Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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Jesus said to his disciples:  No one can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.’

OPENING PRAYER

A Prayer for Perseverance

Lord Jesus Christ, I believe in You as my God and my Savior. Make me more faithful to Your Gospel and commandments. By sharing in the Eucharist, may I come to live more fully in the life You have given me. Keep Your Love alive within my heart and soul so that I may become worthy of You. Teach me to value and be thankful for all of Your Gifts. Help us to strive for eternal life, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

COLLECT

Grant us, O Lord, we pray,

that the course of our world

may be directed by your peaceful rule

and that your Church may rejoice,

untroubled in her devotion.

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 49:14-15

Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;

my LORD has forgotten me.”

Can a mother forget her infant,

be without tenderness for the child of her womb?

Even should she forget,

I will never forget you.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 219 God’s love for Israel is compared to a father’s love for his son. His love for his people is stronger than a mother’s for her children. God loves his people more than a bridegroom his beloved; his love will be victorious over even the worst infidelities and will extend to his most precious gift: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”1

CCC 239 By calling God “Father”, the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God’s parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood,2 which emphasizes God’s immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard:3 no one is father as God is Father.

CCC 370 In no way is God in man’s image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective “perfections” of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband.4

CCC 716 The People of the “poor”5 – 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.”6

1 Jn 3:16; cf. Hos 11:1; Is 49:14-15; 62: 4-5; Ezek 16; Hos 11.

2 Cf. Isa 66:13; Ps 131:2.

3 Cf. Ps 27:10; Eph 3:14; Isa 49:15.

4 Cf. Is 49:14-15; 66: 13; Ps 131:2-3; Hos 11:1-4; Jer 3:4- 19.

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

6 Lk 1:17.

APPLICATION

In human relationships there is no greater love than that of a mother for her baby. It has been proved beyond doubt down through the history of the human race. It is an unselfish love, a love, a dedication that demands and expects nothing in return. The love between husband and wife has of its nature a tinge of selfishness in it–it is at its best a mutual love, which expects and demands an equal response. The love of a child for its parents, when it comes to the use of reason, is inspired by gratitude for past favors and by a self-interested hope for more favors to come. But the love of a mother for her helpless baby is absolutely free of all self-interest, it looks for no return either in the present or in the future.

This is the image that God employs to describe his love for his Chosen People : the love of a mother for the baby at her breast, a love free from all self-interest and prepared to go to any lengths in order to bring his children to the maturity and perfection planned for them.

The exiles, let us hope, believed his word and put their trust in him, but they could not and did not realize or foresee the real lengths to which that unselfish love of God for them would go. The most they hoped for and desired was a return to their native land where peace and plenty would be given them by their kind God. But this was only a tiny part of God’s plan for them; we know the full truth now. God’s plan was to bring them back to Jerusalem and Judah so that he would fulfill his promise given to Abraham and their ancestors.

In Judah would be born the descendant of Abraham, Judah and David–the Messiah who would bring them, and all who would accept him, to their real homeland, heaven. As we know, God carried out his plan in spite of the stubbornness and disloyalty of those Chosen People to whom he had been not only a kind father but a loving mother all through their history. If some, or many of them, failed to reach their true homeland–the real promised land of eternal peace and plenty–the fault was theirs not God’s.

With our greater knowledge today of God’s love for us, and of his interest in our true welfare, which the Incarnation has proved, we are much more guilty than the Jews of the Old Testament if we prove disloyal to God and ungrateful for all he has done for us. If we allow the things of this world, its pleasures, its wealth, its positions of power (all of which will end for us in a few years), to make us forget God and our own eternal welfare, then we are far worse than the disloyal Jews who know little about the future life, and who had not before their eyes the example of the Son of God crucified for their sake.

Yet the sad fact is that there are millions of Christians today, who live un-Christian lives; men and women who act and behave as if the world was the beginning and end of everything for them. They forget, or rather do all they can to forget, that there is a future life towards which they are steadily and quickly moving.

However, there is one ray of hope for even the worst of us, and that ray of hope is God’s declaration that his love for us is stronger and greater than even that of a mother for the baby at her breast. If we turn to him with true repentance—no matter how numerous or how heinous our past faults were—he will take us back once more to his bosom. He will forgive and forget our past if we will put that past behind us, and from now on serve him as loyal and grateful children. Great sinners in the past have become saints; great sinners in the future will become eternal citizens of heaven. You too, be you a great or a lesser sinner, can end like them, if like them you return truly repentant to the God of love.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

PS 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9

Rest in God alone, my soul.

Only in God is my soul at rest;

from him comes my salvation.

He only is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed at all.

Rest in God alone, my soul.

Only in God be at rest, my soul,

for from him comes my hope.

He only is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed.

Rest in God alone, my soul.

With God is my safety and my glory,

he is the rock of my strength; my refuge is in God.

Trust in him at all times, O my people!

Pour out your hearts before him.

Rest in God alone, my soul.

READING II

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1 COR 4:1-5

Brothers and sisters:

Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ

and stewards of the mysteries of God.

Now it is of course required of stewards

that they be found trustworthy.

It does not concern me in the least

that I be judged by you or any human tribunal;

I do not even pass judgment on myself;

I am not conscious of anything against me,

but I do not thereby stand acquitted;

the one who judges me is the Lord.

Therefore do not make any judgment before the appointed time,

until the Lord comes,

for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness

and will manifest the motives of our hearts,

and then everyone will receive praise from God.

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 859 Jesus unites them to the mission he received from the Father. As “the Son can do nothing of his own accord,” but receives everything from the Father who sent him, so those whom Jesus sends can do nothing apart from him,6 from whom they received both the mandate for their mission and the power to carry it out. Christ’s apostles knew that they were called by God as “ministers of a new covenant,” “servants of God,” “ambassadors for Christ,” “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”7

CCC 1117 As she has done for the canon of Sacred Scripture and for the doctrine of the faith, the Church, by the power of the Spirit who guides her “into all truth,” has gradually recognized this treasure received from Christ and, as the faithful steward of God’s mysteries, has determined its “dispensation.”8 Thus the Church has discerned over the centuries that among liturgical celebrations there are seven that are, in the strict sense of the term, sacraments instituted by the Lord.

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 Jn 5:19, 30; cf. Jn 15:5.

7 2 Cor 3:6; 6:4; 5:20; 1 Cor 4:1.

8 Jn 16:13; cf. Mt 13:52; 1 Cor 4:1.

APPLICATION

The lesson we all must learn from St. Paul today is that we must avoid judging our neighbor–the right to judge belongs to God, who alone is aware of all the facts and circumstances. The strange fact is that there is a deep-rooted inclination in most of us to pass a moral judgment, almost always a condemnatory judgment, on our neighbor’s actions. But this is an inclination we must resist, however strong the temptation. What we hear the neighbor say, or what we see him do, may appear evil to us, but even granted that it is evil, ours is not the right to condemn. That remains God’s prerogative. As St. Paul tells us, we cannot see the “purpose of the heart.” The neighbor’s intention, which alone gives moral value to his sayings or doings, is unknown to us, and so our judgment is passed without full knowledge of the facts. It is, therefore, rash.

This prohibition of judging and condemning our neighbor holds for all our neighbors, whether they be above us, below us, or our equals. With our equals, and those below us, we are inclined to be a little more lenient, perhaps because we understand their circumstances better. But as a rule, our severest condemnations are reserved for our superiors. Is it perhaps because we are jealous that they, and not we, hold the higher position, or is it less blameworthy in that we do not understand all the difficulties that they have to contend with? In either case our judgment of them is sinful for we are usurping a right which is not ours.

This does not mean that we must take no interest in our neighbors spiritual welfare. Though we are not our brothers judges, we are our brothers’ keepers. In all charity, and with true Christian humility and kindness, we must, wherever possible, help our neighbor to avoid offending God. Passing judgment on him and spreading defamatory tales about him is not the Christian approach to charitable help. Instead we must, as far as possible, cover up his failings and try to understand his weaknesses. In this frame of mind we can approach him discreetly, and if he sees our motives are really charitable we may, with God’s grace, bring him to realize his mistakes.

Many a broken home, many a lapsed Christian, many an impenitent death could and would have been prevented if neighbors were active in true love of their fellowman. And if some neighbor or neighbors are condemned when they come to the judgment seat, because we did not do our Christian duty, how can we expect a favorable judgment? We shall be judged not only on what we did but on what we left undone. Resolve today, never again to pass private judgment on your neighbor and his actions. Instead, always resolve to be ready with a word of advice, and of encouragement. Have a fervent prayer for a neighbor who seems in need of spiritual help.

One charitable word of encouragement and counsel given to an apparently erring neighbor will be more likely to help him than pages of condemnation and abuse. We shall be rewarded by God in the first case, whether we succeed or not. We shall be condemned for our judgment in the latter case whether our judgment was true or not, because we usurped God’s right.

GOSPEL

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MT 6:24-34

Jesus said to his disciples:

No one can serve two masters.

He will either hate one and love the other,

or be devoted to one and despise the other.

You cannot serve God and mammon.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,

what you will eat or drink,

or about your body, what you will wear.

Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds in the sky;

they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,

yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Are not you more important than they?

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?

Why are you anxious about clothes?

Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.

They do not work or spin.

But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor

was clothed like one of them.

If God so clothes the grass of the field,

which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,

will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’

or ‘What are we to drink?’or ‘What are we to wear?’

All these things the pagans seek.

Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,

and all these things will be given you besides.

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/022617.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 270 God is the Father Almighty, whose fatherhood and power shed light on one another: God reveals his fatherly omnipotence by the way he takes care of our needs; by the filial adoption that he gives us (“I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty”):1 finally by his infinite mercy, for he displays his power at its height by freely forgiving sins.

CCC 305 Jesus asks for childlike abandonment to the providence of our heavenly Father who takes care of his children’s smallest needs: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ”What shall we eat?“ or ”What shall we drink?“… Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.”2

CCC 1753 A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving).3

CCC 1942 The virtue of solidarity goes beyond material goods. In spreading the spiritual goods of the faith, the Church has promoted, and often opened new paths for, the development of temporal goods as well. And so throughout the centuries has the Lord’s saying been verified: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well”:4

For two thousand years this sentiment has lived and endured in the soul of the Church, impelling souls then and now to the heroic charity of monastic farmers, liberators of slaves, healers of the sick, and messengers of faith, civilization, and science to all generations and all peoples for the sake of creating the social conditions capable of offering to everyone possible a life worthy of man and of a Christian.5

CCC 2113 Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and mammon.”6 Many martyrs died for not adoring “the Beast”7 refusing even to simulate such worship. Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God.8

CCC 2416 Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory.9 Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals.

CCC 2424 A theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable. The disordered desire for money cannot but produce perverse effects. It is one of the causes of the many conflicts which disturb the social order.10

A system that “subordinates the basic rights of individuals and of groups to the collective organization of production” is contrary to human dignity.11 Every practice that reduces persons to nothing more than a means of profit enslaves man, leads to idolizing money, and contributes to the spread of atheism. “You cannot serve God and mammon.”12

CCC 2547 The Lord grieves over the rich, because they find their consolation in the abundance of goods.13 “Let the proud seek and love earthly kingdoms, but blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”14 Abandonment to the providence of the Father in heaven frees us from anxiety about tomorrow.15 Trust in God is a preparation for the blessedness of the poor. They shall see God.

CCC 2608 From the Sermon on the Mount onwards, Jesus insists on conversion of heart: reconciliation with one’s brother before presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors, prayer to the Father in secret, not heaping up empty phrases, prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and seeking the Kingdom before all else.16 This filial conversion is entirely directed to the Father.

CCC 2821 This petition is taken up and granted in the prayer of Jesus which is present and effective in the Eucharist; it bears its fruit in new life in keeping with the Beatitudes.17

CCC 2830 “Our bread”: The Father who gives us life cannot not but give us the nourishment life requires – all appropriate goods and blessings, both material and spiritual. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus insists on the filial trust that cooperates with our Father’s providence.18 He is not inviting us to idleness,19 but wants to relieve us from nagging worry and preoccupation. Such is the filial surrender of the children of God:

To those who seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, he has promised to give all else besides. Since everything indeed belongs to God, he who possesses God wants for nothing, if he himself is not found wanting before God.20

CCC 2836 “This day” is also an expression of trust taught us by the Lord,21 which we would never have presumed to invent. Since it refers above all to his Word and to the Body of his Son, this “today” is not only that of our mortal time, but also the “today” of God.

If you receive the bread each day, each day is today for you. If Christ is yours today, he rises for you every day. How can this be? “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” Therefore, “today” is when Christ rises.22

1 2 Cor 6:18; cf. Mt 6:32.

2 Mt 6:31-33; cf. 10:29-31.

3 Cf. Mt 6:24.

4 Mt 6:33.

5 Pius XII, Discourse, June 1, 1941.

6 Mt 6:24.

7 Cf. Rev 13-14.

8 Cf. Gal 5:20; Eph 5:5.

9 Cf. Mt 6:26; Dan 3:79-81.

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

11 GS 65 # 2.

12 Mt 6:24; Lk 16:13.

13 Lk 6:24.

14 St. Augustine, De serm. Dom. in monte 1, 1, 3: PL 34, 1232.

15 Cf. Mt 6:25-34.

16 Cf. Mt 5:23-24, 44-45; 6:7,14-15, 21, 25, 33.

17 Cf. Jn 17:17-20; Mt 5:13-16; 6:24; 7:12-13.

18 Cf. Mt 6:25-34.

19 Cf. 2 Thess 3:6-13.

20 St. Cyprian, De Dom. orat. 21 PL 4, 534A.

21 Cf. Mt 6:34; Ex 16:19.

22 St. Ambrose, De Sacr. 5, 4, 26: PL 16, 453A; cf. Ps 2:7.

APPLICATION

The lesson is evident : God must have first place in our lives, if we really believe in a future, eternal life, as all Christians, and most other sane men do. But we still must earn our living and work our passage through life. What Christ is warning us against is that we must not get so attached to, and so enslaved by, the things of this world, that we neglect God and our own eternal happiness.

Most of us will say: “there is little danger that we shall get enslaved by the wealth of this world—we have so little of it.” But a man can get so attached to the little he has and so anxious to increase it, that he can cut God out of his life and forget the one thing necessary. Remember that a man can be drowned as easily in a tub of water as he could be in the deepest point in the Atlantic ocean. It is not the possession of the things of this world that Christ forbids, but letting the things of this world possess us. While we make the wealth and the goods of this earth serve our eternal purpose we can be true followers of Christ, but if we let them enslave us to the exclusion of that purpose then we are indeed on the wrong road.

In the parable of Dives and Lazarus, it was not the possession of much wealth that brought Dives to hell, but the wrong use of it. He lacked charity. He ignored his needy neighbors. He selfishly tried to spend all his wealth on himself. Neither was it the poverty of Lazarus that brought him to Abraham’s bosom, but the willing acceptance of his lot. He was unable, through illness, to earn his bread. He got little charity from those who could and should have helped him. Yet he bore with his misfortune patiently and so earned heaven. The fact is, of course, that not all rich men will go to hell. Neither will all beggars go to heaven.

While we work honestly for our living, we have every right to our just wage and have every freedom to spend what we earn on the necessities of life for ourselves and our families. We can also make the normal provisions for the years that may lie ahead. What our Lord is condemning is the inordinate love of riches and the things of this world—a love so inordinate that it leaves us no time, and no desire, to look for, and provide for, our real future–the life that begins when we leave this earth and all that it has.

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

BENEDICTUS

Forty Days of Preparation

In the forty days of the preparation for Easter, we endeavor to get away from the heathenism that weighs us down, that is always driving us away from God, and we set off toward him once again. So, too, at the beginning of the Eucharist, in the confession of sin, we are always trying to take up this path again, to set out, to go to the mountain of God’s word and God’s presence… We must learn that it is only in the silent, barely noticeable things that what is great takes place, that man becomes God’s image and the world once more becomes the radiance of God’s glory. Let us ask the Lord to give us a receptivity to his gentle presence; let us ask hum to help us not to be so deafened and desensitized by this world’s loud outcry that our receptivity fails to register him. Let us ask him that we may hear his quiet voice, go with him, and be of service together with him and in his way, so that his kingdom may become present in this world… We imitate God, we live by God, like God, by entering into Christ’s manner of life. He has climbed down from his divine being and become one of us; he has given himself and does so continually… It is by these little daily virtues, again and again, that we step out of our bitterness, our anger toward others, our refusal to accept the other’s otherness; by them, again and again, we open up to each other in forgiveness. This “littleness” is the concrete form of our being like Christ and living like God, imitating God; he has given himself to us so that we can give ourselves to him and to one another.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer for Gods Guidance

Father in Heaven,

You made me Your child

and called me to walk in the Light of Christ.

Free me from darkness

and keep me in the Light of Your Truth.

The Light of Jesus has scattered

the darkness of hatred and sin.

Called to that Light,

I ask for Your guidance.

Form my life in Your Truth,

my heart in Your Love.

Through the Holy Eucharist,

give me the power of Your Grace

that I may walk in the Light of Jesus

and serve Him faithfully.

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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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