Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

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Then Jesus said to them,  “All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written:  I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be dispersed.  But after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for the Grace of the Passion

O Lord, for the redemption of the world, you willed to be born among human beings, subjected to the rite of circumcision, rejected by the people, betrayed by Judas with a kiss, bound with cords, led like an innocent lamb to slaughter, shamelessly exposed to the gaze of Annas as well as Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod, accused by false witnesses, tormented by scourges and insults, spat upon and crowned with thorns, struck with blows of hand and reed, blindfolded and stripped of your garments, affixed to the wood and lifted high on the Cross, numbered among thieves, given gall and vinegar to drink, and pierced by a lance.

Lord, by these most holy sufferings which we, your unworthy servants, devoutly call to mind, and by your holy Cross and death, deliver us from the pains of hell, and be pleased to take us where you took the penitent thief who was crucified with you. You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty and ever-living God,

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

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

graciously grant that we may heed his lesson of patient sufferings

and so merit a share in his Resurrection.

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

one God, for ever and ever.

AT THE PROCESSION WITH PALMS

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Mk. 11: 1-10

When Jesus and his disciples drew near to Jerusalem,

to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives,

he sent two of his disciples and said to them,

“Go into the village opposite you,

and immediately on entering it,

you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat.

Untie it and bring it here.

If anyone should say to you,

‘Why are you doing this?’ reply,

‘The Master has need of it

and will send it back here at once.'”

So they went off

and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street,

and they untied it.

Some of the bystanders said to them,

“What are you doing, untying the colt?”

They answered them just as Jesus had told them to,

and they permitted them to do it.

So they brought the colt to Jesus

and put their cloaks over it.

And he sat on it.

Many people spread their cloaks on the road,

and others spread leafy branches

that they had cut from the fields.

Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out:

“Hosanna!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!

Hosanna in the highest!”

READING I

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Is 50: 4-7

 

 

The Lord GOD has given me

a well-trained tongue,

that I might know how to speak to the weary

a word that will rouse them.

Morning after morning

he opens my ear that I may hear;

and I have not rebelled,

have not turned back.

I gave my back to those who beat me,

my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;

my face I did not shield

from buffets and spitting.

The Lord GOD is my help,

therefore I am not disgraced;

I have set my face like flint,

knowing that I shall not be put to shame.

APPLICATION

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

We need to remind ourselves daily of this. We have the crucifix in our Christian homes, on our rosary beads, on our altars, on the very steeples of our churches. These crucifixes are not ornaments, but stark reminders that our Savior’s path to heaven led through Calvary and through all that preceded Calvary. They are also stern reminders to us that the carrying of our crosses on the road to heaven is not an unbearable burden for us, but an essential aid to our progress.

When you are tried by temptations, when you are tested by bodily pain or mental suffering, worried to death perhaps by the bodily needs of yourself or your family or by the disobedience and insults of ungrateful children, stop and think on the Leader and his humiliations and sufferings. He came to open the road to heaven for us, to make us all sons of God, to preach the message of divine forgiveness and mercy to mankind. What did he get in return? He was scourged, tied to a pillar, spat upon and insulted, jeered at and mocked. He was nailed to a cross on Calvary between two thieves!

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

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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

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

All who see me scoff at me;

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

“He relied on the LORD; let him deliver him,

let him rescue him, if he loves him.”

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

Indeed, many dogs surround me,

a pack of evildoers closes in upon me;

They have pierced my hands and my feet;

I can count all my bones.

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

They divide my garments among them,

and for my vesture they cast lots.

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

O my help, hasten to aid me.

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

I will proclaim your name to my brethren;

in the midst of the assembly I will praise you:

“You who fear the LORD, praise him;

all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him;

revere him, all you descendants of Israel!”

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

READING II

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Phil 2:6-11

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

did not regard equality with God

something to be grasped.

Rather, he emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

coming in human likeness;

and found human in appearance,

he humbled himself,

becoming obedient to the point of death,

even death on a cross.

Because of this, God greatly exalted him

and bestowed on him the name

which is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

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

and every tongue confess that

Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

APPLICATION

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

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

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

No, there is no place for despair in the Christian faith. But there is room for gratitude and confidence. We can never thank God sufficiently for all that he has done for us. Eternity itself will not be long enough for this, but we must do the little we can. Let us face this coming Holy Week with hearts full of thanks to God and to his divine Son for all they have done for us. When meditating on the passion of Christ on Good Friday let us look with gratitude and confidence on the Son of God who died on the cross in order to earn eternal life for us.

He did not die to lose us but to save us. He has done ninety per cent of the work of our salvation. And, even as regards the remaining ten per cent that he asks us to do, he is with us helping us to do it. Could we be so mean and so foolish as to refuse the little he asks of us?

GOSPEL

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Mk 14:1-15:47

The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread

were to take place in two days’ time.

So the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way

to arrest him by treachery and put him to death.

They said, “Not during the festival,

for fear that there may be a riot among the people.”

When he was in Bethany reclining at table

in the house of Simon the leper,

a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil,

costly genuine spikenard.

She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head.

There were some who were indignant.

“Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil?

It could have been sold for more than three hundred days’ wages

and the money given to the poor.”

They were infuriated with her.

Jesus said, “Let her alone.

Why do you make trouble for her?

She has done a good thing for me.

The poor you will always have with you,

and whenever you wish you can do good to them,

but you will not always have me.

She has done what she could.

She has anticipated anointing my body for burial.

Amen, I say to you,

wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world,

what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve,

went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them.

When they heard him they were pleased and promised to pay him money.

Then he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,

when they sacrificed the Passover lamb,

his disciples said to him,

“Where do you want us to go

and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”

He sent two of his disciples and said to them,

“Go into the city and a man will meet you,

carrying a jar of water.

Follow him.

Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house,

‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room

where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”‘

Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready.

Make the preparations for us there.”

The disciples then went off, entered the city,

and found it just as he had told them;

and they prepared the Passover.

When it was evening, he came with the Twelve.

And as they reclined at table and were eating, Jesus said,

“Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me,

one who is eating with me.”

They began to be distressed and to say to him, one by one,

“Surely it is not I?”

He said to them,

“One of the Twelve, the one who dips with me into the dish.

For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him,

but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.

It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”

While they were eating,

he took bread, said the blessing,

broke it, and gave it to them, and said,

“Take it; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them,

and they all drank from it.

He said to them,

“This is my blood of the covenant,

which will be shed for many.

Amen, I say to you,

I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine

until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Then, after singing a hymn,

they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Then Jesus said to them,

“All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written:

I will strike the shepherd,

and the sheep will be dispersed.

But after I have been raised up,

I shall go before you to Galilee.”

Peter said to him,

“Even though all should have their faith shaken,

mine will not be.”

Then Jesus said to him,

“Amen, I say to you,

this very night before the cock crows twice

you will deny me three times.”

But he vehemently replied,

“Even though I should have to die with you,

I will not deny you.”

And they all spoke similarly.

Then they came to a place named Gethsemane,

and he said to his disciples,

“Sit here while I pray.”

He took with him Peter, James, and John,

and began to be troubled and distressed.

Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death.

Remain here and keep watch.”

He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed

that if it were possible the hour might pass by him;

he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you.

Take this cup away from me,

but not what I will but what you will.”

When he returned he found them asleep.

He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep?

Could you not keep watch for one hour?

Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”

Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing.

Then he returned once more and found them asleep,

for they could not keep their eyes open

and did not know what to answer him.

He returned a third time and said to them,

“Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?

It is enough. The hour has come.

Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners.

Get up, let us go.

See, my betrayer is at hand.”

Then, while he was still speaking,

Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived,

accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs

who had come from the chief priests,

the scribes, and the elders.

His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying,

“The man I shall kiss is the one;

arrest him and lead him away securely.”

He came and immediately went over to him and said,

“Rabbi.” And he kissed him.

At this they laid hands on him and arrested him.

One of the bystanders drew his sword,

struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear.

Jesus said to them in reply,

“Have you come out as against a robber,

with swords and clubs, to seize me?

Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area,

yet you did not arrest me;

but that the Scriptures may be fulfilled.”

And they all left him and fled.

Now a young man followed him

wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body.

They seized him,

but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.

They led Jesus away to the high priest,

and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together.

Peter followed him at a distance into the high priest’s courtyard

and was seated with the guards, warming himself at the fire.

The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin

kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus

in order to put him to death, but they found none.

Many gave false witness against him,

but their testimony did not agree.

Some took the stand and testified falsely against him,

alleging, “We heard him say,

‘I will destroy this temple made with hands

and within three days I will build another

not made with hands.'”

Even so their testimony did not agree.

The high priest rose before the assembly and questioned Jesus,

saying, “Have you no answer?

What are these men testifying against you?”

But he was silent and answered nothing.

Again the high priest asked him and said to him,

“Are you the Christ, the son of the Blessed One?”

Then Jesus answered, “I am;

and ‘you will see the Son of Man

seated at the right hand of the Power

and coming with the clouds of heaven.'”

At that the high priest tore his garments and said,

“hat further need have we of witnesses?

You have heard the blasphemy.

What do you think?”

They all condemned him as deserving to die.

Some began to spit on him.

They blindfolded him and struck him and said to him, “Prophesy!”

And the guards greeted him with blows.

While Peter was below in the courtyard,

one of the high priest’s maids came along.

Seeing Peter warming himself,

she looked intently at him and said,

“You too were with the Nazarene, Jesus.”

But he denied it saying,

“I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.”

So he went out into the outer court.

Then the cock crowed.

The maid saw him and began again to say to the bystanders,

“This man is one of them.”

Once again he denied it.

A little later the bystanders said to Peter once more,

“Surely you are one of them; for you too are a Galilean.”

He began to curse and to swear,

“I do not know this man about whom you are talking.”

And immediately a cock crowed a second time.

Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said to him,

“Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.”

He broke down and wept.

As soon as morning came,

the chief priests with the elders and the scribes,

that is, the whole Sanhedrin held a council.

They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.

Pilate questioned him,

“Are you the king of the Jews?”

He said to him in reply, “You say so.”

The chief priests accused him of many things.

Again Pilate questioned him,

“Have you no answer?

See how many things they accuse you of.”

Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them

one prisoner whom they requested.

A man called Barabbas was then in prison

along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.

The crowd came forward and began to ask him

to do for them as he was accustomed.

Pilate answered,

“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?”

For he knew that it was out of envy

that the chief priests had handed him over.

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd

to have him release Barabbas for them instead.

Pilate again said to them in reply,

“Then what do you want me to do

with the man you call the king of the Jews?”

They shouted again, “Crucify him.”

Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?”

They only shouted the louder, “Crucify him.”

So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd,

released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged,

handed him over to be crucified.

The soldiers led him away inside the palace,

that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort.

They clothed him in purple and,

weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.

They began to salute him with, All Hail, King of the Jews!”

and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him.

They knelt before him in homage.

And when they had mocked him,

they stripped him of the purple cloak,

dressed him in his own clothes,

and led him out to crucify him.

They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon,

a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country,

the father of Alexander and Rufus,

to carry his cross.

They brought him to the place of Golgotha

which is translated Place of the Skull —

They gave him wine drugged with myrrh,

but he did not take it.

Then they crucified him and divided his garments

by casting lots for them to see what each should take.

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.

The inscription of the charge against him read,

“The King of the Jews.”

With him they crucified two revolutionaries,

one on his right and one on his left.

Those passing by reviled him,

shaking their heads and saying,

“Aha! You who would destroy the temple

and rebuild it in three days,

save yourself by coming down from the cross.”

Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes,

mocked him among themselves and said,

“He saved others; he cannot save himself.

Let the Christ, the King of Israel,

come down now from the cross

that we may see and believe.”

Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.

At noon darkness came over the whole land

until three in the afternoon.

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

“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”

which is translated,

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

Some of the bystanders who heard it said,

“Look, he is calling Elijah.”

One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed

and gave it to him to drink saying,

“Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.”

Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.

When the centurion who stood facing him

saw how he breathed his last he said,

“Truly this man was the Son of God!”

There were also women looking on from a distance.

Among them were Mary Magdalene,

Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome.

These women had followed him when he was in Galilee

and ministered to him.

There were also many other women

who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

When it was already evening,

since it was the day of preparation,

the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea,

a distinguished member of the council,

who was himself awaiting the kingdom of God,

came and courageously went to Pilate

and asked for the body of Jesus.

Pilate was amazed that he was already dead.

He summoned the centurion

and asked him if Jesus had already died.

And when he learned of it from the centurion,

he gave the body to Joseph.

Having bought a linen cloth, he took him down,

wrapped him in the linen cloth,

and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock.

Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.

Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus

watched where he was laid.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/032518.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 443 Peter could recognize the transcendent character of the Messiah’s divine sonship because Jesus had clearly allowed it to be so understood. To his accusers’ question before the Sanhedrin, “Are you the Son of God, then?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am.”1 Well before this, Jesus referred to himself as “the Son” who knows the Father, as distinct from the “servants” God had earlier sent to his people; he is superior even to the angels.2 He distinguished his sonship from that of his disciples by never saying “our Father”, except to command them: “You, then, pray like this: ‘Our Father’”, and he emphasized this distinction, saying “my Father and your Father”.3

CCC 444 The Gospels report that at two solemn moments, the Baptism and the Transfiguration of Christ, the voice of the Father designates Jesus his “beloved Son”.4 Jesus calls himself the “only Son of God”, and by this title affirms his eternal pre-existence.5 He asks for faith in “the name of the only Son of God”.6 In the centurion’s exclamation before the crucified Christ, “Truly this man was the Son of God”,7 that Christian confession is already heard. Only in the Paschal mystery can the believer give the title “Son of God” its full meaning.

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

CCC 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.12 What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.13

CCC 574 From the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, certain Pharisees and partisans of Herod together with priests and scribes agreed together to destroy him.14 Because of certain acts of his expelling demons, forgiving sins, healing on the sabbath day, his novel interpretation of the precepts of the Law regarding purity, and his familiarity with tax collectors and public sinners15 –- some ill-intentioned persons suspected Jesus of demonic possession.16 He is accused of blasphemy and false prophecy, religious crimes which the Law punished with death by stoning.17

CCC 585 On the threshold of his Passion Jesus announced the coming destruction of this splendid building, of which there would not remain “one stone upon another”.18 By doing so, he announced a sign of the last days, which were to begin with his own Passover.19 But this prophecy would be distorted in its telling by false witnesses during his interrogation at the high priest’s house, and would be thrown back at him as an insult when he was nailed to the cross.20

CCC 597 The historical complexity of Jesus’ trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles’ calls to conversion after Pentecost.21 Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept “the ignorance” of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders.22 Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd’s cry: “His blood be on us and on our children!”, a formula for ratifying a judicial sentence.23 As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council:

… [N]either all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion. .. [T]he Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture.24

CCC 603 Jesus did not experience reprobation as if he himself had sinned.25 But in the redeeming love that always united him to the Father, he assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin, to the point that he could say in our name from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”26 Having thus established him in solidarity with us sinners, God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all”, so that we might be “reconciled to God by the death of his Son”.27

CCC 1009 Death is transformed by Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, also himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition. Yet, despite his anguish as he faced death, he accepted it in an act of complete and free submission to his Father’s will.28 The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.29

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

Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving to God. The Greek words eucharistein30 and eulogein31 recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim – especially during a meal – God’s works: creation, redemption, and sanctification.

CCC 1335 The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist.32 The sign of water turned into wine at Cana already announces the Hour of Jesus’ glorification. It makes manifest the fulfillment of the wedding feast in the Father’s kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ.33

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

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the passover meal for us, that we may eat it. ..” They went. .. and prepared the passover. And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”… And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.”34

CCC 1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”35

CCC 1403 At the Last Supper the Lord himself directed his disciples’ attention toward the fulfillment of the Passover in the kingdom of God: “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”36 Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist she remembers this promise and turns her gaze “to him who is to come.” In her prayer she calls for his coming: “Marana tha!” “Come, Lord Jesus!”37 “May your grace come and this world pass away!”38

CCC 2605 When the hour had come for him to fulfill the Father’s plan of love, Jesus allows a glimpse of the boundless depth of his filial prayer, not only before he freely delivered himself up (“Abba. .. not my will, but yours.”),39 but even in his last words on the Cross, where prayer and the gift of self are but one: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”;40 “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise”, “Woman, behold your son” – “Behold your mother”;41 “I thirst.”;42 “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”;43 “It is finished”;44 “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”45 until the “loud cry” as he expires, giving up his spirit.46

CCC 2701 Vocal prayer is an essential element of the Christian life. To his disciples, drawn by their Master’s silent prayer, Jesus teaches a vocal prayer, the Our Father. He not only prayed aloud the liturgical prayers of the synagogue but, as the Gospels show, he raised his voice to express his personal prayer, from exultant blessing of the Father to the agony of Gesthemani.47

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.48 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.”49 The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch.50 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.”51

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

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

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

4 Cf. Mt 3:17; cf. 17:5.

5 Jn 3:16; cf. 10:36.

6 Jn 3:18.

7 Mk 15:39.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18 Cf. Mt 24:1-2.

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

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

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

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

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

24 NA 4.

25 Cf. Jn 8:46.

26 Mk 15:34; Ps 22:2; cf. Jn 8:29.

27 Rom 8:32; 5:10.

28 Cf. Mk 14:33-34; Heb 5:7-8.

29 Cf. Rom 5:19-21.

30 Cf. Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24.

31 Cf. Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22.

32 Cf. Mt 14:13-21; 15:32-39.

33 Cf. Jn 2:11; Mk 14:25.

34 Lk 22:7-20; Cf. Mt 26:17-29; Mk 14:12-25; 1 Cor 11:23-26.

35 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1642; cf. Mt 26:26 ff.; Mk 14:22 ff.; Lk 22:19 ff.; 1 Cor 11:24 ff.

36 Mt 26:29; cf. Lk 22:18; Mk 14 25.

37 Rev 1:4; 22 20; 1 Cor 16 22.

38 Didache 10, 6: SCh 248,180.

39 Lk 22:42.

40 Lk 23:34.

41 Jn 19:26-27.

42 Jn 19:28.

43 Mk 15:34; cf. Ps 22:2.

44 Jn 19:30.

45 Lk 23:46.

46 Cf. Mk 15:37; Jn 19:30b.

47 Cf. Mt 11:25-26; Mk 14:36.

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

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

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

51 Rev 16:15.

APPLICATION

The story and most, if not all, of the details of our divine Lord’s sufferings at the hands of his fellow-Jews, his Father’s Chosen People, on that first Holy Thursday night in Jerusalem and the subsequent sentence of crucifixion pronounced by a pagan Roman judge on one he had declared innocent of any crime, is well known to any Christian, worthy of the name. But theoretical knowledge is not what makes a Christian or a follower of Christ. Down through the ages great men have lived and died and their lives and deeds have benefited others in many ways, for greater or lesser periods. But the life and death of Christ has not only benefited man’s life on earth, it has changed the very purpose of man’s existence, for it has changed his relationship with God and with his eternal destiny.

Through and by the Incarnation, death, resurrection of Christ, we, mere human mortals, have been made sons of God by divine decree, and heirs of God’s eternal kingdom of heaven. This was God’s original plan in creating the universe. Man was to be the masterpiece of the divine act of creation and the master of the universe. He contains within himself a part of every created being and has the necessary faculties to dominate all the lesser creatures. But he was to be more than that. His human nature was to be raised to union with the Godhead in the Incarnation. This completed plan was eventually fulfilled in Christ.

Therefore, the life and death of Christ is not just some recorded bit of history of the past, rather it is for all men, not Christians only, a fact of the past which dominates and basically affects rational man’s purpose in life today and always as well as his day-to-day mode of living that life. There are millions on our earth today who, through no fault of their own, have not yet heard of God’s infinite love for them as proved in the Incarnation, but God will find ways of extending its benefits to them if they do their part. There are millions too who have heard the good news but refuse to believe it or to act according to it; those too we can safely leave to the all merciful God. But for ourselves, professed followers of Christ, who during this Holy Week will be reminded daily of what God has done and is continuing to do for us, our only answer is to beat our breasts in humble contrition like some of the crowds returning from Calvary on that first Good Friday.

We know we are utterly unworthy of the unfathomable love that God has shown us. When we look at the crucifix and see the Son of God nailed hands and feet to that cross, slowly shedding his heart’s blood for us, what can we do but bow our heads in shame? If we did not jeer at him and mock him openly as the Pharisees did that day on Calvary, we did so indirectly by our coldness, our forgetfulness, and worse still by our many deliberate sins against God and neighbor. Pilate condemned the innocent Christ “for fear of the Jews, for fear of losing his job” (St. John says); Judas betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver; the Pharisees forced Pilate to crucify him because of their pride. If we look into our past, how often have we offended him, that is, condemned him for similar reasons, and we are less excusable than these people were. We do, or should, know so much better than they did what Christ means to us.

But while we have reason, all of us, to repent of our past faults during this Holy Week, we have also every reason not to despair but to hope. In the very height of his agony on the cross, our loving Savior uttered a fervent plea to his heavenly Father, asking for forgiveness for all those who had brought his death-agony on him. The words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” hold for all time; we too were included there, and God’s merciful answer to his dying Christ is for us too if we avail of it.

Holy Week will be truly a holy week and a turning point in our lives if we repent of our past and turn to our loving God. Through the life, sufferings and resurrection of his beloved Servant and Son, he has made us his adopted sons and heirs of heaven. He will not fail us now.

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

BENEDICTUS

Christ the Burning Fire

When Jesus talks about fire, he means in the first place his own Passion, which was a Passion of love and was therefore a fire; the new burning bush, which burns and is not consumed; a fire that is to be handed on. Jesus does not come to make us comfortable; rather he sets fire to the earth; he brings the great living fire of divine love, which is what the Holy Spirit is, a fire that burns. In an apocryphal saying of Jesus that has been transmitted by Origen, he says: “Whoever comes close to me comes close to the fire.” Whoever comes close to him, accordingly, must be prepared to be burned… It burns, yet this is not a destructive fire but one that makes things bright and pure and free and grand. Being a Christian, then, is daring to entrust oneself to this burning fire… Christ is the one who brings peace. And I would say that this is the saying that is preeminent and determinative. But we only properly comprehend this peace that Christ brings if we do not understand it in banal fashion as a way of cheating one’s way out of pain, or out of the truth and the conflicts that truth brings with it… If the Church simply aims to avoid conflict, merely to ensure that no disturbances arise anywhere, then her real message can no longer make any impact. For this message is in fact there precisely in order to conflict with our behavior, to tear man out of his life of lies and to bring clarity and truth. Truth does not come cheap. It makes demands, and it also burns.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

The Anima Christi of St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton

Soul of Jesus, Sanctify me.

Blood of Jesus, Wash me,

Passion of Jesus, Comfort me.

Wounds of Jesus, Hide me.

Heart of Jesus, Receive me.

Spirit of Jesus, Enliven me.

Goodness of Jesus, Pardon me.

Beauty of Jesus, Draw me.

Humility of Jesus, Humble me.

Peace of Jesus, Pacify me.

Love of Jesus, Inflame me.

Kingdom of Jesus, Come to me.

Grace of Jesus, Replenish me.

Mercy of Jesus, Pity me.

Sanctity of Jesus, Sanctify me.

Purity of Jesus, Purify me.

Cross of Jesus, Support me.

Nails of Jesus, Hold me.

Mouth of Jesus, Bless me in life, in death, in time and eternity.

Mouth of Jesus, Defend me in the hour of death.

Mouth of Jesus, Call me to come to Thee.

Mouth of Jesus, Receive me with Thy saints in glory evermore.

Let Us Pray

Unite me to Thyself, O adorable Victim. Life-giving heavenly Bread, feed me, sanctify me, reign in me, transform me to Thyself, live in me; let me live in Thee; let me adore Thee in Thy life-giving Sacrament as my God, listen to Thee as to my Master, obey Thee as my King, imitate Thee as my Model, follow Thee as my Shepherd, love Thee as my Father, seek Thee as my Physician who wilt heal all the maladies of my soul. Be indeed my Way, Truth and Life; sustain me, O heavenly Manna, through the desert of this world, till I shall behold Thee unveiled in Thy glory.

Amen.

 

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Posted in Catholic

Fifth Sunday of Lent – B

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“This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.  Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.  And when I am lifted up from the earth.  I will draw everyone to myself.”

OPENING PRAYER

A Prayer for the Forgiveness of Sins

By St. Gemma Galgani

My Jesus,

I place all my sins before you.

In my estimation

They do not deserve pardon,

But I ask you

To close your eyes

To my want of merit

And open them

To your infinite merit.

Since you willed

To die for my sins,

Grant me forgiveness

For all of them.

Thus, I may no longer feel

The burden of my sins,

A burden that oppresses me

Beyond measure.

Assist me, dear Jesus,

For I desire to become holy

No matter what the cost.

Take away, destroy,

And utterly root out

Whatever you find in me

That is contrary

To your holy will.

At the same time, dear Jesus,

Illumine me

So that I may walk in your holy light.

COLLECT

By your help, we beseech you, Lord our God,

may we walk eagerly in that same charity

with which, out of love for the world,

your Son handed himself over to death.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

jeremiah-prophet

Jer 31:31-34

The days are coming, says the LORD,

when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel

and the house of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers

the day I took them by the hand

to lead them forth from the land of Egypt;

for they broke my covenant,

and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD.

But this is the covenant that I will make

with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD.

I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts;

I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives

how to know the LORD.

All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD,

for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 64 Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all, to be written on their hearts.1 The prophets proclaim a radical redemption of the People of God, purification from all their infidelities, a salvation which will include all the nations.2 Above all, the poor and humble of the Lord will bear this hope. Such holy women as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Judith and Esther kept alive the hope of Israel’s salvation. The purest figure among them is Mary.3

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.4

CCC 580 The perfect fulfillment of the Law could be the work of none but the divine legislator, born subject to the Law in the person of the Son.5 In Jesus, the Law no longer appears engraved on tables of stone but “upon the heart” of the Servant who becomes “a covenant to the people”, because he will “faithfully bring forth justice”.6 Jesus fulfills the Law to the point of taking upon himself “the curse of the Law” incurred by those who do not “abide by the things written in the book of the Law, and do them”, for his death took place to redeem them “from the transgressions under the first covenant”.7

CCC 715 The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of “love and fidelity.”8 St. Peter will proclaim their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost.9 According to these promises, at the “end time” the Lord’s Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace.

CCC 762 The remote preparation for this gathering together of the People of God begins when he calls Abraham and promises that he will become the father of a great people.10 Its immediate preparation begins with Israel’s election as the People of God. By this election, Israel is to be the sign of the future gathering of All nations.11 But the prophets accuse Israel of breaking the covenant and behaving like a prostitute. They announce a new and eternal covenant. “Christ instituted this New Covenant.”12

CCC 1965 The New Law or the Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is expressed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. It is also the work of the Holy Spirit and through him it becomes the interior law of charity: “I will establish a New Covenant with the house of Israel. .. I will put my laws into their hands, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”13

CCC 2713 Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and poverty. Contemplative prayer is a covenant relationship established by God within our hearts.14 Contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, “to his likeness.”

1 Cf. Isa 2:2-4; Jer 31:31-34; Heb 10:16.

2 Cf. Ezek 36; Isa 49:5-6; 53:11.

3 Cf. Ezek 2:3; Lk 1:38.

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

5 Cf. Gal 4:4.

6 Jer 31:33; Is 42:3, 6.

7 Gal 3:13; 3:10; Heb 9:15.

8 Cf. Ezek 11:19; 36:25-28; 37:1-14; Jer 31:31-34; and cf. Joel 3:1-5.

9 Cf. Acts 2:17-21.

10 Cf. Gen 12:2; 15:5-6.

11 Cf. Ex 19:5-6; Deut 7:6; Isa 2:2-5; Mic 4:1-4.

12 LG 9; cf. Hos 1; Isa 1:2-4; Jer 2; 31:31-34; Isa 55:3.

13 Heb 8:8, 10; cf. Jer 31:31-34.

14 Cf. Jer 31:33.

APPLICATION

It must have grieved and offended a devout lover of God, and an appointed prophet as Jeremiah was, to see the laws of his God broken and trampled on day after day, and this by the leaders of the people who were especially bound to give good example to their followers. The kings and people of Judah were facing a terrible trial. However, instead of relying on the good God who had so often helped them out of impossible difficulties in the past, they were seeking earthly aid from a pagan neighbor–a pagan neighbor who would not help them. Having chastised them in the strongest language for this gross infidelity, he now promises that even though they have deserted God, God will not desert them. The Chosen People were elected by God with the incarnation in mind. Abraham and his descendants were chosen to prepare the way for the coming of God’s Son. Unworthy though they had proved themselves for this noble role, God would still carry out his eternal purpose for all men. The Chosen People would be decimated. Their temple, his visible abode amongst them, would be razed to the ground, for they had despised and betrayed him. But a remnant would be saved–a purified remnant from which would come God’s Son in human nature.

We are the beneficiaries of this infinite act of God’s mercy toward, and patience with, sinful humanity. We have seen the New Covenant established between God and all men (not Abraham’s descendants only). We have seen the depth of God’s love for us, as illustrated on Mount Calvary. Our New Covenant was not mediated to us by any mere human being like Moses, but by the Son of God himself in his human nature. The blood with which this Covenant was ratified was not the blood of sheep and oxen which Moses used for the ratification of the first Covenant. It was the precious blood of Jesus Christ: “This is the blood of the New and everlasting Covenant which will be shed for you and all men so that sins may be forgiven.” This is a universal covenant “for all men.” It is not made between God and one race or people but between God and all men of all races and nations.

This is what we mean when we speak of the “New Testament.” It is not merely the books which describe what happened, but the happening itself. The Messiah promised in the Old Covenant and for whom the Old was a preparation, has come on earth and has proved to be not a mere messenger or delegate from God but his own dearly-beloved Son. This Son of God has brought about a pact, an agreement, between God and all men–an agreement through which all men are now elevated to the position of sons of God and heirs to God’s eternal kingdom. By the sacrifice of himself on the cross, the Son of God has removed any impediment (sins) which could prevent us from possessing that promised inheritance. This is the happy lot of man on earth today. But how many know of this pearl of great price, which is theirs for the taking? How many who do know of it are willing to “sell the few possessions they have” in order to acquire this treasure? How many, in other words, are willing to live the Christian life on earth in all sincerity, so that they can be Christians and brothers of Christ for all eternity in heaven?

Let each one of us ask these questions today, and give an honest answer. Living in the Christian era now will mean nothing to us hereafter, if we do not live as true Christians. Having the new pact with God written in our hearts by baptism will not help us to get to heaven unless we observe the two great commandments, love of God and love of neighbor. The fact that Christ has left a means for washing away our sins will not cleanse us unless we repent and confess our sins. The fact that we were made “spouses” of the Lord when we became Christians will give us no rights or privileges if we have divorced ourselves from him by unworthy conduct.

There is still hope. We are still alive. Lent is a very suitable occasion to examine ourselves: to see our faults and failings, to repent of them and ask from God forgiveness and the necessary grace to remain his true spouses, his true “chosen ones” for the future.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15.

(12a) Create a clean heart in me, O God.

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;

in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.

Thoroughly wash me from my guilt

and of my sin cleanse me.

Create a clean heart in me, O God.

A clean heart create for me, O God,

and a steadfast spirit renew within me.

Cast me not out from your presence,

and your Holy Spirit take not from me.

Create a clean heart in me, O God.

Give me back the joy of your salvation,

and a willing spirit sustain in me.

I will teach transgressors your ways,

and sinners shall return to you.

Create a clean heart in me, O God.

READING II

 

 

 

Jesus Praying to His Father

Heb 5:7-9

In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh,

he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears

to the one who was able to save him from death,

and he was heard because of his reverence.

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;

and when he was made perfect,

he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 609 By embracing in his human heart the Father’s love for men, Jesus “loved them to the end”, for “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”1 In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men.2 Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”3 Hence the sovereign freedom of God’s Son as he went out to his death.4

CCC 612 The cup of the New Covenant, which Jesus anticipated when he offered himself at the Last Supper, is afterwards accepted by him from his Father’s hands in his agony in the garden at Gethsemani,5 making himself “obedient unto death”. Jesus prays: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. ..”6 Thus he expresses the horror that death represented for his human nature. Like ours, his human nature is destined for eternal life; but unlike ours, it is perfectly exempt from sin, the cause of death.7 Above all, his human nature has been assumed by the divine person of the “Author of life”, the “Living One”.8 By accepting in his human will that the Father’s will be done, he accepts his death as redemptive, for “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”9

CCC 617 The Council of Trent emphasizes the unique character of Christ’s sacrifice as “the source of eternal salvation”10 and teaches that “his most holy Passion on the wood of the cross merited justification for us.”11 And the Church venerates his cross as she sings: “Hail, O Cross, our only hope.”12

CCC 1009 Death is transformed by Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, also himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition. Yet, despite his anguish as he faced death, he accepted it in an act of complete and free submission to his Father’s will.13 The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.14

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.”15

CCC 2606 All the troubles, for all time, of humanity enslaved by sin and death, all the petitions and intercessions of salvation history are summed up in this cry of the incarnate Word. Here the Father accepts them and, beyond all hope, answers them by raising his Son. Thus is fulfilled and brought to completion the drama of prayer in the economy of creation and salvation. The Psalter gives us the key to prayer in Christ. In the “today” of the Resurrection the Father says: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.”16

The Letter to the Hebrews expresses in dramatic terms how the prayer of Jesus accomplished the victory of salvation: “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered, and being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”17

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.18 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.

CCC 2825 “Although he was a Son, [Jesus] learned obedience through what he suffered.”19 How much more reason have we sinful creatures to learn obedience – we who in him have become children of adoption. We ask our Father to unite our will to his Son’s, in order to fulfill his will, his plan of salvation for the life of the world. We are radically incapable of this, but united with Jesus and with the power of his Holy Spirit, we can surrender our will to him and decide to choose what his Son has always chosen: to do what is pleasing to the Father.20

In committing ourselves to [Christ], we can become one spirit with him, and thereby accomplish his will, in such wise that it will be perfect on earth as it is in heaven.21

Consider how Jesus Christ] teaches us to be humble, by making us see that our virtue does not depend on our work alone but on grace from on high. He commands each of the faithful who prays to do so universally, for the whole world. For he did not say “thy will be done in me or in us,” but “on earth,” the whole earth, so that error may be banished from it, truth take root in it, all vice be destroyed on it, virtue flourish on it, and earth no longer differ from heaven.22

1 Jn 13:1; 15:13.

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

3 Jn 10:18.

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

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

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

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

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

9 1 Pt 224; cf. Mt 26:42.

10 Heb 5:9.

11 Council of Trent: DS 1529.

12 LH, Lent, Holy Week, Evening Prayer, Hymn Vexilla Regis.

13 Cf. Mk 14:33-34; Heb 5:7-8.

14 Cf. Rom 5:19-21.

15 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.

16 Ps 2:7-8; cf. Acts 13:33.

17 Heb 5:7-9.

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

19 Heb 5:8.

20 Cf. Jn 8:29.

21 Origen, De orat. 26 PG 11, 501B.

22 St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in Mt. 19, 5 PG 57, 280.

APPLICATION

When we are asked to live as true Christians we are being told to be obedient to the will of a heavenly Father who wants us to go to heaven. It is through obeying that divine will that we shall be working toward our best and truest interest. We all have sins and failings to atone for; we all have weaknesses and evil inclinations which we want to overcome. Hence the need for the self-mortification which living the true Christian life imposes on us. God gave us the marvelous gifts of intellect and free-will and we are all – without exception – tempted to dislike being ordered or commanded by another. We can easily get, the foolish idea that we are masters of our own destiny, whereas the truth is that our eternal destiny depends on God’s good-will toward us. That good-will is promised and secured, by those who obey him.

This reading from Hebrews today sets before us the inspiring example of the perfect obedience of Christ, who was the Son of God. He had no sins, he had nothing to atone for, eternal happiness was his by virtue of his sonship. Yet God the Father asked him to undergo the tortures and torments of crucifixion in his human nature for our sakes, and he obeyed! This is the sublime model of perfect obedience, the unparalleled example of complete submission to God’s will. It is set before us in this short reading. How could we be expected to imitate the perfect Christ? Yet St. Paul not only says we are expected to do so, but commands his Philippian converts to do so when he says. “In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus… who was divine but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death even death on a cross (Phil. 2: 5-8). St. Paul and his disciple, the author of Hebrews, call on Christians to imitate the obedience of Christ. In doing this they are asking no more than he himself asked when he laid down the condition for discipleship: “if any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt. 16: 24, see today’s gospel also).

The truly sincere Christian must be ready to suffer torture and crucifixion, if called on for the sake of Christ. Many have done so but true obedience for most of us consists in carrying our own crosses, our sicknesses, our loneliness, our struggles for earthly existence our sorrows and bereavements. These may not lead to the Calvary of martyrdom, but they lead us over very rough roads – roads, however, which bring us, in God’s good time, to the reward won for us on Calvary.

Are we on that rough road of true obedience, or have we sought the smoother path of giving in to our weaknesses? Lent is a suitable time to examine ourselves and then to return to the road of true obedience if we have strayed off it.

 

GOSPEL

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Jn 12:20-33

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast

came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee,

and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”

Philip went and told Andrew;

then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

Jesus answered them,

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

Amen, amen, I say to you,

unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,

it remains just a grain of wheat;

but if it dies, it produces much fruit.

Whoever loves his life loses it,

and whoever hates his life in this world

will preserve it for eternal life.

Whoever serves me must follow me,

and where I am, there also will my servant be.

The Father will honor whoever serves me.

“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?

‘Father, save me from this hour?’

But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.

Father, glorify your name.”

Then a voice came from heaven,

“I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”

The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder;

but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”

Jesus answered and said,

“This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.

Now is the time of judgment on this world;

now the ruler of this world will be driven out.

And when I am lifted up from the earth,

I will draw everyone to myself.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031818-year-b.cfm

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 363 In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person.4 But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him,5 that by which he is most especially in God’s image: “soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man.

CCC 434 Jesus’ Resurrection glorifies the name of the Savior God, for from that time on it is the name of Jesus that fully manifests the supreme power of the “name which is above every name”.6 The evil spirits fear his name; in his name his disciples perform miracles, for the Father grants all they ask in this name.7

CCC 542 Christ stands at the heart of this gathering of men into the “family of God”. By his word, through signs that manifest the reign of God, and by sending out his disciples, Jesus calls all people to come together around him. But above all in the great Paschal mystery – his death on the cross and his Resurrection – he would accomplish the coming of his kingdom. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Into this union with Christ all men are called.8

CCC 550 The coming of God’s kingdom means the defeat of Satan’s: “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”9 Jesus’ exorcisms free some individuals from the domination of demons. They anticipate Jesus’ great victory over “the ruler of this world”.10 The kingdom of God will be definitively established through Christ’s cross: “God reigned from the wood.”11

CCC 607 The desire to embrace his Father’s plan of redeeming love inspired Jesus’ whole life,12 for his redemptive passion was the very reason for his Incarnation. And so he asked, “And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.”13 And again, “Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?”14 From the cross, just before “It is finished”, he said, “I thirst.”15

CCC 662 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”16 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.”17 There Christ permanently exercises his priesthood, for he “always lives to make intercession” for “those who draw near to God through him”.18 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.19

CCC 786 Finally, the People of God shares in the royal office of Christ. He exercises his kingship by drawing all men to himself through his death and Resurrection.20 Christ, King and Lord of the universe, made himself the servant of all, for he came “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”21 For the Christian, “to reign is to serve him,” particularly when serving “the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder.”22 The People of God fulfills its royal dignity by a life in keeping with its vocation to serve with Christ.

The sign of the cross makes kings of all those reborn in Christ and the anointing of the Holy Spirit consecrates them as priests, so that, apart from the particular service of our ministry, all spiritual and rational Christians are recognized as members of this royal race and sharers in Christ’s priestly office. What, indeed, is as royal for a soul as to govern the body in obedience to God? And what is as priestly as to dedicate a pure conscience to the Lord and to offer the spotless offerings of devotion on the altar of the heart?23

CCC 1428 Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, “clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”24 This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a “contrite heart,” drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.25

CCC 2731 Another difficulty, especially for those who sincerely want to pray, is dryness. Dryness belongs to contemplative prayer when the heart is separated from God, with no taste for thoughts, memories, and feelings, even spiritual ones. This is the moment of sheer faith clinging faithfully to Jesus in his agony and in his tomb. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if dies, it bears much fruit.”26 If dryness is due to the lack of roots, because the word has fallen on rocky soil, the battle requires conversion.27

CCC 2795 The symbol of the heavens refers us back to the mystery of the covenant we are living when we pray to our Father. He is in heaven, his dwelling place; the Father’s house is our homeland. Sin has exiled us from the land of the covenant,28 but conversion of heart enables us to return to the Father, to heaven.29 In Christ, then, heaven and earth are reconciled,30 for the Son alone “descended from heaven” and causes us to ascend there with him, by his Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension.31

CCC 2853 Victory over the “prince of this world”32 was won once for all at the Hour when Jesus freely gave himself up to death to give us his life. This is the judgment of this world, and the prince of this world is “cast out.”33 “He pursued the woman”34 but had no hold on her: the new Eve, “full of grace” of the Holy Spirit, is preserved from sin and the corruption of death (the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary, ever virgin). “Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring.”35 Therefore the Spirit and the Church pray: “Come, Lord Jesus,”36 since his coming will deliver us from the Evil One.

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

2 DH 11.

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

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

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

6 Phil 2:9-10; cf. Jn 12:28.

7 Cf. Acts 16:16-18; 19:13-16; Mk 16:17; Jn 15:16.

8 Jn 12:32; cf. LG 3.

9 Mt 12:26, 28.

10 Jn 12:31; cf. Lk 8:26-39.

11 LH, Lent, Holy Week, Evening Prayer, Hymn Vexilla Regis: Regnavit a ligno Deus.

12 Cf Lk 12:50; 22:15; Mt 16:21-23.

13 Jn 12:27.

14 Jn 18:11.

15 Jn 19:30; 19:28.

16 Jn 12:32.

17 Heb 9:24.

18 Heb 7:25.

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

20 Cf. Jn 12:32.

21 Mt 20:28.

22 LG 8; Cf. 36.

23 St. Leo the Great, Sermo 4, 1: PL 54, 149.

24 LG 8 # 3.

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

26 Jn 12:24.

27 Cf. Lk 8:6, 13.

28 Cf. Gen 3.

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

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

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

32 Jn 14:30.

33 Jn 12:31; Rev 12:10.

34 Rev 12:13-16.

35 Rev 12:17.

APPLICATION

On the first Palm Sunday, as Christ entered Jerusalem not as a conquering king on a charger but “riding on an ass” to show that he was the humble servant of all men, he clearly foresaw the sufferings and torments that would be his in that city, before the week was out. Among those who waved palm branches to honor him and who sang aloud: “Hosanna to the son of David, Hosanna in the highest,” there were perhaps some who, urged on by the leaders, would be shouting the following Friday, “away with him, crucify him,” and “we have no king but Caesar.” Such was the fickleness of human nature then. Unfortunately it has not changed much, if at all, in the two thousand years that have since elapsed. We are still fickle when it comes to choosing between Christ and the things of this world. Yet he knew all of this, and was still willing to carry the cross for us who are such unworthy mortals!

This very thought should put us all to shame, for what repayment does the very best of us make for the incredible love he has shown for us? We grumble and complain when some small cross is laid on our shoulders; we are full of laments if life is not running smoothly for us; we cannot understand why God should let certain things happen to us, his friends! But see for a moment what the lot of his beloved Son was on earth. Born and reared in extreme poverty; insulted and offended by those he wanted to teach; quickly forgotten by those he benefited by his miracles; hounded by his enemies and betrayed by one who had been his disciple for over two years and who had sat at table with him that same night; deserted in his moment of trial by those very ones who had sworn undying allegiance to him. Then followed the torments wished on him by his enemies – those he had come to save; the mock trial and illegal condemnation; the scourging at the pillar; the crowning with thorns; the carrying of the cross and finally the three hours of intense torture and agony while his body hung on the cross! The next time we are tempted to grumble and complain about our sad lot, let us look thoughtfully at a crucifix for a few moments!

“He who loves his life loses it,” this is a truth stated by Christ at the solemn moment when he was speaking of the purpose of his own painful death. He died so that we might live, not for sixty or even a hundred years on earth, but forever in heaven. We can, we know, lose the eternal life Christ won for us if we are too attached to our transitory, earthly life. If we love our own comforts, pleasures, temporal gains, our own worldly will, more than we love our unending, happy future, then we are loving our earthly lives wrongly, and we are gravely risking the loss of the future, true life.

If, on the other hand, we do our best to be faithful servants of Christ, we shall always judge all our actions with eternity in view. We can use the things of this life which God gives us, and still be close followers of Christ. The lawful possession of the goods of this world, the enjoyment of the licit pleasures of life, are allowed to the fervent Christian. If these possessions and pleasures are accepted with Christian gratitude, they will become stepping-stones that will help us across the river of life to our everlasting home beyond.

Each one of us should look fervently and devoutly on the crucifix today, and try to compare our willingness to suffer those crosses sent to us by God, with the crushing cross and passion our Savior Jesus Christ gladly accepted for us and not for his own sake. Do not let the conclusion you draw stun you into inactivity, but rather let it shock you into a new outlook on life; a now resolve to serve, follow and imitate our loving Christ more closely in future. So may it be for all of us.

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

BENEDICTUS

Love and Eternity

Our life tends in the end toward a discovery of love, toward receiving love, and giving love. And the crucified Christ, who presents us with love lived out to the end, as he himself says in the Gospel of John, lifts this principle up into the realm of absolute reality. God himself is love. In this sense, love is indeed both the fundamental rule and the ultimate aim of life. Here we come again to the mystery of the grain of wheat, to the mystery of losing oneself and finding oneself. And we must link to this the observation that, as we know, no one can make love. It is given to us. It just happens; it comes to me from someone else; it enters into me. Human love always lays claim to eternity. Love contradicts death, as the human love is turned from a promise into the fulfillment of reality only that to say to a person “I love you” meant: I refuse to accept your death; I protest your death. Thus we see that human love, in and for itself, represents an unredeemable promise. It strives for eternity, and yet it can offer only mortality. Yet, on the other hand, it knows that this promise is not meaningless and contradictory, and thereby destructive, since ultimately eternity is alive within it nonetheless. Even from a purely human point of view, then, love is what we are looking for and is the goal toward which our lives are directed. But within its own framework and on its own terms it directs our view toward God and brings us to wait upon God.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 138

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart,

you have heard the words of my mouth.

In the presence of the angels I will bless you.

I will adore before your holy temple.

I thank you for your faithfulness and love

which excel all we ever knew of you.

On the day I called, you answered;

you increased the strength of my soul.

All earth’s kings shall thank you

when they hear the words of your mouth.

They shall sing of the Lord’s ways:

How great is the glory of the Lord!”

The Lord is high yet he looks on the lowly

and the haughty he knows from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of affliction

you give me life and frustrate my foes.

You stretch out your hand and save me,

your hand will do all things for me.

Your love, O Lord, is eternal,

discard not the work of your hands.

Glory to the Father

and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning,

is now, and shall be for ever.

Amen.

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Third Sunday in Lent – B

Angel's Escort Souls to Heaven.png

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer to St. Joseph by Pope St. Pius X

Glorious St. Joseph, model of all who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work in the spirit of penance in expiation of my many sins; to work conscientiously by placing love of duty above my inclinations; to gratefully and joyously deem it an honor to employ and to develop by labor the gifts I have received from God, to work methodically, peacefully, and in moderation and patience, without ever shrinking from it through weariness or difficulty to work; above all, with purity of intention and unselfishness, having unceasingly before my eyes death and the account I have to render of time lost, talents unused, good not done, and vain complacency in success, so baneful to the work of God. All for Jesus, all for Mary, all to imitate thee, O patriarch St. Joseph! This shall be my motto for life and eternity.

COLLECT

O God, who through your Word

reconcile the human race to yourself in a wonderful way.

Grant, we pray,

that with prompt devotion and eager faith

the Christian people may hasten

toward the solemn celebrations to come.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen

READING I

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2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23

In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people

added infidelity to infidelity,

practicing all the abominations of the nations

and polluting the LORD’s temple

which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.

Early and often did the LORD, the God of their fathers,

send his messengers to them,

for he had compassion on his people and his dwelling place.

But they mocked the messengers of God,

despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets,

until the anger of the LORD against his people was so inflamed

that there was no remedy.

Their enemies burnt the house of God,

tore down the walls of Jerusalem,

set all its palaces afire,

and destroyed all its precious objects.

Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon,

where they became servants of the king of the Chaldeans and his sons

until the kingdom of the Persians came to power.

All this was to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah:

“Until the land has retrieved its lost sabbaths,

during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest

while seventy years are fulfilled.”

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia,

in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah,

the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia

to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom,

both by word of mouth and in writing:

“Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia:

All the kingdoms of the earth

the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me,

and he has also charged me to build him a house

in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.

Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people,

let him go up, and may his God be with him!”

APPLICATION

When this world of ours shall end and we shall see the complicated and multicolored tapestry that the history of men on earth has woven, we shall clearly recognize the hand of God putting the varied and intricate strands of that history into their proper place. “The old order changeth giving place to the new and God fulfills himself in many ways,” says the great poet Tennyson. Yes, even those who now think that they are running this world themselves, without any assistance or what they call interference, from God, will see who moved them–for his own long-distance purpose. The history of the Chosen People of the Old Testament is evident proof of God’s big part in the regulating of their world. He worked extraordinary miracles to bring them into Canaan, the land he promised Abraham. But on the way and during their sojourn there, again and again, he used their enemies, and his, in order to make them realize their dependence on him. God’s plan was that the future Messiah would come from his Chosen People in the land of Canaan, yet he allowed the northern tribes, because of their disloyalty, to lose all ownership of their part of the territory. As we saw in today’s reading, Judah (Benjamin) and Levi almost suffered the same fate. “Almost only,” for here God’s plan steps in. While they had to be punished for their infidelities, the punishment was to be a purification, they would be chastised. In later days, we see Cromwell of England and Bismarck of Germany unwitting doing more to spread the Catholic Church in the western continent than all the zealous Catholic missionaries who had gone there up to that time.

The history of the Christian era is no different. God’s Chosen People of the New Testament have often, been disloyal to him. They have often provoked his wrath, and God allows their enemies and probably his own enemies to purify and cleanse them. There have been times too When God allowed sinful despots to torture and kill innocent Christians for their own criminal motives, but out of the sufferings of his faithful ones God built a bigger and more loyal following. Nero, Caligula and Diocletian, for instance, sent more martyr saints to heaven than even the great Apostle St. Paul–saints, perhaps, who might otherwise not have got there.

What holds true of people and nations is true also in the life of each individual. God is working in our lives in a way that we do not always realize. He has an active interest in each one of us from the cradle to the grave. The devout Christian family which was ever loyal to God is suddenly deprived of the bread-winner, the mother of a young family is called away leaving a helpless father to face the difficult future. The young boy or girl in whom the parents had set their hopes and on whom they had spent much of their limited income, and most of their love, is stricken down as he or she graduates from college. These do not look like the doings of a loving and benevolent God when seen from our side of eternity. But when we shall see the tapestry of our life on the last day, we shall then see why such “misfortunes” had to happen. In fact, we shall see that they were blessings from God in disguise–someone or other of the actors in the scene would not have reached heaven had these so-called misfortunes not occurred in the family.

God is looking after us, he can write straight with “crooked” lines, the crookedness indeed is the result of our angle of view. When the whole picture is painted we shall see how necessary it was for our salvation that we should take the rough with the smooth. Fair-weather sailors are not fit for long and difficult voyages. Our journey to heaven is a long and often stormy voyage we need to be trained in dealing with storms if we are to arrive safely in the place that God has destined for us. While very often we can attribute the storms of life to the wickedness of evil neighbors or anti-religious governments, let us not forget it, God is using these crooked lines and these worldly agents to write for us that beautiful sentence: “well done, thou good and faithful servant … enter into the joy of the Lord.” So may it be for all of us!

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6.

Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

By the streams of Babylon

we sat and wept

when we remembered Zion.

On the aspens of that land

we hung up our harps.

Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

For there our captors asked of us

the lyrics of our songs,

And our despoilers urged us to be joyous:

“Sing for us the songs of Zion!”

Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

How could we sing a song of the LORD

in a foreign land?

If I forget you, Jerusalem,

may my right hand be forgotten!

Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

May my tongue cleave to my palate

if I remember you not,

If I place not Jerusalem

ahead of my joy.

Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

READING II

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Eph 2:4-10

Brothers and sisters:

God, who is rich in mercy,

because of the great love he had for us,

even when we were dead in our transgressions,

brought us to life with Christ -by grace you have been saved-,

raised us up with him,

and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus,

that in the ages to come

He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace

in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

For by grace you have been saved through faith,

and this is not from you; it is the gift of God;

it is not from works, so no one may boast.

For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works

that God has prepared in advance,

that we should live in them.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 211 The divine name, “I Am” or “He Is”, expresses God’s faithfulness: despite the faithlessness of men’s sin and the punishment it deserves, he keeps “steadfast love for thousands”.1 By going so far as to give up his own Son for us, God reveals that he is “rich in mercy”.2 By giving his life to free us from sin, Jesus reveals that he himself bears the divine name: “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will realize that ”I AM“.”3

CCC 654 The Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life. This new life is above all justification that reinstates us in God’s grace, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”4 Justification consists in both victory over the death caused by sin and a new participation in grace.5 It brings about filial adoption so that men become Christ’s brethren, as Jesus himself called his disciples after his Resurrection: “Go and tell my brethren.”6 We are brethren not by nature, but by the gift of grace, because that adoptive filiation gains us a real share in the life of the only Son, which was fully revealed in his Resurrection.

CCC 1003 United with Christ by Baptism, believers already truly participate in the heavenly life of the risen Christ, but this life remains “hidden with Christ in God.”7 The Father has already “raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”8 Nourished with his body in the Eucharist, we already belong to the Body of Christ. When we rise on the last day we “also will appear with him in glory.”9

CCC 1073 The liturgy is also a participation in Christ’s own prayer addressed to the Father in the Holy Spirit. In the liturgy, all Christian prayer finds its source and goal. Through the liturgy the inner man is rooted and grounded in “the great love with which [the Father] loved us” in his beloved Son.10 It is the same “marvelous work of God” that is lived and internalized by all prayer, “at all times in the Spirit.”11

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

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

1 Ex 34:7.

2 Eph 2:4.

3 Jn 8:28 (Greek).

4

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

6 Mt 28:10; Jn 20:17.

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

8 Eph 2:6.

9 Col 3:4.

10 Eph 2:4; 3:16-17.

11 Eph 6:18.

12 Eph 2:6; Col 3:3.

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

14 Ad Diognetum 5: PG 2, 1173.

APPLICATION

The holy season of Lent ends with the great drama of the “Triumph of Failure” on Calvary. On that first Good Friday the Son of God as man died the most shameful and painful death on the cross. He did so that we men might live forever. It is, therefore, most fitting that in our preparation during Lent for the worthy commemoration of that world-shaking event, we should be reminded of the immense and almost incredible love of God for us which caused this to happen. Think on it as we may, and meditate on it as often as possible, we could still never fathom the depths of pure, unalloyed love which made God go to such lengths for our sakes. But we can see and understand enough of that divine love to make us utter frequently a heartfelt and sincere “thank you” to our heavenly Father.

Having created us and having given us the intellectual gifts which raise us above all other created things on earth, God could have left us in that natural state. We could have a certain amount of happiness, mixed with suffering of course, and we should be grateful for this, but could we really have any true happiness, any real contentment in a life which moved irrevocably and swiftly toward its eternal end in the grave? The merciful and loving Creator saw this before he ever created us. We were never intended for a mere natural life on this earth. The special faculties that he intended giving us deserved and, one could say, almost demanded something immensely greater than a few fleeting years of joy mixed with sorrow on this little planet. Therefore, our loving Creator ordained from eternity that we should share his eternal happiness with him.

That God could have found many ways of doing this, there is no sound reason to doubt, but the way he chose–the uniting of our human nature with the divine in his incarnate Son—was surely the way that expressed his true and fatherly love in the most emphatic manner possible. This is what our heavenly Father has done for us. He did so, as St. Paul says today: ” out of the great love with which he loved us.” The superior intellectual faculties which he gave man in creation can now have, as their object, infinite love and happiness, infinite truth and beauty. Multiply any earthly joy and happiness you have ever experienced, by infinity (if that can be done) and you have some vague idea of what your future life in heaven will be.

To help us appreciate how privileged we are–God’s friends on our way to God’s home–let us think often during Lent of our unfortunate neighbors, who have no such faith, no such hope, no such consolation in their day after day struggles. This may be their own fault or that of their parents or grandparents, but it matters not who is responsible, these neighbors of ours were created for heaven, God wants them there and unless they get there, their life on earth has been a dreadful failure. We can help them in many ways and if we really appreciate all that God has done and is doing for ourselves, we will gladly do a little bit for him in return, by assisting his prodigal sons on the road back to their Father. This act of true charity toward our fellowman in need will not impede us on our journey to heaven. It will be an immense help to keep us closer to God and more faithful to our Christian calling. A very special additional joy for us in our eternal life will be to have with us in heaven those whom we helped to bring there with us.

GOSPEL

JESUS LIGHT OF THE WORLD.JPG

Jn 3:14-21

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,

so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,

so that everyone who believes in him might not perish

but might have eternal life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,

but that the world might be saved through him.

Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,

but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,

because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

And this is the verdict,

that the light came into the world,

but people preferred darkness to light,

because their works were evil.

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light

and does not come toward the light,

so that his works might not be exposed.

But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,

so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031118-year-b.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 219 God’s love for Israel is compared to a father’s love for his son. His love for his people is stronger than a mother’s for her children. God loves his people more than a bridegroom his beloved; his love will be victorious over even the worst infidelities and will extend to his most precious gift: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”1

CCC 444 The Gospels report that at two solemn moments, the Baptism and the Transfiguration of Christ, the voice of the Father designates Jesus his “beloved Son”.2 Jesus calls himself the “only Son of God”, and by this title affirms his eternal pre-existence.3 He asks for faith in “the name of the only Son of God”.4 In the centurion’s exclamation before the crucified Christ, “Truly this man was the Son of God”,5 that Christian confession is already heard. Only in the Paschal mystery can the believer give the title “Son of God” its full meaning.

CCC 458 The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God’s love: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”6 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”7

CCC 678 Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment of the Last Day in his preaching.8 Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light.9 Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God’s grace as nothing be condemned.10 Our attitude to our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love.11 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.”12

CCC 679 Christ is Lord of eternal life. Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world. He “acquired” this right by his cross. The Father has given “all judgment to the Son”.13 Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself.14 By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one’s works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love.15

CCC 706 Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.16 In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself,17 in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”18 God commits himself by his own solemn oath to giving his beloved Son and “the promised Holy Spirit. .. [who is] the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.”19

CCC 1458 Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church.20 Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father’s mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful:21

Whoever confesses his sins. .. is already working with God. God indicts your sins; if you also indict them, you are joined with God. Man and sinner are, so to speak, two realities: when you hear “man” – this is what God has made; when you hear “sinner” – this is what man himself has made. Destroy what you have made, so that God may save what he has made. .. When you begin to abhor what you have made, it is then that your good works are beginning, since you are accusing yourself of your evil works. The beginning of good works is the confession of evil works. You do the truth and come to the light.22

CCC 2130 Nevertheless, already in the Old Testament, God ordained or permitted the making of images that pointed symbolically toward salvation by the incarnate Word: so it was with the bronze serpent, the ark of the covenant, and the cherubim.23

1 Jn 3:16; cf. Hos 11:1; Is 49:14-15; 62: 4-5; Ezek 16; Hos 11.

2 Cf. Mt 3:17; cf. 17:5.

3 Jn 3:16; cf. 10:36.

4 Jn 3:18.

5 Mk 15:39.

6 I Jn 4:9.

7 Jn 3:16.

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

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

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

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

12 Mt 25:40.

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

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

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

16 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38. 54-55; Jn 1:12-13; Rom 4:16-21.

17 Cf. Gen 12:3; Gal 3:16.

18 Cf. In 11:52.

19 Eph 1:13-14; cf. Gen 22:17-19; Lk 1:73; Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32; Gal 3:14.

20 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1680; CIC, can. 988 # 2.

21 Cf. Lk 6:36.

22 St. Augustine, In Jo. ev. 12, 13: PL 35, 1491.

23 Cf. Num 21:4-9; Wis 16:5-14; Jn 3:14-15; Ex 25:10-22; 1 Kings 6:23-28; 7:23-26.

APPLICATION

This man Nicodemus had a half-open mind as regards Jesus. He was moved by his teaching and miracles. He defended him when his companions were out to have Jesus arrested. He helped to have him properly buried when his enemies had him put to death, but that was as far as he went, apparently. There is no mention of him in the first Christian community of Jerusalem. What held him back, what kept him from giving himself fully to Jesus who spoke so kindly and told him so clearly that he himself was indeed a teacher who had come from God, that he had been offered by God as the sacrificial victim who would save the world? All Nicodemus had to do was to accept his word, “believe in him” and be baptized and he too would have eternal life.

Why did he not do this? The answer is given in the beginning of his story: “He came to Jesus by night.” He was one of the leading Pharisees and evidently was afraid of what they would think of him had they seen him associating with Jesus. How much more so did he dread what their reactions would be had he become a follower of him whom they called “this impostor.” Nicodemus had only half of his mind open to the truth, the other half was closed and barred by his fear of what his own class–the leaders of the Jews–would think of him. He risked his own future happiness in order not to lose the present respect of his sinful associates.

What a foolish man we would all say! Yet, are not many of us often like Nicodemus, when it comes to living up to our following of Christ? There are Catholic men who would like to, and should, go much more often to Holy Communion but are afraid of what their fellow-parishioners, who receive but rarely, would think of them. There are many, far to many, Christians who will not defend or stand up for their religion when it is insulted and attacked in their place of work or in a saloon. There are Christians who stand idly by, and give at least implied, approval, when grave injustices are being carried out by individuals or by local or national groups. These and many more like them are Christian types of Nicodemus, who through fear of losing the approval, the worthless esteem, of their sinful associates, are prepared to forfeit the esteem of God and their own eternal welfare.

Nicodemus probably thought he had made reparation for his lack of openness to Jesus when he assisted at his burial. What value, however, had that work of mercy for one of his frame of mind? There are amongst us today, humanists, most of them ex-Christians, men and women who make assisting their neighbor, while excluding Christ and God, the essence of religion. While the, assistance the neighbor receives will benefit him materially, what spiritual or religious value can it have for the humanist who excluded God and our Savior Jesus Christ? Humanism or concentrating on our neighbor to the exclusion of God, is an imitation of religion and a very false imitation at that. Helping our neighbor because he is a son of God is part of our true religion, and the second of the two great commandments of love; but helping a neighbor from whom we have effaced the image of God has not and cannot have any religious value or significance whatever. It is as meaningless as lighting a candle before the photograph of a wife one has deliberately deserted.

Thank God, we have accepted Christ with our whole heart and our whole mind. It is through him that we have been made sons of God. It is through him that we have learned to love God and learned of God’s infinite love for us. Because all men are God’s sons also, and our brothers in Christ, we will gladly help them whenever and wherever we can because God has commanded us to do so. This is true humanism which sees in the neighbor the workmanship of the almighty Creator, and what is more important the elevating effects of the divine Savior, as well.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from 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 one’s 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 met 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 them at the service of redemptive love.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

O gracious Master, infuse in our hearts the spotless light of Your Divine Wisdom and open the eyes of our mind that we may understand the teachings of Your Gospel. Instill in us also the fear of Your blessed commandments, so that having curbed all carnal desires, we may lead a spiritual life, both thinking and doing everything to please You. For You, O Christ, our God, are the enlightenment of our souls and bodies; and to You we render glory, together with Your eternal Father, and with Your all holy, life-creating Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Please pray for the Catechumens and Candidates as they prepare for the sacraments this Easter

Father of love and power,

guide our catechumens and candidates in the days and weeks ahead:

strengthen them in their vocation,

build them into the kingdom of your Son,

and seal them with the Spirit of your promise,

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Posted in Catholic

Third Sunday in Lent – B

christ-drives-the-merchants-from-the-temple-duomo-di-monreale-monreale-sicily-it.jpg

“Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”

OPENING PRAYER

Lord God almighty, you sent your only Son to bring peace to the world through his death and resurrection. Draw into the fullness of your peace all those who are preparing to bind themselves to you in the new and eternal covenant of Jesus Christ through baptism and the profession of faith, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

COLLECT

O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness,

who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving

have shown us a remedy for sin,

look graciously on this confession of our lowliness,

that we, who are bowed down by our conscience,

may always be lifted up by your mercy.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

Moses receives Commandments from God.jpg

Ex 20:1-17

In those days, God delivered all these commandments:

“I, the LORD, am your God,

who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.

You shall not have other gods besides me.

You shall not carve idols for yourselves

in the shape of anything in the sky above

or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth;

you shall not bow down before them or worship them.

For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God,

inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness

on the children of those who hate me,

down to the third and fourth generation;

but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation

on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain.

For the LORD will not leave unpunished

the one who takes his name in vain.

“Remember to keep holy the sabbath day.

Six days you may labor and do all your work,

but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD, your God.

No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter,

or your male or female slave, or your beast,

or by the alien who lives with you.

In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth,

the sea and all that is in them;

but on the seventh day he rested.

That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

“Honor your father and your mother,

that you may have a long life in the land

which the LORD, your God, is giving you.

You shall not kill.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,

nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass,

nor anything else that belongs to him.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

CCC 1456 Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: “All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly.”4

When Christ’s faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, “for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know.”5

CCC 2056 The word “Decalogue” means literally “ten words.”6 God revealed these “ten words” to his people on the holy mountain. They were written “with the finger of God,”7 unlike the other commandments written by Moses.8 They are pre-eminently the words of God. They are handed on to us in the books of Exodus9 and Deuteronomy.10 Beginning with the Old Testament, the sacred books refer to the “ten words,”11 but it is in the New Covenant in Jesus Christ that their full meaning will be revealed.

CCC 2061 The Commandments take on their full meaning within the covenant. According to Scripture, man’s moral life has all its meaning in and through the covenant. The first of the “ten words” recalls that God loved his people first:

Since there was a passing from the paradise of freedom to the slavery of this world, in punishment for sin, the first phrase of the Decalogue, the first word of God’s commandments, bears on freedom “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”12

CCC 2084 God makes himself known by recalling his all-powerful loving, and liberating action in the history of the one he addresses: “I brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” The first word contains the first commandment of the Law: “You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve him. .. You shall not go after other gods.”13 God’s first call and just demand is that man accept him and worship him.

CCC 2142 The second commandment prescribes respect for the Lord’s name. Like the first commandment, it belongs to the virtue of religion and more particularly it governs our use of speech in sacred matters.

CCC 2168 The third commandment of the Decalogue recalls the holiness of the sabbath: “The seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD.”14

CCC 2169 In speaking of the sabbath Scripture recalls creation: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.”15

CCC 2200 Observing the fourth commandment brings its reward: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you.”16 Respecting this commandment provides, along with spiritual fruits, temporal fruits of peace and prosperity. Conversely, failure to observe it brings great harm to communities and to individuals.

CCC 2214 The divine fatherhood is the source of human fatherhood;17 this is the foundation of the honor owed to parents. The respect of children, whether minors or adults, for their father and mother18 is nourished by the natural affection born of the bond uniting them. It is required by God’s commandment.19

CCC 2258 “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.”20

CCC 2331 “God is love and in himself he lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in his own image. .. God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion.”21

God created man in his own image. .. male and female he created them”;22 He blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply”;23 “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.”24

CCC 2401 The seventh commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one’s neighbor and wronging him in any way with respect to his goods. It commands justice and charity in the care of

earthly goods and the fruits of men’s labor. For the sake of the common good, it requires respect for the universal destination of goods and respect for the right to private property. Christian life strives to order this world’s goods to God and to fraternal charity.

CCC 2464 The eighth commandment forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others. This moral prescription flows from the vocation of the holy people to bear witness to their God who is the truth and wills the truth. Offenses against the truth express by word or deed a refusal to commit oneself to moral uprightness: they are fundamental infidelities to God and, in this sense, they undermine the foundations of the covenant.

CCC 2514 St. John distinguishes three kinds of covetousness or concupiscence: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life.25 In the Catholic catechetical tradition, the ninth commandment forbids carnal concupiscence; the tenth forbids coveting another’s goods.

CCC 2534 The tenth commandment unfolds and completes the ninth, which is concerned with concupiscence of the flesh. It forbids coveting the goods of another, as the root of theft, robbery, and fraud, which the seventh commandment forbids. “Lust of the eyes” leads to the violence and injustice forbidden by the fifth commandment.26 Avarice, like fornication, originates in the idolatry prohibited by the first three prescriptions of the Law.27 The tenth commandment concerns the intentions of the heart; with the ninth, it summarizes all the precepts of the Law.

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

2 Gal 3:24.

3 Cf. Rom 3:20.

4 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1680 (ND 1626); cf. Ex 20:17; Mt 5:28.

5 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1680 (ND 1626); cf. St. Jerome, In Eccl. 10, 11: PL 23:1096.

6 Ex 34:28; Deut 4:13; 10:4.

7 Ex 31:18; Deut 5:22.

8 Cf. Deut 31:9. 24.

9 Cf. Ex 20:1-17.

10 Cf. Deut 5:6-22.

11 Cf. for example Hos 4:2; Jer 7:9; Ezek 18:5-9.

12 Origen, Hom. in Ex. 8,1: PG 12, 350; cf. Ex 20:2; Deut 5:6.

13 Deut 6:13-14.

14 Ex 31:15.

15 Ex 20:11.

16 Ex 20:12; Deut 5:16.

17 Cf. Eph 314.

18 Cf. Prov 1:8; Tob 4:3-4.

19 Cf. Ex 20:12.

20 CDF, instruction, Donum vitae, intro. 5.

21 FC 11.

22 Gen 1:27.

23 Gen 1:28.

24 Gen 5:1-2.

25 Cf. 1 Jn 2:16.

26 Cf. 1 Jn 2:16; Mic 2:2.

27 Cf. Wis 14:12.

APPLICATION

The Ten Commandments of God were the basis of the religious life of the Chosen People of the Old Testament. They are still the foundation of the spiritual life of the new chosen people–the Christian Church. Unfortunately, the Israelites too often forgot all that they owed to God, and failed to show their gratitude by keeping his commandments, as the Covenant made on Sinai expected them to do. For this reason many of them lost their faith and with it the eternal reward that God was anxious to give them. There are Christians too who forget all that God has done for them and who ignore the Covenant he has made with them–“if you would enter into life (eternal) keep my commandments.” In this respect Christians are far more blameworthy than the Israelites, because they have greater proofs of God’s love for them, including the outstanding proof which he gave us in the incarnation.

The Ten Commandments can be summed up in two, as our Lord summed them up when questioned by the Pharisees. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and thy whole mind, this is the first and greatest of the commandments, and the second is like unto this: thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself; on these two depend the whole law and the prophets.” In other words, he who truly loves God and his neighbor fulfills the whole of God’s law and will earn heaven as his reward. The command to love God is more a privilege than an obligation for any thinking man. It was out of his infinite goodness and love that God created us and raised us to the status of his adopted sons. Could we ever show God how much we appreciate these privileges, and the goodness and love he has shown toward us? Even if we lived a thousand years on this earth, we could not of ourselves alone make any return which would remotely repay God for all that he has done for us. But once we have been made brothers of Christ by the incarnation, a new and superior value has been added to all our good acts, and these acts are therefore acceptable to God as signs and proofs of our desire to return love for love, within our human limits. As adopted sons of God, our heavenly Father is pleased with our filial love. He appreciates and rewards every proof, that we give in our daily lives, of our desire to thank him for all that he has done for us.

The second commandment, the obligation to love our neighbors as ourselves, includes all from the fourth to the tenth of the Decalog given on Mount Sinai. It is here that most of us are more liable to be found wanting. How can we love those who injure us, or those who are so thankless when we help them, or those who seem to have no interest in their own welfare, or those who deny the very existence of the true God who has imposed this obligation on us? Humanly speaking, it would indeed be impossible to love such people with the same love that we have for ourselves, but neither we nor these unattractive neighbors are any longer mere humans. We have been given a much higher status because of the incarnation. Our unlikeable neighbors are also sons and daughters of God by adoption. They have the same destiny as ourselves. Their inheritance is heaven and they too are on the way there. Therefore, the more they falter on the way, the more they refuse to recognize their duties of gratitude to God, and even deny his very existence, the more need they have of a helping hand from us who know where we are going and know how to get there.

We must overcome any natural antipathy which comes between us and the true love of all neighbors, because our own eternal salvation depends on this. All our declarations of love for God, and all the good acts we think we are doing to prove that love, are empty and false if we refuse to love our neighbor. St. John is very emphatic on this when he says: “If anyone says ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn. 4: 20). Therefore. it is by the love that we show our neighbor that the true love of God is made manifest in our lives. We must show respect for what he is and what he has. We must be willing to help him in his temporal and especially his spiritual needs. There is no saint in heaven who hated or despised his neighbor. There is no one damned in hell who really fulfilled the command to love and help his neighbor during his time on earth. Ask yourself today: “Do I really love God; am I on the right road to heaven?” The answer will depend on a truthful answer to this other question: “Do I love my neighbor as myself?”

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11

(John 6:68c) Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

The law of the LORD is perfect,

refreshing the soul;

The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,

giving wisdom to the simple.

Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

The precepts of the LORD are right,

rejoicing the heart;

the command of the LORD is clear,

enlightening the eye.

Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

The fear of the LORD is pure,

enduring forever;

the ordinances of the LORD are true,

all of them just.

Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

They are more precious than gold,

than a heap of purest gold;

sweeter also than syrup

or honey from the comb.

Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

READING II

CRUCIFXN.jpg

1 Cor 1:22-25

 

 

 

Brothers and sisters:

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,

but we proclaim Christ crucified,

a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike,

Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom,

and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 272 Faith in God the Father Almighty can be put to the test by the experience of evil and suffering. God can sometimes seem to be absent and incapable of stopping evil. But in the most mysterious way God the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation and Resurrection of his Son, by which he conquered evil. Christ crucified is thus “the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”1 It is in Christ’s Resurrection and exaltation that the Father has shown forth “the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe”.2

1 1 Cor 1:24-25.

2 Eph 1:19-22.

APPLICATION

These few lines from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians should make us stop and think how fortunate and blessed we are to have the gift of the true faith. We know that Christ was and is for us the power and the wisdom of God. Through that power and wisdom God proved his infinite love for us. In creation he made man the masterpiece of his work and the master of all other created things on earth. He gave us the gifts of intellect and will by means of which we can see the good and the beautiful and come to love both. This in itself was a marvelous privilege but the fact that we are finite, that our span of life on earth may be all too short could spoil and mar our enjoyment of the good and the beautiful and render earthly sufferings almost unbearable. Man might well envy the beasts which have no knowledge of the good and the beautiful, and no remembrance of happy days gone by nor any desire for future happiness–if he had all these and saw no fulfillment for them. But the wisdom of God was at work when creating us. He planned to raise us above merely human status so that we could have our natural desire for everlasting enjoyment of the good and beautiful fulfilled. This he did through Christ–his divine Son who “was made man.” By joining our human nature to his divine nature he made us his brothers and heirs to the eternal life.

We must still die, as Christ himself died in his humanity, but like him, we shall be raised from the dead to begin our new eternal life in the presence of the Good and the Beautiful–God himself–who will be the source and cause of happiness to us for all eternity. This is what the power and wisdom of God has arranged for us. This is for us the true philosophy of life. It explains our sufferings as well as our joys; it answers all our hopes and explains our earthly disappointments. The coming of Christ was surely the proof of God’s power and wisdom for us and should be so for all men.

Yet, unfortunately, there are millions alive today, who have the same innate desire for lasting happiness and the same dislike for life’s trials and disappointments, but have not the light of the Christian faith to answer their basic question ” what is it all for? Why am I here? Must all my desires and ambitions and hopes end in the grave?” The answer is there. But they will not heed it. The crucified Christ, whom St. Paul preached in Corinth, is still a stumbling block and a folly to too many, Jews and Gentiles, who will not open their eyes to look beyond earthly interests or who have long since closed their ears to the pleading voice of conscience. They think they are stronger than God and can do without him. They imagine themselves wiser than God, and consider that they do not need any solution to their problem from him. But there is only one real wisdom, there is only one who is powerful. To reject him is to reject hope, and to face a very short but a very bleak future. Far better to be an animal who does not remember yesterday and has no idea of, or thought for, the morrow.

We appreciate then, the gift of the true faith which we have received, and see the folly of those who deliberately reject that gift of God. Let us, however, not forget that God wants all men in heaven, and that a big part of our duty as Christians is to help by every means in our power, to bring our fellowman to a knowledge of their loving Father. The willing apostle will find many ways of spreading the gospel message, but for all of us there is the simple but effective means of good example. The follower of Christ who lives his daily life in a truly Christian manner is a constant reminder to his family and neighbors of the true meaning of life. His example may not be copied immediately but it will eventually have its effect.

Today, let us say two short prayers. First, a prayer of sincere thanks to God for being so good as to give us the gift of the true faith. Second, a prayer of petition, let us ask God to open the eyes and ears of those of our fellowman who have shut them against God and his Son, Jesus Christ. Lord, that they may see; Lord that they may hear!

GOSPEL

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Jn 2:13-25

Since the Passover of the Jews was near,

Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,

as well as the money changers seated there.

He made a whip out of cords

and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen,

and spilled the coins of the money changers

and overturned their tables,

and to those who sold doves he said,

“Take these out of here,

and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”

His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,

Zeal for your house will consume me.

At this the Jews answered and said to him,

“What sign can you show us for doing this?”

Jesus answered and said to them,

“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”

The Jews said,

“This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,

and you will raise it up in three days?”

But he was speaking about the temple of his body.

Therefore, when he was raised from the dead,

his disciples remembered that he had said this,

and they came to believe the Scripture

and the word Jesus had spoken.

While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,

many began to believe in his name

when they saw the signs he was doing.

But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all,

and did not need anyone to testify about human nature.

He himself understood it well.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/030418-year-b.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 473 But at the same time, this truly human knowledge of God’s Son expressed the divine life of his person.1 “The human nature of God’s Son, not by itself but by its union with the Word, knew and showed forth in itself everything that pertains to God.”2 Such is first of all the case with the intimate and immediate knowledge that the Son of God made man has of his Father.3 The Son in his human knowledge also showed the divine penetration he had into the secret thoughts of human hearts.4

CCC 575 Many of Jesus’ deeds and words constituted a “sign of contradiction”,5 but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply “the Jews”,6 than for the ordinary People of God.7 To be sure, Christ’s relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;8 Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.9 Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God’s people: the resurrection of the dead,10 certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),11 the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.12

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.13 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.14 He went there each year during his hidden life at least for Passover.15 His public ministry itself was patterned by his pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts.16

CCC 584 Jesus went up to the Temple as the privileged place of encounter with God. For him, the Temple was the dwelling of his Father, a house of prayer, and he was angered that its outer court had become a place of commerce.17 He drove merchants out of it because of jealous love for his Father: “You shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade. His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’”18 After his Resurrection his apostles retained their reverence for the Temple.19

CCC 586 Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation of his future Church.20 He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God’s definitive dwelling-place among men.21 Therefore his being put to bodily death22 presaged the destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation: “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”23

CCC 994 But there is more. Jesus links faith in the resurrection to his own person: “I am the Resurrection and the life.”24 It is Jesus himself who on the last day will raise up those who have believed in him, who have eaten his body and drunk his blood.25 Already now in this present life he gives a sign and pledge of this by restoring some of the dead to life,26 announcing thereby his own Resurrection, though it was to be of another order. He speaks of this unique event as the “sign of Jonah,”27 the sign of the temple: he announces that he will be put to death but rise thereafter on the third day.28

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

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

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

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

5 Lk 2:34.

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

7 Jn 7:48-49.

8 Cf Lk 13:31.

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

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

11 Cf. Mt 6:18.

12 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.

13 Lk 2:22-39.

14 Cf. Lk 2 46-49.

15 Cf. Lk 2 41.

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

17 Cf. Mt 21:13.

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

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

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

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

22 Cf. Jn 2:18-22.

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

24 Jn 11:25.

25 Cf. Jn 5:24-25; 6:40,54.

26 Cf. Mk 5:21-42; Lk 7:11-17; Jn 11.

27 Mt 12:39.

28 Cf. Mk 10:34; Jn 2:19-22.

APPLICATION

If we had only the Synoptic gospels (Mt., Mk., Lk.) we could easily conclude that Jesus spent almost all his public life and did all his preaching in Galilee and its neighborhood. St. John who wrote his gospel several years later corrects this false impression by mentioning visits made by our Lord to Jerusalem. He gave the “leaders of the people” in Jerusalem plenty of opportunity of hearing his message and his claims. He also worked some astounding miracles in or near the City. For instance, the man crippled for thirty-eight years (Jn. 5); the man born blind (Jn. 9), the raising of Lazarus; who had been four days buried (Jn. 11). St. John makes it very clear that the leaders (the priests and Pharisees) in Jerusalem were given every opportunity to learn who Jesus was, and every help to believe in him, but they would not. The fault was theirs, therefore, and the loss.

On this particular visit he made it clear to them that he was someone special, someone close to God whose house they were desecrating, and whom he even called his Father. In hidden language he told them that they would put him to death but that would not be the end, for he would rise again. Some of them seem to have remembered this saying of his after they had put him to death, for they asked Pilate to place a guard at his tomb lest his disciples should remove the body and pretend he had risen for: “we recall,” they said, “that this impostor said while he was still living, ‘after three days I shall rise again’ ” (Mt. 27: 63). But even the miracle of his resurrection did not affect the majority of them. They had made up their minds and “there are none so blind as those who will not see.”

The reasons for their blindness were the same as those that keep millions of the neo-pagans of today from accepting and living the Christian faith. These, like the priests and Pharisees of Jerusalem in the year 28, are so immersed in the affairs of this world that they can give no thought to their own future. Their eyes are so fixed on the earthly objectives that they have set themselves, that they can see nothing else. The priests and Pharisees wanted more than political freedom from Rome. They had hopes that their Messiah would give them a great world empire, and with it wealth and power without limit. Our contemporaries’ aims may not go so far, but, worldly aims are important enough in their eyes to make them exclude from their minds the thought of anything higher. Yet, they have more than enough reminders whichever way they turn to recall their minds to the historical facts of Christianity. This is 1999 A.D., that is 1999 years since the birth of Christ. Who was he, why was he born, why does the world divide its history into before he came, B.C., and after he came, A.D.? In every town and village of our once Christian western world there is a church or two with steeples pointing to the sky. Why? What do churches mean to men? Near every town there are cemeteries or “sleeping places,” according to the meaning of that Greek word. Are those buried there only sleeping and waiting to be called, if not already called, or are they finished forever just like the ox or the unthinking cow that may be buried in the next field.

The agnostics and freethinkers of our day should start to think about the real facts of life,–the central ones of which are that Christ, who was the Son of God, took our human nature and lived for some time on this earth, so that he would raise us up to sonship with God. He suffered crucifixion, because the world was full of sin when he came. But his death made atonement to the heavenly Father for all the sins of the world. His resurrection from the dead was the prelude and the guarantee that we shall all rise to a life of glory in heaven, if only we have followed him faithfully during our years on earth.

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

BENEDICTUS

Learning to Love

We are not spared dark nights. They are clearly necessary, so that we can learn through suffering, so that we can acquire freedom and maturity and above all else a capacity for sympathy with others… A part of every human love is that it is only truly great and enriching if I am ready to deny myself for this other person, to come out of myself, to give of myself. And that is certianly true of our relationship with God, out of which, in the end, all our other relationships must grow. I must begin by no longer looking at myself, but by asking what he wants. I must begin by learning to love. That consists precisely in turning my gaze away from myself and toward him. With this attitude I no longer ask, What can I get for myself, but I simply let myself be guided by him, truly lose myself in Christ; when I abandon myself, let go of myself, then I see, yes, life is right at last, because otherwise I am far too narrow for myself. When, so to speak, I go outside, then it truly begins, then life attains its greatness. Of course it isn’t a journey you can make from one day to the next. If you’re interested in quick happiness, then faith doesn’t work. And perhaps that is one of the reasons for the crisis in faith nowadays, that we want our pleasure and our happiness at once, and not to take the risk of a lifelong venture – a venture made in the trust that this leap will not end in nothingness, but that it is by its nature that act of love for which we were created. And which alone gives me what I want: loving and being loved and thereby finding true happiness.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Lenten Prayer for Spiritual Renewal

God, heavenly Father, look upon me and hear my prayer during this holy Season of Lent. By the good works You inspire, help me to discipline my body and to be renewed in spirit.

Without You I can do nothing. By Your Spirit help me to know what is right and to be eager in doing Your will. Teach me to find new life through penance. Keep me from sin, and help me live by Your commandment of love. God of love, bring me back to You. Send Your Spirit to make me strong in faith and active in good works. May my acts of penance bring me Your forgiveness, open my heart to Your love, and prepare me for the coming feast of the Resurrection of Jesus.

Lord, during this Lenten Season, nourish me with Your Word of life and make me one with You in love and prayer.

Fill my heart with Your love and keep me faithful to the Gospel of Christ. Give me the grace to rise above my human weakness. Give me new life by Your Sacraments, especially the Mass.

Father, our source of life, I reach out with joy to grasp Your hand; let me walk more readily in Your ways. Guide me in Your gentle mercy, for left to myself I cannot do Your Will.

Father of love, source of all blessings, help me to pass from my old life of sin to the new life of grace. Prepare me for the glory of Your Kingdom. I ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever.

Amen

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Second Sunday of Lent – B

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                                     “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

OPENING PRAYER

Jesus, Son of God, open our ears and our hearts so that we listen to you. Amen!

COLLECT

O God, who have commanded us

to listen to your beloved Son,

be pleased, we pray,

to nourish us inwardly by your word,

that, with spiritual sight made pure,

we may rejoice to behold your glory.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18

God put Abraham to the test.

He called to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am!” he replied.

Then God said:

“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,

and go to the land of Moriah.

There you shall offer him up as a holocaust

on a height that I will point out to you.”

When they came to the place of which God had told him,

Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.

Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.

But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven,

“Abraham, Abraham!”

“Here I am!” he answered.

“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger.

“Do not do the least thing to him.

I know now how devoted you are to God,

since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”

As Abraham looked about,

he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket.

So he went and took the ram

and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.

Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said:

“I swear by myself, declares the LORD,

that because you acted as you did

in not withholding from me your beloved son,

I will bless you abundantly

and make your descendants as countless

as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore;

your descendants shall take possession

of the gates of their enemies,

and in your descendants all the nations of the earth

shall find blessing-

all this because you obeyed my command.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

CCC 343 Man is the summit of the Creator’s work, as the inspired account expresses by clearly distinguishing the creation of man from that of the other creatures.3

CCC 706 Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.4 In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself,5 in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”6 God commits himself by his own solemn oath to giving his beloved Son and “the promised Holy Spirit. .. [who is] the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.”7

CCC 1819 Christian hope takes up and fulfills the hope of the chosen people which has its origin and model in the hope of Abraham, who was blessed abundantly by the promises of God fulfilled in Isaac, and who was purified by the test of the sacrifice.8 “Hoping against hope, he believed, and thus became the father of many nations.”9

CCC 2572 As a final stage in the purification of his faith, Abraham, “who had received the promises,”10 is asked to sacrifice the son God had given him. Abraham’s faith does not weaken (“God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering.”), for he “considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead.”11 And so the father of believers is conformed to the likeness of the Father who will not spare his own Son but will deliver him up for us all.12 Prayer restores man to God’s likeness and enables him to share in the power of God’s love that saves the multitude.13

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

2 Cf. Lk 1:11, 26.

3 Cf. Gen 1-26.

4 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38. 54-55; Jn 1:12-13; Rom 4:16-21.

5 Cf. Gen 12:3; Gal 3:16.

6 Cf. In 11:52.

7 Eph 1:13-14; cf. Gen 22:17-19; Lk 1:73; Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32; Gal 3:14.

8 Cf. Gen 17:4-8; 22:1-18.

9 Rom 4:18.

10 Heb 11:17.

11 Gen 22:8; Heb 11:19

12 Rom 8:32.

13 Cf. Rom 8:16-21.

APPLICATION

The faith and trust of Abraham in the true God whom he had got to know only late in life, and about whose power and love he did not know a fraction of what we know, should well put us to shame. Abraham left his country, his home, and his kin at a time when one’s life depended on the strength of one’s clan. He came to a foreign land about which he knew nothing. There he lived among strangers who had no time for invaders and “foreigners.” All of this looks easy on paper but what a sacrifice it must have been for Abraham to leave his own people, to travel the long desert journey from Haran in Assyria to Canaan, and then to try to earn his daily bread in unfriendly, if not positively hostile, surroundings. All of this Abraham did because he was convinced of this true God’s omnipotence and fidelity to his promises. Abraham was glad of the role that God had chosen for him—the human agent through whom the great divine blessing for all peoples would come.

Abraham’s second test of obedience and trust, of which we have just read, was even a more severe trial than the first. He was asked to give up forever his only real son and thereby be unable to fulfill the role God had promised him. Here again Abraham’s trust in God gave him the strength and the courage to do what he was told. Abraham’s prompt, unquestioning obedience pleased God—he did not have to sacrifice his only Son. His goodwill, his desire and readiness to obey God’s command, were proof enough of his justice, fidelity, sanctity.

How many of us could imitate Abraham? How many of us who have seen God the Father sacrificing his beloved Son in his human nature, offering him as sacrifice for our sins on the cross, could or would measure up to Abraham’s prompt obedience when God demands some sacrifice of us? How many of us who can devoutly make the Stations of the Cross, and see and feel the insults, degradation, tortures that the innocent Lamb of God suffered for our sins, will turn around soon after and refuse to give up some sinful association, some personal and unlawful gain, some habit of gluttony, or personal animosity against a neighbor? Such unwillingness to sacrifice something much less important than an only son, for the sake of God and our own eternal welfare, is far indeed from the prompt and ready obedience of Abraham.

We all have much to learn from this saintly man who lived nearly four thousand years ago. He is our father in the faith, for it was through his descendants that the knowledge of the true God was preserved on earth, and it was from one of his descendants that our Savior – the Messiah – took his human nature. We should, therefore, remember him with gratitude and we should show that gratitude especially by our endeavors to imitate his spirit of obedience and submission to God’s will. Let each one of us look into his or her own heart today. There are desires and plans and attachments there, which God is asking us to sacrifice, to burn up, to destroy during this lent. They are trifling sacrifices compared with that demanded of Abraham, but they are big enough to keep us from true loyalty to God in this life and are a very positive impediment to our entrance into heaven in the next.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19

(116:9) I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.

I believed, even when I said,

“I am greatly afflicted.”

Precious in the eyes of the LORD

is the death of his faithful ones.

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

O LORD, I am your servant;

I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;

you have loosed my bonds.

To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,

and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

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

My vows to the LORD I will pay

in the presence of all his people,

In the courts of the house of the LORD,

in your midst, O Jerusalem.

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

READING II

 

 

 

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Rom 8:31b-34

Brothers and sisters:

If God is for us, who can be against us?

He who did not spare his own Son

but handed him over for us all,

how will he not also give us everything else along with him?

Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?

It is God who acquits us, who will condemn?

Christ Jesus it is who died-or, rather, was raised-

who also is at the right hand of God,

who indeed intercedes for us.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 603 Jesus did not experience reprobation as if he himself had sinned.1 But in the redeeming love that always united him to the Father, he assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin, to the point that he could say in our name from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”2 Having thus established him in solidarity with us sinners, God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all”, so that we might be “reconciled to God by the death of his Son”.3

CCC 706 Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.4 In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself,5 in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”6 God commits himself by his own solemn oath to giving his beloved Son and “the promised Holy Spirit. .. [who is] the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.”7

CCC 1373 “Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us,” is present in many ways to his Church:8 in his word, in his Church’s prayer, “where two or three are gathered in my name,”9 in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned,10 in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But “he is present. .. most especially in the Eucharistic species.”11

CCC 2572 As a final stage in the purification of his faith, Abraham, “who had received the promises,”12 is asked to sacrifice the son God had given him. Abraham’s faith does not weaken (“God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering.”), for he “considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead.”13 And so the father of believers is conformed to the likeness of the Father who will not spare his own Son but will deliver him up for us all.14 Prayer restores man to God’s likeness and enables him to share in the power of God’s love that saves the multitude.15

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.16 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.”17 The Holy Spirit “himself intercedes for us. .. and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”18

CCC 2739 For St. Paul, this trust is bold, founded on the prayer of the Spirit in us and on the faithful love of the Father who has given us his only Son.19 Transformation of the praying heart is the first response to our petition.

CCC 2852 “A murderer from the beginning,. .. a liar and the father of lies,” Satan is “the deceiver of the whole world.”20 Through him sin and death entered the world and by his definitive defeat all creation will be “freed from the corruption of sin and death.”21 Now “we know that anyone born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one.”22

The Lord who has taken away your sin and pardoned your faults also protects you and keeps you from the wiles of your adversary the devil, so that the enemy, who is accustomed to leading into sin, may not surprise you. One who entrusts himself to God does not dread the devil. “If God is for us, who is against us?”23

1 Cf. Jn 8:46.

2 Mk 15:34; Ps 22:2; cf. Jn 8:29.

3 Rom 8:32; 5:10.

4 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38. 54-55; Jn 1:12-13; Rom 4:16-21.

5 Cf. Gen 12:3; Gal 3:16.

6 Cf. In 11:52.

7 Eph 1:13-14; cf. Gen 22:17-19; Lk 1:73; Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32; Gal 3:14.

8 Rom 8:34; cf. LG 48.

9 Mt 18:20.

10 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

11 SC 7.

12 Heb 11:17.

13 Gen 22:8; Heb 11:19

14 Rom 8:32.

15 Cf. Rom 8:16-21.

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

17 Heb 7:25.

18 Rom 8:26-27.

19 Cf. Rom 10:12-13; 8:26-39.

20 Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9.

21 Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer IV, 125.

22 1 Jn 5:18-19.

23 St. Ambrose, De Sacr. 5, 4, 30: PL 16, 454; cf. Rom 8:31.

APPLICATION

These four short verses of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans are among the most encouraging and consoling scripture passages in the whole Bible. He tells us God and Christ are entirely in favor of admitting us to heaven. He admits that there are some enemies who would try to prevent us from getting there, but he logically concludes: what can any enemy or number of enemies do if God and Christ are our defending Counsels and Judges? In brief “if God is for us who is against us?” Paul’s whole letter is full of proofs that God is for us, the greatest proof of all being the fact of the incarnation and crucifixion of his Son, for us sinners. If God went to those lengths in order to bring us to heaven it is more than logical that he will give us the lesser gifts and the assistance that each one of us needs in order to get there.

The Christian who keeps vivid this consoling knowledge of God’s love for him and God’s interest in his eternal welfare should never have a sad moment in his life. The things that cause us worry and trouble in life are trifles, when compared with the assurance and certainty we have of final triumph. That assurance comes from God’s infinite love, so definitely proved to us by the incarnation. St. Paul goes on in the very next verse after the text which is read today (8: 35): “who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword”. . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. . . no created thing can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This is the assurance that St. Paul gives the newly converted Christians of Rome and it was not based on any speculation or wishful thinking, but on the solid proofs of God’s love for us which the incarnation so definitely demonstrated. Let no one say: this might be all very true as regards the early Christians, they were full of zeal and full of the love of God; they were not likely to feel all the weaknesses of the flesh and all the attractions of the world which we feel today; life was easier then, they could give more time to the things of God than we can today, the struggle for existence was not so hard for them. St. Paul who knew human nature very well and who had dealt with thousands of converts would deny such statements absolutely. He knew the Roman converts were subject to the same human weaknesses as are all men of all ages. He knew they could, and very likely did, sin occasionally but he also knew that they had been instructed on how to repent of their sins and had enough interest in their eternal welfare to do so.

They had the same weakness that we have, they had the same enemies opposing their salvation. We have the same remedies and protections as they had; they used these remedies and were saved. Shall we not be as active in our own best interests as they were? God is as much for us as he was for the Romans, he wants us in heaven and he has done all that was necessary (and much more) to get us there. If we fail in our final examination one of our greatest causes of grief will be that the fault is completely and entirely our own. We can blame no person or thing in heaven or on earth for our dreadful failure except ourselves. Pray God today, that you shall avoid such grief. You will, if you try always to keep before your mind what God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has done and continues to do daily for you. “If God is with us who is against us?” God is ever with us if we do not deliberately and seriously separate ourselves from him.

GOSPEL

The Transfiguration of the Lord.jpeg

Mk 9:2-10

Jesus took Peter, James, and John

and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.

And he was transfigured before them,

and his clothes became dazzling white,

such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.

Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,

and they were conversing with Jesus.

Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,

“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!

Let us make three tents:

one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.

Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;

from the cloud came a voice,

“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone

but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain,

he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,

except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

So they kept the matter to themselves,

questioning what rising from the dead meant.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/022518.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

CCC 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.”5 On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: “Listen to him!”6 Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: “Love one another as I have loved you.”7 This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.8

CCC 516 Christ’s whole earthly life – his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking – is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”9 Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest “God’s love. .. among us”.10

CCC 552 Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve;11 Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Our Lord then declared to him: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”12 Christ, the “living Stone”,13 thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.14

CCC 649 As for the Son, he effects his own Resurrection by virtue of his divine power. Jesus announces that the Son of man will have to suffer much, die, and then rise.15 Elsewhere he affirms explicitly: “I lay down my life, that I may take it again. .. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”16 “We believe that Jesus died and rose again.”17

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

2 Jn 14:1.

3 Jn 1:18.

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

5 Mt 11:29; Jn 14:6.

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

7 Jn 15:12.

8 Cf. Mk 8:34.

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

10 Jn 4:9.

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

12 Mt 16:18.

13 I Pt 2:4.

14 Cf. Lk 22:32.

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

16 Jn 10:17-18.

17 I Th 4:14.

APPLICATION

This vision of Christ glorified, given to these Apostles on Mount Tabor (the traditional site of Transfiguration) was surely a very special privilege, and it was one they did not forget. “We saw his glory,” St. John says in his gospel, written over sixty years later. In his epistles John also refers to this privilege (1 Jn. 1: 1-4). St. Peter, writing from Rome to the churches in Asia Minor about thirty years later, mentions this outstanding experience: “For we were not following fictitious tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when from out the majestic glory a voice came down to him saying: ‘this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’ And this voice we ourselves heard borne from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Pt. 1:16-18).

Yes, the three Apostles were privileged and we too are sharers in their privilege. The Transfiguration of Christ is but one among many of the incontrovertible proofs of the divine Sonship of Christ which we have in the gospel narratives and in the twenty centuries-long history of the Church which he founded. Were he not divine, that Church would long since have crumbled and fallen under the many vicious assaults from outside which it has undergone, as well as from the many human weaknesses which have beset it from within. But Christ is God and the Church has his divine protection and assistance. Therefore, it will go on to the end of time to continue his work of elevating and redeeming mankind.

This enlightening glimpse of Christ’s future glory – a glory in which they would share – was given to these Apostles to strengthen and encourage them in the terrible test of their faith which the passion and death of Jesus would be for them very soon. It is for a similar reason that the Church orders this story of the Transfiguration to be read to us during this season of Lent. We are or should be mortifying ourselves during this season. This mortification can earn for us a glorious and unending future life. To encourage us to continue it, we are reminded that the One we are following, the One whose voice we listen to, is none other than the Son of God. There are the voices of many false prophets shouting around us, telling us to enjoy ourselves in this life, to “eat, sleep, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die,” but there is the rub – tomorrow we shall die, but where shall we go then?

Let us thank our divine Lord today, for giving this consoling and encouraging vision of his glory to his Apostles and through them to us. It was for them, and it is for us, a guarantee and a foretaste of the joys and the glory that will be ours for eternity, if we but persevere in our struggles against the world, the flesh and the devil. This struggle is not easy for our weak nature, but our loving Savior is ever beside us to “raise us up and tell us not to fear” if we but rely on him. When we are tempted to give way to our human weaknesses, or to give way under the weight of the crosses that sometimes are about to crush us, let us think of Mount Tabor, and the glorified Jesus, who a few weeks later faced his own real passion and cross cheerfully for our sakes. This thought will help us to carry our crosses as the thought of the future glory which will be ours should make us thank God that we have been created and thank his beloved Son for setting us on the road to that future glory.

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

BENEDICTUS

Lenten Transfiguration

Astonished in the presence of the transfigured Lord, who was speaking with Moses and Elias, Peter, James, and John were suddenly enveloped in a cloud from which a voice arose that proclaimed: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him” (Mk 9: 7). When one has the grace to sense a strong experience of God, it is as though seeing something similar to what the disciples experienced during the Transfiguration: For a moment they experienced ahead of time something that will constitute the happiness of paradise. In general, it is brief experiences that God grants on occasions, especially in anticipation of harsh trials. However, no one lives “on Tabor” while on earth. Human existence is a journey of faith and, as such, goes forward more in darkness than in full light, with moments of obscurity and even profound darkness. While we are here, our relationship with God develops more with listening than with seeing; and even contemplation takes place, so to speak, with closed eyes, thanks to the interior light lit in us by the word of God… This is the gift and commitment for each one of us in the Lenten season: To listen to Christ, like Mary. To listen to him in every word, preserved in Sacred Scripture. To listen to him in the very events of our lives, trying to read in them the messages of providence. To listen to him, finally, in our brothers, especially in the little ones and the poor, for whom Jesus himself asked our concrete love. To listen to Christ and to obey his voice. This is the only way that leads to joy and love.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

God, our Father, in the transfigured glory of Christ your Son, you strengthen our faith by confirming the witness of your prophets and by showing to us the splendor of your beloved Son, help us to become heirs to the eternal life with Him, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

 

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First Sunday of Lent – B

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“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”

OPENING PRAYER

A Prayer for the Forgiveness of Sins

By St. Gemma Galgani

My Jesus,

I place all my sins before you.

In my estimation

They do not deserve pardon,

But I ask you

To close your eyes

To my want of merit

And open them

To your infinite merit.

Since you willed

To die for my sins,

Grant me forgiveness

For all of them.

Thus, I may no longer feel

The burden of my sins,

A burden that oppresses me

Beyond measure.

Assist me, dear Jesus,

For I desire to become holy

No matter what the cost.

Take away, destroy,

And utterly root out

Whatever you find in me

That is contrary

To your holy will.

At the same time, dear Jesus,

Illumine me

So that I may walk in your holy light.

COLLECT

By your help, we beseech you, Lord our God,

may we walk eagerly in that same charity

with which, out of love for the world,

your Son handed himself over to death.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Jer 31:31-34

The days are coming, says the LORD,

when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel

and the house of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers

the day I took them by the hand

to lead them forth from the land of Egypt;

for they broke my covenant,

and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD.

But this is the covenant that I will make

with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD.

I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts;

I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives

how to know the LORD.

All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD,

for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 64 Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all, to be written on their hearts.1 The prophets proclaim a radical redemption of the People of God, purification from all their infidelities, a salvation which will include all the nations.2 Above all, the poor and humble of the Lord will bear this hope. Such holy women as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Judith and Esther kept alive the hope of Israel’s salvation. The purest figure among them is Mary.3

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.4

CCC 580 The perfect fulfillment of the Law could be the work of none but the divine legislator, born subject to the Law in the person of the Son.5 In Jesus, the Law no longer appears engraved on tables of stone but “upon the heart” of the Servant who becomes “a covenant to the people”, because he will “faithfully bring forth justice”.6 Jesus fulfills the Law to the point of taking upon himself “the curse of the Law” incurred by those who do not “abide by the things written in the book of the Law, and do them”, for his death took place to redeem them “from the transgressions under the first covenant”.7

CCC 715 The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of “love and fidelity.”8 St. Peter will proclaim their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost.9 According to these promises, at the “end time” the Lord’s Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace.

CCC 762 The remote preparation for this gathering together of the People of God begins when he calls Abraham and promises that he will become the father of a great people.10 Its immediate preparation begins with Israel’s election as the People of God. By this election, Israel is to be the sign of the future gathering of All nations.11 But the prophets accuse Israel of breaking the covenant and behaving like a prostitute. They announce a new and eternal covenant. “Christ instituted this New Covenant.”12

CCC 1965 The New Law or the Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is expressed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. It is also the work of the Holy Spirit and through him it becomes the interior law of charity: “I will establish a New Covenant with the house of Israel. .. I will put my laws into their hands, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”13

CCC 2713 Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and poverty. Contemplative prayer is a covenant relationship established by God within our hearts.14 Contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, “to his likeness.”

1 Cf. Isa 2:2-4; Jer 31:31-34; Heb 10:16.

2 Cf. Ezek 36; Isa 49:5-6; 53:11.

3 Cf. Ezek 2:3; Lk 1:38.

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

5 Cf. Gal 4:4.

6 Jer 31:33; Is 42:3, 6.

7 Gal 3:13; 3:10; Heb 9:15.

8 Cf. Ezek 11:19; 36:25-28; 37:1-14; Jer 31:31-34; and cf. Joel 3:1-5.

9 Cf. Acts 2:17-21.

10 Cf. Gen 12:2; 15:5-6.

11 Cf. Ex 19:5-6; Deut 7:6; Isa 2:2-5; Mic 4:1-4.

12 LG 9; cf. Hos 1; Isa 1:2-4; Jer 2; 31:31-34; Isa 55:3.

13 Heb 8:8, 10; cf. Jer 31:31-34.

14 Cf. Jer 31:33.

APPLICATION

It must have grieved and offended a devout lover of God, and an appointed prophet as Jeremiah was, to see the laws of his God broken and trampled on day after day, and this by the leaders of the people who were especially bound to give good example to their followers. The kings and people of Judah were facing a terrible trial. However, instead of relying on the good God who had so often helped them out of impossible difficulties in the past, they were seeking earthly aid from a pagan neighbor–a pagan neighbor who would not help them. Having chastised them in the strongest language for this gross infidelity, he now promises that even though they have deserted God, God will not desert them. The Chosen People were elected by God with the incarnation in mind. Abraham and his descendants were chosen to prepare the way for the coming of God’s Son. Unworthy though they had proved themselves for this noble role, God would still carry out his eternal purpose for all men. The Chosen People would be decimated. Their temple, his visible abode amongst them, would be razed to the ground, for they had despised and betrayed him. But a remnant would be saved–a purified remnant from which would come God’s Son in human nature.

We are the beneficiaries of this infinite act of God’s mercy toward, and patience with, sinful humanity. We have seen the New Covenant established between God and all men (not Abraham’s descendants only). We have seen the depth of God’s love for us, as illustrated on Mount Calvary. Our New Covenant was not mediated to us by any mere human being like Moses, but by the Son of God himself in his human nature. The blood with which this Covenant was ratified was not the blood of sheep and oxen which Moses used for the ratification of the first Covenant. It was the precious blood of Jesus Christ: “This is the blood of the New and everlasting Covenant which will be shed for you and all men so that sins may be forgiven.” This is a universal covenant “for all men.” It is not made between God and one race or people but between God and all men of all races and nations.

This is what we mean when we speak of the “New Testament.” It is not merely the books which describe what happened, but the happening itself. The Messiah promised in the Old Covenant and for whom the Old was a preparation, has come on earth and has proved to be not a mere messenger or delegate from God but his own dearly-beloved Son. This Son of God has brought about a pact, an agreement, between God and all men–an agreement through which all men are now elevated to the position of sons of God and heirs to God’s eternal kingdom. By the sacrifice of himself on the cross, the Son of God has removed any impediment (sins) which could prevent us from possessing that promised inheritance. This is the happy lot of man on earth today. But how many know of this pearl of great price, which is theirs for the taking? How many who do know of it are willing to “sell the few possessions they have” in order to acquire this treasure? How many, in other words, are willing to live the Christian life on earth in all sincerity, so that they can be Christians and brothers of Christ for all eternity in heaven?

 

Let each one of us ask these questions today, and give an honest answer. Living in the Christian era now will mean nothing to us hereafter, if we do not live as true Christians. Having the new pact with God written in our hearts by baptism will not help us to get to heaven unless we observe the two great commandments, love of God and love of neighbor. The fact that Christ has left a means for washing away our sins will not cleanse us unless we repent and confess our sins. The fact that we were made “spouses” of the Lord when we became Christians will give us no rights or privileges if we have divorced ourselves from him by unworthy conduct.

 There is still hope. We are still alive. Lent is a very suitable occasion to examine ourselves: to see our faults and failings, to repent of them and ask from God forgiveness and the necessary grace to remain his true spouses, his true “chosen ones” for the future.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15.

(12a) Create a clean heart in me, O God.

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;

in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.

Thoroughly wash me from my guilt

and of my sin cleanse me.

Create a clean heart in me, O God.

A clean heart create for me, O God,

and a steadfast spirit renew within me.

Cast me not out from your presence,

and your Holy Spirit take not from me.

Create a clean heart in me, O God.

Give me back the joy of your salvation,

and a willing spirit sustain in me.

I will teach transgressors your ways,

and sinners shall return to you.

Create a clean heart in me, O God.

READING II

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Heb 5:7-9

In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh,

he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears

to the one who was able to save him from death,

and he was heard because of his reverence.

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;

and when he was made perfect,

he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 609 By embracing in his human heart the Father’s love for men, Jesus “loved them to the end”, for “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”1 In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men.2 Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”3 Hence the sovereign freedom of God’s Son as he went out to his death.4

CCC 612 The cup of the New Covenant, which Jesus anticipated when he offered himself at the Last Supper, is afterwards accepted by him from his Father’s hands in his agony in the garden at Gethsemani,5 making himself “obedient unto death”. Jesus prays: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. ..”6 Thus he expresses the horror that death represented for his human nature. Like ours, his human nature is destined for eternal life; but unlike ours, it is perfectly exempt from sin, the cause of death.7 Above all, his human nature has been assumed by the divine person of the “Author of life”, the “Living One”.8 By accepting in his human will that the Father’s will be done, he accepts his death as redemptive, for “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”9

CCC 617 The Council of Trent emphasizes the unique character of Christ’s sacrifice as “the source of eternal salvation”10 and teaches that “his most holy Passion on the wood of the cross merited justification for us.”11 And the Church venerates his cross as she sings: “Hail, O Cross, our only hope.”12

CCC 1009 Death is transformed by Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, also himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition. Yet, despite his anguish as he faced death, he accepted it in an act of complete and free submission to his Father’s will.13 The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.14

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.”15

CCC 2606 All the troubles, for all time, of humanity enslaved by sin and death, all the petitions and intercessions of salvation history are summed up in this cry of the incarnate Word. Here the Father accepts them and, beyond all hope, answers them by raising his Son. Thus is fulfilled and brought to completion the drama of prayer in the economy of creation and salvation. The Psalter gives us the key to prayer in Christ. In the “today” of the Resurrection the Father says: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.”16

The Letter to the Hebrews expresses in dramatic terms how the prayer of Jesus accomplished the victory of salvation: “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered, and being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”17

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.18 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.

CCC 2825 “Although he was a Son, [Jesus] learned obedience through what he suffered.”19 How much more reason have we sinful creatures to learn obedience – we who in him have become children of adoption. We ask our Father to unite our will to his Son’s, in order to fulfill his will, his plan of salvation for the life of the world. We are radically incapable of this, but united with Jesus and with the power of his Holy Spirit, we can surrender our will to him and decide to choose what his Son has always chosen: to do what is pleasing to the Father.20

In committing ourselves to [Christ], we can become one spirit with him, and thereby accomplish his will, in such wise that it will be perfect on earth as it is in heaven.21

Consider how Jesus Christ] teaches us to be humble, by making us see that our virtue does not depend on our work alone but on grace from on high. He commands each of the faithful who prays to do so universally, for the whole world. For he did not say “thy will be done in me or in us,” but “on earth,” the whole earth, so that error may be banished from it, truth take root in it, all vice be destroyed on it, virtue flourish on it, and earth no longer differ from heaven.22

1 Jn 13:1; 15:13.

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

3 Jn 10:18.

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

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

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

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

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

9 1 Pt 224; cf. Mt 26:42.

10 Heb 5:9.

11 Council of Trent: DS 1529.

12 LH, Lent, Holy Week, Evening Prayer, Hymn Vexilla Regis.

13 Cf. Mk 14:33-34; Heb 5:7-8.

14 Cf. Rom 5:19-21.

15 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.

16 Ps 2:7-8; cf. Acts 13:33.

17 Heb 5:7-9.

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

19 Heb 5:8.

20 Cf. Jn 8:29.

21 Origen, De orat. 26 PG 11, 501B.

22 St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in Mt. 19, 5 PG 57, 280.

APPLICATION

When we are asked to live as true Christians we are being told to be obedient to the will of a heavenly Father who wants us to go to heaven. It is through obeying that divine will that we shall be working toward our best and truest interest.  We all have sins and failings to atone for; we all have weaknesses and evil inclinations which we want to overcome.  Hence the need for the self-mortification which living the true Christian life imposes on us. God gave us the marvelous gifts of intellect and free-will and we are all – without exception – tempted to dislike being ordered or commanded by another. We can easily get, the foolish idea that we are masters of our own destiny, whereas the truth is that our eternal destiny depends on God’s good-will toward us.  That good-will is promised and secured, by those who obey him.

 This reading from Hebrews today sets before us the inspiring example of the perfect obedience of Christ, who was the Son of God. He had no sins, he had nothing to atone for, eternal happiness was his by virtue of his sonship. Yet God the Father asked him to undergo the tortures and torments of crucifixion in his human nature for our sakes, and he obeyed! This is the sublime model of perfect obedience, the unparalleled example of complete submission to God’s will. It is set before us in this short reading. How could we be expected to imitate the perfect Christ? Yet St. Paul not only says we are expected to do so, but commands his Philippian converts to do so when he says. “In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus… who was divine but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death even death on a cross (Phil. 2: 5-8). St. Paul and his disciple, the author of Hebrews, call on Christians to imitate the obedience of Christ. In doing this they are asking no more than he himself asked when he laid down the condition for discipleship: “if any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt. 16: 24, see today’s gospel also).

 The truly sincere Christian must be ready to suffer torture and crucifixion, if called on for the sake of Christ. Many have done so but true obedience for most of us consists in carrying our own crosses, our sicknesses, our loneliness, our struggles for earthly existence our sorrows and bereavements.  These may not lead to the Calvary of martyrdom, but they lead us over very rough roads – roads, however, which bring us, in God’s good time, to the reward won for us on Calvary.

Are we on that rough road of true obedience, or have we sought the smoother path of giving in to our weaknesses? Lent is a suitable time to examine ourselves and then to return to the road of true obedience if we have strayed off it.

GOSPEL

ladder_of_divine_ascent_sinai_12th_century.jpg

Jn 12:20-33

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast

came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee,

and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”

Philip went and told Andrew;

then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

Jesus answered them,

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

Amen, amen, I say to you,

unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,

it remains just a grain of wheat;

but if it dies, it produces much fruit.

Whoever loves his life loses it,

and whoever hates his life in this world

will preserve it for eternal life.

Whoever serves me must follow me,

and where I am, there also will my servant be.

The Father will honor whoever serves me.

“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?

‘Father, save me from this hour?’

But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.

Father, glorify your name.”

Then a voice came from heaven,

“I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”

The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder;

but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”

Jesus answered and said,

“This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.

Now is the time of judgment on this world;

now the ruler of this world will be driven out.

And when I am lifted up from the earth,

I will draw everyone to myself.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/021818.cfm

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 363 In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person.4 But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him,5 that by which he is most especially in God’s image: “soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man.

CCC 434 Jesus’ Resurrection glorifies the name of the Savior God, for from that time on it is the name of Jesus that fully manifests the supreme power of the “name which is above every name”.6 The evil spirits fear his name; in his name his disciples perform miracles, for the Father grants all they ask in this name.7

CCC 542 Christ stands at the heart of this gathering of men into the “family of God”. By his word, through signs that manifest the reign of God, and by sending out his disciples, Jesus calls all people to come together around him. But above all in the great Paschal mystery – his death on the cross and his Resurrection – he would accomplish the coming of his kingdom. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Into this union with Christ all men are called.8

CCC 550 The coming of God’s kingdom means the defeat of Satan’s: “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”9 Jesus’ exorcisms free some individuals from the domination of demons. They anticipate Jesus’ great victory over “the ruler of this world”.10 The kingdom of God will be definitively established through Christ’s cross: “God reigned from the wood.”11

CCC 607 The desire to embrace his Father’s plan of redeeming love inspired Jesus’ whole life,12 for his redemptive passion was the very reason for his Incarnation. And so he asked, “And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.”13 And again, “Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?”14 From the cross, just before “It is finished”, he said, “I thirst.”15

CCC 662 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”16 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.”17 There Christ permanently exercises his priesthood, for he “always lives to make intercession” for “those who draw near to God through him”.18 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.19

CCC 786 Finally, the People of God shares in the royal office of Christ. He exercises his kingship by drawing all men to himself through his death and Resurrection.20 Christ, King and Lord of the universe, made himself the servant of all, for he came “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”21 For the Christian, “to reign is to serve him,” particularly when serving “the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder.”22 The People of God fulfills its royal dignity by a life in keeping with its vocation to serve with Christ.

The sign of the cross makes kings of all those reborn in Christ and the anointing of the Holy Spirit consecrates them as priests, so that, apart from the particular service of our ministry, all spiritual and rational Christians are recognized as members of this royal race and sharers in Christ’s priestly office. What, indeed, is as royal for a soul as to govern the body in obedience to God? And what is as priestly as to dedicate a pure conscience to the Lord and to offer the spotless offerings of devotion on the altar of the heart?23

CCC 1428 Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, “clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”24 This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a “contrite heart,” drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.25

CCC 2731 Another difficulty, especially for those who sincerely want to pray, is dryness. Dryness belongs to contemplative prayer when the heart is separated from God, with no taste for thoughts, memories, and feelings, even spiritual ones. This is the moment of sheer faith clinging faithfully to Jesus in his agony and in his tomb. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if dies, it bears much fruit.”26 If dryness is due to the lack of roots, because the word has fallen on rocky soil, the battle requires conversion.27

CCC 2795 The symbol of the heavens refers us back to the mystery of the covenant we are living when we pray to our Father. He is in heaven, his dwelling place; the Father’s house is our homeland. Sin has exiled us from the land of the covenant,28 but conversion of heart enables us to return to the Father, to heaven.29 In Christ, then, heaven and earth are reconciled,30 for the Son alone “descended from heaven” and causes us to ascend there with him, by his Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension.31

CCC 2853 Victory over the “prince of this world”32 was won once for all at the Hour when Jesus freely gave himself up to death to give us his life. This is the judgment of this world, and the prince of this world is “cast out.”33 “He pursued the woman”34 but had no hold on her: the new Eve, “full of grace” of the Holy Spirit, is preserved from sin and the corruption of death (the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary, ever virgin). “Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring.”35 Therefore the Spirit and the Church pray: “Come, Lord Jesus,”36 since his coming will deliver us from the Evil One.

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

2 DH 11.

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

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

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

6 Phil 2:9-10; cf. Jn 12:28.

7 Cf. Acts 16:16-18; 19:13-16; Mk 16:17; Jn 15:16.

8 Jn 12:32; cf. LG 3.

9 Mt 12:26, 28.

10 Jn 12:31; cf. Lk 8:26-39.

11 LH, Lent, Holy Week, Evening Prayer, Hymn Vexilla Regis: Regnavit a ligno Deus.

12 Cf Lk 12:50; 22:15; Mt 16:21-23.

13 Jn 12:27.

14 Jn 18:11.

15 Jn 19:30; 19:28.

16 Jn 12:32.

17 Heb 9:24.

18 Heb 7:25.

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

20 Cf. Jn 12:32.

21 Mt 20:28.

22 LG 8; Cf. 36.

23 St. Leo the Great, Sermo 4, 1: PL 54, 149.

24 LG 8 # 3.

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

26 Jn 12:24.

27 Cf. Lk 8:6, 13.

28 Cf. Gen 3.

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

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

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

32 Jn 14:30.

33 Jn 12:31; Rev 12:10.

34 Rev 12:13-16.

35 Rev 12:17.

APPLICATION

On the first Palm Sunday, as Christ entered Jerusalem not as a conquering king on a charger but “riding on an ass” to show that he was the humble servant of all men, he clearly foresaw the sufferings and torments that would be his in that city, before the week was out. Among those who waved palm branches to honor him and who sang aloud: “Hosanna to the son of David, Hosanna in the highest,” there were perhaps some who, urged on by the leaders, would be shouting the following Friday, “away with him, crucify him,” and “we have no king but Caesar.” Such was the fickleness of human nature then. Unfortunately it has not changed much, if at all, in the two thousand years that have since elapsed. We are still fickle when it comes to choosing between Christ and the things of this world. Yet he knew all of this, and was still willing to carry the cross for us who are such unworthy mortals!

This very thought should put us all to shame, for what repayment does the very best of us make for the incredible love he has shown for us? We grumble and complain when some small cross is laid on our shoulders; we are full of laments if life is not running smoothly for us; we cannot understand why God should let certain things happen to us, his friends! But see for a moment what the lot of his beloved Son was on earth. Born and reared in extreme poverty; insulted and offended by those he wanted to teach; quickly forgotten by those he benefited by his miracles; hounded by his enemies and betrayed by one who had been his disciple for over two years and who had sat at table with him that same night; deserted in his moment of trial by those very ones who had sworn undying allegiance to him. Then followed the torments wished on him by his enemies – those he had come to save; the mock trial and illegal condemnation; the scourging at the pillar; the crowning with thorns; the carrying of the cross and finally the three hours of intense torture and agony while his body hung on the cross! The next time we are tempted to grumble and complain about our sad lot, let us look thoughtfully at a crucifix for a few moments!

“He who loves his life loses it,” this is a truth stated by Christ at the solemn moment when he was speaking of the purpose of his own painful death. He died so that we might live, not for sixty or even a hundred years on earth, but forever in heaven. We can, we know, lose the eternal life Christ won for us if we are too attached to our transitory, earthly life. If we love our own comforts, pleasures, temporal gains, our own worldly will, more than we love our unending, happy future, then we are loving our earthly lives wrongly, and we are gravely risking the loss of the future, true life.

If, on the other hand, we do our best to be faithful servants of Christ, we shall always judge all our actions with eternity in view. We can use the things of this life which God gives us, and still be close followers of Christ. The lawful possession of the goods of this world, the enjoyment of the licit pleasures of life, are allowed to the fervent Christian. If these possessions and pleasures are accepted with Christian gratitude, they will become stepping-stones that will help us across the river of life to our everlasting home beyond.

Each one of us should look fervently and devoutly on the crucifix today, and try to compare our willingness to suffer those crosses sent to us by God, with the crushing cross and passion our Savior Jesus Christ gladly accepted for us and not for his own sake. Do not let the conclusion you draw stun you into inactivity, but rather let it shock you into a new outlook on life; a now resolve to serve, follow and imitate our loving Christ more closely in future. So may it be for all of us.

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

BENEDICTUS

Love and Eternity

Our life tends in the end toward a discovery of love, toward receiving love, and giving love.  And the crucified Christ, who presents us with love lived out to the end, as he himself says in the Gospel of John, lifts this principle up into the realm of absolute reality.  God himself is love.  In this sense, love is indeed both the fundamental rule and the ultimate aim of life.  Here we come again to the mystery of the grain of wheat, to the mystery of losing oneself and finding oneself.  And we must link to this the observation that, as we know, no one can make love.  It is given to us.  It just happens; it comes to me from someone else; it enters into me.  Human love always lays claim to eternity.  Love contradicts death, as the human love is turned from a promise into the fulfillment of reality only that to say to a person “I love you” meant: I refuse to accept your death; I protest your death.  Thus we see that human love, in and for itself, represents an unredeemable promise.  It strives for eternity, and yet it can offer only mortality.  Yet, on the other hand, it knows that this promise is not meaningless and contradictory, and thereby destructive, since ultimately eternity is alive within it nonetheless.  Even from a purely human point of view, then, love is what we are looking for and is the goal toward which our lives are directed.  But within its own framework and on its own terms it directs our view toward God and brings us to wait upon God.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 138 

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart,

you have heard the words of my mouth.

In the presence of the angels I will bless you.

I will adore before your holy temple.

I thank you for your faithfulness and love

which excel all we ever knew of you.

On the day I called, you answered;

you increased the strength of my soul.

All earth’s kings shall thank you

when they hear the words of your mouth.

They shall sing of the Lord’s ways:

How great is the glory of the Lord!”

The Lord is high yet he looks on the lowly

and the haughty he knows from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of affliction

you give me life and frustrate my foes.

You stretch out your hand and save me,

your hand will do all things for me.

Your love, O Lord, is eternal,

discard not the work of your hands.

Glory to the Father

and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning,

is now, and shall be for ever.

Amen.

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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

 

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“A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
 “If you wish, you can make me clean.  “
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, 
touched him, and said to him, 
”I do will it.  Be made clean.”

OPENING PRAYER

Daily Offering to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and suffering of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sins, the reunion of all Christians; I offer them for the intentions of our Bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.  Amen.

COLLECT

 O God, who teach us that you abide

in hearts that are just and true,

grant that we may be so fashioned by your grace

as to become a dwelling pleasing to you.

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

Moses and Aaron.png

Lv 13:1-2, 44-46

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron,
”If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch
 which appears to be the sore of leprosy, 
he shall be brought to Aaron, the priest,
 or to one of the priests among his descendants.
 If the man is leprous and unclean,
 the priest shall declare him unclean
by reason of the sore on his head.

  “The one who bears the sore of leprosy
 shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, 
and shall muffle his beard;
 he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean! ‘
As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean,
 since he is in fact unclean.
  He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”

APPLICATION

 Man was made to live in the society of his fellowman. His nature needs the comfort and the sustaining support of his family and neighbors. To be isolated from them, to be compelled to live a life apart must be the hardest lot that could befall a human being. This was the sad lot of lepers in the Old Testament times and well into New Testament days as well. Thanks to the progress of medicine and of Christian charity there are hardly any cases of complete isolation today. There are cures for all infectious and contagious diseases including most forms of leprosy, today. There are medical means of protection against infection and contagion which means that no patients need to be in strict isolation. They can be visited and consoled by their relatives, friends and charitable neighbors, and their cross of suffering in loneliness is lightened for them.

There are, however, other cases of isolation not caused by any disease but rather resulting from lack of thought or lack of true fraternal charity on the part of fellowman. There are elderly people in hospitals and in homes for the aged whose relatives are all dead and who have no one to visit them or to cheer them and help them to carry their cross. Here is an occasion for the true Christian to put his religion into practice. “I was sick and you visited me,” Christ says to the just on the last day. Yes, if we visit and console a fellowman, a brother of Christ, we are visiting and consoling Christ. There are, thank God, a few who practice this very necessary form of charity, but many more are needed.

There are also individuals and sometimes families in almost every community, who seem to be isolated or left coldly to themselves. It may be partly their own fault – they show no inclination to mix with their neighbors, they may even resent any intrusion on their privacy – but this does not excuse the truly Christian neighbor from trying to make such individuals or families feel at home and welcome in their neighborhood. The charitable person will find ways and means of integrating such people into their local community, and of making life less solitary and therefore, more bearable for them.

Think again on the sad fate of the lepers of old, cut off from all human fellowship, compelled to warn all to keep at a safe distance, lest they become infected. If you had been there, would you not have tried to help those poor unfortunate people, if only with a word of encouragement and consolation from afar? You were not there, but you have today plenty of opportunities to exercise charity toward lonely or isolated neighbors, who are within the reach of your kindness, if you are truly kind. You need not fear any contamination of body or mind, in fact, the kindly, friendly encounter with such people who are so much in need of friendship and kindness will have an elevating effect on your own life and cannot but bring you closer to God. “I was a stranger and you made me welcome; I was sick and I you visited me; I tell you solemnly insofar as you did this to the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me” (Mt. 25: 35-40).

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 32:1-2, 5, 11

I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.

Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.

I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you, 
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD, “
and you took away the guilt of my sin.

I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you just;
exult, all you upright of heart.

I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.

 READING II

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1 Cor 10:31-11:1

Brothers and sisters, 
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do everything for the glory of God.  
Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or 
the church of God,
 just as I try to please everyone in every way,
 not seeking my own benefit but that of the many,
 that they may be saved.
  Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

 CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

 CCC 24 By design, this Catechism does not set out to provide the adaptation of doctrinal presentations and catechetical methods required by the differences of culture, age, spiritual maturity, and social and ecclesial condition among all those to whom it is addressed. Such indispensable adaptations are the responsibility of particular catechisms and, even more, of those who instruct the faithful:

Whoever teaches must become “all things to all men” (1 Cor 9:22), to win everyone to Christ. .. Above all, teachers must not imagine that a single kind of soul has been entrusted to them, and that consequently it is lawful to teach and form equally all the faithful in true piety with one and the same method! Let them realize that some are in Christ as newborn babes, others as adolescents, and still others as adults in full command of their powers. .. Those who are called to the ministry of preaching must suit their words to the maturity and understanding of their hearers, as they hand on the teaching of the mysteries of faith and the rules of moral conduct.1

 CCC 848 “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”2

CCC 876 Intrinsically linked to the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry is its character as service. Entirely dependent on Christ who gives mission and authority, ministers are truly “slaves of Christ,”3 in the image of him who freely took “the form of a slave” for us.4 Because the word and grace of which they are ministers are not their own, but are given to them by Christ for the sake of others, they must freely become the slaves of all.5

 1 Roman Catechism, Preface II; cf. I Cor 9:22; I Pt 2:2.

2 AG 7; cf. Heb 11:6; 1 Cor 9:16.

3 Cf. Rom 1:1.

4 Phil 2:7.

5 Cf. 1 Cor 9:19.

APPLICATION

If  I were to ask each one of you: “what did you do for God’s honor and glory since last Sunday?” would you have to stop and think and maybe answer: “I did nothing except a few hurried prayers said at night. “Those who would answer thus have not a proper understanding of what living the Christian life means. From the moment of his baptism a Christian’s life is a life dedicated to God’s glory and leading to his own eternal reward on his last day. Every act of a Christian’s day, his recreation as well as his work, his joys as well as his sorrows, his sleeping as well as his waking hour, gives honor and glory to God, and earns heaven for the Christian. This is the real meaning of living a Christian life. This is what St. Paul tells us today when he says : “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This is how St. Paul himself lived and acted and became a great saint. Undoubtedly, he gave most of his time to teaching the gospel to others, but he also worked with his hands, ate some meals, slept some hours at least each night, had moments of recreation or relaxation with friends, but he offered it all to God and it all added to God’s gory and to his own sanctification. God lived more and more in him and with him each day that dawned. There are millions of saints in heaven who did nothing extraordinary in their whole lives but they lived their ordinary lives honestly and well. It should not be too hard for the weakest of us to do this. It will help us to do our daily tasks more faithfully if each morning we offer our day to the honor and glory of God. This morning offering can be made while dressing, or while on our way to work and if sometimes we forget it, God will understand.

So the true answer to what did you do for God’s honor and glory since last Sunday is: I have given him seven days’ service; I have honored him in all my doings’ This will be true for every Christian who has been honest in all his doings and who has lived within the laws of God, of his Church, and of his country. We cannot honor God with a dishonest act, we can give no glory to God while willfully disobeying in serious matters the commandments of God or of his Church, or the lawful enactment’s of the State. But our merciful God knows how weak our human nature can be at times, and has given us an easy means of rising again should we fall into disobedience. The sincere Christian who realizes that our daily tasks, if they are carried out while we are not in God’s friendship, are not capable of honoring God or earning our own eternal salvation, will rise quickly from sin and return to God’s friendship. To sin is partly human frailty and partly human folly; to remain deliberately in sin is criminal injustice to God and to ourselves, because all those days, weeks, and months perhaps, are squandered and wasted as far as God and our eternal destiny are concerned.

Let us try, from now on, to imitate St. Paul by devoting twenty-four hours each day to the honor and glory of God. We do not have to say any extra prayers; we do not have to do any unusual mortification’s but if we do each task of each day faithfully and truly, we shall be honoring God daily and storing up a priceless reward for ourselves in heaven.

GOSPEL

tyflou.jpg

Mk 1:40-45

 

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
”If you wish, you can make me clean.  “
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, 
touched him, and said to him, 
”I do will it. Be made clean.  “
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
  Then, warning the him sternly, he dismissed him at once. 

He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
 but go, show yourself to the priest 
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.  “

The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
  He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.  
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

 http://usccb.org/bible/readings/021118.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

 CCC 2602 Jesus often draws apart to pray in solitude, on a mountain, preferably at night.1 He includes all men in his prayer, for he has taken on humanity in his incarnation, and he offers them to the Father when he offers himself. Jesus, the Word who has become flesh, shares by his human prayer in all that “his brethren” experience; he sympathizes with their weaknesses in order to free them.2 It was for this that the Father sent him. His words and works are the visible manifestation of his prayer in secret.

1 Cf. Mk 1:35; 6:46; Lk 5:16.
2 Cf. Heb 2:12, 15; 4:15.

 APPLICATION

We see both the divine power and the divine compassion of Jesus in this act of healing. The divine power was necessary in all instantaneous cures. Even if the diseases were curable, the ordinary process of nature took time to fight off the causes and to return to normality. Therefore, where there was an instantaneous recovery some power above nature, some supernatural cause brought it about. But where the disease was incurable, as real leprosy then was, to remove it by a simple word of command was more emphatically still the result of divine power. This divine power Jesus had, for he was himself divine, the Son of God.

His compassion for suffering humanity was, however, co-terminus with his power, it was also divine. It was out of compassion for the sad lot of the human race on earth that he descended to man’s level, becoming man, equal to us in all things except sin, in order to suffer with us and for us. By his human sufferings he made an atonement, a satisfaction for all the sins of the world – a satisfaction which all mankind could never make — to his heavenly Father, and so obtained for us God’s pardon. At the same time, by joining our human nature to his divine nature, he brought us into the divine orbit and made us adopted sons of God and heirs of the eternal life of the Blessed Trinity. Because this seems almost too good to be true, there are men who deny it or refuse to accept it. Such men make the mistake of measuring the infinite compassion of God with the limited yard-stick of their own finite and puny compassion.

Thanks be to God, for his infinite compassion! Thanks be to God, for Christ his Son, who came and dwelt amongst us! He put heaven and a share in the life of God within our reach; he has, shown us how to attain them, giving in his Church and the sacraments, all the necessary aids. But we still need all of Christ’s compassion if we are to get there. Because of our inclination to sin and because of the many times we unfortunately give in to that inclination, nothing but the mercy of God can save us from our own folly. However, that mercy is available, if only we ask for it. What we sinners need is the faith and confidence of the leper in today’s gospel reading. He believed firmly in the power and the mercy of Jesus. “If you will, you can make me clean,” was his approach to Jesus.

This should be our approach too, if we have the misfortune to fall into serious sin. Jesus does will and does want our salvation. His incarnation, and death on the cross, proves that. The fact that he left the power to forgive sins to his Church is another proof of both his will and desire to help us. “All power has been given to me in heaven and on earth,” he stated. Part of that power which he left to his Church is in the sacrament of penance where the leprosy of sin can be washed away and the sinner restored to new and perfect spiritual health. What folly for any Christian then, to commit sin and isolate himself, like the unclean leper, from God. But it is greater folly still, to remain in this unclean state when the cure for his disease is so easily available to any sincere penitent.

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

 BENEDICTUS

 The Attempt to Save Ourselves

 It is clear that human beings alone cannot save themselves.  There innate error is precisely that they want to do this by themselves.  We can only be saved – that is, become ourselves – when we engage in the proper relationship.  But our interpersonal relationships occur in the context of our utter creatureliness, and it is there that the damage lies.  Since the relationship with creation has been damaged, only the Creator himself can be our savior.  We can be saved only when he from whom we have cut ourselves off takes the initiative with us and stretches out his hand to us.  Only being loved is being saved, and only God’s love can purify damaged human love and radically reestablish the network of relationships that have suffered from alienation… The One who is truly like God does not hold graspingly to his autonomy, to the limitlessness of his ability and his willing.  He does the contrary:  he becomes completely dependent, he becomes a slave.  Because he does not go the route of power but that of love, he can descend into the depths of Adam’s lie, into the depths of death, and there raise up truth and life.  Thus Christ is the new Adam, with whom humankind begins anew.  The Son., who is by nature relationship and relatedness, reestablishes relationships.  His arms, spread out on the cross, are an open invitation to relationship, which is continually offered to us.  The cross, the place of his obedience, is the true tree of life.

 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

 CLOSING PRAYER

 The Universal Prayer

(attributed to Pope Clement XI)

 

Lord, I believe in you: increase my faith.

I trust in you: strengthen my trust.

I love you: let me love you more and more.

I am sorry for my sins: deepen my sorrow.

I worship you as my first beginning,

I long for you as my last end,

I praise you as my constant helper,

And call on you as my loving protector.

 

Guide me by your wisdom,

Correct me with your justice,

Comfort me with your mercy,

Protect me with your power.

 

I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you;

My words: to have you for their theme;

My actions: to reflect my love for you;

My sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory.

 

I want to do what you ask of me:

In the way you ask,

For as long as you ask,

Because you ask it.

 

Lord, enlighten my understanding,

Strengthen my will,

Purify my heart,

and make me holy.

 

Help me to repent of my past sins

And to resist temptation in the future.

Help me to rise above my human weaknesses

And to grow stronger as a Christian.

 

Let me love you, my Lord and my God,

And see myself as I really am:

A pilgrim in this world,

A Christian called to respect and love

All whose lives I touch,

Those under my authority,

My friends and my enemies.

 

Help me to conquer anger with gentleness,

Greed by generosity,

Apathy by fervor.

Help me to forget myself

And reach out toward others.

 

Make me prudent in planning,

Courageous in taking risks.

Make me patient in suffering,

unassuming in prosperity.

 

Keep me, Lord, attentive at prayer,

Temperate in food and drink,

Diligent in my work,

Firm in my good intentions.

 

Let my conscience be clear,

My conduct without fault,

My speech blameless,

My life well-ordered.

Put me on guard against my human weaknesses.

Let me cherish your love for me,

Keep your law,

And come at last to your salvation.

Teach me to realize that this world is passing,

That my true future is the happiness of heaven,

That life on earth is short,

And the life to come eternal.

Help me to prepare for death

With a proper fear of judgment,

But a greater trust in your goodness.

Lead me safely through death

To the endless joy of heaven.

 

Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.  They immediately told him about her.  He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.  Then the fever left her and she waited on them.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

A Stewardship Prayer

Almighty and ever-faithful Lord, gratefully acknowledging Your mercy and humbly admitting our need, we pledge our trust in You and each other.

Filled with desire, we respond to Your call for discipleship by shaping our lives in imitation of Christ. We profess that the call requires us to be stewards of Your gifts. As stewards, we receive Your gifts gratefully, cherish and tend them in a responsible manner, share them in practice and love with others, and return them with increase to the Lord.

We pledge to our ongoing formation as stewards and our responsibility to call others to that same endeavor. Almighty and ever-faithful God, it is our fervent hope and prayer that You who have begun this good work in us will bring it to fulfillment in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Amen.

Catholiconline.com

COLLECT

Keep your family safe, O Lord, with unfailing care,

that, relying solely on the hope of heavenly grace,

they may be defended always by your protection.

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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Jb 7:1-4, 6-7

Job spoke, saying:
Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?
Are not his days those of hirelings?
He is a slave who longs for the shade,
a hireling who waits for his wages.
So I have been assigned months of misery,
and troubled nights have been allotted to me.
If in bed I say, “When shall I arise?”
then the night drags on;
I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.
My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle;
they come to an end without hope.
Remember that my life is like the wind;
I shall not see happiness again.

APPLICATION

While the book of Job points out that earthly sufferings are not always a punishment for previous sins committed by the sufferer – Job was an innocent man – it does not solve the problem of human pain. The author could not solve this age-old problem because his world-view was restricted to life on this earth. It was only when the full revelation of man’s purpose in life and God’s loving plans for him, were made known through Christ that the full answer to this question was given. When life on this earth was thought to be the sum total of a man’s existence it seemed hard and cruel that his few short years should be marred and saddened by bodily and/or mental ailments. But with our new knowledge and certainty that this life is only a preparation, an apprenticeship, for the eternal life that awaits us after death, we are able to see our earthly sufferings in their proper perspective. They may be punishment for past sins – God’s loving way of giving us an opportunity of making atonement for our offenses – or these sufferings may be laid on our shoulders to atone for fellowmen who are incapable of carrying their own saving cross.

For whichever reason these trials are sent us, we Christians should, with the example of Christ before us, be able to accept them with good will and bear them patiently because they come to us from God. But the objection can be raised: it is not God but sinful men, wicked neighbors or even wicked members of our own family who are the cause of my ill-health, my mental and bodily sufferings. Granted that this is often true and that many, if not most of the pains and hardships people have to suffer, are caused by wicked fellowman, yet all of this is happening with God’s knowledge. He could prevent it but he will not because out of evil he can produce good. The sufferings of the innocent bring down God’s grace not only on themselves but on the very wicked who caused their sufferings.

God wants all his adopted children in heaven. His all-wise way of bringing this to pass may often seem to our limited intellects to be almost unjust to the innocent while the guilty ones seem to be favored. But it is not so. God’s innocent children will be rewarded where the reward will be everlasting, and when they reach that reward they will have an added source of joy in the knowledge that it was their patient endurance of suffering brought on them by wicked men, which earned for their one-time oppressors a place in the eternal kingdom. In heaven there will be no narrow-mindedness, no sense of resentment or desire for revenge. Remember the words of Job: “man has a hard service upon earth . . . he is like a hireling and a slave.” Most of us can see this fulfilled in our own lives. However, our conscription, our military service or slavery, is of relatively short duration. If we put up patiently with our tribulations (having done all that is humanly and lawfully possible to ameliorate our condition), we will soon see that what looked like the heavy hand of an enemy was instead the caressing hand of the eternal Father, who loved us and so sent us crosses which he would turn into eternal crowns.

Knowing, then, that this life is only an apprenticeship through which we can earn our eternal life of happiness, we should all be able to face “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” which come our way. We should, in fact, be able to welcome them for they are reminders kindly sent us by God, lest we forget our real purpose in life. What is more: they are means given us to make us apostles in our own homes. Through patiently-borne sufferings, we can bring God’s grace down on fellowman who have no time or no thought of asking for it.

Christ suffered for us and died the excruciating death of the cross, so that we might have eternal life. He asks us to take up our cross daily and follow him. That daily cross of ours can never be as heavy as his, for he was the innocent God-man. If, however, we carry our cross patiently, it will be turned into our crown of glory when we meet Christ at the moment of our death.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.

Praise the LORD, for he is good;
sing praise to our God, for he is gracious;
it is fitting to praise him.
The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;
the dispersed of Israel he gathers.

Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He tells the number of the stars;
he calls each by name.

Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
to his wisdom there is no limit.
The LORD sustains the lowly;
the wicked he casts to the ground.

Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.

READING II

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1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23

 

Brothers and sisters:
If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast,
for an obligation has been imposed on me,
and woe to me if I do not preach it!
If I do so willingly, I have a recompense,
but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship.
What then is my recompense?
That, when I preach,
I offer the gospel free of charge
so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

Although I am free in regard to all,
I have made myself a slave to all
so as to win over as many as possible.
To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak.
I have become all things to all, to save at least some.
All this I do for the sake of the gospel,
so that I too may have a share in it.

APPLICATION

St. Paul is the single Apostle about whom we know most. From the accounts of him given in the Acts, and from his own letters to the various churches, we have not only the principal events of his life but clear glimpses into his character. He was never a man of half- measures but put his whole heart and mind into whatever cause he espoused. As a young Pharisee – a student of the Mosaic law in Jerusalem – he exceeded in zeal even his teachers and elders. To the Pharisees Christ was a false Messiah. He was not what they expected and what was worse, he was a blasphemer for he claimed to be God, so they had him condemned to death. But his followers began to proclaim that he had risen from the dead and was not only Messiah but the Son of God. For this they were persecuted and imprisoned – this heretical sect had to be wiped out.

In this persecution of the infant Church, Saul of Tarsus took a leading part. But Christ intervened on behalf of his Church. On his way to Damascus, with authority to arrest any believers in Christ that he found there, and bring them prisoner to Jerusalem, he was converted. The vision of the risen Christ gave him a new outlook on life, the persecutor was turned into an Apostle of the new faith. Baptized in Damascus, he spent some time in solitary meditation in the desert and later in his native Tarsus. Then he began his mission to the Gentiles, the mission given him by Jesus (Acts 9: 15). From Antioch in Syria he traveled through Cyprus (where he changed the name Saul into Paul), Asia Minor, Greece and as far as Rome. He spent the last twenty-four years of his life bringing the message of Christ to the Gentiles. In doing so he suffered hardship after hardship. Apart from fatiguing journeys during which he frequently suffered from hunger and thirst, he was often beaten up by mobs. Five times he was scourged by the opposing Jews. He was stoned, ship-wrecked and imprisoned at least three times (see 2 Cor. 11 :23-29).

The vision of Christ which Paul had on the road to Damascus remained his guiding-light all through these years. He gladly and completely became the slave of Christ and put every ounce of energy he possessed into serving his master. Because his fellowman were brothers of Christ, Paul made himself their slave also. For him there was neither Jew nor Gentile, Greek nor Barbarian, slave nor freeman – all were brothers of Christ, adopted sons of God, and his all-burning desire was to help them all reach the eternal inheritance that God, through Christ, had in store for them.

We can hardly hope to emulate the true brotherly-love, the total dedication, the complete self-giving of Paul, but we must all try to follow him if only from afar. We cannot and need not take on distant missionary journeys, we cannot and need not give up all our earthly cares and responsibilities, but we all can and must take an active interest in the temporal and spiritual welfare of our fellowman. Some of this obligation, which is on every true Christian, we can fulfill by helping missionary societies, but nearer home, in our own very neighborhood, there are works of charity which each one of us can carry out. There are neighbors, fellow-sons and daughters of God who are in dire need of the ordinary necessities of life – we can spare a little from our own resources to help them out. There are many heirs to heaven who, alas, are leading lives which will not bring them to their everlasting home. A word of advice, an encouraging example, a few devout prayers, can still work miracles. Let us try to imitate St. Paul, if only from afar. Every least effort, every smallest sacrifice for Christ and our fellowman, will have its reward when our day of reckoning comes.

We can all be apostles in our own limited surroundings; we must all be apostles if we hope to reign one day soon with Christ in heaven.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 24 By design, this Catechism does not set out to provide the adaptation of doctrinal presentations and catechetical methods required by the differences of culture, age, spiritual maturity, and social and ecclesial condition among all those to whom it is addressed. Such indispensable adaptations are the responsibility of particular catechisms and, even more, of those who instruct the faithful:
Whoever teaches must become “all things to all men” (1 Cor 9:22), to win everyone to Christ. .. Above all, teachers must not imagine that a single kind of soul has been entrusted to them, and that consequently it is lawful to teach and form equally all the faithful in true piety with one and the same method! Let them realize that some are in Christ as newborn babes, others as adolescents, and still others as adults in full command of their powers. .. Those who are called to the ministry of preaching must suit their words to the maturity and understanding of their hearers, as they hand on the teaching of the mysteries of faith and the rules of moral conduct.1

CCC848 “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”2

CCC 876 Intrinsically linked to the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry is its character as service. Entirely dependent on Christ who gives mission and authority, ministers are truly “slaves of Christ,”3 in the image of him who freely took “the form of a slave” for us.4 Because the word and grace of which they are ministers are not their own, but are given to them by Christ for the sake of others, they must freely become the slaves of all.5

1 Roman Catechism, Preface II; cf. I Cor 9:22; I Pt 2:2.
2 AG 7; cf. Heb 11:6; 1 Cor 9:16.
3 Cf. Rom 1:1.
4 Phil 2:7.
5 Cf. 1 Cor 9:19.

GOSPEL

Mk 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Rising very early before dawn, he left
and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.”
So he went into their synagogues,
preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/020418.cfm

APPLICATION

Surely the people of Capernaum saw enough that first day of Christ’s public ministry among them to make them realize that this man from Nazareth who had come amongst them was no ordinary preacher, no ordinary rabbi, no ordinary man. They saw that he preached as one having authority; they saw that by a simple command he cast out demons and removed all bodily ailments. Yet though they were astonished and amazed at his power, their worldly outlook did not let them rise above their own small interests. Our Lord did not blame them or criticize them, he knew and fully understood their slowness of mind in regard to things spiritual, and he knew also that they would eventually give themselves wholeheartedly to his kingdom.

While he was prepared to wait for the desired effects which his miracles and preaching would eventually have on them, he hastened the arrival of that day by praying to his heavenly Father to send the graces necessary for their conversion into their hearts. When the four Apostles found him praying in a lonely place, they told him that all Capernaum was searching for him, but he knew why they were searching for him. They wanted to see more miracles and very likely they were hoping that he would stay on in Capernaum and the sick and the maimed from the whole of Galilee would be brought there for healing. This would increase their earthly business and prosperity. His answer to the Apostles, while not directly condemning this worldly outlook, shows that his mission had an entirely different objective. He had come on earth not to bring earthly prosperity to any town or country but to bring spiritual salvation and blessing on all people. That very morning he began to carry out his mission and for the remaining two years or more he went from town to town preaching the kingdom of God.

We Christians of today have many advantages over the people of Capernaum of that day. They saw Christ with their bodily eyes as a man of power amongst them; we see him with the eyes of faith as he really was and is – the Son of God who came on earth as man in order to make us sons of God. We know who he really was and we know the full meaning of his mission. We have seen that mission completed amongst us by his death on the cross and his resurrection. By his death he conquered death for us; by his resurrection he opened the gates of heaven for us and led the way there for all who will follow him.

This is the good news Christ brought to our world. This is the meaning of Christianity; this is why we are Christians. We are members of Christ’s kingdom on earth, so that when our life here ends we shall be members of his everlasting heavenly kingdom. Yet, with all of this knowledge and with the example of the thousands and millions of saints who have lived according to this knowledge over the past nineteen hundred years and more, and who are now enjoying the reward Christianity promised them, how active and how effective is our Christian faith in our daily thoughts and deeds? In my daily dealings with my fellowman would I be picked out as a Christian? Do I, by my words and deeds, prove to those with whom I live and work that I am convinced there is a future life after death, that reaching that life is the most important thing in this world for me, and that it is through living my short earthly life as a true Christian that I can earn that eternal life?

If I can say yes to these questions I am, thank God, on the right road. But if my answer is “no” then it is time I had another good look to see where I went off the road, and to find out that I can return to that right road once more. God is merciful; Christ is patient with followers who straggle and wander, but it could be fatal to postpone for too long our call to the God of mercy. It will be too late if we delay turning to our patient Christ until we are about to die. Stop straggling and wandering off the highway today and the patient Christ will welcome you and help you back. There may be no tomorrow for you, you have no guarantee of it.

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

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2602 Jesus often draws apart to pray in solitude, on a mountain, preferably at night.1 He includes all men in his prayer, for he has taken on humanity in his incarnation, and he offers them to the Father when he offers himself. Jesus, the Word who has become flesh, shares by his human prayer in all that “his brethren” experience; he sympathizes with their weaknesses in order to free them.2 It was for this that the Father sent him. His words and works are the visible manifestation of his prayer in secret.

1 Cf. Mk 1:35; 6:46; Lk 5:16.
2 Cf. Heb 2:12, 15; 4:15.

BENEDICTUS

Entrance into Sonship

To share in the Son’s relationship: How is this to be done? What did it mean for Jesus himself? It manifests itself in the Gospels primarily in the prayer of Jesus. The fact that he is Son means, above all, that he prays. That, in the ground of his being, whether he works among men or takes his rest, he is always open to the living God, always has his place in him, always regards his existence as an exchange with him and so always lives from this innermost depth… The Son does not simply design his own existence; he receives it in a most profound dialogue with God. It is this dialogue that makes him free to walk among men and makes him free to serve. It is this dialogue that teaches him, without school or teacher, to know Scripture more deeply than anyone else – to know it truly from God himself… Whoever becomes the son of this Father no longer stands alone. Entrance into this Sonship is entrance into the great family of those who are sons along with us. It creates a relationship. To draw near to Christ means always to draw near to all those of whom he wants to make a single body.

Pope Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to the Apostle Paul

Glorious St. Paul,

Most zealous Apostle,

Martyr for the love of Christ,

Give us a deep faith,

A steadfast hope,

A burning love for our Lord;

So that we can proclaim with you,

It is no longer I who live, but Christ

who lives in me.”

Help us to become apostles

Serving the Church with a pure heart,

Witnesses to her truth and beauty

Amidst the darkness of our days.

With you we praise God our Father:

To Him be the glory, in the Church

and in Christ, now and forever.”

Amen.

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Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are, the Holy One of God!”  Jesus rebuked him and said,  “Quiet! Come out of him!”

OPENING PRAYER

Help Me To Know

You gift me with all the good gifts that make me the person you created me to be. Help me to know and find your will and to trust that you will help me to understand the path you call me to journey in life. Where there is doubt give me courage. Give me a heart open to your quiet voice so I can hear your call to me. Help me to know your faithfulness and help me to be faithful to that which you call me to.  

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

COLLECT

Grant us, Lord our God,

that we may honor you with all our mind,

and love everyone in truth of heart.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Dt 18:15-20

Moses spoke to all the people, saying:
“A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen.
This is exactly what you requested of the LORD, your God, at Horeb
on the day of the assembly, when you said,
‘Let us not again hear the voice of the LORD, our God,
nor see this great fire any more, lest we die.’
And the LORD said to me, ‘This was well said.
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin,
and will put my words into his mouth;
he shall tell them all that I command him.
Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name,
I myself will make him answer for it.
But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name
an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak,
or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.'”

APPLICATION

That God fulfilled his promise to send prophets to speak in his name and with his authority is evident from the pages of the Old Testament. Beginning with Joshua, the immediate successor of Moses, there was a continuous line of representatives of God, who directed the people, corrected their faults and filled them with hopes for a better future, right down to John the Baptist who was the precursor of the final and greatest of all prophets. God could, of course, have spoken directly to his people, but through Moses the people had asked him not to do so, because the hearing of his voice on Mount Sinai had struck terror into their hearts. In his mercy and love Yahweh granted their request.

Had the Chosen People listened to those prophets and obeyed their instructions, their history would have been different. They would have avoided much temporal suffering, and more important still, their large percentage who lost faith in God and his promises of future happiness would have remained faithful and would now be enjoying that promised happiness. But when they got full possession of the land God gave them, they began to get too interested in the economic and political affairs of their world. They forgot God who had been so generous toward them, and took credit to themselves for all that they were and had.

Who are we, living as we are in glass-houses, to throw stones? The prophets of the Old Testament were but fore-shadowings or types of the real prophet, God’s divine Son. He humbled himself to share in our humanity so that we could share in his divinity. Of this astounding fact every Christian is aware, and yet how many millions of “ex-Christians” are there in our world today? How many live their lives in total disregard of Christ’s teaching and complete oblivion of what he did and suffered for them, or, what is worse still for themselves, with complete disinterest in their own future state. Yet this is the sad fact of history. More than half the people of what were once the Christian nations are no longer interested in the Christian message today. Their days and their lives are so given to acquiring things and pleasures that every thought of a future life is blotted from their minds.

This neo-paganism which has been developing over the past centuries, has reached frightening proportions today. God has little, if any, place in the councils of nations. Man-made laws have replaced the ten commandments, and the result is, of course, a world in turmoil. There is not and there cannot be any brotherhood of man if we exclude the Fatherhood of God. There will never be “peace on earth among men” until all men make their peace with the God of heaven. False prophets and promoters of false gods, advertisers of pornography and permissiveness surround us on all sides today. There are those who are trying to prevent the pollution of land, water and atmosphere but too few, if any, who oppose the mental and moral pollution of people which is being propagated daily in our midst. All would like this world of ours to be a beautiful place to live in, only very few think to provide for a beautiful place to which they can go after they leave this world.

Please God we are among that few, but instead of clapping one another on the back for this, let us rather beat our breasts in repentance for our past faults and resolve to let the light of our Christian faith shine before our neighbors in future. Every good-living Christian is a prophet, a representative, of God among his neighbors. His example will speak and its message will be the word of God and it will produce fruit in God’s good time. We are our brothers’ keepers in that they are God’s adopted children too, and he wants them. He is looking to us to give them a helping hand. Would we refuse him, the all-loving Father who sent his Son to open heaven for us? Would we be so ungrateful as to refuse the little he asks of us in return?

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

READING II

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1 Cor 7:32-35

Brothers and sisters:
I should like you to be free of anxieties.
An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord,
how he may please the Lord.
But a married man is anxious about the things of the world,
how he may please his wife, and he is divided.
An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord,
so that she may be holy in both body and spirit.
A married woman, on the other hand,
is anxious about the things of the world,
how she may please her husband.
I am telling you this for your own benefit,
not to impose a restraint upon you,
but for the sake of propriety
and adherence to the Lord without distraction.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 922 From apostolic times Christian virgins1 and widows2, called by the Lord to cling only to him with greater freedom of heart, body, and spirit, have decided with the Church’s approval to live in the respective status of virginity or perpetual chastity “for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.”3

CCC 1579 All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”4 Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to “the affairs of the Lord,”5 they give themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church’s minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God.6

CCC 1618 Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social.7 From the very beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is coming.8 Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model:

For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”9

1 Cf. Cor 7:34-36.

2 Cf. John Paul II, Vita consecrata 7.

3 Mt 19:12

4 Mt 19:12.

5 1 Cor 7:32.

6 Cf. PO 16.

7 Cf. Lk 14:26; Mk 10:28-31.

8 Cf. Rev 14:4; 1 Cor 7:32; Mt 2:56.

9 Mt 19:12.

APPLICATION

While it is true that St. Paul recommended a celibate life to those who were still single because of the general feeling at the time that the end of this world was at hand, his recommendation of celibacy and its advantages have been accepted through the ages down to our own day. The truth of his statement: “the unmarried man (or woman) is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, the married man (or woman) is anxious about worldly affairs (as well as about the affairs of God) and his interests are divided,” needs no demonstration, it is self-evident. For this reason we have had a line of men (and later of women also) through the nineteen centuries of the Church’s life who gladly deprived themselves of earthly comforts in order to devote their lives exclusively to God’s service. The voluntary celibates of the early Church were followed by the Fathers of the Desert, later by the Eastern and Western monks, then the religious orders and in more recent centuries by various congregations for men and women.

These celibates, of course, were always a small minority of the body of the faithful and it was always understood (as it was by St. Paul) that while their vocation was a call to the exclusive service of God it was by no means the only way of serving God and earning heaven. The married life is also a Christian vocation, a vocation indeed ordained by God for the vast majority. For the Christian who is sincere in his service of God, it entails many difficulties and trials from which his celibate life sets the religious free. On the other hand the life of a religious, of a celibate for God, has its own difficulties. But for both the married and the religious there is always available for the asking, the grace of God to help them over life’s hurdles. When God calls a man or woman for a task, he gives him or her the strength to carry it out, he fits the shoulder for the cross.

While the married life is indeed a vocation, a means of earning heaven, and an ordinance of God necessary for the procreation of citizens of heaven, the religious life, this voluntary abstention from marriage, by those so called, is a divine plan to help the married (as well as the religious themselves). Apart from the spiritual and material help which religious give to their married neighbors–teaching their children, caring for the disabled, running homes for the aged, helping families in need and the thousand other ways in which the spiritual and corporal works of mercy are joyously done in our midst each day–the special value of this total dedication of self to God, which the religious life demands and gives, is that it is a sign, a reminder, not only to all Christians but to all men, of the real purpose of life on earth.

God created us in order to raise us up after death to a new and endless life of happiness. Our few years on this earth are but the apprenticeship we must serve in order to earn our eternal standing or status as heirs of God in the eternal kingdom. But because man’s human nature can, and does so often, get so enmeshed in the things of earth we need reminders. We need signs and sign-posts to keep our true purpose in life before our minds. This is exactly what the few of our members who dedicate their whole life to God’s exclusive service, do for us. They remind us, urge us on by their noble example to serve God in our own limited, but sufficient way so that we too can reach the future life prepared for us.

Both the married life and the religious celibate life are vocations from God. While the religious help the married and their families on the road to heaven, the married can and must help the religious to continue their exclusive and devoted service to God, by providing them with the material necessities of life. This is part of their own devoted service of God, this is one of the ways in which they fulfill, their vocation. Heaven is the goal of both religious and married people. Where each of the parties devotedly and loyally fulfills the duties arising from each one’s vocation, that goal will be successfully reached by both.

GOSPEL

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Mk 1:21-28

Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are, the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said,
“Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/012818.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

CCC 1673 When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing.4 In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called “a major exorcism,” can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.5

CCC 2173 The Gospel reports many incidents when Jesus was accused of violating the sabbath law. But Jesus never fails to respect the holiness of this day.6 He gives this law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”7 With compassion, Christ declares the sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing.8 The sabbath is the day of the Lord of mercies and a day to honor God.9 “The Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”10

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

2 Acts 10:38; Jn 1:31.

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

4 Cf. Mk 1:25-26; 3:15; 6:7, 13; 16:17.

5 Cf. CIC, can. 1172.

6 Cf. Mk 1:21; Jn 9:16.

7 Mk 2:27.

8 Cf. Mk 3:4.

9 Cf. Mt 12:5; Jn 7:23.

10 Mk 2:28.

APPLICATION

St. Mark makes it clear that, from the very first day of Christ’s public ministry, his messianic power began to be manifested to those who saw and heard him. The Jews of Capernaum were “astonished” at his teaching and “amazed” at his power over the evil spirits. “What is this,” they asked one another, “a new teaching and the unclean spirits obey him!” But they were still a long way from recognizing him for what he was, the Messiah and Son of God. This is as might be expected, the astounding mystery of the incarnation was away beyond human expectation or human imagination. And it was our Lord’s own plan to reveal this mystery, slowly and gradually, so that when the chain of evidence had been completed by his resurrection, his followers could look back and see each link in that chain. Then they would be ready to accept without hesitation the mystery of the incarnation and realize the infinite love and power of God that brought it about. We look back today through, the eyes of the Evangelists, and, like them, know that Christ was God as well as man-two natures in one person. We should not therefore be “amazed” at the teaching of Jesus or at his power over the unclean spirits. What should amaze us really is the love that God showed mankind in becoming one of our race.

We are creatures with nothing of our own to boast of. We were created by God, and every talent or power we possess was given us by God. God’s benevolence could have stopped them and we would have no right to complain. But when we recall the special gifts he gave man, which raise him above all other created things, we see that he could not, because of his own infinitely benevolent nature, leave us to an earthly fate. What thinking man could be content with a short span of life on earth? What real purpose in life could an intelligent being have who knew that nothing awaited him but eternal oblivion in the, grave? What fulfillment would man’s intellectual faculties find in a few years of what is for the majority of people perpetual struggle for earthly survival? No, God created us to elevate us, after our earthly sojourn, to an eternal existence where all our desires and potentialities would have their true fulfillment. Hence the incarnation, hence the life, death and resurrection of Christ, who was God’s Son, as the central turning point of man’s history.

Today, while amazed at God’s love for us, let us also be justly amazed at the shabby and grudging return we make for love. Many amongst us even deny that act of God’s infinite love, not from convincing historical and logical proofs, but in order to justify their own unwillingness to cooperate with the divine plan for their eternal future. This is not to say that their future, after death, does not concern them; it is a thought which time and again intrudes on all men, but they have allowed the affairs of this world which should be stepping stones to their future life, to become instead mill-stones which crush their spirits and their own true self-interests.

While we sincerely hope that we are not in that class, we can still find many facets in our daily Christian lives which can and should make us amazed at our lack of gratitude to God and to his incarnate Son. Leaving out serious sin which turns us away from God if not against him, how warm is our charity, our love of God and neighbor? How much of our time do we give to the things of God and how much to the things of Caesar? How often does our daily struggle for earthly existence and the grumbles and grouses which it causes, blot out from our view the eternal purpose God had in giving us this earthly existence. How often during the past year have we said from our heart: “Thank you, God, for putting me in this world, and thank you a thousand times more, for giving me the opportunity and the means of reaching the next world where I shall live happily for evermore in your presence”? If the true answer for many of us is “not once,” then begin today. Let us say it now with all sincerity, and say it often in the years that are left to us.

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

BENEDICTUS

Returning to the Sabbath Source

In the creation account the Sabbath is depicted as the day when the human being, in the freedom of worship, participates in God’s freedom, in God’s rest, and thus in God’s peace. To celebrate the sabbath means to celebrate the covenant. It means to return to the source and to sweep away all the defilement that our work has brought with it. It also means going forth into a new world in which there will no longer be slaves and masters but only free children of God – into a world in which humans and animals and the earth itself will share together as kin in God’s peace and freedom… People had rejected God’s rest, its leisure, its worship, its peace, and its freedom, and so they fell into the slavery of activity. They brought the earth into the slavery of their activity and thereby enslaved themselves. Therefore God had to give them the Sabbath that they denied themselves. In their “no” to the God-given rhythm of freedom and leisure they departed from their likeness to God and so did damage to the earth. Therefore they had to be snatched from their obstinate attachment to their own work. God had to begin afresh to make them his very own, and he had to free them from the domination of activity. Operi Dei nibil praeponatur: The worship of God, his freedom, and his rest come first. Thus and only thus can the human being truly live.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Suscipe

St. Ignatius of Loyola

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,

my memory, my understanding,

and my entire will,

All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.

To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.

Give me only your love and your grace,

that is enough for me.

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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer to the Holy Spirit before Confession

Come, Holy Spirit, into my soul. Enlighten my mind that I may know the sins I ought to confess, and grant me the grace to confess them fully, humbly, and with a contrite heart. Help me to firmly resolve not to commit them again.

O Blessed Virgin, Mother of my Redeemer, mirror of innocence and sanctity and refuge of penitent sinners, intercede for me that I may obtain the grace to make a good confession.

All you blessed Angels and Saints of God, pray for me, a sinner, that I may repent from my sinful ways and that I may be forever united with you through Christ our Lord. Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty and ever-living God,

direct our actions according to your good pleasure,

that in the name of your beloved Son

we may abound in good works.

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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Jon 3:1-5, 10

The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying:
“Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you.”
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD’S bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing,
“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed, ”
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

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 715 The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of “love and fidelity.”6 St. Peter will proclaim their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost.7 According to these promises, at the “end time” the Lord’s Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace.

CCC 1287 This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people.8 On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit,9 a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost.10 Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim “the mighty works of God,” and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age.11 Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.12

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 Cf. Ezek 11:19; 36:25-28; 37:1-14; Jer 31:31-34; and cf. Joel 3:1-5.
7 Cf. Acts 2:17-21.
8 Cf. Ezek 36:25-27; Joel 3:1-2.
9 Cf. Lk 12:12; Jn 3:5-8; 7:37-39; 16:7-15; Acts 1:8.
10 Cf. Jn 20:22; Acts 2:1-14.
11 Acts 2:11; Cf. 2:17-18.
12 Cf. Acts 2:38.

APPLICATION

The lesson of this story should have been very clear to the writer’s Jewish contemporaries. They could see from it that God did not approve of their narrow-minded religious and nationalistic outlook. Even if they were God’s Chosen People, he was not their God to the exclusion of all other races. He owned them but they did not own him, and this was exactly what they were trying to do. Yet, had they known the history of God’s dealings with them, they should have understood that God had chosen them in order that the blessings of the incarnation would come through them to all nations. Abraham, their Father, was called to be a blessing for his descendants and for the whole world (Gen. 12: 3). Too often many of them forgot this.

These verses from Jonah have not been chosen for today’s reading so that we should condemn the narrow-mindedness of the Jews of past ages. They have been chosen to remind us of our duty to look on all men as adopted sons of God and our brothers, toward whom we have a grave obligation to help on the road to heaven. God has destined all men for heaven. He sent his divine Son as man to make heaven available for all. He expected his Chosen People of old to share their special knowledge of him with their pagan neighbors. So too does he expect every Christian worthy of the name to do all in his power to spread the greater knowledge of Christ the Savior among all peoples, so that they too can share in the blessings he brought and avail of the happy future which is in store for them.

Have we been doing this? Have we really been interested in our fellowman? How often have we given them a thought or prayed for their conversion? How often have we donated a dime or a dollar to help the missionaries who, at home and abroad, have dedicated their lives to the conversion of pagans and sinners? There are Christians who excuse themselves from this obligation because they say: “we have more than enough to do to work out our own salvation.” Their statement is more true than they realize. They will never succeed in reaching their own eternal salvation if they refuse to help their fellowman. No one who does not love God can get to heaven. The proof of real love of God is love of our neighbor, St. John tells us. So, to know if we are on the right road to heaven let us examine our consciences as regards our love of neighbor. Have we been practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, especially the spiritual works? It is they that are in question in today’s reading.

Pope Pius XI used to say: “The Christian who is not an Apostle is on the way to becoming an apostate.” The reason is that the very essence of Christianity is love, and love like heat diffuses itself automatically. The Christian who is not spreading the love of God has not got that love within him. His heart is full of self. There is no room in it for God. Down through the ages we have more than enough proof of this, but more so perhaps in recent times. We have men and women today who at one time gave themselves wholeheartedly to the service of God and their neighbor. But through over concentration on themselves, on their rights and freedoms, they have forgotten their neighbor, and to all intents and purposes therefore, they are forgetting God and their own eternal welfare.

While we beg of God to keep us on the right road to heaven, let us realize that if we want to stay on that road we must help all our brothers that we meet on the way. We must help our next-door neighbors by example and word. Those who are far off too, we must help financially, and by our prayers and penances. There is abundant room for all in God’s heaven. Because of the good influence he had, directly or indirectly, on their lives on earth, each one’s own personal happiness will be intensified and increased by seeing and knowing the happiness these others are enjoying in heaven.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

Teach me your ways, O Lord.

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.

Teach me your ways, O Lord.

Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.

Teach me your ways, O Lord.

Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice
and teaches the humble his way.

Teach me your ways, O Lord.

READING II

 

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1 Cor 7:29-31

I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.
From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,
those weeping as not weeping,
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning,
those using the world as not using it fully.
For the world in its present form is passing away.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1619 Virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is an unfolding of baptismal grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ and of the ardent expectation of his return, a sign which also recalls that marriage is a reality of this present age which is passing away.1

1 Cf. Mk 12:25; 1 Cor 7:31.

APPLICATION

St. Paul is speaking to each one of us here today and is giving us the very same sound, spiritual advice which he gave to his converts in Corinth. Unlike them, we are not expecting the general judgement in our lifetime; but what is worse, most of us are giving little thought to the particular judgement, to the fact that each one of us will soon be called to meet Christ in a judgement that will decide our eternal future. It is a strange, human phenomenon that while we plan and provide for future probabilities, some of which will never happen, few of us plan and provide for the one certain, future fact in our lives, which is that we are certain to die some day.

Men train for occupations and professions. Men build houses for themselves and their families. Men take out insurances against illness and unemployment. Men put money into businesses or investments which are likely to give them a sound income later. And all the while they are speculating, perhaps wisely, on future probabilities, but failing to face and prepare for the one certain future happening: their departure from this world.

Someone may say: must we take no interest then in temporal affairs? Of course, we must! It is ‘by taking an interest in, and honestly and fully carrying out, our temporal duties that we are making ourselves ready at all times to meet our Judge. Each one’s daily task faithfully carried out is a devout prayer to God, it is an honor given by man to his Creator; it is the Christian’s way of saying “thank you” to Christ our Savior.

Preparing for heaven does not mean removing oneself from association with the world. Some devout Christians did this in the early Church. It means using the world as the stairs on which we can climb to heaven. Men can have wives, and women can have husbands, they can have homes and property, investments and insurances, provided all these things are accepted as God’s gifts and used for their own and their neighbor’s sanctification. It is the abuse of these gifts that can make us all unfit and not ready to meet our Judge. A healthy bank account–the fruit of honest labor–will be no hindrance to entering heaven, whereas the rags and poverty of the idler are no open sesame for the heavenly portals. Let us remember this always: the time in which we can earn the everlasting life after death is very short even for the youngest amongst us. But be it thirty days or sixty years, whatever length of time it is, each one of us can make sure that we shall be found ready when our last moment comes. We can indeed assure ourselves of this, if we begin today to live a Christian life, loving God and neighbor. This is indeed the word of the Lord coming to us through the great Apostle St. Paul.

GOSPEL

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Mk 1:14-20

After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee,
he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea;
they were fishermen.
Jesus said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.
He walked along a little farther
and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They too were in a boat mending their nets.
Then he called them.
So they left their father Zebedee in the boat
along with the hired men and followed him.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/012118.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 787 From the beginning, Jesus associated his disciples with his own life, revealed the mystery of the Kingdom to them, and gave them a share in his mission, joy, and sufferings.1 Jesus spoke of a still more intimate communion between him and those who would follow him: “Abide in me, and I in you. .. I am the vine, you are the branches.”2 And he proclaimed a mysterious and real communion between his own body and ours: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”3

CCC 1423 It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father4 from whom one has strayed by sin.
It is called the
sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.

CCC 1427 Jesus calls to conversion. This call is an essential part of the proclamation of the kingdom: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”5 In the Church’s preaching this call is addressed first to those who do not yet know Christ and his Gospel. Also, Baptism is the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion. It is by faith in the Gospel and by Baptism6 that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life.

CCC 2612 In Jesus “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”7 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.8 In communion with their Master, the disciples’ prayer is a battle; only by keeping watch in prayer can one avoid falling into temptation.9

1 Cf. Mk 1:16-20; 3:13-19; Mt 13:10-17; Lk 10:17-20; 22:28-30.
2 Jn 15:4-5.
3 Jn 6:56.
4 Cf. Mk 1:15; Lk 15:18.
5 Mk 1:15.
6 Cf. Acts 2:38.
7 Mk 1:15.
8 Cf. Mk 13; Lk 21:34-36.
9 Cf. Lk 22:40, 46.

APPLICATION

“Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of God.” Jesus came to announce to all men the good news of God’s eternal plan for them. He spent his public life convincing the Jews of Palestine of the truth of this message, and he died on the cross because be claimed to be what he was–God’s divine Son, who had come in human nature to raise all men to the standing and status of adopted sons of God. That very death, cruel and unjust though it was, was part of the divine plan. He conquered death and was raised from the grave to prove that we too, if we accept his divine gospel and live by it, will be raised from the dead and reign with Christ in the kingdom of his Father forever. Christ preached this doctrine in Palestine. It is the doctrine for which he gave his human life and which he gave to his Apostles to hand down to all future generations. This is the self-same doctrine preached by Christ’s Church to all men today. It is the good news of God’s mercy and love toward us weak, mortal creatures. To some it seems too good to be true; it would indeed be so if God were a limited, finite being like us, but he is Being itself. He is without limit, his goodness and love are limitless as is his nature. What God can see in creatures has ever been a puzzle to thinking man. One of the psalm-writers said centuries ago: “what is man that you should spare a thought for him, the son of man that you should care for him?” (Ps. 8: 4). Many a saint too, has repeated this remark ever since.

We cannot hope to fathom the mind of God, nor do we need to. He has gone to such a length as the humiliation of his divine Son in the incarnation in order to give us a new standing in relation to himself and a new mode of eternal living after death. We are still God’s creatures, “the work of his hands,” but through accepting Christ and his gospel–his message of divine truth–we are no longer mere mortals. We shall die, but death is the beginning of the true life which God has arranged for us. It is no wonder that St. Paul could cry out: “O death where is your victory, O death, where is your sting?”

We Christians should be the happiest people on earth. We know why we are here, we know where we are going and we know how to get there. There are trials and troubles which beset us on our journey; there are rough parts of the road and weaknesses in our human nature which often lead us off the right road, but we are not left to our own human resources. We have help from above to strengthen and comfort us on our journey. We have divine aids in the Church which Christ set us and we have the guarantee of our Good Shepherd that he will keep us in his fold or bring us back should we foolishly wander from it (Jn. 10: 14; Lk. 15: 4-7).

We Christians can indeed be the happiest people on earth, if we live according to the divine good news revealed to us through Christ. “Repent and believe in the gospel,” Christ told the people of Galilee. The same call goes out from our loving Savior to each of us today: repent–change your outlook on life–see it, as God sees it to be for us, a short journey toward heaven. If we really believe in the gospel of Christ, the revelation of God’s plan for our eternal happiness, our earthly troubles will look small, our trials and temptations will appear to us as they really are–a means of earning the eternal victory. Christ, the innocent victim for our salvation, has gone before us, carrying his heavy cross, can we refuse to carry the relatively lighter cross which he places on our shoulders as our means of making atonement for our own failings and for those of our fellowman? God forbid that we should! If we have failed in the past, let us repent today and show our belief in the truth of the Christian gospel, by living as true Christians who are on their way to heaven.

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

BENEDICTUS

Following, Believing, Loving

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

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to Turn From Sin

Father, Your Love never fails.

Keep me from danger and provide for all my needs.

Teach me to be thankful for Your Gifts.

Confident in Your Love, may I be holy by sharing Your Life,

and grant me forgiveness of my sins.

May Your unfailing Love turn me from sin and keep me on the way that leads to you.

Help me to grow in Christian love through Christ our Lord. Amen.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=724

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Second Sunday of Ordinary Time – B

behold-the-lamb-of-god-icon.jpg

John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for Holiness

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,

that my thoughts may all be holy.

Act in me, O Holy Spirit,

that my work, too, may be holy.

Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,

that I love only what is holy.

Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,

to defend all that is holy.

Guard me so, O Holy Spirit,

that I may always be holy.

Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

who govern all things,

both in heaven and on earth,

mercifully hear the pleading of your people

and bestow your peace on our times.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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1 Sm 3:3b-10, 19

Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD
where the ark of God was.
The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”
Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.”
“I did not call you, ” Eli said. “Go back to sleep.”
So he went back to sleep.
Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli.
“Here I am, ” he said. “You called me.”
But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”

At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD,
because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.
The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time.
Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.”
Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth.
So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply,
Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”
When Samuel went to sleep in his place,
the LORD came and revealed his presence,
calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2578 The prayer of the People of God flourishes in the shadow of God’s dwelling place, first the ark of the covenant and later the Temple. At first the leaders of the people – the shepherds and the prophets – teach them to pray. The infant Samuel must have learned from his mother Hannah how “to stand before the LORD” and from the priest Eli how to listen to his word: “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”1 Later, he will also know the cost and consequence of intercession: “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.”2

1 1 Sam 3:9-10; cf. 1:9-18.
2 1 Sam 12:23.

APPLICATION

God’s ways are surely wonderful! He could govern and regulate this world and all its inhabitants most correctly and successfully all by himself. However, he has decided to give man a chance of co-operating with him in the running of the material and spiritual affairs of his world. Perhaps they are more often a hindrance rather than a help to the Lord. Yet, he not only allows them but he calls them, selects them for various roles in the government of his world.

This is true in the running of the temporal affairs as well as the government of the spiritual life of men on earth. The exercise of power over a nation or community of people is not from man but from God, hence the obligation on subjects to obey the just laws of their rulers. God it is who delegates his authority to earthly rulers.

During the first eight hundred years of God’s dealings with his Chosen People, both the temporal and spiritual leadership of the people always resided in one and the same individual. The Patriarchs, Moses, Joshua, the Judges down to the appointment of kings (1030 B.C.), were individually called by God to administer both the temporal and spiritual affairs of the community. Today’s lesson tells us how Samuel got his call to fulfill this double task of temporal and spiritual leadership of God’s people. Because God was with him in all his doings he carried it out very successfully for about twenty years.

All men have a vocation, a call from God in this life. Each individual has duties to perform which, if faithfully carried out, will earn for him the place God has planned for him in the eternal kingdom. A few are called to be the leaders of their fellowman. The vast majority are called to follow the leaders by loyally obeying the laws enacted for their just government. Each one of us has a call from God, a part to play in the temporal and spiritual affairs of this life. The future status of each one of us will be determined by the manner in which we carried out our role on earth.

Samuel had not the faintest idea that it was God Who was speaking to him when he first got his call, his vocation, in the shrine at Shiloh. But when he eventually realized the truth he immediately offered his humble service to the Lord, “thy servant hears.” How few of us have seen a call from God, a divine vocation, in the humdrum activities of our daily lives, and yet these ordinary daily tasks are the road to heaven that God has mapped out for us. These are the “vocations” he has given us. We may say that we ourselves chose our careers in life, we decided what occupation we should follow, but behind our free decisions the wise providence of God, working through parents, neighbors, circumstances of time and place, has so arranged our earthly journey that it would end for us in heaven. Many grumble at their role in life. They think their lot is so inferior and demanding when compared with the life others lead, and even go so far as to say that God could have no part in such a bad arrangement. Yet, God is in charge of his world. He chooses each individual for the role he is to carry to its successful conclusion.

“There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them as we will,” Shakespeare, the wise Christian tells us. God has a master plan for the human race; to each one of us he has given a little niche in that plan. If we play the part he has given us, let it be noble or humble in the eyes of this world, we shall make a success of God’s master-plan, of this great human drama. Our own eternal success will be assured. With Samuel today, let us accept our vocation and humbly submit ourselves to his divine will: “speak Lord for thy servant hears.”

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.
And he put a new song into my mouth,
a hymn to our God.

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

Sacrifice or offering you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
to do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

READING II

Icon-of-the-Transfiguration-of-Christ.jpg

1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20

Brothers and sisters:
The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord,
and the Lord is for the body;
God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him.
Avoid immorality.
Every other sin a person commits is outside the body,
but the immoral person sins against his own body.
Do you not know that your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
For you have been purchased at a price.
Therefore glorify God in your body.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 364 The human body shares in the dignity of “the image of God”: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:1

Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day. 2

CCC 796 The unity of Christ and the Church, head and members of one Body, also implies the distinction of the two within a personal relationship. This aspect is often expressed by the image of bridegroom and bride. The theme of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church was prepared for by the prophets and announced by John the Baptist.3 The Lord referred to himself as the “bridegroom.”4 The Apostle speaks of the whole Church and of each of the faithful, members of his Body, as a bride “betrothed” to Christ the Lord so as to become but one spirit with him.5 The Church is the spotless bride of the spotless Lamb.6 “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her.”7 He has joined her with himself in an everlasting covenant and never stops caring for her as for his own body:8

This is the whole Christ, head and body, one formed from many. .. whether the head or members speak, it is Christ who speaks. He speaks in his role as the head (ex persona capitis) and in his role as body (ex persona corporis). What does this mean? “The two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church.”9 And the Lord himself says in the Gospel: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”10 They are, in fact, two different persons, yet they are one in the conjugal union,. .. as head, he calls himself the bridegroom, as body, he calls himself “bride.”11

CCC 989 We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day.12 Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity:

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you.13

CCC 1004 In expectation of that day, the believer’s body and soul already participate in the dignity of belonging to Christ. This dignity entails the demand that he should treat with respect his own body, but also the body of every other person, especially the suffering:

The body [is meant] for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?. .. You are not your own;. .. So glorify God in your body.14

CCC 1265 Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,”15 member of Christ and co-heir with him,16 and a temple of the Holy Spirit.17

CCC 1269 Having become a member of the Church, the person baptized belongs no longer to himself, but to him who died and rose for us.18 From now on, he is called to be subject to others, to serve them in the communion of the Church, and to “obey and submit” to the Church’s leaders,19 holding them in respect and affection.20 Just as Baptism is the source of responsibilities and duties, the baptized person also enjoys rights within the Church: to receive the sacraments, to be nourished with the Word of God and to be sustained by the other spiritual helps of the Church.21

CCC 1695 “Justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God,”22 “sanctified. .. [and] called to be saints,”23 Christians have become the temple of the Holy Spirit.24 This “Spirit of the Son” teaches them to pray to the Father25 and, having become their life, prompts them to act so as to bear “the fruit of the Spirit”26 by charity in action. Healing the wounds of sin, the Holy Spirit renews us interiorly through a spiritual transformation.27 He enlightens and strengthens us to live as “children of light” through “all that is good and right and true.”28

CCC 2355 Prostitution does injury to the dignity of the person who engages in it, reducing the person to an instrument of sexual pleasure. The one who pays sins gravely against himself: he violates the chastity to which his Baptism pledged him and defiles his body, the temple of the Holy Spirit.29 Prostitution is a social scourge. It usually involves women, but also men, children, and adolescents (The latter two cases involve the added sin of scandal.). While it is always gravely sinful to engage in prostitution, the imputability of the offense can be attenuated by destitution, blackmail, or social pressure.

1 Cf. I Cor 6:19-20; 15:44-45.

2 GS 14 # 1; cf. Dan 3:57-80.

3 Jn 3:29.

4 Mk 2:19.

5 Cf. Mt 22:1-14; 25:1-13; 1 Cor 6:15-17; 2 Cor 11:2.

6 Cf. Rev 22:17; Eph 1:4. 5:27.

7 Eph 5:25-26.

8 Cf. Eph 5:29.

9 Eph 5:31-32.

10 Mt 19:6.

11 St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 74:4: PL 36, 948-949.

12 Cf. Jn 6:39-40.

13 Rom 8:11; cf. 1 Thess 4:14; 1 Cor 6:14; 2 Cor 4:14; Phil 3:10-11.

14 1 Cor 6:13-15,19-20.

15 2 Cor 5:17; 2 Pet 1:4; cf. Gal 4:5-7.

16 Cf. l Cor 6:15; 12:27; Rom 8:17.

17 Cf. l Cor 6:19.

18 Cf. 1 Cor 6:19; 2 Cor 5:15.

19 Heb 13:17.

20 Cf. Eph 5:21; 1 Cor 16:15-16; 1 Thess 5:12-13; Jn 13:12-15.

21 Cf. LG 37; CIC, cann. 208 223; CCEO, can. 675:2.

22 2 Cor 6:11.

23 1 Cor 1:2.

24 Cf. 1 Cor 6:19.

25 Cf. Gal 4:6.

26 Gal 5:22, 25.

27 Cf. Eph 4:23.

28 Eph 5:8, 9.

29 Cf. 1 Cor 6:15-20.

APPLICATION

St. Paul wrote these words almost two thousand years ago. Ninety per cent of the world’s population was still pagan, knowing nothing of the true God or of his divine plans for them. The only practical philosophy they could and did follow was the enjoyment of every comfort and pleasure. They believed that when they died all was ended forever. St. Paul’s converts in Corinth were living in the midst of pagans who practiced this philosophy. This made Christian living very difficult for some of them. They fell back into the immoral practices in which they had indulged before their conversion.

The Apostle, hearing of this, condemned their conduct in clear and forceful language. “Shun immorality”; “the body is not meant for immorality,” he tells them. He then gives the reason why the use of sex, outside of marriage, is not only a sin but a sacrilege. In baptism the Christian has given his body to Christ. He has become a member of Christ, and therefore, such a body cannot be given to anyone but to a lawful spouse. To join the Christian body to a prostitute in fornication therefore, was a desecration of the sacred, a direct denial of the bond which bound the Christian to Christ. Furthermore, he reminds these immoral converts of a truth he had already told them, namely, that ever since their baptism the Holy Spirit dwelt within them—they were temples of God. They belonged in a very special way to God, for, through Christ, he had brought them out of slavery to be his own heirs for all eternity.

This teaching of St. Paul is, if anything, more necessary today than it was at that time in Corinth. The weak converts of Corinth had the bad example of their local pagan neighbors to contend with. They also had the good example of the majority of their fellow-converts to uplift and encourage them. Today we have to contend, not only with the bad example of local pagan or rather neo-pagan neighbors, but the full force of the world’s immorality is blazoned daily before our eyes by the mass-media of television, papers, and scandal-mongering writers.

The campaign for absolute freedom for the individual, the demands of the permissive society, are being daily shouted from the house-tops with such insistence and constancy, that even devout Christians cannot entirely avoid their impact. Sex, or rather the abuse of it, has become the battle-cry of youth. Indeed, it has been raised to the status of a god whose every whim must be obeyed and satisfied. Pornography today has become a billion-dollar industry. As long as there is a demand for it suppliers will not be found wanting. If this sexual extravagance was the invention of the communist countries as a means of reducing the rest of the world to impotency, the democracies of the West would be immediately up in arms. But as it is their own brain-child, they have no word of condemnation for it. If they do not openly encourage it, they at least permit this social cancer to grow and propagate itself. They do not realize or perhaps do not care, that it will eventually corrupt their nations and make social life, and even human existence impossible.

But we Christians can and must stand up and oppose with every means in our power, this pagan immorality. Our bodies are members of Christ’s sacred body. We must not desecrate them by indulging in sexual aberrations. We are temples of the Holy Spirit; sin must have no place within us. Parents of families: instruct your children by word and example. Protect them, as far as you can, from this immoral cancer which is being encouraged and developed all around you. Under the guise of liberty our permissive society is demanding more and more license to violate, not only the sacred laws of God himself, but the very nature of humanity. Human intelligence and reason are thrown overboard in the search for sexual pleasure, and man who was made “a little less than the angels” is now debased to the level of the beast of the field.

Listen to St. Paul’s advice: “The body is not meant for immorality–it is meant to glorify God.”

GOSPEL

behold-the-lamb-of-god-icon.jpg

Jn 1:35-42

John was standing with two of his disciples,

and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,

“Behold, the Lamb of God.”

The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.

Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,

“What are you looking for?”

They said to him, “Rabbi” – which translated means Teacher -,

“where are you staying?”

He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”

So they went and saw where Jesus was staying,

and they stayed with him that day.

It was about four in the afternoon.

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,

was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.

He first found his own brother Simon and told him,

“We have found the Messiah” – which is translated Christ -.

Then he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said,

“You are Simon the son of John;

you will be called Cephas” – which is translated Peter.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/011418.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 608 After agreeing to baptize him along with the sinners, John the Baptist looked at Jesus and pointed him out as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.1 By doing so, he reveals that Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant who silently allows himself to be led to the slaughter and who bears the sin of the multitudes, and also the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel’s redemption at the first Passover.2 Christ’s whole life expresses his mission: “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”3

CCC 719 John the Baptist is “more than a prophet.”4 In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah.5 He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the “voice” of the Consoler who is coming.6 As the Spirit of truth will also do, John “came to bear witness to the light.”7 In John’s sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels.8 “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. .. Behold, the Lamb of God.”9

1 Jn 1:29; cf. Lk 3:21; Mt 3:14-15; Jn 1:36.

2 Is 53:7,12; cf. Jer 11:19; Ex 12:3-14; Jn 19:36; 1 Cor 5:7.

3 Mk 10:45.

4 Lk 7:26.

5 Cf. Mt 11:13-14.

6 Jn 1:23; cf. Isa 40:1-3.

7 Jn 1:7; cf. Jn 15:26; 5:35.

8 Cf. 1 Pet 1:10-12.

9 Jn 1:33-36.

APPLICATION

In the eight short verses read to us today from St. John’s gospel we have an account of the vocation of the first four Apostles who followed Jesus. It was a momentous event in the history of salvation. It was the beginning of a stream of vocations that would grow and spread down through the ages until the end of the world. It was momentous, firstly, in that Christ, who had come to open heaven for all men and who could find means of bringing them all to that eternal home without help from any man, decided instead to let men co-operate with him in this divine task. He decreed to set up a kingdom in this world – his Church – which would be run by mere mortals for their fellow-mortals, but which would be under his protection and assisted by his divine aid until the end of time. Christ chose this very human way, in order to make his Church more acceptable to our limited, human understanding and more approachable for sinful, human nature.

Christ, as God, could deal directly with every human being on earth. He could teach the infallible truth; he could pardon sins; he could give all the graces needed to travel successfully to heaven. There would then be no need for a Church with its teaching magisterium, no need for the sacrament of initiation, baptism, or of reconciliation, penance, nor of the Holy Eucharist itself or of any other such aids. Christ could do all that his Church does for the salvation of mankind, and more successfully, of course, but yet he chose the way which divine wisdom saw was best.

We mortals know that God can speak directly to our hearts, and actually has done so to many men in the past. We know that he can do directly all that is done by his Church, to whom he gave the power, with its teaching magisterium and sacraments. If he were to act in this way we should be open to continuous doubts about the source of our inspirations and the objectivity of the graces we thought we were receiving. It was to remove such doubts, and the possibility of self-deception that Christ left to us the external visible kingdom to which he gave all the powers necessary for men’s salvation. It was for the security and peace of men’s consciences that he set up a visible Church founded on the Apostles, men like ourselves, but transformed by his assisting grace.

Another momentous fact in Christ’s choice of the Apostles on whom he was to build his Church, is that he “chose the lowly and the humble to confound the wise.” The first four Apostles, as well as the other eight, were simple, lowly fishermen from Galilee. They may possibly have been able to read and write a little, but they were certainly not men of education or any social standing in their communities. He could have converted and chosen some of the more highly educated scribes of Jerusalem, or some of the Roman centurions then in Palestine, or some of the many philosophers in Greece, or even Roman senators whose influence as Christian teachers would carry such weight with the educated elite of the empire. But he did not. The instrument he chose to carry his message to all men, was not dependent on human ingenuity or on the educational or social standing of his witnesses. Rather was it to stand on the power of God, of which it was the expression and proof.

We can see clearly the divine wisdom governing Christ’s choice of Apostles! Had his message of salvation been spread and promulgated by men of learning and social standing, the cry would soon go up on all sides: “This religion is the invention of philosophers; it is a clever plan of the upper classes to keep the poor and humble workers in subjection.” But it was the poor and working classes who spread Christ’s message, and who suffered imprisonment and death itself at the hands of the educated and upper classes for so doing.

Today, let us thank our blessed Lord who provided so humanly and yet so divinely for our eternal welfare. In the Church, which he founded on the lowly but solid foundation of simple fishermen of Galilee, he erected an institution against which the gates of hell, the power of all the enemies of our salvation, cannot prevail, for his divine guidance and help will be with it forever. It has had enemies and opposition from the beginning; they may be more numerous and more destructive than ever, today. But the promise of Christ still holds good, his word cannot fail. Therefore, neither the opposition of materialistic enemies from without, nor the even more insidious attacks from faint-hearted and worldly-minded members from within, can affect the safety and permanence of the building which Christ built on the Rock. “If God is with us,” it matters not “who is against us.”

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

BENEDICTUS

The Process of Spiritual Growth

It is important for the process of spiritual growth that you don’t just pray and study your faith at times when it happens to cross your mind, when it suits you, but that you observe some discipline… I should say, never begin with thinking alone. For if you try to pull God toward you in a laboratory of rational thought, and to attach Him to you in what is to some extent a purely theoretical fashion, you find you can’t do it. You always have to combine the questions with action. Pascal once said to an unbelieving friend: Start by doing what believers do, even if it still makes no sense to you… You can never look for faith in isolation; it is only found in an encounter with people who believe, who can understand you, who have perhaps come by way of a similar situation themselves, who can in some way lead you and help you. It is always among us that faith grows. Anyone who wants to go it alone has thus got it wrong from the very start.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Come Holy Spirit

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

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The Epiphany of the Lord – B

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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

Thy light is come, O Jerusalem, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee; and the Gentiles shall walk in they light, alleluia.

[On this day] We celebrate a holy day adorned with three mysteries: this day a star led the Magi to the manger; this day wine was made from water at the wedding; this day Christ willed to be baptized in the Jordan by John in order to save us, alleluia.

Brevarium Monasticum

COLLECT

Oh 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

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 co-partners 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/010718.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

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 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. In order to find the Savior, one has to enter the house, which is 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

Epiphany Hymn of St. Ambrose

Most High God!

Thou that enkindlest

the fires of the shining stars!

O Jesus!

Thou that art peace and life and light and truth,

hear and grant our prayers.

This present day has been made holy

by thy mystic baptism,

whereby thou didst sanctify

those waters of the Jordan,

which of old were thrice turned back.

It is holy by the star shining in the heavens,

whereby thou didst announce

thy Virginal Mother’s delivery

and didst, on the same day,

lead the Magi to adore thee in thy crib.

It is holy too,

by thy changing the water

of the pitchers into wine;

which the steward of the feast,

knowing that he had not so filled them,

drew forth for the guests.

Glory be to thee, O Lord Jesus,

that didst appear on this Day!

And to the Father and to the Holy Spirit,

for everlasting ages. Amen.

Hymn of St. Ambrose (338-397), used by the Church in Milan

The Blessing of the Home

The blessing of the home is a popular Epiphany custom. using specially blessed chalk (your parish priest will bless the chalk, if you ask, or use the prayer of blessing below), many households mark their entrance door with the year and with the inscription CMB, the initial Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, the names of the three wise man in legend. The inscription also stands for Christus Mansionem Benedicat, which means “Christ, bless this home.” The popular form the inscription takes is 20+C+M+B+15. It remains above the doorway until Pentecost.

Blessing of Chalk

Let us pray. O Lord God, bless this creature chalk to make it helpful to man. Grant that we who use it with faith and inscribe with it upon the entrance of our homes may enjoy physical health and spiritual protection. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

House Blessing

Lord God of Heaven and Earth, who hast revealed thine only-begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star: Bless this house and all who inhabit it. Fill them with the light of Christ, that their love for others may truly reflect thy love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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