“Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.’
Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas
Grant me, O Lord my God,
a mind to know you,
a heart to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
conduct pleasing to you,
faithful perseverance in waiting for you,
and a hope of finally embracing you.
Grant us, Lord our God,
that we may honor you with all our mind,
and love everyone in truth of heart,
Though 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.
Jer 1:4-5, 17-19
The word of the LORD came to me, saying:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.
But do you gird your loins;
stand up and tell them
all that I command you.
Be not crushed on their account,
as though I would leave you crushed before them;
for it is I this day
who have made you a fortified city,
a pillar of iron, a wall of brass,
against the whole land:
against Judah’s kings and princes,
against its priests and people.
They will fight against you but not prevail over you,
for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.1
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.2
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.3
CCC 2584 In their “one to one” encounters with God, the prophets draw light and strength for their mission. Their prayer is not flight from this unfaithful world, but rather attentiveness to The Word of God. At times their prayer is an argument or a complaint, but it is always an intercession that awaits and prepares for the intervention of the Savior God, the Lord of history.4
1 Cf. CDF, Donum vitae I, 1.
2 Jer 1:5; cf. Job 10:8-12; Ps 22:10-11.
3 Ps 139:15.
4 Cf. Am 7:2, 5; Isa 6:5, 8, 11; Jer 1:6; 15: 15-18; 20: 7-18.
These five verses of the book of Jeremiah which you have had read to you describe something that happened over two thousand five hundred years ago. You might well ask what has that got to do with me today. Why should I worry about what happened to some Jew six hundred years before Christ came? But it is because you and I have much we can learn from this man’s life and work, that God has preserved his story for us in the sacred Bible. Learning from the past is an absolutely essential preparation for our journey into the future. Jeremiah trod the road that we are called on to tread today. He has left us signposts we must follow if we want to arrive at our journey’s end.
He accepted the vocation God gave him, namely, to try to turn the kings and people of Judah from the false paths they had chosen. He foresaw the impossibility of such a task and he shuddered at the thought of it. Yet, once he realized this was God’s will for him, he set about the task and carried it out to the bitter end.
He did not succeed in saving either the faith or the fatherland of his contemporaries. He saw Jerusalem destroyed and its citizens carried off in chains to Babylon. His own life ended, if not in martyrdom (which is very probable), at least as a prisoner in Egypt where his Jewish enemies had forcibly taken him.
And yet he was a success. He carried out God’s will faithfully without counting the cost. He did his part to prepare a remnant of the old Chosen People so that they would preserve belief in the true God and trust in his promises until Christ came to form the New People of God. He lit a candle in a cave of darkness which later, illumined the path to Christ; he planted a sapling which in years to come would be the tree from which the Ark of the New Covenant would be built. Jeremiah succeeded and is now enjoying his reward.
We too have our trials and troubles in life. Our Christian faith demands sacrifices of us. The world in which we live is earth-bound and earth-directed. The majority of men feverishly seek after its pleasures, its power and its plenty. Not only have they no time themselves for the gospel of penance, patience and poverty, but they despise and spurn the few who do, and thus make their Christian living all the harder.
However, where Jeremiah succeeded the Christian can succeed and with less difficulty–he has the example of the suffering Savior ever before his eyes. If he grasps his daily cross firmly and resolutely it will become lighter–the road to Calvary will be less steep and the light of the Mount of Ascension will brighten its darkness.
Ps 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15-17
I will sing of your salvation.
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, and deliver me;
incline your ear to me, and save me.
I will sing of your salvation.
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.
I will sing of your salvation.
For you are my hope, O Lord;
my trust, O God, from my youth.
On you I depend from birth;
from my mother’s womb you are my strength.
I will sing of your salvation.
My mouth shall declare your justice,
day by day your salvation.
O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.
I will sing of your salvation.
1 Cor 12:31—13:13
Brothers and sisters:
Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.
But I shall show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak in human and angelic tongues,
but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy,
and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own,
and if I hand my body over so that I may boast,
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, it is not pompous,
It is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing;
if tongues, they will cease;
if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
At present I know partially;
then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 25 To conclude this Prologue, it is fitting to recall this pastoral principle stated by the Roman Catechism:
The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love.1
CCC 163 Faith makes us taste in advance the light of the beatific vision, the goal of our journey here below. Then we shall see God “face to face”, “as he is”.2 So faith is already the beginning of eternal life:
When we contemplate the blessings of faith even now, as if gazing at a reflection in a mirror, it is as if we already possessed the wonderful things which our faith assures us we shall one day enjoy.3
CCC 164 Now, however, “we walk by faith, not by sight”;4 we perceive God as “in a mirror, dimly” and only “in part”.5 Even though enlightened by him in whom it believes, faith is often lived in darkness and can be put to the test. The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it.
CCC 314 We firmly believe that God is master of the world and of its history. But the ways of his providence are often unknown to us. Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God “face to face”,6 will we fully know the ways by which – even through the dramas of evil and sin – God has guided his creation to that definitive sabbath rest7 for which he created heaven and earth.
CCC 735 He, then, gives us the “pledge” or “first fruits” of our inheritance: the very life of the Holy Trinity, which is to love as “God [has] loved us.”8 This love (the “charity” of 1 Cor 13) is the source of the new life in Christ, made possible because we have received “power” from the Holy Spirit.9
CCC 773 In the Church this communion of men with God, in the “love [that] never ends,” is the purpose which governs everything in her that is a sacramental means, tied to this passing world.10 “[The Church’s] structure is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ’s members. And holiness is measured according to the ‘great mystery’ in which the Bride responds with the gift of love to the gift of the Bridegroom.”11 Mary goes before us all in the holiness that is the Church’s mystery as “the bride without spot or wrinkle.”12 This is why the “Marian” dimension of the Church precedes the “Petrine.”13
CCC 800 Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well. They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ, provided they really are genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and are used in full conformity with authentic promptings of this same Spirit, that is, in keeping with charity, the true measure of all charisms.14
CCC 953 Communion in charity. In the sanctorum communio, “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.”15 “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”16 “Charity does not insist on its own way.”17 In this solidarity with all men, living or dead, which is founded on the communion of saints, the least of our acts done in charity redounds to the profit of all. Every sin harms this communion.
CCC 1023 Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they “see him as he is,” face to face:18
By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints. .. and other faithful who died after receiving Christ’s holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died,. .. or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death,. ..) already before they take up their bodies again and before the general judgment – and this since the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into heaven – have been, are and will be in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels. Since the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face, without the mediation of any creature.19
CCC 1454 The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the Ten Commandments, the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings.20
CCC 1720 The New Testament uses several expressions to characterize the beatitude to which God calls man:
– the coming of the Kingdom of God;21 – the vision of God: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”22
– entering into the joy of the Lord;23
– entering into God’s rest:24
There we shall rest and see, we shall see and love, we shall love and praise. Behold what will be at the end without end. For what other end do we have, if not to reach the kingdom which has no end?25
CCC 1813 The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity.26
CCC 1825 Christ died out of love for us, while we were still “enemies.”27 The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself.28
The Apostle Paul has given an incomparable depiction of charity: “charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”29
CCC 1826 “If I. .. have not charity,” says the Apostle, “I am nothing.” Whatever my privilege, service, or even virtue, “if I. .. have not charity, I gain nothing.”30 Charity is superior to all the virtues. It is the first of the theological virtues: “So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity.”31
CCC 1988 Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ’s Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself:32
[God] gave himself to us through his Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature. .. For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized.33
CCC 2004 Among the special graces ought to be mentioned the graces of state that accompany the exercise of the responsibilities of the Christian life and of the ministries within the Church:
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.34
CCC 2519 The “pure in heart” are promised that they will see God face to face and be like him.35 Purity of heart is the precondition of the vision of God. Even now it enables us to see according to God, to accept others as “neighbors”; it lets us perceive the human body – ours and our neighbor’s – as a temple of the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of divine beauty.
1 Roman Catechism, Preface 10; cf. I Cor 13 8.
2 1 Cor 13:12; I Jn 3:2.
3 St. Basil De Spiritu Sancto 15, 36: PG 32, 132; cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 4, 1.
4 2 Cor 5:7.
5 l Cor 13:12.
6 1 Cor 13:12.
7 Cf. Gen 2:2.
8 1 Jn 4: 12; cf. Rom 8:23; 2 Cor 1:21.
9 Acts 1:8; cf. 1 Cor 13.
10 1 Cor 13:8; cf. LG 48.
11 John Paul II, MD 27.
12 Eph 5:27.
13 Cf. John Paul II, MD 27.
14 Cf. 1 Cor 13.
15 Rom 14:7.
16 1 Cor 12:26-27.
17 1 Cor 13:5; cf. 10:24.
18 1 Jn 3:2; cf. 1 Cor 13:12; Rev 22:4.
19 Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1000; cf. LG 49.
20 Cf. Mt 5-7; Rom 12-15; 1 Cor 12-13; Gal 5; Eph 4-6; etc.
21 Cf. Mt 4:17.
22 Mt 5:8; cf. 1 Jn 2; 1 Cor 13:12.
23 Mt 25:21-23.
24 Cf. Heb 4:7-11.
25 St. Augustine, De civ. Dei 22, 30, 5: PL 41,804.
26 Cf. 1 Cor 13:13.
27 Rom 5:10.
28 Cf. Mt 5:44; Lk 10:27-37; Mk 9:37; Mt 25:40, 45.
29 1 Cor 13:4-7.
30 1 Cor 13:1-4.
31 1 Cor 13:13.
32 Cf. 1 Cor 12; Jn 15:1 4.
33 St. Athanasius, Ep. Serap. 1, 24: PG 26, 585 and 588.
34 Rom 12:6-8.
35 Cf. 1 Cor 13:12; 1 Jn 3:2.
The image of the one body, which St. Paul used to describe the Christian community, is perfect in itself. Christ is our Head, he has made us his members–we are the eyes, the ears, the legs, the arms of that one body of which the main purpose in life is to get to eternity. It should be not only the duty of each of us to contribute all in our power to help all the other members along, but we should regard it as our privilege that we are allowed to help Christ by helping our neighbor. In our physical body there is harmony when each member carries out its duty–the legs walk, the eyes see and so on, and because of this cooperation, all goes well.
But there is one snag as regards the members of the mystical body–each one is an individual, a person with his own will and desires and his natural inclination is to think of himself rather than of the community. Each one can very well say: “I have enough to do to look after myself without having to help my neighbor as well.” Indeed far too many say it! You certainly have more than enough to do, and, as God has arranged things, you have the impossible to do, if you think you can reach eternal happiness while selfishly thinking of your own interests only.
No man is an island in civil society. No nation or group of people can survive, much less prosper, unless each individual cooperates with the others, and contributes his assistance to the whole. Only then is civil life possible. The same is true and even more so in the religious society–the Church–which Christ has founded to bring us to eternal life. He took human nature in order to make all men adopted sons of God. His work has to go on until the last man leaves this earth. He has set up a society which is to carry on his work until the end of time. He has made us cooperators with him in that divine work. He has made us the members of his mystical body, and each one of us is asked by him to help him in this work of divine love.
Our response to this request of Christ will prove how sincere our Christian charity is. It is easy to say that we love God, and it is easy to convince ourselves that we have this love in us. The acid test is our true love of our neighbor (see 1 Jn. 4: 10). Many of those described by our Lord himself in his vivid account of the last judgement thought they had loved God and had never been selfish in this regard. But they learned too late, and to their utter dismay, that they had not loved him and had not cared for him because they had failed to care for their neighbor. “I was hungry… thirsty… naked… in prison.” “When did we see thee hungry …?” “Amen, I say to you, as long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do it for me” (Mt. 25: 41-46).
The others in that scene, the ones that the king has placed at his right hand, had fed the hungry, had clothed the naked, had visited the sick. In other words, they had proved their true love for God by their charity towards their neighbor, having kept his other commandments as well. They received the welcome invitation “come blessed of my Father.” So will we, if we too prove our true love for God by keeping his commandments and especially by keeping his command to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying:
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And all spoke highly of him
and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”
He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb,
‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say,
‘Do here in your native place
the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’”
And he said, “Amen, I say to you,
no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Indeed, I tell you,
there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah
when the sky was closed for three and a half years
and a severe famine spread over the entire land.
It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,
but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
Again, there were many lepers in Israel
during the time of Elisha the prophet;
yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built,
to hurl him down headlong.
But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.
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 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.4 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.5 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.”6
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. Isa 11:2; 61:1; Lk 4:16-22.
5 Cf. Mt 3:13-17; Jn 1:33-34.
6 Jn 3:34.
This rejection of Jesus by his own townsfolk must have sincerely grieved him. But it was only the beginning of similar rejections. Their attempt to murder him was an indication of what was yet to come. “To his own he came but his own did not accept him” as St. John says (1: 11). The reason was that the Messiah they were looking for was a political leader who would make Israel a political power not only among the nations but over the other nations. Nearly all the messianic prophecies had references to the universality of the messianic kingdom–this universality they interpreted in a political, worldly sense. Their interest in things spiritual was then at a very low ebb and therefore the message of Christ had little interest for them. They did not want a spiritual kingdom.
For seventeen centuries they had been God’s Chosen People, and they were proud of their superiority over the sinful Gentiles who did not know the true God. That very pride of theirs was their undoing. The Gentiles were God’s children too, and they also were to share in, the new kingdom which the Messiah would establish, but the very thought of this was abhorrent to the vast majority of the Jews.
In spite of all their opposition, however, Jesus spent his public life amongst them. He gave them the first offer of entering the new kingdom. They could still continue to be God’s Chosen People together with, and alongside, the other nations of the earth. They refused. And their refusal went so far as to call in the aid of the hated Gentiles to crucify the One–their own fellow Jew–who had come to bring them the message of the true kingdom and the offer of being its first citizens.
There were exceptions, of course, and honorable exceptions at that. Christ founded his Church, the new kingdom of God on the Apostles, who were Jews, and through their noble sacrifices and efforts, the kingdom spread to all the Gentile nations of the earth. Because of their sacrifices, we are Christians, members of Christ’s kingdom on earth and heirs to his eternal kingdom in heaven.
Through our Christian teaching we have learned that our life on this earth is but a period of preparation, a period during which we can earn the true life as citizens of his eternal kingdom. How often do we, like the Jews of Christ’s day, forget this and bend all our efforts to building for ourselves a kingdom of power or wealth in this world, a kingdom which we will have to leave so soon?
We would not, of course, openly deny Christ, much less try, like his neighbors in Nazareth, to throw him to his death over a cliff; but how often in our private actions, and in our dealings with our neighbors, do we push him and his doctrine quietly aside and act as if we knew him not. In this we are no better than Christ’s neighbors of Nazareth and we grieve his loving heart as much as they did on that sad day.
Am I one of those (each one of us can ask himself)? Do I really love Christ or, to put it in a more personal way, do I really love myself? If I do, I will not risk losing my place in the eternal kingdom for the sake of some paltry pleasure or gain in this present life which will end for me so very soon.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan and used with permission from Franciscan Press.
What does original sin mean when we interpret it correctly? It must once again be stressed that no human being is closed in upon himself or herself and that no one can live of or for himself or herself alone. We received our life not only at the moment of birth but every day from without – from others who are not ourselves but who nonetheless somehow pertain to us. Human beings have their selves not only in themselves but also outside of themselves: they live in those whom they love and in those who love them and to whom they are “present.” Human beings are relational, and they possess their lives – themselves – only by way of relationship. I alone am not myself, but only in and with you am I myself. To be truly a human being means to be related in love, to be of and for. But sin means the damaging or the destruction of relationality. Sin is a rejection of relationality because it wants to make the human being a god. Sin is loss of relationship, disturbance of relationship, and therefore it is not restricted to the individual. When I destroy a relationship, then this event – sin – touches the other person involved in the relationship. Consequently sin is always an offense that touches others, that alters the world and damages it… At the very moment that a person begins human existence, which is a good, he or she is confronted by a sin-damaged world. Each of us enters into a situation in which relationality has been hurt. Consequently each person is, from the very start, damaged in relationships and does not engage in them as he or she ought. Sin pursues the human being, and he or she capitulates to it.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Act of Love
O God, all that I am and all that I have is from you. You have given me my gifts of body and soul. You have numbered me among your favored children. You have showered me with countless graces and blessings. From all eternity you have thought of me and loved me. How shall I ever love you in return?
And now in your merciful goodness you are coming into my soul to unit yourself most intimately with me. You came into the world for love of man, but now you are coming from the altar for love of me. You are coming to fill me heart with your holy love, my Creator, my Redeemer, my Sanctifier, my God.
O Jesus, I want to return this love. I want to love you with all the powers of my soul. I want to belong only to you, to consecrate myself to you alone. Jesus, let me live for you; let me die for you. Living and dying may I be yours.