Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

A Spirit to Know You

Gracious and Holy Father, please give me:

intellect to understand you,

reason to discern you,

diligence to seek you,

wisdom to find you,

a spirit to know you,

a heart to meditate upon you,

ears to hear you,

eyes to to see you,

a tongue to proclaim you,

a way of life pleasing to you,

patience to wait for you

and perseverance to look for you.

Grant me a perfect end,

your holy presence,

a blessed resurrection

and life everlasting.

Amen.

St. Benedict of Nursia

ca. 480-547

COLLECT

O God, who in the abasement of your Son

have raised up a fallen world,

fill your faithful with holy joy,

for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin

you bestow eternal gladness.

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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Ez 2:2-5

As the LORD spoke to me, the spirit entered into me

and set me on my feet,

and I heard the one who was speaking say to me:

Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites,

rebels who have rebelled against me;

they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day.

Hard of face and obstinate of heart

are they to whom I am sending you.

But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD!

And whether they heed or resist–for they are a rebellious house–

they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

APPLICATION

As we read it in the historical books of the Old Testament, the history of the Chosen People is a sad commentary on the meanness of human beings in their dealings with God. God had been a Father to the Israelites, ever since he brought them out of the slavery of Egypt. But even during the desert journey to the Promised Land which he had arranged to give them, they murmured and rebelled against him. When they eventually settled in Canaan, with the help of his almighty hand, they very soon forgot him. Harassed by the neighboring pagan people, they remembered him and called on him. He sent them the Judges to free them from their enemies. He allowed them to establish a monarchy and he aided and assisted the first occupants of the throne, but as their temporal affairs prospered their spiritual interests declined. For over four hundred years, from the death of David to the fall of Jerusalem, only four of the eighteen kings in Judah were loyal to Yahweh and encouraged the people to serve him.

As God said in today’s reading: the Chosen People, to whom he was sending Ezekiel, were a “nation of rebels.” The very fact that he was sending a prophet, his own representative, to them notwithstanding their unworthiness, makes us marvel at this infinite mercy and love. Who but the infinite God could keep on sending prophet after prophet, giving chance after chance to this stubborn rebellious people to change their mind? He could have abandoned them and found some people more worthy of his paternal interest, but he did not. He was God and was able to use their very disloyalty for his purpose. The Babylonian exile, which they had now brought on themselves, saw the end of their kingdom and their kings. The Messiah, the “blessing” promised to Abraham and the descendant foretold to David who would make his throne glorious forever, would now be born not in a palace but in a stable, not in wealth and luxury but in the direst poverty.

All this was foreseen and fore-planned by God. He used the disloyalty of his Chosen People to bring his plan to fulfillment. Would we want it otherwise? Had Christ been born in a king’s palace in Jerusalem, had he grown up as a prince surrounded by courtiers and noblemen, would he have had the effects he had on the minds and hearts of ninety nine percent of those who became his followers? If agnostics and rationalists try to pick flaws in the eternal truths he proclaimed, when humanly speaking, he was only a carpenter from Nazareth, what faults could they not find in his teaching if he had been one of the earthly nobility? All of these “ifs,” however, are futile, because God planned things the right way and the best way. The Son of God, the King of kings, not only humbled himself by taking our created human nature, but he took that human nature and became as one of the lowest and the poorest of that time.

Just as the Chosen People, on whom he had lavished his love, proved to be unfaithful to him and unworthy of their election so will it be until the end of time. Of the hundreds of millions of Christians in our world today, how many are loyal and truly grateful for all that God has done for them? How many cherish the eternal inheritance Christ has won for them? Are not many imitating the Chosen People of old; ignoring and insulting God, forgetful of all he has done for them, and forgetting their one and only purpose in life? These Christians are foolishly and sinfully preparing to lose the inheritance Christ won for them. They are ready to sacrifice their King and their eternal kingdom.

It could happen to any one of us. God forbid that it should. If it should, the loss would be ours, a fatal and eternal loss. God will not suffer—we shall. God sent his prophets to speak to his Chosen People even when they were in exile. He will not, and cannot, send any prophet to us in our eternal exile, for our judgement at the moment of death will seal our fate forever. Daily he is sending his messengers to us while we are still alive. Turn aside today from the bustle and noise of this empty world, and listen to God’s whisper in your heart: “Where would you like to be a hundred years from today?” The decision is in your own hands.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 64 Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all, to be written on their hearts.1 The prophets proclaim a radical redemption of the People of God, purification from all their infidelities, a salvation which will include all the nations.2 Above all, the poor and humble of the Lord will bear this hope. Such holy women as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Judith and Esther kept alive the hope of Israel’s salvation. The purest figure among them is Mary.3

1 Cf. Isa 2:2-4; Jer 31:31-34; Heb 10:16.

2 Cf. Ezek 36; Isa 49:5-6; 53:11.

3 Cf. Ezek 2:3; Lk 1:38.

READING II

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2 Cor 12:7-10

Brothers and sisters:

That I, Paul, might not become too elated,

because of the abundance of the revelations,

a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,

to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.

Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,

but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,

for power is made perfect in weakness.”

I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,

in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,

hardships, persecutions, and constraints,

for the sake of Christ;

for when I am weak, then I am strong.

APPLICATION

There are few, if any, of us who have not questioned at one time or another God’s way of dealing with us. This is so when he allows some sickness, or bodily ailment or some calamity to interfere with our work for him or for our fellowman. The upright and devout Christian business-man, who helps so many worthy and charitable causes loses his profits and eventually his business because some more powerful rival moves into his district. The devout Christian mother, the moral support of her husband and the exemplary religious teacher of her young family, is struck down with sickness and becomes a chronic invalid. The young, zealous missionary, who has just learned the language and customs of the pagan country for which he volunteered, develops some disease which compels him to return home. Again and again we hear, or witness, these things and are tempted to wonder if God does look after his own.

Today’s reading should give us the answer. St. Paul, one of the greatest of Christ’s apostles, had some bodily infirmity which he thought impeded his success in his ministry. He felt he could be much more effective without it and, saint that he was, he prayed to Christ and asked him to remove this defect. For two reasons his devout and reasonable request was not granted. St. Paul himself gives us the first reason: “to keep him from becoming proud.” Had he been free from this defect he might possibly have taken the full credit for all his success. The second reason is given by Christ: “my power is made perfect in (your) weakness”; whatever weakness St. Paul had, it should have impeded his success in evangelizing the Corinthians, but it did not, because Christ was working with him and through him, and so the divine truth of the Christian gospel shone all the more clearly through the defects in the human instrument.

God allowed the great Apostle to suffer from some infirmity which St. Paul thought to be adversely affecting his work for God. On the contrary it was a great help to the saint’s spiritual life and the progress of the Gospel. Have we, therefore, any grounds for questioning God’s dealings with us? If the Apostle who gave his life for Christ, felt there was a danger of his developing a spirit of pride because of the good work he was doing, how much greater is that danger of pride in us? We are far from the heights of holiness reached by St. Paul. Down through the centuries, there have been men of great standing in the Church of Christ who became proud of their attainments and ended up by abandoning the Church. The leaders of the heresies, which the Church had to condemn, were men of learning. Unfortunately, their esteem for themselves was greater than their love of truth. Their pride could not let them see any errors in their theological speculations; they refused all correction and rather than admit the authority of those over them they apostatized from the faith.

This dreadful vice of pride is hidden away in each one of us. It is looking for an opportunity to raise its head. Of all the known forms of pride, spiritual pride or pride in our spiritual progress, is the most satanic of all. It cuts the very basis from true spirituality, for it attributes to human endeavor that which can come only from a divine source. We cannot take one single step on the road to heaven without the active cooperation of divine grace. “What have you,” says St. Paul, “which you have not received and if you have received it why glory in it as if it were your own?” Any gifts of body or mind which we have were given us by God. To him alone is glory due for them.

We need to be careful then in acts of charity to our neighbors, lost pride should rob our good deeds of all spiritual value. The Pharisees of the time of Christ were devout religious men; they fasted and observed the law of Moses very strictly; they gave alms liberally but took personal pride in all their doings and earned some very harsh comments from our divine Lord. He dealt mercifully and gently with all type of sinners and they repented, but for the Pharisees he had nothing but condemnation. Their pride, which was their basic vice, would not let them admit that they were guilty of any sin.

In future, if ever we are tempted to question God’s way of dealing with his faithful children, let us think of St. Paul and how Christ dealt with him. If we feel that we are asked to carry some cross which interferes with our spiritual activity we will pray and ask to have that cross removed—if that should be according to God’s will. But we should always remember that it may be through this very bodily defect or weakness that the power of Christ is to be made manifest in us, as was the case with St. Paul.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 268 Of all the divine attributes, only God’s omnipotence is named in the Creed: to confess this power has great bearing on our lives. We believe that his might is universal, for God who created everything also rules everything and can do everything. God’s power is loving, for he is our Father, and mysterious, for only faith can discern it when it “is made perfect in weakness”.1

CCC 273 Only faith can embrace the mysterious ways of God’s almighty power. This faith glories in its weaknesses in order to draw to itself Christ’s power.2 The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this faith, for she believed that “nothing will be impossible with God”, and was able to magnify the Lord: “For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”3

CCC 1508 The Holy Spirit gives to some a special charism of healing4 so as to make manifest the power of the grace of the risen Lord. But even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses. Thus St. Paul must learn from the Lord that “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” and that the sufferings to be endured can mean that “in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church.”5

1 Cf. Gen 1:1; Jn 1:3; Mt 6:9; 2 Cor 12:9; cf. I Cor 1:18.

2 Cf. 2 Cor 12:9; Phil 4:13.

3 Lk 1:37, 49.

4 Cf. 1 Cor 12:9, 28, 30.

5 2 Cor 12:9; Col 1:24.

GOSPEL

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Mk 6:1-6

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.

When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,

and many who heard him were astonished.

They said, “Where did this man get all this?

What kind of wisdom has been given him?

What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!

Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,

and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?

And are not his sisters here with us?”

And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them,

“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place

and among his own kin and in his own house.”

So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,

apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.

He was amazed at their lack of faith.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/070818.cfm

APPLICATION

What happened in Nazareth was a foretaste of the later reaction of the scribes and Pharisees, the leaders of the people, to Christ’s claim to be the promised Messiah. What the people of Nazareth tried to do (Lk. 4: 29-30), the religious authorities in Jerusalem succeeded in doing, because they were able to threaten the Roman governor with blackmail. Even in their wickedness and unknown to themselves, they were putting into action God’s plan for mankind. It was necessary that Christ should die so that all men could live forever with God. Christ’s death, followed by his resurrection, was the key that opened the door of eternity for the human race.

Unfortunately for the leaders of the Jews, the good end did not justify the evil intentions and evil means which they used. It is hard to understand the irrational opposition of the Nazarites on this occasion, and of the Pharisees of Jerusalem later. The people of Nazareth had heard nothing but marvelous reports of his wonderful preaching and outstanding miracles. One would therefore expect that if they were at all reasonable, they would rejoice on having one of their fellow-citizens admired by thousands and looked upon by so many as the long-promised Messiah. Instead, they turned against him in bitter hatred and there and then decided to put an end to his career (Lk. 4: 29). Why? Because the demon of envy, a daughter of pride, laid hold of their hearts and minds. Why should a neighbor’s son, and one of a lower status than many of them a mere carpenter, be given this privilege while their sons were passed over? This could not be, their envy told them, and so they shut their minds against any proof to the contrary.

It was the same later in the case of the Pharisees. The same vices, pride and envy, darkened their intellects and prevented them from seeing the truth. They were the religious leaders of the people, or so they thought themselves to be. If the Messiah had come they felt that he should have come through them and with their approval. This impostor Jesus could not possibly be the Messiah. Not only was he not keeping the law as strictly as they kept it, but he was friendly with sinners and tax-gatherers. Furthermore, he was talking of some faraway kingdom in heaven and not of the earthly empire which they decided the real Messiah would establish. They had not only heard of his extraordinary miracles but had seen some of those who were cured. In Bethany only a few miles from Jerusalem Lazarus had been raised to life after four days in the grave. They tried very hard to deny these miracles (see Jn. 9: the man born blind), and they even thought of killing Lazarus to make the people forget the miracle! (Jn. 12: 11.) Thus their pride and envy made them irrational. Nothing but the cruelest possible death of the one hated could satisfy their hatred. But that very death was Christ’s road to glory. Lifted up on the cross he drew all men to himself as he had foretold (Jn. 12: 32). Those on Calvary beheld the triumph of failure.

Would that all the opposition to Christ and his teaching, caused by human pride and envy, had ended with the Nazarites and Pharisees! Far from it. Pride and envy are still rife among us. All through the twenty centuries of Christianity, there have been proud men, men high in their own esteem. Not only would they not have Christ to reign over them, but they have tried to prevent his reign over even those who are gladly and proudly his subjects. Not content with dethroning Christ in their own hearts and minds, they have devoted all their energies to abolishing him and his Church from the face of our earth. Such enemies of Christ are still among us. They are more numerous than ever today but just as their predecessors failed in the past, so will these fail today. Christ will continue to reign and his Church will continue its mission of leading to heaven all men whose minds are free from sinful pride and therefore open to the truth.

Let us renew our loyalty to Christ today. He humbled himself so that we might be raised to the standing of sons of God. He shared our human nature with us so that we could share his divine nature. He died a cruel death on Calvary so that we could have an eternal life in heaven. We pray for light for those whose foolish pride has left them groping in darkness. Let us also ask the good God to keep us ever on the road of truth, the road of Christian humility which leads to the eternal home which Christ has won for us by his incarnation.

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 500 Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus.1 The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, “brothers of Jesus”, are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls “the other Mary”.2 They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression.3

CCC 699 The hand. Jesus heals the sick and blesses little children by laying hands on them.4 In his name the apostles will do the same.5 Even more pointedly, it is by the Apostles’ imposition of hands that the Holy Spirit is given.6 The Letter to the Hebrews lists the imposition of hands among the “fundamental elements” of its teaching.7 The Church has kept this sign of the all-powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in its sacramental epicleses.

CCC 2610 Just as Jesus prays to the Father and gives thanks before receiving his gifts, so he teaches us filial boldness: “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will.”8 Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: “all things are possible to him who believes.”9 Jesus is as saddened by the “lack of faith” of his own neighbors and the “little faith” of his own disciples10 as he is struck with admiration at the great faith of the Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman.11

1 Cf. Mk 3:31-35; 6:3; I Cor 9:5; Gal 1:19.

2 Mt 13:55; 28:1; cf. Mt 27:56.

3 Cf. Gen 13:8; 14:16; 29:15; etc.

4 Cf. Mk 6:5; 8:23; 10:16.

5 Cf. Mk 16:18; Acts 5:12; 14:3.

6 Cf. Acts 8:17-19; 13:3; 19:6.

7 Cf. Heb 6:2.

8 Mk 11:24.

9 Mk 9:23; cf. Mt 21:22.

10 Cf. Mk 6:6; Mt 8:26.

11 Cf. Mt 8:10; 15:28.

BENEDICTUS

The Sacraments

I believe that the seven sacraments truly hold in place the structure and the great events of human life. For these important moments, for birth and death, for growing up and marrying, we need some kind of sign to give to this moment its full stature, its true promise, and this also the dimension of being shared together… Faith is not something that exists in a vacuum; rather, it enters into the material world. And it is through signs from the material world that we are, in turn, brought into contact with God. These signs are therefore an expression of the corporal nature of our faith. The interpenetration of sensual and spiritual dimensions is the logical extension of the fact that God became flesh and shares himself with us in earthly things. The sacraments are this a kind of contact with God himself. They show that this faith is not a purely spiritual thing, but one that involves community and creates community and that includes the earth, the creation, which in this way, together with its elements, becomes transparent. The essential point is that the communal aspect, the corporal dimension of faith, expresses itself in the sacraments and that it is made clear, at the same time, that faith is not something produced within us but comes from a higher authority. Certainly, they are entrusted to our freedom, like everything God does.

Pope Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Act of Faith

I believe in one God. I believe that God rewards the good and punishes the wicked. I believe that in God there are three Divine Persons – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I believe that God the Son became Man, without ceasing to be God. I believe that he is my Lord and Savior, the Redeemer of the human race, that he died on the Cross for the salvation of all men, that he died also for me.

I believe, on God’s authority, everything that he has taught and revealed.

O my God, give me strong faith. O my God, help me to believe with lively faith.

O my God, who are all-good and all-merciful, I sincerely hope to be saved. Help me to do all that necessary for my salvation.

I have committed many sins in my life, but now I turn away from them, and hate them. I am sorry, truly sorry for all of them, because I have offended you, my God, who are all-good, all-perfect, all-holy, all-merciful and kind, and who died on the Cross for me.

I love you, O my God, with all my heart. Please forgive me for having offended you.

I promise, O God, that with your help I will never offend you again.

My God, have mercy on me.

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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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