Fifth Sunday in Lent – A

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Master, the one you love is ill.”  When Jesus heard this he said,  This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

OPENING PRAYER

Lord,

like the traveler lifting the fallen one on the Jericho road,

healing all his wounds, you went to Lazarus’ tomb,

and would not let him die but loosed the bonds of death,

so great was your love for him.

Savior, we believe you weep at every death,

and pray at every tomb, for all the dead

whose faith is known to you alone.

Like Lazarus, call us your friends,

stay in our company, share what we have,

come to our aid when we call and grant us eternal life.

COLLECT

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

may we walk eagerly in that same charity

with which, out of love for the world,

your Son handed himself over to death.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Ez 37:12-14

Thus says the Lord GOD:

O my people, I will open your graves

and have you rise from them,

and bring you back to the land of Israel.

Then you shall know that I am the LORD,

when I open your graves and have you rise from them,

O my people!

I will put my spirit in you that you may live,

and I will settle you upon your land;

thus you shall know that I am the LORD.

I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 715 The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of “love and fidelity.”1 St. Peter will proclaim their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost.2 According to these promises, at the “end time” the Lord’s Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace.

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

2 Cf. Acts 2:17-21.

APPLICATION

God revealed himself and his true nature to his Chosen People in the Old Testament by his actions more than by his words. They were a stubborn, stiff-necked people—they were so often ungrateful for all the benefits he conferred on them. They forgot him in material prosperity and only turned to him in need. The idolatry and misconduct of their kings ever since Solomon (with a few notable exceptions), and the no-less-pagan outlook of the majority of the people, brought on them the destruction of Jerusalem with its temple, the center of their life and religion, in the year 587. They had been warned by God’s prophets but they turned a deaf ear to all remonstrances and warnings. When the foretold calamity fell they turned to Yahweh, but too late.

However, when they had done their penance in Babylon, Yahweh came to their aid once more and brought them back to Judah and Jerusalem, where they eventually rebuilt the city and their temple and where they remained until the promised Messiah came.

In all of this we have the merciful, forgiving God, revealing himself, while using this very ungrateful people to carry out his plan for raising the whole human race to adopted divine sonship through the loving mystery of the Incarnation.

We Christians have seen that plan fulfilled. We know we have been adopted by God and made heirs of heaven because Christ made himself our brother. We know too that we shall rise again from the dead and be brought back not to Judah or Jerusalem, but to the land of eternal happiness–to “the Jerusalem that is above.” God revealed much of his divine qualities to the Jews, but how incomparably greater is the revelation we have received from him through the coming of Christ among us!

The Jews of that day had but a very vague idea of life after death; we are certain that our physical death is not the end for us but rather the beginning of our true life. The Jews called God their “father” but because of their infidelity the father-son relationship was a cold one, built more on fear than on love. We call God our Father, but we use the term with sincerity and love for we have become his children through the brotherhood of Christ, his real, divine Son.

God helped the Jews often in their temporal needs, they seldom sought spiritual aid from him. We have in the mystical body of Christ, his Church, all the spiritual helps we need for our journey to heaven, and temporal favors on innumerable occasions, during our stay on earth. God said of his Chosen People: “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done for it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, what did it yield–wild grapes?”

Unfortunately, he has to make the same complaint of many in his Christian vineyard, and how much more has he done for them than he ever did for the Jews? God forbid that any one of us should be deserving of this complaint. When we meet him on the day of judgment let us hope and pray that we will have the true grapes of a virtuous life to offer him.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;

LORD, hear my voice!

Let your ears be attentive

to my voice in supplication.

With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,

LORD, who can stand?

But with you is forgiveness,

that you may be revered.

With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

I trust in the LORD;

my soul trusts in his word.

More than sentinels wait for the dawn,

let Israel wait for the LORD.

With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

For with the LORD is kindness

and with him is plenteous redemption;

And he will redeem Israel

from all their iniquities.

With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

READING II

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Rom 8:8-11

Brothers and sisters:

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh;

on the contrary, you are in the spirit,

if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.

Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

But if Christ is in you,

although the body is dead because of sin,

the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,

the one who raised Christ from the dead

will give life to your mortal bodies also,

through his Spirit dwelling in you.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

CCC 693 Besides the proper name of “Holy Spirit,” which is most frequently used in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles, we also find in St. Paul the titles: the Spirit of the promise,3 the Spirit of adoption,4 the Spirit of Christ,5 the Spirit of the Lord,6 and the Spirit of God7 – and, in St. Peter, the Spirit of glory.8

CCC 695 Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit,9 to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called “chrismation” in the Churches of the East. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew “messiah”) means the one “anointed” by God’s Spirit. There were several anointed ones of the Lord in the Old Covenant, pre-eminently King David.10 But Jesus is God’s Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as “Christ.”11 The Virgin Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit who, through the angel, proclaimed him the Christ at his birth, and prompted Simeon to come to the temple to see the Christ of the Lord.12 The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving.13 Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.14 Now, fully established as “Christ” in his humanity victorious over death, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit abundantly until “the saints” constitute – in their union with the humanity of the Son of God – that perfect man “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”:15 “the whole Christ,” in St. Augustine’s expression.

CCC 989 We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day.16 Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity:

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you.17

CCC 990 The term “flesh” refers to man in his state of weakness and mortality.18 The “resurrection of the flesh” (the literal formulation of the Apostles’ Creed) means not only that the immortal soul will live on after death, but that even our “mortal body” will come to life again.19

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

2 Cf. I Pt 3:18-19.

3 Cf. Gal 3:14; Eph 1:13.

4 Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6.

5 Rom 8:9.

6 2 Cor 3:17.

7 Rom 8:9, 14; 15:19; 1 Cor 6:11; 7:40.

8 1 Pet 4:14.

9 Cf. 1 In 2:20:27; 2 Cor 1:21.

10 Cf. Ex 30:22-32; 1 Sam 16:13.

11 Cf. Lk 418-19; Isa 61:1.

12 Cf. Lk 2:11,26-27.

13 Cf. Lk 4:1; 6:19; 8:46.

14 Cf. Rom 1:4; 8:11.

15 Eph 4:13; cf. Acts 2:36.

16 Cf. Jn 6:39-40.

17 Rom 8:11; cf. 1 Thess 4:14; 1 Cor 6:14; 2 Cor 4:14; Phil 3:10-11.

18 Cf. Gen 6:3; Ps 56:5; Isa 40:6.

19 Rom 8:11.

APPLICATION

The three readings for today, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, have a common theme–resurrection. In Ezekiel the release of the Jews from the captivity and slavery of Babylon is described as a rising from their graves to return to a new life in their own homeland. This is a metaphor, a type of the true resurrection which will come later. In the third reading–the gospel–we have the story of the raising of Lazarus from the tomb, which proves the power Jesus had of raising the dead.

In this second reading, in St. Paul’s instruction to the Roman Christians, we have a direct reference to the future resurrection to a life of unending glory for all those who during their time on earth, were loyal to God and Christ. This resurrection in a new body, which will never again be subject to death or pain or suffering, has been won for us by Christ who, having died for our sins, was raised by the Father on Easter morning.

Only the kindness of an infinitely loving God could plan and provide such a marvelous future for us. “What is man that you are mindful of him?”, the Psalmist says to God. What are we indeed–mere creatures, finite, limited beings, in comparison with the infinite Godhead! Yet, when creating us he gave us the spiritual faculties which enable us to appreciate the good, the beautiful and the perfect. He knew that in this life these powers could never be satisfied, and so he ordained that after “working our passage” through this valley of tears, a new life would await us, an unending life in which, in company with the Blessed Trinity, our blessed Mother and the millions of fellow-saints, we would have eternal contentment and happiness.

The thought of this glorious future should never be far from our minds. It was this thought that enabled the martyrs to face their executioners with joy in their hearts. It was this thought that made the saints rejoice in their bodily sufferings and mortifications. It was this hope of eternal happiness which spurred on the millions of ordinary men and women like ourselves, whose life on earth was a monotonous sequence of one drudgery after another, one misfortune following on the heels of the previous one.

It is by imitating these people that we too will join them when our call will come. It is by bearing the burdens of each day, by welcoming, and seeing God’s will in all the ups and downs of our very ordinary lives, that we can join them. Listen again to these solemn words of St. Paul: “Anyone who does not have the spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” You have the Spirit of Christ in you, if you are striving to live a Christian life. This means taking each day as it comes, offering to God its joys and its sorrows, its honest pleasures and its pains, its sunshine and its showers. All this means: living in peace with God and with your neighbor. This may sound easy but it is not so; it will mean much self-denial, but then think of what awaits us at the end of our road–a resurrection to a new life, an unending life of happiness. God grant that we may all have this happy ending to our earthly journey.

GOSPEL

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Jn 11:1-45

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany,

the village of Mary and her sister Martha.

Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil

and dried his feet with her hair;

it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.

So the sisters sent word to him saying,

Master, the one you love is ill.”

When Jesus heard this he said,

This illness is not to end in death,

but is for the glory of God,

that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

So when he heard that he was ill,

he remained for two days in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to his disciples,

Let us go back to Judea.”

The disciples said to him,

Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you,

and you want to go back there?”

Jesus answered,

Are there not twelve hours in a day?

If one walks during the day, he does not stumble,

because he sees the light of this world.

But if one walks at night, he stumbles,

because the light is not in him.”

He said this, and then told them,

Our friend Lazarus is asleep,

but I am going to awaken him.”

So the disciples said to him,

Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”

But Jesus was talking about his death,

while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.

So then Jesus said to them clearly,

Lazarus has died.

And I am glad for you that I was not there,

that you may believe.

Let us go to him.”

So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples,

Let us also go to die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus

had already been in the tomb for four days.

Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.

And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary

to comfort them about their brother.

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,

she went to meet him;

but Mary sat at home.

Martha said to Jesus,

Lord, if you had been here,

my brother would not have died.

But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,

God will give you.”

Jesus said to her,

Your brother will rise.”

Martha said to him,

I know he will rise,

in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus told her,

I am the resurrection and the life;

whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,

and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.

Do you believe this?”

She said to him, “Yes, Lord.

I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,

the one who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this,

she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying,

The teacher is here and is asking for you.”

As soon as she heard this,

she rose quickly and went to him.

For Jesus had not yet come into the village,

but was still where Martha had met him.

So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her

saw Mary get up quickly and go out,

they followed her,

presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him,

she fell at his feet and said to him,

Lord, if you had been here,

my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping,

he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said,

Where have you laid him?”

They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”

And Jesus wept.

So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”

But some of them said,

Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man

have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.

It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”

Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him,

Lord, by now there will be a stench;

he has been dead for four days.”

Jesus said to her,

Did I not tell you that if you believe

you will see the glory of God?”

So they took away the stone.

And Jesus raised his eyes and said,

Father, I thank you for hearing me.

I know that you always hear me;

but because of the crowd here I have said this,

that they may believe that you sent me.”

And when he had said this,

He cried out in a loud voice,

Lazarus, come out!”

The dead man came out,

tied hand and foot with burial bands,

and his face was wrapped in a cloth.

So Jesus said to them,

Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary

and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 58 The covenant with Noah remains in force during the times of the Gentiles, until the universal proclamation of the Gospel.1 The Bible venerates several great figures among the Gentiles: Abel the just, the king-priest Melchisedek – a figure of Christ – and the upright “Noah, Daniel, and Job”.2 Scripture thus expresses the heights of sanctity that can be reached by those who live according to the covenant of Noah, waiting for Christ to “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad”.3

CCC 60 The people descended from Abraham would be the trustee of the promise made to the patriarchs, the chosen people, called to prepare for that day when God would gather all his children into the unity of the Church.4 They would be the root on to which the Gentiles would be grafted, once they came to believe.5

CCC 439 Many Jews and even certain Gentiles who shared their hope recognized in Jesus the fundamental attributes of the messianic “Son of David”, promised by God to Israel.6 Jesus accepted his rightful title of Messiah, though with some reserve because it was understood by some of his contemporaries in too human a sense, as essentially political.7

CCC 472 This human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge. As such, this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his existence in space and time. This is why the Son of God could, when he became man, “increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man”,8 and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience.9 This corresponded to the reality of his voluntary emptying of himself, taking “the form of a slave”.10

CCC 548 The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him.11 To those who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask.12 So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father’s works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God.13 But his miracles can also be occasions for “offence”;14 they are not intended to satisfy people’s curiosity or desire for magic Despite his evident miracles some people reject Jesus; he is even accused of acting by the power of demons.15

CCC 581 The Jewish people and their spiritual leaders viewed Jesus as a rabbi.16 He often argued within the framework of rabbinical interpretation of the Law.17 Yet Jesus could not help but offend the teachers of the Law, for he was not content to propose his interpretation alongside theirs but taught the people “as one who had authority, and not as their scribes”.18 In Jesus, the same Word of God that had resounded on Mount Sinai to give the written Law to Moses, made itself heard anew on the Mount of the Beatitudes.19 Jesus did not abolish the Law but fulfilled it by giving its ultimate interpretation in a divine way: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old. .. But I say to you. ..”20 With this same divine authority, he disavowed certain human traditions of the Pharisees that were “making void the word of God”.21

CCC 596 The religious authorities in Jerusalem were not unanimous about what stance to take towards Jesus.22 The Pharisees threatened to excommunicate his followers.23 To those who feared that “everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation”, the high priest Caiaphas replied by prophesying: “It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.”24 The Sanhedrin, having declared Jesus deserving of death as a blasphemer but having lost the right to put anyone to death, hands him over to the Romans, accusing him of political revolt, a charge that puts him in the same category as Barabbas who had been accused of sedition.25 The chief priests also threatened Pilate politically so that he would condemn Jesus to death.26

CCC 627 Christ’s death was a real death in that it put an end to his earthly human existence. But because of the union which the person of the Son retained with his body, his was not a mortal corpse like others, for “it was not possible for death to hold him” 27 28 and therefore “divine power preserved Christ’s body from corruption.” Both of these statements can be said of Christ: “He was cut off out of the land of the living”,29 and “My flesh will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let your Holy One see corruption.”30 Jesus’ resurrection “on the third day” was the sign of this, also because bodily decay was held to begin on the fourth day after death.31

CCC 640 “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”32 The first element we encounter in the framework of the Easter events is the empty tomb. In itself it is not a direct proof of Resurrection; the absence of Christ’s body from the tomb could be explained otherwise.33 Nonetheless the empty tomb was still an essential sign for all. Its discovery by the disciples was the first step toward recognizing the very fact of the Resurrection. This was the case, first with the holy women, and then with Peter.34 The disciple “whom Jesus loved” affirmed that when he entered the empty tomb and discovered “the linen cloths lying there”, “he saw and believed”.35 This suggests that he realized from the empty tomb’s condition that the absence of Jesus’ body could not have been of human doing and that Jesus had not simply returned to earthly life as had been the case with Lazarus.36

CCC 706 Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.37 In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself,38 in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”39 God commits himself by his own solemn oath to giving his beloved Son and “the promised Holy Spirit. .. [who is] the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.”40

CCC 831 Secondly, the Church is catholic because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race:41

All men are called to belong to the new People of God. This People, therefore, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God’s will may be fulfilled: he made human nature one in the beginning and has decreed that all his children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one. .. The character of universality which adorns the People of God is a gift from the Lord himself whereby the Catholic Church ceaselessly and efficaciously seeks for the return of all humanity and all its goods, under Christ the Head in the unity of his Spirit.42

CCC 993 The Pharisees and many of the Lord’s contemporaries hoped for the resurrection. Jesus teaches it firmly. To the Sadducees who deny it he answers, “Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?”43 Faith in the resurrection rests on faith in God who “is not God of the dead, but of the living.”44

CCC 994 But there is more. Jesus links faith in the resurrection to his own person: “I am the Resurrection and the life.”45 It is Jesus himself who on the last day will raise up those who have believed in him, who have eaten his body and drunk his blood.46 Already now in this present life he gives a sign and pledge of this by restoring some of the dead to life,47 announcing thereby his own Resurrection, though it was to be of another order. He speaks of this unique event as the “sign of Jonah,”48 the sign of the temple: he announces that he will be put to death but rise thereafter on the third day.49

CCC 1001 When? Definitively “at the last day,” “at the end of the world.”50 Indeed, the resurrection of the dead is closely associated with Christ’s Parousia:

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.51

CCC 2604 The second prayer, before the raising of Lazarus, is recorded by St. John.52 Thanksgiving precedes the event: “Father, I thank you for having heard me,” which implies that the Father always hears his petitions. Jesus immediately adds: “I know that you always hear me,” which implies that Jesus, on his part, constantly made such petitions. Jesus’ prayer, characterized by thanksgiving, reveals to us how to ask: before the gift is given, Jesus commits himself to the One who in giving gives himself. The Giver is more precious than the gift; he is the “treasure”; in him abides his Son’s heart; the gift is given “as well.”53

The priestly prayer of Jesus holds a unique place in the economy of salvation.54 A meditation on it will conclude Section One. It reveals the ever present prayer of our High Priest and, at the same time, contains what he teaches us about our prayer to our Father, which will be developed in Section Two.

CCC 2793 The baptized cannot pray to “our” Father without bringing before him all those for whom he gave his beloved Son. God’s love has no bounds, neither should our prayer.55 Praying “our” Father opens to us the dimensions of his love revealed in Christ: praying with and for all who do not yet know him, so that Christ may “gather into one the children of God.”56 God’s care for all men and for the whole of creation has inspired all the great practitioners of prayer; it should extend our prayer to the full breadth of love whenever we dare to say “our” Father.

1 Cf. Gen 9:16; Lk 21:24; DV 3.

2 Cf. Gen 14:18; Heb 7:3; Ezek 14:14.

3 Jn 11:52.

4 Cf. Rom 11:28; Jn 11:52; 10:16.

5 Cf. Rom 11:17-18,24.

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

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

8 Lk 2:52.

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

10 Phil 2:7.

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

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

13 Cf. Jn 10:31-38.

14 Mt 11:6.

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

16 Cf Jn 11:28; 3:2; Mt 22:23-24, 34-36.

17 Cf. Mt 12:5; 9:12; Mk 2:23-27; Lk 6:6-g; Jn 7:22-23.

18 Mt 7:28-29.

19 Cf. Mt 5:1.

20 Mt 5:33-34.

21 Mk 7:13; cf. 3:8.

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

23 Cf Jn 9:22.

24 Jn 11:48-50.

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

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

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

28 Acts 2:24.

29 Is 53:8.

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

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

32 Lk 24:5-6.

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

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

35 Jn 20:2, 6, 8.

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

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

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

39 Cf. In 11:52.

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

41 Cf. Mt 28:19.

42 LG 13 §§ 1-2; cf. Jn 11:52.

43 Mk 12:24; cf. Jn 11:24; Acts 23:6.

44 Mk 12:27.

45 Jn 11:25.

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

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

48 Mt 12:39.

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

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

51 1 Thess 4:16.

52 Cf. Jn 11:41-42.

53 Mt 6:21, 33.

54 Cf. Jn 17.

55 Cf. NA 5.

56 Jn 11:52.

APPLICATION

On hearing this story of the resurrection of Lazarus, the question which will arise in the minds of most people is this: why did Jesus allow his best and most faithful friends to suffer anguish for four days? He could have cured Lazarus of his illness the moment he heard of it. Yet he delayed and allowed the sisters to suffer the death of their beloved brother. We have already given the answer above. He wanted to make this, his last recorded miracle, a convincing proof of his claim to be what he was–the Messiah, sent by God to give a new life, an eternal life, to mankind. He also wanted to give his enemies a great impulse and motive to carry out his condemnation and crucifixion, which was the debt he “the suffering servant” of God, was to pay for the sins of mankind.

That his closest friends had to suffer for a while, in order to cooperate with him in his plans was therefore an unavoidable necessity. Is there not here an answer to the questionings of divine providence which we hear so often from otherwise devout followers of Christ? Drowned in their own personal sorrow and grief they cannot see that this very sorrow and grief is part of Christ’s plan for the salvation of men. And the fact that they are loyal, true friends of Christ is the very reason they are chosen to carry this particularly heavy cross. Less faithful friends would not help him, so in his mercy he does not put that extra load on their unwilling shoulders.

Martha and Mary had to live through four sad days, while their friend seemed to forget them. But how great was the reward for their sufferings, when their beloved brother returned to the family circle–a brother they thought they had lost forever! We can well imagine the rejoicing that took place in that home in Bethany (not only that night but for years to follow).

We all have our sorrows and separations from our loved ones. But as in the case of the Bethany family, they are temporary separations. Our dear ones who are taken from us are not lost to us–they are perhaps closer to us and more helpful to us than they ever could have been in this life. And our faith convinces us that we will be reunited soon with them. Christ by his death, has conquered death. He has won eternal life for all men. His resurrection was the prelude (“the first-fruits,” as St. Paul calls it) to the resurrection of all mankind–a resurrection to an eternal life of happiness where families, friends and neighbors will rejoice together in the presence of God for all eternity. The years of sorrow we have to endure here below will look small and trifling indeed when viewed from eternity.

But–and this is a capital but–though Christ has won a new, eternal life of adopted sonship with God for all men, each man must do his part to earn that sonship, to merit the eternal happiness which Christ came to win for us. “God created us without our consent,” says St. Augustine, “but he cannot save us without our cooperation.” We must live our lives then as Christ has taught us.

For every thought we give to death, and we are reminded of it hourly and daily, let us think three times on what will follow after it. If we do, we will never die unprepared. We will have made sure of a happy eternity.

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

BENEDICTUS

Eucharistic Adoration

The Eucharist, and its fellowship, will be all the more complete, the more we prepare ourselves for him in silent prayer before the eucharistic presence of the Lord, the more we truly receive Communion. Adoration such as that is always more than just talking with God in a general way… The Eucharist means God has answered: The Eucharist is God as an answer, as an answering presence. Now the initiative no longer lies with us, in the God-man relationship, but with him, and it now becomes really serious. That is why, in the sphere of eucharistic adoration, prayer attains a new level; now it is two-way, and so now it really is serious business. Indeed, it is now not just two-way, but all inclusive: whenever we pray in the eucharistic presence, we are never alone. Then the whole of the Church, which celebrates the Eucharist, is praying with us. Then we are praying within the sphere of God’s gracious hearing, because we are praying within the sphere of death and Resurrection, that is, where the real petition in all our petitions has been heard: the petition for the victory over death; the petition for the love that is stronger than death. In this prayer we no longer stand before an imagined God but before the God who has truly given himself to us; before the God who has become for us Communion and who thus frees us and draws us from the margin into communion and leads us on to Resurrection. We have to seek again this kind of prayer.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

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Adoration Prayer

I adore You, O Jesus, God of Love, truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament.

I adore You Who has come to Your Own but were not received by them.

I adore You, Whom the majority of mankind rejected and despised.

I adore You, Whom the impious incessantly are offend by their sacrileges and blasphemies.

I adore You, Who are grieved by the coldness and indifference of a vast number of Christians.

I adore You, O Infinite Goodness, Who has wrought so many miracles, in order to reveal Your love to us.

I adore You, with all the angels and saints, and with those chosen souls that are now already the blessed of Your Father and are all aglow with burning love for You.

I adore You with all Your friends, O Jesus! With them I prostrate myself at the foot of the Altar, to offer You my most profound homage, to receive Your Divine Inspiration, and to implore Your grace.

Oh, how good it is for me to be here with You!

How sweet to hear the Voice of my Beloved!

O Victim of Divine Love!

A piercing cry breaks forth from Your Heart here on the Altar, as it once did on Calvary; it is the cry of Love; “I thirst,” You call to Your children, “I thirst for Your love!

Come all, whom I love as My Father has loved Me; come and quench the thirst that consumes Me!

Lord Jesus, behold I come.

My heart is small, but it is all Yours.

You are a prisoner in our Tabernacles, You the Lord of Lords! And love it is, that holds You here as such!

You leave the Tabernacle only to come to us, to unite Yourself with the faithful soul and allow Your Divine Love to reign within.

O King of Love!

Come, live and reign in me.

I want no other law but the law of Your Love!

No, no, I henceforth desire to know nothing, neither of this world nor of what is in it, nor of myself; Your Love alone shall rule in me eternally.

O Jesus, grant me this grace!

Break all my fetters, strip me of all that is not of Yourself, in order that Your Love may be my life here below, and my happiness and delight in eternity, Amen.

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Fourth Sunday of Lent – A

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Then Jesus said, I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for Healing

Lord, You invite all who are burdened to come to you.

Allow your healing hand to heal me.

Touch my soul with Your compassion for others;

touch my heart with Your courage and infinite love for all;

touch my mind with Your wisdom,

and may my mouth always proclaim your praise.

Teach me to reach out to You in all my needs,

and help me to lead others to You by my example.

Most loving heart of Jesus,

bring me health in body and spirit

that I may serve You with all my strength.

Touch gently this life which you have created,

now and forever. Amen.

COLLECT

O God, who through your Word

reconcile the human race to yourself in a wonderful way,

grant, we pray,

that with prompt devotion and eager faith

the Christian people may hasten

toward the solemn celebrations to come.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a

The LORD said to Samuel:

Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way.

I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem,

for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”

As Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice,

Samuel looked at Eliab and thought,

Surely the LORD’s anointed is here before him.”

But the LORD said to Samuel:

Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature,

because I have rejected him.

Not as man sees does God see,

because man sees the appearance

but the LORD looks into the heart.”

In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel,

but Samuel said to Jesse,

The LORD has not chosen any one of these.”

Then Samuel asked Jesse,

Are these all the sons you have?”

Jesse replied,

There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said to Jesse,

Send for him;

we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.”

Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them.

He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold

and making a splendid appearance.

The LORD said,

There—anoint him, for this is the one!”

Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand,

anointed David in the presence of his brothers;

and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 436 The word “Christ” comes from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, which means “anointed”. It became the name proper to Jesus only because he accomplished perfectly the divine mission that “Christ” signifies. In effect, in Israel those consecrated to God for a mission that he gave were anointed in his name. This was the case for kings, for priests and, in rare instances, for prophets.1 This had to be the case all the more so for the Messiah whom God would send to inaugurate his kingdom definitively.2 It was necessary that the Messiah be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord at once as king and priest, and also as prophet.3 Jesus fulfilled the messianic hope of Israel in his threefold office of priest, prophet and king.

CCC 695 Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit,4 to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called “chrismation” in the Churches of the East. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew “messiah”) means the one “anointed” by God’s Spirit. There were several anointed ones of the Lord in the Old Covenant, pre-eminently King David.5 But Jesus is God’s Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as “Christ.”6 The Virgin Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit who, through the angel, proclaimed him the Christ at his birth, and prompted Simeon to come to the temple to see the Christ of the Lord.7 The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving.8 Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.9 Now, fully established as “Christ” in his humanity victorious over death, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit abundantly until “the saints” constitute – in their union with the humanity of the Son of God – that perfect man “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”:10 “the whole Christ,” in St. Augustine’s expression.

1 Cf. Ex 29:7; Lev 8:12; 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 16:1, 12-13; I Kings 1:39; 19:16.

2 Cf. Ps 2:2; Acts 4:26-27.

3 Cf. Is 11:2; 61:1; Zech 4:14; 6:13; Lk 4:16-21.

4 Cf. 1 In 2:20:27; 2 Cor 1:21.

5 Cf. Ex 30:22-32; 1 Sam 16:13.

6 Cf. Lk 418-19; Isa 61:1.

7 Cf. Lk 2:11,26-27.

8 Cf. Lk 4:1; 6:19; 8:46.

9 Cf. Rom 1:4; 8:11.

10 Eph 4:13; cf. Acts 2:36.

APPLICATION

The selection of David, an unimportant shepherd-boy of little Bethlehem, as second King of Israel, was an event which happened over 3,000 years ago, and may at first sight appear to be of little importance for Christians of our century. Yet it has many important lessons to teach us. First and foremost, it shows us how little years and centuries mean to God in his eternal plans. In choosing David he was choosing the royal ancestor of the King of Kings, a thousand years before he came on earth. The day he sent Samuel to Bethlehem, he was planning in advance for you and for me. His thoughts were on us from eternity.

The choice of David, the least likely of Jesse’s sons, is another lesson for us, a lesson to make us humble by admitting our limitations. The whole book of man’s life is open before God; we can see only the cover and the title. In that book, together with his good deeds, God saw the very serious offences David would commit against him in later years, but he also saw his sincere repentance—he still chose David, a consolation surely and an encouragement for all of us sinners, provided our repentance (like David’s) is sincere. And also a lesson for even the holiest of us to avoid rash judgment of our neighbors and of those placed over us.

Another and a very important truth which needs stressing today, perhaps more than ever before, is that all legitimate power exercised by men over their fellowman comes from God. It is part of God’s plan for men’s existence on this earth. Because of the special gifts he has given us, God intends us to live in society, to live together in smaller or greater groups for the benefit of all. For such a group, let it be a tribe or a nation or group of nations, there must be an authority which will regulate the dealings of individuals with one another and with the appointed lawful authority. This authority, provided it is lawfully conferred and lawfully exercised, comes from God and must be accepted, revered and obeyed as such.

And what holds for civil or secular authority holds for authority in the Church also. Christ founded a society in which all the members of his mystical body would live in mutual love and fraternal cooperation. To lead and direct these members Christ appointed leaders to whom he promised his divine assistance. The first leaders were the Apostles, with Peter as their head. Their direct successors are with us still (and will be till the end of time) in the persons of the Pope and the bishops of the Church. To these we owe obedience in all matters that concern our Christian welfare, because this is God’s will and purpose for us.

While those who hold authority in state or Church must exercise that authority with justice and prudence, never forgetting that the power they wield is not their own personal prerogative but is given to them by God, so in like manner must their subjects accept their directives and their laws as coming from God, not from a fellowman.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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

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

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

In verdant pastures he gives me repose;

beside restful waters he leads me;

he refreshes my soul.

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

He guides me in right paths

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk in the dark valley

I fear no evil; for you are at my side

With your rod and your staff

that give me courage.

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

You spread the table before me

in the sight of my foes;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

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

Only goodness and kindness follow me

all the days of my life;

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

for years to come.

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

READING II

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Eph 5:8-14

Brothers and sisters:

You were once darkness,

but now you are light in the Lord.

Live as children of light,

for light produces every kind of goodness

and righteousness and truth.

Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness;

rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention

the things done by them in secret;

but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,

for everything that becomes visible is light.

Therefore, it says:

Awake, O sleeper,

and arise from the dead,

and Christ will give you light.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1216 “This bath is called enlightenment, because those who receive this [catechetical] instruction are enlightened in their understanding. ..”1 Having received in Baptism the Word, “the true light that enlightens every man,” the person baptized has been “enlightened,” he becomes a “son of light,” indeed, he becomes “light” himself:2

Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift. .. We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship.3

CCC 1454 The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the Ten Commandments, the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings.4

CCC 1695 “Justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God,”5 “sanctified. .. [and] called to be saints,”6 Christians have become the temple of the Holy Spirit.7 This “Spirit of the Son” teaches them to pray to the Father8 and, having become their life, prompts them to act so as to bear “the fruit of the Spirit”9 by charity in action. Healing the wounds of sin, the Holy Spirit renews us interiorly through a spiritual transformation.10 He enlightens and strengthens us to live as “children of light” through “all that is good and right and true.”11

CCC 2641 “[Address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.”12 Like the inspired writers of the New Testament, the first Christian communities read the Book of Psalms in a new way, singing in it the mystery of Christ. In the newness of the Spirit, they also composed hymns and canticles in the light of the unheard-of event that God accomplished in his Son: his Incarnation, his death which conquered death, his Resurrection, and Ascension to the right hand of the Father.13 Doxology, the praise of God, arises from this “marvelous work” of the whole economy of salvation.14

1 St. Justin, Apol. 1, 61, 12: PG 6, 421.

2 Jn 1:9; 1 Thess 5:5; Heb 10:32; Eph 5:8.

3 St. Gregory Of Nazianzus, Oratio 40, 3-4: PG 36, 361C.

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

5 2 Cor 6:11.

6 1 Cor 1:2.

7 Cf. 1 Cor 6:19.

8 Cf. Gal 4:6.

9 Gal 5:22, 25.

10 Cf. Eph 4:23.

11 Eph 5:8, 9.

12 Eph 5:19; Col 3:16.

13 Cf. Phil 2:6-11; Col 1:15-20; Eph 5:14; 1 Tim 3:16; 6:15-16; 2 Tim 2:11-13.

14 Cf. Eph 1:3-14; Rom 16:25-27; Eph 3:20-21; Jude 24-25.

APPLICATION

These words of St. Paul to the Ephesians are applicable to every one of us, especially during this season of Lent. We too have the great blessing of the light of the Christian faith. We, too, have died with Christ in our baptism and have been set on the road to the eternal life. We. too, know “all that is good and right and true,” and we know that if we live according to this knowledge, we will be “pleasing to the Lord” and will be moving steadily towards the destination God in his love and mercy has prepared for us.

That destination is heaven, a place of everlasting happiness which God has planned for us before time began and which is the only place which will satisfy all the desires of the human heart.

Knowing this, one wonders why we need reminders to keep us on our toes: that the purpose of today’s lesson should be to awaken us from the sleep of laziness and forgetfulness of our real purpose in life. But the sad fact is, that, apart from the few truly devoted Christians who never forget what their Christian faith means to them, the vast majority of us are very apt to let the passing pleasures and interests of this life take hold on us and blot out ninety-nine per cent of the Christian light which should illuminate all our daily actions.

Many of us today also are asleep, and need this call to awaken us to a sense of our obligations as Christians. This does not mean that we must change our occupation or cut ourselves off from all our relatives and friends, but that we must change our outlook on life and eternity. We must still carry out our daily, worldly tasks whatever they may be, but we must do these tasks from the Christian motive of pleasing God.

The light which Christ has brought, shows us the true meaning of life. Our short sojourn on earth is our training ground and preparation for the everlasting life which will be ours after death, if we use the few years we are given on this earth properly. If any of us have been sleeping–that is, wasting the valuable time God is giving us–now is the time to wake up to the reality of life. There is still time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. We know not how much time is left, but this we do know, that if we use that time as St. Paul tells us today, if we “walk as children of light,” living our Christian life to the full, we can still earn the resurrection from the dead and receive eternal light from Christ, our brother and our Savior.

GOSPEL

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Jn 9:1-41

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.

His disciples asked him,

Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,

that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered,

Neither he nor his parents sinned;

it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.

We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.

Night is coming when no one can work.

While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

When he had said this, he spat on the ground

and made clay with the saliva,

and smeared the clay on his eyes,

and said to him,

Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—.

So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said,

Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”

Some said, “It is, “

but others said, “No, he just looks like him.”

He said, “I am.”

So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”

He replied,

The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes

and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’

So I went there and washed and was able to see.”

And they said to him, “Where is he?”

He said, “I don’t know.”

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.

Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath.

So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.

He said to them,

He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”

So some of the Pharisees said,

This man is not from God,

because he does not keep the sabbath.”

But others said,

How can a sinful man do such signs?”

And there was a division among them.

So they said to the blind man again,

What do you have to say about him,

since he opened your eyes?”

He said, “He is a prophet.”

Now the Jews did not believe

that he had been blind and gained his sight

until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight.

They asked them,

Is this your son, who you say was born blind?

How does he now see?”

His parents answered and said,

We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.

We do not know how he sees now,

nor do we know who opened his eyes.

Ask him, he is of age;

he can speak for himself.”

His parents said this because they were afraid

of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed

that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ,

he would be expelled from the synagogue.

For this reason his parents said,

He is of age; question him.”

So a second time they called the man who had been blind

and said to him, “Give God the praise!

We know that this man is a sinner.”

He replied,

If he is a sinner, I do not know.

One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”

So they said to him,

What did he do to you?

How did he open your eyes?”

He answered them,

I told you already and you did not listen.

Why do you want to hear it again?

Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

They ridiculed him and said,

You are that man’s disciple;

we are disciples of Moses!

We know that God spoke to Moses,

but we do not know where this one is from.”

The man answered and said to them,

This is what is so amazing,

that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.

We know that God does not listen to sinners,

but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him.

It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.

If this man were not from God,

he would not be able to do anything.”

They answered and said to him,

You were born totally in sin,

and are you trying to teach us?”

Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,

he found him and said, Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

He answered and said,

Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”

Jesus said to him,

You have seen him,

the one speaking with you is he.”

He said,

I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.

Then Jesus said,

I came into this world for judgment,

so that those who do not see might see,

and those who do see might become blind.”

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this

and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?”

Jesus said to them,

If you were blind, you would have no sin;

but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032617.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 575 Many of Jesus’ deeds and words constituted a “sign of contradiction”,1 but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply “the Jews”,2 than for the ordinary People of God.3 To be sure, Christ’s relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;4 Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.5 Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God’s people: the resurrection of the dead,6 certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),7 the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.8

CCC 588 Jesus scandalized the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners as familiarly as with themselves.9 Against those among them “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others”, Jesus affirmed: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”10 He went further by proclaiming before the Pharisees that, since sin is universal, those who pretend not to need salvation are blind to themselves.11

CCC 595 Among the religious authorities of Jerusalem, not only were the Pharisee Nicodemus and the prominent Joseph of Arimathea both secret disciples of Jesus, but there was also long-standing dissension about him, so much so that St. John says of these authorities on the very eve of Christ’s Passion, “many. .. believed in him”, though very imperfectly.12 This is not surprising, if one recalls that on the day after Pentecost “a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” and “some believers. .. belonged to the party of the Pharisees”, to the point that St. James could tell St. Paul, “How many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; and they are all zealous for the Law.”13

CCC 596 The religious authorities in Jerusalem were not unanimous about what stance to take towards Jesus.14 The Pharisees threatened to excommunicate his followers.15 To those who feared that “everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation”, the high priest Caiaphas replied by prophesying: “It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.”16 The Sanhedrin, having declared Jesus deserving of death as a blasphemer but having lost the right to put anyone to death, hands him over to the Romans, accusing him of political revolt, a charge that puts him in the same category as Barabbas who had been accused of sedition.17 The chief priests also threatened Pilate politically so that he would condemn Jesus to death.18

CCC 1151 Signs taken up by Christ. In his preaching the Lord Jesus often makes use of the signs of creation to make known the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.19 He performs healings and illustrates his preaching with physical signs or symbolic gestures.20 He gives new meaning to the deeds and signs of the Old Covenant, above all to the Exodus and the Passover,21 for he himself is the meaning of all these signs.

CCC 1504 Often Jesus asks the sick to believe.22 He makes use of signs to heal: spittle and the laying on of hands,23 mud and washing.24 The sick try to touch him, “for power came forth from him and healed them all.”25 And so in the sacraments Christ continues to “touch” us in order to heal us.

CCC 2173 The Gospel reports many incidents when Jesus was accused of violating the sabbath law. But Jesus never fails to respect the holiness of this day.26 He gives this law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”27 With compassion, Christ declares the sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing.28 The sabbath is the day of the Lord of mercies and a day to honor God.29 “The Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”30

CCC 2827 “If any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.”31 Such is the power of the Church’s prayer in the name of her Lord, above all in the Eucharist. Her prayer is also a communion of intercession with the all-holy Mother of God32 and all the saints who have been pleasing to the Lord because they willed his will alone:

It would not be inconsistent with the truth to understand the words, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” to mean: “in the Church as in our Lord Jesus Christ himself”; or “in the Bride who has been betrothed, just as in the Bridegroom who has accomplished the will of the Father.”33

1 Lk 2:34.

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

3 Jn 7:48-49.

4 Cf Lk 13:31.

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

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

7 Cf. Mt 6:18.

8 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.

9 Cf. Lk 5:30; 7:36; 11:37; 14:1.

10 Lk 18:9; 5:32; cf. Jn 7:49; 9:34.

11 Cf. Jn 8:33-36; 9:40-41.

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

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

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

15 Cf Jn 9:22.

16 Jn 11:48-50.

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

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

19 Cf. Lk 8:10.

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

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

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

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

24 Cf. Jn 9:6-7.

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

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

27 Mk 2:27.

28 Cf. Mk 3:4.

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

30 Mk 2:28.

31 Jn 9:31; Cf. 1 Jn 5:14.

32 Cf. Lk 1:38, 49.

33 St. Augustine, De serm. Dom. 2, 6, 24: PL 34, 1279.

APPLICATION

St. John was an eyewitness of this story. He was one of our Lord’s first disciples and was with him in Jerusalem when this incident took place. That the behavior of the Pharisees made a deep impression on his young mind is evident from the minute details he is able to give when writing his gospel, sixty years later. The Pharisees were opposed to Jesus from the very beginning of his public life (see Jn. 3 & 7). He mixed with publicans and sinners; he preached mercy and forgiveness. Many of the common people all over the country and in Jerusalem itself were becoming his disciples, and this meant that the Pharisees were losing followers and temple revenue. Their personal pride was being hurt and their privileges being weakened. They would have long since put an end to his mission, but “his hour had not yet come” (Jn. 7: 30).

Today’s story shows up this pride and prejudice. They at first refuse to admit a miracle occurred. When the parents convince them that the cured man is their son who was born blind, they attribute the miracle to a sinner, one in league with Satan, but the cured man shows them this is impossible. They then excommunicate the man but they remain convinced that the worker of this miracle is not from God, not the Messiah, but an impostor.

The Pharisees have long since disappeared from history, but there are thousands still among us who are blinded by the same pride and prejudice, refuse to see the truths of God’s revelation as made known to mankind in its fulness by the life and the teaching of Christ. They refuse to admit that God exists or that Christ existed, or that if he did he was the Son of God, who became man in order to make us sons of God and heirs of heaven. In their pride they claim to be absolute masters of their own fate, and they seem or pretend to be content that that fate will end in the death of the body.

Like the fox who lost his tail, they are not content to keep their irrational unbelief to themselves, but want others to join them. They are ever ready to propagate their errors and to accuse believers of childish credulity and folly. We accept their accusations; we are thankful to God and to his beloved Son, Christ, that we have been given the light of faith. Our reason tells us that the marvelous gifts we have are not from ourselves but were given us by a loving God who by the act of creation shared his own goodness with all creatures, but especially with man whom he made “in his own image and likeness.” These gifts of intellect and will we possess are such that they could never be satisfied in the few years we are given in this life. God’s revelation through Christ informs us that there is a future life awaiting us where our spiritual faculties, and our transformed bodies as well, will be fully and fittingly satisfied.

Christ, “the light of the world,” to whom the Pharisees and their modern followers shut their eyes lest they see, is our light and our delight. Through the gift of faith, he has given us a spiritual eyesight, which, while it cannot dispel all the shadows and discomforts of this life, opens up to us a glorious unending future where our God-given gifts will at last find their true purpose, their true satisfaction.

May God shed some of this light on those who in their folly ignore and deny him, and may he never let us falter in our faith and in our fidelity to the baptismal promises which we made to him when, through his grace and generosity, we became his chosen children of light.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Personal Dimension of Forgiveness

As sin, despite all our bonds with the human community, is ultimately something totally personal, so also our healing with forgiveness has to be something totally personal. God does not treat us as part of a collectivity. He knows each one by name, and he calls hum personally and saves him if he has fallen into sin. Even if in all the sacraments, the Lord addresses the person as an individual, the personalist nature of the Christian life is manifested in a particularly clear way in the sacrament of Penance. That means that the personal confession and the forgiveness directed to this person are constitutive parts of the sacrament… Of course, the confession of one’s own sin can seem to be something heavy for the person, because it humbles his pride and confronts him with his poverty. It is this that we need: we suffer exactly for this reason: we shut ourselves up in our delirium of guiltlessness and for this reason we are closed to others and to any comparison with them. In psychotherapeutic treatments a person is made to bear the burden of profound and often dangerous revelations of his inner self. In the sacrament of Penance, the simple confession of one’s guilt is presented with confidence in God’s merciful goodness. It is important to do this without falling into scruples, with the spirit of trust proper to the children of God. In this way confession can become an experience of deliverance, in which the weight of the past is removed from us and we can feel rejuvenated by the merit of the grace of God who each time gives back the youthfulness of the heart.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 50

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

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Third Sunday of Lent – A

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But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer to the Guardian Angel

St. Peter the Studite

O Guardian Angel, protector of my soul and body, to your

care I have been entrusted by Christ. Obtain for me the

forgiveness of the sins I have committed today. Protect

me from the snares of my enemy, that I may never again

offend God by sin. Pray for me, your sinful and

unworthy servant that, through your help, I may become

worthy of the grace and mercy of the most Holy Trinity

and of the immaculate Mother of our Lord God, Jesus

Christ. Amen.

COLLECT

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

who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving

have shown us a remedy for sin,

look graciously on this confession of our lowliness,

that we, who are bowed down by our conscience,

may always be lifted up by your mercy.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Ex 17:3-7

In those days, in their thirst for water,

the people grumbled against Moses,

saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?

Was it just to have us die here of thirst

with our children and our livestock?”

So Moses cried out to the LORD,

What shall I do with this people?

a little more and they will stone me!”

The LORD answered Moses,

Go over there in front of the people,

along with some of the elders of Israel,

holding in your hand, as you go,

the staff with which you struck the river.

I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb.

Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it

for the people to drink.”

This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.

The place was called Massah and Meribah,

because the Israelites quarreled there

and tested the LORD, saying,

Is the LORD in our midst or not?”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 694 Water. The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit’s action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As “by one Spirit we were all baptized,” so we are also “made to drink of one Spirit.”1 Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified2 as its source and welling up in us to eternal life.3

CCC 2119 Tempting God consists in putting his goodness and almighty power to the test by word or deed. Thus Satan tried to induce Jesus to throw himself down from the Temple and, by this gesture, force God to act.4 Jesus opposed Satan with the word of God: “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test.”5 The challenge contained in such tempting of God wounds the respect and trust we owe our Creator and Lord. It always harbors doubt about his love, his providence, and his power.6

1 1 Cor 12:13.

2 Jn 19:34; 1 Jn 5:8.

3 Cf. Jn 4:10-14; 738; Ex 17:1-6; Isa 55:1; Zech 14:8; 1 Cor 10:4; Rev 21:6; 22:17.

4 Cf. Lk 4:9.

5 Deut 6:16.

6 Cf. 1 Cor 10:9; Ex 17:2-7; Ps 95:9.

APPLICATION

This incident, which happened over 3,000 years ago and which brings out the ingratitude and the inborn mistrust of the Israelites, is put before us today, not that we should criticize them, but rather that we should look into our own consciences and see how solid and how true is our own trust in God, and how sincere our gratitude to him is for all his past favors.

Unfortunately, we have to admit that many among us are fair-weather Christians. While their ship of life is sailing peacefully on smooth seas they respect God and trust him, because this puts no great strain on their energies. In times like these, to be a good Christian seems very easy, they don’t have to give it much thought. But when storms blow up, and the winds and the waves of life are tossing and throwing them about and threatening to engulf them, it is then that their true faith and sincerity is put to the test.

Like the thirsty Israelites in the desert, they then begin to doubt if God is really there, if he has any interest in them or is not rather a cruel, merciless, far-away being who delights in their misfortunes. All the past favors, all the days of good health and prosperity, are immediately forgotten, because these past benefits were rarely or never attributed to God with any real sincerity.

Such Christians, and there are more of them today perhaps than ever before, have forgotten that their earthly life is but a journey, not from the cradle to the grave, but from baptism to the beatific vision in heaven. Anyone, who realizes that he is on a journey, will expect inconveniences and difficulties and will accept them as such, knowing that they are of the essence of a journey. But the man who foolishly, against all the proofs and evidence of human history, thinks he can build an abode of permanent happiness for himself on this earth, is preparing himself for a rude and shocking awakening.

Yet, millions of our fellowman are today feverishly building an earthly Utopia, and are enticing others to join them and help find once more the earthly garden of Eden. Get rid of all governments, including the divine Ruler; get rid of all authority from above, including the ten commandments and the teaching Church; and then peace and brotherhood and plenty for all will flood the earth! These are the slogans of the new saviors of the human race.

The truth is very different: God created us and made us what we are. God gives each one of us a short period on this world during which, aided by the Incarnate Son of God, and by the means of grace and reconcilation he left us in his Church, we can wend our way to the true Utopia, eternal life with God. To reach this end that God has in store for us, the trials and tests of life are as important, and as useful, as the moments of quiet calm and earthly well-being. In many cases they may be far more useful, as they may be just what we need to reawaken in our drowsy minds the purpose for which we are on earth.

When next tempted to imitate the murmuring and ungrateful Israelites in the desert, think instead of the loving God who brought you out of the Egypt of nothingness and who is, through these very trials and sufferings, getting you ready to enter the promised land, not of Canaan, but of heaven.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

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

Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;

let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;

let us joyfully sing psalms to him.

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

Come, let us bow down in worship;

let us kneel before the LORD who made us.

For he is our God,

and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.

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

Oh, that today you would hear his voice:

Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,

as in the day of Massah in the desert,

Where your fathers tempted me;

they tested me though they had seen my works.”

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

READING II

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Rom 5:1-2, 5-8

Brothers and sisters:

Since we have been justified by faith,

we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

through whom we have gained access by faith

to this grace in which we stand,

and we boast in hope of the glory of God.

And hope does not disappoint,

because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts

through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For Christ, while we were still helpless,

died at the appointed time for the ungodly.

Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person,

though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.

But God proves his love for us

in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 368 The spiritual tradition of the Church also emphasizes the heart, in the biblical sense of the depths of one’s being, where the person decides for or against God.1

CCC 733 “God is Love”2 and love is his first gift, containing all others. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”3

CCC 1820 Christian hope unfolds from the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in the proclamation of the beatitudes. The beatitudes raise our hope toward heaven as the new Promised Land; they trace the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus. But through the merits of Jesus Christ and of his Passion, God keeps us in the “hope that does not disappoint.”4 Hope is the “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. .. that enters. .. where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.”5 Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation: “Let us. .. put on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”6 It affords us joy even under trial: “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation.”7 Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the Our Father, the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire.

CCC 2658 “Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”8 Prayer, formed by the liturgical life, draws everything into the love by which we are loved in Christ and which enables us to respond to him by loving as he has loved us. Love is the source of prayer; whoever draws from it reaches the summit of prayer. In the words of the Cure of Ars:

l love you, O my God, and my only desire is to love you until the last breath of my life. I love you, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving you, than live without loving you. I love you, Lord, and the only grace I ask is to love you eternally. .. My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love you, I want my heart to repeat it to you as often as I draw breath.9

CCC 2734 Filial trust is tested – it proves itself – in tribulation.10 The principal difficulty concerns the prayer of petition, for oneself or for others in intercession. Some even stop praying because they think their petition is not heard. Here two questions should be asked: Why do we think our petition has not been heard? How is our prayer heard, how is it “efficacious”?

CCC 2847 The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man,11 and temptation, which leads to sin and death.12 We must also discern between being tempted and consenting to temptation. Finally, discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a “delight to the eyes” and desirable,13 when in reality its fruit is death.

God does not want to impose the good, but wants free beings. .. There is a certain usefulness to temptation. No one but God knows what our soul has received from him, not even we ourselves. But temptation reveals it in order to teach us to know ourselves, and in this way we discover our evil inclinations and are obliged to give thanks for the goods that temptation has revealed to us.14

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

2 1 Jn 4:8,1.

3 Rom 5:5.

4 Rom 5:5.

5 Heb 6:19-20.

6 1 Thess 5:8.

7 Rom 12:12.

8 Rom 5:5.

9 St. John Vianney, Prayer.

10 Cf. Rom 5:3-5.

11 Cf. Lk. 8:13-15; Acts 14:22; Rom 5:3-5; 2 Tim 3:12.

12 Cf. Jas 1:14-15.

13 Cf. Gen 3:6.

14 Origen, De orat. 29 PG 11, 544CD.

APPLICATION

The uppermost thought in any mind today must be gratitude, a heartfelt thankfulness, to the all-good, all-merciful God, who deigned to send his Son down to earth in order to raise us up and make us heirs to heaven. This seems almost too good to be true, because our finite minds are incapable of grasping what infinite love is. We all have a bit of true love for our neighbor in us, but how limited, how fickle it is! If we honestly try to help a neighbor, who is in great spiritual or temporal need, but find he is abusing our generosity and lapsing back into the same spiritual or worldly faults, how quickly we can grow tired of him! How easily we can persuade ourselves that we are wasting our efforts, that he has really proved himself unworthy of any claim on our charity!

Yet, God conferred the greatest benefit that even he could confer on a creature, when he adopted us as his sons, even though the whole human race almost had abused the gifts he had already given them, and even though he foresaw that many who would at first appreciate this, his greatest gift, would forget and abuse it later.

Many of us are among the latter; we have often sinned and strayed from the high road to heaven, marked out for us by him. It’s a cause for shame and confusion, and indeed a cause for the deepest despair, were it not that we know his mercy and love in our regard are infinite. He is like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, ever waiting for the return of the sinner. But, much as he would love to, he cannot welcome us back unless we return. He gave us our free-will and he will not force us to any unwilling act. Who is there among us who would say the Prodigal Son was foolish to return home to such love and luxury? Yet, all those among us who prefer to continue in their sinful ways are saying just that about themselves. They say that they prefer the swineherd’s job, and the husks fed to the swine, to being a respected and beloved son in their father’s home.

We would all deny that we are making any such foolish choice. But unless we abandon sin, and return to God with a sincere heart, we are excluding ourselves from the eternal home Christ won for us, and becoming instead eternal prodigals. Granted God’s mercy to be infinite, our human life is not. And the man who tries to convince himself that he will put all things right with God when his end is nearer, is only adding the sin of presumption to his other actual and habitual sins.

Eternity is too long to take any foolish chances with it. Human life on earth is too short and too uncertain to count on even an extra day, one extra hour. Let us use this holy season of Lent to put ourselves right with God. Nobody else can do this for us, not even the all-merciful God unless we cooperate with him.

GOSPEL

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Jn 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,

near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.

Jacob’s well was there.

Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.

It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.

Jesus said to her,

Give me a drink.”

His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.

The Samaritan woman said to him,

How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”

For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—

Jesus answered and said to her,

If you knew the gift of God

and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘

you would have asked him

and he would have given you living water.”

The woman said to him,

Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;

where then can you get this living water?

Are you greater than our father Jacob,

who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself

with his children and his flocks?”

Jesus answered and said to her,

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;

but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;

the water I shall give will become in him

a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him,

Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty

or have to keep coming here to draw water.

I can see that you are a prophet.

Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;

but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus said to her,

Believe me, woman, the hour is coming

when you will worship the Father

neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

You people worship what you do not understand;

we worship what we understand,

because salvation is from the Jews.

But the hour is coming, and is now here,

when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;

and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.

God is Spirit, and those who worship him

must worship in Spirit and truth.”

The woman said to him,

I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;

when he comes, he will tell us everything.”

Jesus said to her,

I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him.

When the Samaritans came to him,

they invited him to stay with them;

and he stayed there two days.

Many more began to believe in him because of his word,

and they said to the woman,

We no longer believe because of your word;

for we have heard for ourselves,

and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031917.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

CCC 516 Christ’s whole earthly life – his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking – is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”3 Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest “God’s love. .. among us”.4

CCC 528 The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee.5 In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations.6 Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament.7 The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs”, and acquires Israelitica dignitas8 (is made “worthy of the heritage of Israel”).

CCC 544 The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to “preach good news to the poor”;9 he declares them blessed, for “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”10 To them – the “little ones” the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned.11 Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst and privation.12 Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom.13

CCC 586 Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation of his future Church.14 He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God’s definitive dwelling-place among men.15 Therefore his being put to bodily death16 presaged the destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation: “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”17

CCC 606 The Son of God, who came down “from heaven, not to do [his] own will, but the will of him who sent [him]”,18 said on coming into the world, “Lo, I have come to do your will, O God.” “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”19 From the first moment of his Incarnation the Son embraces the Father’s plan of divine salvation in his redemptive mission: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.”20 The sacrifice of Jesus “for the sins of the whole world”21 expresses his loving communion with the Father. “The Father loves me, because I lay down my life”, said the Lord, “[for] I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”22

CCC 694 Water. The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit’s action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As “by one Spirit we were all baptized,” so we are also “made to drink of one Spirit.”23 Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified24 as its source and welling up in us to eternal life.25

CCC 728 Jesus does not reveal the Holy Spirit fully, until he himself has been glorified through his Death and Resurrection. Nevertheless, little by little he alludes to him even in his teaching of the multitudes, as when he reveals that his own flesh will be food for the life of the world.26 He also alludes to the Spirit in speaking to Nicodemus,27 to the Samaritan woman,28 and to those who take part in the feast of Tabernacles.29 To his disciples he speaks openly of the Spirit in connection with prayer30 and with the witness they will have to bear.31

CCC 1137 The book of Revelation of St. John, read in the Church’s liturgy, first reveals to us, “A throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne”: “the Lord God.”32 It then shows the Lamb, “standing, as though it had been slain”: Christ crucified and risen, the one high priest of the true sanctuary, the same one “who offers and is offered, who gives and is given.”33 Finally it presents “the river of the water of life. .. flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb,” one of most beautiful symbols of the Holy Spirit.34

CCC 1179 The worship “in Spirit and in truth”35 of the New Covenant is not tied exclusively to any one place. The whole earth is sacred and entrusted to the children of men. What matters above all is that, when the faithful assemble in the same place, they are the “living stones,” gathered to be “built into a spiritual house.”36 For the Body of the risen Christ is the spiritual temple from which the source of living water springs forth: incorporated into Christ by the Holy Spirit, “we are the temple of the living God.”37

CCC 1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:38

Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.39

CCC 2560 “If you knew the gift of God!”40 The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.41

CCC 2561 “You would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”42 Paradoxically our prayer of petition is a response to the plea of the living God: “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water!”43 Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation and also a response of love to the thirst of the only Son of God.44

CCC 2611 The prayer of faith consists not only in saying “Lord, Lord,” but in disposing the heart to do the will of the Father.45 Jesus calls his disciples to bring into their prayer this concern for cooperating with the divine plan.46

CCC 2652 The Holy Spirit is the living water “welling up to eternal life”47 in the heart that prays. It is he who teaches us to accept it at its source: Christ. Indeed in the Christian life there are several wellsprings where Christ awaits us to enable us to drink of the Holy Spirit.

CCC 2824 In Christ, and through his human will, the will of the Father has been perfectly fulfilled once for all. Jesus said on entering into this world: “Lo, I have come to do your will, O God.”48 Only Jesus can say: “I always do what is pleasing to him.”49 In the prayer of his agony, he consents totally to this will: “not my will, but yours be done.”50 For this reason Jesus “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.”51 “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”52

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

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

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

4 Jn 4:9.

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

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

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

8 St. Leo the Great, Sermo 3 in epiphania Domini 1-3, 5: PL 54, 242; LH, Epiphany, OR; Roman Missal, Easter Vigil 26, Prayer after the third reading.

9 Lk 4:18; cf. 7:22.

10 Mt 5:3.

11 Cf. Mt 11:25.

12 Cf. Mt 21:18; Mk 2:23-26; Jn 4:6 1; 19:28; Lk 9:58.

13 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

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

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

16 Cf. Jn 2:18-22.

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

18 Jn 6:38.

19 Heb 10:5-10.

20 Jn 4:34.

21 1 Jn 2:2.

22 Jn 10:17; 14:31.

23 1 Cor 12:13.

24 Jn 19:34; 1 Jn 5:8.

25 Cf. Jn 4:10-14; 738; Ex 17:1-6; Isa 55:1; Zech 14:8; 1 Cor 10:4; Rev 21:6; 22:17.

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

27 Cf. Jn 3:5-8.

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

29 Cf. Jn 7:37-39.

30 Cf. Lk 11:13.

31 Cf. Mt 10:19-20.

32 Rev 4:2, 8; Isa 6:1; cf. Ezek 1:26-28.

33 Rev 5:6; Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Anaphora; cf. Jn 1:29; Heb 4:14-15; 10:19-2.

34 Rev 22:1; cf. 21:6; Jn 4:10-14.

35 Jn 4:24.

36 1 Pet 2:4-5.

37 2 Cor 6:16.

38 Cf. Jn 4:14; 7:38-39.

39 2 Cor 5:17-18.

40 Jn 4:10.

41 Cf. St. Augustine De diversis quaestionibus octoginta tribus 64, 4: PL 40, 56.

42 Jn 4:10.

43 Jer 2:13.

44 Cf. Jn 7:37-39; 19:28; Isa 12:3; 51:1; Zech 12:10; 13:1.

45 Cf. Mt 7:21.

46 Cf. Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2; Jn 4:34.

47 Jn 4:14

48 Heb 10:7; Ps 40:7.

49 Jn 8:29.

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

51 Gal 1:4.

52 Heb 10:10.

APPLICATION

In the first reading today, we saw the Israelites rebelling against God and calling him a murderer, because they thought they were in danger of dying of bodily thirst in the desert. He mercifully forgave their blasphemies and gave them an abundance of water. In the gospel just read, Christ tells the Samaritan woman, and through her all mankind, that the “spiritual drink” he has come to give men is not primarily given to preserve bodily life, but rather to give eternal life to those who will drink of it. Not only will they know and serve the true God in this life, but they will be given a right to an everlasting life with God if they serve him “in spirit and in truth” during their earthly life.

This is the kernel, the essence of our Christian religion. In baptism we have been made sons of God, heirs of heaven, and directed towards our eternal destination. Christ, in his divine mercy, has given to his Church all the means and all the helps we need on that journey. We have the road-maps clearly drawn for us in the infallible, dogmatic and moral teaching of the Church. We have the first-aid stations along the route, where those who injure themselves by sin, can be medicated and made sound once more. We have, above all, the miraculous nourishment of the Eucharist–the manna of the New Testament–Christ himself, who so lovingly and condescendingly arranged to be our spiritual food and sustenance during life’s journey.

Could even God have done any more for us in order to bring us to heaven? Can there exist a thinking Christian who would be so neglectful of his own true and lasting welfare–not to mention the ingratitude to the one who has done so much for him–that he would ignore the divine guidance and graces given him, and be content to sit by the wayside in spiritual rags and misery? It is almost unthinkable that such a man could exist.

There is another secondary lesson–but a very practical and urgent one, especially in our day–to be learned from this incident at Jacob’s well. It is the lesson that condemns racialism. St. Paul (and the other Apostles), insisted that the gospel of Christ and the brotherhood of Christ were for all men. There was neither “Jew nor Gentile, Greek nor barbarian,” Paul said, as far as Christianity was concerned. No less an authority than Christ himself had first taught that truth, and he taught it at Jacob’s well as told in today’s gospel.

For centuries, Jews and Samaritans were bitter enemies. Even individuals were not on speaking terms. That day at Jacob’s well Christ broke down this separating wall. While admitting that their knowledge, up to now, of the true God was faulty, they too were acceptable to God, as his adopted children. They too could and would become members of his earthly and eternal kingdom.

Have we not all a lesson to learn from our Lord’s mercy and kindness, which broke through racial and national barriers on that day in Samaria? Has not something very basic gone wrong with our Christianity, or rather with our application of it to our own daily lives, when our world is torn to pieces by fraternal strife? Not only is one nation against or threatening another, but groups and factions, classes, creeds and colors are fighting one another within the one nation. We may well be surprised when we learn that the family next door is at loggerheads. Why, we say, aren’t they one family? Why can’t they live in love and harmony as a family should? But what is our country–what is this planet on which we live, but the home of one family–the family of God, the human race? Why are we quarreling, why do we hate one another, why cannot we live in peace?

We can, and we will, if and when each one of us recognizes his fellowman as his brothers. It is the charity of Christ, practiced as Christ practiced it towards us, and not demonstrations, or protests, or force of arms, that will make this earth once more the true (if temporal) home of the whole human family.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Richness of Giving

A fantasy of people with property takes no account of the fact that, for the great majority of mankind, life is a struggle. On those grounds I would see this idea of choosing one’s own path in life as a selfish attitude and as a wast of one’s vocation. Anyone who thinks he already has it all, so that he can take what he wants and center everything on himself, is depriving himself of giving what he otherwise could. Man is not there to make himself, but to respond to demands made upon him. We all stand in a great arena of history and are dependent on each other. A man ought not, therefore, just to figure out what he would like, but to ask what he can do and how he can help. Then he will see that fulfillment does not lie in comfort, ease, and following ones inclinations, but precisely in allowing demands to be made upon you, in taking the harder path. Everything else turns out somehow boring, anyway. Only the man who “risks the fire,” who recognizes a calling within himself, a vocation, an ideal he must satisfy, who takes on real responsibility, will find fulfillment. It is not in taking, not on the path of comfort, that we become rich, but only in giving.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer Commending Ourselves to God

O Lord, into your most merciful hands I commend my

body and soul, thoughts and acts, desires and intentions.

I commend the needs of my body and soul, future and

past, my faith and hope, the end of my life, the day and

hour of my death, the burial and resurrection of my body.

O most merciful God, whose clemency the sins of the world

can never transcend, take me, a sinner, under the wings

of our protection and deliver me from every evil.

cleanse my iniquities, grant me a reformation of my

life, and protect me against future transgressions,

that I may in no manner ever anger You. Shelter my

weakness from passions and evil persons, guard me

against my visible and invisible enemies, lead me on

the road of salvation and to Yourself, the safe harbor

and haven of my desires. Grant me a happy, peaceful,

Christian death, and protect me from evil spirits. Be

merciful to me, your servant, at the great judgment,

and number me among the blessed flock who stand

on your right, that, together with them, I may forever

glorify You, my Creator. Amen.

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Second Sunday of Lent – A

Transfiguration copy.jpg

        “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer for the Intercession of St. Joseph

Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. I place in you all my interests and desires. Oh, St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath.

St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls – Pray for me.

COLLECT

O God, who have commanded us

to listen to your beloved Son,

be pleased, we pray,

to nourish us inwardly by your word,

that, with spiritual sight made pure,

we may rejoice to behold your glory.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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GN 12:1-4a

The LORD said to Abram:

Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk

and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.

I will make of you a great nation,

and I will bless you;

I will make your name great,

so that you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you

and curse those who curse you.

All the communities of the earth

shall find blessing in you.”

Abram went as the LORD directed him.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 59 In order to gather together scattered humanity God calls Abram from his country, his kindred and his father’s house,1 and makes him Abraham, that is, “the father of a multitude of nations”. “In you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”2

CCC 145 The Letter to the Hebrews, in its great eulogy of the faith of Israel’s ancestors, lays special emphasis on Abraham’s faith: “By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go.”3 By faith, he lived as a stranger and pilgrim in the promised land.4 By faith, Sarah was given to conceive the son of the promise. And by faith Abraham offered his only son in sacrifice.5

CCC 343 Man is the summit of the Creator’s work, as the inspired account expresses by clearly distinguishing the creation of man from that of the other creatures.6

CCC 706 Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.7 In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself,8 in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”9 God commits himself by his own solemn oath to giving his beloved Son and “the promised Holy Spirit. .. [who is] the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.”10

CCC 762 The remote preparation for this gathering together of the People of God begins when he calls Abraham and promises that he will become the father of a great people.11 Its immediate preparation begins with Israel’s election as the People of God. By this election, Israel is to be the sign of the future gathering of All nations.12 But the prophets accuse Israel of breaking the covenant and behaving like a prostitute. They announce a new and eternal covenant. “Christ instituted this New Covenant.”13

CCC 1669 Sacramentals derive from the baptismal priesthood: every baptized person is called to be a “blessing,” and to bless.14 Hence lay people may preside at certain blessings; the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests, or deacons).15

CCC 2570 When God calls him, Abraham goes forth “as the Lord had told him”;16 Abraham’s heart is entirely submissive to the Word and so he obeys. Such attentiveness of the heart, whose decisions are made according to God’s will, is essential to prayer, while the words used count only in relation to it. Abraham’s prayer is expressed first by deeds: a man of silence, he constructs an altar to the Lord at each stage of his journey. Only later does Abraham’s first prayer in words appear: a veiled complaint reminding God of his promises which seem unfulfilled.17 Thus one aspect of the drama of prayer appears from the beginning: the test of faith in the fidelity of God.

CCC 2676 This twofold movement of prayer to Mary has found a privileged expression in the Ave Maria:

Hail Mary [or Rejoice, Mary]: the greeting of the angel Gabriel opens this prayer. It is God himself who, through his angel as intermediary, greets Mary. Our prayer dares to take up this greeting to Mary with the regard God had for the lowliness of his humble servant and to exult in the joy he finds in her.18

Full of grace, the Lord is with thee: These two phrases of the angel’s greeting shed light on one another. Mary is full of grace because the Lord is with her. The grace with which she is filled is the presence of him who is the source of all grace. “Rejoice. .. O Daughter of Jerusalem. .. the Lord your God is in your midst.”19 Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is “the dwelling of God. .. with men.”20 Full of grace, Mary is wholly given over to him who has come to dwell in her and whom she is about to give to the world.

Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. After the angel’s greeting, we make Elizabeth’s greeting our own. “Filled with the Holy Spirit,” Elizabeth is the first in the long succession of generations who have called Mary “blessed.”21 “Blessed is she who believed. .. ”22 Mary is “blessed among women” because she believed in the fulfillment of the Lord’s word. Abraham. because of his faith, became a blessing for all the nations of the earth.23 Mary, because of her faith, became the mother of believers, through whom all nations of the earth receive him who is God’s own blessing: Jesus, the “fruit of thy womb.”

1 Gen 12:1.

2 Gen 17:5; 12:3 (LXX); cf. Gal 3:8.

3 Heb 11:8; cf. Gen 12:1-4.

4 Cf. Gen 23:4.

5 Cf. Heb 11:17.

6 Cf. Gen 1-26.

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

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

9 Cf. In 11:52.

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

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

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

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

14 Cf. Gen 12:2; Lk 6:28; Rom 12:14; 1 Pet 3:9.

15 Cf. SC 79; CIC, can. 1168; De Ben 16, 18.

16 Gen 12:4.

17 Cf. Gen 15:2 f.

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

19 Zeph 3:14,17a.

20 Rev 21:3.

21 Lk 1:41, 48.

22 Lk 1:45.

23 Cf. Gen 12:3.

APPLICATION

God’s mercy and love for us men is the first lesson this call of Abram should teach us. Over 3,800 years ago God began the proximate preparations for opening heaven to us. He converted the pagan Abram and got him to leave his idol–worshiping family, kinsmen and country. He set him up in Canaan and promised him a great posterity with numerous descendants, who would eventually possess that land. His purpose in doing this was to preserve the knowledge of the true God, and continually enlarge on that knowledge, until the “fulness of time” and the fulness of his knowledge would come to all men in the Incarnation.

The story of God’s infinite patience in his dealings with the descendants of Abram, as narrated in the Old Testament, is another convincing proof of his infinite love for us. Only infinite love could have persevered in the face of the stubborn hard-heartedness, repeated ingratitude and infidelities of his Chosen People. But infinite love prevailed; a remnant of that people was preserved until the promised one, the Messiah, through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed, came on earth.

Another lesson which every Christian should learn from the call of Abram, is that each and every one of us, no matter what our state in life may be, is called like Abram to preserve the knowledge of God in our own life, and to do all in our power to bring that knowledge to our neighbors. Some are asked to leave their home and their country and go to a land that God chooses for their apostolate. These are the missionaries, who are called on to do more than the rest of us. Their task is more arduous; their vocation makes greater demands on human nature; but God is with them and their reward is great.

But those of us, the vast majority of Christians, who are not called to the mission-fields, are still called to the apostolate. Every one of us has the call and the obligation to share his knowledge of God with his neighbors. We are adopted sons of God, true sons of Abram. We are a small part of the whole human race which God wants in heaven. As he looked to the Chosen People of old to help him in bringing eternal life to all nations, so he looks to us now to continue the same divine task.

The Incarnation has made all men sons of God, brothers of Christ and true brothers of one another. Am I really a brother of Christ if I have no interest in the true welfare of my neighbor, my brother? If I shrug my shoulders and say that I have enough to do to try to get to heaven myself, without having to bother with my neighbor, this is a sure sign that I am not trying to get to heaven. If my Christian life does not include the good example of true Christian living, a word of advice for a brother who needs it, a daily prayer for the salvation of all my fellow-travelers to heaven, I am not on the road to heaven myself.

Lent is a very suitable occasion to examine my past conduct in this regard. Christ suffered and died on the cross to open heaven for all men. He rose from the dead–“the first-fruits” of the millions of those who will one day rise from the dead and enter into a new and everlasting life. That some, and maybe many, of my fellowman will reap the reward of what Christ did for them, will and does depend on my true charity. If I fail in this duty, if I turn a deaf ear to this Christian vocation, I am gravely endangering my own participation in the eternal happiness won for me by Christ.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

PS 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22

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

Upright is the word of the LORD,

and all his works are trustworthy.

He loves justice and right;

of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.

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

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

upon those who hope for his kindness,

To deliver them from death

and preserve them in spite of famine.

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

Our soul waits for the LORD,

who is our help and our shield.

May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us

who have put our hope in you.

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

READING II

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2 Tim 1:8b-10

Beloved:

Bear your share of hardship for the gospel

with the strength that comes from God.

He saved us and called us to a holy life,

not according to our works

but according to his own design

and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began,

but now made manifest

through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus,

who destroyed death and brought life and immortality

to light through the gospel.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 257 “O blessed light, O Trinity and first Unity!”1 God is eternal blessedness, undying life, unfading light. God is love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God freely wills to communicate the glory of his blessed life. Such is the “plan of his loving kindness”, conceived by the Father before the foundation of the world, in his beloved Son: “He destined us in love to be his sons” and “to be conformed to the image of his Son”, through “the spirit of sonship”.2 This plan is a “grace [which] was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began”, stemming immediately from Trinitarian love.3 It unfolds in the work of creation, the whole history of salvation after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which are continued in the mission of the Church.4

CCC 1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.5 The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others.6

CCC 2471 Before Pilate, Christ proclaims that he “has come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.”7 The Christian is not to “be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord.”8 In situations that require witness to the faith, the Christian must profess it without equivocation, after the example of St. Paul before his judges. We must keep “a clear conscience toward God and toward men.”9

1 LH, Hymn for Evening Prayer.

2 Eph 1:4-5,9; Rom 8:15,29.

3 2 Tim 1:9-10.

4 Cf. AG 2-9.

5 Cf. 2 Tim 1:9-10.

6 Cf. Lk 16:22; 23:43; Mt 16:26; 2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23; Heb 9:27; 12:23.

7 Jn 18:37.

8 2 Tim 1:8.

9 Acts 24:16.

APPLICATION

The old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt,” can be true of spiritual as well as material things. We Christians often so take our faith, with all it means for us, for granted, that we fail to appreciate it as we should. If St. Paul felt it necessary to remind Timothy, his faithful co-worker, of vigilance, how much more necessary are his words of exhortation for each one of us today!

Even the holiest of us can get into a rut and forget what our real purpose in life is. We were created by God and given marvelous gifts to make our way through this life, This is already something for which we should be most grateful. But, as God saw, what good would 90 or 100 years of happiness be for a human being on this earth, if he would have to leave it all and end as a little pile of dust in a cemetery?

So, the all-wise and all-loving God decreed that we should not end in the grave, but that instead our real life would begin after our physical death on earth. We would be taken into the eternal life of the Trinity, through the privilege of adoption, which the Incarnation would earn for us. This is the basis of our Christian faith and hope. This is the end and purpose of our Christian way of living while here on earth. This end and purpose we should never forget.

It is true that we have many earthly occupations and concerns, many passing sources of worry and distraction, but these should not, and need not be a hindrance in our daily cares and crosses to lift us up above our earthly status. We must make them aids on our journey, rather than let them be impediments. To do this, we must never forget the plan God has for us. We must never forget what the coming of Christ in our human nature means for us. He has “abolished death” and brought us immortality. Physical death is no longer to be feared; it is not the end for us but the beginning, provided we do the relatively little that is expected of us.

Are we all doing the little that the Christian gospel demands of us? Don’t wait until tomorrow, or next week, to give yourself an honest answer to this question. There may be no tomorrow, no next week, for you. Thank God, that you have today, use it as if it were your last day on earth. It will be the last day for over 100,000–you could easily be one of that large number.

GOSPEL

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MT 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,

and led them up a high mountain by themselves.

And he was transfigured before them;

his face shone like the sun

and his clothes became white as light.

And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,

conversing with him.

Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,

Lord, it is good that we are here.

If you wish, I will make three tents here,

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

While he was still speaking, behold,

a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,

then from the cloud came a voice that said,

This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;

listen to him.”

When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate

and were very much afraid.

But Jesus came and touched them, saying,

Rise, and do not be afraid.”

And when the disciples raised their eyes,

they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain,

Jesus charged them,

Do not tell the vision to anyone

until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031217.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 444 The Gospels report that at two solemn moments, the Baptism and the Transfiguration of Christ, the voice of the Father designates Jesus his “beloved Son”.1 Jesus calls himself the “only Son of God”, and by this title affirms his eternal pre-existence.2 He asks for faith in “the name of the only Son of God”.3 In the centurion’s exclamation before the crucified Christ, “Truly this man was the Son of God”,4 that Christian confession is already heard. Only in the Paschal mystery can the believer give the title “Son of God” its full meaning.

CCC 516 Christ’s whole earthly life – his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking – is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”5 Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest “God’s love. .. among us”.6

CCC 554 From the day Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Master “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. .. and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”7 Peter scorns this prediction, nor do the others understand it any better than he.8 In this context the mysterious episode of Jesus’ Transfiguration takes place on a high mountain,9 before three witnesses chosen by himself: Peter, James and John. Jesus’ face and clothes become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking “of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem”.10 A cloud covers him and a voice from heaven says: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”11

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

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

3 Jn 3:18.

4 Mk 15:39.

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

6 Jn 4:9.

7 Mt 16:21.

8 Cf. Mt 16:22-23; 17:23; Lk 9:45.

9 Cf. Mt 17:1-8 and parallels; 2 Pt 1:16-18.

10 Lk 9:31.

11 Lk 9:35.

APPLICATION

This momentary vision of Christ, in his glory, was given in order to strengthen the three principal Apostles to face the trials to their faith, which the sufferings and crucifixion of their beloved master would bring on them. For the very same reason it is retold to us today, in the early part of Lent, to encourage us to persevere in our lenten mortifications. It reminds us that, very soon, the Easter bells will be ringing out their message of joy once more. If we are sharers with Christ in his sufferings, we shall be sharers with him in his glory as St. Paul reminds us.

This is a truth we all too easily forget, namely, that we cannot and do not get to heaven in a limousine. Our spell on earth is the chance given us by our heavenly Father to earn an eternal reward. This reward surpasses even the wildest imagination of man. We could never earn it, but God accepts the little we can do and provides the balance of his infinite mercy. And yet there are many, far too many, who refuse even that little bit that is asked of them, and are thus running the risk of not partaking in God’s scheme for their eternal happiness.

And are they any happier during their few years on this earth by acting thus towards the God of mercy? Can they, by ignoring God and their duties towards him, remove all pain, all sorrow, all sufferings, from their daily lives? Death, which means a total separation from all we possessed and cherished in this world, is waiting around the corner for all of us. Who can face it more calmly and confidently–the man who is firmly convinced that it is the gateway to a new life, and who has done his best to earn admission through that gateway, or the man who has acted all his life as if death did not exist for him, and who has done everything to have the gate to the new life shut forever in his face?

Illnesses and troubles and disappointments are the lot of all men. They respect neither wealth, nor power, nor position. The man who knows his purpose in life, and is ever striving to reach the goal God’s goodness has planned for him, can and will see in these trials of life the hand of a kind father who is preparing him for greater things. His sufferings become understandable and more bearable because of his attitude to life and its meaning. The man who ignores God and tries to close the eyes of his mind to the real facts of life has nothing to uphold him or console him in his hours of sorrow and pain. Yet, sorrow and pain will dog his footsteps, strive as he will to avoid them, and he can see no value, no divine purpose in these, for him, misfortunes.

Christ has asked us to follow him, carrying our daily cross, and the end of our journey is not Calvary but resurrection, the entrance to a life of glory with our risen Savior. The Christian who grasps his cross closely and willingly, knowing its value for his real life, will find it becomes lighter and often not a burden but a pleasure. The man who tries to shuffle off his cross, and who curses and rebels against him who sent it, will find it doubles its weight and loses all the value it was intended to have for his true welfare.

Let the thought of the Transfiguration encourage each one of us today, to do the little God demands of us, so that when we pass out of this life we may be assured of seeing Christ in his glory, ready to welcome us into his everlasting, glorious kingdom.

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

BENEDICTUS

Lenten Transfiguration

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

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

The Prayer of St. Patrick

I arise today

Through the strength of heaven;

Light of the sun,

Splendor of fire,

Speed of lightning,

Swiftness of the wind,

Depth of the sea,

Stability of the earth,

Firmness of the rock.

I arise today

Through God’s strength to pilot me;

God’s might to uphold me,

God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look before me,

God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak for me,

God’s hand to guard me,

God’s way to lie before me,

God’s shield to protect me,

God’s hosts to save me

Afar and anear,

Alone or in a multitude.

Christ shield me today

Against wounding

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in the eye that sees me,

Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today

Through the mighty strength

Of the Lord of creation.

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First Sunday of Lent – A

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Get away, Satan!  It is written:  The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”  Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.

OPENING PRAYER

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian

O Lord and Master of my life, do not give me a spirit of idleness, curiosity, love of power and idle talk.

But grant to me Your servant, the spirit of prudence, humility, patience and love.

Yes, Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults, and to not judge my brother,

For You are blessed to ages of ages. Amen.

COLLECT

Grant, almighty God,

through the yearly observances of holy Lent,

that we may grow in understanding

of the riches hidden in Christ

and by worthy conduct pursue their effects.

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 2:7-9; 3:1-7

The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground

and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,

and so man became a living being.

Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east,

and placed there the man whom he had formed.

Out of the ground the LORD God made various trees grow

that were delightful to look at and good for food,

with the tree of life in the middle of the garden

and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals

that the LORD God had made.

The serpent asked the woman,

Did God really tell you not to eat

from any of the trees in the garden?”

The woman answered the serpent:

We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;

it is only about the fruit of the tree

in the middle of the garden that God said,

You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.’”

But the serpent said to the woman:

You certainly will not die!

No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it

your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods

who know what is good and what is evil.”

The woman saw that the tree was good for food,

pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.

So she took some of its fruit and ate it;

and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her,

and he ate it.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened,

and they realized that they were naked;

so they sewed fig leaves together

and made loincloths for themselves.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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.1

CCC 362 The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that “then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”2 Man, whole and entire, is therefore willed by God.

CCC 369 Man and woman have been created, which is to say, willed by God: on the one hand, in perfect equality as human persons; on the other, in their respective beings as man and woman. “Being man” or “being woman” is a reality which is good and willed by God: man and woman possess an inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their Creator.3 Man and woman are both with one and the same dignity “in the image of God”. In their “being-man” and “being-woman”, they reflect the Creator’s wisdom and goodness.

CCC 378 The sign of man’s familiarity with God is that God places him in the garden.4 There he lives “to till it and keep it”. Work is not yet a burden,5 but rather the collaboration of man and woman with God in perfecting the visible creation.

CCC 703 The Word of God and his Breath are at the origin of the being and life of every creature:6

It belongs to the Holy Spirit to rule, sanctify, and animate creation, for he is God, consubstantial with the Father and the Son. .. Power over life pertains to the Spirit, for being God he preserves creation in the Father through the Son.7

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,8 but conversion of heart enables us to return to the Father, to heaven.9 In Christ, then, heaven and earth are reconciled,10 for the Son alone “descended from heaven” and causes us to ascend there with him, by his Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension.11

1 Cf. Gen 1-26.

2 Gen 2:7.

3 Cf. Gen 2:7, 22.

4 Cf. Gen 2:8.

5 Gen 2:15; cf. 3:17-19

6 Cf. Pss 33:6; 104:30; Gen 1:2; 2:7; Eccl 3:20-21; Ezek 37:10.

7 Byzantine liturgy, Sundays of the second mode, Troparion of Morning Prayer.

8 Cf. Gen 3.

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

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

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

APPLICATION

In recent years theologians have been discussing and arguing about the nature of what is called “Original sin,” and how it is transmitted from generation to generation. The patent fact is that sin abounds, and has abounded in our world from the earliest days of man on earth. The reason why the Church recalls to our minds today the basic facts that God, out of sheer goodness, created man and gave him marvelous gifts, and man in his meanness and foolish pride refused obedience and loyalty to his divine benefactor, is simply to remind us that we are all sinners and descendants of sinners.

While theologians may, and should, try to discover the real nature of original sin and its mode of transmission, the fact that we men of today, centuries and millennia later, are still sinners, still proud, still so often disloyal and ungrateful to the good God, who made us what we are, is and should be our chief preoccupation during this season of Lent.

While we have every reason to regret that our first parents acted so foolishly and so ungratefully, the fact that we ourselves, with far more knowledge of God’s goodness to mankind can and do act even more foolishly and more ungratefully every time we disobey God, should be a greater cause for shame and regret to each one of us.

We know that God, sent his Son on earth in human nature, in order to earn for us a share in God’s own divine happiness. And God did this, even though the human race had proved itself so unworthy of this divine favor. His divine Son had to suffer, not only the humiliation of taking on himself the nature of a mere creature–our human nature but he had to suffer insults and injuries in that human nature, which reached their climax in his crucifixion on Calvary.

That God would deign to share his heaven with the saintly and the good who had never offended him, even though they were mere creatures would be an act of divine love indeed, but that he should want to grant eternal happiness to sinners, at the cost of the torments and sufferings of his beloved Son, is surely a mystery of love beyond our human comprehension. Yet, this is one of the basic truths of our Christian faith. What sinner–and we are all sinners could dare to hope that God would forgive his sins, what right could he have, after his own mean behavior toward the God who gave him everything he has, to expect any pardon? But one sincere look at a crucifix should be enough to dispel any thought of despair or despondency.

Christ took on himself the sins of the world. He nailed them to the cross, in order to open the door to heaven for all men. Through his Incarnation he raised us up to the status of adopted sons of God; through his sufferings and crucifixion he made atonement to his Father for the sins of all men, thus removing the impediment that could prevent us from reaching the reward of sonship, membership in the eternal kingdom of God.

But even God cannot remove our sins unless we do our part; Christ’s sufferings and death for us will be in vain, unless we cooperate. This is just what Lent means for us. It is a period of penance and repentance. We regret the many disobediences and disloyalties we have shown to God up to now, and we try to make some personal atonement for them, by some special acts of mortification and devotion during this holy season.

We want to go to heaven when our life here ends. God wants us in heaven and has proved this beyond a shadow of doubt. Satan–the serpent mentioned in today’s reading–does not want us to go there. He deceived our first parents; could we possibly be so foolish as to let him deceive us too?

READING II

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ROM 5:12-19

Brothers and sisters:

Through one man sin entered the world,

and through sin, death,

and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned—

for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world,

though sin is not accounted when there is no law.

But death reigned from Adam to Moses,

even over those who did not sin

after the pattern of the trespass of Adam,

who is the type of the one who was to come.

But the gift is not like the transgression.

For if by the transgression of the one, the many died,

how much more did the grace of God

and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ

overflow for the many.

And the gift is not like the result of the one who sinned.

For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation;

but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal.

For if, by the transgression of the one,

death came to reign through that one,

how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace

and of the gift of justification

come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, just as through one transgression

condemnation came upon all,

so, through one righteous act,

acquittal and life came to all.

For just as through the disobedience of the one man

the many were made sinners,

so, through the obedience of the one,

the many will be made righteous.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 388 With the progress of Revelation, the reality of sin is also illuminated. Although to some extent the People of God in the Old Testament had tried to understand the pathos of the human condition in the light of the history of the fall narrated in Genesis, they could not grasp this story’s ultimate meaning, which is revealed only in the light of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.1 We must know Christ as the source of grace in order to know Adam as the source of sin. The Spirit-Paraclete, sent by the risen Christ, came to “convict the world concerning sin”,2 by revealing him who is its Redeemer.

CCC 397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of.3 All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

CCC 400 The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination.4 Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man.5 Because of man, creation is now subject “to its bondage to decay”.6 Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will “return to the ground”,7 for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.8

CCC 402 All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as St. Paul affirms: “By one man’s disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners”: “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.”9 The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.”10

CCC 411 The Christian tradition sees in this passage an announcement of the “New Adam” who, because he “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross”, makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience, of Adam.11 Furthermore many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the Protoevangelium as Mary, the mother of Christ, the “new Eve”. Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ’s victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.12

CCC 532 Jesus’ obedience to his mother and legal father fulfils the fourth commandment perfectly and was the temporal image of his filial obedience to his Father in heaven. The everyday obedience of Jesus to Joseph and Mary both announced and anticipated the obedience of Holy Thursday: “Not my will. ..”13 The obedience of Christ in the daily routine of his hidden life was already inaugurating his work of restoring what the disobedience of Adam had destroyed.14

CCC 602 Consequently, St. Peter can formulate the apostolic faith in the divine plan of salvation in this way: “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers. .. with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake.”15 Man’s sins, following on original sin, are punishable by death.16 By sending his own Son in the form of a slave, in the form of a fallen humanity, on account of sin, God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”17

CCC 605 At the end of the parable of the lost sheep Jesus recalled that God’s love excludes no one: “So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”18 He affirms that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many”; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us.19 The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.”20

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,21 making himself “obedient unto death”. Jesus prays: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. ..”22 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.23 Above all, his human nature has been assumed by the divine person of the “Author of life”, the “Living One”.24 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.”25

CCC 615 “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”26 By his obedience unto death, Jesus accomplished the substitution of the suffering Servant, who “makes himself an offering for sin”, when “he bore the sin of many”, and who “shall make many to be accounted righteous”, for “he shall bear their iniquities”.27 Jesus atoned for our faults and made satisfaction for our sins to the Father.28

CCC 1008 Death is a consequence of sin. The Church’s Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man’s sin.29 Even though man’s nature is mortal God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin.30 “Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned” is thus “the last enemy” of man left to be conquered.31

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.32 The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.33

1 Cf. Rom 5:12-21.

2 Jn 16:8.

3 Cf. Gen 3:1-11; Rom 5:19.

4 Cf. Gen 3:7-16.

5 Cf. Gen 3:17,19.

6 Rom 8:21.

7 Gen 3:19; cf. 2:17.

8 Cf. Rom 5:12.

9 Rom 5:12,19.

10 Rom 5:18.

11 Cf. 1 Cor 15:21-22,45; Phil 2:8; Rom 5:19-20.

12 Cf. Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus: DS 2803; Council of Trent: DS 1573.

13 Lk 22:42.

14 Cf. Rom 5:19.

15 I Pt 1:18-20.

16 Cf. Rom 5:12; I Cor 15:56.

17 2 Cor 5:21; cf. Phil 2:7; Rom 8:3.

18 Mt 18:14.

19 Mt 20:28; cf. Rom 5:18-19.

20 Council of Quiercy (853): DS 624; cf. 2 Cor 5:15; I Jn 2:2.

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

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

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

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

25 1 Pt 224; cf. Mt 26:42.

26 Rom 5:19.

27 Is 53:10-12.

28 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1529.

29 Cf. Gen 2:17; 3:3; 3:19; Wis 1:13; Rom 5:12; 6:23; DS 1511.

30 Cf. Wis 2:23-24.

31 GS 18 § 2; cf. 1 Cor 15:26.

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

33 Cf. Rom 5:19-21.

APPLICATION

The message that should come over “loud and clear, to each one of us today, from these words of St. Paul, is that we are dealing with a God of infinite mercy, and infinite love. He created man and gave him gifts which raised him above all other earthly creatures. Through these gifts, man was able to recognize that he was a mere creature, that he owed all he was and had to a generous Creator, and that therefore he was in duty bound to respect and reverence his benefactor (see Rom. 1: 19-23). But man, moved by pride in the higher gifts he possessed, which were not his own, turned his back on God and refused to revere and obey him. Man sinned and thereby excluded himself from the eternal reward God had planned for him.

What human benefactor would stand for such ingratitude, and would not turn his back on such an ungrateful creature for evermore? But God is infinite in mercy and in love; he is not a human, limited being. He would still carry out his plan to make men his adopted sons, and thus give them a share in his eternal inheritance. The Incarnation as planned from the beginning would still take place. The Son of God would take our human nature, would come down to our level, so that we could share in his divine nature, and be raised up to son ship with God. The Incarnation–this almost incredible act of God’s infinite love for us–was not a “second thought” on God’s part when man sinned, but was willed by God from all eternity as a means of uniting all men with himself and with each other.

The sins of the generations that preceded Christ’s coming were therefore, in comparison, but tiny shadows which brought out all the more strongly the brilliance of divine love as seen in the Incarnation. The effects of the Incarnation were retroactive–sinners who repented before the Incarnation took place, became heirs of heaven, as will also all repentant sinners who have lived and died since Christ came on earth. Learning the lesson Paul teaches us today, let us thank God for his infinite mercy and love, as proved by his making us brothers of Christ and co-heirs with Christ to heaven. Let us also beg pardon with heartfelt contrition for the many, times we have forgotten his goodness to us, and in our pride have followed our own will rather than his. He will forgive and forget our sins if we sincerely seek his pardon. He has prepared heaven for us and wants us there; let us all use this holy season of Lent to help us to get there.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

PS 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17

Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

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.

Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

For I acknowledge my offense,

and my sin is before me always:

Against you only have I sinned,

and done what is evil in your sight.”

Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

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.

Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Give me back the joy of your salvation,

and a willing spirit sustain in me.

O Lord, open my lips,

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

GOSPEL

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MT 4:1-11

At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert

to be tempted by the devil.

He fasted for forty days and forty nights,

and afterwards he was hungry.

The tempter approached and said to him,

If you are the Son of God,

command that these stones become loaves of bread.”

He said in reply,

It is written:

One does not live on bread alone,

but on every word that comes forth

from the mouth of God.”

Then the devil took him to the holy city,

and made him stand on the parapet of the temple,

and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.

For it is written:

He will command his angels concerning you

and with their hands they will support you,

lest you dash your foot against a stone.”

Jesus answered him,

Again it is written,

You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain,

and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence,

and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you,

if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”

At this, Jesus said to him,

Get away, Satan!

It is written:

The Lord, your God, shall you worship

and him alone shall you serve.”

Then the devil left him and, behold,

angels came and ministered to him.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/030517.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

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

CCC 394 Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls “a murderer from the beginning”, who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father.6 “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”7 In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God.

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.”8 God’s first call and just demand is that man accept him and worship him.

CCC 2835 This petition, with the responsibility it involves, also applies to another hunger from which men are perishing: “Man does not live by bread alone, but. .. by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,”9 that is, by the Word he speaks and the Spirit he breathes forth. Christians must make every effort “to proclaim the good news to the poor.” There is a famine on earth, “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.”10 For this reason the specifically Christian sense of this fourth petition concerns the Bread of Life: The Word of God accepted in faith, the Body of Christ received in the Eucharist.11

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.12 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.”13 The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch.14 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.”15

1 Heb 1:6.

2 Lk 2:14.

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

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

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

6 Jn 8:44; cf. Mt 4:1-11.

7 1 Jn 3:8.

8 Deut 6:13-14.

9 Deut 8:3; Mt 4:4.

10 Am 8:11.

11 Cf. Jn 6:26-58.

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

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

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

15 Rev 16:15.

APPLICATION

This incident in our Lord’s life, his forty days and nights of fasting followed by temptations, has been chosen as a reading for this first Sunday of Lent for our edification and encouragement. Lent is a period of preparation for the central Christian events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Christ, the Son of God in human nature, died the excruciating death of crucifixion on Good Friday, because of the sins of the human race. By this supreme act of obedience to his heavenly Father he made atonement for all our disobediences, and set us free from the slavery of Satan and of sin. In his resurrection his human nature was glorified by God the Father, and in that glorification we are all offered a share and given the right to an eternal life of glory, if we follow Christ faithfully in this life.

For every sincere Christian therefore, who appreciates what Good Friday and Easter Sunday mean for her or him, this period of preparation should be a welcome opportunity. The Church no longer imposes on us any obligatory daily fasting from food, but it urges us to find other means of mortifying ourselves, so as to show that we realize what Christ has done for us and what he has earned for us through his passion, death and resurrection. The example of Christ fasting from food for forty days, should move even the coldest Christian heart to try to do something to make reparation for past negligence and sins. Christ had no sin to atone for; it was for our sins that he mortified himself. We all have much to atone for. If, because of the demands of our present way of life, we cannot fast rigorously as our grandparents did, we can find many other less noticeable, but maybe nonetheless difficult, ways of subduing our human worldly inclinations. Where there is a will there is a way; the willing Christian will find ready substitutes for fasting.

The temptations, to which our Lord allowed himself to be submitted, are for us a source of encouragement and consolation. If our Lord and master under went temptation, we cannot and must not expect to live a Christian life without experiencing similar tests and trials. The three temptations Satan put to our Lord were suggestions to forget his purpose in life–his messianic mission of redemption. He was urged to get all the bodily comforts of life, all the self-glory which men could give him, and all the possessions and power this world has to offer.

Our basic temptations in life are the same: bodily comforts and pleasure, the empty esteem of our fellowman, wealth and power. There are millions of men and women on earth today–many of them nominal Christians–who have given in to these temptations and, are wasting their lives chasing after these unattainable shadows. But even should they manage to catch up with some of them, they soon find out that they are empty baubles. They will have to leave them so very soon.

Today, let each one of us look into his heart and honestly examine his reaction to these temptations. Do we imitate our Savior and leader, and say “begone Satan”? Our purpose in life is not to collect its treasures, its honors or its pleasures. We are here for a few short years, to merit the unending life which Christ has won for us. Would we be so foolish as to swap our inheritance for a mere mess of pottage (see Gen. 25:29-34)?

Lent is a golden opportunity to review our past and make sensible resolutions for our future.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Purpose of Lent

The purpose of Lent is to keep alive in our consciousness and our life the fact that being a Christian can only take the form of becoming a Christian ever anew; that it is not an event now over and done with but a process requiring constant practice. Let us ask, then: What does it mean to become a Christian? How does this take place?… If individuals are to become Christians they need the strength to overcome; they need the power to stand fast against the natural tendency to let themselves be carried along. Life in the most inclusive sense has been defined as “resistance to the pull of gravity.” Only where such effort is expended is there life; where the efforts ceases life too ceases. IF this is true in the biological sphere, it is all the more true in the spiritual. The human person is the being which does not become itself automatically. Nor does it do so simply by letting itself be carried along and surrendering to the natural gravitational pull of a kind of vegetative life. It becomes itself always and only by struggling against the tendency simply to vegetate and by dint of a discipline that is able to rise above the pressures of routine and to liberate the self from the compulsions of utilitarian goals and instincts. Our world is so full of what immediately impinges on our senses that we are in danger of seeing only details and losing sight of the whole. It takes effort to see beyond what is right in front of us and to free ourselves from the tyranny of what directly presses upon us.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Lenten Prayer

Lord Jesus, you spoke peace to a sinful world and brought mankind the gift of reconciliation by the suffering and death you endured. I love you and joyfully bear the name ‘Christian.’ Teach me to follow your example. Increase my faith, hope and charity so that I may struggle to turn hatred to love and conflict to peace. Amen.

 

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Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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Jesus said to his disciples:  No one can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.’

OPENING PRAYER

A Prayer for Perseverance

Lord Jesus Christ, I believe in You as my God and my Savior. Make me more faithful to Your Gospel and commandments. By sharing in the Eucharist, may I come to live more fully in the life You have given me. Keep Your Love alive within my heart and soul so that I may become worthy of You. Teach me to value and be thankful for all of Your Gifts. Help us to strive for eternal life, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

COLLECT

Grant us, O Lord, we pray,

that the course of our world

may be directed by your peaceful rule

and that your Church may rejoice,

untroubled in her devotion.

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 49:14-15

Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;

my LORD has forgotten me.”

Can a mother forget her infant,

be without tenderness for the child of her womb?

Even should she forget,

I will never forget you.

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 239 By calling God “Father”, the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God’s parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood,2 which emphasizes God’s immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard:3 no one is father as God is Father.

CCC 370 In no way is God in man’s image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective “perfections” of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband.4

CCC 716 The People of the “poor”5 – those who, humble and meek, rely solely on their God’s mysterious plans, who await the justice, not of men but of the Messiah – are in the end the great achievement of the Holy Spirit’s hidden mission during the time of the promises that prepare for Christ’s coming. It is this quality of heart, purified and enlightened by the Spirit, which is expressed in the Psalms. In these poor, the Spirit is making ready “a people prepared for the Lord.”6

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

2 Cf. Isa 66:13; Ps 131:2.

3 Cf. Ps 27:10; Eph 3:14; Isa 49:15.

4 Cf. Is 49:14-15; 66: 13; Ps 131:2-3; Hos 11:1-4; Jer 3:4- 19.

5 Cf. Zeph 2:3; Pss 22:27; 34:3; Isa 49:13; 61:1; etc.

6 Lk 1:17.

APPLICATION

In human relationships there is no greater love than that of a mother for her baby. It has been proved beyond doubt down through the history of the human race. It is an unselfish love, a love, a dedication that demands and expects nothing in return. The love between husband and wife has of its nature a tinge of selfishness in it–it is at its best a mutual love, which expects and demands an equal response. The love of a child for its parents, when it comes to the use of reason, is inspired by gratitude for past favors and by a self-interested hope for more favors to come. But the love of a mother for her helpless baby is absolutely free of all self-interest, it looks for no return either in the present or in the future.

This is the image that God employs to describe his love for his Chosen People : the love of a mother for the baby at her breast, a love free from all self-interest and prepared to go to any lengths in order to bring his children to the maturity and perfection planned for them.

The exiles, let us hope, believed his word and put their trust in him, but they could not and did not realize or foresee the real lengths to which that unselfish love of God for them would go. The most they hoped for and desired was a return to their native land where peace and plenty would be given them by their kind God. But this was only a tiny part of God’s plan for them; we know the full truth now. God’s plan was to bring them back to Jerusalem and Judah so that he would fulfill his promise given to Abraham and their ancestors.

In Judah would be born the descendant of Abraham, Judah and David–the Messiah who would bring them, and all who would accept him, to their real homeland, heaven. As we know, God carried out his plan in spite of the stubbornness and disloyalty of those Chosen People to whom he had been not only a kind father but a loving mother all through their history. If some, or many of them, failed to reach their true homeland–the real promised land of eternal peace and plenty–the fault was theirs not God’s.

With our greater knowledge today of God’s love for us, and of his interest in our true welfare, which the Incarnation has proved, we are much more guilty than the Jews of the Old Testament if we prove disloyal to God and ungrateful for all he has done for us. If we allow the things of this world, its pleasures, its wealth, its positions of power (all of which will end for us in a few years), to make us forget God and our own eternal welfare, then we are far worse than the disloyal Jews who know little about the future life, and who had not before their eyes the example of the Son of God crucified for their sake.

Yet the sad fact is that there are millions of Christians today, who live un-Christian lives; men and women who act and behave as if the world was the beginning and end of everything for them. They forget, or rather do all they can to forget, that there is a future life towards which they are steadily and quickly moving.

However, there is one ray of hope for even the worst of us, and that ray of hope is God’s declaration that his love for us is stronger and greater than even that of a mother for the baby at her breast. If we turn to him with true repentance—no matter how numerous or how heinous our past faults were—he will take us back once more to his bosom. He will forgive and forget our past if we will put that past behind us, and from now on serve him as loyal and grateful children. Great sinners in the past have become saints; great sinners in the future will become eternal citizens of heaven. You too, be you a great or a lesser sinner, can end like them, if like them you return truly repentant to the God of love.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

PS 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9

Rest in God alone, my soul.

Only in God is my soul at rest;

from him comes my salvation.

He only is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed at all.

Rest in God alone, my soul.

Only in God be at rest, my soul,

for from him comes my hope.

He only is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed.

Rest in God alone, my soul.

With God is my safety and my glory,

he is the rock of my strength; my refuge is in God.

Trust in him at all times, O my people!

Pour out your hearts before him.

Rest in God alone, my soul.

READING II

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1 COR 4:1-5

Brothers and sisters:

Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ

and stewards of the mysteries of God.

Now it is of course required of stewards

that they be found trustworthy.

It does not concern me in the least

that I be judged by you or any human tribunal;

I do not even pass judgment on myself;

I am not conscious of anything against me,

but I do not thereby stand acquitted;

the one who judges me is the Lord.

Therefore do not make any judgment before the appointed time,

until the Lord comes,

for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness

and will manifest the motives of our hearts,

and then everyone will receive praise from God.

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 859 Jesus unites them to the mission he received from the Father. As “the Son can do nothing of his own accord,” but receives everything from the Father who sent him, so those whom Jesus sends can do nothing apart from him,6 from whom they received both the mandate for their mission and the power to carry it out. Christ’s apostles knew that they were called by God as “ministers of a new covenant,” “servants of God,” “ambassadors for Christ,” “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”7

CCC 1117 As she has done for the canon of Sacred Scripture and for the doctrine of the faith, the Church, by the power of the Spirit who guides her “into all truth,” has gradually recognized this treasure received from Christ and, as the faithful steward of God’s mysteries, has determined its “dispensation.”8 Thus the Church has discerned over the centuries that among liturgical celebrations there are seven that are, in the strict sense of the term, sacraments instituted by the Lord.

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 Jn 5:19, 30; cf. Jn 15:5.

7 2 Cor 3:6; 6:4; 5:20; 1 Cor 4:1.

8 Jn 16:13; cf. Mt 13:52; 1 Cor 4:1.

APPLICATION

The lesson we all must learn from St. Paul today is that we must avoid judging our neighbor–the right to judge belongs to God, who alone is aware of all the facts and circumstances. The strange fact is that there is a deep-rooted inclination in most of us to pass a moral judgment, almost always a condemnatory judgment, on our neighbor’s actions. But this is an inclination we must resist, however strong the temptation. What we hear the neighbor say, or what we see him do, may appear evil to us, but even granted that it is evil, ours is not the right to condemn. That remains God’s prerogative. As St. Paul tells us, we cannot see the “purpose of the heart.” The neighbor’s intention, which alone gives moral value to his sayings or doings, is unknown to us, and so our judgment is passed without full knowledge of the facts. It is, therefore, rash.

This prohibition of judging and condemning our neighbor holds for all our neighbors, whether they be above us, below us, or our equals. With our equals, and those below us, we are inclined to be a little more lenient, perhaps because we understand their circumstances better. But as a rule, our severest condemnations are reserved for our superiors. Is it perhaps because we are jealous that they, and not we, hold the higher position, or is it less blameworthy in that we do not understand all the difficulties that they have to contend with? In either case our judgment of them is sinful for we are usurping a right which is not ours.

This does not mean that we must take no interest in our neighbors spiritual welfare. Though we are not our brothers judges, we are our brothers’ keepers. In all charity, and with true Christian humility and kindness, we must, wherever possible, help our neighbor to avoid offending God. Passing judgment on him and spreading defamatory tales about him is not the Christian approach to charitable help. Instead we must, as far as possible, cover up his failings and try to understand his weaknesses. In this frame of mind we can approach him discreetly, and if he sees our motives are really charitable we may, with God’s grace, bring him to realize his mistakes.

Many a broken home, many a lapsed Christian, many an impenitent death could and would have been prevented if neighbors were active in true love of their fellowman. And if some neighbor or neighbors are condemned when they come to the judgment seat, because we did not do our Christian duty, how can we expect a favorable judgment? We shall be judged not only on what we did but on what we left undone. Resolve today, never again to pass private judgment on your neighbor and his actions. Instead, always resolve to be ready with a word of advice, and of encouragement. Have a fervent prayer for a neighbor who seems in need of spiritual help.

One charitable word of encouragement and counsel given to an apparently erring neighbor will be more likely to help him than pages of condemnation and abuse. We shall be rewarded by God in the first case, whether we succeed or not. We shall be condemned for our judgment in the latter case whether our judgment was true or not, because we usurped God’s right.

GOSPEL

lastjudgment.jpg

MT 6:24-34

Jesus said to his disciples:

No one can serve two masters.

He will either hate one and love the other,

or be devoted to one and despise the other.

You cannot serve God and mammon.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,

what you will eat or drink,

or about your body, what you will wear.

Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds in the sky;

they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,

yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Are not you more important than they?

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?

Why are you anxious about clothes?

Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.

They do not work or spin.

But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor

was clothed like one of them.

If God so clothes the grass of the field,

which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,

will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’

or ‘What are we to drink?’or ‘What are we to wear?’

All these things the pagans seek.

Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,

and all these things will be given you besides.

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/022617.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 270 God is the Father Almighty, whose fatherhood and power shed light on one another: God reveals his fatherly omnipotence by the way he takes care of our needs; by the filial adoption that he gives us (“I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty”):1 finally by his infinite mercy, for he displays his power at its height by freely forgiving sins.

CCC 305 Jesus asks for childlike abandonment to the providence of our heavenly Father who takes care of his children’s smallest needs: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ”What shall we eat?“ or ”What shall we drink?“… Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.”2

CCC 1753 A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving).3

CCC 1942 The virtue of solidarity goes beyond material goods. In spreading the spiritual goods of the faith, the Church has promoted, and often opened new paths for, the development of temporal goods as well. And so throughout the centuries has the Lord’s saying been verified: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well”:4

For two thousand years this sentiment has lived and endured in the soul of the Church, impelling souls then and now to the heroic charity of monastic farmers, liberators of slaves, healers of the sick, and messengers of faith, civilization, and science to all generations and all peoples for the sake of creating the social conditions capable of offering to everyone possible a life worthy of man and of a Christian.5

CCC 2113 Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and mammon.”6 Many martyrs died for not adoring “the Beast”7 refusing even to simulate such worship. Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God.8

CCC 2416 Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory.9 Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals.

CCC 2424 A theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable. The disordered desire for money cannot but produce perverse effects. It is one of the causes of the many conflicts which disturb the social order.10

A system that “subordinates the basic rights of individuals and of groups to the collective organization of production” is contrary to human dignity.11 Every practice that reduces persons to nothing more than a means of profit enslaves man, leads to idolizing money, and contributes to the spread of atheism. “You cannot serve God and mammon.”12

CCC 2547 The Lord grieves over the rich, because they find their consolation in the abundance of goods.13 “Let the proud seek and love earthly kingdoms, but blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”14 Abandonment to the providence of the Father in heaven frees us from anxiety about tomorrow.15 Trust in God is a preparation for the blessedness of the poor. They shall see God.

CCC 2608 From the Sermon on the Mount onwards, Jesus insists on conversion of heart: reconciliation with one’s brother before presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors, prayer to the Father in secret, not heaping up empty phrases, prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and seeking the Kingdom before all else.16 This filial conversion is entirely directed to the Father.

CCC 2821 This petition is taken up and granted in the prayer of Jesus which is present and effective in the Eucharist; it bears its fruit in new life in keeping with the Beatitudes.17

CCC 2830 “Our bread”: The Father who gives us life cannot not but give us the nourishment life requires – all appropriate goods and blessings, both material and spiritual. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus insists on the filial trust that cooperates with our Father’s providence.18 He is not inviting us to idleness,19 but wants to relieve us from nagging worry and preoccupation. Such is the filial surrender of the children of God:

To those who seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, he has promised to give all else besides. Since everything indeed belongs to God, he who possesses God wants for nothing, if he himself is not found wanting before God.20

CCC 2836 “This day” is also an expression of trust taught us by the Lord,21 which we would never have presumed to invent. Since it refers above all to his Word and to the Body of his Son, this “today” is not only that of our mortal time, but also the “today” of God.

If you receive the bread each day, each day is today for you. If Christ is yours today, he rises for you every day. How can this be? “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” Therefore, “today” is when Christ rises.22

1 2 Cor 6:18; cf. Mt 6:32.

2 Mt 6:31-33; cf. 10:29-31.

3 Cf. Mt 6:24.

4 Mt 6:33.

5 Pius XII, Discourse, June 1, 1941.

6 Mt 6:24.

7 Cf. Rev 13-14.

8 Cf. Gal 5:20; Eph 5:5.

9 Cf. Mt 6:26; Dan 3:79-81.

10 Cf. GS 63 # 3; LE 7; 20; CA 35.

11 GS 65 # 2.

12 Mt 6:24; Lk 16:13.

13 Lk 6:24.

14 St. Augustine, De serm. Dom. in monte 1, 1, 3: PL 34, 1232.

15 Cf. Mt 6:25-34.

16 Cf. Mt 5:23-24, 44-45; 6:7,14-15, 21, 25, 33.

17 Cf. Jn 17:17-20; Mt 5:13-16; 6:24; 7:12-13.

18 Cf. Mt 6:25-34.

19 Cf. 2 Thess 3:6-13.

20 St. Cyprian, De Dom. orat. 21 PL 4, 534A.

21 Cf. Mt 6:34; Ex 16:19.

22 St. Ambrose, De Sacr. 5, 4, 26: PL 16, 453A; cf. Ps 2:7.

APPLICATION

The lesson is evident : God must have first place in our lives, if we really believe in a future, eternal life, as all Christians, and most other sane men do. But we still must earn our living and work our passage through life. What Christ is warning us against is that we must not get so attached to, and so enslaved by, the things of this world, that we neglect God and our own eternal happiness.

Most of us will say: “there is little danger that we shall get enslaved by the wealth of this world—we have so little of it.” But a man can get so attached to the little he has and so anxious to increase it, that he can cut God out of his life and forget the one thing necessary. Remember that a man can be drowned as easily in a tub of water as he could be in the deepest point in the Atlantic ocean. It is not the possession of the things of this world that Christ forbids, but letting the things of this world possess us. While we make the wealth and the goods of this earth serve our eternal purpose we can be true followers of Christ, but if we let them enslave us to the exclusion of that purpose then we are indeed on the wrong road.

In the parable of Dives and Lazarus, it was not the possession of much wealth that brought Dives to hell, but the wrong use of it. He lacked charity. He ignored his needy neighbors. He selfishly tried to spend all his wealth on himself. Neither was it the poverty of Lazarus that brought him to Abraham’s bosom, but the willing acceptance of his lot. He was unable, through illness, to earn his bread. He got little charity from those who could and should have helped him. Yet he bore with his misfortune patiently and so earned heaven. The fact is, of course, that not all rich men will go to hell. Neither will all beggars go to heaven.

While we work honestly for our living, we have every right to our just wage and have every freedom to spend what we earn on the necessities of life for ourselves and our families. We can also make the normal provisions for the years that may lie ahead. What our Lord is condemning is the inordinate love of riches and the things of this world—a love so inordinate that it leaves us no time, and no desire, to look for, and provide for, our real future–the life that begins when we leave this earth and all that it has.

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

BENEDICTUS

Forty Days of Preparation

In the forty days of the preparation for Easter, we endeavor to get away from the heathenism that weighs us down, that is always driving us away from God, and we set off toward him once again. So, too, at the beginning of the Eucharist, in the confession of sin, we are always trying to take up this path again, to set out, to go to the mountain of God’s word and God’s presence… We must learn that it is only in the silent, barely noticeable things that what is great takes place, that man becomes God’s image and the world once more becomes the radiance of God’s glory. Let us ask the Lord to give us a receptivity to his gentle presence; let us ask hum to help us not to be so deafened and desensitized by this world’s loud outcry that our receptivity fails to register him. Let us ask him that we may hear his quiet voice, go with him, and be of service together with him and in his way, so that his kingdom may become present in this world… We imitate God, we live by God, like God, by entering into Christ’s manner of life. He has climbed down from his divine being and become one of us; he has given himself and does so continually… It is by these little daily virtues, again and again, that we step out of our bitterness, our anger toward others, our refusal to accept the other’s otherness; by them, again and again, we open up to each other in forgiveness. This “littleness” is the concrete form of our being like Christ and living like God, imitating God; he has given himself to us so that we can give ourselves to him and to one another.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer for Gods Guidance

Father in Heaven,

You made me Your child

and called me to walk in the Light of Christ.

Free me from darkness

and keep me in the Light of Your Truth.

The Light of Jesus has scattered

the darkness of hatred and sin.

Called to that Light,

I ask for Your guidance.

Form my life in Your Truth,

my heart in Your Love.

Through the Holy Eucharist,

give me the power of Your Grace

that I may walk in the Light of Jesus

and serve Him faithfully.

Posted in Catholic

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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OPENING PRAYER

In the name of the Father,

and of the Son,

and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Ten Commandments

1. I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me.

2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

3. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s day.

4. Honor your father and your mother.

5. You shall not kill.

6. You shall not commit adultery.

7. You shall not steal.

8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.

10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.

The Great Commandment

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Lk 10:27

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen

COLLECT

Grant, we pray, almighty God,

that, always pondering spiritual things,

we may carry out in both word and deed

that which is 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

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LV 19:1-2, 17-18

The LORD said to Moses,

Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them:

Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.

Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen,

do not incur sin because of him.

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

I am the LORD.”

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2055 When someone asks him, “Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?”1 Jesus replies: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.”2 The Decalogue must be interpreted in light of this twofold yet single commandment of love, the fullness of the Law:

The commandments: “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.3

CCC 2196 In response to the question about the first of the commandments, Jesus says: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”4

The apostle St. Paul reminds us of this: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,‘ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”5

CCC 2811 In spite of the holy Law that again and again their Holy God gives them – “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” – and although the Lord shows patience for the sake of his name, the people turn away from the Holy One of Israel and profane his name among the nations.6 For this reason the just ones of the old covenant, the poor survivors returned from exile, and the prophets burned with passion for the name.

1 Mt 22:36.

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

3 Rom 13:9-10.

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

5 Rom 13:8-10.

6 Ezek 20:9, 14, 22, 39; cf. Lev 19:2.

APPLICATION

“You shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.” This command given by God to the Israelites seems at first sight impossible of fulfillment for weak, human nature. God is holiness itself, he is holy by his nature, which is divine, while man, even the best of men, seems inclined to unholiness or evil by his very nature. But God did not command the Israelites to be as holy as he is–that would be an impossibility. What he does give them is the reason why they should be as holy as men can be. He is the God of holiness, the God of all perfection, they are his chosen ones. They should therefore strive to achieve such human perfection as would make them worthy of the holy state he has planned for them, namely, adopted sonship.

This same command holds for all men still. We Christians should find it much easier to fulfill, since the Incarnation, which was only very vaguely revealed to the Israelites, has taken place in our history–“before our eyes” as it were. Through the Incarnation, we know God’s real purpose for us men. He has made us his adopted sons, he has given us the example of Christ, his divine Son in true human nature, who as man lived a life of perfect holiness, perfect obedience to his heavenly Father. With such an example, and with the clear understanding of what the end and purpose of our journey through life is, we should not find it so hard to strive to make ourselves worthy of the honor and the great future God has in store for us.

We are God’s adopted sons. There is an eternity of happiness awaiting us when we end our sojourn here below The Christian who is convinced of this truth, as every sincere Christian is, will not look on the command to be holy so much as a command, as a necessary preparation for what is to come, a preparation which he gladly undertakes. The bride-to-be who is told by her mother to prepare herself fittingly for her wedding-day would hardly call this a command. We are destined to be brides of Christ for all eternity. We are convinced of this, that is why we are Christians. Now then could we look on the necessary preparations for our wedding-day, the day of our judgment, as something onerous, something we dislike?

We have seen God’s love for us. The Incarnation shows a love which surpasses the wildest hopes or imagination of men. Would we be so mean and so ungrateful as to refuse the puny bit of human love which he asks of us in return? We know for certain what future God has planned for us and earned for us through the God-man Christ–an eternity of happiness with God in heaven. Who would be so foolish, so forgetful of his own best interest, as to let the trifling, fleeting, unsatisfying things of this earth prevent him from reaching such a happy, unending future?

God’s call to us to be holy is really not a command but the kind and loving advice of an infinitely loving Father.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

PS 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13

The Lord is kind and merciful.

Bless the LORD, O my soul;

and all my being, bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

The Lord is kind and merciful.

He pardons all your iniquities,

heals all your ills.

He redeems your life from destruction,

crowns you with kindness and compassion.

The Lord is kind and merciful.

Merciful and gracious is the LORD,

slow to anger and abounding in kindness.

Not according to our sins does he deal with us,

nor does he requite us according to our crimes.

The Lord is kind and merciful.

As far as the east is from the west,

so far has he put our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children,

so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.

The Lord is kind and merciful.

READING II

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COR 3:16-23

Brothers and sisters:

Do you not know that you are the temple of God,

and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person;

for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.

Let no one deceive himself.

If any one among you considers himself wise in this age,

let him become a fool, so as to become wise.

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God,

for it is written:

God catches the wise in their own ruses,

and again:

The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,

that they are vain.

So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you,

Paul or Apollos or Cephas,

or the world or life or death,

or the present or the future:

all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 797 “What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church.”1 “To this Spirit of Christ, as an invisible principle, is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the body are joined one with the other and with their exalted head; for the whole Spirit of Christ is in the head, the whole Spirit is in the body, and the whole Spirit is in each of the members.”2 The Holy Spirit makes the Church “the temple of the living God”:3

Indeed, it is to the Church herself that the “Gift of God” has been entrusted. .. In it is in her that communion with Christ has been deposited, that is to say: the Holy Spirit, the pledge of incorruptibility, the strengthening of our faith and the ladder of our ascent to God. .. For where the Church is, there also is God’s Spirit; where God’s Spirit is, there is the Church and every grace.4

1 St. Augustine, Sermo 267, 4: PL 38, 1231D.

2 Pius XII, encyclical, Mystici Corporis: DS 3808.

3 2 Cor 6:16; cf. 1 Cor 3:16-17; Eph 2:21.

4 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 24, 1: PG 7/1, 966.

APPLICATION

Today these words of St. Paul call on each one of us to stop and think of the divine gift God gave us when he made us Christians. We know where we come from, we know where we are going. God created us–be it through evolution or directly, it matters not–and it is to God that we owe the fact that we are here and now on this planet. But great though the gift of earthly life is, it would be, without the hope of a future life, a source of unhappiness for any thinking man. If after all my striving, all my endeavors, all my attempts to collect all the pleasures, wealth and happiness that this life can give, I were convinced that I would end forever in a hole in the ground, in a few years’ time, what a cloud of unhappiness would hang over even my happiest day!

But thanks to the divine gift of faith, I know that my few years on this earth are only a period given me to prepare for my future. I know that my earthly death is not the end but the beginning of my real life–a life that will never again end. What a consoling, what an uplifting thought this is, not only in my hours of suffering or trouble but in my moments of greatest happiness. I can see in them a foretaste of what is to come, as I can and should see in my sufferings the divine medicine which will one day bring me back to eternal health.

We have the true wisdom; we know the real truths. Let the world-wise wear out their strength collecting this world’s empty packages; let the neo-pagans keep on burying God and straining all their nerves to build a heaven on earth; we know the true value of this world’s goods; we know where the true, lasting heaven is, and please God it is there we are going.

But to get there we must never forget that we are God’s temple, as St. Paul tells us today. We must keep that temple pure and holy. We belong to God; we are his adopted sons. Let us strive every day of our lives to be worthy of this gratuitous divine honor. We could forfeit and lose this privilege–others have done so before us. God forbid that any of us should find himself among their number when he is called from this life.

GOSPEL

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MT 5:38-48

Jesus said to his disciples:

You have heard that it was said,

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.

When someone strikes you on your right cheek,

turn the other one as well.

If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,

hand over your cloak as well.

Should anyone press you into service for one mile,

go for two miles.

Give to the one who asks of you,

and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

You have heard that it was said,

You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.

But I say to you, love your enemies

and pray for those who persecute you,

that you may be children of your heavenly Father,

for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,

and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?

Do not the tax collectors do the same?

And if you greet your brothers only,

what is unusual about that?

Do not the pagans do the same?

So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021917.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 1693 Christ Jesus always did what was pleasing to the Father,4 and always lived in perfect communion with him. Likewise Christ’s disciples are invited to live in the sight of the Father “who sees in secret,”5 in order to become “perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”6

CCC 1825 Christ died out of love for us, while we were still “enemies.”7 The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself.8

The Apostle Paul has given an incomparable depiction of charity: “charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”9

CCC 1933 This same duty extends to those who think or act differently from us. The teaching of Christ goes so far as to require the forgiveness of offenses. He extends the commandment of love, which is that of the New Law, to all enemies.10 Liberation in the spirit of the Gospel is incompatible with hatred of one’s enemy as a person, but not with hatred of the evil that he does as an enemy.

CCC 1968 The Law of the Gospel fulfills the commandments of the Law. The Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, far from abolishing or devaluing the moral prescriptions of the Old Law, releases their hidden potential and has new demands arise from them: it reveals their entire divine and human truth. It does not add new external precepts, but proceeds to reform the heart, the root of human acts, where man chooses between the pure and the impure,11 where faith, hope, and charity are formed and with them the other virtues. The Gospel thus brings the Law to its fullness through imitation of the perfection of the heavenly Father, through forgiveness of enemies and prayer for persecutors, in emulation of the divine generosity.12

CCC 2013 “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity.”13 All are called to holiness: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”14

In order to reach this perfection the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ’s gift, so that. .. doing the will of the Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor. Thus the holiness of the People of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is clearly shown in the history of the Church through the lives of so many saints.13

CCC 2054 Jesus acknowledged the Ten Commandments, but he also showed the power of the Spirit at work in their letter. He preached a “righteousness [which] exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees”16 as well as that of the Gentiles.17 He unfolded all the demands of the Commandments. “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill.’. .. But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.”18

CCC 2262 In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, “You shall not kill,”19 and adds to it the proscription of anger, hatred, and vengeance. Going further, Christ asks his disciples to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies.20 He did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath.21

CCC 2303 Deliberate hatred is contrary to charity. Hatred of the neighbor is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. Hatred of the neighbor is a grave sin when one deliberately desires him grave harm. “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”22

CCC 2443 God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them: “Give to him who begs from you, do not refuse him who would borrow from you”; “you received without pay, give without pay.”23 It is by what they have done for the poor that Jesus Christ will recognize his chosen ones.24 When “the poor have the good news preached to them,” it is the sign of Christ’s presence.25

CCC 2828 “Give us”: The trust of children who look to their Father for everything is beautiful. “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”26 He gives to all the living “their food in due season.”27 Jesus teaches us this petition, because it glorifies our Father by acknowledging how good he is, beyond all goodness.

CCC 2842 This “as” is not unique in Jesus’ teaching: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”; “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”28 It is impossible to keep the Lord’s commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make “ours” the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.29 Then the unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves “forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave” us.30

CCC 2844 Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of enemies,31 transfiguring the disciple by configuring him to his Master. Forgiveness is a high-point of Christian prayer; only hearts attuned to God’s compassion can receive the gift of prayer. Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin. The martyrs of yesterday and today bear this witness to Jesus. Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another.32

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. Jn 8:29.

5 Mt 6:6.

6 Mt 5:48.

7 Rom 5:10.

8 Cf. Mt 5:44; Lk 10:27-37; Mk 9:37; Mt 25:40, 45.

9 1 Cor 13:4-7.

10 Cf. Mt 5:43-44.

11 Cf. Mt 15:18-19.

12 Cf. Mt 5:44,48.

13 LG 40 # 2.

14 Mt 5:48.

15 LG 40 # 2.

16 Mt 5:20.

17 Cf. Mt 5:46-47.

18 Mt 5:21-22.

19 Mt 5:21.

20 Cf. Mt 5:22-39; 5:44.

21 Cf. Mt 26:52.

22 Mt 5:44-45.

23 Mt 5:42; 10:8.

24 Cf. Mt 25:31-36.

25 Mt 11:5; cf. Lk 4:18.

26 Mt 5:45.

27 PS 104:27.

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

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

30 Eph 4:32.

31 Cf. Mt 5:43-44.

32 Cf. 2 Cor 5:18-21; John Paul II, DM 14.

APPLICATION

The lesson we have to learn from today’s gospel hardly needs any emphasizing. We must, if we are truly Christian, forgive those who offend or injure us. We must love all men, whether they be friends or enemies. G. K. Chesterton says : “We are commanded to love our neighbors and our enemies; they are generally the same people.” This is very true for all of us. It is very easy for me to love (in a theoretical way) all Japanese, Chinese, Russians and most Europeans–they never come in contact with me and never tread on my corns. But it is my neighbors, those among whom I live and work, who are liable to injure me and thus become my enemies.

Charity begins at home, because it is here that it can and should be learned and practiced. It is first and foremost necessary for Christian peace in the home. Husband and wife must learn to understand and tolerate each other’s imperfections and faults. If one offends in what the other would regard as something serious, the offended one should not demand an apology but should show forgiveness before the other has humbly to apologize. No two persons in the world, not even identical twins, can agree on all things, so it is vain and unrealistic to expect even one’s married partner to agree with one in all points. Christian charity alone can cover the multitude of faults of both partners.

If there is peace and harmony between husband and wife, as there will be if both are truly charitable, the children will learn too to be understanding and forgiving. Such a home will be a truly happy home even if it has little of the world’s riches.

Our charity must spread from the home to our neighbors–to all those with whom we have contact. It is easy to get on with most people, but in every neighborhood and in every village or town there will always be those who are difficult. There will be the dishonest, the tale-bearers, the quarrelsome, the critic of everyone and everything. It is when we have dealings with such people that all our Christian charity is necessary. Most likely we will never be able to change their ways of acting, but charity will enable us to tolerate their faults and will move us to pray for their eternal welfare.

Life for many, if not for most people, has many dark, gloomy and despairing moments. The man or woman who is moved by true Christian charity can bring a beam of sunshine, a ray of hope, into the lives of these people. Fr. Faber in a booklet on kindness has a poem which we could all learn and practice with great profit for ourselves and for a neighbor in need of kindness. He says:

“It was but a sunny smile,

And little it cost in the giving,

But it scattered the night like the

morning light

And made the day worth living.

It was but a kindly word,

A word that was lightly spoken,

Yet not in vain for it chilled the pain

Of a heart that was nearly broken.

It was but a helping hand,

And it seemed of little availing,

But its clasp was warm, it saved from

harm

A brother whose strength was failing.”

Try the sunny smile of true love, the kindly word of Christian encouragement, the helping hand of true charity, and not only will you brighten the darkness and lighten the load of your brother but you will be imitating in your own small way the perfect Father of love who is in heaven.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Commandments

The whole of man is required for the knowledge of God – understanding, will, and heart. In practice this means that we cannot know God unless we are prepared to accept his will, to take it as the yardstick and the orientation for our lives. In still more practical terms, that means that living in accordance with the commandments is a part of belonging to the pilgrim fellowship of faith, the fellowship of those traveling toward God. That is not a heteronomous rule being imposed upon man. It is in assenting to the will of God that our being made truly similar to God is actually effected, and we become what we are: the image of God. And because God is love, that is why the commandments, in which his will is made known, are the essential variations of the single theme of love. They are the practical rules of love for God, for my neighbor, for creation, for ourselves. And because again, there exists in Christ the entire assent to God’s will, the full stature of being in God’s image; that is why living in accordance with love and within the will of God is following Christ, moving toward him and walking together with him.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Act of Contrition

My God, I am sorry for my sins.

In choosing to sin, and failing to do good,

I have sinned against you and your Church.

I firmly intend, with the help of your Son,

to do penance and to sin no more.

Amen.

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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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OPENING PRAYER

Catechism 226

My Lord and my God, take from me everything that distances me from you.

My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you.

My Lord and my God, detach me from myself to give my all to you.

COLLECT

O God, who teaches 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

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SIR 15:15-20

If you choose you can

keep the commandments, they will save you;

if you trust in God, you too shall live;

he has set before you fire and water

to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.

Before man are life and death, good and evil,

whichever he chooses shall be given him.

Immense is the wisdom of the Lord;

he is mighty in power, and all-seeing.

The eyes of God are on those who fear him;

he understands man’s every deed.

No one does he command to act unjustly,

to none does he give license to sin.

APPLICATION

Any Christian parent or teacher could give us these words of truth and wisdom, and they would be of great value if we heeded them. But this same advice comes to us today not from any human authority but from God himself, who inspired and moved the man called Sirach to write these words of wisdom, which were to last and have value, for all ages and generations of men. We might question a parent’s or a teacher’s wisdom, or their right, to tell us of our personal responsibility for our actions, but who can question or challenge God’s wisdom, or God’s right, to teach us the truth concerning ourselves?

We have received the gift of free-will from God. We know that we can serve God by keeping his commandments, or that we can disrespect his authority and refuse to keep his law. Having given us free-will, he cannot force us to be loyal or grateful to him. But if we had not free-will, we should be like the beast of the field who can neither honor nor dishonor God. From the dumb beast God does not expect, nor much less demand, obedience. But from us men, to whom he gave the gifts which put us above all earthly creatures, intelligence and free-will, he does expect and demand obedience and loyal service.

Let us listen to this man Sirach today who speaks to us in God’s name. We can keep God’s commandments, and we know we can. We can choose to do good or to do evil, but if we choose evil we cannot say we could not help doing so. We might fool a fellowman by this false line of defense, but the all-wise God who “sees everything” and “knows every deed of man” cannot be deceived. But what decent man and especially what decent Christian, who knows the lengths the good God has gone to in order to give us eternal life, would want to deceive him or be disloyal to him?

Ours is a religion of love, we do not and ought not, avoid sin because we should thereby bring sufferings, and perhaps eternal death, upon ourselves. We avoid sin because it is an insult to our loving Father in heaven, who sent his divine Son on earth to live, suffer and die for us, in order to give us eternal life with the Blessed Trinity in heaven. It should be hard for any true Christian deliberately to offend such a kind, loving Father.

For those among us, who may have forgotten God’s love for them, and may have broken his commandments, let them thank God that their hour of reckoning is not already upon them. They may have written many shameful pages in their life’s story, but they have not yet finished writing it. There is still time to tear out, or erase from their biography, those pages they should not have written. The loving Father is also the all-merciful, all-forgiving Father. No sinner, no matter how sordid and shameful his actions and his disrespect for God may have been, will turn to him asking for pardon and find his request was in vain. But the sinner who keeps on postponing this return to God and continues to offend him, may find himself in the presence of the just judge when he least expects it.

God’s mercy is infinite, but he cannot pardon the free agent who does not want pardon. Notwithstanding his infinite love for all men, he cannot welcome home the prodigals who will not return home.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Psalm ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34

Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Blessed are they whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD.

Blessed are they who observe his decrees,

who seek him with all their heart.

Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

You have commanded that your precepts

be diligently kept.

Oh, that I might be firm in the ways

of keeping your statutes!

Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Be good to your servant, that I may live

and keep your words.

Open my eyes, that I may consider

the wonders of your law.

Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Instruct me, O LORD, in the way of your statutes,

that I may exactly observe them.

Give me discernment, that I may observe your law

and keep it with all my heart.

Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

READING II

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1 COR 2:6-10

Brothers and sisters:

We speak a wisdom to those who are mature,

not a wisdom of this age,

nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away.

Rather, we speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden,

which God predetermined before the ages for our glory,

and which none of the rulers of this age knew;

for, if they had known it,

they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

But as it is written:

What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,

and what has not entered the human heart,

what God has prepared for those who love him,

this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 152 One cannot believe in Jesus Christ without sharing in his Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who reveals to men who Jesus is. For “no one can say ”Jesus is Lord“, except by the Holy Spirit”,1 who “searches everything, even the depths of God. .. No one comprehends the thoughts of God, except the Spirit of God.”2 Only God knows God completely: we believe in the Holy Spirit because he is God.

The Church never ceases to proclaim her faith in one only God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

CCC 221 But St. John goes even further when he affirms that “God is love”:3 God’s very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret:4 God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.

CCC 446 In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the ineffable Hebrew name YHWH, by which God revealed himself to Moses,5 is rendered as Kyrios, “Lord”. From then on, “Lord” becomes the more usual name by which to indicate the divinity of Israel’s God. The New Testament uses this full sense of the title “Lord” both for the Father and – what is new – for Jesus, who is thereby recognized as God Himself.6

CCC 498 People are sometimes troubled by the silence of St. Mark’s Gospel and the New Testament Epistles about Jesus’ virginal conception. Some might wonder if we were merely dealing with legends or theological constructs not claiming to be history. To this we must respond: Faith in the virginal conception of Jesus met with the lively opposition, mockery or incomprehension of non-believers, Jews and pagans alike;7 so it could hardly have been motivated by pagan mythology or by some adaptation to the ideas of the age. The meaning of this event is accessible only to faith, which understands in it the “connection of these mysteries with one another”8 in the totality of Christ’s mysteries, from his Incarnation to his Passover. St. Ignatius of Antioch already bears witness to this connection: “Mary’s virginity and giving birth, and even the Lord’s death escaped the notice of the prince of this world: these three mysteries worthy of proclamation were accomplished in God’s silence.”9

CCC 598 In her Magisterial teaching of the faith and in the witness of her saints, the Church has never forgotten that “sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured.”10 Taking into account the fact that our sins affect Christ himself,11 the Church does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon Jesus, a responsibility with which they have all too often burdened the Jews alone:

We must regard as guilty all those who continue to relapse into their sins. Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to contempt. And it can be seen that our crime in this case is greater in us than in the Jews. As for them, according to the witness of the Apostle, “None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” We, however, profess to know him. And when we deny him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on him.12

Nor did demons crucify him; it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.13

CCC 1027 This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father’s house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise: “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”14

CCC 1998 This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God’s gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other creature.15

CCC 2038 In the work of teaching and applying Christian morality, the Church needs the dedication of pastors, the knowledge of theologians, and the contribution of all Christians and men of good will. Faith and the practice of the Gospel provide each person with an experience of life “in Christ,” who enlightens him and makes him able to evaluate the divine and human realities according to the Spirit of God.16 Thus the Holy Spirit can use the humblest to enlighten the learned and those in the highest positions.

1 I Cor 12:3.

2 I Cor 2:10-11.

3 l Jn 4:8, 16.

4 Cf. I Cor 2:7-16; Eph 3:9-12.

5 Cf. Ex 3:14.

6 Cf. I Cor 2:8.

7 Cf. St. Justin, Dial. 99, 7: PG 6, 708-709; Origen, Contra Celsum 1, 32, 69: PG 11, 720-721; et al.

8 Dei Filius 4: DS 3016.

9 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Eph. 19, 1: AF 11/2 76-80: cf. I Cor 2:8.

10 Roman Catechism I, 5, 11; cf. Heb 12:3.

11 Cf. Mt 25:45; Acts 9:4-5.

12 Roman Catechism I, 5, 11; cf. Heb 6:6; 1 Cor 2:8.

13 St. Francis of Assisi, Admonitio 5, 3.

14 1 Cor 2:9.

15 Cf. 1 Cor 2:7-9.

16 Cf. 1 Cor 2:10-15.

APPLICATION

The mental outlook of the world of today is little changed from that of St. Paul’s day. The philosophy and the wisdom of the rulers of this age, and unfortunately not only of those rulers, is still earth-bound and worldly. The things of God are openly denied in a large section of our world, while he is shamefully ignored and neglected in the remaining sections which nominally believe in him. Nations, and most of their citizens, are bending all their energies to obtain more and more of the passing, perishable wealth and power of this miserable planet. We are living in a welter of international, limited wars, while all the time the threat of global war, and universal destruction, is hanging like a dark thunder cloud on our horizon.

We have advanced technically beyond the wildest dreams of our forebears, but every technical advance which could and should be a boon for humanity, is turned instead into a possible instrument of human extermination. The brotherhood of man is no longer accepted as a basic human tenet, and it is little wonder, since the fatherhood of God is denied in practice as well as in theory. And it is not only in apartheid and color-prejudiced countries that segregation and suppression of the weaker brethren is practiced, but also, and maybe more so, in the so-called free democracies.

The big business tycoons of today are the counterparts of the Roman slave-drivers. Their shares and their bank accounts are their household gods. Their workers and their poorer neighbors are far less concern to them than their Cadillac’s, their yachts and their racehorses. They hold solemn funeral rites for their pet dogs, and erect tombstones over their graves, but their charwomen, living in squalor, are not given a spare thought nor a spare dime. But what is worse, this pagan and inhuman worldly philosophy spreads down like a poison gas through the ranks of the less successful middle and lower-middle classes.

This is the direct result of our forgetfulness of, or rather our ignoring, the only true wisdom of life. The eternal happiness of man, planned by God’s wisdom and love from all eternity, and effected and revealed in the Incarnation, has been forgotten. Modem man, like the pagans of old, thinks his home and his true happiness are on this earth, hence he rides roughshod over his weaker neighbor, to get all he can out of the few years he realizes he has to enjoy himself.

A return to sanity in our world can be brought about only by a return to a recognition of God’s plan for us. Our time on earth is a journey to heaven. The less we load ourselves with this world’s goods or interests, the easier our journey will be. The more we help out fellow-travelers on this journey (and this includes all men), the safer and the smoother will be our own travel. Our true happiness, our everlasting happiness, will begin only when we arrive at our earthly journey’s end. If we keep on the path marked out for us by our loving heavenly Father, and if we practice true brotherly love on the way, we can rest assured that our journey will not have been in vain.

GOSPEL

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MT 5:20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a, 37

Jesus said to his disciples:

I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses

that of the scribes and Pharisees,

you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,

You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.

But I say to you,

whoever is angry with brother

will be liable to judgment.

You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery.

But I say to you,

everyone who looks at a woman with lust

has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors,

Do not take a false oath,

but make good to the Lord all that you vow.

But I say to you, do not swear at all.

Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’

Anything more is from the evil one.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021217.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 226 It means making good use of created things: faith in God, the only One, leads us to use everything that is not God only insofar as it brings us closer to him, and to detach ourselves from it insofar as it turns us away from him:

My Lord and my God, take from me everything that distances me from you.

My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you.

My Lord and my God, detach me from myself to give my all to you.1

CCC 577 At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus issued a solemn warning in which he presented God’s law, given on Sinai during the first covenant, in light of the grace of the New Covenant:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets: I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law, until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.2

CCC 581 The Jewish people and their spiritual leaders viewed Jesus as a rabbi.3 He often argued within the framework of rabbinical interpretation of the Law.4 Yet Jesus could not help but offend the teachers of the Law, for he was not content to propose his interpretation alongside theirs but taught the people “as one who had authority, and not as their scribes”.5 In Jesus, the same Word of God that had resounded on Mount Sinai to give the written Law to Moses, made itself heard anew on the Mount of the Beatitudes.6 Jesus did not abolish the Law but fulfilled it by giving its ultimate interpretation in a divine way: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old. .. But I say to you. ..”7 With this same divine authority, he disavowed certain human traditions of the Pharisees that were “making void the word of God”.8

CCC 678 Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment of the Last Day in his preaching.9 Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light.10 Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God’s grace as nothing be condemned.11 Our attitude to our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love.12 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.”13

CCC 1034 Jesus often speaks of “Gehenna” of “the unquenchable fire” reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.14 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he “will send his angels, and they will gather. .. all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,”15 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!”16

CCC 1424 It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a “confession” – acknowledgment and praise – of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.

It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent “pardon and peace.”17

It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the live of God who reconciles: “Be reconciled to God.”18 He who lives by God’s merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call: “Go; first be reconciled to your brother.”19

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.”20

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.”21

CCC 1967 The Law of the Gospel “fulfills,” refines, surpasses, and leads the Old Law to its perfection.22 In the Beatitudes, the New Law fulfills the divine promises by elevating and orienting them toward the “kingdom of heaven.” It is addressed to those open to accepting this new hope with faith – the poor, the humble, the afflicted, the pure of heart, those persecuted on account of Christ and so marks out the surprising ways of the Kingdom.

CCC 2053 To this first reply Jesus adds a second: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”23 This reply does not do away with the first: following Jesus Christ involves keeping the Commandments. The Law has not been abolished,24 but rather man is invited to rediscover it in the person of his Master who is its perfect fulfillment. In the three synoptic Gospels, Jesus’ call to the rich young man to follow him, in the obedience of a disciple and in the observance of the Commandments, is joined to the call to poverty and chastity.25 The evangelical counsels are inseparable from the Commandments.

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 2153 In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained the second commandment: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all. .. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”26 Jesus teaches that every oath involves a reference to God and that God’s presence and his truth must be honored in all speech. Discretion in calling upon God is allied with a respectful awareness of his presence, which all our assertions either witness to or mock.

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.”27

CCC 2262 In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, “You shall not kill,”28 and adds to it the proscription of anger, hatred, and vengeance. Going further, Christ asks his disciples to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies.29 He did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath.30

CCC 2302 By recalling the commandment, “You shall not kill,”31 our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral.

Anger is a desire for revenge. “To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit,” but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution “to correct vices and maintain justice.”32 If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin. The Lord says, “Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.”33

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.”34

God created man in his own image. .. male and female he created them”;35 He blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply”;36 “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.”37

CCC 2336 Jesus came to restore creation to the purity of its origins. In the Sermon on the Mount, he interprets God’s plan strictly: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”38 What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.39

The tradition of the Church has understood the sixth commandment as encompassing the whole of human sexuality.

CCC 2338 The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech.40

CCC 2380 Adultery refers to marital infidelity. When two partners, of whom at least one is married to another party, have sexual relations – even transient ones – they commit adultery. Christ condemns even adultery of mere desire.41 The sixth commandment and the New Testament forbid adultery absolutely.42 The prophets denounce the gravity of adultery; they see it as an image of the sin of idolatry.43

CCC 2382 The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble.44 He abrogates the accommodations that had slipped into the old Law.45

Between the baptized, “a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death.”46

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 2466 In Jesus Christ, the whole of God’s truth has been made manifest. “Full of grace and truth,” he came as the “light of the world,” he is the Truth.47 “Whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”48 The disciple of Jesus continues in his word so as to know “the truth [that] will make you free” and that sanctifies.49 To follow Jesus is to live in “the Spirit of truth,” whom the Father sends in his name and who leads “into all the truth.”50 To his disciples Jesus teaches the unconditional love of truth: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes or No.’”51

CCC 2514 St. John distinguishes three kinds of covetousness or concupiscence: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life.52 In the Catholic catechetical tradition, the ninth commandment forbids carnal concupiscence; the tenth forbids coveting another’s goods.

CCC 2608 From the Sermon on the Mount onwards, Jesus insists on conversion of heart: reconciliation with one’s brother before presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors, prayer to the Father in secret, not heaping up empty phrases, prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and seeking the Kingdom before all else.53 This filial conversion is entirely directed to the Father.

CCC 2792 Finally, if we pray the Our Father sincerely, we leave individualism behind, because the love that we receive frees us from it. The “our” at the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer, like the “us” of the last four petitions, excludes no one. If we are to say it truthfully, our divisions and oppositions have to be overcome.54

CCC 2841 This petition is so important that it is the only one to which the Lord returns and which he develops explicitly in the Sermon on the Mount.55 This crucial requirement of the covenant mystery is impossible for man. But “with God all things are possible.”56

CCC 2845 There is no limit or measure to this essentially divine forgiveness,57 whether one speaks of “sins” as in Luke (11:4), “debts” as in Matthew (6:12). We are always debtors: “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.”58 The communion of the Holy Trinity is the source and criterion of truth in every relation ship. It is lived out in prayer, above all in the Eucharist.59

God does not accept the sacrifice of a sower of disunion, but commands that he depart from the altar so that he may first be reconciled with his brother. For God can be appeased only by prayers that make peace. To God, the better offering is peace, brotherly concord, and a people made one in the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.60

1 St. Nicholas of Flue; cf. Mt 5:29-30; 16:24-26.

2 Mt 5:17-19.

3 Cf Jn 11:28; 3:2; Mt 22:23-24, 34-36.

4 Cf. Mt 12:5; 9:12; Mk 2:23-27; Lk 6:6-g; Jn 7:22-23.

5 Mt 7:28-29.

6 Cf. Mt 5:1.

7 Mt 5:33-34.

8 Mk 7:13; cf. 3:8.

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

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

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

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

13 Mt 25:40.

14 Cf. Mt 5:22, 29; 10:28; 13:42, 50; Mk 9:43-48.

15 Mt 13:41-42.

16 Mt 25:41.

17 OP 46 formula of absolution.

18 2 Cor 5:20.

19 MT 5:24.

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

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

22 Cf. Mt 5:17-19.

23 Mt 19:21.

24 Cf. Mt 5:17.

25 Cf. Mt 19:6-12, 21, 23-29.

26 Mt 5:33-34,37; Cf. Jas 5:12.

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

28 Mt 5:21.

29 Cf. Mt 5:22-39; 5:44.

30 Cf. Mt 26:52.

31 Mt 5:21.

32 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 158, 1 ad 3.

33 Mt 5:22.

34 FC 11.

35 Gen 1:27.

36 Gen 1:28.

37 Gen 5:1-2.

38 Mt 5:27-28.

39 Cf. Mt 19:6.

40 Cf. Mt 5:37.

41 Cf. Mt 5:27-28.

42 Cf. Mt 5:32; 19:6; Mk 10:11; 1 Cor 6:9-10.

43 Cf. Hos 2:7; Jer 5:7; 13:27.

44 Cf. Mt 5:31-32; 19:3-9; Mk 10 9; Lk 16:18; 1 Cor 7:10-ll.

45 Cf. Mt 19:7-9.

46 CIC, can. 1141.

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

48 Jn 12:46.

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

50 Jn 16:13.

51 Mt 5:37.

52 Cf. 1 Jn 2:16.

53 Cf. Mt 5:23-24, 44-45; 6:7,14-15, 21, 25, 33.

54 Cf. Mt 5:23-24; 6:14-15.

55 Cf. Mt 6:14-15; 5:23-24; Mk 11:25.

56 Mt 19:26.

57 Cf. Mt 18:21-22; Lk 17:3-4.

58 Rom 13:8.

59 Cf. Mt 5:23-24; 1 Jn 3:19-24.

60 St. Cyprian, De Dom. orat. 23: PL 4, 535-536; cf. Mt 5:24.

APPLICATION

In this Sermon on the Mount, we have various sayings of Christ, actually spoken on different occasions. Matthew, in his systematic manner, has gathered these sayings into one continuous discourse here. This makes it easier for his readers, who were Jewish converts, to grasp the new order of salvation as inaugurated by Christ. They knew the ten commandments, but they knew them as their rabbis had taught them. These rabbis, for the most part Pharisees, put all the stress on the letter of the law and on its external observance. Christ’s opening statement, that the attitude of his followers towards the commandments (and other precepts of the law) must be different, and superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees, clearly indicates how Christianity must differ from, and supersede, Judaism.

Christ is not abolishing the ten commandments, but he is demanding of his followers a more perfect, a more sincere, fulfillment of them. The whole moral value of any legal observance (the Mosaic law included), comes from the interior disposition of him who observes or keeps the law. No man serves or honors God by any exterior acts, be they ever so arduous or continuous, unless these acts proceed from an intention and a will to honor and please God. This is the charter, the constitution, of the new law, Christianity. The old law is not abolished, but deepened and given a new life.

Avoiding murder therefore is not enough; the true Christian must remove any inclination to murder by building up true, brotherly love for all men in his heart.

We must not only not injure our neighbor or fellowman in his person, or in his character, but we must be ever ready to help him and prevent injury to him, whenever and wherever we can. We must not only not commit adultery, but must also develop a Christian respect and esteem for purity, the virtue which will preserve us not only from adultery but even from thoughts of adultery, or any other abuse of our sexual gifts given us by God for his sublime purpose.

We must be truthful always, and men of our word. This virtue is not only necessary for man’s salvation, but is the basis of rational intercourse between men in civilized society. While our civil courts still deem it necessary to impose oaths on contestants and witnesses (since they have, unfortunately, to take account of the liars and deceivers who still are a menace to society), the truthful man need not be afraid of insulting or dishonoring God by calling him as his guarantor, if asked to do so.

True and loyal service of God therefore begins in the heart and has its value from this interior disposition. Keeping the ten commandments is our way of proving to God that we are grateful, obedient and loyal to him who gave us all we have and who has promised us future gifts infinitely greater still. And just as our love for God is proved by our true love for our neighbor, so the last seven of the commandments impose on us obligations regarding our neighbor. It is only by fulfilling these seven that we can fulfill the first three which govern our relations with God.

This truth is expressed by our Lord in the words: It you are offering your gift at the altar, and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there… first be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift.

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

BENEDICTUS

The Denial of Sin

It is precisely the existence of sin that modern man is unable to take seriously. Because of this rejection of the concept of sin, no one is directly touched today by the Gospel claim that the evidence of Jesus’ divine nature is based on his power to forgive sin. Most people do not explicitly deny the existence of God, but they do not believe that he is of any importance in the realm of human life. Hardly anyone seriously thinks nowadays that men’s wrong actions may concern God so much that he regards them as sinful and offensive to humself, with the result that such sin must be forgiven by him alone. Even theologians have discussed the possibility of replacing the practice of confessing sin by conversations with psychologists, sociologists, and lawyers. Sin does not really exist. There are only problems, and these can be settled with the help of experts. Sin has disappeared and with it forgiveness, and behind that disappearance there is also the disappearance of a God who is turned thward man. In this situation, Christians can only turn to the Gospel, which can give us courage to grasp the truth. Only the truth can make us free. But the truth is that there is guilt and that we ourselves are guilty. It is Christ’s new truth that there is also forgiveness by the one who has the power to forgive. The Gospel calls on us to accept this truth. There is a God. Sin exists and there is also forgiveness. We need that forgiveness if we are not to seek refuge in the lie of excuses and thus destroy ourselves… Where there is forgiveness, there is also healing.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 51: 1-12

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;

According to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight,

So that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgement.

Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing heart.

Amen

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

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

ChristTheTeacher smaller.jpg

‘your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

OPENING PRAYER

Jesus Light of the World

Jesus, Light of the World, For the many that have followed you today through the darkness of temptation, doubt, or pain, you are the promise of an eternal dawn. We give thanks for all that has been given to us through you, and we ask for the grace to be your faithful disciples. May we praise you all the days of our lives. Amen

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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Is 58:7-10

Thus says the LORD:

Share your bread with the hungry,

shelter the oppressed and the homeless;

clothe the naked when you see them,

and do not turn your back on your own.

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,

and your wound shall quickly be healed;

your vindication shall go before you,

and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,

you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

If you remove from your midst

oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;

if you bestow your bread on the hungry

and satisfy the afflicted;

then light shall rise for you in the darkness,

and the gloom shall become for you like midday.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2447 The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.1 Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.2 Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God:3

.4 But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you.5 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?6

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

2 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

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

4 Lk 3:11.

5 Lk 11:41.

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

APPLICATION

Charity, true love of neighbor which produces good deeds of kindness, is equated with love of God, by Christ himself (Mt. 22:39), and is the proof of one’s true love for God, according to St. John (1 Jn. 4: 20). All our protestations that we love God, and all our devotions and prayers are not only useless, but are lies to God, if we hate one of our neighbors or refuse to help a needy one, when we are able to do so. This is a truth that should make us all stop and think. We may wonder sometimes, if God has forgotten us when all the prayers something we need so badly, are left unanswered. Perhaps it’s for because we have been liars to God’s face, or have professed that we loved him and trusted in his goodness while we hated one his children–our neighbor.

It is true, there are so many calls on our charity today. So many are in dire need at home an abroad, that we can grow tired of sharing our bread or our clothes. But God does not expect, or demand of us, to help everybody, but only as many as we can. However, the obligation of forgiving a neighbor who has offended us, or of ridding ourselves of any racial, color or religious bias, which we hold , costs us only a wee bit of personal pride. Are we so important that nobody should dare ever offend us, or rather do we act as if an offense were meant? Nearly always a friendly word from the one who was offended, or who thought that he was offended, will put the record straight and mutual charity will be restored. Are we so superior because of our color, or our creed, that we can behave insultingly, that is uncharitably, towards a neighbor who hasn’t got these same gifts that we have the good fortune to possess?

Charity begins at home, but it must not end there. Be peaceful, forgiving, cheerful, helpful in the home and you will find how quickly the other members of the family will react and begin to imitate you. Outside of the home our nearest neighbors must be the first to feel the warmth of our charity. Without prying into their private affairs, which is the opposite of charity, we can easily learn, from casual conversation, if any of them are in need of some of the spiritual or corporal works of mercy.

Remember this: he who loves his neighbor with a Christian love, which means that he is always ready to help any neighbor in need, is thereby proving his true love for God. Should the time come when he himself should be in need of help, he is assured of God’s help, and his neighbors will not be found wanting either.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.

Light shines through the darkness for the upright;

he is gracious and merciful and just.

Well for the man who is gracious and lends,

who conducts his affairs with justice.

The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.

He shall never be moved;

the just one shall be in everlasting remembrance.

An evil report he shall not fear;

his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.

The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.

His heart is steadfast; he shall not fear.

Lavishly he gives to the poor;

His justice shall endure forever;

his horn shall be exalted in glory.

The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.

READING II

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1 Cor 2:1-5

When I came to you, brothers and sisters,

proclaiming the mystery of God,

I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom.

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you

except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling,

and my message and my proclamation

were not with persuasive words of wisdom,

but with a demonstration of Spirit and power,

so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom

but on the power of God.

APPLICATION

The movie, “The Song of Bernadette,” which gives the story of Lourdes and its miracles, begins with the following, words which are displayed across the screen: “For him who does not believe in God no explanation is possible; for him who believes in God no explanation is necessary.” These words very aptly describe the lesson to be drawn from today’s reading from St. Paul’s first letter to his Corinthian converts. These had not become Christians, they had not changed their mode of life and their outlook on life, because of any human or earthly influence.

Their conversion was due, exclusively, to the divine power which convinced them that there was a God–a God of power and majesty, but especially a God of love, who so loved mankind that he sent his divine Son on earth to bring all men to heaven. The facts of the Incamation, of Christ’s life, death and resurrection were told to them by Paul, but the gift of faith which enabled them to accept these facts as objective reality and truth was given them by God. Worldly wisdom had no part in getting the Corinthians to give up their pagan life of easy morality and loose living, to take on themselves the restrictions and obligations of the Christian faith. Today, more perhaps than in any previous age in the Church’s history, there are Christians who are looking for human reasons, that they think will justify them in giving up the restrictions and obligations of the faith of Christ, to return to the freedom and self-indulgence of neo-paganism.

Human reasoning alone cannot give one an adequate and sufficient knowledge of God, but it does give us a basis on which God’s gift of faith can solidly rest. But there no human logic, no human reasoning. Which can disprove the existence of God, or the fact that he has revealed to us sufficient knowledge of himself, to enable us to reach the end he has planned for us.

It was “the power of God,” and the merciful kindness of God, that brought the gift of faith to the Corinthians. Paul was but the weak, fragile vessel in which in which that gift came to them. It was the same power, and the same merciful goodness of God, which also brought the gift of faith to each one of us through fragile and weak, human vessels. We freely and gladly accepted it, when we came to the age when we were able to appreciate its value, not only for the after-life, but also for our years on earth. Our faith has been called, by the irreverent, the “opium of the people.” If peace of mind, consolation in sorrow, a knowledge of whither we are going, an understanding of the meaning of suffering, as well as the explanation of true joy, can be called an “opium,” then the more of that opium which this world gets the more human, as well as the more divine, it will become.

May God make his gift of faith grow stronger in each one of us, so that we may learn daily more and more about the infinite love God has for us; about the humiliations the Son of God suffered in his Incarnation for our sakes, and about the great eternal future the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have prepared for us.

GOSPEL

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MT 5:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples:

You are the salt of the earth.

But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?

It is no longer good for anything

but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

You are the light of the world.

A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.

Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;

it is set on a lampstand,

where it gives light to all in the house.

Just so, your light must shine before others,

that they may see your good deeds

and glorify your heavenly Father.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/020517.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 326 The Scriptural expression “heaven and earth” means all that exists, creation in its entirety. It also indicates the bond, deep within creation, that both unites heaven and earth and distinguishes the one from the other: “the earth” is the world of men, while “heaven” or “the heavens” can designate both the firmament and God’s own “place” – “our Father in heaven” and consequently the “heaven” too which is eschatological glory. Finally, “heaven” refers to the saints and the “place” of the spiritual creatures, the angels, who surround God.1

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

It is the People of God: God is not the property of any one people. But he acquired a people for himself from those who previously were not a people: “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”2

One becomes a member of this people not by a physical birth, but by being “born anew,” a birth “of water and the Spirit,”3 that is, by faith in Christ, and Baptism.

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

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

– “Its law is the new commandment to love as Christ loved us.”4 This is the “new” law of the Holy Spirit.5

Its mission is to be salt of the earth and light of the world.6 This people is “a most sure seed of unity, hope, and salvation for the whole human race.”

-Its destiny, finally, “is the Kingdom of God which has been begun by God himself on earth and which must be further extended until it has been brought to perfection by him at the end of time.”7

CCC 1243 The white garment symbolizes that the person baptized has “put on Christ,”8 has risen with Christ. The candle, lit from the Easter candle, signifies that Christ has enlightened the neophyte. In him the baptized are “the light of the world.”9

The newly baptized is now, in the only Son, a child of God entitled to say the prayer of the children of God: “Our Father.”

CCC 2821 This petition is taken up and granted in the prayer of Jesus which is present and effective in the Eucharist; it bears its fruit in new life in keeping with the Beatitudes.10

1 Pss 115:16; 19:2; Mt 5:16.

2 1 Pet 2:9.

3 Jn 3:3-5.

4 Cf. Jn 13 34

5 Rom 8:2; Gal 5:25.

6 Cf. Mt 5:13-16.

7 LG 9 # 2.

8 Gal 3:27.

9 Mt 5:14; cf. Phil 2:15.

10 Cf. Jn 17:17-20; Mt 5:13-16; 6:24; 7:12-13.

APPLICATION

No less an authority than Christ himself calls his true followers the “salt of the earth.” and the “light of the world.” These are titles of honor, surely, and of the greatest distinction. Christ is putting his true follower on almost a level with himself. He was the light of the world; he was the salt of the earth. He it was who gave men the knowledge of the true nature of God, as shown by the Incarnation. He it was who gave this life its flavor, who gave this life its meaning, its preservation. By his death and resurrection he took away the sting of death, and removed its eternal corruption, by the guarantee and promise of a resurrection to an eternal life.

This very Christian knows, and this knowledge every Christian helps to bring to those who are ignorant of it, if he lives his life daily and sincerely. The Christian who does this, is really another Christ; he is continuing his work of salvation during his years on earth. He is the salt, of the earth and the light of the world. How many of us, can truly say that these honorable titles, which Christ gives to his followers, are given to us?

In true humility, we can all say that we are far from worthy of any such honorable titles. Yet in all sincerity too, many if not the majority among us, are doing their little bit of Christ’s work, in cultivating their own small comer of his vineyard. The parents who teach the Christian way of life to their children by word, and especially by example, are spreading the Christian faith. The workmen, whether in office or factory, who show that they are Christians by their honesty, charity for their fellowmen, their respect for God, and the things of God, in their speech, are spreading their Christian faith. All those who show moderation in their personal expenditures, and donate some of their savings to help their brothers, their fellow men who are in need, these are true disciples of Christ and are cooperating with him in bringing God’s children back to their Father who is in heaven.

Unlike the salt that has lost its flavor, and the light that is kept under the bushel, the Christian who has thus behaved can change his attitude, provided he is aided by God’s grace which is never refused. He can become once more what he ought to be–a life-preserver for his neighbor.

Life on earth is short. The demands of our Christian life may not always be easy, but we know that if we live up to them, we are other Christs. We are continuing his great work by our own good example to our neighbor, and we are giving glory to God, and are earning for ourselves the eternal light of heaven.

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

BENEDICTUS

Humans are Dependent

Humans are dependent. They cannot live except from others and by trust. But there is nothing degrading about dependence when it takes the form of love, for then it is no longer dependence, the diminishing of self through competition with others. Dependence in the form of love precisely constitutes the self as self and sets it free, because love essentially takes the form of saying, “I want you to be.” It is creativity, the only creative power, which can bring forth the other as other without envy or loss of self. Humans are dependent – that is the primary truth about them. And because it is, only love can redeem them, for only love transforms dependence into freedom. Thus human beings will only succeed in destroying their own redemption, destroying themselves, if they eliminate love “to be on the safe side.” For humans, the crucified God is the visible certainty that creation is already an expression of love: we exist on the foundation of love. It is therefore a constitutive part of Christian faith to accept mystery as the center of reality, that is to say, to accept love, creation as love, and to make that love the foundation of one’s life.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Act of Love

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

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

Feast of The Presentation of the Lord

Presentation-Of-Our-Lord.jpg“Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord’

OPENING PRAYER

Heavenly Father, on this Feast of Candlemas, I recall the gift Mary and Joseph gave to the world by offering baby Jesus to You in the temple. I offer up to You all the children in my family. I place them into Your perfect will and I turn their futures over to You. Help me to let go of my ideas of what they should do with their lives, and show me how to guide them into the purposes for which You created them. Help me to learn from the example of the Blessed Mother, whose heart was pierced by the sword of her Son’s pain, how to always trust in Your plans. Holy Family, pray for us.

Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

we humbly implore your majesty

that, just as your Only Begotten Son

was presented on this day in the Temple

in the substance of our flesh,

so, by your grace,

we may be presented to you with minds made pure.

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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Mal 3:1-4

Thus says the Lord God:

Lo, I am sending my messenger

to prepare the way before me;

And suddenly there will come to the temple

the LORD whom you seek,

And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.

Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

But who will endure the day of his coming?

And who can stand when he appears?

For he is like the refiner’s fire,

or like the fuller’s lye.

He will sit refining and purifying silver,

and he will purify the sons of Levi,

Refining them like gold or like silver

that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.

Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem

will please the LORD,

as in the days of old, as in years gone by.

 APPLICATION

Malachi’s anticipation of the moment God’s “messenger” comes to the Temple is stark. The arrival will come “suddenly” and his mission will be frightening. He will come with “refiner’s fire” and “fuller’s lye” to refine and purify. Why this fearsome appearance? Because, while the people had returned from exile and were rebuilding their devastated land and Temple, their interior reconstruction had lagged. Their worship life was poor and their priests were woefully negligent (1: 12-13; 2:8). The chosen people were in a state of spiritual bankruptcy. No wonder Malachi (his name means “my messenger”) announced such a stark message about the coming of God’s messenger – who would bring about spiritual purification and renewal. “Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord, as in the days of old, as in years gone by.”

Malachi came speaking a harsh message and he was not well received (3: 12-14). Nevertheless, he persisted in announcing God’s Word, as did the prophets before him. This rough-sounding message was necessary, if the people were to wake up from their indifference to God’s ways. In the middle of the night it is not a gentle summer breeze that wakes us from a deep sleep, but thunder and lighting – enter the prophet Malachi, who sees the people in a spiritual daze and tries to awaken them with verbal fireworks and thunder.

Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament. It doesn’t seem like a very gracious way to end the often eloquent message to the Jewish people. When I was a teenager and would oversleep, my mother would come into my room, shake my feet and call my name, in a voice louder than usual, to wake me for school. I would wake startled – a rough way to begin the day – but I wasn’t late for school! Malachi’s voice was a shout and a warning to wake Israel from its spiritual torpor. The bottom line – his harsh language was a grace, reflecting God’s persistent attempts to call us back into God’s loving embrace.

Malachi prepares the people for the messenger’s abrupt arrival in the Temple to begin the work of “refining and purifying.” His message does get us on the tip-toe of expectation, doesn’t it? It might also get us nervous for what will happen when the messenger arrives. We ask with Malachi, “Who will endure the day of his coming…?”

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

PS 24:7, 8, 9, 10

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Lift up, O gates, your lintels;

reach up, you ancient portals,

that the king of glory may come in!

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Who is this king of glory?

The LORD, strong and mighty,

the LORD, mighty in battle.

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Lift up, O gates, your lintels;

reach up, you ancient portals,

that the king of glory may come in!

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Who is this king of glory?

The LORD of hosts; he is the king of glory.

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

READING II

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HEB 2: 14-18

Since the children share in blood and flesh,

Jesus likewise shared in them,

that through death he might destroy the one

who has the power of death, that is, the Devil,

and free those who through fear of death

had been subject to slavery all their life.

Surely he did not help angels

but rather the descendants of Abraham;

therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters

in every way,

that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God

to expiate the sins of the people.

Because he himself was tested through what he suffered,

he is able to help those who are being tested.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 407 The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man’s situation and activity in the world. By our first parents’ sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free. Original sin entails “captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil”.1 Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action2 and morals.

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.”3 In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men.4 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.”5 Hence the sovereign freedom of God’s Son as he went out to his death.6

CCC 635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”7 Jesus, “the Author of life”, by dying destroyed “him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.”8 Henceforth the risen Christ holds “the keys of Death and Hades”, so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”9

Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. .. He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him – He who is both their God and the son of Eve. .. “I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. .. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.”10

CCC 827 “Christ, ‘holy, innocent, and undefiled,’ knew nothing of sin, but came only to expiate the sins of the people. The Church, however, clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”11 All members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners.12 In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time.13 Hence the Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ’s salvation but still on the way to holiness:

The Church is therefore holy, though having sinners in her midst, because she herself has no other life but the life of grace. If they live her life, her members are sanctified; if they move away from her life, they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for those offenses, of which she has the power to free her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.14

CCC 1520 A particular gift of the Holy Spirit. The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death.15 This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God’s will.16 Furthermore, “if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”17

CCC 2602 Jesus often draws apart to pray in solitude, on a mountain, preferably at night.18 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.19 It was for this that the Father sent him. His words and works are the visible manifestation of his prayer in secret.

1 Council of Trent (1546): DS 1511; cf. Heb 2:14.

2 Cf. John Paul II, CA 25.

3 Jn 13:1; 15:13.

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

5 Jn 10:18.

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

7 Jn 5:25; cf. Mt 12:40; Rom 10:7; Eph 4:9.

8 Heb 2:14-15; cf. Acts 3:15.

9 Rev 1:18; Phil 2:10.

10 Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday: PG 43, 440A, 452C; LH, Holy Saturday, OR.

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

12 Cf. 1 Jn 1:8-10.

13 Cf. Mt 13:24-30.

14 Paul VI, CPG § 19.

15 Cf. Heb 2:15.

16 Cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1325.

17 Jas 515; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1717.

18 Cf. Mk 1:35; 6:46; Lk 5:16.

19 Cf. Heb 2:12, 15; 4:15.

APPLICATION

One of the prime teachings in the letter to the Hebrews is of Christ’s high priesthood. This teaching is coupled with the message about Jesus’ willing self-sacrifice on our behalf. We can see why this selection from Hebrews was chosen for the feast we are celebrating – Jesus’ presentation in the Temple by his parents. Jesus was not born into the priestly tribe of Levi, but he is still called a priest. Hebrews teaches that he is both the perfect sacrifice for our sins and the priest who offered himself as that sacrifice. Christ, our priest has saved us by his death, resurrections and exaltation. Christ has made forgiveness possible and given us both access to God and hope for eternal life.

On this feast Hebrews speaks to why Christ became human. From the perspective of this letter, the devil has power over death. To free us from that power and our fear of death, Christ became one of us. As a human he became our “merciful and faithful high priest,” as well as the sacrifice “to expiate the sins of the people.” Today, our high priest has entered the Temple and the two elderly prophets, who recognize him, announce his arrival and the promise he holds out for us.

GOSPEL

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LK2: 22-32

When the days were completed for their purification

according to the law of Moses,

Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem

to present him to the Lord,

just as it is written in the law of the Lord,

Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,

and to offer the sacrifice of

a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,

in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.

This man was righteous and devout,

awaiting the consolation of Israel,

and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit

that he should not see death

before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.

He came in the Spirit into the temple;

and when the parents brought in the child Jesus

to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,

he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

Now, Master, you may let your servant go

in peace, according to your word,

for my eyes have seen your salvation,

which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:

a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and glory for your people Israel.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/020214.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 149 Throughout her life and until her last ordeal1 when Jesus her son died on the cross, Mary’s faith never wavered. She never ceased to believe in the fulfillment of God’s word. And so the Church venerates in Mary the purest realization of faith.

CCC 529 The presentation of Jesus in the temple shows him to be the firstborn Son who belongs to the Lord.2 With Simeon and Anna, all Israel awaits its encounter with the Savior-the name given to this event in the Byzantine tradition. Jesus is recognized as the long-expected Messiah, the “light to the nations” and the “glory of Israel”, but also “a sign that is spoken against”. The sword of sorrow predicted for Mary announces Christ’s perfect and unique oblation on the cross that will impart the salvation God had “prepared in the presence of all peoples”.

CCC 575 Many of Jesus’ deeds and words constituted a “sign of contradiction”,3 but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply “the Jews”,4 than for the ordinary People of God.5 To be sure, Christ’s relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;6 Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.7 Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God’s people: the resurrection of the dead,8 certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),9 the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.10

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.11 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.12 He went there each year during his hidden life at least for Passover.13 His public ministry itself was patterned by his pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts.14

CCC 587 If the Law and the Jerusalem Temple could be occasions of opposition to Jesus by Israel’s religious authorities, his role in the redemption of sins, the divine work par excellence, was the true stumbling-block for them.15

CCC 618 The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the “one mediator between God and men”.16 But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery” is offered to all men.17 He calls his disciples to “take up [their] cross and follow [him]”,18 for “Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps.”19 In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries.20 This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering.21

Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.22

CCC 695 Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit,23 to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called “chrismation” in the Churches of the East. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew “messiah”) means the one “anointed” by God’s Spirit. There were several anointed ones of the Lord in the Old Covenant, pre-eminently King David.24 But Jesus is God’s Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as “Christ.”25 The Virgin Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit who, through the angel, proclaimed him the Christ at his birth, and prompted Simeon to come to the temple to see the Christ of the Lord.26 The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving.27 Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.28 Now, fully established as “Christ” in his humanity victorious over death, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit abundantly until “the saints” constitute – in their union with the humanity of the Son of God – that perfect man “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”:29 “the whole Christ,” in St. Augustine’s expression.

CCC 711 “Behold, I am doing a new thing.”30 Two prophetic lines were to develop, one leading to the expectation of the Messiah, the other pointing to the announcement of a new Spirit. They converge in the small Remnant, the people of the poor, who await in hope the “consolation of Israel” and “the redemption of Jerusalem.”31

We have seen earlier how Jesus fulfills the prophecies concerning himself. We limit ourselves here to those in which the relationship of the Messiah and his Spirit appears more clearly.

CCC 713 The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all in the “Servant songs.”32 These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our “form as slave.”33 Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.

1 Cf. Lk 2:35.

2 Cf. Lk 2:22-39; EX 13:2, 12-13.

3 Lk 2:34.

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

5 Jn 7:48-49.

6 Cf Lk 13:31.

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

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

9 Cf. Mt 6:18.

10 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.

11 Lk 2:22-39.

12 Cf. Lk 2 46-49.

13 Cf. Lk 2 41.

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

15 Cf. Lk 2:34; 20:17-18; Ps 118:22.

16 1 Tim 2:5.

17 GS 22 # 5; cf. # 2.

18 Mt 16:24.

19 I Pt 2:21.

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

21 Cf. Lk 2:35.

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

23 Cf. 1 In 2:20:27; 2 Cor 1:21.

24 Cf. Ex 30:22-32; 1 Sam 16:13.

25 Cf. Lk 418-19; Isa 61:1.

26 Cf. Lk 2:11,26-27.

27 Cf. Lk 4:1; 6:19; 8:46.

28 Cf. Rom 1:4; 8:11.

29 Eph 4:13; cf. Acts 2:36.

30 Isa 43:19.

31 Cf. Zeph 2:3; Lk 2:25, 38.

32 Cf. Isa 42:1-9; cf. Mt 12:18-21; Jn 1:32-34; then cf. Isa 49:1-6; cf. Mt 3:17; Lk 2:32; finally cf. Isa 50:4-10 and Isa 52:13-53:12.

33 Phil 2:7.

APPLICATION

Luke describes the arrival to the Temple of the one sent by God. Surprise! God’s messenger is a baby! Just when we expect God to come smashing and overturning, scattering and frightening, for justifiable reasons, God surprises us. Which summarizes the whole Bible, doesn’t it? We expect what we deserve and God comes to our rescue with surprising forgiveness and help.

Who will recognize this long-anticipated arrival? Especially since the one who comes doesn’t fit the previous descriptions and expectations? Not the priests, nor those on the seats of power – but two long-praying and alert seniors. Since our society worships at the altar of youth and looks over the heads of our seniors – here’s a chance, in the spirit of Anna and Simeon, to praise the faithful, courageous and wise citizens in our congregations.

How many years have they come to church? How often have they taught our young; volunteered for parish celebrations; prepared food for those grieving after a funeral; counted the collection on Monday mornings and generously donated to building campaigns and charitable events? I could go on for pages. Anna and Simeon’s prophetic spirits are still with us, opening our ears and eyes to God’s surprising epiphanies among us.

Who were Simeon and Anna? Where did they come from and what theological training did they have for their important roles? We don’t know. They certainly didn’t belong to the ranks of the Temple officials. They were faithful children of Israel who kept their eyes fixed on God and did not lost sight of God’s gracious action on Israel’s behalf. Their training came from God. Luke tells us that Simeon was led by the Spirit; Anna “never left the Temple but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.” Both represent the best of Israel, both had “advanced degrees” in prayer and vigilance and hope. They suggest to us that recognizing God’s ways comes through fidelity and prayerful vigilance. Their devotion to God made them available and open to God’s revelation.

Simeon correctly predicts that some will follow Christ and others will turn against him. This is the story of the rest of Luke’s gospel. The choice to follow or reject Jesus’ way is ours to make. The rejection of Mary’s son would be a sword to pierce her heart.

Anna is another example of God’s care for the least. She is a widow and so dependent on family and others for her well being; she is a woman in a male-oriented society and she is aged. Her vulnerabilities are succinctly spelled out in Luke’s description of her. But so is her greatness noted. She persists in her trust of God and is the first to proclaim God’s redemption. “She gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.”

In a year when our church is reminding each of us of our role as evangelists, Anna might be called “the patron saint of evangelists.” What is our role as evangelists? Anna shows us: we are to be persistent in prayer, despite the difficulties, trusting in God’s goodness and, when the opportunity arises, speak a word of enlightenment, just as Anna did.

Applications written by Fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P. and used with permission from first impressions.com.

BENEDICTUS

God Loved Us First

God loved you first!” … One should take this sentence as literally as can be, and I try to do that. For it is truly the great power in our lives and the consolation that we need. And it’s not seldom that we need it. He loved me first, before I myself could love at all. It was only because he knew me and loved me that I was made. So I was not thrown into the world by some operation of chance, as Heidegger says, and now have to do my best to swim around in this ocean of life, but I am preceded by a perception of me, an idea and a love of me. They are present in the ground of my being. What is important for all people, what makes their life significant, is the knowledge they are loved. The person in a difficult situation will hold on if he knows Someone is waiting for me, Someone wants me, and needs me. God is there first and loves me. And that is the trustworthy ground on which my life is standing and on which I myself can construct it.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 24

A Psalm of David.

The earth and all its fullness belong to the Lord: the whole world and all that dwells in it.

For he has founded it upon the seas, and he has prepared it upon the rivers.

Who will ascend to the mountain of the Lord? And who will stand in his holy place?

The innocent of hands and the clean of heart, who has not received his soul in vain, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbor.

He will receive a blessing from the Lord, and mercy from God, his Savior.

This is the generation that seeks him, that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.

Lift up your gates, you princes, and be lifted up, eternal gates. And the King of Glory shall enter.

Who is this King of Glory? The Lord who is strong and powerful; the Lord powerful in battle.

Lift up your gates, you princes, and be lifted up, eternal gates. And the King of Glory shall enter.

Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of virtue. He himself is the King of Glory.

 

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

Feast of The Presentation of the Lord

Presentation-Of-Our-Lord.jpg“Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord’

OPENING PRAYER

Heavenly Father, on this Feast of Candlemas, I recall the gift Mary and Joseph gave to the world by offering baby Jesus to You in the temple. I offer up to You all the children in my family. I place them into Your perfect will and I turn their futures over to You. Help me to let go of my ideas of what they should do with their lives, and show me how to guide them into the purposes for which You created them. Help me to learn from the example of the Blessed Mother, whose heart was pierced by the sword of her Son’s pain, how to always trust in Your plans. Holy Family, pray for us.

Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

we humbly implore your majesty

that, just as your Only Begotten Son

was presented on this day in the Temple

in the substance of our flesh,

so, by your grace,

we may be presented to you with minds made pure.

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

Icon_StJohnTheBaptist.gif

Mal 3:1-4

Thus says the Lord God:

Lo, I am sending my messenger

to prepare the way before me;

And suddenly there will come to the temple

the LORD whom you seek,

And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.

Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

But who will endure the day of his coming?

And who can stand when he appears?

For he is like the refiner’s fire,

or like the fuller’s lye.

He will sit refining and purifying silver,

and he will purify the sons of Levi,

Refining them like gold or like silver

that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.

Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem

will please the LORD,

as in the days of old, as in years gone by.

 APPLICATION

Malachi’s anticipation of the moment God’s “messenger” comes to the Temple is stark. The arrival will come “suddenly” and his mission will be frightening. He will come with “refiner’s fire” and “fuller’s lye” to refine and purify. Why this fearsome appearance? Because, while the people had returned from exile and were rebuilding their devastated land and Temple, their interior reconstruction had lagged. Their worship life was poor and their priests were woefully negligent (1: 12-13; 2:8). The chosen people were in a state of spiritual bankruptcy. No wonder Malachi (his name means “my messenger”) announced such a stark message about the coming of God’s messenger – who would bring about spiritual purification and renewal. “Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord, as in the days of old, as in years gone by.”

Malachi came speaking a harsh message and he was not well received (3: 12-14). Nevertheless, he persisted in announcing God’s Word, as did the prophets before him. This rough-sounding message was necessary, if the people were to wake up from their indifference to God’s ways. In the middle of the night it is not a gentle summer breeze that wakes us from a deep sleep, but thunder and lighting – enter the prophet Malachi, who sees the people in a spiritual daze and tries to awaken them with verbal fireworks and thunder.

Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament. It doesn’t seem like a very gracious way to end the often eloquent message to the Jewish people. When I was a teenager and would oversleep, my mother would come into my room, shake my feet and call my name, in a voice louder than usual, to wake me for school. I would wake startled – a rough way to begin the day – but I wasn’t late for school! Malachi’s voice was a shout and a warning to wake Israel from its spiritual torpor. The bottom line – his harsh language was a grace, reflecting God’s persistent attempts to call us back into God’s loving embrace.

Malachi prepares the people for the messenger’s abrupt arrival in the Temple to begin the work of “refining and purifying.” His message does get us on the tip-toe of expectation, doesn’t it? It might also get us nervous for what will happen when the messenger arrives. We ask with Malachi, “Who will endure the day of his coming…?”

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

PS 24:7, 8, 9, 10

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Lift up, O gates, your lintels;

reach up, you ancient portals,

that the king of glory may come in!

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Who is this king of glory?

The LORD, strong and mighty,

the LORD, mighty in battle.

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Lift up, O gates, your lintels;

reach up, you ancient portals,

that the king of glory may come in!

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Who is this king of glory?

The LORD of hosts; he is the king of glory.

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

READING II

1022icon-mpoy-kazan0022.jpg

 

HEB 2: 14-18

Since the children share in blood and flesh,

Jesus likewise shared in them,

that through death he might destroy the one

who has the power of death, that is, the Devil,

and free those who through fear of death

had been subject to slavery all their life.

Surely he did not help angels

but rather the descendants of Abraham;

therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters

in every way,

that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God

to expiate the sins of the people.

Because he himself was tested through what he suffered,

he is able to help those who are being tested.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 407 The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man’s situation and activity in the world. By our first parents’ sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free. Original sin entails “captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil”.1 Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action2 and morals.

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.”3 In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men.4 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.”5 Hence the sovereign freedom of God’s Son as he went out to his death.6

CCC 635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”7 Jesus, “the Author of life”, by dying destroyed “him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.”8 Henceforth the risen Christ holds “the keys of Death and Hades”, so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”9

Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. .. He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him – He who is both their God and the son of Eve. .. “I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. .. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.”10

CCC 827 “Christ, ‘holy, innocent, and undefiled,’ knew nothing of sin, but came only to expiate the sins of the people. The Church, however, clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”11 All members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners.12 In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time.13 Hence the Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ’s salvation but still on the way to holiness:

The Church is therefore holy, though having sinners in her midst, because she herself has no other life but the life of grace. If they live her life, her members are sanctified; if they move away from her life, they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for those offenses, of which she has the power to free her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.14

CCC 1520 A particular gift of the Holy Spirit. The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death.15 This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God’s will.16 Furthermore, “if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”17

CCC 2602 Jesus often draws apart to pray in solitude, on a mountain, preferably at night.18 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.19 It was for this that the Father sent him. His words and works are the visible manifestation of his prayer in secret.

1 Council of Trent (1546): DS 1511; cf. Heb 2:14.

2 Cf. John Paul II, CA 25.

3 Jn 13:1; 15:13.

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

5 Jn 10:18.

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

7 Jn 5:25; cf. Mt 12:40; Rom 10:7; Eph 4:9.

8 Heb 2:14-15; cf. Acts 3:15.

9 Rev 1:18; Phil 2:10.

10 Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday: PG 43, 440A, 452C; LH, Holy Saturday, OR.

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

12 Cf. 1 Jn 1:8-10.

13 Cf. Mt 13:24-30.

14 Paul VI, CPG § 19.

15 Cf. Heb 2:15.

16 Cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1325.

17 Jas 515; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1717.

18 Cf. Mk 1:35; 6:46; Lk 5:16.

19 Cf. Heb 2:12, 15; 4:15.

APPLICATION

One of the prime teachings in the letter to the Hebrews is of Christ’s high priesthood. This teaching is coupled with the message about Jesus’ willing self-sacrifice on our behalf. We can see why this selection from Hebrews was chosen for the feast we are celebrating – Jesus’ presentation in the Temple by his parents. Jesus was not born into the priestly tribe of Levi, but he is still called a priest. Hebrews teaches that he is both the perfect sacrifice for our sins and the priest who offered himself as that sacrifice. Christ, our priest has saved us by his death, resurrections and exaltation. Christ has made forgiveness possible and given us both access to God and hope for eternal life.

On this feast Hebrews speaks to why Christ became human. From the perspective of this letter, the devil has power over death. To free us from that power and our fear of death, Christ became one of us. As a human he became our “merciful and faithful high priest,” as well as the sacrifice “to expiate the sins of the people.” Today, our high priest has entered the Temple and the two elderly prophets, who recognize him, announce his arrival and the promise he holds out for us.

GOSPEL

371-39presentation.jpg

LK2: 22-32

When the days were completed for their purification

according to the law of Moses,

Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem

to present him to the Lord,

just as it is written in the law of the Lord,

Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,

and to offer the sacrifice of

a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,

in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.

This man was righteous and devout,

awaiting the consolation of Israel,

and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit

that he should not see death

before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.

He came in the Spirit into the temple;

and when the parents brought in the child Jesus

to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,

he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

Now, Master, you may let your servant go

in peace, according to your word,

for my eyes have seen your salvation,

which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:

a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and glory for your people Israel.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/020214.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 149 Throughout her life and until her last ordeal1 when Jesus her son died on the cross, Mary’s faith never wavered. She never ceased to believe in the fulfillment of God’s word. And so the Church venerates in Mary the purest realization of faith.

CCC 529 The presentation of Jesus in the temple shows him to be the firstborn Son who belongs to the Lord.2 With Simeon and Anna, all Israel awaits its encounter with the Savior-the name given to this event in the Byzantine tradition. Jesus is recognized as the long-expected Messiah, the “light to the nations” and the “glory of Israel”, but also “a sign that is spoken against”. The sword of sorrow predicted for Mary announces Christ’s perfect and unique oblation on the cross that will impart the salvation God had “prepared in the presence of all peoples”.

CCC 575 Many of Jesus’ deeds and words constituted a “sign of contradiction”,3 but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply “the Jews”,4 than for the ordinary People of God.5 To be sure, Christ’s relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;6 Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.7 Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God’s people: the resurrection of the dead,8 certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),9 the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.10

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.11 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.12 He went there each year during his hidden life at least for Passover.13 His public ministry itself was patterned by his pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts.14

CCC 587 If the Law and the Jerusalem Temple could be occasions of opposition to Jesus by Israel’s religious authorities, his role in the redemption of sins, the divine work par excellence, was the true stumbling-block for them.15

CCC 618 The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the “one mediator between God and men”.16 But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery” is offered to all men.17 He calls his disciples to “take up [their] cross and follow [him]”,18 for “Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps.”19 In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries.20 This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering.21

Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.22

CCC 695 Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit,23 to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called “chrismation” in the Churches of the East. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew “messiah”) means the one “anointed” by God’s Spirit. There were several anointed ones of the Lord in the Old Covenant, pre-eminently King David.24 But Jesus is God’s Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as “Christ.”25 The Virgin Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit who, through the angel, proclaimed him the Christ at his birth, and prompted Simeon to come to the temple to see the Christ of the Lord.26 The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving.27 Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.28 Now, fully established as “Christ” in his humanity victorious over death, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit abundantly until “the saints” constitute – in their union with the humanity of the Son of God – that perfect man “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”:29 “the whole Christ,” in St. Augustine’s expression.

CCC 711 “Behold, I am doing a new thing.”30 Two prophetic lines were to develop, one leading to the expectation of the Messiah, the other pointing to the announcement of a new Spirit. They converge in the small Remnant, the people of the poor, who await in hope the “consolation of Israel” and “the redemption of Jerusalem.”31

We have seen earlier how Jesus fulfills the prophecies concerning himself. We limit ourselves here to those in which the relationship of the Messiah and his Spirit appears more clearly.

CCC 713 The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all in the “Servant songs.”32 These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our “form as slave.”33 Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.

1 Cf. Lk 2:35.

2 Cf. Lk 2:22-39; EX 13:2, 12-13.

3 Lk 2:34.

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

5 Jn 7:48-49.

6 Cf Lk 13:31.

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

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

9 Cf. Mt 6:18.

10 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.

11 Lk 2:22-39.

12 Cf. Lk 2 46-49.

13 Cf. Lk 2 41.

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

15 Cf. Lk 2:34; 20:17-18; Ps 118:22.

16 1 Tim 2:5.

17 GS 22 # 5; cf. # 2.

18 Mt 16:24.

19 I Pt 2:21.

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

21 Cf. Lk 2:35.

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

23 Cf. 1 In 2:20:27; 2 Cor 1:21.

24 Cf. Ex 30:22-32; 1 Sam 16:13.

25 Cf. Lk 418-19; Isa 61:1.

26 Cf. Lk 2:11,26-27.

27 Cf. Lk 4:1; 6:19; 8:46.

28 Cf. Rom 1:4; 8:11.

29 Eph 4:13; cf. Acts 2:36.

30 Isa 43:19.

31 Cf. Zeph 2:3; Lk 2:25, 38.

32 Cf. Isa 42:1-9; cf. Mt 12:18-21; Jn 1:32-34; then cf. Isa 49:1-6; cf. Mt 3:17; Lk 2:32; finally cf. Isa 50:4-10 and Isa 52:13-53:12.

33 Phil 2:7.

APPLICATION

Luke describes the arrival to the Temple of the one sent by God. Surprise! God’s messenger is a baby! Just when we expect God to come smashing and overturning, scattering and frightening, for justifiable reasons, God surprises us. Which summarizes the whole Bible, doesn’t it? We expect what we deserve and God comes to our rescue with surprising forgiveness and help.

Who will recognize this long-anticipated arrival? Especially since the one who comes doesn’t fit the previous descriptions and expectations? Not the priests, nor those on the seats of power – but two long-praying and alert seniors. Since our society worships at the altar of youth and looks over the heads of our seniors – here’s a chance, in the spirit of Anna and Simeon, to praise the faithful, courageous and wise citizens in our congregations.

How many years have they come to church? How often have they taught our young; volunteered for parish celebrations; prepared food for those grieving after a funeral; counted the collection on Monday mornings and generously donated to building campaigns and charitable events? I could go on for pages. Anna and Simeon’s prophetic spirits are still with us, opening our ears and eyes to God’s surprising epiphanies among us.

Who were Simeon and Anna? Where did they come from and what theological training did they have for their important roles? We don’t know. They certainly didn’t belong to the ranks of the Temple officials. They were faithful children of Israel who kept their eyes fixed on God and did not lost sight of God’s gracious action on Israel’s behalf. Their training came from God. Luke tells us that Simeon was led by the Spirit; Anna “never left the Temple but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.” Both represent the best of Israel, both had “advanced degrees” in prayer and vigilance and hope. They suggest to us that recognizing God’s ways comes through fidelity and prayerful vigilance. Their devotion to God made them available and open to God’s revelation.

Simeon correctly predicts that some will follow Christ and others will turn against him. This is the story of the rest of Luke’s gospel. The choice to follow or reject Jesus’ way is ours to make. The rejection of Mary’s son would be a sword to pierce her heart.

Anna is another example of God’s care for the least. She is a widow and so dependent on family and others for her well being; she is a woman in a male-oriented society and she is aged. Her vulnerabilities are succinctly spelled out in Luke’s description of her. But so is her greatness noted. She persists in her trust of God and is the first to proclaim God’s redemption. “She gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.”

In a year when our church is reminding each of us of our role as evangelists, Anna might be called “the patron saint of evangelists.” What is our role as evangelists? Anna shows us: we are to be persistent in prayer, despite the difficulties, trusting in God’s goodness and, when the opportunity arises, speak a word of enlightenment, just as Anna did.

Applications written by Fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P. and used with permission from first impressions.com.

BENEDICTUS

God Loved Us First

God loved you first!” … One should take this sentence as literally as can be, and I try to do that. For it is truly the great power in our lives and the consolation that we need. And it’s not seldom that we need it. He loved me first, before I myself could love at all. It was only because he knew me and loved me that I was made. So I was not thrown into the world by some operation of chance, as Heidegger says, and now have to do my best to swim around in this ocean of life, but I am preceded by a perception of me, an idea and a love of me. They are present in the ground of my being. What is important for all people, what makes their life significant, is the knowledge they are loved. The person in a difficult situation will hold on if he knows Someone is waiting for me, Someone wants me, and needs me. God is there first and loves me. And that is the trustworthy ground on which my life is standing and on which I myself can construct it.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 24

A Psalm of David.

The earth and all its fullness belong to the Lord: the whole world and all that dwells in it.

For he has founded it upon the seas, and he has prepared it upon the rivers.

Who will ascend to the mountain of the Lord? And who will stand in his holy place?

The innocent of hands and the clean of heart, who has not received his soul in vain, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbor.

He will receive a blessing from the Lord, and mercy from God, his Savior.

This is the generation that seeks him, that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.

Lift up your gates, you princes, and be lifted up, eternal gates. And the King of Glory shall enter.

Who is this King of Glory? The Lord who is strong and powerful; the Lord powerful in battle.

Lift up your gates, you princes, and be lifted up, eternal gates. And the King of Glory shall enter.

Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of virtue. He himself is the King of Glory.

 

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

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer of Charles de Foucauld

Father,

I abandon myself into your hands;

do with me what you will.

Whatever you may do, I thank you:

I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me

and in all your creatures.

I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:

I offer it to you

with all the love of my heart,

for I love you, Lord,

and so need to give myself,

to surrender myself into your hands

without reserve,

and with boundless confidence,

for you are my Father.

COLLECT

Almighty 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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Is 8:23-9:3

First the Lord degraded the land of Zebulun

and the land of Naphtali;

but in the end he has glorified the seaward road,

the land west of the Jordan,

the District of the Gentiles.

Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness:

for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.

The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom

a light has shone.

You have brought them abundant joy

and great rejoicing,

as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,

as people make merry when dividing spoils.

For the yoke that burdened them,

the pole on their shoulder,

and the rod of their taskmaster

you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 712 The characteristics of the awaited Messiah begin to appear in the “Book of Emmanuel” (“Isaiah said this when he saw his glory,”1 speaking of Christ), especially in the first two verses of Isaiah 11:

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,

the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the spirit of counsel and might,

the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.2

1 Jn 12:41; cf. Isa 6-12.

2 Isa 11:1-2.

APPLICATION

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Before the coming of Christ 98 per cent of the human race lived in the darkness and hopelessness of paganism. They knew nothing of the good God who made them; they knew nothing of their real purpose in this life, and did not know that there was a future life to look forward to. The two percent, or less, of Jews had a knowledge of the true God. But it was a limited knowledge and their service of him was motivated by fear rather than by love. Their belief in a future, endless life was weak in the best of them, and was not accepted at all by many.

The Incarnation has changed all that. The darkness of paganism, and ignorance of the true nature of the God who created us, has been banished forever by the coming of the Son of God among us as man. From it we have learned not only that God loves us, and that he is interested in every one of us, but that he loves us with an infinite, unlimited love, and wants each one of us to share in his own eternal kingdom of happiness forever. For this reason he has raised us up to adopted sonship, through the Incarnation in which his real Son took on himself our lowly created nature and became our brother.

This was God’s plan for mankind for all eternity. Sin had entered the world of men in the meantime. Man became so proud of the gifts he possessed, that he forgot the giver of those gifts, and not only refused to thank his benefactor, but turned against him and made for himself false gods. This, however, did not change God’s plan nor his infinite love for man. Christ, the son of God in our human nature, was the representative of all men. He gave perfect obedience to his heavenly Father in the name of us all. Because he was God, as well as man, he made a perfect atonement for the sins of all men, of all time. No mere human being could ever have done this.

We, Christians today, are walking in the full light of the knowledge of God’s infinite love for us, of God’s eternal plan for our unending happiness, of the almost incredible mystery of that divine love for us sinners, which was shown in the Incarnation. If an earthly king should leave his palace, and go among his peasants, and dress and live like one of them, in order to educate them and clothe them in royal robes, and then bring them to his palace to live with him as his adopted children, what an amazing act of benevolence and love this would be. Yet, the Creator of all things, the King of the universe, did this and more for us.

Does anyone among us really appreciate what God has done for him? Does he realize what the privilege of being a Christian means? Does he ever thank God sufficiently for the benefits he has conferred on him? We have all seen the great light which expelled all darkness. We are living under its heavenly illumination. But are we all benefiting from that light as we should? Will it lead us to the eternal, everlasting light–the purpose for which it was given to us?

This is a question each one of us must ask himself today, and the future fate of every one of us will depend on the answer we can honestly give to this question.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

PS 27:1, 4, 13-14

The Lord is my light and my salvation.

The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom should I fear?

The LORD is my life’s refuge;

of whom should I be afraid?

The Lord is my light and my salvation.

One thing I ask of the LORD;

this I seek:

To dwell in the house of the LORD

all the days of my life,

That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD

and contemplate his temple.

The Lord is my light and my salvation.

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD

in the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD with courage;

be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.

The Lord is my light and my salvation.

READING II

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1 COR 1:10-13, 17

I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

that all of you agree in what you say,

and that there be no divisions among you,

but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.

For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters,

by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you.

I mean that each of you is saying,

I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,”

or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.”

Is Christ divided?

Was Paul crucified for you?

Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel,

and not with the wisdom of human eloquence,

so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 489 Throughout the Old Covenant the mission of many holy women prepared for that of Mary. At the very beginning there was Eve; despite her disobedience, she receives the promise of a posterity that will be victorious over the evil one, as well as the promise that she will be the mother of all the living.1 By virtue of this promise, Sarah conceives a son in spite of her old age.2 Against all human expectation God chooses those who were considered powerless and weak to show forth his faithfulness to his promises: Hannah, the mother of Samuel; Deborah; Ruth; Judith and Esther; and many other women.3 Mary “stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently hope for and receive salvation from him. After a long period of waiting the times are fulfilled in her, the exalted Daughter of Sion, and the new plan of salvation is established.”4

1 Cf. Gen 3:15, 20.

2 Cf. Gen 18:10-14; 21:1-2.

3 Cf. I Cor 1:17; I Sam 1.

4 LG 55.

APPLICATION

Human nature has changed little through all the centuries. When it has, it has often been a change for the worse not for the better. In today’s lesson, we are a bit shocked to hear that the first generation of Christians were beginning to form factions and divisions in the church of Corinth. Three years had barely passed since they had dedicated their lives to Christ, their one ambition and desire being to follow Christ on the road to heaven. Now, already, personal pride was entering in. Some were looking down on others, because it was the great Paul who instructed and converted them. The others resisted this, and claimed a greater superiority, because they had a more eloquent teacher, Apollos of Alexandria, while others, again, began to despise both of these parties, because they were instructed by the head of the Apostles, the Rock, Peter.

How silly it may seem to us! What does it matter who taught them, if they have learned the truth about Christ and God’s great love, for them? To St. Paul it did not seem silly, but very dangerous, because it showed that human pride, the basic sin, and the first sin of human nature, was beginning to revive once more among them.

This letter of St. Paul, recalling to their minds who their true master and teacher was, very likely put an end to this trouble in Corinth, but it did not banish foolish pride from among men, nor worse still from among Christians who profess to be followers of the humble Christ.

Do we need examples to show the dreadful damage that pride has inflicted on the Church of Christ? The long-standing divisions and separated sects in the Church–a scandal to the followers of Christ and an impediment to the conversion of unbelievers–are the direct result of the actions of proud men. It is not necessary here to apportion blame–Paul did not when reproving the divisions in Corinth–but what is necessary is that all Christians should take to heart Paul’s reminder that it was Christ who died for us all and that Christ is not and must not be divided.

Thank God, and thanks to the saintly Pope John, Christians are today taking active steps to reunite the Church of Christ once more, to bring together once again the separated members of Christ’s mystical body. The Roman soldiers nailed his human body to the cross. We, his professed lovers and followers, have torn his mystical body apart. We have been more cruel to him than the ignorant pagan soldiers.

In this essential and urgent work of reunion each one of us, even the humblest and least educated, can play an important part. First, by fervent prayer that God will give all Christians, ourselves included, the grace to come together in true love of God, and true love of our Christian neighbor, no matter what his interpretation or even misrepresentation of Christ’s teaching may have hitherto been. Secondly, by showing in our daily actions that we recognize all men, not alone Christians, as our brothers. We have all been raised to sonship with God, we have all been redeemed by Christ. We must, if we love God and appreciate what God has done for the human race, want all men to avail themselves of this marvelous supernatural gift that he has intended for them.

The most effective and convincing way, in which we can prove our true concern for the eternal welfare of all our fellowman, is by living a true Christian life ourselves. If we have burning within us the fire of God’s love, its heat will spread and warm the hearts and minds of all those with whom we come in contact.

The leaders and theologians of all the Christian bodies will have their very important part to play in this sincere attempt at reunifying the Church of Christ. But unless we, ordinary Christians, bring down the fire of God’s love on earth, by our prayers and good works, their task will be ever so difficult, if not nearly impossible. We’ll begin to put our own Christian faith into daily and hourly practice and start to storm heaven for the success of this most necessary endeavor. God will not be deaf to the requests in word and deed that come from his humble servants.

GOSPEL

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MT 4:12-23

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested,

he withdrew to Galilee.

He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea,

in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,

that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet

might be fulfilled:

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,

the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,

Galilee of the Gentiles,

the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,

on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death

light has arisen.

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say,

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,

Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,

casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.

He said to them,

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

At once they left their nets and followed him.

He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,

James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.

They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.

He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father

and followed him.

He went around all of Galilee,

teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom,

and curing every disease and illness among the people.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012217.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 878 Finally, it belongs to the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry that it have a personal character. Although Christ’s ministers act in communion with one another, they also always act in a personal way. Each one is called personally: “You, follow me”1 in order to be a personal witness within the common mission, to bear personal responsibility before him who gives the mission, acting “in his person” and for other persons: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. ..”; “I absolve you. ..”

CCC 1720 The New Testament uses several expressions to characterize the beatitude to which God calls man:

the coming of the Kingdom of God;2 – the vision of God: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”3

entering into the joy of the Lord;4

entering into God’s rest:5

There we shall rest and see, we shall see and love, we shall love and praise. Behold what will be at the end without end. For what other end do we have, if not to reach the kingdom which has no end?6

CCC 1989 The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”7 Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. “Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.”8

1 Jn 21:22; Cf. Mt 4:19. 21; Jn 1:4.

2 Cf. Mt 4:17.

3 Mt 5:8; cf. 1 Jn 2; 1 Cor 13:12.

4 Mt 25:21-23.

5 Cf. Heb 4:7-11.

6 St. Augustine, De civ. Dei 22, 30, 5: PL 41,804.

7 Mt 4:17.

8 Council of Trent (1547): DS 1528.

APPLICATION

The true freedom, and the true light which Christ brought to Galilee nearly 2,000 years ago, were brought on earth for us too. The Christian faith, and the Christian knowledge of God’s love for us and his infinite interest in our real welfare, are his gift to us and to all men of goodwill, who will accept it. Thanks be to God for this marvelous gift of faith, which frees us from the slavery of paganism and sin, and lights the road to heaven for us, amidst the darkness and drudgery of this life.

The lot of the insensitive tree in the forest, and of the dumb beast of the field, would be far and away a better one than the lot of rational man, who knew neither God nor any plan that God had for him. Man with his superior gifts, which raise him above all the other earthly creatures, can experience and enjoy happiness and well-being. The joy of living, the gift of life, is the greatest source and the basis of all his other earthly joys. His short life on earth may be frequently interspersed with troubles and trials, aches and pains, yet to stay alive is so innate a desire, and so strong a determination, that the common opinion of men is that it is only a mentally deranged person who can commit suicide.

But there is a shadow, the shadow of death, over the very greatest of our earthly pleasures. Through our gift of intellect, and the experience of our race, we all know that life on this earth has to end, and no matter how many more years we may think we still have left to us, death will be too soon, far too soon, when it comes. The neo-pagan (the real pagans, who have not heard of the true God, have some god or gods in whom they hope and trust) will do all in his power to forget this dreadful thought of death, but he is reminded of it everyday of his earthly life. To live with this thought that all he shall be in eighty years’ time is a bucket of lifeless and useless dust, must be an anticipation of the hell he may also have to face after his death.

We love life, we too want to live on, we too know that this cannot be on this earth, but thanks to the merciful revelation given us in our faith, we know that the infinite love of God has prepared a future life for us. We know that Christ, by his life and death as man among us, has made us adopted sons of God. We know we have an eternal life awaiting us, when we depart from this life, and that for the Christian who did his best to be a true follower and disciple of Christ, death is not the end but the beginning of our real life. The grave is not our goal forever, but the key which opens the door to eternal life and eternal happiness for us.

With this divine knowledge revealed to us by and through Christ, everything falls into place in our earthly sojourn. We have our joys and our sorrows, our births and our burials, but we know, with the certainty of God’s word, that these are but sign-posts that mark our stages toward, and direct our steps to, our eternal home. We are superior to the tree of the forest therefore, and to the beast of the field, not only because of our earthly gifts of intelligence and will, but because we know that our end on earth will not be like theirs. It will be, instead, the great awakening to a joy and happiness of which, at present, we can only form a very limited and vague idea. We Christians have indeed seen a great, a heaven-sent light.

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

BENEDICTUS

Conversion and Obedience

Faith requires conversion and that conversion is an act of obedience toward a reality which precedes me and which does not originate from me. Moreover, this obedience continues, inasmuch as knowledge never transforms this reality into a constituent element of my own thought, but rather the converse is true; it is I who make myself over to it, while it always remains above me. For Christians, this prior reality is not an “it” but a “he” or, even better, a “you.” It is Christ, the Word made flesh. He is the new beginning of our thought. He is the new “I” which bursts open the limits of subjectivity and the boundaries dividing subject from object, this enabling me to say: “It is no longer I who live.” Conversion does not lead into a private relationship with Jesus, which in reality would be another form of mere monologue. It is delivery into the pattern of doctrine, as Paul says, or, as we discovered in John, entrance into the “we” of the Church. This is the sole guarantee that the obedience which we owe to the truth is concrete… Only the concrete God can be something other than a new projection of one’s own self. Following in Christ’s footsteps is the only way of losing oneself which attains the desired goal… The one who became flesh has remained flesh. He is concrete… Obedience to the Church is the concreteness of our obedience. The Church is that new and greater subject in which past and present, subject and object come into contact. The Church is our contemporaneity with Christ: there is no other.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Gracious God,

You have called me to life

and gifted me in many ways.

Through Baptism You have sent me

to continue the mission of Jesus

by sharing my love with others.

Strengthen me to respond to

Your call each day.

Help me to become all You desire of me.

Inspire me to make a difference in others’ lives.

Lead me to choose the way of life

You have planned for me.

Open the hearts of all to listen to Your call.

Fill us with Your Holy Spirit that we may have listening hearts and the courage to respond to You.

Enkindle in my heart and the hearts of others the desire to make the world a better place, all for your glory.

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/prayers/prayers-for-vocations.cfm
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