Second Sunday of Lent – B

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                                     “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

OPENING PRAYER

Jesus, Son of God, open our ears and our hearts so that we listen to you. Amen!

COLLECT

O God, who have commanded us

to listen to your beloved Son,

be pleased, we pray,

to nourish us inwardly by your word,

that, with spiritual sight made pure,

we may rejoice to behold your 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

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Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18

God put Abraham to the test.

He called to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am!” he replied.

Then God said:

“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,

and go to the land of Moriah.

There you shall offer him up as a holocaust

on a height that I will point out to you.”

When they came to the place of which God had told him,

Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.

Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.

But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven,

“Abraham, Abraham!”

“Here I am!” he answered.

“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger.

“Do not do the least thing to him.

I know now how devoted you are to God,

since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”

As Abraham looked about,

he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket.

So he went and took the ram

and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.

Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said:

“I swear by myself, declares the LORD,

that because you acted as you did

in not withholding from me your beloved son,

I will bless you abundantly

and make your descendants as countless

as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore;

your descendants shall take possession

of the gates of their enemies,

and in your descendants all the nations of the earth

shall find blessing-

all this because you obeyed my command.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 332 Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham’s hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examples.1 Finally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus himself.2

CCC 343 Man is the summit of the Creator’s work, as the inspired account expresses by clearly distinguishing the creation of man from that of the other creatures.3

CCC 706 Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.4 In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself,5 in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”6 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.”7

CCC 1819 Christian hope takes up and fulfills the hope of the chosen people which has its origin and model in the hope of Abraham, who was blessed abundantly by the promises of God fulfilled in Isaac, and who was purified by the test of the sacrifice.8 “Hoping against hope, he believed, and thus became the father of many nations.”9

CCC 2572 As a final stage in the purification of his faith, Abraham, “who had received the promises,”10 is asked to sacrifice the son God had given him. Abraham’s faith does not weaken (“God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering.”), for he “considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead.”11 And so the father of believers is conformed to the likeness of the Father who will not spare his own Son but will deliver him up for us all.12 Prayer restores man to God’s likeness and enables him to share in the power of God’s love that saves the multitude.13

1 Cf. Job 38:7 (where angels are called “sons of God”); Gen 3:24; 19; 21: 17; 22:11; Acts 7:53; Ex 23:20-23; Judg 13; 6:11-24; Is 6:6; 1 Kings 19:5.

2 Cf. Lk 1:11, 26.

3 Cf. Gen 1-26.

4 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38. 54-55; Jn 1:12-13; Rom 4:16-21.

5 Cf. Gen 12:3; Gal 3:16.

6 Cf. In 11:52.

7 Eph 1:13-14; cf. Gen 22:17-19; Lk 1:73; Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32; Gal 3:14.

8 Cf. Gen 17:4-8; 22:1-18.

9 Rom 4:18.

10 Heb 11:17.

11 Gen 22:8; Heb 11:19

12 Rom 8:32.

13 Cf. Rom 8:16-21.

APPLICATION

The faith and trust of Abraham in the true God whom he had got to know only late in life, and about whose power and love he did not know a fraction of what we know, should well put us to shame. Abraham left his country, his home, and his kin at a time when one’s life depended on the strength of one’s clan. He came to a foreign land about which he knew nothing. There he lived among strangers who had no time for invaders and “foreigners.” All of this looks easy on paper but what a sacrifice it must have been for Abraham to leave his own people, to travel the long desert journey from Haran in Assyria to Canaan, and then to try to earn his daily bread in unfriendly, if not positively hostile, surroundings. All of this Abraham did because he was convinced of this true God’s omnipotence and fidelity to his promises. Abraham was glad of the role that God had chosen for him—the human agent through whom the great divine blessing for all peoples would come.

Abraham’s second test of obedience and trust, of which we have just read, was even a more severe trial than the first. He was asked to give up forever his only real son and thereby be unable to fulfill the role God had promised him. Here again Abraham’s trust in God gave him the strength and the courage to do what he was told. Abraham’s prompt, unquestioning obedience pleased God—he did not have to sacrifice his only Son. His goodwill, his desire and readiness to obey God’s command, were proof enough of his justice, fidelity, sanctity.

How many of us could imitate Abraham? How many of us who have seen God the Father sacrificing his beloved Son in his human nature, offering him as sacrifice for our sins on the cross, could or would measure up to Abraham’s prompt obedience when God demands some sacrifice of us? How many of us who can devoutly make the Stations of the Cross, and see and feel the insults, degradation, tortures that the innocent Lamb of God suffered for our sins, will turn around soon after and refuse to give up some sinful association, some personal and unlawful gain, some habit of gluttony, or personal animosity against a neighbor? Such unwillingness to sacrifice something much less important than an only son, for the sake of God and our own eternal welfare, is far indeed from the prompt and ready obedience of Abraham.

We all have much to learn from this saintly man who lived nearly four thousand years ago. He is our father in the faith, for it was through his descendants that the knowledge of the true God was preserved on earth, and it was from one of his descendants that our Savior – the Messiah – took his human nature. We should, therefore, remember him with gratitude and we should show that gratitude especially by our endeavors to imitate his spirit of obedience and submission to God’s will. Let each one of us look into his or her own heart today. There are desires and plans and attachments there, which God is asking us to sacrifice, to burn up, to destroy during this lent. They are trifling sacrifices compared with that demanded of Abraham, but they are big enough to keep us from true loyalty to God in this life and are a very positive impediment to our entrance into heaven in the next.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19

(116:9) I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

I believed, even when I said,

“I am greatly afflicted.”

Precious in the eyes of the LORD

is the death of his faithful ones.

I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

O LORD, I am your servant;

I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;

you have loosed my bonds.

To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,

and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

My vows to the LORD I will pay

in the presence of all his people,

In the courts of the house of the LORD,

in your midst, O Jerusalem.

I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

READING II

 

 

 

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Rom 8:31b-34

Brothers and sisters:

If God is for us, who can be against us?

He who did not spare his own Son

but handed him over for us all,

how will he not also give us everything else along with him?

Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?

It is God who acquits us, who will condemn?

Christ Jesus it is who died-or, rather, was raised-

who also is at the right hand of God,

who indeed intercedes for us.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 603 Jesus did not experience reprobation as if he himself had sinned.1 But in the redeeming love that always united him to the Father, he assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin, to the point that he could say in our name from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”2 Having thus established him in solidarity with us sinners, God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all”, so that we might be “reconciled to God by the death of his Son”.3

CCC 706 Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.4 In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself,5 in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”6 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.”7

CCC 1373 “Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us,” is present in many ways to his Church:8 in his word, in his Church’s prayer, “where two or three are gathered in my name,”9 in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned,10 in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But “he is present. .. most especially in the Eucharistic species.”11

CCC 2572 As a final stage in the purification of his faith, Abraham, “who had received the promises,”12 is asked to sacrifice the son God had given him. Abraham’s faith does not weaken (“God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering.”), for he “considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead.”13 And so the father of believers is conformed to the likeness of the Father who will not spare his own Son but will deliver him up for us all.14 Prayer restores man to God’s likeness and enables him to share in the power of God’s love that saves the multitude.15

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.16 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.”17 The Holy Spirit “himself intercedes for us. .. and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”18

CCC 2739 For St. Paul, this trust is bold, founded on the prayer of the Spirit in us and on the faithful love of the Father who has given us his only Son.19 Transformation of the praying heart is the first response to our petition.

CCC 2852 “A murderer from the beginning,. .. a liar and the father of lies,” Satan is “the deceiver of the whole world.”20 Through him sin and death entered the world and by his definitive defeat all creation will be “freed from the corruption of sin and death.”21 Now “we know that anyone born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one.”22

The Lord who has taken away your sin and pardoned your faults also protects you and keeps you from the wiles of your adversary the devil, so that the enemy, who is accustomed to leading into sin, may not surprise you. One who entrusts himself to God does not dread the devil. “If God is for us, who is against us?”23

1 Cf. Jn 8:46.

2 Mk 15:34; Ps 22:2; cf. Jn 8:29.

3 Rom 8:32; 5:10.

4 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38. 54-55; Jn 1:12-13; Rom 4:16-21.

5 Cf. Gen 12:3; Gal 3:16.

6 Cf. In 11:52.

7 Eph 1:13-14; cf. Gen 22:17-19; Lk 1:73; Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32; Gal 3:14.

8 Rom 8:34; cf. LG 48.

9 Mt 18:20.

10 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

11 SC 7.

12 Heb 11:17.

13 Gen 22:8; Heb 11:19

14 Rom 8:32.

15 Cf. Rom 8:16-21.

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

17 Heb 7:25.

18 Rom 8:26-27.

19 Cf. Rom 10:12-13; 8:26-39.

20 Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9.

21 Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer IV, 125.

22 1 Jn 5:18-19.

23 St. Ambrose, De Sacr. 5, 4, 30: PL 16, 454; cf. Rom 8:31.

APPLICATION

These four short verses of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans are among the most encouraging and consoling scripture passages in the whole Bible. He tells us God and Christ are entirely in favor of admitting us to heaven. He admits that there are some enemies who would try to prevent us from getting there, but he logically concludes: what can any enemy or number of enemies do if God and Christ are our defending Counsels and Judges? In brief “if God is for us who is against us?” Paul’s whole letter is full of proofs that God is for us, the greatest proof of all being the fact of the incarnation and crucifixion of his Son, for us sinners. If God went to those lengths in order to bring us to heaven it is more than logical that he will give us the lesser gifts and the assistance that each one of us needs in order to get there.

The Christian who keeps vivid this consoling knowledge of God’s love for him and God’s interest in his eternal welfare should never have a sad moment in his life. The things that cause us worry and trouble in life are trifles, when compared with the assurance and certainty we have of final triumph. That assurance comes from God’s infinite love, so definitely proved to us by the incarnation. St. Paul goes on in the very next verse after the text which is read today (8: 35): “who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword”. . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. . . no created thing can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This is the assurance that St. Paul gives the newly converted Christians of Rome and it was not based on any speculation or wishful thinking, but on the solid proofs of God’s love for us which the incarnation so definitely demonstrated. Let no one say: this might be all very true as regards the early Christians, they were full of zeal and full of the love of God; they were not likely to feel all the weaknesses of the flesh and all the attractions of the world which we feel today; life was easier then, they could give more time to the things of God than we can today, the struggle for existence was not so hard for them. St. Paul who knew human nature very well and who had dealt with thousands of converts would deny such statements absolutely. He knew the Roman converts were subject to the same human weaknesses as are all men of all ages. He knew they could, and very likely did, sin occasionally but he also knew that they had been instructed on how to repent of their sins and had enough interest in their eternal welfare to do so.

They had the same weakness that we have, they had the same enemies opposing their salvation. We have the same remedies and protections as they had; they used these remedies and were saved. Shall we not be as active in our own best interests as they were? God is as much for us as he was for the Romans, he wants us in heaven and he has done all that was necessary (and much more) to get us there. If we fail in our final examination one of our greatest causes of grief will be that the fault is completely and entirely our own. We can blame no person or thing in heaven or on earth for our dreadful failure except ourselves. Pray God today, that you shall avoid such grief. You will, if you try always to keep before your mind what God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has done and continues to do daily for you. “If God is with us who is against us?” God is ever with us if we do not deliberately and seriously separate ourselves from him.

GOSPEL

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Mk 9:2-10

Jesus took Peter, James, and John

and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.

And he was transfigured before them,

and his clothes became dazzling white,

such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.

Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,

and they were conversing with Jesus.

Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,

“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!

Let us make three tents:

one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.

Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;

from the cloud came a voice,

“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone

but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain,

he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,

except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

So they kept the matter to themselves,

questioning what rising from the dead meant.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/022518.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 151 For a Christian, believing in God cannot be separated from believing in the One he sent, his “beloved Son”, in whom the Father is “well pleased”; God tells us to listen to him.1 The Lord himself said to his disciples: “Believe in God, believe also in me.”2 We can believe in Jesus Christ because he is himself God, the Word made flesh: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.”3 Because he “has seen the Father”, Jesus Christ is the only one who knows him and can reveal him.4

CCC 459 The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”5 On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: “Listen to him!”6 Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: “Love one another as I have loved you.”7 This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.8

CCC 516 Christ’s whole earthly life – his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking – is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”9 Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest “God’s love. .. among us”.10

CCC 552 Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve;11 Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Our Lord then declared to him: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”12 Christ, the “living Stone”,13 thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.14

CCC 649 As for the Son, he effects his own Resurrection by virtue of his divine power. Jesus announces that the Son of man will have to suffer much, die, and then rise.15 Elsewhere he affirms explicitly: “I lay down my life, that I may take it again. .. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”16 “We believe that Jesus died and rose again.”17

1 Mk 1:11; cf. 9:7.

2 Jn 14:1.

3 Jn 1:18.

4 Jn 6:46; cf. Mt 11:27.

5 Mt 11:29; Jn 14:6.

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

7 Jn 15:12.

8 Cf. Mk 8:34.

9 Jn 14:9; Lk 9:35; cf. Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7, “my beloved Son”.

10 Jn 4:9.

11 Cf Mk 3:16; 9:2; Lk 24:34; I Cor 15:5.

12 Mt 16:18.

13 I Pt 2:4.

14 Cf. Lk 22:32.

15 Cf. Mk 8:31; 9:9-31; 10:34.

16 Jn 10:17-18.

17 I Th 4:14.

APPLICATION

This vision of Christ glorified, given to these Apostles on Mount Tabor (the traditional site of Transfiguration) was surely a very special privilege, and it was one they did not forget. “We saw his glory,” St. John says in his gospel, written over sixty years later. In his epistles John also refers to this privilege (1 Jn. 1: 1-4). St. Peter, writing from Rome to the churches in Asia Minor about thirty years later, mentions this outstanding experience: “For we were not following fictitious tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when from out the majestic glory a voice came down to him saying: ‘this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’ And this voice we ourselves heard borne from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Pt. 1:16-18).

Yes, the three Apostles were privileged and we too are sharers in their privilege. The Transfiguration of Christ is but one among many of the incontrovertible proofs of the divine Sonship of Christ which we have in the gospel narratives and in the twenty centuries-long history of the Church which he founded. Were he not divine, that Church would long since have crumbled and fallen under the many vicious assaults from outside which it has undergone, as well as from the many human weaknesses which have beset it from within. But Christ is God and the Church has his divine protection and assistance. Therefore, it will go on to the end of time to continue his work of elevating and redeeming mankind.

This enlightening glimpse of Christ’s future glory – a glory in which they would share – was given to these Apostles to strengthen and encourage them in the terrible test of their faith which the passion and death of Jesus would be for them very soon. It is for a similar reason that the Church orders this story of the Transfiguration to be read to us during this season of Lent. We are or should be mortifying ourselves during this season. This mortification can earn for us a glorious and unending future life. To encourage us to continue it, we are reminded that the One we are following, the One whose voice we listen to, is none other than the Son of God. There are the voices of many false prophets shouting around us, telling us to enjoy ourselves in this life, to “eat, sleep, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die,” but there is the rub – tomorrow we shall die, but where shall we go then?

Let us thank our divine Lord today, for giving this consoling and encouraging vision of his glory to his Apostles and through them to us. It was for them, and it is for us, a guarantee and a foretaste of the joys and the glory that will be ours for eternity, if we but persevere in our struggles against the world, the flesh and the devil. This struggle is not easy for our weak nature, but our loving Savior is ever beside us to “raise us up and tell us not to fear” if we but rely on him. When we are tempted to give way to our human weaknesses, or to give way under the weight of the crosses that sometimes are about to crush us, let us think of Mount Tabor, and the glorified Jesus, who a few weeks later faced his own real passion and cross cheerfully for our sakes. This thought will help us to carry our crosses as the thought of the future glory which will be ours should make us thank God that we have been created and thank his beloved Son for setting us on the road to that future glory.

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

BENEDICTUS

Lenten Transfiguration

Astonished in the presence of the transfigured Lord, who was speaking with Moses and Elias, Peter, James, and John were suddenly enveloped in a cloud from which a voice arose that proclaimed: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him” (Mk 9: 7). When one has the grace to sense a strong experience of God, it is as though seeing something similar to what the disciples experienced during the Transfiguration: For a moment they experienced ahead of time something that will constitute the happiness of paradise. In general, it is brief experiences that God grants on occasions, especially in anticipation of harsh trials. However, no one lives “on Tabor” while on earth. Human existence is a journey of faith and, as such, goes forward more in darkness than in full light, with moments of obscurity and even profound darkness. While we are here, our relationship with God develops more with listening than with seeing; and even contemplation takes place, so to speak, with closed eyes, thanks to the interior light lit in us by the word of God… This is the gift and commitment for each one of us in the Lenten season: To listen to Christ, like Mary. To listen to him in every word, preserved in Sacred Scripture. To listen to him in the very events of our lives, trying to read in them the messages of providence. To listen to him, finally, in our brothers, especially in the little ones and the poor, for whom Jesus himself asked our concrete love. To listen to Christ and to obey his voice. This is the only way that leads to joy and love.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

God, our Father, in the transfigured glory of Christ your Son, you strengthen our faith by confirming the witness of your prophets and by showing to us the splendor of your beloved Son, help us to become heirs to the eternal life with Him, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

 

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First Sunday of Lent – B

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“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”

OPENING PRAYER

A Prayer for the Forgiveness of Sins

By St. Gemma Galgani

My Jesus,

I place all my sins before you.

In my estimation

They do not deserve pardon,

But I ask you

To close your eyes

To my want of merit

And open them

To your infinite merit.

Since you willed

To die for my sins,

Grant me forgiveness

For all of them.

Thus, I may no longer feel

The burden of my sins,

A burden that oppresses me

Beyond measure.

Assist me, dear Jesus,

For I desire to become holy

No matter what the cost.

Take away, destroy,

And utterly root out

Whatever you find in me

That is contrary

To your holy will.

At the same time, dear Jesus,

Illumine me

So that I may walk in your holy light.

COLLECT

By your help, we beseech you, Lord our God,

may we walk eagerly in that same charity

with which, out of love for the world,

your Son handed himself over to death.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Jer 31:31-34

The days are coming, says the LORD,

when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel

and the house of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers

the day I took them by the hand

to lead them forth from the land of Egypt;

for they broke my covenant,

and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD.

But this is the covenant that I will make

with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD.

I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts;

I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives

how to know the LORD.

All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD,

for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

CCC 368 The spiritual tradition of the Church also emphasizes the heart, in the biblical sense of the depths of one’s being, where the person decides for or against God.4

CCC 580 The perfect fulfillment of the Law could be the work of none but the divine legislator, born subject to the Law in the person of the Son.5 In Jesus, the Law no longer appears engraved on tables of stone but “upon the heart” of the Servant who becomes “a covenant to the people”, because he will “faithfully bring forth justice”.6 Jesus fulfills the Law to the point of taking upon himself “the curse of the Law” incurred by those who do not “abide by the things written in the book of the Law, and do them”, for his death took place to redeem them “from the transgressions under the first covenant”.7

CCC 715 The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of “love and fidelity.”8 St. Peter will proclaim their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost.9 According to these promises, at the “end time” the Lord’s Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace.

CCC 762 The remote preparation for this gathering together of the People of God begins when he calls Abraham and promises that he will become the father of a great people.10 Its immediate preparation begins with Israel’s election as the People of God. By this election, Israel is to be the sign of the future gathering of All nations.11 But the prophets accuse Israel of breaking the covenant and behaving like a prostitute. They announce a new and eternal covenant. “Christ instituted this New Covenant.”12

CCC 1965 The New Law or the Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is expressed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. It is also the work of the Holy Spirit and through him it becomes the interior law of charity: “I will establish a New Covenant with the house of Israel. .. I will put my laws into their hands, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”13

CCC 2713 Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and poverty. Contemplative prayer is a covenant relationship established by God within our hearts.14 Contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, “to his likeness.”

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

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

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

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

5 Cf. Gal 4:4.

6 Jer 31:33; Is 42:3, 6.

7 Gal 3:13; 3:10; Heb 9:15.

8 Cf. Ezek 11:19; 36:25-28; 37:1-14; Jer 31:31-34; and cf. Joel 3:1-5.

9 Cf. Acts 2:17-21.

10 Cf. Gen 12:2; 15:5-6.

11 Cf. Ex 19:5-6; Deut 7:6; Isa 2:2-5; Mic 4:1-4.

12 LG 9; cf. Hos 1; Isa 1:2-4; Jer 2; 31:31-34; Isa 55:3.

13 Heb 8:8, 10; cf. Jer 31:31-34.

14 Cf. Jer 31:33.

APPLICATION

It must have grieved and offended a devout lover of God, and an appointed prophet as Jeremiah was, to see the laws of his God broken and trampled on day after day, and this by the leaders of the people who were especially bound to give good example to their followers. The kings and people of Judah were facing a terrible trial. However, instead of relying on the good God who had so often helped them out of impossible difficulties in the past, they were seeking earthly aid from a pagan neighbor–a pagan neighbor who would not help them. Having chastised them in the strongest language for this gross infidelity, he now promises that even though they have deserted God, God will not desert them. The Chosen People were elected by God with the incarnation in mind. Abraham and his descendants were chosen to prepare the way for the coming of God’s Son. Unworthy though they had proved themselves for this noble role, God would still carry out his eternal purpose for all men. The Chosen People would be decimated. Their temple, his visible abode amongst them, would be razed to the ground, for they had despised and betrayed him. But a remnant would be saved–a purified remnant from which would come God’s Son in human nature.

We are the beneficiaries of this infinite act of God’s mercy toward, and patience with, sinful humanity. We have seen the New Covenant established between God and all men (not Abraham’s descendants only). We have seen the depth of God’s love for us, as illustrated on Mount Calvary. Our New Covenant was not mediated to us by any mere human being like Moses, but by the Son of God himself in his human nature. The blood with which this Covenant was ratified was not the blood of sheep and oxen which Moses used for the ratification of the first Covenant. It was the precious blood of Jesus Christ: “This is the blood of the New and everlasting Covenant which will be shed for you and all men so that sins may be forgiven.” This is a universal covenant “for all men.” It is not made between God and one race or people but between God and all men of all races and nations.

This is what we mean when we speak of the “New Testament.” It is not merely the books which describe what happened, but the happening itself. The Messiah promised in the Old Covenant and for whom the Old was a preparation, has come on earth and has proved to be not a mere messenger or delegate from God but his own dearly-beloved Son. This Son of God has brought about a pact, an agreement, between God and all men–an agreement through which all men are now elevated to the position of sons of God and heirs to God’s eternal kingdom. By the sacrifice of himself on the cross, the Son of God has removed any impediment (sins) which could prevent us from possessing that promised inheritance. This is the happy lot of man on earth today. But how many know of this pearl of great price, which is theirs for the taking? How many who do know of it are willing to “sell the few possessions they have” in order to acquire this treasure? How many, in other words, are willing to live the Christian life on earth in all sincerity, so that they can be Christians and brothers of Christ for all eternity in heaven?

 

Let each one of us ask these questions today, and give an honest answer. Living in the Christian era now will mean nothing to us hereafter, if we do not live as true Christians. Having the new pact with God written in our hearts by baptism will not help us to get to heaven unless we observe the two great commandments, love of God and love of neighbor. The fact that Christ has left a means for washing away our sins will not cleanse us unless we repent and confess our sins. The fact that we were made “spouses” of the Lord when we became Christians will give us no rights or privileges if we have divorced ourselves from him by unworthy conduct.

 There is still hope. We are still alive. Lent is a very suitable occasion to examine ourselves: to see our faults and failings, to repent of them and ask from God forgiveness and the necessary grace to remain his true spouses, his true “chosen ones” for the future.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15.

(12a) Create a clean heart in me, O God.

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.

Create a clean heart in me, O God.

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.

Create a clean heart in me, O God.

Give me back the joy of your salvation,

and a willing spirit sustain in me.

I will teach transgressors your ways,

and sinners shall return to you.

Create a clean heart in me, O God.

READING II

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Heb 5:7-9

In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh,

he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears

to the one who was able to save him from death,

and he was heard because of his reverence.

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;

and when he was made perfect,

he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 609 By embracing in his human heart the Father’s love for men, Jesus “loved them to the end”, for “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”1 In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men.2 Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”3 Hence the sovereign freedom of God’s Son as he went out to his death.4

CCC 612 The cup of the New Covenant, which Jesus anticipated when he offered himself at the Last Supper, is afterwards accepted by him from his Father’s hands in his agony in the garden at Gethsemani,5 making himself “obedient unto death”. Jesus prays: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. ..”6 Thus he expresses the horror that death represented for his human nature. Like ours, his human nature is destined for eternal life; but unlike ours, it is perfectly exempt from sin, the cause of death.7 Above all, his human nature has been assumed by the divine person of the “Author of life”, the “Living One”.8 By accepting in his human will that the Father’s will be done, he accepts his death as redemptive, for “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”9

CCC 617 The Council of Trent emphasizes the unique character of Christ’s sacrifice as “the source of eternal salvation”10 and teaches that “his most holy Passion on the wood of the cross merited justification for us.”11 And the Church venerates his cross as she sings: “Hail, O Cross, our only hope.”12

CCC 1009 Death is transformed by Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, also himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition. Yet, despite his anguish as he faced death, he accepted it in an act of complete and free submission to his Father’s will.13 The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.14

CCC 1564 “Whilst not having the supreme degree of the pontifical office, and notwithstanding the fact that they depend on the bishops in the exercise of their own proper power, the priests are for all that associated with them by reason of their sacerdotal dignity; and in virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, after the image of Christ, the supreme and eternal priest, they are consecrated in order to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful as well as to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Testament.”15

CCC 2606 All the troubles, for all time, of humanity enslaved by sin and death, all the petitions and intercessions of salvation history are summed up in this cry of the incarnate Word. Here the Father accepts them and, beyond all hope, answers them by raising his Son. Thus is fulfilled and brought to completion the drama of prayer in the economy of creation and salvation. The Psalter gives us the key to prayer in Christ. In the “today” of the Resurrection the Father says: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.”16

The Letter to the Hebrews expresses in dramatic terms how the prayer of Jesus accomplished the victory of salvation: “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered, and being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”17

CCC 2741 Jesus also prays for us – in our place and on our behalf. All our petitions were gathered up, once for all, in his cry on the Cross and, in his Resurrection, heard by the Father. This is why he never ceases to intercede for us with the Father.18 If our prayer is resolutely united with that of Jesus, in trust and boldness as children, we obtain all that we ask in his name, even more than any particular thing: the Holy Spirit himself, who contains all gifts.

CCC 2825 “Although he was a Son, [Jesus] learned obedience through what he suffered.”19 How much more reason have we sinful creatures to learn obedience – we who in him have become children of adoption. We ask our Father to unite our will to his Son’s, in order to fulfill his will, his plan of salvation for the life of the world. We are radically incapable of this, but united with Jesus and with the power of his Holy Spirit, we can surrender our will to him and decide to choose what his Son has always chosen: to do what is pleasing to the Father.20

In committing ourselves to [Christ], we can become one spirit with him, and thereby accomplish his will, in such wise that it will be perfect on earth as it is in heaven.21

Consider how Jesus Christ] teaches us to be humble, by making us see that our virtue does not depend on our work alone but on grace from on high. He commands each of the faithful who prays to do so universally, for the whole world. For he did not say “thy will be done in me or in us,” but “on earth,” the whole earth, so that error may be banished from it, truth take root in it, all vice be destroyed on it, virtue flourish on it, and earth no longer differ from heaven.22

1 Jn 13:1; 15:13.

2 Cf. Heb 2:10,17-18; 4:15; 5:7-9.

3 Jn 10:18.

4 Cf. Jn 18:4-6; Mt 26:53.

5 Cf. Mt 26:42; Lk 22:20.

6 Phil 2:8; Mt 26:39; cf. Heb 5:7-8.

7 Cf. Rom 5:12; Heb 4:15.

8 Cf. Acts 3:15; Rev 1:17; Jn 1:4; 5:26.

9 1 Pt 224; cf. Mt 26:42.

10 Heb 5:9.

11 Council of Trent: DS 1529.

12 LH, Lent, Holy Week, Evening Prayer, Hymn Vexilla Regis.

13 Cf. Mk 14:33-34; Heb 5:7-8.

14 Cf. Rom 5:19-21.

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

16 Ps 2:7-8; cf. Acts 13:33.

17 Heb 5:7-9.

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

19 Heb 5:8.

20 Cf. Jn 8:29.

21 Origen, De orat. 26 PG 11, 501B.

22 St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in Mt. 19, 5 PG 57, 280.

APPLICATION

When we are asked to live as true Christians we are being told to be obedient to the will of a heavenly Father who wants us to go to heaven. It is through obeying that divine will that we shall be working toward our best and truest interest.  We all have sins and failings to atone for; we all have weaknesses and evil inclinations which we want to overcome.  Hence the need for the self-mortification which living the true Christian life imposes on us. God gave us the marvelous gifts of intellect and free-will and we are all – without exception – tempted to dislike being ordered or commanded by another. We can easily get, the foolish idea that we are masters of our own destiny, whereas the truth is that our eternal destiny depends on God’s good-will toward us.  That good-will is promised and secured, by those who obey him.

 This reading from Hebrews today sets before us the inspiring example of the perfect obedience of Christ, who was the Son of God. He had no sins, he had nothing to atone for, eternal happiness was his by virtue of his sonship. Yet God the Father asked him to undergo the tortures and torments of crucifixion in his human nature for our sakes, and he obeyed! This is the sublime model of perfect obedience, the unparalleled example of complete submission to God’s will. It is set before us in this short reading. How could we be expected to imitate the perfect Christ? Yet St. Paul not only says we are expected to do so, but commands his Philippian converts to do so when he says. “In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus… who was divine but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death even death on a cross (Phil. 2: 5-8). St. Paul and his disciple, the author of Hebrews, call on Christians to imitate the obedience of Christ. In doing this they are asking no more than he himself asked when he laid down the condition for discipleship: “if any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt. 16: 24, see today’s gospel also).

 The truly sincere Christian must be ready to suffer torture and crucifixion, if called on for the sake of Christ. Many have done so but true obedience for most of us consists in carrying our own crosses, our sicknesses, our loneliness, our struggles for earthly existence our sorrows and bereavements.  These may not lead to the Calvary of martyrdom, but they lead us over very rough roads – roads, however, which bring us, in God’s good time, to the reward won for us on Calvary.

Are we on that rough road of true obedience, or have we sought the smoother path of giving in to our weaknesses? Lent is a suitable time to examine ourselves and then to return to the road of true obedience if we have strayed off it.

GOSPEL

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Jn 12:20-33

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast

came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee,

and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”

Philip went and told Andrew;

then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

Jesus answered them,

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

Amen, amen, I say to you,

unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,

it remains just a grain of wheat;

but if it dies, it produces much fruit.

Whoever loves his life loses it,

and whoever hates his life in this world

will preserve it for eternal life.

Whoever serves me must follow me,

and where I am, there also will my servant be.

The Father will honor whoever serves me.

“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?

‘Father, save me from this hour?’

But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.

Father, glorify your name.”

Then a voice came from heaven,

“I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”

The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder;

but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”

Jesus answered and said,

“This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.

Now is the time of judgment on this world;

now the ruler of this world will be driven out.

And when I am lifted up from the earth,

I will draw everyone to myself.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/021818.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

CCC 363 In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person.4 But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him,5 that by which he is most especially in God’s image: “soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man.

CCC 434 Jesus’ Resurrection glorifies the name of the Savior God, for from that time on it is the name of Jesus that fully manifests the supreme power of the “name which is above every name”.6 The evil spirits fear his name; in his name his disciples perform miracles, for the Father grants all they ask in this name.7

CCC 542 Christ stands at the heart of this gathering of men into the “family of God”. By his word, through signs that manifest the reign of God, and by sending out his disciples, Jesus calls all people to come together around him. But above all in the great Paschal mystery – his death on the cross and his Resurrection – he would accomplish the coming of his kingdom. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Into this union with Christ all men are called.8

CCC 550 The coming of God’s kingdom means the defeat of Satan’s: “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”9 Jesus’ exorcisms free some individuals from the domination of demons. They anticipate Jesus’ great victory over “the ruler of this world”.10 The kingdom of God will be definitively established through Christ’s cross: “God reigned from the wood.”11

CCC 607 The desire to embrace his Father’s plan of redeeming love inspired Jesus’ whole life,12 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.”13 And again, “Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?”14 From the cross, just before “It is finished”, he said, “I thirst.”15

CCC 662 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”16 The lifting up of Jesus on the cross signifies and announces his lifting up by his Ascension into heaven, and indeed begins it. Jesus Christ, the one priest of the new and eternal Covenant, “entered, not into a sanctuary made by human hands. .. but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”17 There Christ permanently exercises his priesthood, for he “always lives to make intercession” for “those who draw near to God through him”.18 As “high priest of the good things to come” he is the center and the principal actor of the liturgy that honors the Father in heaven.19

CCC 786 Finally, the People of God shares in the royal office of Christ. He exercises his kingship by drawing all men to himself through his death and Resurrection.20 Christ, King and Lord of the universe, made himself the servant of all, for he came “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”21 For the Christian, “to reign is to serve him,” particularly when serving “the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder.”22 The People of God fulfills its royal dignity by a life in keeping with its vocation to serve with Christ.

The sign of the cross makes kings of all those reborn in Christ and the anointing of the Holy Spirit consecrates them as priests, so that, apart from the particular service of our ministry, all spiritual and rational Christians are recognized as members of this royal race and sharers in Christ’s priestly office. What, indeed, is as royal for a soul as to govern the body in obedience to God? And what is as priestly as to dedicate a pure conscience to the Lord and to offer the spotless offerings of devotion on the altar of the heart?23

CCC 1428 Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, “clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”24 This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a “contrite heart,” drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.25

CCC 2731 Another difficulty, especially for those who sincerely want to pray, is dryness. Dryness belongs to contemplative prayer when the heart is separated from God, with no taste for thoughts, memories, and feelings, even spiritual ones. This is the moment of sheer faith clinging faithfully to Jesus in his agony and in his tomb. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if dies, it bears much fruit.”26 If dryness is due to the lack of roots, because the word has fallen on rocky soil, the battle requires conversion.27

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,28 but conversion of heart enables us to return to the Father, to heaven.29 In Christ, then, heaven and earth are reconciled,30 for the Son alone “descended from heaven” and causes us to ascend there with him, by his Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension.31

CCC 2853 Victory over the “prince of this world”32 was won once for all at the Hour when Jesus freely gave himself up to death to give us his life. This is the judgment of this world, and the prince of this world is “cast out.”33 “He pursued the woman”34 but had no hold on her: the new Eve, “full of grace” of the Holy Spirit, is preserved from sin and the corruption of death (the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary, ever virgin). “Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring.”35 Therefore the Spirit and the Church pray: “Come, Lord Jesus,”36 since his coming will deliver us from the Evil One.

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

2 DH 11.

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

4 Cf. Mt 16:25-26; Jn 15:13; Acts 2:41.

5 Cf. Mt 10:28; 26:38; Jn 12:27; 2 Macc 6 30.

6 Phil 2:9-10; cf. Jn 12:28.

7 Cf. Acts 16:16-18; 19:13-16; Mk 16:17; Jn 15:16.

8 Jn 12:32; cf. LG 3.

9 Mt 12:26, 28.

10 Jn 12:31; cf. Lk 8:26-39.

11 LH, Lent, Holy Week, Evening Prayer, Hymn Vexilla Regis: Regnavit a ligno Deus.

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

13 Jn 12:27.

14 Jn 18:11.

15 Jn 19:30; 19:28.

16 Jn 12:32.

17 Heb 9:24.

18 Heb 7:25.

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

20 Cf. Jn 12:32.

21 Mt 20:28.

22 LG 8; Cf. 36.

23 St. Leo the Great, Sermo 4, 1: PL 54, 149.

24 LG 8 # 3.

25 Ps 51:17; cf. Jn 6:44; 12:32; 1 Jn 4:10.

26 Jn 12:24.

27 Cf. Lk 8:6, 13.

28 Cf. Gen 3.

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

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

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

32 Jn 14:30.

33 Jn 12:31; Rev 12:10.

34 Rev 12:13-16.

35 Rev 12:17.

APPLICATION

On the first Palm Sunday, as Christ entered Jerusalem not as a conquering king on a charger but “riding on an ass” to show that he was the humble servant of all men, he clearly foresaw the sufferings and torments that would be his in that city, before the week was out. Among those who waved palm branches to honor him and who sang aloud: “Hosanna to the son of David, Hosanna in the highest,” there were perhaps some who, urged on by the leaders, would be shouting the following Friday, “away with him, crucify him,” and “we have no king but Caesar.” Such was the fickleness of human nature then. Unfortunately it has not changed much, if at all, in the two thousand years that have since elapsed. We are still fickle when it comes to choosing between Christ and the things of this world. Yet he knew all of this, and was still willing to carry the cross for us who are such unworthy mortals!

This very thought should put us all to shame, for what repayment does the very best of us make for the incredible love he has shown for us? We grumble and complain when some small cross is laid on our shoulders; we are full of laments if life is not running smoothly for us; we cannot understand why God should let certain things happen to us, his friends! But see for a moment what the lot of his beloved Son was on earth. Born and reared in extreme poverty; insulted and offended by those he wanted to teach; quickly forgotten by those he benefited by his miracles; hounded by his enemies and betrayed by one who had been his disciple for over two years and who had sat at table with him that same night; deserted in his moment of trial by those very ones who had sworn undying allegiance to him. Then followed the torments wished on him by his enemies – those he had come to save; the mock trial and illegal condemnation; the scourging at the pillar; the crowning with thorns; the carrying of the cross and finally the three hours of intense torture and agony while his body hung on the cross! The next time we are tempted to grumble and complain about our sad lot, let us look thoughtfully at a crucifix for a few moments!

“He who loves his life loses it,” this is a truth stated by Christ at the solemn moment when he was speaking of the purpose of his own painful death. He died so that we might live, not for sixty or even a hundred years on earth, but forever in heaven. We can, we know, lose the eternal life Christ won for us if we are too attached to our transitory, earthly life. If we love our own comforts, pleasures, temporal gains, our own worldly will, more than we love our unending, happy future, then we are loving our earthly lives wrongly, and we are gravely risking the loss of the future, true life.

If, on the other hand, we do our best to be faithful servants of Christ, we shall always judge all our actions with eternity in view. We can use the things of this life which God gives us, and still be close followers of Christ. The lawful possession of the goods of this world, the enjoyment of the licit pleasures of life, are allowed to the fervent Christian. If these possessions and pleasures are accepted with Christian gratitude, they will become stepping-stones that will help us across the river of life to our everlasting home beyond.

Each one of us should look fervently and devoutly on the crucifix today, and try to compare our willingness to suffer those crosses sent to us by God, with the crushing cross and passion our Savior Jesus Christ gladly accepted for us and not for his own sake. Do not let the conclusion you draw stun you into inactivity, but rather let it shock you into a new outlook on life; a now resolve to serve, follow and imitate our loving Christ more closely in future. So may it be for all of us.

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

BENEDICTUS

Love and Eternity

Our life tends in the end toward a discovery of love, toward receiving love, and giving love.  And the crucified Christ, who presents us with love lived out to the end, as he himself says in the Gospel of John, lifts this principle up into the realm of absolute reality.  God himself is love.  In this sense, love is indeed both the fundamental rule and the ultimate aim of life.  Here we come again to the mystery of the grain of wheat, to the mystery of losing oneself and finding oneself.  And we must link to this the observation that, as we know, no one can make love.  It is given to us.  It just happens; it comes to me from someone else; it enters into me.  Human love always lays claim to eternity.  Love contradicts death, as the human love is turned from a promise into the fulfillment of reality only that to say to a person “I love you” meant: I refuse to accept your death; I protest your death.  Thus we see that human love, in and for itself, represents an unredeemable promise.  It strives for eternity, and yet it can offer only mortality.  Yet, on the other hand, it knows that this promise is not meaningless and contradictory, and thereby destructive, since ultimately eternity is alive within it nonetheless.  Even from a purely human point of view, then, love is what we are looking for and is the goal toward which our lives are directed.  But within its own framework and on its own terms it directs our view toward God and brings us to wait upon God.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 138 

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart,

you have heard the words of my mouth.

In the presence of the angels I will bless you.

I will adore before your holy temple.

I thank you for your faithfulness and love

which excel all we ever knew of you.

On the day I called, you answered;

you increased the strength of my soul.

All earth’s kings shall thank you

when they hear the words of your mouth.

They shall sing of the Lord’s ways:

How great is the glory of the Lord!”

The Lord is high yet he looks on the lowly

and the haughty he knows from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of affliction

you give me life and frustrate my foes.

You stretch out your hand and save me,

your hand will do all things for me.

Your love, O Lord, is eternal,

discard not the work of your hands.

Glory to the Father

and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning,

is now, and shall be for ever.

Amen.

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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

 

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“A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
 “If you wish, you can make me clean.  “
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, 
touched him, and said to him, 
”I do will it.  Be made clean.”

OPENING PRAYER

Daily Offering to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and suffering of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sins, the reunion of all Christians; I offer them for the intentions of our Bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.  Amen.

COLLECT

 O God, who teach us that you abide

in hearts that are just and true,

grant that we may be so fashioned by your grace

as to become a dwelling pleasing to you.

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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Lv 13:1-2, 44-46

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron,
”If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch
 which appears to be the sore of leprosy, 
he shall be brought to Aaron, the priest,
 or to one of the priests among his descendants.
 If the man is leprous and unclean,
 the priest shall declare him unclean
by reason of the sore on his head.

  “The one who bears the sore of leprosy
 shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, 
and shall muffle his beard;
 he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean! ‘
As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean,
 since he is in fact unclean.
  He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”

APPLICATION

 Man was made to live in the society of his fellowman. His nature needs the comfort and the sustaining support of his family and neighbors. To be isolated from them, to be compelled to live a life apart must be the hardest lot that could befall a human being. This was the sad lot of lepers in the Old Testament times and well into New Testament days as well. Thanks to the progress of medicine and of Christian charity there are hardly any cases of complete isolation today. There are cures for all infectious and contagious diseases including most forms of leprosy, today. There are medical means of protection against infection and contagion which means that no patients need to be in strict isolation. They can be visited and consoled by their relatives, friends and charitable neighbors, and their cross of suffering in loneliness is lightened for them.

There are, however, other cases of isolation not caused by any disease but rather resulting from lack of thought or lack of true fraternal charity on the part of fellowman. There are elderly people in hospitals and in homes for the aged whose relatives are all dead and who have no one to visit them or to cheer them and help them to carry their cross. Here is an occasion for the true Christian to put his religion into practice. “I was sick and you visited me,” Christ says to the just on the last day. Yes, if we visit and console a fellowman, a brother of Christ, we are visiting and consoling Christ. There are, thank God, a few who practice this very necessary form of charity, but many more are needed.

There are also individuals and sometimes families in almost every community, who seem to be isolated or left coldly to themselves. It may be partly their own fault – they show no inclination to mix with their neighbors, they may even resent any intrusion on their privacy – but this does not excuse the truly Christian neighbor from trying to make such individuals or families feel at home and welcome in their neighborhood. The charitable person will find ways and means of integrating such people into their local community, and of making life less solitary and therefore, more bearable for them.

Think again on the sad fate of the lepers of old, cut off from all human fellowship, compelled to warn all to keep at a safe distance, lest they become infected. If you had been there, would you not have tried to help those poor unfortunate people, if only with a word of encouragement and consolation from afar? You were not there, but you have today plenty of opportunities to exercise charity toward lonely or isolated neighbors, who are within the reach of your kindness, if you are truly kind. You need not fear any contamination of body or mind, in fact, the kindly, friendly encounter with such people who are so much in need of friendship and kindness will have an elevating effect on your own life and cannot but bring you closer to God. “I was a stranger and you made me welcome; I was sick and I you visited me; I tell you solemnly insofar as you did this to the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me” (Mt. 25: 35-40).

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 32:1-2, 5, 11

I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.

Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.

I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you, 
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD, “
and you took away the guilt of my sin.

I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you just;
exult, all you upright of heart.

I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.

 READING II

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1 Cor 10:31-11:1

Brothers and sisters, 
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do everything for the glory of God.  
Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or 
the church of God,
 just as I try to please everyone in every way,
 not seeking my own benefit but that of the many,
 that they may be saved.
  Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

 CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

 CCC 24 By design, this Catechism does not set out to provide the adaptation of doctrinal presentations and catechetical methods required by the differences of culture, age, spiritual maturity, and social and ecclesial condition among all those to whom it is addressed. Such indispensable adaptations are the responsibility of particular catechisms and, even more, of those who instruct the faithful:

Whoever teaches must become “all things to all men” (1 Cor 9:22), to win everyone to Christ. .. Above all, teachers must not imagine that a single kind of soul has been entrusted to them, and that consequently it is lawful to teach and form equally all the faithful in true piety with one and the same method! Let them realize that some are in Christ as newborn babes, others as adolescents, and still others as adults in full command of their powers. .. Those who are called to the ministry of preaching must suit their words to the maturity and understanding of their hearers, as they hand on the teaching of the mysteries of faith and the rules of moral conduct.1

 CCC 848 “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”2

CCC 876 Intrinsically linked to the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry is its character as service. Entirely dependent on Christ who gives mission and authority, ministers are truly “slaves of Christ,”3 in the image of him who freely took “the form of a slave” for us.4 Because the word and grace of which they are ministers are not their own, but are given to them by Christ for the sake of others, they must freely become the slaves of all.5

 1 Roman Catechism, Preface II; cf. I Cor 9:22; I Pt 2:2.

2 AG 7; cf. Heb 11:6; 1 Cor 9:16.

3 Cf. Rom 1:1.

4 Phil 2:7.

5 Cf. 1 Cor 9:19.

APPLICATION

If  I were to ask each one of you: “what did you do for God’s honor and glory since last Sunday?” would you have to stop and think and maybe answer: “I did nothing except a few hurried prayers said at night. “Those who would answer thus have not a proper understanding of what living the Christian life means. From the moment of his baptism a Christian’s life is a life dedicated to God’s glory and leading to his own eternal reward on his last day. Every act of a Christian’s day, his recreation as well as his work, his joys as well as his sorrows, his sleeping as well as his waking hour, gives honor and glory to God, and earns heaven for the Christian. This is the real meaning of living a Christian life. This is what St. Paul tells us today when he says : “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This is how St. Paul himself lived and acted and became a great saint. Undoubtedly, he gave most of his time to teaching the gospel to others, but he also worked with his hands, ate some meals, slept some hours at least each night, had moments of recreation or relaxation with friends, but he offered it all to God and it all added to God’s gory and to his own sanctification. God lived more and more in him and with him each day that dawned. There are millions of saints in heaven who did nothing extraordinary in their whole lives but they lived their ordinary lives honestly and well. It should not be too hard for the weakest of us to do this. It will help us to do our daily tasks more faithfully if each morning we offer our day to the honor and glory of God. This morning offering can be made while dressing, or while on our way to work and if sometimes we forget it, God will understand.

So the true answer to what did you do for God’s honor and glory since last Sunday is: I have given him seven days’ service; I have honored him in all my doings’ This will be true for every Christian who has been honest in all his doings and who has lived within the laws of God, of his Church, and of his country. We cannot honor God with a dishonest act, we can give no glory to God while willfully disobeying in serious matters the commandments of God or of his Church, or the lawful enactment’s of the State. But our merciful God knows how weak our human nature can be at times, and has given us an easy means of rising again should we fall into disobedience. The sincere Christian who realizes that our daily tasks, if they are carried out while we are not in God’s friendship, are not capable of honoring God or earning our own eternal salvation, will rise quickly from sin and return to God’s friendship. To sin is partly human frailty and partly human folly; to remain deliberately in sin is criminal injustice to God and to ourselves, because all those days, weeks, and months perhaps, are squandered and wasted as far as God and our eternal destiny are concerned.

Let us try, from now on, to imitate St. Paul by devoting twenty-four hours each day to the honor and glory of God. We do not have to say any extra prayers; we do not have to do any unusual mortification’s but if we do each task of each day faithfully and truly, we shall be honoring God daily and storing up a priceless reward for ourselves in heaven.

GOSPEL

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Mk 1:40-45

 

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
”If you wish, you can make me clean.  “
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, 
touched him, and said to him, 
”I do will it. Be made clean.  “
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
  Then, warning the him sternly, he dismissed him at once. 

He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
 but go, show yourself to the priest 
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.  “

The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
  He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.  
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

 http://usccb.org/bible/readings/021118.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

 CCC 2602 Jesus often draws apart to pray in solitude, on a mountain, preferably at night.1 He includes all men in his prayer, for he has taken on humanity in his incarnation, and he offers them to the Father when he offers himself. Jesus, the Word who has become flesh, shares by his human prayer in all that “his brethren” experience; he sympathizes with their weaknesses in order to free them.2 It was for this that the Father sent him. His words and works are the visible manifestation of his prayer in secret.

1 Cf. Mk 1:35; 6:46; Lk 5:16.
2 Cf. Heb 2:12, 15; 4:15.

 APPLICATION

We see both the divine power and the divine compassion of Jesus in this act of healing. The divine power was necessary in all instantaneous cures. Even if the diseases were curable, the ordinary process of nature took time to fight off the causes and to return to normality. Therefore, where there was an instantaneous recovery some power above nature, some supernatural cause brought it about. But where the disease was incurable, as real leprosy then was, to remove it by a simple word of command was more emphatically still the result of divine power. This divine power Jesus had, for he was himself divine, the Son of God.

His compassion for suffering humanity was, however, co-terminus with his power, it was also divine. It was out of compassion for the sad lot of the human race on earth that he descended to man’s level, becoming man, equal to us in all things except sin, in order to suffer with us and for us. By his human sufferings he made an atonement, a satisfaction for all the sins of the world – a satisfaction which all mankind could never make — to his heavenly Father, and so obtained for us God’s pardon. At the same time, by joining our human nature to his divine nature, he brought us into the divine orbit and made us adopted sons of God and heirs of the eternal life of the Blessed Trinity. Because this seems almost too good to be true, there are men who deny it or refuse to accept it. Such men make the mistake of measuring the infinite compassion of God with the limited yard-stick of their own finite and puny compassion.

Thanks be to God, for his infinite compassion! Thanks be to God, for Christ his Son, who came and dwelt amongst us! He put heaven and a share in the life of God within our reach; he has, shown us how to attain them, giving in his Church and the sacraments, all the necessary aids. But we still need all of Christ’s compassion if we are to get there. Because of our inclination to sin and because of the many times we unfortunately give in to that inclination, nothing but the mercy of God can save us from our own folly. However, that mercy is available, if only we ask for it. What we sinners need is the faith and confidence of the leper in today’s gospel reading. He believed firmly in the power and the mercy of Jesus. “If you will, you can make me clean,” was his approach to Jesus.

This should be our approach too, if we have the misfortune to fall into serious sin. Jesus does will and does want our salvation. His incarnation, and death on the cross, proves that. The fact that he left the power to forgive sins to his Church is another proof of both his will and desire to help us. “All power has been given to me in heaven and on earth,” he stated. Part of that power which he left to his Church is in the sacrament of penance where the leprosy of sin can be washed away and the sinner restored to new and perfect spiritual health. What folly for any Christian then, to commit sin and isolate himself, like the unclean leper, from God. But it is greater folly still, to remain in this unclean state when the cure for his disease is so easily available to any sincere penitent.

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

 BENEDICTUS

 The Attempt to Save Ourselves

 It is clear that human beings alone cannot save themselves.  There innate error is precisely that they want to do this by themselves.  We can only be saved – that is, become ourselves – when we engage in the proper relationship.  But our interpersonal relationships occur in the context of our utter creatureliness, and it is there that the damage lies.  Since the relationship with creation has been damaged, only the Creator himself can be our savior.  We can be saved only when he from whom we have cut ourselves off takes the initiative with us and stretches out his hand to us.  Only being loved is being saved, and only God’s love can purify damaged human love and radically reestablish the network of relationships that have suffered from alienation… The One who is truly like God does not hold graspingly to his autonomy, to the limitlessness of his ability and his willing.  He does the contrary:  he becomes completely dependent, he becomes a slave.  Because he does not go the route of power but that of love, he can descend into the depths of Adam’s lie, into the depths of death, and there raise up truth and life.  Thus Christ is the new Adam, with whom humankind begins anew.  The Son., who is by nature relationship and relatedness, reestablishes relationships.  His arms, spread out on the cross, are an open invitation to relationship, which is continually offered to us.  The cross, the place of his obedience, is the true tree of life.

 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

 CLOSING PRAYER

 The Universal Prayer

(attributed to Pope Clement XI)

 

Lord, I believe in you: increase my faith.

I trust in you: strengthen my trust.

I love you: let me love you more and more.

I am sorry for my sins: deepen my sorrow.

I worship you as my first beginning,

I long for you as my last end,

I praise you as my constant helper,

And call on you as my loving protector.

 

Guide me by your wisdom,

Correct me with your justice,

Comfort me with your mercy,

Protect me with your power.

 

I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you;

My words: to have you for their theme;

My actions: to reflect my love for you;

My sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory.

 

I want to do what you ask of me:

In the way you ask,

For as long as you ask,

Because you ask it.

 

Lord, enlighten my understanding,

Strengthen my will,

Purify my heart,

and make me holy.

 

Help me to repent of my past sins

And to resist temptation in the future.

Help me to rise above my human weaknesses

And to grow stronger as a Christian.

 

Let me love you, my Lord and my God,

And see myself as I really am:

A pilgrim in this world,

A Christian called to respect and love

All whose lives I touch,

Those under my authority,

My friends and my enemies.

 

Help me to conquer anger with gentleness,

Greed by generosity,

Apathy by fervor.

Help me to forget myself

And reach out toward others.

 

Make me prudent in planning,

Courageous in taking risks.

Make me patient in suffering,

unassuming in prosperity.

 

Keep me, Lord, attentive at prayer,

Temperate in food and drink,

Diligent in my work,

Firm in my good intentions.

 

Let my conscience be clear,

My conduct without fault,

My speech blameless,

My life well-ordered.

Put me on guard against my human weaknesses.

Let me cherish your love for me,

Keep your law,

And come at last to your salvation.

Teach me to realize that this world is passing,

That my true future is the happiness of heaven,

That life on earth is short,

And the life to come eternal.

Help me to prepare for death

With a proper fear of judgment,

But a greater trust in your goodness.

Lead me safely through death

To the endless joy of heaven.

 

Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.  They immediately told him about her.  He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.  Then the fever left her and she waited on them.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

A Stewardship Prayer

Almighty and ever-faithful Lord, gratefully acknowledging Your mercy and humbly admitting our need, we pledge our trust in You and each other.

Filled with desire, we respond to Your call for discipleship by shaping our lives in imitation of Christ. We profess that the call requires us to be stewards of Your gifts. As stewards, we receive Your gifts gratefully, cherish and tend them in a responsible manner, share them in practice and love with others, and return them with increase to the Lord.

We pledge to our ongoing formation as stewards and our responsibility to call others to that same endeavor. Almighty and ever-faithful God, it is our fervent hope and prayer that You who have begun this good work in us will bring it to fulfillment in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Amen.

Catholiconline.com

COLLECT

Keep your family safe, O Lord, with unfailing care,

that, relying solely on the hope of heavenly grace,

they may be defended always by your protection.

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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Jb 7:1-4, 6-7

Job spoke, saying:
Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?
Are not his days those of hirelings?
He is a slave who longs for the shade,
a hireling who waits for his wages.
So I have been assigned months of misery,
and troubled nights have been allotted to me.
If in bed I say, “When shall I arise?”
then the night drags on;
I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.
My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle;
they come to an end without hope.
Remember that my life is like the wind;
I shall not see happiness again.

APPLICATION

While the book of Job points out that earthly sufferings are not always a punishment for previous sins committed by the sufferer – Job was an innocent man – it does not solve the problem of human pain. The author could not solve this age-old problem because his world-view was restricted to life on this earth. It was only when the full revelation of man’s purpose in life and God’s loving plans for him, were made known through Christ that the full answer to this question was given. When life on this earth was thought to be the sum total of a man’s existence it seemed hard and cruel that his few short years should be marred and saddened by bodily and/or mental ailments. But with our new knowledge and certainty that this life is only a preparation, an apprenticeship, for the eternal life that awaits us after death, we are able to see our earthly sufferings in their proper perspective. They may be punishment for past sins – God’s loving way of giving us an opportunity of making atonement for our offenses – or these sufferings may be laid on our shoulders to atone for fellowmen who are incapable of carrying their own saving cross.

For whichever reason these trials are sent us, we Christians should, with the example of Christ before us, be able to accept them with good will and bear them patiently because they come to us from God. But the objection can be raised: it is not God but sinful men, wicked neighbors or even wicked members of our own family who are the cause of my ill-health, my mental and bodily sufferings. Granted that this is often true and that many, if not most of the pains and hardships people have to suffer, are caused by wicked fellowman, yet all of this is happening with God’s knowledge. He could prevent it but he will not because out of evil he can produce good. The sufferings of the innocent bring down God’s grace not only on themselves but on the very wicked who caused their sufferings.

God wants all his adopted children in heaven. His all-wise way of bringing this to pass may often seem to our limited intellects to be almost unjust to the innocent while the guilty ones seem to be favored. But it is not so. God’s innocent children will be rewarded where the reward will be everlasting, and when they reach that reward they will have an added source of joy in the knowledge that it was their patient endurance of suffering brought on them by wicked men, which earned for their one-time oppressors a place in the eternal kingdom. In heaven there will be no narrow-mindedness, no sense of resentment or desire for revenge. Remember the words of Job: “man has a hard service upon earth . . . he is like a hireling and a slave.” Most of us can see this fulfilled in our own lives. However, our conscription, our military service or slavery, is of relatively short duration. If we put up patiently with our tribulations (having done all that is humanly and lawfully possible to ameliorate our condition), we will soon see that what looked like the heavy hand of an enemy was instead the caressing hand of the eternal Father, who loved us and so sent us crosses which he would turn into eternal crowns.

Knowing, then, that this life is only an apprenticeship through which we can earn our eternal life of happiness, we should all be able to face “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” which come our way. We should, in fact, be able to welcome them for they are reminders kindly sent us by God, lest we forget our real purpose in life. What is more: they are means given us to make us apostles in our own homes. Through patiently-borne sufferings, we can bring God’s grace down on fellowman who have no time or no thought of asking for it.

Christ suffered for us and died the excruciating death of the cross, so that we might have eternal life. He asks us to take up our cross daily and follow him. That daily cross of ours can never be as heavy as his, for he was the innocent God-man. If, however, we carry our cross patiently, it will be turned into our crown of glory when we meet Christ at the moment of our death.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.

Praise the LORD, for he is good;
sing praise to our God, for he is gracious;
it is fitting to praise him.
The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;
the dispersed of Israel he gathers.

Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He tells the number of the stars;
he calls each by name.

Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
to his wisdom there is no limit.
The LORD sustains the lowly;
the wicked he casts to the ground.

Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.

READING II

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1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23

 

Brothers and sisters:
If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast,
for an obligation has been imposed on me,
and woe to me if I do not preach it!
If I do so willingly, I have a recompense,
but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship.
What then is my recompense?
That, when I preach,
I offer the gospel free of charge
so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

Although I am free in regard to all,
I have made myself a slave to all
so as to win over as many as possible.
To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak.
I have become all things to all, to save at least some.
All this I do for the sake of the gospel,
so that I too may have a share in it.

APPLICATION

St. Paul is the single Apostle about whom we know most. From the accounts of him given in the Acts, and from his own letters to the various churches, we have not only the principal events of his life but clear glimpses into his character. He was never a man of half- measures but put his whole heart and mind into whatever cause he espoused. As a young Pharisee – a student of the Mosaic law in Jerusalem – he exceeded in zeal even his teachers and elders. To the Pharisees Christ was a false Messiah. He was not what they expected and what was worse, he was a blasphemer for he claimed to be God, so they had him condemned to death. But his followers began to proclaim that he had risen from the dead and was not only Messiah but the Son of God. For this they were persecuted and imprisoned – this heretical sect had to be wiped out.

In this persecution of the infant Church, Saul of Tarsus took a leading part. But Christ intervened on behalf of his Church. On his way to Damascus, with authority to arrest any believers in Christ that he found there, and bring them prisoner to Jerusalem, he was converted. The vision of the risen Christ gave him a new outlook on life, the persecutor was turned into an Apostle of the new faith. Baptized in Damascus, he spent some time in solitary meditation in the desert and later in his native Tarsus. Then he began his mission to the Gentiles, the mission given him by Jesus (Acts 9: 15). From Antioch in Syria he traveled through Cyprus (where he changed the name Saul into Paul), Asia Minor, Greece and as far as Rome. He spent the last twenty-four years of his life bringing the message of Christ to the Gentiles. In doing so he suffered hardship after hardship. Apart from fatiguing journeys during which he frequently suffered from hunger and thirst, he was often beaten up by mobs. Five times he was scourged by the opposing Jews. He was stoned, ship-wrecked and imprisoned at least three times (see 2 Cor. 11 :23-29).

The vision of Christ which Paul had on the road to Damascus remained his guiding-light all through these years. He gladly and completely became the slave of Christ and put every ounce of energy he possessed into serving his master. Because his fellowman were brothers of Christ, Paul made himself their slave also. For him there was neither Jew nor Gentile, Greek nor Barbarian, slave nor freeman – all were brothers of Christ, adopted sons of God, and his all-burning desire was to help them all reach the eternal inheritance that God, through Christ, had in store for them.

We can hardly hope to emulate the true brotherly-love, the total dedication, the complete self-giving of Paul, but we must all try to follow him if only from afar. We cannot and need not take on distant missionary journeys, we cannot and need not give up all our earthly cares and responsibilities, but we all can and must take an active interest in the temporal and spiritual welfare of our fellowman. Some of this obligation, which is on every true Christian, we can fulfill by helping missionary societies, but nearer home, in our own very neighborhood, there are works of charity which each one of us can carry out. There are neighbors, fellow-sons and daughters of God who are in dire need of the ordinary necessities of life – we can spare a little from our own resources to help them out. There are many heirs to heaven who, alas, are leading lives which will not bring them to their everlasting home. A word of advice, an encouraging example, a few devout prayers, can still work miracles. Let us try to imitate St. Paul, if only from afar. Every least effort, every smallest sacrifice for Christ and our fellowman, will have its reward when our day of reckoning comes.

We can all be apostles in our own limited surroundings; we must all be apostles if we hope to reign one day soon with Christ in heaven.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 24 By design, this Catechism does not set out to provide the adaptation of doctrinal presentations and catechetical methods required by the differences of culture, age, spiritual maturity, and social and ecclesial condition among all those to whom it is addressed. Such indispensable adaptations are the responsibility of particular catechisms and, even more, of those who instruct the faithful:
Whoever teaches must become “all things to all men” (1 Cor 9:22), to win everyone to Christ. .. Above all, teachers must not imagine that a single kind of soul has been entrusted to them, and that consequently it is lawful to teach and form equally all the faithful in true piety with one and the same method! Let them realize that some are in Christ as newborn babes, others as adolescents, and still others as adults in full command of their powers. .. Those who are called to the ministry of preaching must suit their words to the maturity and understanding of their hearers, as they hand on the teaching of the mysteries of faith and the rules of moral conduct.1

CCC848 “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”2

CCC 876 Intrinsically linked to the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry is its character as service. Entirely dependent on Christ who gives mission and authority, ministers are truly “slaves of Christ,”3 in the image of him who freely took “the form of a slave” for us.4 Because the word and grace of which they are ministers are not their own, but are given to them by Christ for the sake of others, they must freely become the slaves of all.5

1 Roman Catechism, Preface II; cf. I Cor 9:22; I Pt 2:2.
2 AG 7; cf. Heb 11:6; 1 Cor 9:16.
3 Cf. Rom 1:1.
4 Phil 2:7.
5 Cf. 1 Cor 9:19.

GOSPEL

Mk 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Rising very early before dawn, he left
and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.”
So he went into their synagogues,
preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/020418.cfm

APPLICATION

Surely the people of Capernaum saw enough that first day of Christ’s public ministry among them to make them realize that this man from Nazareth who had come amongst them was no ordinary preacher, no ordinary rabbi, no ordinary man. They saw that he preached as one having authority; they saw that by a simple command he cast out demons and removed all bodily ailments. Yet though they were astonished and amazed at his power, their worldly outlook did not let them rise above their own small interests. Our Lord did not blame them or criticize them, he knew and fully understood their slowness of mind in regard to things spiritual, and he knew also that they would eventually give themselves wholeheartedly to his kingdom.

While he was prepared to wait for the desired effects which his miracles and preaching would eventually have on them, he hastened the arrival of that day by praying to his heavenly Father to send the graces necessary for their conversion into their hearts. When the four Apostles found him praying in a lonely place, they told him that all Capernaum was searching for him, but he knew why they were searching for him. They wanted to see more miracles and very likely they were hoping that he would stay on in Capernaum and the sick and the maimed from the whole of Galilee would be brought there for healing. This would increase their earthly business and prosperity. His answer to the Apostles, while not directly condemning this worldly outlook, shows that his mission had an entirely different objective. He had come on earth not to bring earthly prosperity to any town or country but to bring spiritual salvation and blessing on all people. That very morning he began to carry out his mission and for the remaining two years or more he went from town to town preaching the kingdom of God.

We Christians of today have many advantages over the people of Capernaum of that day. They saw Christ with their bodily eyes as a man of power amongst them; we see him with the eyes of faith as he really was and is – the Son of God who came on earth as man in order to make us sons of God. We know who he really was and we know the full meaning of his mission. We have seen that mission completed amongst us by his death on the cross and his resurrection. By his death he conquered death for us; by his resurrection he opened the gates of heaven for us and led the way there for all who will follow him.

This is the good news Christ brought to our world. This is the meaning of Christianity; this is why we are Christians. We are members of Christ’s kingdom on earth, so that when our life here ends we shall be members of his everlasting heavenly kingdom. Yet, with all of this knowledge and with the example of the thousands and millions of saints who have lived according to this knowledge over the past nineteen hundred years and more, and who are now enjoying the reward Christianity promised them, how active and how effective is our Christian faith in our daily thoughts and deeds? In my daily dealings with my fellowman would I be picked out as a Christian? Do I, by my words and deeds, prove to those with whom I live and work that I am convinced there is a future life after death, that reaching that life is the most important thing in this world for me, and that it is through living my short earthly life as a true Christian that I can earn that eternal life?

If I can say yes to these questions I am, thank God, on the right road. But if my answer is “no” then it is time I had another good look to see where I went off the road, and to find out that I can return to that right road once more. God is merciful; Christ is patient with followers who straggle and wander, but it could be fatal to postpone for too long our call to the God of mercy. It will be too late if we delay turning to our patient Christ until we are about to die. Stop straggling and wandering off the highway today and the patient Christ will welcome you and help you back. There may be no tomorrow for you, you have no guarantee of it.

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2602 Jesus often draws apart to pray in solitude, on a mountain, preferably at night.1 He includes all men in his prayer, for he has taken on humanity in his incarnation, and he offers them to the Father when he offers himself. Jesus, the Word who has become flesh, shares by his human prayer in all that “his brethren” experience; he sympathizes with their weaknesses in order to free them.2 It was for this that the Father sent him. His words and works are the visible manifestation of his prayer in secret.

1 Cf. Mk 1:35; 6:46; Lk 5:16.
2 Cf. Heb 2:12, 15; 4:15.

BENEDICTUS

Entrance into Sonship

To share in the Son’s relationship: How is this to be done? What did it mean for Jesus himself? It manifests itself in the Gospels primarily in the prayer of Jesus. The fact that he is Son means, above all, that he prays. That, in the ground of his being, whether he works among men or takes his rest, he is always open to the living God, always has his place in him, always regards his existence as an exchange with him and so always lives from this innermost depth… The Son does not simply design his own existence; he receives it in a most profound dialogue with God. It is this dialogue that makes him free to walk among men and makes him free to serve. It is this dialogue that teaches him, without school or teacher, to know Scripture more deeply than anyone else – to know it truly from God himself… Whoever becomes the son of this Father no longer stands alone. Entrance into this Sonship is entrance into the great family of those who are sons along with us. It creates a relationship. To draw near to Christ means always to draw near to all those of whom he wants to make a single body.

Pope Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to the Apostle Paul

Glorious St. Paul,

Most zealous Apostle,

Martyr for the love of Christ,

Give us a deep faith,

A steadfast hope,

A burning love for our Lord;

So that we can proclaim with you,

It is no longer I who live, but Christ

who lives in me.”

Help us to become apostles

Serving the Church with a pure heart,

Witnesses to her truth and beauty

Amidst the darkness of our days.

With you we praise God our Father:

To Him be the glory, in the Church

and in Christ, now and forever.”

Amen.

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Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are, the Holy One of God!”  Jesus rebuked him and said,  “Quiet! Come out of him!”

OPENING PRAYER

Help Me To Know

You gift me with all the good gifts that make me the person you created me to be. Help me to know and find your will and to trust that you will help me to understand the path you call me to journey in life. Where there is doubt give me courage. Give me a heart open to your quiet voice so I can hear your call to me. Help me to know your faithfulness and help me to be faithful to that which you call me to.  

We ask this and all things through Christ our Lord. Amen.

COLLECT

Grant us, Lord our God,

that we may honor you with all our mind,

and love everyone in truth 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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Dt 18:15-20

Moses spoke to all the people, saying:
“A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen.
This is exactly what you requested of the LORD, your God, at Horeb
on the day of the assembly, when you said,
‘Let us not again hear the voice of the LORD, our God,
nor see this great fire any more, lest we die.’
And the LORD said to me, ‘This was well said.
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin,
and will put my words into his mouth;
he shall tell them all that I command him.
Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name,
I myself will make him answer for it.
But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name
an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak,
or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.'”

APPLICATION

That God fulfilled his promise to send prophets to speak in his name and with his authority is evident from the pages of the Old Testament. Beginning with Joshua, the immediate successor of Moses, there was a continuous line of representatives of God, who directed the people, corrected their faults and filled them with hopes for a better future, right down to John the Baptist who was the precursor of the final and greatest of all prophets. God could, of course, have spoken directly to his people, but through Moses the people had asked him not to do so, because the hearing of his voice on Mount Sinai had struck terror into their hearts. In his mercy and love Yahweh granted their request.

Had the Chosen People listened to those prophets and obeyed their instructions, their history would have been different. They would have avoided much temporal suffering, and more important still, their large percentage who lost faith in God and his promises of future happiness would have remained faithful and would now be enjoying that promised happiness. But when they got full possession of the land God gave them, they began to get too interested in the economic and political affairs of their world. They forgot God who had been so generous toward them, and took credit to themselves for all that they were and had.

Who are we, living as we are in glass-houses, to throw stones? The prophets of the Old Testament were but fore-shadowings or types of the real prophet, God’s divine Son. He humbled himself to share in our humanity so that we could share in his divinity. Of this astounding fact every Christian is aware, and yet how many millions of “ex-Christians” are there in our world today? How many live their lives in total disregard of Christ’s teaching and complete oblivion of what he did and suffered for them, or, what is worse still for themselves, with complete disinterest in their own future state. Yet this is the sad fact of history. More than half the people of what were once the Christian nations are no longer interested in the Christian message today. Their days and their lives are so given to acquiring things and pleasures that every thought of a future life is blotted from their minds.

This neo-paganism which has been developing over the past centuries, has reached frightening proportions today. God has little, if any, place in the councils of nations. Man-made laws have replaced the ten commandments, and the result is, of course, a world in turmoil. There is not and there cannot be any brotherhood of man if we exclude the Fatherhood of God. There will never be “peace on earth among men” until all men make their peace with the God of heaven. False prophets and promoters of false gods, advertisers of pornography and permissiveness surround us on all sides today. There are those who are trying to prevent the pollution of land, water and atmosphere but too few, if any, who oppose the mental and moral pollution of people which is being propagated daily in our midst. All would like this world of ours to be a beautiful place to live in, only very few think to provide for a beautiful place to which they can go after they leave this world.

Please God we are among that few, but instead of clapping one another on the back for this, let us rather beat our breasts in repentance for our past faults and resolve to let the light of our Christian faith shine before our neighbors in future. Every good-living Christian is a prophet, a representative, of God among his neighbors. His example will speak and its message will be the word of God and it will produce fruit in God’s good time. We are our brothers’ keepers in that they are God’s adopted children too, and he wants them. He is looking to us to give them a helping hand. Would we refuse him, the all-loving Father who sent his Son to open heaven for us? Would we be so ungrateful as to refuse the little he asks of us in return?

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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

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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1 Cor 7:32-35

Brothers and sisters:
I should like you to be free of anxieties.
An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord,
how he may please the Lord.
But a married man is anxious about the things of the world,
how he may please his wife, and he is divided.
An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord,
so that she may be holy in both body and spirit.
A married woman, on the other hand,
is anxious about the things of the world,
how she may please her husband.
I am telling you this for your own benefit,
not to impose a restraint upon you,
but for the sake of propriety
and adherence to the Lord without distraction.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

CCC 1579 All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”4 Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to “the affairs of the Lord,”5 they give themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church’s minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God.6

CCC 1618 Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social.7 From the very beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is coming.8 Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model:

For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”9

1 Cf. Cor 7:34-36.

2 Cf. John Paul II, Vita consecrata 7.

3 Mt 19:12

4 Mt 19:12.

5 1 Cor 7:32.

6 Cf. PO 16.

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

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

9 Mt 19:12.

APPLICATION

While it is true that St. Paul recommended a celibate life to those who were still single because of the general feeling at the time that the end of this world was at hand, his recommendation of celibacy and its advantages have been accepted through the ages down to our own day. The truth of his statement: “the unmarried man (or woman) is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, the married man (or woman) is anxious about worldly affairs (as well as about the affairs of God) and his interests are divided,” needs no demonstration, it is self-evident. For this reason we have had a line of men (and later of women also) through the nineteen centuries of the Church’s life who gladly deprived themselves of earthly comforts in order to devote their lives exclusively to God’s service. The voluntary celibates of the early Church were followed by the Fathers of the Desert, later by the Eastern and Western monks, then the religious orders and in more recent centuries by various congregations for men and women.

These celibates, of course, were always a small minority of the body of the faithful and it was always understood (as it was by St. Paul) that while their vocation was a call to the exclusive service of God it was by no means the only way of serving God and earning heaven. The married life is also a Christian vocation, a vocation indeed ordained by God for the vast majority. For the Christian who is sincere in his service of God, it entails many difficulties and trials from which his celibate life sets the religious free. On the other hand the life of a religious, of a celibate for God, has its own difficulties. But for both the married and the religious there is always available for the asking, the grace of God to help them over life’s hurdles. When God calls a man or woman for a task, he gives him or her the strength to carry it out, he fits the shoulder for the cross.

While the married life is indeed a vocation, a means of earning heaven, and an ordinance of God necessary for the procreation of citizens of heaven, the religious life, this voluntary abstention from marriage, by those so called, is a divine plan to help the married (as well as the religious themselves). Apart from the spiritual and material help which religious give to their married neighbors–teaching their children, caring for the disabled, running homes for the aged, helping families in need and the thousand other ways in which the spiritual and corporal works of mercy are joyously done in our midst each day–the special value of this total dedication of self to God, which the religious life demands and gives, is that it is a sign, a reminder, not only to all Christians but to all men, of the real purpose of life on earth.

God created us in order to raise us up after death to a new and endless life of happiness. Our few years on this earth are but the apprenticeship we must serve in order to earn our eternal standing or status as heirs of God in the eternal kingdom. But because man’s human nature can, and does so often, get so enmeshed in the things of earth we need reminders. We need signs and sign-posts to keep our true purpose in life before our minds. This is exactly what the few of our members who dedicate their whole life to God’s exclusive service, do for us. They remind us, urge us on by their noble example to serve God in our own limited, but sufficient way so that we too can reach the future life prepared for us.

Both the married life and the religious celibate life are vocations from God. While the religious help the married and their families on the road to heaven, the married can and must help the religious to continue their exclusive and devoted service to God, by providing them with the material necessities of life. This is part of their own devoted service of God, this is one of the ways in which they fulfill, their vocation. Heaven is the goal of both religious and married people. Where each of the parties devotedly and loyally fulfills the duties arising from each one’s vocation, that goal will be successfully reached by both.

GOSPEL

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Mk 1:21-28

Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are, the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said,
“Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/012818.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 438 Jesus’ messianic consecration reveals his divine mission, “for the name ‘Christ’ implies ‘he who anointed’, ‘he who was anointed’ and ‘the very anointing with which he was anointed’. The one who anointed is the Father, the one who was anointed is the Son, and he was anointed with the Spirit who is the anointing.’”1 His eternal messianic consecration was revealed during the time of his earthly life at the moment of his baptism by John, when “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power”, “that he might be revealed to Israel”2 as its Messiah. His works and words will manifest him as “the Holy One of God”.3

CCC 1673 When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing.4 In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called “a major exorcism,” can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.5

CCC 2173 The Gospel reports many incidents when Jesus was accused of violating the sabbath law. But Jesus never fails to respect the holiness of this day.6 He gives this law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”7 With compassion, Christ declares the sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing.8 The sabbath is the day of the Lord of mercies and a day to honor God.9 “The Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”10

1 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3,18,3: PG 7/1, 934.

2 Acts 10:38; Jn 1:31.

3 Mk 1:24; Jn 6:69; Acts 3:14.

4 Cf. Mk 1:25-26; 3:15; 6:7, 13; 16:17.

5 Cf. CIC, can. 1172.

6 Cf. Mk 1:21; Jn 9:16.

7 Mk 2:27.

8 Cf. Mk 3:4.

9 Cf. Mt 12:5; Jn 7:23.

10 Mk 2:28.

APPLICATION

St. Mark makes it clear that, from the very first day of Christ’s public ministry, his messianic power began to be manifested to those who saw and heard him. The Jews of Capernaum were “astonished” at his teaching and “amazed” at his power over the evil spirits. “What is this,” they asked one another, “a new teaching and the unclean spirits obey him!” But they were still a long way from recognizing him for what he was, the Messiah and Son of God. This is as might be expected, the astounding mystery of the incarnation was away beyond human expectation or human imagination. And it was our Lord’s own plan to reveal this mystery, slowly and gradually, so that when the chain of evidence had been completed by his resurrection, his followers could look back and see each link in that chain. Then they would be ready to accept without hesitation the mystery of the incarnation and realize the infinite love and power of God that brought it about. We look back today through, the eyes of the Evangelists, and, like them, know that Christ was God as well as man-two natures in one person. We should not therefore be “amazed” at the teaching of Jesus or at his power over the unclean spirits. What should amaze us really is the love that God showed mankind in becoming one of our race.

We are creatures with nothing of our own to boast of. We were created by God, and every talent or power we possess was given us by God. God’s benevolence could have stopped them and we would have no right to complain. But when we recall the special gifts he gave man, which raise him above all other created things, we see that he could not, because of his own infinitely benevolent nature, leave us to an earthly fate. What thinking man could be content with a short span of life on earth? What real purpose in life could an intelligent being have who knew that nothing awaited him but eternal oblivion in the, grave? What fulfillment would man’s intellectual faculties find in a few years of what is for the majority of people perpetual struggle for earthly survival? No, God created us to elevate us, after our earthly sojourn, to an eternal existence where all our desires and potentialities would have their true fulfillment. Hence the incarnation, hence the life, death and resurrection of Christ, who was God’s Son, as the central turning point of man’s history.

Today, while amazed at God’s love for us, let us also be justly amazed at the shabby and grudging return we make for love. Many amongst us even deny that act of God’s infinite love, not from convincing historical and logical proofs, but in order to justify their own unwillingness to cooperate with the divine plan for their eternal future. This is not to say that their future, after death, does not concern them; it is a thought which time and again intrudes on all men, but they have allowed the affairs of this world which should be stepping stones to their future life, to become instead mill-stones which crush their spirits and their own true self-interests.

While we sincerely hope that we are not in that class, we can still find many facets in our daily Christian lives which can and should make us amazed at our lack of gratitude to God and to his incarnate Son. Leaving out serious sin which turns us away from God if not against him, how warm is our charity, our love of God and neighbor? How much of our time do we give to the things of God and how much to the things of Caesar? How often does our daily struggle for earthly existence and the grumbles and grouses which it causes, blot out from our view the eternal purpose God had in giving us this earthly existence. How often during the past year have we said from our heart: “Thank you, God, for putting me in this world, and thank you a thousand times more, for giving me the opportunity and the means of reaching the next world where I shall live happily for evermore in your presence”? If the true answer for many of us is “not once,” then begin today. Let us say it now with all sincerity, and say it often in the years that are left to us.

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

BENEDICTUS

Returning to the Sabbath Source

In the creation account the Sabbath is depicted as the day when the human being, in the freedom of worship, participates in God’s freedom, in God’s rest, and thus in God’s peace. To celebrate the sabbath means to celebrate the covenant. It means to return to the source and to sweep away all the defilement that our work has brought with it. It also means going forth into a new world in which there will no longer be slaves and masters but only free children of God – into a world in which humans and animals and the earth itself will share together as kin in God’s peace and freedom… People had rejected God’s rest, its leisure, its worship, its peace, and its freedom, and so they fell into the slavery of activity. They brought the earth into the slavery of their activity and thereby enslaved themselves. Therefore God had to give them the Sabbath that they denied themselves. In their “no” to the God-given rhythm of freedom and leisure they departed from their likeness to God and so did damage to the earth. Therefore they had to be snatched from their obstinate attachment to their own work. God had to begin afresh to make them his very own, and he had to free them from the domination of activity. Operi Dei nibil praeponatur: The worship of God, his freedom, and his rest come first. Thus and only thus can the human being truly live.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Suscipe

St. Ignatius of Loyola

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,

my memory, my understanding,

and my entire will,

All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.

To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.

Give me only your love and your grace,

that is enough for me.

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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer to the Holy Spirit before Confession

Come, Holy Spirit, into my soul. Enlighten my mind that I may know the sins I ought to confess, and grant me the grace to confess them fully, humbly, and with a contrite heart. Help me to firmly resolve not to commit them again.

O Blessed Virgin, Mother of my Redeemer, mirror of innocence and sanctity and refuge of penitent sinners, intercede for me that I may obtain the grace to make a good confession.

All you blessed Angels and Saints of God, pray for me, a sinner, that I may repent from my sinful ways and that I may be forever united with you through Christ our Lord. Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty and ever-living God,

direct our actions according to your good pleasure,

that in the name of your beloved Son

we may abound in 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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Jon 3:1-5, 10

The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying:
“Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you.”
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD’S bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing,
“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed, ”
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

CCC 715 The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of “love and fidelity.”6 St. Peter will proclaim their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost.7 According to these promises, at the “end time” the Lord’s Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace.

CCC 1287 This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people.8 On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit,9 a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost.10 Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim “the mighty works of God,” and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age.11 Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.12

1 Cf. Dan 7:10; Joel 3-4; Mal 3: 19; Mt 3:7-12.
2 Cf Mk 12:38-40; Lk 12:1-3; Jn 3:20-21; Rom 2:16; I Cor 4:5.
3 Cf. Mt 11:20-24; 12:41-42.
4 Cf. Mt 5:22; 7:1-5.
5 Mt 25:40.
6 Cf. Ezek 11:19; 36:25-28; 37:1-14; Jer 31:31-34; and cf. Joel 3:1-5.
7 Cf. Acts 2:17-21.
8 Cf. Ezek 36:25-27; Joel 3:1-2.
9 Cf. Lk 12:12; Jn 3:5-8; 7:37-39; 16:7-15; Acts 1:8.
10 Cf. Jn 20:22; Acts 2:1-14.
11 Acts 2:11; Cf. 2:17-18.
12 Cf. Acts 2:38.

APPLICATION

The lesson of this story should have been very clear to the writer’s Jewish contemporaries. They could see from it that God did not approve of their narrow-minded religious and nationalistic outlook. Even if they were God’s Chosen People, he was not their God to the exclusion of all other races. He owned them but they did not own him, and this was exactly what they were trying to do. Yet, had they known the history of God’s dealings with them, they should have understood that God had chosen them in order that the blessings of the incarnation would come through them to all nations. Abraham, their Father, was called to be a blessing for his descendants and for the whole world (Gen. 12: 3). Too often many of them forgot this.

These verses from Jonah have not been chosen for today’s reading so that we should condemn the narrow-mindedness of the Jews of past ages. They have been chosen to remind us of our duty to look on all men as adopted sons of God and our brothers, toward whom we have a grave obligation to help on the road to heaven. God has destined all men for heaven. He sent his divine Son as man to make heaven available for all. He expected his Chosen People of old to share their special knowledge of him with their pagan neighbors. So too does he expect every Christian worthy of the name to do all in his power to spread the greater knowledge of Christ the Savior among all peoples, so that they too can share in the blessings he brought and avail of the happy future which is in store for them.

Have we been doing this? Have we really been interested in our fellowman? How often have we given them a thought or prayed for their conversion? How often have we donated a dime or a dollar to help the missionaries who, at home and abroad, have dedicated their lives to the conversion of pagans and sinners? There are Christians who excuse themselves from this obligation because they say: “we have more than enough to do to work out our own salvation.” Their statement is more true than they realize. They will never succeed in reaching their own eternal salvation if they refuse to help their fellowman. No one who does not love God can get to heaven. The proof of real love of God is love of our neighbor, St. John tells us. So, to know if we are on the right road to heaven let us examine our consciences as regards our love of neighbor. Have we been practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, especially the spiritual works? It is they that are in question in today’s reading.

Pope Pius XI used to say: “The Christian who is not an Apostle is on the way to becoming an apostate.” The reason is that the very essence of Christianity is love, and love like heat diffuses itself automatically. The Christian who is not spreading the love of God has not got that love within him. His heart is full of self. There is no room in it for God. Down through the ages we have more than enough proof of this, but more so perhaps in recent times. We have men and women today who at one time gave themselves wholeheartedly to the service of God and their neighbor. But through over concentration on themselves, on their rights and freedoms, they have forgotten their neighbor, and to all intents and purposes therefore, they are forgetting God and their own eternal welfare.

While we beg of God to keep us on the right road to heaven, let us realize that if we want to stay on that road we must help all our brothers that we meet on the way. We must help our next-door neighbors by example and word. Those who are far off too, we must help financially, and by our prayers and penances. There is abundant room for all in God’s heaven. Because of the good influence he had, directly or indirectly, on their lives on earth, each one’s own personal happiness will be intensified and increased by seeing and knowing the happiness these others are enjoying in heaven.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

Teach me your ways, O Lord.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.

Teach me your ways, O Lord.

Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.

Teach me your ways, O Lord.

Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice
and teaches the humble his way.

Teach me your ways, O Lord.

READING II

 

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1 Cor 7:29-31

I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.
From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,
those weeping as not weeping,
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning,
those using the world as not using it fully.
For the world in its present form is passing away.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1619 Virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is an unfolding of baptismal grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ and of the ardent expectation of his return, a sign which also recalls that marriage is a reality of this present age which is passing away.1

1 Cf. Mk 12:25; 1 Cor 7:31.

APPLICATION

St. Paul is speaking to each one of us here today and is giving us the very same sound, spiritual advice which he gave to his converts in Corinth. Unlike them, we are not expecting the general judgement in our lifetime; but what is worse, most of us are giving little thought to the particular judgement, to the fact that each one of us will soon be called to meet Christ in a judgement that will decide our eternal future. It is a strange, human phenomenon that while we plan and provide for future probabilities, some of which will never happen, few of us plan and provide for the one certain, future fact in our lives, which is that we are certain to die some day.

Men train for occupations and professions. Men build houses for themselves and their families. Men take out insurances against illness and unemployment. Men put money into businesses or investments which are likely to give them a sound income later. And all the while they are speculating, perhaps wisely, on future probabilities, but failing to face and prepare for the one certain future happening: their departure from this world.

Someone may say: must we take no interest then in temporal affairs? Of course, we must! It is ‘by taking an interest in, and honestly and fully carrying out, our temporal duties that we are making ourselves ready at all times to meet our Judge. Each one’s daily task faithfully carried out is a devout prayer to God, it is an honor given by man to his Creator; it is the Christian’s way of saying “thank you” to Christ our Savior.

Preparing for heaven does not mean removing oneself from association with the world. Some devout Christians did this in the early Church. It means using the world as the stairs on which we can climb to heaven. Men can have wives, and women can have husbands, they can have homes and property, investments and insurances, provided all these things are accepted as God’s gifts and used for their own and their neighbor’s sanctification. It is the abuse of these gifts that can make us all unfit and not ready to meet our Judge. A healthy bank account–the fruit of honest labor–will be no hindrance to entering heaven, whereas the rags and poverty of the idler are no open sesame for the heavenly portals. Let us remember this always: the time in which we can earn the everlasting life after death is very short even for the youngest amongst us. But be it thirty days or sixty years, whatever length of time it is, each one of us can make sure that we shall be found ready when our last moment comes. We can indeed assure ourselves of this, if we begin today to live a Christian life, loving God and neighbor. This is indeed the word of the Lord coming to us through the great Apostle St. Paul.

GOSPEL

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Mk 1:14-20

After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee,
he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea;
they were fishermen.
Jesus said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.
He walked along a little farther
and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They too were in a boat mending their nets.
Then he called them.
So they left their father Zebedee in the boat
along with the hired men and followed him.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/012118.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 787 From the beginning, Jesus associated his disciples with his own life, revealed the mystery of the Kingdom to them, and gave them a share in his mission, joy, and sufferings.1 Jesus spoke of a still more intimate communion between him and those who would follow him: “Abide in me, and I in you. .. I am the vine, you are the branches.”2 And he proclaimed a mysterious and real communion between his own body and ours: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”3

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 Father4 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 1427 Jesus calls to conversion. This call is an essential part of the proclamation of the kingdom: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”5 In the Church’s preaching this call is addressed first to those who do not yet know Christ and his Gospel. Also, Baptism is the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion. It is by faith in the Gospel and by Baptism6 that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life.

CCC 2612 In Jesus “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”7 He calls his hearers to conversion and faith, but also to watchfulness. In prayer the disciple keeps watch, attentive to Him Who Is and Him Who Comes, in memory of his first coming in the lowliness of the flesh, and in the hope of his second coming in glory.8 In communion with their Master, the disciples’ prayer is a battle; only by keeping watch in prayer can one avoid falling into temptation.9

1 Cf. Mk 1:16-20; 3:13-19; Mt 13:10-17; Lk 10:17-20; 22:28-30.
2 Jn 15:4-5.
3 Jn 6:56.
4 Cf. Mk 1:15; Lk 15:18.
5 Mk 1:15.
6 Cf. Acts 2:38.
7 Mk 1:15.
8 Cf. Mk 13; Lk 21:34-36.
9 Cf. Lk 22:40, 46.

APPLICATION

“Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of God.” Jesus came to announce to all men the good news of God’s eternal plan for them. He spent his public life convincing the Jews of Palestine of the truth of this message, and he died on the cross because be claimed to be what he was–God’s divine Son, who had come in human nature to raise all men to the standing and status of adopted sons of God. That very death, cruel and unjust though it was, was part of the divine plan. He conquered death and was raised from the grave to prove that we too, if we accept his divine gospel and live by it, will be raised from the dead and reign with Christ in the kingdom of his Father forever. Christ preached this doctrine in Palestine. It is the doctrine for which he gave his human life and which he gave to his Apostles to hand down to all future generations. This is the self-same doctrine preached by Christ’s Church to all men today. It is the good news of God’s mercy and love toward us weak, mortal creatures. To some it seems too good to be true; it would indeed be so if God were a limited, finite being like us, but he is Being itself. He is without limit, his goodness and love are limitless as is his nature. What God can see in creatures has ever been a puzzle to thinking man. One of the psalm-writers said centuries ago: “what is man that you should spare a thought for him, the son of man that you should care for him?” (Ps. 8: 4). Many a saint too, has repeated this remark ever since.

We cannot hope to fathom the mind of God, nor do we need to. He has gone to such a length as the humiliation of his divine Son in the incarnation in order to give us a new standing in relation to himself and a new mode of eternal living after death. We are still God’s creatures, “the work of his hands,” but through accepting Christ and his gospel–his message of divine truth–we are no longer mere mortals. We shall die, but death is the beginning of the true life which God has arranged for us. It is no wonder that St. Paul could cry out: “O death where is your victory, O death, where is your sting?”

We Christians should be the happiest people on earth. We know why we are here, we know where we are going and we know how to get there. There are trials and troubles which beset us on our journey; there are rough parts of the road and weaknesses in our human nature which often lead us off the right road, but we are not left to our own human resources. We have help from above to strengthen and comfort us on our journey. We have divine aids in the Church which Christ set us and we have the guarantee of our Good Shepherd that he will keep us in his fold or bring us back should we foolishly wander from it (Jn. 10: 14; Lk. 15: 4-7).

We Christians can indeed be the happiest people on earth, if we live according to the divine good news revealed to us through Christ. “Repent and believe in the gospel,” Christ told the people of Galilee. The same call goes out from our loving Savior to each of us today: repent–change your outlook on life–see it, as God sees it to be for us, a short journey toward heaven. If we really believe in the gospel of Christ, the revelation of God’s plan for our eternal happiness, our earthly troubles will look small, our trials and temptations will appear to us as they really are–a means of earning the eternal victory. Christ, the innocent victim for our salvation, has gone before us, carrying his heavy cross, can we refuse to carry the relatively lighter cross which he places on our shoulders as our means of making atonement for our own failings and for those of our fellowman? God forbid that we should! If we have failed in the past, let us repent today and show our belief in the truth of the Christian gospel, by living as true Christians who are on their way to heaven.

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

BENEDICTUS

Following, Believing, Loving

To follow” means to entrust oneself to the Word of God, to rate it higher than the laws of money and bread and to live by it. In short, to follow means to believe, but to “believe” in the sense of making a radical decision between the two and, in the last analysis, the only two possibilities for human life: bread and the word. The human person does not live on bread alone but also and primarily on the word, the spirit, meaning. It is always this same radical decision that confronts disciples when they hear the call “Follow me!”; the radical decision to stake one’s life either on profit and gain or on truth and love; the radical decision to live for oneself or to surrender one’s self… Only in losing themselves can human beings find themselves. The real and radical martyrdom of genuine self-renunciation is and remains the basic condition for following Christ… To follow Christ means to accept the inner essence of the cross, namely the radical love expressed therein, and thus to imitate God himself. For on the cross God revealed himself as the One who pours himself out in prodigal fashion; who surrenders his glory in order to be present for us; who desires to rule the world not by power but my love, and in the weakness of the cross reveals his power which operates so differently from the power of this world’s mighty rulers. To follow Christ, then, means to enter into the self-surrender that is the real heart of love. To follow Christ means to become one who loves as God has loved… In the last analysis, to follow Christ is simply for man to become human by integration into the humanity of God.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to Turn From Sin

Father, Your Love never fails.

Keep me from danger and provide for all my needs.

Teach me to be thankful for Your Gifts.

Confident in Your Love, may I be holy by sharing Your Life,

and grant me forgiveness of my sins.

May Your unfailing Love turn me from sin and keep me on the way that leads to you.

Help me to grow in Christian love through Christ our Lord. Amen.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=724

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Second Sunday of Ordinary Time – B

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John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for Holiness

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,

that my thoughts may all be holy.

Act in me, O Holy Spirit,

that my work, too, may be holy.

Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,

that I love only what is holy.

Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,

to defend all that is holy.

Guard me so, O Holy Spirit,

that I may always be holy.

Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

who govern all things,

both in heaven and on earth,

mercifully hear the pleading of your people

and bestow your peace on our times.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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1 Sm 3:3b-10, 19

Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD
where the ark of God was.
The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”
Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.”
“I did not call you, ” Eli said. “Go back to sleep.”
So he went back to sleep.
Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli.
“Here I am, ” he said. “You called me.”
But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”

At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD,
because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.
The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time.
Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.”
Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth.
So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply,
Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”
When Samuel went to sleep in his place,
the LORD came and revealed his presence,
calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2578 The prayer of the People of God flourishes in the shadow of God’s dwelling place, first the ark of the covenant and later the Temple. At first the leaders of the people – the shepherds and the prophets – teach them to pray. The infant Samuel must have learned from his mother Hannah how “to stand before the LORD” and from the priest Eli how to listen to his word: “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”1 Later, he will also know the cost and consequence of intercession: “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.”2

1 1 Sam 3:9-10; cf. 1:9-18.
2 1 Sam 12:23.

APPLICATION

God’s ways are surely wonderful! He could govern and regulate this world and all its inhabitants most correctly and successfully all by himself. However, he has decided to give man a chance of co-operating with him in the running of the material and spiritual affairs of his world. Perhaps they are more often a hindrance rather than a help to the Lord. Yet, he not only allows them but he calls them, selects them for various roles in the government of his world.

This is true in the running of the temporal affairs as well as the government of the spiritual life of men on earth. The exercise of power over a nation or community of people is not from man but from God, hence the obligation on subjects to obey the just laws of their rulers. God it is who delegates his authority to earthly rulers.

During the first eight hundred years of God’s dealings with his Chosen People, both the temporal and spiritual leadership of the people always resided in one and the same individual. The Patriarchs, Moses, Joshua, the Judges down to the appointment of kings (1030 B.C.), were individually called by God to administer both the temporal and spiritual affairs of the community. Today’s lesson tells us how Samuel got his call to fulfill this double task of temporal and spiritual leadership of God’s people. Because God was with him in all his doings he carried it out very successfully for about twenty years.

All men have a vocation, a call from God in this life. Each individual has duties to perform which, if faithfully carried out, will earn for him the place God has planned for him in the eternal kingdom. A few are called to be the leaders of their fellowman. The vast majority are called to follow the leaders by loyally obeying the laws enacted for their just government. Each one of us has a call from God, a part to play in the temporal and spiritual affairs of this life. The future status of each one of us will be determined by the manner in which we carried out our role on earth.

Samuel had not the faintest idea that it was God Who was speaking to him when he first got his call, his vocation, in the shrine at Shiloh. But when he eventually realized the truth he immediately offered his humble service to the Lord, “thy servant hears.” How few of us have seen a call from God, a divine vocation, in the humdrum activities of our daily lives, and yet these ordinary daily tasks are the road to heaven that God has mapped out for us. These are the “vocations” he has given us. We may say that we ourselves chose our careers in life, we decided what occupation we should follow, but behind our free decisions the wise providence of God, working through parents, neighbors, circumstances of time and place, has so arranged our earthly journey that it would end for us in heaven. Many grumble at their role in life. They think their lot is so inferior and demanding when compared with the life others lead, and even go so far as to say that God could have no part in such a bad arrangement. Yet, God is in charge of his world. He chooses each individual for the role he is to carry to its successful conclusion.

“There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them as we will,” Shakespeare, the wise Christian tells us. God has a master plan for the human race; to each one of us he has given a little niche in that plan. If we play the part he has given us, let it be noble or humble in the eyes of this world, we shall make a success of God’s master-plan, of this great human drama. Our own eternal success will be assured. With Samuel today, let us accept our vocation and humbly submit ourselves to his divine will: “speak Lord for thy servant hears.”

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.
And he put a new song into my mouth,
a hymn to our God.

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

Sacrifice or offering you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
to do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

READING II

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1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20

Brothers and sisters:
The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord,
and the Lord is for the body;
God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him.
Avoid immorality.
Every other sin a person commits is outside the body,
but the immoral person sins against his own body.
Do you not know that your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
For you have been purchased at a price.
Therefore glorify God in your body.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 364 The human body shares in the dignity of “the image of God”: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:1

Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day. 2

CCC 796 The unity of Christ and the Church, head and members of one Body, also implies the distinction of the two within a personal relationship. This aspect is often expressed by the image of bridegroom and bride. The theme of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church was prepared for by the prophets and announced by John the Baptist.3 The Lord referred to himself as the “bridegroom.”4 The Apostle speaks of the whole Church and of each of the faithful, members of his Body, as a bride “betrothed” to Christ the Lord so as to become but one spirit with him.5 The Church is the spotless bride of the spotless Lamb.6 “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her.”7 He has joined her with himself in an everlasting covenant and never stops caring for her as for his own body:8

This is the whole Christ, head and body, one formed from many. .. whether the head or members speak, it is Christ who speaks. He speaks in his role as the head (ex persona capitis) and in his role as body (ex persona corporis). What does this mean? “The two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church.”9 And the Lord himself says in the Gospel: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”10 They are, in fact, two different persons, yet they are one in the conjugal union,. .. as head, he calls himself the bridegroom, as body, he calls himself “bride.”11

CCC 989 We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day.12 Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity:

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you.13

CCC 1004 In expectation of that day, the believer’s body and soul already participate in the dignity of belonging to Christ. This dignity entails the demand that he should treat with respect his own body, but also the body of every other person, especially the suffering:

The body [is meant] for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?. .. You are not your own;. .. So glorify God in your body.14

CCC 1265 Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,”15 member of Christ and co-heir with him,16 and a temple of the Holy Spirit.17

CCC 1269 Having become a member of the Church, the person baptized belongs no longer to himself, but to him who died and rose for us.18 From now on, he is called to be subject to others, to serve them in the communion of the Church, and to “obey and submit” to the Church’s leaders,19 holding them in respect and affection.20 Just as Baptism is the source of responsibilities and duties, the baptized person also enjoys rights within the Church: to receive the sacraments, to be nourished with the Word of God and to be sustained by the other spiritual helps of the Church.21

CCC 1695 “Justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God,”22 “sanctified. .. [and] called to be saints,”23 Christians have become the temple of the Holy Spirit.24 This “Spirit of the Son” teaches them to pray to the Father25 and, having become their life, prompts them to act so as to bear “the fruit of the Spirit”26 by charity in action. Healing the wounds of sin, the Holy Spirit renews us interiorly through a spiritual transformation.27 He enlightens and strengthens us to live as “children of light” through “all that is good and right and true.”28

CCC 2355 Prostitution does injury to the dignity of the person who engages in it, reducing the person to an instrument of sexual pleasure. The one who pays sins gravely against himself: he violates the chastity to which his Baptism pledged him and defiles his body, the temple of the Holy Spirit.29 Prostitution is a social scourge. It usually involves women, but also men, children, and adolescents (The latter two cases involve the added sin of scandal.). While it is always gravely sinful to engage in prostitution, the imputability of the offense can be attenuated by destitution, blackmail, or social pressure.

1 Cf. I Cor 6:19-20; 15:44-45.

2 GS 14 # 1; cf. Dan 3:57-80.

3 Jn 3:29.

4 Mk 2:19.

5 Cf. Mt 22:1-14; 25:1-13; 1 Cor 6:15-17; 2 Cor 11:2.

6 Cf. Rev 22:17; Eph 1:4. 5:27.

7 Eph 5:25-26.

8 Cf. Eph 5:29.

9 Eph 5:31-32.

10 Mt 19:6.

11 St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 74:4: PL 36, 948-949.

12 Cf. Jn 6:39-40.

13 Rom 8:11; cf. 1 Thess 4:14; 1 Cor 6:14; 2 Cor 4:14; Phil 3:10-11.

14 1 Cor 6:13-15,19-20.

15 2 Cor 5:17; 2 Pet 1:4; cf. Gal 4:5-7.

16 Cf. l Cor 6:15; 12:27; Rom 8:17.

17 Cf. l Cor 6:19.

18 Cf. 1 Cor 6:19; 2 Cor 5:15.

19 Heb 13:17.

20 Cf. Eph 5:21; 1 Cor 16:15-16; 1 Thess 5:12-13; Jn 13:12-15.

21 Cf. LG 37; CIC, cann. 208 223; CCEO, can. 675:2.

22 2 Cor 6:11.

23 1 Cor 1:2.

24 Cf. 1 Cor 6:19.

25 Cf. Gal 4:6.

26 Gal 5:22, 25.

27 Cf. Eph 4:23.

28 Eph 5:8, 9.

29 Cf. 1 Cor 6:15-20.

APPLICATION

St. Paul wrote these words almost two thousand years ago. Ninety per cent of the world’s population was still pagan, knowing nothing of the true God or of his divine plans for them. The only practical philosophy they could and did follow was the enjoyment of every comfort and pleasure. They believed that when they died all was ended forever. St. Paul’s converts in Corinth were living in the midst of pagans who practiced this philosophy. This made Christian living very difficult for some of them. They fell back into the immoral practices in which they had indulged before their conversion.

The Apostle, hearing of this, condemned their conduct in clear and forceful language. “Shun immorality”; “the body is not meant for immorality,” he tells them. He then gives the reason why the use of sex, outside of marriage, is not only a sin but a sacrilege. In baptism the Christian has given his body to Christ. He has become a member of Christ, and therefore, such a body cannot be given to anyone but to a lawful spouse. To join the Christian body to a prostitute in fornication therefore, was a desecration of the sacred, a direct denial of the bond which bound the Christian to Christ. Furthermore, he reminds these immoral converts of a truth he had already told them, namely, that ever since their baptism the Holy Spirit dwelt within them—they were temples of God. They belonged in a very special way to God, for, through Christ, he had brought them out of slavery to be his own heirs for all eternity.

This teaching of St. Paul is, if anything, more necessary today than it was at that time in Corinth. The weak converts of Corinth had the bad example of their local pagan neighbors to contend with. They also had the good example of the majority of their fellow-converts to uplift and encourage them. Today we have to contend, not only with the bad example of local pagan or rather neo-pagan neighbors, but the full force of the world’s immorality is blazoned daily before our eyes by the mass-media of television, papers, and scandal-mongering writers.

The campaign for absolute freedom for the individual, the demands of the permissive society, are being daily shouted from the house-tops with such insistence and constancy, that even devout Christians cannot entirely avoid their impact. Sex, or rather the abuse of it, has become the battle-cry of youth. Indeed, it has been raised to the status of a god whose every whim must be obeyed and satisfied. Pornography today has become a billion-dollar industry. As long as there is a demand for it suppliers will not be found wanting. If this sexual extravagance was the invention of the communist countries as a means of reducing the rest of the world to impotency, the democracies of the West would be immediately up in arms. But as it is their own brain-child, they have no word of condemnation for it. If they do not openly encourage it, they at least permit this social cancer to grow and propagate itself. They do not realize or perhaps do not care, that it will eventually corrupt their nations and make social life, and even human existence impossible.

But we Christians can and must stand up and oppose with every means in our power, this pagan immorality. Our bodies are members of Christ’s sacred body. We must not desecrate them by indulging in sexual aberrations. We are temples of the Holy Spirit; sin must have no place within us. Parents of families: instruct your children by word and example. Protect them, as far as you can, from this immoral cancer which is being encouraged and developed all around you. Under the guise of liberty our permissive society is demanding more and more license to violate, not only the sacred laws of God himself, but the very nature of humanity. Human intelligence and reason are thrown overboard in the search for sexual pleasure, and man who was made “a little less than the angels” is now debased to the level of the beast of the field.

Listen to St. Paul’s advice: “The body is not meant for immorality–it is meant to glorify God.”

GOSPEL

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Jn 1:35-42

John was standing with two of his disciples,

and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,

“Behold, the Lamb of God.”

The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.

Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,

“What are you looking for?”

They said to him, “Rabbi” – which translated means Teacher -,

“where are you staying?”

He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”

So they went and saw where Jesus was staying,

and they stayed with him that day.

It was about four in the afternoon.

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,

was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.

He first found his own brother Simon and told him,

“We have found the Messiah” – which is translated Christ -.

Then he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said,

“You are Simon the son of John;

you will be called Cephas” – which is translated Peter.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/011418.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 608 After agreeing to baptize him along with the sinners, John the Baptist looked at Jesus and pointed him out as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.1 By doing so, he reveals that Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant who silently allows himself to be led to the slaughter and who bears the sin of the multitudes, and also the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel’s redemption at the first Passover.2 Christ’s whole life expresses his mission: “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”3

CCC 719 John the Baptist is “more than a prophet.”4 In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah.5 He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the “voice” of the Consoler who is coming.6 As the Spirit of truth will also do, John “came to bear witness to the light.”7 In John’s sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels.8 “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. .. Behold, the Lamb of God.”9

1 Jn 1:29; cf. Lk 3:21; Mt 3:14-15; Jn 1:36.

2 Is 53:7,12; cf. Jer 11:19; Ex 12:3-14; Jn 19:36; 1 Cor 5:7.

3 Mk 10:45.

4 Lk 7:26.

5 Cf. Mt 11:13-14.

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

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

8 Cf. 1 Pet 1:10-12.

9 Jn 1:33-36.

APPLICATION

In the eight short verses read to us today from St. John’s gospel we have an account of the vocation of the first four Apostles who followed Jesus. It was a momentous event in the history of salvation. It was the beginning of a stream of vocations that would grow and spread down through the ages until the end of the world. It was momentous, firstly, in that Christ, who had come to open heaven for all men and who could find means of bringing them all to that eternal home without help from any man, decided instead to let men co-operate with him in this divine task. He decreed to set up a kingdom in this world – his Church – which would be run by mere mortals for their fellow-mortals, but which would be under his protection and assisted by his divine aid until the end of time. Christ chose this very human way, in order to make his Church more acceptable to our limited, human understanding and more approachable for sinful, human nature.

Christ, as God, could deal directly with every human being on earth. He could teach the infallible truth; he could pardon sins; he could give all the graces needed to travel successfully to heaven. There would then be no need for a Church with its teaching magisterium, no need for the sacrament of initiation, baptism, or of reconciliation, penance, nor of the Holy Eucharist itself or of any other such aids. Christ could do all that his Church does for the salvation of mankind, and more successfully, of course, but yet he chose the way which divine wisdom saw was best.

We mortals know that God can speak directly to our hearts, and actually has done so to many men in the past. We know that he can do directly all that is done by his Church, to whom he gave the power, with its teaching magisterium and sacraments. If he were to act in this way we should be open to continuous doubts about the source of our inspirations and the objectivity of the graces we thought we were receiving. It was to remove such doubts, and the possibility of self-deception that Christ left to us the external visible kingdom to which he gave all the powers necessary for men’s salvation. It was for the security and peace of men’s consciences that he set up a visible Church founded on the Apostles, men like ourselves, but transformed by his assisting grace.

Another momentous fact in Christ’s choice of the Apostles on whom he was to build his Church, is that he “chose the lowly and the humble to confound the wise.” The first four Apostles, as well as the other eight, were simple, lowly fishermen from Galilee. They may possibly have been able to read and write a little, but they were certainly not men of education or any social standing in their communities. He could have converted and chosen some of the more highly educated scribes of Jerusalem, or some of the Roman centurions then in Palestine, or some of the many philosophers in Greece, or even Roman senators whose influence as Christian teachers would carry such weight with the educated elite of the empire. But he did not. The instrument he chose to carry his message to all men, was not dependent on human ingenuity or on the educational or social standing of his witnesses. Rather was it to stand on the power of God, of which it was the expression and proof.

We can see clearly the divine wisdom governing Christ’s choice of Apostles! Had his message of salvation been spread and promulgated by men of learning and social standing, the cry would soon go up on all sides: “This religion is the invention of philosophers; it is a clever plan of the upper classes to keep the poor and humble workers in subjection.” But it was the poor and working classes who spread Christ’s message, and who suffered imprisonment and death itself at the hands of the educated and upper classes for so doing.

Today, let us thank our blessed Lord who provided so humanly and yet so divinely for our eternal welfare. In the Church, which he founded on the lowly but solid foundation of simple fishermen of Galilee, he erected an institution against which the gates of hell, the power of all the enemies of our salvation, cannot prevail, for his divine guidance and help will be with it forever. It has had enemies and opposition from the beginning; they may be more numerous and more destructive than ever, today. But the promise of Christ still holds good, his word cannot fail. Therefore, neither the opposition of materialistic enemies from without, nor the even more insidious attacks from faint-hearted and worldly-minded members from within, can affect the safety and permanence of the building which Christ built on the Rock. “If God is with us,” it matters not “who is against us.”

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

BENEDICTUS

The Process of Spiritual Growth

It is important for the process of spiritual growth that you don’t just pray and study your faith at times when it happens to cross your mind, when it suits you, but that you observe some discipline… I should say, never begin with thinking alone. For if you try to pull God toward you in a laboratory of rational thought, and to attach Him to you in what is to some extent a purely theoretical fashion, you find you can’t do it. You always have to combine the questions with action. Pascal once said to an unbelieving friend: Start by doing what believers do, even if it still makes no sense to you… You can never look for faith in isolation; it is only found in an encounter with people who believe, who can understand you, who have perhaps come by way of a similar situation themselves, who can in some way lead you and help you. It is always among us that faith grows. Anyone who wants to go it alone has thus got it wrong from the very start.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Come Holy Spirit

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

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The Epiphany of the Lord – B

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“They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.”

OPENING PRAYER

Thy light is come, O Jerusalem, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee; and the Gentiles shall walk in they light, alleluia.

[On this day] We celebrate a holy day adorned with three mysteries: this day a star led the Magi to the manger; this day wine was made from water at the wedding; this day Christ willed to be baptized in the Jordan by John in order to save us, alleluia.

Brevarium Monasticum

COLLECT

Oh God, who on this day

revealed your Only Begotten Son to the nations

by the guidance of a star,

grant in your mercy

that we, who know you already by faith,

may be brought to behold the beauty of your sublime 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

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Is 60:1-6

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.
Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you:
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.
Then you shall be radiant at what you see,                                                                              your heart shall throb and overflow,
for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,
the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.
Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.

APPLICATION

The feast of the Epiphany is the feast which commemorates the manifestation of God to the Gentiles. This manifestation began when the Wise Men from the East came to Bethlehem to pay their respects and offer their gifts to the newly-born king of the Jews (see Mt. 2 in today’s gospel). Though the words of second-Isaiah were not understood by his hearers as referring to this event, it was only in the coming of the Magi, to welcome Christ, that they were really fulfilled. Jerusalem was in no sense an attraction for the nations in the intervening centuries. But the Magi at Bethlehem were the first-fruits of the thousands and millions of Gentiles who have since then seen the glory of God in the Babe of Bethlehem and who have figuratively come to Jerusalem from the West and from the East to form the new Chosen People, the new Kingdom of God.

Let us thank God today for having called us, Gentiles, to his kingdom, his Church, and for giving us the means to reach heaven. Let us never imitate the Chosen People of the Old Testament who so often forgot how good God was to them, and who often so provoked him, that he allowed them to be taken into exile as slaves of a pagan nation. We too could bring exile on ourselves, an exile much more fatal than the Babylonian one. Whatever else may be my lot, whatever hardship I may have to suffer during the few years I am on earth, God forbid that I should ever, through my unfaithfulness, cause myself to be excluded from my true home, heaven, where “the glory of the Lord will shine” forever.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts;
the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute.
All kings shall pay him homage,
all nations shall serve him.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

READING II

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Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6

Brothers and sisters:
You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace
that was given to me for your benefit,
namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation.
It was not made known to people in other generations
as it has now been revealed
to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:
that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body,
and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

APPLICATION

St. Paul’s thoughts in his prison in Rome are not for himself nor for the fate that awaits him. He is thinking instead of the mission Christ gave him, to evangelize the Gentile nations. He has done much already, and even in prison he does all he can to continue the good work. He writes to his Gentile converts from Rome, to remind them of their great privilege in being called to the Christian faith. They are now God’s new Chosen People, they are now members of Christ’s mystical body, they are now guaranteed heaven if they appreciate and live up to their vocation.

Today, on the feast of the Epiphany, we are celebrating the coming of the first Gentiles to the feet of Christ. They were the first of the long stream of Gentile peoples and nations that flowed steadily toward Christ’s mystical body, the Church, down through the years. We have the privilege of being part of that stream, and St. Paul, who today in heaven is as interested in us as he was in his Ephesian converts, is exhorting us, through these words of his, to appreciate the privilege which is ours. Through the grace of God and not through any merits of our own, we are Christians and are on the road to heaven. “Rejoice and persevere” is St. Paul’s advice to us today. If we truly rejoice it means we truly appreciate what the gift of the true faith means. We know where we came from, we know where we are going, and we are certain there is a place, a wonderful, eternal place, to go to. We know too how to get there. This is no mean knowledge in the world of today, where so many seem content to make this world their heaven, and let the future look after itself – if there be a future (and logically to ease their consciences they must hope there isn’t one).

Thank God, our faith and our ordinary intelligence tell us there has to be a future life – God would be a cruel joker if he gave us the nature we possess with its spiritual gifts and desires only to have them end in a grave after a few short years. We can rejoice then because we appreciate the great privilege given us, and if we appreciate it we shall hold on to it and follow the path it indicates. We may have to climb some hills and they may look as steep as Calvary, but after Calvary comes the Mount of Olives, the mount of the Ascension.

GOSPEL

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Mt 2:1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”
Then Herod called the magi secretly
and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said,
“Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word,
that I too may go and do him homage.”
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/010718.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 430 Jesus means in Hebrew: “God saves.” At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission.1 Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal Son made man, “will save his people from their sins”.2 in Jesus, God recapitulates all of his history of salvation on behalf of men.

CCC 439 Many Jews and even certain Gentiles who shared their hope recognized in Jesus the fundamental attributes of the messianic “Son of David”, promised by God to Israel.3 Jesus accepted his rightful title of Messiah, though with some reserve because it was understood by some of his contemporaries in too human a sense, as essentially political.4

CCC 486 The Father’s only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is “Christ”, that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples.5 Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”6

CCC 528 The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee.7 In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations.8 Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament.9 The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs”, and acquires Israelitica dignitas10 (is made “worthy of the heritage of Israel”).

CCC 724 In Mary, the Holy Spirit manifests the Son of the Father, now become the Son of the Virgin. She is the burning bush of the definitive theophany. Filled with the Holy Spirit she makes the Word visible in the humility of his flesh. It is to the poor and the first representatives of the gentiles that she makes him known.11

1 Cf. Lk 1:31.
2 Mt 1:21; cf. 2:7.
3 Cf Mt 2:2; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9.15.
4 Cf. Jn 4:25-26; 6:15; 11:27; Mt 22:41-46; Lk 24:21.
5 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:1-12; Lk 1:35; 2:8-20; Jn 1:3 1-34; 2:11.
6 Acts 10:38.
7 Mt 2:1; cf. LH, Epiphany, Evening Prayer II, Antiphon at the Canticle of Mary.
8 Cf Mt 2:2; Num 24:17-19; Rev 22:16.
9 Cf Jn 4 22; Mt 2:4-6.
10 St. Leo the Great, Sermo 3 in epiphania Domini 1-3, 5: PL 54, 242; LH, Epiphany, OR; Roman Missal, Easter Vigil 26, Prayer after the third reading.
11 Cf. Lk 1:15-19; Mt 2:11.

APPLICATION

The Magi are the central personages in today’s feast of Epiphany. They were pagans who did not know the true God of the Jews. Yet that true God revealed to them that the King he had promised to the Jews had come. The expected Prince was born. They came to Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, expecting, of course, to find the city and the whole country rejoicing. Instead they found suspicion and hatred in the reigning king – a hatred which in a few days turned to murder. Among the religious leaders they found knowledge of their past history, but utter indifference as regards the present and the future. These leaders knew the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem; they must have realized that the Magi were very sure of the truth revealed to them – they would not have come such a long journey on a “fool’s errand.” In spite of that, the thought of going to Bethlehem with the Magi never entered their minds. These were the leaders who some years later refused to listen to Christ and in spite of his miracles refused to admit his claim that he was not only the promised Messiah, but the true Son of God. These were the men who rejected him because he had mercy on sinners, and spoke of a future life. What they wanted from their Messiah was political power and earthly freedom and prosperity. Like Herod they ended with murder – the crucifixion of the “King of the Jews.” The pagan king was not much worse than the indifferent leaders of God’s Chosen People.

We too know the true facts concerning Christ, his mission, and his present and future kingdom. Like the leaders of the Jews of his day, we also could become absorbed in the affairs of this life and the quest for wealth, pleasure and power. We could become so totally absorbed in such things as to have neither the interest nor the time to pay our respects to Christ or to welcome him into our homes and our hearts, as our true Lord. God forbid it should ever be thus with us. Rather let us resolve this morning to make the Magi our models, to follow them to Bethlehem and offer him all that we have and are. He will accept our offering and we will return by another way, wiser and better men.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Deep Desire of the Magi

Why did the Magi set off from afar to go to Bethlehem? The answer has to do with the mystery of the “star” which they saw “in the East” and which they recognized as the star of the “King of the Jews,” that is to say, the sign of the birth of the Messiah (Mt 2:2). So their journey was inspired by a powerful hope, strengthened and guided by the star, which led them toward the King of the Jews, toward the kingship of God himself. The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted them to leave everything and begin a journey. It was as if the journey had always been a part of their destiny, and was finally about to begin. This is the mystery of God’s call, the mystery of vocation. It is part of the life of every Christian… When the Magi came to Bethlehem, “going into the house they saw the child with Mary his Mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (Mt 2:11). Here at last was the long awaited moment – their encounter with Jesus. “Going into the house”: this house in some sense represents the Church. In order to find the Savior, one has to enter the house, which is the Church… “They fell down and worshiped him… and offered him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Mt 2: 11-12). Here is the culmination of the whole journey: encounter becomes adoration; it blossoms into an act of faith and love which acknowledges in Jesus, born of Mary, the Son of God made man… The secret of holiness is friendship with Christ and faithful obedience to his will.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Epiphany Hymn of St. Ambrose

Most High God!

Thou that enkindlest

the fires of the shining stars!

O Jesus!

Thou that art peace and life and light and truth,

hear and grant our prayers.

This present day has been made holy

by thy mystic baptism,

whereby thou didst sanctify

those waters of the Jordan,

which of old were thrice turned back.

It is holy by the star shining in the heavens,

whereby thou didst announce

thy Virginal Mother’s delivery

and didst, on the same day,

lead the Magi to adore thee in thy crib.

It is holy too,

by thy changing the water

of the pitchers into wine;

which the steward of the feast,

knowing that he had not so filled them,

drew forth for the guests.

Glory be to thee, O Lord Jesus,

that didst appear on this Day!

And to the Father and to the Holy Spirit,

for everlasting ages. Amen.

Hymn of St. Ambrose (338-397), used by the Church in Milan

The Blessing of the Home

The blessing of the home is a popular Epiphany custom. using specially blessed chalk (your parish priest will bless the chalk, if you ask, or use the prayer of blessing below), many households mark their entrance door with the year and with the inscription CMB, the initial Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, the names of the three wise man in legend. The inscription also stands for Christus Mansionem Benedicat, which means “Christ, bless this home.” The popular form the inscription takes is 20+C+M+B+15. It remains above the doorway until Pentecost.

Blessing of Chalk

Let us pray. O Lord God, bless this creature chalk to make it helpful to man. Grant that we who use it with faith and inscribe with it upon the entrance of our homes may enjoy physical health and spiritual protection. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

House Blessing

Lord God of Heaven and Earth, who hast revealed thine only-begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star: Bless this house and all who inhabit it. Fill them with the light of Christ, that their love for others may truly reflect thy love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Posted in agnostic, athiest, Benedictine oblate, Bible Study, Catholic, Christian, Christmas, Epiphany, faith, Heaven, hell, Holy Spirit, Liturgy, Mary, prayer, The Word of God, Uncategorized

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – B

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

A Prayer for the Family

O dear Jesus,

I humbly implore You to grant Your special graces to our

family.

May our home be the shrine of peace, purity, love, labor

and faith.

I beg You, dear Jesus, to protect and bless all of us,

absent and present, living

and dead.

O Mary,

loving Mother of Jesus,

and our Mother,

pray to Jesus for our family,

for all the families of the world,

to guard the womb of the unborn,

the cradle of the newborn,

the schools of the young and their vocations.

Blessed Saint Joseph,

holy guardian of Jesus and Mary,

assist us by your prayers

in all the necessities of life.

Ask of Jesus that special grace

which He granted to you,

to watch over our home

at the pillow of the sick and the dying,

so that with Mary and with you,

heaven may find our family unbroken

in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Amen.

COLLECT

O God, who were pleased to give us

the shining example of the Holy Family,

graciously grant that we may imitate them

in practicing the virtues of family life and in

the bonds of charity,

and so, in the joy of your house,

delight one day in eternal rewards.

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

Sirach.jpg

Sir 3:2-6, 12-14

God sets a father in honor over his children;

a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.

Whoever honors his father atones for sins,

and preserves himself from them.

When he prays, he is heard;

he stores up riches who reveres his mother.

Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,

and, when he prays, is heard.

Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;

he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.

My son, take care of your father when he is old;

grieve him not as long as he lives.

Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;

revile him not all the days of his life;

kindness to a father will not be forgotten,

firmly planted against the debt of your sins

–a house raised in justice to you.

APPLICATION

Although all the emphasis, in these verses of holy Scripture just read to us, seems to be on the obligation of children to their parents, there is a profound lesson here for parents too. “Like father like son” is an old and a true saying very often. If the parents fail to do what is right and just in the sight of God they can hardly complain if their children turn out disobedient to God and to them. The young learn more from example than from precept. If parents give their children the example of a life of obedience to the laws of God, and their country–the children will in turn carry out their duties to God, to their parents and to their fellowman. There have been and there will be exceptions, of course, to this rule but they are exceptions; the vast majority follow the pattern laid down for them by their parents.

As you heard during your marriage ceremony: “children are a gift from God to you,” a gift for this life to be the joy of your young years and a help and comfort in your old age; but above and beyond that, they are a gift which you must do all in your power to return to God when their hour comes. You must not only strive to make them good citizens of this world but you must never forget that God gave them to you primarily so that you would make them citizens of heaven. You may fail, in spite of your best intentions and endeavors, but God will reward you nonetheless–the failure will not be laid to your door.

Today, on the feast-day of the only perfect family that ever lived on this earth, I would ask all parents to examine themselves and see how they are fulfilling this grave responsibility–which God has placed on them. Are they preparing their children by word and example, especially by example, to be worthy citizens of heaven where they will be their parents’ crown and glory?

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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

Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,

who walks in his ways!

For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;

blessed shall you be, and favored.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine

in the recesses of your home;

your children like olive plants

around your table.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

Behold, thus is the man blessed

who fears the LORD.

The LORD bless you from Zion:

may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem

all the days of your life.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

READING II

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Col 3:12-21

Brothers and sisters:

Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,

heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,

bearing with one another and forgiving one another,

if one has a grievance against another;

as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.

And over all these put on love,

that is, the bond of perfection.

And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,

the peace into which you were also called in one body.

And be thankful.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,

as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,

singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs

with gratitude in your hearts to God.

And whatever you do, in word or in deed,

do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,

giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wives, be subordinate to your husbands,

as is proper in the Lord.

Husbands, love your wives,

and avoid any bitterness toward them.

Children, obey your parents in everything,

for this is pleasing to the Lord.

Fathers, do not provoke your children,

so they may not become discouraged.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 79 The Father’s self-communication made through his Word in the Holy Spirit, remains present and active in the Church: “God, who spoke in the past, continues to converse with the Spouse of his beloved Son. And the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel rings out in the Church – and through her in the world – leads believers to the full truth, and makes the Word of Christ dwell in them in all its richness.”1

CCC 815 What are these bonds of unity? Above all, charity “binds everything together in perfect harmony.”2 But the unity of the pilgrim Church is also assured by visible bonds of communion:

profession of one faith received from the Apostles;

-common celebration of divine worship, especially of the sacraments;

apostolic succession through the sacrament of Holy Orders, maintaining the fraternal concord of God’s family.3

CCC 1156 “The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as a combination of sacred music and words, it forms a necessary or integral part of solemn liturgy.”4 The composition and singing of inspired psalms, often accompanied by musical instruments, were already closely linked to the liturgical celebrations of the Old Covenant. The Church continues and develops this tradition: “Address. .. one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.” “He who sings prays twice.”5

CCC 1827 The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which “binds everything together in perfect harmony”;6 it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love.

CCC 2204 “The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion, and for this reason it can and should be called a domestic church.”7 It is a community of faith, hope, and charity; it assumes singular importance in the Church, as is evident in the New Testament.8

CCC 2217 As long as a child lives at home with his parents, the child should obey his parents in all that they ask of him when it is for his good or that of the family. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”9 Children should also obey the reasonable directions of their teachers and all to whom their parents have entrusted them. But if a child is convinced in conscience that it would be morally wrong to obey a particular order, he must not do so.

As they grow up, children should continue to respect their parents. They should anticipate their wishes, willingly seek their advice, and accept their just admonitions. Obedience toward parents ceases with the emancipation of the children; not so respect, which is always owed to them. This respect has its roots in the fear of God, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

CCC 2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.

Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to “social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.”10 This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger,11 or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.

CCC 2633 When we share in God’s saving love, we understand that every need can become the object of petition. Christ, who assumed all things in order to redeem all things, is glorified by what we ask the Father in his name.12 It is with this confidence that St. James and St. Paul exhort us to pray at all times.13

CCC 2641 “[Address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.”14 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.15 Doxology, the praise of God, arises from this “marvelous work” of the whole economy of salvation.16

1 DV 8 § 3; cf. Col 3:16.

2 Col 3:14.

3 Cf. UR 2; LG 14; CIC, can. 205.

4 SC 112.

5 Eph 5:19; St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 72,1: PL 36, 914; cf. Col 3:16.

6 Col 3:14.

7 FC 21; cf. LG 11.

8 Cf. Eph 5:21b: 4; Col 3:18-21; 1 Pet 3:1-7.

9 Col 3:20; Cf. Eph 6:1.

10 Pius XII, Discourse, June 1, 1941.

11 Cf. Eph 6:4; Col. 3:21.

12 Cf. Jn 14:13.

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

14 Eph 5:19; Col 3:16.

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

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

APPLICATION

Ninety per cent of the first readers of St. Paul’s letter–the first Christian converts of the town of Colossae–were pagans before their conversion. To practice the new Christian virtues was no easy task for people reared in the laxity and license of the paganism of their day. Yet they did practice these virtues and produced many saints and martyrs. After twenty centuries of Christianity one would expect that to live a full Christian life today should be less difficult but unfortunately it is not so. For the fact is our world is rapidly sinking back again into paganism–a paganism more inimical to truth and morality than the paganism of St. Paul’s day. The pagans of the Roman Empire were tired of vice and worldliness–they were looking for the truth and the real purpose of life. They found it in Christianity and cherished it. Today’s neo-pagans are tired of Christianity–they have found it wanting, because they are found wanting in its observance.

GOSPEL

christ-teaching-in-the-temple-phillip-schwartz.jpg

Lk 2:41-52

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast

of Passover,

and when he was twelve years old,

they went up according to festival custom.

After they had completed its days, as they were returning,

the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,

but his parents did not know it.

Thinking that he was in the caravan,

they journeyed for a day

and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,

but not finding him,

they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.

After three days they found him in the temple,

sitting in the midst of the teachers,

listening to them and asking them questions,

and all who heard him were astounded

at his understanding and his answers.

When his parents saw him,

they were astonished,

and his mother said to him,

“Son, why have you done this to us?

Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”

And he said to them,

“Why were you looking for me?

Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

But they did not understand what he said to them.

He went down with them and came to Nazareth,

and was obedient to them;

and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor

before God and man.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/123117.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 94 Thanks to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the understanding of both the realities and the words of the heritage of faith is able to grow in the life of the Church:

– “through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts”;1 it is in particular “theological research [which] deepens knowledge of revealed truth”.2

– “from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which [believers] experience”,3 the sacred Scriptures “grow with the one who reads them.”3

– “from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth”.5

CCC 472 This human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge. As such, this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his existence in space and time. This is why the Son of God could, when he became man, “increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man”,6 and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience.7 This corresponded to the reality of his voluntary emptying of himself, taking “the form of a slave”.8

CCC 503 Mary’s virginity manifests God’s absolute initiative in the Incarnation. Jesus has only God as Father. “He was never estranged from the Father because of the human nature which he assumed… He is naturally Son of the Father as to his divinity and naturally son of his mother as to his humanity, but properly Son of the Father in both natures.”9

CCC 517 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross,10 but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life:

already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;11

in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;12

in his word which purifies its hearers;13

in his healings and exorcisms by which “he took our infirmities and bore our diseases”;14

and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.15

CCC 531 During the greater part of his life Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings: a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor. His religious life was that of a Jew obedient to the law of God,16 a life in the community. From this whole period it is revealed to us that Jesus was “obedient” to his parents and that he “increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.”17

CCC 534 The finding of Jesus in the temple is the only event that breaks the silence of the Gospels about the hidden years of Jesus.18 Here Jesus lets us catch a glimpse of the mystery of his total consecration to a mission that flows from his divine sonship: “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s work?”19 Mary and Joseph did not understand these words, but they accepted them in faith. Mary “kept all these things in her heart” during the years Jesus remained hidden in the silence of an ordinary life.

CCC 583 Like the prophets before him Jesus expressed the deepest respect for the Temple in Jerusalem. It was in the Temple that Joseph and Mary presented him forty days after his birth.20 At the age of twelve he decided to remain in the Temple to remind his parents that he must be about his Father’s business.21 He went there each year during his hidden life at least for Passover.22 His public ministry itself was patterned by his pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts.23

CCC 2197 The fourth commandment opens the second table of the Decalogue. It shows us the order of charity. God has willed that, after him, we should honor our parents to whom we owe life and who have handed on to us the knowledge of God. We are obliged to honor and respect all those whom God, for our good, has vested with his authority.

CCC 2599 The Son of God who became Son of the Virgin also learned to pray according to his human heart. He learns the formulas of prayer from his mother, who kept in her heart and meditated upon all the “great things” done by the Almighty.24 He learns to pray in the words and rhythms of the prayer of his people, in the synagogue at Nazareth and the Temple at Jerusalem. But his prayer springs from an otherwise secret source, as he intimates at the age of twelve: “I must be in my Father’s house.”25 Here the newness of prayer in the fullness of time begins to be revealed: his filial prayer, which the Father awaits from his children, is finally going to be lived out by the only Son in his humanity, with and for men.

1 DV 8 § 2; cf. Lk 2:19,51.

2 GS 62 § 7; cf. GS 44 § 2; DV 23; 24; UR 4.

3 DV 8 § 2.

4 DV 8 § 2.

5 St. Gregory the Great, Hom. in Ez. 1,7,8:PL 76,843D.

6 Lk 2:52.

7 Cf. Mk 6 38; 8 27; Jn 11:34; etc.

8 Phil 2:7.

9 Council of Friuli (796): DS 619; cf. Lk 2:48-49.

10 Cf. Eph 1:7; Col 1:13-14; 1 Pt 1:18-19.

11 Cf. 2 Cor 8:9.

12 Cf. Lk 2:51.

13 Cf. Jn 15:3.

14 Mt 8:17; cf. Is 53:4.

15 Cf. Rom 4:25.

16 Cf. Gal 4:4.

17 Lk 2:51-52.

18 Cf. Lk 2:41-52.

19 Lk 2:49 alt.

20 Lk 2:22-39.

21 Cf. Lk 2 46-49.

22 Cf. Lk 2 41.

23 Cf. Jn 2 13-14; 5:1, 14; 7:1, 10, 14; 8 2; 10:22-23.

24 Cf. Lk 1:49; 2:19; 2:51.

25 Lk 2:49.

APPLICATION

The Church has appointed this Sunday within the octave of Christmas as the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. She wants all Christian families to try to model their lives on this, the holiest of families that ever lived on earth. No family can ever hope to be as perfect as this one was, but every family must strive to imitate it if only from afar.

In Joseph, the father of the family has his model. Patiently and humbly he worked at his carpenter’s bench to provide the necessities of life for his wife and for the child Jesus. He could not always give them all he would wish for them but he did what he could gladly and humbly. To his neighbors he was just another carpenter, unknown to the world, of no importance in their eyes, yet his name will be known and revered until the end of time. Fathers, many (if not most) of you too, are living a life of obscurity–a life of monotonous toil–a daily struggle to provide bread for your family. You will never make the headlines in the newspapers because of what you are doing, but you are playing an important, an essential part, in God’s plan for providing citizens for heaven.

If you carry out faithfully the task God has given you, if you provide for and protect the wife and family God has committed to your care you will make the headlines in the world to come, your names will be written in the Book of Life.

Mothers of families, in Mary you have the perfect example you should strive to follow. She was a dutiful, faithful wife and an ideal and loving mother. How often she must have regretted that her beloved spouse had to struggle so hard to earn their meager, daily bread. How great must have been her grief that she could not give her beloved Child more comforts in his infancy and youth. She had days of sorrow and anxiety, sorrow which culminated at the foot of the cross on Calvary, but she accepted it all as God’s will for the salvation of the world. You too have your days of anxiety and your years perhaps of worry–worries which will not end till you draw your last breath. But think of your Model, turn to Mary for courage and for help. She can and will get you the strength to keep going on the hard road of motherhood.

Like her, you too have a great task to perform for God. You have the eternal salvation of your family in your hands. Their future in this world and in the more important world–the next–will depend largely on how you behave as mother of the family. Your greatest joy in heaven, after the beatific vision, will be, please God, that you will be surrounded by your family which, aided by God’s grace, you did so much to bring there.

Children: your duty in the family is to love, honor and obey your parents. And your model is none other than Jesus of Nazareth who, though he was God, made himself subject to Joseph and Mary. He who was God, has set you an example which you must follow. Your obedience will never be as perfect as his but it can and should be as perfect as you can make it. Be a comfort and a consolation to your parents. Remember always what they have done for you in your infancy when you could not help yourself. Remember what they have done and are still doing for you in order to fit you to take your place in this life and in the next.

Show your thankfulness and appreciation by doing what they tell you. You may not see the reason for all their restrictions and all their commands but it is because they have your welfare at heart and because they truly love you that such commands and restrictions are placed on you. It is only later on in life that you will fully understand the true love they had for you and the great sacrifices they made for you so that you would be worthy of them and worthy of your heavenly father who gave you to them. Show your appreciation now while you have them.

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

BENEDICTUS

Passover and Family

In the course of a year, a people is always in danger of disintegrating, not only through external causes, but also interiorly, and of losing hold of the inner motivation which sustains it. It needs to return to its fundamental origin… We experience the primal, chaotic powers rising up from the very midst of a progressive society – which seems to know everything and to be able to do anything – and attacking the very progress of which it is so proud. We see how, in the midst of prosperity, technological achievement, and the scientific domination of the world, a nation can be destroyed from within; we see how the creation can be threatened by the chaotic powers which lurk in the depths of the human heart. We realize that neither money nor technology nor organizational ability alone can banish chaos. Only the real protective wall given to us by the Lord, the new family he has created for us, can do this… Passover is a summons, urgently reminding us that the family is the living home in which humanity is nurtured, which banishes chaos and futility, and which must be protected as such… The individual family cannot survive; it will disintegrate unless it is kept safe within the larger family which guarantees it and gives it security. So this night needs to be the night in which we set out once again on our twin paths: we set out on the path to the new city, the new family, the Church, and dedicate ourselves irrevocably to her, to our heart’s true home; and then, on the basis of this family of Jesus Christ, we can proceed to grasp what it meant by the human family and by the humanity which sustains and protects us.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Act of Consecration of a Christian Family to the Holy Family

To the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Oh Mother Most Pure,

we come to You as a family

and consecrate ourselves to your most Immaculate Heart.

We come to You as a family

and place our trust in Your powerful intercession.

Oh Dearest Mother Mary,

teach us as a mother teaches her children,

for our souls are soiled

and our prayers are weak

because of our sinful hearts.

ready to respond to You

and follow Your way,

for Your way leads us

to the heart of Your Son, Jesus.

We are ready to be cleansed and purified.

Come then Virgin Most Pure,

and embrace us with Your motherly mantle.

Make our hearts whiter than snow

and as pure as a spring of fresh water.

Teach us to pray,

so that our prayers may become more beautiful

than the singing of the birds at the break of dawn.

Dear Mother Mary,

we entrust to Your Immaculate Heart of hearts,

our family and our entire future.

Lead us all to our homeland which is Heaven.

Amen.

Immaculate Heart of Mary,

pray for us.

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

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) – Mass During the Night

Nativity3-1.jpg

And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

OPENING PRAYER

Christmas Prayer of St. Pope John XXIII

O sweet Child of Bethlehem,
grant that we may share with all our hearts
in this profound mystery of Christmas.
Put into the hearts of men and women this peace
for which they sometimes seek so desperately
and which you alone can give to them.
Help them to know one another better,
and to live as brothers and sisters,
children of the same Father.
Reveal to them also your beauty, holiness and purity.
Awaken in their hearts
love and gratitude for your infinite goodness.
Join them all together in your love.
And give us your heavenly peace. Amen.

St. Pope John XXIII

COLLECT

O God, who have made this most sacred night

radiant with the splendor of the true light,

grand, we pray, that we, who have known the mysteries

of his light on earth

may also delight in his gladness in heaven.

Who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

 

isaiah-icon.gif

Is 9:1-6

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for flames.
For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful,
from David’s throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
by judgment and justice,
both now and forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!

APPLICATION

What Isaiah foresaw some 700 years before it happened we are commemorating tonight nearly 2,000 years after it happened, and it will still be commemorated 2,000 years from today if this world will still be in existence. God came on our earth, became one of us so that we could become one with God. This is incomparably greater than any other historical event that ever happened or ever could happen on our planet.

Yet unfortunately there are millions of people who have not yet heard this good news, but its good effects will reach them if their ignorance is not their fault. There are millions of others who have heard this good news but refuse to believe it. The basic reason for their disbelief is not that it couldn’t be true, but that it is too good to be true. It is indeed hard to believe that the infinite, all-perfect God should bother with such imperfect, such mean creatures, as we are. But it is because he is infinite and his love is infinite that he can and did go to such lengths for us his unworthy creatures.

While we thank God tonight with true sincerity and heartfelt gratitude, for all he has done for us, and while we promise faithfully to try to make ourselves less unworthy of the infinite love he has shown us in the Incarnation, let us remember all those millions of our brothers who do not really know him yet. Let us beg God to send them the goods news and the grace to accept this great gift of infinite love, so that all his children on earth may know and thank him too. And let us strive by the example of a truly Christian life to make God’s love for us known not only to our fellow-Christians but to all men.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 712 The characteristics of the awaited Messiah begin to appear in the “Book of Emmanuel” (“Isaiah said this when he saw his glory,”1 speaking of Christ), especially in the first two verses of Isaiah 11:
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
2

CCC 2305 Earthly peace is the image and fruit of the peace of Christ, the messianic “Prince of Peace.”3 By the blood of his Cross, “in his own person he killed the hostility,”4 he reconciled men with God and made his Church the sacrament of the unity of the human race and of its union with God. “He is our peace.”5 He has declared: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”6

1 Jn 12:41; cf. Isa 6-12.
2 Isa 11:1-2.
3 Isa 9:5.
4 Eph 2:16 J.B.; cf. Col 1:20-22.
5 Eph 2:14.
6 Mt 5:9.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 96: 1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.

Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult.

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.

They shall exult before the LORD, for he comes;
for he comes to rule the earth.
He shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with his constancy.

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.

READING II

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Ti 2:11-14

Beloved:
The grace of God has appeared, saving all
and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires
and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age,
as we await the blessed hope,
the appearance of the glory of our great God
and savior Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness
and to cleanse for himself a people as his own,
eager to do what is good.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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.”1 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 1809 Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: “Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.”2 Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: “Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites.”3 In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.” We ought “to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world.”4
To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).
5

1 DV 4; cf. 1 Tim 6:14; Titus 2:13.
2 Sir 5:2; cf. 37:27-31.
3 Sir 18:30.
4 Titus 2:12.
5 St. Augustine, De moribus eccl. 1, 25, 46: PL 32, 1330-1331.

APPLICATION

Christmas is an occasion for rejoicing, a season of goodwill, a time of joy even for those who unfortunately do not know or realize its true meaning. For us Christians it is the second of our greatest annual feasts (next after Easter) in which we call to mind God’s infinite love for us and his infinite mercy towards us mortals.

We surely have reason to rejoice and be glad. Christ, the true Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, took to himself our lowly human nature and became one with us in order to raise us up to the dignity of adopted sons of his heavenly Father. If some earthly king or nobleman took the son of one of his servants into his palace, clothed him in costly robes and made him his heir, the world would gasp in amazement. God has taken us, his lowly creatures; has clothed us in the divine garments of grace; has made us one of his family by making his Son one of us, and has made us heirs of an eternal kingdom.

And yet mankind can ignore or forget such an act of benevolence, such a proof of divine love! Of course, we Christians do not ignore or forget this divine benevolence but we just do not remember it as much as we should; we do not thank God often enough for all he has done for us; too often we are ungrateful children.

Tonight, as we call to mind the infinite love of God which sent his Son on earth to be born of the virgin Mary in a stable in Bethlehem so that we could spend our eternity in the mansions of heaven, let us show our gratitude, our appreciation, by resolving to live as adopted sons of God are expected to live.

St. Paul’s letter to Titus tells us how. We must reject ungodliness and worldly lusts by living temperately, justly and piously, using the things of this world as stepping-stones to heaven. God has made us his Chosen People; nay more! he has made us his adopted sons. Let us show our true gratitude by striving to live a life worthy of such a sublime vocation.

GOSPEL

Giotto_di_Bondone_-_No._17_Scenes_from_the_Life_of_Christ_-_1._Nativity_-_Birth_of_Jesus_-_WGA09193.jpg

Lk 2:1-14

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122517-midnight.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 333 From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the Word incarnate is surrounded by the adoration and service of angels. When God “brings the firstborn into the world, he says: ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’”1 Their song of praise at the birth of Christ has not ceased resounding in the Church’s praise: “Glory to God in the highest!”2 They protect Jesus in his infancy, serve him in the desert, strengthen him in his agony in the garden, when he could have been saved by them from the hands of his enemies as Israel had been.3 Again, it is the angels who “evangelize” by proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection.4 They will be present at Christ’s return, which they will announce, to serve at his judgement.5

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.”6 From the beginning he was “the one whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world”, conceived as “holy” in Mary’s virginal womb.7 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.8

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.9 At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, “Lord” expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus.10 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!”11

CCC 486 The Father’s only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is “Christ”, that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples.12 Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”13

CCC 515 The Gospels were written by men who were among the first to have the faith14 and wanted to share it with others. Having known in faith who Jesus is, they could see and make others see the traces of his mystery in all his earthly life. From the swaddling clothes of his birth to the vinegar of his Passion and the shroud of his Resurrection, everything in Jesus’ life was a sign of his mystery.15 His deeds, miracles and words all revealed that “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”16 His humanity appeared as “sacrament”, that is, the sign and instrument, of his divinity and of the salvation he brings: what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive mission

CCC 525 Jesus was born in a humble stable, into a poor family.17 Simple shepherds were the first witnesses to this event. In this poverty heaven’s glory was made manifest.18 The Church never tires of singing the glory of this night:


The Virgin today brings into the world the Eternal
And the earth offers a cave to the Inaccessible.
The angels and shepherds praise him
And the magi advance with the star,
For you are born for us,
Little Child, God eternal!19

CCC 559 How will Jerusalem welcome her Messiah? Although Jesus had always refused popular attempts to make him king, he chooses the time and prepares the details for his messianic entry into the city of “his father David”.20 Acclaimed as son of David, as the one who brings salvation (Hosanna means “Save!” or “Give salvation!”), the “King of glory” enters his City “riding on an ass”.21 Jesus conquers the Daughter of Zion, a figure of his Church, neither by ruse nor by violence, but by the humility that bears witness to the truth.22 And so the subjects of his kingdom on that day are children and God’s poor, who acclaim him as had the angels when they announced him to the shepherds.23 Their acclamation, “Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord”,24 is taken up by the Church in the “Sanctus” of the Eucharistic liturgy that introduces the memorial of the Lord’s Passover.

CCC 695 Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit,25 to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called “chrismation” in the Churches of the East. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew “messiah”) means the one “anointed” by God’s Spirit. There were several anointed ones of the Lord in the Old Covenant, pre-eminently King David.26 But Jesus is God’s Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as “Christ.”27 The Virgin Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit who, through the angel, proclaimed him the Christ at his birth, and prompted Simeon to come to the temple to see the Christ of the Lord.28 The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving.29 Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.30 Now, fully established as “Christ” in his humanity victorious over death, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit abundantly until “the saints” constitute – in their union with the humanity of the Son of God – that perfect man “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”:31 “the whole Christ,” in St. Augustine’s expression.

CCC 725 Finally, through Mary, the Holy Spirit begins to bring men, the objects of God’s merciful love,32 into communion with Christ. And the humble are always the first to accept him: shepherds, magi, Simeon and Anna, the bride and groom at Cana, and the first disciples.

1 Heb 1:6.
2 Lk 2:14.
3 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:13,19; 4:11; 26:53; Mk 1:13; Lk 22:43; 2 Macc 10:29-30; 11:8.
4 Cf. Lk 2:8-14; Mk 16:5-7.
5 Cf. Acts 1:10-11; Mt 13:41; 24:31; Lk 12:8-9. The angels in the life of the Church
6 Lk 2:11.
7 Jn 10:36; cf. Lk 1:35.
8 Mt 1:20; cf. 1:16; Rom 1:1; 2 Tim 2:8; Rev 22:16.
9 Cf Mt 8:2; 14:30; 15:22; et al.
10 Cf. Lk 1:43; 2:11.
11 Jn 20:28,21:7.
12 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:1-12; Lk 1:35; 2:8-20; Jn 1:3 1-34; 2:11.
13 Acts 10:38.
14 Cf. Mk 1:1; Jn 21:24.
15 Cf Lk 2:7; Mt 27: 48; Jn 20:7.
16 Col 2:9.
17 Cf. Lk 2:61.
18 Cf. Lk 2:8-20.
19 Kontakion of Romanos the Melodist.
20 Lk 1:32; cf. Mt 21:1-11; Jn 6:15.
21 Ps 24:7-10; Zech 9:9.
22 Cf. Jn 18:37.
23 Cf. Mt 21:15-16; cf. Ps 8:3; Lk 19:38; 2:14.
24 Cf. Ps 118:26.
25Cf. 1 In 2:20:27; 2 Cor 1:21.
26 Cf. Ex 30:22-32; 1 Sam 16:13.
27 Cf. Lk 418-19; Isa 61:1.
28 Cf. Lk 2:11,26-27.
29 Cf. Lk 4:1; 6:19; 8:46.
30 Cf. Rom 1:4; 8:11.
31 Eph 4:13; cf. Acts 2:36.
32 Cf. Lk 2:14.

APPLICATION

Tonight as we kneel before the Baby in the Manger in praise and thanksgiving to the Son of infinite love and mercy let not our amazement at the humility and poverty of the stable and manger, touching though they be, prevent us from seeing the greater, the almost incredible, humiliation of the Incarnation itself. Had our Savior been born in Herod’s marble palace in Jerusalem and laid on a gilded cot with covers of the finest silk, his becoming man would yet have been a humbling, a lowering of himself, which would stagger the human mind. There are those who puzzle over and try to explain the mystery of the Incarnation—how Christ, namely, could be God and man at the same time, how one Person could have two natures. But mystery though this is, and fully intelligible to God only, the mystery of the love of God who did this for us is a greater mystery still and more of a puzzle to our finite human minds. “What is man that God should be mindful of him?” What have we ever done or what could we ever do to merit such love, such mercy, such condescension? No, we did not merit such love but the infinitely unselfish generosity of God, which no human mind is capable of grasping, has done this. We are his creatures who are capable of sharing his own happiness with him for all eternity and he has arranged it that we shall do so.

All we can do is to say from our heart a humble, thank you God, and to resolve to have the sense to avail ourselves of this almost incredible offer. We are “God’s friends.” He has called us so, then let us do our best to retain this friendship than which there is nothing greater for us on earth or in heaven. If we do, and if we do the little he asks of us, he will do his part; he will give us our share in the eternal happiness the Incarnation has won for us.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Real Point of Christmas

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

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer for Christmas

A Root shall come forth from the stock of Jesse
And a Flower shall rise out of his root!
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him
the spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the spirit of counsel and of fortitude,
the spirit of knowledge and of godliness.
The people that walked in darkness
shall see a great light,
For a Child is born to us
and a Son is given to us.
To Him all power shall be given.
His Name shall be: Wonderful One,
Strong God, Eternal One, Prince of Peace.
He shall sit on the throne of David,
And He will found a new Covenant
which will last for ever and ever.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

SUGGESTED PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL

The shepherds rejoiced to hear the choir of angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest.” United in their joy, we glorify the Father by offering him our Christmas petitions:

For the Holy Father and the bishops who assist him: that their life, teaching, preaching, and pastoral care will proclaim the saving Event of the Incarnation to everyone throughout the world.

For our President and all who assist him in governing our country: that they will receive many blessings at Christmas and be strengthened to lead our nation in the ways of enduring righteousness and freedom.

For lasting peace throughout the world: that the coming of the Prince of Peace will put an end to all enmity and division, and unify the peoples of the world.

For families: that the powerful graces of this Christmas will draw family members together in fresh expressions of love and belonging that will last for a lifetime.

For the poor, the homeless, the unemployed, and for refugees: that Jesus Christ, who came into the world as one who was destitute and marginalized, will love and rescue the needy with special preference and grace.

That all Christians will be serious in responding to the universal call to holiness by living their faith with great fervor.

Loving Father, darkness is for ever changed because of the birth of the Light: Jesus Christ your Son. Take all the darkness of our lives and replace it with the radiance of our newborn Savior. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

GRACE BEFORE THE MEAL

Loving Father,

you bless us in every way,

especially with the love of the Mother of your Son.

United in a special way with the Blessed Virgin Mary,

our souls magnify you.

We thank you for all good things,

especially this meal,

through Christ our Lord. Amen.

GRACE AFTER THE MEAL

Our spirits rejoice in God our Savior,

for he has filled the hungry with good things.

Bless those who have provided for us in any way,

and fill all those who live in want.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Fourth Sunday of Advent – B

annunciation-1434.jpg

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.”

OPENING PRAYER

The Angelus

. The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,

. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with Thee: blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.* Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.

. Be it done unto me according to thy word.

Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with Thee: blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.* Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

. And the Word was made flesh.

. And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with Thee: blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.* Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.

. That we might be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray,

COLLECT

Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord,

your grace into our hearts,
that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son
was made known by the message of an Angel,
may by his Passion and Cross
be brought to the glory of his Resurrection.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

READING I

Prophet Nathan.jpg

2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16

When King David was settled in his palace,
and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side,
he said to Nathan the prophet,
“Here I am living in a house of cedar,
while the ark of God dwells in a tent!”
Nathan answered the king,
“Go, do whatever you have in mind,
for the LORD is with you.”
But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said:
“Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD:
Should you build me a house to dwell in?’

“‘It was I who took you from the pasture
and from the care of the flock
to be commander of my people Israel.
I have been with you wherever you went,
and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.
And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth.
I will fix a place for my people Israel;
I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place
without further disturbance.
Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old,
since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel.
I will give you rest from all your enemies.
The LORD also reveals to you
that he will establish a house for you.
And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his kingdom firm.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 238 Many religions invoke God as “Father”. The deity is often considered the “father of gods and of men”. In Israel, God is called “Father” inasmuch as he is Creator of the world.1 Even more, God is Father because of the covenant and the gift of the law to Israel, “his first-born son”.2 God is also called the Father of the king of Israel. Most especially he is “the Father of the poor”, of the orphaned and the widowed, who are under his loving protection.3

CCC 441 In the Old Testament, “son of God” is a title given to the angels, the Chosen People, the children of Israel, and their kings.4 It signifies an adoptive sonship that establishes a relationship of particular intimacy between God and his creature. When the promised Messiah-King is called “son of God”, it does not necessarily imply that he was more than human, according to the literal meaning of these texts. Those who called Jesus “son of God”, as the Messiah of Israel, perhaps meant nothing more than this.5

CCC 709 The Law, the sign of God’s promise and covenant, ought to have governed the hearts and institutions of that people to whom Abraham’s faith gave birth. “If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant,. .. you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”6 But after David, Israel gave in to the temptation of becoming a kingdom like other nations. The Kingdom, however, the object of the promise made to David,7 would be the work of the Holy Spirit; it would belong to the poor according to the Spirit.

1 Cf. Deut 32:6; Mal 2:10.
2 Ex 4:22.
3 Cf. 2 Sam 7:14; Ps 68:6.
4 Cf. Dt 14:1; (LXX) 32:8; Job 1:6; Ex 4:22; Hos 2:1; 11:1; Jer 3:19; sir 36:11; Wis 18:13; 2 Sam 7:14; Ps 82:6.
5 Cf. I Chr 17:13; Ps 2:7; Mt 27:54; Lk 23:47.
6 Ex 19:5-6; Cf. 1 Pet 2:9.
7 Cf. 2 Sam 7; Ps 89; Lk 1:32-33.

APPLICATION

God’s ways are not man’s ways. There is a message (apart from the messianic prophecy) in today’s reading for all of us. We make plans, even noble plans, with high spiritual ideals. But for some reason, known to God, they are not what he wants. David’s plan to build a temple worthy of God in Jerusalem, would seem to us to have been a noble thought, one worthy of David’s gratitude to and respect and reverence for the God who had given him Jerusalem and had established his rule there over the Chosen People. Even the prophet Nathan, speaking as a man, not as God’s mouthpiece, agreed heartily with this noble intention expressed by David. But, as Nathan learned that night, this was not in accordance with God’s will.

David’s good intentions, however, did not go unrewarded. God promised to give him a house, a dynasty, that would last forever. And even though David sinned grievously later, God forgave him and did not withdraw his promise. Christ, David’s descendant, rules now over the Church, the messianic temple on earth. He is ruling and will rule forever over the Church triumphant in heaven.

How often in our lives have we not felt that God seemed to reject our overtures and our plans to do big things for him? For instance, how many devout parents, who by word and example did everything to foster a religious vocation in a son or daughter, found later that God evidently did not want their child among his religious? God had his reasons, but he did not reveal them to the disappointed parents. How often have we seen a young missionary, who had worked hard for years to learn the language and customs of the mission country, compelled to return home–all his efforts wasted–because of ill health which God could so easily have averted! How many times has the breadwinner, the ideal husband and father whose ambition it was to give his children all they needed to enable them to take their place in this life, and reap their eternal reward—how often has God taken him before he could put his noble and devout plans into effect?

Our lives are dotted with these question-marks. Again and again we hear of prayers for essential spiritual favors unanswered by God. If given, these answers would bring immense benefits to his pilgrim Church. Yet, his answer is not forthcoming! It would seem as if he did not appreciate our good motives and our good intentions! But today’s reading shows that this is not the case. God views this world from eternity; each of us sees a little bit of it from his own tiny corner. God is planning for all time; our view is restricted to a few short years. Although God’s view is from eternity, this does not mean that our efforts and our good intentions, restricted though they be, go unnoticed and unrewarded. The fact, like David, that he has not allowed us to carry out our generous plans does not mean that he has no interest in us. He has greater plans for us, as he had for David.

God is weaving a beautiful, colored tapestry of the life story of the human race. Each one of us is but a tiny spot in that picture. But each spot, no matter how tiny, brings out the beauty of the whole canvas. We may want, from the noblest and highest of motives, to be different, but the divine Artist knows better. We may be most anxious to do bigger and better things for him, to occupy more of the canvas, but the darker and smaller spots are as necessary for the total tapestry as are the bright, extended colors. Furthermore, if God chooses us for the less glamorous roles, it is because these roles are necessary and he knows we are the very ones best suited to fulfill them. On the other hand, the bigger and the more honorable tasks may be those which the less willing subjects of God may be moved to carry out. David was, on the whole, loyal to God. He had moments of weakness but he humbly repented when he realized his guilt. Solomon, his son, for whom God reserved the building of his temple, did little else for God. The work and sincerity he put into the construction of the temple may have been for him the means of earning his eternal salvation.

Let us, therefore, gladly accept whatever position God has wisely chosen for us in his tapestry. He is planning for all men. He knows what suits us best and what suits others. We can be certain that none of our good intentions, none of our sincere desires to do greater things for him, will go unrewarded, even though he may not want us to carry out these intentions. David was not allowed to build the house of God in Jerusalem, but God planned to build and establish his house, his dynasty, for all eternity.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29

For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

The promises of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.

For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

“I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations.”

For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

“He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior.’
Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.”

For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

READING II

st-paul22.jpg

Rom 16:25-27

Brothers and sisters:
To him who can strengthen you,
according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ,
according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages
but now manifested through the prophetic writings and,
according to the command of the eternal God,
made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith,
to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ
be glory forever and ever. Amen

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 143 By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God.1 With his whole being man gives his assent to God the revealer. Sacred Scripture calls this human response to God, the author of revelation, “the obedience of faith”.2

CCC 1204 The celebration of the liturgy, therefore, should correspond to the genius and culture of the different peoples.3 In order that the mystery of Christ be “made known to all the nations. .. to bring about the obedience of faith,”4 it must be proclaimed, celebrated, and lived in all cultures in such a way that they themselves are not abolished by it, but redeemed and fulfilled:5 It is with and through their own human culture, assumed and transfigured by Christ, that the multitude of God’s children has access to the Father, in order to glorify him in the one Spirit.

CCC 2087 Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us. St. Paul speaks of the “obedience of faith”6 as our first obligation. He shows that “ignorance of God” is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations.7 Our duty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him.

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 Cf. DV 5.
2 Cf. Rom 1:5; 16:26.
3 Cf. SC 37-40.
4 Rom 16:26.
5 Cf. CT 53.
6 Rom 1:5; 16:26.
7 Cf. Rom 1:18-32.
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

This is the last Sunday of our preparation for Christmas, the feast which commemorates the birth of Christ. These words of St. Paul have been selected in order to remind us of the sublime facts commemorated at Christmas. In his infinite love and interest in his creatures, God the Father sent his beloved Son in human nature to live amongst us, to tell us of the Father’s love and plans for our happiness. More than that, because of our sins he was to suffer and die for us. But he would rise again and conquer death for all. By becoming man Christ elevated our nature when he united it with his own divine nature. He made us adopted sons of God with a claim to eternal life and the possibility of sharing in God’s kingdom forever.

This is what our Christian faith means. This is the gospel, the good news that Paul and the other Apostles preached. This is the consolation and strength which gives meaning to our otherwise miserable lives on earth. In our obedience to Christ and his gospel it enables us to rise above our weaknesses and failings and to persevere in spite of adversity.

For every true Christian Christmas is a time of rejoicing. It is a time when we think of our family and friends and show them our love. It is a time when we think of the poor, the needy, and the homeless. We try to do all we can to make things a little brighter for our fellowmen. It is a season in which we should think especially of the really poor and destitute, those namely, who do not know of God’s love, who have not heard of Christ or, having heard, refused to accept his story. These are men and women who do not know the great future God has prepared for them, and have nothing to look forward to but the grave.

These are the poorest among the poor of this earth. These are our fellowman, our brothers and sisters, who are most in need of our charity at Christmas and all through the year. Unfortunately, we are not like St. Paul. But insignificant and ungifted though we may be, if we have true love of God and neighbor, each one of us will find many ways in which we can help to bring the light of the Christian faith to those who have it not. To live our own Christian lives sincerely and faithfully is the first step we can take in bringing the faith to others. Constant example, day in and day out, will eventually penetrate to the most closed and sealed-off mind. One truly exemplary Christian can edify and inspire a whole parish. Twenty such Christians could convert the whole neighborhood. In a few short years St. Francis of Assisi renovated and revitalized the Christian faith of a great part of Europe.

Finally, St. Paul’s words today remind us to give glory to God this Christmas and always, for the marvelous things he has done for us. Our Christian faith is a gift given us by God. The essence and the basis of that faith is the fact of the incarnation: the Son of God humiliated himself and came down to our level, to our lowly human state, in order to raise us up to brotherhood with himself and sonship with his Father. We can never thank God sufficiently for this generosity and love. Eternity itself will not be long enough for us to render thanks. But God will accept the little we can do to show our appreciation. Let us do that little this Christmas, and for the rest of our lives.

GOSPEL

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Lk 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122417.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

CCC 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.”4 Elizabeth greeted her: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”5 It is for this faith that all generations have called Mary blessed.6

CCC 273 Only faith can embrace the mysterious ways of God’s almighty power. This faith glories in its weaknesses in order to draw to itself Christ’s power.7 The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this faith, for she believed that “nothing will be impossible with God”, and was able to magnify the Lord: “For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”8

CCC 332 Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham’s hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examples.9 Finally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus himself.10

CCC 430 Jesus means in Hebrew: “God saves.” At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission.11 Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal Son made man, “will save his people from their sins”.12 in Jesus, God recapitulates all of his history of salvation on behalf of men.

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.”13 From the beginning he was “the one whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world”, conceived as “holy” in Mary’s virginal womb.14 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.15

CCC 484 The Annunciation to Mary inaugurates “the fullness of time”,16 the time of the fulfillment of God’s promises and preparations. Mary was invited to conceive him in whom the “whole fullness of deity” would dwell “bodily”.17 The divine response to her question, “How can this be, since I know not man?”, was given by the power of the Spirit: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.”18

CCC 486 The Father’s only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is “Christ”, that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples.19 Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”20

CCC 488 “God sent forth his Son”, but to prepare a body for him,21 he wanted the free co-operation of a creature. For this, from all eternity God chose for the mother of his Son a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee, “a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary”:22
The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother, so that just as a woman had a share in the coming of death, so also should a woman contribute to the coming of life.23

CCC 490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.”24 The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace”.25 In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.

CCC 491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God,26 was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:
The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.27

CCC 494 At the announcement that she would give birth to “the Son of the Most High” without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that “with God nothing will be impossible”: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word.”28 Thus, giving her consent to God’s word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God’s grace:29
As St. Irenaeus says, “Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.”30 Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert. ..: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.”31 Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary “the Mother of the living” and frequently claim: “Death through Eve, life through Mary.”32

CCC 497 The Gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and possibility:33 “That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”, said the angel to Joseph about Mary his fiancee.34 The Church sees here the fulfillment of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.”35

CCC 505 By his virginal conception, Jesus, the New Adam, ushers in the new birth of children adopted in the Holy Spirit through faith. “How can this be?”36 Participation in the divine life arises “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God”.37 The acceptance of this life is virginal because it is entirely the Spirit’s gift to man. The spousal character of the human vocation in relation to God38 is fulfilled perfectly in Mary’s virginal motherhood.

CCC 697 Cloud and light. These two images occur together in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. In the theophanies of the Old Testament, the cloud, now obscure, now luminous, reveals the living and saving God, while veiling the transcendence of his glory – with Moses on Mount Sinai,39 at the tent of meeting,40 and during the wandering in the desert,41 and with Solomon at the dedication of the Temple.42 In the Holy Spirit, Christ fulfills these figures. The Spirit comes upon the Virgin Mary and “overshadows” her, so that she might conceive and give birth to Jesus.43 On the mountain of Transfiguration, the Spirit in the “cloud came and overshadowed” Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John, and “a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’”44 Finally, the cloud took Jesus out of the sight of the disciples on the day of his ascension and will reveal him as Son of man in glory on the day of his final coming.45

CCC 706 Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.46 In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself,47 in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”48 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.”49

CCC 709 The Law, the sign of God’s promise and covenant, ought to have governed the hearts and institutions of that people to whom Abraham’s faith gave birth. “If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant,… you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”50 But after David, Israel gave in to the temptation of becoming a kingdom like other nations. The Kingdom, however, the object of the promise made to David,51 would be the work of the Holy Spirit; it would belong to the poor according to the Spirit.

CCC 723 In Mary, the Holy Spirit fulfills the plan of the Father’s loving goodness. Through the Holy Spirit, the Virgin conceives and gives birth to the Son of God. By the Holy Spirit’s power and her faith, her virginity became uniquely fruitful.52

CCC 2571 Because Abraham believed in God and walked in his presence and in covenant with him,53 the patriarch is ready to welcome a mysterious Guest into his tent. Abraham’s remarkable hospitality at Mamre foreshadows the annunciation of the true Son of the promise.54 After that, once God had confided his plan, Abraham’s heart is attuned to his Lord’s compassion for men and he dares to intercede for them with bold confidence.55

CCC 2617 Mary’s prayer is revealed to us at the dawning of the fullness of time. Before the incarnation of the Son of God, and before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, her prayer cooperates in a unique way with the Father’s plan of loving kindness: at the Annunciation, for Christ’s conception; at Pentecost, for the formation of the Church, his Body.56 In the faith of his humble handmaid, the Gift of God found the acceptance he had awaited from the beginning of time. She whom the Almighty made “full of grace” responds by offering her whole being: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word.” “Fiat”: this is Christian prayer: to be wholly God’s, because he is wholly ours.

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?”57 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.”58 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 passing59 to lead us to her son, Jesus, in paradise.

CCC 2827 “If any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.”60 Such is the power of the Church’s prayer in the name of her Lord, above all in the Eucharist. Her prayer is also a communion of intercession with the all-holy Mother of God61 and all the saints who have been pleasing to the Lord because they willed his will alone:
It would not be inconsistent with the truth to understand the words, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” to mean: “in the Church as in our Lord Jesus Christ himself”; or “in the Bride who has been betrothed, just as in the Bridegroom who has accomplished the will of the Father.”62

1 Cf. Isa 2:2-4; Jer 31:31-34; Heb 10:16.
2 Cf. Ezek 36; Isa 49:5-6; 53:11.
3 Cf. Ezek 2:3; Lk 1:38.
4 Lk 1:37-38; cf. Gen 18:14.
5 Lk 1:45.
6 Cf. Lk 1:48.
7 Cf. 2 Cor 12:9; Phil 4:13.
8 Lk 1:37, 49.
9 Cf. Job 38:7 (where angels are called “sons of God”); Gen 3:24; 19; 21: 17; 22:11; Acts 7:53; Ex 23:20-23; Judg 13; 6:11-24; Is 6:6; 1 Kings 19:5.
10 Cf. Lk 1:11, 26.
11 Cf. Lk 1:31.
12 Mt 1:21; cf. 2:7.
13 Lk 2:11.
14 Jn 10:36; cf. Lk 1:35.
15 Mt 1:20; cf. 1:16; Rom 1:1; 2 Tim 2:8; Rev 22:16.
16 Gal 4:4.
17 Col 2:9.
18 Lk 1:34-35 (Greek).
19 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:1-12; Lk 1:35; 2:8-20; Jn 1:3 1-34; 2:11.
20 Acts 10:38.
21 Gal 4:4; Heb 10:5.
22 Lk 1:26-27.
23 LG 56; cf. LG 61.
24 LG 56.
25 Lk 1:28.
26 Lk 1:28.
27 Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (1854): DS 2803.
28 Lk 1:28-38; cf. Rom 1:5.
29 Cf. LG 56.
30 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 22, 4: PG 7/1, 959A.
31 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 22, 4: PG 7/1, 959A.
32 LC 56; St. Epiphanius, Panarion 2, 78, 18: PG 42, 728CD-729AB; St. Jerome, Ep. 22, 21: PL 22, 408.
33 Mt 1 18-25; Lk 1:26-38.
34 Mt 1:20.
35 Is 7:14 (LXX), quoted in Mt 1:23 (Greek).
36 Lk 1:34; cf. Jn 3:9.
37 Jn 1:13.
38 Cf. 2 Cor 11:2.
Lk 1:32; cf. Mt 21:1-11; Jn 6:15.
Ps 24:7-10; Zech 9:9.
Cf. Jn 18:37.
Cf. Mt 21:15-16; cf. Ps 8:3; Lk 19:38; 2:14.
Cf. Ps 118:26.
39 Cf. Ex 24:15-18.
40 Cf. Ex 33:9-10.
41 Cf. Ex 40:36-38; 1 Cor 10:1-2.
42 Cf. 1 Kings 8:10-12.
43 Lk 1:35.
44 Lk 9:34-35.
45 Cf. Acts 1:9; cf. Lk 21:27.
46 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38. 54-55; Jn 1:12-13; Rom 4:16-21.
47 Cf. Gen 12:3; Gal 3:16.
48 Cf. In 11:52.
49 Eph 1:13-14; cf. Gen 22:17-19; Lk 1:73; Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32; Gal 3:14.
50 Ex 19:5-6; Cf. 1 Pet 2:9.
51 Cf. 2 Sam 7; Ps 89; Lk 1:32-33.
52 Cf. Lk 1:26-38; Rom 4:18-21; Gal 4:26-28.
53 Cf. Gen 15:6; 17:1 f.
54 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38.
55 Cf. Gen 18:16-33.
56 Cf. Lk 1:38; Acts 1:14.
57 Lk 1:43.
58 Lk 1:38.
59 Cf. Jn 19:27.
60 Jn 9:31; Cf. 1 Jn 5:14.
61 Cf. Lk 1:38, 49.
62 St. Augustine, De serm. Dom. 2, 6, 24: PL 34, 1279.

APPLICATION

At the moment our Lady said: “be it done to me according to thy word” the most stupendous event that ever happened, or ever could happen on earth, took place on this planet of ours. The Son of God took on human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. We are familiar with this story from childhood. We often say the Angelus in which this tremendous act of God’s love is described. Although familiarity in this case does not breed contempt, it does help to blunt the real impact on our minds of such an extraordinary occurrence. If God had created a very special child, and made him into an outstanding saint, so that he could intercede with God for us, this would be a great act of love for us on God’s part. Or, if he had sent an angel from heaven in human form, to teach us all about God and to help us to lead holy lives, this would deserve our deepest gratitude. But neither a saintly man, nor a holy angel could do for us all that God wanted. No man or angel could make us adopted sons of God and heirs of heaven. It was necessary, in God’s plan for us, that his divine Son should become man, should share our humanity, so that we could share his divinity.

Could infinite love have gone any further? Our creation, the fact that we exist as human beings on earth, is a great gift to us on the part of God. Of what value could eighty, a hundred, even seven hundred years of a continuously happy life on this earth be for us if we learned that we had to depart this life forever one day? In a world tormented by sin and its evil effects our normal span of life would be less satisfying. However, when God created us, he so planned that our stay here would be but a stage, a stepping stone in fact, toward our everlasting home. We are well aware indeed of the lengths to which God’s love has gone in order to make us his children and heirs to his kingdom. Are we, however, grateful to him for the love he has shown us? Are we honestly and sincerely trying to make ourselves worthy of the great future he has in store for us? Today is a suitable occasion to look right into our hearts, to see how we stand with God. During the week we shall be keeping the feast of Christmas. The Baby in the manger will remind us of what God has done and is still doing for us. What are we doing in return? Have we shown our gratitude by living as true followers of Christ? If most of us must answer: “no,” this is the time to change our course and return to the right road once more. God is asking this of us today. Shall our answer be: “behold here I am Lord, your humble and grateful servant, let it be done to me according to your word”?

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

BENEDICTUS

Genuine Joy

It is in fact true, is it not, that all joy which arises independently of Christ or contrary to his will proves insufficient and only thrusts the person back down into a confusion in which, when all is said and done, he can find no lasting joy? Only with Christ has authentic joy made its appearance and the only thing of ultimate importance in our lives is to learn to see and know Christ, the God of grace, the light and joy of the world. Our joy will be genuine only when it no longer depends on things that can be stripped from us and destroyed and when it has its basis rather in those innermost depths of our existence which no worldly power can take from us. Every external loss should turn us back to these innermost depths and better dispose us for our true life… To celebrate Advent means to bring to life within ourselves the hidden Presence of God. It takes place to the extent that we travel the path of conversion and change our cast of mind by turning from the visible to the invisible. As we travel this path, we learn to see the miracle of grace; we learn that there can be no more luminous source of joy for human beings and the world than the grace that has appeared in Christ. The world is not a futile confusion of drudgery and pain, for all the distress the world contains is supported in the arms of merciful love; it is caught up in the forgiving and saving graciousness of our God.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Oh, God who loves me with such tenderness,

I beg you for moments of quiet in this day and in the days ahead.

I long to savor this joy, this anticipation of the great gift you give us.

I ask for the peace and joy of “watchful hope.”

Give me the grace to carry in my heart the soul-lifting awareness of Emmanuel – God With Us.

What joy, what a gift.

The Advent song comes to me and fills my heart: “Emmanuel , Emmanuel.

Who are we that you should love us so well?”

I want to walk in gratitude in these last days of Advent

and place myself in the service of your plan for me.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Amen.

Closing Prayer used with permission from Catholic Expert.

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

Third Sunday in Advent – B

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“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,'”

OPENING PRAYER

God of hope,
you call us home from the exile of selfish oppression
to the freedom of justice,
the balm of healing,
and the joy of sharing.
Make us strong to join you in your holy work,
as friends of strangers and victims,
companions of those whom others shun,
and as the happiness of those whose hearts are broken.
We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

COLLECT

O God, who see how your people

faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity,

enable us, we pray,

to attain the joys of so great a salvation

and to celebrate them always

with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Is 61:1-2a, 10-11

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
As the earth brings forth its plants,
and a garden makes its growth spring up,
so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise
spring up before all the nations.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 436 The word “Christ” comes from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, which means “anointed”. It became the name proper to Jesus only because he accomplished perfectly the divine mission that “Christ” signifies. In effect, in Israel those consecrated to God for a mission that he gave were anointed in his name. This was the case for kings, for priests and, in rare instances, for prophets.1 This had to be the case all the more so for the Messiah whom God would send to inaugurate his kingdom definitively.2 It was necessary that the Messiah be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord at once as king and priest, and also as prophet.3 Jesus fulfilled the messianic hope of Israel in his threefold office of priest, prophet and king.

CCC 695 Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit,4 to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called “chrismation” in the Churches of the East. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew “messiah”) means the one “anointed” by God’s Spirit. There were several anointed ones of the Lord in the Old Covenant, pre-eminently King David.5 But Jesus is God’s Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as “Christ.”6 The Virgin Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit who, through the angel, proclaimed him the Christ at his birth, and prompted Simeon to come to the temple to see the Christ of the Lord.7 The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving.8 Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.9 Now, fully established as “Christ” in his humanity victorious over death, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit abundantly until “the saints” constitute – in their union with the humanity of the Son of God – that perfect man “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”:10 “the whole Christ,” in St. Augustine’s expression.

CCC 714 This is why Christ inaugurates the proclamation of the Good News by making his own the following passage from Isaiah:11

The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me,

because the LORD has anointed me

to bring good tidings to the afflicted;

he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.

CCC 716 The People of the “poor”12 – those who, humble and meek, rely solely on their God’s mysterious plans, who await the justice, not of men but of the Messiah – are in the end the great achievement of the Holy Spirit’s hidden mission during the time of the promises that prepare for Christ’s coming. It is this quality of heart, purified and enlightened by the Spirit, which is expressed in the Psalms. In these poor, the Spirit is making ready “a people prepared for the Lord.”13

CCC 1286 In the Old Testament the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for his saving mission.14 The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism by John was the sign that this was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God.15 He was conceived of the Holy Spirit; his whole life and his whole mission are carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit whom the Father gives him “without measure.”16

1 Cf. Ex 29:7; Lev 8:12; 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 16:1, 12-13; I Kings 1:39; 19:16.

2 Cf. Ps 2:2; Acts 4:26-27.

3 Cf. Is 11:2; 61:1; Zech 4:14; 6:13; Lk 4:16-21.

4 Cf. 1 In 2:20:27; 2 Cor 1:21.

5 Cf. Ex 30:22-32; 1 Sam 16:13.

6 Cf. Lk 418-19; Isa 61:1.

7 Cf. Lk 2:11,26-27.

8 Cf. Lk 4:1; 6:19; 8:46.

9 Cf. Rom 1:4; 8:11.

10 Eph 4:13; cf. Acts 2:36.

11 Isa 61:1-2; cf. Lk 4:18-19.

12 Cf. Zeph 2:3; Pss 22:27; 34:3; Isa 49:13; 61:1; etc.

13 Lk 1:17.

14 Cf. Isa 11:2; 61:1; Lk 4:16-22.

15 Cf. Mt 3:13-17; Jn 1:33-34.

16 Jn 3:34.

APPLICATION

Whether or not the prophet who spoke these words to his fellow-captives in Babylon foresaw their fuller meaning, their real fulfillment in the future messianic liberation, matters not to us. We have the testimony of our Lord, who applies these very words to himself. After reading 60: 1-2 of Isaiah in the synagogue of Nazareth he says: “Today this scripture is being fulfilled in your hearing.” It was he who was to bring the good tidings to the afflicted, to bind up the broken-hearted, to free the captives, and to proclaim the great year of jubilee, God’s liberation of all mankind.

The exile and imprisonment of the Jews in Babylon (587-538) was but an image, a shadow, of the universal exile and self-imprisonment which the human race, through sin, had imposed on itself. Man not only disobeyed God, but forgot him completely. He made his own gods of wood, metal or stone. In these he foolishly put his trust. But they were even more helpless than man himself. In those days before Christ, life for man on earth was harder and more sorrowful than it is for the majority today. Man had nothing to look forward to but the grave. The few who had freedom and riches could enjoy them, but only for all too short a time. For them the thought of death (a thought they could hardly put aside) had more misery in it than for the slave who had nothing to leave behind him.

The Chosen People alone had a knowledge of the true God. They knew he created them. They knew they owed him honor and obedience. They were told to look forward to the day when God’s representative, his Messiah, would come and make them (and all nations) members of God’s new kingdom. They believed that they would live on in some shadowy way after death and would enter God’s kingdom when this Messiah came. We can rightly presume that God, because of his infinite love and mercy, found ways and means too of giving the pagans of good-will every opportunity to merit that same kingdom when it came. We are the descendants of pagan ancestors who adored idols and knew nothing of God or of a future life. But we are living in the noonday light of the Christian revelation. We know that God, through the incarnation, has raised us up to the status of sonship with him. He has made us capable of possessing a new, eternal life after death. While our struggles and troubles on this earth may not be as grievous as those of our ancestors, they are still sufficiently serious and severe to make most of us almost despondent at times. However, we have the marvelous advantage that we know the reason for suffering. We can and should appreciate the eternal value of earthly suffering. Suffering is, in fact, part of our training and preparation for our eternal reward. Through the cross we receive the crown. This morning, let us thank God from our hearts for the “good tidings” of our redemption and exaltation, brought to us by Christ the Son of God and our loving Brother. We are free-men, children of God, on our way to heaven. The road may be rough at times. It may be strewn with many crosses and trials. But if we keep the thought of the happy ending ever before our minds, we shall never falter, never give up. Nothing matters so much to us in this life as the guarantee that we will end it in God’s love and friendship. It is only by endeavoring to live in God’s love and friendship that we can assure ourselves of this guarantee. These days of preparation for Christmas are very suitable for us to prepare to meet Christ our Lord when he comes as our Judge.

 

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Lk 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54

(Is 61:10b) My soul rejoices in my God.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:

My soul rejoices in my God.

The Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.

My soul rejoices in my God.

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,

My soul rejoices in my God.

READING II

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1 Thes 5:16-24

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise prophetic utterances.
Test everything; retain what is good.
Refrain from every kind of evil.

May the God of peace make you perfectly holy
and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body,
be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful,
and he will also accomplish it.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 367 Sometimes the soul is distinguished from the spirit: St. Paul for instance prays that God may sanctify his people “wholly”, with “spirit and soul and body” kept sound and blameless at the Lord’s coming.1 The Church teaches that this distinction does not introduce a duality into the soul.2 “Spirit” signifies that from creation man is ordered to a supernatural end and that his soul can gratuitously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God.3

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.4 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.”5 Jesus will say of the Spirit: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!”6 In the form of tongues “as of fire,” the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and fills them with himself7 The spiritual tradition has retained this symbolism of fire as one of the most expressive images of the Holy Spirit’s actions.8 “Do not quench the Spirit.”9

CCC801 It is in this sense that discernment of charisms is always necessary. No charism is exempt from being referred and submitted to the Church’s shepherds. “Their office [is] not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good,”10 so that all the diverse and complementary charisms work together “for the common good.”11

CCC 1169 Therefore Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the “Feast of feasts,” the “Solemnity of solemnities,” just as the Eucharist is the “Sacrament of sacraments” (the Great Sacrament). St. Athanasius calls Easter “the Great Sunday”12 and the Eastern Churches call Holy Week “the Great Week.” The mystery of the Resurrection, in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy our old time, until all is subjected to him.

CCC 2633 When we share in God’s saving love, we understand that every need can become the object of petition. Christ, who assumed all things in order to redeem all things, is glorified by what we ask the Father in his name.13 It is with this confidence that St. James and St. Paul exhort us to pray at all times.14

CCC 2638 As in the prayer of petition, every event and need can become an offering of thanksgiving. The letters of St. Paul often begin and end with thanksgiving, and the Lord Jesus is always present in it: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”; “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”15

1 1 Th 5:23.
2 Cf. Council of Constantinople IV (870): DS 657.
3 Cf. Vatican Council I, Dei Filius: DS 3005; GS 22 # 5; Humani generis: DS 3891.
4 Sir 48:1; cf. 1 Kings 18:38-39.
5 Lk 1:17; 3:16.
6 Lk 12:49.
7 Acts 2:3-4.
8 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.
9 1 Thess 5:1.
10 LG 12; cf. 30; 1 Thess 5:12, 19-21; John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, 24.
11 1 Cor 12:7.
12 St. Athanasius (ad 329) ep. fest. 1: PG 24, 1366.
13 Cf. Jn 14:13.
14 Cf. Jas 1:5-8; Eph 5:20; Phil 4:6-7; Col 3:16-17; 1 Thess 5:17-18.
15 1 Thess 5:18; Col 4:2.

APPLICATION

Our first impression, on reading these serious exhortations of St. Paul to his Thessalonian converts, could be: as Christians they were away above us in holiness of life and in their daily way of living. Paul certainly seems to demand much of them. Is not the very same demanded of us? We, too, must be ever rejoicing in our good fortune, and ever thanking God for putting heaven within relatively easy reach. We. too, must strive to be found in God’s grace–“blameless” when our call to judgment comes. We, too, have St. Paul praying for us in heaven, more effectively now than when he prayed for the Thessalonians. We. too, must abstain from all that is evil.

The Thessalonians, it is true, had the visible gifts of the Holy Spirit to strengthen their faith and to console them in their struggles. But we, too, have at our disposal in the Church all the aids necessary to live truly Christian lives. We have the Church pointing out to us what to believe and what to do. Christ did not leave us orphans; he provided for his followers of all generations. We have the sacraments to lift us up if we fall and strengthen us with God’s grace. We have God’s revelation in the written word of the Bible. We have the example of numerous saints who trod the same path we are expected to follow, and successfully reached heaven.

In some ways then, we are better equipped than were the Thessalonians. They had to suffer much opposition from their pagan neighbors, who thought that the Christian religion was at best a form of madness. They were liable to persecution at any moment from the Roman authorities, who thought Christianity was anti-Emperor, anti-Empire. But have we not the same difficulties to face? Our world today is, in fact, more pagan than was the Roman Empire of St. Paul’s time. Opposition to Christianity is more rampant today than ever before. Ways and means of secularizing our society, to the exclusion and extinction of all things supernatural, have been multiplied a thousandfold in the present age.

All things considered, it was perhaps easier for the Thessalonians, humanly speaking, to live a truly Christian life and so earn heaven, than it is for us Christians today. However, living a truly Christian life is not a merely human activity. God has a part in it; in fact, God has the principal part to play in it. What St. Paul told the Thessalonians, he tells us too : “God is faithful.” God will do his part, the greater part, of the work of our salvation. So it matters not how many opponents we have. It makes no difference how many machinations they invent to impede us on our journey. Our “God is faithful” and our God is with us, helping us every step of the way.

Rejoice then, nay, exult in joy! Thank God from your heart for the gift of the true faith. Thank him for everything he sends in life. The rough, as well as the smooth has a part in God’s plan for making us worthy of sharing his kingdom. We shall “pray constantly.” Our simple, everyday life will be a life of prayer, if we do our daily tasks. They may be humdrum and unimportant, or great affairs of state. But they are prayers, provided we offer them to God and see them as the things we must do on life’s journey.

The Christian who lives such a life, who does his duty daily, who is loyal and true to God and to his neighbor, who bears patiently the troubles of life and enjoys the lawful pleasures of life, need have no fear for his future. He will be found “sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

GOSPEL

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Jn 1:6-8, 19-28

A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.

And this is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests
and Levites to him
to ask him, “Who are you?”
He admitted and did not deny it,
but admitted, “I am not the Christ.”
So they asked him,
“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
So they said to him,
“Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?”
He said:
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘make straight the way of the Lord
,'”
as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him,
“Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”
John answered them,
“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,
where John was baptizing.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/121717.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 717 “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.”9 John was “filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb”10 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.11

CCC 719 John the Baptist is “more than a prophet.”12 In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah.13 He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the “voice” of the Consoler who is coming.14 As the Spirit of truth will also do, John “came to bear witness to the light.”15 In John’s sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels.16 “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. .. Behold, the Lamb of God.”17

CCC 1108 In every liturgical action the Holy Spirit is sent in order to bring us into communion with Christ and so to form his Body. The Holy Spirit is like the sap of the Father’s vine which bears fruit on its branches.18 The most intimate cooperation of the Holy Spirit and the Church is achieved in the liturgy. The Spirit who is the Spirit of communion, abides indefectibly in the Church. For this reason the Church is the great sacrament of divine communion which gathers God’s scattered children together. Communion with the Holy Trinity and fraternal communion are inseparably the fruit of the Spirit in the liturgy.19

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 Jn 1:6.
10 Lk 1:15, 41.
11 Cf. Lk 1:68.
12 Lk 7:26.
13 Cf. Mt 11:13-14.
14 Jn 1:23; cf. Isa 40:1-3.
15 Jn 1:7; cf. Jn 15:26; 5:35.
16 Cf. 1 Pet 1:10-12.
17 Jn 1:33-36.
18 Cf. Jn 15:1-17; Gal 5:22.
19 Cf. 1 Jn 1:3-7.

APPLICATION

“There was a man sent from God.” In this man we see perhaps the only outstanding example among a multitude, of the workings of God’s providence among men. The conception, birth, hermitical life in the desert, and the role of precursor of the Messiah, are all the effects of God’s intervention in our behalf. John the Baptist was sent by God: “to bear witness to the Light” of the world, to tell the remnant of the Chosen People (and through them the world) that God’s eternal plan for man was being implemented; that the incarnation of his divine Son had taken place. John’s testimony was surely world-shaking news. Weak, mortal men were to be changed into sons of God by adoption. Pardon for their many sins would be earned by the bodily sufferings of the incarnate one. His resurrection would conquer death. Men would rise again and enter into the everlasting life of the divine Trinity.

Down through two thousand years or so, God had been preparing the world of man for this staggering event. As a special people, he chose Abraham and his descendants. He revealed to them something of his eternal nature and especially his fatherly interest in the human beings he had created. Through his prophets he gave them some fairly clear indications of the culmination of his eternal plan for men, namely, the fact of the incarnation.

John was the last of the great line of prophets and he was the greatest of them all. It was his privilege to point out to his audience the Son of God in human nature, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” and also to hear God’s voice from heaven proclaiming Christ to be his “beloved Son.” He was surely a man sent from God.

John was sent not only for his contemporaries, for the Jews of his day, but for men of all time. Over the past two thousand years the good news of the incarnation, of our redemption and exaltation, has reached the greater part of mankind. But like the delegates who came down from Jerusalem that day in the year 30 A.D., there have been, in all generations, those who will not hear. These are men who, like the leaders of the Jews in the Baptist’s day, are so self-centered and proud that they think they have no need for God or his providence in their lives.

Let those of us who believe in God and who know what he has done to give our life on earth its true purpose and meaning, show him by a faithful service how grateful we are for his infinite mercy and kindness. Let us listen to the call of John the Baptist, and from our hearts repent of our sins. Let us prepare for Christmas, the anniversary of Christ’s human appearance on earth, by cleansing ourselves of all sinful attachments, by making a firm resolution to follow the Lamb through life. By so doing we too shall “bear witness to the light.” Our living faith will illumine the darkness for others and they, too, will hear the call of God. In that way, each one of us can be another John the Baptist, by giving testimony to God’s fatherly interest in all men. Thus can we lead our careless or indifferent brothers back on to the path of salvation, the road to heaven.

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

BENEDICTUS

John the Baptist in Advent

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

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Merciful God of peace,
your work, spoken by the prophets,
restores your people’s life and hope.
Fill our hearts with the joy of your saving grace,
that we may hold fast to your great goodness
and in our lives proclaim your justice in all the world                                      
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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