The Ascension of the Lord

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Then he led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them.

As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.

OPENING PRAYER

Novena for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Blessed Spirit of Wisdom, Help me to seek God. Make Him the center of my life and order my life to Him, so that love and harmony may reign in my soul.

Blessed Spirit of Understanding, enlighten my mind, that I may know and love the truths of faith and make them truly my own.

Blessed Spirit of Counsel, enlighten and guide me in all my ways, that I may know and do Your holy Will. Make me prudent and courageous.

Blessed Spirit of Fortitude, uphold my soul in every time of trouble or adversity. Make me loyal and confident.

Blessed Spirit of Knowledge, help me to know good from evil. Teach me to do what is right in the sight of God. Give me clear vision and firmness in decision.

Blessed Spirit of Piety, possess my heart, incline it to a true faith in You, to a holy love of You, my God, that with my whole soul I may seek You, Who are my Father, and I find You, my best, my truest joy.

Blessed Spirit of Holy Fear, penetrate my inmost heart that I may be mindful of Your presence. Make me fly from sin, and give me intense reverence for God and for my fellow men who are made in God’s image.

Come Holy Spirit, Creator blest! And in our souls take up Your rest; Come with Your grace and heavenly aid, To fill the hearts which you have made.

O Comforter, to you do we cry, O heavenly Gift of God Most High; O Fount of life and Fire of love, And sweet Anointing from above!

Far from us drive the foe we dread, And grant us Your true peace instead. So shall we not, with You for Guide, Turn from the path of life aside.

Oh, may Your grace on us bestow, The Father and the Son to know; And You through endless times confessed, Of both the eternal Spirit blest.

Now to the Father and the Son, Who rose from death, be glory given, With you, O holy Comforter, Henceforth by all in earth and heaven. Amen.

St. Michael the Archangel: Pray for us!

*Prayers were taken from The Treasury of Novenas

COLLECT

Gladden us with holy joys, almighty God,

and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving,

for the Ascension of Christ your Son

is our exaltation,

and, where the Head has gone before in glory,

the Body is called to follow in hope.

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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Acts 1:1-11

In the first book, Theophilus,

I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught

until the day he was taken up,

after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit

to the apostles whom he had chosen.

He presented himself alive to them

by many proofs after he had suffered,

appearing to them during forty days

and speaking about the kingdom of God.

While meeting with them,

he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,

but to wait for “the promise of the Father

about which you have heard me speak;

for John baptized with water,

but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

When they had gathered together they asked him,

Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons

that the Father has established by his own authority.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,

and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,

throughout Judea and Samaria,

and to the ends of the earth.”

When he had said this, as they were looking on,

he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.

While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,

suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.

They said, “Men of Galilee,

why are you standing there looking at the sky?

This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven

will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 126 We can distinguish three stages in the formation of the Gospels:

  1. The life and teaching of Jesus. The Church holds firmly that the four Gospels, “whose historicity she unhesitatingly affirms, faithfully hand on what Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation, until the day when he was taken up.”1

2. The oral tradition. “For, after the ascension of the Lord, the apostles handed on to their hearers what he had said and done, but with that fuller understanding which they, instructed by the glorious events of Christ and enlightened by the Spirit of truth, now enjoyed.”2

3. The written Gospels. “The sacred authors, in writing the four Gospels, selected certain of the many elements which had been handed on, either orally or already in written form; others they synthesized or explained with an eye to the situation of the churches, the while sustaining the form of preaching, but always in such a fashion that they have told us the honest truth about Jesus.”2

CCC 333 From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the Word incarnate is surrounded by the adoration and service of angels. When God “brings the firstborn into the world, he says: ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’”4 Their song of praise at the birth of Christ has not ceased resounding in the Church’s praise: “Glory to God in the highest!”5 They protect Jesus in his infancy, serve him in the desert, strengthen him in his agony in the garden, when he could have been saved by them from the hands of his enemies as Israel had been.6 Again, it is the angels who “evangelize” by proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection.7 They will be present at Christ’s return, which they will announce, to serve at his judgement.8

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.9 What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.10

CCC 512 Concerning Christ’s life the Creed speaks only about the mysteries of the Incarnation (conception and birth) and Paschal mystery (passion, crucifixion, death, burial, descent into hell, resurrection and ascension). It says nothing explicitly about the mysteries of Jesus’ hidden or public life, but the articles of faith concerning his Incarnation and Passover do shed light on the whole of his earthly life. “All that Jesus did and taught, from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven”,11 is to be seen in the light of the mysteries of Christmas and Easter.

CCC 659 “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.”12 Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys.13 But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity.14 Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand.15 Only in a wholly exceptional and unique way would Jesus show himself to Paul “as to one untimely born”, in a last apparition that established him as an apostle.16

CCC 672 Before his Ascension Christ affirmed that the hour had not yet come for the glorious establishment of the messianic kingdom awaited by Israel17 which, according to the prophets, was to bring all men the definitive order of justice, love and peace.18 According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by “distress” and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church19 and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching.20

CCC 673 Since the Ascension Christ’s coming in glory has been imminent,21 even though “it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.”22. This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are “delayed”.23

CCC 697 Cloud and light. These two images occur together in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. In the theophanies of the Old Testament, the cloud, now obscure, now luminous, reveals the living and saving God, while veiling the transcendence of his glory – with Moses on Mount Sinai,24 at the tent of meeting,25 and during the wandering in the desert,26 and with Solomon at the dedication of the Temple.27 In the Holy Spirit, Christ fulfills these figures. The Spirit comes upon the Virgin Mary and “overshadows” her, so that she might conceive and give birth to Jesus.28 On the mountain of Transfiguration, the Spirit in the “cloud came and overshadowed” Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John, and “a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’”29 Finally, the cloud took Jesus out of the sight of the disciples on the day of his ascension and will reveal him as Son of man in glory on the day of his final coming.30

CCC 730 At last Jesus’ hour arrives:31 he commends his spirit into the Father’s hands32 at the very moment when by his death he conquers death, so that, “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,”33 he might immediately give the Holy Spirit by “breathing” on his disciples.34 From this hour onward, the mission of Christ and the Spirit becomes the mission of the Church: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”35

CCC 735 He, then, gives us the “pledge” or “first fruits” of our inheritance: the very life of the Holy Trinity, which is to love as “God [has] loved us.”36 This love (the “charity” of 1 Cor 13) is the source of the new life in Christ, made possible because we have received “power” from the Holy Spirit.37

CCC 857 The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:

she was and remains built on “the foundation of the Apostles,”38 the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself;39

with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching,40 the “good deposit,” the salutary words she has heard from the apostles;41

she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, “assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor”:42

You are the eternal Shepherd

who never leaves his flock untended.

Through the apostles

you watch over us and protect us always.

You made them shepherds of the flock

to share in the work of your Son. ..43

CCC 1287 This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people.44 On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit,45 a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost.46 Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim “the mighty works of God,” and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age.47 Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.48

CCC 1556 To fulfill their exalted mission, “the apostles were endowed by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them, and by the imposition of hands they passed on to their auxiliaries the gift of the Spirit, which is transmitted down to our day through episcopal consecration.”49

CCC 1565 Through the sacrament of Holy Orders priests share in the universal dimensions of the mission that Christ entrusted to the apostles. The spiritual gift they have received in ordination prepares them, not for a limited and restricted mission, “but for the fullest, in fact the universal mission of salvation ‘to the end of the earth,”’50 “prepared in spirit to preach the Gospel everywhere.”51

1 DV 19; cf. Acts 1:1-2.

2 DV 19.

3 DV 19.

4 Heb 1:6.

5 Lk 2:14.

6 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:13,19; 4:11; 26:53; Mk 1:13; Lk 22:43; 2 Macc 10:29-30; 11:8.

7 Cf. Lk 2:8-14; Mk 16:5-7.

8 Cf. Acts 1:10-11; Mt 13:41; 24:31; Lk 12:8-9. The angels in the life of the Church

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

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

11 Acts 1:1-2.

12 Mk 16:19.

13 Cf Lk 24:31; Jn 20:19, 26.

14 Cf. Acts 1:3; 10:41; Mk 16:12; Lk 24:15; Jn 20:14-15; 21:4.

15 Cf. Acts 1:9; 2:33; 7:56; Lk 9:34-35; 24:51; Ex 13:22; Mk 16:19; Ps 110:1.

16 1 Cor 15:8; cf. 9:1; Gal 1:16.

17 Cf. Acts 1:6-7.

18 Cf. Is 11:1-9.

19 Cf. Acts 1:8; I Cor 7:26; Eph 5:16; I Pt 4:17.

20 Cf. Mt 25:1, 13; Mk 13:33-37; I Jn 2:18; 4:3; I Tim 4:1.

21 Cf. Rev 22:20.

22 Acts 1:7; Cf. Mk 13:32.

23 Cf. Mt 24:44; I Th 5:2; 2 Th 2:3-12.

24 Cf. Ex 24:15-18.

25 Cf. Ex 33:9-10.

26 Cf. Ex 40:36-38; 1 Cor 10:1-2.

27 Cf. 1 Kings 8:10-12.

28 Lk 1:35.

29 Lk 9:34-35.

30 Cf. Acts 1:9; cf. Lk 21:27.

31 Cf. Jn 13:1; 17:1.

32 Cf. Lk 23:46; Jn 19:30.

33 Rom 6:4.

34 Cf. Jn 20:22.

35 Jn 20:21; cf. Mt 28:19; Lk 24:47-48; Acts 1:8.

36 1 Jn 4: 12; cf. Rom 8:23; 2 Cor 1:21.

37 Acts 1:8; cf. 1 Cor 13.

38 Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14.

39 Cf. Mt 28:16-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Cor 9:1; 15:7-8; Gal 1:1; etc.

40 Cf. Acts 2:42.

41 Cf. 2 Tim 1:13-14.

42 AG 5.

43 Roman Missal, Preface of the Apostles I.

44 Cf. Ezek 36:25-27; Joel 3:1-2.

45 Cf. Lk 12:12; Jn 3:5-8; 7:37-39; 16:7-15; Acts 1:8.

46 Cf. Jn 20:22; Acts 2:1-14.

47 Acts 2:11; Cf. 2:17-18.

48 Cf. Acts 2:38.

49 LG 21; cf. Acts 1:8; 24; Jn 20:22-23; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6-7.

50 PO 10; OT 20; cf. Acts 1:8.

51 OT 20.

APPLICATION

The ascension or the return of Christ to heaven, in his human but glorified body, is the culmination, the sign and seal of the accomplishment of his salvific mission on earth. He, the Son of God, the second divine Person of the Blessed Trinity, became man, lived and died on this earth so that we men could live with God forever in heaven. By his death on the cross, he reconciled sinful man with his divine Creator. His human death earned for us a share in the divine life. His resurrection is the divine guarantee that we too shall rise again, and his ascension to the Father is the prelude to our entrance into God’s everlasting kingdom.

Christ, our Savior, our intimate friend, who suffered hardships, humiliations, and finally the painful and degrading death on the cross for our sakes, while here on earth, is now seated in the place of honor at the right hand of the Father in heaven. He is there as our representative and as our intercessor. He has gone to heaven to prepare a place there for us. He said to his Apostles (and through them to all of us) at the Last Supper: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places…I am going to prepare a place for you and then I shall come back to take you with me, that where I am you also may be” (Jn. 14: 2-3).

What a consolation, what a source of joy this feast of the ascension is for any true believer! It is the natural desire (indeed the supernatural desire, for it is instilled in our very nature at creation) of every human being to keep on living–death is the negation of everything we love and have. However, we know that earthly death awaits every one of us. Our human make-up is of its nature mortal. How sad it would be, and how dreadful it must be for those who do not believe in God, if the grave were the final end for us.

We Christians know it is not the end but rather the beginning and today’s feast is the reminder of this consoling fact. We shall all leave this world some day soon, but for a true Christian, this thought should be a cause for joy rather than sadness. We leave this valley of tears to go on an eternal holiday. Christ has won this divine heritage for us; he has promised he is preparing a place in his own heavenly home for us and he is helping us on our way there. What have we to fear from earthly death? It is not the entrance to a perpetual prison but rather the door to our eternal happiness.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9

God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.

All you peoples, clap your hands,

shout to God with cries of gladness,

For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,

is the great king over all the earth.

God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.

God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;

the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.

Sing praise to God, sing praise;

sing praise to our king, sing praise.

God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.

For king of all the earth is God;

sing hymns of praise.

God reigns over the nations,

God sits upon his holy throne.

God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.

READING II

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Eph 1:17-23

Brothers and sisters:

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,

give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation

resulting in knowledge of him.

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,

that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,

what are the riches of glory

in his inheritance among the holy ones,

and what is the surpassing greatness of his power

for us who believe,

in accord with the exercise of his great might:

which he worked in Christ,

raising him from the dead

and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,

far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,

and every name that is named

not only in this age but also in the one to come.

And he put all things beneath his feet

and gave him as head over all things to the church,

which is his body,

the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 158 “Faith seeks understanding”:1 it is intrinsic to faith that a believer desires to know better the One in whom he has put his faith, and to understand better what He has revealed; a more penetrating knowledge will in turn call forth a greater faith, increasingly set afire by love. The grace of faith opens “the eyes of your hearts”2 to a lively understanding of the contents of Revelation: that is, of the totality of God’s plan and the mysteries of faith, of their connection with each other and with Christ, the center of the revealed mystery. “The same Holy Spirit constantly perfects faith by his gifts, so that Revelation may be more and more profoundly understood.”3 In the words of St. Augustine, “I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.”4

CCC 272 Faith in God the Father Almighty can be put to the test by the experience of evil and suffering. God can sometimes seem to be absent and incapable of stopping evil. But in the most mysterious way God the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation and Resurrection of his Son, by which he conquered evil. Christ crucified is thus “the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”5 It is in Christ’s Resurrection and exaltation that the Father has shown forth “the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe”.6

CCC 648 Christ’s Resurrection is an object of faith in that it is a transcendent intervention of God himself in creation and history. In it the three divine persons act together as one, and manifest their own proper characteristics. The Father’s power “raised up” Christ his Son and by doing so perfectly introduced his Son’s humanity, including his body, into the Trinity. Jesus is conclusively revealed as “Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his Resurrection from the dead”.7 St. Paul insists on the manifestation of God’s power8 through the working of the Spirit who gave life to Jesus’ dead humanity and called it to the glorious state of Lordship.

CCC 668 “Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”9 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.”10 Christ is Lord of the cosmos and of history. In him human history and indeed all creation are “set forth” and transcendently fulfilled.11

CCC 669 As Lord, Christ is also head of the Church, which is his Body.12 Taken up to heaven and glorified after he had thus fully accomplished his mission, Christ dwells on earth in his Church. The redemption is the source of the authority that Christ, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, exercises over the Church. “The kingdom of Christ [is] already present in mystery”, “on earth, the seed and the beginning of the kingdom”.13

CCC 753 In Scripture, we find a host of interrelated images and figures through which Revelation speaks of the inexhaustible mystery of the Church. The images taken from the Old Testament are variations on a profound theme: the People of God. In the New Testament, all these images find a new center because Christ has become the head of this people, which henceforth is his Body.14 Around this center are grouped images taken “from the life of the shepherd or from cultivation of the land, from the art of building or from family life and marriage.”15

CCC 830 The word “catholic” means “universal,” in the sense of “according to the totality” or “in keeping with the whole.” The Church is catholic in a double sense:

First, the Church is catholic because Christ is present in her. “Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church.”16 In her subsists the fullness of Christ’s body united with its head; this implies that she receives from him “the fullness of the means of salvation”17 which he has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession. The Church was, in this fundamental sense, catholic on the day of Pentecost18 and will always be so until the day of the Parousia.

CCC 2045 Because they are members of the Body whose Head is Christ,19 Christians contribute to building up the Church by the constancy of their convictions and their moral lives. The Church increases, grows, and develops through the holiness of her faithful, until “we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”20

CCC 2632 Christian petition is centered on the desire and search for the Kingdom to come, in keeping with the teaching of Christ.21 There is a hierarchy in these petitions: we pray first for the Kingdom, then for what is necessary to welcome it and cooperate with its coming. This collaboration with the mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit, which is now that of the Church, is the object of the prayer of the apostolic community.22 It is the prayer of Paul, the apostle par excellence, which reveals to us how the divine solicitude for all the churches ought to inspire Christian prayer.23 By prayer every baptized person works for the coming of the Kingdom.

1 St. Anselm, Prosl. prooem. PL 153 225A.

2 Eph 1:18.

3 DV 5.

4 St. Augustine, Sermo 43, 7, 9: PL 38, 257-258.

5 1 Cor 1:24-25.

6 Eph 1:19-22.

7 Rom I 3-4; cf. Acts 2:24.

8 Cf. Rom 6:4; 2 Cor 13:4; Phil 3:10; Eph 1:19-22; Heb 7:16.

9 Rom 14:9.

10 Eph 1:20-22.

11 Eph 1:10; cf. 4:10; 1 Cor 15:24, 27-28.

12 Cf. Eph 1:22.

13 LG 3; 5; cf. Eph 4:11-13.

14 Cf. Eph 1:22; Col 1:18; LG 9.

15 LG 6.

16 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Smyrn. 8,2:Apostolic Fathers,II/2,311.

17 UR 3; AG 6; Eph 1:22-23.

18 Cf. AG 4.

19 Cf. Eph 1:22.

20 Eph 4:13; cf. LG 39.

21 Cf. Mt 6:10, 33; Lk 11:2,13.

22 Cf. Acts 6:6; 13:3.

23 Cf. Rom 10:1; Eph 1:16-23; Phil 1911; Col 1:3-6; 4:3-4, 12.

APPLICATION

St. Paul reminded the Ephesians nearly nineteen and a half centuries ago of the marvelous generosity and goodness of God who had made them Christians and sharers-to-be in the glory of Christ, which was the eternal glory of God. The words the Apostle wrote to those first converts were written for us also and are as applicable to us today as they were in the year 61 A.D. He prayed that God would enlighten their minds to try to understand and appreciate the marvelous things God had done for them through the Incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Which of us can say that we really appreciate, as we should, these same marvelous things God has done for us? Because Christ came on earth we have been given the power to go to heaven. As mere creatures we have no such power and not even the slightest claim to any such extraordinary gift. We, as creatures, are by our very nature, mortal. Death on earth should be our final end. But because the infinitely good and generous God wished to raise us up to the status of adopted sons of his, and to make us capable of sharing, in as far as our limited nature could, in his eternal life and happiness, he sent his divine Son on earth to share in our humanity.

This is the mystery of the Incarnation, the mystery of God’s love for us, a love of which we are utterly unworthy. Today we are commemorating the final act in this drama of divine love. God the Son, returning to his Father, bearing our human nature and guaranteeing to each one of us that, we too, when we leave this earth, will find our true life, our unending life, in the home of the Father with Christ, our true Brother.

Cast your eyes heavenwards today, where Christ now dwells surrounded by millions of our fellowman, and say to yourself: There is my true home, there is where I shall be forever at peace with God, with neighbor and with myself. Millions of my fellowman have already got there. I have the same weaknesses which they had. I have the same strength and helps that they got. Why should I not make it? The one and only person who could stop me from getting to my heavenly home is myself. Could I ever be so foolish? God forbid!

GOSPEL

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Lk 24:46-53

Jesus said to his disciples:

Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer

and rise from the dead on the third day

and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,

would be preached in his name

to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

You are witnesses of these things.

And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you;

but stay in the city

until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Then he led them out as far as Bethany,

raised his hands, and blessed them.

As he blessed them he parted from them

and was taken up to heaven.

They did him homage

and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy,

and they were continually in the temple praising God.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052817-ascension.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 112 1. Be especially attentive “to the content and unity of the whole Scripture”. Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.1

The phrase “heart of Christ” can refer to Sacred Scripture, which makes known his heart, closed before the Passion, as the Scripture was obscure. But the Scripture has been opened since the Passion; since those who from then on have understood it, consider and discern in what way the prophecies must be interpreted.2

CCC 627 Christ’s death was a real death in that it put an end to his earthly human existence. But because of the union which the person of the Son retained with his body, his was not a mortal corpse like others, for “it was not possible for death to hold him” 3 4 and therefore “divine power preserved Christ’s body from corruption.” Both of these statements can be said of Christ: “He was cut off out of the land of the living”,5 and “My flesh will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let your Holy One see corruption.”6 Jesus’ resurrection “on the third day” was the sign of this, also because bodily decay was held to begin on the fourth day after death.7

CCC 659 “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.”8 Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys.9 But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity.10 Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand.11 Only in a wholly exceptional and unique way would Jesus show himself to Paul “as to one untimely born”, in a last apparition that established him as an apostle.12

CCC 730 At last Jesus’ hour arrives:13 he commends his spirit into the Father’s hands14 at the very moment when by his death he conquers death, so that, “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,”15 he might immediately give the Holy Spirit by “breathing” on his disciples.16 From this hour onward, the mission of Christ and the Spirit becomes the mission of the Church: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”17

CCC 981 After his Resurrection, Christ sent his apostles “so that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.”18 The apostles and their successors carry out this “ministry of reconciliation,” not only by announcing to men God’s forgiveness merited for us by Christ, and calling them to conversion and faith; but also by communicating to them the forgiveness of sins in Baptism, and reconciling them with God and with the Church through the power of the keys, received from Christ:19

[The Church] has received the keys of the Kingdom of heaven so that, in her, sins may be forgiven through Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit’s action. In this Church, the soul dead through sin comes back to life in order to live with Christ, whose grace has saved us.20

CCC 1094 It is on this harmony of the two Testaments that the Paschal catechesis of the Lord is built,21 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.22 Thus the flood and Noah’s ark prefigured salvation by Baptism,23 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.”24

CCC 1120 The ordained ministry or ministerial priesthood is at the service of the baptismal priesthood.25 The ordained priesthood guarantees that it really is Christ who acts in the sacraments through the Holy Spirit for the Church. The saving mission entrusted by the Father to his incarnate Son was committed to the apostles and through them to their successors: they receive the Spirit of Jesus to act in his name and in his person.26 The ordained minister is the sacramental bond that ties the liturgical action to what the apostles said and did and, through them, to the words and actions of Christ, the source and foundation of the sacraments.

CCC 1122 Christ sent his apostles so that “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.”27 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”28 The mission to baptize, and so the sacramental mission, is implied in the mission to evangelize, because the sacrament is prepared for by the word of God and by the faith which is assent to this word:

The People of God is formed into one in the first place by the Word of the living God. .. The preaching of the Word is required for the sacramental ministry itself, since the sacraments are sacraments of faith, drawing their origin and nourishment from the Word.29

CCC 1304 Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the “character,” which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness.30

1 Cf. Lk 24:25-27, 44-46.

2 St. Thomas Aquinas, Expos. in Ps. 21, 11; cf. Ps 22:14.

3 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 51, 3.

4 Acts 2:24.

5 Is 53:8.

6 Acts 2:26-27; cf. Ps 16:9-10.

7 Cf. I Cor 15:4; Lk 24:46; Mt 12:40; Jon 2:1; Hos 6:2; cf. Jn 11:39.

8 Mk 16:19.

9 Cf Lk 24:31; Jn 20:19, 26.

10 Cf. Acts 1:3; 10:41; Mk 16:12; Lk 24:15; Jn 20:14-15; 21:4.

11 Cf. Acts 1:9; 2:33; 7:56; Lk 9:34-35; 24:51; Ex 13:22; Mk 16:19; Ps 110:1.

12 1 Cor 15:8; cf. 9:1; Gal 1:16.

13 Cf. Jn 13:1; 17:1.

14 Cf. Lk 23:46; Jn 19:30.

15 Rom 6:4.

16 Cf. Jn 20:22.

17 Jn 20:21; cf. Mt 28:19; Lk 24:47-48; Acts 1:8.

18 Lk 24:47.

19 2 Cor 5:18.

20 St. Augustine, Sermo 214,11:PL 38,1071-1072.

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

22 Cf. 2 Cor 3:14-16.

23 Cf. 1 Pet 3:21.

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

25 Cf. LG 10 # 2.

26 Cf. Jn 20:21-23; Lk 24:47; Mt 28:18-20.

27 Lk 24:47.

28 Mt 28:19.

29 PO 4 ## 1, 2.

30 Cf. Council Of Trent (1547): DS 1609; Lk 24:48-49.

APPLICATION

The death of a member of his family or of a loved friend, must be the saddest event imaginable in the life of an atheist. He is one who really is convinced that there is no God, no future life and therefore that the relative or friend is to turn into dust in the grave, never to be met with again. The thought that every day that passes is bringing him too nearer to that same sad fate, death, which will be the end of all his ambitions, all his enjoyments, the end of everything he thought he was or had, must be something hard to live with.

Thank God, we have the good fortune to know, and reason and faith convince us of this truth, that death is not the end of man. It is rather the real beginning. Today’s feast—the Ascension of our Lord in his human nature–to his Father’s and our Father’s home, is the confirmation and the guarantee of this doctrine of our faith. We shall all rise from the grave with new, glorified bodies and ascend to heaven, as Christ did. There we’ll begin our true life of eternal happiness.

While it is true that even for good Christians the death of a beloved one is a cause of sorrow and tears, this is natural as we still are of the earth earthly. Yet the certitude that our beloved one has gone to his true life and will be there to meet us when our turn comes, is always at the back of our minds to console and comfort us. What all human beings want is to live on forever with our dear ones. Death breaks that continuity but only for a little while. That break is necessary for the new life to begin.

It is only in heaven that this natural desire of an unending life with all those we love can be realized and death on earth is the door to that eternal life.

Look up to heaven today. See Christ ascending to his Father and our Father. Say: Thank you, God, for creating me, and for giving me, through the Incarnation of your beloved Son, the possibility and the assurance that if I do my part here, when death comes it will not be an enemy but a friend, to speed me on my way to the true, supernatural life which you have, in your love, planned and prepared for me.

It was written, and foretold, that Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory. The servant is not above the Master. I too must suffer. I too must accept the hardships and the trials of this life, if I want, and I do, to enter into the life of glory. Christ, who was sinless, suffered hardship and pain. I have earned many, if not all of my hardships, by my own sins. I should be glad of the opportunity to make some atonement for my past offenses, by willingly accepting the crosses he sends me. These crosses are signs of God’s interest in my true welfare. Through him he is giving me a chance to prepare myself for the day of reckoning, for the moment of my death which will decide my eternal future. For every prayer I say for success in life, I should say three for a successful death, a death free from sin and at peace with God.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Ascension

The Ascension of Christ means that he no longer belongs to the world of corruption and death, which conditions our life. It means that he belongs completely to God. He, the eternal Son, has taken our human being to the presence of God; he has taken with him flesh and blood in a transfigured form. Man finds a place in God through Christ; the human being has been taken until the very life of God. And, given that Go embraces and sustains the whole cosmos, the Lord’s Ascension means that Christ has not gone far away from us. But that now, thanks to the fact he is with the Father, he is close to each one of us forever. Each one of us may address him familiarly; each one may turn to him. We can live with our backs turned to him, but he always awaits us, and is always close to us… Jesus told his disciples everything, as he is the living word of God, and God can give no more than himself. In Jesus, God gave himself totally to us, that is, he gave us everything. In addition to this, or together with this, there can be no other revelation able to communicate something else, or to complete, in a certain sense, the revelation of Christ. In him, in the Son, we were told everything, we were given everything. But our ability to understand is limited; for this reason the mission of the Spirit consists in introducing the Church in an ever new way, from generation to generation, into the grandeur of the mystery of Christ… Thus, the Holy Spirit is the force through which Christ makes us experience his closeness.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Consecration to the Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit, Divine Spirit of light and the love I consecrate to you my understanding, heart, and will, my whole being, for time and for eternity. May my understanding be always submissive to your heavenly inspirations and to the teaching of the Catholic Church, of which you are the infallible Guide. May my heart be ever inflamed with the love of God and of my neighbor. May my will be ever conformed to the Divine Will. May my whole life be faithful to the imitation of the life and virtues of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and You be honor and glory forever.

God, Holy Spirit, Infinite Love of the Father and the Son, through the pure hands of Mary, Your Immaculate Spouse, I place myself this day, and all the days of my life, upon your chosen altar, the Divine Heart of Jesus, as a sacrifice to you, consuming fire, being firmly resolved now more than ever to hear Your voice and to do in all things Your most holy and adorable will.

Additional readings

http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Angelology/Angelology_012.htm

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Sixth Sunday of Easter – A

 

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Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.  And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

OPENING PRAYER

Mighty God,

in whom we know the power of redemption,

you stand among us in the shadows of our time.

As we move through every sorrow and trial of this life,

uphold us with knowledge of the final morning

when, in the glorious presence of your risen Son,

we will share in his resurrection,

redeemed and restored to the fullness of life

and forever freed to be your people. Amen.

COLLECT

Grant, almighty God,

that we may celebrate with heartfelt devotion these

days of joy,

which we keep in honor of the risen Lord,

and that what we relive in remembrance

we may always hold to in what we do.

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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Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

Philip went down to the city of Samaria

and proclaimed the Christ to them.

With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip

when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.

For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice,

came out of many possessed people,

and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured.

There was great joy in that city.

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem

heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God,

they sent them Peter and John,

who went down and prayed for them,

that they might receive the Holy Spirit,

for it had not yet fallen upon any of them;

they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Then they laid hands on them

and they received the Holy Spirit.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 699 The hand. Jesus heals the sick and blesses little children by laying hands on them.1 In his name the apostles will do the same.2 Even more pointedly, it is by the Apostles’ imposition of hands that the Holy Spirit is given.3 The Letter to the Hebrews lists the imposition of hands among the “fundamental elements” of its teaching.4 The Church has kept this sign of the all-powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in its sacramental epicleses.

CCC 1288 “From that time on the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ’s will, imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism. For this reason in the Letter to the Hebrews the doctrine concerning Baptism and the laying on of hands is listed among the first elements of Christian instruction. The imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.”5

CCC 2121 Simony is defined as the buying or selling of spiritual things.6 To Simon the magician, who wanted to buy the spiritual power he saw at work in the apostles, St. Peter responded: “Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money!”7 Peter thus held to the words of Jesus: “You received without pay, give without pay.”8 It is impossible to appropriate to oneself spiritual goods and behave toward them as their owner or master, for they have their source in God. One can receive them only from him, without payment.

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

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

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

4 Cf. Heb 6:2.

5 Paul VI, Divinae consortium naturae, 659; cf. Acts 8:15-17; 19:5-6; Heb 6:2.

6 Cf. Acts 8:9-24.

7 Acts 8:20.

8 Mt 10:8; cf. already Isa 55:1.

APPLICATION

Although the convert Samaritans did not receive the Holy Spirit with his visible supernatural gifts immediately, nothing but the power of the Holy Spirit, in Philip and in the Christian message he brought to them, could explain the readiness with which they accepted the Christian truth. They were natural enemies of the Jews for centuries and the enmity was returned heartily. They would have no dealings truck with Jerusalem or with any teacher who came from there, yet they listened to Philip and in “multitudes gave heed with one accord” to what he had to tell them. Nothing but the grace of the Holy Spirit can explain their change of attitude.

When the two Apostles came down from Jerusalem and bestowed the Holy Spirit on them his presence in them was made manifest to all, because of the special gifts that accompanied his bestowal in almost all cases of conversion in the early Church.

People may ask why it is that today, when people receive the sacraments of baptism and confirmation the Holy Spirit does not prove his presence in them by any external signs or miracles. St. Augustine answered that very question centuries ago. He said: When one plants a young tree one waters it regularly and stakes it firmly, but as soon as the tree has taken firm root it needs no further care. So it is with the Church, he said. In its infancy it needed miracles and signs to convince those who believed and to convert those who had not yet believed. But when the Church had taken firm root in the Roman Empire which was the known world of that time, there was no further need for the special intervention of God. The ordinary graces of the Holy Spirit were sufficient.

And so it is with each one of us. We have received the Holy Spirit with what we call his seven gifts and these are sufficient without any miraculous signs to make us soldiers of Christ. As such. we should be active members of his Church ready to do our duty each day, to live the faith, defend the faith when called on, and even if necessary, to die for it.

But to live our faith to the full and to be able to defend it if called on, we need to learn more and more about the truths of our faith. We need to know first and foremost what it promises us, what it means for our true life. A Christian is still a human being but he is no longer a mere human being–he has been made a brother of Christ and an adopted son of God. He is therefore made a citizen of heaven and his earthly life is but a journey to his native home–to a home which he will never have to leave again. When we look on our earthly life from this heavenly point of view most if not all of what we call the trials and troubles of life cease to be impassable mountain ranges and appear as little hillocks over which we can skip lightly. The true Christian who lets this truth be the guiding light of his life, will be well equipped to answer the questionings and hesitations of those who have not yet received the light of faith, or who, having once had it, lost it or let it die through inertia. The illiterate street sweeper who lives his faith devoutly–who never forgets that God loved him so dearly that he sent his only-begotten Son as man on earth in order to bring him to heaven, is a more convincing theologian than the lukewarm author of learned writings. Every devout Christian is an apostle. His very way of living, as well as his daily conversation in the home and outside of it, are lights which radiate all around him. He is a living furnace of divine love which warms and softens the heart of the sinners and the unbelievers with whom he comes into contact.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20

Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

Shout joyfully to God, all the earth,

sing praise to the glory of his name;

proclaim his glorious praise.

Say to God, “How tremendous are your deeds!”

Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you,

sing praise to your name!”

Come and see the works of God,

his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam.

Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

He has changed the sea into dry land;

through the river they passed on foot;

therefore let us rejoice in him.

He rules by his might forever.

Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare

what he has done for me.

Blessed be God who refused me not

my prayer or his kindness!

Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

READING II

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1 Pt 3:15-18

Beloved:

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.

Always be ready to give an explanation

to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,

but do it with gentleness and reverence,

keeping your conscience clear,

so that, when you are maligned,

those who defame your good conduct in Christ

may themselves be put to shame.

For it is better to suffer for doing good,

if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.

For Christ also suffered for sins once,

the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,

that he might lead you to God.

Put to death in the flesh,

he was brought to life in the Spirit.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 632 The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was “raised from the dead” presuppose that the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection.1 This was the first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ’s descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.2

1 Acts 3:15; Rom 8:11; I Cor 15:20; cf. Heb 13:20.

2 Cf. I Pt 3:18-19.

APPLICATION

These first converts to Christianity to whom St. Peter wrote this letter lived in a world which was very similar in many respect to our world of today. There were the self-styled intellectuals who thought they had the solution to all human problems because they had picked up scrips and pieces of the pagan Greek philosophy. There were others whose only thought was to get all they could out of this earthly life and whose motto was., “eat, drink, sleep and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” There were the agnostics whose life was one big question-mark, and who refused to accept any answers. There were the “practical” ones, so busy making a good living for themselves that they had no time to question the real meaning of life.

Who can fail to see the similarity between their world and the world in which we live today? While it is true that the number of Christians in our world today is away above that of St. Peter’s day, it is true also that the number of the opponents of Christianity has increased accordingly. And what is worse, most of these opponents come from Christian parentage and live in countries that are still called Christian.

Add to this, that many, very many of those we number as Christians are so only in name. Unlike the early Christians whose exemplary lives spread the faith very quickly to their pagan neighbors, our nominal Christians spread disrespect for the very name of Christ and for all he did for mankind.

Let us admit it, this is the kind of world in which we live, but it need not remain so. Each one of us, who is convinced of the truth of his faith, must realize that he has a solemn duty to help bring about this necessary change.

St. Peter tells us in a few words today how this can be done. He reminds us of the basic truth of our Christian religion: God created us for heaven. He sent his Son on earth to earn heaven for us. Our real purpose in this life is to work our passage to our true and everlasting home. This we shall do if we keep ever before our minds that Christ was God who came on earth as a man and suffered torments and death in our name and in our stead, so that we too could rise with him after our lives had ended. If we grasp this basic truth–the only true and satisfactory explanation of our sojourn on this earth–our daily actions will be truly Christian; we will gladly “keep our conscience clear” by following the rules of conduct that Christ has laid down for us.

By so doing we will also be prepared always to give an account, an explanation, to those who ask us why we are Christians. Our very lives will be of themselves an explanation and an answer to those who are curious about us, and even to those who while openly opposing and maybe deriding us, are gravely doubting in their hearts, whether it is we or they who are wrong. We can change our world, and in the innermost hearts of the vast majority of our “intellectuals,” our “agnostics” and our “practical men of the world” there is a desire for change. Christ is calling on us today, through his Apostle St. Peter, to help him call home the prodigal sons and the lost sheep. He suffered for them too. Would we turn a deaf ear to his call for help? Not if we reverence him as our Lord, our God. Not if we love our neighbor whom he has made our brother and co-heir with himself to heaven.

GOSPEL

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Jn 14:15-21

Jesus said to his disciples:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

And I will ask the Father,

and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,

the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,

because it neither sees nor knows him.

But you know him, because he remains with you,

and will be in you.

I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

In a little while the world will no longer see me,

but you will see me, because I live and you will live.

On that day you will realize that I am in my Father

and you are in me and I in you.

Whoever has my commandments and observes them

is the one who loves me.

And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,

and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052117.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 243 Before his Passover, Jesus announced the sending of “another Paraclete” (Advocate), the Holy Spirit. At work since creation, having previously “spoken through the prophets”, the Spirit will now be with and in the disciples, to teach them and guide them “into all the truth”.1 The Holy Spirit is thus revealed as another divine person with Jesus and the Father.

CCC 687 “No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”2 Now God’s Spirit, who reveals God, makes known to us Christ, his Word, his living Utterance, but the Spirit does not speak of himself. The Spirit who “has spoken through the prophets” makes us hear the Father’s Word, but we do not hear the Spirit himself. We know him only in the movement by which he reveals the Word to us and disposes us to welcome him in faith. The Spirit of truth who “unveils” Christ to us “will not speak on his own.”3 Such properly divine self-effacement explains why “the world cannot receive [him], because it neither sees him nor knows him,” while those who believe in Christ know the Spirit because he dwells with them.4

CCC 729 Only when the hour has arrived for his glorification does Jesus promise the coming of the Holy Spirit, since his Death and Resurrection will fulfill the promise made to the fathers.5 The Spirit of truth, the other Paraclete, will be given by the Father in answer to Jesus’ prayer; he will be sent by the Father in Jesus’ name; and Jesus will send him from the Father’s side, since he comes from the Father. The Holy Spirit will come and we shall know him; he will be with us for ever; he will remain with us. The Spirit will teach us everything, remind us of all that Christ said to us and bear witness to him. The Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth and will glorify Christ. He will prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment.

CCC 788 When his visible presence was taken from them, Jesus did not leave his disciples orphans. He promised to remain with them until the end of time; he sent them his Spirit.6 As a result communion with Jesus has become, in a way, more intense: “By communicating his Spirit, Christ mystically constitutes as his body those brothers of his who are called together from every nation.”7

CCC 2615 Even more, what the Father gives us when our prayer is united with that of Jesus is “another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth.”8 This new dimension of prayer and of its circumstances is displayed throughout the farewell discourse.9 In the Holy Spirit, Christian prayer is a communion of love with the Father, not only through Christ but also in him: “Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”10

CCC 2671 The traditional form of petition to the Holy Spirit is to invoke the Father through Christ our Lord to give us the Consoler Spirit.11 Jesus insists on this petition to be made in his name at the very moment when he promises the gift of the Spirit of Truth.12 But the simplest and most direct prayer is also traditional, “Come, Holy Spirit,” and every liturgical tradition has developed it in antiphons and hymns.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.13

Heavenly King, Consoler Spirit, Spirit of Truth, present everywhere and filling all things, treasure of all good and source of all life, come dwell in us, cleanse and save us, you who are All Good.14

1 Cf. Gen 1:2; Nicene Creed (DS 150); Jn 14:17, 26; 16:13.

2 1 Cor 2:11.

3 Jn 16:13.

4 Jn 14:17.

5 Cf. Jn 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-15; 17:26.

6 Cf. Jn 14:18; 20:22; Mt 28:20; Acts 2:33.

7 LG 7.

8 Jn 14:16-17.

9 Cf. Jn 14:23-26; 15:7, 16; 16:13-15; 16:23-27.

10 Jn 16:24.

11 Cf. Lk 11:13.

12 Cf. Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13.

13 Roman Missal, Pentecost Sequence.

14 Byzantine Liturgy, Pentecost Vespers, Troparion.

APPLICATION

In this discourse at the Last Supper, which was his last will and testament, our divine Lord promised his Church, through the Apostles, that the Holy Spirit would be with it until the end of time. The Spirit of truth will be directing it and effectively aiding it to preserve the faith, the doctrine, and the morals which Christ taught his Apostles.

Looking back now over almost 2,000 years of the Church’s history we can see how this promise has been fulfilled. There were heretics and schismatics who threatened the very continuance of the Church as God’s faithful people on earth. There were crises and near catastrophes caused by the human weaknesses of its heads and its members, yet the Church survived and spread and continued to send saints to heaven because of the direct and active aid of the Holy Spirit.

During those two thousand years great empires have risen and fallen. They had large armies and vast wealth and earthly resources at their disposal, yet they disintegrated like all things human. The names of one-time mighty men who ruled over millions are now nothing more than a nuisance for children in their history classes. The large tracts of our globe which they ruled are now divided and known by other names. This was, is, and will be the lot of all merely human enterprises. Today’s despots, where they rule with iron hand, will share the same fate.

In the midst of all these upheavals the Church of Christ has continued to flourish because it was directed and sustained by the Holy Spirit, who abides within it. How can we ever show enough gratitude to the three Divine Persons of the Blessed Trinity who planned so lovingly and so efficaciously for our safe journey to heaven? The Father sent his Son as man among us so that we men could become his brothers, and adopted sons of the Father. The Son suffered hardships, insults and misunderstanding during his temporary stay on earth, and ended like a crucified malefactor because of the sins of mankind. But he rose triumphantly from the dead and set up the Church as a society which would bring to men of all races, ages and colors the salvation and exaltation of mankind, which his life and death had won for us.

Knowing only too well the weaknesses and waywardness of human nature, he and the Father sent the Holy Spirit to remain with his Church as its infallible guide until the last man has entered heaven.

This is a very brief summary of what the Blessed Trinity has done, and is continuing to do for us, through the Church. We, the people of God, the chosen race of the New Testament are God’s Church on earth. It is for you and me that the Holy Spirit is at work this very day. When he guides the steps of Peter’s successor, the Pope, or the deliberations of the bishops, the heirs of the apostolic college, it is for us and for our salvation that he is acting. While we are faithful members of the Church, and of Christ’s mystical body, while we remain live branches safely attached to the vine who is Christ, we have nothing to fear; we are on the sure road to heaven, to enjoy eternal happiness with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit whom we shall thank and glorify forever.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Holy Spirit is Love

The gift of God is the holy Spirit. The gift of God is love – God shares himself as love in the Holy Spirit… The presence of the Holy Spirit makes itself known in the manner of love. Love is the criterion of the Holy Spirit as against unholy spirits; indeed, it is the presence of the Holy Spirit himself and, in that sense, the presence of God. The essential and central concept summing up what the Holy Spirit is and what he effects is, in the end, not “knowledge” but love… The basic criterion of love, its “proper work,” so to speak – and, thereby, the “proper work” of the Holy Spirit – is this, that it achieves abiding. Love shows itself by being enduring. It can by no means be recognized at a given moment and in the moment alone; but in abiding, it does away with uncertainty and carries eternity within it. And thus in my view the relationship between love and truth is also thereby given: love, in the full sense, can be present only where something is enduring, where something abides. Because it has to do with abiding, it can occur, not just anywhere, but only there where eternity is.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Come, Holy Spirit

English

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.

V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.
O God, Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Latin

Veni, Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium: et tui amoris in eis ignem accende.

V. Emitte Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur.
R. Et renovabis faciem terrae.

Oremus.
Deus, qui corda fidelium Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti: da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere; et de eius semper consolatione gaudere. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

 

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Fifth Sunday of Easter – A

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‘Jesus said to him, I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you know me, then you will also know my Father.  From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

OPENING PRAYER

Dedication to Jesus

Lord Jesus Christ,

take all my freedom, my memory, my understanding, and my will. 

All that I have and cherish You have given me.

I surrender it all to be guided by Your will.

Your love and Your grace are wealth enough for me.

Give me these, Lord Jesus, and I will ask for nothing more.

Amen.

http://www.catholicity.com/prayer/prayer-of-self-dedication-to-jesus-christ.html

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

constantly accomplish the Paschal Mystery within us,

that those you were pleased to make new in Holy Baptism

may, under your protective care, bear much fruit

and come to the joys of life eternal.

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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Acts 6:1-7

As the number of disciples continued to grow,

the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews

because their widows

were being neglected in the daily distribution.

So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said,

It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.

Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men,

filled with the Spirit and wisdom,

whom we shall appoint to this task,

whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer

and to the ministry of the word.”

The proposal was acceptable to the whole community,

so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit,

also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas,

and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.

They presented these men to the apostles

who prayed and laid hands on them.

The word of God continued to spread,

and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly;

even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 595 Among the religious authorities of Jerusalem, not only were the Pharisee Nicodemus and the prominent Joseph of Arimathea both secret disciples of Jesus, but there was also long-standing dissension about him, so much so that St. John says of these authorities on the very eve of Christ’s Passion, “many. .. believed in him”, though very imperfectly.1 This is not surprising, if one recalls that on the day after Pentecost “a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” and “some believers. .. belonged to the party of the Pharisees”, to the point that St. James could tell St. Paul, “How many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; and they are all zealous for the Law.”2

CCC 2632 Christian petition is centered on the desire and search for the Kingdom to come, in keeping with the teaching of Christ.3 There is a hierarchy in these petitions: we pray first for the Kingdom, then for what is necessary to welcome it and cooperate with its coming. This collaboration with the mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit, which is now that of the Church, is the object of the prayer of the apostolic community.4 It is the prayer of Paul, the apostle par excellence, which reveals to us how the divine solicitude for all the churches ought to inspire Christian prayer.5 By prayer every baptized person works for the coming of the Kingdom.

1 Jn 12:42; cf. 7:50; 9:16-17; 10:19-21; 19:38-39.

2 Acts 6:7; 15:5; 21:20.

3 Cf. Mt 6:10, 33; Lk 11:2,13.

4 Cf. Acts 6:6; 13:3.

5 Cf. Rom 10:1; Eph 1:16-23; Phil 1911; Col 1:3-6; 4:3-4, 12.

APPLICATION

The first eight chapters of the book we call the “Acts of the Apostles,” describe the birth and the infant days of the Church in Jerusalem. It is an account which should inspire and console us. The little group of Apostles and disciples, who had lost all heart and hope on seeing Christ their leader crucified, regained confidence once they became convinced, during his forty days with them, of his resurrection. They waited ten days for the Holy Spirit whom Christ had promised them on his Ascension day. When they received the Holy Spirit they set out immediately to preach Christ, completely regardless of the consequences this would bring to them. Remember Jerusalem was still governed politically by pagan Romans who saw nothing but folly in the Christian religion. But, worse still, the religious leaders of the citizens of Jerusalem–the Jews–were still the very men who had Christ condemned to the cross, as an impostor and a blasphemer, because “he made himself the Son of God” (Jn. 19: 7).

It was not human courage that enabled the Apostles, in such surroundings, to preach Christ as Messiah, Son of God, and Savior of the human race. It was the Holy Spirit. And the result was worthy of the cause: within a few weeks, almost half the inhabitants of Jerusalem had become faithful followers of the crucified and risen Christ.

This surprising spread of the faith, something in itself humanly impossible in such or in any circumstances, should surely inspire us with gratitude and love for God’s interest in us, and his goodness to us. We still have the same faith as the first Christians of Jerusalem–we are followers of the same Christ who lived and died for us, who rose from the dead and sent the Holy Spirit with his gifts and power on the Church which he had founded. That same power and those same gifts of God’s love are with us still today in our Church, leading us kindly and gently to the end he has planned for us from all eternity.

Surely, we Christians have every reason to be grateful to God for having given us the faith. And we should show this gratitude, by our love of neighbor, as the first Christians did, and all true Christians down through the ages have done. We must share with the poor and the needy not only our temporal goods, but especially the divine gift of the true faith. There are many ways today in which we can do our part in spreading the gospel of Christ. That gospel has reached us because zealous Christians down the ages lived the faith and did their share to give it to others.

St. Stephen, one of the deacons mentioned in today’s reading, gave his life gladly for Christ a few weeks after his ordination. Stephen’s, martyrdom may have been a remote cause of preparing Saul’s conversion–Saul never forgot the incident and his own part in it. Saul became St. Paul, the great Apostle of the Gentiles and one of the greatest glories of the infant Church.

You may not be called on to have the honor of martyrdom, but you are called to be a saint, an honor which can be earned only by living a life of true love of God and neighbor.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19

Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

Exult, you just, in the LORD;

praise from the upright is fitting.

Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;

with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.

Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

Upright is the word of the LORD,

and all his works are trustworthy.

He loves justice and right;

of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.

Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,

upon those who hope for his kindness,

To deliver them from death

and preserve them in spite of famine.

R/ Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

READING II

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1 Pt 2:4-9

Beloved:

Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings

but chosen and precious in the sight of God,

and, like living stones,

let yourselves be built into a spiritual house

to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices

acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

For it says in Scripture:

Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion,

a cornerstone, chosen and precious,

and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.

Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith:

The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone, and

A stone that will make people stumble,

and a rock that will make them fall.

They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.

You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood,

a holy nation, a people of his own,

so that you may announce the praises” of him

who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 552 Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve;1 Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Our Lord then declared to him: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”2 Christ, the “living Stone”,3 thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.4

CCC 709 The Law, the sign of God’s promise and covenant, ought to have governed the hearts and institutions of that people to whom Abraham’s faith gave birth. “If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant,. .. you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”5 But after David, Israel gave in to the temptation of becoming a kingdom like other nations. The Kingdom, however, the object of the promise made to David,6 would be the work of the Holy Spirit; it would belong to the poor according to the Spirit.

CCC 756 “Often, too, the Church is called the building of God. The Lord compared himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was made into the corner-stone. On this foundation the Church is built by the apostles and from it the Church receives solidity and unity. This edifice has many names to describe it: the house of God in which his family dwells; the household of God in the Spirit; the dwelling-place of God among men; and, especially, the holy temple. This temple, symbolized in places of worship built out of stone, is praised by the Fathers and, not without reason, is compared in the liturgy to the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. As living stones we here on earth are built into it. It is this holy city that is seen by John as it comes down out of heaven from God when the world is made anew, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.”7

CCC 782 The People of God is marked by characteristics that clearly distinguish it from all other religious, ethnic, political, or cultural groups found in history:

It is the People of God: God is not the property of any one people. But he acquired a people for himself from those who previously were not a people: “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”8

One becomes a member of this people not by a physical birth, but by being “born anew,” a birth “of water and the Spirit,”9 that is, by faith in Christ, and Baptism.

This People has for its Head Jesus the Christ (the anointed, the Messiah). Because the same anointing, the Holy Spirit, flows from the head into the body, this is “the messianic people.”

– “The status of this people is that of the dignity and freedom of the sons of God, in whose hearts the Holy Spirit dwells as in a temple.”

– “Its law is the new commandment to love as Christ loved us.”10 This is the “new” law of the Holy Spirit.11

Its mission is to be salt of the earth and light of the world.12 This people is “a most sure seed of unity, hope, and salvation for the whole human race.”

-Its destiny, finally, “is the Kingdom of God which has been begun by God himself on earth and which must be further extended until it has been brought to perfection by him at the end of time.”13

CCC 901 “Hence the laity, dedicated as they are to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and prepared so that even richer fruits of the Spirit maybe produced in them. For all their works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit – indeed even the hardships of life if patiently born – all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist these may most fittingly be offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord. And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God, everywhere offering worship by the holiness of their lives.”14

CCC 1141 The celebrating assembly is the community of the baptized who, “by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, that through all the works of Christian men they may offer spiritual sacrifices.”15 This “common priesthood” is that of Christ the sole priest, in which all his members participate:16

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people,” have a right and an obligation by reason of their Baptism.17

CCC 1179 The worship “in Spirit and in truth”18 of the New Covenant is not tied exclusively to any one place. The whole earth is sacred and entrusted to the children of men. What matters above all is that, when the faithful assemble in the same place, they are the “living stones,” gathered to be “built into a spiritual house.”19 For the Body of the risen Christ is the spiritual temple from which the source of living water springs forth: incorporated into Christ by the Holy Spirit, “we are the temple of the living God.”20

CCC 1268 The baptized have become “living stones” to be “built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood.”21 By Baptism they share in the priesthood of Christ, in his prophetic and royal mission. They are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that [they] may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called [them] out of darkness into his marvelous light.”22 Baptism gives a share in the common priesthood of all believers.

CCC 1330 The memorial of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection.

The Holy Sacrifice, because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church’s offering. The terms holy sacrifice of the Mass, “sacrifice of praise,” spiritual sacrifice, pure and holy sacrifice are also used,23 since it completes and surpasses all the sacrifices of the Old Covenant.

The Holy and Divine Liturgy, because the Church’s whole liturgy finds its center and most intense expression in the celebration of this sacrament; in the same sense we also call its celebration the Sacred Mysteries. We speak of the Most Blessed Sacrament because it is the Sacrament of sacraments. The Eucharistic species reserved in the tabernacle are designated by this same name.

CCC 1546 Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.”24 The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are “consecrated to be. .. a holy priesthood.”25

CCC 2769 In Baptism and Confirmation, the handing on (traditio) of the Lord’s Prayer signifies new birth into the divine life. Since Christian prayer is our speaking to God with the very word of God, those who are “born anew. .. through the living and abiding word of God”26 learn to invoke their Father by the one Word he always hears. They can henceforth do so, for the seal of the Holy Spirit’s anointing is indelibly placed on their hearts, ears, lips, indeed their whole filial being. This is why most of the patristic commentaries on the Our Father are addressed to catechumens and neophytes. When the Church prays the Lord’s Prayer, it is always the people made up of the “new-born” who pray and obtain mercy.27

1 Cf Mk 3:16; 9:2; Lk 24:34; I Cor 15:5.

2 Mt 16:18.

3 I Pt 2:4.

4 Cf. Lk 22:32.

5 Ex 19:5-6; Cf. 1 Pet 2:9.

6 Cf. 2 Sam 7; Ps 89; Lk 1:32-33.

7 LG 6; Cf. 1 Cor 3:9; Mt 21:42 and parallels; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet 2:7; Ps 118:22; 1 Cor 3:11; 1 Tim 3:15; Eph 2:19-22; Rev 21:3; 1 Pet 2:5; Rev 21:1-2.

8 1 Pet 2:9.

9 Jn 3:3-5.

10 Cf. Jn 13 34

11 Rom 8:2; Gal 5:25.

12 Cf. Mt 5:13-16.

13 LG 9 # 2.

14 LG 34; cf. LG 10, 1 Pet 2:5.

15 LG 10; cf. 1 Pet 2:4-5.

16 Cf. LG 10; 34; PO 2.

17 SC 14; Cf. 1 Pet 2:9; 2:4-5.

18 Jn 4:24.

19 1 Pet 2:4-5.

20 2 Cor 6:16.

21 1 Pet 2:5.

22 1 Pet 2:9.

23 Heb 13:15; cf. 1 Pet 25; Ps 116:13, 17; Mal 1:11.

24 Rev 1:6; cf. Rev 5:9-10; 1 Pet 2:5,9.

25 LG 10 § 1.

26 1 Pet 1:23.

27 Cf. 1 Pet 2:1-10.

APPLICATION

St. Peter’s call to his contemporaries is as imperative for us today, as it was for the first Christians. We are called to be saints, in other words, our Christian vocation is a call to take our place in heaven when we end our earthly life. We all know this, but for far too many of us, it is more a subconscious than a conscious thought in our daily lives. While doing the same daily tasks, as the Christians who are striving to become saints, we waste precious months and maybe years, in which we could be storing up treasure in heaven, because we forget God and the purpose of our Christian vocation.

Listen to a simple parable: two young men at the age of twenty went to another country where wages were high, in order to earn enough to buy for themselves comfortable homes and businesses when they returned, after some years. One saved his earnings, sent home his monthly packet and had his house and business set up. The other, attracted by the pleasure and play of the foreign land, squandered his earnings and forgot the purpose which led him to that land. When both returned home, the squanderer and forgetful one realized his mistake, but to late.

St. Peter is speaking to each one of us today. We are called to be saints. We have the means of becoming saints, for Christ has made us his brothers and heirs of heaven. Our part is to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. These sacrifices consist of our daily actions, dedicated to God by our simple, morning offering. They are acceptable to God because we have been made his adopted children, through Christ becoming man. Away and above our daily actions, which God accepts, we have the weekly (or daily where possible) sacrifice of Christ, the Son of God himself, which we have the privilege of offering, together with Christ’s human representative. Just as it was the first offering of himself on Calvary which made us capable of reaching heaven, it is the re-presentation of their initial sacrifices on our altars that blesses all our worldly or daily actions and makes them of value for our eternal life.

Let us never forget it, we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, God’s own people.” What more could God have done for us? And how little he asks in return!

Are we giving him even that little? Is our home a Christian home where the love of God and neighbor reign? Is true justice the guiding rule in our dealings with our fellowman? Can our non-Christian neighbors recognize us as God’s own people?

If we can answer in the affirmative to these questions, we are building ourselves into a spiritual house. We are the true temple of God; we are on the direct road to our true home in heaven. If, unfortunately, we cannot say yes but a sad no to these questions, let us not despair–we are dealing with a Father, not a policeman. He is ever ready to welcome back the repentant sinner, remember the story of the lost sheep, and the prodigal son. If, hitherto, you have ignored the marvelous light of the faith to which God in his goodness has called you, look at it today, and resolve to live by it. It is the only light, the only answer to man’s life on earth.

GOSPEL

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Jn 14:1-12

Jesus said to his disciples:

Do not let your hearts be troubled.

You have faith in God; have faith also in me.

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.

If there were not,

would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?

And if I go and prepare a place for you,

I will come back again and take you to myself,

so that where I am you also may be.

Where I am going you know the way.”

Thomas said to him,

Master, we do not know where you are going;

how can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, I am the way and the truth and the life.

No one comes to the Father except through me.

If you know me, then you will also know my Father.

From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him,

Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time

and you still do not know me, Philip?

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.

How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?

The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.

The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.

Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,

or else, believe because of the works themselves.

Amen, amen, I say to you,

whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,

and will do greater ones than these,

because I am going to the Father.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051417.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 74 God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”:1 that is, of Christ Jesus.2 Christ must be proclaimed to all nations and individuals, so that this revelation may reach to the ends of the earth:

God graciously arranged that the things he had once revealed for the salvation of all peoples should remain in their entirety, throughout the ages, and be transmitted to all generations.3

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.4 The Lord himself said to his disciples: “Believe in God, believe also in me.”5 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.”6 Because he “has seen the Father”, Jesus Christ is the only one who knows him and can reveal him.7

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.”8 On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: “Listen to him!”9 Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: “Love one another as I have loved you.”10 This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.11

CCC 470 Because “human nature was assumed, not absorbed”,12 in the mysterious union of the Incarnation, the Church was led over the course of centuries to confess the full reality of Christ’s human soul, with its operations of intellect and will, and of his human body. In parallel fashion, she had to recall on each occasion that Christ’s human nature belongs, as his own, to the divine person of the Son of God, who assumed it. Everything that Christ is and does in this nature derives from “one of the Trinity”. The Son of God therefore communicates to his humanity his own personal mode of existence in the Trinity. In his soul as in his body, Christ thus expresses humanly the divine ways of the Trinity:13

The Son of God. .. worked with human hands; he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin.12

CCC 516 Christ’s whole earthly life – his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking – is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”15 Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest “God’s love. .. among us”.16

CCC 661 This final stage stays closely linked to the first, that is, to his descent from heaven in the Incarnation. Only the one who “came from the Father” can return to the Father: Christ Jesus.17 “No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man.”18 Left to its own natural powers humanity does not have access to the “Father’s house”, to God’s life and happiness.19 Only Christ can open to man such access that we, his members, might have confidence that we too shall go where he, our Head and our Source, has preceded us.20

CCC 1025 To live in heaven is “to be with Christ.” The elect live “in Christ,”21 but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name.22

For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom.23

CCC 1614 In his preaching Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning permission given by Moses to divorce one’s wife was a concession to the hardness of hearts.24 The matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble: God himself has determined it “what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”25

CCC 1698 The first and last point of reference of this catechesis will always be Jesus Christ himself, who is “the way, and the truth, and the life.”26 It is by looking to him in faith that Christ’s faithful can hope that he himself fulfills his promises in them, and that, by loving him with the same love with which he has loved them, they may perform works in keeping with their dignity:

I ask you to consider that our Lord Jesus Christ is your true head, and that you are one of his members. He belongs to you as the head belongs to its members; all that is his is yours: his spirit, his heart, his body and soul, and all his faculties. You must make use of all these as of your own, to serve, praise, love, and glorify God. You belong to him, as members belong to their head. And so he longs for you to use all that is in you, as if it were his own, for the service and glory of the Father.27

For to me, to live is Christ.28

CCC 2466 In Jesus Christ, the whole of God’s truth has been made manifest. “Full of grace and truth,” he came as the “light of the world,” he is the Truth.29 “Whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”30 The disciple of Jesus continues in his word so as to know “the truth [that] will make you free” and that sanctifies.31 To follow Jesus is to live in “the Spirit of truth,” whom the Father sends in his name and who leads “into all the truth.”32 To his disciples Jesus teaches the unconditional love of truth: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes or No.’”33

CCC 2795 The symbol of the heavens refers us back to the mystery of the covenant we are living when we pray to our Father. He is in heaven, his dwelling place; the Father’s house is our homeland. Sin has exiled us from the land of the covenant,34 but conversion of heart enables us to return to the Father, to heaven.35 In Christ, then, heaven and earth are reconciled,36 for the Son alone “descended from heaven” and causes us to ascend there with him, by his Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension.37

1 1 Tim 2:4.

2 cf. Jn 14:6.

3 DV 7; cf. 2 Cor 1:20; 3:16-4:6.

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

5 Jn 14:1.

6 Jn 1:18.

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

8 Mt 11:29; Jn 14:6.

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

10 Jn 15:12.

11 Cf. Mk 8:34.

12 GS 22 # 2.

13 Cf. Jn 14:9-10.

14 GS 22 # 2.

15 Jn 14:9; Lk 9:35; cf. Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7, “my beloved Son”.

16 Jn 4:9.

17 Cf. Jn 16:28.

18 Jn 3:13; cf. Eph 4:8-10.

19 Jn 14:2.

20 Missale Romanum, Preface of the Ascension: sed ut illuc confideremus, sua membra, nos subsequi quo ipse, caput nostrum principiumque, praecessit.

21 Phil 1:23; cf. Jn 14:3; 1 Thess 4:17.

22 Cf. Rev 2:17.

23 St. Ambrose, In Luc., 10, 121: PL 15, 1834A.

24 Cf. Mt 19:8.

25 Mt 19:6.

26 Jn 14:6.

27 St. John Eudes, Tract. de admirabili corde Jesu, 1, 5.

28 Phil 1:21.

29 Jn 1:14; 8:12; Cf. 14:6.

30 Jn 12:46.

31 Jn 8:32; Cf. 17:17.

32 Jn 16:13.

33 Mt 5:37.

34 Cf. Gen 3.

35 Jer 3:19-4:1a; Lk 15:18, 21.

36 Cf. Isa 45:8; Ps 85:12.

37 Jn 3:13; 12:32; 14 2-3; 16:28; 20:17; Eph 4:9-10; Heb 1:3; 2:13.

APPLICATION

We may well wonder at the slowness of the Apostles in seeing in Christ nothing more than a man–a great man, a man with power from God, yes, but still a mere man. That he was the Messiah, they were convinced, but their idea of the Messiah was wrong. They thought he would free Israel from foreign domination (Lk. 24: 21), and set up a new kingdom of God–a prosperous, earthly kingdom with God guaranteeing peace and plenty for all. If, therefore, he allowed his enemies to put him to death, all their hopes would be dashed to the ground. Hence, the mention of his impending death at the Last Supper filled them with dismay and despair.

But we must not judge them too harshly. Christ had indeed often claimed to be God, but his words fell on deaf ears. It was only after his resurrection that they began to understand that he had spoken literally–it was only then they believed he was indeed the Son of God, in human nature.

For us today, the Incarnation is still a mystery, but it is not the “how” that should trouble us, we know that with God all things are possible. It is rather the “why” that should cause us amazement. Why should God go to that length for our sake–mere creatures, and sinful, ungrateful creatures at that? The infinite goodness and the infinite love of God are the answer, but still an answer which is mysterious to us. For we, with our limited capacity for love, can form no idea of infinite love.

God created us “in his own image and likeness” (a very limited likeness, granted) and intended, because of the spiritual faculties he gave us, which enable us to see and enjoy truth and beauty, to give us a share in his eternal life and glory. To do this, the Incarnation of the second Person of the Holy Trinity was God’s plan. There must have been other ways of doing this, but God, we can be sure, chose the best way. Even with our limited intelligence, we ourselves can see what a perfect way this was for proving to us the infinite love, goodness and compassion of our Creator.

Sin entered the world of man, as God had foreseen, but notwithstanding this ingratitude on our part, God’s Son came in our lowly, human nature and suffered, even though sinless, all the effects of men’s sins. He suffered in our name, and because he was God, his sufferings in his human nature made infinite atonement for the sins of all mankind.

His Incarnation had made us his brothers and co-heirs to heaven. His death on the cross wiped out, and gave us the means of wiping out, our sins, so that we would be capable of possessing our inheritance.

Knowing the story of the Incarnation therefore, we know of the love and kindness of God toward us. We need not ask, with Philip, “show us the Father,” we have seen him in his riches and wisdom and knowledge of God “How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable are his ways!” (Rom. 11: 33).

“What return can I make to the Lord?” All the mortifications and good works of all the holy men and women that ever lived, or will live, would not be adequate a return to God for the miracle of love he has shown toward us. But he accepts the widow’s mite, the little acts of love, the little proofs of gratitude, the willing acceptance of the crosses he sends us, to purify us. In one word, all he asks in return is that we try to live our Christian life day after day, ever thanking him for the gift of Christ and the Christian faith.

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

BENEDICTUS

How to Reach the Dignity of Christianity

The Church must always become anew what she already is; she must open the borders between peoples and break down the barriers between class and race. In her, there cannot be those who are forgotten or looked down upon. The wind and fire of the Holy Spirit must continually break down those barriers that we men and women continue to build between us; we must continually pass from Babel – being closed in on ourselves – to Pentecost. We continually close our doors; we continually want to feel secure and do not want to be disturbed by others and by God. And so, we can continually implore the Lord just for this, that he come to us, overcoming our closure. It is in lowering ourselves, together with Christ, that we rise up to him and up to God. God is Love, and so the descent, the lowering that love demands of us, is at the same time the true ascent. Exactly in this way, lowering ourselves, coming out of ourselves, we reach the dignity of Jesus Christ, the human being’s true dignity. In people, notwithstanding all of their limitations, there is now something absolutely new: the breath of God. The life of God lives in us. The breath of his love, of his truth and of his goodness. To his breath the Lord joins the power of forgiveness. The strength that opens up and overcomes Babel is the strength of forgiveness. Forgiveness comes from the cross; he transforms the world with the love that is offered. His heart opened on the cross is the door through which the grace of forgiveness enters into the world. And this grace alone is able to transform the world and build peace. Evil can be overcome only by forgiveness.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer of St. Alphonsus Liguori

0 my God, help me to remember–

That time is short, eternity is long.

What good is all the greatness of this world at the hour of death?

To love You, my God, and save my soul is the one thing necessary.

Without You, there is no peace, no joy.

My God, I need fear nothing but sin.

For to lose You, my God, is to lose all.

0 my God, help me to remember–

That to gain all I must leave all,

That in loving You I have all good things:

the infinite riches of Christ and His Church, the motherly protection of Mary,

peace beyond understanding,

joy unspeakable!

Eternal Father, your Son has promised that whatever we ask in His Name will be given to us.

In His Name I pray:

give me a burning faith,

a joyful hope,

a holy love for Jesus Christ.

Give me the grace of perseverance in doing Your will in all things.

Do with me what You will.

I repent of having offended You.

Grant, O Lord, that I may love You always and never let me be separated from You.

O my God and my All, make me a saint!

Amen. Amen.

http://redemptorists.net/prayers-saints.cfm

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Fourth Sunday of Easter

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‘A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;

I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer to Jesus, The Good Shepherd

Faithful Shepherd,

You are not a hireling who runs away at the sight of danger,

but Your fidelity was tested

and proven on the wood of the Cross.

Accept the gift of our gratitude

for Your marvelous care.

Help us to hear and follow Your voice.

Watchful Shepherd,

who protects the flock

and searches tirelessly

for those who wander from the fold,

retrieve the lost and bring them home.

Tend and heal their wounds.

Good Shepherd,

who lays down His Life for His sheep,

nourish Your people with the Bread of Life,

that we may reflect Your likeness

and enjoy the spring of Living Water that never ends.

Amen.

http://www.catholicdoors.com/prayers/english4/p02901.htm

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

lead us to a share in the joys of heaven,

so that the humble flock may reach

where the brave Shepherd has gone before.

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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Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven,

raised his voice, and proclaimed:

Let the whole house of Israel know for certain

that God has made both Lord and Christ,

this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,

and they asked Peter and the other apostles,

What are we to do, my brothers?”

Peter said to them,

Repent and be baptized, every one of you,

in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins;

and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

For the promise is made to you and to your children

and to all those far off,

whomever the Lord our God will call.”

He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them,

Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

Those who accepted his message were baptized,

and about three thousand persons were added that day.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 447 Jesus ascribes this title to himself in a veiled way when he disputes with the Pharisees about the meaning of Psalm 110, but also in an explicit way when he addresses his apostles.1 Throughout his public life, he demonstrated his divine sovereignty by works of power over nature, illnesses, demons, death and sin.

CCC 449 By attributing to Jesus the divine title “Lord”, the first confessions of the Church’s faith affirm from the beginning that the power, honor and glory due to God the Father are due also to Jesus, because “he was in the form of God”,2 and the Father manifested the sovereignty of Jesus by raising him from the dead and exalting him into his glory.3

CCC 597 The historical complexity of Jesus’ trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles’ calls to conversion after Pentecost.4 Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept “the ignorance” of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders.5 Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd’s cry: “His blood be on us and on our children!”, a formula for ratifying a judicial sentence.6 As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council:

… [N]either all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion. .. [T]he Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture.7

CCC 731 On the day of Pentecost when the seven weeks of Easter had come to an end, Christ’s Passover is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given, and communicated as a divine person: of his fullness, Christ, the Lord, pours out the Spirit in abundance.8

CCC 1287 This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people.9 On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit,10 a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost.11 Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim “the mighty works of God,” and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age.12 Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.13

CCC 1433 Since Easter, the Holy Spirit has proved “the world wrong about sin,”14 i.e., proved that the world has not believed in him whom the Father has sent. But this same Spirit who brings sin to light is also the Consoler who gives the human heart grace for repentance and conversion.15

1 Cf. Mt 22:41-46; cf. Acts 2:34-36; Heb 1:13; Jn 13:13.

2 Cf. Acts 2:34 – 36; Rom 9:5; Titus 2:13; Rev 5:13; Phil 2:6.

3 Cf. Rom 10:9; I Cor 12:3; Phil 2:9-11.

4 Cf. Mk 15:11; Acts 2:23, 36; 3:13-14; 4:10; 5:30; 7:52; 10:39; 13:27-28; I Th 2:14-15.

5 Cf. Lk 23:34; Acts 3:17.

6 Mt 27:25; cf. Acts 5:28; 18:6.

7 NA 4.

8 Cf. Acts 2:33-36.

9 Cf. Ezek 36:25-27; Joel 3:1-2.

10 Cf. Lk 12:12; Jn 3:5-8; 7:37-39; 16:7-15; Acts 1:8.

11 Cf. Jn 20:22; Acts 2:1-14.

12 Acts 2:11; Cf. 2:17-18.

13 Cf. Acts 2:38.

14 Cf. Jn 16:8-9.

15 Cf. Jn 15:26; Acts 2:36-38; John Paul II, DeV 27-48.

APPLICATION

One of the many proofs of the truth of our Christian religion, is the rapidity with which it spread from Jerusalem over the then known world. Within a generation, before the last of the Apostles died, there was scarcely a town or city in the Middle East, in North Africa, in Asia Minor, Greece and the southern parts of the Roman empire, including its capital Rome, in which the faith of Christ had not a foothold and center. There is no human explanation for this historical fact. Its explanation is from above, and the brief summary of what happened in Jerusalem on that first Pentecost day, read to us today, is proof of this divine intervention.

The change wrought in the Apostles by the descent of the Holy Spirit, as witnessed by St. Peter’s fearless accusation of the leaders of the Jews, the effect of Peter’s brief exposition of the essence of the Christian faith, as was proved by the conversion of three thousand Jews and the gift of foreign languages given to Galilean fishermen–these things demand more than a natural cause. If an innovator offers men a life of freedom of pleasure, of plenty without any effort on the part of his followers, he would attract most, if not all, men and women. But Christ demanded that his followers should carry their cross daily, should mortify their senses, should forgive their enemies, should share the little they had with more needy fellowmen–all in all a life which had no attraction for an earthly man. But in return he promised them a future, unending life which would satisfy every rational desire of the human heart. And he proved by his resurrection that he was able to fulfill this promise, because he was the Son of God who had come on earth for this very purpose–namely, to give mankind a share in the eternal kingdom of his Father.

The first Christians so appreciated this eternal reward that the duties and obligations of the Christian faith seemed nothing to them in comparison. They looked forward anxiously to the end of their exile on this earth so that they could be citizens of their heavenly home. Those of them who suffered martyrdom for their faith went gladly to their death, for they were, delighted to be a little more like to their divine Master who had won for them their future everlasting happiness.

How does our faith compare with theirs? Do we really appreciate what Christ’s life, death and resurrection have won for us? Do we think often and seriously on our future life? Do we make its attainment the true goal and purpose of our exile here below? An honest answer to these questions today will make us take a second look at ourselves, and on our reaction our eternal future may depend.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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Ps 23:1-2a, 3b-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

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1 Pt 2:20b-25

Beloved:

If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good,

this is a grace before God.

For to this you have been called,

because Christ also suffered for you,

leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.

He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.

When he was insulted, he returned no insult;

when he suffered, he did not threaten;

instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly.

He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross,

so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.

By his wounds you have been healed.

For you had gone astray like sheep,

but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 618 The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the “one mediator between God and men”.1 But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery” is offered to all men.2 He calls his disciples to “take up [their] cross and follow [him]”,3 for “Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps.”4 In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries.5 This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering.6

Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.7

1 1 Tim 2:5.

2 GS 22 # 5; cf. # 2.

3 Mt 16:24.

4 I Pt 2:21.

5 Cf Mk 10:39; Jn 21:18-19; Col 1:24.

6 Cf. Lk 2:35.

7 St. Rose of Lima: cf. P. Hansen, Vita mirabilis (Louvain, 1668).

APPLICATION

Although the words we have read were addressed by St. Peter to slaves who had become Christians, they have a lesson today for each one of as. Even if we are living in what we may proudly claim to be a “free country” (and not, as millions of our fellowman are, under a despotic rule which makes their lives in many respects worse by far than that of the slaves in the Roman empire), we too have many things and persons who interfere justly or unjustly with what we claim as our God-given rights. Day after day, we are called on to exercise the great Christian virtue of patience.

To begin with the home, there is often need for the exercise of patience, sometimes to a heroic degree, in our family life. There are nagging wives, suspicious, ill-tempered husbands, disloyal and disobedient children, days of hostile silence or cold-war treatment, cutting and untrue remarks, provocative behavior, false accusations–the list, alas, could go on.

Outside the home, in our dealings with local and state authorities and with our neighbors in general, how many times each week, if not each day, are we not called on to practice Christian patience, recommended by St. Peter to the slaves of his day! For the fact is that free though we may claim to be, our freedom is very limited by the necessity of living in the society of our fellowman. Even outside the iron and bamboo curtain countries, we all have to live under some form of slavery, benevolent and necessary though it be.

Every man of sense will have to admit that restrictions on his personal liberty and his freedom to do as he pleases, must, be accepted if be is to live in peace in the society of others. Where these restrictions are unjust and malicious and we have no legal, peaceful redress, we must practice Christian patience and prayer. St. Peter reminds us of the noble example of innocent suffering given us by our Lord and leader, Christ himself. Our sacrifice will rarely go to that extreme, but even if it should, and it is in the cause of justice, we should be proud to be found worthy, to imitate our Divine Master.

We must always be ready, too, to help by word and by deed, a fellowman who is struggling to bear injustices with Christian patience. Today, more than ever before, people are taking a true Christian interest in the sufferings of their fellowman, wherever they may be. This noble effort is worthy of the assistance and cooperation of every Christian, indeed of every man who claims to be human.

If every Christian family became actively interested in helping a more needy family, at home or abroad, there would be less time for family squabbles and dissensions; their united interest in Christian well-doing would make each one more Christian and more united. If employers and employees, in the relatively prosperous cities and countries, united in a Christian endeavor to help find food and employment for the starving millions in other less fortunate lands, there would be less time for unnecessary local or national disruption of production, which only produces waste and want for themselves and thousands of others.

True Christian charity, which is the mother of patience, need not necessarily begin at home, but its fruits will return a hundredfold to the home and to the society which practices it. If we be true followers of our Good Shepherd, we will help him to feed all his hungry sheep on this earth and in as far as in us lies, we will, by word and example, help to lead them eventually to the eternal pastures he has prepared for them.

GOSPEL

 

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Jn 10:1-10

Jesus said:

Amen, amen, I say to you,

whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate

but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.

But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.

The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice,

as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

When he has driven out all his own,

he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him,

because they recognize his voice.

But they will not follow a stranger;

they will run away from him,

because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”

Although Jesus used this figure of speech,

the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them.

So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you,

I am the gate for the sheep.

All who came before me are thieves and robbers,

but the sheep did not listen to them.

I am the gate.

Whoever enters through me will be saved,

and will come in and go out and find pasture.

A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;

I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050717.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 754 “The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ. It is also the flock of which God himself foretold that he would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are unfailingly nourished and led by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep.”1

CCC 764 “This Kingdom shines out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ.”2 To welcome Jesus’ word is to welcome “the Kingdom itself.”2 The seed and beginning of the Kingdom are the “little flock” of those whom Jesus came to gather around him, the flock whose shepherd he is.4 They form Jesus’ true family.5 To those whom he thus gathered around him, he taught a new “way of acting” and a prayer of their own.6

CCC 2158 God calls each one by name.7 Everyone’s name is sacred. The name is the icon of the person. It demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it.

1 LG 6; cf. Jn 10:1-10; Isa 40:11; Ezek 34:11-31; Jn 10:11; 1 Pet 5:4; Jn 10:11-16.

2 LG 5.

3 LG 5.

4 Lk 12:32; cf. Mt 10:16; 26:31; Jn 10:1-21.

5 Cf. Mt 12:49.

6 Cf. Mt 5-6.

7 Cf. Isa 43:1; Jn 10:3.

APPLICATION

One of the oldest paintings of Christ, in the Roman catacombs, represents Christ as carrying the injured, straying sheep gently on his shoulders back to the sheepfold. This is an image of Christ which has always appealed to Christians. We have Christ as our shepherd–he tells us so himself in today’s gospel–and we do not resent being called sheep in this context. There is something innocent about a sheep, and at the same time a lot of foolishness! But with Christ as our shepherd and the “good shepherd” who is sincerely interested in the true welfare of his flock we have reason to rejoice.

The leaders of the Jews, the Pharisees and Sadducees, were false shepherds who tried to prevent the people from following Jesus, but they failed. They then killed the shepherd but in vain. He rose from the dead and his flock increased by the thousands and will keep on increasing until time ends.

We surely are fortunate to belong to the sheepfold of Christ–his Church. We surely are blessed to have the Son of God as our Shepherd, who came among us in order to lead us to heaven. Do we fully appreciate our privileged position? Do we always live up to our heavenly vocation? We know his voice, we know what he asks of us, but do we always listen to that voice, do we always do what he asks of us?

There are many among us today who foolishly think they need no shepherd. They think they know all the facts of life while they are in total ignorance of the most basic fact of all, namely, the very purpose of life. Not that the thought of it does not arise disturbingly before their minds time and time again. But they try to smother that thought and ease their consciences by immersing themselves deeper and deeper in the affairs and the passing pleasures of this temporary life. Alas for them, a day of reckoning lies ahead, a day that is much nearer than they would like to believe. What will be their fate when they meet Christ the Judge, whom they had refused to follow and acknowledge during their days on earth?

This is a misfortune that could happen to any one of us, unless we think often of our purpose and our end in life. We have a few short years, but short though they be, we can earn for ourselves an eternity of happiness during this life. Let the straying sheep boast of their false freedom and of the passing joys they may get in this life–this freedom and these joys are mixed with much sorrow, and will end very soon. We know that if we follow the shepherd of our souls, we are on the way to the true life, the perfect life, the unending life which will have no admixture of sorrow, regret or pain. Where, Christ is, there perfect happiness is, and there with God’s grace we hope and trust to be.

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

BENEDICTUS

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Why the Church Needs the Marian Mystery

We must become a longing for God. The Fathers of the Church say that prayer, properly understood, is nothing other than becoming a longing for God. In Mary this petition has been granted: she is, as it were, the open vessel of longing, in which life becomes prayer and prayer becomes life. St. John wonderfully conveys this process by never mentioning Mary’s name in his Gospel. She no longer has any name except “the Mother of Jesus.” It is as if she had handed over her personal dimension in order now to be solely at this disposal, and precisely thereby had become a person… It is , I believe, no coincidence, given our Western, masculine mentality, that we have increasingly separated Christ from his Mother, without grasping that Mary’s motherhood might have some significance for theology and faith. This attitude characterizes our whole approach to the Church… What we need, then, is to abandon this one-sided, Western activistic outlook, lest we degrade the Church to a product of our creation and design. The Church is not a manufactured item; she is, rather, the living seed of God that must be allowed to grow and ripen. This is why the Church needs the Marian mystery; this is why the Church herself is a Marian mystery. There can be fruitfulness in the Church only when she has this character, when she becomes holy soil for the Word. We must retrieve the symbol of the fruitful soil; we must once more become waiting, inwardly recollected people who in the depth of prayer, longing, and faith give the Word room to grow.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

As a mother protects her children,

watching over them day by day,

alert to danger, and ready if necessary

to sacrifice herself for their sake,

so you Lord protect,

your arms constantly encircling us,

your hands delivering us from harm.

For the intensity of your love,

Lord Jesus we thank you.

Loving God, we thank you for mothers,

for all they mean or have meant,

for the love they have shown

and the care they have given.

We thank you Lord for the qualities of mothers-

their patience, their kindness,

concern and understanding.

We thank you Lord for the past they play in our lives,

and we thank you for this day of saying “thank you”

this opportunity to say what we so often mean to say

but so rarely do.

For mothers and motherhood,

for children and families

we bring you this day our grateful praise.

Anonymous

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Third Sunday of Easter – A

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    And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.  With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from … Continue reading

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Second Sunday of Easter (or Sunday of Divine Mercy)

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Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

OPENING PRAYER

Divine Mercy

Eternal God,

in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible,

look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us,

that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent,

but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will,

which is Love and Mercy itself.

Amen.

COLLECT

God of everlasting mercy,

who in the very recurrence of the paschal feast

kindle the faith of the people you have made your own,

increase, we pray, the grace you have bestowed,

that all may grasp and rightly understand

in what font they have been washed,

by whose Spirit they have been reborn,

by whose Blood they have been redeemed.

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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Acts 2:42-47

They devoted themselves

to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life,

to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.

Awe came upon everyone,

and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.

All who believed were together and had all things in common;

they would sell their property and possessions

and divide them among all according to each one’s need.

Every day they devoted themselves

to meeting together in the temple area

and to breaking bread in their homes.

They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart,

praising God and enjoying favor with all the people.

And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 3 Those who with God’s help have welcomed Christ’s call and freely responded to it are urged on by love of Christ to proclaim the Good News everywhere in the world. This treasure, received from the apostles, has been faithfully guarded by their successors. All Christ’s faithful are called to hand it on from generation to generation, by professing the faith, by living it in fraternal sharing, and by celebrating it in liturgy and prayer.1

CCC 84 The apostles entrusted the “Sacred deposit” of the faith (the depositum fidei),2 contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church. “By adhering to [this heritage] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. So, in maintaining, practicing and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful.”3

CCC 584 Jesus went up to the Temple as the privileged place of encounter with God. For him, the Temple was the dwelling of his Father, a house of prayer, and he was angered that its outer court had become a place of commerce.4 He drove merchants out of it because of jealous love for his Father: “You shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade. His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’”5 After his Resurrection his apostles retained their reverence for the Temple.6

CCC 857 The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:

she was and remains built on “the foundation of the Apostles,”7 the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself;8

with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching,9 the “good deposit,” the salutary words she has heard from the apostles;10

she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, “assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor”:11

You are the eternal Shepherd

who never leaves his flock untended.

Through the apostles

you watch over us and protect us always.

You made them shepherds of the flock

to share in the work of your Son. ..12

CCC 949 In the primitive community of Jerusalem, the disciples “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers.”13

Communion in the faith. The faith of the faithful is the faith of the Church, received from the apostles. Faith is a treasure of life which is enriched by being shared.

CCC 1329 The Lord’s Supper, because of its connection with the supper which the Lord took with his disciples on the eve of his Passion and because it anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem.14

The Breaking of Bread, because Jesus used this rite, part of a Jewish meat when as master of the table he blessed and distributed the bread,15 above all at the Last Supper.16 It is by this action that his disciples will recognize him after his Resurrection,17 and it is this expression that the first Christians will use to designate their Eucharistic assemblies;18 by doing so they signified that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and form but one body in him.19

The Eucharistic assembly (synaxis), because the Eucharist is celebrated amid the assembly of the faithful, the visible expression of the Church.20

CCC 1342 From the beginning the Church has been faithful to the Lord’s command. Of the Church of Jerusalem it is written:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. .. Day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts.21

CCC 2178 This practice of the Christian assembly dates from the beginnings of the apostolic age.22 The Letter to the Hebrews reminds the faithful “not to neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but to encourage one another.”23

Tradition preserves the memory of an ever-timely exhortation: Come to Church early, approach the Lord, and confess your sins, repent in prayer. .. Be present at the sacred and divine liturgy, conclude its prayer and do not leave before the dismissal. .. We have often said: “This day is given to you for prayer and rest. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”24

CCC 2624 In the first community of Jerusalem, believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers.”25 This sequence is characteristic of the Church’s prayer: founded on the apostolic faith; authenticated by charity; nourished in the Eucharist.

CCC 2640 St. Luke in his gospel often expresses wonder and praise at the marvels of Christ and in his Acts of the Apostles stresses them as actions of the Holy Spirit: the community of Jerusalem, the invalid healed by Peter and John, the crowd that gives glory to God for that, and the pagans of Pisidia who “were glad and glorified the word of God.”26

1 Cf. Acts 2:42.

2 DV 10 § 1; cf. 1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:12-14 (Vulg.).

3 DV 10 § 1; cf. Acts 2:42 (Greek); Pius XII, apostolic constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, 1 November 1950:AAS 42 (1950), 756, taken along with the words of St. Cyprian, Epist. 66, 8:CSEL 3/2,733: “The Church is the people united to its Priests, the flock adhering to its Shepherd.”

4 Cf. Mt 21:13.

5 Jn 2:16-17; cf. Ps 69:10.

6 Cf. Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:20, 21; etc.

7 Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14.

8 Cf. Mt 28:16-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Cor 9:1; 15:7-8; Gal 1:1; etc.

9 Cf. Acts 2:42.

10 Cf. 2 Tim 1:13-14.

11 AG 5.

12 Roman Missal, Preface of the Apostles I.

13 Acts 2:42.

14 Cf. 1 Cor 11:20; Rev 19:9.

15 Cf. Mt 14:19; 15:36; Mk 8:6, 19.

16 Cf. Mt 26:26; 1 Cor 11:24.

17 Cf. Lk 24:13-35.

18 Cf. Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11.

19 Cf. 1 Cor 10:16-17.

20 Cf. 1 Cor 11:17-34.

21 Acts 2:42, 46.

22 Cf. Acts 2:42-46; 1 Cor 11:17.

23 Heb 10:25.

24 Sermo de die dominica 2 et 6: PG 86/1, 416C and 421C.

25 Acts 2:42.

26 Acts 2:47; 3:9; 4:21; 13:48.

APPLICATION

In these six short verses of the second chapter of the Acts we are given a picture of the fervent religious life of the first Christian community. As would be expected, these Jerusalem Christians, having the Apostles still among them, and the memory of the resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit still fresh in their memories, were animated and moved by a deep religious fervor.

Apart from its noble ideal of true brotherhood, which moved those who possessed property to sell their possessions and divide the proceeds among the community–an ideal which could not continue, because of the selfishness in human nature, of which he was well aware–our Lord himself had recommended it only to a chosen few. We Christians today have in this first Christian Church of Jerusalem a model which we must strive to follow.

“They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” While the Church has always and every where endeavored to instruct its members in the teaching of the Apostles, and encouraged them to take part in the celebration of the Eucharist and in community and private prayers, we present-day Catholics have, thanks to Pope John and his second Vatican Council, a better opportunity than ever before of imitating more closely the early Christians of Jerusalem.

The introduction of the vernacular language in place of Latin in the liturgy, gives even the humblest and least educated among us the chance not only of following what is taking place at the altar, but of taking an active part in it. While it is still the priest, through the power which comes to him from Christ through the Apostles in the sacrament of orders, who brings Christ present on the altar, it is the whole community present to whom he comes, and who offer him with the priest as the atonement for the sins of the world.

The congregation are no longer silent spectators at a rite performed on their behalf; they are co-offerers with the celebrant in this miraculous mystery of divine love. The prayers they say are not their own private petitions to God, but are the public expression of the Christian community’s acts of adoration, thanksgiving, atonement and petition. In this liturgical renewal, therefore, the present generation, if they play the part expected of them, resemble more closely the first Christian community in Jerusalem. Hitherto, through no fault of their own, our Christian congregations let the priest at the altar carry out the liturgical action for them; they were content with their personal private prayers, while the public, community, liturgical service was performed in their name. Now, however, let us hope that all true Christians who appreciate what the “breaking of bread” or the Eucharistic sacrifice means for them, will appreciate also they have an active part to perform in this community service.

Christ in his loving mercy comes on our altar under the form of bread, to be our spiritual nourishment and our strength on the hard road to heaven. We should prove ourselves ungrateful indeed, were we to refuse this divine gift, which only divine love could think of giving us and which only divine power could give. If we feel unworthy of this great honor, remember he has given us also the sacrament which will remove anything which is really displeasing in us, and if we have but the passing, human failings, remember how he loved the publicans and sinners in Palestine and daily mixed with them.

The new liturgy gives us a better opportunity also of imitating the first Jerusalem Christians in devoting ourselves to the Apostles’ teaching. In the three-year cycle of scripture readings which form the introduction to the Eucharistic sacrifice and communion, we have a wealth of instructive excerpts from the Bible, chosen especially to help us get a better knowledge of God and his love for us, and of the meaning of our Christian vocation. Every sincere Christian should not only listen care, fully to these readings but should study them privately in the quiet of the home, and try to let their message influence their daily lives.

If we devote ourselves in this way to the Apostles’ teaching, if we take an active, devout part in the weekly community celebration of the sacrament of God’s infinite love, and attend daily when possible, we will, like the first Jerusalem Christians, give true praise and glory to God and earn not only the favor but the following of our non-Christian neighbors.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.

Let the house of Israel say,

His mercy endures forever.”

Let the house of Aaron say,

His mercy endures forever.”

Let those who fear the LORD say,

His mercy endures forever.”

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.

I was hard pressed and was falling,

but the LORD helped me.

My strength and my courage is the LORD,

and he has been my savior.

The joyful shout of victory

in the tents of the just:

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.

The stone which the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone.

By the LORD has this been done;

it is wonderful in our eyes.

This is the day the LORD has made;

let us be glad and rejoice in it.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.

READING II

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1 Pt 1:3-9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope

through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,

kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith,

to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time.

In this you rejoice, although now for a little while

you may have to suffer through various trials,

so that the genuineness of your faith,

more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire,

may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor

at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Although you have not seen him you love him;

even though you do not see him now yet believe in him,

you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,

as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 654 The Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life. This new life is above all justification that reinstates us in God’s grace, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”1 Justification consists in both victory over the death caused by sin and a new participation in grace.2 It brings about filial adoption so that men become Christ’s brethren, as Jesus himself called his disciples after his Resurrection: “Go and tell my brethren.”3 We are brethren not by nature, but by the gift of grace, because that adoptive filiation gains us a real share in the life of the only Son, which was fully revealed in his Resurrection.

CCC 1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.4 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:5

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.6

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;7 it implores the grace of the Holy Spirit that descends through Christ from the Father – he blesses us.8

1

2 Cf. Eph 2:4-5; I Pt 1:3.

3 Mt 28:10; Jn 20:17.

4 Cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1304; Council of Trent (1563): DS 1820; (1547): 1580; see also Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1000.

5 Cf. 1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pet 1:7.

6 St. Gregory the Great, Dial. 4, 39: PL 77, 396; cf. Mt 12:31.

7 Cf. Eph 1:3-14; 2 Cor 1:3 7; 1 Pet 1:3-9.

8 Cf. 2 Cor 13:14; Rom 15:5-6,13; Eph 6:23-24.

APPLICATION

We have just celebrated the feast of the resurrection, and St. Peter’s words today are intended to remind us again of what that unique event means to us and to the Christian faith which we profess. It is the final and convincing proof of the truth of the Incarnation. The Christ who had been born as a baby of the Virgin Mary, had lived in Nazareth, had preached the message of salvation, had died on the cross. was none other than what he had said he was, the divine Son of God. He had come to give mankind life and “abundant” life–an eternal life hereafter in the kingdom of his Father.

The first converts to Christianity had grasped this truth, this consoling knowledge, and they rejoiced in it “with unutterable and exalted joy.” We, too, have grasped this truth; we, too, know that through the Incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ, we have been made heirs to an “inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled and unfading.” But do we always let this consoling knowledge, this Christian conviction, govern and regulate our daily lives and actions?

The things of this world are very close to us and hard to ignore. Heaven seems very far away, and may seem to be something we can worry about later. The joys and pleasures of this passing life are very attractive because they surround us so closely now-the thought of the true, unending pleasure and happiness, much as it satisfies and answers to our innate human, intellectual desires and ambitions, can easily be pushed into the background by the hustling and bustling of the present, temporary attractions.

Today, perhaps, more than ever before, the advance of science and technology, that is, the discovery of the laws that govern our created universe and their application to daily living, keep so many so occupied that they have no time to think of the Law-maker, the Creator of all, and the future he has planned for them. They miss the wood because of the trees. They are so busy using and enjoying the earthly gifts God put at their disposal that they ignore the greatest gift of all–the one that will last forever.

“Our faith is more precious than gold”: let us never forget these words of St. Peter.

GOSPEL

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Jn 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week,

when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,

for fear of the Jews,

Jesus came and stood in their midst

and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.

The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,

Receive the Holy Spirit.

Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,

and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,

was not with them when Jesus came.

So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”

But he said to them,

Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands

and put my finger into the nailmarks

and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside

and Thomas was with them.

Jesus came, although the doors were locked,

and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,

and bring your hand and put it into my side,

and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples

that are not written in this book.

But these are written that you may come to believe

that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,

and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/042317.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”1

For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.”2

CCC 442 Such is not the case for Simon Peter when he confesses Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God”, for Jesus responds solemnly: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”3 Similarly Paul will write, regarding his conversion on the road to Damascus, “When he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles. ..”4 “And in the synagogues immediately [Paul] proclaimed Jesus, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’”5 From the beginning this acknowledgment of Christ’s divine sonship will be the center of the apostolic faith, first professed by Peter as the Church’s foundation.6

CCC 448 Very often in the Gospels people address Jesus as “Lord”. This title testifies to the respect and trust of those who approach him for help and healing.7 At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, “Lord” expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus.8 In the encounter with the risen Jesus, this title becomes adoration: “My Lord and my God!” It thus takes on a connotation of love and affection that remains proper to the Christian tradition: “It is the Lord!”9

CCC 514 Many things about Jesus of interest to human curiosity do not figure in the Gospels. Almost nothing is said about his hidden life at Nazareth, and even a great part of his public life is not recounted.10 What is written in the Gospels was set down there “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”11

CCC 575 Many of Jesus’ deeds and words constituted a “sign of contradiction”,12 but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply “the Jews”,13 than for the ordinary People of God.14 To be sure, Christ’s relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;15 Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.16 Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God’s people: the resurrection of the dead,17 certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),18 the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.19

CCC 643 Given all these testimonies, Christ’s Resurrection cannot be interpreted as something outside the physical order, and it is impossible not to acknowledge it as an historical fact. It is clear from the facts that the disciples’ faith was drastically put to the test by their master’s Passion and death on the cross, which he had foretold.20 The shock provoked by the Passion was so great that at least some of the disciples did not at once believe in the news of the Resurrection. Far from showing us a community seized by a mystical exaltation, the Gospels present us with disciples demoralized (“looking sad”21) and frightened. For they had not believed the holy women returning from the tomb and had regarded their words as an “idle tale”.22 When Jesus reveals himself to the Eleven on Easter evening, “he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.”23

CCC 644 Even when faced with the reality of the risen Jesus the disciples are still doubtful, so impossible did the thing seem: they thought they were seeing a ghost. “In their joy they were still disbelieving and still wondering.”24 Thomas will also experience the test of doubt and St. Matthew relates that during the risen Lord’s last appearance in Galilee “some doubted.”25 Therefore the hypothesis that the Resurrection was produced by the apostles’ faith (or credulity) will not hold up. On the contrary their faith in the Resurrection was born, under the action of divine grace, from their direct experience of the reality of the risen Jesus.

CCC 645 By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his Passion.26 Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ’s humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father’s divine realm.27 For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith.28

CCC 659 “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.”29 Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys.30 But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity.31 Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand.32 Only in a wholly exceptional and unique way would Jesus show himself to Paul “as to one untimely born”, in a last apparition that established him as an apostle.33

CCC 730 At last Jesus’ hour arrives:34 he commends his spirit into the Father’s hands35 at the very moment when by his death he conquers death, so that, “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,”36 he might immediately give the Holy Spirit by “breathing” on his disciples.37 From this hour onward, the mission of Christ and the Spirit becomes the mission of the Church: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”38

CCC 788 When his visible presence was taken from them, Jesus did not leave his disciples orphans. He promised to remain with them until the end of time; he sent them his Spirit.39 As a result communion with Jesus has become, in a way, more intense: “By communicating his Spirit, Christ mystically constitutes as his body those brothers of his who are called together from every nation.”40

CCC 858 Jesus is the Father’s Emissary. From the beginning of his ministry, he “called to him those whom he desired;. .. And he appointed twelve, whom also he named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach.”41 From then on, they would also be his “emissaries” (Greek apostoloi). In them, Christ continues his own mission: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”42 The apostles’ ministry is the continuation of his mission; Jesus said to the Twelve: “he who receives you receives me.”43

CCC 976 The Apostle’s Creed associates faith in the forgiveness of sins not only with faith in the Holy Spirit, but also with faith in the Church and in the communion of saints. It was when he gave the Holy Spirit to his apostles that the risen Christ conferred on them his own divine power to forgive sins: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”44

(Part Two of the catechism will deal explicitly with the forgiveness of sins through Baptism, the sacrament of Penance, and the other sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Here it will suffice to suggest some basic facts briefly.)

CCC 1087 Thus the risen Christ, by giving the Holy Spirit to the apostles, entrusted to them his power of sanctifying:45 they became sacramental signs of Christ. By the power of the same Holy Spirit they entrusted this power to their successors. This “apostolic succession” structures the whole liturgical life of the Church and is itself sacramental, handed on by the sacrament of Holy Orders.

CCC 1120 The ordained ministry or ministerial priesthood is at the service of the baptismal priesthood.46 The ordained priesthood guarantees that it really is Christ who acts in the sacraments through the Holy Spirit for the Church. The saving mission entrusted by the Father to his incarnate Son was committed to the apostles and through them to their successors: they receive the Spirit of Jesus to act in his name and in his person.47 The ordained minister is the sacramental bond that ties the liturgical action to what the apostles said and did and, through them, to the words and actions of Christ, the source and foundation of the sacraments.

CCC 1287 This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people.48 On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit,49 a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost.50 Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim “the mighty works of God,” and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age.51 Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.52

CCC 1441 Only God forgives sins.53 Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, “The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” and exercises this divine power: “Your sins are forgiven.”54 Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.55

CCC 1461 Since Christ entrusted to his apostles the ministry of reconciliation,56 bishops who are their successors, and priests, the bishops’ collaborators, continue to exercise this ministry. Indeed bishops and priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

CCC 1556 To fulfill their exalted mission, “the apostles were endowed by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them, and by the imposition of hands they passed on to their auxiliaries the gift of the Spirit, which is transmitted down to our day through episcopal consecration.”57

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.58 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.”59 We find the efficacious and undoubted sign of his forgiveness in the sacraments of his Church.60

1 DV 11.

2 DV 11; cf. Jn 20:31; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pt 1:19-21; 3:15-16.

3 Mt 16:16-17.

4 Gal 1:15-16.

5 Acts 9:20.

6 Cf. I Th 1:10; Jn 20:31; Mt 16:18.

7 Cf Mt 8:2; 14:30; 15:22; et al.

8 Cf. Lk 1:43; 2:11.

9 Jn 20:28,21:7.

10 Cf. Jn 20:30.

11 Jn 20:31.

12 Lk 2:34.

13 Cf. Jn 1:19; 2:18; 5:10; 7:13; 9:22; 18:12; 19:38; 20:19.

14 Jn 7:48-49.

15 Cf Lk 13:31.

16 Cf. Lk 7:36; 14:1.

17 Cf. Mt 22:23-34; Lk 20:39.

18 Cf. Mt 6:18.

19 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.

20 Cf. Lk 22:31-32.

21 1 Lk 24:17; cf. Jn 20:19.

22 Lk 24:11; cf. Mk 16:11, 13.

23 Mk 16:14.

24 Lk 24:38-41.

25 Cf Jn 20:24-27; Mt 28:17.

26 Cf. Lk 24:30,39-40, 41-43; Jn 20:20, 27; 21:9,13-15.

27 Cf. Mt 28:9, 16-17; Lk 24:15, 36; Jn 20:14, 17, 19, 26; 21:4.

28 Cf. Mk 16:12; Jn 20:14-16; 21:4, 7.

29 Mk 16:19.

30 Cf Lk 24:31; Jn 20:19, 26.

31 Cf. Acts 1:3; 10:41; Mk 16:12; Lk 24:15; Jn 20:14-15; 21:4.

32 Cf. Acts 1:9; 2:33; 7:56; Lk 9:34-35; 24:51; Ex 13:22; Mk 16:19; Ps 110:1.

33 1 Cor 15:8; cf. 9:1; Gal 1:16.

34 Cf. Jn 13:1; 17:1.

35 Cf. Lk 23:46; Jn 19:30.

36 Rom 6:4.

37 Cf. Jn 20:22.

38 Jn 20:21; cf. Mt 28:19; Lk 24:47-48; Acts 1:8.

39 Cf. Jn 14:18; 20:22; Mt 28:20; Acts 2:33.

40 LG 7.

41 Mk 3:13-14.

42 Jn 20:21; cf. 13:20; 17:18.

43 Mt 10:40; cf. Lk 10:16.

44 Jn 20:22-23.

45 Cf. Jn 20:21-23.

46 Cf. LG 10 # 2.

47 Cf. Jn 20:21-23; Lk 24:47; Mt 28:18-20.

48 Cf. Ezek 36:25-27; Joel 3:1-2.

49 Cf. Lk 12:12; Jn 3:5-8; 7:37-39; 16:7-15; Acts 1:8.

50 Cf. Jn 20:22; Acts 2:1-14.

51 Acts 2:11; Cf. 2:17-18.

52 Cf. Acts 2:38.

53 Cf. Mk 2:7.

54 Mk 2:5, 10; Lk 7:48.

55 Cf. Jn 20:21-23.

56 Cf. In 20:23; 2 Cor 5:18.

57 LG 21; cf. Acts 1:8; 24; Jn 20:22-23; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6-7.

58 Cf. Lk 15:11-32, 18:13.

59 Col 1:14; Eph 1:7.

60 Cf. Mt 26:28; Jn 20:23.

APPLICATION

It may surprise and amaze us that the Apostles were so reluctant to believe that Christ had risen from the dead, to live forever in glory with his Father in heaven. But we must remember that during their two or three years with him they saw nothing in him but a mere man, one with divine powers, but yet a man; certain prophets of the old covenant had some such powers also. Christ had “emptied himself” of his divine nature, and he had foretold his resurrection many times. But that he could be really God, as well as man, was something they could not then grasp, and if he was a mere man death had to be the end.

Their slowness of faith had its value for the future Church and for all of us. If they had been expecting the resurrection, and anxiously looking forward to it, people could say that they imagined it, that they persuaded themselves it had happened. Indeed, there have been men proud of their acuteness of judgment, who have said that the story of the resurrection is a story of mass hallucination, although all the evidence proves the opposite. Their conviction that it could not happen, could not be removed from their minds except by impressive evidence that it had. Hallucination is born in a mind already expecting and hoping for the imagined fact.

We can thank the Apostles and especially Thomas, the last to give in, that our faith in the resurrection and divine glorification of Christ is that much the stronger. Our Christianity which would have ended before the first Easter week had passed, if Christ had not risen in glory, spread rapidly to the then known world and is still spreading, because its author was none other than Christ “our Lord and our God.” How prophetic were the words of Gamaliel at the meeting of the Sanhedrin which tried to prevent the Apostles from preaching the new Christian faith: “If this plan or work is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow it (Acts 5:38-39).

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

BENEDICTUS

Mercy is the central nucleus of the Gospel message; it is the very name of God, the Face with which he revealed himself in the Old Covenant and fully in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of creative and redemptive Love. May this merciful love also shine on the face of the Church and show itself through the sacraments, in particular that of Reconciliation, and in works of charity, both communitarian and individual. May all that the Church says and does manifest the mercy God feels for man.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Regina Caeli address, March 30, 2008

CLOSING PRAYER

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Prayer to Jesus Christ the King

Almighty, everlasting God,

Who in Thy beloved Son,

King of the whole world,

hast willed to restore all things anew;

grant in Thy Mercy that all the families of nations,

rent asunder by the wound of sin,

may be subjected to His most gentle rule.

Who with Thee lives and reigns world without end.

Amen.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1118

 

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The Resurrection of the Lord The Mass of Easter Day – A

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OPENING PRAYER

Prayer For The Easter Virtues

Lord,

the resurrection of Your Son

has given us new life and renewed hope.

Help us to live as new people

in pursuit of the Christian ideal.

Grant us wisdom to know what we must do,

the will to want to do it,

the courage to undertake it,

the perseverance to continue to do it,

and the strength to complete it.

Amen.

Prayers are from the New Saint Joseph People’s Prayer Book, Catholic Book Publishing Co. New York 1999

COLLECT

O God, who on this day,

through your Only Begotten Son,

have conquered death

and unlocked for us the path to eternity,

grant, we pray, that we who keep

the solemnity of the Lord’s Resurrection

may, through the renewal brought by your Spirit,

rise up in the light of 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

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Acts 10:34a, 37-43

Peter proceeded to speak and said:

You know what has happened all over Judea,

beginning in Galilee after the baptism

that John preached,

how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth

with the Holy Spirit and power.

He went about doing good

and healing all those oppressed by the devil,

for God was with him.

We are witnesses of all that he did

both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.

They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.

This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible,

not to all the people, but to us,

the witnesses chosen by God in advance,

who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.

He commissioned us to preach to the people

and testify that he is the one appointed by God

as judge of the living and the dead.

To him all the prophets bear witness,

that everyone who believes in him

will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

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 486 The Father’s only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is “Christ”, that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples.4 Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”5

CCC 597 The historical complexity of Jesus’ trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles’ calls to conversion after Pentecost.6 Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept “the ignorance” of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders.7 Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd’s cry: “His blood be on us and on our children!”, a formula for ratifying a judicial sentence.8 As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council:

… [N]either all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion. .. [T]he Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture.9

CCC 659 “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.”10 Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys.11 But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity.12 Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand.13 Only in a wholly exceptional and unique way would Jesus show himself to Paul “as to one untimely born”, in a last apparition that established him as an apostle.14

CCC 679 Christ is Lord of eternal life. Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world. He “acquired” this right by his cross. The Father has given “all judgment to the Son”.15 Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself.16 By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one’s works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love.17

CCC 761 The gathering together of the People of God began at the moment when sin destroyed the communion of men with God, and that of men among themselves. The gathering together of the Church is, as it were, God’s reaction to the chaos provoked by sin. This reunification is achieved secretly in the heart of all peoples: “In every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable” to God.18

CCC 781 “At all times and in every race, anyone who fears God and does what is right has been acceptable to him. He has, however, willed to make men holy and save them, not as individuals without any bond or link between them, but rather to make them into a people who might acknowledge him and serve him in holiness. He therefore chose the Israelite race to be his own people and established a covenant with it. He gradually instructed this people. .. All these things, however, happened as a preparation for and figure of that new and perfect covenant which was to be ratified in Christ. .. the New Covenant in his blood; he called together a race made up of Jews and Gentiles which would be one, not according to the flesh, but in the Spirit.”19

CCC 995 To be a witness to Christ is to be a “witness to his Resurrection,” to “[have eaten and drunk] with him after he rose from the dead.”20 Encounters with the risen Christ characterize the Christian hope of resurrection. We shall rise like Christ, with him, and through him.

CCC 1289 Very early, the better to signify the gift of the Holy Spirit, an anointing with perfumed oil (chrism) was added to the laying on of hands. This anointing highlights the name “Christian,” which means “anointed” and derives from that of Christ himself whom God “anointed with the Holy Spirit.”21 This rite of anointing has continued ever since, in both East and West. For this reason the Eastern Churches call this sacrament Chrismation, anointing with chrism, or myron which means “chrism.” In the West, the term Confirmation suggests that this sacrament both confirms and strengthens baptismal grace.

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 1:20; 2:1-12; Lk 1:35; 2:8-20; Jn 1:3 1-34; 2:11.

5 Acts 10:38.

6 Cf. Mk 15:11; Acts 2:23, 36; 3:13-14; 4:10; 5:30; 7:52; 10:39; 13:27-28; I Th 2:14-15.

7 Cf. Lk 23:34; Acts 3:17.

8 Mt 27:25; cf. Acts 5:28; 18:6.

9 NA 4.

10 Mk 16:19.

11 Cf Lk 24:31; Jn 20:19, 26.

12 Cf. Acts 1:3; 10:41; Mk 16:12; Lk 24:15; Jn 20:14-15; 21:4.

13 Cf. Acts 1:9; 2:33; 7:56; Lk 9:34-35; 24:51; Ex 13:22; Mk 16:19; Ps 110:1.

14 1 Cor 15:8; cf. 9:1; Gal 1:16.

15 Jn 5:22; cf. 5:27; Mt 25:31; Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2 Tim 4:1.

16 Cf. Lk 21:12; Jn 15:19-20.

17 Cf. Jn 3:17; 5:26. 588 Cf. Jn 3:18; 12:48; Mt 12:32; I Cor 3:12-15; Heb 6:4-6; 10:26-31.

18 Acts 10:35; cf. LG 9; 13; 16.

19 LG 9; Cf. Acts 10:35; 1 Cor 11:25.

20 Acts 1:22; 10:41; cf. 4:33.

21 Acts 10:38.

APPLICATION

This passage from Acts has been selected for Easter Sunday not only because the resurrection is mentioned in it, but especially because St. Peter in his first discourse to a Gentile makes the resurrection the basic doctrine and the crowning proof of the truth of the Christian faith. As St. Paul says: “If Christ has not risen vain is our preaching, vain too is your faith” (1 Cor. 15: 14). Like Paul, St. Peter stresses the truth of the resurrection by citing witnesses, including himself, who had not only seen the risen Jesus but had spoken to him and actually eaten with him.

There is no room for doubt but that Apostles and disciples had thought that the sad events of Good Friday had put an end forever to the mission of love and mercy of their beloved Master. In spite of his previous references to his resurrection, they had completely forgotten it and were convinced that the tomb near Calvary was the end of all their hopes. They had locked themselves into the room of the Last Supper for fear of the Jews–two of them had set off for home on the Sunday morning, down-hearted at the Master’s failure; the others were waiting for an opportunity to slip out of the city quietly. But the resurrection changed all this. The unexpected, the unhoped-for happened. Even the most skeptical of them all, doubting Thomas, was eventually convinced of its reality. Had they been hoping for it, or even thinking of it, there might be some reason to suspect it was only an hallucination, the result of their “wishful thinking,” but the very opposite was the case. They were hard to convince even when it happened.

All this was intended by God–the basis of our Christian faith was proved beyond doubt. Christ, who had died on the cross on Good Friday, was raised from the dead by his Father on Easter morning. He returned to heaven in the full glory of the divinity which he had hidden while on earth, together with his human body, now also glorified. There (in heaven), as God and Man, he pleads for us at the right hand of the Father until the day when he who redeemed all men will come to judge them all.

The Alleluia is repeated often during the Easter ceremonies. It is a Hebrew word, which means “praise ye the Lord.” It is our attempt to give verbal expression to our joy and gratitude for all that God has done for us. We are no longer mere humans living on this planet for a few short years. We are citizens of heaven, made children of God the Father by Christ our Brother. He has gone before us to his and our kingdom to prepare a place for us. He conquered death. Our earthly death has therefore now no real fears for us: it is not the end but the beginning of our true lives. It is only after our earthly death that we truly begin to live.

There is only one death now which we can fear–the spiritual death of serious sin which can keep us from our true heavenly life. But while this is a possibility for all of us, it is only a possibility. The sincere Christian who realizes what God has done for him and what is in store for him will never be so ungrateful to God or so forgetful of his own best interests as to let some temporal and passing pleasure, pride, or profit, come between him and the eternal home which God’s love has prepared and planned for him.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his mercy endures forever.

Let the house of Israel say,

His mercy endures forever.”

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

The right hand of the LORD has struck with power;

the right hand of the LORD is exalted.

I shall not die, but live,

and declare the works of the LORD.”

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

The stone which the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone.

By the LORD has this been done;

it is wonderful in our eyes.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

READING II

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2 Col 3:1-4

Brothers and sisters:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,

where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When Christ your life appears,

then you too will appear with him in glory.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 655 Finally, Christ’s Resurrection – and the risen Christ himself is the principle and source of our future resurrection: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. .. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”1 The risen Christ lives in the hearts of his faithful while they await that fulfillment. In Christ, Christians “have tasted. .. the powers of the age to come”2 and their lives are swept up by Christ into the heart of divine life, so that they may “live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”3

CCC 1002 Christ will raise us up “on the last day”; but it is also true that, in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ. For, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, Christian life is already now on earth a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ:

And you were buried with him in Baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. .. If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.4

CCC 1003 United with Christ by Baptism, believers already truly participate in the heavenly life of the risen Christ, but this life remains “hidden with Christ in God.”5 The Father has already “raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”6 Nourished with his body in the Eucharist, we already belong to the Body of Christ. When we rise on the last day we “also will appear with him in glory.”7

CCC 1420 Through the sacraments of Christian initiation, man receives the new life of Christ. Now we carry this life “in earthen vessels,” and it remains “hidden with Christ in God.”8 We are still in our “earthly tent,” subject to suffering, illness, and death.9 This new life as a child of God can be weakened and even lost by sin.

CCC 2772 From this unshakeable faith springs forth the hope that sustains each of the seven petitions, which express the groanings of the present age, this time of patience and expectation during which “it does not yet appear what we shall be.”10 The Eucharist and the Lord’s Prayer look eagerly for the Lord’s return, “until he comes.”11

CCC 2796 When the Church prays “our Father who art in heaven,” she is professing that we are the People of God, already seated “with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” and “hidden with Christ in God;”12 yet at the same time, “here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling.”13

[Christians] are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their lives on earth, but are citizens of heaven.14

1 I Cor 15:20-22.

2 Heb 6:5.

3 2 Cor 5:15; cf. Col 3:1-3.

4 Col 2:12; 3:1.

5 Col 3:3; cf. Phil 3:20.

6 Eph 2:6.

7 Col 3:4.

8 2 Cor 4:7; Col 3:3.

9 2 Cor 5:1.

10 1 Jn 3:2; Cf. Col 3:4.

11 1 Cor 11:26.

12 Eph 2:6; Col 3:3.

13 2 Cor 5:2; cf. Phil 3:20; Heb 13:14.

14 Ad Diognetum 5: PG 2, 1173.

APPLICATION

Children at boarding schools draw up calendars and mark off each day which brings them one day nearer to the end of the term. Fiances mark off the months, the weeks, the days that separate them from the great day when they will be united forever they say “I do” to their beloved one. Seminarians count the years, months, weeks to the great day when, they will be ordained and say their first Masses. Parents look forward anxiously to the days when their children will be educated and safely settled in life. In fact, we are all always looking forward to a happier day which is to come some time. All this is very natural and very human, because our present life is not our permanent life; our present home, this earth, is not the real home destined for us by our loving Creator.

We were created for unending happiness in heaven, and it is only when we get there that our desire and our quest for some greater happiness will end. From then on, we will always enjoy and possess that all-satisfying happiness.

Today, Easter Sunday, St. Paul reminds us that we have this happiness within our grasp. We are moving steadily and more quickly than we realize toward it. The Holy Trinity, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, have already done, and are daily continuing, to do for us, all within their power. All that is needed is that we do the little that is asked of us.

St. Paul tells us we must “mind the things that are above, not the things that are on earth.” We must never let the “things of earth,” the pleasures, the powers, the possessions which we can or could have in this life, block or impede us on our upward journey. Does this mean that we must all return to the deserts of Egypt as some early Christians did? By no means. We are not forbidden to have the lawful pleasures of life. We are not forbidden possessions or powers if they are used justly. All we are forbidden is the unlawful use of the things of this world.

And as regards minding the things that are above, this is not something calling for extraordinary self-sacrifice or unnatural mental activity. All we are asked to do is to try to stay in God’s grace and do our daily chores whatever they be, as well and as diligently as we can. We are expected to recognize our natural weakness and to turn to God frequently for pardon and for help.

Whilst there are saints in heaven who lived lives of extreme self-mortification and did extraordinary things for God and for their neighbor, it is an encouraging and consoling thought that there are millions of unknown saints in heaven who lived normal lives, unnoticed by the world and maybe even by themselves. They are people who kept in God’s friendship all their lives, or got back quickly to it, if they sometimes forgot or offended their heavenly Father.

What millions of others have done I can do too. We are aided by God’s grace as they were. God wants me in heaven. He has an Easter resurrection planned for me.

SEQUENCE – VICTIMAE PASCHALI LAUDES

Christians, to the Paschal Victim

Offer your thankful praises!

A Lamb the sheep redeems;

Christ, who only is sinless,

Reconciles sinners to the Father.

Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:

The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.

Speak, Mary, declaring

What you saw, wayfaring.

The tomb of Christ, who is living,

The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;

bright angels attesting,

The shroud and napkin resting.

Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;

to Galilee he goes before you.”

Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.

Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!

Amen. Alleluia.

GOSPEL

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Jn 20:1-9

On the first day of the week,

Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,

while it was still dark,

and saw the stone removed from the tomb.

So she ran and went to Simon Peter

and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,

They have taken the Lord from the tomb,

and we don’t know where they put him.”

So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.

They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter

and arrived at the tomb first;

he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.

When Simon Peter arrived after him,

he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,

and the cloth that had covered his head,

not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.

Then the other disciple also went in,

the one who had arrived at the tomb first,

and he saw and believed.

For they did not yet understand the Scripture

that he had to rise from the dead.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041617.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 515 The Gospels were written by men who were among the first to have the faith1 and wanted to share it with others. Having known in faith who Jesus is, they could see and make others see the traces of his mystery in all his earthly life. From the swaddling clothes of his birth to the vinegar of his Passion and the shroud of his Resurrection, everything in Jesus’ life was a sign of his mystery.2 His deeds, miracles and words all revealed that “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”3 His humanity appeared as “sacrament”, that is, the sign and instrument, of his divinity and of the salvation he brings: what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive mission

CCC 640 “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”4 The first element we encounter in the framework of the Easter events is the empty tomb. In itself it is not a direct proof of Resurrection; the absence of Christ’s body from the tomb could be explained otherwise.5 Nonetheless the empty tomb was still an essential sign for all. Its discovery by the disciples was the first step toward recognizing the very fact of the Resurrection. This was the case, first with the holy women, and then with Peter.6 The disciple “whom Jesus loved” affirmed that when he entered the empty tomb and discovered “the linen cloths lying there”, “he saw and believed”.7 This suggests that he realized from the empty tomb’s condition that the absence of Jesus’ body could not have been of human doing and that Jesus had not simply returned to earthly life as had been the case with Lazarus.8

CCC 2174 Jesus rose from the dead “on the first day of the week.”9 Because it is the “first day,” the day of Christ’s Resurrection recalls the first creation. Because it is the “eighth day” following the sabbath,10 it symbolizes the new creation ushered in by Christ’s Resurrection. For Christians it has become the first of all days, the first of all feasts, the Lord’s Day (he kuriake hemera, dies dominica) Sunday: We all gather on the day of the sun, for it is the first day [after the Jewish sabbath, but also the first day] when God, separating matter from darkness, made the world; and on this same day Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead.11

1 Cf. Mk 1:1; Jn 21:24.

2 Cf Lk 2:7; Mt 27: 48; Jn 20:7.

3 Col 2:9.

4 Lk 24:5-6.

5 Cf. Jn 20:13; Mt 28:11-15.

6 Cf. Lk 24:3, 12, 22-23.

7 Jn 20:2, 6, 8.

8 Cf. Jn 11:44; 20:5-7.

9 Cf. Mt 28:1; Mk 16:2; Lk 24:1; Jn 20:1.

10 Cf. Mk 16:1; Mt 28:1.

11 St. Justin, I Apol. 67: PG 6, 429 and 432.

APPLICATION

As we said above, the accounts of the Resurrection of Christ differ in many details in the different writings of the New Testament, but the fact of the Resurrection stressed in all of them was the basis of the new Christian Faith. Had it not happened, Christianity would have been stillborn. It would have disappeared from Jerusalem and the world on that first Easter Sunday. Peter and his companions would have returned to their fishing-nets and boats on Lake Genesareth and Christ the good and the kind man who had helped so many, would have been forgotten in half a generation.

But Christ was no mere man of kindly acts and words of wisdom. He was the Messiah promised for centuries. He was the suffering servant foretold by Isaiah, whose perfect obedience to his Father had led him to the Cross and the grave. But above all, he was the Son of God who had emptied himself (St. Paul) of his divine glory in order to be the perfect human servant of the Father and who was now raised by the Father, with his divine glory restored and his glorified resurrected body sharing in that glory. This was the divine plan of God for mankind, through Christ, and because of Christ, the new Adam’s perfect obedience, all mankind would be made worthy of divine sonship and worthy of one day rising like Christ from the grave in glorified bodies.

Is all this too good to be true? It is if we make God to our image and likeness as so many opponents of Christianity do. He is God and his love is infinite and incomprehensible to us. What God can see in me and my fellowman will always be a mystery to me, but then I have not the mind of God. All I know and all I need to know is that I have sufficient proofs that God loves all men. The Incarnation, death and Resurrection of his Divine Son for man’s sake is the greatest proof of love for us that even the omnipotent God could give, He has given it. As a necessary consequence from this act of divine love, we are guaranteed our resurrection from the dead to a life of unending happiness and glory if we do not, in extreme folly, reject God’s offer.

Today, let us thank God once more for Easter and for all that it means for us. Our personal Easter morning is not far away from even the youngest amongst us. We have a few Calvaries to climb perhaps in the meantime but what are they when we see our glorious Easter on the horizon?

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

BENEDICTUS

The Easter Alleluia

Singing indicates that the person is passing beyond the boundaries of the merely rational and falling into a kind of ecstasy; the merely rational he can express in ordinary language (that is why overly rational people are seldom tempted to sing). Now singing finds its climactic form in the Alleluia, the song in which the very essence of all song achieves its purest embodiment… In fact we are dealing here with something that cannot be translated. The Alleluia is simply the nonverbal expression in song of a joy that requires no words because it transcends all words. In this it resembles certain kinds of exultation and jubilation that are to be found among all peoples, just as the miracle of joy manifests itself in every nation… What does it mean to sing with “jubilation”? It means: to be unable to express in words, or to verbalize, the song that sings to you in your heart. As the harvesters in field or vineyard experience an increasingly jubilant sense of joy, they become incapable, it seems, of finding words to express this overflowing joy. They abandon syllables and words, and their singing turns into a jubilus or cry of exultation. A jubilus is a shout that shows the heart is trying to express what it cannot possibly say. And to whom is such a jubilus more fitting directed than to him who is himself ineffable? He is ineffable because your words cannot lay hold of him… The Alleluia is like a first revelation of what can and shall someday take place in us: our entire being shall turn into a single immense joy.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

St. Gregory the Great’s Easter Prayer

It is only right, with all the powers of our heart and mind, to praise

You Father and Your Only-Begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear Father, by Your wondrous condescension of loving-kindness

toward us, Your servants, You gave up Your Son.

Dear Jesus You paid the debt of Adam for us to the Eternal Father

by Your Blood poured forth in loving-kindness. You cleared away

the darkness of sin by Your magnificent and radiant Resurrection.

You broke the bonds of death and rose from the grave as a Conqueror.

You reconciled heaven and earth. Our life had no hope of eternal happiness

before You redeemed us. Your Resurrection has washed away our sins,

restored our innocence and brought us joy. How inestimable is the tenderness

of Your Love!

CHRIST HAS RISEN, TRULY HE HAS RISEN! ALLELUIA!!!

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Palm Sunday – A

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OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for Palm Sunday

Almighty and ever-living God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

who as an example of humility for the human race to follow

caused our Savior to take flesh and submit to the Cross,

graciously grant that we may heed his lesson of patient sufferings

and so merit a share in his Resurrection.

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 50:4-7

The Lord GOD has given me

a well-trained tongue,

that I might know how to speak to the weary

a word that will rouse them.

Morning after morning

he 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.

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.

APPLICATION

The sufferings and crucifixion of our divine Lord in his humanity are the Christian’s source of strength and encouragement in his daily struggles against the enemies of God and of his own spiritual progress. Because of our earthly bodies, and because of the close grip that this world of the senses has on us, to keep free from sin and to keep close to God on our journey to heaven is a daily struggle for even the best among us. But we have the example before our eyes, the example of our true brother. He was one of ourselves, the truly human Christ. He not only traveled the road before us and made the journey to heaven possible for us, but he is with us every day, close beside us, to encourage and help us on the way.

We need to remind ourselves daily of this. We have the crucifix in our Christian homes, on our rosary beads, on our altars, on the very steeples of our churches. These crucifixes are not ornaments, but stark reminders that our Savior’s path to heaven led through Calvary and through all that preceded Calvary. They are also stern reminders to us that the carrying of our crosses on the road to heaven is not an unbearable burden for us, but an essential aid to our progress. When you are tried by temptations, when you are tested by bodily pain or mental suffering, worried to death perhaps by the bodily needs of yourself or your family or by the disobedience and insults of ungrateful children, stop and think on the Leader and his humiliations and sufferings. He came to open the road to heaven for us, to make us all sons of God, to preach the message of divine forgiveness and mercy to mankind. What did he get in return? He was scourged, tied to a pillar, spat upon and insulted, jeered at and mocked. He was nailed to a cross on Calvary between two thieves!

How light is my cross in comparison, how easy my Calvary. But he was sinless; his obedience, as man, to the Father was perfect. Can we or should we complain, we whose life up to now has often been far from perfect? Stop, listen to today’s lesson.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

All who see me scoff at me;

they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads:

He relied on the LORD; let him deliver him,

let him rescue him, if he loves him.”

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Indeed, many dogs surround me,

a pack of evildoers closes in upon me;

They have pierced my hands and my feet;

I can count all my bones.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

They divide my garments among them,

and for my vesture they cast lots.

But you, O LORD, be not far from me;

O my help, hasten to aid me.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

I will proclaim your name to my brethren;

in the midst of the assembly I will praise you:

You who fear the LORD, praise him;

all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him;

revere him, all you descendants of Israel!”

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

READING II

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Phil 2:6-11

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

something to be grasped.

Rather, he emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

coming in human likeness;

and found human in appearance,

he humbled himself,

becoming obedient to the point of death,

even death on a cross.

Because of this, God greatly exalted him

and bestowed on him the name

which is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue confess that

Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

APPLICATION

As Christians we have no doubt as to the two natures of our Savior. He was the God-man. He humbled himself so low in order to represent us before his Father and by his perfect obedience (“even unto the death on a cross”) earn for us not only God’s forgiveness but a sharing in the divinity, through his being our brother but also the Son of God. These words of Paul, or rather of the early Christian hymn he is quoting, are for us today a consolation and an encouragement.

Surely every sincere Christian must be consoled by the thought of God’s infinite love for him, as shown in the Incarnation. We are not dealing with some distant, cold, legal God of justice who spends his time marking up our sins and failures against us. We are dealing with a loving Father who sent his own beloved Son to live among us and die for us in order to bring home to us the greatness of divine love. Could any human mind, even the minds of the greatest of this world’s philosophers, have invented such a humanly incredible story of true love? No, it was only in the infinite mind of God that such a proof of love could have its source.

What encouragement this should and does give to every sincere Christian. We know we are weak. We can and do sin often. We know we are mean and ungrateful and that we seldom stop to thank God for the love he has shown us. If we were dealing with a human, narrow-visioned God, we should have reason to despair, but when our Judge is the all- loving, all-merciful God how can even the worst sinner ever lose hope?

No, there is no place for despair in the Christian faith. But there is room for gratitude and confidence. We can never thank God sufficiently for all that he has done for us. Eternity itself will not be long enough for this, but we must do the little we can. Let us face this coming Holy Week with hearts full of thanks to God and to his divine Son for all they have done for us. When meditating on the passion of Christ on Good Friday let us look with gratitude and confidence on the Son of God who died on the cross in order to earn eternal life for us. He did not die to lose us but to save us. He has done ninety per cent of the work of our salvation. And, even as regards the remaining ten per cent that he asks us to do, he is with us helping us to do it. Could we be so mean and so foolish as to refuse the little he asks of us?

GOSPEL

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Mt 27:11-54

Jesus stood before the governor, Pontius Pilate, who questioned him,

Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus said, “You say so.”

And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders,

he made no answer.

Then Pilate said to him,

Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?”

But he did not answer him one word,

so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Now on the occasion of the feast

the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd

one prisoner whom they wished.

And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.

So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them,

Which one do you want me to release to you,

Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ?”

For he knew that it was out of envy

that they had handed him over.

While he was still seated on the bench,

his wife sent him a message,

Have nothing to do with that righteous man.

I suffered much in a dream today because of him.”

The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds

to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus.

The governor said to them in reply,

Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”

They answered, “Barabbas!”

Pilate said to them,

Then what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?”

They all said,

Let him be crucified!”

But he said,

Why? What evil has he done?”

They only shouted the louder,

Let him be crucified!”

When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all,

but that a riot was breaking out instead,

he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd,

saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.

Look to it yourselves.”

And the whole people said in reply,

His blood be upon us and upon our children.”

Then he released Barabbas to them,

but after he had Jesus scourged,

he handed him over to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium

and gathered the whole cohort around him.

They stripped off his clothes

and threw a scarlet military cloak about him.

Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head,

and a reed in his right hand.

And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying,

Hail, King of the Jews!”

They spat upon him and took the reed

and kept striking him on the head.

And when they had mocked him,

they stripped him of the cloak,

dressed him in his own clothes,

and led him off to crucify him.

As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon;

this man they pressed into service

to carry his cross.

And when they came to a place called Golgotha

which means Place of the Skull —,

they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall.

But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink.

After they had crucified him,

they divided his garments by casting lots;

then they sat down and kept watch over him there.

And they placed over his head the written charge against him:

This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.

Two revolutionaries were crucified with him,

one on his right and the other on his left.

Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying,

You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,

save yourself, if you are the Son of God,

and come down from the cross!”

Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said,

He saved others; he cannot save himself.

So he is the king of Israel!

Let him come down from the cross now,

and we will believe in him.

He trusted in God;

let him deliver him now if he wants him.

For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

The revolutionaries who were crucified with him

also kept abusing him in the same way.

From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land

until three in the afternoon.

And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,

Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”

which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Some of the bystanders who heard it said,

This one is calling for Elijah.”

Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge;

he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed,

gave it to him to drink.

But the rest said,

Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”

But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice,

and gave up his spirit.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

And behold, the veil of the sanctuary

was torn in two from top to bottom.

The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened,

and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.

And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection,

they entered the holy city and appeared to many.

The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus

feared greatly when they saw the earthquake

and all that was happening, and they said,

Truly, this was the Son of God!”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040917.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 333 From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the Word incarnate is surrounded by the adoration and service of angels. When God “brings the firstborn into the world, he says: ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’”1 Their song of praise at the birth of Christ has not ceased resounding in the Church’s praise: “Glory to God in the highest!”2 They protect Jesus in his infancy, serve him in the desert, strengthen him in his agony in the garden, when he could have been saved by them from the hands of his enemies as Israel had been.3 Again, it is the angels who “evangelize” by proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection.4 They will be present at Christ’s return, which they will announce, to serve at his judgement.5

CCC 363 In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person.6 But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him,7 that by which he is most especially in God’s image: “soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man.

CCC 441 In the Old Testament, “son of God” is a title given to the angels, the Chosen People, the children of Israel, and their kings.8 It signifies an adoptive sonship that establishes a relationship of particular intimacy between God and his creature. When the promised Messiah-King is called “son of God”, it does not necessarily imply that he was more than human, according to the literal meaning of these texts. Those who called Jesus “son of God”, as the Messiah of Israel, perhaps meant nothing more than this.9

CCC 443 Peter could recognize the transcendent character of the Messiah’s divine sonship because Jesus had clearly allowed it to be so understood. To his accusers’ question before the Sanhedrin, “Are you the Son of God, then?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am.”10 Well before this, Jesus referred to himself as “the Son” who knows the Father, as distinct from the “servants” God had earlier sent to his people; he is superior even to the angels.11 He distinguished his sonship from that of his disciples by never saying “our Father”, except to command them: “You, then, pray like this: ‘Our Father’”, and he emphasized this distinction, saying “my Father and your Father”.12

CCC 500 Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus.13 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”.14 They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression.15

CCC 515 The Gospels were written by men who were among the first to have the faith16 and wanted to share it with others. Having known in faith who Jesus is, they could see and make others see the traces of his mystery in all his earthly life. From the swaddling clothes of his birth to the vinegar of his Passion and the shroud of his Resurrection, everything in Jesus’ life was a sign of his mystery.17 His deeds, miracles and words all revealed that “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”18 His humanity appeared as “sacrament”, that is, the sign and instrument, of his divinity and of the salvation he brings: what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive mission

CCC 536 The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.19 Already he is anticipating the “baptism” of his bloody death.20 Already he is coming to “fulfil all righteousness”, that is, he is submitting himself entirely to his Father’s will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins.21 The Father’s voice responds to the Son’s acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son.22 The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to “rest on him”.23 Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism “the heavens were opened”24 – the heavens that Adam’s sin had closed – and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude to the new creation.

CCC 545 Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”25 He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father’s boundless mercy for them and the vast “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents”.26 The supreme proof of his love will be the sacrifice of his own life “for the forgiveness of sins”.27

CCC 585 On the threshold of his Passion Jesus announced the coming destruction of this splendid building, of which there would not remain “one stone upon another”.28 By doing so, he announced a sign of the last days, which were to begin with his own Passover.29 But this prophecy would be distorted in its telling by false witnesses during his interrogation at the high priest’s house, and would be thrown back at him as an insult when he was nailed to the cross.30

CCC 586 Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation of his future Church.31 He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God’s definitive dwelling-place among men.32 Therefore his being put to bodily death33 presaged the destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation: “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”34

CCC 591 Jesus asked the religious authorities of Jerusalem to believe in him because of the Father’s works which he accomplished.35 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.36 Such a demand for conversion in the face of so surprising a fulfillment of the promises37 allows one to understand the Sanhedrin’s tragic misunderstanding of Jesus: they judged that he deserved the death sentence as a blasphemer.38 The members of the Sanhedrin were thus acting at the same time out of “ignorance” and the “hardness” of their “unbelief”.39

CCC 596 The religious authorities in Jerusalem were not unanimous about what stance to take towards Jesus.40 The Pharisees threatened to excommunicate his followers.41 To those who feared that “everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation”, the high priest Caiaphas replied by prophesying: “It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.”42 The Sanhedrin, having declared Jesus deserving of death as a blasphemer but having lost the right to put anyone to death, hands him over to the Romans, accusing him of political revolt, a charge that puts him in the same category as Barabbas who had been accused of sedition.43 The chief priests also threatened Pilate politically so that he would condemn Jesus to death.44

CCC 597 The historical complexity of Jesus’ trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles’ calls to conversion after Pentecost.45 Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept “the ignorance” of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders.46 Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd’s cry: “His blood be on us and on our children!”, a formula for ratifying a judicial sentence.47 As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council:

… [N]either all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion. .. [T]he Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture.48

CCC 600 To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of “predestination”, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace: “In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”49 For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness.50

CCC 609 By embracing in his human heart the Father’s love for men, Jesus “loved them to the end”, for “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”51 In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men.52 Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”53 Hence the sovereign freedom of God’s Son as he went out to his death.54

CCC 610 Jesus gave the supreme expression of his free offering of himself at the meal shared with the twelve Apostles “on the night he was betrayed”.55 On the eve of his Passion, while still free, Jesus transformed this Last Supper with the apostles into the memorial of his voluntary offering to the Father for the salvation of men: “This is my body which is given for you.” “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”56

CCC 612 The cup of the New Covenant, which Jesus anticipated when he offered himself at the Last Supper, is afterwards accepted by him from his Father’s hands in his agony in the garden at Gethsemani,57 making himself “obedient unto death”. Jesus prays: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. ..”58 Thus he expresses the horror that death represented for his human nature. Like ours, his human nature is destined for eternal life; but unlike ours, it is perfectly exempt from sin, the cause of death.59 Above all, his human nature has been assumed by the divine person of the “Author of life”, the “Living One”.60 By accepting in his human will that the Father’s will be done, he accepts his death as redemptive, for “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”61

CCC 613 Christ’s death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”,62 and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the “blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”.63

CCC 764 “This Kingdom shines out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ.”64 To welcome Jesus’ word is to welcome “the Kingdom itself.”64 The seed and beginning of the Kingdom are the “little flock” of those whom Jesus came to gather around him, the flock whose shepherd he is.66 They form Jesus’ true family.67 To those whom he thus gathered around him, he taught a new “way of acting” and a prayer of their own.68

CCC 1328 The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament is expressed in the different names we give it. Each name evokes certain aspects of it. It is called:

Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving to God. The Greek words eucharistein69 and eulogein70 recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim – especially during a meal – God’s works: creation, redemption, and sanctification.

CCC 1329 The Lord’s Supper, because of its connection with the supper which the Lord took with his disciples on the eve of his Passion and because it anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem.71

The Breaking of Bread, because Jesus used this rite, part of a Jewish meat when as master of the table he blessed and distributed the bread,72 above all at the Last Supper.73 It is by this action that his disciples will recognize him after his Resurrection,74 and it is this expression that the first Christians will use to designate their Eucharistic assemblies;75 by doing so they signified that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and form but one body in him.76

The Eucharistic assembly (synaxis), because the Eucharist is celebrated amid the assembly of the faithful, the visible expression of the Church.77

CCC 1339 Jesus chose the time of Passover to fulfill what he had announced at Capernaum: giving his disciples his Body and his Blood:

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the passover meal for us, that we may eat it. ..” They went. .. and prepared the passover. And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”… And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.”78

CCC 1365 Because it is the memorial of Christ’s Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: “This is my body which is given for you” and “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.”79 In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”80

CCC 1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”81

CCC 1403 At the Last Supper the Lord himself directed his disciples’ attention toward the fulfillment of the Passover in the kingdom of God: “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”82 Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist she remembers this promise and turns her gaze “to him who is to come.” In her prayer she calls for his coming: “Maranatha!” “Come, Lord Jesus!”83 “May your grace come and this world pass away!”84

CCC 1846 The Gospel is the revelation in Jesus Christ of God’s mercy to sinners.85 The angel announced to Joseph: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”86 The same is true of the Eucharist, the sacrament of redemption: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”87

CCC 2262 In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, “You shall not kill,”88 and adds to it the proscription of anger, hatred, and vengeance. Going further, Christ asks his disciples to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies.89 He did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath.90

CCC 2719 Contemplative prayer is a communion of love bearing Life for the multitude, to the extent that it consents to abide in the night of faith. The Paschal night of the Resurrection passes through the night of the agony and the tomb – the three intense moments of the Hour of Jesus which his Spirit (and not “the flesh [which] is weak”) brings to life in prayer. We must be willing to “keep watch with [him] one hour.”91

CCC 2733 Another temptation, to which presumption opens the gate, is acedia. The spiritual writers understand by this a form of depression due to lax ascetical practice, decreasing vigilance, carelessness of heart. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”92 The greater the height, the harder the fall. Painful as discouragement is, it is the reverse of presumption. The humble are not surprised by their distress; it leads them to trust more, to hold fast in constancy.

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.93 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.”94 We find the efficacious and undoubted sign of his forgiveness in the sacraments of his Church.95

CCC 2846 This petition goes to the root of the preceding one, for our sins result from our consenting to temptation; we therefore ask our Father not to “lead” us into temptation. It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means both “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let us yield to temptation.”96 “God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one”;97 on the contrary, he wants to set us free from evil. We ask him not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin. We are engaged in the battle “between flesh and spirit”; this petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength.

CCC 2849 Such a battle and such a victory become possible only through prayer. It is by his prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the outset of his public mission and in the ultimate struggle of his agony.98 In this petition to our heavenly Father, Christ unites us to his battle and his agony. He urges us to vigilance of the heart in communion with his own. Vigilance is “custody of the heart,” and Jesus prayed for us to the Father: “Keep them in your name.”99 The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch.100 Finally, this petition takes on all its dramatic meaning in relation to the last temptation of our earthly battle; it asks for final perseverance. “Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake.”101

1 Heb 1:6.

2 Lk 2:14.

3 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:13,19; 4:11; 26:53; Mk 1:13; Lk 22:43; 2 Macc 10:29-30; 11:8.

4 Cf. Lk 2:8-14; Mk 16:5-7.

5 Cf. Acts 1:10-11; Mt 13:41; 24:31; Lk 12:8-9. The angels in the life of the Church

6 Cf. Mt 16:25-26; Jn 15:13; Acts 2:41.

7 Cf. Mt 10:28; 26:38; Jn 12:27; 2 Macc 6 30.

8 Cf. Dt 14:1; (LXX) 32:8; Job 1:6; Ex 4:22; Hos 2:1; 11:1; Jer 3:19; sir 36:11; Wis 18:13; 2 Sam 7:14; Ps 82:6.

9 Cf. I Chr 17:13; Ps 2:7; Mt 27:54; Lk 23:47.

10 Lk 22:70; cf. Mt 26:64; Mk 14:61-62.

11 Cf. Mt 11:27; 21:34-38; 24:36.

12 Mt 5:48; 6:8-9; 7:21; Lk 11:13; Jn 20:17.

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

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

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

16 Cf. Mk 1:1; Jn 21:24.

17 Cf Lk 2:7; Mt 27: 48; Jn 20:7.

18 Col 2:9.

19 Jn 1:29; cf. Is 53:12.

20 Cf. Mk 10:38; Lk 12:50.

21 Mt 3:15; cf. 26:39.

22 Cf. Lk 3:22; Is 42:1.

23 Jn 1:32-33; cf. Is 11:2.

24 Mt 3:16.

25 Mk 2:17; cf. l Tim 1:15.

26 Lk 15:7; cf. 7:11-32.

27 Mt 26:28.

28 Cf. Mt 24:1-2.

29 Cf. Mt 24:3; Lk 13:35.

30 Cf Mk 14:57-58; Mt 27 39-40.

31 Cf. Mt 8:4; 16:18; 17:24-27; Lk 17:14; Jn 4:22; 18:20.

32 Cf. Jn 2:21; Mt 12:6.

33 Cf. Jn 2:18-22.

34 Jn 4:21; cf. 4:23-24; Mt 27:5; Heb 9:11; Rev 21:22.

35 Jn 10:36-38.

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

37 Cf. Is 53:1.

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

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

40 cf. Jn 9:16; 10:19.

41 Cf Jn 9:22.

42 Jn 11:48-50.

43 Cf. Mt 26:66; Jn 18:31; Lk 23:2, 19.

44 Cf. Jn 19:12, 15, 21.

45 Cf. Mk 15:11; Acts 2:23, 36; 3:13-14; 4:10; 5:30; 7:52; 10:39; 13:27-28; I Th 2:14-15.

46 Cf. Lk 23:34; Acts 3:17.

47 Mt 27:25; cf. Acts 5:28; 18:6.

48 NA 4.

49 Acts 4:27-28; cf. Ps 2:1-2.

50 Cf. Mt 26:54; Jn 18:36; 19:11; Acts 3:17-18.

51 Jn 13:1; 15:13.

52 Cf. Heb 2:10,17-18; 4:15; 5:7-9.

53 Jn 10:18.

54 Cf. Jn 18:4-6; Mt 26:53.

55 Roman Missal, EP III; cf. Mt 26:20; I Cor 11:23.

56 Lk 22:19; Mt 26:28; cf. I Cor 5:7.

57 Cf. Mt 26:42; Lk 22:20.

58 Phil 2:8; Mt 26:39; cf. Heb 5:7-8.

59 Cf. Rom 5:12; Heb 4:15.

60 Cf. Acts 3:15; Rev 1:17; Jn 1:4; 5:26.

61 1 Pt 224; cf. Mt 26:42.

62 Jn 1:29; cf. 8:34-36; 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pt 1:19.

63 Mt 26:28; cf. Ex 24:8; Lev 16:15-16; Cor 11:25.

64 LG 5.

65 LG 5.

66 Lk 12:32; cf. Mt 10:16; 26:31; Jn 10:1-21.

67 Cf. Mt 12:49.

68 Cf. Mt 5-6.

69 Cf. Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24.

70 Cf. Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22.

71 Cf. 1 Cor 11:20; Rev 19:9.

72 Cf. Mt 14:19; 15:36; Mk 8:6, 19.

73 Cf. Mt 26:26; 1 Cor 11:24.

74 Cf. Lk 24:13-35.

75 Cf. Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11.

76 Cf. 1 Cor 10:16-17.

77 Cf. 1 Cor 11:17-34.

78 Lk 22:7-20; Cf. Mt 26:17-29; Mk 14:12-25; 1 Cor 11:23-26.

79 Lk 22:19-20.

80 Mt 26:28.

81 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1642; cf. Mt 26:26 ff.; Mk 14:22 ff.; Lk 22:19 ff.; 1 Cor 11:24 ff.

82 Mt 26:29; cf. Lk 22:18; Mk 14 25.

83 Rev 1:4; 22 20; 1 Cor 16 22.

84 Didache 10, 6: SCh 248,180.

85 Cf. Lk 15.

86 Mt 1:21.

87 Mt 26:28.

88 Mt 5:21.

89 Cf. Mt 5:22-39; 5:44.

90 Cf. Mt 26:52.

91 Cf. Mt 26:40.

92 Mt 26:41.

93 Cf. Lk 15:11-32, 18:13.

94 Col 1:14; Eph 1:7.

95 Cf. Mt 26:28; Jn 20:23.

96 Cf. Mt 26 41.

97 Jas 113.

98 Cf. Mt 4:1-11; 26:36-44.

99 Jn 17:11; Cf. Mk 13:9, 23, 33-37; 14:38; Lk 12:35-40.

100 Cf. 1 Cor 16:13; Col 4:2; 1 Thess 5:6; 1 Pet 5:8.

101 Rev 16:15.

APPLICATION

Is there any human being, not to mention any Christian, whose heart is so hard and so callous, that he could read or hear of the torments Christ endured during his last twelve hours on earth without being moved to pity and to tears? Even if the victim of this, the cruelest form of execution, crucifixion, were guilty of crimes against humanity, as were the two robbers crucified with him, our hearts should be filled with sympathy for him.

But in the case of Christ we are dealing with a victim who not only had committed no crime, but was incapable of even a venial fault. He had come to save the whole human race–to make all men his brothers and thus co-heirs of an eternal life. To do this he had taken human nature in order to become our brother, and because of the sins of the world he had to die this excruciating death in order to save mankind from the effects of their sins, which would have been eternal death.

Lest we might think that his being divine as well as human might have eased his sufferings in any way, we have proof of the opposite in his agony in the garden, and his pitiful call to his Father as he was dying painfully and slowly on the cross: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” His human nature had to bear the full effects of the torments inflicted on him. This was the will of his Father, which Christ willingly accepted as the prophet Isaiah had foretold centuries before, when he described the Messiah as the “suffering servant” of God.

Looking back today, on that sorrow-laden first Good Friday, there is not one of us who would not gladly have done everything in his power to ease the pains and the sufferings of our loving Savior if he had been there. But, mindful of any past loyalty or lack of loyalty to this Jesus who suffered for us, are we honest with ourselves when we express this sentiment? Did we never imitate Judas and betray Christ and his commandments for the sake of some few unjustly gained pieces of silver? Did we never let our pride and prejudice condemn, offend and unjustly injure out neighbor, just as the pride and prejudice of the chief priests and the Sanhedrin condemned Christ unjustly? Did we never crown him with thorns, and mockingly call him our king when we posed as loyal subjects of his while living lives of sin? Did we never imitate Pilate, who condemned an innocent man–a man he declared innocent–because he feared for his own future comforts and honors? Was our position in politics and power, or possessions, ever more important to us than the true following of Christ and his teaching?

We could go on with our examination of conscience, but surely each one of us can see that he played, in a greater or lesser degree, the part not of a comforter or consoler of Jesus in his torments, but the part of one or other of the wicked actors in the tragedy of Calvary. However, we have the great consolation of knowing that Christ prayed for his tormentors on the cross (Lk. 23:34). and that he included us in this solemn request to his Father. We can still repent of our past sins and turn with confidence to him, assured that he will forgive and forget, and give us a new start.

Let each one of us return from Calvary today, beating our breasts in sorrow for the pains and sufferings we have caused our loving Savior. He died an excruciating death so that we might live an unending life of happiness. We shall live that eternal life if we die now to our sins, our passions, and our weaknesses.

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

BENEDICTUS

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The Liberation of the Resurrection

On the night of Passover the angel of death now passes over Egypt and strikes down its firstborn. Liberation is liberation for life. Christ, the firstborn from the dead, takes death upon himself and, by his Resurrection, shatters death’s power. Death no longer has the last word. The love of the Son proves to be stronger than death because it unites man with God’s love, which is God’ very being. Thus, in the Resurrection of Christ, it is not just the destiny of an individual that is called to mind. He is now perpetually present, because he lives, and he gathers us up, so that we may live: “Because I live, you will live also” (Jn 14: 19). In the light of Easter, Christians see themselves as people who truly live. They have found their way out of an existence that is more death than life. They have discovered real life: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17: 3). Deliverance from death is at the same time deliverance from the captivity of individualism, from the prison of self, from the incapacity to love and make a gift of oneself. Thus Easter becomes the great feast of Baptism, in which man, as it were, enacts the passage through the Red Sea, emerges from his own existence into communion with Christ and so into communion with all who belong to Christ. Resurrection builds communion. It creates the new People of God… The risen Lord does not remain alone. He draws all mankind to himself and so creates a new universal communion of men.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer Commending Ourselves to God

O Lord, into your most merciful hands I commend

my body and soul, thoughts and acts, desires and

intentions. I commend the needs of my body and soul,

future and past, my faith and hope, the end of my life,

the day and hour of my death, the burial and resurrection

of my body. O most merciful God, whose clemency the

sins of the world can never transcend, take me, a sinner,

under the wings of our protection and deliver me from

every evil. cleanse my iniquities, grant me a reformation

of my life, and protect me against future transgressions,

that I may in no manner ever anger You. Shelter my

weakness from passions and evil persons, guard me

against my visible and invisible enemies, lead me on

the road of salvation and to Yourself, the safe harbor

and haven of my desires. Grant me a happy, peaceful,

Christian death, and protect me from evil spirits. Be

merciful to me, your servant, at the great judgment,

and number me among the blessed flock who stand on your

right, that, together with them, I may forever glorify

You, my Creator. Amen.

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Fifth Sunday in Lent – A

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Master, the one you love is ill.”  When Jesus heard this he said,  This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

OPENING PRAYER

Lord,

like the traveler lifting the fallen one on the Jericho road,

healing all his wounds, you went to Lazarus’ tomb,

and would not let him die but loosed the bonds of death,

so great was your love for him.

Savior, we believe you weep at every death,

and pray at every tomb, for all the dead

whose faith is known to you alone.

Like Lazarus, call us your friends,

stay in our company, share what we have,

come to our aid when we call and grant us eternal life.

COLLECT

By your help, we beseech you, Lord our God,

may we walk eagerly in that same charity

with which, out of love for the world,

your Son handed himself over to death.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Ez 37:12-14

Thus says the Lord GOD:

O my people, I will open your graves

and have you rise from them,

and bring you back to the land of Israel.

Then you shall know that I am the LORD,

when I open your graves and have you rise from them,

O my people!

I will put my spirit in you that you may live,

and I will settle you upon your land;

thus you shall know that I am the LORD.

I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 715 The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of “love and fidelity.”1 St. Peter will proclaim their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost.2 According to these promises, at the “end time” the Lord’s Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace.

1 Cf. Ezek 11:19; 36:25-28; 37:1-14; Jer 31:31-34; and cf. Joel 3:1-5.

2 Cf. Acts 2:17-21.

APPLICATION

God revealed himself and his true nature to his Chosen People in the Old Testament by his actions more than by his words. They were a stubborn, stiff-necked people—they were so often ungrateful for all the benefits he conferred on them. They forgot him in material prosperity and only turned to him in need. The idolatry and misconduct of their kings ever since Solomon (with a few notable exceptions), and the no-less-pagan outlook of the majority of the people, brought on them the destruction of Jerusalem with its temple, the center of their life and religion, in the year 587. They had been warned by God’s prophets but they turned a deaf ear to all remonstrances and warnings. When the foretold calamity fell they turned to Yahweh, but too late.

However, when they had done their penance in Babylon, Yahweh came to their aid once more and brought them back to Judah and Jerusalem, where they eventually rebuilt the city and their temple and where they remained until the promised Messiah came.

In all of this we have the merciful, forgiving God, revealing himself, while using this very ungrateful people to carry out his plan for raising the whole human race to adopted divine sonship through the loving mystery of the Incarnation.

We Christians have seen that plan fulfilled. We know we have been adopted by God and made heirs of heaven because Christ made himself our brother. We know too that we shall rise again from the dead and be brought back not to Judah or Jerusalem, but to the land of eternal happiness–to “the Jerusalem that is above.” God revealed much of his divine qualities to the Jews, but how incomparably greater is the revelation we have received from him through the coming of Christ among us!

The Jews of that day had but a very vague idea of life after death; we are certain that our physical death is not the end for us but rather the beginning of our true life. The Jews called God their “father” but because of their infidelity the father-son relationship was a cold one, built more on fear than on love. We call God our Father, but we use the term with sincerity and love for we have become his children through the brotherhood of Christ, his real, divine Son.

God helped the Jews often in their temporal needs, they seldom sought spiritual aid from him. We have in the mystical body of Christ, his Church, all the spiritual helps we need for our journey to heaven, and temporal favors on innumerable occasions, during our stay on earth. God said of his Chosen People: “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done for it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, what did it yield–wild grapes?”

Unfortunately, he has to make the same complaint of many in his Christian vineyard, and how much more has he done for them than he ever did for the Jews? God forbid that any one of us should be deserving of this complaint. When we meet him on the day of judgment let us hope and pray that we will have the true grapes of a virtuous life to offer him.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;

LORD, hear my voice!

Let your ears be attentive

to my voice in supplication.

With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,

LORD, who can stand?

But with you is forgiveness,

that you may be revered.

With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

I trust in the LORD;

my soul trusts in his word.

More than sentinels wait for the dawn,

let Israel wait for the LORD.

With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

For with the LORD is kindness

and with him is plenteous redemption;

And he will redeem Israel

from all their iniquities.

With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

READING II

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Rom 8:8-11

Brothers and sisters:

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh;

on the contrary, you are in the spirit,

if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.

Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

But if Christ is in you,

although the body is dead because of sin,

the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,

the one who raised Christ from the dead

will give life to your mortal bodies also,

through his Spirit dwelling in you.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 632 The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was “raised from the dead” presuppose that the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection.1 This was the first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ’s descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.2

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,3 the Spirit of adoption,4 the Spirit of Christ,5 the Spirit of the Lord,6 and the Spirit of God7 – and, in St. Peter, the Spirit of glory.8

CCC 695 Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit,9 to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called “chrismation” in the Churches of the East. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew “messiah”) means the one “anointed” by God’s Spirit. There were several anointed ones of the Lord in the Old Covenant, pre-eminently King David.10 But Jesus is God’s Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as “Christ.”11 The Virgin Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit who, through the angel, proclaimed him the Christ at his birth, and prompted Simeon to come to the temple to see the Christ of the Lord.12 The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving.13 Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.14 Now, fully established as “Christ” in his humanity victorious over death, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit abundantly until “the saints” constitute – in their union with the humanity of the Son of God – that perfect man “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”:15 “the whole Christ,” in St. Augustine’s expression.

CCC 989 We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day.16 Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity:

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you.17

CCC 990 The term “flesh” refers to man in his state of weakness and mortality.18 The “resurrection of the flesh” (the literal formulation of the Apostles’ Creed) means not only that the immortal soul will live on after death, but that even our “mortal body” will come to life again.19

1 Acts 3:15; Rom 8:11; I Cor 15:20; cf. Heb 13:20.

2 Cf. I Pt 3:18-19.

3 Cf. Gal 3:14; Eph 1:13.

4 Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6.

5 Rom 8:9.

6 2 Cor 3:17.

7 Rom 8:9, 14; 15:19; 1 Cor 6:11; 7:40.

8 1 Pet 4:14.

9 Cf. 1 In 2:20:27; 2 Cor 1:21.

10 Cf. Ex 30:22-32; 1 Sam 16:13.

11 Cf. Lk 418-19; Isa 61:1.

12 Cf. Lk 2:11,26-27.

13 Cf. Lk 4:1; 6:19; 8:46.

14 Cf. Rom 1:4; 8:11.

15 Eph 4:13; cf. Acts 2:36.

16 Cf. Jn 6:39-40.

17 Rom 8:11; cf. 1 Thess 4:14; 1 Cor 6:14; 2 Cor 4:14; Phil 3:10-11.

18 Cf. Gen 6:3; Ps 56:5; Isa 40:6.

19 Rom 8:11.

APPLICATION

The three readings for today, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, have a common theme–resurrection. In Ezekiel the release of the Jews from the captivity and slavery of Babylon is described as a rising from their graves to return to a new life in their own homeland. This is a metaphor, a type of the true resurrection which will come later. In the third reading–the gospel–we have the story of the raising of Lazarus from the tomb, which proves the power Jesus had of raising the dead.

In this second reading, in St. Paul’s instruction to the Roman Christians, we have a direct reference to the future resurrection to a life of unending glory for all those who during their time on earth, were loyal to God and Christ. This resurrection in a new body, which will never again be subject to death or pain or suffering, has been won for us by Christ who, having died for our sins, was raised by the Father on Easter morning.

Only the kindness of an infinitely loving God could plan and provide such a marvelous future for us. “What is man that you are mindful of him?”, the Psalmist says to God. What are we indeed–mere creatures, finite, limited beings, in comparison with the infinite Godhead! Yet, when creating us he gave us the spiritual faculties which enable us to appreciate the good, the beautiful and the perfect. He knew that in this life these powers could never be satisfied, and so he ordained that after “working our passage” through this valley of tears, a new life would await us, an unending life in which, in company with the Blessed Trinity, our blessed Mother and the millions of fellow-saints, we would have eternal contentment and happiness.

The thought of this glorious future should never be far from our minds. It was this thought that enabled the martyrs to face their executioners with joy in their hearts. It was this thought that made the saints rejoice in their bodily sufferings and mortifications. It was this hope of eternal happiness which spurred on the millions of ordinary men and women like ourselves, whose life on earth was a monotonous sequence of one drudgery after another, one misfortune following on the heels of the previous one.

It is by imitating these people that we too will join them when our call will come. It is by bearing the burdens of each day, by welcoming, and seeing God’s will in all the ups and downs of our very ordinary lives, that we can join them. Listen again to these solemn words of St. Paul: “Anyone who does not have the spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” You have the Spirit of Christ in you, if you are striving to live a Christian life. This means taking each day as it comes, offering to God its joys and its sorrows, its honest pleasures and its pains, its sunshine and its showers. All this means: living in peace with God and with your neighbor. This may sound easy but it is not so; it will mean much self-denial, but then think of what awaits us at the end of our road–a resurrection to a new life, an unending life of happiness. God grant that we may all have this happy ending to our earthly journey.

GOSPEL

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Jn 11:1-45

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany,

the village of Mary and her sister Martha.

Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil

and dried his feet with her hair;

it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.

So the sisters sent word to him saying,

Master, the one you love is ill.”

When Jesus heard this he said,

This illness is not to end in death,

but is for the glory of God,

that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

So when he heard that he was ill,

he remained for two days in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to his disciples,

Let us go back to Judea.”

The disciples said to him,

Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you,

and you want to go back there?”

Jesus answered,

Are there not twelve hours in a day?

If one walks during the day, he does not stumble,

because he sees the light of this world.

But if one walks at night, he stumbles,

because the light is not in him.”

He said this, and then told them,

Our friend Lazarus is asleep,

but I am going to awaken him.”

So the disciples said to him,

Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”

But Jesus was talking about his death,

while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.

So then Jesus said to them clearly,

Lazarus has died.

And I am glad for you that I was not there,

that you may believe.

Let us go to him.”

So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples,

Let us also go to die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus

had already been in the tomb for four days.

Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.

And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary

to comfort them about their brother.

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,

she went to meet him;

but Mary sat at home.

Martha said to Jesus,

Lord, if you had been here,

my brother would not have died.

But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,

God will give you.”

Jesus said to her,

Your brother will rise.”

Martha said to him,

I know he will rise,

in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus told her,

I am the resurrection and the life;

whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,

and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.

Do you believe this?”

She said to him, “Yes, Lord.

I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,

the one who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this,

she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying,

The teacher is here and is asking for you.”

As soon as she heard this,

she rose quickly and went to him.

For Jesus had not yet come into the village,

but was still where Martha had met him.

So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her

saw Mary get up quickly and go out,

they followed her,

presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him,

she fell at his feet and said to him,

Lord, if you had been here,

my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping,

he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said,

Where have you laid him?”

They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”

And Jesus wept.

So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”

But some of them said,

Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man

have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.

It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”

Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him,

Lord, by now there will be a stench;

he has been dead for four days.”

Jesus said to her,

Did I not tell you that if you believe

you will see the glory of God?”

So they took away the stone.

And Jesus raised his eyes and said,

Father, I thank you for hearing me.

I know that you always hear me;

but because of the crowd here I have said this,

that they may believe that you sent me.”

And when he had said this,

He cried out in a loud voice,

Lazarus, come out!”

The dead man came out,

tied hand and foot with burial bands,

and his face was wrapped in a cloth.

So Jesus said to them,

Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary

and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 58 The covenant with Noah remains in force during the times of the Gentiles, until the universal proclamation of the Gospel.1 The Bible venerates several great figures among the Gentiles: Abel the just, the king-priest Melchisedek – a figure of Christ – and the upright “Noah, Daniel, and Job”.2 Scripture thus expresses the heights of sanctity that can be reached by those who live according to the covenant of Noah, waiting for Christ to “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad”.3

CCC 60 The people descended from Abraham would be the trustee of the promise made to the patriarchs, the chosen people, called to prepare for that day when God would gather all his children into the unity of the Church.4 They would be the root on to which the Gentiles would be grafted, once they came to believe.5

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.6 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.7

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”,8 and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience.9 This corresponded to the reality of his voluntary emptying of himself, taking “the form of a slave”.10

CCC 548 The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him.11 To those who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask.12 So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father’s works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God.13 But his miracles can also be occasions for “offence”;14 they are not intended to satisfy people’s curiosity or desire for magic Despite his evident miracles some people reject Jesus; he is even accused of acting by the power of demons.15

CCC 581 The Jewish people and their spiritual leaders viewed Jesus as a rabbi.16 He often argued within the framework of rabbinical interpretation of the Law.17 Yet Jesus could not help but offend the teachers of the Law, for he was not content to propose his interpretation alongside theirs but taught the people “as one who had authority, and not as their scribes”.18 In Jesus, the same Word of God that had resounded on Mount Sinai to give the written Law to Moses, made itself heard anew on the Mount of the Beatitudes.19 Jesus did not abolish the Law but fulfilled it by giving its ultimate interpretation in a divine way: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old. .. But I say to you. ..”20 With this same divine authority, he disavowed certain human traditions of the Pharisees that were “making void the word of God”.21

CCC 596 The religious authorities in Jerusalem were not unanimous about what stance to take towards Jesus.22 The Pharisees threatened to excommunicate his followers.23 To those who feared that “everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation”, the high priest Caiaphas replied by prophesying: “It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.”24 The Sanhedrin, having declared Jesus deserving of death as a blasphemer but having lost the right to put anyone to death, hands him over to the Romans, accusing him of political revolt, a charge that puts him in the same category as Barabbas who had been accused of sedition.25 The chief priests also threatened Pilate politically so that he would condemn Jesus to death.26

CCC 627 Christ’s death was a real death in that it put an end to his earthly human existence. But because of the union which the person of the Son retained with his body, his was not a mortal corpse like others, for “it was not possible for death to hold him” 27 28 and therefore “divine power preserved Christ’s body from corruption.” Both of these statements can be said of Christ: “He was cut off out of the land of the living”,29 and “My flesh will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let your Holy One see corruption.”30 Jesus’ resurrection “on the third day” was the sign of this, also because bodily decay was held to begin on the fourth day after death.31

CCC 640 “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”32 The first element we encounter in the framework of the Easter events is the empty tomb. In itself it is not a direct proof of Resurrection; the absence of Christ’s body from the tomb could be explained otherwise.33 Nonetheless the empty tomb was still an essential sign for all. Its discovery by the disciples was the first step toward recognizing the very fact of the Resurrection. This was the case, first with the holy women, and then with Peter.34 The disciple “whom Jesus loved” affirmed that when he entered the empty tomb and discovered “the linen cloths lying there”, “he saw and believed”.35 This suggests that he realized from the empty tomb’s condition that the absence of Jesus’ body could not have been of human doing and that Jesus had not simply returned to earthly life as had been the case with Lazarus.36

CCC 706 Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.37 In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself,38 in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”39 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.”40

CCC 831 Secondly, the Church is catholic because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race:41

All men are called to belong to the new People of God. This People, therefore, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God’s will may be fulfilled: he made human nature one in the beginning and has decreed that all his children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one. .. The character of universality which adorns the People of God is a gift from the Lord himself whereby the Catholic Church ceaselessly and efficaciously seeks for the return of all humanity and all its goods, under Christ the Head in the unity of his Spirit.42

CCC 993 The Pharisees and many of the Lord’s contemporaries hoped for the resurrection. Jesus teaches it firmly. To the Sadducees who deny it he answers, “Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?”43 Faith in the resurrection rests on faith in God who “is not God of the dead, but of the living.”44

CCC 994 But there is more. Jesus links faith in the resurrection to his own person: “I am the Resurrection and the life.”45 It is Jesus himself who on the last day will raise up those who have believed in him, who have eaten his body and drunk his blood.46 Already now in this present life he gives a sign and pledge of this by restoring some of the dead to life,47 announcing thereby his own Resurrection, though it was to be of another order. He speaks of this unique event as the “sign of Jonah,”48 the sign of the temple: he announces that he will be put to death but rise thereafter on the third day.49

CCC 1001 When? Definitively “at the last day,” “at the end of the world.”50 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.51

CCC 2604 The second prayer, before the raising of Lazarus, is recorded by St. John.52 Thanksgiving precedes the event: “Father, I thank you for having heard me,” which implies that the Father always hears his petitions. Jesus immediately adds: “I know that you always hear me,” which implies that Jesus, on his part, constantly made such petitions. Jesus’ prayer, characterized by thanksgiving, reveals to us how to ask: before the gift is given, Jesus commits himself to the One who in giving gives himself. The Giver is more precious than the gift; he is the “treasure”; in him abides his Son’s heart; the gift is given “as well.”53

The priestly prayer of Jesus holds a unique place in the economy of salvation.54 A meditation on it will conclude Section One. It reveals the ever present prayer of our High Priest and, at the same time, contains what he teaches us about our prayer to our Father, which will be developed in Section Two.

CCC 2793 The baptized cannot pray to “our” Father without bringing before him all those for whom he gave his beloved Son. God’s love has no bounds, neither should our prayer.55 Praying “our” Father opens to us the dimensions of his love revealed in Christ: praying with and for all who do not yet know him, so that Christ may “gather into one the children of God.”56 God’s care for all men and for the whole of creation has inspired all the great practitioners of prayer; it should extend our prayer to the full breadth of love whenever we dare to say “our” Father.

1 Cf. Gen 9:16; Lk 21:24; DV 3.

2 Cf. Gen 14:18; Heb 7:3; Ezek 14:14.

3 Jn 11:52.

4 Cf. Rom 11:28; Jn 11:52; 10:16.

5 Cf. Rom 11:17-18,24.

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

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

8 Lk 2:52.

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

10 Phil 2:7.

11 cf. Jn 5:36; 10:25, 38.

12 Cf. Mk 5:25-34; 10:52; etc.

13 Cf. Jn 10:31-38.

14 Mt 11:6.

15 Cf. Jn 11:47-48; Mk 3:22.

16 Cf Jn 11:28; 3:2; Mt 22:23-24, 34-36.

17 Cf. Mt 12:5; 9:12; Mk 2:23-27; Lk 6:6-g; Jn 7:22-23.

18 Mt 7:28-29.

19 Cf. Mt 5:1.

20 Mt 5:33-34.

21 Mk 7:13; cf. 3:8.

22 cf. Jn 9:16; 10:19.

23 Cf Jn 9:22.

24 Jn 11:48-50.

25 Cf. Mt 26:66; Jn 18:31; Lk 23:2, 19.

26 Cf. Jn 19:12, 15, 21.

27 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 51, 3.

28 Acts 2:24.

29 Is 53:8.

30 Acts 2:26-27; cf. Ps 16:9-10.

31 Cf. I Cor 15:4; Lk 24:46; Mt 12:40; Jon 2:1; Hos 6:2; cf. Jn 11:39.

32 Lk 24:5-6.

33 Cf. Jn 20:13; Mt 28:11-15.

34 Cf. Lk 24:3, 12, 22-23.

35 Jn 20:2, 6, 8.

36 Cf. Jn 11:44; 20:5-7.

37 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38. 54-55; Jn 1:12-13; Rom 4:16-21.

38 Cf. Gen 12:3; Gal 3:16.

39 Cf. In 11:52.

40 Eph 1:13-14; cf. Gen 22:17-19; Lk 1:73; Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32; Gal 3:14.

41 Cf. Mt 28:19.

42 LG 13 §§ 1-2; cf. Jn 11:52.

43 Mk 12:24; cf. Jn 11:24; Acts 23:6.

44 Mk 12:27.

45 Jn 11:25.

46 Cf. Jn 5:24-25; 6:40,54.

47 Cf. Mk 5:21-42; Lk 7:11-17; Jn 11.

48 Mt 12:39.

49 Cf. Mk 10:34; Jn 2:19-22.

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

51 1 Thess 4:16.

52 Cf. Jn 11:41-42.

53 Mt 6:21, 33.

54 Cf. Jn 17.

55 Cf. NA 5.

56 Jn 11:52.

APPLICATION

On hearing this story of the resurrection of Lazarus, the question which will arise in the minds of most people is this: why did Jesus allow his best and most faithful friends to suffer anguish for four days? He could have cured Lazarus of his illness the moment he heard of it. Yet he delayed and allowed the sisters to suffer the death of their beloved brother. We have already given the answer above. He wanted to make this, his last recorded miracle, a convincing proof of his claim to be what he was–the Messiah, sent by God to give a new life, an eternal life, to mankind. He also wanted to give his enemies a great impulse and motive to carry out his condemnation and crucifixion, which was the debt he “the suffering servant” of God, was to pay for the sins of mankind.

That his closest friends had to suffer for a while, in order to cooperate with him in his plans was therefore an unavoidable necessity. Is there not here an answer to the questionings of divine providence which we hear so often from otherwise devout followers of Christ? Drowned in their own personal sorrow and grief they cannot see that this very sorrow and grief is part of Christ’s plan for the salvation of men. And the fact that they are loyal, true friends of Christ is the very reason they are chosen to carry this particularly heavy cross. Less faithful friends would not help him, so in his mercy he does not put that extra load on their unwilling shoulders.

Martha and Mary had to live through four sad days, while their friend seemed to forget them. But how great was the reward for their sufferings, when their beloved brother returned to the family circle–a brother they thought they had lost forever! We can well imagine the rejoicing that took place in that home in Bethany (not only that night but for years to follow).

We all have our sorrows and separations from our loved ones. But as in the case of the Bethany family, they are temporary separations. Our dear ones who are taken from us are not lost to us–they are perhaps closer to us and more helpful to us than they ever could have been in this life. And our faith convinces us that we will be reunited soon with them. Christ by his death, has conquered death. He has won eternal life for all men. His resurrection was the prelude (“the first-fruits,” as St. Paul calls it) to the resurrection of all mankind–a resurrection to an eternal life of happiness where families, friends and neighbors will rejoice together in the presence of God for all eternity. The years of sorrow we have to endure here below will look small and trifling indeed when viewed from eternity.

But–and this is a capital but–though Christ has won a new, eternal life of adopted sonship with God for all men, each man must do his part to earn that sonship, to merit the eternal happiness which Christ came to win for us. “God created us without our consent,” says St. Augustine, “but he cannot save us without our cooperation.” We must live our lives then as Christ has taught us.

For every thought we give to death, and we are reminded of it hourly and daily, let us think three times on what will follow after it. If we do, we will never die unprepared. We will have made sure of a happy eternity.

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

BENEDICTUS

Eucharistic Adoration

The Eucharist, and its fellowship, will be all the more complete, the more we prepare ourselves for him in silent prayer before the eucharistic presence of the Lord, the more we truly receive Communion. Adoration such as that is always more than just talking with God in a general way… The Eucharist means God has answered: The Eucharist is God as an answer, as an answering presence. Now the initiative no longer lies with us, in the God-man relationship, but with him, and it now becomes really serious. That is why, in the sphere of eucharistic adoration, prayer attains a new level; now it is two-way, and so now it really is serious business. Indeed, it is now not just two-way, but all inclusive: whenever we pray in the eucharistic presence, we are never alone. Then the whole of the Church, which celebrates the Eucharist, is praying with us. Then we are praying within the sphere of God’s gracious hearing, because we are praying within the sphere of death and Resurrection, that is, where the real petition in all our petitions has been heard: the petition for the victory over death; the petition for the love that is stronger than death. In this prayer we no longer stand before an imagined God but before the God who has truly given himself to us; before the God who has become for us Communion and who thus frees us and draws us from the margin into communion and leads us on to Resurrection. We have to seek again this kind of prayer.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

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Adoration Prayer

I adore You, O Jesus, God of Love, truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament.

I adore You Who has come to Your Own but were not received by them.

I adore You, Whom the majority of mankind rejected and despised.

I adore You, Whom the impious incessantly are offend by their sacrileges and blasphemies.

I adore You, Who are grieved by the coldness and indifference of a vast number of Christians.

I adore You, O Infinite Goodness, Who has wrought so many miracles, in order to reveal Your love to us.

I adore You, with all the angels and saints, and with those chosen souls that are now already the blessed of Your Father and are all aglow with burning love for You.

I adore You with all Your friends, O Jesus! With them I prostrate myself at the foot of the Altar, to offer You my most profound homage, to receive Your Divine Inspiration, and to implore Your grace.

Oh, how good it is for me to be here with You!

How sweet to hear the Voice of my Beloved!

O Victim of Divine Love!

A piercing cry breaks forth from Your Heart here on the Altar, as it once did on Calvary; it is the cry of Love; “I thirst,” You call to Your children, “I thirst for Your love!

Come all, whom I love as My Father has loved Me; come and quench the thirst that consumes Me!

Lord Jesus, behold I come.

My heart is small, but it is all Yours.

You are a prisoner in our Tabernacles, You the Lord of Lords! And love it is, that holds You here as such!

You leave the Tabernacle only to come to us, to unite Yourself with the faithful soul and allow Your Divine Love to reign within.

O King of Love!

Come, live and reign in me.

I want no other law but the law of Your Love!

No, no, I henceforth desire to know nothing, neither of this world nor of what is in it, nor of myself; Your Love alone shall rule in me eternally.

O Jesus, grant me this grace!

Break all my fetters, strip me of all that is not of Yourself, in order that Your Love may be my life here below, and my happiness and delight in eternity, Amen.

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Fourth Sunday of Lent – A

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Then Jesus said, I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for Healing

Lord, You invite all who are burdened to come to you.

Allow your healing hand to heal me.

Touch my soul with Your compassion for others;

touch my heart with Your courage and infinite love for all;

touch my mind with Your wisdom,

and may my mouth always proclaim your praise.

Teach me to reach out to You in all my needs,

and help me to lead others to You by my example.

Most loving heart of Jesus,

bring me health in body and spirit

that I may serve You with all my strength.

Touch gently this life which you have created,

now and forever. Amen.

COLLECT

O God, who through your Word

reconcile the human race to yourself in a wonderful way,

grant, we pray,

that with prompt devotion and eager faith

the Christian people may hasten

toward the solemn celebrations to come.

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 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a

The LORD said to Samuel:

Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way.

I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem,

for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”

As Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice,

Samuel looked at Eliab and thought,

Surely the LORD’s anointed is here before him.”

But the LORD said to Samuel:

Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature,

because I have rejected him.

Not as man sees does God see,

because man sees the appearance

but the LORD looks into the heart.”

In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel,

but Samuel said to Jesse,

The LORD has not chosen any one of these.”

Then Samuel asked Jesse,

Are these all the sons you have?”

Jesse replied,

There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said to Jesse,

Send for him;

we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.”

Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them.

He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold

and making a splendid appearance.

The LORD said,

There—anoint him, for this is the one!”

Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand,

anointed David in the presence of his brothers;

and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 436 The word “Christ” comes from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, which means “anointed”. It became the name proper to Jesus only because he accomplished perfectly the divine mission that “Christ” signifies. In effect, in Israel those consecrated to God for a mission that he gave were anointed in his name. This was the case for kings, for priests and, in rare instances, for prophets.1 This had to be the case all the more so for the Messiah whom God would send to inaugurate his kingdom definitively.2 It was necessary that the Messiah be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord at once as king and priest, and also as prophet.3 Jesus fulfilled the messianic hope of Israel in his threefold office of priest, prophet and king.

CCC 695 Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit,4 to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called “chrismation” in the Churches of the East. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew “messiah”) means the one “anointed” by God’s Spirit. There were several anointed ones of the Lord in the Old Covenant, pre-eminently King David.5 But Jesus is God’s Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as “Christ.”6 The Virgin Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit who, through the angel, proclaimed him the Christ at his birth, and prompted Simeon to come to the temple to see the Christ of the Lord.7 The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving.8 Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.9 Now, fully established as “Christ” in his humanity victorious over death, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit abundantly until “the saints” constitute – in their union with the humanity of the Son of God – that perfect man “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”:10 “the whole Christ,” in St. Augustine’s expression.

1 Cf. Ex 29:7; Lev 8:12; 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 16:1, 12-13; I Kings 1:39; 19:16.

2 Cf. Ps 2:2; Acts 4:26-27.

3 Cf. Is 11:2; 61:1; Zech 4:14; 6:13; Lk 4:16-21.

4 Cf. 1 In 2:20:27; 2 Cor 1:21.

5 Cf. Ex 30:22-32; 1 Sam 16:13.

6 Cf. Lk 418-19; Isa 61:1.

7 Cf. Lk 2:11,26-27.

8 Cf. Lk 4:1; 6:19; 8:46.

9 Cf. Rom 1:4; 8:11.

10 Eph 4:13; cf. Acts 2:36.

APPLICATION

The selection of David, an unimportant shepherd-boy of little Bethlehem, as second King of Israel, was an event which happened over 3,000 years ago, and may at first sight appear to be of little importance for Christians of our century. Yet it has many important lessons to teach us. First and foremost, it shows us how little years and centuries mean to God in his eternal plans. In choosing David he was choosing the royal ancestor of the King of Kings, a thousand years before he came on earth. The day he sent Samuel to Bethlehem, he was planning in advance for you and for me. His thoughts were on us from eternity.

The choice of David, the least likely of Jesse’s sons, is another lesson for us, a lesson to make us humble by admitting our limitations. The whole book of man’s life is open before God; we can see only the cover and the title. In that book, together with his good deeds, God saw the very serious offences David would commit against him in later years, but he also saw his sincere repentance—he still chose David, a consolation surely and an encouragement for all of us sinners, provided our repentance (like David’s) is sincere. And also a lesson for even the holiest of us to avoid rash judgment of our neighbors and of those placed over us.

Another and a very important truth which needs stressing today, perhaps more than ever before, is that all legitimate power exercised by men over their fellowman comes from God. It is part of God’s plan for men’s existence on this earth. Because of the special gifts he has given us, God intends us to live in society, to live together in smaller or greater groups for the benefit of all. For such a group, let it be a tribe or a nation or group of nations, there must be an authority which will regulate the dealings of individuals with one another and with the appointed lawful authority. This authority, provided it is lawfully conferred and lawfully exercised, comes from God and must be accepted, revered and obeyed as such.

And what holds for civil or secular authority holds for authority in the Church also. Christ founded a society in which all the members of his mystical body would live in mutual love and fraternal cooperation. To lead and direct these members Christ appointed leaders to whom he promised his divine assistance. The first leaders were the Apostles, with Peter as their head. Their direct successors are with us still (and will be till the end of time) in the persons of the Pope and the bishops of the Church. To these we owe obedience in all matters that concern our Christian welfare, because this is God’s will and purpose for us.

While those who hold authority in state or Church must exercise that authority with justice and prudence, never forgetting that the power they wield is not their own personal prerogative but is given to them by God, so in like manner must their subjects accept their directives and their laws as coming from God, not from a fellowman.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-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

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Eph 5:8-14

Brothers and sisters:

You were once darkness,

but now you are light in the Lord.

Live as children of light,

for light produces every kind of goodness

and righteousness and truth.

Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness;

rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention

the things done by them in secret;

but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,

for everything that becomes visible is light.

Therefore, it says:

Awake, O sleeper,

and arise from the dead,

and Christ will give you light.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1216 “This bath is called enlightenment, because those who receive this [catechetical] instruction are enlightened in their understanding. ..”1 Having received in Baptism the Word, “the true light that enlightens every man,” the person baptized has been “enlightened,” he becomes a “son of light,” indeed, he becomes “light” himself:2

Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift. .. We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship.3

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.4

CCC 1695 “Justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God,”5 “sanctified. .. [and] called to be saints,”6 Christians have become the temple of the Holy Spirit.7 This “Spirit of the Son” teaches them to pray to the Father8 and, having become their life, prompts them to act so as to bear “the fruit of the Spirit”9 by charity in action. Healing the wounds of sin, the Holy Spirit renews us interiorly through a spiritual transformation.10 He enlightens and strengthens us to live as “children of light” through “all that is good and right and true.”11

CCC 2641 “[Address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.”12 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.13 Doxology, the praise of God, arises from this “marvelous work” of the whole economy of salvation.14

1 St. Justin, Apol. 1, 61, 12: PG 6, 421.

2 Jn 1:9; 1 Thess 5:5; Heb 10:32; Eph 5:8.

3 St. Gregory Of Nazianzus, Oratio 40, 3-4: PG 36, 361C.

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

5 2 Cor 6:11.

6 1 Cor 1:2.

7 Cf. 1 Cor 6:19.

8 Cf. Gal 4:6.

9 Gal 5:22, 25.

10 Cf. Eph 4:23.

11 Eph 5:8, 9.

12 Eph 5:19; Col 3:16.

13 Cf. Phil 2:6-11; Col 1:15-20; Eph 5:14; 1 Tim 3:16; 6:15-16; 2 Tim 2:11-13.

14 Cf. Eph 1:3-14; Rom 16:25-27; Eph 3:20-21; Jude 24-25.

APPLICATION

These words of St. Paul to the Ephesians are applicable to every one of us, especially during this season of Lent. We too have the great blessing of the light of the Christian faith. We, too, have died with Christ in our baptism and have been set on the road to the eternal life. We. too, know “all that is good and right and true,” and we know that if we live according to this knowledge, we will be “pleasing to the Lord” and will be moving steadily towards the destination God in his love and mercy has prepared for us.

That destination is heaven, a place of everlasting happiness which God has planned for us before time began and which is the only place which will satisfy all the desires of the human heart.

Knowing this, one wonders why we need reminders to keep us on our toes: that the purpose of today’s lesson should be to awaken us from the sleep of laziness and forgetfulness of our real purpose in life. But the sad fact is, that, apart from the few truly devoted Christians who never forget what their Christian faith means to them, the vast majority of us are very apt to let the passing pleasures and interests of this life take hold on us and blot out ninety-nine per cent of the Christian light which should illuminate all our daily actions.

Many of us today also are asleep, and need this call to awaken us to a sense of our obligations as Christians. This does not mean that we must change our occupation or cut ourselves off from all our relatives and friends, but that we must change our outlook on life and eternity. We must still carry out our daily, worldly tasks whatever they may be, but we must do these tasks from the Christian motive of pleasing God.

The light which Christ has brought, shows us the true meaning of life. Our short sojourn on earth is our training ground and preparation for the everlasting life which will be ours after death, if we use the few years we are given on this earth properly. If any of us have been sleeping–that is, wasting the valuable time God is giving us–now is the time to wake up to the reality of life. There is still time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. We know not how much time is left, but this we do know, that if we use that time as St. Paul tells us today, if we “walk as children of light,” living our Christian life to the full, we can still earn the resurrection from the dead and receive eternal light from Christ, our brother and our Savior.

GOSPEL

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Jn 9:1-41

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.

His disciples asked him,

Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,

that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered,

Neither he nor his parents sinned;

it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.

We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.

Night is coming when no one can work.

While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

When he had said this, he spat on the ground

and made clay with the saliva,

and smeared the clay on his eyes,

and said to him,

Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—.

So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said,

Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”

Some said, “It is, “

but others said, “No, he just looks like him.”

He said, “I am.”

So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”

He replied,

The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes

and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’

So I went there and washed and was able to see.”

And they said to him, “Where is he?”

He said, “I don’t know.”

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.

Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath.

So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.

He said to them,

He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”

So some of the Pharisees said,

This man is not from God,

because he does not keep the sabbath.”

But others said,

How can a sinful man do such signs?”

And there was a division among them.

So they said to the blind man again,

What do you have to say about him,

since he opened your eyes?”

He said, “He is a prophet.”

Now the Jews did not believe

that he had been blind and gained his sight

until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight.

They asked them,

Is this your son, who you say was born blind?

How does he now see?”

His parents answered and said,

We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.

We do not know how he sees now,

nor do we know who opened his eyes.

Ask him, he is of age;

he can speak for himself.”

His parents said this because they were afraid

of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed

that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ,

he would be expelled from the synagogue.

For this reason his parents said,

He is of age; question him.”

So a second time they called the man who had been blind

and said to him, “Give God the praise!

We know that this man is a sinner.”

He replied,

If he is a sinner, I do not know.

One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”

So they said to him,

What did he do to you?

How did he open your eyes?”

He answered them,

I told you already and you did not listen.

Why do you want to hear it again?

Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

They ridiculed him and said,

You are that man’s disciple;

we are disciples of Moses!

We know that God spoke to Moses,

but we do not know where this one is from.”

The man answered and said to them,

This is what is so amazing,

that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.

We know that God does not listen to sinners,

but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him.

It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.

If this man were not from God,

he would not be able to do anything.”

They answered and said to him,

You were born totally in sin,

and are you trying to teach us?”

Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,

he found him and said, Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

He answered and said,

Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”

Jesus said to him,

You have seen him,

the one speaking with you is he.”

He said,

I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.

Then Jesus said,

I came into this world for judgment,

so that those who do not see might see,

and those who do see might become blind.”

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this

and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?”

Jesus said to them,

If you were blind, you would have no sin;

but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032617.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 575 Many of Jesus’ deeds and words constituted a “sign of contradiction”,1 but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply “the Jews”,2 than for the ordinary People of God.3 To be sure, Christ’s relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;4 Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.5 Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God’s people: the resurrection of the dead,6 certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),7 the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.8

CCC 588 Jesus scandalized the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners as familiarly as with themselves.9 Against those among them “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others”, Jesus affirmed: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”10 He went further by proclaiming before the Pharisees that, since sin is universal, those who pretend not to need salvation are blind to themselves.11

CCC 595 Among the religious authorities of Jerusalem, not only were the Pharisee Nicodemus and the prominent Joseph of Arimathea both secret disciples of Jesus, but there was also long-standing dissension about him, so much so that St. John says of these authorities on the very eve of Christ’s Passion, “many. .. believed in him”, though very imperfectly.12 This is not surprising, if one recalls that on the day after Pentecost “a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” and “some believers. .. belonged to the party of the Pharisees”, to the point that St. James could tell St. Paul, “How many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; and they are all zealous for the Law.”13

CCC 596 The religious authorities in Jerusalem were not unanimous about what stance to take towards Jesus.14 The Pharisees threatened to excommunicate his followers.15 To those who feared that “everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation”, the high priest Caiaphas replied by prophesying: “It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.”16 The Sanhedrin, having declared Jesus deserving of death as a blasphemer but having lost the right to put anyone to death, hands him over to the Romans, accusing him of political revolt, a charge that puts him in the same category as Barabbas who had been accused of sedition.17 The chief priests also threatened Pilate politically so that he would condemn Jesus to death.18

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.19 He performs healings and illustrates his preaching with physical signs or symbolic gestures.20 He gives new meaning to the deeds and signs of the Old Covenant, above all to the Exodus and the Passover,21 for he himself is the meaning of all these signs.

CCC 1504 Often Jesus asks the sick to believe.22 He makes use of signs to heal: spittle and the laying on of hands,23 mud and washing.24 The sick try to touch him, “for power came forth from him and healed them all.”25 And so in the sacraments Christ continues to “touch” us in order to heal us.

CCC 2173 The Gospel reports many incidents when Jesus was accused of violating the sabbath law. But Jesus never fails to respect the holiness of this day.26 He gives this law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”27 With compassion, Christ declares the sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing.28 The sabbath is the day of the Lord of mercies and a day to honor God.29 “The Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”30

CCC 2827 “If any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.”31 Such is the power of the Church’s prayer in the name of her Lord, above all in the Eucharist. Her prayer is also a communion of intercession with the all-holy Mother of God32 and all the saints who have been pleasing to the Lord because they willed his will alone:

It would not be inconsistent with the truth to understand the words, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” to mean: “in the Church as in our Lord Jesus Christ himself”; or “in the Bride who has been betrothed, just as in the Bridegroom who has accomplished the will of the Father.”33

1 Lk 2:34.

2 Cf. Jn 1:19; 2:18; 5:10; 7:13; 9:22; 18:12; 19:38; 20:19.

3 Jn 7:48-49.

4 Cf Lk 13:31.

5 Cf. Lk 7:36; 14:1.

6 Cf. Mt 22:23-34; Lk 20:39.

7 Cf. Mt 6:18.

8 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.

9 Cf. Lk 5:30; 7:36; 11:37; 14:1.

10 Lk 18:9; 5:32; cf. Jn 7:49; 9:34.

11 Cf. Jn 8:33-36; 9:40-41.

12 Jn 12:42; cf. 7:50; 9:16-17; 10:19-21; 19:38-39.

13 Acts 6:7; 15:5; 21:20.

14 cf. Jn 9:16; 10:19.

15 Cf Jn 9:22.

16 Jn 11:48-50.

17 Cf. Mt 26:66; Jn 18:31; Lk 23:2, 19.

18 Cf. Jn 19:12, 15, 21.

19 Cf. Lk 8:10.

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

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

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

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

24 Cf. Jn 9:6-7.

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

26 Cf. Mk 1:21; Jn 9:16.

27 Mk 2:27.

28 Cf. Mk 3:4.

29 Cf. Mt 12:5; Jn 7:23.

30 Mk 2:28.

31 Jn 9:31; Cf. 1 Jn 5:14.

32 Cf. Lk 1:38, 49.

33 St. Augustine, De serm. Dom. 2, 6, 24: PL 34, 1279.

APPLICATION

St. John was an eyewitness of this story. He was one of our Lord’s first disciples and was with him in Jerusalem when this incident took place. That the behavior of the Pharisees made a deep impression on his young mind is evident from the minute details he is able to give when writing his gospel, sixty years later. The Pharisees were opposed to Jesus from the very beginning of his public life (see Jn. 3 & 7). He mixed with publicans and sinners; he preached mercy and forgiveness. Many of the common people all over the country and in Jerusalem itself were becoming his disciples, and this meant that the Pharisees were losing followers and temple revenue. Their personal pride was being hurt and their privileges being weakened. They would have long since put an end to his mission, but “his hour had not yet come” (Jn. 7: 30).

Today’s story shows up this pride and prejudice. They at first refuse to admit a miracle occurred. When the parents convince them that the cured man is their son who was born blind, they attribute the miracle to a sinner, one in league with Satan, but the cured man shows them this is impossible. They then excommunicate the man but they remain convinced that the worker of this miracle is not from God, not the Messiah, but an impostor.

The Pharisees have long since disappeared from history, but there are thousands still among us who are blinded by the same pride and prejudice, refuse to see the truths of God’s revelation as made known to mankind in its fulness by the life and the teaching of Christ. They refuse to admit that God exists or that Christ existed, or that if he did he was the Son of God, who became man in order to make us sons of God and heirs of heaven. In their pride they claim to be absolute masters of their own fate, and they seem or pretend to be content that that fate will end in the death of the body.

Like the fox who lost his tail, they are not content to keep their irrational unbelief to themselves, but want others to join them. They are ever ready to propagate their errors and to accuse believers of childish credulity and folly. We accept their accusations; we are thankful to God and to his beloved Son, Christ, that we have been given the light of faith. Our reason tells us that the marvelous gifts we have are not from ourselves but were given us by a loving God who by the act of creation shared his own goodness with all creatures, but especially with man whom he made “in his own image and likeness.” These gifts of intellect and will we possess are such that they could never be satisfied in the few years we are given in this life. God’s revelation through Christ informs us that there is a future life awaiting us where our spiritual faculties, and our transformed bodies as well, will be fully and fittingly satisfied.

Christ, “the light of the world,” to whom the Pharisees and their modern followers shut their eyes lest they see, is our light and our delight. Through the gift of faith, he has given us a spiritual eyesight, which, while it cannot dispel all the shadows and discomforts of this life, opens up to us a glorious unending future where our God-given gifts will at last find their true purpose, their true satisfaction.

May God shed some of this light on those who in their folly ignore and deny him, and may he never let us falter in our faith and in our fidelity to the baptismal promises which we made to him when, through his grace and generosity, we became his chosen children of light.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Personal Dimension of Forgiveness

As sin, despite all our bonds with the human community, is ultimately something totally personal, so also our healing with forgiveness has to be something totally personal. God does not treat us as part of a collectivity. He knows each one by name, and he calls hum personally and saves him if he has fallen into sin. Even if in all the sacraments, the Lord addresses the person as an individual, the personalist nature of the Christian life is manifested in a particularly clear way in the sacrament of Penance. That means that the personal confession and the forgiveness directed to this person are constitutive parts of the sacrament… Of course, the confession of one’s own sin can seem to be something heavy for the person, because it humbles his pride and confronts him with his poverty. It is this that we need: we suffer exactly for this reason: we shut ourselves up in our delirium of guiltlessness and for this reason we are closed to others and to any comparison with them. In psychotherapeutic treatments a person is made to bear the burden of profound and often dangerous revelations of his inner self. In the sacrament of Penance, the simple confession of one’s guilt is presented with confidence in God’s merciful goodness. It is important to do this without falling into scruples, with the spirit of trust proper to the children of God. In this way confession can become an experience of deliverance, in which the weight of the past is removed from us and we can feel rejuvenated by the merit of the grace of God who each time gives back the youthfulness of the heart.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 50

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

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Third Sunday of Lent – A

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But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer to the Guardian Angel

St. Peter the Studite

O Guardian Angel, protector of my soul and body, to your

care I have been entrusted by Christ. Obtain for me the

forgiveness of the sins I have committed today. Protect

me from the snares of my enemy, that I may never again

offend God by sin. Pray for me, your sinful and

unworthy servant that, through your help, I may become

worthy of the grace and mercy of the most Holy Trinity

and of the immaculate Mother of our Lord God, Jesus

Christ. Amen.

COLLECT

O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness,

who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving

have shown us a remedy for sin,

look graciously on this confession of our lowliness,

that we, who are bowed down by our conscience,

may always be lifted up by your mercy.

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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Ex 17:3-7

In those days, in their thirst for water,

the people grumbled against Moses,

saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?

Was it just to have us die here of thirst

with our children and our livestock?”

So Moses cried out to the LORD,

What shall I do with this people?

a little more and they will stone me!”

The LORD answered Moses,

Go over there in front of the people,

along with some of the elders of Israel,

holding in your hand, as you go,

the staff with which you struck the river.

I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb.

Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it

for the people to drink.”

This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.

The place was called Massah and Meribah,

because the Israelites quarreled there

and tested the LORD, saying,

Is the LORD in our midst or not?”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 694 Water. The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit’s action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As “by one Spirit we were all baptized,” so we are also “made to drink of one Spirit.”1 Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified2 as its source and welling up in us to eternal life.3

CCC 2119 Tempting God consists in putting his goodness and almighty power to the test by word or deed. Thus Satan tried to induce Jesus to throw himself down from the Temple and, by this gesture, force God to act.4 Jesus opposed Satan with the word of God: “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test.”5 The challenge contained in such tempting of God wounds the respect and trust we owe our Creator and Lord. It always harbors doubt about his love, his providence, and his power.6

1 1 Cor 12:13.

2 Jn 19:34; 1 Jn 5:8.

3 Cf. Jn 4:10-14; 738; Ex 17:1-6; Isa 55:1; Zech 14:8; 1 Cor 10:4; Rev 21:6; 22:17.

4 Cf. Lk 4:9.

5 Deut 6:16.

6 Cf. 1 Cor 10:9; Ex 17:2-7; Ps 95:9.

APPLICATION

This incident, which happened over 3,000 years ago and which brings out the ingratitude and the inborn mistrust of the Israelites, is put before us today, not that we should criticize them, but rather that we should look into our own consciences and see how solid and how true is our own trust in God, and how sincere our gratitude to him is for all his past favors.

Unfortunately, we have to admit that many among us are fair-weather Christians. While their ship of life is sailing peacefully on smooth seas they respect God and trust him, because this puts no great strain on their energies. In times like these, to be a good Christian seems very easy, they don’t have to give it much thought. But when storms blow up, and the winds and the waves of life are tossing and throwing them about and threatening to engulf them, it is then that their true faith and sincerity is put to the test.

Like the thirsty Israelites in the desert, they then begin to doubt if God is really there, if he has any interest in them or is not rather a cruel, merciless, far-away being who delights in their misfortunes. All the past favors, all the days of good health and prosperity, are immediately forgotten, because these past benefits were rarely or never attributed to God with any real sincerity.

Such Christians, and there are more of them today perhaps than ever before, have forgotten that their earthly life is but a journey, not from the cradle to the grave, but from baptism to the beatific vision in heaven. Anyone, who realizes that he is on a journey, will expect inconveniences and difficulties and will accept them as such, knowing that they are of the essence of a journey. But the man who foolishly, against all the proofs and evidence of human history, thinks he can build an abode of permanent happiness for himself on this earth, is preparing himself for a rude and shocking awakening.

Yet, millions of our fellowman are today feverishly building an earthly Utopia, and are enticing others to join them and help find once more the earthly garden of Eden. Get rid of all governments, including the divine Ruler; get rid of all authority from above, including the ten commandments and the teaching Church; and then peace and brotherhood and plenty for all will flood the earth! These are the slogans of the new saviors of the human race.

The truth is very different: God created us and made us what we are. God gives each one of us a short period on this world during which, aided by the Incarnate Son of God, and by the means of grace and reconcilation he left us in his Church, we can wend our way to the true Utopia, eternal life with God. To reach this end that God has in store for us, the trials and tests of life are as important, and as useful, as the moments of quiet calm and earthly well-being. In many cases they may be far more useful, as they may be just what we need to reawaken in our drowsy minds the purpose for which we are on earth.

When next tempted to imitate the murmuring and ungrateful Israelites in the desert, think instead of the loving God who brought you out of the Egypt of nothingness and who is, through these very trials and sufferings, getting you ready to enter the promised land, not of Canaan, but of heaven.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;

let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;

let us joyfully sing psalms to him.

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us bow down in worship;

let us kneel before the LORD who made us.

For he is our God,

and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice:

Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,

as in the day of Massah in the desert,

Where your fathers tempted me;

they tested me though they had seen my works.”

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

READING II

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Rom 5:1-2, 5-8

Brothers and sisters:

Since we have been justified by faith,

we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

through whom we have gained access by faith

to this grace in which we stand,

and we boast in hope of the glory of God.

And hope does not disappoint,

because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts

through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For Christ, while we were still helpless,

died at the appointed time for the ungodly.

Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person,

though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.

But God proves his love for us

in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 368 The spiritual tradition of the Church also emphasizes the heart, in the biblical sense of the depths of one’s being, where the person decides for or against God.1

CCC 733 “God is Love”2 and love is his first gift, containing all others. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”3

CCC 1820 Christian hope unfolds from the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in the proclamation of the beatitudes. The beatitudes raise our hope toward heaven as the new Promised Land; they trace the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus. But through the merits of Jesus Christ and of his Passion, God keeps us in the “hope that does not disappoint.”4 Hope is the “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. .. that enters. .. where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.”5 Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation: “Let us. .. put on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”6 It affords us joy even under trial: “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation.”7 Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the Our Father, the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire.

CCC 2658 “Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”8 Prayer, formed by the liturgical life, draws everything into the love by which we are loved in Christ and which enables us to respond to him by loving as he has loved us. Love is the source of prayer; whoever draws from it reaches the summit of prayer. In the words of the Cure of Ars:

l love you, O my God, and my only desire is to love you until the last breath of my life. I love you, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving you, than live without loving you. I love you, Lord, and the only grace I ask is to love you eternally. .. My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love you, I want my heart to repeat it to you as often as I draw breath.9

CCC 2734 Filial trust is tested – it proves itself – in tribulation.10 The principal difficulty concerns the prayer of petition, for oneself or for others in intercession. Some even stop praying because they think their petition is not heard. Here two questions should be asked: Why do we think our petition has not been heard? How is our prayer heard, how is it “efficacious”?

CCC 2847 The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man,11 and temptation, which leads to sin and death.12 We must also discern between being tempted and consenting to temptation. Finally, discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a “delight to the eyes” and desirable,13 when in reality its fruit is death.

God does not want to impose the good, but wants free beings. .. There is a certain usefulness to temptation. No one but God knows what our soul has received from him, not even we ourselves. But temptation reveals it in order to teach us to know ourselves, and in this way we discover our evil inclinations and are obliged to give thanks for the goods that temptation has revealed to us.14

1 Cf. Jer 31:33; Dt 6:5; 29:3; Is 29:13; Ezek 36:26; Mt 6:21; Lk 8:15; Rom 5:5.

2 1 Jn 4:8,1.

3 Rom 5:5.

4 Rom 5:5.

5 Heb 6:19-20.

6 1 Thess 5:8.

7 Rom 12:12.

8 Rom 5:5.

9 St. John Vianney, Prayer.

10 Cf. Rom 5:3-5.

11 Cf. Lk. 8:13-15; Acts 14:22; Rom 5:3-5; 2 Tim 3:12.

12 Cf. Jas 1:14-15.

13 Cf. Gen 3:6.

14 Origen, De orat. 29 PG 11, 544CD.

APPLICATION

The uppermost thought in any mind today must be gratitude, a heartfelt thankfulness, to the all-good, all-merciful God, who deigned to send his Son down to earth in order to raise us up and make us heirs to heaven. This seems almost too good to be true, because our finite minds are incapable of grasping what infinite love is. We all have a bit of true love for our neighbor in us, but how limited, how fickle it is! If we honestly try to help a neighbor, who is in great spiritual or temporal need, but find he is abusing our generosity and lapsing back into the same spiritual or worldly faults, how quickly we can grow tired of him! How easily we can persuade ourselves that we are wasting our efforts, that he has really proved himself unworthy of any claim on our charity!

Yet, God conferred the greatest benefit that even he could confer on a creature, when he adopted us as his sons, even though the whole human race almost had abused the gifts he had already given them, and even though he foresaw that many who would at first appreciate this, his greatest gift, would forget and abuse it later.

Many of us are among the latter; we have often sinned and strayed from the high road to heaven, marked out for us by him. It’s a cause for shame and confusion, and indeed a cause for the deepest despair, were it not that we know his mercy and love in our regard are infinite. He is like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, ever waiting for the return of the sinner. But, much as he would love to, he cannot welcome us back unless we return. He gave us our free-will and he will not force us to any unwilling act. Who is there among us who would say the Prodigal Son was foolish to return home to such love and luxury? Yet, all those among us who prefer to continue in their sinful ways are saying just that about themselves. They say that they prefer the swineherd’s job, and the husks fed to the swine, to being a respected and beloved son in their father’s home.

We would all deny that we are making any such foolish choice. But unless we abandon sin, and return to God with a sincere heart, we are excluding ourselves from the eternal home Christ won for us, and becoming instead eternal prodigals. Granted God’s mercy to be infinite, our human life is not. And the man who tries to convince himself that he will put all things right with God when his end is nearer, is only adding the sin of presumption to his other actual and habitual sins.

Eternity is too long to take any foolish chances with it. Human life on earth is too short and too uncertain to count on even an extra day, one extra hour. Let us use this holy season of Lent to put ourselves right with God. Nobody else can do this for us, not even the all-merciful God unless we cooperate with him.

GOSPEL

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Jn 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,

near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.

Jacob’s well was there.

Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.

It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.

Jesus said to her,

Give me a drink.”

His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.

The Samaritan woman said to him,

How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”

For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—

Jesus answered and said to her,

If you knew the gift of God

and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘

you would have asked him

and he would have given you living water.”

The woman said to him,

Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;

where then can you get this living water?

Are you greater than our father Jacob,

who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself

with his children and his flocks?”

Jesus answered and said to her,

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;

but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;

the water I shall give will become in him

a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him,

Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty

or have to keep coming here to draw water.

I can see that you are a prophet.

Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;

but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus said to her,

Believe me, woman, the hour is coming

when you will worship the Father

neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

You people worship what you do not understand;

we worship what we understand,

because salvation is from the Jews.

But the hour is coming, and is now here,

when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;

and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.

God is Spirit, and those who worship him

must worship in Spirit and truth.”

The woman said to him,

I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;

when he comes, he will tell us everything.”

Jesus said to her,

I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him.

When the Samaritans came to him,

they invited him to stay with them;

and he stayed there two days.

Many more began to believe in him because of his word,

and they said to the woman,

We no longer believe because of your word;

for we have heard for ourselves,

and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031917.cfm

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 516 Christ’s whole earthly life – his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking – is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”3 Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest “God’s love. .. among us”.4

CCC 528 The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee.5 In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations.6 Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament.7 The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs”, and acquires Israelitica dignitas8 (is made “worthy of the heritage of Israel”).

CCC 544 The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to “preach good news to the poor”;9 he declares them blessed, for “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”10 To them – the “little ones” the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned.11 Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst and privation.12 Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom.13

CCC 586 Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation of his future Church.14 He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God’s definitive dwelling-place among men.15 Therefore his being put to bodily death16 presaged the destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation: “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”17

CCC 606 The Son of God, who came down “from heaven, not to do [his] own will, but the will of him who sent [him]”,18 said on coming into the world, “Lo, I have come to do your will, O God.” “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”19 From the first moment of his Incarnation the Son embraces the Father’s plan of divine salvation in his redemptive mission: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.”20 The sacrifice of Jesus “for the sins of the whole world”21 expresses his loving communion with the Father. “The Father loves me, because I lay down my life”, said the Lord, “[for] I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”22

CCC 694 Water. The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit’s action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As “by one Spirit we were all baptized,” so we are also “made to drink of one Spirit.”23 Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified24 as its source and welling up in us to eternal life.25

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.26 He also alludes to the Spirit in speaking to Nicodemus,27 to the Samaritan woman,28 and to those who take part in the feast of Tabernacles.29 To his disciples he speaks openly of the Spirit in connection with prayer30 and with the witness they will have to bear.31

CCC 1137 The book of Revelation of St. John, read in the Church’s liturgy, first reveals to us, “A throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne”: “the Lord God.”32 It then shows the Lamb, “standing, as though it had been slain”: Christ crucified and risen, the one high priest of the true sanctuary, the same one “who offers and is offered, who gives and is given.”33 Finally it presents “the river of the water of life. .. flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb,” one of most beautiful symbols of the Holy Spirit.34

CCC 1179 The worship “in Spirit and in truth”35 of the New Covenant is not tied exclusively to any one place. The whole earth is sacred and entrusted to the children of men. What matters above all is that, when the faithful assemble in the same place, they are the “living stones,” gathered to be “built into a spiritual house.”36 For the Body of the risen Christ is the spiritual temple from which the source of living water springs forth: incorporated into Christ by the Holy Spirit, “we are the temple of the living God.”37

CCC 1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:38

Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.39

CCC 2560 “If you knew the gift of God!”40 The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.41

CCC 2561 “You would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”42 Paradoxically our prayer of petition is a response to the plea of the living God: “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water!”43 Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation and also a response of love to the thirst of the only Son of God.44

CCC 2611 The prayer of faith consists not only in saying “Lord, Lord,” but in disposing the heart to do the will of the Father.45 Jesus calls his disciples to bring into their prayer this concern for cooperating with the divine plan.46

CCC 2652 The Holy Spirit is the living water “welling up to eternal life”47 in the heart that prays. It is he who teaches us to accept it at its source: Christ. Indeed in the Christian life there are several wellsprings where Christ awaits us to enable us to drink of the Holy Spirit.

CCC 2824 In Christ, and through his human will, the will of the Father has been perfectly fulfilled once for all. Jesus said on entering into this world: “Lo, I have come to do your will, O God.”48 Only Jesus can say: “I always do what is pleasing to him.”49 In the prayer of his agony, he consents totally to this will: “not my will, but yours be done.”50 For this reason Jesus “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.”51 “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”52

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 Jn 14:9; Lk 9:35; cf. Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7, “my beloved Son”.

4 Jn 4:9.

5 Mt 2:1; cf. LH, Epiphany, Evening Prayer II, Antiphon at the Canticle of Mary.

6 Cf Mt 2:2; Num 24:17-19; Rev 22:16.

7 Cf Jn 4 22; Mt 2:4-6.

8 St. Leo the Great, Sermo 3 in epiphania Domini 1-3, 5: PL 54, 242; LH, Epiphany, OR; Roman Missal, Easter Vigil 26, Prayer after the third reading.

9 Lk 4:18; cf. 7:22.

10 Mt 5:3.

11 Cf. Mt 11:25.

12 Cf. Mt 21:18; Mk 2:23-26; Jn 4:6 1; 19:28; Lk 9:58.

13 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

14 Cf. Mt 8:4; 16:18; 17:24-27; Lk 17:14; Jn 4:22; 18:20.

15 Cf. Jn 2:21; Mt 12:6.

16 Cf. Jn 2:18-22.

17 Jn 4:21; cf. 4:23-24; Mt 27:5; Heb 9:11; Rev 21:22.

18 Jn 6:38.

19 Heb 10:5-10.

20 Jn 4:34.

21 1 Jn 2:2.

22 Jn 10:17; 14:31.

23 1 Cor 12:13.

24 Jn 19:34; 1 Jn 5:8.

25 Cf. Jn 4:10-14; 738; Ex 17:1-6; Isa 55:1; Zech 14:8; 1 Cor 10:4; Rev 21:6; 22:17.

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

27 Cf. Jn 3:5-8.

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

29 Cf. Jn 7:37-39.

30 Cf. Lk 11:13.

31 Cf. Mt 10:19-20.

32 Rev 4:2, 8; Isa 6:1; cf. Ezek 1:26-28.

33 Rev 5:6; Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Anaphora; cf. Jn 1:29; Heb 4:14-15; 10:19-2.

34 Rev 22:1; cf. 21:6; Jn 4:10-14.

35 Jn 4:24.

36 1 Pet 2:4-5.

37 2 Cor 6:16.

38 Cf. Jn 4:14; 7:38-39.

39 2 Cor 5:17-18.

40 Jn 4:10.

41 Cf. St. Augustine De diversis quaestionibus octoginta tribus 64, 4: PL 40, 56.

42 Jn 4:10.

43 Jer 2:13.

44 Cf. Jn 7:37-39; 19:28; Isa 12:3; 51:1; Zech 12:10; 13:1.

45 Cf. Mt 7:21.

46 Cf. Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2; Jn 4:34.

47 Jn 4:14

48 Heb 10:7; Ps 40:7.

49 Jn 8:29.

50 Lk 22:42; cf. Jn 4:34; 5:30; 6:38.

51 Gal 1:4.

52 Heb 10:10.

APPLICATION

In the first reading today, we saw the Israelites rebelling against God and calling him a murderer, because they thought they were in danger of dying of bodily thirst in the desert. He mercifully forgave their blasphemies and gave them an abundance of water. In the gospel just read, Christ tells the Samaritan woman, and through her all mankind, that the “spiritual drink” he has come to give men is not primarily given to preserve bodily life, but rather to give eternal life to those who will drink of it. Not only will they know and serve the true God in this life, but they will be given a right to an everlasting life with God if they serve him “in spirit and in truth” during their earthly life.

This is the kernel, the essence of our Christian religion. In baptism we have been made sons of God, heirs of heaven, and directed towards our eternal destination. Christ, in his divine mercy, has given to his Church all the means and all the helps we need on that journey. We have the road-maps clearly drawn for us in the infallible, dogmatic and moral teaching of the Church. We have the first-aid stations along the route, where those who injure themselves by sin, can be medicated and made sound once more. We have, above all, the miraculous nourishment of the Eucharist–the manna of the New Testament–Christ himself, who so lovingly and condescendingly arranged to be our spiritual food and sustenance during life’s journey.

Could even God have done any more for us in order to bring us to heaven? Can there exist a thinking Christian who would be so neglectful of his own true and lasting welfare–not to mention the ingratitude to the one who has done so much for him–that he would ignore the divine guidance and graces given him, and be content to sit by the wayside in spiritual rags and misery? It is almost unthinkable that such a man could exist.

There is another secondary lesson–but a very practical and urgent one, especially in our day–to be learned from this incident at Jacob’s well. It is the lesson that condemns racialism. St. Paul (and the other Apostles), insisted that the gospel of Christ and the brotherhood of Christ were for all men. There was neither “Jew nor Gentile, Greek nor barbarian,” Paul said, as far as Christianity was concerned. No less an authority than Christ himself had first taught that truth, and he taught it at Jacob’s well as told in today’s gospel.

For centuries, Jews and Samaritans were bitter enemies. Even individuals were not on speaking terms. That day at Jacob’s well Christ broke down this separating wall. While admitting that their knowledge, up to now, of the true God was faulty, they too were acceptable to God, as his adopted children. They too could and would become members of his earthly and eternal kingdom.

Have we not all a lesson to learn from our Lord’s mercy and kindness, which broke through racial and national barriers on that day in Samaria? Has not something very basic gone wrong with our Christianity, or rather with our application of it to our own daily lives, when our world is torn to pieces by fraternal strife? Not only is one nation against or threatening another, but groups and factions, classes, creeds and colors are fighting one another within the one nation. We may well be surprised when we learn that the family next door is at loggerheads. Why, we say, aren’t they one family? Why can’t they live in love and harmony as a family should? But what is our country–what is this planet on which we live, but the home of one family–the family of God, the human race? Why are we quarreling, why do we hate one another, why cannot we live in peace?

We can, and we will, if and when each one of us recognizes his fellowman as his brothers. It is the charity of Christ, practiced as Christ practiced it towards us, and not demonstrations, or protests, or force of arms, that will make this earth once more the true (if temporal) home of the whole human family.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Richness of Giving

A fantasy of people with property takes no account of the fact that, for the great majority of mankind, life is a struggle. On those grounds I would see this idea of choosing one’s own path in life as a selfish attitude and as a wast of one’s vocation. Anyone who thinks he already has it all, so that he can take what he wants and center everything on himself, is depriving himself of giving what he otherwise could. Man is not there to make himself, but to respond to demands made upon him. We all stand in a great arena of history and are dependent on each other. A man ought not, therefore, just to figure out what he would like, but to ask what he can do and how he can help. Then he will see that fulfillment does not lie in comfort, ease, and following ones inclinations, but precisely in allowing demands to be made upon you, in taking the harder path. Everything else turns out somehow boring, anyway. Only the man who “risks the fire,” who recognizes a calling within himself, a vocation, an ideal he must satisfy, who takes on real responsibility, will find fulfillment. It is not in taking, not on the path of comfort, that we become rich, but only in giving.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer Commending Ourselves to God

O Lord, into your most merciful hands I commend my

body and soul, thoughts and acts, desires and intentions.

I commend the needs of my body and soul, future and

past, my faith and hope, the end of my life, the day and

hour of my death, the burial and resurrection of my body.

O most merciful God, whose clemency the sins of the world

can never transcend, take me, a sinner, under the wings

of our protection and deliver me from every evil.

cleanse my iniquities, grant me a reformation of my

life, and protect me against future transgressions,

that I may in no manner ever anger You. Shelter my

weakness from passions and evil persons, guard me

against my visible and invisible enemies, lead me on

the road of salvation and to Yourself, the safe harbor

and haven of my desires. Grant me a happy, peaceful,

Christian death, and protect me from evil spirits. Be

merciful to me, your servant, at the great judgment,

and number me among the blessed flock who stand

on your right, that, together with them, I may forever

glorify You, my Creator. Amen.

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Second Sunday of Lent – A

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        “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for the Intercession of St. Joseph

Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. I place in you all my interests and desires. Oh, St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath.

St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls – Pray for me.

COLLECT

O God, who have commanded us

to listen to your beloved Son,

be pleased, we pray,

to nourish us inwardly by your word,

that, with spiritual sight made pure,

we may rejoice to behold your glory.

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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GN 12:1-4a

The LORD said to Abram:

Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk

and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.

I will make of you a great nation,

and I will bless you;

I will make your name great,

so that you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you

and curse those who curse you.

All the communities of the earth

shall find blessing in you.”

Abram went as the LORD directed him.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 59 In order to gather together scattered humanity God calls Abram from his country, his kindred and his father’s house,1 and makes him Abraham, that is, “the father of a multitude of nations”. “In you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”2

CCC 145 The Letter to the Hebrews, in its great eulogy of the faith of Israel’s ancestors, lays special emphasis on Abraham’s faith: “By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go.”3 By faith, he lived as a stranger and pilgrim in the promised land.4 By faith, Sarah was given to conceive the son of the promise. And by faith Abraham offered his only son in sacrifice.5

CCC 343 Man is the summit of the Creator’s work, as the inspired account expresses by clearly distinguishing the creation of man from that of the other creatures.6

CCC 706 Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.7 In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself,8 in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”9 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.”10

CCC 762 The remote preparation for this gathering together of the People of God begins when he calls Abraham and promises that he will become the father of a great people.11 Its immediate preparation begins with Israel’s election as the People of God. By this election, Israel is to be the sign of the future gathering of All nations.12 But the prophets accuse Israel of breaking the covenant and behaving like a prostitute. They announce a new and eternal covenant. “Christ instituted this New Covenant.”13

CCC 1669 Sacramentals derive from the baptismal priesthood: every baptized person is called to be a “blessing,” and to bless.14 Hence lay people may preside at certain blessings; the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests, or deacons).15

CCC 2570 When God calls him, Abraham goes forth “as the Lord had told him”;16 Abraham’s heart is entirely submissive to the Word and so he obeys. Such attentiveness of the heart, whose decisions are made according to God’s will, is essential to prayer, while the words used count only in relation to it. Abraham’s prayer is expressed first by deeds: a man of silence, he constructs an altar to the Lord at each stage of his journey. Only later does Abraham’s first prayer in words appear: a veiled complaint reminding God of his promises which seem unfulfilled.17 Thus one aspect of the drama of prayer appears from the beginning: the test of faith in the fidelity of God.

CCC 2676 This twofold movement of prayer to Mary has found a privileged expression in the Ave Maria:

Hail Mary [or Rejoice, Mary]: the greeting of the angel Gabriel opens this prayer. It is God himself who, through his angel as intermediary, greets Mary. Our prayer dares to take up this greeting to Mary with the regard God had for the lowliness of his humble servant and to exult in the joy he finds in her.18

Full of grace, the Lord is with thee: These two phrases of the angel’s greeting shed light on one another. Mary is full of grace because the Lord is with her. The grace with which she is filled is the presence of him who is the source of all grace. “Rejoice. .. O Daughter of Jerusalem. .. the Lord your God is in your midst.”19 Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is “the dwelling of God. .. with men.”20 Full of grace, Mary is wholly given over to him who has come to dwell in her and whom she is about to give to the world.

Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. After the angel’s greeting, we make Elizabeth’s greeting our own. “Filled with the Holy Spirit,” Elizabeth is the first in the long succession of generations who have called Mary “blessed.”21 “Blessed is she who believed. .. ”22 Mary is “blessed among women” because she believed in the fulfillment of the Lord’s word. Abraham. because of his faith, became a blessing for all the nations of the earth.23 Mary, because of her faith, became the mother of believers, through whom all nations of the earth receive him who is God’s own blessing: Jesus, the “fruit of thy womb.”

1 Gen 12:1.

2 Gen 17:5; 12:3 (LXX); cf. Gal 3:8.

3 Heb 11:8; cf. Gen 12:1-4.

4 Cf. Gen 23:4.

5 Cf. Heb 11:17.

6 Cf. Gen 1-26.

7 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38. 54-55; Jn 1:12-13; Rom 4:16-21.

8 Cf. Gen 12:3; Gal 3:16.

9 Cf. In 11:52.

10 Eph 1:13-14; cf. Gen 22:17-19; Lk 1:73; Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32; Gal 3:14.

11 Cf. Gen 12:2; 15:5-6.

12 Cf. Ex 19:5-6; Deut 7:6; Isa 2:2-5; Mic 4:1-4.

13 LG 9; cf. Hos 1; Isa 1:2-4; Jer 2; 31:31-34; Isa 55:3.

14 Cf. Gen 12:2; Lk 6:28; Rom 12:14; 1 Pet 3:9.

15 Cf. SC 79; CIC, can. 1168; De Ben 16, 18.

16 Gen 12:4.

17 Cf. Gen 15:2 f.

18 Cf. Lk 1:48; Zeph 3:17b.

19 Zeph 3:14,17a.

20 Rev 21:3.

21 Lk 1:41, 48.

22 Lk 1:45.

23 Cf. Gen 12:3.

APPLICATION

God’s mercy and love for us men is the first lesson this call of Abram should teach us. Over 3,800 years ago God began the proximate preparations for opening heaven to us. He converted the pagan Abram and got him to leave his idol–worshiping family, kinsmen and country. He set him up in Canaan and promised him a great posterity with numerous descendants, who would eventually possess that land. His purpose in doing this was to preserve the knowledge of the true God, and continually enlarge on that knowledge, until the “fulness of time” and the fulness of his knowledge would come to all men in the Incarnation.

The story of God’s infinite patience in his dealings with the descendants of Abram, as narrated in the Old Testament, is another convincing proof of his infinite love for us. Only infinite love could have persevered in the face of the stubborn hard-heartedness, repeated ingratitude and infidelities of his Chosen People. But infinite love prevailed; a remnant of that people was preserved until the promised one, the Messiah, through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed, came on earth.

Another lesson which every Christian should learn from the call of Abram, is that each and every one of us, no matter what our state in life may be, is called like Abram to preserve the knowledge of God in our own life, and to do all in our power to bring that knowledge to our neighbors. Some are asked to leave their home and their country and go to a land that God chooses for their apostolate. These are the missionaries, who are called on to do more than the rest of us. Their task is more arduous; their vocation makes greater demands on human nature; but God is with them and their reward is great.

But those of us, the vast majority of Christians, who are not called to the mission-fields, are still called to the apostolate. Every one of us has the call and the obligation to share his knowledge of God with his neighbors. We are adopted sons of God, true sons of Abram. We are a small part of the whole human race which God wants in heaven. As he looked to the Chosen People of old to help him in bringing eternal life to all nations, so he looks to us now to continue the same divine task.

The Incarnation has made all men sons of God, brothers of Christ and true brothers of one another. Am I really a brother of Christ if I have no interest in the true welfare of my neighbor, my brother? If I shrug my shoulders and say that I have enough to do to try to get to heaven myself, without having to bother with my neighbor, this is a sure sign that I am not trying to get to heaven. If my Christian life does not include the good example of true Christian living, a word of advice for a brother who needs it, a daily prayer for the salvation of all my fellow-travelers to heaven, I am not on the road to heaven myself.

Lent is a very suitable occasion to examine my past conduct in this regard. Christ suffered and died on the cross to open heaven for all men. He rose from the dead–“the first-fruits” of the millions of those who will one day rise from the dead and enter into a new and everlasting life. That some, and maybe many, of my fellowman will reap the reward of what Christ did for them, will and does depend on my true charity. If I fail in this duty, if I turn a deaf ear to this Christian vocation, I am gravely endangering my own participation in the eternal happiness won for me by Christ.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

PS 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22

Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

Upright is the word of the LORD,

and all his works are trustworthy.

He loves justice and right;

of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.

Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,

upon those who hope for his kindness,

To deliver them from death

and preserve them in spite of famine.

Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

Our soul waits for the LORD,

who is our help and our shield.

May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us

who have put our hope in you.

Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

READING II

9210106e37433985a2b1e0bd192c49b3.jpg

2 Tim 1:8b-10

Beloved:

Bear your share of hardship for the gospel

with the strength that comes from God.

He saved us and called us to a holy life,

not according to our works

but according to his own design

and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began,

but now made manifest

through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus,

who destroyed death and brought life and immortality

to light through the gospel.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 257 “O blessed light, O Trinity and first Unity!”1 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”.2 This plan is a “grace [which] was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began”, stemming immediately from Trinitarian love.3 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.4

CCC 1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.5 The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others.6

CCC 2471 Before Pilate, Christ proclaims that he “has come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.”7 The Christian is not to “be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord.”8 In situations that require witness to the faith, the Christian must profess it without equivocation, after the example of St. Paul before his judges. We must keep “a clear conscience toward God and toward men.”9

1 LH, Hymn for Evening Prayer.

2 Eph 1:4-5,9; Rom 8:15,29.

3 2 Tim 1:9-10.

4 Cf. AG 2-9.

5 Cf. 2 Tim 1:9-10.

6 Cf. Lk 16:22; 23:43; Mt 16:26; 2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23; Heb 9:27; 12:23.

7 Jn 18:37.

8 2 Tim 1:8.

9 Acts 24:16.

APPLICATION

The old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt,” can be true of spiritual as well as material things. We Christians often so take our faith, with all it means for us, for granted, that we fail to appreciate it as we should. If St. Paul felt it necessary to remind Timothy, his faithful co-worker, of vigilance, how much more necessary are his words of exhortation for each one of us today!

Even the holiest of us can get into a rut and forget what our real purpose in life is. We were created by God and given marvelous gifts to make our way through this life, This is already something for which we should be most grateful. But, as God saw, what good would 90 or 100 years of happiness be for a human being on this earth, if he would have to leave it all and end as a little pile of dust in a cemetery?

So, the all-wise and all-loving God decreed that we should not end in the grave, but that instead our real life would begin after our physical death on earth. We would be taken into the eternal life of the Trinity, through the privilege of adoption, which the Incarnation would earn for us. This is the basis of our Christian faith and hope. This is the end and purpose of our Christian way of living while here on earth. This end and purpose we should never forget.

It is true that we have many earthly occupations and concerns, many passing sources of worry and distraction, but these should not, and need not be a hindrance in our daily cares and crosses to lift us up above our earthly status. We must make them aids on our journey, rather than let them be impediments. To do this, we must never forget the plan God has for us. We must never forget what the coming of Christ in our human nature means for us. He has “abolished death” and brought us immortality. Physical death is no longer to be feared; it is not the end for us but the beginning, provided we do the relatively little that is expected of us.

Are we all doing the little that the Christian gospel demands of us? Don’t wait until tomorrow, or next week, to give yourself an honest answer to this question. There may be no tomorrow, no next week, for you. Thank God, that you have today, use it as if it were your last day on earth. It will be the last day for over 100,000–you could easily be one of that large number.

GOSPEL

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MT 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,

and led them up a high mountain by themselves.

And he was transfigured before them;

his face shone like the sun

and his clothes became white as light.

And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,

conversing with him.

Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,

Lord, it is good that we are here.

If you wish, I will make three tents here,

one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

While he was still speaking, behold,

a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,

then from the cloud came a voice that said,

This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;

listen to him.”

When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate

and were very much afraid.

But Jesus came and touched them, saying,

Rise, and do not be afraid.”

And when the disciples raised their eyes,

they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain,

Jesus charged them,

Do not tell the vision to anyone

until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031217.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 444 The Gospels report that at two solemn moments, the Baptism and the Transfiguration of Christ, the voice of the Father designates Jesus his “beloved Son”.1 Jesus calls himself the “only Son of God”, and by this title affirms his eternal pre-existence.2 He asks for faith in “the name of the only Son of God”.3 In the centurion’s exclamation before the crucified Christ, “Truly this man was the Son of God”,4 that Christian confession is already heard. Only in the Paschal mystery can the believer give the title “Son of God” its full meaning.

CCC 516 Christ’s whole earthly life – his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking – is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”5 Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest “God’s love. .. among us”.6

CCC 554 From the day Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Master “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. .. and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”7 Peter scorns this prediction, nor do the others understand it any better than he.8 In this context the mysterious episode of Jesus’ Transfiguration takes place on a high mountain,9 before three witnesses chosen by himself: Peter, James and John. Jesus’ face and clothes become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking “of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem”.10 A cloud covers him and a voice from heaven says: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”11

1 Cf. Mt 3:17; cf. 17:5.

2 Jn 3:16; cf. 10:36.

3 Jn 3:18.

4 Mk 15:39.

5 Jn 14:9; Lk 9:35; cf. Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7, “my beloved Son”.

6 Jn 4:9.

7 Mt 16:21.

8 Cf. Mt 16:22-23; 17:23; Lk 9:45.

9 Cf. Mt 17:1-8 and parallels; 2 Pt 1:16-18.

10 Lk 9:31.

11 Lk 9:35.

APPLICATION

This momentary vision of Christ, in his glory, was given in order to strengthen the three principal Apostles to face the trials to their faith, which the sufferings and crucifixion of their beloved master would bring on them. For the very same reason it is retold to us today, in the early part of Lent, to encourage us to persevere in our lenten mortifications. It reminds us that, very soon, the Easter bells will be ringing out their message of joy once more. If we are sharers with Christ in his sufferings, we shall be sharers with him in his glory as St. Paul reminds us.

This is a truth we all too easily forget, namely, that we cannot and do not get to heaven in a limousine. Our spell on earth is the chance given us by our heavenly Father to earn an eternal reward. This reward surpasses even the wildest imagination of man. We could never earn it, but God accepts the little we can do and provides the balance of his infinite mercy. And yet there are many, far too many, who refuse even that little bit that is asked of them, and are thus running the risk of not partaking in God’s scheme for their eternal happiness.

And are they any happier during their few years on this earth by acting thus towards the God of mercy? Can they, by ignoring God and their duties towards him, remove all pain, all sorrow, all sufferings, from their daily lives? Death, which means a total separation from all we possessed and cherished in this world, is waiting around the corner for all of us. Who can face it more calmly and confidently–the man who is firmly convinced that it is the gateway to a new life, and who has done his best to earn admission through that gateway, or the man who has acted all his life as if death did not exist for him, and who has done everything to have the gate to the new life shut forever in his face?

Illnesses and troubles and disappointments are the lot of all men. They respect neither wealth, nor power, nor position. The man who knows his purpose in life, and is ever striving to reach the goal God’s goodness has planned for him, can and will see in these trials of life the hand of a kind father who is preparing him for greater things. His sufferings become understandable and more bearable because of his attitude to life and its meaning. The man who ignores God and tries to close the eyes of his mind to the real facts of life has nothing to uphold him or console him in his hours of sorrow and pain. Yet, sorrow and pain will dog his footsteps, strive as he will to avoid them, and he can see no value, no divine purpose in these, for him, misfortunes.

Christ has asked us to follow him, carrying our daily cross, and the end of our journey is not Calvary but resurrection, the entrance to a life of glory with our risen Savior. The Christian who grasps his cross closely and willingly, knowing its value for his real life, will find it becomes lighter and often not a burden but a pleasure. The man who tries to shuffle off his cross, and who curses and rebels against him who sent it, will find it doubles its weight and loses all the value it was intended to have for his true welfare.

Let the thought of the Transfiguration encourage each one of us today, to do the little God demands of us, so that when we pass out of this life we may be assured of seeing Christ in his glory, ready to welcome us into his everlasting, glorious kingdom.

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

BENEDICTUS

Lenten Transfiguration

Astonished in the presence of the transfigured Lord, who was speaking with Moses and Elias, Peter, James and John were suddenly enveloped in a cloud from which a voice arose that proclaimed: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him” (Mk 9: 7). When one has the grace to sense a strong experience with God, it is as though seeing something similar to what the disciples experienced during the Transfiguration: For a moment they experienced ahead of time something that will constitute the happiness of paradise. In general, it is brief experiences that God grants on occasions, especially in anticipation of harsh trials. However, no one lives “on Tabor” while on earth. Human existence is a journey of faith and, as such, goes forward more in darkness than in full light, with moments of obscurity and even profound darkness. While we are here, our relationship with God develops more with listening than with seeing; and even contemplation takes place, so to speak, with closed eyes, thanks to the interior light lit in us by the word of God… This is the gift and commitment for each one of us in the Lenten season: To listen to Christ, like Mary. To listen to him in the word, preserved in Sacred Scripture. To listen to him in the very events of our lives, trying to read in them the messages of providence. To listen to him, finally, in our brothers, especially in the little ones and the poor, for whom Jesus himself asked our concrete love. To listen to Christ and to obey his voice. This is the only way that leads to joy and love.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

The Prayer of St. Patrick

I arise today

Through the strength of heaven;

Light of the sun,

Splendor of fire,

Speed of lightning,

Swiftness of the wind,

Depth of the sea,

Stability of the earth,

Firmness of the rock.

I arise today

Through God’s strength to pilot me;

God’s might to uphold me,

God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look before me,

God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak for me,

God’s hand to guard me,

God’s way to lie before me,

God’s shield to protect me,

God’s hosts to save me

Afar and anear,

Alone or in a multitude.

Christ shield me today

Against wounding

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in the eye that sees me,

Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today

Through the mighty strength

Of the Lord of creation.

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