Monday of the 3rd Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Monday of the 3rd Week in Ordinary Time [II]
II Samuel 5:1-7,10  +  Mark 3:22-30
January 27, 2020

“And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”

Jesus’ parables most often describe the Kingdom of God.  But today He preaches about the Kingdom by what in theology is called a “via negativa”:  that is, describing someone or something by what he, she or it is not, rather than what he, she or it is.  Jesus today describes what the Kingdom of God is not in rebutting the claims of the scribes.

The chief point of the parables we hear Jesus preach today is that Satan can have no place in the Kingdom of God.  He begins by debunking the scribes’ claim with simple logic.  But Jesus moves by the end of today’s passage to a “via positiva”, in which He points out why Satan can have no place within the Kingdom:  because the Kingdom is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, the new creation in which the Holy Spirit hovers over the face of the Kingdom [see Genesis 1:2].

Still, in our own day we have to put Jesus’ parables in context.  We cannot help but realize that the Kingdom of God which Jesus so often preaches about is not strictly identical with the Church that Jesus founded when He walked this earth.  Would that it were so!  How clearly we can see the sins of members of the Church.  Through these sins, the absence of the Holy Spirit makes itself known.  Our sins can be forgiven, and our charity can point to the Kingdom of God, but both are possible only through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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The 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Isaiah 8:23—9:3  +  1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17  +  Matthew 4:12-23 [or 4:12-17]
January 26, 2020

… so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.

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click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this Sunday (6:27)

click HERE to read the homily of Monsignor Charles Pope for this Sunday

click HERE to watch the homily for this Sunday from the cathedral in Phoenix (12:07)

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click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2017 Angelus address for this Sunday

click HERE to read Pope Benedict’s 2008 Angelus address for this Sunday

click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s 1999 homily for this Sunday

click HERE to read Vatican II’s dogmatic constitution “Dei Verbum” on Divine Revelation

click HERE to read Pope Benedict’s 2010 apostolic exhortation “Verbum Domini” on the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church

FOR CLERGY:  click HERE for the Vatican’s 2014 Homiletic Directory

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references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church cited for this Sunday by the Vatican’s Homiletic Directory:

CCC 551765: the call of the Twelve

CCC 541-543: Reign of God calls and gathers Jews and Gentiles

CCC 813-822: unity of the Church

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The Word of God became Flesh and dwelt among us.  Yet He dwelt among us so that He could die for us.  On Calvary on Good Friday, the Word sacrificed Himself—Flesh and Blood, soul and divinity—to God the Father.  The meaning of this singular act of self-sacrifice is two-fold:  that sinners might be reconciled to God, so that God might make them His children.

The Word of God is a Person.  This truth is often obscured in regard to preaching.  Preaching, of course, is essential to the Word of God’s ministry.  Nonetheless, the preaching of the Word of God is a means to a far greater end, just as the divine Son in all things leads us to the divine Father.

The ultimate end of all preaching is communion with God the Father, through God the Son, in God the Holy Spirit.  Yet in His divine Providence, God chose to accomplish this communion through the cross of Christ.  All of Jesus’ words and works on earth lead to Calvary.  The cross of Christ is the earthly end—the proximate end—of our discipleship.

This Sunday’s Scripture passages focus our attention upon the Word of God.  The Gospel Reading is from only the fourth of the 28 chapters of Matthew’s Gospel account.  The first two chapters, of course, focus on the advent and infancy of Jesus.  So today’s Gospel Reading takes place early in Jesus’ public ministry, and focuses on the basics.

That’s fitting for this Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.  The beginning of the Church year, of course, focused on the advent and infancy of Jesus.  So today’s Gospel Reading during the early part of Ordinary Time focuses on the basics of following Jesus.

After Jesus calls two sets of brothers to become “fishers of men”, He labors at three works of public ministry amidst “all of Galilee”.  Jesus teaches, preaches and cures the sick.  Yet the fact that the short form of today’s Gospel Reading ends by focusing upon Jesus’ preaching suggests how central preaching is to His public ministry.

In fact, the only words that we hear Jesus preaching in today’s Gospel Reading are:  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Repentance is the first word of Jesus’ preaching the Word of God.  From the perspective of those who hear the Word of God, repentance is the first word of following Jesus.  When Jesus later commands His disciples to take up their crosses each day [Lk 9:23], this command includes the embrace of daily repentance.

Likewise, Saint Paul in today’s Second Reading draws our attention to the link between preaching and the cross of Christ.  It’s telling that the larger point of this passage is divisions among the Corinthians.  Paul’s remedy for divisions within the Church is the cross of Christ.  He even speaks to one of the pitfalls that he, as a preacher, has to work to avoid.  This pitfall is the “human eloquence” that captivates in the short term but can bear no lasting fruit, and in fact does lasting harm by creating an expectation and desire within Christians for what is shallow.

The depth of the Word of God is only found finally in the cross of Christ.  Every word of the Old Testament is fulfilled in the cross of Christ on Calvary on Good Friday, just as each word and work during Jesus’ public ministry was so fulfilled.  Every word and work of Jesus after His Resurrection, as every word in the New Testament books that follow the four Gospel accounts, as every work of the Church in her holy sacraments, flows from the power of the Cross of Christ.  Of no sacrament is this more true than the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, where the Word made Flesh offers Himself in sacrifice, so that we can join sacramentally in His singular act of salvation.

By embracing Jesus’ cross, we can come to communion with the divine Person of Jesus Christ Himself.  Only through this Cross can the Christian enter the life of the Son, and through the Son the embrace of the Father.  In the order of salvation, this is the setting where we hear the providential role of the Word of God.

Trinity with Crucifixion

The Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle

The Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle
Acts 22:3-16 [or Acts 9:1-22]  +  Mark 16:15-18
January 25, 2020

“Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

The Conversion of St. Paul might seem difficult for us to relate to, especially if we are cradle Catholics.  St. Paul’s conversion was from a strict Pharisaical form of Judaism to a living faith in Jesus Christ.  But we could expand on this by saying that Paul’s conversion was from one understanding of sacrifice to another.  Saul was not a Levite:  a member of Israel’s priestly line.  But his concept of sacrifice as a faithful Jew would have been based on temple sacrifices.

Christian sacrifice, however, is not of exterior things, but of what is most interior and personal.  It’s a sacrifice not of animals, but of one’s very self, and of one’s whole self:  body, soul and spirit.  We might say that when you convert to Christ, your life is over.  You live no more, but Christ lives in you [see Galatians 2:20].  This is exemplified impressively in the Order of Saint Benedict, which at religious professions has those new members lay prostrate in the sanctuary of the abbey church.  Then they are covered by a large funeral pall.

What all three readings today (including the Responsorial Psalm) profess is the link between conversion and mission.  “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.”  One of the worst afflictions within the Church today is a privatization of the Faith:  that is, believing that one’s faith should only be a personal matter, something best kept to oneself, and which is merely for the sake of getting oneself to Heaven.  There are countless forms in which a baptized Christian might evangelize others, but every baptized Christian is called to evangelize those without faith.

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St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
I Samuel 24:3-21  +  Mark 3:13-19
January 24, 2020

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom He wanted….

The Gospel account of Saint Mark the Evangelist is by far the shortest of the four Gospel accounts.  The brevity of Mark’s account is complemented by its fervor.  Jesus in this account appears as a man of action.  Consider today’s Gospel passage in this context.

From the third of Mark’s 16 chapters, we hear today of Jesus calling His Twelve.  They are meant to be men of action.  Jesus names them “Apostles, that they might be with Him and He might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.”

There are two points one might note in this sentence.  Given that the word “apostle” literally means “one who is sent”, the evangelist describes the type of mission these twelve will have.  But more primary than this being sent forth is the One who sends them.  Their “apostleship” is rooted not only in the person of Christ, but in their being “with Him”.  In our own manner, each of us as a baptized member of the Church is called to serve, but is called first to be “with Him” each day.

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Thursday of the 2nd Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time [II]
I Samuel 18:6-9;19:1-7  +  Mark 3:7-12
January 23, 2020

A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea.

At the end of today’s Gospel passage, after healing many persons, Jesus “warned [the unclean spirits] not to make Him known.”  Why does Jesus issue this warning?  “The Messianic Secret” is a phrase sometimes used to refer to the identity of Jesus, which He commands others—both friend and foe—not to reveal.  This warning or command comes from the nature of Jesus’ mission on earth.

God the Son was sent into our sinful world to become man, so that man might share in divine life.  In itself, this mission is not scandalous, even if it seems incredible.  However, the means by which God the Son would accomplish this mission did scandalize most of His friends and foes.  The seeming folly of the Cross caused many whom Jesus came to save to turn away from Him.

Whenever Jesus revealed His identity, it was to advance His mission.  If Jesus was to advance His mission, He needed to reveal the glory of the Cross.  In this sense, Jesus’ identity and mission were bound up together during His earthly life.  To reveal one was to reveal the other.  But to reveal His mission was to risk driving away persons He wished to save.  The purpose of the “Messianic Secret”, then, is the prudential progression of His self-revelation:  to save as many as possible from their own self-delusions of grandeur:  delusions by which man believes that he can save himself, and that salvation comes from any source other than carrying one’s cross in union with the crucified Christ.

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Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children
I Samuel 17:32-33,37,40-51  +  Mark 3:1-6
January 22, 2020

PLEASE NOTE:  In the United States, there are many other Scripture options for this day.  Please consult the local ordo.

They watched Jesus closely to see if He would cure him on the Sabbath….

In today’s Gospel passage Jesus asks, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?”  His question is rhetorical.  The Pharisees understand Jesus’ question, and are very sure of His answer.  What they seem unsure of is whether Jesus would practice what He preached.

Keep in mind that today’s Gospel passage is from the third chapter of Mark.  In terms of the entire Gospel account, today’s Gospel passage is significant in that it’s Jesus’ first step towards Calvary.  There were three scenes in the second chapter where Jesus’ ministry provoked opposition.  But the last sentence of this passage is plain in announcing the plan of the Pharisees and Herodians “to put him to death.”

Jesus knew this, of course.  But He didn’t just accept the Cross as the price for practicing what He preached.  For us to think so would be putting the cart before the horse.  The Cross was Jesus’ vocation, the purpose for His descent from Heaven into our world of sin and death.  We can consider His three years of public ministry to be the prologue to or preparation for Holy Week.  We can consider those three years to be time during which Jesus invited others, by His words and deeds, to follow Him to Calvary.  But we need to be clear that the Cross was Jesus’ vocation.

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Saint Agnes, Virgin Martyr

Saint Agnes, Virgin Martyr
I Samuel 16:1-13  +  Mark 2:23-28
January 21, 2020

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”

Today’s Gospel passage focuses on “‘the Son of Man [who] is lord even of the Sabbath.’ ”  To say that this Son of Man is lord “even” of the Sabbath is to point out that the meaning of this lordship stretches back to God’s creation of the universe.  The origin of the Sabbath is not the Third Commandment, but the events described in the first chapters of Genesis.  Jesus as the Son of Man is a lord who is divine and human.

But today’s First Reading and Responsorial speak of the human lord, King David.  David, like all the rightful kings of God’s People, ruled through the anointing that came from the Lord God.  Both the First Reading and the Responsorial speak of this anointing.  The First Reading links this anointing to the Power of the Holy Spirit:  the scriptural author notes that “from that day [of David’s anointing] on, the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.”

In the ministry of the Old Testament kings, it was through the Holy Spirit that they acted as lords.  In the Nicene Creed we profess belief in the Holy Spirit, “who has spoken through the prophets.”  We might well also profess that this Holy Spirit has acted through the kings.  So also does He act in our own day:  ruling the Church through her ordained ministers, and ruling throughout the world in the daily lives of the lay faithful through their fidelity to their baptismal promises.

St. Agnes Virgin Martyr

Monday of the 2nd Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Monday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time [II]
I Samuel 15:16-23  +  Mark 2:18-22
January 20, 2020

“…the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them….”

Today’s Gospel passage might seem confusing to those who wish to be devout Christians.  Along with the contrast between Jesus and John, there is a contrast between feasting and fasting.  Jesus’ disciples in this passage do not fast because He is with them.  Should Christians today, then, take part in the discipline of fasting?  Or would fasting imply a denial of Jesus’ presence in our lives?

Jesus gives us the key to applying this contrast to our own lives as 21st century disciples.  He explains, “the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.”  But what exactly is “that day”?  In one sense, we could consider “that day” to be Good Friday, when Jesus offered His life to death.

But in a broader sense, you and I need to understand “that day” as referring to the lives of all members of the Body of Christ here below in this vale of tears:  all of us who are members of the Church Militant here on earth.  It’s true that through Baptism and the other sacraments which we worthily receive, Christ dwells in our souls.  Through these sacraments He conforms us as members of His Mystical Body.  Yet as wayfaring pilgrims on earth, we are called to fast.  We fast because our share in Christ’s life is not full.  Only in Heaven may we feast fully on the life of God as members of the Church Triumphant.

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The 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Isaiah 49:3,5-6  +  1 Corinthians 1:1-3  +  John 1:29-34
January 19, 2020

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

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click HERE to hear Scott Hahn’s reflection for this liturgical Sunday (2:59)

click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this Sunday (5:30)

click HERE to read the homily of Monsignor Charles Pope for this Sunday

click HERE to watch the homily of Archbishop Charles Chaput for this Sunday (26:43)

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click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2017 homily for this Sunday

click HERE to read Pope Emeritus Benedict’s 2007 Angelus address about St. John the Baptist

click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s 2001 Angelus address for this Sunday

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Our Scriptures this Sunday help us set our own lives within the grander scheme of things.  That grander scheme is called “Divine Providence”.  One way to describe Divine Providence is to say that it’s what God chooses to do, when He does it, and why He does it.

Divine Providence is at the heart of the Scriptures of Holy Mass during the first several weeks in Ordinary Time.  Following the Season of Christmas, which ended last week with the Baptism of Jesus, we turn to consider our own baptism.

When you were baptized, the promises that were made started a relationship where God is your Lord, and you are His servant.  Or at least, that’s what it’s supposed to be like.  We hear several different examples of this servant-Lord relationship in today’s Scriptures.  Each is a model for us, and the last is also something more.

First, Isaiah was called to serve the Lord as His prophet.  “The Lord said to [Isaiah]:  ‘You are my servant.  …  I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’”  Among all the Old Testament prophets who proclaimed the coming of God’s justice, Isaiah had a unique place.  His calling was to prepare for the coming of a Messiah who offers loving mercy that knows no bounds and that would “reach to the ends of the earth.”  Although none of us has been called to be a prophet like Isaiah, there is something in his vocation that ought to be mirrored in our own vocations:  namely, loving mercy that knows no bounds.

Second, Paul was called to serve the Lord as His apostle.  Today’s Second Reading is simply the first three verses of a letter written by Saint Paul:  it’s not the longest of his letters, but it’s one of the more profound.  His self-introduction focuses upon his calling as an “apostle”, which literally means “one who is sent”.  He describes himself this way:  “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”.

Paul was sent “by the will of God” to spread the Messiah’s Gospel to the Gentiles, the very people that Isaiah had served by preparing them for the Messiah.  Although none of us has been called to be an apostle like Paul, there is something in his vocation that ought to be mirrored in our own vocations:  namely, serving as “one who is sent”.

That Messiah whose coming Isaiah proclaimed, and whom Paul was sent forth to preach about, is of course Jesus.  Jesus, like Isaiah and Paul, was called by God to serve.  Yet Jesus is not only an example for us, as are Isaiah and Paul.

Jesus was called by God the Father to serve as the Savior of mankind.  We hear about this call within today’s Gospel Reading.  This call connects to today’s Responsorial Psalm, and especially its refrain.  The refrain can help you rest in God’s Divine Providence, instead of wrestling against it.

“Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.”  Although the word “I” appears twice in this single verse, it’s not the focus of the verse.  The focus is God’s Providential Will and one’s submission to it:  that is, one’s willingness to be His servant.  Most of us, when we pray, actually speak to God as if He’s our servant:  in effect saying, “Here I am, Lord; now come and do my will.”

One of the chief ways that Christians experience God’s Providential Will is unanswered prayers.  In fact, these are often God’s gifts to us, whether we acknowledge them as such or not.  Tragically, some Christians stop following Jesus because their prayers aren’t answered as they want.  But silence on God’s part can be His way of demanding patience and perseverance.  This silence clarifies what’s important to God for the unfolding of His Providential Will.

Yet whether in accepting God’s silence or in moving forward to carry out His Will, we need to recognize a distinction.  Not only are we to imitate Jesus in His example of doing His Father’s Will in all things.  As Christians, we are meant to live in Christ.

We are not meant to live “in Isaiah” or “in Paul”, as much as we ought to follow their respective examples.  But each of us is meant to live “in Christ”.  This is not something that the Christian can accomplish through human effort or good works.  Only God can accomplish this.  His chief means for doing so are the Sacraments and grace given within personal prayer.  For our part, we need to work at disposing ourselves for reception of these divine gifts.  God’s gifts allow Christ to live in us, and allow Christ to say through us:  “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.”

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