord, for example – means something entirely different. It means that the human person leaves the world of calculation and determinisms in which everyday life snares him, and that he focuses his being on the primal source of his existence. It means that for the moment he is freed from the stern logic of the struggle for existence and looks beyond his own narrow world to the totality of things. It means that he allows himself to be comforted, allows his conscience to be moved by the love he finds in the God who has become a child, and that in doing so he becomes freer, richer, purer. If we were to try celebrating in this fashion, would not a sigh of relief pass across the world? Would such a feast not bring hope to the oppressed and be a clarion call to the forgetful folk who are aware only of themselves?

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer of Saint Augustine (354-430)

Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know you and desire nothing save only you. Let me hate myself and love you. Let me humble myself and exalt you. Let me think nothing except you. Let me die to myself and live in you. Let me accept whatever happens as from you. Let me banish myself and follow you, and ever desire to follow you. Let me fly from myself and take refuge in you, that I may deserve to be defended by you. Let me fear for myself, let me fear you, and let me be among those who are chosen by you. Let me be willing to obey for the sake of you. Let me cling to nothing save only to you, and let me be poor because of you. Look upon me, that I may love you. Call me that I may see you, and for ever enjoy you. Amen.

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Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time – C

myth3-17

“For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer of Commendation

Go forth, Christian soul, from this world

in the name of God the almighty Father,

who created you,

in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God,

who suffered for you,

in the name of the Holy Spirit,

who was poured out upon you.

Go forth, faithful Christian!

May you live in peace this day,

may your home be with God in Zion,

with Mary, the virgin Mother of God,

with Joseph, and all the angels and saints. . . .

May you return to your Creator

who formed you from the dust of the earth.

May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints

come to meet you as you go forth from this life. . . .

May you see your Redeemer face to face.

http://www.ibreviary.com/m/preghiere.php?tipo=Rito&id=371

COLLECT

O God, who cause the minds of the faithful

to unite in a single purpose,

grant your people to love what you command

and to desire what your promise,

that, amid the uncertainties of this world,

our hearts may be fixed on that place

where true gladness is foundation.

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

allsaintsicon2

Is 66:18-21

Thus says the LORD:

I know their works and their thoughts,

and I come to gather nations of every language;

they shall come and see my glory.

I will set a sign among them;

from them I will send fugitives to the nations:

to Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan,

to the distant coastlands

that have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory;

and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations.

They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations

as an offering to the LORD,

on horses and in chariots, in carts, upon mules and dromedaries,

to Jerusalem, my holy mountain, says the LORD,

just as the Israelites bring their offering

to the house of the LORD in clean vessels.

Some of these I will take as priests and Levites, says the LORD.

APPLICATION

Like all the prophecies of the Old Testament these words of Trito-Isaiah contained far more than his contemporaries could grasp. The glory of Jerusalem which he foretold was to be something entirely new, something the Jews of his time could not even begin to understand. The most they could see in it was that the pagans of the world would come to recognize Yahweh, the God of Israel, and offer tribute to him in his Temple in Jerusalem. This was but a small part of the significance of the prophecy; the pagans would recognize the God of Israel, but through his divine Son, the Immanuel who had come on earth to bring all men to heaven and to his Father. The Temple of Jerusalem with its animal sacrifices and symbolic rites would be replaced by the true Temple, the Church, with its once-for-all effective sacrifice of Christ which would earn heaven for all men. The shadow would give place to the substance, the types and symbols would yield to the reality.

Reading these words of Trito-Isaiah today, words written five hundred years before Christ came on earth to fulfill them, we can see how the good and kind God was thinking of, and preparing for, the salvation of mankind down through the ages. He was gradually opening the minds of the Jews to see that the Gentiles were his children also, that the Temple of Jerusalem, where he had shown them his glory, was but a preparation, a symbol of the universal Temple in which he would really dwell among all the peoples of the earth in the person of Christ, his divine Son.

We can also see that God is not rushed in the carrying out of his plans. He delayed the sending of his Son for thousands of years, but in the meantime he was not neglecting Jew or Gentile. To the former he gave a direct but limited revelation of himself, and he accepted the crude but willing sacrifices and honor they paid to him, for which they were eventually rewarded. To the Gentiles he revealed himself indirectly through the things he had created. Even though they localized him in idols of their imagination, he did not condemn them for their sins of ignorance. The pious pagan, as well as the pious Jew, found a place in his kingdom, when the Incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ had made this possible for man.

Today, there are still millions who do not know God and who therefore do not serve him. God is waiting patiently for willing apostles who will bring his knowledge to these people, but in the meantime they will be judged not by what they do not know, but by their compliance with the knowledge they have. We who have the full revelation of God and of his plans for us, and who have the supernatural aids which he has given to his Church, should lose no opportunity of bringing this gift to our fellowman.

They can get to heaven without this. God’s mercy is as infinite as his justice. But they will find the going much more difficult. A neighbor of mine who cannot afford transport of any kind has to go from New York to Philadelphia. He can make the journey on foot but with what hardship! I am going there by car. Would I be worthy of the title of neighbor, much less of brother, if I refused to offer that poor unfortunate man a seat in my car?

Our pagan brothers’ journey to heaven will be on foot unless we Christians, who have all the necessary transport, awaken to our obligations of fraternal charity. God is depending on us–he is calling on us daily through the many appeals to help the missions. If we continue to refuse to listen, we may find God turning a deaf ear to our entreaties when we are in need.

“They shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as an offering to the Lord,” the prophet says to us today. Am I included in that “they?” Am I helping within the limits, of my means to bring my fellowman, whether in pagan lands or nearer home, back to their Father, God, and eventually to heaven? If I am not, I had better look up my spiritual road-map. I must have taken a wrong turning somewhere. I am not on the road to heaven myself.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 117:1, 2

Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.

Praise the LORD all you nations;

glorify him, all you peoples!

Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.

For steadfast is his kindness toward us,

and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.

Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.

READING II

images

Heb 12:5-7, 11-13

Brothers and sisters,

You have forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as children:

My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord

or lose heart when reproved by him;

for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines;

he scourges every son he acknowledges.”

Endure your trials as “discipline”;

God treats you as sons.

For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?

At the time,

all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain,

yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness

to those who are trained by it.

So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.

Make straight paths for your feet,

that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.

APPLICATION

This exhortation, given to the early Jewish converts, is as necessary for us today as it was in the year 67 A.D. Those converts suffered much from their fellow-Jews, who refused to accept Christ as the promised Messiah and branded all Jews who became his followers as perverts and traitors to their own religion and race. In many cases they had to leave their towns and their possessions. They were persecuted, imprisoned and threatened with death (see Acts 8 and 9). Besides all this, they had poverty and sickness to contend with. Their following of Christ was surely a climbing of Calvary.

There are many parts of our world today where the same or even a worse fate is the lot of the true follower of Christ. Even in countries where there is no open persecution, there are hidden, insidious attacks on religion, especially on the Christian religion, attacks all the more dangerous because they are hidden. It is not easy for one to keep the commandments of God and the precepts of the Church when so many of his neighbors, including some who were one time “Masters in Israel,” having thrown aside all sense of Christian observance themselves, ridicule and deride his attempts to live his faith.

It is not easy, but living the Christian faith was never intended to be easy. The man who looks seriously on life, and knows what it really is, a period of preparation, a training-school for the eternal life that is to follow; will expect and in fact gladly accept the difficulties and hardships which this entails. Nor must we forget that God also grants his faithful ones many happy moments in this “valley of tears.” We are not crying all the time. As for the temptations which the enemies of Christ spread around us to abandon our upward climb, and the ridicule they sometimes heap on the man who is seriously concerned with the things of God, the old saying is still very true : “He who laughs last, laughs longest.”

Not that we should ever rejoice or laugh at the unfortunate ones who, because of the way they mis-spend their life here, will find no welcome in the heavenly kingdom. Rather, the true lover of God will want them to turn to God before it is too late, and will never miss an opportunity to help them to see the light.

True love of God demands true love of neighbor, and that neighbor is even the man who is trying to keep me from living my Christian life as I should. In fact, such a man may be a truer and a more helpful neighbor than those who never trouble me, for he is giving me a chance to practice the virtues of patience and perseverance which today’s lesson urges me to practice.

“Endure your trials as the discipline (the training) of God, who deals with you as sons.” The Christian’s trials, then, come from God, a God who is his father and wants to train him and make him fit to earn the heavenly reward. How proud, how glad, we should be that God deigns to take such an interest in us. He has made us, mere creatures that we are, his sons and heirs. Because we are his sons and heirs, he goes to the trouble of training us for the position of honor which he has prepared for us. Let us then endure our trials, knowing that God has a very special purpose in sending them to us.

GOSPELscara._ingeri._cale_spre_cer

Lk 13:22-30

Jesus passed through towns and villages,

teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.

Someone asked him,

Lord, will only a few people be saved?”

He answered them,

Strive to enter through the narrow gate,

for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter

but will not be strong enough.

After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,

then will you stand outside knocking and saying,

Lord, open the door for us.’

He will say to you in reply,

I do not know where you are from.

And you will say,

We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’

Then he will say to you,

I do not know where you are from.

Depart from me, all you evildoers!’

And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth

when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

and all the prophets in the kingdom of God

and you yourselves cast out.

And people will come from the east and the west

and from the north and the south

and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.

For behold, some are last who will be first,

and some are first who will be last.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/082116.cfm

APPLICATION

While the questioner who asked how many would be saved did not get a direct answer from Christ, nevertheless it was made very clear to him and to all of us that each one’s salvation is in his own hands. All those who accept Christ, his teaching and the helps he has made available to them, will enter the kingdom of God. On the other hand, those who are excluded from that eternal kingdom will have only themselves to blame. God invites all men to heaven. He gives all the help necessary to every man, but, because men have a free will which God cannot force, some will abuse that freedom and choose wrongly.

Christ mentions the narrow door through which we must enter into God’s kingdom. This means that we must exercise self-restraint and mortification and this we do when we respect and keep his commandments. When we are called to judgement it will be too late to shout “Sir, open for us.” We should have sought his mercy and his forgiveness during our earthly life, and he would have granted it.

Neither will it avail us to say that we knew him in life. Acquaintance with Christ is not enough. We should have loved him and become his real friends, which we could only do by being loyal followers of his. “He taught in our streets” will only prove our guilt. We could have learned his doctrine; we could have become his disciples, but we would not. The pagan who never heard of Christ will not be condemned for not following his teaching, but the Christian who did hear his doctrine and refused to carry it out, will deserve condemnation.

As descent from Abraham was not a claim for special consideration on the part of the Jews, neither will any other circumstances of nationality, birth or earthly privilege help us on the day of judgement. Each one will stand or fall by his own mode of life during his term on earth. Nothing and nobody else can change the just judgement of God when that moment arrives for each one of us.

The thought of our moment of judgement is a staggering one even for the holiest of us. Things and actions that do not trouble us much now, will appear in a different light then. The prayers we omitted or said carelessly, the Masses we missed on flimsy excuses the little bit of continual injustice to a workman or customer, or the dishonesty practiced by a worker against his employer, the sins of impurity of which we thought rather lightly, the bad language so freely used and the scandal we spread so flippantly, the money wasted on drink or gambling when our children needed nourishment and clothing–these, and many other such faults of which we excuse ourselves so easily now, will not be a source of joy or consolation for us on that dread day, if we arrive at God’s justice-seat still burdened with them.

We are dealing with God’s mercy while alive. He will forgive any sin and any number of sins if we truly repent, and resolve to correct these faults. To do this is the only one guarantee that even God himself can give us of a successful judgement. Every man who lives in God’s grace will die in God’s grace and be numbered among the saved. The man who lives habitually in sin, and refuses to amend his life, will die in his sinful state, and thus exclude himself from eternal salvation.

I have a free will. I can choose to pass that final examination or to fail it. The whole of my eternity, the unending life after death, depends on my choice now. If I choose to follow Christ and live according to his laws during the few years I have on this earth, I shall pass and shall be among the saved. If I ignore Christ and his laws now, he will not know me on the day of judgement. I shall be among the lost. God forbid that I should choose the latter course.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Highest Peak of Being

Satan’s heights are the heights of doing things on one’s own authority, of uninhibitedly determining oneself in possessing all things and being permitted all things… The height of the mountain of crucifixion consists in Jesus’ having relinquished all possessions and privileges all the way down to the pure nothingness of complete naked-ness, which then does not even have a place on the ground any more. He has put these things aside in his “thy will be done,” which is spoken to the Father. He has put them aside in the complete unity of his will with the Father. In so doing he has attained the real “all”; he is at the highest peak of being – he is one with the true God, who is not a despot or pleasure-image of God and humans which lay behind the satanic offer of “being like God.” In his earthly nothingness but in unity with the will of God, Jesus also stood firm against the power of force and its being able to do all things. He is one with God, and therefore one with the real power that encompasses heaven and earth, time and eternity. He is one with God, so that God’s power has become his power. The power he now proclaims from the mountain of exaltation is power coming from the roots of the cross and is thus radically opposed to the unrestrained power of possessing all things, being allowed all things, and being able to do all things.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 1

Happy indeed is the man

who follows not the counsel of the wicked;

nor lingers in the way of sinners

nor sits in the company of scorners,

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord

and who ponders his law day and night.

He is like a tree that is planted

beside the flowing waters,

that yields its fruit in due season

and whose leaves shall never fade;

and all that he does shall prosper.

Not so are the wicked, not so!

For they like winnowed chaff

shall be driven away by the wind.

When the wicked are judged they shall not stand,

nor find room among those who are just;

for the Lord guards the way of the just

but the way of the wicked leads to doom.

Glory be to the Father,

and to the Son,

and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning,

is now, and ever shall be,

world without end. Amen.

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Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – C

jesus+icon+3Jesus said to his disciples:  I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for Justice

Father, you have given all peoples one common origin.

It is your will that they be gathered together

as one family in yourself.

Fill the hearts of mankind with the fire of your love

and with the desire to ensure justice for all.

By sharing the good things you give us,

may we secure an equality for all

our brothers and sisters throughout the world.

May there be an end to division, strife and war.

May there be a dawning of a truly human society

built on love and peace.

We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Lord.

Amen.

COLLECT

O God, who have prepared for those who love you

good things which no eye can see,

fill our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love,

so that, loving you in all things and above all things,

we may attain your promises,

which surpass every human desire.

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
Jer 38:4-6, 8-10

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

In those days, the princes said to the king:  Jeremiah ought to be put to death; he is demoralizing the soldiers who are left in this city, and all the people, by speaking such things to them; he is not interested in the welfare of our people, but in their ruin.”  King Zedekiah answered: “He is in your power”; for the king could do nothing with them.  And so they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Prince Malchiah, which was in the quarters of the guard,letting him down with ropes.  There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud. 
Ebed-melech, a court official, went there from the palace and said to him: My lord king, these men have been at fault in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah, casting him into the cistern.  He will die of famine on the spot, for there is no more food in the city.”  Then the king ordered Ebed-melech the Cushite to take three men along with him, and draw the prophet Jeremiah out of the cistern before he should die.

 

APPLICATION

We have in Jeremiah a man of God who suffered all his life for the sake of the true religion. He saw how his compatriots, led by wicked kings, were gradually forgetting their God and their mission in life. God had not made them his Chosen People so that they would become wealthy and politically powerful–he chose them so that they would keep the knowledge of the true God alive until the Messiah, who would bring God’s knowledge to all men, should come on earth. This was Jeremiah’s message. This was his convinced faith. This he preached, completely regardless of the consequences to himself.

He was a thorn in the side of the wicked king and princes, whose ambitions were earthly power and prosperity. These ambitions he roundly and ceaselessly condemned. He could have led a life of relative comfort. He owned property outside of the city and he could have served God faithfully himself and let the others go their sinful ways. But God had given him his prophetic vocation and he was true to that call to the bitter end. He never counted the costs.

Jeremiah, the suffering prophet, was a type of our loving Savior, who suffered torture and the cruel death of the cross in order to call mankind away from the folly of worldly pursuits, and to set their hearts on the one pursuit that really mattered–the attainment of the everlasting happiness which his coming on earth had made possible for them. The princes and leaders of the Chosen People, like their predecessors in the days of Jeremiah, would have none of this talk. They wanted political freedom from their pagan Roman rulers. They had ambitions for a world empire of power and plenty in this life. So they had Jesus put to death. But their scheming was in vain. Like Jeremiah who was taken out of the cistern, the Father raised Jesus from the grave, and the spiritual empire they did not want was established.

We must admire Jeremiah, the courageous prophet of God, who tried to save his fellow-Jews from their own folly. How much greater must be our admiration for the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who “although he was God emptied himself of his divinity” and became like one of us, in order to live, suffer and die for our sake. He suffered and died so that we could have eternal life. He came on earth so that we could get to heaven. He lowered himself to the humble level of man, so that man could be raised up to son-ship with God.

The more we think of this infinite divine love, the more we see ourselves to be unworthy of it. How quickly we grumble when called on to make some small sacrifice for our own salvation. How hard it is to drag us away from the fleeting, passing things of this life even though we know, and are convinced, that nothing really matters but to reach the eternal kingdom. Christ suffered and died for all men. How willing are we to suffer a little inconvenience, to give a little of our wealth or time, to help a neighbor for whom Christ died?

Our world today is like Judah in the days of Jeremiah. It has once known God, but it is daily falling further and further away from him and from his commandments. What it needs is thousands of Jeremiahs who will “demoralize” the advocates of earthly pleasure and a pagan outlook in life. This can be done more effectively by example than by word. If all those who are numbered as Christians would live the Christian life in all sincerity, the drums of the anti-God legion would be silenced by the prayers and the good works of those who know what God has done for them and what he has in store for them.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 40:2, 3, 4, 18

Lord, come to my aid!

I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me.

Lord, come to my aid!

The LORD heard my cry.
He drew me out of the pit of destruction,
out of the mud of the swamp;
he set my feet upon a crag;
he made firm my steps.

Lord, come to my aid!

And he put a new song into my mouth,
a hymn to our God.
Many shall look on in awe
and trust in the LORD.

Lord, come to my aid!

Though I am afflicted and poor,
yet the LORD thinks of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
O my God, hold not back!

Lord, come to my aid!

READING II

Heb 12:1-4

The Crucifixion (Click icon)
Brothers and sisters:
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.  For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.
Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 147 The Old Testament is rich in witnesses to this faith. The Letter to the Hebrews proclaims its eulogy of the exemplary faith of the ancestors who “received divine approval”.1 Yet “God had foreseen something better for us”: the grace of believing in his Son Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith”.2

CCC 165 It is then we must turn to the witnesses of faith: to Abraham, who “in hope. .. believed against hope”;3 to the Virgin Mary, who, in “her pilgrimage of faith”, walked into the “night of faith”4 in sharing the darkness of her son’s suffering and death; and to so many others: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”5

CCC 598 In her Magisterial teaching of the faith and in the witness of her saints, the Church has never forgotten that “sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured.”6 Taking into account the fact that our sins affect Christ himself,7 the Church does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon Jesus, a responsibility with which they have all too often burdened the Jews alone:

We must regard as guilty all those who continue to relapse into their sins. Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to contempt. And it can be seen that our crime in this case is greater in us than in the Jews. As for them, according to the witness of the Apostle, “None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” We, however, profess to know him. And when we deny him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on him.8

Nor did demons crucify him; it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.9

CCC 1161 All the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ: as are sacred images of the holy Mother of God and of the saints as well. They truly signify Christ, who is glorified in them. They make manifest the “cloud of witnesses”10 who continue to participate in the salvation of the world and to whom we are united, above all in sacramental celebrations. Through their icons, it is man “in the image of God,” finally transfigured “into his likeness,”11 who is revealed to our faith. So too are the angels, who also are recapitulated in Christ:

Following the divinely inspired teaching of our holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church (for we know that this tradition comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in her) we rightly define with full certainty and correctness that, like the figure of the precious and life-giving cross, venerable and holy images of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, our inviolate Lady, the holy Mother of God, and the venerated angels, all the saints and the just, whether painted or made of mosaic or another suitable material, are to be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, in houses and on streets.12

CCC 2683 The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom,13 especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were “put in charge of many things.”14 Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.

1 Heb 11:2, 39.

2 Heb 11:40; 12:2.

3 Rom 4:18.

4 LG 58; John Paul II, RMat 18.

5 Heb 12:1-2. Article 2.

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

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

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

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

10 Heb 12:1.

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

12 Council of Nicaea II: DS 600.

13 Cf. Heb 12:1.

14 Cf. Mt 25:21.

APPLICATION

We can get so accustomed to looking at a crucifix that it may cease to make any real impression on our minds. We see a brass or ivory model of a man nailed hand and foot to a small wooden cross. We know this represents Christ nailed to the cross for us, but we seldom stop to think of the suffering, the torture this nailing of human hands and feet entailed.

Most of us dread the doctor’s syringe which is pushed quickly through a soft, fleshy part of our body. Think for a moment of a thick nail being hammered through one of your hands. It goes through flesh, nerves, muscle and bone, causing an excruciating pain. Have this repeated for the second hand for your two feet. The very thought would make a strong man shiver and the weaker amongst us faint for fear.

Yet, this is what happened to Christ on Calvary–he did not faint and thus lessen the pain, because he willed not to. He remained fully conscious for three hours while the excruciating pains continued. All this terrible torture was endured for us! We are grateful, of course, to him and when we are feeling devout we would love to make some return to him for all he suffered for our sake. When he sends us a little cross, however, so that we can imitate him in a small little way, how do we react? Do we welcome it and grasp it to our hearts saying: “Thank you, Jesus, for giving me the privilege to do something in return for all you did for me,” or do we ask him immediately to remove it, or worse still, grumble and grouse and show God how displeased we are with him for treating us like that?

The author of Hebrews says that our Lord endured the cross for the sake of the joy which lay before him. A great part of that joy was our resurrection to a glorified existence in the future life which his cross was earning for us. Surely we should be willing and ready to endure our small crosses so that we could, in even a tiny way, cooperate with him in the attainment of that eternal joy which he earned for us.

It is true that human nature does not take gladly to sacrifices. We would all like life on earth to run smoothly and without hardships of any kind. But as Christians we know that bearing the troubles and trials of this life is the means God gives us to cooperate in our salvation. Every athlete knows that to win a race he must train, and train hard. He must cut down on his eating. He must control his bodily desires. He must strain his limbs and muscles again and again, before he can feel fit to enter the contest. We are told today in this Epistle that the Christian life is like running a race. We enter this race in order to win, but unless we are in training, unless we avoid the worldly impediments of sin and selfishness, we’ll find ourselves unable to compete because of the unnecessary and impossible weight of worldliness which we have taken on our shoulders.

Think again, and think deeply today, on the crucifixion of Christ on Calvary for your sake. Look at the crosses which you are asked to carry. Compare them with this. He did all this for you. You are asked to do this for yourself. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and on the reward he has won for you, and the trials and troubles of your earthly life will appear in their true perspective, as a puny price to pay for perpetual happiness in the life to come.

GOSPEL
Lk 12:49-53
crowd of many nations
Jesus said to his disciples:  I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!  There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!  Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.  From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/081416.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 536 The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.1 Already he is anticipating the “baptism” of his bloody death.2 Already he is coming to “fulfil all righteousness”, that is, he is submitting himself entirely to his Father’s will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins.3 The Father’s voice responds to the Son’s acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son.4 The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to “rest on him”.5 Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism “the heavens were opened”6 – the heavens that Adam’s sin had closed – and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude to the new creation.

CCC 607 The desire to embrace his Father’s plan of redeeming love inspired Jesus’ whole life,7 for his redemptive passion was the very reason for his Incarnation. And so he asked, “And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.”8 And again, “Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?”9 From the cross, just before “It is finished”, he said, “I thirst.”10

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.11 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.”12 Jesus will say of the Spirit: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!”13 In the form of tongues “as of fire,” the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and fills them with himself14 The spiritual tradition has retained this symbolism of fire as one of the most expressive images of the Holy Spirit’s actions.15 “Do not quench the Spirit.”16

CCC 1225 In his Passover Christ opened to all men the fountain of Baptism. He had already spoken of his Passion, which he was about to suffer in Jerusalem, as a “Baptism” with which he had to be baptized.17 The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are types of Baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life.18 From then on, it is possible “to be born of water and the Spirit”19 in order to enter the Kingdom of God.

See where you are baptized, see where Baptism comes from, if not from the cross of Christ, from his death. There is the whole mystery: he died for you. In him you are redeemed, in him you are saved.20

CCC 2804 The first series of petitions carries us toward him, for his own sake: thy name, thy kingdom, thy will! It is characteristic of love to think first of the one whom we love. In none of the three petitions do we mention ourselves; the burning desire, even anguish, of the beloved Son for his Father’s glory seizes us:21 “hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done. .. ” These three supplications were already answered in the saving sacrifice of Christ, but they are henceforth directed in hope toward their final fulfillment, for God is not yet all in all.22

1 Jn 1:29; cf. Is 53:12.

2 Cf. Mk 10:38; Lk 12:50.

3 Mt 3:15; cf. 26:39.

4 Cf. Lk 3:22; Is 42:1.

5 Jn 1:32-33; cf. Is 11:2.

6 Mt 3:16.

7 Cf Lk 12:50; 22:15; Mt 16:21-23.

8 Jn 12:27.

9 Jn 18:11.

10 Jn 19:30; 19:28.

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

12 Lk 1:17; 3:16.

13 Lk 12:49.

14 Acts 2:3-4.

15 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.

16 1 Thess 5:1.

17 Mk 10:38; cf. Lk 12:50.

18 Cf. Jn 19:34; 1 Jn 5:6-8.

19 Cf. Jn 3:5.

20 St. Ambrose, De sacr. 2, 2, 6: PL 16, 444; cf. Jn 3:5.

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

22 Cf. 1 Cor 15:28.

APPLICATION

Christ foresaw his sufferings in their minutest details, and like any human being this foresight and anticipation caused him anguish of spirit. He also foresaw the result of his sufferings–the elevation of mankind to be sons of God, and heirs presumptive of heaven. This far outweighed the load of sufferings because he loved man with an infinite love.

He came to light a fire on this earth. He lit that fire and it is still burning brightly in the hearts of many. Unfortunately for them, there are far too many in whom it has turned to ashes. That he foresaw also, and it added to his anguish of spirit. The thought that his sufferings and his humiliations would be in vain for so many, added greatly to his grief.

We who appreciate what he has done for us, and who are striving hard against our natural weaknesses to profit by his salvific work, can do something to console him for the desertion of so many that he still loves dearly. God wants no human being lost eternally. He detests sin but he still loves the sinner. He is always ready to grant a full pardon for each and every sin a man commits, if only the sinner has the humility to say “mea culpa.”

Let those of us who have remained faithful never let a day pass without a fervent prayer for the prodigal sons of God, that they will get the humility to return to their father’s home and ask for his pardon. Another grace, too, that we must ask of God is that peace between fellowman will soon be restored. Christ foresaw that this concord would be broken, because of his very gospel of peace. First and foremost we must pray for, and do everything we can to help bring about, a reunion between all Christians who are followers of Christ by their baptism. Thanks to the late saintly Pope John, active steps are now being taken to restore the unity which Christ wished and intended to exist among his followers. We may not be able to solve the theological problems which are preventing this unity, and each of us can do much to make personal contacts between the members of what were once opposing Churches. We are all followers of Christ, we are all on the road to heaven–if we really love God and if we really appreciate what the Son of God has done for us, we must want every one of his followers to be in heaven with him.

Let us put aside all past prejudices and opinions. Neither we nor our separated brethren are responsible for the sins and failings of our ancestors in the eleventh or the sixteenth centuries. We are responsible for our own actions today. We are failing Christ if we do not take a sincere and active interest in the noble and truly Christian work of ecumenism.

To mention our brothers in Christ first, does not mean we forget the children of Abraham whom, in our Mass, we call “our father in faith.” They are still dear to God. We are now the Chosen People of the New Covenant but that New Covenant is for them also. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, Greek or Barbarian in the Church of Christ. It is for all mankind, as St. Paul tells us. The followers of Mohammed also have much in common with us Christians; they believe in one God, the Creator of all, but not yet in the Trinity. They believe in a future life and hope to reach it by keeping the rules laid down by their Prophet. While respecting the beliefs of Jew and Moslem, which correspond with some of those we ourselves hold, let us pray fervently that God will give them the grace to recognize Jesus as the Person he was, the Son of God in human nature, who came on earth to make us fit for heaven.

God speed the day, and let us each give him a helping hand in this work, when not only all Christians will be one but when our Jewish and Muslim fellowman will also be with us, thanking Christ for all that he has done for us. That day may still be a long way off, but every step I take towards bringing it about, is bringing me a step nearer to heaven and making me dearer to God.

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

BENEDICTUS

Making God Present in Society

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

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

The Prayer You are Christ (by Saint Augustine of Hippo.)

You are Christ, my Holy Father, my Tender God, my Great King, my Good Shepherd, my Only Master, my Best Helper, my Most Beautiful and my Beloved, my Living Bread, my Priest Forever, my Leader to my Country, my True Light, my Holy Sweetness, my Straight Way, my Excellent Wisdom, my Pure Simplicity, my Peaceful Harmony, my Entire Protection, my Good Portion, my Everlasting Salvation.

Christ Jesus, Sweet Lord, why have I ever loved, why in my whole life have I ever desired anything except You, Jesus my God? Where was I when I was not in spirit with You? Now, from this time forth, do you, all my desires, grow hot, and flow out upon the Lord Jesus: run… you have been tardy until now; hasten where you are going; seek Whom you are seeking. O, Jesus may he who loves You not be an anathema; may he who loves You not be filled with bitterness.

O, Sweet Jesus, may every good feeling that is fitted for Your praise, love You, delight in You, adore You! God of my heart, and my Portion, Christ Jesus, may my heart faint away in spirit, and may You be my Life within me! May the live coal of Your Love grow hot within my spirit and break forth into a perfect fire; may it burn incessantly on the altar of my heart; may it glow in my innermost being; may it blaze in hidden recesses of my soul; and in the days of my consummation may I be found consummated with You!

Amen.

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Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven

DORMIZIONE-FOTO-INTERA-400x467

“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled’

OPENING PRAYER

MATINS. Quem terra, pontus, sidera

The God whom earth and sea and sky
Adore and laud and magnify,
WHO o’er their threefold fabric reigns,
The Virgin’s spotless womb contains.

The God whose will by moon and sun
And all things in due course is done,
Is borne upon a Maiden’s breast
By fullest heavenly grace possessed.

How blest that Mother, in whose shrine
The great artifices Divine,
Whose hand contains the earth and sky,
Vouchsafed, as in his ark to lie.

Blest, in the message Gabriel brought;
Blest by the work the Spirit wrought:
From whom the great Desire of earth
Took human flesh and human birth.

All honor, laud and glory be,
O Jesu, Virgin-born, to thee!
All glory, as is ever meet,
To Father and to Paraclete.

(Ascribed to Venantius Fortunatus, 530-609. Tr. J. M. Neale, 1818-66)

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

who assumed the Immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of your Son,

body and soul into heavenly glory,

grant we pray,

that, always attentive to the things that are above,

we may merit to be sharers of her glory.

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

Poklad-z-dob-Stolete-valky_v

Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab

God’s temple in heaven was opened,

and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun,

with the moon under her feet,

and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.

Then another sign appeared in the sky;

it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns,

and on its heads were seven diadems.

Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky

and hurled them down to the earth.

Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth,

to devour her child when she gave birth.

She gave birth to a son, a male child,

destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.

Her child was caught up to God and his throne.

The woman herself fled into the desert

where she had a place prepared by God.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

“Now have salvation and power come,

and the Kingdom of our God

and the authority of his Anointed One.”

APPLICATION

This text from the Book of Revelation or Apocalypse was chosen for the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, because of the close link between Christ our Messiah and Savior and his blessed Mother. John stresses it in these verses. In God’s plan for our elevation to divine son-ship by adoption, Mary was chosen from all eternity to be the Mother of his divine Son’s human nature. She was thus intimately connected with her son in the carrying out of this divine plan. As this plan was to be opposed by sin, and by Satan, the head and representative of all sinners, it was to be expected that opposition would concentrate on his blessed Mother, as well as on her offspring, Christ the Messiah.

In chapter three of Genesis this opposition was already foretold in the poetic description of the first sin of disobedience, attributed to the wiles of Satan. God said to the serpent, who represented Satan, as the Dragon in Revelation does: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers” (Gn. 3 :15). St. John in his apocalyptic imagery, describes this opposition. We know from the Gospel story how Mary suffered with her divine Son. The culmination of that suffering was the three hours of incredible and indescribable agony she had to bear while her beloved one slowly shed his life’s blood on the cross.

Today, on the feast of our Blessed Mother’s triumph, we can omit the tragic events of her life and, like St. John, pass quickly to the victorious outcome of the struggle between the Dragon and the Messiah, a victory in which Mary had played her part. In return she received a reward far exceeding any earthly pains which she had endured.

Today the Church celebrates Mary’s assumption into heaven which took place immediately after her death. She was then given the same glorified existence which her divine Son’s human nature had been given by the Father at his moment of death, and which all the elect will be given at their moment of resurrection. We believe that, after Christ, she has occupied the next highest place of glory in heaven from the moment that her earthly life ended. This has been the constant belief of the Church from the very beginning, a belief confirmed and guaranteed by the infallible declaration of Pope Pius XII in 1950.

Mary was Mother of Christ, the God-man and our Savior. She cooperated with him in his saivific mission. She suffered, as we saw above, because of our sins. She saw her beloved Son suffer and die on the cross for our sins. She is now enjoying eternal glory in heaven. Is it likely that she could lose interest in us, her other children who are brothers of Christ? No, her divine Son has not lost interest in us and therefore his blessed Mother cannot fail to be interested in our eternal welfare. We can feel certain that she will intercede for us if we ask her, and we can rest assured that her intercession will not be ignored.

Let us honor her today in the manner in which she wants us to honor her, that is, by thanking God for all the graces which he conferred on her, graces which flowed from her privileged position as Mother of Christ. Her immediate assumption into heaven was the crowning grace and the divine reward which the infinitely loving God conferred on the woman whom he had chosen to cooperate in the messianic mission of his beloved Son. For having been made sons of God and heirs to heaven we owe a debt of thanks, after God, Father, Incarnate Son and Holy Spirit, to the Mother of God and our Mother.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 45:10, 11, 12, 16

The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.

The queen takes her place at your right hand in gold of Ophir.

The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.

Hear, O daughter, and see; turn your ear,

forget your people and your father’s house.

The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.

So shall the king desire your beauty;

for he is your lord.

The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.

They are borne in with gladness and joy;

they enter the palace of the king.

The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.

READING II

ResurrectionIcon3

1 Cor 15:20-27

Brothers and sisters:

Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

For since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead came also through man.

For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,

but each one in proper order:

Christ the first-fruits;

then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ;

then comes the end,

when he hands over the Kingdom to his God and Father,

when he has destroyed every sovereignty

and every authority and power.

For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death,

for “he subjected everything under his feet.”

APPLICATION

St. Paul says in the verse that immediately precedes today’s reading (15: 19): “If it is for this life only that we had hope in Christ, we of all men are most to be pitied.” How true this is! If all were to end for us in the grave how foolish we would be to deprive ourselves of any of the pleasure, power or wealth of this life! What folly it would be for any man to mortify himself, to keep laws that were restricting his personal liberty, to waste time on prayer and other practices which produced no earthly pleasure or gain! In other words, being a Christian would mean taking on oneself unpleasant obligations which earned nothing for us but the grave!

However, St. Paul proves in this same chapter that there is a life beyond the grave, an eternal life which Christ has won for us and which God has planned for us from all eternity. We shall all rise from the dead and enter into this new life. Christ’s own resurrection is the proof that this will be so. We have another proof of this basic truth of our faith in the feast we are celebrating today. This proof has been infallibly defined by the successor of St. Peter, the head of the Church.

Our blessed Lady, Mother of Christ and our Mother, has been raised from the dead and is now in heaven in a glorified state next to the incarnate Son of God who is her Son also. The blessed Mother is one of us, a mere creature who was made of flesh and blood as we are. She differs from us in this, that because of her honored and most special relationship with God’s incarnate Son she received greater graces than any other human being, and she cooperated with these graces. If we cooperate with them each one of us is guaranteed enough graces and favors to win our own resurrection to the eternal life.

As the resurrection or assumption of our blessed Lady is a further proof and guarantee that we too shall one day rise in triumph from our graves, so also is it a source of greater confidence and hope for each one of us. She, our Mother, is in heaven. She is interested in each one of us. She has influence with her Son and with the Holy Trinity. She will use that influence on our behalf if we ask her. This fact of her power of intercession has been proved again and again down through the history of the Church. She has obtained material blessings for thousands. The spiritual blessings she has obtained for those devoted to her are innumerable. They will be known to all only on the last day.

Today, then, let us thank God first and foremost for the incarnation, for sending his Son on earth as a man in order to lift us up to sonship with his Father. Then let us thank him for choosing this human Mother—one of ourselves—for his incarnate Son, and for giving her all the graces necessary for the position he gave her in life. She suffered with her divine Son on Calvary and that suffering was for us. She, like her beloved Son, wants us in heaven. She is able and willing to help us to get there. At the wedding feast in Cana she successfully interceded with him to save a bridal pair from temporary embarrassment. Will she not be even more successful still in her intercession to save all her devoted children from eternal embarrassment, now that she is with her Son in heaven?

All that is needed is trust and confidence on our part. Let us ask her today, on this great feast of her triumph, to be ever watching over us, directing and encouraging us to persevere in our loyalty to her divine Son. Let us resolve to follow her example and climb our Calvary as she climbed hers. If we do so, the day is not far distant when we too will rise from the dead and join her and him in the home prepared for us through the incarnation and the infinite love of God.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 411 The Christian tradition sees in this passage an announcement of the “New Adam” who, because he “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross”, makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience, of Adam.1 Furthermore many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the Protoevangelium as Mary, the mother of Christ, the “new Eve”. Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ’s victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.2

CCC 655 Finally, Christ’s Resurrection – and the risen Christ himself is the principle and source of our future resurrection: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. .. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”3 The risen Christ lives in the hearts of his faithful while they await that fulfillment. In Christ, Christians “have tasted. .. the powers of the age to come”4 and their lives are swept up by Christ into the heart of divine life, so that they may “live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”5

CCC 668 “Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”6 Christ’s Ascension into heaven signifies his participation, in his humanity, in God’s power and authority. Jesus Christ is Lord: he possesses all power in heaven and on earth. He is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion”, for the Father “has put all things under his feet.”7 Christ is Lord of the cosmos and of history. In him human history and indeed all creation are “set forth” and transcendently fulfilled.8

CCC 954 The three states of the Church. “When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is”’:9

All of us, however, in varying degrees and in different ways share in the same charity towards God and our neighbors, and we all sing the one hymn of glory to our God. All, indeed, who are of Christ and who have his Spirit form one Church and in Christ cleave together.10

CCC 1008 Death is a consequence of sin. The Church’s Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man’s sin.11 Even though man’s nature is mortal God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin.12 “Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned” is thus “the last enemy” of man left to be conquered.13

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.14 The ruler of this world has mendaciously attributed to himself the three titles of kingship, power, and glory.15 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.16

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

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

3 I Cor 15:20-22.

4 Heb 6:5.

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

6 Rom 14:9.

7 Eph 1:20-22.

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

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

10 LG 49; cf. Eph 4:16.

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

12 Cf. Wis 2:23-24.

13 GS 18 § 2; cf. 1 Cor 15:26.

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

15 Cf. Lk 4:5-6.

16 1 Cor 15:24-28.

GOSPEL

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Lk 1:39-56

Mary set out

and traveled to the hill country in haste

to a town of Judah,

where she entered the house of Zechariah

and greeted Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,

and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,

cried out in a loud voice and said,

“Blessed are you among women,

and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

And how does this happen to me,

that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,

the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

Blessed are you who believed

that what was spoken to you by the Lord

would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

and has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

the promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children forever.”

Mary remained with her about three months

and then returned to her home.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/081516-mass-during-day.cfm

APPLICATION

“All ages to come shall call me blessed” was a prophecy uttered by our Lady and was not a boast. She who was chosen by God to be the Mother of his incarnate Son, saw in herself nothing but a maidservant, completely and entirely unworthy of the dignity conferred on her. Elizabeth had called her “blessed among women” but Mary attributes this blessedness to the “greatness of the Lord” who had “looked on his servant in her lowliness.” She had no doubts about her own unworthiness and her unfitness for the dignity conferred on her by God, but she recognized how great, how sublime that dignity was. She had been made the Mother of God.

Her prophecy has been fulfilled from the very first days of the Church. She has been given the highest place among all of God’s creatures—Queen of Angels and Queen of all Saints—right through the history of Christianity. In giving her this place of honor above all other angelic or saintly creatures, we are but following God’s own initiative—he made her the Mother of his divine Son and gave her all the graces which that position of unparalleled dignity demanded. When we honor her it is really his infinite love for, and his unbounded generosity toward, the human race that we are honoring. It was for us men and for our salvation that the Son of God came down from heaven. It was for us that he chose Mary as his Mother. She was but the human intermediary in God’s plan of salvation for mankind.

Today’s feastday of God’s Mother and ours is the climax and crowning of all the other graces and honors which God conferred on her. The assumption or the transferring of our blessed Lady to heaven, in her glorified but identical, total personality, immediately after her death on earth, was not only the triumph of Mary but a triumph for all humanity. Where the Mother is, there will be all her loyal children. She played a large part in the redemption-work of her divine Son on earth. She continues in heaven to play a very effective part in applying the fruits of that redemption to all her children. If we follow Mary we are following Christ. If we remain close to the Mother we can never wander away from her Son. If we put ourselves under the mantle of her protection, Christ will shelter us from the enemies of our salvation. If we call on her to intercede for us our petitions will be answered by Christ.

This climax of all God’s gifts to Mary—the assumption into heaven, not of her separated soul, but of her total person, is a gift which God has ready for all of us, provided we imitate Mary on earth and be loyal to her Son and God’s Son. We cannot expect the same degree of heavenly glory which is hers, but we shall be perfectly happy with what we shall receive. All eternity will not be long enough for us to thank the Blessed Trinity, Christ in his humanity and his Blessed Mother who did so much to save us.

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 148 The Virgin Mary most perfectly embodies the obedience of faith. By faith Mary welcomes the tidings and promise brought by the angel Gabriel, believing that “with God nothing will be impossible” and so giving her assent: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word.”1 Elizabeth greeted her: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”2 It is for this faith that all generations have called Mary blessed.3

CCC 448 Very often in the Gospels people address Jesus as “Lord”. This title testifies to the respect and trust of those who approach him for help and healing.4 At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, “Lord” expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus.5 In the encounter with the risen Jesus, this title becomes adoration: “My Lord and my God!” It thus takes on a connotation of love and affection that remains proper to the Christian tradition: “It is the Lord!”6

CCC 495 Called in the Gospels “the mother of Jesus”, Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as “the mother of my Lord”.7 In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Theotokos).8

CCC 523 St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way.9 “Prophet of the Most High”, John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last.10 He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother’s womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being “the friend of the bridegroom”, whom he points out as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.11 Going before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah”, John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom.12

CCC 706 Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.13 In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself,14 in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”15 God commits himself by his own solemn oath to giving his beloved Son and “the promised Holy Spirit. .. [who is] the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.”16

CCC 717 “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.”17 John was “filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb”18 by Christ himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people.19

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.20

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.”21 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.”22 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.”23 “Blessed is she who believed. .. ”24 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.25 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.”

CCC 2677 Holy Mary, Mother of God: With Elizabeth we marvel, “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”26 Because she gives us Jesus, her son, Mary is Mother of God and our mother; we can entrust all our cares and petitions to her: she prays for us as she prayed for herself: “Let it be to me according to your word.”27 By entrusting ourselves to her prayer, we abandon ourselves to the will of God together with her: “Thy will be done.”

Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death: By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the “Mother of Mercy,” the All-Holy One. We give ourselves over to her now, in the Today of our lives. And our trust broadens further, already at the present moment, to surrender “the hour of our death” wholly to her care. May she be there as she was at her son’s death on the cross. May she welcome us as our mother at the hour of our passing28 to lead us to her son, Jesus, in paradise.

1 Lk 1:37-38; cf. Gen 18:14.

2 Lk 1:45.

3 Cf. Lk 1:48.

4 Cf Mt 8:2; 14:30; 15:22; et al.

5 Cf. Lk 1:43; 2:11.

6 Jn 20:28,21:7.

7 Lk 1:43; Jn 2:1; 19:25; cf. Mt 13:55; et al.

8 Council of Ephesus (431): DS 251.

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

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

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

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

13 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38. 54-55; Jn 1:12-13; Rom 4:16-21.

14 Cf. Gen 12:3; Gal 3:16.

15 Cf. In 11:52.

16 Eph 1:13-14; cf. Gen 22:17-19; Lk 1:73; Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32; Gal 3:14.

17 Jn 1:6.

18 Lk 1:15, 41.

19 Cf. Lk 1:68.

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

21 Zeph 3:14,17a.

22 Rev 21:3.

23 Lk 1:41, 48.

24 Lk 1:45.

25 Cf. Gen 12:3.

26 Lk 1:43.

27 Lk 1:38.

28 Cf. Jn 19:27.

BENEDICTUS

The feast of the Assumption is a day of joy. God has won. Love has won. It has won life. Love has shown that it is stronger than death, that God possesses the true strength and that his strength is goodness and love. Mary was taken up body and soul into heaven: There is even room in God for the body. Heaven is no longer a very remote sphere unknown to us. We have a Mother in heaven. Heaven is open, heaven has a heart… Only if God is great is humankind also great. With Mary, we must begin to understand that this is so. We must not drift away from God but make God present; we must ensure that he is great in our lives. Thus, we too will become divine; all the splendor of the divine dignity will then be ours. Let us apply this to our own lives… Precisely because Mary is with God and in God, she is very close to each one of us. While God, who is close to us, actually, “within” all of us, Mary shares in this closeness of God. Being in God and with God, she is close to each one of us, knows our hearts, can hear our prayers, can help us with her motherly kindness and has been given to us, as the Lord said, precisely as a “mother” to whom we can turn at every moment. She always listens to us, she is always close to us, and being Mother of the Son, participates in the power of the Son and in his goodness. We can always entrust the whole of our lives to this Mother, who is not far from any one of us.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to our Lady, Assumed in Heaven

Immaculate Virgin, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, we believe in your triumphant assumption into heaven where the angels and saints acclaim you as Queen.

We join them in praising you and bless the Lord who raised you above all creatures. With them we offer you our devotion and love.

We are confident that you watch over our daily efforts and needs, and we take comfort from the faith in the coming resurrection.

We look to you, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. After this earthly life, show us Jesus, the blest fruit of your womb, O kind, O loving, O sweet virgin Mary. Pray for us most holy Mother of God, that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.

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