Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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‘Thus it will be at the end of the age.  The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

OPENING PRAYER

LORD, teach me the way of Your laws;

I shall observe them with care.

Give me insight to observe Your teaching,

to keep it with all my heart.

Lead me in the path of Your commands,

for that is my delight.

Direct my heart toward Your decrees and away from unjust gain.

Avert my eyes from what is worthless;

by Your way, give me life.

For Your servant fulfill Your promise made to those who fear You.

Turn away from me the taunts I dread,

for Your edicts bring good.

See how I long for Your precepts;

in Your justice, give me life.

Psalms 119: 33-40

COLLECT

O God, protector of those who hope in you,

without whom nothing has firm foundation,

nothing is holy,

bestow in abundance your mercy upon us

and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide,

we may use the good things that pass

in such a way as to hold fast even now

to those that ever endure.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12

The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night.

God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”

Solomon answered:

O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king

to succeed my father David;

but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.

I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen,

a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted.

Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart

to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.

For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”

The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.

So God said to him:

Because you have asked for this—

not for a long life for yourself,

nor for riches,

nor for the life of your enemies,

but for understanding so that you may know what is right—

I do as you requested.

I give you a heart so wise and understanding

that there has never been anyone like you up to now,

and after you there will come no one to equal you.”

APPLICATION

What particular gift would each one of us ask of God if he spoke to us in a dream tonight and gave us our choice? There are so many pressing needs which we will have at the moment. Many would ask for badly needed health for themselves or for some close relatives. Others would ask for financial help, just to pay off debts and keep the family in comfort, not riches but just enough. Others would wish to be spared to their family for many long years. Some, not many, would ask for the virtue of temperance for themselves, while many would want that virtue for their husbands or sons.

But those who would ask for the gift of true wisdom to govern their earthly lives according to justice and charity would, I fear, be a small percentage. And yet that is the only gift that has eternal value. It is even greater than the gift Solomon asked for and got. He wanted the wisdom to govern others, but he failed pretty badly in governing his own personal life. The really wise man wants to make a success of his own personal life, but that can only be done by regulating his living according to the wisdom God has enshrined in his revelation to us.

If we got all the other gifts mentioned above–a healthy, long life for ourselves and all in the family, a life of comfort free from all financial cares, a life of peace and temperance in the home, with all the other earthly blessings that we think we need thrown in, would the ending of our life-story be necessarily a happy one?

We all like a story to end happily. We do not mind how many scrapes and tight shaves our hero has during the course of the story, but we want him to come out a success in the end. Surely, there is no story of greater interest, or of greater importance to us, than our own life-story, and there can be no story whose happy ending could be more desirable. There is only one happy ending for the story of our life on earth, and it is the attainment of heaven when we die.

If we lived on earth for 200 years, if we never had an ache or pain in that time, if we had all the riches of this world, and all the comforts imaginable which those riches could buy for us, and a life of perpetual peace and plenty, but if we failed to reach heaven what a sad and irreparable conclusion our life-story would have!

Wisdom is the gift we all need–wisdom greater than that of Solomon–the wisdom to govern and direct our own lives according to God’s laws. God will not refuse this gift if we ask for it. And having got it we must use it. We are surrounded on all sides by worldly wisdom–the opposite of what we need. Today, more than ever perhaps, the stress is on the present–what we can get out of this life. The future life is either denied or ignored. A future there is, and try to forget it as we may, it is drawing nearer daily to each one of us. On the entrance gates of the city cemetery of Rome this truthful inscription stands out in its awful truth: “Hodie mihi cras tibe”– “today my fate is decided, tomorrow yours.” We can decide our fate today before it is too late. Will we?

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130

Lord, I love your commands.

I have said, O LORD, that my part

is to keep your words.

The law of your mouth is to me more precious

than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Lord, I love your commands.

Let your kindness comfort me

according to your promise to your servants.

Let your compassion come to me that I may live,

for your law is my delight.

Lord, I love your commands.

For I love your command

more than gold, however fine.

For in all your precepts I go forward;

every false way I hate.

Lord, I love your commands.

Wonderful are your decrees;

therefore I observe them.

The revelation of your words sheds light,

giving understanding to the simple.

Lord, I love your commands.

READING II

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Rom 8:28-30

Brothers and sisters:

We know that all things work for good for those who love God,

who are called according to his purpose.

For those he foreknew he also predestined

to be conformed to the image of his Son,

so that he might be the firstborn

among many brothers and sisters.

And those he predestined he also called;

and those he called he also justified;

and those he justified he also glorified.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 257 “O blessed light, O Trinity and first Unity!”1 God is eternal blessedness, undying life, unfading light. God is love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God freely wills to communicate the glory of his blessed life. Such is the “plan of his loving kindness”, conceived by the Father before the foundation of the world, in his beloved Son: “He destined us in love to be his sons” and “to be conformed to the image of his Son”, through “the spirit of sonship”.2 This plan is a “grace [which] was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began”, stemming immediately from Trinitarian love.3 It unfolds in the work of creation, the whole history of salvation after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which are continued in the mission of the Church.4

CCC 313 “We know that in everything God works for good for those who love him.”5 The constant witness of the saints confirms this truth:

St. Catherine of Siena said to “those who are scandalized and rebel against what happens to them”: “Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind.”6

St. Thomas More, shortly before his martyrdom, consoled his daughter: “Nothing can come but that that God wills. And I make me very sure that whatsoever that be, seem it never so bad in sight, it shall indeed be the best.”7

Dame Julian of Norwich: “Here I was taught by the grace of God that I should steadfastly keep me in the faith. .. and that at the same time I should take my stand on and earnestly believe in what our Lord shewed in this time – that ‘all manner [of] thing shall be well.’”8

CCC 395 The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries – of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature- to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but “we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.”9

CCC 501 Jesus is Mary’s only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom indeed he came to save: “The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, that is, the faithful in whose generation and formation she co-operates with a mother’s love.”10

CCC 1161 All the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ: as are sacred images of the holy Mother of God and of the saints as well. They truly signify Christ, who is glorified in them. They make manifest the “cloud of witnesses”11 who continue to participate in the salvation of the world and to whom we are united, above all in sacramental celebrations. Through their icons, it is man “in the image of God,” finally transfigured “into his likeness,”12 who is revealed to our faith. So too are the angels, who also are recapitulated in Christ:

Following the divinely inspired teaching of our holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church (for we know that this tradition comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in her) we rightly define with full certainty and correctness that, like the figure of the precious and life-giving cross, venerable and holy images of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, our inviolate Lady, the holy Mother of God, and the venerated angels, all the saints and the just, whether painted or made of mosaic or another suitable material, are to be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, in houses and on streets.13

CCC 1272 Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation.14 Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.

CCC 1821 We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will.15 In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end”16 and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for “all men to be saved.”17 She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven:

Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.18

CCC 2012 “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him. .. For those whom he fore knew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.”19

CCC 2739 For St. Paul, this trust is bold, founded on the prayer of the Spirit in us and on the faithful love of the Father who has given us his only Son.20 Transformation of the praying heart is the first response to our petition.

CCC 2790 Grammatically, “our” qualifies a reality common to more than one person. There is only one God, and he is recognized as Father by those who, through faith in his only Son, are reborn of him by water and the Spirit.21 The Church is this new communion of God and men. United with the only Son, who has become “the firstborn among many brethren,” she is in communion with one and the same Father in one and the same Holy Spirit.22 In praying “our” Father, each of the baptized is praying in this communion: “The company of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”23

1 LH, Hymn for Evening Prayer.

2 Eph 1:4-5,9; Rom 8:15,29.

3 2 Tim 1:9-10.

4 Cf. AG 2-9.

5 Rom 8:28.

6 St. Catherine of Siena, Dialogue On Providence, ch. IV, 138.

7 The Correspondence of Sir Thomas More, ed. Elizabeth F. Rogers (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1947), letter 206, lines 661-663.

8 Julian of Norwich, The Revelations of Divine Love, tr. James Walshe SJ (London: 1961), ch. 32,99-100.

9 Rom 8:28.

10 LG 63; cf. Jn 19:26-27; Rom 8:29; Rev 12:17.

11 Heb 12:1.

12 Cf. Rom 8:29; 1 Jn 3:2.

13 Council of Nicaea II: DS 600.

14 Cf. Rom 8:29; Council of Trent (1547): DS 1609-1619.

15 Cf. Rom 8:28-30; Mt 7:21.

16 Mt 10:22; cf. Council of Trent DS 1541.

17 1 Tim 2:4.

18 St. Teresa of Avila, Excl. 15:3.

19 Rom 8:28-30.

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

21 Cf. 1 Jn 5:1; Jn 3:5.

22 Rom 8:29; Cf. Eph 4:4-6.

23 Acts 4:32.

APPLICATION

St. Augustine says, “God created us without our consent or cooperation but he will not (and cannot) save us without our cooperation.” This is clear from what St. Paul tells us today. God has done, and continues to do, everything that is necessary to bring us to heaven when we die. However, unless we cooperate and do our part, heaven will not be our future abode.

This should make each one of us stop and think! Are we on the right road? Are we truly followers of Christ? Do we love God? Are our prevailing ambitions worldly or other-worldly? We have to take an interest in the affairs of this world but do all our interests end there? Do the ten commandments of God always govern and direct our conduct, or are they often trampled on in our mad rush for some temporal pleasure or gain?

These are questions every Christian should put to himself and honestly answer. We are living in an era which is daily growing more worldly and more anti-God and anti-Christian. On all sides of us we have bad example, a strong-rushing current of worldliness and immorality, a current difficult to avoid or swim against. But avoid it we must if we really have our real and eternal welfare at heart. What is more, if we love our fellowman as our Christian faith obliges us to do, we must do all in our power to lead them out of that fatal current and bring them to safety with us. We must be life-guards.

There is a future life, revelation tells us, and our reasoning demands it. That future life will be one of eternal happiness for those who strive to love God in this life, and eternal unhappiness for those who refuse to do this. Ask yourself this question: “If I were to die tonight, to which class would I like to belong?” Tonight may not be the night of our departure from this life, but that departure is nearer to us than any of us think, and the state of our conscience at the moment of our death may depend on the resolutions we make today.

Nobody, not even God himself, can give us eternal life. We must earn it for ourselves. Our Christian faith tells us how.

GOSPELRelated imageMt 13:44-52

 

Jesus said to his disciples:

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,

which a person finds and hides again,

and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant

searching for fine pearls.

When he finds a pearl of great price,

he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,

which collects fish of every kind.

When it is full they haul it ashore

and sit down to put what is good into buckets.

What is bad they throw away.

Thus it will be at the end of the age.

The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous

and throw them into the fiery furnace,

where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Do you understand all these things?”

They answered, “Yes.”

And he replied,

Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven

is like the head of a household

who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 546 Jesus’ invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching.1 Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything.2 Words are not enough, deeds are required.3 The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word?4 What use has he made of the talents he has received?5 Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to “know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven”.6 For those who stay “outside”, everything remains enigmatic.7

CCC 1034 Jesus often speaks of “Gehenna” of “the unquenchable fire” reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.8 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he “will send his angels, and they will gather. .. all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,”9 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!”10

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.”11 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. Mk 4:33-34.

2 Cf. Mt 13:44-45; 22:1-14.

3 Cf. Mt 21:28-32.

4 Cf. Mt 13:3-9.

5 Cf. Mt 25:14-30.

6 Mt 13:11.

7 Mk 4:11; cf. Mt 13:10-15.

8 Cf. Mt 5:22, 29; 10:28; 13:42, 50; Mk 9:43-48.

9 Mt 13:41-42.

10 Mt 25:41.

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

APPLICATION

The lesson of these two parables is as true for us today, as it was for those Palestinians to whom Christ spoke. All Christians are called on to imitate these two wise men, and surrender all their earthly possessions if necessary in order to gain eternal life. Does this “giving all” mean that we are all expected to abandon the world and take on the religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience? There are many who do just this. But it is not the only way, nor the normal way, to purchase the eternal treasure. Heaven is within the reach of all, who follow the ordinary vocations of life and partake of this world’s joys and pleasures within the framework of God’s commandments, but never lose sight of the goal toward which they are moving.

Keeping within the framework of God’s commandments is the difficulty. We need not have a vow of obedience, but we must obey all legitimate authority. We may possess the goods of this world, but only such goods as we lawfully and justly acquire. Nor may we withhold all of these from a fellowman who is in need. We do not have to take a vow of chastity, but yet we must be chaste, we must use the gifts and the pleasure of sex only within the limits set down by God’s wise laws.

All of this is not easy for human nature. But we are not relying on weak human nature, we have within our reach in the Church all the spiritual and supernatural aids we need. Our twentieth century, it is true, is so engrossed in chasing after the earthly comforts and pleasures of the body, and so devoid of any spiritual or other-worldly outlook, that even those who know and believe that there is an eternity after death, find it hard to allow their faith and convictions to govern and direct their daily actions. Yet, the evil example of others will never justify our wrong-doing. The commandments of God are still binding, even though they are openly and flagrantly violated by individuals and whole nations today.

Remember this: we shall not be asked at the judgment, “What did your neighbor do?”, but “what did you do?” If we lose the pearl of great price in the eternity of happiness God has offered to us–it will not be the fault of others. The fault will be ours and ours only. We refuse to pay the price. We did not think it worthy the “paltry all” which we possessed in this life.

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

BENEDICTUS

Seeking the Truth and Culture’s Role

When man is shut out from the truth, he can only be dominated by what is accidental and arbitrary. That is why it is not “fundamentalism” but a duty of humanity to protect man from the dictatorship of what is accidental and to restore to him his dignity, which consists precisely in the fact that no human institution can ultimately dominate him, because he is open to the truth… The confidence to seek for the truth and to find it is never anachronistic: it is precisely this that maintains the dignity of man, that breaks down particularism, and that leads men toward one another beyind the bounds of their cultural settings on the basis of their common dignity… Cultures are not therefore fixed once and for all in one single form… They are concerned with encounter and with mutual fertilization. Because the inner openness of man to God is more influential in them, the greater and more pure they are, the inward readiness for the revelation of God is written into them. Revelation is not something alien to them; rather, it corresponds to an inner expectation in the cultures themselves… All peoples are now invited to participate in this process of transcending their own heritage that first began in Israel; they are invited to turn to the God who, for his part, transcended his own limits in Jesus Christ, who has broken down “the dividing wall of hostility” between us and in the self-deprivation of the cross has led us toward one another. Faith in Jesus Christ is, therefore, of its nature, a continual opening of oneself, God’s action of breaking into the human world and, in response to, this man’s breaking out toward God.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Reflection on Our Father

I cannot say “Our” if my faith has no room for others and their needs.

I cannot say “Father” if I do not demonstrate this relationship to my daily living.

I cannot say “who art in heaven” if all my interests and pursuits are in earthly things.

I cannot say “hallowed be Thy name” if I do not have honor, glory and trust in Him.

I cannot say “Thy kingdom come” if I am unwilling to have His kingdom grow in my heart, my home, my church, my country and all the world.

I cannot say “Thy will be done” if I am unwilling to have it done in my life.

I cannot say “on earth as it is in heaven” unless I am truly ready to give myself to His service here and now.

I cannot say “give us this day our daily bread” without expending honest effort for it or by ignoring the genuine needs of my family, friends and neighbors.

I cannot say “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” if I continue to harbor a grudge against anyone or if I gossip.

I cannot say “lead us not into temptation” if I deliberately choose to remain in a  situation where I am likely to be tempted.

I cannot say “deliver us from evil” if I am not prepared to fight in the spiritual realm with the weapon of word and prayer.

I cannot say “Thine is the kingdom” if I cannot follow the ten commandments.

I cannot say “Thine is the power” if I fear what my neighbors and friends may say.

I cannot say “Thine is the glory” if I am seeking my own glory first.

I cannot say ” Forever” if I am more concerned about each days happenings than about Your presence here in my life.

I cannot say “Amen” unless I honestly say, cost what it may, this is my prayer.

Anonymous

 

 

 

 

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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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