“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
PRAYER OF THE WEEK
Prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
O Lord, I pray that in my home, peace and quiet and well being may prevail under the shadow of Your holy mantle. Bless and protect, O Lord, my endeavors, my enterprises and all those who depend on me and everything I long for and desire. Banish from my mind and my heart false ideas and evil sentiments. Infuse in me a love of my neighbor and grant me the means to help him. Give me resignation and fortitude of spirit in time of adversity, so that I may rise above the contradictions of life. Guide and protect, O Lord, my own who are exposed to the dangers and contingencies of this world. Do not forget, O my Jesus, our loved ones with whom we were united in life and whose departure from this earth causes us sorrow, at the same time consoled by the thought that, because they remained faithful to You, You did not abandon them at the hour of death. Have pity on them, O Lord, and bring them to their eternal glory in heaven. Amen
O God, who founded all the commands of your sacred Law
upon love of you and of our neighbor,
grant that, by keeping your precepts,
we may merit to attain eternal life.
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.
Wis 2:12, 17-20
The wicked say:
Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.
Let us see whether his words be true;
let us find out what will happen to him.
For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him
and deliver him from the hand of his foes.
With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test
that we may have proof of his gentleness
and try his patience.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death;
for according to his own words, God will take care of him.
The word of the Lord.
St. Augustine says: “corruptio optimi pessima”–the best when corrupted becomes the most corrupt. The Jews who abandoned the true God and his law became worse than the pagans who never knew God. They also became the most bitter opponents of the observant Jews. The same holds today: the Christian who abandons his faith, as a general rule becomes a bitter opponent of Christianity–the deserting soldier always condemns his army! When the book of Wisdom was written there were renegade Jews in Egypt, and elsewhere. They despised and hated the God-fearing Jews, because they reminded them of their own apostasy; they would do all in their power to humiliate and exterminate them. When they got one such Jew in their clutches they plotted to jeer at him and mock him saying: “he claimed to be a son of God, let us see if God will deliver him from (us) his adversaries.” That this could have happened there can be no doubt, and it may be that it is of some such incident or incidents that the words of Wisdom are to be understood in their literal sense.
The similarity of the ideas here expressed with the fourth Song of the Suffering Servant in second-Isaiah (52-53), which refers to Christ are so close that most of the Fathers of the Church saw in these words a typical prophecy giving the reasons for, and the fact of, the sufferings and death of Christ. He was the perfect Jew par excellence. He was an inconvenience and embarrassment to the Scribes and Pharisees and opposed their actions. He reproached them for sins against the law and against the true tradition (see Mk. 7: 1-23 and Gospel for 22nd Sunday). He claimed to be the Son of God: this was the principal charge made against him at his trial (Mk. 14: 61-64). “Let us condemn him to a shameful death,” they say, “he will be protected” (by God). While he hung on the cross the passers-by and the chief priests and Scribes jeered him also: “he puts his trust in God,” they said : “now let God rescue him if he wants him.” For he did say: “I am the Son of God ” (Mt. 27: 42-43).
While some loyal Jews may have suffered injury and maybe death at the hands of Jewish apostates in Egypt, the words of the author of Wisdom were certainly fulfilled to the letter in Christ, the true Son of God, the perfect loyal Jew. The opposition of the Scribes and Pharisees which was manifest all through his public life and which culminated on Calvary arose from their jealous pride. In their proud estimation of themselves they alone were the true sons of Abraham. They heartily despised the tax-gatherers, the uneducated in the law and human traditions, and those guilty of human failings. All of these were sinners to be avoided at any cost. Christ who came to save sinners associated freely with these people, thus openly “opposing the Pharisees’ action”, hence their plotting and their final resolve to get rid of him. They thought they had succeeded on Good Friday but Easter Sunday proved how wrong they were. He was indeed the Son of God.
Our Lord warned his disciples, and through them all of us, to beware of the leaven–the pride of the Pharisees. Of all sins pride is the most injurious to the sinner and the most offensive to God. It was the first human sin and the source of all other sins. There is an inclination to pride in all men so we must be on our guard against it. If we try to remember always that everything we are, and everything we have is from God this would remove any cause for pride. If, furthermore, we remember that we are Christians, followers of the humble Christ, we can hardly be tempted, must less yield to the temptation, to be proud; for a proud Christian is a contradiction in terms. If we are Christians we cannot be proud, if we are proud we are no longer Christians.
Let us ever strive to imitate, in our own way, him “whose state was divine, but who emptied himself of his divine glory to assume the condition of a slave… and, being as all men are, he was humbler yet
even to accepting death, death on a cross” (Ph. 2: 6-8). He, Christ, is our leader and model, let us strive daily to follow him.
Ps 54:3-4, 5, 6 and 8
The Lord upholds my life.
O God, by your name save me,
and by your might defend my cause.
O God, hear my prayer;
hearken to the words of my mouth.
The Lord upholds my life.
For the haughty men have risen up against me,
the ruthless seek my life;
they set not God before their eyes.
The Lord upholds my life.
Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord sustains my life.
Freely will I offer you sacrifice;
I will praise your name, O LORD, for its goodness.
The Lord upholds my life.
Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure,
then peaceable, gentle, compliant,
full of mercy and good fruits,
without inconstancy or insincerity.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
for those who cultivate peace.
Where do the wars
and where do the conflicts among you come from?
Is it not from your passions
that make war within your members?
You covet but do not possess.
You kill and envy but you cannot obtain;
you fight and wage war.
You do not possess because you do not ask.
You ask but do not receive,
because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
The word of the Lord.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 2737 “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”1 If we ask with a divided heart, we are “adulterers”;2 God cannot answer us, for he desires our well-being, our life. “Or do you suppose that it is in vain that the scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit which he has made to dwell in us?’”3 That our God is “jealous” for us is the sign of how true his love is. If we enter into the desire of his Spirit, we shall be heard.
Do not be troubled if you do not immediately receive from God what you ask him; for he desires to do something even greater for you, while you cling to him in prayer.4
God wills that our desire should be exercised in prayer, that we may be able to receive what he is prepared to give.5
1 Jas 4:3; cf. the whole context: Jas 4:1-10; 1:5-8; 5:16.
2 Jas 4:4.
3 Jas 4:5.
4 Evagrius Ponticus, De oratione 34: PG 79, 1173.
5 St. Augustine, Ep. 130, 8, 17: PL 33, 500.
The gospel of Christ is a gospel which preaches peace and harmony between man and God, and between man and man. Christ, the Son of God, who took our human nature made all men adopted sons of God. All men are therefore members of the same family–the family of God. Therefore, they should reverence and honor God their Father at all times and they should respect and love one another as brothers, which they are. Above all others, Christians should put this gospel truth into practice among themselves and then among all men. They know, from Christ’s own lips, that love of God and love of neighbor are the two basic essential commands of Christianity. The man who keeps these two commandments keeps the “whole law and the prophets”–the whole of revealed religion.
Had Christians done this down through the twenty centuries of Christianity what a different world ours would be today! The vast majority of the peoples of this earth would be Christians. It is a religion, in practice so divine, and yet so rationally human: God, loved and obeyed by a family united in love. This would have convinced all heathens and would have kept Christians closely united and made the rise of agnosticism and atheism impossible.
However, there were lax, half-hearted and selfish Christians in the Church from the very beginning. They were there already in St. James’ day which was less than a generation after the death and resurrection of Christ. Because of jealousy and selfish ambition, there existed disorder and every vile practice among those Christians to whom he was writing. The jealous and selfish ones resented others for having certain worldly goods or positions–goods or positions they lawfully gained. Why, say the jealous ones, should we not have these benefits? Let us take them; hence followed “wars and fightings” among fellow-Christians. What a scandal for their pagan neighbors and what a violation of the basic Christian law!
Unfortunately, St. James’ letter did not eradicate these human weaknesses from human nature. There have been and there will be jealous and selfish people and nations who envy the success of others and, as is often the case, successful but selfish people who do not want others to equal them. Our own century has witnessed two world wars on a scale never seen before, and for what reason? Was there a just side in these wars? History will have difficulty in finding it. It is not always the invader, or so-called aggressor, who starts the evil of war. Jealousies and selfish interests have aroused hatred and animosity for years before ever the first gun-fire is heard.
Our world was never so divided and so lacking in true Christian brotherhood as it is today. Too many are lacking the necessities of life, while the well-to-do are smothering, in excesses and luxuries, their humanity and any brotherly love they have. The wealthy nations, jealous, ambitious and afraid of each other’s ambitions, are squandering on war machines wealth that could save millions from starvation and slavery. Not only are professed atheists but ex-Christians also, forgetful that God is their Father and therefore they can no longer see all men as their brothers.
This is a time when true Christians must try to make their voices heard above the din and noise of the warmongers, who will remain safely at home filling their coffers, when war comes to claim millions of innocent lives. We want peace not war; we want to live in charity and unity with all men, not in enmity and hatred. Let us begin at home, by our charity and brotherly love. Let us make our own neighborhood a haven of peace and happiness and let us pray God to fill the hearts of all men with the same Christian spirit.
Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee,
but he did not wish anyone to know about it.
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”
But they did not understand the saying,
and they were afraid to question him.
They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
“What were you arguing about on the way?”
But they remained silent.
They had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
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.1 What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.2
CCC 557 “When the days drew near for him to be taken up [Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem.”3 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.”4
CCC 1825 Christ died out of love for us, while we were still “enemies.”5 The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself.6
The Apostle Paul has given an incomparable depiction of charity: “charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”7
1 Cf. Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:18-20, 26-30.
2 Cf. Mk 13:32, Acts 1:7.
3 Lk 9:51; cf. Jn 13:1.
4 Lk 13:33; cf. Mk 8:31-33; 9:31-32; 10:32-34.
5 Rom 5:10.
6 Cf. Mt 5:44; Lk 10:27-37; Mk 9:37; Mt 25:40, 45.
7 1 Cor 13:4-7.
The Apostles were still very worldly-minded, they were full of the hope that Christ would establish an earthly messianic kingdom, that he would not only free their holy land from the hated pagan rulers but that he would set up a worldwide empire for the people of God. Many of the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament spoke of a worldwide kingdom; all nations would submit to the descendant of David; Jerusalem would be the magnet which would attract all peoples. The prophets, however, were speaking of the true messianic kingdom, the spiritual kingdom that Christ would establish. The Apostles were as yet unable to see the true meaning of these prophecies. They took them as referring to a worldly kingdom. They had come to believe that Christ was the promised Messiah, therefore he would overcome all enemies and all opposition and set up this kingdom. How, therefore, could his enemies overpower him much less put him to death before he had accomplished his task? Thus they refused to believe his prophecies concerning his coming tortures and death.
Now, either in trying to understand what he had so plainly told them, or maybe in putting this disturbing thought far from their minds, they began disputing with one another as to which of them would have the highest post of honor in the earthly messianic kingdom which they had envisaged. How worldly but how human they were! We must not forget though, that they were not yet really Christians–they needed the death and resurrection of Christ to make them what they became–his true followers and loyal disciples.
There was in the unformed Apostles a desire to turn Christ’s kingdom into an earthly welfare state, rather than into a preparation for heaven? All Christians know that Christ suffered and died for their salvation, and that he asked his followers to take up their cross and follow him if they wished to be his disciples. The first generations of Christians fully understood this and faithfully followed him even to martyrdom. However, as time went on and opposition to the Christian faith disappeared, so too did the zeal and fervor of many Christians. For centuries, we have had nominal Christians in Christ’s Church: men and women who tried to make their paradise in this world, and forgot the everlasting heaven.
Our own age has seen an unprecedented increase in this falling away of Christians. Leaving aside the parts of Europe which are professedly atheist–but where in spite of the leaders there are many sincere and devout Christians–the number of lapsed and nominal Christians in the other Western countries is frightening. These non-practicing Christians, unwilling to carry their crosses, have decided to make this earth their paradise. They want prosperity, comfort and happiness in this world. The vast majority of them, of course, refuse to look to the future; it could be an unpleasant thought, yet they must see that in every town and village there is a mortician, an undertaker who makes a good living disposing of human “remains.” Die they must; “and what then?” should be a question which overshadows their lives.
Many of these people who in practice have abandoned Christianity, try to salve their consciences by devoting any time they can spare to making this planet a better place in which to live. It is an excellent aim with a possibility of success–if the Fatherhood of God and the true brotherhood of man are upheld. But otherwise its a vain Utopia. If God, and Christ’s teaching are left out of our reckoning, we shall ever have jealousies, enmities, hatred and wars. Christians have made war on Christians because neither side in the struggle was truly Christian. What chance then has the world when Christ and Christianity are banished from it?
Today’s thought for each one of us is this: Christ became man, suffered and died as man, for our sakes. By his resurrection he conquered death and opened heaven for us. Heaven is our true destiny. Loving God and our neighbor and carrying our cross is the only way to reach heaven. Forget this “heaven on earth” doctrine; it does not and never will exist! Accept Christ and you are accepting the Father who sent him. He in turn will accept you.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Ignatius Press
The Success of the Cross
On the cross, Christ saw love through to the end. For all the differences there may be between the accounts in the various Gospels, there is one point in common: Jesus died praying. And in the abyss of death he upheld the First Commandment and held on to the presence of God. Out of such a death springs this sacrament, the Eucharist… Did Jesus fail? … Success is definitely not one of the names of God and it is not Christian to have an eye to outward success or numbers. God’s paths are other than that. His success comes about through the cross and is always found under that sign. The true witnesses to his authenticity, down through their emblem… What strengthens our faith, what remains constant, what gives us hope, is the Church of the suffering. She stands, to the present day, as a sign that God exists and that man is not just a cesspit, but that he can be saved… The Church of the suffering gives credibility to Christ: she is God’s success in the world; the sign that gives us hope and courage; the sign from which still flows the power of life, which reaches beyond mere thoughts of success and which thereby purifies men and opens up for God a door into this world. So let us be ready to hear the call of Jesus Christ, who achieved the great success of God on the cross; he who, as the grain of wheat that died, has become fruitful down through all the centuries; the Tree of Life, in whom even today men may put their hope.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
A Prayer for the Virtue of Humility
Lord Jesus, when You walked the earth,
Your humility obscured Your Kingship.
Your meekness confused the arrogant,
Hindering them from grasping
Your nobleness attending to the destitute.
Teach me to model after Your eminence,
To subject my human nature to humility.
Grant me a with a natural inclination
To never view myself greater than anyone.
Banish all lingering sparks of self-importance
That could elevate me greater than You.
Let my heart always imitate Your humility!