Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – C

Stefan_Lochner_-_Last_Judgement_-_circa_1435

  • Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for Choosing a State of Life

From all eternity, O Lord, You planned my very existence and my destiny. You wrapped me in Your love in baptism and gave me the Faith to lead me to an eternal life of happiness with You. You have showered me with Your graces and You have been always ready with Your mercy and forgiveness when I have fallen. Now I beg You for the light I so earnestly need that I may find the way of life in which lies the best fulfillment of Your will.  Whatever state this may be, give me the grace necessary to embrace it with love of Your holy will, as devotedly as Your Blessed Mother did Your will. I offer myself to You now, trusting in Your wisdom and love to direct me in working out my salvation and in helping others to know and come close to You, so that I may find my reward in union with You for ever and ever. Amen.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=21

COLLECT

Draw near to your servants, O Lord,

and answer their prayers with unceasing kindness,

that, for those who glory in you as their Creator

and guide,

you may restore what you have created

and keep safe what you have restored.

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 ILynettesIcons

Ecc 1:2; 2:21-23

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,

vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!

Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill,

and yet to another who has not labored over it,

he must leave property.

This also is vanity and a great misfortune.

For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart

with which he has labored under the sun?

All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation;

even at night his mind is not at rest.

This also is vanity.

APPLICATION

While we sympathize with this poor man who could see nothing but emptiness, folly and vanity for man in this life, let us thank God that we have been given the full revelation through Christ. This is a revelation which the Jews lacked. We know that our purpose on earth is not to gather the wealth of this world or to enjoy all its pleasures and its power–all of which we have to leave behind us when death calls us. We know that we are put here for a short period of time during which, if we use our days properly, we can earn for ourselves a new life in which we shall have forever everything we need.

What a consolation, what a source of strength and encouragement this knowledge is for us! Our Christian faith puts a silver lining in the darkest clouds of life. We accept these darkest clouds of sufferings, disappointments and sorrows, because we know that God has a purpose for us in them–they are his means of making us worthy of the real life that is to come later. We accept the moments of happiness and joy with the same spirit. They are little tokens of the greater happiness and joy which will be ours in a few years time. The true, sincere Christian accepts the cross and the crown, the crumb and the feast, the aches and pains as well as the joy of good health, the funeral as well as the wedding, for he knows that all are part of God’s plan for man’s real welfare, and eternal happiness.

We can appreciate our good fortune if we look around us. We need not look far to see some of our fellowman who, like the author Ecclesiastes, have no true explanation for the problems of life. They try not to think of these problems, but try as they may, they cannot keep them always in the background. They get themselves immersed in the affairs of this world. They strive to collect its wealth. They chase after earthly pleasures. They seek for power and political influence. They may succeed in getting little bits of some of these consolations. But never will they receive enough, never all together because one generally excludes the other. Worst of all, they know they have no solid grip on these slippery things of earth. They know that soon, all too soon, they must leave all these, their idols, and be taken by neighbors in a wooden box, to a plot of ground in which they will be buried deep, lest their corrupting flesh pollute the locality.

While we sincere Christians can thank God for making known to us the purpose and the value of our few years on this earth, we would not appreciate this gift of God if we did not feel the urge, and see the obligations we have, of doing all in our power to give this knowledge to our fellowman, our brothers, who also are God’s sons. The millionaire who is godless, if not anti-God, is in dire need of our help. The hobo who has no religion is in more need of prayer and a word of advice than of a dime. The communist who is striving in vain to make this earth a heaven for all men, needs to be told in what direction heaven lies.

All these are our brothers. We must help them to attain the one thing that matters. We may not be able to do much but we must do what we can. God expects it of us. He has given us this knowledge of the true meaning and purpose of life in order that we may share it with all men.

Vanity of vanities! This world and all it holds is nothing but sheer folly and emptiness if seen by itself alone. But, if seen in the light of God’s revelation, it is a gift of God to man, a most useful and necessary gift. It is the bridge that spans the gulf between earthly and eternal life.

 

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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

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

You turn man back to dust,

saying, “Return, O children of men.”

For a thousand years in your sight

are as yesterday, now that it is past,

or as a watch of the night.

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

You make an end of them in their sleep;

the next morning they are like the changing grass,

Which at dawn springs up anew,

but by evening wilts and fades.

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

Teach us to number our days aright,

that we may gain wisdom of heart.

Return, O LORD! How long?

Have pity on your servants!

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

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,

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

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

prosper the work of our hands for us!

Prosper the work of our hands!

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

 

READING IIRisen+Christ

Col 3:1-5, 9-11

Brothers and sisters:

If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,

where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.

For you have died,

and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When Christ your life appears,

then you too will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:

immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire,

and the greed that is idolatry.

Stop lying to one another,

since you have taken off the old self with its practices

and have put on the new self,

which is being renewed, for knowledge,

in the image of its creator.

Here there is not Greek and Jew,

circumcision and uncircumcision,

barbarian, Scythian, slave, free;

but Christ is all and in all.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 655 Finally, Christ’s Resurrection – and the risen Christ himself is the principle and source of our future resurrection: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. .. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”1 The risen Christ lives in the hearts of his faithful while they await that fulfillment. In Christ, Christians “have tasted. .. the powers of the age to come”2 and their lives are swept up by Christ into the heart of divine life, so that they may “live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”3

CCC 1002 Christ will raise us up “on the last day”; but it is also true that, in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ. For, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, Christian life is already now on earth a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ:

And you were buried with him in Baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. .. If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.4

CCC 1003 United with Christ by Baptism, believers already truly participate in the heavenly life of the risen Christ, but this life remains “hidden with Christ in God.”5 The Father has already “raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”6 Nourished with his body in the Eucharist, we already belong to the Body of Christ. When we rise on the last day we “also will appear with him in glory.”7

CCC 1420 Through the sacraments of Christian initiation, man receives the new life of Christ. Now we carry this life “in earthen vessels,” and it remains “hidden with Christ in God.”8 We are still in our “earthly tent,” subject to suffering, illness, and death.9 This new life as a child of God can be weakened and even lost by sin.

CCC 1852 There are a great many kinds of sins. Scripture provides several lists of them. The Letter to the Galatians contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit: “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.”10

CCC 2518 The sixth beatitude proclaims, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”11 “Pure in heart” refers to those who have attuned their intellects and wills to the demands of God’s holiness, chiefly in three areas: charity;12 chastity or sexual rectitude;13 love of truth and orthodoxy of faith.14 There is a connection between purity of heart, of body, and of faith:

The faithful must believe the articles of the Creed “so that by believing they may obey God, by obeying may live well, by living well may purify their hearts, and with pure hearts may understand what they believe.”15

CCC 2772 From this unshakeable faith springs forth the hope that sustains each of the seven petitions, which express the groanings of the present age, this time of patience and expectation during which “it does not yet appear what we shall be.”16 The Eucharist and the Lord’s Prayer look eagerly for the Lord’s return, “until he comes.”17

CCC 2796 When the Church prays “our Father who art in heaven,” she is professing that we are the People of God, already seated “with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” and “hidden with Christ in God;”18 yet at the same time, “here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling.”19

[Christians] are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their lives on earth, but are citizens of heaven.20

CCC 2809 The holiness of God is the inaccessible center of his eternal mystery. What is revealed of it in creation and history, Scripture calls “glory,” the radiance of his majesty.21 In making man in his image and likeness, God “crowned him with glory and honor,” but by sinning, man fell “short of the glory of God.”22 From that time on, God was to manifest his holiness by revealing and giving his name, in order to restore man to the image of his Creator.23

1 I Cor 15:20-22.

2 Heb 6:5.

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

4 Col 2:12; 3:1.

5 Col 3:3; cf. Phil 3:20.

6 Eph 2:6.

7 Col 3:4.

8 2 Cor 4:7; Col 3:3.

9 2 Cor 5:1.

10 Gal 5:19-21; CE Rom 1:28-32; 1 Cor 9-10; EPh 5:3-5; Col 3:5-8; 1 Tim 9-10; 2 Tim 2-5.

11 Mt 5:8.

12 Cf. 1 Tim 4:3-9; 2 Tim 2:22.

13 Cf. 1 Thess 4:7; Col 3:5; Eph 4:19.

14 Cf. Titus 1:15; 1 Tim 1:3-4; 2 Tim 2:23-26.

15 St. Augustine, Defide et symbolo 10, 25: PL 40, 196.

16 1 Jn 3:2; Cf. Col 3:4.

17 1 Cor 11:26.

18 Eph 2:6; Col 3:3.

19 2 Cor 5:2; cf. Phil 3:20; Heb 13:14.

20 Ad Diognetum 5: PG 2, 1173.

21 Cf. Ps 8; Isa 6:3.

22 Ps 8:5; Rom 3:23; cf. Gen 1:26.

23 Col 3:10.

APPLICATION

We all know what a true Christian demands of us. Today St. Paul is reminding us of it again. He tells us that in baptism we have become new men. Christ has taken us, united us with himself, and raised us to the new status of sons of God. We must therefore act like sons of God, not like sons of mere earthly men. The difficulty is that, even though we have become sons of God who will one day inherit heaven, we still have to contend with our earthly selves together with all their affinities and attractions to things earthly. We have died with Christ and risen with him, but we have not yet been given risen, glorified bodies. We have been given our citizenship papers, and an official passport to enter into our new country. But we are still in our country of origin, and have to make a long, arduous voyage before we take up residence in the new one.

Some Christians waver in their resolution and at times they give up this struggle against natural inclinations which, however, go against baptismal promises and hopes. What adds to each one’s natural weakness is the fact that we are living in an age and a society in which the majority of our fellow men have long since given up even the name of Christian. If they do not openly preach from the housetops that death and the grave are the end of man’s hopes, that man’s only purpose is to get all that is possible from this earthly life, and that they no longer believe in a higher purpose for man, they certainly show by the way they live that this is their only religion.

It is indeed difficult for even a sincere, dedicated Christian to live up to his faith and his hope in such surroundings. Yet, let us not forget that St. Paul was not demanding the impossible of his Gentile converts when he commanded them to put to death, to oppose effectively, all that was earthly in their make-up. Difficult as the practice of real Christianity is in today’s western society, it was much more difficult in the Greek and Roman world of St. Paul’s day. The Colossians were surrounded by their pagan fellow-countrymen, who laughed and jeered at the folly of the converts. To them it seemed that they had foolishly given up the pleasures of this life for the sake of some fairy castle in the sky.

But the converts persevered. Not only did they retain their faith, but they gradually won over the jeers and the scoffers. We can and we will do likewise, with the help of God’s grace, if we persevere in our loyalty to Christ and to the faith he has given us. We encounter temptations both from within ourselves and from without. We have to struggle against our own weaknesses and against the difficulties which the opponents of Christianity, and all things spiritual, place in our way. It is difficult to live a pure life in the permissive society which encourages all the lower instincts in man. It is difficult to be just when injustice is rife and profitable all around us. It is difficult to be truthful when unscrupulous neighbors use lying as the key to power.

Yes, it is difficult to be a true Christian, but neither Christ himself nor any of his Apostles ever told us the Christian life was easy. It never was and never will be. And yet the man who grasps its meaning, the Christian who is convinced that it is not this life but the next that really matters, can make light of these difficulties. He will take up his cross daily, as he has been told to do. He will follow Christ, knowing full well that the reward awaiting him is worth ten thousand times any hardships in this life that he is called on to endure in order to obtain it.

The true Christian is one “who has put aside his old self with its past deeds” and “who is growing daily in the knowledge and in the likeness of the image of his Creator”.

GOSPELThe-Ladder-of-Divine-Ascent-4.jpg

Gospel Lk 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus,

Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”

He replied to him,

Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”

Then he said to the crowd,

Take care to guard against all greed,

for though one may be rich,

one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Then he told them a parable.

There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.

He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,

for I do not have space to store my harvest?’

And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:

I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.

There I shall store all my grain and other goods

and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,

you have so many good things stored up for many years,

rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’

But God said to him,

You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;

and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’

Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves

but are not rich in what matters to God.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/073116.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 549 By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death,1 Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below,2 but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God’s sons and causes all forms of human bondage.3

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

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

3 Cf. Jn 8:34-36.

APPLICATION

The lesson of this parable is obvious to all, and it is perhaps as difficult to put into practice as it is obvious. To be in this world and not of it, to collect the necessary goods of this world by honest labor and yet remain detached from them, to possess but not be possessed by worldly riches, is an ideal to which our weak human nature responds very reluctantly.

A large percentage of Christians, however, do respond to the challenge manfully and loyally. They earn and use the goods of this world, while at the same time they keep God’s laws and earn wealth for heaven. Some there are who renounce even the right, which is theirs, to possess the necessary things of this world, by taking on themselves the vows of religion. Thus they set themselves free to devote their whole time and energy to the service of God and neighbor. Others, and they are of necessity the more numerous, have to own the world’s goods in order to provide for themselves and their dependents, but, while so doing, they never let their temporal possessions come between them and their God. To do this is not easy, but God’s helping grace is always available to the willing heart.

There is still a third group–those who resemble the foolish man described in the parable. Like him they are so enmeshed and ensnared in their desire to collect good things for their earthly life, that they forget that at any moment they may have to leave this earth and all they possess in it. They may not have large barns or grain-bins bursting at the seams with the fruits of their fields or their market dealings, but they have allowed their possessions, large or small, to become the prison-houses of their hearts and thoughts. In their mad rush for earthly treasure they give themselves no time to stop and think of the really important thing in life, namely, that soon they must leave this world and all it holds dear to them. But it is not the departure from this world that is to be feared. Rather, it is the arrival at another for which they have made no preparation. That other world of which they have often heard, but which they shrugged off as something fit for the weak-minded, will not open before them in all its awe-inspiring immensity. They will have a momentary glimpse of the eternal beauty and happiness that they lost for a “mess of pottage,” before they enter the unending valley of sorrow which they elected for themselves when, during their period of trial, they chose earthly baubles instead of God.

This has been the fate of foolish men and women in the past. It will, also, be the fate of many more in the future. It could be my fate, too, unless I remain ever on the alert to keep myself free from the snare of worldly wealth. I must remember that it is not the quantity of this world’s goods which I possess that will be my undoing, but the quality of the hold which they have on me. There are and will be millionaires in heaven, while many in the lower income-brackets will find themselves excluded.

No man will be excluded from heaven because he lawfully possessed some of this world’s wealth. But a man will exclude himself from eternal happiness if he lets this world’s wealth possess him to the exclusion of God.

The fate of the rich man in the parable need not, and should not, be mine. I have still time to stop building larger grain-bins and barns, and to turn my attention instead to collecting some treasure for heaven.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Richness of Giving

A fantasy of people with property takes no account of the fact that, for the great majority of mankind, life is a struggle. On those grounds I would see this idea of choosing one’s own path in life as a selfish attitude and as a waste of one’s vocation. Anyone who thinks he already has it all, so that he can take what he wants and center everything on himself, is depriving himself of giving what he otherwise could. Man is not there to make himself, but to respond to demands made upon him. We all stand in a great arena of history and are dependent on each other. A man ought not, therefore, just to figure out what he would like, but to ask what he can do and how he can help. Then he will see that fulfillment does not lie in comfort, ease, and following one’s inclinations, but precisely in allowing demands to be made upon you, in taking the harder path. Everything else turns out somehow boring, anyway. Only the man who “risks the fire,” who recognizes a calling within himself, a vocation, an ideal he must satisfy, who takes on real responsibility, will find fulfillment. It is not in taking, not on the path of comfort, that we become rich, but only in giving.

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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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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