Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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“Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.

Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Act of Right Intention

My dear Redeemer,

it is not from custom or human respect

that I come to receive Thee:

but it is solely to love and be united to Thee,

to live by Thee and for Thee,

to be delivered from my miseries,

to clothe myself with Thy virtues,

to strengthen myself against my enemies;

it is to ask from Thee the exaltation of the Church,

thy beloved spouse,

the conversion of sinners,

perseverance for the just,

and deliverance for the poor souls in Purgatory.

Purify more and more my intentions,

rectify them, O my Jesus,

render them conformable to Thee;

this is my sole desire.

COLLECT

God of power and mercy,

only with your help

can we offer you fitting service and praise.

May we live the faith we profess

and trust your promise of eternal life.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Mal 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10

A great King am I, says the LORD of hosts,

and my name will be feared among the nations.

And now, O priests, this commandment is for you:

If you do not listen,

if you do not lay it to heart,

to give glory to my name, says the LORD of hosts,

I will send a curse upon you

and of your blessing I will make a curse.

You have turned aside from the way,

and have caused many to falter by your instruction;

you have made void the covenant of Levi,

says the LORD of hosts.

I, therefore, have made you contemptible

and base before all the people,

since you do not keep my ways,

but show partiality in your decisions.

Have we not all the one father?

Has not the one God created us?

Why then do we break faith with one another,

violating the covenant of our fathers?

APPLICATION

This first reading for today has been chosen because of its similarity to today’s gospel. Like the Pharisees in the time of Christ the priests of the temple in Malachi’s day were the leaders to whom the people looked for guidance and example. Both failed the people miserably.

Those priests to whom God spoke through his prophet had made a mockery of religion. They cheated (or tried to cheat) God and led the people to do likewise. Their service of the temple was dishonest and purely external; they brought the true religion into disrepute. They did not teach the law of God to their people for their own faith and belief were lukewarm, if not altogether lost.

In spite of all this infidelity, God was able to preserve the true faith in a remnant of his people, until the time came to fulfill the purpose for which he had chosen them: the coming of Christ. God can tolerate unworthy human helpers. His plans cannot be frustrated by them, but unfortunately, those unfaithful servants can and do frustrate their own true purpose in life.

There is perhaps a very apposite application of that sad period of the Jewish history to present-day, disturbing happenings in the Church. We read of priests and people who not only question the authority and the teaching of the Church of God, but who abandon their vocation and their faith, to the great scandal of devout believers. But we should not be scandalized. These defections did not happen overnight. They were long in preparation through the lukewarm faith and practice of past generations in many countries, through worldliness in some high places, through lack of sound education in things spiritual and through the all-pervading materialism which embraces today’s world.

Nevertheless, God is still in this world and his plans for our eternal welfare will not be thwarted by the desertion of some of his weak helpers. What he did in the days of Malachi he is doing again today. He is using these upheavals to strengthen and fortify the faith and practice of his true followers. We have a part to play here and it is a big part. Each one of us must live our faith to the full. There are millions waiting for our good example, million who are groping in the dark to find their purpose in life. We can light their way for them by the faithful fulfillment of our baptism covenant with God.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 775 “The Church, in Christ, is like a sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men.”1 The Church’s first purpose is to be the sacrament of the inner union of men with God. Because men’s communion with one another is rooted in that union with God, the Church is also the sacrament of the unity of the human race. In her, this unity is already begun, since she gathers men “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues”;2 at the same time, the Church is the “sign and instrument” of the full realization of the unity yet to come.

CCC 1138 “Recapitulated in Christ,” these are the ones who take part in the service of the praise of God and the fulfillment of his plan: the heavenly powers, all creation (the four living beings), the servants of the Old and New Covenants (the twenty-four elders), the new People of God (the one hundred and forty-four thousand),3 especially the martyrs “slain for the word of God,” and the all-holy Mother of God (the Woman), the Bride of the Lamb,4 and finally “a great multitude which no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and tongues.”5

CCC 1296 Christ himself declared that he was marked with his Father’s seal.6 Christians are also marked with a seal: “It is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has commissioned us; he has put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”7 This seal of the Holy Spirit marks our total belonging to Christ, our enrollment in his service for ever, as well as the promise of divine protection in the great eschatological trial.8

CCC 2642 The Revelation of “what must soon take place,” the Apocalypse, is borne along by the songs of the heavenly liturgy9 but also by the intercession of the “witnesses” (martyrs).10 The prophets and the saints, all those who were slain on earth for their witness to Jesus, the vast throng of those who, having come through the great tribulation, have gone before us into the Kingdom, all sing the praise and glory of him who sits on the throne, and of the Lamb.11 In communion with them, the Church on earth also sings these songs with faith in the midst of trial. By means of petition and intercession, faith hopes against all hope and gives thanks to the “Father of lights,” from whom “every perfect gift” comes down.12 Thus faith is pure praise.

1 LG 1.
2 Rev 7:9.
3 Cf. Rev 4-5; 7:1-8; 14:1; Isa 6:2-3.
4 Rev 6:9-11; Rev 21:9; cf. 12.
5 Rev 7:9.
6 Cf. Jn 6:27.
7 2 Cor 1:21-22; cf. Eph 1:13; 4,30.
8 Cf. Rev 7:2-3; 9:4; Ezek 9:4-6.
9 Cf. Rev 4:8-11; 5:9-14; 7:10-12.
10 Rev 6:10.
11 Cf. Rev 18:24; 19:1-8.
12 Jas 1:17.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM Ps 131:1, 2, 3

In you, Lord, I have found my peace.

O LORD, my heart is not proud,

nor are my eyes haughty;

I busy not myself with great things,

nor with things too sublime for me.

In you, Lord, I have found my peace.

Nay rather, I have stilled and quieted

my soul like a weaned child.

Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap,

so is my soul within me.

In you, Lord, I have found my peace.

O Israel, hope in the LORD,

both now and forever.

In you, Lord, I have found my peace.

READING II

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1 Thes 2:7b-9, 13

Brothers and sisters:

We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children.

With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you

not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well,

so dearly beloved had you become to us.

You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery.

Working night and day in order not to burden any of you,

we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly,

that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us,

you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God,

which is now at work in you who believe.

APPLICATION

We, too, have accepted the Christian faith as God’s word, God’s revelation to us. We know it is not a human philosophy invented by man: it is instead the theological truth concerning God’s plan for man and his realization of that plan among us. The Old Testament tells us of God’s plan for us; the New Testament describes how the coining of Christ as man put that plan into action. God’s love was frequently proved in the Old Testament. Calvary was the final irrefutable proof of it.

Today, our world is full of man-made philosophies which offer solutions for all the problems of life, but man’s greatest problem is not life but death. No human philosophy solves this problem. It is only through God’s revelation that we can understand death, and see in it not an end to our activities, but the door to eternal, unending activity and life.

If we are true Christians, like the Thessalonians, this revealed knowledge of God’s purpose for us, must influence our whole lives and every action of each day. We are moving steadily and quickly toward that doorway which opens into eternal life. While most of our daily activities are concerned with the material and transient things of this life, they are, or should be made spiritual stepping-stones which help us to cross over to the shores of eternity. Their value can be made eternal if they are done with the right intention.

Look back over your own past life and judge if your ordinary daily occupations were a help toward heaven. They were a help, an essential help, if they were done with the intention of honoring God and earning eternal life. They were at best time lost, or else that were done for some worldly, personal ambition which excluded God and his purpose for you. The hour or two out of the 168 hours of each week which we spend in prayer will not be sufficient to earn heaven for us; in fact, they too will be time lost, unless our Christian faith puts spiritual life and values into the remaining 166 hours.

Let us imitate the Thessalonians today; let us have our Christian faith “at work in us” every hour of our lives. Our lives will still be very ordinary, but if they are lived with the proper and right intentions, they will have an extraordinary end, they will end in the eternal life of happiness that God in his goodness has prepared for us.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 104 In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, “but as what it really is, the word of God”.1 “In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them.”2

CCC 1349 The Liturgy of the Word includes “the writings of the prophets,” that is, the Old Testament, and “the memoirs of the apostles” (their letters and the Gospels). After the homily, which is an exhortation to accept this Word as what it truly is, the Word of God,3 and to put it into practice, come the intercessions for all men, according to the Apostle’s words: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings, and all who are in high positions.”4

1 Th 2:13; cf. DV 24.
2 DV 21.
3 Cf. 1 Thess 2:13.
4 1 Tim 2:1-2.

GOSPEL

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Mt 23:1-12

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,

“The scribes and the Pharisees

have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.

Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,

but do not follow their example.

For they preach but they do not practice.

They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry

and lay them on people’s shoulders,

but they will not lift a finger to move them.

All their works are performed to be seen.

They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.

They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,

greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’

As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’

You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.

Call no one on earth your father;

you have but one Father in heaven.

Do not be called ‘Master’;

you have but one master, the Christ.

The greatest among you must be your servant.

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;

but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/110517.cfm

APPLICATION

As this picture of the Pharisees is painted by none other than Christ himself, we can have no doubt but that the description given is the truth and nothing but the truth. In spite of their great knowledge of “the law and the prophets”–the divine revelation God had given to the Chosen People–and of their many strict observances of that law, they were not pleasing to God. All their good works and all their learning were spoiled by the vice of pride which made them seek earthly glory for themselves and prevented them from giving glory or thanks to God. Their religion was an empty external cloak which they used to attract attention and honor to themselves. Internally, they were so full of their own importance that there was no room for God in their hearts.

Our divine Lord warned his disciples, and through them all of us, to avoid that pernicious vice of pride. It should not be hard for any true Christian to avoid this vice. We know that every material and spiritual talent we have has been given us by God, so we must give glory to God for any gifts we possess and not ourselves. St. Paul reminds us of this when he asks us: “What have you that you have not received, and if you have received it why glory in it as if it were your own?” We owe everything we have to God and we should use all the gifts he has given us for his honor and glory, and for that purpose alone.

Do we always do this? Are we never tempted to look down on our less fortunate brothers? If we have got on well in our temporal affairs do we attribute our success to our own skill and hard work or do we thank God for the opportunities he gave to us and not to others. If, aided by God’s grace, we are keeping his commandments, do we show contempt for those who give in to temptations which we did not have to meet? The best of us can profit from an examination of conscience along these lines. If our external observance of the Christian rule of life is motivated solely by love and gratitude to God all is well. But if our hearts are far from God and our motives in our religious behavior is self-glorification, we are in a dangerous position. The sinners and harlots of Christ’s day repented and were received into his kingdom; the Pharisees, unable to repent, were left outside.

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 526 To become a child in relation to God is the condition for entering the kingdom.1 For this, we must humble ourselves and become little. Even more: to become “children of God” we must be “born from above” or “born of God”.2 Only when Christ is formed in us will the mystery of Christmas be fulfilled in us.3 Christmas is the mystery of this “marvelous exchange”:
O marvelous exchange! Man’s Creator has become man, born of the Virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.
4

CCC 2367 Called to give life, spouses share in the creative power and fatherhood of God.5 “Married couples should regard it as their proper mission to transmit human life and to educate their children; they should realize that they are thereby cooperating with the love of God the Creator and are, in a certain sense, its interpreters. They will fulfill this duty with a sense of human and Christian responsibility.”6

1 Cf. Mt 18:3-4.
2 Jn 3 7; 1:13; 1:12; cf. Mt 23:12.
3 Cf. Gal 4:19.
4 LH, 1 January, Antiphon I of Evening Prayer.
5 Cf. Eph 3:14; Mt 23:9.
6 GS 50 # 2.

BENEDICTUS

The Law as the Visibility of the Truth

The law is the visibility of the truth, the visibility of God’s countenance, and so it gives us the possibility of right living. Are not these our questions: Who am I? Where am I going? What shall I do to put my life in order? The hymn to God’s word that we find in Psalm 119 expresses this joy of being delivered, the joy of knowing God’s will. For his will is our truth and therefore our way; it is what all men are looking for… It is characteristic of the Messiah – he who is “greater than Moses” – that he brings the definitive interpretation of the Torah, in which the Torah is itself renewed, because now its true essence appears in all its purity and its character as grace becomes undistorted reality… The Torah of the Messiah is the Messiah, Jesus, himself. It is to him that the command, “Listen to him,” refers. In this way the “Law” becomes universal; it is grace, constituting a people which becomes such by hearing the word and undergoing conversion. In this Torah, which is Jesus himself, the abiding essence of what was inscribed on the stone tablets at Sinai is now written in living flesh, namely, the twofold command of love. This is set forth in Philippians 2: 5 as “the mind of Christ.” To imitate him, to follow him in discipleship, is therefore to keep the Torah, which has been fulfilled in him once and for all. Thus the Sinai covenant is indeed superseded. But once what was provisional in it has been swept away, we see what is truly definitive in it.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer for Humility

Lord Jesus Christ, I pray that you may fortify me with the grace of your Holy Spirit, and give your peace to my soul, that I may be free from all needless anxiety and worry. Help me to desire always that which is pleasing and acceptable to you, so that your will may be my will.

Grant that I may be free from unholy desires, and that , for your love, I may remain obscure and unknown in this world, to be known only to you.

Do not permit me to attribute to myself the good that you perform in me and through me, but rather, referring all honor to you, may I admit only to my infirmities, so that renouncing sincerely all vainglory which comes from the world, I may aspire to that true and lasting glory that comes from you. Amen

St. Frances Cabrini

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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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