Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

 

Jesus Blessing the ChildrenEbay.jpg                 “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

COLLECT

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.

READING I

DSC_0961.JPG

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.

APPLICATION

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.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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.

READING II

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Jas 3:16-4:3

Beloved:

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.

APPLICATION  

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.

GOSPEL

Jesus+with+children-long.jpg

 

Mk 9:30-37

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.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/092318.cfm

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.

APPLICATION

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

BENEDICTUS

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

CLOSING PRAYER

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 purpose,

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!

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1968

 

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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.

 

Posted in Catholic

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

 

 

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They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

Prayer to Jesus

O Lord and lover of men, make shine in our hearts the pure light of Thy divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our mind to the understanding of Thy gospel teaching. Instill in us the fear of Thy blessed commandments, that trampling upon all carnal desires, we may enter upon a spiritual life, willing and doing all that is Thy good pleasure. For Thou art the light of our souls and of our bodies, Christ O God, and we give glory to Thee together with Thine eternal Father and Thine all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and for ever, world without end. Amen.

From the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom

COLLECT

O God, by whom we are redeemed and receive adoption,

look graciously upon your beloved sons and daughters,

that those who believe in Christ

may receive true freedom

and an everlasting inheritance.

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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Is 35:4-7a

Thus says the LORD:

Say to those whose hearts are frightened:

Be strong, fear not!

Here is your God,

he comes with vindication;

with divine recompense

he comes to save you.

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,

the ears of the deaf be cleared;

then will the lame leap like a stag,

then the tongue of the mute will sing.

Streams will burst forth in the desert,

and rivers in the steppe.

The burning sands will become pools,

and the thirsty ground, springs of water.

APPLICATION

God chose the descendants of Abraham (1800 B.C.) as the people to whom he would reveal himself and through whom he would preserve that revelation while preparing for the coming of his Son as man on earth. He selected human representatives from among them who, acting in his name, would direct their civic and spiritual activities, and so keep them faithful to the covenant he had made with them on Sinai. Moses, Joshua and the Judges were civic and spiritual leaders who regulated the Chosen People’s lives for nearly two hundred years. Samuel (1040 B.C.), the last of the Judges, was more a spiritual than a civic leader. He was the first of the prophets—a line of men chosen by God to speak his “word” to his people. It was he, under God’s orders, who anointed Saul as first king of the Israelites.

The monarchy survived as the political and civic director of the Chosen People, down to 721 B.C. in the schismatic north, and until the Babylonian exile (587) in Judah. God, however, continued to send his prophets for nearly two hundred years more. The monarchy had failed in the break-away north (Israel). But even in Judah the line of David came under pagan influence—with a few notable exceptions—and led many of their subjects away from God. For their part, the prophets were faithful to their vocation and it is to them, under God, that we owe it that a “remnant” of the Chosen People preserved the knowledge of the true God in Israel until the “fullness of time” had arrived—the age predetermined by God for the coming of Christ.

Isaiah, of the 8th century B.C., was one of the greatest of these mouthpieces of God. As well as strong words of condemnation for the evil practices of kings and people–words that were badly needed, he had also words of encouragement and consolation for the faithful among God’s people–they were needed too. Many of those good people, because of the evil which was rampant around them, were beginning to doubt if God would fulfill the promises he made to Abraham and his descendants (Gn. 12: 1-3), promises repeated down through the centuries. Had God forgotten them because of the disloyalty of so many among them?

Today’s excerpt from the prophet gives a definite no to these misgivings. “Behold your God will come with vengeance (for the wicked) with the recompense of God he will save you.” He goes on then to describe some of the blessings that this coming of God would bring them: spiritual blessings described in the image of material ones. The religiously blind would see God (in Christ); the deaf would listen to God’s word; the lame would walk freely in God’s paths; the dumb would pronounce God’s praises. What was desert land, as far as the knowledge of God was concerned, would become fertile and fruitful in God’s cause, flowing with streams and fountains of good works.

Today, perhaps more than ever before, devout Christians may, like Isaiah’s contemporaries, be beginning to wonder if God has lost interest in them. Not only has theoretical atheism spread like wild-fire throughout the world, but practical atheism seems to be getting a grip on some within the stronghold of the Church of Christ. What is God doing about it? people are tempted to ask. The answer of Isaiah to his contemporaries is the same answer that God gives to all good Christians today. God will fulfill his promises to us as he fulfilled them for his Chosen People of old. This period of doubting, of questioning, of permissiveness, will pass. There will be casualties but his Church will come forth from this passing crisis strengthened and renewed. Many who were blind will again see the light of faith, others who had closed their ears will again listen to the eternal truths.

Heaven is God’s plan for us. If we remain faithful and loyal to him and his laws during life, no matter what those about us think or say, heaven will be our eternal home. While we do our best then to prove our fidelity to God and to Christ, let us not forget to pray sincerely and often to our loving Father to send his light and grace to those of our fellow-exiles who have put themselves in grave danger of missing their destined goal.

READING II

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Jas 2:1-5

My brothers and sisters, show no partiality

as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes

comes into your assembly,

and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in,

and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes

and say, “Sit here, please, ”

while you say to the poor one, “Stand there, ” or “Sit at my feet, ”

have you not made distinctions among yourselves

and become judges with evil designs?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.

Did not God choose those who are poor in the world

to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom

that he promised to those who love him?

APPLICATION

The words we have read from St. James’ letter could have been written to almost any Christian parish in the world of our day. Yet, they were written over nineteen centuries ago. This simply proves that human nature, even in Christians, has not changed with the passing of the centuries. There are still Christians who are “respecters of persons” and there are still Christians who because of their worldly wealth or position expect and demand special respect for themselves. This would be wrong even in a purely secular society, but in the religious brotherhood of Christians it is sinful and an offense against God whose children we all are.

St. James tells his fellow-Christians that giving special honor to the Christian who wears gold rings and fine clothes, while humiliating the poor man in shabby clothing is to pass judgement with evil thoughts–that is, to judge not on the real merit of a man but on one’s own false criteria. God alone is able and has the right to pass judgement on a man’s merit as a Christian. The Christian who usurps this right of God is sinning. Furthermore, to base one’s judgement on the false worldly criteria or wealth status–which is what the “respecter of persons” does–is doubly sinful: it is usurping God’s right and is a false judgement.

There are few of us who cannot profit from a meditation on these words of St. James. First of all, far too many of us are inclined to claim special consideration and credit because of our personal gifts of mind or body or because of the personal position of power or wealth which we happen to have attained. To such of us, St. Paul puts a very pungent and deciding question: “What have you that you have not received? If then you received it all as a gift why take the credit to yourself?” (1 Cor. 4: 7). As regards our personal qualities of mind and body, we did not give them to ourselves, God it was who gave them to us. If we have used them well and profited by them, we must still thank God. If our neighbors did not get these gifts, we have no right to think less of them because of that—God may have given them unseen gifts which will be more profitable in the final reckoning.

As regards position and worldly wealth, we have less reason still to exalt ourselves. There is always the great question-mark as to how we got them! And granted that everything was honorable and above board in our acquisition of wealth or position: neither is really of lasting value. The millionaire, president, or king of a country will get the same size grave as the pauper. Monuments and laudatory inscriptions will not help the dead man one bit once he has left this life.

We owe all we are and have honestly acquired to the good God; let us never forget it. Instead, let us thank him all the days of our lives. He has a bigger and a far greater gift in store for us—eternal happiness; let us not lose that through the infantile folly of pride. All men are God’s children, he cherishes them all equally—even those who refuse to recognize him. They may have abandoned him, but he will not abandon them until they have breathed their last. As members of his family who recognize all that he has done for us let us do all we can to bring his prodigal children back to him, and help them to appreciate who their true Benefactor is. Thus we shall prove our own gratitude to him and strive to earn his esteem, the only esteem that really matters. We shall not be tempted then to seek glory from men, nor shall we encourage those who, in their childish folly, seek honors or adulation from us.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 146:7, 8-9, 9-10

Praise the Lord, my soul!

The God of Jacob keeps faith forever,

secures justice for the oppressed,

gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets captives free.

Praise the Lord, my soul!

The LORD gives sight to the blind;

the LORD raises up those who were bowed down.

The LORD loves the just;

the LORD protects strangers.

Praise the Lord, my soul!

The fatherless and the widow the LORD sustains,

but the way of the wicked he thwarts.

The LORD shall reign forever;

your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia.

Praise the Lord, my soul!

GOSPEL

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Mk 7:31-37

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre

and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,

into the district of the Decapolis.

And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment

and begged him to lay his hand on him.

He took him off by himself away from the crowd.

He put his finger into the man’s ears

and, spitting, touched his tongue;

then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,

“Ephphatha!”– that is, “Be opened!” —

And immediately the man’s ears were opened,

his speech impediment was removed,

and he spoke plainly.

He ordered them not to tell anyone.

But the more he ordered them not to,

the more they proclaimed it.

They were exceedingly astonished and they said,

“He has done all things well.

He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/090918.cfm

APPLICATION

During his discussion with the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob, our Lord told her that “salvation was to come from the Jews” (Jn. 4: 22). This was in accordance with God’s plan when he took Abraham from his pagan family and surroundings, and elected him to be the father of a Chosen People from whom God’s blessing would come for all nations (Gn. 12: 1-4). This was the historic beginning of “salvation” for men. It was, as yet, a vague generic promise but down through the following eighteen-century history of the Chosen People (Abraham’s descendants) this blessing eventually became crystallized in the Messiah—the anointed and holy one of God. It was he who would introduce the messianic age of which the prophets so often had spoken, and it was in him that all peoples, Jews and Gentiles would find their true “blessing.”

It was right and fitting, therefore, that Christ should proclaim his kingdom and his Gospel among the Jews and in their promised land. Those who would accept him and his message would later spread the good news among the Gentile nations. This is what happened. His Apostles, including St. Paul, and the faithful disciples having done their best for their fellow-Jews, left Palestine and carried the great news of the incarnation–a blessing greater than any man could have imagined–to the pagan peoples of the then-known world. It was surely from the Jews that salvation came to us Gentiles.

While Christ reserved his preaching to the Jews according to God’s plan, he visited some of the Gentile lands bordering on Palestine–Tyre, Sidon, Phoenicia, the Decapolis–and worked some miracles there. However, he did not preach to them. This exception–going into pagan lands–was evidently important to St. Mark, for he goes into details in describing the faith of the people of the place who asked for a miracle, and their enthusiastic reaction to Christ’s power when he did what they requested. Mark himself knew very well that Christ was fulfilling the divine plan when he restricted his preaching to the Jews, and that he had given a command to his Apostles to bring his Gospel to all nations (Mk. 16: 16). Possibly, however, some of his Gentile converts were questioning why Christ had not come to the Gentiles but spent all his public life in Palestine. In this short episode, Mark shows that Christ was interested indeed in Gentiles and showed his compassion for them by working miracles for them.

We have much for which to thank God the Father, Christ and the good Jews who preached the Gospel to our ancestors. We should not think of questioning why Jesus spent his short public life trying to convert his fellow-Jews. God thought of us from all eternity–the incarnation was his way of giving a truly satisfying meaning to the life of man–the masterpiece and master of all his creation. It has given us a new status in life, a new purpose and an end worth every effort we can muster to gain. Life, with its trials and troubles and its brevity, has a meaning, a profound meaning, for Christians–it is a short period of preparation for the future which awaits us after death if we use it properly.

Christ who carried out his Father’s will even unto the death on the cross, deserves our unending gratitude. Eternity will not be long enough for us to thank and praise him. If ever we are tempted to be in any way anti-semitic let us first remember those of God’s Chosen People who preserved the knowledge of God and trust in his promises until the time of their fulfillment had come. Secondly, we must never forget the Apostles and disciples of Christ who devoted and gave their lives in order to bring the Christian faith to us. The best way to show appreciation of a gift is to use it fully and gratefully. Let us make full use of the divine gift of salvation by living according to its teaching all the days of our lives.

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1151 Signs taken up by Christ. In his preaching the Lord Jesus often makes use of the signs of creation to make known the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.1 He performs healings and illustrates his preaching with physical signs or symbolic gestures.2 He gives new meaning to the deeds and signs of the Old Covenant, above all to the Exodus and the Passover,3 for he himself is the meaning of all these signs.

CCC 1504 Often Jesus asks the sick to believe.4 He makes use of signs to heal: spittle and the laying on of hands,5 mud and washing.6 The sick try to touch him, “for power came forth from him and healed them all.”7 And so in the sacraments Christ continues to “touch” us in order to heal us.

1 Cf. Lk 8:10.

2 Cf. Jn 9:6; Mk 7:33ff.; 8:22ff.

3 Cf. Lk 9:31; 22:7-20.

4 Cf. Mk 5:34, 36; 9:23.

5 Cf. Mk 7:32-36; 8:22-25.

6 Cf. Jn 9:6-7.

7 Lk 6:19; cf. Mk 1:41; 3:10; 6:56.

BENEDICTUS

Bread for the Journey

The Son of God, becoming flesh, could become bread in this way by the nourishment of his people journeying toward the promised land of heaven.  We need this bread to cope with the toil and exhaustion of the journey…  The Sunday precept is not a simple duty imposed from outside.  To participate in the Sunday celebration and to be nourished with the eucharist bread is a need of a Christian, who in this way can find the necessary energy for the journey to be undertaken…  The way that God indicates through his law goes in the direction inscribed in the very essence of man.  To follow the way means man’s own fulfillment; to lose it, is to lose himself.  The Lord does not leave us alone on this journey.  He is with us; he wishes to share our destiny by absorbing us…  In the Eucharist the center is Christ who attracts us to himself; he makes us come out of ourselves to make us one with him.  In this way, he introduces us into the community of brothers…  This means that we can only encounter him together with all others.  We can only receive him in unity…  We cannot commune with the Lord if we do not commune among ourselves.  If we wish to present ourselves to him, we must go out to meet one another…  We must not allow the destructive larva of resentment to take hold of our spirit, but open our heart to the magnanimity of listening to the other, of understanding, of the possible acceptance of his apologies, of the generous offering of our own.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 40

How many, O Lord my God,

are the wonders and designs

that you have worked for us;

you have no equal.

Should I proclaim and speak of them,

they are more than I can tell!

You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings,

but an open ear.

You do not ask for holocaust and victim.

Instead, here am I.

In the scroll of the book it stands written

that I should do your will.

My God, I delight in your law

in the depth of my heart.

Glory to the Father and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning, is now,

and ever shall be,

world without end. Amen

 

Posted in Catholic

Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

Pharisee in market.jpg

“Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

Teach us, Good Lord

To serve you as you deserve.

To give and not count the cost.

To fight and not heed the wounds.

To toil and not to seek for rest.

To labor and not to ask for any reward

Except that of knowing that we do Your Will.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

St. Ignatius of Loyola

COLLECT

God of might, giver of every good gift,

put into our hearts the love of your name,

so that, by deepening our sense of reverence,

you may nurture in us what is good

and, by your watchful care,

keep safe what you have nurtured.

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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Dt 4:1-2, 6-8

Moses said to the people:

“Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees

which I am teaching you to observe,

that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land

which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.

In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God,

which I enjoin upon you,

you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.

Observe them carefully,

for thus will you give evidence

of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations,

who will hear of all these statutes and say,

‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’

For what great nation is there

that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us

whenever we call upon him?

Or what great nation has statutes and decrees

that are as just as this whole law

which I am setting before you today?”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 708 This divine pedagogy appears especially in the gift of the Law.1 God gave the Law as a “pedagogue” to lead his people toward Christ.2 But the Law’s powerlessness to save man deprived of the divine “likeness,” along with the growing awareness of sin that it imparts,3 enkindles a desire for the Holy Spirit. The lamentations of the Psalms bear witness to this.

1 Cf. Ex 19-20; Deut 1-11; 29-30.

2 Gal 3:24.

3 Cf. Rom 3:20.

APPLICATION

Even though the book of Deuteronomy was written some centuries after the death of Moses it is quite possible that he spoke words of exhortation to the Israelites–exhortation to be faithful to their covenant with God–before they left Moab to enter the Promised Land. Whether or not Moses spoke the words given here, they were written by an inspired author and this exhortation was perhaps even more necessary for the author’s contemporaries and their descendants, than it would have been for the Israelites of Moses’ day. The memory of the Exodus and the part played by God in it, as well as all the assistance he gave to them during their journey from Egypt to Moab (Transjordan), was still fresh in the minds of Moses’ contemporaries. The temptation to forget God or to be disloyal to his commandments, would have been much less likely to impress these early Israelites–they badly needed God, they would remain close to him. It was much later, when their descendants had successfully settled in Canaan and through success had grown worldly-minded, that this temptation grew strong and made many Israelites forget their past and God’s part in their history. The exhortation was more necessary in the later period than it would have been at the time of Moses.

These verses from Deuteronomy were selected for our reading today to remind us of our covenant with God, to remind us of all God has done for us and of what he expects of us in return. The boast of the Jews that God was very near to them was true, but with much more truth can we Christians make that same boast. God sent his divine Son to live among us and he raised us up to the dignity of adopted sonship. He made a new and everlasting covenant with us and sealed it with his own precious blood, shed on the cross of Calvary. He has prepared a place in heaven for us and there he will lead us if we cooperate with him. The old covenant made on Mount Sinai, the promised land of Palestine, the Chosen People of Israel were but pale shadows of what God had in store for all nations, Jews and Gentiles, when the “fullness of time” came with Christ.

The words of Moses: give heed to the commands of your Lord and God–keep them and do them, are words addressed to us today. Christ himself has summed them up for us very briefly: “love God and love your neighbor.” If we do these two we are doing everything God expects of us. For any Christian who realizes all that God has done for him and the great future he has in store for him, it should not be hard to love such a good and kind Benefactor. It is to God that we owe our existence and every gift of mind and body we have in this life, and it is to his infinite generosity that we owe the promise of an unending happiness after death.

Loving our neighbor may be at times more difficult–there are people who seem very unlovable. However, we must see in our neighbors God’s other children, our brothers in Christ, and be ever ready to overlook their faults and be willing to offer them the hand of friendship, as well as the helping hand if ever they need it. We are living in a world of tensions and strife. There is greater need than ever to foster the brotherhood of man. The lead should surely come from Christians whose faith teaches them that Christ has made all men his brothers and therefore sons of God. Race or color of skin can mean nothing to a true Christian. God is Father of us all and heaven is the end he has destined for all mankind. As Christians, all our endeavors should be directed to helping our brothers, our fellowman, to reach that happy end. A narrow form of nationalism, or pride of race, or ancestry can have no place in the mind of a true follower of Christ. We are all made of the same clay, but the incarnation of God’s Son has raised us up to a lofty dignity which carries with it the promise of a glorious eternal future. Our one desire should be to help all our neighbors, be they near or far, to share with us that glorious future.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5

One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

Whoever walks blamelessly and does justice;

who thinks the truth in his heart

and slanders not with his tongue.

One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

Who harms not his fellow man,

nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;

by whom the reprobate is despised,

while he honors those who fear the LORD.

One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

Who lends not his money at usury

and accepts no bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things

shall never be disturbed.

One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

READING II

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Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27

Dearest brothers and sisters:

All good giving and every perfect gift is from above,

coming down from the Father of lights,

with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.

He willed to give us birth by the word of truth

that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you

and is able to save your souls.

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:

to care for orphans and widows in their affliction

and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 212 Over the centuries, Israel’s faith was able to manifest and deepen realization of the riches contained in the revelation of the divine name. God is unique; there are no other gods besides him.1 He transcends the world and history. He made heaven and earth: “They will perish, but you endure; they will all wear out like a garment. .. but you are the same, and your years have no end.”2 In God “there is no variation or shadow due to change.”3 God is “HE WHO IS”, from everlasting to everlasting, and as such remains ever faithful to himself and to his promises.

CCC 2208 The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor. There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”4

CCC 2642 The Revelation of “what must soon take place,” the Apocalypse, is borne along by the songs of the heavenly liturgy5 but also by the intercession of the “witnesses” (martyrs).6 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.7 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.8 Thus faith is pure praise.

1 Cf. Is 44:6.

2 Ps 102:26-27.

3 Jas 1:17.

4 Jas 1:27.

5 Cf. Rev 4:8-11; 5:9-14; 7:10-12.

6 Rev 6:10.

7 Cf. Rev 18:24; 19:1-8.

8 Jas 1:17.

APPLICATION

The letter of St. James to his fellow-Jewish converts to Christianity is full of sound practical advice. Today’s extract recalls to his readers’ minds how indebted they are to the good God. It was he who gave them every gift of mind and body which they possess. Furthermore, as Jews they were given a limited revelation of himself, but now as Christians they have received, through Christ, all the revelation and helps they need to reach eternal life. They have been given the Christian gospel and the Christian faith and they have the honor of being the first to receive this divine gift.

The practical St. James, however, reminds them that they must use these gifts properly if they are to profit by them. They would be deceiving themselves badly if they thought they would earn heaven by simply professing their faith in God and his Son, Jesus Christ. They must act according to that faith; they must live as adopted sons of God and brothers of Christ by keeping and putting into daily practice the commandments they have learned from the gospel. They must as he says: “be doers of the word and not hearers only.” In this he was but following his divine Master’s warning: “It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ who will enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

The Apostle then mentions two things that they must do in order to be truly Christian, truly religious in God’s sight. They must care for the needy among them. He mentions orphans and widows as those most likely to be in need of help–spiritual and material. They must avoid the sinful practices of the worldly people among whom they were living, This means that they must put the law of love of neighbor into daily practice and they must preserve interior moral purity in the midst of the moral laxity which then prevailed.

This letter of St. James, written about nineteen hundred years ago for the Christians of that day, has still a valuable lesson for us of the 21st century. We. too, need to be reminded often that the gifts of mind and body which we are fortunate to have are not our own–we did not give them to ourselves. We owe our existence and every natural and supernatural gift we possess to the good God who created us. He brought us into being, he gave us life in this world, in order to give us eternal life hereafter; for this reason he has given us the Christian faith which is the one and only true explanation of man’s life on this earth.

We are surely privileged then for we have the true explanation of this life and a firm hope and divine promise of an unending future happy life. But we must never forget that in order to merit this divine promise we have a positive role to play: we must be Christians in practice. Being a Christian is like having a passport for heaven, but having a passport will not get one to the destination he wants to reach; he must take all the necessary steps to reach his desired goal. True, the Christian has divine assistance and aid in taking all these necessary steps, but he must cooperate with it. In other words, he must put the gospel teaching into practice every day of his life.

This is not beyond his strength; if it were, Christ would not have demanded it of him. Since St. James’ day, millions have followed his sound advice and have reached heaven. The vast majority of them did nothing extraordinary–they kept their consciences at peace with God, avoiding the sinful temptations of this world. If they had an occasional lapse in a moment of weakness, they returned quickly to their loving Father. They loved God and proved that love by helping God’s other children who needed help. If we keep these two commandments of love for God and love for our neighbor–the essence of the Christian gospel–we too will find heaven’s gates open to us when our journey through this life ends.

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

GOSPEL

Pharisee in market.jpg

Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem

gathered around Jesus,

they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals

with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.

–For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,

do not eat without carefully washing their hands,

keeping the tradition of the elders.

And on coming from the marketplace

they do not eat without purifying themselves.

And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,

the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. —

So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,

“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders

but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”

He responded,

“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:

This people honors me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me;

in vain do they worship me,

teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

He summoned the crowd again and said to them,

“Hear me, all of you, and understand.

Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;

but the things that come out from within are what defile.

“From within people, from their hearts,

come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,

adultery, greed, malice, deceit,

licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.

All these evils come from within and they defile.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/090218.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 574 From the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, certain Pharisees and partisans of Herod together with priests and scribes agreed together to destroy him.1 Because of certain acts of his expelling demons, forgiving sins, healing on the sabbath day, his novel interpretation of the precepts of the Law regarding purity, and his familiarity with tax collectors and public sinners2 – some ill-intentioned persons suspected Jesus of demonic possession.3 He is accused of blasphemy and false prophecy, religious crimes which the Law punished with death by stoning.4

CCC 582 Going even further, Jesus perfects the dietary law, so important in Jewish daily life, by revealing its pedagogical meaning through a divine interpretation: “Whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him… (Thus he declared all foods clean.)… What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts. ..”5 In presenting with divine authority the definitive interpretation of the Law, Jesus found himself confronted by certain teachers of the Law who did not accept his interpretation of the Law, guaranteed though it was by the divine signs that accompanied it.6 This was the case especially with the sabbath laws, for he recalls, often with rabbinical arguments, that the sabbath rest is not violated by serving God and neighbor,7 which his own healings did.

CCC 1764 The passions are natural components of the human psyche; they form the passageway and ensure the connection between the life of the senses and the life of the mind. Our Lord called man’s heart the source from which the passions spring.8

CCC 2197 The fourth commandment opens the second table of the Decalogue. It shows us the order of charity. God has willed that, after him, we should honor our parents to whom we owe life and who have handed on to us the knowledge of God. We are obliged to honor and respect all those whom God, for our good, has vested with his authority.

1 Cf. Mk 3:6; 14:1.

2 Cf. Mt 12:24; Mk 2:7,14-17; 3:1-6; 7:14-23.

3 Cf. Mk 3:22; Jn 8:48; 10:20.

4 Cf. Mk 2:7; Jn 5:18; 7:12, 52; 8:59; 10:31, 33.

5 Mk 7:18-21; cf. Gal 3:24.

6 Cf. Jn 5:36; 10:25, 37-38; 12:37.

7 Cf. Num 28 9; Mt 12:5; Mk 2:25-27; Lk 13:15-16; 14:3-4; Jn 7:22-24., 8 Cf. Mk 7:21.

APPLICATION

When Christ came on earth the Scribes and Pharisees were the religious leaders of the Jews. The Scribes, so called because of their knowledge of the Mosaic Law and the traditions added on to it, were the elite among the Pharisees who prided themselves on their strict, rigorous observance of the Law and the human traditions. The Pharisees had no time or no understanding for their fellow-Jews who often violated the scribal traditions–and even the Law of Moses itself sometimes. For this reason they kept themselves apart from the ordinary people and developed a proud superiority complex. They performed many acts of virtue but their pride and sense of self-sufficiency vitiated their good deeds (see the description of the Pharisee and the tax-gatherer in the temple, in Lk. 18: 10-14). The opposition of the Pharisees and Scribes to Jesus began very early in his public life. It grew in strength daily until, with the help of the Sadducees, their arch-opponents, they finally nailed him to the cross.

The main reason why they opposed him so bitterly was his mercy, kindness and understanding for sinners. He ate with tax-gatherers and made one of them, Levi, an Apostle. He forgave the adulteress and many, many others. While he certainly did not approve of sin, he never uttered a hard word against any sinner. He had come, as he said, to call sinners to himself and to repentance. This he did all through his public life. He objected to the Pharisees, not because of their strict observance of the Mosaic Law nor of their insistence on human traditions–although they sometimes carried this to an intolerable extreme. He objected because they despised the lowly people, the uneducated in the law and traditions–those, in other words, who did not belong to their own exclusive class. To the Pharisees all these were “sinners,” while they themselves had the worst sin of all–the original sin of mankind, the sin of pride.

In today’s encounter with the Pharisees, Jesus tells them that they are hypocrites: “they honor God with their lips but their heart is far from God”; they obey the Law and the traditions, not to please God, but to be seen and admired by men; their motive, self-glorification, vitiates every otherwise good act they perform. Christ then addresses the people–the crowds who most likely had overheard his dialog with the Pharisees–and he tells them that it is not legal or cultic uncleanliness that matters, but cleanliness of the heart before God. Eating with unwashed hands, or using unwashed vessels for drinking, does not defile a man, this does not make him less worthy before God. It is not from things outside him that a man incurs defilement but from his own innermost self. Every serious sin against God and neighbor has its beginning within a man, in his intellect and will; the evil design is the forerunner and instigator of the evil deed.

The Pharisees should have known all this. They did know it. They knew very well that before a man breaks any of the commandments of God he must first plan and decide to break it; it was not their theology that was defective but their practice. They despised their neighbors and called fellowman “sinners,” because through ignorance they violated many of the man-made precepts the Pharisees had added to the Law of Moses. There were also fellow-Jews of theirs who violated the law itself, but it was not their right to judge or condemn much less excommunicate them, as they so often did in practice.

Christ condemned the Pharisees by word and deed. He was merciful, kind and understanding to all sinners. He forgave sin and promised forgiveness to all who would repent of their past misdeeds. Not only that: for he left to his followers for all time his sacrament of mercy and forgiveness, by means of which they could have their sins forgiven by his minister, acting in his name. Should we ever forget all he has done for us and disobey in a serious way any of his commandments, let us remember that we are not excluded from his company as the sinners were excluded by the Pharisees: we have banged the door on ourselves but he has given us the key with which to reopen it. Let us never be so foolish as to fail to use that key.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Paralysis of Sin

The paralyzed man is the image of every human being whom sin prevents from moving about freely, from walking on the path of good and from giving the best of himself.  Indeed, by taking root in the soul, evil binds the person with the ties of falsehood, anger, envy, and other sins and gradually paralyzes him.  Jesus, therefore, scandalizing the scribes who were present, first said “…your sins are forgiven.”  Only later, to demonstrate the authority to forgive sins that God had conferred upon him, did he add: “Stand up!  Pick up your mat and go home? (Mk 2: 11), and heals the man completely.  The message is clear: human beings, paralyzed by sin, need God’s mercy which Christ came to give to them so that, their hearts healed, their whole life might flourish anew.  Today too, humanity is marked by sin which prevents it from rapidly progressing in those values of brotherhood, justice, and peace that with solemn declarations it had resolved to practice.  Why?  What is blocking it?  What is paralyzing this integral development?  We know well that there are many historical reasons for this and that the problem is complex.  But the Word of God invites us to have a gaze of faith and to trust, like the people who were carrying the paralytic, that Jesus alone is capable of true healing… Only God’s love can renew the human heart, and only if he heals the heart of paralyzed humanity can it get up and walk.  The love of God is the true force that renews the world.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

The Beatitudes

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5: 1-12

Posted in Catholic

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”  Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

Prayer for Peace of Mind and Heart

Eternal, Holy God, I come to You burdened

with worries, fears, doubts, and troubles.

Calm and quiet me with peace of mind.

Empty me of the anxiety that disturbs me,

of the concerns that weary my spirit,

and weigh heavy on my heart.

Loosen my grip on the disappointments

and grievances I hold on to so tightly.

Release me from the pain of past hurts,

of present anger and tension, of future fears.

Sometimes it’s too much for me Lord –

too many demands and problems –

too much sadness, suffering, and stress.

Renew me spiritually and emotionally.

Give me new strength, hope, and confidence.

Prepare me to meet the constant struggles of

daily life with a deeper faith and trust in You.

Let Your love set me free . . . . for peace,

for joy, for grace, for life, for others . . . .

forever.

Amen.

COLLECT

O God, who cause the minds of the faithful

to unite in a single purpose,

grant your people to love what you command

and to desire what you promise,

that, amid the uncertainties of this world,

our hearts may be fixed on that place

where true gladness is found.

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

 ascension.jpg

Jos 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b

Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem,

summoning their elders, their leaders,

their judges, and their officers.

When they stood in ranks before God,

Joshua addressed all the people:

“If it does not please you to serve the LORD,

decide today whom you will serve,

the gods your fathers served beyond the River

or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling.

As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

But the people answered,

“Far be it from us to forsake the LORD

for the service of other gods.

For it was the LORD, our God,

who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt,

out of a state of slavery.

He performed those great miracles before our very eyes

and protected us along our entire journey

and among the peoples through whom we passed.

Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

APPLICATION

It is possible and even probable that some of the twelve tribes had never been in Egypt and therefore had not taken part in the covenant of Sinai. This would explain Joshua’s reason for re-affirming the Sinaitic covenant at Shechem, so that these tribes could take on themselves the covenant obligations and become fully integrated into the Chosen People. Even without this reason the re-enactment or re-acceptance of the covenant at this point in their history was of the greatest importance for the Chosen People. They had had the land of Canaan divided among them and were about to settle down as citizens with rights and duties in their own country.  Hitherto, they had been slaves and nomads. Although their individual territories had been mapped out for them, most of the tribes had but a precarious foothold as yet on the land allotted to them. They had still many battles to fight before they could say that they owned their land

Furthermore, they needed to renew their resolution to remain loyal to Yahweh for as yet their faith in the formative stage would often be threatened by the pagan idolatrous practices they would see on all sides of them. The pagan fertility gods of Canaan had attractions for agricultural people–they were supposed to make the harvests plentiful and produce rain when needed; these pagan idols were there among them. Yahweh was far away in heaven, above the skies. The idols seemed to answer the pagan people’s prayers–Yahweh did not always do so. Therefore, the renewal of the covenant of Sinai at this moment in their history was of the greatest importance; to begin their lives as citizens of Canaan with a solemn dedication of themselves as a united people to the true God was setting up for themselves a standard, a banner, to which they could turn for strength in later life–if tempted to abandon their faith in the one and only God.

There is a lesson here for all Christians: at baptism we were made members of God’s new Chosen People. A solemn covenant or pact was then entered into between us and the Blessed Trinity.  God, through the Church, promised us the eternal possession of the true promised land–heaven, provided we kept our part of the covenant, that is, if we remained faithful to his laws during our days on earth. At our confirmation we renewed this covenant and promised to be loyal to Christ–even if that loyalty brought sufferings and death on us. We gladly became soldiers of Christ.

However, soldiers, tired of discipline and fearful of further battles, have been known to desert their colors and country. Many Israelites, in spite of all their solemn declarations of loyalty to God, turned away from him and put their trust in idols of wood and stone. Worse still, Christians who had a better and a fuller revelation of God in the person of Christ, have deserted God and Christ and their own eternal interests. Like the Israelites of old, they chose the earthly deities of pleasure and plenty; like the timid soldier they have resented discipline and hated the personal restrictions that the Christian code imposes on us all.

While we leave these to the infinite mercy of God, their desertion should make us examine our way of living the Christian life lest we, too, should fall away. We live today in a world which is, alas, ungodly and unchristian. This makes it all the harder for God’s loyal people to live their religious life to the full, but at the same time, it demands of all of God’s loyal subjects to let their light shine before men. Our world needs light and divine illumination. The faith of Christ, the belief in God and in a future life, is not only being attacked by enemies of Christ’s Church, it is being hidden under a bushel, if not completely extinguished, by some who would still claim to be within the fold.

Let us ask God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to strengthen our faith and baptismal covenant. We want to take up our permanent residence in the eternal promised land of heaven. Only the grace of God can keep us from being lost on the way.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 20-21

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall be ever in my mouth.

Let my soul glory in the LORD;

the lowly will hear me and be glad.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

The LORD has eyes for the just,

and ears for their cry.

The LORD confronts the evildoers,

to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,

and from all their distress he rescues them.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;

and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Many are the troubles of the just one,

but out of them all the LORD delivers him;

he watches over all his bones;

not one of them shall be broken.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

READING II

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Eph 5:21-32

Brothers and sisters:

Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.

For the husband is head of his wife

just as Christ is head of the church,

he himself the savior of the body.

As the church is subordinate to Christ,

so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives,

even as Christ loved the church

and handed himself over for her to sanctify her,

cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,

that he might present to himself the church in splendor,

without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,

that she might be holy and without blemish.

So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.

He who loves his wife loves himself.

For no one hates his own flesh

but rather nourishes and cherishes it,

even as Christ does the church,

because we are members of his body.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother

and be joined to his wife,

and the two shall become one flesh.

This is a great mystery,

but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.

APPLICATION

While giving his Ephesian converts some very practical advice to govern the relationships between husbands and wives, St. Paul reveals to us that Christ has made all his faithful followers his bride. He, Christ, is the divine groom; we the Christian Church, are his bride. In the Old Testament, the Chosen People are frequently described as the spouse, the bride of Yahweh. The Song of Songs or Song of Solomon, is generally interpreted as a poem describing this marriage bond between God and Israel. Now in the New Testament, Christ the Son of God has made his new Chosen People his bride. By becoming man he has become one of us, but under this symbol of marriage which is the closest union there can be between two individuals, he is represented as uniting us to himself by a bond greater than brotherhood. Could Christ have done more for us? What return do we make for such overwhelming love? Even the best of us must admit that we have indeed done very little.

Today, the spotlight is on husbands and wives. St. Paul calls on them to live in love and harmony. He tells the wife to be subject to her husband, not as a slave to one’s master but as if subject “to the Lord.” Her subjection is based on love and respect. Marriage has made them one with a unity that has no equal on earth. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church, and as Christ’s love for the Church went so far as to sacrifice his life to save the Church, so must a true Christian husband be ready to sacrifice himself for love of his wife. St. Paul explains that the husband who truly loves his wife is loving himself, for by marriage husband and wife have become “one flesh.” No man ever hates his own flesh and now that his wife is “one flesh” with him, he is loving himself when he loves her. The same holds for the wife.

This ideal state of perfect harmony in married life between husband and wife is not always easily attained but it must be the aim of all married couples. The example St. Paul sets before them is the mutual love of Christ and his Church. While Christ’s love for his Church remains ever constant and unchanging, the same cannot be said for the individuals who form the Church; and no one knew this better than St. Paul. Christ himself foresaw that the many he had made his “bride” would fail sometimes in their obedience and reverence to him; but occasional lapses would not break the “matrimonial bond” between him and them. Therefore, he left the sacrament of penance, the means of erasing such defects, to his Church. Having purified themselves of their sins, these brides of his would return to him, renewed in love and loyalty.

Married couples, therefore, must not be surprised, much less despondent, if that perfect harmony and the idyllic love of their first years in marriage begins to show signs of tension and strain as the days go on. There will be lapses and disappointments on both sides, but this only proves that both are human: they are not yet saints but only learners of the art of sanctity. Here is where Christian charity and Christian forgiveness, obligatory on all Christians, are especially needed between husbands and wives. They must be ever ready to forgive and forget, and to do so quickly. Christ forgives us our sins the moment we sincerely ask for pardon, he does not make us wait for weeks while he sulks and refuses to deal with us.

Husbands and wives must imitate him in this readiness to forgive. When your partner seems to have insulted, neglected or offended you, think of your wedding day and honeymoon. Are you not to blame as much as your partner for this apparent lapse? With the passing of time you have taken your spouse too much for granted; perhaps, you are becoming selfish. Get back to your original loving enthusiasm, renew your wedding-day fervor, forget self for the moment and you’ll find by your side the spouse with whom you walked arm-in-arm down the aisle that great day–one of the greatest days in your life.

GOSPEL

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Jn 6:60-69

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said,

“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,

he said to them, “Does this shock you?

What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending

to where he was before?

It is the spirit that gives life,

while the flesh is of no avail.

The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.

But there are some of you who do not believe.”

Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe

and the one who would betray him.

And he said,

“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me

unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this,

many of his disciples returned to their former way of life

and no longer accompanied him.

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?

You have the words of eternal life.

We have come to believe

and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/082618.cfm

APPLICATION

As we heard last Sunday, St. John was writing about the promise of the Blessed Eucharist at a time when Christians accepted the Mass and Holy Communion as the essential act of Christian worship. Very probably he omitted many details when describing this promise. The “disciples” who murmured evidently saw nothing but a man in Christ. It was very natural, therefore, that they could not accept his saying that they should eat his body and drink his blood. Thus it seems most probable that when Christ says they lacked “faith,” he had given them sufficient proofs that he was more than a man. These individuals among the disciples, however, refused to open their minds to these proofs, therein was their guilt. Their minds were earth-bound and were determined to remain earth-bound. Faith is a gift of the Father, as Christ says to those disciples: “no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father,” but the Father has offered them this gift and they have refused to accept it; otherwise they would not be guilty.

No one who accepts Christ for what he is, the Son of God in human form, has any difficulty in believing that he left us himself in the Eucharist as a sacrifice and a sacrament. This does not mean that we understand this gift of Christ in all its details–it was an act of divine power and as such beyond full human comprehension. However, we can understand enough about the actuality of the Eucharist because we accept the words of Christ, who “has the words of eternal life,” even though its innermost nature escapes us. We are doing no violence to our intelligence when we accept as fact from a trustworthy witness what we cannot prove or confirm for ourselves. No more trustworthy witness than Christ ever existed. In Galilee he promised to give his body and blood–in the Eucharist–to be our spiritual nourishment–communion–and our means of offering an absolutely pleasing sacrifice to God every time his body and blood are made present by the words of his ordained minister. He fulfilled that promise at the Last Supper. He gave to his Apostles and their successors the power to repeat this act of divine love when he said: “Do this in memory of me.”

When Simon Peter answered Christ’s challenge—“will you too go away?”–he spoke not only for his fellow-Apostles that day with: “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” but for all Christians who really believe that Christ was the incarnate Son of God. Peter, be it noted, made his act of faith before he was fully convinced of the divinity of Christ, but he was already convinced that Christ was close to God and spoke nothing but the truth.

We have the proofs of Christ’s divinity which Peter and the Apostles later got. We have also the faith of two thousand years of the Christians whose belief in the Blessed Eucharist as a sacrifice and sacrament was at the very center of their Christian lives. We have also the noble example of many martyrs who gladly gave their lives in defense of this truth. Our faith may never be put to such an extreme test, but should it be, God grant that we will not be found wanting.

Many of us may need to examine ourselves as regards the full and effective use we make of that gift. Every time we attend at Mass do we realize that Christ is offering himself to his Father for our sanctification and the sanctification of the world? Do we realize that we, through his minister at the altar, are offering infinite thanksgiving, infinite atonement, infinite adoration, infinitely effective petition, to our Father in heaven through the sacrifice of his divine Son in the Mass? Are we always worthy to act this part, are our consciences fit to allow us to partake of this sacrifice in Holy Communion? A true Christian who realizes and appreciates what the Son of God has done and is still doing for him will try always to make himself less unworthy, for not even the greatest saint was worthy to partake of this act of divine love.

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 438 Jesus’ messianic consecration reveals his divine mission, “for the name ‘Christ’ implies ‘he who anointed’, ‘he who was anointed’ and ‘the very anointing with which he was anointed’. The one who anointed is the Father, the one who was anointed is the Son, and he was anointed with the Spirit who is the anointing.’”1 His eternal messianic consecration was revealed during the time of his earthly life at the moment of his baptism by John, when “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power”, “that he might be revealed to Israel”2 as its Messiah. His works and words will manifest him as “the Holy One of God”.3

CCC 440 Jesus accepted Peter’s profession of faith, which acknowledged him to be the Messiah, by announcing the imminent Passion of the Son of Man.4 He unveiled the authentic content of his messianic kingship both in the transcendent identity of the Son of Man “who came down from heaven”, and in his redemptive mission as the suffering Servant: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”5 Hence the true meaning of his kingship is revealed only when he is raised high on the cross.6 Only after his Resurrection will Peter be able to proclaim Jesus’ messianic kingship to the People of God: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”7

CCC 473 But at the same time, this truly human knowledge of God’s Son expressed the divine life of his person.8 “The human nature of God’s Son, not by itself but by its union with the Word, knew and showed forth in itself everything that pertains to God.”9 Such is first of all the case with the intimate and immediate knowledge that the Son of God made man has of his Father.10 The Son in his human knowledge also showed the divine penetration he had into the secret thoughts of human hearts.11

CCC 728 Jesus does not reveal the Holy Spirit fully, until he himself has been glorified through his Death and Resurrection. Nevertheless, little by little he alludes to him even in his teaching of the multitudes, as when he reveals that his own flesh will be food for the life of the world.12 He also alludes to the Spirit in speaking to Nicodemus,13 to the Samaritan woman,14 and to those who take part in the feast of Tabernacles.15 To his disciples he speaks openly of the Spirit in connection with prayer16 and with the witness they will have to bear.17

CCC 1336 The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”18 The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. “Will you also go away?”:19 the Lord’s question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has “the words of eternal life”20 and that to receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself.

CCC 2766 But Jesus does not give us a formula to repeat mechanically.21 As in every vocal prayer, it is through the Word of God that the Holy Spirit teaches the children of God to pray to their Father. Jesus not only gives us the words of our filial prayer; at the same time he gives us the Spirit by whom these words become in us “spirit and life.”22 Even more, the proof and possibility of our filial prayer is that the Father “sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”23 Since our prayer sets forth our desires before God, it is again the Father, “he who searches the hearts of men,” who “knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”24 The prayer to Our Father is inserted into the mysterious mission of the Son and of the Spirit.

1 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3,18,3: PG 7/1, 934.

2 Acts 10:38; Jn 1:31.

3 Mk 1:24; Jn 6:69; Acts 3:14.

4 Cf. Mt 16:16-23.

5 Jn 3:13; Mt 20:28; cf. Jn 6:62; Dan 7:13; Is 53:10-12.

6 Cf. Jn 19:19-22; Lk 23:39-43.

7 Acts 2:36.

8 Cf. St. Gregory the Great, “Sicut aqua” ad Eulogium, Epist. Lib. 10, 39 PL 77, 1097 Aff.; DS 475.

9 St. Maximus the Confessor, Qu. et dub. 66 PG 90, 840A.

10 Cf. Mk 14:36; Mt 11:27; Jn 1:18; 8:55; etc.

11 Cf. Mk 2:8; Jn 2 25; 6:61; etc.

12 Cf. Jn 6:27, 51, 62-63.

13 Cf. Jn 3:5-8.

14 Cf. Jn 4:10, 14, 23-24.

15 Cf. Jn 7:37-39.

16 Cf. Lk 11:13.

17 Cf. Mt 10:19-20.

18 Jn 6:60.

19 Jn 6:67.

20 In 6:68.

21 Cf. Mt 6:7; 1 Kings 18:26-29.

22 Jn 6:63.

23 Gal 4:6., 24 Rom 8:27.

BENEDICTUS

The Father – Son Relationship

It seems important to me to highlight the unique nature of the quite special Father-Son relationship.  There is first of all a quite universal rule of knowledge expressed in this sentence about “no one knows the Father except the Son; no one knows the Son but the Father.”  It signifies that like can only be recognized by like.  Where there is no inner correspondence to God, there is no possibility of knowing God.  God can be known, in a strict sense, only by himself.  Consequently, knowledge of God is bestowed on man, then that assumes that God draws man into a relationship of kinship and that there is then so much alive in man that resembles God that cognition and knowledge become possible.  And then Jesus continues:  “No one can know this; except those to whom you choose to reveal it.”  In other words:  Recognition and knowledge can only dawn within a community of will… The pattern of relationships between father and son could not serve as an analogy, to pass on to us even a distant glimpse of the inner mystery of God, were there not a trace of God himself to be found in it.  This specific relationship of father to son – which is a relationship of giving, of receiving, and of giving in return – is basic to human life.  If one continues to philosophize on this basis, then one must of course pose the whole question of the human family, and then one also inevitably runs into limitations.  It is in any case right that this particular type of relationship is of such great extent that it can reach right up above, like an outstretched index finger.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer for Spouses

Lord Jesus,

Grant that my spouse and I may have a true and understanding love for each other.

Grant that we may both be filled with faith and trust.

Give us the grace to live with each other in peace and harmony.

May we always bear with one another’s weaknesses

and grow from each other’s strengths.

Help us to forgive one another’s failings

and grant us patience, kindness, cheerfulness,

and the spirit of placing the well being of one another ahead of one’s self.

May the love that brought us together grow and mature with each passing year.

Bring us both ever closer to You through our love for each other.

Let our love grow to perfection.

We ask this and all things through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Posted in Catholic

TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – B

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“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.
Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet
in testimony against them.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

For your mercies’ sake, O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul: “I am your salvation.” So speak that I may hear, O Lord; my heart is listening; open it that it may hear you, and say to my soul: “I am your salvation.” After hearing this word, may I come in haste to take hold of you. Hide not your face from me. Let me see your face even if I die, lest I die with longing to see it. The house of my soul is too small to receive you; let it be enlarged by you. It is all in ruins; do you repair it. There are things in it – I confess and I know – that must offend your sight. But who shall cleanse it? Or to what others besides you shall I cry out? From my secret sins cleanse me, O Lord, and from those of others spare your servant. Amen.

Saint Augustine of Hippo

COLLECT

O God, who show the light of your truth

to those who go astray,

so that they may return to the right path,

give all who for the faith they profess

are accounted Christians

the grace to reject whatever is contrary to the name of Christ

and to strive after all that does it honor.

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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Amos 7:12-15

Amaziah, priest of Bethel, said to Amos,
“Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah!
There earn your bread by prophesying,
but never again prophesy in Bethel;
for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.”
Amos answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet,
nor have I belonged to a company of prophets;
I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.
The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me,
Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

APPLICATION

What happened to the prophet Amos in Israel eight hundred years before Christ, has happened again and again down through the centuries and is happening in our own day on a larger scale than ever before. This man of God was expelled and silenced because those in authority could not listen to the reproofs of the Lord which their injustices, inhumanity and irreligion so richly deserved. Had the king and his associates listened to the prophet and mended their ways, they would have saved their people from exile and their nation would not have been wiped off the map. But because they would not submit to the Lord their God, they were made slaves of the neighboring pagan nation.

The prophets who were sent to speak God’s “word” were made to suffer and were silenced. The Word of God, the Son of God himself, who became man to lead all men back to their eternal Father, suffered even a worse, fate. The pride and prejudice of the leaders of the Jews, God’s Chosen People, had him condemned to a criminal’s death as if he were an outcast from society and a blasphemer to boot. They would not accept the Son of God in human form – the “Word made flesh” came unto his own and his own received him not.

The Church which he founded to carry on and complete his work of redemption was threatened with the same fate. The Jewish authorities tried to strangle that infant Church in Jerusalem, in Palestine and even in, faraway Damascus in Syria, but God’s hand was raised in its defense—and its enemies failed. A few decades later the Roman emperors tried to do what the Jewish authorities had failed to do. But even though they persevered in their evil intent for almost three centuries, they too were fighting against the power of God – and they failed. Many saintly men and women gladly gave their lives for their faith but their deaths increased rather than diminished the number of Christians; for as St. Angustine said: “the blood of martyrs became the seed of Christians.” The Church grew daily and spread through the Roman empire.

From the beginning of the fourth century down to the twentieth, there have been, periods of persecution in different parts of the world. When compared, however, with the widespread disinterest in God and the things of God in most of today’s world, together with the absolute rejection of Christ and God in very many parts of it, the irreligion and opposition to religion in the past were restrained and limited. Behind the bamboo curtain today the destructive philosophy or folly of atheism is being imposed on more than a third of the world’s population. God is excluded from the world he created, man is using the, gifts of intellect and freewill, given him by God, to deny and destroy his divine benefactor. What is worse: two-thirds of the so-called believers are not shocked or disturbed by this sad behavior of God’s children. The nominal Christian nations are indifferent as long as these atheistic ideas do not interfere with their own political or commercial interests. It’s a sign of how little their belief in God and Christ affects their own daily lives and way of thinking.

Today we are living in a world in which the Creator and Lord of that world is given little or no say. Men think they can despise the road rules which he has so wisely laid down and still run human traffic successfully. Head-on crashes, wars and rumors of wars, the expensive build-up of armaments, the gross injustices inflicted on the weak, the inhumanity of men to their fellowmen are the visible proofs of the folly of such a philosophy. It is like trying to navigate a ship when the navigator has been thrown overboard. The world must come back to God and to his ten commandments. No society can survive without rules. The all-wise rules for human society are God’s decalog. We can ignore them only at our peril. To expel God’s prophets and shut our ears to his wise counsels may silence our troubled consciences for a moment, but this will not restore our social health or promote our true welfare. This world is not the sanctuary of any earthly ruler, nor the temple of any human king; it is God’s temple, God’s sanctuary where he expects his creatures to serve him devoutly and loyally.

RESPONSORIAL

Ps 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD –for he proclaims peace.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and prepare the way of his steps.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

READING II

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Eph 1:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him.
In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,
in accord with the favor of his will,
for the praise of the glory of his grace
that he granted us in the beloved.
In him we have redemption by his blood,
the forgiveness of transgressions,
in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.
In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us
the mystery of his will in accord with his favor
that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times,
to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.

In him we were also chosen,
destined in accord with the purpose of the One
who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will,
so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,
we who first hoped in Christ.
In him you also, who have heard the word of truth,
the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him,
were sealed with the promised holy Spirit,
which is the first installment of our inheritance
toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.

APPLICATION

In these opening verses of his letter, St. Paul recalls to the minds of his Ephesian converts the basic teaching, the fundamental and central meaning of the Christian faith which he had taught them. In his infinite love, God the Father planned from all eternity to make us his adopted sons, by means of the incarnation of his only begotten Son. “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” This is surely a tremendous truth – a truth that not only changes our whole outlook on life but our very nature itself. As intelligent creatures, the highest of all the other living beings that God put on this earth, we should have much to be grateful for. We have been given life. We are able to think and plan and provide for our needs, to enjoy the beautiful and seek after the good. We are able to study, control and put to our own use myriad’s of inanimate things, as well as the other animate beings God created. We have fellow humans with whom we can converse and share the joys of living. God had so arranged things that we were born into a human family where tenderness and love were showered on us during infancy and adolescence. When we came to the age of responsibility we could have formed a new family, a new association where in turn we would shower love and tenderness on our offspring who would, we should hope, look after us in our declining years.

Creation then was surely a marvelous gift given us by God. But just because of the special gifts he gave us which raise us above all other earthly creatures, could we really enjoy these few short years of life on this earth if we know there was nothing but the gloomy grave awaiting us? If our sixty or eighty years were made up of days of unbroken happiness would we be content with that and nothing else. But as they are years heavily tinged with sorrow and sadness for so many would we not have less reason to be content with our fate? Good as God was to give us life would we not feel that we were somehow treated unfairly by Him?

However, once we know that God exists and once we know from revelation that he is a God of infinite love, we can see how it was in keeping with his love and thoughtfulness that he would arrange a future life for us in which the created gifts which he gave us, would be used to the full, capacity. This God did through the incarnation. We are made heirs to heaven because Christ, the Son of God, made us his brothers when he took our human nature and joined it to his divinity. We shall die to this earth and bid adieu to all its God-given gifts, but for the true Christian, death will mean a change for the better, it will be the door to the true unending life. “Vita mutatur non tollitur,” as we say in the requiem Mass: for the Christian “life is changed not taken away” by death.

The coming of Christ then has not only changed our outlook on life; we no longer see it in terms of days or years – we, look on it from the angle of eternity. Christ’s coming has also changed our very nature itself. We are no longer mere human beings, we are raised to the supernatural status of sons of God, we belong to God’s heaven, God’s home, is our home. Our life on earth is only a pilgrimage, a short journey, during which we work our passage to our everlasting home, our eternal fatherland.

We thank God for creating us and for putting heaven within our reach. We thank Jesus for humiliating himself in the incarnation in order to raise us up beyond our natural selves and for having shed his blood on the cross to wash away the one impediment that could keep us from heaven – sin.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 51  “It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will. His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature.”1

CCC 52 God, who “dwells in unapproachable light”, wants to communicate his own divine life to the men he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons in his only-begotten Son.2 By revealing himself God wishes to make them capable of responding to him, and of knowing him and of loving him far beyond their own natural capacity.

CCC 257  “O blessed light, O Trinity and first Unity!”3 God is eternal blessedness, undying life, unfading light. God is love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God freely wills to communicate the glory of his blessed life. Such is the “plan of his loving kindness”, conceived by the Father before the foundation of the world, in his beloved Son: “He destined us in love to be his sons” and “to be conformed to the image of his Son”, through “the spirit of sonship”.4 This plan is a “grace [which] was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began”, stemming immediately from Trinitarian love.5 It unfolds in the work of creation, the whole history of salvation after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which are continued in the mission of the Church.6

CCC 294 The glory of God consists in the realization of this manifestation and communication of his goodness, for which the world was created. God made us “to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace”,7 for “the glory of God is man fully alive; moreover man’s life is the vision of God: if God’s revelation through creation has already obtained life for all the beings that dwell on earth, how much more will the Word’s manifestation of the Father obtain life for those who see God.”8 The ultimate purpose of creation is that God “who is the creator of all things may at last become ”all in all“, thus simultaneously assuring his own glory and our beatitude.”9

CCC 492 The “splendor of an entirely unique holiness” by which Mary is “enriched from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ: she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son”.10 The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love”.11

CCC 517 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross,12 but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life:
– already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;13
– in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;14
– in his word which purifies its hearers;15
– in his healings and exorcisms by which “he took our infirmities and bore our diseases”;16
– and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.17

CCC 668 “Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”18 Christ’s Ascension into heaven signifies his participation, in his humanity, in God’s power and authority. Jesus Christ is Lord: he possesses all power in heaven and on earth. He is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion”, for the Father “has put all things under his feet.”19 Christ is Lord of the cosmos and of history. In him human history and indeed all creation are “set forth” and transcendently fulfilled.20

CCC 693 Besides the proper name of “Holy Spirit,” which is most frequently used in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles, we also find in St. Paul the titles: the Spirit of the promise,21 the Spirit of adoption,22 the Spirit of Christ,23 the Spirit of the Lord,24 and the Spirit of God25 – and, in St. Peter, the Spirit of glory.26

CCC 698 The seal is a symbol close to that of anointing. “The Father has set his seal” on Christ and also seals us in him.27 Because this seal indicates the indelible effect of the anointing with the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, the image of the seal (sphragis) has been used in some theological traditions to express the indelible “character” imprinted by these three unrepeatable sacraments.

CCC 706 Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.28 In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself,29 in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”30 God commits himself by his own solemn oath to giving his beloved Son and “the promised Holy Spirit. .. [who is] the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.”31

CCC 772 It is in the Church that Christ fulfills and reveals his own mystery as the purpose of God’s plan: “to unite all things in him.”32 St. Paul calls the nuptial union of Christ and the Church “a great mystery.” Because she is united to Christ as to her bridegroom, she becomes a mystery in her turn.33 Contemplating this mystery in her, Paul exclaims: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”34

CCC 796 The unity of Christ and the Church, head and members of one Body, also implies the distinction of the two within a personal relationship. This aspect is often expressed by the image of bridegroom and bride. The theme of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church was prepared for by the prophets and announced by John the Baptist.35 The Lord referred to himself as the “bridegroom.”36 The Apostle speaks of the whole Church and of each of the faithful, members of his Body, as a bride “betrothed” to Christ the Lord so as to become but one spirit with him.37 The Church is the spotless bride of the spotless Lamb.38 “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her.”39 He has joined her with himself in an everlasting covenant and never stops caring for her as for his own body:40
This is the whole Christ, head and body, one formed from many. .. whether the head or members speak, it is Christ who speaks. He speaks in his role as the head (ex persona capitis) and in his role as body (ex persona corporis). What does this mean? “The two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church.”41 And the Lord himself says in the Gospel: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”42 They are, in fact, two different persons, yet they are one in the conjugal union,. .. as head, he calls himself the bridegroom, as body, he calls himself “bride.”43

CCC 865 The Church is ultimately one, holy, catholic, and apostolic in her deepest and ultimate identity, because it is in her that “the Kingdom of heaven,” the “Reign of God,”44 already exists and will be fulfilled at the end of time. The kingdom has come in the person of Christ and grows mysteriously in the hearts of those incorporated into him, until its full eschatological manifestation. Then all those he has redeemed and made “holy and blameless before him in love,”45 will be gathered together as the one People of God, the “Bride of the Lamb,”46 “the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.”47 For “the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”48

CCC 1042 At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed:
The Church. .. will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ.49

CCC 1043 Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, “new heavens and a new earth.”50 It will be the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single head “all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.”51

CCC 1066 In the Symbol of the faith the Church confesses the mystery of the Holy Trinity and of the plan of God’s “good pleasure” for all creation: the Father accomplishes the “mystery of his will” by giving his beloved Son and his Holy Spirit for the salvation of the world and for the glory of his name.52
Such is the mystery of Christ, revealed and fulfilled in history according to the wisely ordered plan that St. Paul calls the “plan of the mystery”53 and the patristic tradition will call the “economy of the Word incarnate” or the “economy of salvation.”

CCC 1077 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us before him in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”54

CCC 1083 The dual dimension of the Christian liturgy as a response of faith and love to the spiritual blessings the Father bestows on us is thus evident. On the one hand, the Church, united with her Lord and “in the Holy Spirit,”55 blesses the Father “for his inexpressible gift”56 in her adoration, praise, and thanksgiving. On the other hand, until the consummation of God’s plan, the Church never ceases to present to the Father the offering of his own gifts and to beg him to send the Holy Spirit upon that offering, upon herself, upon the faithful, and upon the whole world, so that through communion in the death and resurrection of Christ the Priest, and by the power of the Spirit, these divine blessings will bring forth the fruits of life “to the praise of his glorious grace.”57

CCC 1107 The Holy Spirit’s transforming power in the liturgy hastens the coming of the kingdom and the consummation of the mystery of salvation. While we wait in hope he causes us really to anticipate the fullness of communion with the Holy Trinity. Sent by the Father who hears the epiclesis of the Church, the Spirit gives life to those who accept him and is, even now, the “guarantee” of their inheritance.58

CCC 1274 The Holy Spirit has marked us with the seal of the Lord (“Dominicus character”) “for the day of redemption.”59 “Baptism indeed is the seal of eternal life.”60 The faithful Christian who has “kept the seal” until the end, remaining faithful to the demands of his Baptism, will be able to depart this life “marked with the sign of faith,”61 with his baptismal faith, in expectation of the blessed vision of God – the consummation of faith – and in the hope of resurrection.

CCC 1296 Christ himself declared that he was marked with his Father’s seal.62 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.”63 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.64

CCC 1426 Conversion to Christ, the new birth of Baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Body and Blood of Christ received as food have made us “holy and without blemish,” just as the Church herself, the Bride of Christ, is “holy and without blemish.”65 Nevertheless the new life received in Christian initiation has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin that tradition calls concupiscence, which remains in the baptized such that with the help of the grace of Christ they may prove themselves in the struggle of Christian life.66 This is the struggle of conversion directed toward holiness and eternal life to which the Lord never ceases to call us.67

CCC 1671 Among sacramentals blessings (of persons, meals, objects, and places) come first. Every blessing praises God and prays for his gifts. In Christ, Christians are blessed by God the Father “with every spiritual blessing.”68 This is why the Church imparts blessings by invoking the name of Jesus, usually while making the holy sign of the cross of Christ.

CCC 2603 The evangelists have preserved two more explicit prayers offered by Christ during his public ministry. Each begins with thanksgiving. In the first, Jesus confesses the Father, acknowledges, and blesses him because he has hidden the mysteries of the Kingdom from those who think themselves learned and has revealed them to infants, the poor of the Beatitudes.69 His exclamation, “Yes, Father!” expresses the depth of his heart, his adherence to the Father’s “good pleasure,” echoing his mother’s Fiat at the time of his conception and prefiguring what he will say to the Father in his agony. The whole prayer of Jesus is contained in this loving adherence of his human heart to the mystery of the will of the Father.70

CCC 2627 Two fundamental forms express this movement: our prayer ascends in the Holy Spirit through Christ to the Father – we bless him for having blessed us;71 it implores the grace of the Holy Spirit that descends through Christ from the Father – he blesses us.72

CCC 2641 “[Address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.”73 Like the inspired writers of the New Testament, the first Christian communities read the Book of Psalms in a new way, singing in it the mystery of Christ. In the newness of the Spirit, they also composed hymns and canticles in the light of the unheard-of event that God accomplished in his Son: his Incarnation, his death which conquered death, his Resurrection, and Ascension to the right hand of the Father.74 Doxology, the praise of God, arises from this “marvelous work” of the whole economy of salvation.75

CCC 2748 In this Paschal and sacrificial prayer, everything is recapitulated in Christ:76 God and the world; the Word and the flesh; eternal life and time; the love that hands itself over and the sin that betrays it; the disciples present and those who will believe in him by their word; humiliation and glory. It is the prayer of unity.

CCC 2807 The term “to hallow” is to be understood here not primarily in its causative sense (only God hallows, makes holy), but above all in an evaluative sense: to recognize as holy, to treat in a holy way. And so, in adoration, this invocation is sometimes understood as praise and thanksgiving.77 But this petition is here taught to us by Jesus as an optative: a petition, a desire, and an expectation in which God and man are involved. Beginning with this first petition to our Father, we are immersed in the innermost mystery of his Godhead and the drama of the salvation of our humanity. Asking the Father that his name be made holy draws us into his plan of loving kindness for the fullness of time, “according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ,” that we might “be holy and blameless before him in love.”78

CCC 2823 “He has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ. .. to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will.”79 We ask insistently for this loving plan to be fully realized on earth as it is already in heaven.

CCC 2839 With bold confidence, we began praying to our Father. In begging him that his name be hallowed, we were in fact asking him that we ourselves might be always made more holy. But though we are clothed with the baptismal garment, we do not cease to sin, to turn away from God. Now, in this new petition, we return to him like the prodigal son and, like the tax collector, recognize that we are sinners before him.80 Our petition begins with a “confession” of our wretchedness and his mercy. Our hope is firm because, in his Son, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”81 We find the efficacious and undoubted sign of his forgiveness in the sacraments of his Church.82

CCC 2854 When we ask to be delivered from the Evil One, we pray as well to be freed from all evils, present, past, and future, of which he is the author or instigator. In this final petition, the Church brings before the Father all the distress of the world. Along with deliverance from the evils that overwhelm humanity, she implores the precious gift of peace and the grace of perseverance in expectation of Christ’s return By praying in this way, she anticipates in humility of faith the gathering together of everyone and everything in him who has “the keys of Death and Hades,” who “is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”83
Deliver us, Lord, we beseech you, from every evil and grant us peace in our day, so that aided by your mercy we might be ever free from sin and protected from all anxiety, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.84

1 DV 2; cf. Eph 1:9; 2:18; 2 Pt 1:4.
2 1 Tim 6:16, cf. Eph 1:4-5.
3 LH, Hymn for Evening Prayer.
4 Eph 1:4-5,9; Rom 8:15,29.
5 2 Tim 1:9-10.
6 Cf. AG 2-9.
7 Eph 1:5-6.
8 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4,20,7: PG 7/1,1037.
9 AG 2; cf. 1 Cor 15:28.
10 LG 53, 56.
11 Cf. Eph 1:3-4.
12 Cf. Eph 1:7; Col 1:13-14; 1 Pt 1:18-19.
13 Cf. 2 Cor 8:9.
14 Cf. Lk 2:51.
15 Cf. Jn 15:3.
16 Mt 8:17; cf. Is 53:4.
17 Cf. Rom 4:25.
18 Rom 14:9.
19 Eph 1:20-22.
20 Eph 1:10; cf. 4:10; 1 Cor 15:24, 27-28.
21 Cf. Gal 3:14; Eph 1:13.
22 Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6.
23 Rom 8:9.
24 2 Cor 3:17.
25 Rom 8:9, 14; 15:19; 1 Cor 6:11; 7:40.
26 1 Pet 4:14.
27 Jn 6:27; cf. 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:3.
28 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38. 54-55; Jn 1:12-13; Rom 4:16-21.
29 Cf. Gen 12:3; Gal 3:16.
30 Cf. In 11:52.
31 Eph 1:13-14; cf. Gen 22:17-19; Lk 1:73; Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32; Gal 3:14.
32 Eph 1:10.
33 Eph 5:32; 3:9-11; 5:25-27.
34 Col 1:27.
35 Jn 3:29.
36 Mk 2:19.
37 Cf. Mt 22:1-14; 25:1-13; 1 Cor 6:15-17; 2 Cor 11:2.
38 Cf. Rev 22:17; Eph 1:4. 5:27.
39 Eph 5:25-26.
40 Cf. Eph 5:29.
41 Eph 5:31-32.
42 Mt 19:6.
43 St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 74:4: PL 36, 948-949.
44 Rev 19:6.
45 Eph 1:4.
46 Rev 21:9.
47 Rev 21:10-11.
48 Rev 21:14.
49 LG 48; Cf. Acts 3:21; Eph 1:10; Col 1:20; 2 Pet 3:10-13.
50 2 Pet 3:13; Cf. Rev 21:1.
51 Eph 1:10.
52 Eph 1:9.
53 Eph 3:9; cf. 3:4.
54 Eph 1:3-6.
55 Lk 10:21.
56 2 Cor 9:15.
57 Eph 1:6.
58 Cf. Eph 1:14; 2 Cor 1:22.
59 St. Augustine, Ep. 98, 5: PL 33, 362; Eph 4:30; cf. 1:13-14; 2 Cor 1:21-22.
60 St. Irenaeus, Dem ap. 3: SCh 62, 32.
61 Roman Missal, EP I (Roman Canon) 97.
62 Cf. Jn 6:27.
63 2 Cor 1:21-22; cf. Eph 1:13; 4,30.
64 Cf. Rev 7:2-3; 9:4; Ezek 9:4-6.
65 Eph 1:4; 5:27.
66 Cf. Council of Trent (1546) DS 1515.
67 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1545; LG 40.
68 Eph 1:3.
69 Cf. Mt 11:25-27 and Lk 10:21-23.
70 Cf. Eph 1:9.
71 Cf. Eph 1:3-14; 2 Cor 1:3 7; 1 Pet 1:3-9.
72 Cf. 2 Cor 13:14; Rom 15:5-6,13; Eph 6:23-24.
73 Eph 5:19; Col 3:16.
74 Cf. Phil 2:6-11; Col 1:15-20; Eph 5:14; 1 Tim 3:16; 6:15-16; 2 Tim 2:11-13.
75 Cf. Eph 1:3-14; Rom 16:25-27; Eph 3:20-21; Jude 24-25.
76 Cf. Eph 1:10.
77 Cf. Ps 111:9; Lk 1:49.
78 Eph 1:9, 4.
79 Eph 1:9-11.
80 Cf. Lk 15:11-32, 18:13.
81 Col 1:14; Eph 1:7.
82 Cf. Mt 26:28; Jn 20:23.
83 Rev 1:8,18; cf. Rev 1:4; Eph 1:10.
84 Roman Missal, Embolism after the Lord’s Prayer, 126: Libera nos, quaesumus, Domine, ab omnibus malis, da propitius pacem in diebus nostris, ut, ope misericordiae tuae adiuti, et a peccato simus semper liberi, et ab omni perturbatione securi: expectantes beatam spem et adventum Salvatoris nostri Iesu Christi.

GOSPEL

1028px-Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_027a.jpg

Mk 6:7-13

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two
and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey
but a walking stick–
no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
They were, however, to wear sandals
but not a second tunic.
He said to them,
“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.
Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet
in testimony against them.”
So they went off and preached repentance.
The Twelve drove out many demons,
and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/081918.cfm

APPLICATION

That Christ the Son of God could have spread his Gospel of peace and love, his message of eternal salvation, to the whole world without human help need not be proved. He could, for instance, have written the Gospel in the sky – over each country in its own language. He could have gone to every part of the earth, after his resurrection, and taught his doctrine to all peoples, confirming his words with extraordinary miracles. Yet he chose the weaker but the more human way of evangelizing men – he sent their own fellowman to bring them the message. This choice showed his divine love and understanding of weak human nature, much better and much more effectively than the use of any of the supernatural means which he could have employed.

God, and Christ is God, gave man the gift that we call freewill. Man is able to choose between alternatives. God wants man to choose heaven as his eternal home, but he wants him to choose it without compulsion or coercion. He will have volunteers in heaven not conscripts. The man who chooses heaven must choose the means for going there. If you choose a holiday resort for your summer vacation, you must buy travel tickets, book a hotel and save up the expenses necessary for the holiday. By appointing mortal men to bring the news of salvation, the news of heaven, and the means of getting there to all of us, Christ has given us the chance of exercising our freewill and therefore of meriting heaven. Refusal to accept would hardly be possible if Christ informed us miraculously or taught us in person. If some extraordinary individual could persist in refusing, his refusal would be utterly inexcusable.

Now, Christ has earned heaven for all men and not for Christians only. He has given his Church, with all its aids and its guaranteed truth, to those who will be his followers. For them the road of the Gospel is an absolutely assured way by which they will reach heaven, if they are faithful to the rules. But there are, and there have always been, millions and millions of men and women who through no fault of their own have not heard of the Church of Christ. There are other millions who have heard of Christ and his Church, but who, because of some personal kink of pride or because of their upbringing or surroundings, have not felt able to accept the Christian way of life. God is mindful of all these millions and wants them in heaven. If their present circumstances, their lack of knowledge of the Christian truths, or personal prejudice, brought on by circumstances beyond their control, prevent them from being convinced of the necessity of becoming Christians would God exclude them from heaven? Surely not. It was because he foresaw all those who could not freely accept his Gospel to the letter and who yet want to go to heaven, that he let other human beings, who could and would be doubted, preach and propagate his Gospel. Therefore, it would be inexcusable to refuse to listen to his own word if it were written by him in the sky or preached by himself personally. But men could be excused if they doubted his human agents, for some reasons which appeared to them as valid. In other words, the merciful Christ who humiliated himself and who submitted to the death of the cross in order to open heaven for all men, found ways and means of excusing those who would elect to trudge through the fields and over the hedges rather than travel on the royal highroad that he had laid down for them.

This is divine mercy in action. God wants every human being to be saved. There are no Jews or Gentiles in the Church; no pagans, Moslems, Jews or rationalists in heaven – the citizens of heaven are all children of God. While on earth they each served him according to their lights, under their own particular banners. “The Spirit breathes where it will.” God’s mercy and love can reach into the darkest corners and produce fruit from the most unlikely and apparently most neglected of orchards.

While we thank God from our hearts today for having been put on the road to heaven, let us remember in our prayers our fellowman, God’s other children, who are trudging along through the fields and hedges. May God continue to show his mercy and divine understanding toward them! May they meet us at the entrance to our Father’s home where we shall be happy forever together!

 

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 765 The Lord Jesus endowed his community with a structure that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved. Before all else there is the choice of the Twelve with Peter as their head.1 Representing the twelve tribes of Israel, they are the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem.2 The Twelve and the other disciples share in Christ’s mission and his power, but also in his lot.3 By all his actions, Christ prepares and builds his Church.

CCC 1506 Christ invites his disciples to follow him by taking up their cross in their turn. ..4 By following him they acquire a new outlook on illness and the sick. Jesus associates them with his own life of poverty and service. He makes them share in his ministry of compassion and healing: “So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.”.5

CCC 1511 The Church believes and confesses that among the seven sacraments there is one especially intended to strengthen those who are being tried by illness, the Anointing of the Sick:
This sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ our Lord as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament. It is alluded to indeed by Mark, but is recommended to the faithful and promulgated by James the apostle and brother of the Lord.6

CCC 1673 When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing.7 In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called “a major exorcism,” can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.8

1 Cf. Mk 3:14-15.
2 Cf. Mt 19:28; Lk 22:30; Rev 21:12-14.
3 Cf. Mk 6:7; Lk 10:1-2; Mt 10:25; Jn 15:20.
4 Cf. Mt 10:38.
5 Mk 6:12-13.
6 Council Of Trent (1551): DS 1695; cf. Mk 6:13; Jas 5:14-15.
7 Cf. Mk 1:25-26; 3:15; 6:7, 13; 16:17.
8 Cf. CIC, can. 1172.

BENEDICTUS

The “Nothingness” Asked of the Twelve

This “nothingness” that the disciples share with Jesus expresses at once the power and the impotence of the apostolic office.  On their own, by the force of their own understanding, knowledge and will, they cannot do anything they are meant to do as Apostles.  How could they possibly say “I forgive you your sins”?  How could they conceivably say “This is my body” or impose their hands and pronounce the words “Receive the Holy Spirit”?  Nothing that makes up the activity of the Apostles is the product of their own capabilities.  But it is precisely in having “nothing” to call their own that their communion with Jesus consists, since Jesus is also entirely from the Father, has being only through him and in him and would not exist at all if he were not a continual coming forth from and self-return to the Father.  Having “nothing” of their own draws the Apostles into communion of mission with Christ.  This service, in which we are made the entire property of another, this giving of what does not come from us, is called sacrament in the language of the Church.

This is precisely what we mean when we call the ordination of priests a sacrament: ordination is not about the development of one’s own powers and gifts.  It is not the appointment of a man as a functionary because he is especially good at it, or because it suits him, or simply because it strikes him as a good way to earn his bread; it is not a question of a job in which someone secures his own livelihood by his own abilities, perhaps in order to rise later to something better.

Sacrament means: I give what I myself cannot give; I do something that is not my work; I am on a mission and have become the bearer of that which another has committed to my charge… This very self-expropriation for the other; this leave-taking from oneself, this self-dispossession and selflessness that are essential to the priestly ministry can lead to authentic human maturity and fulfillment.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to Become More Like Jesus

God, our Father, You redeemed us and made us Your children in Christ. Through Him You have saved us from death and given us Your Divine life of grace. By becoming more like Jesus on earth, may I come to share His glory in Heaven. Give me the peace of Your kingdom, which this world does not give. By Your loving care protect the good You have given me. Open my eyes to the wonders of Your Love that I may serve You with a willing heart.

We ask this and all things through Christ our Lord, Amen.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Catholic

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.”

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

Prayer for Eternal life with God

Heavenly Father,

in glorifying Jesus

and sending us your Spirit,

You open the way to eternal life.

May my sharing in this Gift increase my love

and make my faith grow stronger.

Send Your Spirit to cleanse my life

so that the offering of myself to You at Mass

may be pleasing to You.

May my sharing in the Eucharist,

our Bread of Life,

bring me eternal life.

Amen.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=739

COLLECT

May the precious long-suffering of the just,

O Lord, we pray,

bring us a great increase of love for you

and always prompt in our hearts

constancy in the holy faith.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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1 Kgs 19:4-8

Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert,

until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it.

He prayed for death saying:

“This is enough, O LORD!

Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”

He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree,

but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.

Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake

and a jug of water.

After he ate and drank, he lay down again,

but the angel of the LORD came back a second time,

touched him, and ordered,

“Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”

He got up, ate, and drank;

then strengthened by that food,

he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 332 Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham’s hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examples.1 Finally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus himself.2

CCC 2583 After Elijah had learned mercy during his retreat at the Wadi Cherith, he teaches the widow of Zarephath to believe in The Word of God and confirms her faith by his urgent prayer: God brings the widow’s child back to life.3

The sacrifice on Mount Carmel is a decisive test for the faith of the People of God. In response to Elijah’s plea, “Answer me, O LORD, answer me,” the Lord’s fire consumes the holocaust, at the time of the evening oblation. The Eastern liturgies repeat Elijah’s plea in the Eucharistic epiclesis.

Finally, taking the desert road that leads to the place where the living and true God reveals himself to his people, Elijah, like Moses before him, hides “in a cleft of he rock” until the mysterious presence of God has passed by.4 But only on the mountain of the Transfiguration will Moses and Elijah behold the unveiled face of him whom they sought; “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God [shines] in the face of Christ,” crucified and risen.5

1 Cf. Job 38:7 (where angels are called “sons of God”); Gen 3:24; 19; 21: 17; 22:11; Acts 7:53; Ex 23:20-23; Judg 13; 6:11-24; Is 6:6; 1 Kings 19:5.

2 Cf. Lk 1:11, 26.

3 Cf. 1 Kings 17:7-24.

4 Cf. 1 Kings 19:1-14; cf. Ex 33:19-23.

5 2 Cor 4:6; cf. Lk 9:30-35.

APPLICATION

The miraculous feeding of the prophet Elijah on his journey through the desert is recalled to mind today, because the Gospel story concerns our Lord’s promise of the miraculous bread which he will give to sustain his followers on their journey through life. That God provided for the bodily needs of his prophet, and that Christ did likewise for the simple people of Galilee, were but a foreshadowing of the spiritual food which Christ would leave to his faithful followers to sustain them during their journey through this life. Of this we shall hear more in today’s Gospel. Let us now see what lessons there are for us in this incident in the life of the prophet Elijah.

Elijah defended the true religion in the northern kingdom against all the power of the forces which the pagan wife of king Achab had introduced into the country. Having won a great victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, Elijah had to flee the country to escape the clutches of the pagan queen. He was on his way to Mount Horeb in Sinai hoping to contact Yahweh where Moses had received the covenant, the covenant which Israel had so seriously violated. On his way, however, weary from travel and short of food he grew despondent and lost heart. In spite of all his endeavors Israel was full of sin and idolatrous practices. His labors were in vain, he would be better off dead. He sat down under a broom tree and asked Yahweh to end his life.

Instead, Yahweh sent an angel to him with food to restore his tired body and mind—a food which gave him the strength to walk without ceasing until he reached Horeb. Here the gracious Lord appeared to him, and having shown him that he was not a God of fury but a God of mercy (1 Kgs. 19: 9-12), he sent him back to continue his work. The reign of Jezabel, the pagan queen, would soon end, for God told Elijah to anoint Jehu as the next king of Israel. Elijah returned to Israel and with renewed vigor continued his work for the true religion of Yahweh.

Here is a story which has encouragement for all of us. Here we have a prophet, God’s own chosen representative, a man full of zeal for God’s honor and glory—a saint, and yet he was as human as the rest of us. He grew tired of fighting a losing battle, he fled from the front, he set out to get protection and consolation from God, but tiring of the long journey he became so depressed and so despondent that he wanted God to take him from this vale of tears. God was not disgusted with him, he did not think him a coward or a failure; instead, he renewed his energies and sent him back to fight on for the Lord.

There are few of us who do not, have our moments, even days maybe, and weeks of spiritual depression. Our crosses seem at times to become unbearable; we feel like lying down under them and asking God to take us. This is exactly what this holy man did and we saw how kindly God dealt with him. God will lift us up too, and if only we rely on him he will give us the strength to carry on. It is he who allows those crosses to come on us, but he does not want them to crush us, he wants us to use them to rise above our earthly weaknesses and to stay closer to him.

The next time I feel despondent, I shall not ask the good God to take, we away from it all; I shall ask him to give me that new strength which he gave to Elijah–the strength to persevere, bearing my cross not only for forty days but for forty more years, if this should be God’s means of assuring me my eternal salvation.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall be ever in my mouth.

Let my soul glory in the LORD;

the lowly will hear me and be glad.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Glorify the LORD with me,

Let us together extol his name.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me

And delivered me from all my fears.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Look to him that you may be radiant with joy.

And your faces may not blush with shame.

When the afflicted man called out, the LORD heard,

And from all his distress he saved him.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

The angel of the LORD encamps

around those who fear him and delivers them.

Taste and see how good the LORD is;

blessed the man who takes refuge in him.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

READING II

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Eph 4:30-5:2

Brothers and sisters:

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,

with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.

All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling

must be removed from you, along with all malice.

And be kind to one another, compassionate,

forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love,

as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us

as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 698 The seal is a symbol close to that of anointing. “The Father has set his seal” on Christ and also seals us in him.1 Because this seal indicates the indelible effect of the anointing with the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, the image of the seal (sphragis) has been used in some theological traditions to express the indelible “character” imprinted by these three unrepeatable sacraments.

CCC 1274 The Holy Spirit has marked us with the seal of the Lord (“Dominicus character”) “for the day of redemption.”2 “Baptism indeed is the seal of eternal life.”3 The faithful Christian who has “kept the seal” until the end, remaining faithful to the demands of his Baptism, will be able to depart this life “marked with the sign of faith,”4 with his baptismal faith, in expectation of the blessed vision of God – the consummation of faith – and in the hope of resurrection.

CCC 1296 Christ himself declared that he was marked with his Father’s seal.5 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.”6 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.7

CCC 1454 The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the Ten Commandments, the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings.8

CCC 2842 This “as” is not unique in Jesus’ teaching: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”; “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”9 It is impossible to keep the Lord’s commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make “ours” the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.10 Then the unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves “forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave” us.11

1 Jn 6:27; cf. 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:3.

2 St. Augustine, Ep. 98, 5: PL 33, 362; Eph 4:30; cf. 1:13-14; 2 Cor 1:21-22.

3 St. Irenaeus, Dem ap. 3: SCh 62, 32.

4 Roman Missal, EP I (Roman Canon) 97.

5 Cf. Jn 6:27.

6 2 Cor 1:21-22; cf. Eph 1:13; 4,30.

7 Cf. Rev 7:2-3; 9:4; Ezek 9:4-6.

8 Cf. Mt 5-7; Rom 12-15; 1 Cor 12-13; Gal 5; Eph 4-6; etc.

9 Mt 5:48; Lk 6:36; Jn 13:34.

10 Cf. Gal 5:25; Phil 2:1,5.

11 Eph 4:32.

APPLICATION

Charity, love of neighbor, is the hallmark of all true Christians. We have it from our divine Lord’s own mouth when he said: “by this will all men know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13: 35). This is the basic virtue of Christianity which St. Paul is urging his recent converts to put into daily practice. First, he tells them what vices and failings they must avoid, and then he describes the positive things they must do in order to live in true charity with their neighbors. He then gives the reason why Christians must love one another, namely, that they are children of God and must imitate their heavenly Father who is Love; they are brothers of Christ who set them such a sublime example of true love.

What St. Paul urged on the Ephesians he is urging on us too. If charity was the hallmark of Christianity in the 1st century, it is still the same in the 20th. If the Ephesians were children of God so, too, are we–thanks to God’s mercy; if they should imitate their Father so, too, must we if we want to be found worthy of the dignity he has conferred on us. Christ died for us as well as for the Ephesians and this he did out of love for us, we must make some return for his sublime example of love.

How do we set about loving our neighbor in a truly Christian manner? St. Paul gives us some guidelines today. Avoid bitterness, he tells us. Bitterness is a feeling of dislike, of resentment which we develop within us against somebody who has done us a real or imagined wrong. Our Christian duty is to forgive a neighbor who has offended us, or who we think has offended us, for often the offense was not intended and the neighbor is not guilty. “Forgive and forget” is a truly Christian advice. One can forgive but still keep remembering the offense; this is not complete forgiveness and the retention of such memories makes one unhappy and develops a certain amount of bitterness against the offending brother. Cast your mind around among those neighbors against whom you have some resentment. Even if they did deliberately offend you, they have also offended God by that same act and that is far more serious; yet God will forgive them; should not you as his child do likewise? You have to turn to God pleading for forgiveness at times; you will obtain that forgiveness if you forgive your neighbor: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If we refuse fully to forgive our neighbor what we are saying in that prayer is: “do not forgive me, Lord, as I do not forgive those who offend me.”

St. Paul tells us to avoid “wrath, anger and clamor,” in other words, uncharitable scenes and quarrels. Although “hot tempers” are especially attributed to Irishmen and redheads, the true fact is that men of all nationalities and colors of hair have their share of this unlovable commodity. It has to be kept in check, or it may lead us to say or do things to a neighbor which are the opposite of charitable. It is often said of a person that he would provoke the anger of a saint. It is not true: a true saint has control of his temper. What the saying really means is: “I am a saintly person but that neighbor’s tongue or actions make me lose my temper.” But that neighbor’s behavior could have been the very test which would prove my sanctity and patience. No one deserves credit for being even-tempered and mild with those who are gentle and kindly in word and deed. It is in our dealings with the unkind and the uncharitable that we must avoid the uncharitable scenes mentioned by St. Paul. A true Christian, instead of paying such uncharitable neighbors back in their own coin, will try to make them better Christians by treating them kindly and charitably. St. Francis de Sales, speaking of charity, says one can catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.

St. Paul goes on to tell us that we must be kind and tender-hearted to one another, not only forgiving any offenses our neighbors may have committed against us but taking them to our heart, making them feel that they are wanted. They are members of the one family and we should gladly sacrifice our own convenience in order to help them along in life. We may not be able to do much but if our “little” comes from a warm charitable heart it can and will work wonders.

GOSPEL

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Jn 6:41-51

The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said,

“I am the bread that came down from heaven,”

and they said,

“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?

Do we not know his father and mother?

Then how can he say,

‘I have come down from heaven?'”

Jesus answered and said to them,

“Stop murmuring among yourselves.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,

and I will raise him on the last day.

It is written in the prophets:

They shall all be taught by God.

Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.

Not that anyone has seen the Father

except the one who is from God;

he has seen the Father.

Amen, amen, I say to you,

whoever believes has eternal life.

I am the bread of life.

Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;

this is the bread that comes down from heaven

so that one may eat it and not die.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven;

whoever eats this bread will live forever;

and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081218.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 151 For a Christian, believing in God cannot be separated from believing in the One he sent, his “beloved Son”, in whom the Father is “well pleased”; God tells us to listen to him.1 The Lord himself said to his disciples: “Believe in God, believe also in me.”2 We can believe in Jesus Christ because he is himself God, the Word made flesh: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.”3 Because he “has seen the Father”, Jesus Christ is the only one who knows him and can reveal him.4

CCC 259 Being a work at once common and personal, the whole divine economy makes known both what is proper to the divine persons, and their one divine nature. Hence the whole Christian life is a communion with each of the divine persons, without in any way separating them. Everyone who glorifies the Father does so through the Son in the Holy Spirit; everyone who follows Christ does so because the Father draws him and the Spirit moves him.5

CCC 591 Jesus asked the religious authorities of Jerusalem to believe in him because of the Father’s works which he accomplished.6 But such an act of faith must go through a mysterious death to self, for a new “birth from above” under the influence of divine grace.7 Such a demand for conversion in the face of so surprising a fulfillment of the promises8 allows one to understand the Sanhedrin’s tragic misunderstanding of Jesus: they judged that he deserved the death sentence as a blasphemer.9 The members of the Sanhedrin were thus acting at the same time out of “ignorance” and the “hardness” of their “unbelief”.10

CCC 728 Jesus does not reveal the Holy Spirit fully, until he himself has been glorified through his Death and Resurrection. Nevertheless, little by little he alludes to him even in his teaching of the multitudes, as when he reveals that his own flesh will be food for the life of the world.11 He also alludes to the Spirit in speaking to Nicodemus,12 to the Samaritan woman,13 and to those who take part in the feast of Tabernacles.14 To his disciples he speaks openly of the Spirit in connection with prayer15 and with the witness they will have to bear.16

CCC 1001 When? Definitively “at the last day,” “at the end of the world.”17 Indeed, the resurrection of the dead is closely associated with Christ’s Parousia:

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.18

CCC 1355 In the communion, preceded by the Lord’s prayer and the breaking of the bread, the faithful receive “the bread of heaven” and “the cup of salvation,” the body and blood of Christ who offered himself “for the life of the world”:19

Because this bread and wine have been made Eucharist (“eucharisted,” according to an ancient expression), “we call this food Eucharist, and no one may take part in it unless he believes that what we teach is true, has received baptism for the forgiveness of sins and new birth, and lives in keeping with what Christ taught.”20

CCC 1428 Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, “clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”21 This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a “contrite heart,” drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.22

CCC 2835 This petition, with the responsibility it involves, also applies to another hunger from which men are perishing: “Man does not live by bread alone, but. .. by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,”23 that is, by the Word he speaks and the Spirit he breathes forth. Christians must make every effort “to proclaim the good news to the poor.” There is a famine on earth, “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.”24 For this reason the specifically Christian sense of this fourth petition concerns the Bread of Life: The Word of God accepted in faith, the Body of Christ received in the Eucharist.25

CCC 2837 “Daily” (epiousios) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Taken in a temporal sense, this word is a pedagogical repetition of “this day,”26 to confirm us in trust “without reservation.” Taken in the qualitative sense, it signifies what is necessary for life, and more broadly every good thing sufficient for subsistence.27 Taken literally (epi-ousios: “super-essential”), it refers directly to the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, the “medicine of immortality,” without which we have no life within us.28 Finally in this connection, its heavenly meaning is evident: “this day” is the Day of the Lord, the day of the feast of the kingdom, anticipated in the Eucharist that is already the foretaste of the kingdom to come. For this reason it is fitting for the Eucharistic liturgy to be celebrated each day.

The Eucharist is our daily bread. The power belonging to this divine food makes it a bond of union. Its effect is then understood as unity, so that, gathered into his Body and made members of him, we may become what we receive. .. This also is our daily bread: the readings you hear each day in church and the hymns you hear and sing. All these are necessities for our pilgrimage.29

The Father in heaven urges us, as children of heaven, to ask for the bread of heaven. [Christ] himself is the bread who, sown in the Virgin, raised up in the flesh, kneaded in the Passion, baked in the oven of the tomb, reserved in churches, brought to altars, furnishes the faithful each day with food from heaven.30

1 Mk 1:11; cf. 9:7.

2 Jn 14:1.

3 Jn 1:18.

4 Jn 6:46; cf. Mt 11:27.

5 Cf. Jn 6:44; Rom 8:14.

6 Jn 10:36-38.

7 Cf. Jn 3:7; 6:44.

8 Cf. Is 53:1.

9 Cf. Mk 3:6; Mt 26:64-66.

10 Cf. Lk 23 34; Acts 3: 17-18; Mk 3:5; Rom 11:25, 20.

11 Cf. Jn 6:27, 51, 62-63.

12 Cf. Jn 3:5-8.

13 Cf. Jn 4:10, 14, 23-24.

14 Cf. Jn 7:37-39.

15 Cf. Lk 11:13.

16 Cf. Mt 10:19-20.

17 Jn 6: 39-40,44,54; 11:24; LG 48 § 3.

18 1 Thess 4:16.

19 Jn 6:51.

20 St. Justin, Apol. 1, 66,1-2: PG 6, 428.

21 LG 8 # 3.

22 Ps 51:17; cf. Jn 6:44; 12:32; 1 Jn 4:10.

23 Deut 8:3; Mt 4:4.

24 Am 8:11.

25 Cf. Jn 6:26-58.

26 Cf. Ex 16:19-21.

27 Cf. 1 Tim 6:8.

28 St. Ignatius Of Antioch, Ad Eph. 20, 2 PG 5, 661; Jn 6:53-56.

29 St. Augustine, Sermo 57, 7: PL 38, 389.

30 St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 67 PL 52, 392; Cf. Jn 6:51.

APPLICATION

The main point of doctrine in this part of our Lord’s discourse, as given by St. John, is the necessity for belief in Christ who has come down from heaven. It is only in the last verse of today’s text that Christ explicitly states that he is about to give his own very body as their spiritual food to those who believe in him. The description of himself as “bread from heaven” and the vital difference between the effect of this bread and the manna given to their fathers in the desert, are a definite preparation for the announcement of the doctrine of the Eucharist.

However, before they could even think of accepting this teaching on the Eucharist they had first to accept Christ as divine, as the Son of God. This was not easy for Jews, for whom strict monotheism was the center of their faith. To admit that Christ was God would at first sight seem like admitting two gods. Secondly, even though Christ had worked extraordinary miracles, to all appearances he was still a mere man—and the prophets of old had worked miracles. True, Christ was evidently claiming to be more than a prophet; he claimed that he alone had seen the Father, that he had come from the Father. This claim of equality with the Father would be sheer blasphemy if it were not true; could God give the power of miracles to such a great sinner?

Perhaps some of them argued along these lines and accepted his claim later on. Others remained stiff-necked and stubborn and could see nothing in him but a native of Nazareth, a humble Galilean like themselves, but one who had developed strange ideas about who and what he was. These Galileans began a long line of unbelievers which has stretched down through the centuries to our own day. The reasons for the unbelief are the same today as they were in the year 29 A.D. Man is proud of his intelligence; which he did not give to himself. Whatever he cannot grasp within the limited confines of that intellect, he treats as non-existent as far as he is concerned. If a God exists, a doubtful possibility to these great thinkers, we mortals can know nothing about him; he is beyond our understanding and we can be of no concern to him.

If there ever was a Jesus of Nazareth, he could be only a mere man who suffered from grave hallucinations! But his miracles? A simple answer: there never were any. His disciples invented these stories later. But these disciples were willing to die for these inventions of theirs! Thousands of Christians were martyred rather than deny the divine claims of Jesus! More hallucination, no doubt! Nineteen centuries of Christian history can be shrugged off as easily as that by those who will not believe. If certain statements do not fit in with preconceived ideas then these statements are false; if certain facts do not agree with history, as the unbelievers understand history, then these facts never happened. So man’s limited, finite mind remains the sole judge and arbiter of all truth.

We believe in a loving God, and in his divine Son, Jesus Christ, who came on earth to bring us to heaven, and in the Holy Spirit who completes the work of sanctification in us. Surely, we owe this Blessed Trinity a debt of gratitude! We can never fully repay it. Because of our Christian faith which has come to us from Jesus, we know where we came from, we know whither we are going and we know how to reach that destination. Of all the knowledge a human being can acquire on this earth, the above facts are the most essential and important. Any other knowledge is of temporary value. The knowledge our Christian faith gives us concerns eternity and our journey toward it.

Today, we must thank God from the bottom of our hearts for giving us the Christian faith. This faith means that “God out of the abundance of his love, speaks to men as friends and lives among them so that he may invite and take them into fellowship with himself,” as Vatican II puts it. He did not put us on earth and leave us on our own with nowhere to go except to the grave. He sent his beloved Son on earth. He made us heirs to heaven and left to us, in his Church, all the instruction and aids we need to reach our inheritance. The unbelievers and free-thinkers may feel that they are free to do what they will here on earth, but we know that we have been given the freedom of the children of God for all eternity, if only we live according to the faith given us.

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

BENEDICTUS

Eucharist as Oneness

The Eucharist gathers people together; it creates for human beings a blood relationship, a sharing of blood, with Jesus Christ and, thus, with God, and of people with one another. Yet in order for this, the coming together on the highest level, to come about, there must first be a simpler level of getting together, so to speak, and people have to step outside their own private worlds and meet together. People’s coming together in response to the Lord’s call is the necessary condition for the Lord’s being able to make them into an assembly in a new way… All eucharistic assemblies taken together are still just one assembly, because the body of Christ is just one, and hence the People of God can only be one… If the eucharistic assembly first brings us out of the world and into the “upper room,” into the inner chamber of faith, this very upper room is yet the place of meeting, a universal meeting of everyone who believes in Christ, beyond all boundaries and divisions; and it thus becomes the point from which a universal love is bound to shine forth, overcoming all boundaries and divisions: if others are going hungry, we cannot live in opulence. On the one hand, the Eucharist is a turning inward and upward; yet only from the depths within, and from the heights of what is truly above, can come the power that overcomes boundaries and divisions and changes the world.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Act of Spiritual Communion

My Jesus, I believe that Thou art present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love Thee above all things and I desire Thee in my soul. Since I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though Thou wert already there, I embrace Thee and unite myself wholly to Thee; permit not, that I should ever be separated from Thee. Amen.

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What is the Mass? The Holy Mass is the highest form of worship.

The four aims of the Mass are;to adore God, to thank Him, 
to ask Him for forgiveness and 
to ask Him for our needs.

The Mass is comprised of two major and distinct, though related parts, namely the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. One centers around the Bible, and other, around the bread and wine. However, both form one single act of worship. They are not independent of each other. What is proclaimed in the Liturgy of the Word is celebrated in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Christ is present in both parts; first in His word, then in His Eucharistic action, and;

Christ said that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. This word is our food before the Eucharistic bread: we receive Christ in the Sacred Readings before receiving Him in Holy Communion.

Liturgy of the Word

The purpose of the readings and the homily is to proclaim the Word of God, which has the power to change our lives. We are not simply to listen, but to respond to what is being proclaimed.

The purpose of the Liturgy of the Word is not information, but transformation; not merely to tell what God has done in the past, but what he continues to do today; not merely to instruct, but to lead to worship. Worship is not something we do for God; rather it is our response to what he has done for us.

The Liturgy of the Word leads us to respond to that word by sacrifice in the second part of the Mass.

Liturgy of the Eucharist: Meal and Sacrifice

Family and friends like to enjoy each other’s company through having meals together, eg; family dinners, lunches, birthday parties, picnics etc. It is not surprising then that Jesus chose a meal to be close to us. The prototype of this Eucharistic meal was the Passover meal when the Jews recalled their deliverance from slavery to freedom through God’s intervention.

In Holy Comm-union (community union), everyone is united with Jesus and with each other.

The Eucharist is the same sacrifice of Jesus offered once and for all, re-presented (made present) for us who were not at Calvary under the sacramental sign of the consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist. The sacrifice at Calvary was bloody, the sacrifice at Mass is not.

We are God’s children and by faith and baptism share in Christ’s priesthood. In the Mass we join our High Priest, Jesus in offering the Sacrifice of His Body and Blood. With the whole Church we unite the offering of ourselves and of all created things with Christ’s offering to the Father. We adore God, we thank Him, we atone for our sins and we ask Him for help.

In the Jewish Passover, the unblemished lamb is sacrificed and eaten by family members. The Body of Jesus is also eaten by the family members of the community during Holy Communion.

Nourishments

We eat to get nourishments and to live. The Mass nourishes us with the Word of God (first part, Liturgy of the Word) and the Body and Blood of Christ (Holy Communion) when Christ comes to our souls to give us a fuller share in His Sacrifice and unite us more closely to Himself and to one another.

When we eat food, the food is transformed into our beings. When we eat the Body and Blood of Christ under the form of bread and wine, Jesus transforms us into Himself.

The Real Presence

When the species (the bread and wine) are consecrated by a priest or bishop, “This is my body, … This is my blood, …” Jesus becomes really and truly present. We call this the Real Presence.

It is no longer bread and wine, but really Jesus Himself. 
The substance (what the thing is) of bread and wine is changed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus, even though we can still see and taste the accidents (what we see or taste) of bread and wine. Traditionally, this is called transubstantiation.

It is not symbolic, but Jesus is really present.

“Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.” (John 6:53-54) This passage cannot be understood in a figurative way. In the biblical world, when the words “to eat the flesh and drink the blood” were used metaphorically, they meant to destroy someone, either by slander or by doing physical harm. (See Isaiah 49-26; Psalm 27:2.)

This is precisely why the Jews murmured at Jesus’ words and why his disciples were shocked. They knew the phrase could only be taken literally. Jesus did not correct any misunderstanding on the part of the crowd or his disciples who walked away after He said these Words. (John 6:66) He simply reminded them that it is necessary to have God’s Spirit to be able to accept such a teaching. (John 6:63.)

If we are unable to attend daily mass, the least we should do to offer up our day is offer up a Spiritual Communion.

St John Vianney had this to say about Spiritual Communion;

“If we are deprived of Sacramental Communion, let us replace it, as far as we can, by spiritual communion, which we can make every moment; for we ought to have always a burning desire to receive the good God. Communion is to the soul like blowing a fire that is beginning to go out, but that has still plenty of hot embers; we blow, and the fire burns again. After the reception of the Sacraments, when we feel ourselves slacken in the love of God, let us have recourse at once to spiritual communion. When we cannot come to church, let us turn towards the tabernacle: a wall cannot separate us from the good God; let us say five Our Fathers and five Hail Mary’s to make a spiritual communion. We can receive the good God only once a day; a soul on fire with love supplies for this by the desire to receive Him every moment. O man, how great thou art! fed with the Body and Blood of a God! Oh, how sweet a life is this life of union with the good God! It is Heaven upon earth; there are no more troubles, no more crosses! When you have the happiness of having received the good God, you feel a joy, a sweetness in your heart for some moments. Pure souls feel it always, and in this union consists their strength and their happiness.”

To learn more about the Mystery and Worship of the Eucharistic, please read Blessed Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Dominicae Cenae. You can find it at the link provided below.

http://www.cin.org/jp2ency/dominica.html

Another great teaching website:

http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/a.html

Posted in agnostic, athiest, Benedictine, Benedictine oblate, Bible Study, Catholic, Christian, Divine Mercy, faith, Heaven, hell, Holy Spirit, Liturgy, Mary, mercy, Oblate, prayer, The Word of God, Uncategorized, Virgin Mary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

Prayer Before Mass

Receive, O Holy Trinity, One God, this Holy Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which I, Your unworthy servant, desire now to offer to Your Divine Majesty by the hands of this Your minister, with all the Sacrifices which have ever been or will be offered to You, in union with that most Holy Sacrifice offered by the same Christ our Lord at the Last Supper, and on the Altar of the Cross.

I offer it to You with the utmost affection of devotion, out of pure love for Your infinite goodness, and according to the most holy intention of the same Christ our Lord, and of our Holy Mother the Church.

O God, almighty and merciful, grant us through this Holy Sacrifice, joy and peace, a holier life, time to do penance, grace and consolation of the Holy Spirit, and perseverance in good works. Amen.

COLLECT

Draw near to your servants, O Lord,

and answer their prayers with unceasing kindness,

that, for those who glory in you as their Creator and guide,

you may restore what you have created

and keep safe what you have restored.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you n the unity of Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

READING I

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Ex 16:2-4, 12-15

The whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.

The Israelites said to them,

“Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt,

as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!

But you had to lead us into this desert

to make the whole community die of famine!”

Then the LORD said to Moses,

“I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.

Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion;

thus will I test them,

to see whether they follow my instructions or not.

“I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites.

Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh,

and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread,

so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.”

In the evening quail came up and covered the camp.

In the morning a dew lay all about the camp,

and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert

were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground.

On seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, “What is this?”

for they did not know what it was.

But Moses told them,

“This is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.”

APPLICATION

In spite of all the miracles that God worked to set the Israelites free from the slavery of Egypt, they were still far from trusting him. When their food supplies had run out and no food seemed available in the desert region where they were, they murmured against Moses and against God. They thought God was going to let them die of starvation. “Would it not have been far better to have remained reasonably well-fed slaves in Egypt rather than starve as freemen out here?” they said. As yet they did not realize that God had a loving Father’s interest in them, that he intended to bring them into the land of Canaan, as promised to Abraham and his descendants. This he was doing in order to put his eternal plan for man’s salvation–the incarnation – into action later on.

God did not reprimand them for their lack of trust in him, he knew they were as yet poorly formed spiritually. Instead, he immediately promised to provide for their bodily needs. That evening he would provide meat for them to eat and next morning they would be able to find a bread-like food in sufficient quantity to supply each day’s needs. This provision of meat and bread-like food was a miracle of God’s kindness for the people he had chosen to be the ancestors of his divine Son in his human nature. The two items of food were in themselves natural to the region – the quails were passing over the Sinai desert for six months every year, and the “manna” came naturally from the tamarisk trees. What was miraculous was the large number of quails which landed around the camp, and also the regular, abundant supply of the tamarisk product which was available each day.

Each day the people rejoiced for a while at the turn of events. They had an abundant fresh supply, but some months later they again murmured and complained against God: they longed for variety as they had only the same manna all the time (Nb. 11: 5). They were surely an ungrateful, a stiff-necked, stubborn people, and nothing short of the infinite patience of God could have put up with them and continued to care for them. This he did, more for our sakes than for theirs. And it’s here that this story of God’s compassion has a lesson for us. Everything that God did in the Old Testament was in preparation for the New, in which his eternal plan for all men was put into operation. He chose Abraham so that from him would come Jesus “according to the flesh.” He looked after Abraham’s descendants and eventually established them as a people in the promised land. They were the people he had chosen to keep his name and his knowledge alive on earth, while all other peoples were serving empty idols. This Chosen People failed him again and again, but in spite of their disloyalty, he preserved a remnant of Abraham’s descendants in Judah until the “fullness of time” had come–the time for sending his divine Son as an on earth.

This miraculous feeding of the Israelites in the desert therefore was an act of mercy for such ungrateful people. It was also, and more importantly, a step in the preparation for the immensely greater act of our elevation to sonship with himself – brought about by the incarnation. Think of it! God was planning for our eternal salvation over three thousand two hundred years ago when he saved the Israelites from starvation in the desert of Sinai! Consider how much we take our religion for granted; how little we esteem the privilege that is ours; what little thought do we give to all that God did in order to make us Christians.

God has no need of us in heaven; he is infinitely happy without us, but because of his infinite goodness he wants to share his heaven with us and therefore he has been making arrangements from the beginning of time to enable us to get there. But he does need our cooperation. He created us, as St. Augustine says, without our consent but he cannot bring us to heaven without our consent. Unfortunately, there are some men who will not cooperate in providing for their own eternal happiness. Let us not be of their number. Let us look back on history today, and see all that God has done for us in order to make us eternally happy. Let us thank him and make a sincere and heartfelt resolve to be faithful to his teaching in future, to follow the path he has appointed for us to lead us to him.

Thanks be to the good Lord for feeding the Israelites in Sinai, and for having had our eternal welfare in mind when he came to their aid!

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54

The Lord gave them bread from heaven.

What we have heard and know,

and what our fathers have declared to us,

We will declare to the generation to come

the glorious deeds of the LORD and his strength

and the wonders that he wrought.

The Lord gave them bread from heaven.

He commanded the skies above

and opened the doors of heaven;

he rained manna upon them for food

and gave them heavenly bread.

The Lord gave them bread from heaven.

Man ate the bread of angels,

food he sent them in abundance.

And he brought them to his holy land,

to the mountains his right hand had won.

The Lord gave them bread from heaven.

READING II 

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Eph 4:17, 20-24

Brothers and sisters:

I declare and testify in the Lord

that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do,

in the futility of their minds;

that is not how you learned Christ,

assuming that you have heard of him and were taught in him,

as truth is in Jesus,

that you should put away the old self of your former way of life,

corrupted through deceitful desires,

and be renewed in the spirit of your minds,

and put on the new self,

created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1454 The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the Ten Commandments, the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings.1

CCC 1473 The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the “old man” and to put on the “new man.”2

CCC 1695 “Justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God,”3 “sanctified. .. [and] called to be saints,”4 Christians have become the temple of the Holy Spirit.5 This “Spirit of the Son” teaches them to pray to the Father6 and, having become their life, prompts them to act so as to bear “the fruit of the Spirit”7 by charity in action. Healing the wounds of sin, the Holy Spirit renews us interiorly through a spiritual transformation.8 He enlightens and strengthens us to live as “children of light” through “all that is good and right and true.”9

CCC 2475 Christ’s disciples have “put on the new man, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”10 By “putting away falsehood,” they are to “put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander.”11

1 Cf. Mt 5-7; Rom 12-15; 1 Cor 12-13; Gal 5; Eph 4-6; etc.

2 Eph 4:22, 24.

3 2 Cor 6:11.

4 1 Cor 1:2.

5 Cf. 1 Cor 6:19.

6 Cf. Gal 4:6.

7 Gal 5:22, 25.

8 Cf. Eph 4:23.

9 Eph 5:8, 9.

10 Eph 4:24.

11 Eph 4:25; 1 Pet 2:1.

APPLICATION

St. Paul had to remind the Ephesians what Christianity meant. They were men and women who were close to the time of Christ, They had seen the many miracles worked by their Apostle and father in the faith. He was a saintly man and their teacher, if they needed a reminder. How much more do we Christians of today need such a reminder? This is the very reason that these words of St. Paul are read to us today: to remind us that we are Christians, that we are new men. We have a new outlook on life and therefore our way of living should not conform to the pagan ethos of our day, but should show to the world than we are sons of God. How many Christians today are doing that? How many of Christ’s followers are bearing the true witness to him?

The western world, that is, all Europe and the Americas, is nominally Christian. However, for a large percentage of the citizens of these lands Christianity is only a label not a way of life. Many millions of these people have never learned the truth which is Jesus, they have not been taught the Christian faith. Other millions have learned the truths of the faith, in a modified form perhaps, but are not willing to carry out their Christian duties. The Eastern and Western schisms, the Greek and the Protestant revolts, can be blamed for much of this religious decay–but not for all of it by any means. There are many millions of unbaptized in the Christian countries of Europe which never had an Orthodox or Protestant infiltration. Laxity on the part of parents, and neglect of their duty on the part of pastors down through the years, have led such countries into this sorry state.

Africa and Asia are two continents with about two thirds of the world’s population. They have still much pagan territory–and this after nineteen centuries of Christianity! There have been great efforts made by devout individuals and by dedicated groups but, by and large, the Christian countries have neglected their obligation of bringing the light of faith to their pagan fellowmen. The result would appear to be that what they were unwilling to share with their pagan neighbors, they also neglected for themselves.

Before we begin to take the mote out of our neighbors’ eyes, let us make sure that we have not a beam in our own. Are we exemplary Christians, are we living up to the tenets and obligations of our faith? Are we just in our dealings with all men, truthful, chaste in thought, word and deed; are we, above all, charitable to our neighbor, carrying out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy wherever and whenever we can? Do we give a good example of what a Christian ought to be to those in our own homes and to all our fellowman we meet during the course of the day? Not many of us can give a definite yes to all of these questions. God will, however, be merciful to us if our intention is to be good Christians–even though we may fail now and then in our efforts. Where there is good will and a good intention God will make allowances. If they fail, through your fault, you cannot but fail yourselves. If they refuse to follow your teaching and example, pray often and with fervor for them. You want the best for them in this world and the next. There are many openings in this life, there is only one entrance, however, to happiness in the next–the, gate of heaven. If they miss that, they have missed everything.

Let us all have a good look at our consciences today. We are Christians and should be proud of it. But to be true Christians, we must play our part, we must carry out our Christian duties. We must remember that we are now sons of God, brothers of Christ, and our lives must be in keeping with this great dignify which Christ has won for us; we must live in righteousness and holiness.

GOSPEL

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Jn 6:24-35

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there,

they themselves got into boats

and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

And when they found him across the sea they said to him,

“Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus answered them and said,

“Amen, amen, I say to you,

you are looking for me not because you saw signs

but because you ate the loaves and were filled.

Do not work for food that perishes

but for the food that endures for eternal life,

which the Son of Man will give you.

For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”

So they said to him,

“What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”

Jesus answered and said to them,

“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”

So they said to him,

“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?

What can you do?

Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:

He gave them bread from heaven to eat.?

So Jesus said to them,

“Amen, amen, I say to you,

it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;

my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.

For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven

and gives life to the world.”

So they said to him,

“Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them,

“I am the bread of life;

whoever comes to me will never hunger,

and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/080518.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 423 We believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth, born a Jew of a daughter of Israel at Bethlehem at the time of King Herod the Great and the emperor Caesar Augustus, a carpenter by trade, who died crucified in Jerusalem under the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of the emperor Tiberius, is the eternal Son of God made man. He ‘came from God’,1 ‘descended from heaven’,2 and ‘came in the flesh’.3 For ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. .. And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace.’4

CCC 698 The seal is a symbol close to that of anointing. “The Father has set his seal” on Christ and also seals us in him.5 Because this seal indicates the indelible effect of the anointing with the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, the image of the seal (sphragis) has been used in some theological traditions to express the indelible “character” imprinted by these three unrepeatable sacraments.

CCC 728 Jesus does not reveal the Holy Spirit fully, until he himself has been glorified through his Death and Resurrection. Nevertheless, little by little he alludes to him even in his teaching of the multitudes, as when he reveals that his own flesh will be food for the life of the world.6 He also alludes to the Spirit in speaking to Nicodemus,7 to the Samaritan woman,8 and to those who take part in the feast of Tabernacles.9 To his disciples he speaks openly of the Spirit in connection with prayer10 and with the witness they will have to bear.11

CCC 1094 It is on this harmony of the two Testaments that the Paschal catechesis of the Lord is built,12 and then, that of the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church. This catechesis unveils what lay hidden under the letter of the Old Testament: the mystery of Christ. It is called “typological” because it reveals the newness of Christ on the basis of the “figures” (types) which announce him in the deeds, words, and symbols of the first covenant. By this re-reading in the Spirit of Truth, starting from Christ, the figures are unveiled.13 Thus the flood and Noah’s ark prefigured salvation by Baptism,14 as did the cloud and the crossing of the Red Sea. Water from the rock was the figure of the spiritual gifts of Christ, and manna in the desert prefigured the Eucharist, “the true bread from heaven.”15

CCC 1296 Christ himself declared that he was marked with his Father’s seal.16 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.”17 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.18

CCC 2835 This petition, with the responsibility it involves, also applies to another hunger from which men are perishing: “Man does not live by bread alone, but. .. by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,”19 that is, by the Word he speaks and the Spirit he breathes forth. Christians must make every effort “to proclaim the good news to the poor.” There is a famine on earth, “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.”20 For this reason the specifically Christian sense of this fourth petition concerns the Bread of Life: The Word of God accepted in faith, the Body of Christ received in the Eucharist.21

1 Jn 13:3.

2 Jn 3:13; 6:33.

3 1 Jn 4:2.

4 Jn 1:14,16.

5 Jn 6:27; cf. 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:3.

6 Cf. Jn 6:27, 51, 62-63.

7 Cf. Jn 3:5-8.

8 Cf. Jn 4:10, 14, 23-24.

9 Cf. Jn 7:37-39.

10 Cf. Lk 11:13.

11 Cf. Mt 10:19-20.

12 Cf. DV 14-16; Lk 24:13-49.

13 Cf. 2 Cor 3:14-16.

14 Cf. 1 Pet 3:21.

15 Jn 6:32; cf. 1 Cor 10:1-6.

16 Cf. Jn 6:27.

17 2 Cor 1:21-22; cf. Eph 1:13; 4,30.

18 Cf. Rev 7:2-3; 9:4; Ezek 9:4-6.

19 Deut 8:3; Mt 4:4.

20 Am 8:11.

21 Cf. Jn 6:26-58.

APPLICATION

The multiplication of the loaves which fed five thousand men was bound to recall to the minds of the multitude the bread from heaven which God had given to their ancestors in the desert. That it should do so was Christ’s secondary intention in working the miracle; his first intention was to feed those hungry people. Next day when the crowds gathered around him again in Capernaum, hoping for another free meal rather than looking for religious instruction, he openly accused them of their worldliness. While they knew and admitted that he was the second Moses, the prophet from God (see last Sunday’s gospel), and while they had heard him speak frequently of the new kingdom of God (see Mk. 5), their thoughts were still entirely worldly. The politically-minded wanted him to throw out the Romans and set up a new kingdom of David; the others were content with all the material benefits he could give them at the moment. Things spiritual and the everlasting life were far from their thoughts.

Christ told them how wrong their attitude to life was. They were concentrating all their thoughts and efforts on the things of this life, they should rather have given thought to the future life. Instead of looking for earthly bread which had real though transitory value, they should have looked for the bread which would bring them eternal life–“the food which endures.” He could give them this; they had God’s guarantee and seal for it–God sent him on earth so that men would accept him and believe in his message. They demanded further proofs; and referred to the manna given to their fathers in the desert. He answered them: the manna given to their fathers was not bread from heaven, it was earthly food which preserved earthly life, but God was now giving the true bread from heaven–Christ himself. He had come down from heaven; he was divine, and was to give them eternal life, if only they would believe in him.

Acceptance of Christ as God’s intermediary with men was the first essential step on the road to eternal life. “It is my Father’s will that whosoever sees (that is acknowledges him as Son of God) the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day” (6: 40). Christ went on then in this discourse, as we shall see during the next three Sundays, to foretell the gift of the Eucharist wherein he gives himself as the spiritual food to all those who believe in him. The act of faith, the act of accepting him as God’s envoy, God’s Son in fact, is already the beginning, the first step, toward the eternal life he came to give us.

In today’s reading we hear of the lack of faith of those Galileans, of their utter worldliness and lack of interest in their future life. We may be inclined to judge them severely. But we must not forget that as Jews they knew almost nothing about the future life. It was only with the full revelation given by Christ, that men learned of God’s wonderful plan for them. Thank God, we have this full knowledge today; we know that this life is only a period of preparation, a few years during which we can make ourselves worthy to enter the real kingdom of God in heaven. We know that Christ was God’s divine Son, who took our human nature in order to make us his brothers and therefore sons of God. We know that heaven is awaiting us, if only we accept Christ here and follow his teaching. Surely, we are infinitely more fortunate than were the Galileans we read about today!

Do we appreciate our good fortune; do we live up to the teaching which we know is true? Do we ever allow ourselves to get immersed in worldly affairs–forgetting that this earth is not our home, that we are only passing through? Unfortunately, many Christians do act in this manner. While they have the name of “followers of Christ,” they are not following him, they have chosen the path of worldliness and earthly interests which will lead to a dead end. Have an honest, sincere look at your own Christianity today. Your eternity, the unending ages that come after your death, will depend on how you spend your fleeting years on this earth.

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

BENEDICTUS

Breaking of Bread

Ultimately, the Church draws her life from the Eucharist, from this real, self-giving presence of the Lord. Without this ever-new encounter with him, she would necessarily wither… Anyone who repeatedly exposes himself to it and confides in it will be changed. You cannot walk constantly with the Lord, cannot ever anew pronounce these tremendous words, This is my Body and my Blood, you cannot touch the Body of the Lord again and again, without being affected by him and challenged by him, being changed and led by him. We may of course lag behind him, and will again and again lag immeasurably far behind, but in the long run there are really only two possibilities: either to shake off the Eucharist, with the enormous demands and power it sets up in life, or to surrender to it, to hold fast to it. Anyone who holds fast to the Lord will not be abandoned by him. Anyone who grapples with him calmly and patiently, humbly and sincerely, will be led by him; he will never be denied his light… Christ genuinely shared himself out, gave himself with the torn-up bread, so that his life might be ours: that is the incredible event that occurs ever anew. Herein lies the great significance of the Eucharist, and that is why it is no game, but quite real. When death comes onstage the game is at an end. Man is set before the truth. But only when this encounter reaches right down unto death can true hope arise for man.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer after Holy Communion

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.

Body of Christ, save me.

Blood of Christ, inebriate me.

Water flowing from the side of Christ, purify me.

Passion of Christ, comfort me.

O good Jesus, hear me.

Hide me within Thy wounds.

Never permit me to be separated from Thee.

From the malignant enemy defend me.

At the hour of my death call me,

And cause me to come to Thee,

That with the Saints and the Angels,

I may praise Thee For everlasting ages.

Amen.

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Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

 

Multiplication-of-Loaves-008588WEB__41499.1500403380.500.659.gif

“Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.”  So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.”

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

Prayer for Trust

O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength.  Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will in all things, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(By St. Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556)

COLLECT

O God, protector of those who hope in you,

without whom nothing has firm foundation, nothing is holy,

bestow in abundance your mercy upon us

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

we may use the good things that pass

in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure,

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

Elisha.jpg

2 Kgs 4:42-44

A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing to Elisha, the man of God,

twenty barley loaves made from the firstfruits,

and fresh grain in the ear.

Elisha said, “Give it to the people to eat.”

But his servant objected,

“How can I set this before a hundred people?”

Elisha insisted, “Give it to the people to eat.”

“For thus says the LORD,

‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.'”

And when they had eaten, there was some left over,

as the LORD had said.

APPLICATION

This incident in the life of Elisha is chosen for today’s first reading because the gospel story deals with our Lord’s more astounding multiplication of the loaves (Jn. 6: 1-15). Both stories have this in common: bread is multiplied miraculously in order to feed hungry men. The miracle worked by our Lord was greater in its result–five loaves satisfied five thousand men. This, however, does not alter the essence of Elisha’s miracle. In both cases, God was producing more than the powers of nature could produce of themselves. This appears impossible only to those who have a warped idea of God and his essence.

There are such people, however, people who deny that God can in a particular case change the laws of nature which he himself has laid down. These people are not atheists, but their mental concept of God is not derived from his revelation of himself which is the only human way of knowing the nature of God, but from their own preconceived ideas. They allow God to exist, but they have him interned, locked-up in his heaven, unable to engage himself in the affairs of the world he has created. This is surely a most arbitrary and high-handed way of treating God. They put outside his reach the world he has created: it concerns him no longer as he is unable to be concerned in it.

This, however, is not the truth about God as revealed by himself. In his revelation of himself, he has told us that he is able to alter his own laws of nature, for he has undoubtedly altered these laws time and again, but always for some very particular purpose. The stability and validity of the natural laws are not thereby weakened in any way, for God uses his power only very rarely and always for a very particular purpose, namely, to prove to men that he exists, that he knows their needs and that he has a very fatherly interest in them.

Ever since his first revelation of himself to Abraham, God has worked miracles and through them has convinced men of his existence and absolute power. Through their prayers, the prophets of the Old Testament obtained miracles from God. Christ, on the other hand, worked miracles by his own power because he was God. He did not have to pray for that power–it was his by nature. As God delegated his power of miracles in the Old Testament so did Christ give the same power to his Apostles when he sent them out to preach. This power was very effective in convincing men of the truth of Christ: that he was the Son of God, and of the truth of the Christian faith. As the Church spread throughout the Roman empire miracles became less frequent, for as St. Augustine says : “one waters a newly-planted sapling but once it has taken solid root it needs no further watering.”

Holy men and women down through the history of the Church have had the power of miracles from God as a reward for, and a proof to others of, their sanctity. Apart from the marvels of God’s love and interest in his children–marvels which in a broad sense can be called miracles–real miracles occur in our day too. God is still master of creation. Not everyone, however, that asks for a miracle needs it and not everyone that needs it gets it, for God has his own wise ways of making us earn our eternal salvation. The seriously ill member of a family whose cure would earn the eternal gratitude of all connected with him, may be left uncured, for God sees that the charity and unselfish care bestowed on that sick person is the one and only way that will earn heaven for the other members of that family. Because he is kind and loving, God must refuse the requests often of those who are very close to him. It is because he loves us that he wants the best for us and wants us to reach heaven. If, therefore, the temporal favor we seek would hinder our progress on the road to heaven, God will not grant our request.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18

The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,

and let your faithful ones bless you.

Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom

and speak of your might.

The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

The eyes of all look hopefully to you,

and you give them their food in due season;

you open your hand

and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

The LORD is just in all his ways

and holy in all his works.

The LORD is near to all who call upon him,

to all who call upon him in truth.


The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

READING II

paul-berea.jpg

Eph 4:1-6

Brothers and sisters:

I, a prisoner for the Lord,

urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,

with all humility and gentleness, with patience,

bearing with one another through love,

striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:

one body and one Spirit,

as you were also called to the one hope of your call;

one Lord, one faith, one baptism;

one God and Father of all,

who is over all and through all and in all.

APPLICATION

What St. Paul asked of the Christians of Ephesus over nineteen hundred years ago, he is asking of us today. He is asking us to show ourselves worthy of our Christian vocation, worthy of the privilege Christ has won for us, namely, adopted sonship with God. The first Christian virtue that St. Paul recommends his converts to practice is humility: “with all lowliness and meekness” they are to conduct their lives. For a rational and reasonable man this virtue, which is simply admitting what we are, should not be a difficult one. What have we of any lasting value which we can call our own? All the qualities of mind and body were given to us by God. Our race or tribe or nation was not of our choice. If our family happens to have wealth or position of importance, is this really something of which to boast or to be proud? What lasting value has wealth and worldly position? There is no apparent difference between Dives and Lazarus, between a millionaire and a beggar when laid out in death.

A proper estimation of himself should not be difficult for any sane man, but especially for a Christian who has the example of Christ before his eyes. Christ could have boasted: he had greatness itself, he was God but he hid his divinity; “he emptied himself of it” in order to live among us as man so that he could raise us up and make us fit for heaven. Having become man, he allowed men to despise and insult him, to strike him on the face and crown him with thorns; they spat on him and derided him while he was dying on the cross. He who could have annihilated all his enemies by one simple wish, patiently bore these humiliations for our sake.

With such a Master, with such an example, could we dare to look down on our fellowman and be overcome by the insults of some fellowman? Could we demand respect and special consideration from those of our neighbors who have less of this world’s goods, or less gifts of mind or body than we have? If a sane pagan should not act thus, how much more unbecoming, how much more contrary to his vocation would it not be for a Christian to do so! A proud Christian is a contradiction in terms; the proud man is not following the humble Christ, he has joined the ranks of the Pharisees who put Christ to death.

The second virtue, and one which flows freely from humility and which Christ calls on us today to practice is “forbearance with one another in love”: putting up patiently with the faults and foibles of our neighbors. As there are no two faces in the world exactly alike, so there are no two characters alike. Each one of us has his own peculiarities which make him uniquely himself. This is God’s way of brightening our lives or as the old saying has it: “variety is the spice of life”; things would be very monotonous if we all acted in the same way always. But there is no danger of that, the danger is that this variety can become a source of irritation to some at times. That is where forbearance, based on love, is important, it prevents clashes of character. If I love all my neighbors – all those with whom I come into contact, if I realize that it is my Christian duty to help them on the road to heaven, I shall find it easier to put up with apparent defects and faults in their characters.

We must remember: what may often appear to us to be serious lapses in Christian behavior on the part of some neighbors, may not be sinful, in the eyes of God who sees all the circumstances. But even if there is no possible excuse for sin we are not our neighbor’s judge. Do we have to condemn him or excommunicate him from us forever? Does not our Christian teaching tell us that we should do all in our power with true fraternal charity to show our erring brethren the error of their ways?

We are all on the road to heaven, there are lots of us, thank God, on that same road, and therefore some jostling and shoving are inevitable in such a crowd. God may be allowing that jostling and pushing so that the impatient Christian may yet overcome his impatience and be worthy of heaven. We are being trained, formed for heaven as we go along the road of life. All formation and training are a bit difficult, a bit trying. Let us accept this period of trial willingly because what we are striving for is worth all we can suffer – we are training to be saints for all eternity.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 172 Through the centuries, in so many languages, cultures, peoples and nations, the Church has constantly confessed this one faith, received from the one Lord, transmitted by one Baptism, and grounded in the conviction that all people have only one God and Father.1 St. Irenaeus of Lyons, a witness of this faith, declared:

CCC 249 From the beginning, the revealed truth of the Holy Trinity has been at the very root of the Church’s living faith, principally by means of Baptism. It finds its expression in the rule of baptismal faith, formulated in the preaching, catechesis and prayer of the Church. Such formulations are already found in the apostolic writings, such as this salutation taken up in the Eucharistic liturgy: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”2

CCC 814 From the beginning, this one Church has been marked by a great diversity which comes from both the variety of God’s gifts and the diversity of those who receive them. Within the unity of the People of God, a multiplicity of peoples and cultures is gathered together. Among the Church’s members, there are different gifts, offices, conditions, and ways of life. “Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions.”3 The great richness of such diversity is not opposed to the Church’s unity. Yet sin and the burden of its consequences constantly threaten the gift of unity. And so the Apostle has to exhort Christians to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”4

CCC 957 Communion with the saints. “It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself”5:

We worship Christ as God’s Son; we love the martyrs as the Lord’s disciples and imitators, and rightly so because of their matchless devotion towards their king and master. May we also be their companions and fellow disciples!6

CCC 1454 The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the Ten Commandments, the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings.7

CCC 2219 Filial respect promotes harmony in all of family life; it also concerns relationships between brothers and sisters. Respect toward parents fills the home with light and warmth. “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.”8 “With all humility and meekness, with patience, [support] one another in charity.”9

CCC 2790 Grammatically, “our” qualifies a reality common to more than one person. There is only one God, and he is recognized as Father by those who, through faith in his only Son, are reborn of him by water and the Spirit.10 The Church is this new communion of God and men. United with the only Son, who has become “the firstborn among many brethren,” she is in communion with one and the same Father in one and the same Holy Spirit.11 In praying “our” Father, each of the baptized is praying in this communion: “The company of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”12

1 Cf. Eph 4:4-6.

2 2 Cor 13:14; cf. 1 Cor 12:4-6; Eph 4:4-6.

3 LG 13 § 2.

4 Eph 4:3.

5 LG 50; cf. Eph 4:1-6.

6 Martyrium Polycarpi, 17: Apostolic Fathers II/3, 396.

7 Cf. Mt 5-7; Rom 12-15; 1 Cor 12-13; Gal 5; Eph 4-6; etc.

8 Prov 17:6.

9 Eph 4:2.

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

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

12 Acts 4:32.

GOSPEL

Multiplication-of-Loaves-008588WEB__41499.1500403380.500.659.gif

Jn 6:1-15

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.

A large crowd followed him,

because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.

Jesus went up on the mountain,

and there he sat down with his disciples.

The Jewish feast of Passover was near.

When Jesus raised his eyes

and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,

he said to Philip,

“Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”

He said this to test him,

because he himself knew what he was going to do.

Philip answered him,

“Two hundred days?’ wages worth of food would not be enough

for each of them to have a little.'”

One of his disciples,

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;

but what good are these for so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”

Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.

So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.

Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,

and distributed them to those who were reclining,

and also as much of the fish as they wanted.

When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,

“Gather the fragments left over,

so that nothing will be wasted.”

So they collected them,

and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments

from the five barley loaves

that had been more than they could eat.

When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,

“This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”

Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off

to make him king,

he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072918.cfm

APPLICATION

Although Jesus had the intention of preparing the minds of the multitude for his discourse on the heavenly food which he would make next day, his principal motive in working this miracle was pity and compassion. He knew that they were hungry – they had been away from home all day and some for many days. They were willing to suffer this inconvenience but he did not want them to do so. Even though he knew there were some among them who would never accept him, and perhaps even some who would be among the rabble that demanded, his crucifixion on Good Friday; yet he made no distinction. He had compassion on them all.

This miracle should surely convince us, that Christ is interested in our daily needs too, just as he was interested in those of his contemporaries in Palestine. Our principal and only real purpose in life, is to be saved and Christ is ever ready to help us. However, we have first to travel through our earthly life so, of necessity, we have to take a passing interest in the affairs of this world. We have to provide for our earthly needs and for those of any others who may depend on us. For many, in fact for the vast majority of men, this has always been and will be a struggle against great odds. Here, too, Christ is ever ready to help us. He has a true interest in our progress through life and if we turn to him trustfully and sincerely, he will help us over our difficulties.

This does not mean that we can expect or demand a miracle whenever we find ourselves in difficulties. If, however, we are true to Christ and to the faith in our daily lives, he will find ways and means of freeing us from difficulties which would otherwise overcome us. If we look back over our past we may notice occasions when we were saved from grave difficulties by some unexpected intervention. We may not even have called on Christ to help us but he knew our needs and he answered our unspoken request. Those five thousand hungry people had not asked him for food, but he knew their needs. He knew too that their needs were caused by their desire to be in his presence – so he gave them what they had not thought of asking for. If we are loyal to him we, too, can trust that his mercy and power will be with us in our hour of need. He may not remove the cause of our difficulty. Remember St. Paul who had some bodily infirmity which he thought impeded his effectiveness as a missioner? Three times he pleaded with Christ to remove this infirmity, but Christ assured him : “my grace is sufficient for you.” He would prove all the more effectively that he was Christ’s Apostle by preaching in spite of that infirmity: “for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12: 7-9). Thus it may be that Christ will use the very difficulty from which we are suffering, to bring us and others into more intimate union with him. Many of the saints suffered great hardships and afflictions during their years on earth – these very afflictions were Christ’s gifts to them. Without these, and the virtues of patience, faith and trust which they had to practice, they might not be among God’s elect today.

We must rest assured then that Christ is intimately interested in our daily lives on earth. We must not expect that this interest of his will remove all shadows from our path. This would not be for our eternal good – and our eternal happiness is Christ’s first interest in us. It should also be our own first and principal interest too. It will help us, too, to bear with our lot, if we look about us and see so many others who are worse off, or at least as badly off as we are especially with regard to the snags of life. Christian charity will move us to help them; we may not be able to give them any material help, but we can help to lighten their load by showing our sincere interest in them and by offering words of comfort and consolation. This is the only charity that the poor have to offer to their fellow-sufferers, but if it is Christ-inspired its effects will reach to heaven.

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 439 Many Jews and even certain Gentiles who shared their hope recognized in Jesus the fundamental attributes of the messianic “Son of David”, promised by God to Israel.1 Jesus accepted his rightful title of Messiah, though with some reserve because it was understood by some of his contemporaries in too human a sense, as essentially political.2

CCC 549 By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death,3 Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below,4 but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God’s sons and causes all forms of human bondage.5

CCC 559 How will Jerusalem welcome her Messiah? Although Jesus had always refused popular attempts to make him king, he chooses the time and prepares the details for his messianic entry into the city of “his father David”.6 Acclaimed as son of David, as the one who brings salvation (Hosanna means “Save!” or “Give salvation!”), the “King of glory” enters his City “riding on an ass”.7 Jesus conquers the Daughter of Zion, a figure of his Church, neither by ruse nor by violence, but by the humility that bears witness to the truth.8 And so the subjects of his kingdom on that day are children and God’s poor, who acclaim him as had the angels when they announced him to the shepherds.9 Their acclamation, “Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord”,10 is taken up by the Church in the “Sanctus” of the Eucharistic liturgy that introduces the memorial of the Lord’s Passover.

CCC 1338 The three synoptic Gospels and St. Paul have handed on to us the account of the institution of the Eucharist; St. John, for his part, reports the words of Jesus in the synagogue of Capernaum that prepare for the institution of the Eucharist: Christ calls himself the bread of life, come down from heaven.11

1 Cf Mt 2:2; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9.15.

2 Cf. Jn 4:25-26; 6:15; 11:27; Mt 22:41-46; Lk 24:21.

3 Cf. Jn 6:5-15; Lk 19:8; Mt 11:5.

4 Cf. Lk 12 13-14; Jn 18:36.

5 Cf. Jn 8:34-36.

6 Lk 1:32; cf. Mt 21:1-11; Jn 6:15.

7 Ps 24:7-10; Zech 9:9.

8 Cf. Jn 18:37.

9 Cf. Mt 21:15-16; cf. Ps 8:3; Lk 19:38; 2:14.

10 Cf. Ps 118:26.

11 Cf. Jn 6.

BENEDICTUS

Joy, Mercy, Faith, Peace, Presence

If the loved one, love, the greatest gift of my life, is close to me, if I can be convinced that the one who loves me is close to me, if I can be convinced that the one who loves me is close to me, even in situations of suffering, the joy that remains in the depth of my heart is ever greater than all sufferings… Fraternal correction is a work of mercy. None of us can see himself well, see his short-comings well. So it is an act of love, to be a complement to one another, to help each other see one another better, and to correct each other. Of course, this great work of mercy, helping each other so that each one can really find his or her own integrity, and functionality as an instrument of God, demands great humility and love. Only if this comes from a humble heart, from someone who does not place himself above another, who does not consider himself better than the other, but only a jumble instrument mutually to help each other. Only if one feels this deep and true humility, if one feels that these words come from common love, from the collegial affection in which we wish to serve God together, can we in this way help each other with a great act of love… We can have the faith of the Church together, because with this faith we enter into the thoughts and feelings of the Lord… We are in inner peace, because being in the thought of Christ unites our real being… However, this is valid to the extent in which we really enter this presence which he gave us, in this gift which is already present in our being.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

A Prayer for the Virtue of Patience

Patience is a virtue of the Lord:

He awaits the return of His children.

Forgive my trespasses Oh Lord Jesus,

For many times have I tested You.

I deserved the wrath of Your hand,

But You saw greater things for me:

Your patience has been enormous!

Grant me a droplet of such endurance,

That I may abolish my impious impatience,

Refraining from using unpleasant words,

And always reflecting Your serenity.

Great is the Lord Jesus in His ways!

Catholic.org/prayers/1564

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Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

Good Shepard Christ.jpg

“When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Prayer for the Salvation of the World

Father, hear our prayers for the salvation of the world.

Grant Mercy to all souls that turned away from You.

Open their hearts and minds with Your light.

Gather Your children from the east and the west, from the north and the south.

Have mercy O God on those who do not know You.

Bring them out of darkness into Your light.

You are our saving God Who leads us in our salvation.

Protect us from evil.

Bless and praise You O Lord, hear our prayers and answer us.

You, our Savior, are the hope of all the ends of the Earth and the distant seas.

May Your way be known upon Earth; among all nations Your salvation.

We put the world in Your hands; fill us with Your love.

Grant us peace through Christ, our Lord. Amen

COLLECT

Show favor, O Lord, to your servants

and mercifully increase the gifts of your grace,

that, made fervent in hope, faith and charity,

they may be ever watchful in keeping your commands.

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

s_jeremiah.jpg

Jer 23:1-6

Woe to the shepherds

who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture,

says the LORD.

Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel,

against the shepherds who shepherd my people:

You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.

You have not cared for them,

but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.

I myself will gather the remnant of my flock

from all the lands to which I have driven them

and bring them back to their meadow;

there they shall increase and multiply.

I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them

so that they need no longer fear and tremble;

and none shall be missing, says the LORD.

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD,

when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David;

as king he shall reign and govern wisely,

he shall do what is just and right in the land.

In his days Judah shall be saved,

Israel shall dwell in security.

This is the name they give him:

“The LORD our justice.”

APPLICATION

In the midst of the misfortunes and afflictions which were about to engulf his people—afflictions and misfortunes brought on them especially by their religious and civic leaders—Jeremiah had words of consolation and encouragement. Bright and happy days were in store for them. Some would return from the exile and live in peace in their homeland under more God-fearing leaders. But it is to the messianic age, to Christ’s day, that the thoughts of the prophet were especially turned. The great day would come when the new Chosen People would have a king who would be justice itself, a king to keep them loyal to God, a shepherd to care for their real interests. As psalm 22 puts it: “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. He guides me along the right path, he is true to his name … In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever.”

Both Jeremiah and the psalmist were looking into the future and beheld the coming of Christ and the age of the new Chosen People. That these are messianic prophecies is clear from the fact that our Divine Lord himself applied the title of the true shepherd to himself: “I am the good shepherd, I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep” (Jn. 10: 14-15).

We today are indeed fortunate to be living in the Christian era. We have seen the messianic prophecies fulfilled; we know that Christ has come and changed our world. We know that we are the sheep of his chosen flock, the members indeed of his mystical body. We know that he has put us on the right path, on the road to heaven and that as faithful Shepherd he is, ever watching over us, moving us on when we are inclined to nibble at the forbidden grass by the road-side, bringing us back on his own shoulders when we stray from the path and get caught up in the briars and brambles of earthly attractions.

We Christians know all of this, but do we really appreciate what the good God has done for us? By sending his Son on earth as man, he made us heirs to heaven, brothers of Christ and adopted sons of himself. Heaven is now our destination, our only real purpose in life. Everything else is absolutely secondary and only of transitory importance. Yet how many there are who let these things of secondary importance get such a hold on them that they forget or ignore their one and only purpose in life? They allow the transitory things of this life to hold them back from reaching the endless life of heaven.

To help us to see the utter folly of such Christians let us suppose, for a moment, a poor man who had a great desire to go to Lourdes. He was given a free ticket with all expenses paid. He set out joyfully, say from Chicago. His first stop was New York. Here he became enchanted with the hustle and bustle of the great city’s life. He visited many movie pictures and stage productions and spent so much time that he missed the pilgrim ship for which he was booked. He had not enough to pay for a ticket to Europe on another ship and so he missed seeing Lourdes. He ended his days in misery in New York, no longer enchanted by its attractions but driven to despair by the utter emptiness of what it had to offer. That man’s fate was but a shadow of the irreparable loss of the Christian who lets the attractions of this world keep him from heaven.

He may find his days, his mind and his hands full of interesting worldly affairs, but he should realize that every time the clock strikes he is an hour nearer to his earthly end. After that what is there for him? What explanation can he offer when he arrives empty-handed and totally unprepared at the judgement seat? He cannot plead ignorance; he cannot plead lack of time; he could have provided for all of his earthly needs, while providing at the same time for his eternal future. He allowed himself to get so immersed in the things of this world that he gave no thought to his future. It has happened before and it will happen again. It can happen to us unless we frequently take a good look at our way of living and honestly and sincerely measure our daily doings by the standard of the Gospel. If frequently during life we judge ourselves and our actions with all sincerity we need not fear the judgement after death.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 51 “It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will. His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature.”1

CCC 2305 Earthly peace is the image and fruit of the peace of Christ, the messianic “Prince of Peace.”2 By the blood of his Cross, “in his own person he killed the hostility,”3 he reconciled men with God and made his Church the sacrament of the unity of the human race and of its union with God. “He is our peace.”4 He has declared: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”5

1 DV 2; cf. Eph 1:9; 2:18; 2 Pt 1:4.

2 Isa 9:5.

3 Eph 2:16 J.B.; cf. Col 1:20-22.

4 Eph 2:14.

5 Mt 5:9.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

In verdant pastures he gives me repose;

beside restful waters he leads me;

he refreshes my soul.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

He guides me in right paths

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk in the dark valley

I fear no evil; for you are at my side

with your rod and your staff

that give me courage.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

You spread the table before me

in the sight of my foes;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Only goodness and kindness follow me

all the days of my life;

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

for years to come.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

READING II

Christ the Peacekeeper.jpg

Eph 2:13-18

Brothers and sisters:

In Christ Jesus you who once were far off

have become near by the blood of Christ.

For he is our peace, he who made both one

and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh,

abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims,

that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two,

thus establishing peace,

and might reconcile both with God,

in one body, through the cross,

putting that enmity to death by it.

He came and preached peace to you who were far off

and peace to those who were near,

for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

APPLICATION

“He came and preached peace.” In these five words, St. Paul sums up the, ministry of Christ on earth. He preached peace. He laid down the foundations of peace. He reconciled men with God their Creator and Father, and reconciled men with one another. He taught men to be brotherly toward one another. When questioned by one of the Pharisees as to which was the most important of the commandments, he answered: “Love God with all your heart, all your strength and alI your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” The two together are the essence of true religion “on these two depend the whole law and the prophets.”

Long before Christ came on earth, the prophets had described the kingdom which he was to establish as a kingdom of peace. He was called the Prince of Peace (Is. 9); in his kingdom there would never again be war “men would turn their swords into plowshares, their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war” (Is. 2; see also Is. 11; Ag. 2: 8-10; Zech. 9: 10). These prophecies, however, were not fulfilled in the kingdom that Christ set up on this earth, nor was that intended. The prophets were speaking of the final kingdom, the completion of Christ’s work in heaven. There the perfect peace will prevail; there man will truly love his fellowman and all men will love God.

Christ did lay the foundations for peace between men and between nations even on this earth. He made us all his brothers; he made all men, no matter what their race or color, God’s adopted sons and therefore members of the one, family. But we must not forget that while Christ laid solid and secure foundations, the walls of the building were to be built of mortal, fallible men who could abuse the gift of freewill with which they were endowed. If all men kept the two great commandments, loving God with all their heart and loving their neighbor as themselves, peace would naturally follow. Such an if, however, is a capital “IF,” for unfortunately, there will always be among us those who will fail to keep these basic commandments to the letter, and therefore there will always be violations of peace.

While we regret that even our fellow-Christians can and do break these commandments and act contrary to the teaching of their faith, we must not be scandalized at this nor must we say that Christ’s teaching has failed. Christ laid the foundations for peace; he encouraged his followers to live in peace; he wished them, this peace, but even Christ could not force man’s freewill. He, being God, foresaw that the Christian peace which should reign in our world would be broken many times. Yet, his forgiveness was ever available, to those who failed to keep his law, and his grace and divine assistance were there to help all who suffered because of the violation of his law.

There will always be some who will be a menace and a threat to peace, because they have forgotten that God is their Father. Consequently, they do not look on their neighbor as their brother. There is still a majority of God-loving and neighbor-loving men and women among us, not only in the Christian Church but outside of it also, who want peace. It is up to them to make their voices heard before God, first of all their daily, fervent prayers for peace; and then also in the councils of state where human decisions are taken.

We can all do more for the preservation of peace on earth than perhaps we realize. All true lovers of God and neighbor should instill this same love in their children so that they will grow up inspired by respect for the two greatest commandments–they will be peace-lovers. In our street, in our town, in our country, by word, by example and by prayer we can do much to spread love for the peace which flows from love of neighbor and love of God. If we turned our protest-marches, which so often are not inspired by true, love of peace, into prayer-marches we might see better results. “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of,” said Tennyson long ago. He was but repeating what Christ had said centuries before: “ask and you shall receive.” Peace in one’s conscience, peace in one’s home, peace with one’s neighbors, peace between nations is one of the noblest causes to which one can dedicate one’s energies and prayers. “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.”

GOSPEL

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Mk 6:30-34

The apostles gathered together with Jesus

and reported all they had done and taught.

He said to them,

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

People were coming and going in great numbers,

and they had no opportunity even to eat.

So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.

People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.

They hastened there on foot from all the towns

and arrived at the place before them.

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,

his heart was moved with pity for them,

for they were like sheep without a shepherd;

and he began to teach them many things.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072218.cfm

APPLICATION

In these few verses St. Mark very strongly brings out the compassion, the human understanding of Jesus for man. He first planned to give his Apostles a well-earned rest. They had evidently worked hard while out on their mission and a few days rest would restore their lost energy. He himself, too, must have been hard-pressed, preaching and dealing with the crowds. In the absence of the Apostles he had no one to help him–he too needed a rest. He, therefore. planned that he and they should go to a quiet corner of the Sea of Galilee where there was no village and where, therefore, they would not be disturbed.

The desire of the crowds, however, to see him and to hear him speak upset these plans. The people got to the quiet spot first. There they were waiting when the boat pulled to shore. He could have sent them away, but again his human compassion took over. Seeing these simple people of Galilee so anxious to hear about God and his mercy, he let them stay and began to preach the good news of forgiveness and hope to them. For the most part they were simple, unlettered villagers, shepherds and fishermen. They knew a little about the Law of Moses but only a little. There was no one but the local rabbi to teach them and the local rabbis were not very educated at the time. The doctors of the law, the great theologians were all in Jerusalem where they got the respect and the financial reward which they felt they merited. Hence the people of the country were more or less forgotten and neglected. They were, as our Lord described them, ” like sheep without a shepherd,” wandering about half-lost.

They were certainly fortunate, however, in finding the true shepherd who would lead them to the eternal pastures. Not only would he now sacrifice his rest to come to their aid but he would, later on, lay down his life for them and for all of us. We, like those poor people of Galilee, have so much to be grateful for. The compassionate Christ has had pity on us too, and has brought us into his fold. He knows all our infirmities and all our human weaknesses, and he is ever-ready to have pity on us and pardon us. Those people of Galilee were not saints, they were ordinary, run-of-the-mill, not over religious people. They cheated one another; they were often uncharitable to one another; they were not always chaste and pure; they prayed very little and perhaps only when they wanted some material benefit. Yet our Lord had compassion on them.

This should give us great confidence, great encouragement. Christ has not changed: he is the same yesterday, today and forever. He has the same compassion for us that he had for those Galileans; we too are often like sheep without a shepherd wandering half-lost through life. He is ever calling us to come to himself so that he will lead us to safe pastures. If only we would listen to his merciful call! Today’s Gospel is one such call : it goes out to every member of this congregation who has been lax in his or her religious life up to now. Christ wants us back on the high-road to heaven. All we have to do is to break with the past, with the earthly things that kept us from God. We can set out as freemen to follow Christ. He has left to his Church the holy sacrament of penance in which he guarantees us complete and entire remission of all past sins if we confess them with true sorrow. Let us not think that our sins are too big to be forgiven, that Christ could not have compassion on us because of our dreadful past. We can remember those Galileans; many of them were sinners as we are and he had compassion on them. He came to call sinners, he tells us. Let us answer his call today–tomorrow might be too late.

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

BENEDICTUS

Following, Believing, Loving

To follow” means to entrust oneself to the Word of God, to rate it higher than the laws of money and bread and to live by it. In short, to follow means to believe, but to “believe” in the sense of making a radical decision between the two and, in the last analysis, the only two possibilities for human life: bread and the word. The human person does not live on bread alone but also and primarily on the word, the spirit, meaning. It is always this same radical decision that confronts disciples when they hear the call “Follow me!”; the radical decision to stake one’s life either on profit and gain or on truth and love; the radical decision to live for oneself or to surrender one’s self… Only in losing themselves can human beings find themselves. The real and radical martyrdom of genuine self-renunciation means to accept the inner essence of the cross, namely the radical love expressed therein, and thus to imitate God himself. For on the cross God revealed himself as the One who pours himself out in prodigal fashion; who surrenders his glory in order to be present for us; who desires to rule the world not by power but by love, and in the weakness of the cross reveals his power which operates so differently from the power of this world’s mighty rulers. To follow Christ, then, means to enter into the self-surrender that is the real heart of love. To follow Christ means to become one who loves as God has loved… In the last analysis, to follow Christ is simply for man to become human by integration into the humanity of God.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

A Prayer for World Peace (1978)

Lord, we pray for the power to be gentle; the strength to be forgiving; the patience to be understanding; and the endurance to accept the consequences of holding to what we believe to be right.

May we put our trust in the power of good to overcome evil and the power of love to overcome hatred.

We pray for the vision to see and the faith to believe in a world emancipated from violence, a new world where fear shall no longer lead men to commit injustice, nor selfishness make them bring suffering to others.

Help us to devote our whole life and thought and energy to the task of making peace, praying always for the inspiration and the power to fulfill the destiny for which we and all men were created. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Posted in Catholic

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

SynaxiApostolon03.jpg

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

For your mercies’ sake, O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul: “I am your salvation.” So speak that I may hear, O Lord; my heart is listening; open it that it may hear you, and say to my soul: “I am your salvation.” After hearing this word, may I come in haste to take hold of you. Hide not your face from me. Let me see your face even if I die, lest I die with longing to see it. The house of my soul is too small to receive you; let it be enlarged by you. It is all in ruins; do you repair it. There are things in it – I confess and I know – that must offend your sight. But who shall cleanse it? Or to what others besides you shall I cry out? From my secret sins cleanse me, O Lord, and from those of others spare your servant. Amen.

Saint Augustine of Hippo

COLLECT

O God, who show the light of your truth

to those who go astray,

so that they may return to the right path,

give all who for the faith they profess

are accounted Christians

the grace to reject whatever is contrary to the name of Christ

and to strive after all that does it honor.

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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Amos 7:12-15

Amaziah, priest of Bethel, said to Amos,
“Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah!
There earn your bread by prophesying,
but never again prophesy in Bethel;
for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.”
Amos answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet,
nor have I belonged to a company of prophets;
I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.
The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me,
Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

APPLICATION

What happened to the prophet Amos in Israel eight hundred years before Christ, has happened again and again down through the centuries and is happening in our own day on a larger scale than ever before. This man of God was expelled and silenced because those in authority could not listen to the reproofs of the Lord which their injustices, inhumanity and irreligion so richly deserved. Had the king and his associates listened to the prophet and mended their ways, they would have saved their people from exile and their nation would not have been wiped off the map. But because they would not submit to the Lord their God, they were made slaves of the neighboring pagan nation.

The prophets who were sent to speak God’s “word” were made to suffer and were silenced. The Word of God, the Son of God himself, who became man to lead all men back to their eternal Father, suffered even a worse, fate. The pride and prejudice of the leaders of the Jews, God’s Chosen People, had him condemned to a criminal’s death as if he were an outcast from society and a blasphemer to boot. They would not accept the Son of God in human form – the “Word made flesh” came unto his own and his own received him not.

The Church which he founded to carry on and complete his work of redemption was threatened with the same fate. The Jewish authorities tried to strangle that infant Church in Jerusalem, in Palestine and even in, faraway Damascus in Syria, but God’s hand was raised in its defense—and its enemies failed. A few decades later the Roman emperors tried to do what the Jewish authorities had failed to do. But even though they persevered in their evil intent for almost three centuries, they too were fighting against the power of God – and they failed. Many saintly men and women gladly gave their lives for their faith but their deaths increased rather than diminished the number of Christians; for as St. Angustine said: “the blood of martyrs became the seed of Christians.” The Church grew daily and spread through the Roman empire.

From the beginning of the fourth century down to the twentieth, there have been, periods of persecution in different parts of the world. When compared, however, with the widespread disinterest in God and the things of God in most of today’s world, together with the absolute rejection of Christ and God in very many parts of it, the irreligion and opposition to religion in the past were restrained and limited. Behind the bamboo curtain today the destructive philosophy or folly of atheism is being imposed on more than a third of the world’s population. God is excluded from the world he created, man is using the, gifts of intellect and freewill, given him by God, to deny and destroy his divine benefactor. What is worse: two-thirds of the so-called believers are not shocked or disturbed by this sad behavior of God’s children. The nominal Christian nations are indifferent as long as these atheistic ideas do not interfere with their own political or commercial interests. It’s a sign of how little their belief in God and Christ affects their own daily lives and way of thinking.

Today we are living in a world in which the Creator and Lord of that world is given little or no say. Men think they can despise the road rules which he has so wisely laid down and still run human traffic successfully. Head-on crashes, wars and rumors of wars, the expensive build-up of armaments, the gross injustices inflicted on the weak, the inhumanity of men to their fellowmen are the visible proofs of the folly of such a philosophy. It is like trying to navigate a ship when the navigator has been thrown overboard. The world must come back to God and to his ten commandments. No society can survive without rules. The all-wise rules for human society are God’s decalog. We can ignore them only at our peril. To expel God’s prophets and shut our ears to his wise counsels may silence our troubled consciences for a moment, but this will not restore our social health or promote our true welfare. This world is not the sanctuary of any earthly ruler, nor the temple of any human king; it is God’s temple, God’s sanctuary where he expects his creatures to serve him devoutly and loyally.

RESPONSORIAL

Ps 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD –for he proclaims peace.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and prepare the way of his steps.

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

READING II

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Eph 1:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him.
In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,
in accord with the favor of his will,
for the praise of the glory of his grace
that he granted us in the beloved.
In him we have redemption by his blood,
the forgiveness of transgressions,
in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.
In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us
the mystery of his will in accord with his favor
that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times,
to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.

In him we were also chosen,
destined in accord with the purpose of the One
who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will,
so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,
we who first hoped in Christ.
In him you also, who have heard the word of truth,
the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him,
were sealed with the promised holy Spirit,
which is the first installment of our inheritance
toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.

APPLICATION

In these opening verses of his letter, St. Paul recalls to the minds of his Ephesian converts the basic teaching, the fundamental and central meaning of the Christian faith which he had taught them. In his infinite love, God the Father planned from all eternity to make us his adopted sons, by means of the incarnation of his only begotten Son. “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” This is surely a tremendous truth – a truth that not only changes our whole outlook on life but our very nature itself. As intelligent creatures, the highest of all the other living beings that God put on this earth, we should have much to be grateful for. We have been given life. We are able to think and plan and provide for our needs, to enjoy the beautiful and seek after the good. We are able to study, control and put to our own use myriad’s of inanimate things, as well as the other animate beings God created. We have fellow humans with whom we can converse and share the joys of living. God had so arranged things that we were born into a human family where tenderness and love were showered on us during infancy and adolescence. When we came to the age of responsibility we could have formed a new family, a new association where in turn we would shower love and tenderness on our offspring who would, we should hope, look after us in our declining years.

Creation then was surely a marvelous gift given us by God. But just because of the special gifts he gave us which raise us above all other earthly creatures, could we really enjoy these few short years of life on this earth if we know there was nothing but the gloomy grave awaiting us? If our sixty or eighty years were made up of days of unbroken happiness would we be content with that and nothing else. But as they are years heavily tinged with sorrow and sadness for so many would we not have less reason to be content with our fate? Good as God was to give us life would we not feel that we were somehow treated unfairly by Him?

However, once we know that God exists and once we know from revelation that he is a God of infinite love, we can see how it was in keeping with his love and thoughtfulness that he would arrange a future life for us in which the created gifts which he gave us, would be used to the full, capacity. This God did through the incarnation. We are made heirs to heaven because Christ, the Son of God, made us his brothers when he took our human nature and joined it to his divinity. We shall die to this earth and bid adieu to all its God-given gifts, but for the true Christian, death will mean a change for the better, it will be the door to the true unending life. “Vita mutatur non tollitur,” as we say in the requiem Mass: for the Christian “life is changed not taken away” by death.

The coming of Christ then has not only changed our outlook on life; we no longer see it in terms of days or years – we, look on it from the angle of eternity. Christ’s coming has also changed our very nature itself. We are no longer mere human beings, we are raised to the supernatural status of sons of God, we belong to God’s heaven, God’s home, is our home. Our life on earth is only a pilgrimage, a short journey, during which we work our passage to our everlasting home, our eternal fatherland.

We thank God for creating us and for putting heaven within our reach. We thank Jesus for humiliating himself in the incarnation in order to raise us up beyond our natural selves and for having shed his blood on the cross to wash away the one impediment that could keep us from heaven – sin.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 51 “It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will. His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature.”1

CCC 52 God, who “dwells in unapproachable light”, wants to communicate his own divine life to the men he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons in his only-begotten Son.2 By revealing himself God wishes to make them capable of responding to him, and of knowing him and of loving him far beyond their own natural capacity.

CCC 257 “O blessed light, O Trinity and first Unity!”3 God is eternal blessedness, undying life, unfading light. God is love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God freely wills to communicate the glory of his blessed life. Such is the “plan of his loving kindness”, conceived by the Father before the foundation of the world, in his beloved Son: “He destined us in love to be his sons” and “to be conformed to the image of his Son”, through “the spirit of sonship”.4 This plan is a “grace [which] was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began”, stemming immediately from Trinitarian love.5 It unfolds in the work of creation, the whole history of salvation after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which are continued in the mission of the Church.6

CCC 294 The glory of God consists in the realization of this manifestation and communication of his goodness, for which the world was created. God made us “to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace”,7 for “the glory of God is man fully alive; moreover man’s life is the vision of God: if God’s revelation through creation has already obtained life for all the beings that dwell on earth, how much more will the Word’s manifestation of the Father obtain life for those who see God.”8 The ultimate purpose of creation is that God “who is the creator of all things may at last become ”all in all“, thus simultaneously assuring his own glory and our beatitude.”9

CCC 492 The “splendor of an entirely unique holiness” by which Mary is “enriched from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ: she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son”.10 The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love”.11

CCC 517 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross,12 but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life:
– already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;
13
– in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;
14
– in his word which purifies its hearers;
15
– in his healings and exorcisms by which “he took our infirmities and bore our diseases”;
16
– and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.
17

CCC 668 “Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”18 Christ’s Ascension into heaven signifies his participation, in his humanity, in God’s power and authority. Jesus Christ is Lord: he possesses all power in heaven and on earth. He is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion”, for the Father “has put all things under his feet.”19 Christ is Lord of the cosmos and of history. In him human history and indeed all creation are “set forth” and transcendently fulfilled.20

CCC 693 Besides the proper name of “Holy Spirit,” which is most frequently used in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles, we also find in St. Paul the titles: the Spirit of the promise,21 the Spirit of adoption,22 the Spirit of Christ,23 the Spirit of the Lord,24 and the Spirit of God25 – and, in St. Peter, the Spirit of glory.26

CCC 698 The seal is a symbol close to that of anointing. “The Father has set his seal” on Christ and also seals us in him.27 Because this seal indicates the indelible effect of the anointing with the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, the image of the seal (sphragis) has been used in some theological traditions to express the indelible “character” imprinted by these three unrepeatable sacraments.

CCC 706 Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.28 In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself,29 in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”30 God commits himself by his own solemn oath to giving his beloved Son and “the promised Holy Spirit. .. [who is] the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.”31

CCC 772 It is in the Church that Christ fulfills and reveals his own mystery as the purpose of God’s plan: “to unite all things in him.”32 St. Paul calls the nuptial union of Christ and the Church “a great mystery.” Because she is united to Christ as to her bridegroom, she becomes a mystery in her turn.33 Contemplating this mystery in her, Paul exclaims: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”34

CCC 796 The unity of Christ and the Church, head and members of one Body, also implies the distinction of the two within a personal relationship. This aspect is often expressed by the image of bridegroom and bride. The theme of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church was prepared for by the prophets and announced by John the Baptist.35 The Lord referred to himself as the “bridegroom.”36 The Apostle speaks of the whole Church and of each of the faithful, members of his Body, as a bride “betrothed” to Christ the Lord so as to become but one spirit with him.37 The Church is the spotless bride of the spotless Lamb.38 “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her.”39 He has joined her with himself in an everlasting covenant and never stops caring for her as for his own body:40
This is the whole Christ, head and body, one formed from many. .. whether the head or members speak, it is Christ who speaks. He speaks in his role as the head (
ex persona capitis) and in his role as body (ex persona corporis). What does this mean? “The two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church.”41 And the Lord himself says in the Gospel: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”42 They are, in fact, two different persons, yet they are one in the conjugal union,. .. as head, he calls himself the bridegroom, as body, he calls himself “bride.”43

CCC 865 The Church is ultimately one, holy, catholic, and apostolic in her deepest and ultimate identity, because it is in her that “the Kingdom of heaven,” the “Reign of God,”44 already exists and will be fulfilled at the end of time. The kingdom has come in the person of Christ and grows mysteriously in the hearts of those incorporated into him, until its full eschatological manifestation. Then all those he has redeemed and made “holy and blameless before him in love,”45 will be gathered together as the one People of God, the “Bride of the Lamb,”46 “the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.”47 For “the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”48

CCC 1042 At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed:
The Church. .. will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ.49

CCC 1043 Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, “new heavens and a new earth.”50 It will be the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single head “all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.”51

CCC 1066 In the Symbol of the faith the Church confesses the mystery of the Holy Trinity and of the plan of God’s “good pleasure” for all creation: the Father accomplishes the “mystery of his will” by giving his beloved Son and his Holy Spirit for the salvation of the world and for the glory of his name.52
Such is the mystery of Christ, revealed and fulfilled in history according to the wisely ordered plan that St. Paul calls the “plan of the mystery”53 and the patristic tradition will call the “economy of the Word incarnate” or the “economy of salvation.”

CCC 1077 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us before him in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”54

CCC 1083 The dual dimension of the Christian liturgy as a response of faith and love to the spiritual blessings the Father bestows on us is thus evident. On the one hand, the Church, united with her Lord and “in the Holy Spirit,”55 blesses the Father “for his inexpressible gift”56 in her adoration, praise, and thanksgiving. On the other hand, until the consummation of God’s plan, the Church never ceases to present to the Father the offering of his own gifts and to beg him to send the Holy Spirit upon that offering, upon herself, upon the faithful, and upon the whole world, so that through communion in the death and resurrection of Christ the Priest, and by the power of the Spirit, these divine blessings will bring forth the fruits of life “to the praise of his glorious grace.”57

CCC 1107 The Holy Spirit’s transforming power in the liturgy hastens the coming of the kingdom and the consummation of the mystery of salvation. While we wait in hope he causes us really to anticipate the fullness of communion with the Holy Trinity. Sent by the Father who hears the epiclesis of the Church, the Spirit gives life to those who accept him and is, even now, the “guarantee” of their inheritance.58

CCC 1274 The Holy Spirit has marked us with the seal of the Lord (“Dominicus character”) “for the day of redemption.”59 “Baptism indeed is the seal of eternal life.”60 The faithful Christian who has “kept the seal” until the end, remaining faithful to the demands of his Baptism, will be able to depart this life “marked with the sign of faith,”61 with his baptismal faith, in expectation of the blessed vision of God – the consummation of faith – and in the hope of resurrection.

CCC 1296 Christ himself declared that he was marked with his Father’s seal.62 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.”63 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.64

CCC 1426 Conversion to Christ, the new birth of Baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Body and Blood of Christ received as food have made us “holy and without blemish,” just as the Church herself, the Bride of Christ, is “holy and without blemish.”65 Nevertheless the new life received in Christian initiation has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin that tradition calls concupiscence, which remains in the baptized such that with the help of the grace of Christ they may prove themselves in the struggle of Christian life.66 This is the struggle of conversion directed toward holiness and eternal life to which the Lord never ceases to call us.67

CCC 1671 Among sacramentals blessings (of persons, meals, objects, and places) come first. Every blessing praises God and prays for his gifts. In Christ, Christians are blessed by God the Father “with every spiritual blessing.”68 This is why the Church imparts blessings by invoking the name of Jesus, usually while making the holy sign of the cross of Christ.

CCC 2603 The evangelists have preserved two more explicit prayers offered by Christ during his public ministry. Each begins with thanksgiving. In the first, Jesus confesses the Father, acknowledges, and blesses him because he has hidden the mysteries of the Kingdom from those who think themselves learned and has revealed them to infants, the poor of the Beatitudes.69 His exclamation, “Yes, Father!” expresses the depth of his heart, his adherence to the Father’s “good pleasure,” echoing his mother’s Fiat at the time of his conception and prefiguring what he will say to the Father in his agony. The whole prayer of Jesus is contained in this loving adherence of his human heart to the mystery of the will of the Father.70

CCC 2627 Two fundamental forms express this movement: our prayer ascends in the Holy Spirit through Christ to the Father – we bless him for having blessed us;71 it implores the grace of the Holy Spirit that descends through Christ from the Father – he blesses us.72

CCC 2641 “[Address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.”73 Like the inspired writers of the New Testament, the first Christian communities read the Book of Psalms in a new way, singing in it the mystery of Christ. In the newness of the Spirit, they also composed hymns and canticles in the light of the unheard-of event that God accomplished in his Son: his Incarnation, his death which conquered death, his Resurrection, and Ascension to the right hand of the Father.74 Doxology, the praise of God, arises from this “marvelous work” of the whole economy of salvation.75

CCC 2748 In this Paschal and sacrificial prayer, everything is recapitulated in Christ:76 God and the world; the Word and the flesh; eternal life and time; the love that hands itself over and the sin that betrays it; the disciples present and those who will believe in him by their word; humiliation and glory. It is the prayer of unity.

CCC 2807 The term “to hallow” is to be understood here not primarily in its causative sense (only God hallows, makes holy), but above all in an evaluative sense: to recognize as holy, to treat in a holy way. And so, in adoration, this invocation is sometimes understood as praise and thanksgiving.77 But this petition is here taught to us by Jesus as an optative: a petition, a desire, and an expectation in which God and man are involved. Beginning with this first petition to our Father, we are immersed in the innermost mystery of his Godhead and the drama of the salvation of our humanity. Asking the Father that his name be made holy draws us into his plan of loving kindness for the fullness of time, “according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ,” that we might “be holy and blameless before him in love.”78

CCC 2823 “He has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ. .. to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will.”79 We ask insistently for this loving plan to be fully realized on earth as it is already in heaven.

CCC 2839 With bold confidence, we began praying to our Father. In begging him that his name be hallowed, we were in fact asking him that we ourselves might be always made more holy. But though we are clothed with the baptismal garment, we do not cease to sin, to turn away from God. Now, in this new petition, we return to him like the prodigal son and, like the tax collector, recognize that we are sinners before him.80 Our petition begins with a “confession” of our wretchedness and his mercy. Our hope is firm because, in his Son, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”81 We find the efficacious and undoubted sign of his forgiveness in the sacraments of his Church.82

CCC 2854 When we ask to be delivered from the Evil One, we pray as well to be freed from all evils, present, past, and future, of which he is the author or instigator. In this final petition, the Church brings before the Father all the distress of the world. Along with deliverance from the evils that overwhelm humanity, she implores the precious gift of peace and the grace of perseverance in expectation of Christ’s return By praying in this way, she anticipates in humility of faith the gathering together of everyone and everything in him who has “the keys of Death and Hades,” who “is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”83
Deliver us, Lord, we beseech you, from every evil and grant us peace in our day, so that aided by your mercy we might be ever free from sin and protected from all anxiety, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.84

1 DV 2; cf. Eph 1:9; 2:18; 2 Pt 1:4.
2 1 Tim 6:16, cf. Eph 1:4-5.
3 LH, Hymn for Evening Prayer.
4 Eph 1:4-5,9; Rom 8:15,29.
5 2 Tim 1:9-10.
6 Cf. AG 2-9.
7 Eph 1:5-6.
8 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4,20,7: PG 7/1,1037.
9 AG 2; cf. 1 Cor 15:28.
10 LG 53, 56.
11 Cf. Eph 1:3-4.
12 Cf. Eph 1:7; Col 1:13-14; 1 Pt 1:18-19.
13 Cf. 2 Cor 8:9.
14 Cf. Lk 2:51.
15 Cf. Jn 15:3.
16 Mt 8:17; cf. Is 53:4.
17 Cf. Rom 4:25.
18 Rom 14:9.
19 Eph 1:20-22.
20 Eph 1:10; cf. 4:10; 1 Cor 15:24, 27-28.
21 Cf. Gal 3:14; Eph 1:13.
22 Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6.
23 Rom 8:9.
24 2 Cor 3:17.
25 Rom 8:9, 14; 15:19; 1 Cor 6:11; 7:40.
26 1 Pet 4:14.
27 Jn 6:27; cf. 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:3.
28 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38. 54-55; Jn 1:12-13; Rom 4:16-21.
29 Cf. Gen 12:3; Gal 3:16.
30 Cf. In 11:52.
31 Eph 1:13-14; cf. Gen 22:17-19; Lk 1:73; Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32; Gal 3:14.
32 Eph 1:10.
33 Eph 5:32; 3:9-11; 5:25-27.
34 Col 1:27.
35 Jn 3:29.
36 Mk 2:19.
37 Cf. Mt 22:1-14; 25:1-13; 1 Cor 6:15-17; 2 Cor 11:2.
38 Cf. Rev 22:17; Eph 1:4. 5:27.
39 Eph 5:25-26.
40 Cf. Eph 5:29.
41 Eph 5:31-32.
42 Mt 19:6.
43 St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 74:4: PL 36, 948-949.
44 Rev 19:6.
45 Eph 1:4.
46 Rev 21:9.
47 Rev 21:10-11.
48 Rev 21:14.
49 LG 48; Cf. Acts 3:21; Eph 1:10; Col 1:20; 2 Pet 3:10-13.
50 2 Pet 3:13; Cf. Rev 21:1.
51 Eph 1:10.
52 Eph 1:9.
53 Eph 3:9; cf. 3:4.
54 Eph 1:3-6.
55 Lk 10:21.
56 2 Cor 9:15.
57 Eph 1:6.
58 Cf. Eph 1:14; 2 Cor 1:22.
59 St. Augustine, Ep. 98, 5: PL 33, 362; Eph 4:30; cf. 1:13-14; 2 Cor 1:21-22.
60 St. Irenaeus, Dem ap. 3: SCh 62, 32.
61 Roman Missal, EP I (Roman Canon) 97.
62 Cf. Jn 6:27.
63 2 Cor 1:21-22; cf. Eph 1:13; 4,30.
64 Cf. Rev 7:2-3; 9:4; Ezek 9:4-6.
65 Eph 1:4; 5:27.
66 Cf. Council of Trent (1546) DS 1515.
67 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1545; LG 40.
68 Eph 1:3.
69 Cf. Mt 11:25-27 and Lk 10:21-23.
70 Cf. Eph 1:9.
71 Cf. Eph 1:3-14; 2 Cor 1:3 7; 1 Pet 1:3-9.
72 Cf. 2 Cor 13:14; Rom 15:5-6,13; Eph 6:23-24.
73 Eph 5:19; Col 3:16.
74 Cf. Phil 2:6-11; Col 1:15-20; Eph 5:14; 1 Tim 3:16; 6:15-16; 2 Tim 2:11-13.
75 Cf. Eph 1:3-14; Rom 16:25-27; Eph 3:20-21; Jude 24-25.
76 Cf. Eph 1:10.
77 Cf. Ps 111:9; Lk 1:49.
78 Eph 1:9, 4.
79 Eph 1:9-11.
80 Cf. Lk 15:11-32, 18:13.
81 Col 1:14; Eph 1:7.
82 Cf. Mt 26:28; Jn 20:23.
83 Rev 1:8,18; cf. Rev 1:4; Eph 1:10.
84 Roman Missal, Embolism after the Lord’s Prayer, 126: Libera nos, quaesumus, Domine, ab omnibus malis, da propitius pacem in diebus nostris, ut, ope misericordiae tuae adiuti, et a peccato simus semper liberi, et ab omni perturbatione securi: expectantes beatam spem et adventum Salvatoris nostri Iesu Christi.

GOSPEL

 

Mk 6:7-13

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two
and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey
but a walking stick–
no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
They were, however, to wear sandals
but not a second tunic.
He said to them,
“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.
Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet
in testimony against them.”
So they went off and preached repentance.
The Twelve drove out many demons,
and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/071518.cfm

APPLICATION

That Christ the Son of God could have spread his Gospel of peace and love, his message of eternal salvation, to the whole world without human help need not be proved. He could, for instance, have written the Gospel in the sky – over each country in its own language. He could have gone to every part of the earth, after his resurrection, and taught his doctrine to all peoples, confirming his words with extraordinary miracles. Yet he chose the weaker but the more human way of evangelizing men – he sent their own fellowman to bring them the message. This choice showed his divine love and understanding of weak human nature, much better and much more effectively than the use of any of the supernatural means which he could have employed.

God, and Christ is God, gave man the gift that we call freewill. Man is able to choose between alternatives. God wants man to choose heaven as his eternal home, but he wants him to choose it without compulsion or coercion. He will have volunteers in heaven not conscripts. The man who chooses heaven must choose the means for going there. If you choose a holiday resort for your summer vacation, you must buy travel tickets, book a hotel and save up the expenses necessary for the holiday. By appointing mortal men to bring the news of salvation, the news of heaven, and the means of getting there to all of us, Christ has given us the chance of exercising our freewill and therefore of meriting heaven. Refusal to accept would hardly be possible if Christ informed us miraculously or taught us in person. If some extraordinary individual could persist in refusing, his refusal would be utterly inexcusable.

Now, Christ has earned heaven for all men and not for Christians only. He has given his Church, with all its aids and its guaranteed truth, to those who will be his followers. For them the road of the Gospel is an absolutely assured way by which they will reach heaven, if they are faithful to the rules. But there are, and there have always been, millions and millions of men and women who through no fault of their own have not heard of the Church of Christ. There are other millions who have heard of Christ and his Church, but who, because of some personal kink of pride or because of their upbringing or surroundings, have not felt able to accept the Christian way of life. God is mindful of all these millions and wants them in heaven. If their present circumstances, their lack of knowledge of the Christian truths, or personal prejudice, brought on by circumstances beyond their control, prevent them from being convinced of the necessity of becoming Christians would God exclude them from heaven? Surely not. It was because he foresaw all those who could not freely accept his Gospel to the letter and who yet want to go to heaven, that he let other human beings, who could and would be doubted, preach and propagate his Gospel. Therefore, it would be inexcusable to refuse to listen to his own word if it were written by him in the sky or preached by himself personally. But men could be excused if they doubted his human agents, for some reasons which appeared to them as valid. In other words, the merciful Christ who humiliated himself and who submitted to the death of the cross in order to open heaven for all men, found ways and means of excusing those who would elect to trudge through the fields and over the hedges rather than travel on the royal highroad that he had laid down for them.

This is divine mercy in action. God wants every human being to be saved. There are no Jews or Gentiles in the Church; no pagans, Moslems, Jews or rationalists in heaven – the citizens of heaven are all children of God. While on earth they each served him according to their lights, under their own particular banners. “The Spirit breathes where it will.” God’s mercy and love can reach into the darkest corners and produce fruit from the most unlikely and apparently most neglected of orchards.

While we thank God from our hearts today for having been put on the road to heaven, let us remember in our prayers our fellowman, God’s other children, who are trudging along through the fields and hedges. May God continue to show his mercy and divine understanding toward them! May they meet us at the entrance to our Father’s home where we shall be happy forever together!

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 765 The Lord Jesus endowed his community with a structure that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved. Before all else there is the choice of the Twelve with Peter as their head.1 Representing the twelve tribes of Israel, they are the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem.2 The Twelve and the other disciples share in Christ’s mission and his power, but also in his lot.3 By all his actions, Christ prepares and builds his Church.

CCC 1506 Christ invites his disciples to follow him by taking up their cross in their turn. ..4 By following him they acquire a new outlook on illness and the sick. Jesus associates them with his own life of poverty and service. He makes them share in his ministry of compassion and healing: “So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.”.5

CCC 1511 The Church believes and confesses that among the seven sacraments there is one especially intended to strengthen those who are being tried by illness, the Anointing of the Sick:
This sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ our Lord as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament. It is alluded to indeed by Mark, but is recommended to the faithful and promulgated by James the apostle and brother of the Lord.6

CCC 1673 When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing.7 In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called “a major exorcism,” can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.8

1 Cf. Mk 3:14-15.
2 Cf. Mt 19:28; Lk 22:30; Rev 21:12-14.
3 Cf. Mk 6:7; Lk 10:1-2; Mt 10:25; Jn 15:20.
4 Cf. Mt 10:38.
5 Mk 6:12-13.
6 Council Of Trent (1551): DS 1695; cf. Mk 6:13; Jas 5:14-15.
7 Cf. Mk 1:25-26; 3:15; 6:7, 13; 16:17.
8 Cf. CIC, can. 1172.

BENEDICTUS

The “Nothingness” Asked of the Twelve

This “nothingness” that the disciples share with Jesus expresses at once the power and the impotence of the apostolic office. On their own, by the force of their own understanding, knowledge and will, they cannot do anything they are meant to do as Apostles. How could they possibly say “I forgive you your sins”? How could they conceivably say “This is my body” or impose their hands and pronounce the words “Receive the Holy Spirit”? Nothing that makes up the activity of the Apostles is the product of their own capabilities. But it is precisely in having “nothing” to call their own that their communion with Jesus consists, since Jesus is also entirely from the Father, has being only through him and in him and would not exist at all if he were not a continual coming forth from and self-return to the Father. Having “nothing” of their own draws the Apostles into communion of mission with Christ. This service, in which we are made the entire property of another, this giving of what does not come from us, is called sacrament in the language of the Church.

This is precisely what we mean when we call the ordination of priests a sacrament: ordination is not about the development of one’s own powers and gifts. It is not the appointment of a man as a functionary because he is especially good at it, or because it suits him, or simply because it strikes him as a good way to earn his bread; it is not a question of a job in which someone secures his own livelihood by his own abilities, perhaps in order to rise later to something better.

Sacrament means: I give what I myself cannot give; I do something that is not my work; I am on a mission and have become the bearer of that which another has committed to my charge… This very self-expropriation for the other; this leave-taking from oneself, this self-dispossession and selflessness that are essential to the priestly ministry can lead to authentic human maturity and fulfillment.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to Become More Like Jesus

God, our Father, You redeemed us and made us Your children in Christ. Through Him You have saved us from death and given us Your Divine life of grace. By becoming more like Jesus on earth, may I come to share His glory in Heaven. Give me the peace of Your kingdom, which this world does not give. By Your loving care protect the good You have given me. Open my eyes to the wonders of Your Love that I may serve You with a willing heart.

We ask this and all things through Christ our Lord, Amen.

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Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

jesussinagoga.jpg

“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

Prophet Ezekiel.jpg

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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