Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – C

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OPENING PRAYER

The Passion Of Christ, Strengthen Me Prayer

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

Amen

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

COLLECT

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

look graciously upon your beloved sons and daughters,

that those who believe in Christ

may receive true freedom

and an everlasting inheritance.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

 

 

holyspirit

READING I

Wis 9:13-18b

Who can know God’s counsel,

or who can conceive what the LORD intends?

For the deliberations of mortals are timid,

and unsure are our plans.

For the corruptible body burdens the soul

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

And scarce do we guess the things on earth,

and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty;

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

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

and sent your holy spirit from on high?

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

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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

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

You turn man back to dust,

saying, “Return, O children of men.”

For a thousand years in your sight

are as yesterday, now that it is past,

or as a watch of the night.

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

You make an end of them in their sleep;

the next morning they are like the changing grass,

Which at dawn springs up anew,

but by evening wilts and fades.

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

Teach us to number our days aright,

that we may gain wisdom of heart.

Return, O LORD! How long?

Have pity on your servants!

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

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,

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

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

prosper the work of our hands for us!

Prosper the work of our hands!

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

-1

 

READING II

Phmn 9-10, 12-17

I, Paul, an old man,

and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus,

urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus,

whose father I have become in my imprisonment;

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

I should have liked to retain him for myself,

so that he might serve me on your behalf

in my imprisonment for the gospel,

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

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

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

that you might have him back forever,

no longer as a slave

but more than a slave, a brother,

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

as a man and in the Lord.

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

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

1 Cf. 2 Tim 1:9-10.

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

3 Heb 12:22-23.

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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GOSPEL

Lk 14:25-33

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus,

and he turned and addressed them,

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

wife and children, brothers and sisters,

and even his own life,

he cannot be my disciple.

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me

cannot be my disciple.

Which of you wishing to construct a tower

does not first sit down and calculate the cost

to see if there is enough for its completion?

Otherwise, after laying the foundation

and finding himself unable to finish the work

the onlookers should laugh at him and say,

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

Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down

and decide whether with ten thousand troops

he can successfully oppose another king

advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?

But if not, while he is still far away,

he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.

In the same way,

anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions

cannot be my disciple.”

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

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

1 Lk 2:34.

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

3 Jn 7:48-49.

4 Cf Lk 13:31.

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

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

7 Cf. Mt 6:18.

8 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.

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

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

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

APPLICATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BENEDICTUS

Imitating Jesus

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

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

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

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

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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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