Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

The 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.

St. Benedict

COLLECT

Look upon us, O God,

Creator and ruler of all things,

and, that we may feel the working of your mercy,

grant that we may serve you with all our heart.

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

Is 50:5-9a

The Lord GOD opens my ear that I may hear;

and I have not rebelled,

have not turned back.

I gave my back to those who beat me,

my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;

my face I did not shield

from buffets and spitting.

The Lord GOD is my help,

therefore I am not disgraced;

I have set my face like flint,

knowing that I shall not be put to shame.

He is near who upholds my right;

if anyone wishes to oppose me,

let us appear together.

Who disputes my right?

Let that man confront me.

See, the Lord GOD is my help;

who will prove me wrong?

APPLICATION

Five hundred and fifty years before Christ came on earth, a prophet whom we call the second-Isaiah encouraged the Jewish exiles in Babylon with his descriptions of the great blessings which the Messiah would bring them (see chapters 43:44; 47; 51; 52). These blessings would be bought at a great price, bought for us by the shame, humiliations and death of the future Messiah. The prophet calls the Messiah the Servant of God—-a servant faithful and obedient unto death, and because of his perfect obedience and fidelity he would be raised from the grave in glory and be given numerous off spring. This suffering and obedient Servant was Christ. Christ himself applied these prophecies to himself (see today’s Gospel: also Lk. 24: 26 etc.). He fulfilled these prophecies to the letter, and he did so for us and for our salvation. Our Creed says: “Who (the Son of God) came down from heaven for us men and for our salvation . . . suffered under Pontius Pilate, was put to death and was buried. The third day he arose from the dead, ascended to heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father.”

This reading has been chosen for us to recall to our minds all that Christ has done for us in carrying out the Father’s plan for our eternal welfare. God does not need us, he has infinite perfection and happiness in the community of the Blessed Trinity, but because his nature is goodness itself, he wants to share his perfection and his happiness with us his creatures. For that reason he decreed the incarnation of his divine Son from all eternity. Because sin had entered the world and man had rebelled against God, Christ when he came met with opposition, disbelief and hatred from the leaders of those who had been prepared for centuries to receive him—the Chosen People. Thus his life among us was a life of humiliations, persecutions and opposition which culminated in the death on the cross. But faithful and obedient Servant of the Father that he was, he bore it all in patience and in submission even unto death; but death could not hold him. He was raised in glory and returned triumphant to heaven to reassume the glory of his divinity of which he had “emptied himself” while on earth, as St. Paul tells us. With his glorified human nature he now occupies the chief place in heaven after that of God the Father.

We all know what meaning for us the incarnation has and the humiliations and sufferings it implied for Christ. The crucifix over the altar, the stations of the cross, the sacrifice of the Mass recall to our minds what Christ has done for us; but do we always react as we should to this sacred remembrance? Our first reaction should be sincere acts of gratitude to our Father in heaven and to his divine Son, for going to such lengths to give us eternal life. Christ died so that we should live eternally; he stretched out his arms on the cross in order to gather all men to his Father in heaven. We can do something in return. It should be our second reaction to remembrance of what the incarnation means: we can bear our own daily crosses patiently and gladly, for compared to the cross of Christ they are light indeed. A third way of showing our appreciation of Christ’s suffering for us is to help our neighbor to carry his cross. We can all, and we all should, if we appreciate what the incarnation means, help to spread its fruits as widely as possible. As true apostles of Christ’s faith we need never fear of becoming apostates.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 713 The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all in the “Servant songs.”1 These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our “form as slave.”2 Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.

1 Cf. Isa 42:1-9; cf. Mt 12:18-21; Jn 1:32-34; then cf. Isa 49:1-6; cf. Mt 3:17; Lk 2:32; finally cf. Isa 50:4-10 and Isa 52:13-53:12.

2 Phil 2:7.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 114:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

I love the LORD because he has heard

my voice in supplication,

Because he has inclined his ear to me

the day I called.

I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

The cords of death encompassed me;

the snares of the netherworld seized upon me;

I fell into distress and sorrow,

And I called upon the name of the LORD,

“O LORD, save my life!”

I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

Gracious is the LORD and just;

yes, our God is merciful.

The LORD keeps the little ones;

I was brought low, and he saved me.

I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

For he has freed my soul from death,

my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.

I shall walk before the Lord

in the land of the living.

I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

READING II

Jas 2:14-18

What good is it, my brothers and sisters,

if someone says he has faith but does not have works?

Can that faith save him?

If a brother or sister has nothing to wear

and has no food for the day,

and one of you says to them,

“Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, ”

but you do not give them the necessities of the body,

what good is it?

So also faith of itself,

if it does not have works, is dead.

Indeed someone might say,

“You have faith and I have works.”

Demonstrate your faith to me without works,

and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works

APPLICATION

A pagan can recite the Creed from beginning to end from: “I believe in God the Father almighty” down to: “life everlasting, Amen,” but he cannot recite it sincerely and with conviction and remain a pagan. To say: “I believe in God” and do nothing whatsoever about it means that I am not stating the truth; I am lying, when I say: “I believe in God.” The “Apostles’ Creed” is a brief synopsis of the Christian religion. When a true Christian recites this Creed he is affirming the central truths of his religion, and at the same time accepting the consequences which flow from these truths. This is what St. James means when he says that Christians must be “doers of the word and not hearers only.” They must, he says, put their Christian faith into practice. A Christian must live his faith as well as believe it.

There is no need to labor this point; all who are sincere Christians know this; but most, if not all, of us can profit from a look at our daily actions in the light of St. James’ words today. Is our faith really alive? Does it produce “good works,” works of charity toward our needy neighbors? If it does not it is “dead,” it produces nothing in this life and it will produce nothing, no reward for us in the next. There are Christians whose Christian faith is completely self-centered, it begins and ends with themselves. They say their prayers; they attend their Sunday Mass; they avoid grave sins or think they do; but they exclude all other men from their thoughts; they are blind and deaf to any appeals for spiritual or material help from any neighbor or charitable cause. They will try to justify their behavior by saying that they have enough to do to look after their own bodily and spiritual needs. They act as if they never heard that the spiritual and corporal works of mercy were an essential part of the Christian code. Such Christians are rare among us, thank God, but they are not “doers of the word,” and will meet some questions on their judgement day to which they will have no answers.

However, before we clap ourselves on the back and say: “thank God, we are not like the other Christians,” we would all do well to look again at our own fulfillment of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Are we really doing all that our Christian faith expects of us to help our needy neighbors? To keep to the two corporal works of mercy mentioned by St. James, let each one of us ask himself or herself: “What have I done to clothe the naked and feed the hungry during the past month?” There are ill-clad and hungry people in the ghettoes and slums of every city in our land. There are millions of such unfortunate people in Asia, Africa and South America. These are calling on us, and beseeching us to come to their aid. Associations to help them have been set up by charitable Christians and charitable non-Christians in all the Western nations. These good men and women moved by the spirit of Christ and the brotherhood of men, depend on you and me to continue their good work. How much have we given to suffering neighbors or to these associations?

There may be some among us today who are struggling hard to keep off the bread-line themselves—God will excuse them from giving a helping hand, when their two hands are tied by their own poverty. But there may be others who should and could help, but do not. To these I would say: Limit severely your luxuries in food, drink and clothing while there are millions of hungry and half-naked brothers of yours—adopted sons of God. God is appealing to your Christian heart and conscience today, through these words of St. James. To refuse to listen to his plea will be to risk your eternal salvation. Remember Christ’s own description of the judgement scene: “He will say to those on his left hand, I was hungry and you gave me no food . . . I was naked and you did not clothe me . . . depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 24: 42-45).

“Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 162 Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.”1 To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith;2 it must be “working through charity,” abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church.3

CCC 2447 The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.4 Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.5 Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God:6

He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none and he who has food must do likewise.7 But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you.8 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?9

1 1 Tim 1:18-19.

2 Cf. Mk 9:24; Lk 17:5; 22:32.

3 Gal 5:6; Rom 15:13; cf. Jas 2:14-26.

4 Cf. Isa 58:6-7; Heb 13:3.

5 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

6 Cf. Tob 4:5-11; Sir 17:22; Mt 6:2-4.

7 Lk 3:11.

8 Lk 11:41.

9 Jas 2:15-16; cf. 1 Jn 3:17.

GOSPEL

Mk 8:27-35

Jesus and his disciples set out

for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.

Along the way he asked his disciples,

“Who do people say that I am?”

They said in reply,

“John the Baptist, others Elijah,

still others one of the prophets.”

And he asked them,

“But who do you say that I am?”

Peter said to him in reply,

“You are the Christ.”

Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He began to teach them

that the Son of Man must suffer greatly

and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,

and be killed, and rise after three days.

He spoke this openly.

Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,

rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.

You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,

take up his cross, and follow me.

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,

but whoever loses his life for my sake

and that of the gospel will save it.”

APPLICATION

We need not be surprised at the slowness of the Apostles in grasping the messiahship of Jesus. He did not want the crowds who flocked to him to know this until later—after his resurrection—because they had the idea that the Messiah would be a political leader who would set them free from their subjection to pagan Rome. It was not until this occasion, near Caesarea Philippi, somewhat over a year after he had called them, that he admitted to his Apostles that he was the Messiah. He charged them not to make this fact known outside of their own limited circle. To forestall and erase any wrong ideas of a political leader which some of the Apostles might have, he immediately foretold the sufferings and death he would have to endure at the hands of the leaders of the Jews. He would be conquered and humiliated by his enemies but their victory would be short-lived—death would not hold him–he would rise triumphant on the third day.

To the Apostles this seemed incredible and Peter, their spokesman, told him so. This outlook of the Apostles is also very understandable. They had seen him work many miracles, God was evidently very near to him: how could God let his enemies humiliate and kill him? They did not know God’s plan, they were fishermen and knew little if anything of the Old Testament messianic prophecies. Had they read of the Suffering Servant in second-Isaiah they would not have disbelieved the prophecy of his forth-coming sufferings, death and resurrection. And his mention of his resurrection after three days, which would prove that it was he and not his enemies who conquered, fell on deaf cars, because the idea of a resurrection of that kind was incomprehensible to them. We know how slow they were to accept his resurrection even after it had happened.

Although the message was only vaguely and dubiously grasped, Christ had forewarned his Apostles (he repeated this twice later: Mk. 9: 9-10; 31-32 and 10: 32-34), so as to prepare them for the scandal of the cross. While it did not really prepare them because they were still too worldly-minded, it did help to strengthen their faith once the facts convinced them of the resurrection. They then realized that their beloved Master was more than Messiah, that he was in fact the Son of God, who with knowledge aforethought freely accepted his humiliations and shameful death for their sakes and ours. They gladly gave their lives to bringing this news of God’s great love for men to all nations. From being a scandal the cross became the emblem and the proud standard of God’s love for mankind.

We are in the happy position of the Apostles after the resurrection of Jesus. We know how much God loves us; we appreciate the humiliation that the incarnation brought on his beloved Son and the sufferings and cruel death which the sins of the world, ours included, brought on the Son of God. All of this took place because God wished to make us his adopted sons and worthy of the inheritance he had planned for us. For a faithful and grateful Christian, however, theoretical appreciation is not enough. Atonement has been made for our sins, but we have still a very important part to play. Our sins can be forgiven but we must truly repent of them before God will forgive them.

St. Mark adds some words of Christ which illustrate what practical form our appreciation and gratitude for Christ’s sufferings should take. We must be ready to follow him on the road to Calvary. We must deny ourselves—deprive ourselves not only of sinful pleasure or gain, but even of lawful things at times, in order to be Christ-like. We must take up our cross and follow him. This does not mean that we must search for crosses—there are plenty of them in any good Christian’s life—but we must gladly accept the crosses life brings us and see in them God’s means of keeping us close to him.

Life on earth is very short, eternal life is endless. No thinking man, and certainly no true Christian, would risk losing the eternal life for the sake of a few paltry gains or a few extra years here below.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.S.F. Used with permission of Ignatius Press

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 459 The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”1 On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: “Listen to him!”2 Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: “Love one another as I have loved you.”3 This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.4

CCC 472 This human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge. As such, this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his existence in space and time. This is why the Son of God could, when he became man, “increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man”,5 and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience.6 This corresponded to the reality of his voluntary emptying of himself, taking “the form of a slave”.7

CCC 474 By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal.8 What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.9

CCC 557 “When the days drew near for him to be taken up [Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem.”10 By this decision he indicated that he was going up to Jerusalem prepared to die there. Three times he had announced his Passion and Resurrection; now, heading toward Jerusalem, Jesus says: “It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.”11

CCC 572 The Church remains faithful to the interpretation of “all the Scriptures” that Jesus gave both before and after his Passover: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”12 Jesus’ sufferings took their historical, concrete form from the fact that he was “rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes”, who handed “him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified”.13

CCC 649 As for the Son, he effects his own Resurrection by virtue of his divine power. Jesus announces that the Son of man will have to suffer much, die, and then rise.14 Elsewhere he affirms explicitly: “I lay down my life, that I may take it again. .. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”15 “We believe that Jesus died and rose again.”16

CCC 1615 This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize. However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy – heavier than the Law of Moses.17 By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to “receive” the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ.18 This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life.

CCC 2544 Jesus enjoins his disciples to prefer him to everything and everyone, and bids them “renounce all that [they have]” for his sake and that of the Gospel.19 Shortly before his passion he gave them the example of the poor widow of Jerusalem who, out of her poverty, gave all that she had to live on.20 The precept of detachment from riches is obligatory for entrance into the Kingdom of heaven.

1 Mt 11:29; Jn 14:6.

2 Mk 9:7; cf. Dt 6:4-5.

3 Jn 15:12.

4 Cf. Mk 8:34.

5 Lk 2:52.

6 Cf. Mk 6 38; 8 27; Jn 11:34; etc.

7 Phil 2:7.

8 Cf. Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:18-20, 26-30.

9 Cf. Mk 13:32, Acts 1:7.

10 Lk 9:51; cf. Jn 13:1.

11 Lk 13:33; cf. Mk 8:31-33; 9:31-32; 10:32-34.

12 Lk 24:26-27,44-45.

13 Mk 8:31; Mt 20:19.

14 Cf. Mk 8:31; 9:9-31; 10:34.

15 Jn 10:17-18.

16 I Th 4:14.

17 Cf. Mk 8:34; Mt 11:29-30.

18 Cf. Mt 19:11.

19 Lk 14:33; cf. Mk 8:35.

20 Cf. Lk 21:4.

BENEDICAMUS

God Penetrates Human Events

History is not in the hands of the powers of darkness, chance, or human decisions alone.  When evil energy that we see is unleashed, when Satan vehemently bursts in, when a multitude of scourges and ills surface, the Lord, the supreme arbiter of historical events, arises.  He leads history wisely towards the dawn of the new heavens and the new earth… There is consequently a desire to reaffirm that God is not indifferent to human events but penetrates them, creating his own “ways” or, in other words, his effective plans and “deeds”… The nations must learn to “read” God’s message in history.  The adventure of humanity is not confused and meaningless, nor is it doomed, never to be appealed against or to be abused by the overbearing and the perverse…  This attitude of faith leads men and women to recognize the power of God who works in history and thus to open themselves to feeling awe for the name of the Lord.  In biblical language, in fact, this “fear” is not fright.  It is recognition of the mystery of divine transcendence.  Thus, it is at the root of faith and is interwoven with love…  As Saint Hilary of Poitiers, a fourth-century bishop, said: “All our fear is in love.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

One day, after celebrating Mass, the aged Pope Leo XIII was in conference with the Cardinals when suddenly he sank to the floor in a deep swoon. Physicians who hastened to his side could find no trace of his pulse and feared that he had expired. However, after a short interval the Holy Father regained consciousness and exclaimed with great emotion: “Oh, what a horrible picture I have been permitted to see!”

He had been shown a vision of evil spirits who had been released from Hell and their efforts to destroy the Church. But in the midst of the horror the archangel St. Michael appeared and cast Satan and his legions into the abyss of hell. Soon afterwards Pope Leo XIII composed the following prayer to Saint Michael, which is the original version:

Original – Prayer to St. Michael

“O Glorious Prince of the heavenly host, St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in the battle and in the terrible warfare that we are waging against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the evil spirits. Come to the aid of man, whom Almighty God created immortal, made in His own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of Satan.

“Fight this day the battle of the Lord, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in Heaven. That cruel, ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with his angels. Behold, this primeval enemy and slayer of men has taken courage. Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the name of God and of His Christ, to seize upon, slay and cast into eternal perdition souls destined for the crown of eternal glory. This wicked dragon pours out, as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity.

“These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where the See of Holy Peter and the Chair of Truth has been set up as the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be.

“Arise then, O invincible Prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and give them the victory. They venerate thee as their protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as her defense against the malicious power of hell; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude. Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly find mercy in the sight of the Lord; and vanquishing the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations. Amen.

  1. Behold the Cross of the Lord; be scattered ye hostile powers.
  2. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered the root of David.
  3. Let Thy mercies be upon us, O Lord.
  4. As we have hoped in Thee.
  5. O Lord, hear my prayer.
  6. And let my cry come unto Thee.

Let us pray.

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon Thy holy Name, and as supplicants, we implore Thy clemency, that by the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin Immaculate and our Mother, and of the glorious St. Michael the Archangel, Thou wouldst deign to help us against Satan and all the other unclean spirits who wander about the world for the injury of the human race and the ruin of souls. Amen.”

Roman Raccolta, July 23, 1898, supplement approved July 31, 1902,

London: Burnes, Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1935, 12th edition.

Short Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

The well-known short version of this prayer follows in English. The Pope ordered this prayer to be recited daily after Low Mass in all the churches throughout the Catholic world. However this practice was almost completely swept away in the 1960s by liturgical changes made in the wake of Vatican Council II.

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

 

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A 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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