The Epiphany of the Lord

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“They were overjoyed at seeing the star,

and on entering the house

they saw the child with Mary his mother”

OPENING PRAYER

Christmas Prayer

Moonless darkness stands between.

Past, the Past, no more be seen!

But the Bethlehem star may lead me

To the sight of Him

Who freed me

From the self that I have been.

Make me pure, Lord: Thou art Holy;

Make me meek, Lord: Thou wert lowly;

Now beginning, and always,

Now begin, on Christmas day.

COLLECT

O God, who on this day

revealed your Only Begotten Son to the nations

by the guidance of a star,

grant in your mercy

that we, who know you already by faith,

may be brought to behold the beauty of your sublime 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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Is 60:1-6

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come,

the glory of the Lord shines upon you.

See, darkness covers the earth,

and thick clouds cover the peoples;

but upon you the LORD shines,

and over you appears his glory.

Nations shall walk by your light,

and kings by your shining radiance.

Raise your eyes and look about;

they all gather and come to you:

your sons come from afar,

and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.

Then you shall be radiant at what you see,

your heart shall throb and overflow,

for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,

the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.

Caravans of camels shall fill you,

dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;

all from Sheba shall come

bearing gold and frankincense,

and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.

APPLICATION

The feast of the Epiphany is the feast which commemorates the manifestation of God to the Gentiles. This manifestation began when the Wise Men from the East came to Bethlehem to pay their respects and offer their gifts to the newly-born king of the Jews (see Mt. 2 in today’s gospel). Though the words of second-Isaiah were not understood by his hearers as referring to this event, it was only in the coming of the Magi, to welcome Christ, that they were really fulfilled. Jerusalem was in no sense an attraction for the nations in the intervening centuries. But the Magi at Bethlehem were the first-fruits of the thousands and millions of Gentiles who have since then seen the glory of God in the Babe of Bethlehem and who have figuratively come to Jerusalem from the West and from the East to form the new Chosen People, the new Kingdom of God.

Let us thank God today for having called us, Gentiles, to his kingdom, his Church, and for giving us the means to reach heaven. Let us never imitate the Chosen People of the Old Testament who so often forgot how good God was to them, and who often so provoked him, that he allowed them to be taken into exile as slaves of a pagan nation. We too could bring exile on ourselves, an exile much more fatal than the Babylonian one. Whatever else may be my lot, whatever hardship I may have to suffer during the few years I am on earth, God forbid that I should ever, through my unfaithfulness, cause myself to be excluded from my true home, heaven, where “the glory of the Lord will shine” forever.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

O God, with your judgment endow the king,

and with your justice, the king’s son;

He shall govern your people with justice

and your afflicted ones with judgment.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

Justice shall flower in his days,

and profound peace, till the moon be no more.

May he rule from sea to sea,

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts;

the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute.

All kings shall pay him homage,

all nations shall serve him.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,

and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.

He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;

the lives of the poor he shall save.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

READING II

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Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6

Brothers and sisters:

You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace

that was given to me for your benefit,

namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation.

It was not made known to people in other generations

as it has now been revealed

to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:

that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body,

and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

APPLICATION

St. Paul’s thoughts in his prison in Rome are not for himself nor for the fate that awaits him. He is thinking instead of the mission Christ gave him, to evangelize the Gentile nations. He has done much already, and even in prison he does all he can to continue the good work. He writes to his Gentile converts from Rome, to remind them of their great privilege in being called to the Christian faith. They are now God’s new Chosen People, they are now members of Christ’s mystical body, they are now guaranteed heaven if they appreciate and live up to their vocation.

Today, on the feast of the Epiphany, we are celebrating the coming of the first Gentiles to the feet of Christ. They were the first of the long stream of Gentile peoples and nations that flowed steadily toward Christ’s mystical body, the Church, down through the years. We have the privilege of being part of that stream, and St. Paul, who today in heaven is as interested in us as he was in his Ephesian converts, is exhorting us, through these words of his, to appreciate the privilege which is ours. Through the grace of God and not through any merits of our own, we are Christians and are on the road to heaven. “Rejoice and persevere” is St. Paul’s advice to us today. If we truly rejoice it means we truly appreciate what the gift of the true faith means. We know where we came from, we know where we are going, and we are certain there is a place, a wonderful, eternal place, to go to. We know too how to get there. This is no mean knowledge in the world of today, where so many seem content to make this world their heaven, and let the future look after itself–if there be a future (and logically to ease their consciences they must hope there isn’t one).

Thank God, our faith and our ordinary intelligence tell us there has to be a future life—God would be a cruel joker if he gave us the nature we possess with its spiritual gifts and desires only to have them end in a grave after a few short years. We can rejoice then because we appreciate the great privilege given us, and if we appreciate it we shall hold on to it and follow the path it indicates. We may have to climb some hills and they may look as steep as Calvary, but after Calvary comes the Mount of Olives, the mount of the Ascension.

GOSPEL

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Mt 2:1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,

in the days of King Herod,

behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?

We saw his star at its rising

and have come to do him homage.”

When King Herod heard this,

he was greatly troubled,

and all Jerusalem with him.

Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,

He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,

for thus it has been written through the prophet:

And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

since from you shall come a ruler,

who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod called the magi secretly

and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.

He sent them to Bethlehem and said,

“Go and search diligently for the child.

When you have found him, bring me word,

that I too may go and do him homage.”

After their audience with the king they set out.

And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,

until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.

They were overjoyed at seeing the star,

and on entering the house

they saw the child with Mary his mother.

They prostrated themselves and did him homage.

Then they opened their treasures

and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,

they departed for their country by another way.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/010316.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 430 Jesus means in Hebrew: “God saves.” At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission.1 Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal Son made man, “will save his people from their sins”.2 in Jesus, God recapitulates all of his history of salvation on behalf of men.

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.3 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.4

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.5 Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”6

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.7 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.8 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.9 The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs”, and acquires Israelitica dignitas10 (is made “worthy of the heritage of Israel”).

CCC 724 In Mary, the Holy Spirit manifests the Son of the Father, now become the Son of the Virgin. She is the burning bush of the definitive theophany. Filled with the Holy Spirit she makes the Word visible in the humility of his flesh. It is to the poor and the first representatives of the gentiles that she makes him known.11

1 Cf. Lk 1:31.

2 Mt 1:21; cf. 2:7.

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

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

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

6 Acts 10:38.

7 Mt 2:1; cf. LH, Epiphany, Evening Prayer II, Antiphon at the Canticle of Mary.

8 Cf Mt 2:2; Num 24:17-19; Rev 22:16.

9 Cf Jn 4 22; Mt 2:4-6.

10 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.

11 Cf. Lk 1:15-19; Mt 2:11.

APPLICATION

The Magi are the central personages in today’s feast of Epiphany. They were pagans who did not know the true God of the Jews. Yet that true God revealed to them that the King he had promised to the Jews had come. The expected Prince was born. They came to Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, expecting, of course, to find the city and the whole country rejoicing. Instead they found suspicion and hatred in the reigning king–a hatred which in a few days turned to murder. Among the religious leaders they found knowledge of their past history, but utter indifference as regards the present and the future. These leaders knew the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem; they must have realized that the Magi were very sure of the truth revealed to them–they would not have come such a long journey on a “fool’s errand.” In spite of that, the thought of going to Bethlehem with the Magi never entered their minds. These were the leaders who some years later refused to listen to Christ and in spite of his miracles refused to admit his claim that he was not only the promised Messiah, but the true Son of God. These were the men who rejected him because he had mercy on sinners, and spoke of a future life. What they wanted from their Messiah was political power and earthly freedom and prosperity. Like Herod they ended with murder–the crucifixion of the “King of the Jews.” The pagan king was not much worse than the indifferent leaders of God’s Chosen People.

We too know the true facts concerning Christ, his mission, and his present and future kingdom. Like the leaders of the Jews of his day, we also could become absorbed in the affairs of this life and the quest for wealth, pleasure and power. We could become so totally absorbed in such things as to have neither the interest nor the time to pay our respects to Christ or to welcome him into our homes and our hearts, as our true Lord. God forbid it should ever be thus with us. Rather let us resolve this morning to make the Magi our models, to follow them to Bethlehem and offer him all that we have and are. He will accept our offering and we will return by another way, wiser and better men.

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

BENEDICTUS

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The Deep Desire of the Magi

Why did the Magi set off from afar to go to Bethlehem? The answer has to do with the mystery of the “star” which they saw “in the East” and which they recognized as the star of the “King of the Jews,” that is to say, the sign of the birth of the Messiah (Mt 2: 2). So their journey was inspired by a powerful hope, strengthened and guided by the star, which led them toward the King of the Jews, toward the kingship of God himself. The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted them to leave everything and begin a journey. It was as though they had always been waiting for that star. It was as if the journey had always been a part of their destiny, and was finally about to begin. This is the mystery of God’s call, the mystery of vocation. It is part of the life of every Christian… When the Magi came to Bethlehem, “going into the house they saw the child with Mary his Mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (Mt 2: 11). Here at last was the long-awaited moment – their encounter with Jesus. “Going into the house”: this house in some sense represents the Church… “They fell down and worshiped him… and offered him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Mt 2: 11-12). Here is the culmination of the whole journey: encounter becomes adoration; it blossoms into an act of faith and love which acknowledges in Jesus, born of Mary, the Son of God made man… The secret of holiness is friendship with Christ and faithful obedience to his will.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

A PRAYER FOR THE VIRTUE OF OBEDIENCE

Jesus, Almighty King of kings,

You Who obeyed Your Father to the end,

Teach me the meaning of obedience.

My soul burns to comply to Your Will,

Striving to charm Your Divinity.

While my worldly nature seeks one way,

My spiritual nature seeks another.

Bless me with the strength to obey,

That my soul may subdue both natures,

Blending them as a fair aromatic bloom.

I always seek favor in Your eyes,

To always obey You until my last breath!

 

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The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

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“Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”  And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  But they did not understand what he said to them.

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

A Prayer for a Family

O dear Jesus,

I humbly implore You to grant Your special graces to our family.

May our home be the shrine of peace, purity, love, labor and faith.

I beg You, dear Jesus, to protect and bless all of us, absent and

present, living and dead.

O Mary, loving Mother of Jesus, and our Mother,

pray to Jesus for our family, for all the families of the world,

to guard the womb of the unborn, the cradle of the newborn,

the schools of the young and their vocations.

Blessed Saint Joseph, holy guardian of Jesus and Mary,

assist us by your prayers in all the necessities of life.

Ask of Jesus that special grace which He granted to you,

to watch over our home at the pillow of the sick and the dying,

so that with Mary and with you, heaven may find our family unbroken

in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Amen.

COLLECT

O God, who were pleased to give us

the shining example of the Holy Family,

graciously grant that we may imitate them

in practicing the virtues of family life and in

the bonds of charity,

and so, in the joy of your house,

delight one day in eternal rewards.

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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Sir 3:2-6, 12-14

God sets a father in honor over his children;

a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.

Whoever honors his father atones for sins,

and preserves himself from them.

When he prays, he is heard;

he stores up riches who reveres his mother.

Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,

and, when he prays, is heard.

Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;

he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.

My son, take care of your father when he is old;

grieve him not as long as he lives.

Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;

revile him not all the days of his life;

kindness to a father will not be forgotten,

firmly planted against the debt of your sins

–a house raised in justice to you.

APPLICATION

Although all the emphasis, in these verses of holy Scripture just read to us, seems to be on the obligation of children to their parents, there is a profound lesson here for parents too. “Like father like son” is an old and a true saying very often. If the parents fail to do what is right and just in the sight of God they can hardly complain if their children turn out disobedient to God and to them. The young learn more from example than from precept. If parents give their children the example of a life of obedience to the laws of God, and their country–the children will in turn carry out their duties to God, to their parents and to their fellowman. There have been and there will be exceptions, of course, to this rule but they are exceptions; the vast majority follow the pattern laid down for them by their parents.

As you heard during your marriage ceremony: “children are a gift from God to you,” a gift for this life to be the joy of your young years and a help and comfort in your old age; but above and beyond that, they are a gift which you must do all in your power to return to God when their hour comes. You must not only strive to make them good citizens of this world but you must never forget that God gave them to you primarily so that you would make them citizens of heaven. You may fail, in spite of your best intentions and endeavors, but God will reward you nonetheless–the failure will not be laid to your door.

Today, on the feast-day of the only perfect family that ever lived on this earth, I would ask all parents to examine themselves and see how they are fulfilling this grave responsibility–which God has placed on them. Are they preparing their children by word and example, especially by example, to be worthy citizens of heaven where they will be their parents’ crown and glory?

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,

who walks in his ways!

For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;

blessed shall you be, and favored.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine

in the recesses of your home;

your children like olive plants

around your table.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

Behold, thus is the man blessed

who fears the LORD.

The LORD bless you from Zion:

may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem

all the days of your life.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

READING II

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Col 3:12-21

Brothers and sisters:

Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,

heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,

bearing with one another and forgiving one another,

if one has a grievance against another;

as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.

And over all these put on love,

that is, the bond of perfection.

And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,

the peace into which you were also called in one body.

And be thankful.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,

as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,

singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs

with gratitude in your hearts to God.

And whatever you do, in word or in deed,

do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,

giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wives, be subordinate to your husbands,

as is proper in the Lord.

Husbands, love your wives,

and avoid any bitterness toward them.

Children, obey your parents in everything,

for this is pleasing to the Lord.

Fathers, do not provoke your children,

so they may not become discouraged.

APPLICATION

Ninety per cent of the first readers of St. Paul’s letter–the first Christian converts of the town of Colossae–were pagans before their conversion. To practice the new Christian virtues was no easy task for people reared in the laxity and license of the paganism of their day. Yet they did practice these virtues and produced many saints and martyrs. After twenty centuries of Christianity one would expect that to live a full Christian life today should be less difficult but unfortunately it is not so. For the fact is our world is rapidly sinking back again into paganism–a paganism more inimical to truth and morality than the paganism of St. Paul’s day. The pagans of the Roman Empire were tired of vice and worldliness–they were looking for the truth and the real purpose of life. They found it in Christianity and cherished it. Today’s neo-pagans are tired of Christianity–they have found it wanting, because they are found wanting in its observance.

GOSPEL

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Lk 2:41-52

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast

of Passover,

and when he was twelve years old,

they went up according to festival custom.

After they had completed its days, as they were returning,

the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,

but his parents did not know it.

Thinking that he was in the caravan,

they journeyed for a day

and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,

but not finding him,

they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.

After three days they found him in the temple,

sitting in the midst of the teachers,

listening to them and asking them questions,

and all who heard him were astounded

at his understanding and his answers.

When his parents saw him,

they were astonished,

and his mother said to him,

“Son, why have you done this to us?

Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”

And he said to them,

“Why were you looking for me?

Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

But they did not understand what he said to them.

He went down with them and came to Nazareth,

and was obedient to them;

and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor

before God and man.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/122715.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 94 Thanks to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the understanding of both the realities and the words of the heritage of faith is able to grow in the life of the Church:

– “through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts”;1 it is in particular “theological research [which] deepens knowledge of revealed truth”.2

– “from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which [believers] experience”,3 the sacred Scriptures “grow with the one who reads them.”3

– “from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth”.5

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”,6 and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience.7 This corresponded to the reality of his voluntary emptying of himself, taking “the form of a slave”.8

CCC 503 Mary’s virginity manifests God’s absolute initiative in the Incarnation. Jesus has only God as Father. “He was never estranged from the Father because of the human nature which he assumed… He is naturally Son of the Father as to his divinity and naturally son of his mother as to his humanity, but properly Son of the Father in both natures.”9

CCC 517 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross,10 but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life:

– already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;11

– in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;12

– in his word which purifies its hearers;13

– in his healings and exorcisms by which “he took our infirmities and bore our diseases”;14

– and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.15

CCC 531 During the greater part of his life Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings: a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor. His religious life was that of a Jew obedient to the law of God,16 a life in the community. From this whole period it is revealed to us that Jesus was “obedient” to his parents and that he “increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.”17

CCC 534 The finding of Jesus in the temple is the only event that breaks the silence of the Gospels about the hidden years of Jesus.18 Here Jesus lets us catch a glimpse of the mystery of his total consecration to a mission that flows from his divine sonship: “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s work?”19 Mary and Joseph did not understand these words, but they accepted them in faith. Mary “kept all these things in her heart” during the years Jesus remained hidden in the silence of an ordinary life.

CCC 583 Like the prophets before him Jesus expressed the deepest respect for the Temple in Jerusalem. It was in the Temple that Joseph and Mary presented him forty days after his birth.20 At the age of twelve he decided to remain in the Temple to remind his parents that he must be about his Father’s business.21 He went there each year during his hidden life at least for Passover.22 His public ministry itself was patterned by his pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts.23

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

CCC 2599 The Son of God who became Son of the Virgin also learned to pray according to his human heart. He learns the formulas of prayer from his mother, who kept in her heart and meditated upon all the “great things” done by the Almighty.24 He learns to pray in the words and rhythms of the prayer of his people, in the synagogue at Nazareth and the Temple at Jerusalem. But his prayer springs from an otherwise secret source, as he intimates at the age of twelve: “I must be in my Father’s house.”25 Here the newness of prayer in the fullness of time begins to be revealed: his filial prayer, which the Father awaits from his children, is finally going to be lived out by the only Son in his humanity, with and for men.

1 DV 8 § 2; cf. Lk 2:19,51.

2 GS 62 § 7; cf. GS 44 § 2; DV 23; 24; UR 4.

3 DV 8 § 2.

4 DV 8 § 2.

5 St. Gregory the Great, Hom. in Ez. 1,7,8:PL 76,843D.

6 Lk 2:52.

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

8 Phil 2:7.

9 Council of Friuli (796): DS 619; cf. Lk 2:48-49.

10 Cf. Eph 1:7; Col 1:13-14; 1 Pt 1:18-19.

11 Cf. 2 Cor 8:9.

12 Cf. Lk 2:51.

13 Cf. Jn 15:3.

14 Mt 8:17; cf. Is 53:4.

15 Cf. Rom 4:25.

16 Cf. Gal 4:4.

17 Lk 2:51-52.

18 Cf. Lk 2:41-52.

19 Lk 2:49 alt.

20 Lk 2:22-39.

21 Cf. Lk 2 46-49.

22 Cf. Lk 2 41.

23 Cf. Jn 2 13-14; 5:1, 14; 7:1, 10, 14; 8 2; 10:22-23.

24 Cf. Lk 1:49; 2:19; 2:51.

25 Lk 2:49.

APPLICATION

The Church has appointed this Sunday within the octave of Christmas as the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. She wants all Christian families to try to model their lives on this, the holiest of families that ever lived on earth. No family can ever hope to be as perfect as this one was, but every family must strive to imitate it if only from afar.

In Joseph, the father of the family has his model. Patiently and humbly he worked at his carpenter’s bench to provide the necessities of life for his wife and for the child Jesus. He could not always give them all he would wish for them but he did what he could gladly and humbly. To his neighbors he was just another carpenter, unknown to the world, of no importance in their eyes, yet his name will be known and revered until the end of time. Fathers, many (if not most) of you too, are living a life of obscurity–a life of monotonous toil–a daily struggle to provide bread for your family. You will never make the headlines in the newspapers because of what you are doing, but you are playing an important, an essential part, in God’s plan for providing citizens for heaven.

If you carry out faithfully the task God has given you, if you provide for and protect the wife and family God has committed to your care you will make the headlines in the world to come, your names will be written in the Book of Life.

Mothers of families, in Mary you have the perfect example you should strive to follow. She was a dutiful, faithful wife and an ideal and loving mother. How often she must have regretted that her beloved spouse had to struggle so hard to earn their meager, daily bread. How great must have been her grief that she could not give her beloved Child more comforts in his infancy and youth. She had days of sorrow and anxiety, sorrow which culminated at the foot of the cross on Calvary, but she accepted it all as God’s will for the salvation of the world. You too have your days of anxiety and your years perhaps of worry–worries which will not end till you draw your last breath. But think of your Model, turn to Mary for courage and for help. She can and will get you the strength to keep going on the hard road of motherhood.

Like her, you too have a great task to perform for God. You have the eternal salvation of your family in your hands. Their future in this world and in the more important world–the next–will depend largely on how you behave as mother of the family. Your greatest joy in heaven, after the beatific vision, will be, please God, that you will be surrounded by your family which, aided by God’s grace, you did so much to bring there.

Children : your duty in the family is to love, honor and obey your parents. And your model is none other than Jesus of Nazareth who, though he was God, made himself subject to Joseph and Mary. He who was God, has set you an example which you must follow. Your obedience will never be as perfect as his but it can and should be as perfect as you can make it. Be a comfort and a consolation to your parents. Remember always what they have done for you in your infancy when you could not help yourself. Remember what they have done and are still doing for you in order to fit you to take your place in this life and in the next.

Show your thankfulness and appreciation by doing what they tell you. You may not see the reason for all their restrictions and all their commands but it is because they have your welfare at heart and because they truly love you that such commands and restrictions are placed on you. It is only later on in life that you will fully understand the true love they had for you and the great sacrifices they made for you so that you would be worthy of them and worthy of your heavenly father who gave you to them. Show your appreciation now while you have them.

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

BENEDICTUS

Passover and Family

In the course of a year, a people is always in danger of disintegrating, not only through external causes, but also interiorly, and of losing hold of the inner motivation which sustains it. It needs to return to its fundamental origin… We experience the primal, chaotic powers rising up from the very midst of a progressive society – which seems to know everything and to be able to do anything – and attacking the very progress of which it is so proud. We see how, in the midst of prosperity, technological achievement, and the scientific domination of the world, a nation can be destroyed from within; we see how the creation can be threatened by the chaotic powers which lurk in the depths of the human heart. We realize that neither money nor technology nor organizational ability alone can banish chaos. Only the real protective wall given to us by the Lord, the new family he has created for us, can do this… Passover is a summons, urgently reminding us that the family is the living home in which humanity is nurtured, which banishes chaos and futility, and which must be protected as such… The individual family cannot survive; it will disintegrate unless it is kept safe within the larger family which guarantees it and gives it security. So this night needs to be the night in which we set out once again on our twin paths: we set out on the path to the new city, the new family, the Church, and dedicate ourselves irrevocably to her, to our heart’s true home; and then, on the basis of this family of Jesus Christ, we can proceed to grasp what it meant by the human family and by the humanity which sustains and protects us.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Act of Consecration of a Christian Family to the Holy Family

To the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Oh Mother Most Pure,

we come to You as a family

and consecrate ourselves to your most Immaculate Heart.

We come to You as a family

and place our trust in Your powerful intercession.

Oh Dearest Mother Mary,

teach us as a mother teaches her children,

for our souls are soiled

and our prayers are weak

because of our sinful hearts.

ready to respond to You

and follow Your way,

for Your way leads us

to the heart of Your Son, Jesus.

We are ready to be cleansed and purified.

Come then Virgin Most Pure,

and embrace us with Your motherly mantle.

Make our hearts whiter than snow

and as pure as a spring of fresh water.

Teach us to pray,

so that our prayers may become more beautiful

than the singing of the birds at the break of dawn.

Dear Mother Mary,

we entrust to Your Immaculate Heart of hearts,

our family and our entire future.

Lead us all to our homeland which is Heaven.

Amen.

Immaculate Heart of Mary,

pray for us.

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The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) – Mass During the Night

Nativity3-1.jpg

“And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

OPENING PRAYER

Christmas Prayer of St. Pope John XXIII

O sweet Child of Bethlehem,
grant that we may share with all our hearts
in this profound mystery of Christmas.
Put into the hearts of men and women this peace
for which they sometimes seek so desperately
and which you alone can give to them.
Help them to know one another better,
and to live as brothers and sisters,
children of the same Father.
Reveal to them also your beauty, holiness and purity.
Awaken in their hearts
love and gratitude for your infinite goodness.
Join them all together in your love.
And give us your heavenly peace. Amen.

St. Pope John XXIII

COLLECT

O God, who have made this most sacred night

radiant with the splendor of the true light,

grand, we pray, that we, who have known the mysteries

of his light on earth

may also delight in his gladness in heaven.

Who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

isaiah-icon.gif

Is 9:1-6

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for flames.
For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful,
from David’s throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
by judgment and justice,
both now and forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!

APPLICATION

What Isaiah foresaw some 700 years before it happened we are commemorating tonight nearly 2,000 years after it happened, and it will still be commemorated 2,000 years from today if this world will still be in existence. God came on our earth, became one of us so that we could become one with God. This is incomparably greater than any other historical event that ever happened or ever could happen on our planet.

Yet unfortunately there are millions of people who have not yet heard this good news, but its good effects will reach them if their ignorance is not their fault. There are millions of others who have heard this good news but refuse to believe it. The basic reason for their disbelief is not that it couldn’t be true, but that it is too good to be true. It is indeed hard to believe that the infinite, all-perfect God should bother with such imperfect, such mean creatures, as we are. But it is because he is infinite and his love is infinite that he can and did go to such lengths for us his unworthy creatures.

While we thank God tonight with true sincerity and heartfelt gratitude, for all he has done for us, and while we promise faithfully to try to make ourselves less unworthy of the infinite love he has shown us in the Incarnation, let us remember all those millions of our brothers who do not really know him yet. Let us beg God to send them the goods news and the grace to accept this great gift of infinite love, so that all his children on earth may know and thank him too. And let us strive by the example of a truly Christian life to make God’s love for us known not only to our fellow-Christians but to all men.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 712 The characteristics of the awaited Messiah begin to appear in the “Book of Emmanuel” (“Isaiah said this when he saw his glory,”1 speaking of Christ), especially in the first two verses of Isaiah 11:
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.2

CCC 2305 Earthly peace is the image and fruit of the peace of Christ, the messianic “Prince of Peace.”3 By the blood of his Cross, “in his own person he killed the hostility,”4 he reconciled men with God and made his Church the sacrament of the unity of the human race and of its union with God. “He is our peace.”5 He has declared: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”6

1 Jn 12:41; cf. Isa 6-12.
2 Isa 11:1-2.
3 Isa 9:5.
4 Eph 2:16 J.B.; cf. Col 1:20-22.
5 Eph 2:14.
6 Mt 5:9.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 96: 1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.

Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult.

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.

They shall exult before the LORD, for he comes;
for he comes to rule the earth.
He shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with his constancy.

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.

READING II

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Ti 2:11-14

Beloved:
The grace of God has appeared, saving all
and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires
and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age,
as we await the blessed hope,
the appearance of the glory of our great God
and savior Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness
and to cleanse for himself a people as his own,
eager to do what is good.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 66 “The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”1 Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.

CCC 1809 Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: “Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.”2 Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: “Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites.”3 In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.” We ought “to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world.”4
To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).5

1 DV 4; cf. 1 Tim 6:14; Titus 2:13.
2 Sir 5:2; cf. 37:27-31.
3 Sir 18:30.
4 Titus 2:12.
5 St. Augustine, De moribus eccl. 1, 25, 46: PL 32, 1330-1331.

APPLICATION

Christmas is an occasion for rejoicing, a season of goodwill, a time of joy even for those who unfortunately do not know or realize its true meaning. For us Christians it is the second of our greatest annual feasts (next after Easter) in which we call to mind God’s infinite love for us and his infinite mercy towards us mortals.

We surely have reason to rejoice and be glad. Christ, the true Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, took to himself our lowly human nature and became one with us in order to raise us up to the dignity of adopted sons of his heavenly Father. If some earthly king or nobleman took the son of one of his servants into his palace, clothed him in costly robes and made him his heir, the world would gasp in amazement. God has taken us, his lowly creatures; has clothed us in the divine garments of grace; has made us one of his family by making his Son one of us, and has made us heirs of an eternal kingdom.

And yet mankind can ignore or forget such an act of benevolence, such a proof of divine love! Of course, we Christians do not ignore or forget this divine benevolence but we just do not remember it as much as we should; we do not thank God often enough for all he has done for us; too often we are ungrateful children.

Tonight, as we call to mind the infinite love of God which sent his Son on earth to be born of the virgin Mary in a stable in Bethlehem so that we could spend our eternity in the mansions of heaven, let us show our gratitude, our appreciation, by resolving to live as adopted sons of God are expected to live.

St. Paul’s letter to Titus tells us how. We must reject ungodliness and worldly lusts by living temperately, justly and piously, using the things of this world as stepping-stones to heaven. God has made us his Chosen People; nay more! he has made us his adopted sons. Let us show our true gratitude by striving to live a life worthy of such a sublime vocation.

GOSPEL

Giotto_di_Bondone_-_No._17_Scenes_from_the_Life_of_Christ_-_1._Nativity_-_Birth_of_Jesus_-_WGA09193.jpg

Lk 2:1-14

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122517-midnight.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 437 To the shepherds, the angel announced the birth of Jesus as the Messiah promised to Israel: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”6 From the beginning he was “the one whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world”, conceived as “holy” in Mary’s virginal womb.7 God called Joseph to “take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”, so that Jesus, “who is called Christ”, should be born of Joseph’s spouse into the messianic lineage of David.8

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.9 At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, “Lord” expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus.10 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!”11

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.12 Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”13

CCC 515 The Gospels were written by men who were among the first to have the faith14 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.15 His deeds, miracles and words all revealed that “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”16 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 525 Jesus was born in a humble stable, into a poor family.17 Simple shepherds were the first witnesses to this event. In this poverty heaven’s glory was made manifest.18 The Church never tires of singing the glory of this night:
The Virgin today brings into the world the Eternal
And the earth offers a cave to the Inaccessible.
The angels and shepherds praise him
And the magi advance with the star,
For you are born for us,
Little Child, God eternal!19

CCC 559 How will Jerusalem welcome her Messiah? Although Jesus had always refused popular attempts to make him king, he chooses the time and prepares the details for his messianic entry into the city of “his father David”.20 Acclaimed as son of David, as the one who brings salvation (Hosanna means “Save!” or “Give salvation!”), the “King of glory” enters his City “riding on an ass”.21 Jesus conquers the Daughter of Zion, a figure of his Church, neither by ruse nor by violence, but by the humility that bears witness to the truth.22 And so the subjects of his kingdom on that day are children and God’s poor, who acclaim him as had the angels when they announced him to the shepherds.23 Their acclamation, “Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord”,24 is taken up by the Church in the “Sanctus” of the Eucharistic liturgy that introduces the memorial of the Lord’s Passover.

CCC 695 Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit,25 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.26 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.”27 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.28 The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving.29 Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.30 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”:31 “the whole Christ,” in St. Augustine’s expression.

CCC 725 Finally, through Mary, the Holy Spirit begins to bring men, the objects of God’s merciful love,32 into communion with Christ. And the humble are always the first to accept him: shepherds, magi, Simeon and Anna, the bride and groom at Cana, and the first disciples.

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 Lk 2:11.
7 Jn 10:36; cf. Lk 1:35.
8 Mt 1:20; cf. 1:16; Rom 1:1; 2 Tim 2:8; Rev 22:16.
9 Cf Mt 8:2; 14:30; 15:22; et al.
10 Cf. Lk 1:43; 2:11.
11 Jn 20:28,21:7.
12 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:1-12; Lk 1:35; 2:8-20; Jn 1:3 1-34; 2:11.
13 Acts 10:38.
14 Cf. Mk 1:1; Jn 21:24.
15 Cf Lk 2:7; Mt 27: 48; Jn 20:7.
16 Col 2:9.
17 Cf. Lk 2:61.
18 Cf. Lk 2:8-20.
19 Kontakion of Romanos the Melodist.
20 Lk 1:32; cf. Mt 21:1-11; Jn 6:15.
21 Ps 24:7-10; Zech 9:9.
22 Cf. Jn 18:37.
23 Cf. Mt 21:15-16; cf. Ps 8:3; Lk 19:38; 2:14.
24 Cf. Ps 118:26.
25Cf. 1 In 2:20:27; 2 Cor 1:21.
26 Cf. Ex 30:22-32; 1 Sam 16:13.
27 Cf. Lk 418-19; Isa 61:1.
28 Cf. Lk 2:11,26-27.
29 Cf. Lk 4:1; 6:19; 8:46.
30 Cf. Rom 1:4; 8:11.
31 Eph 4:13; cf. Acts 2:36.
32 Cf. Lk 2:14.

APPLICATION

Tonight as we kneel before the Baby in the Manger in praise and thanksgiving to the Son of infinite love and mercy let not our amazement at the humility and poverty of the stable and manger, touching though they be, prevent us from seeing the greater, the almost incredible, humiliation of the Incarnation itself. Had our Savior been born in Herod’s marble palace in Jerusalem and laid on a gilded cot with covers of the finest silk, his becoming man would yet have been a humbling, a lowering of himself, which would stagger the human mind. There are those who puzzle over and try to explain the mystery of the Incarnation—how Christ, namely, could be God and man at the same time, how one Person could have two natures. But mystery though this is, and fully intelligible to God only, the mystery of the love of God who did this for us is a greater mystery still and more of a puzzle to our finite human minds. “What is man that God should be mindful of him?” What have we ever done or what could we ever do to merit such love, such mercy, such condescension? No, we did not merit such love but the infinitely unselfish generosity of God, which no human mind is capable of grasping, has done this. We are his creatures who are capable of sharing his own happiness with him for all eternity and he has arranged it that we shall do so.

All we can do is to say from our heart a humble, thank you God, and to resolve to have the sense to avail ourselves of this almost incredible offer. We are “God’s friends.” He has called us so, then let us do our best to retain this friendship than which there is nothing greater for us on earth or in heaven. If we do, and if we do the little he asks of us, he will do his part; he will give us our share in the eternal happiness the Incarnation has won for us.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Real Point of Christmas

Why do we really celebrate Christmas despite the wretchedness, turmoil, and isolation that are still man’s lot and are if anything intensifying rather than lessening? What is the real point of Christmas?… Is it not consoling to see how, despite all the misunderstandings, the message of Jesus of Nazareth is heard? It is not only conflict that the message has produced but also and even more the miracle of understanding, so that across ages and cultures, and even across the boundaries between religions, human beings find one another in his name. Distance vanishes and people are drawn together amid all our doubts and bewilderment: God exists. Not as an infinitely distant power that can at best terrify us; not as being’s ultimate ground that is not conscious of itself. Rather he exists as One who can be concerned about us; he is such that everything we are and do lies open to his gaze. But that gaze is the gaze of Love. For anyone who accepts this in faith and knows it by faith, there is no longer any ultimate isolation. He is here. The light that one man becomes in history and for history is not an accident or something powerless, but Light from Light. The hope and encouragement that emanate from this light thus acquire a wholly new depth. But precisely because it is an entirely divine hope, we can and should accept it as also an entirely human hope and pass it on to others.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer for Christmas

A Root shall come forth from the stock of Jesse
And a Flower shall rise out of his root!
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him
the spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the spirit of counsel and of fortitude,
the spirit of knowledge and of godliness.
The people that walked in darkness
shall see a great light,
For a Child is born to us
and a Son is given to us.
To Him all power shall be given.
His Name shall be: Wonderful One,
Strong God, Eternal One, Prince of Peace.
He shall sit on the throne of David,
And He will found a new Covenant
which will last for ever and ever.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

SUGGESTED PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL

The shepherds rejoiced to hear the choir of angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest.” United in their joy, we glorify the Father by offering him our Christmas petitions:

For the Holy Father and the bishops who assist him: that their life, teaching, preaching, and pastoral care will proclaim the saving Event of the Incarnation to everyone throughout the world.

For our President and all who assist him in governing our country: that they will receive many blessings at Christmas and be strengthened to lead our nation in the ways of enduring righteousness and freedom.

For lasting peace throughout the world: that the coming of the Prince of Peace will put an end to all enmity and division, and unify the peoples of the world.

For families: that the powerful graces of this Christmas will draw family members together in fresh expressions of love and belonging that will last for a lifetime.

For the poor, the homeless, the unemployed, and for refugees: that Jesus Christ, who came into the world as one who was destitute and marginalized, will love and rescue the needy with special preference and grace.

That all Christians will be serious in responding to the universal call to holiness by living their faith with great fervor.

Loving Father, darkness is for ever changed because of the birth of the Light: Jesus Christ your Son. Take all the darkness of our lives and replace it with the radiance of our newborn Savior. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

GRACE BEFORE THE MEAL

Loving Father,

you bless us in every way,

especially with the love of the Mother of your Son.

United in a special way with the Blessed Virgin Mary,

our souls magnify you.

We thank you for all good things,

especially this meal,

through Christ our Lord. Amen.

GRACE AFTER THE MEAL

Our spirits rejoice in God our Savior,

for he has filled the hungry with good things.

Bless those who have provided for us in any way,

and fill all those who live in want.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Posted in Catholic

Fourth Sunday of Advent – C

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“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Hail, Mary! Full of grace,

The Lord is with thee;

Blessed are thou among women,

And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

Pray for us sinners,

Now, and at the hour of our death.

Amen.

COLLECT

Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord,

your grace into our hearts,

that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son

was made known by the message of an Angel,

may be his Passion and Cross

be brought to the glory of his Resurrection.

Who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

Holy-Prophet-Micah-1.jpg

Mi 5:1-4a

Thus says the LORD:

You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah

too small to be among the clans of Judah,

from you shall come forth for me

one who is to be ruler in Israel;

whose origin is from of old,

from ancient times.

Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time

when she who is to give birth has borne,

and the rest of his kindred shall return

to the children of Israel.

He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock

by the strength of the LORD,

in the majestic name of the LORD, his God;

and they shall remain, for now his greatness

shall reach to the ends of the earth;

he shall be peace.

The Word of the Lord.

APPLICATION

The ways of God are certainly not our ways and the mercy of God surpasses all human understanding. When he sent Michah to recall his rebellious, thankless people, and told him to foretell the national and personal disasters their sins were about to bring on them, he gave at the same time a glimpse of the glorious future that awaited them. They took note of the promise and their descendants remembered their promise, for the priests of Jerusalem were able to tell Herod where Christ the Messiah was to be born (see Mt. 2:4), yet the certainty of a glorious future was not enough to turn them from their sinful way of living.

Notwithstanding this, the merciful God still kept his promise. The Messiah, the Redeemer, was born later in Bethlehem and he founded a universal kingdom for Jew and Gentile promising an eternal kingdom to those who would be faithful members of his earthly one. We have called the Jews unworthy and thankless but who are we to offer to take the mote out of their eyes?

The Jews had indeed seen the wondrous love and mercy of God, but have we Christians not experienced that love and mercy to an infinitely greater degree? God sent his Son to live and die for us and yet how cold is our love, how meager and begrudging is our thanksgiving, our return for this infinite divine love?

Like the Jews of Michah’s time we are aware that God has promised us the kingdom of heaven where we shall have eternal happiness and peace. Yet, how many of us are willing to bear the trials of this life and shun illicit gains and pleasures for the sake of that happy eternal future? The ways of God are mysterious but surely the ways of sinful man who is willing to throw away his everlasting happiness for the sake of a passing pleasure, are more mysterious still.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19.

Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

O shepherd of Israel, hearken,

from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.

Rouse your power,

and come to save us.

Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Once again, O LORD of hosts,

look down from heaven, and see;

take care of this vine,

and protect what your right hand has planted

the son of man whom you yourself made strong.

Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

May your help be with the man of your right hand,

with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.

Then we will no more withdraw from you;

give us new life, and we will call upon your name.

Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

READING II

Saint-Paul-the-Apostle-5.jpg

Heb 10:5-10

Brothers and sisters:

When Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,

but a body you prepared for me;

in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight.

Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll,

behold, I come to do your will, O God.'”

First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings,

holocausts and sin offerings,

you neither desired nor delighted in.”

These are offered according to the law.

Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.”

He takes away the first to establish the second.

By this “will,” we have been consecrated

through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 462 The Letter to the Hebrews refers to the same mystery:

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, Lo, I have come to do your will, O God.”1

CCC 488 “God sent forth his Son”, but to prepare a body for him,2 he wanted the free co-operation of a creature. For this, from all eternity God chose for the mother of his Son a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee, “a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary”:3

The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother, so that just as a woman had a share in the coming of death, so also should a woman contribute to the coming of life.4

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]”,5 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.”6 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.”7 The sacrifice of Jesus “for the sins of the whole world”8 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.”9

CCC 614 This sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices.10 First, it is a gift from God the Father himself, for the Father handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with himself. At the same time it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love offered his life to his Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience.11

CCC 2568 In the Old Testament, the revelation of prayer comes between the fall and the restoration of man, that is, between God’s sorrowful call to his first children: “Where are you?. .. What is this that you have done?”12 and the response of God’s only Son on coming into the world: “Lo, I have come to do your will, O God.”13 Prayer is bound up with human history, for it is the relationship with God in historical events.

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.”14 Only Jesus can say: “I always do what is pleasing to him.”15 In the prayer of his agony, he consents totally to this will: “not my will, but yours be done.”16 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.”17 “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”18

1 Heb 10:5-7, citing Ps 40:6-8 ([7-9] LXX).

2 Gal 4:4; Heb 10:5.

3 Lk 1:26-27.

4 LG 56; cf. LG 61.

5 Jn 6:38.

6 Heb 10:5-10.

7 Jn 4:34.

8 1 Jn 2:2.

9 Jn 10:17; 14:31.

10 Cf. Heb 10:10.

11 Cf. Jn 10:17-18; 15:13; Heb 9:14; 1 Jn 4:10.

12 Gen 3:9, 13.

13 Heb 10:5-7.

14 Heb 10:7; Ps 40:7.

15 Jn 8:29.

16 Lk 22:42; cf. Jn 4:34; 5:30; 6:38.

17 Gal 1:4.

18 Heb 10:10.

APPLICATION

These words of the Epistle to the Hebrews are aptly chosen to remind us today, the last Sunday of our preparation for Christmas, of the real meaning of the Incarnation. It was out of love, infinite love, God created the world and all it contains. In God’s plan of creation man was the highest of all the creatures, he has inorganic and organic life, vegetative and animal life, but over and above what all other living creatures have he has an intellect and free will–a spiritual life which makes him capable of knowing and loving his Creator. From the beginning, according to the teaching of the Scotistic School, God’s plan was to raise up man to the highest possible glory, by uniting our human nature with the divine in the Person of his divine Son, and thus in the Incarnation all creation is, in its representative man, joined to its divine Creator. Our finite, puny minds cannot even begin to understand the infinite love which moved God to be so generous towards us.

And to make that love more mysterious still the world was full of sin when the Incarnation took place. Man who could and should have known and loved his Creator, had in his pride and selfishness forgotten his Benefactor and offended him. But that did not deter God’s love. It entailed suffering and a cruel death for the Son in his human nature, but that was cheerfully borne out of love for us. “Behold I come to do thy will” was the Son’s response, he humbled himself so that we should be raised up, he died so

that we should live eternally. His perfect obedience, coming from the God-man, made atonement for all the sins (of disobedience) the whole human race had ever committed or ever could commit. All we can say to this mystery of infinite love is: thank you God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for all you have done and are still doing for us, unworthy, utterly unworthy though we be.

GOSPEL

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Lk 1:39-45

Mary set out

and traveled to the hill country in haste

to a town of Judah,

where she entered the house of Zechariah

and greeted Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,

the infant leaped in her womb,

and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,

cried out in a loud voice and said,

“Blessed are you among women,

and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

And how does this happen to me,

that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,

the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

Blessed are you who believed

that what was spoken to you by the Lord

would be fulfilled.”

The Gospel of the Lord

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122015.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 148 The Virgin Mary most perfectly embodies the obedience of faith. By faith Mary welcomes the tidings and promise brought by the angel Gabriel, believing that “with God nothing will be impossible” and so giving her assent: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word.”1 Elizabeth greeted her: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”2 It is for this faith that all generations have called Mary blessed.3

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.4 At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, “Lord” expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus.5 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!”6

CCC 495 Called in the Gospels “the mother of Jesus”, Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as “the mother of my Lord”.7 In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Theotokos).8

CCC 523 St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way.9 “Prophet of the Most High”, John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last.10 He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother’s womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being “the friend of the bridegroom”, whom he points out as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.11 Going before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah”, John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom.12

CCC 717 “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.”13 John was “filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb”14 by Christ himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people.15

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.16

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.”17 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.”18 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.”19 “Blessed is she who believed. .. ”20 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.21 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.”

CCC 2677 Holy Mary, Mother of God: With Elizabeth we marvel, “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”22 Because she gives us Jesus, her son, Mary is Mother of God and our mother; we can entrust all our cares and petitions to her: she prays for us as she prayed for herself: “Let it be to me according to your word.”23 By entrusting ourselves to her prayer, we abandon ourselves to the will of God together with her: “Thy will be done.”

Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death: By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the “Mother of Mercy,” the All-Holy One. We give ourselves over to her now, in the Today of our lives. And our trust broadens further, already at the present moment, to surrender “the hour of our death” wholly to her care. May she be there as she was at her son’s death on the cross. May she welcome us as our mother at the hour of our passing24 to lead us to her son, Jesus, in paradise.

1 Lk 1:37-38; cf. Gen 18:14.

2 Lk 1:45.

3 Cf. Lk 1:48.

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

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

6 Jn 20:28,21:7.

7 Lk 1:43; Jn 2:1; 19:25; cf. Mt 13:55; et al.

8 Council of Ephesus (431): DS 251.

9 Cf. Acts 13:24; Mt 3:3.

10 Lk 1:76; cf. 7:26; Mt 11:13.

11 Jn 1 29; cf. Acts 1:22; Lk 1:41; 16:16; Jn 3:29.

12 Lk 1:17; cf. Mk 6:17-29.

13 Jn 1:6.

14 Lk 1:15, 41.

15 Cf. Lk 1:68.

16 Cf. Lk 1:48; Zeph 3:17b.

17 Zeph 3:14,17a.

18 Rev 21:3.

19 Lk 1:41, 48.

20 Lk 1:45.

21 Cf. Gen 12:3.

22 Lk 1:43.

23 Lk 1:38.

24 Cf. Jn 19:27.

APPLICATOIN

Filled with the Holy Spirit, that is, informed, inspired by God, Elizabeth was the first human being to proclaim the dignity, the special position given to Mary in God’s plan for our redemption. “Blessed are thou amongst women . . . the mother of my Lord,” she said. Mary was the one chosen from all eternity, from all the daughters of Eve, to be the mother of the Incarnate Son of God—no greater dignity could be conferred on any creature on earth or in heaven, she was surely the “blessed one.”

The moment she accepted the Angel’s announcement in Nazareth and said “be it done unto me according to thy word” she became the Mother of Christ, our Redeemer. And at that same moment she became our Mother also, for Christ has made us his brothers. Fortunate and blest indeed are we to have such a Mother in heaven who loves us and is supremely interested in us.

There is no stronger, no greater, no more unselfish love on earth than that of a mother for her child. Expecting nothing in return, an earthly mother will make any sacrifice even that of her own life, for the sake of her child. Mary, our Mother in heaven, has made a sacrifice for us–a sacrifice greater than any human mother could ever make–she offered her divine Son for us on Calvary and stood there to see him die slowly in agony for our sake. Could we ever doubt her love for us then, her supreme interest in us? She wants nothing for us but the greatest and the best, our eternal happiness with the Holy Trinity in heaven.

Every human mother does all she can to help her child succeed in life. Our heavenly mother does all she can (and she surely has influence with her divine Son), to help us succeed in our heavenly vocation. But we must do our part. Unfortunately many a son and daughter forget the sacrifices their earthly mothers made for them in their childhood and youth and leave them unhelped, uncomforted and lonely in their advancing years. God forbid that we should forget our earthly mothers and all they did for us and our temporal welfare, and God forbid we should ever cease to be thankful and grateful to our heavenly Mother who did so much more and who is still doing so much for our eternal well-being. Let us thank God from our hearts at Christmas for sending his divine Son to redeem us, and for giving his Son and us a Mother “blessed amongst women” and greatest of all mothers.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Method of the Incarnation

The Incarnation of the Word means that God does not merely want to come to the spirit of man, through the Spirit, but that he is seeking him through and in the material world, that he also in fact wants to encounter him as a social and historical being. God wants to come to men through men. God has approached men in such a way that through him, and on account of him, they can find their way to one another. Thus the Incarnation includes the communal and historical aspects of faith. Taking the way of the body means that the time, as a reality, and the social nature of man become features of man’s relationship with God, features that are in turn based upon God’s existing relationship with man. God’s action brings into being “the People of God,” and “the People of God,” on the basis of Christ, become “the body of Christ”… The ultimate goal for us all is that of becoming happy. Yet happiness exists only in company with each other, and we can keep company only in the infinity of love. There is happiness only in the removal of the barriers of the self in moving into divinity, in becoming divine.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 8

Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory

in the heavens.

Through the praise of children and infants

you have established a stronghold against your enemies,

to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which you have set in place,

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels

and crowned them with glory and honor.

You made them rulers over the works of your hands;

you put everything under their feet:

all flocks and herds,

and the animals of the wild,

the birds in the sky,

and the fish in the sea,

all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

http://www.usccb.org/bible/psalms/8

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

Third Sunday of Advent – C

111.jpg“I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.’  “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

Advent Prayer

Father in heaven, the day draws near when the glory of your Son will make radiant the night of the waiting world. May the lure of greed not impede us from the joy which moves the hearts of those who seek him. May the darkness not blind us to the vision of wisdom which fills the minds of those who find him. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.

COLLECT

O God, who see how your people

faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity,

enable us, we pray,

to attain the joys of so great a salvation

and to celebrate them always

with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reign with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Zep 3:14-18a

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!

Sing joyfully, O Israel!

Be glad and exult with all your heart,

O daughter Jerusalem!

The LORD has removed the judgment against you

he has turned away your enemies;

the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,

you have no further misfortune to fear.

On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:

Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!

The LORD, your God, is in your midst,

a mighty savior;

he will rejoice over you with gladness,

and renew you in his love,

he will sing joyfully because of you,

as one sings at festivals.

The Word of the Lord

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 722 The Holy Spirit prepared Mary by his grace. It was fitting that the mother of him in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily”1 should herself be “full of grace.” She was, by sheer grace, conceived without sin as the most humble of creatures, the most capable of welcoming the inexpressible gift of the Almighty. It was quite correct for the angel Gabriel to greet her as the “Daughter of Zion”: “Rejoice.”2 It is the thanksgiving of the whole People of God, and thus of the Church, which Mary in her canticle3 lifts up to the Father in the Holy Spirit while carrying within her the eternal Son.

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.4

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.”5 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.”6 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.”7 “Blessed is she who believed. .. ”8 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.9 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 Col 2:9.

2 Cf. Zeph 3:14; Zech 2:14.

3 Cf. Lk 1:46-55.

4 Cf. Lk 1:48; Zeph 3:17b.

5 Zeph 3:14,17a.

6 Rev 21:3.

7 Lk 1:41, 48.

8 Lk 1:45.

9 Cf. Gen 12:3.

APPLICATION

It is very probable that neither Zephaniah nor his hearers saw the full meaning of the consoling words he uttered and that matters not. But we see their full meaning now in their fulfillment and we have every reason to do what the prophet said: “to shout for joy.” God has come to dwell amongst us. He, Christ, is head of the new Israel, the Church. We are its members. “I am the vine, you are the branches” he said; while we remain united with him in grace and love we are producing fruit for eternal life, we are progressing daily towards our perfection.

The Israelites of old were indeed thankless and mean towards God, they forgot him and went after false Gods, and God resented this, and we would all say “how right he was”! But what about ourselves? We have seen proof of God’s love, exceedingly greater than anything the Israelites saw–his Son came amongst us–and actually died the most shameful and painful death for our sakes! Could we ever forget that? We can and we do, unfortunately. We too desert God and go after idols, false gods of our own making, the pleasures, the riches and the power of this passing world.

Let us stop and think today of our privileged status. We have been made adopted sons of God, brothers of Christ, who lowered himself to become one of us so that he would raise us up to become one with him forever. Would we swap our birthright of adopted son-ship of God for a mess of valueless pottage? Would we exchange an eternal happiness for some passing pleasure, some trivial material gain, some foolish sop to our false pride? This has been known to have happened, it can happen again. God forbid it should happen to me!

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Is 12:2-3, 4, 5-6.

Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

God indeed is my savior;

I am confident and unafraid.

My strength and my courage is the LORD,

and he has been my savior.

With joy you will draw water

at the fountain of salvation.

Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;

among the nations make known his deeds,

proclaim how exalted is his name.

 Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;

let this be known throughout all the earth.

Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,

for great in your midst

is the Holy One of Israel!

Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel. 

READING II

Saint_St_Paul_the_Apostle_Hand-Painted_Byzantine_Orthodox_Miniature_Icon_1.jpg

Phil 4:4-7

Brothers and sisters:

Rejoice in the Lord always.

I shall say it again: rejoice!

Your kindness should be known to all.

The Lord is near.

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,

by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,

make your requests known to God.

Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding

will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2633 When we share in God’s saving love, we understand that every need can become the object of petition. Christ, who assumed all things in order to redeem all things, is glorified by what we ask the Father in his name.1 It is with this confidence that St. James and St. Paul exhort us to pray at all times.2

1 Cf. Jn 14:13.

2 Cf. Jas 1:5-8; Eph 5:20; Phil 4:6-7; Col 3:16-17; 1 Thess 5:17-18.

APPLICATION

St. Francis of Assisi tried in his daily life to follow Christ as closely as possible. He was one of the happiest and most joyful of men for this very reason. He was often ill, often hungry, often cold and often fatigued but he was never known to have been sad. He had taken this exhortation of St. Paul to his heart. Whenever he saw one of his early followers gloomy and sad–there were some evidently who were as yet only following from afar–he told him go to confession as he must be in mortal sin. There seemed no other true explanation for sadness in a true Christian’s life. Is there? We are really pilgrims, exiles on this earth, but every day we live is a day nearer to our true and lasting home which is heaven. Would an exile on his home-journey complain of the few hardships and discomforts he may meet with on his journey? Not if his heart is really set on coming home.

Troubles and trials there must be in every individual’s life, but of this we have been forewarned by our Savior himself–“if anyone will come after me let him take up his cross daily and follow me.” The crosses we meet are not impediments to our progress towards heaven but rather necessary aids on our journey. If accepted willingly they will keep us closer to our Leader who carried his cross to Calvary for our sake.

St. Paul tells us today to pray for all our needs, always with thanksgiving. Such prayers, especially if we stress the thanksgiving we owe God already for the wonderful gifts he has given us, will lighten the cross and even perhaps make us grasp it closely rather than want to cast it from us. We are very mean if we refuse to undergo a little suffering for God who did so much for us and suffered so much for us.

GOSPEL

Saint_St_John_the_Baptist_Hand-Painted_Orthodox_Icon_on_Wood_1.jpg

Lk 3:10-18

The crowds asked John the Baptist,

“What should we do?”

He said to them in reply,

“Whoever has two cloaks

should share with the person who has none.

And whoever has food should do likewise.”

Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,

“Teacher, what should we do?”

He answered them,

“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”

Soldiers also asked him,

“And what is it that we should do?”

He told them,

“Do not practice extortion,

do not falsely accuse anyone,

and be satisfied with your wages.”

Now the people were filled with expectation,

and all were asking in their hearts

whether John might be the Christ.

John answered them all, saying,

“I am baptizing you with water,

but one mightier than I is coming.

I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor

and to gather the wheat into his barn,

but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Exhorting them in many other ways,

he preached good news to the people.

The Gospel of the Lord.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 535 Jesus’ public life begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan.1 John preaches “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.2 A crowd of sinners3 – tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees and Sadducees, and prostitutes- come to be baptized by him. “Then Jesus appears.” The Baptist hesitates, but Jesus insists and receives baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, “This is my beloved Son.”4 This is the manifestation (“Epiphany”) of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God.

CCC 696 Fire. While water signifies birth and the fruitfulness of life given in the Holy Spirit, fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions. The prayer of the prophet Elijah, who “arose like fire” and whose “word burned like a torch,” brought down fire from heaven on the sacrifice on Mount Carmel.5 This event was a “figure” of the fire of the Holy Spirit, who transforms what he touches. John the Baptist, who goes “before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah,” proclaims Christ as the one who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”6 Jesus will say of the Spirit: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!”7 In the form of tongues “as of fire,” the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and fills them with himself8 The spiritual tradition has retained this symbolism of fire as one of the most expressive images of the Holy Spirit’s actions.9 “Do not quench the Spirit.”10

CCC 2447 The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.11 Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.12 Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God:13

He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none and he who has food must do likewise.14 But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you.15 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?16

1 Cf. Lk 3:23; Acts 1:22.

2 lK 3:3.

3 Cf. Lk 3:10-14; Mt 3:7; 21:32.

4 Mt 3:13-17.

5 Sir 48:1; cf. 1 Kings 18:38-39.

6 Lk 1:17; 3:16.

7 Lk 12:49.

8 Acts 2:3-4.

9 Cf. St. John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love, in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, tr. K. Kavanaugh, OCD, and O. Rodriguez, OCD (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1979), 577 ff.

10 1 Thess 5:1.

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

12 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

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

14 Lk 3:11.

15 Lk 11:41.

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

APPLICATION

The Baptist’s words are still very much to the point for all of us. We are all to a greater or lesser degree tax collectors and sinners. They had the honesty to admit it and asked John what they should do in order to be ready to welcome the Messiah, Christ. Let me ask today too what I should do if I mean to welcome Christ sincerely at Christmas. And the answer is in the words I have just heard. Am I just and charitable to my fellow-men? If I am an employer am I paying a just wage to those who are producing my wealth for me? If I am an employee am I doing an honest day’s work for the pay I am getting? And both employer and employee must in justice and charity think of the consumer–the third party, when fixing or causing the price of what they produce.

If the employer, through desire for excessive profit, or the employee through not earning his pay, cause prices to rise then the third party, the consumer, is treated unjustly. Our world today is full of such injustices and sad to say, the Christian countries whose citizens profess to be followers of Christ not only do nothing to prevent this state of affairs but instead are even worse offenders than those who have not yet heard of Christ. I may shrug my shoulders and say what can I do about the injustice that abounds on all sides? But stop and think, there are things I can do. I can put my own conscience in order. I can put myself right with God and neighbor by acting justly, “giving every man his due” from this day forward. I can thus become an example to lead others to do likewise.

The true Christian in the world is the leaven which will convert the dough into wholesome healthy bread. I can be, and I should be, that energizing leaven. If I will not and if I do not strive to become so, Christ’s winnowing-fan on my day of judgment will put me among the chaff which is destined for the unquenchable fire.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Real Point of Christmas

Why do we really celebrate Christmas despite the wretchedness, turmoil, and isolation that are still man’s lot and are if anything intensifying rather than lessening? What is the real point of Christmas?… Is it not consoling to see how, despite all the misunderstandings, the message of Jesus of Nazareth is heard? It is not only conflict that the message has produced but also and even more the miracle of understanding, so that across ages and cultures, and even across the boundaries between religions, human beings find one another in his name. Distance vanishes and people are drawn together when this name is spoken… For Christmas says to us, amid all our doubts and bewilderment: God exists. Not as an infinitely distant power that can at best terrify us; not as being’s ultimate ground that is not conscious of itself. Rather he exists as One who can be concerned about us; he is such that everything we are and do lies open to his gaze. But that gaze is the gaze of Love. For anyone who accepts this in faith and knows it by faith, there is no longer any ultimate isolation. He is here. The light that one man became in history and for history is not an accident or something powerless, but Light from Light. The hope and encouragement that emanate from this light thus acquire a wholly new depth. But precisely because it is an entirely divine hope, we can and should accept it as also an entirely human hope and pass it on to others.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

PRAYER TO OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE

By Pope John-Paul II In Mexico, January, 1979.

O Immaculate Virgin, Mother of the true God and Mother of the Church!, who from this place reveal your clemency and your pity to all those who ask for your protection, hear the prayer that we address to you with filial trust, and present it to your Son Jesus, our sole Redeemer.

Mother of Mercy, Teacher of hidden and silent sacrifice, to you, who come to meet us sinners, we dedicate on this day all our being and all our love. We also dedicate to you our life, our work, our joys, our infirmities and our sorrows. Grant peace, justice and prosperity to our peoples; for we entrust to your care all that we have and all that we are, our Lady and Mother. We wish to be entirely yours and to walk with you along the way of complete faithfulness to Jesus Christ in His Church; hold us always with your loving hand.

Virgin of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas, we pray to you for all the Bishops, that they may lead the faithful along paths of intense Christian life, of love and humble service of God and souls. Contemplate this immense harvest, and intercede with the Lord that He may instill a hunger for holiness in the whole people of God, and grant abundant vocations of priests and religious, strong in the faith and zealous dispensers of God’s mysteries.

Grant to our homes the grace of loving and respecting life in its beginnings, with the same love with which you conceived in your womb the life of the Son of God. Blessed Virgin Mary, protect our families, so that they may always be united, and bless the upbringing of our children.

Our hope, look upon us with compassion, teach us to go continually to Jesus and, if we fall, help us to rise again, to return to Him, by means of the confession of our faults and sins in the Sacrament of Penance, which gives peace to the soul.

We beg you to grant us a great love for all the holy Sacraments, which are, as it were, the signs that your Son left us on earth.

Thus, Most Holy Mother, with the peace of God in our conscience, with our hearts free from evil and hatred, we will be able to bring to all true joy and true peace, which come to us from your son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

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Second Sunday of Advent

AN00034989_001_l.jpg  “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Prayer for a Happy Death

O God, great and omnipotent judge of the living and the dead, we are to appear before you after this short life to render an account of our works. Give us the grace to prepare for our last hour by a devout and holy life, and protect us against a sudden and unprovided death. Let us remember our frailty and mortality, that we may always live in the ways of your commandments. Teach us to “watch and pray” (Lk 21:36), that when your summons comes for our departure from this world, we may go forth to meet you, experience a merciful judgment, and rejoice in everlasting happiness. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty and merciful God,

Almighty and merciful God,

may no earthly undertaking hinder those

who set out in haste to meet your Son,

but may our learning of heavenly wisdom

gain us admittance to his company.

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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Bar 5:1-9

Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery;

put on the splendor of glory from God forever:

wrapped in the cloak of justice from God,

bear on your head the mitre

that displays the glory of the eternal name.

For God will show all the earth your splendor:

you will be named by God forever

the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.

Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights;

look to the east and see your children

gathered from the east and the west

at the word of the Holy One,

rejoicing that they are remembered by God.

Led away on foot by their enemies they left you:

but God will bring them back to you

borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones.

For God has commanded

that every lofty mountain be made low,

and that the age-old depths and gorges

be filled to level ground,

that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.

The forests and every fragrant kind of tree

have overshadowed Israel at God’s command;

for God is leading Israel in joy

by the light of his glory,

with his mercy and justice for company.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,

we were like men dreaming.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

and our tongue with rejoicing.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us;

we are glad indeed.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the torrents in the southern desert.

Those who sow in tears

shall reap rejoicing.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Although they go forth weeping,

carrying the seed to be sown,

They shall come back rejoicing,

carrying their sheaves.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

 APPLICATION

To help us prepare for the commemoration of Christ’s coming on earth at Christmas the Church has chosen these words of the Old Testament which spoke of the new Jerusalem, the new kingdom which the Messiah would set up when he came. As the Jews of old looked forward with hope to that day, we now should look back to it with joy and especially with thanksgiving. God created us, he gave us great gifts, we abused these gifts to insult him, yet he not only was willing to forgive us but he went to the length of sending his divine son to become like one of us, to live with us and die for us. Only God could have such love, such mercy, such a forgiving spirit.

It is only by our actions that we can show the gratitude we owe to him and the actions he expects are described in the prophecy you have heard read, justice and true worship. We are dedicated to God by our baptism–the words “holy to God” were written on our foreheads by the water and holy oil of baptism. Let us try to live up to this holy dedication by our justice and fidelity to God and to our neighbor. This is true worship of God. We were remembered by him when he gave us our Christian vocation–sinners though we were. Let us never forget him, who not only brought us back from exile, but has made us sons and heirs of his eternal kingdom. “What can I render to God for all he has given me?” the psalmist asked. My answer is very little indeed but he is willing to accept that little, will I refuse even that little?

READING II

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Phil 1:4-6, 8-11

Brothers and sisters:

I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you,

because of your partnership for the gospel

from the first day until now.

I am confident of this,

that the one who began a good work in you

will continue to complete it

until the day of Christ Jesus.

God is my witness,

how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer:

that your love may increase ever more and more

in knowledge and every kind of perception,

to discern what is of value,

so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,

filled with the fruit of righteousness

that comes through Jesus Christ

for the glory and praise of God.

The word of the Lord.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2632 Christian petition is centered on the desire and search for the Kingdom to come, in keeping with the teaching of Christ.1 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.2 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.3 By prayer every baptized person works for the coming of the Kingdom.

CCC 2636 The first Christian communities lived this form of fellowship intensely.4 Thus the Apostle Paul gives them a share in his ministry of preaching the Gospel5 but also intercedes for them.6 The intercession of Christians recognizes no boundaries: “for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions,” for persecutors, for the salvation of those who reject the Gospel.7

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

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

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

4 Cf. Acts 12:5; 20:36; 21:5; 2 Cor 9:14.

5 Cf. Eph 6:18-20; Col 4:3-4; 1 Thess 5:25.

6 Cf. 2 Thess 1:11; Col 1:3; Phil 1:3-4.

7 2 Tim 2:1; cf. Rom 12:14; 10:1.

APPLICATION

The “day of Christ,” the day of the parousia or of his coming in glory to judge the whole world, was anxiously looked for in the early Church. Many of the first generation Christians thought it would come in their life-time. Christ did not reveal when his Second Coming would be, but be did tell us to be always ready. This much we know, each one of us will appear before him to be judged at the moment of our death and that moment will decide for us how his Second Coming will affect us. And the decision, granted God’s grace, is up to each one of us.

We have all scored points for or against ourselves already, but owing to the infinite mercy of God we have the means of erasing the guilty marks and so we can put ourselves in readiness at a moment’s notice. But will we get the moment’s notice? There have been death-bed conversions, but foolish indeed is the man who would presume such a grace. Of the hundreds of thousands who die each day less than one in a thousand believes he is about to die. Am I going to be the exception?

Therefore, to make sure of a happy death, that is, of a successful judgment, there is but one guarantee and it is to lead a successful, a true, Christian life. God has been so good to us, he has created us, he has redeemed us, be has prepared a place in heaven for us and has given us all the necessary means of reaching that place, could we be so thankless, so mean to him and so neglectful of our own greatest good, as not to use those means and make sure of the eternal happiness be has planned for us?

Today is the opportune, the right moment, to answer this question and to answer it sensibly–if I do not, nobody else, not even God himself, can answer it for me.

GOSPEL

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Lk 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,

when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,

and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,

and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region

of Ituraea and Trachonitis,

and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,

during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,

the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.

John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,

proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,

as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:

A voice of one crying out in the desert:

“Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.

Every valley shall be filled

and every mountain and hill shall be made low.

The winding roads shall be made straight,

and the rough ways made smooth,

and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/120918.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC – 535 Jesus’ public life begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan.1 John preaches “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.2 A crowd of sinners3 – tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees and Sadducees, and prostitutes- come to be baptized by him. “Then Jesus appears.” The Baptist hesitates, but Jesus insists and receives baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, “This is my beloved Son.”4 This is the manifestation (“Epiphany”) of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God.

1 Cf. Lk 3:23; Acts 1:22.
2 lK 3:3.
3 Cf. Lk 3:10-14; Mt 3:7; 21:32.
4 Mt 3:13-17.

APPLICATION

The preaching of John the Baptist, quoting Isaiah, which echoed and re-echoed around the Jordan valley nearly two thousand years ago, should ring in our ears today too. We are preparing for the coming of Christ at Christmas, and the prophet tells us how we should prepare ourselves if the welcome we give our Savior is to be sincere and true. Even the best and the holiest amongst us will have to admit that our paths–our dealings with God–over the past twelve months have been far from straight and smooth.

How much time have we given to God and the things of God since this time last year? How far has God and our Christian religion influenced our lives, our work, our recreation, since last Christmas? Have we thanked God even once a day during the past year for the marvelous gifts he has given us–the gift of life with the promise and the means of earning an eternal life? Have we rather begrudged the paltry half-hour on Sunday out of the 168 hours in each week?

Alas, looking back over the past year, most, if not all of us, will have to feel ashamed of our meanness, our ingratitude towards the good God, to whom we owe everything we have.

However, Christmas is the commemoration of that greatest gift of his mercy which God bestowed on this world, and if we but humbly beat our breasts and admit our meanness–if we lower the mountains of selfish pride and fill up the valleys of laziness and forgetfulness by turning to him with hearts full of gratitude and repentance, there will be mercy in abundance even for the greatest sinner amongst us. Christ will come to us with the “salvation of God” and we can confidently hope to live the coming year as we should, as grateful children of our loving Father in heaven.

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

BENEDICTUS

John the Baptist in Advent

Let us gaze on John the Baptist. Challenging and active he stands before us, a “type” of the manly vocation. In harsh terms he demands metanoia, a radical transformation of attitudes. Those who would be Christians must be “transformed” ever again. Our natural disposition, indeed, finds us always ready to assert ourselves to pay like with like, to put ourselves at the center. Those who want to find God need, again and again, that inner conversion, that new direction. And this applies also to the total outlook on life. Day by day we encounter the world of visible things. It assaults us through billboards, broadcasts, traffic, and all the activities of daily life, to such an enormous extent that we are tempted to assume there is nothing else but this. Yet the truth is that what is invisible is greater and much more valuable than anything visible. One single soul, in Pascal’s beautiful words, is worth more than the entire visible universe. But in order to have a living awareness of this, we need conversion, we need to turn around inside, as it were, to overcome the illusion of what is visible, and to develop the feeling, the ears and the eyes, for what is invisible. This has to be more important than anything that bombards us day after day with such exaggerated urgency. Metanoeite: change your attitude, so that God may dwell in you and, through you, in the world. John himself was not spared this painful process of change, of turning around.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Advent Prayer

Father, in the wilderness of the Jordan you sent a messenger to prepare people’s hearts for the coming of your Son. Help me to hear his words and repent of my sins, so that I may clearly see the way to walk, the truth to speak, and the life to live for Him, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 

ADVENT WREATH PRAYER

Week Two

Let us pray.

O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotton Son,

that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure souls.

Through the same Christ our Lord.

Amen.

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’

 

Posted in Catholic

First Sunday of Advent – C

second-coming-of-christ.jpg

“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Advent Prayer

Father, in the wilderness of the Jordan you sent a messenger to prepare people’s hearts for the coming of your Son. Help us to hear his words and repent of my sins, so that we may clearly see the way to walk, the truth to speak, and the life to live for Him, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

COLLECT

Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,

the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ

with righteous deeds at his coming,

so that, gathered at his right hand,

they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

Prophet_King_David_Hand-Painted_Orthodox_Icon_2_1-1.jpg

Jer 33:14-16

The days are coming, says the LORD,

when I will fulfill the promise

I made to the house of Israel and Judah.

In those days, in that time,

I will raise up for David a just shoot ;

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

In those days Judah shall be safe

and Jerusalem shall dwell secure;

this is what they shall call her:

“The LORD our justice.”

APPLICATION

On this the first Sunday of Advent the Church wishes to remind us of what Advent means–a period of preparation for the Advent–the Coming–of Christ our Savior. This

prophecy of Jeremiah intended to encourage the Jews to trust in God in spite of all their present difficulties, can and should encourage us too. The fulfillment of the ancient prophecies in Christ (this particular one was made six centuries before he came on earth) are a guarantee for us of the truth of his claims–he was the Messiah promised to Abraham, David and the Chosen People. He was the descendant of Abraham, the royal son of David, who would bring back not only Abraham’s people but all nations to the true God. But he was much more than a son of Abraham or of David, he was as well the true Son of God.

In the Christmas festival each year we commemorate his coming on earth. What the Jews of old looked forward to, we can see fulfilled. The great central hope of their religion and of their history–their expectancy of One who was to come, has taken place in our history. The Son of God has come on earth to bring us to heaven. He became man, like one of ourselves, so that we could become like to God, adopted sons of the Father. He suffered during the course of his earthly life so that we could enjoy an eternal happiness in heaven. This is the great mystery, the mystery of God’s love for us which we commemorate and call to mind each Christmas. It should hardly be necessary to urge any Christian–even a lukewarm one–to try to make himself, not worthy, but a little less unworthy, to welcome into his heart and his home the God of love who deigned to share our weak human nature so that we could share in his divinity.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;

teach me your paths,

Guide me in your truth and teach me,

for you are God my savior,

and for you I wait all the day.

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

Good and upright is the LORD;

thus he shows sinners the way.

He guides the humble to justice,

and teaches the humble his way.

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

All the paths of the LORD are kindness and constancy

toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

The friendship of the LORD is with those who fear him,

and his covenant, for their instruction.

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

READING II

dimitri-george-procopius-artemy-17c_hilanderathos.jpeg

1 Thes 3:12-4:2

Brothers and sisters:

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love

for one another and for all,

just as we have for you,

so as to strengthen your hearts,

to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father

at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.

Finally, brothers and sisters,

we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that,

as you received from us

how you should conduct yourselves to please God

and as you are conducting yourselves

you do so even more.

For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

APPLICATION

The teaching of Christ, the Christian faith, is for all races, all places and all times. St. Paul is telling us today what he told the Thessalonians nineteen centuries ago, to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ–the great day of judgement, by living each day as God wants us to live it, namely by living in love and peace with God and our neighbor. Some of the Thessalonians at that time were expecting the Second Coming–the general judgement–in their own day. It didn’t come then, it hasn’t come yet, but the particular judgement came to them, and it will come to us, in our day and sooner, rather than later, than we expect it. And that particular judgement, when we draw our last earthly breath, will decide our eternal fate. Advent–the preparation for Christmas, Christ’s First Coming, is a most suitable occasion to prepare ourselves for that day. If I were called today to face my particular judgement how would I fare? This is the most important question I could ever put to myself–my eternity depends on the answer. But I can still

put things right. I can still get back on the road God has mapped out for me and he is ever ready to forgive the past mistakes. I should be very foolish to delay another moment.

GOSPEL

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Lk 21:25-28, 34-36

Jesus said to his disciples:

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,

and on earth nations will be in dismay,

perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

People will die of fright

in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,

for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

And then they will see the Son of Man

coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

But when these signs begin to happen,

stand erect and raise your heads

because your redemption is at hand.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy

from carousing and drunkenness

and the anxieties of daily life,

and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.

For that day will assault everyone

who lives on the face of the earth.

Be vigilant at all times

and pray that you have the strength

to escape the tribulations that are imminent

and to stand before the Son of Man.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 672 Before his Ascension Christ affirmed that the hour had not yet come for the glorious establishment of the messianic kingdom awaited by Israel1 which, according to the prophets, was to bring all men the definitive order of justice, love and peace.2 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 Church3 and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching.4

CCC 2612 In Jesus “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”5 He calls his hearers to conversion and faith, but also to watchfulness. In prayer the disciple keeps watch, attentive to Him Who Is and Him Who Comes, in memory of his first coming in the lowliness of the flesh, and in the hope of his second coming in glory.6 In communion with their Master, the disciples’ prayer is a battle; only by keeping watch in prayer can one avoid falling into temptation.7

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.8 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.”9 The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch.10 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.”11

1 Cf. Acts 1:6-7.

2 Cf. Is 11:1-9.

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

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

5 Mk 1:15.

6 Cf. Mk 13; Lk 21:34-36.

7 Cf. Lk 22:40, 46.

8 Cf. Mt 4:1-11; 26:36-44.

9 Jn 17:11; Cf. Mk 13:9, 23, 33-37; 14:38; Lk 12:35-40.

10 Cf. 1 Cor 16:13; Col 4:2; 1 Thess 5:6; 1 Pet 5:8.

11 Rev 16:15.

APPLICATION

That this earth is not our permanent home nobody denies, yet many people live and act as if it were. They see funerals and read of the death of friends and fellow-men every day, yet they try to persuade themselves that somehow they will not have to go the same road. But go they must and render an account they must, to the “Son of Man coming with power and in great glory.” We have been forewarned and the words of Christ read in today’s gospel should awaken us to the true facts of life and of death. He does not ask us to ignore or despise this earth or this life but he does ask us to estimate it for what it is–a period of transit which properly used will earn for us our eternal home. If we judge ourselves daily we need not fear the day of judgement. If we are loyal and faithful to our

Christian vocation, our end on earth will not be an end but the beginning of our true life.

What better occasion could we have for taking a serious, sincere look at ourselves and at our attitude to life and the things of this life, than this Advent period. If we can welcome the humble Babe of Bethlehem at Christmas with a sincere and open heart–a heart grateful for all the gifts already given us, and sorrowful for all the meanness and thanklessness we have shown in the past, we can trust and hope that the second and glorious coming of Christ will not be for us a catastrophe but rather the culmination of all our dearest hopes and desires–the beginning of a never-ending Christmas of happiness and joy.

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

BENEDICTUS

One aspect of Advent is a waiting that is full of hope. In this, Advent enables us to understand the content and meaning of Christian time and of history as such… Man is always waiting in his life… Mankind has never been able to cease hoping for better times. Christians have always hoped that the Lord will always be present in history and that he will gather up all our tears and all our troubles so that everything will be explained and fulfilled in the kingdom. It becomes especially clear during a time of illness that man is always waiting. Every day we are waiting for a sign of improvement and in the end for a complete cure. At the same time, however, we discover how many different ways there are of waiting. When time itself is not filled with a present that is meaningful, waiting becomes unbearable. If we have a look forward to something that is not there now – if, in other words, we have nothing here and now and the present is completely empty, every second of our life seems too long. Waiting itself becomes too heavy a burden to bear, when we cannot be sure whether we really have anything at all to wait for. When, on the other hand, time itself is meaningful and every moment contains something especially valuable, our joyful anticipation of the greater experience that is still to come makes what we have in the present even more precious and we are carried by an invisible power beyond the present moment. Advent helps us to wait with precisely this kind of waiting. It is the essentially Christian form of waiting and hoping.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Advent Prayer

God of power and mercy, open our hearts in welcome. Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy, so that we may share his wisdom and become one with him when he comes in glory, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

* * *

ADVENT WREATH PRAYER

The following are the Advent wreath prayers that change every week.

They are prayed at the lighting of each candle every evening during Advent.

Week One:

The first candle is lit, and the prayer for the first week is said.

Let us pray.

Stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, O Lord,

and come, so that we may escape through Thy protection

and be saved by Thy help from the dangers

that threaten us because of our sins.

Who livest and reigns for ever and ever.

All: Amen.

During the first week one candle is left burning during the evening meal, or during prayers.

Week Two:

Two candles are lit on the second Sunday and allowed to burn as before. The prayer for the week is:

Let us pray.

O Lord, stir up our hearts

that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son,

that through His coming

we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure souls.

Through the same Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Week Three:

Three candles, including the rose candle, are lit on Gaudete, the third Sunday, and during that week. The following prayer is said:

Let us pray.

We humbly beg Thee, O Lord,

to listen to our prayers;

and by the grace of Thy coming

bring light into our darkened minds.

Who livest and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen.

Week Four:

All four candles are lit on the fourth Sunday and allowed to burn as before. The prayer said the fourth week is:

Let us pray.

Stir up Thy might, we pray Thee, O Lord, and come;

rescue us through Thy great strength so that salvation,

which has been hindered by our sins,

may be hastened by the grace of Thy gentle mercy.

Who livest and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen.

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The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe – B

 

 

 

 

 

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“For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.

Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer to Christ the King

Christ Jesus, I acknowledge You King of the universe.

All that has been created has been made for You.

Make full use of Your rights over me.

I renew the promises I made in Baptism,

when I renounced Satan and all his pomps and works,

and I promise to live a good Christian life

and to do all in my power

to procure the triumph of the rights of God

and Your Church.

Divine Heart of Jesus,

I offer you my efforts

in order to obtain that all hearts

may acknowledge your Sacred Royalty,

and that thus the Kingdom of Your peace

may be established throughout the universe.

Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

whose will is to restore all things

in your beloved Son, the King of the universe,

grant, we pray,

that the whole creation, set free from slavery,

may render your majesty service

and ceaselessly proclaim your praise.

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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Dn 7:13-14

As the visions during the night continued, I saw

one like a Son of man coming,

on the clouds of heaven;

when he reached the Ancient One

and was presented before him,

the one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship;

all peoples, nations, and languages serve him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

that shall not be taken away,

his kingship shall not be destroyed.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 440 Jesus accepted Peter’s profession of faith, which acknowledged him to be the Messiah, by announcing the imminent Passion of the Son of Man.1 He unveiled the authentic content of his messianic kingship both in the transcendent identity of the Son of Man “who came down from heaven”, and in his redemptive mission as the suffering Servant: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”2 Hence the true meaning of his kingship is revealed only when he is raised high on the cross.3 Only after his Resurrection will Peter be able to proclaim Jesus’ messianic kingship to the People of God: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”4

CCC 664 Being seated at the Father’s right hand signifies the inauguration of the Messiah’s kingdom, the fulfillment of the prophet Daniel’s vision concerning the Son of man: “To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”5 After this event the apostles became witnesses of the “kingdom [that] will have no end”.6

1 Cf. Mt 16:16-23.

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

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

4 Acts 2:36.

5 Dan 7:14.

6 Nicene Creed.

APPLICATION

Today’s feast day was instituted as a rallying-call to all Christians to acknowledge the sovereignty of Christ our King over all earthly powers, kingdoms and peoples. This call was very necessary in an age when worldliness and earthly ambitions were drawing the minds of men further away from God and Christ, and from their own eternal interests. Our twentieth century has seen not only pagan countries denying the existence of God and a future life but nations that were once Christian have been forced to live under atheistic regimes which forbid the public practice of religion. It was to counteract and stem this growing infidelity that Pope Pius XI instituted the feast in honor of Christ the King; he wanted to remind Christians of the fidelity and loyalty they owed to Christ who by his incarnation had made them adopted children of God and future citizens and heirs of the kingdom of heaven.

Today’s extract from the Book of Daniel, written two centuries before Christ came on earth, tells us that the son of man would receive from God his Father, dominion and sovereignty over all peoples, nations and languages. He would be the king of kings and the lord of glory and his kingdom would last forever. Many other messianic prophecies in the Old Testament give Christ the Messiah the title of King. The prophet Nathan promised King David (c. 1000 B.C.) that a descendant of his would come “who would establish his throne forever” (2 Sm. 7: 16). Isaiah says of the future Messiah: “he will sit on David’s kingly throne, to give it lasting foundations of justice and right” (Is. 9: 6-7; see 1-5). In the prophet Jeremiah we read: “a time is coming, the Lord says, when I will raise up from the stock of David a faithful descendant at last” (Jer. 23: 3). To crown and confirm the Davidic typology, the Virgin Mary is told by the angel that the child she is to conceive “shall be known as the Son of the Most High; the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David . . . and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk. 1: 32).

We are called on today to honor Christ our King. The other feasts of our Lord which we celebrate throughout the year remind us of all that Christ has done for us, but today’s should call to our minds what we are to do for him in return. Unlike the kings of earthly kingdoms who rightly expect their loyal subjects to die for them and their nation if need be, our King, Christ, died for us in order to make us free citizens of his kingdom. He does expect us to be ready to die for him and for his kingdom if the occasion should arise, and down through his Church’s history many of his loyal subjects have gladly done so. But from the vast majority of his subjects, Christ does not demand this supreme sacrifice. What he does expect and demand is not that we should die for him but that we should live for him. This we can and should do by faithfully living our Christian life day by day.

The loyal, honest citizen of any country will keep the law of the land of which he is a citizen. A Christian has double citizenship: he is a citizen of his homeland and he is a citizen of Christ’s kingdom. He must, therefore, be loyal to his country and loyal to Christ but as the Christian law commands obedience to the lawful civil authority the two obligations are identical in many cases. As Christians, however, we have some extra duties to perform above and beyond what our country demands of us. These can be summed up briefly in the double commandment of charity, love of God and love of neighbor.

While most civilized states have laws preventing their citizens from publicly insulting God or religion, and all states prohibit citizens from injuring their neighbor in his person or in his property, the Christian law demands a positive approach. The Christian is bound to love, reverence and obey God. The first three commandments spell out for him how this is to be done. Likewise, the Christian rule of life not only forbids a Christian to injure his neighbor, it commands him positively to help his neighbor–in fact to love him as he loves himself.

How loyal are we to Christ? Are we worthy citizens of his kingdom on earth and so working our way toward his eternal kingdom in heaven? Our answer is the answer to the question: do we sincerely love God and our neighbor? Only we can give a true answer to this question and it is we ourselves who will reap the reward or suffer the eternal consequence of the positive or negative answer which our consciences give to this vital question.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 93:1, 1-2, 5

The LORD is king; he is robed in majesty.

The LORD is king, in splendor robed;

robed is the LORD and girt about with strength.

The LORD is king; he is robed in majesty.

And he has made the world firm,

not to be moved.

Your throne stands firm from of old;

from everlasting you are, O LORD.

The LORD is king; he is robed in majesty.

Your decrees are worthy of trust indeed;

holiness befits your house,

O LORD, for length of days.

The LORD is king; he is robed in majesty.

READING II

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Rv 1:5-8

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness,

the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,

who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father,

to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.

Behold, he is coming amid the clouds,

and every eye will see him,

even those who pierced him.

All the peoples of the earth will lament him.

Yes. Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, ” says the Lord God,

“the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 784 On entering the People of God through faith and Baptism, one receives a share in this people’s unique, priestly vocation: “Christ the Lord, high priest taken from among men, has made this new people ‘a kingdom of priests to God, his Father.’ The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood.”1

CCC 1546 Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.”2 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.”3

CCC 2854 When we ask to be delivered from the Evil One, we pray as well to be freed from all evils, present, past, and future, of which he is the author or instigator. In this final petition, the Church brings before the Father all the distress of the world. Along with deliverance from the evils that overwhelm humanity, she implores the precious gift of peace and the grace of perseverance in expectation of Christ’s return By praying in this way, she anticipates in humility of faith the gathering together of everyone and everything in him who has “the keys of Death and Hades,” who “is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”4

Deliver us, Lord, we beseech you, from every evil and grant us peace in our day, so that aided by your mercy we might be ever free from sin and protected from all anxiety, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.5

CCC 2855 The final doxology, “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever,” takes up again, by inclusion, the first three petitions to our Father: the glorification of his name, the coming of his reign, and the power of his saving will. But these prayers are now proclaimed as adoration and thanksgiving, as in the liturgy of heaven.6 The ruler of this world has mendaciously attributed to himself the three titles of kingship, power, and glory.7 Christ, the Lord, restores them to his Father and our Father, until he hands over the kingdom to him when the mystery of salvation will be brought to its completion and God will be all in all.8

1 LG 10; Cf. Heb 5:1-5; Rev 1:6.

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

3 LG 10 § 1.

4 Rev 1:8,18; cf. Rev 1:4; Eph 1:10.

5 Roman Missal, Embolism after the Lord’s Prayer, 126: Libera nos, quaesumus, Domine, ab omnibus malis, da propitius pacem in diebus nostris, ut, ope misericordiae tuae adiuti, et a peccato simus semper liberi, et ab omni perturbatione securi: expectantes beatam spem et adventum Salvatoris nostri Iesu Christi.

6 Cf. Rev 1:6; 4:11; 5:13.

7 Cf. Lk 4:5-6.

8 1 Cor 15:24-28.

APPLICATION

As one would expect on this special feast day of Christ our King, the readings chosen from sacred Scripture stress the kingly glory and dignity of Christ after his triumph over sin and death, while they also remind us of how much we owe him. This kingly glory will be visible to all men at his second coming–a vision which will delight his faithful ones but which will strike terror into his enemies. In his Apocalypse, St. John reminds us first and foremost of all that Christ has done for us. During his life among us, he has revealed his loving Father. It was his own divine love that made him come as the incarnate Son of God and give his life for us. He triumphed over death and continues to love us in heaven. He established his messianic kingdom, in which we, his subjects, are given the power and the privilege of serving God with a true service–for he has joined us to himself who alone could give fitting service to his Father.

John then reminds the faithful followers of Christ and Christ’s opponents as well that Christ will return in glory and majesty to demand a reckoning from each one. This is a sobering thought for all of us. Each will have to stand before the tribunal of Christ one day and see one’s life work laid bare. On that day we shall see all our thoughts, words and actions as they really were. Here on earth, our prejudices and our pride and selfishness can minimize our faults and exaggerate our virtues, but in the presence of the omniscient Judge we will see ourselves as we truly are. We shall have no excuses to offer because we will see the emptiness, the folly of the excuses with which we silenced our consciences here below. Instead of making too much of our good deeds and our virtues, we will realize how little we have done for him who humbled himself even to the death of the cross for our sakes. The saints of God regretted that they had not done more for the Savior and King who had gone to such lengths in order to bring them into his heavenly kingdom.

We thank God that the dread moment has not yet arrived. We have still time left in which to put our conscience and our spiritual affairs in order. Today’s feast gives each one of us the opportunity of seeing how we stand in relation to Christ. Are we loyal subjects faithfully trying to carry out his laws? Are we sincerely grateful to him who put heaven within our reach, showed us the way to go there and is daily helping us? If so, let us promise that with the help of God’s grace we will continue to be loyal and grateful.

If, on the other hand, some of us will have to admit to ourselves, and to Christ, that we have been far from faithful and too often entirely ungrateful for his divine love and mercy we still have a chance to put things right before our judgment day arrives. Christ is ever ready to forgive and welcome back the prodigal sons. Today our King is calling to us to return home to him who “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.” He died on a cross so that we should have eternal life. He is ready to forgive and forget all our past disloyalties, if only we will turn to him and ask for forgiveness. Our verdict on the day of our judgment will depend on the decision which we take today. Our eternity of happiness or of misery depends on that verdict. With our eternal future at stake should we allow the trivial, transient things of this life to come between us and Christ, the King of Kings?

GOSPEL

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Jn 18:33b-37

Pilate said to Jesus,

“Are you the King of the Jews?”

Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own

or have others told you about me?”

Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I?

Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.

What have you done?”

Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.

If my kingdom did belong to this world,

my attendants would be fighting

to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.

But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”

So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?”

Jesus answered, “You say I am a king.

For this I was born and for this I came into the world,

to testify to the truth.

Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 160 To be human, “man’s response to God by faith must be free, and. .. therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act.”1 “God calls men to serve him in spirit and in truth. Consequently they are bound to him in conscience, but not coerced. .. This fact received its fullest manifestation in Christ Jesus.”2 Indeed, Christ invited people to faith and conversion, but never coerced them. “For he bore witness to the truth but refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke against it. His kingdom. .. grows by the love with which Christ, lifted up on the cross, draws men to himself.”3

CCC 217 God is also truthful when he reveals himself – the teaching that comes from God is “true instruction”.4 When he sends his Son into the world it will be “to bear witness to the truth”:5 “We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to know him who is true.”6

CCC 549 By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death,7 Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below,8 but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God’s sons and causes all forms of human bondage.9

CCC 559 How will Jerusalem welcome her Messiah? Although Jesus had always refused popular attempts to make him king, he chooses the time and prepares the details for his messianic entry into the city of “his father David”.10 Acclaimed as son of David, as the one who brings salvation (Hosanna means “Save!” or “Give salvation!”), the “King of glory” enters his City “riding on an ass”.11 Jesus conquers the Daughter of Zion, a figure of his Church, neither by ruse nor by violence, but by the humility that bears witness to the truth.12 And so the subjects of his kingdom on that day are children and God’s poor, who acclaim him as had the angels when they announced him to the shepherds.13 Their acclamation, “Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord”,14 is taken up by the Church in the “Sanctus” of the Eucharistic liturgy that introduces the memorial of the Lord’s Passover.

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.”15 For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness.16

CCC 2471 Before Pilate, Christ proclaims that he “has come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.”17 The Christian is not to “be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord.”18 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.”19

1 DH 10; cf. CIC, can. 748 # 2.

2 DH 11.

3 DH 11; cf. Jn 18:37; 12:32.

4 Mal 2:6.

5 Jn 18:37.

6 I Jn 5:20; cf. Jn 17:3.

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

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

9 Cf. Jn 8:34-36.

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

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

12 Cf. Jn 18:37.

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

14 Cf. Ps 118:26.

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

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

17 Jn 18:37.

18 2 Tim 1:8.

19 Acts 24:16.

APPLICATION

In today’s two previous readings we have seen that the prophets foretold the kingship of Christ and the Apostle John described him as the founder of our kingdom who one day would judge all mankind. In today’s gospel, we have our divine Lord’s own statement that he is a king–the king of a new and everlasting kingdom which is not of this world. He made this statement to the Roman governor to whom he had been handed over by the priests and leaders of the Jewish people to be put to death by crucifixion. Long before, he had foreseen this death and had accepted it as part of his Father’s plan for making atonement for the sins of mankind. He knew Pilate did not believe that he was the leader of a rebellion against the Roman authorities, but he did not try to influence Pilate’s decision in his favor for he wanted the will of his Father carried out to the letter.

Five centuries before, the prophet second-Isaiah had described the Messiah who was to come as the Servant of God who suffered torments on our behalf. The prophet says: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… surely, he has borne our grief’s and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. We like sheep have gone astray… and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, like a sheep before its shearers he opened not his mouth” (Is. 53: 3-7). Had Pilate known this prophecy he would not have been surprised that Jesus uttered no word in his own defense. His Father had sent him to raise up mankind and to make atonement for men’s sins; his death on the cross was that supreme act of atonement and without objection he accepted it.

The kings of this earth demand of their subjects that they should be ready, if necessary, to lay down their lives to defend their king and realm. Men have always accepted this and millions have gladly given their lives to defend their country and rulers. We have a king who laid down his life for us and set us an example unlike that of any earthly king. Following his Father’s will, he did this to make us worthy to share in the Father’s eternal kingdom. The incarnation, which made us adopted children of God, and the crucifixion, which obtained remission of our sins, surely prove to us the love and the esteem in which God holds us. It should also show how important is our future life. Christ did not come on earth to make us healthy, happy or prosperous in this world; he came to open heaven for us where we could be happy forever. This was God’s purpose in creating us. This is his purpose for us still. All our other interests in this life are secondary when compared with this.

In honoring Christ today as our King, let us especially thank him for all the humiliations and sufferings he endured on our behalf. If our Christian way of living makes some demands on us let us not forget how trivial they are when compared with what Christ’s earthly life cost him. He made these severe sacrifices for us; we are asked to make our small offerings for ourselves. Our self-interest alone should inspire us, but our gratitude to Christ should especially move us to play our part. Let us promise to be grateful and loyal subjects of his for the rest of our days. He has made us members of his kingdom on earth–the Church–and is preparing a place for us in his everlasting kingdom. Let no one be so foolish as to forfeit an eternal happiness because of some earthly attachment to the passing things of this world.

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

BENEDICTUS

Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified son of a carpenter, is so intrinsically king that the title “king” has actually become his name. By calling ourselves Christians, we label ourselves as followers of the king, as people who recognize him as their king. But we can understand properly what the kingship of Jesus Christ means only if we trace its origin in the Old Testament, where we immediately discover a surprising fact. It is obvious that God did not intend Israel to have a kingdom. The kingdom was, in fact, a result of Israel’s rebellion against God and against his prophets, a defection from the original will of God. The law was to be Israel’s king, and, through the law, God himself… But Israel was jealous of the neighboring peoples with their powerful kings… Surprisingly, God yielded to Israel’s obstinacy and so devised a new kind of kingship for them. The son of David, the king, is Jesus; in him God entered humanity and espoused it to himself… God does not have a fixed plan that he must carry out: on the contrary, he has many different ways of finding man and even of turning his wrong ways into right ways. We can see that, for instance, in the case of Adam, whose fault became a happy fault, and we see it again in all the twisted ways of history. This, then, is God’s kingship – a love that is impregnable and an inventiveness that finds man by ways that are always new… God’s kingship means that we must have an unshakeable confidence… No one has reason to fear or to capitulate. God can always be found.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to Christ the King

Let us praise Jesus Christ our king

for the wonderful things he has done.

He sends out his word to heal us.

He satisfies the thirsty with the water of life.

He fills the hungry with the abundance of his kingdom.

Let us praise Jesus, redeemer and renewer of all things.

May we always trust in his goodness and love,

And have faith in his grace and mercy,

May we always believe he cares about justice and righteousness,

And draw our life from his eternal purposes.

Let us praise Jesus Christ our king and savior,

May we be filled with the hope and promise of his coming,

And give our lives to follow him.

May we be gripped by his kingdom ways,

And walk with assurance and trust into his grace and peace.

Amen.

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Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for Renewal

Glory to you, O Lord our God, Your love calls us to be your people. By sharing our many and diverse gifts we share in your mission. We ask you, Lord, to shape us into a community of faith. Nourish us by your word and sacraments that we may grow into the image of Jesus. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, heal us that we, in turn, may heal the wounded. Form us to be instruments of love, justice, and peace in our land, and send us to proclaim your saving work.

RENEW us, Lord, that we may renew the face of the earth, and when you do come to claim your people, we may gain the eternal merit won by Christ.

Amen.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1650

COLLECT

Grant us, we pray, O Lord our God,

the constant gladness of being devoted to you,

for it is full and lasting happiness

to serve with constancy

the author of all that is good.

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.

Amen.

READING I

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Dn 12:1-3

In those days, I Daniel,

heard this word of the Lord:

“At that time there shall arise

Michael, the great prince,

guardian of your people;

it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress

since nations began until that time.

At that time your people shall escape,

everyone who is found written in the book.

“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake;

some shall live forever,

others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.

“But the wise shall shine brightly

like the splendor of the firmament,

and those who lead the many to justice

shall be like the stars forever.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 992 God revealed the resurrection of the dead to his people progressively. Hope in the bodily resurrection of the dead established itself as a consequence intrinsic to faith in God as creator of the whole man, soul and body. The creator of heaven and earth is also the one who faithfully maintains his covenant with Abraham and his posterity. It was in this double perspective that faith in the resurrection came to be expressed. In their trials, the Maccabean martyrs confessed:

The King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.1 One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him.2

CCC 998 Who will rise? All the dead will rise, “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”3

1 2 Macc 7:9.

2 2 Macc 7:14; cf. 7:29; Dan 12:1-13.

3 Jn 5:29; cf. Dan 12:2.

APPLICATION

The Church begins and ends her liturgical year with lessons that remind us of our end and the end of the world. In the new liturgical arrangement, the Feast of Christ the King is celebrated on the last Sunday of the year and therefore the Church places the reminder of death, judgement and resurrection on this the penultimate Sunday. Today’s reading from the Book of Daniel puts before our eyes the fact that this world will have an end marked by great upheavals and disasters. However, these will be followed immediately by a new and everlasting existence. This new life will be one of unending joy and happiness for those who are found worthy. For the others who did not think of it or prepare for it, it will be a life of unending shame and sorrow.

Here, surely, we have a solemn reminder of what is ahead of us and of what we ought to do about it. Every businessman worthy of the name annually takes a serious look at his business affairs to see how he stands. If he finds that all is going well he resolves to continue or to improve things if improvement is possible. If his business is going down, he will search for the causes of this decline and resolve to do all in his power to check the defects that are causing the decline. Today, we are all called on to make this stock-taking of our progress or decline. Our duty to have this stock-taking is of infinitely greater importance than that of the businessman. If his business fails it is not the end of him, he can find other ways of making a living. He has other options open to him. If we fail to be prepared for heaven, we have no second chance, our failure is final and for all eternity.

This is a thought that should make us stop and think. We have one life only on earth—a life of a few short years. Our real life, the eternal life of happiness or misery depends on how we spend these years on earth. We can waste them and arrive empty-handed at the end of our journey, or we can spend them well and hear the welcome words: “Come you blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you,” when we die. To which class would we like to belong when our end on earth comes? The choice and the answer is entirely in our hands, no one can make this decision for us. Our dearest and nearest will be helpless in this regard. Generously and gladly God will help us but we must cooperate with that help. In baptism he has already given us our passport to heaven. Each day in the sacraments and prayers of his Church he is offering us the necessary travel expenses. Again and again through his ministers he advises us to stay on the right road, but all in vain if we refuse to accept these gifts.

The rules of the road to heaven, the regulations which God asks us to keep, are not severe sacrifices or tasks beyond our power to fulfill. His ten commandments are not impossible or unreasonable restrictions, but rather rules which make life on earth civilized and happy. Where they are observed we have peace and harmony between neighbors and nations. Where the Fatherhood of God is revered and kept in mind, the brotherhood of man is recognized and his rights respected, there is true fraternity on earth. Somebody has said that if God did not exist it would be necessary for us to invent him–if life on earth was to be livable. But he does exist and in his goodness and mercy he has made life on earth livable and reasonably enjoyable–by laying down the sound rules which should govern our lives as rational creatures.

God is not a tyrant who will take pleasure in punishing those who ignore him and his laws. Rather is he a loving Father who wants all his children to share his eternal happiness. Therefore, his laws are not imposed on us as restrictions and burdens but as helps to guide us safely to our eternal home.

Today’s lesson from Daniel is one of God’s ways of reminding the forgetful ones of him and their own eternal destiny. Let them wake up and take stock of how they stand in relation to God; are they on the right road or are they wandering in the wilderness from whence they may never return?

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11

You are my inheritance, O Lord!

O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,

you it is who hold fast my lot.

I set the LORD ever before me;

with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

You are my inheritance, O Lord!

Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,

my body, too, abides in confidence;

because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,

nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.

You are my inheritance, O Lord!

You will show me the path to life,

fullness of joys in your presence,

the delights at your right hand forever.

You are my inheritance, O Lord!

READING II

 

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Heb 10:11-14, 18

Brothers and sisters:

Every priest stands daily at his ministry,

offering frequently those same sacrifices

that can never take away sins.

But this one offered one sacrifice for sins,

and took his seat forever at the right hand of God;

now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.

For by one offering

he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.

Where there is forgiveness of these,

there is no longer offering for sin.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1544 Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, the “one mediator between God and men.”1 The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, “priest of God Most High,” as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique “high priest after the order of Melchizedek”;2 “holy, blameless, unstained,”3 “by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified,”4 that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross.

1 2 Tim 2:5.

2 Heb 5:10; cf. 6:20; Gen 14:18.

3 Heb 7:26.

4 Heb 10:14.

APPLICATION

“By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” This prayer, which the priest says when mixing a drop of water with the wine in the chalice at the offertory of the Mass, gives in a nutshell the profound meaning that the incarnation of Christ has for us. The drop of water is our human nature; it is absorbed in the wine–the divine infinity; and it shares in the incredible glory of becoming the precious blood of Christ. When the Son of God took our human nature, he made us capable of becoming sharers in the eternal glory, and happiness of the Infinite God.

If only we could fully realize what the loving God has done for us through the sending of his Son to “dwell among us,” we would never stop praising, thanking and loving him. We are mere creatures, higher than all the other creatures on this earth because of the extra gifts he gave us–but still mere creatures–nothing in comparison with the omnipotent and infinite God. Out of an infinite goodness which our minds cannot even begin to grasp, he raised us up to the status of adopted children. He had no need of us, he did not require our company or our adoration, he is infinitely perfect and happy in himself. Yet, out of sheer benevolence he wished to confer on us a gift which we are to value and appreciate with our intelligence and freewill–but a gift which we could never even dream of expecting.

To give us the gift the incarnation took place: “the word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Christ became our brother; we became, through him, adopted sons of God and therefore heirs to heaven. The sins of mankind which had corrupted the world brought about the death of Christ on the cross–“a death he freely accepted.” Through that death and as our representative and senior brother, he made a perfect atonement to God the Father for all our sins. His triumph over sin and death was our triumph; ever since his ascension, the incarnate Son of God is in the seat of glory in heaven, interceding for us sinners; he is preparing a place for us, his brothers, which will be ours when life on this earth ends.

Therefore, there is no comparison, as the epistle to the Hebrews stresses, between the intercession that the Levitical priesthood could make for the Chosen People of the Old Testament, and the intercession that Christ has made and continues to make for us. The sacrifices they offered were but shadows and symbols of the real sacrifice offered by Christ. Any value which they had derived from the true sacrifice which was to come. The members of the Chosen People who did God’s will earned heaven through the merits of Christ and only after his ascension. Because of God’s loving generosity these infinite merits of Christ were applied to all Jews and Gentiles, who, before Christ, lived according to their lights. They will be applied to all who have lived since his incarnation, provided they act according to the revealed or the natural knowledge of God which is given them.

We know this and our gratitude to God should be boundless. The years left to us on earth are long enough to enable us to earn eternity. Those who have weaknesses, temptations and trials must never forget that they are not on their own; they are not left to fend for themselves, they have Christ, their brother, in heaven pleading with the Father of mercies on their behalf. With such an advocate, with such a defending counsel, we cannot lose our inheritance, provided we do our best to be true and loyal to him. God grant that we shall never be among the ungrateful ones but rather that we may willingly and gladly cooperate with God to earn the eternal merit won by Christ.

GOSPEL

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Mk 13:24-32

Jesus said to his disciples:

“In those days after that tribulation

the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light,

and the stars will be falling from the sky,

and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

“And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’

with great power and glory,

and then he will send out the angels

and gather his elect from the four winds,

from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.

“Learn a lesson from the fig tree.

When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves,

you know that summer is near.

In the same way, when you see these things happening,

know that he is near, at the gates.

Amen, I say to you,

this generation will not pass away

until all these things have taken place.

Heaven and earth will pass away,

but my words will not pass away.

“But of that day or hour, no one knows,

neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 474 By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal.1 What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.2

CCC 673 Since the Ascension Christ’s coming in glory has been imminent,3 even though “it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.”4. This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are “delayed”.5

CCC 2612 In Jesus “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”6 He calls his hearers to conversion and faith, but also to watchfulness. In prayer the disciple keeps watch, attentive to Him Who Is and Him Who Comes, in memory of his first coming in the lowliness of the flesh, and in the hope of his second coming in glory.7 In communion with their Master, the disciples’ prayer is a battle; only by keeping watch in prayer can one avoid falling into temptation.8

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

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

3 Cf. Rev 22:20.

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

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

6 Mk 1:15.

7 Cf. Mk 13; Lk 21:34-36.

8 Cf. Lk 22:40, 46.

APPLICATION

There are some obscurities in this extract from St. Mark. Firstly, because Christ was discussing and answering questions on two distinct topics: the destruction of the temple and the end of the world. Secondly, because we may not have the “ipsissima verba” of Christ here, as many exegetes suggest. The message we must learn from today’s gospel comes across without any ambiguity or doubt: we must always be ready to face our judgement for we know not the day nor the hour when we will be called from this life. When or how this world will end is of no great importance to us; what is important is that we shall leave this world very soon and our eternity will depend on the state of our consciences at the moment of our departure.

This is the steadying thought the Church, in her wisdom, wishes to put before our minds today. We all know that we must die someday. We are strangers and pilgrims on this earth; we have not here a lasting city, as St. Augustine says. No sane person among us will try to deny this and yet, many of us are so immersed in the things of this world that we forget or try to forget that we must leave this world soon. This is very natural: life is a precious gift and as our earthly life is the only one of which we have experience our every inclination is to hold on to it at all costs. Even when our intelligence tells us that it can, in spite of all our endeavors, end very soon we try to convince ourselves that that “very soon” is really in the distant future.

We have God’s word for it and the example of Christ’s resurrection to a life of glory. Let us appreciate the truth that our death on earth is not the end of life but rather the beginning of the true life that will never end. As the liturgy says in the Mass for the Dead: “Life is changed (by death) not taken away.” Our death is the doorway through which we pass into the unending life. The years on earth are a gift of God to enable us to earn the infinitely greater gift which in his loving mercy he has prepared for us from all eternity.

God in his mercy is calling on each one of us to be ready when our call comes. We can do nothing about the when or the where of that call, but we can do much about the state of our relationship with God when death comes; in fact, aided by God’s grace we can ensure that all will be well with us. We cannot avoid a sudden death, but we can avoid an unprepared death by striving always to live in peace with God. This does not mean that we must be always on our knees praying to God and that we must take no interest in the things and the joys of this world. Far from it. God wants us to use the things of this world, but to use them so that they will not hinder us on our journey.

A very practical way to see how we stand in relation to God and to the things of this world, is for each one of us to ask himself today: “How would I fare if I were called to render an account of stewardship tonight?” This is the practical question that God, through today’s readings, is asking us to put to ourselves. If, to our dismay, we find there are several things which have to be put right before facing our judge we will start right away to put them right. We may get another chance, another warning, and we may not. If we value our eternal happiness we will take this warning; we will put our books in order; we will make peace with God and our neighbors–and with God’s grace we will do all in our power to persevere in this good resolution.

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

BENEDICTUS

Judgement and Hope

It is not simply – as one might expect – God, the infinite, the unknown, the eternal, who judges. On the contrary, he has handed the judgement over to one who, as man, is our brother. It is not a stranger who judges us but he whom we know in faith. The judge will not advance to meet us as the other, but as one of us, who knows human existence from inside and has suffered. Thus over the judgment glows the dawn of hope; it is not only the day of wrath but also the second coming of our Lord. One is reminded of the mighty vision of Christ with which the Book of Revelation begins (1: 9-19): the seer sinks down as though dead before this being full of sinister power. But the Lord lays his hand on him and says to him as once in the days when they were crossing the Lake of Gennesaret in wind and storm: “Fear not, it is I” (1: 17). The Lord of all power is the Jesus whose comrade the visionary had once been in faith. The Creed’s article about the judgment transfers this very idea to our meeting with the judge of the world. On that day of fear the Christian will be allowed to see in happy wonder that he “to whom all power is given in heaven and on earth” (Mt 28: 18) was the companion in faith of his days on earth, and it is as if through the words of the Creed Jesus were already laying his hands on him and saying: Be without fear, it is I. Perhaps the problem of the intertwining of justice and mercy can be answered in no more beautiful way than that it is the idea that stands in the background of our Creed.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

The Prayer, Majestic Queen of Heaven

Majestic Queen of Heaven and Mistress of the Angels, thou didst receive from God the power and commission to crush the head of Satan; wherefore we humbly beseech thee, send forth the legions of heaven, that, under thy command, they may seek out all evil spirits, engage them everywhere in battle, curb their insolence, and hurl them back into the pit of hell!  “Who is like unto God?”

O good and tender Mother, thou shalt ever be our hope and the object of our love.

O Mother of God, send forth the holy Angels to defend me and drive far from me the cruel foe.

Holy Angels and Archangels, defend us and keep us.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1995

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Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Prayer for Trust

O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness,

Give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength.

Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power,

So that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You,

We shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will through all things.

We ask this in your holy name.

Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty and merciful God,

graciously keep from us all adversity,

so that, unhindered in mind and body alike,

we may pursue in freedom of heart

the things that are yours.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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1 Kgs 17:10-16

In those days, Elijah the prophet went to Zarephath.

As he arrived at the entrance of the city,

a widow was gathering sticks there; he called out to her,

“Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink.”

She left to get it, and he called out after her,

“Please bring along a bit of bread.”

She answered, “As the LORD, your God, lives,

I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar

and a little oil in my jug.

Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks,

to go in and prepare something for myself and my son;

when we have eaten it, we shall die.”

Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid.

Go and do as you propose.

But first make me a little cake and bring it to me.

Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son.

For the LORD, the God of Israel, says,

‘The jar of flour shall not go empty,

nor the jug of oil run dry,

until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth.'”

She left and did as Elijah had said.

She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well;

the jar of flour did not go empty,

nor the jug of oil run dry,

as the LORD had foretold through Elijah.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2583 After Elijah had learned mercy during his retreat at the Wadi Cherith, he teaches the widow of Zarephath to believe in The Word of God and confirms her faith by his urgent prayer: God brings the widow’s child back to life.1

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

Finally, taking the desert road that leads to the place where the living and true God reveals himself to his people, Elijah, like Moses before him, hides “in a cleft of he rock” until the mysterious presence of God has passed by.2 But only on the mountain of the Transfiguration will Moses and Elijah behold the unveiled face of him whom they sought; “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God [shines] in the face of Christ,” crucified and risen.3

1 Cf. 1 Kings 17:7-24.

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

3 2 Cor 4:6; cf. Lk 9:30-35.

APPLICATION

“Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and, anyone who welcomes a holy man because he is a holy man will have a holy man’s reward. If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward” (Mt. 10: 41-42). These are the words of Christ, the Son of God, when recommending his poor disciples to the charity of the people. Doubtless his mention of prophet and the cup of cold water, would recall to the minds of his hearers the story of Elijah and the kind-hearted widow of Zarephath. Elijah was one of the most popular and best-remembered prophets of the Old Testament. On another occasion (Lk. 4: 25), our Lord reminded his doubting hearers in his home-town of Nazareth how God sent Elijah to this good widow of Sidon, who was not one of the Chosen People, although there were many widows in Israel then in need of help but unworthy of it. They would not have shared their last morsel of bread with a stranger even though he was God’s representative.

The lesson of today’s reading–reemphasized as it is by our divine Lord’s own word–is clear for us. We must be charitable towards a needy neighbor, not only when we have some superfluous goods which we can give away, but even when we have only the bare essentials for ourselves. We are expected to share these with one who has not even that little. But is not this demanding too much of us? Can Christian charity command us to shorten our own lives in order to prolong those of a needy neighbor for a few days or weeks? The answer is very clearly “yes”: we must be ready not only to risk our own lives in order to save that of a neighbor but we must be ready to lay down our lives willingly, if needs be, to save a neighbor. “Greater love than this no man has, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15: 13); this is the ultimate in Christian charity, our Lord tells us. He put it into practice for us and he expects us to be willing to imitate him should the need arise.

We are grateful to God that Christ has had followers who fulfilled his command to the letter. They gave their lives to save others. Their noble sacrifice not only earned eternal life for them, but inspired many with a new love for God and neighbor. While making this earth a better place in which to live, it put heaven within the reach of many who would otherwise not have attained it. Most of us will never have the privilege of being called on to make the supreme sacrifice for our neighbor’s sake–but we are all called on to sacrifice some of our possessions to help a neighbor in need. Today’s story emphasizes that we must be ready to share even our scanty means with one in greater need. It also adds that God will not let such charity go unrecorded. The widow of Zarephath and her son could have had one last modest meal before they died of the famine, but her generosity made her share even that little with a stranger. She was rewarded: the little supply she had never diminished and she lived in frugal comfort all through the famine. God can never be outdone in generosity. All we have and all that we are we owe to his kindness. If we show our willingness to share with those who are in want, he will not forget our charity–he will not see us in want.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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

Praise the Lord, my soul!

The LORD keeps faith forever,

secures justice for the oppressed,

gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets captives free.

Praise the Lord, my soul!

The LORD gives sight to the blind.

The LORD raises up those who were bowed down;

the LORD loves the just.

The LORD protects strangers.

Praise the Lord, my soul!

The fatherless and the widow he sustains,

but the way of the wicked he thwarts.

The LORD shall reign forever;

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

Praise the Lord, my soul!

READING II

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Heb 9:24-28

Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands,

a copy of the true one, but heaven itself,

that he might now appear before God on our behalf.

Not that he might offer himself repeatedly,

as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary

with blood that is not his own;

if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly

from the foundation of the world.

But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages

to take away sin by his sacrifice.

Just as it is appointed that human beings die once,

and after this the judgment, so also Christ,

offered once to take away the sins of many,

will appear a second time, not to take away sin

but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1544 Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, the “one mediator between God and men.”1 The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, “priest of God Most High,” as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique “high priest after the order of Melchizedek”;2 “holy, blameless, unstained,”3 “by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified,”4 that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross.

1 2 Tim 2:5.

2 Heb 5:10; cf. 6:20; Gen 14:18.

3 Heb 7:26.

4 Heb 10:14.

APPLICATION

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is evidently writing to Jews who had become followers of Christ. Again and again he stressed the superiority of the Christian religion over that of the Old Testament which they had left. The Jewish high priesthood, appointed by God through Moses, was one held in great esteem and importance all through Old Testament times, but especially after the return from Babylon–when the high priest became their political as well as their religious leader. It was the high priest who regulated all the services of the Jerusalem temple. On their great annual Day of Atonement, he alone could offer sacrifice for the sins of the people and for his own sins. On that day, he alone could enter the holy of holies–the inner sanctuary of the temple in which were kept the tables of the commandments in the Ark of the Covenant. This Ark was called God’s throne on earth. The Ark was missing from the inner sanctuary since before the destruction of the temple by the Babylonians (587 B.C.), because the prophet Jeremiah hid it in a cave on Mount Nebo according to 2 Mc. 2: 4-8. The high priest, however, still carried out the ritual of the Day of Atonement. He entered the holy of holies and sprinkled the blood of the sacrifices where the Ark used to rest. This ritual was repeated each year.

The author of Hebrews says that Christ, our high priest, was superior in every way to the Jewish high priest, important though he was in the eyes of religious Jews. Christ did not have to repeat his sacrifice annually, his offering of himself as atonement for the sins of the whole world, of Jews and Gentiles, sufficed once for all. His sacrifice, unlike the temple sacrifices, was of infinite value. It was not the blood of goats and oxen that Christ offered to his Father, but the sacred blood of his body which he, the Son of God, assumed in order to become one of us and to be able to die for us. It was not into the inner sanctuary of the Jerusalem temple that Christ sent his precious offering, but into the real holy of holies, the eternal throne of his Father in heaven.

Therefore, there is no real comparison between the Jewish high priesthood and the real effective priesthood of Christ. Any effectiveness which the intermediation of the Jewish high priest had, or any value which the temple sacrifices could claim, came to the Chosen People from God’s loving mercy which had the incarnation in view. They were types and the shadows of the real intercession, the real sacrifice which God’s Son would offer not only for the Chosen People of old but for all mankind and for all time.

Do we Christians really appreciate the favors and the blessings God showered on us by sending his divine Son in human nature? By the fact of the incarnation we became brothers of Christ and adopted sons of God. This was the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan for mankind. In the meantime sin had entered our world. To atone for the sins of the world the incarnate Son of God willingly accepted to undergo his passion and death by crucifixion so that his heavenly Father would remit the spiritual death our sins merited. Thus we would be able to share in the eternal inheritance which the incarnation won for us.

Do we really appreciate the greatness of God’s love for us in planning this eternal future happiness for us and at such cost–the humiliation, sufferings and death of his only-begotten Son? With a future such as this, could we be so foolish as to let anything or any person on this earth come between us and the eternal crown God has prepared for us? Let St. Paul, the man who loved God with every fiber of his being, and gladly spent his life to bring the knowledge of God’s love for us to all the world, answer for us: “I consider that the sufferings of this life are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us . . . If God is for us who is against us? He did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecutions or famine or nakedness or peril or sword . . . nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rm. 8 :18 ff).

St. Paul is in heaven. We shall be there too if we follow his advice.

GOSPEL

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Mk 12:38-44

In the course of his teaching Jesus said to the crowds,

“Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes

and accept greetings in the marketplaces,

seats of honor in synagogues,

and places of honor at banquets.

They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext

recite lengthy prayers.

They will receive a very severe condemnation.”

He sat down opposite the treasury

and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.

Many rich people put in large sums.

A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.

Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them,

“Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more

than all the other contributors to the treasury.

For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth,

but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had,

her whole livelihood.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 678 Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment of the Last Day in his preaching.1 Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light.2 Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God’s grace as nothing be condemned.3 Our attitude to our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love.4 On the Last Day Jesus will say: “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”5

CCC 2444 “The Church’s love for the poor… is a part of her constant tradition.” This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor.6 Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to “be able to give to those in need.”7 It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty.8

1 Cf. Dan 7:10; Joel 3-4; Mal 3: 19; Mt 3:7-12.

2 Cf Mk 12:38-40; Lk 12:1-3; Jn 3:20-21; Rom 2:16; I Cor 4:5.

3 Cf. Mt 11:20-24; 12:41-42.

4 Cf. Mt 5:22; 7:1-5.

5 Mt 25:40.

6 CA 57; cf. Lk 6:20-22, Mt 8:20; Mk 12:41-44.

7 Eph 4:28.

8 Cf. CA 57.

APPLICATION

Our Lord’s severe condemnation of those Scribes whose exaggerated opinion of their own importance made a mockery of the religion they professed to live, is a serious warning to all his followers not to look for the praise and esteem of their neighbors when doing their good works, but rather to hope for God’s praise and esteem in the future world. In another context, he said to his followers: “Because of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven . . . when you give alms do not let your left hand know what your right is doing . . . and your Father who sees in secret will reward you . . . when you pray go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father . . . who sees in secret and will reward you” (Mt. 6: 1-6).

It is hardly necessary to say that our Lord is not referring to community prayers or services here. What he is condemning is the hypocrisy of the Scribes, who lengthened their garments and their prayers not in order to give glory to God but to earn the glory of their fellowmen for themselves. Pride was their predominant vice–the vice which caused the fall of angels and of man. It so governed their lives that even their best actions were vitiated by it. There is a strong inclination to pride in every one of us. The reason is that we have great gifts from God and great capabilities; but we are tempted to claim the credit for these gifts and capabilities for ourselves–whereas we owe them all to God’s generosity.

A proud Christian is surely a contradiction in terms. A Christian is a follower of Christ whose humility can never be equaled. He was God as well as man. While on earth he emptied himself, as St. Paul puts it, of his divine glory so that he could be like one of us. A follower of Christ should not try to make display of gifts which are not his own, nor try to exalt himself above his neighbor because of something he has which was not given to his neighbor. If Christ wanted to be, and indeed was like the least one among us, we must never try to raise ourselves above our neighbor. Love of neighbor is the second of the two essential commandments–there can be no true love of neighbor where there is pride.

The second incident in today’s Gospel story highlights true humility and true charity. The poor widow, forgetful of herself and of her own needs gave her all, her last penny, to help others who were in need. She made this sacrifice without publicity and without seeking the praise of her neighbors. It is this deep contrast between her outlook on life and on religion, and that of the Scribes in the first that connects the two incidents. While the Scribes sought to earn the respect and praise of their fellow-Jews–as well as all the financial gain they could come by–from the practice of the externals of their religion, this poor widow’s religion was practiced in secret and it was to God alone that she looked for any reward that he might deign to give her.

As we saw in today’s first reading: we can be sure that she was not left without the reward she deserved. The widow of Zarephath was given a temporal reward. The same generous God did not let the similar act of supreme generosity on the part of the widow in Jerusalem go unnoticed. Christ’s judgment on the Scribes implies this: They will receive the greater condemnation for their pride, and abuse of religion for their own temporal gain. On the other hand the widow’s religion was an act of complete self-renunciation: “she has put in everything she had, her whole living.”

We may never be called on to share our last morsel with a starving neighbor but if we are, we must remember that Christ gave his very life for us and has asked us to do likewise, if necessary. It may never be necessary for us to make this supreme act of self-renunciation. If, however, we are sincerely practicing our religion, we must be ever-ready to help a neighbor in need even if this cuts into our hard-earned reserves. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward.

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

BENEDICTUS

Suffering and Love

Pain is a part of being human. Anyone who really wanted to get rid of suffering would have to get rid of love before anything else, because there can be no love without suffering, because it always demands an element of self-sacrifice, because, given temperamental differences and the drama of situations, it will always bring with ti renunciation and pain. When we know that the way of love – this exodus, this going out of oneself – is the true way by which man becomes human, then we also understand that suffering is the process through which we mature. Anyone who has inwardly accepted suffering becomes more mature and more understanding of others, becomes more human. Anyone who has consistently avoided suffering does not understand other people; he becomes hard and selfish… If we say that suffering is the inner side of love, we then also understand why it is so important to learn how to suffer – and why, conversely, the avoidance of suffering renders someone unfit to cope with life. He would be left with an existential emptiness, which could then only be combined with bitterness, with rejection, and no longer with any inner acceptance or progress toward maturity.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

A Prayer for the Virtue of Humility

Lord Jesus, when You walked the earth,

Your humility obscured Your Kingship.

Your meekness confused the arrogant,

Hindering them from grasping Your purpose,

Your nobleness attending to the destitute.

Teach me to model after Your eminence,

To subject my human nature to humility.

Grant me a natural inclination

To never view myself greater than anyone.

Banish all lingering sparks of self-importance

That could elevate me greater than You.

Let my heart always imitate Your humility.

We ask this through your most holy name,

Lord Jesus Christ, King of all salvation.

Amen.

Here is a special gift!

http://www.vatican.va/various/cappelle/sistina_vr/

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Posted in Catholic

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, 

“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Act of Love

O My God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart, mind and soul, because you are all-good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me, and ask pardon of all whom I have injured.

Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty and merciful God,

by whose gift your faithful offer you

right and praiseworthy service,

grant, we pray,

that we may hasten without stumbling

to receive the things you have promised.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Dt 6:2-6

Moses spoke to the people, saying:

“Fear the LORD, your God,

and keep, throughout the days of your lives,

all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you,

and thus have long life.

Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them,

that you may grow and prosper the more,

in keeping with the promise of the LORD, the God of your fathers,

to give you a land flowing with milk and honey.

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!

Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God,

with all your heart,

and with all your soul,

and with all your strength.

Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 201 To Israel, his chosen, God revealed himself as the only One: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”1 Through the prophets, God calls Israel and all nations to turn to him, the one and only God: “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. .. To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. ‘Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength.’”2

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.3

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.”4 On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: “Listen to him!”5 Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: “Love one another as I have loved you.”6 This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.7

CCC 708 This divine pedagogy appears especially in the gift of the Law.8 God gave the Law as a “pedagogue” to lead his people toward Christ.9 But the Law’s powerlessness to save man deprived of the divine “likeness,” along with the growing awareness of sin that it imparts,10 enkindles a desire for the Holy Spirit. The lamentations of the Psalms bear witness to this.

CCC 2055 When someone asks him, “Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?”11 Jesus replies: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.”12 The Decalogue must be interpreted in light of this twofold yet single commandment of love, the fullness of the Law:

The commandments: “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.13

CCC 2083 Jesus summed up man’s duties toward God in this saying: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”14 This immediately echoes the solemn call: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD.”15

God has loved us first. The love of the One God is recalled in the first of the “ten words.” The commandments then make explicit the response of love that man is called to give to his God.

CCC 2093 Faith in God’s love encompasses the call and the obligation to respond with sincere love to divine charity. The first commandment enjoins us to love God above everything and all creatures for him and because of him.16

CCC 2196 In response to the question about the first of the commandments, Jesus says: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”17

The apostle St. Paul reminds us of this: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,‘ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”18

1 Dt 6:45.

2 Is 45:22-24; cf. Phil 2:10-11.

3 Cf. Jer 31:33; Dt 6:5; 29:3; Is 29:13; Ezek 36:26; Mt 6:21; Lk 8:15; Rom 5:5.

4 Mt 11:29; Jn 14:6.

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

6 Jn 15:12.

7 Cf. Mk 8:34.

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

9 Gal 3:24.

10 Cf. Rom 3:20.

11 Mt 22:36.

12 Mt 22:37-40; cf. Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18.

13 Rom 13:9-10.

14 Mt 22:37; cf. Lk 10:27:“… and with all your strength.”

15 Deut 6:4.

16 Cf. Deut 6:4-5.

17 Mk 12:29-31; cf. Deut 6:4-5; Lev 19:18; Mt 22:34-40; Lk 10:25-28.

18 Rom 13:8-10.

APPLICATION

The relationship between God and man is a relationship of love. God is love and because he is love he created the universe and made man the master and masterpiece of that creation. Love, like heat, is self-diffusive, that is, its nature is to spread itself out. The spreading out of God’s love was creation; he made things and beings who could share his love with him. Chief among his created beings was man to whom he gave the capacity to appreciate love and to return it. Now, God could have given a limited portion of his love to men, that is, he could have let men, like the other creatures on earth, be content with whatever gifts of God’s love they could receive in this world. In other words, earthly death could have been their final end.

However, God’s love, being infinite, went far beyond this as regards men. In creating them, God gave them the faculties which place them away above all other earthly creatures. He made men capable of appreciating love and of reciprocating it–something the other creatures on earth cannot do. God saw that in the short space of this earthly life men could not satisfy the faculty for loving and being loved. He, therefore, planned for men a future life–a life wherein men could fully appreciate the immensity of divine love and return to the that fullness of love according to our own created capacity.

In the “fullness of time,” centuries and centuries after he had created man, God began to make preparations for putting his plan into action. By this time, men had more or less completely forgotten their divine Benefactor, but God had not forgotten them. He called Abraham out of the pagan land of Ur of the Chaldees, and made him a believer in the true God. He brought him over to Canaan–promising to give his descendants that country as their ‘ fatherland. God did so in order to have one people on earth who would know and reverence him, and from whom his divine Son would take his human nature. The incarnation was God’s loving way of making man fit and worthy to win the gift of the future life he had planned for him.

God took a special interest in the descendants of Abraham whom he made his own Chosen People. Having led them out of the slavery of Egypt he made a covenant or pact with them–through their leader Moses on Mount Sinai. God promised to bring them into the Promised Land of Canaan and establish them there; they on their part, were to keep the commandments he gave them. These commandments regulated their lives, their relationship with God and their neighbor. The basis of these relationships was a proper appreciation of all that God had done for them; this appreciation they would show and prove by their reciprocal love for him.

Unfortunately for themselves, the Chosen People did not always keep their part of this covenant of Sinai. Instead of loving God and thanking him for all his gifts to them, they became involved in worldly affairs and turned to the false gods of their pagan neighbors. The result: they were decimated by pagan conquerors and by exile. Notwithstanding their infidelity God was faithful to his promise. A remnant was saved and from that came eventually the human nature which the Son of God took on himself.

We may be shocked at the behavior of God’s Chosen People who were never really grateful for all he did for them, but how much more blameworthy are we Christians, when we forget to love and reverence him. What he did for Abraham’s descendants was but a shadow of what he has done for us. He made them his Chosen People–he has made us his adopted children. He gave them the land of Canaan–he has promised us heaven as our homeland. He gave them Moses to lead them out of the slavery of Egypt–he has given us his divine Son to lead us from the sin and slavery of this world to heaven. Moses, as leader of the stubborn Israelites, led a life of contradiction and troubles–Christ our Leader suffered the death of the cross for us.

We do owe so much more than the Chosen People to God; are we trying to repay that immense debt? Do we love God as we should?

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51

I love you, Lord, my strength.

I love you, O LORD, my strength,

O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.

I love you, Lord, my strength.

My God, my rock of refuge,

my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!

Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,

and I am safe from my enemies.

I love you, Lord, my strength.

The LORD lives! And blessed be my rock!

Extolled be God my savior.

You who gave great victories to your king

and showed kindness to your anointed.

I love you, Lord, my strength.

READING II

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Heb 7:23-28

Brothers and sisters:

The levitical priests were many

because they were prevented by death from remaining in office,

but Jesus, because he remains forever,

has a priesthood that does not pass away.

Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him,

since he lives forever to make intercession for them.

It was fitting that we should have such a high priest:

holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners,

higher than the heavens.

He has no need, as did the high priests,

to offer sacrifice day after day,

first for his own sins and then for those of the people;

he did that once for all when he offered himself.

For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests,

but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law,

appoints a son,

who has been made perfect forever.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 519 All Christ’s riches “are for every individual and are everybody’s property.”1 Christ did not live his life for himself but for us, from his Incarnation “for us men and for our salvation” to his death “for our sins” and Resurrection “for our justification”.2 He is still “our advocate with the Father”, who “always lives to make intercession” for us.3 He remains ever “in the presence of God on our behalf, bringing before him all that he lived and suffered for us.”4

CCC 662 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”5 The lifting up of Jesus on the cross signifies and announces his lifting up by his Ascension into heaven, and indeed begins it. Jesus Christ, the one priest of the new and eternal Covenant, “entered, not into a sanctuary made by human hands. .. but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”6 There Christ permanently exercises his priesthood, for he “always lives to make intercession” for “those who draw near to God through him”.7 As “high priest of the good things to come” he is the center and the principal actor of the liturgy that honors the Father in heaven.8

CCC 827 “Christ, ‘holy, innocent, and undefiled,’ knew nothing of sin, but came only to expiate the sins of the people. The Church, however, clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”9 All members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners.10 In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time.11 Hence the Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ’s salvation but still on the way to holiness:

The Church is therefore holy, though having sinners in her midst, because she herself has no other life but the life of grace. If they live her life, her members are sanctified; if they move away from her life, they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for those offenses, of which she has the power to free her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.12

CCC 828 By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors.13 “The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history.”14 Indeed, “holiness is the hidden source and infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal.”15

CCC 1085 In the liturgy of the Church, it is principally his own Paschal mystery that Christ signifies and makes present. During his earthly life Jesus announced his Paschal mystery by his teaching and anticipated it by his actions. When his Hour comes, he lives out the unique event of history which does not pass away: Jesus dies, is buried, rises from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father “once for all.”16 His Paschal mystery is a real event that occurred in our history, but it is unique: all other historical events happen once, and then they pass away, swallowed up in the past. The Paschal mystery of Christ, by contrast, cannot remain only in the past, because by his death he destroyed death, and all that Christ is – all that he did and suffered for all men – participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being made present in them all. The event of the Cross and Resurrection abides and draws everything toward life.

CCC 1364 In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ’s Passover, and it is made present the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present.17 “As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which ‘Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed’ is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.”18

CCC 1366 The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit:

[Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper “on the night when he was betrayed,” [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.19

CCC 1540 Instituted to proclaim the Word of God and to restore communion with God by sacrifices and prayer,20 this priesthood nevertheless remains powerless to bring about salvation, needing to repeat its sacrifices ceaselessly and being unable to achieve a definitive sanctification, which only the sacrifice of Christ would accomplish.21

CCC 1544 Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, the “one mediator between God and men.”22 The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, “priest of God Most High,” as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique “high priest after the order of Melchizedek”;23 “holy, blameless, unstained,”24 “by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified,”25 that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross.

CCC 1564 “Whilst not having the supreme degree of the pontifical office, and notwithstanding the fact that they depend on the bishops in the exercise of their own proper power, the priests are for all that associated with them by reason of their sacerdotal dignity; and in virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, after the image of Christ, the supreme and eternal priest, they are consecrated in order to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful as well as to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Testament.”26

CCC 2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners.27 He is “able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”28 The Holy Spirit “himself intercedes for us. .. and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”29

CCC 2741 Jesus also prays for us – in our place and on our behalf. All our petitions were gathered up, once for all, in his cry on the Cross and, in his Resurrection, heard by the Father. This is why he never ceases to intercede for us with the Father.30 If our prayer is resolutely united with that of Jesus, in trust and boldness as children, we obtain all that we ask in his name, even more than any particular thing: the Holy Spirit himself, who contains all gifts.

1 John Paul II, RH II.

2 I Cor 15:3; Rom 4:25.

3 I Jn 2:1 Heb 7:25.

4 Heb 9:24.

5 Jn 12:32.

6 Heb 9:24.

7 Heb 7:25.

8 Heb 9:11; cf. Rev 4:6-11.

9 LG 8 § 3; Cf. UR 3; 6; Heb 2:17; 726; 2 Cor 5:21.

10 Cf. 1 Jn 1:8-10.

11 Cf. Mt 13:24-30.

12 Paul VI, CPG § 19.

13 Cf. LG 40; 48-51.

14 John Paul II, CL 16,3.

15 CL 17, 3.

16 Rom 6:10; Heb 7:27; 9:12; cf. Jn 13:1; 17:1.

17 Cf. Heb 7:25-27.

18 LG 3; cf. 1 Cor 5:7.

19 Council of Trent (1562): DS 1740; cf. 1 Cor 11:23; Heb 7:24, 27.

20 Cf. Mal 2:7-9.

21 Cf. Heb 5:3; 7:27; 101-4.

22 2 Tim 2:5.

23 Heb 5:10; cf. 6:20; Gen 14:18.

24 Heb 7:26.

25 Heb 10:14.

26 LG 28 cf. Heb 5:1-10; 7:24; 9:11-28; Innocent I, Epist. ad Decentium:PL 20,554A; St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 2,22:PG 35,432B.

27 Cf. Rom 8:34; 1 Jn 2:1; 1 Tim 2:5-8.

28 Heb 7:25.

29 Rom 8:26-27.

30 Cf. Heb 5:7; 7:25; 9:24

APPLICATION

In today’s first reading we saw how privileged we are when compared with the Chosen People of the Old Testament. These six verses from Hebrews, which form our second reading today are given over to the same theme: our high priest, our mediator with God, is incomparably greater and more efficacious than any intermediaries they had, for he is none other than God’s own divine Son. But, lest we be tempted to see discrimination or acceptance of persons on the part of God, we must realize that God’s plan for man’s salvation was put into operation gradually–as he found men’s minds fit to receive his revelation.

The Israelites, whom God selected to be the recipients of his partial revelation in the Old Testament times, were evidently more worthy of this honor than any of their contemporaries. Yet, they were only a few steps removed from paganism and were ever in danger of reverting to it. However, God dealt with them mercifully and patiently. He quickly forgave their many lapses, and again and again he protected them from their pagan enemies during their twelve hundred years in Canaan. Even when the exile–which their disloyalty brought upon them–should have ended their history as a separate race forever, he brought back a “remnant” to Jerusalem and Judah from whom the promised Messiah took his human nature.

His revelation of himself to them, and of his great purpose for man, was partial and limited because they were not yet sufficiently developed in their religious outlook. They were given only a vague idea of life after death. The rewards promised for fidelity to him and to his commandments were temporal, earthly rewards. But running like a golden thread through the tapestry of their history, was the promise and, therefore, the hope of a great blessing to come through them for all mankind. The prophets gradually developed this promise and hope. By the time Christ came–as the fulfillment of that promise first made to Abraham–sharing in this blessing was much more important to the true, loyal chosen ones of God than were temporal rewards or blessings.

While thus preparing his Chosen People for the incarnation God was also preparing the pagan nations for the coming of Christ. The following were all preparations for the speedy spread of the gospel when Christ came: Alexander’s conquest of the known world toward the end of the 4th century B.C.–with the consequent spread of the Greek language; the rise of the Roman empire which strengthened the unity of its various subjects by sound laws and safe means of travel; the decline in almost all parts of the empire–the then known world–of the belief in the pagan gods. In these and in many other ways, God was patiently and wisely preparing the world for the astounding act of divine love toward mankind which was revealed in the incarnation.

We are Christians today because God wanted it so from all eternity. He worked quietly and efficiently down through the ages to make this possible. As regards our knowledge of God and the purpose he has for us, we are much better informed than were the Chosen People and the pagan nations of the past. But they will be judged according to their knowledge; their religious ignorance will excuse many a fault. We, on the other hand, will be expected to make a return to him in proportion to the many talents he has given us. Our excuses at the judgement seat will be very few and very flimsy. Our Judge will be the very Son of God who made himself our high priest, in order to open heaven for us and make our entrance there safe and relatively easy. He is ever present, pleading our case at the throne of mercy. The Christian who turns his back on Christ his advocate during life, will surely find it hard to face him as his judge when he comes to die.

GOSPEL

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Mk 12:28b-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,

“Which is the first of all the commandments?”

Jesus replied, “The first is this:

Hear, O Israel!

The Lord our God is Lord alone!

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,

with all your soul,

with all your mind,

and with all your strength.

The second is this:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.

You are right in saying,

‘He is One and there is no other than he.’

And ‘to love him with all your heart,

with all your understanding,

with all your strength,

and to love your neighbor as yourself’

is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,

he said to him,

“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 129 Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself.1 Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament.2 As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.3

CCC 202 Jesus himself affirms that God is “the one Lord” whom you must love “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”.4 At the same time Jesus gives us to understand that he himself is “the Lord”.5 To confess that Jesus is Lord is distinctive of Christian faith. This is not contrary to belief in the One God. Nor does believing in the Holy Spirit as “Lord and giver of life” introduce any division into the One God:

We firmly believe and confess without reservation that there is only one true God, eternal infinite (immensus) and unchangeable, incomprehensible, almighty and ineffable, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; three persons indeed, but one essence, substance or nature entirely simple.6

CCC 575 Many of Jesus’ deeds and words constituted a “sign of contradiction”,7 but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply “the Jews”,8 than for the ordinary People of God.9 To be sure, Christ’s relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;10 Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.11 Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God’s people: the resurrection of the dead,12 certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),13 the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.14

CCC 2196 In response to the question about the first of the commandments, Jesus says: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”15

The apostle St. Paul reminds us of this: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,‘ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”16

1 Cf. Mk 12:29-31

2 Cf. I Cor 5:6-8; 10:1-11.

3 Cf. St. Augustine, Quaest. in Hept. 2, 73: PL 34,623; Cf. DU 16.

4 Mk 12:29-30

5 Cf. Mk 12:35-37.

6 Lateran Council IV: DS 800.

7 Lk 2:34.

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

9 Jn 7:48-49.

10 Cf Lk 13:31.

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

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

13 Cf. Mt 6:18.

14 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.

15 Mk 12:29-31; cf. Deut 6:4-5; Lev 19:18; Mt 22:34-40; Lk 10:25-28.

16 Rom 13:8-10.

APPLICATION

The personal lesson which comes over loud and clear for every sincere Christian from today’s gospel, is that the solid foundation of our Christian religion is love of God and neighbor. As our Lord says: “there is no other commandment greater than these.” All the other commandments are expansions of these two and indications of how we are to put these two commandments into daily practice. For example: why am I forbidden to murder my neighbor? Simply because he belongs to God; it was God who gave him his life, and God has commanded me to love and respect him. Taking his life is interfering with God’s rights, and disobeying him as well. Likewise, the prohibition of idolatry, refraining from insulting God’s name, keeping the Sabbath day holy are the principal ways of indicating how we should love God.

One may ask: how can I love God? He is infinitely perfect, he needs nothing from me, what therefore can I do for him? I can understand loving my neighbor–for a neighbor can need help, advice, encouragement and consolation. I can prove my love by giving these to my neighbor, but God has no such needs. It is quite true that true love is not theoretical but pragmatic, it means doing some good for somebody. While the infinite God has no needs that I can supply, he has claims on my service, on my respect, on my gratitude–claims so basic and so great that I must be ready to suffer persecution and even death rather than deny or dishonor him (Mt. 5: 10; Lk. 6: 23). It was God who gave me existence and every gift that I have. It was God, through the incarnation of his own divine Son, who made me his adopted child and heir to heaven. Everything that I am and have and hope to be, I owe to God’s generosity; therefore, he has an unquestionable right to my gratitude, my reverence, my respect–these are the ways in which I can show my love for him.

The keeping of God’s commandments, the prayers of thanksgiving, praise and petition which daily we offer, the attendance at Mass and other liturgical functions, these are the means God gives us of showing our love, our recognition of total dependence on him and our gratitude for all he has done and is doing for us. God does not need any of these signs of our submission and reverence and respect, but we need them absolutely, for they are the means he has given us of fulfilling his purpose in creating us—to share his eternal glory with him. To love God then, is not an obligation imposed on us by some demanding superior but a privilege granted us so that we can become worthy of the greater gifts he has in store for us.

Loving our neighbor–and in the Christian code this means all men no matter what may be their color, race or religion–is, according to our divine Lord, another most effective way of proving to God that we love him. Because of our common humanity we should be inclined to help our fellow-men, our neighbors, but the Christian law spiritualizes this natural inclination, by commanding us to help our neighbor because he is God’s child. We are all fellow-children of God, members of the one family. Our heavenly Father loves each one of us and wants our salvation. If we love our common Father we will do all we can to help his other children also to attain salvation. It will earn for us God’s favor.

If we observe these two commandments we are “fulfilling the whole law and the prophets,”; we are serving God and showing our gratitude to him for all his goodness to us. The Christian who is following Christ in love is already active in the earthly kingdom of God and traveling safely toward God’s eternal kingdom of peace and happiness.”

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

BENEDICTUS

How Love is Possible

Love of neighbor is thus shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus. It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend. Going beyond exterior appearances, I perceive in others an interior desire for a sign of love, of concern. This I can offer them not only through the organizations intended for such purposes, accepting it perhaps as a political necessity. Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave… If I have no contact whatsoever with God in my life, then I cannot see in the other anything more than the other, and I am incapable of seeing in him the image of God. But if in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be “devout” and to perform my “religious duties,” then my relationship with God will also grow arid. It becomes merely “proper,” but loveless. Only my readiness to encounter my neighbor and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbor can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Thank You God!

Dear Loving and Compassionate God, Giver of all gifts, we pray especially today for the mercy and love You give us. Open our hearts and minds to You. Give us the grace to accept your mercy. As we live each day, we pray for those less fortunate, especially those who are hurting, and whose wounds need to be healed. Help us become involved in ways that show them how deeply we care. Give us the personal courage to listen to their concerns and help them find the solutions to which they are entitled as Your children and our brothers and sisters. We ask this and all our prayers through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

Posted in Catholic

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Prayer to Discover and Follow my Vocation

My Lord and my God, you are Love itself, and the source of all love and goodness. Out of love you created me to know you, love you, and serve you in a unique way, as no one else can. I believe that you have a plan for my life, that you have a task in your Kingdom reserved just for me. Your plan and your task are far better than any other I might choose: they will glorify you, fulfill the desires of my heart, and save those souls who are depending on my generous response.

Lord, grant me the light I need to see the next step in that plan; grant me the generosity I need to set aside my own plans in favor of yours; and grant me the strength I need to put my hands to your plough and never turn back. You know me better than I know myself, so you know that I am sinful and weak. All the more reason that I need your grace to uphold the good desires of my heart, O Lord!

Show me your will for me, O gentle and eternal God, and help me to say with Mary, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word,” and to say with Jesus, “Let not my will be done, but yours.”  Amen.

http://catholic.net/index.php?option=dedestaca&id=3357&grupo=Lifestyle&canal=Vocation

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

increase our faith, hope and charity,

and make us love what you command,

so that we may merit what you promise.

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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Jer 31:7-9

Thus says the LORD:

Shout with joy for Jacob,

exult at the head of the nations;

proclaim your praise and say:

The LORD has delivered his people,

the remnant of Israel.

Behold, I will bring them back

from the land of the north;

I will gather them from the ends of the world,

with the blind and the lame in their midst,

the mothers and those with child;

they shall return as an immense throng.

They departed in tears,

but I will console them and guide them;

I will lead them to brooks of water,

on a level road, so that none shall stumble.

For I am a father to Israel,

Ephraim is my first-born.

APPLICATION

While granting that the prophet uses some hyperbole in his description of the return of the “remnant” of Israel, as he also does in describing the return of Judah in the following chapters, the fact that God did forgive and bring back such unworthy children is proof beyond compare of his infinite mercy and love. His Chosen People in both the northern and southern kingdom (Israel and Judah) had insulted and betrayed him for centuries, before he allowed the pagan nations they imitated to take them into captivity. They were the very people to whom he had been a kind father for centuries. He had brought them out of Egypt, set them up in Canaan–a country he gave them to be their own, had protected them again and again from aggressive enemies, yet these ungrateful ones forgot all this and abandoned the living God for idols of wood and stone. For generations he tolerated their apostasy; he sent his prophets to recall them to their senses, but in vain; finally, as a last resort, he allowed both kingdoms to be overrun by pagan powers who took his people as slaves into exile.

Although his Chosen People had abandoned him, he did not abandon them. He watched over them in exile and when he found that their exile had wrought a change of heart in some of his rebellious children, he brought them back to their homeland where once more they could be his elected ones. There in the Promised Land of Canaan they remained until the time was ripe for the sending of his divine Son on earth–in the human nature which he was to take from these same Chosen People, as he had promised to Abraham and his descendants.

This prophecy of Jeremiah, then, foretelling the return of a remnant of the Chosen People from exile is not merely a bit of Bible history which we should learn, it is a reminder to us Christians that God was thinking of us and preparing the way for our salvation centuries before Christ came on earth. According to God’s long-standing promise: the Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham, a son of David; he would be born in Bethlehem. But if some of the Chosen People had not been brought back from exile this could not have happened. Thus this return of the exiles, foretold by Jeremiah and later effected by God, was his preparation for the sending of Christ among us to be our Savior.

The first lesson we must learn from this bit of Bible history is, that God was planning for us and thinking of us from all eternity. We are not mere blobs of humanity groping our way in the dark on earth; we are individual human beings, very important in the eyes of God; individuals for whom he has planned a happiness, and he has been planning it from all eternity. The eighteen centuries of God’s dealings with his Chosen People, as described in the Old Testament, are but a short chapter of the history of God’s planning for our eternal happiness. However, it is a short chapter from which we can learn so much of his loving concern for us. If God has thought and planned for so long for our eternal happiness, surely we should be self-interested enough to make this, our eternal happiness, the governing thought of our short lives.

We, Christians, can surely “sing with gladness” today, as the prophet tells us, for the merciful and loving God has saved us. He has put us on the straight path to heaven, on a path made smooth and easy by the life, death and resurrection of his beloved Son whom he sent to lead us back to our merciful Father.

There is a second lesson for all of us in this prophecy of Jeremiah. It is: God’s mercy is without limit and he is ready to bestow it on us at the first sign we give him that we need it. Most of us have offended God and perhaps deserted him for long periods. Like the Chosen People, we did not appreciate all he had done and was doing for us. We were unfaithful to him and went after worldly idols perhaps, getting ourselves swamped in worldly ambitions and pleasures. But we are dealing with the same God of infinite mercy and forgiveness who brought back the unworthy Chosen People from the exile that their sins had brought on them. Can we have any doubt that he will bring us, too, back from that self-induced exile which our sins imposed on us? He is waiting for our word of petition, our humble request for forgiveness to take us back to his fatherly bosom. In fact, he is sending out his fatherly appeals to us to return to the path of virtue. He is sending them in many ways and guises, telling us that he is still our Father–that we are his first-born. Today’s reading is one of these loving calls. There may be other calls for us but there may not; let us not ignore this one–our eternal future depends on our response.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

 Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,

we were like men dreaming.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

and our tongue with rejoicing.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us;

we are glad indeed.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the torrents in the southern desert.

Those that sow in tears

shall reap rejoicing.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Although they go forth weeping,

carrying the seed to be sown,

They shall come back rejoicing,

carrying their sheaves.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

READING II

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Heb 5:1-6

Brothers and sisters:

Every high priest is taken from among men

and made their representative before God,

to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.

He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring,

for he himself is beset by weakness

and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself

as well as for the people.

No one takes this honor upon himself

but only when called by God,

just as Aaron was.

In the same way,

it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest,

but rather the one who said to him:

You are my son:

this day I have begotten you;

just as he says in another place:

You are a priest forever

according to the order of Melchizedek.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 784 On entering the People of God through faith and Baptism, one receives a share in this people’s unique, priestly vocation: “Christ the Lord, high priest taken from among men, has made this new people ‘a kingdom of priests to God, his Father.’ The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood.”1

CCC 1537 The word order in Roman antiquity designated an established civil body, especially a governing body. Ordinatio means incorporation into an ordo. In the Church there are established bodies which Tradition, not without a basis in Sacred Scripture,2 has since ancient times called taxeis (Greek) or ordines. And so the liturgy speaks of the ordo episcoporum, the ordo presbyterorum, the ordo diaconorum. Other groups also receive this name of ordo: catechumens, virgins, spouses, widows,…

CCC 1539 The chosen people was constituted by God as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”3 But within the people of Israel, God chose one of the twelve tribes, that of Levi, and set it apart for liturgical service; God himself is its inheritance.4 A special rite consecrated the beginnings of the priesthood of the Old Covenant. The priests are “appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”5

CCC 1540 Instituted to proclaim the Word of God and to restore communion with God by sacrifices and prayer,6 this priesthood nevertheless remains powerless to bring about salvation, needing to repeat its sacrifices ceaselessly and being unable to achieve a definitive sanctification, which only the sacrifice of Christ would accomplish.7

CCC 1564 “Whilst not having the supreme degree of the pontifical office, and notwithstanding the fact that they depend on the bishops in the exercise of their own proper power, the priests are for all that associated with them by reason of their sacerdotal dignity; and in virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, after the image of Christ, the supreme and eternal priest, they are consecrated in order to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful as well as to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Testament.”8

CCC 1578 No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed no one claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God.9 Anyone who thinks he recognizes the signs of God’s call to the ordained ministry must humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church, who has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive orders. Like every grace this sacrament can be received only as an unmerited gift.

1 LG 10; Cf. Heb 5:1-5; Rev 1:6.

2 Cf. Heb 5:6; 7:11; Ps 110:4.

3 Ex 19:6; cf. Isa 61:6.

4 Cf. Num 1:48-53; Josh 13:33.

5 Heb 5:1; cf. Ex 29:1-30; Lev 8.

6 Cf. Mal 2:7-9.

7 Cf. Heb 5:3; 7:27; 101-4.

8 LG 28 cf. Heb 5:1-10; 7:24; 9:11-28; Innocent I, Epist. ad Decentium:PL 20,554A; St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 2,22:PG 35,432B.

9 Cf. Heb 5:4.

APPLICATION

Through the incarnation of his divine Son, God has given us a High Priest who offered, once and for all, his own body on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. He entered the real holy of holies on our great day of atonement and will remain there as our intermediary with the Father until the last man has been saved. It is of this basic truth of our Christian faith that the Epistle to the Hebrews reminds us today. As the author was writing to Judaeo-Christians, who knew the Jewish cultic regulations of the temple in Jerusalem, he uses terms connected with the temple cult to bring home to his readers the full meaning that the death and glorification of Christ have for them.

It was God himself who appointed Aaron, Moses’ mouthpiece, to be the first high priest to have charge of the services of the Tent of the Meeting, when the Israelites fled from Egypt. His eldest son was to succeed him as high priest, and his other sons were also priests. This was to continue down through the ages. The high priest was the intermediary between the Chosen People and God. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, he offered the sacrifice which made atonement for all the sins of the people. The high priest, therefore, had a very special place–the most important religious position–in the Jewish community. The Jewish converts to Christianity would understand very well what the author of this epistle meant when he called Christ our High Priest, appointed by God to make atonement for all the sins of the world. They already knew how this atonement was made. They knew who this high priest was–the Son of God who took human nature in which he could make this sacrifice which was of infinite value, and surpassed all the sacrifices offered by all the high priests of Jewish history. They knew that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was for all men–not for the Jews alone, but for each and every member of the human race for all time.

We, Christians of the 20th century, know all of this as did the Christians of the seventies of the 1st century. We know God has planned from all eternity to give us a place in heaven when we die. We know the humiliations and sufferings his divine Son endured so that we could be made worthy of this honor, and therefore we should know how important it is that we do the little expected of us in order to fulfill God’s plan for us. Yet, there are many Christians today who are so entangled in the passing things of this world that they have no time or inclination to look to their eternal future. They live and act in this world as if it were to be their eternal world, and have no thought or time to prepare themselves for the future home which God has planned for them.

There will be a rude awakening when they are called to judgment. When they realize what they have lost, and when they look back on the follies and foibles on which they spent their days on earth, how they will despise themselves! Today, out of true Christian charity, let us pray that such deluded Christians will be very few in number.

GOSPEL

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Mk 10:46 52

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd,

Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,

sat by the roadside begging.

On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth,

he began to cry out and say,

“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”

And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.

But he kept calling out all the more,

“Son of David, have pity on me.”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called the blind man, saying to him,

“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”

He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.

Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”

The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”

Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”

Immediately he received his sight

and followed him on the way.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 548 The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him.1 To those who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask.2 So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father’s works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God.3 But his miracles can also be occasions for “offence”;4 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.5

CCC 2616 Prayer to Jesus is answered by him already during his ministry, through signs that anticipate the power of his death and Resurrection: Jesus hears the prayer of faith, expressed in words (the leper, Jairus, the Canaanite woman, the good thief)6 or in silence (the bearers of the paralytic, the woman with a hemorrhage who touches his clothes, the tears and ointment of the sinful woman).7 The urgent request of the blind men, “Have mercy on us, Son of David” or “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” has-been renewed in the traditional prayer to Jesus known as the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”8 Healing infirmities or forgiving sins, Jesus always responds to a prayer offered in faith: “Your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

St. Augustine wonderfully summarizes the three dimensions of Jesus’ prayer: “He prays for us as our priest, prays in us as our Head, and is prayed to by us as our God. Therefore let us acknowledge our voice in him and his in us.”9

CCC 2667 This simple invocation of faith developed in the tradition of prayer under many forms in East and West. The most usual formulation, transmitted by the spiritual writers of the Sinai, Syria, and Mt. Athos, is the invocation, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners.” It combines the Christological hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 with the cry of the publican and the blind men begging for light.10 By it the heart is opened to human wretchedness and the Savior’s mercy.

1 cf. Jn 5:36; 10:25, 38.

2 Cf. Mk 5:25-34; 10:52; etc.

3 Cf. Jn 10:31-38.

4 Mt 11:6.

5 Cf. Jn 11:47-48; Mk 3:22.

6 Cf. Mk 1:40-41; 5:36; 7:29; Cf. Lk 23:39-43.

7 Cf. Mk 25; 5:28; Lk 7:37-38.

8 Mt 9:27, Mk 10:48.

9 St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 85, 1: PL 37, 1081; cf. GILH 7.

10 Cf. Mk 10:46-52; Lk 18:13.

APPLICATION

This blind man of Jericho was one of the very lucky men in the gospel story. He got the last chance of appealing in person to Jesus for the gift of his eyesight. He used that chance in spite of opposition, his faith and trust in Jesus were so strong that nobody could stop him from expressing them. He made his request while proclaiming his faith. He got, not only what he asked–the physical gift, but a spiritual insight was added as well and he became a faithful follower of Christ.

Our Lord had passed through Jericho a few times during his public ministry. Jericho was on the route from Galilee to Jerusalem. Bartimaeus was very probably sitting on the roadside begging for alms on these occasions also, but influenced by the lack of interest of his fellow-citizens he, too, had no time for all this talk about a Messiah and a miracle-worker. In any case, it was only on the occasion of Christ’s last journey through Jericho that his faith moved him to appeal aloud for help from the one and only person whom he was convinced could grant him his request. His appeal was heard.

There is a deep spiritual lesson for all of us in today’s gospel story. Like Bartimaeus, many of us have been sitting by the roadside for years, not moving a foot toward our eternal destination. We have been blind to our true interests; our sole preoccupation seems to be to collect the paltry alms that this world would deign to drop in our laps. But we are even more to be pitied than Bartimaeus–he knew that he was blind; we are not aware of our spiritual blindness–we think everything in the garden is rosy and colorful when we see only the colors we want to see and are blind to the things that really matter.

We said above that it is probable that Bartimaeus ignored the passing-by of Jesus on earlier occasions; it is certain that in, our case we have ignored the presence of Jesus in the many reminders he has sent us up to now. That parish retreat we did not attend; that sudden death of a close friend; that illness of a near relative; that car accident from which we miraculously escaped; these and many other incidents are examples of the many times our loving Lord passed close to us–ready to cure our spiritual blindness; but we did not see him.

It is possible that our Lord saw Bartimaeus sitting by the roadside on his earlier journeys through Jericho. Perhaps he could not help him, for the blind man was engaged in collecting alms with no thought for the greater gift–the return of his eyesight. It is certain that our Lord has often been near to us, anxious to give us back our spiritual vision. But like Bartimaeus, we were so busy gathering up this world’s paltry donations that we did not even think of the far greater grace we needed.

In the twenty centuries of our Christian history there have been some who have deliberately shut the eyes of their minds to the many calls to repentance which Jesus sent. This is a danger and a fatal mistake we can all avoid if we learn today’s gospel message. This story of the blind man of Jericho was not inspired and preserved for some literary reason, but as an instruction for us. It is read to us today, to make us examine our consciences and see the true state of our spiritual standing in the eyes of God. Are we steadily moving on toward heaven, carrying out daily duties to God and to our neighbor, bearing life’s crosses cheerfully–knowing that they come to us from a loving Father as part of our training for heaven? Or are we sitting idly by the roadside, engrossed and enmeshed in the affairs of this world, oblivious of our real purpose in life and turning deaf ears and blind eyes to all the danger signals that Christ our Savior regularly is sending out to us?

For some among us today this may be Christ’s last call. Will we be so utterly disinterested in our own eternal welfare as to ignore it? For all of us it is a call to put our house in order. We may not have been sitting by the roadside, but have we been keeping faithfully to the road to heaven–marked out for us by our Christian faith? Let us all call on Jesus, son of David and Son of God today, to give us the grace to see ourselves as we are–and then to see ourselves as, we ought to be. “Master, let me receive my sight.”

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

BENEDICTUS

We are Meant to Rely on Receiving

Man is redeemed by the cross; the crucified Christ, as the completely opened being, as the true redemption of man – this is the central principle of Christian faith…  in the last analysis of man, it expresses the primacy of acceptance over action, over ones own achievement…  Accordingly, from the point of view of the Christian faith, man comes in the profoundest sense to himself not through what he does but through what he accepts.  He must wait for the gift of love, and love can only be received as a gift.  It cannot be “made” on one’s own, without anyone else; one must wait for it, let it be given to one.  And one cannot become wholly man in any other way than by being loved, by letting oneself be loved.  That love represents simultaneously both man’s highest possibility and his deepest need, and that this most necessary thing is at the same time the freest and the most unenforceable means precisely that for his “salvation” man is meant to rely on receiving.  If he declines to let himself be presented with the gift, then he destroys himself.  Activity that makes itself into an absolute, that aims at achieving humanity by its own efforts alone, is in contradiction with man’s being…  The primacy of acceptance is not intended to condemn man to passivity; it does not mean that man can now sit idle.  On the contrary, it alone makes it possible to do the things of this world in a spirit of responsibility, yet at the same time in an uncramped, cheerful, free way, and to put at them at the service of redemptive love.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING 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, that my mouth may always proclaim Your praise. Teach me to reach out to You in my need, 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.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=75

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