Tuesday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Tuesday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Romans 5:12,15,17-19,20-21  +  Luke 12:35-38
October 22, 2019

   “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.”   

 In the Lord’s parable today He proclaims that “blessed are those servants”.  He’s wanting us to identify ourselves with them, and imitate them so that we might share in their blessedness.  How can we connect our lives to the lives of those servants?

Perhaps you’ve heard the old adage, “Always begin with your end in mind.”  “End” in this case refers to one’s goal.  Many people, of course, wander through life aimlessly, but Christians are meant to have Heaven as their goal, or end.  In this case, repeating that adage to ourselves each day helps us to live each day for God, by recalling that we can only get to Heaven by living out our faith in God.  This way of thinking approximates what Jesus is getting at in His parable.

However, there’s an immediacy to Jesus’ parable that’s missing in that adage.  His parable reminds us of a sobering fact:  that we know not the day nor the hour when our lives will end.  The Master may come at an unexpected time.  Therefore, we need not only always to be focused, but also to be vigilant, since the end we have in mind may confront us today.

St. John Paul II 02

Today is the Optional Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II

Monday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Monday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Romans 4:20-25  +  Luke 12:13-21
October 21, 2019

   “…one’s life does not consist of possessions.”   

In our little corner of the world, celebrations of harvests take place roughly this time of year.  Even if most in industrialized nations don’t live directly off the land, our celebrations of thanksgiving help us relate to today’s Gospel passage:  both Jesus’ interaction with the jealous brother, and His parable to the crowd.

Consider the parable.  It illustrates Jesus’ previous explanation of the relationships among “one’s life”, “greed”, and “possessions”.  Material possessions are not inherently bad.  Even those with religious vows of poverty possess their “own” clothing, even if they do not “own” them.  But possessions always tempt one—through the vice of greed—to more possessions, either in quantity, quality, or even mere novelty.

The rich farmer in Jesus’ parable is the antithesis to Ecclesiastes’ Qoheleth.  The rich farmer cries out to himself, “rest, eat, drink, be merry!”  This is in contrast to the king of Israel who confesses that “I said in my heart, ‘Come, now, let me try you with pleasure and the enjoyment of good things.’  See, this too was vanity.”  While the rich farmer has not the wisdom of Qoheleth, even Qoheleth in Old Testament times did not know Christ, the one who possesses all the riches of the Father’s love.

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The Parable of the Rich Fool by Rembrandt van Rijn [1606-1669]

The 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]

The 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
Exodus 17:8-13  +  2 Timothy 3:14—14:2  +  Luke 18:1-8
October 20, 2019

   “…proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient….”   

In Sunday’s Second Reading, Saint Paul describes how God’s Word speaks to us through the words of the Bible.  But the “Word of God” is found not only in the Bible.  We listen to the Word of God in the Bible in order to receive an even greater gift:  the Word of God made Flesh.  Opening our selves to this greater gift is one of the chief dynamics of the Christian life.

The very structure of the Mass invites us into this spiritual dynamic.  It’s not a coincidence that Holy Mass follows the pattern that it does.  The two main parts of the Mass—in the Ordinary Form called the “Liturgy of the Word” and the “Liturgy of the Eucharist”—are not interchangeable.  That is to say, the Mass would not make sense if the Liturgy of the Eucharist were celebrated first, and then the Liturgy of the Word.  After all, the Word is proclaimed and preached as a preparation for the Word made Flesh.

We see this if we superimpose the outline of the Mass upon the outline of salvation history.  Consider what we might call the “first half” of salvation history:  the time of the Old Testament.  During this long period of time, “God spoke” his Word “in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets” [Hebrews 1:1].  But in the “second half” of salvation history—the time of Christ and His Church—“God spoke to us”, and speaks to us today, “through [His] Son” [Hebrews 1:2], the Word made flesh, who proclaimed to His followers:  “Take this, all of you, and eat it.  This is my Body, which will be given up for you.”

Catholics are at times accused of being ignorant of the Scriptures.  Unfortunately, there are times when this criticism is justified.  To that extent, we must dispel our ignorance, for St. Jerome’s words are just as true today as when he lived:  “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

But if our devotion to Scripture does not lead us to a deeper devotion to the Eucharist, we miss the entire point of God becoming human:  the point of the divine Word becoming flesh and blood.  After all, what did God the Son say on this earth that God the Father could not have said from the heavens?  Couldn’t God the Father have spoken the Beatitudes from Heaven, rather than Jesus speaking them during the Sermon on the Mount?  Couldn’t God the Father have taught His People from Heaven how to pray to Him, rather than Jesus teaching us the “Our Father”?  What words had to be spoken by one who is both fully divine and fully human?  “Take this, all of you, and eat it.  This is my Body, which will be given up for you.”

Jesus calls us to the Supper of the Lamb—the sacrifice of the divine Word made Flesh—for two reasons.  The second and more ultimate is to give us while on earth a foretaste of what we would experience in the Banquet of Heaven if we were to persevere in the Faith until death.

The first and more immediate reason is to strengthen us through the Eucharist for the difficult work of our vocations within this world.  If our devotion to the Eucharist—whether in Adoration, or weekday Mass, or even only our Sunday obligation—does not deepen our Christian service, we’re missing an important point of the Word becoming flesh.

In Sunday’s Second Reading, St. Paul writes about the nature of the Word of God as found in the Bible.  He makes three specific points.  First:  “All Scripture is inspired by God”.  Second, Scripture “is useful for” four purposes:  “for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness”.

But then St. Paul explains that those four purposes serve a larger, overarching purpose.  All Scripture is inspired and useful “so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

As faith is meant by God to express itself in a Christian’s good works, so Scripture also orients the Christian to good works.  As the Word becomes Flesh in the Eucharist, the Eucharist strengthens the members of the Body of Christ for service in this world.  That service aims to call even more persons into the life of the Church, and through the Church’s life with Christ, into Heaven.

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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 (3:00)

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

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click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2016 homily for this Sunday

click HERE to read Pope Emeritus Benedict’s 2007 homily for this Sunday

click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s 1998 homily for this Sunday, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of his pontificate

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Sts. John de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues & Comp.

Sts. John de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues & Comp.
Romans 4:13,16-18  +  Luke 12:8-12
October 19, 2019

   “For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”   

Twice in today’s Gospel passage, God the Holy Spirit is referred to.  The first mention is somewhat ambiguous in meaning:  in its plainest sense, “blaspheming against the Holy Spirit” would refer to denying that the Holy Spirit is truly and fully God.  The Church has had to combat such denial throughout her history.

The second mention of the Holy Spirit refers to a situation that many Christians face at some point in their lives.  Whether at the point of death or with the fear of mere embarrassment, Christians at a loss as to how to defend the Faith must rely on the Holy Spirit.  Even the most brilliant Christian orator or preacher (St. Augustine of Hippo being a prime example) knows that human brilliance in any measure is dwarfed by, and indeed comes from, the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

However, the Holy Spirit teaching the Christian what to say does not mean that the Christian becomes a puppet or megaphone of the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit who teaches at that moment, but it’s still the Christian who must speak in his own name about the Holy Name of Jesus, making the Good News his own.

Sts. Isaac Jogues et Soc.

Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs

St. Luke the Evangelist

St. Luke the Evangelist
2 Timothy 4:10-17  +  Luke 10:1-9
October 18, 2019

   “Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.”    

While the word “apostle” literally means “one who is sent”, today’s Gospel passage is not about Jesus sending the Twelve.  It is about Jesus sending the 72 ahead of Him as what we might call “advance men”.  The 72 are to prepare people to receive Jesus.  Through this mission, we can relate this Gospel passage to our own lives as disciples, and to the lives of those whom we’re called to serve.

Very few members of the Church serve as successors of the apostles in the role of bishop, but by contrast, every Christian is sent by Jesus to prepare others to receive Him.  This fact is often overlooked today.  There is a confusion still, so many years after the Second Vatican Council, between the roles of the clergy and laity.

The role of the laity in the Church is largely “outside” the Church, rather than in the sanctuary.  The laity are meant by God—designed by God in His design for the Mystical Body of Christ—to carry the fruits of the Church into the wider, secular world.  The word “apostolate” is all but obsolete today in referring to the work of the laity, but it needs to be reclaimed, in order to describe the right and responsibility of the laity to engage the “world” with the Good News of Christ.

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St. Luke the Evangelist paints the Virgin & Child

St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop & Martyr

St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop & Martyr
Romans 3:21-30  +  Luke 11:47-54
October 17, 2019

   “Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood!”   

On the occasions when Jesus refers to persons from the Old Testament, it’s usually Moses or Abraham of whom He speaks.  Today’s Gospel passage, though, is the only time that Jesus refers to Abel (along with the parallel passage in Matthew 23:34).

What’s intriguing about Jesus’ reference to Abel is that He speaks about him in relation to the Old Testament prophets.  Jesus speaks about “the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world”.  Clearly Jesus doesn’t agree with those modern scholars who consider the first generations of mankind in Genesis to be literary creations.  After all, why would Jesus’ own generation, as He declares, be charged with the blood of a fictional character?

Regardless, we need to reflect on why Jesus included Abel among the prophets.  Certainly, like the prophets, Abel was murdered for professing his belief in God.  But his profession was not made verbally, as prophets usually proclaim their prophecies.  In the fourth chapter of Genesis, we hear that Abel “brought to the Lord an offering… of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions.  And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering He had no regard” [Gn 4:3,4-5].

It might seem cavalier to say that Cain and Abel were engaged in the first of mankind’s “liturgy wars”.  Nonetheless, Jesus pointing our attention to the prophetic nature of right worship reminds us of the need for “orthodoxy” within the Mystical Body of Christ.

St. Ignatius of Antioch

Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

Wednesday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Wednesday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Romans 2:1-11  +  Luke 11:42-46
October 16, 2019

“You pay tithes… but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God.”

If the scholar of the Law who interrupted Jesus’ lambasting of the Pharisees thought he would earn an apology from Jesus, he quickly realized otherwise.  Contrary to modern notions of Jesus as a sort of “spiritual teddy bear”, today’s Gospel passage splashes cold water on our souls, forcing us to ask whether Jesus might speak of us in a similar manner.

However, in addition to the sober fact of Jesus’ forthright willingness to condemn those deserving condemnation, we could consider in turn each of the “woes” that Jesus articulates today.  Here consider just the first.

“You pay tithes… but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God.”  All three of these objects of religion—tithes, judgment, and love—are due to God from human persons.  They “belong” to God, we might say, each in its own manner.  Why might it be that the Pharisees are willing to give the first, but not the latter two?

There certainly is a hierarchy among the three.  “Love for God” is due God because “God is love”.  Judgment is due God in that only He—all-loving and all-knowing—can judge truly.  Tithing of materials goods such as “of mint and of rue and of every garden herb” is due God because He is the Lord of creation.  Nonetheless, the ascent to God in the practice of religion involves the ascent of a staircase with many steps.  The tithing of material goods is one of the lower steps, and the Pharisees are content to rest there.  This step is meant to lead us further upwards: closer to God, towards a higher share in God’s divine nature of eternal love.

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St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin & Doctor of the Church

St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin & Doctor of the Church
Romans 1:16-25  +  Luke 11:37-41
October 15, 2019

   The wrath of God is indeed being revealed from Heaven against every impiety and wickedness….   

Saint Paul wastes no time.  After a brief introduction to his longest and most important epistle, he dives into his first point of contention.  It becomes obvious quickly that Paul does not fear debate.

While St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans professes eternal truths, these have very practical consequences.  For example, he professes the Gospel to be “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes”.  For in the Gospel “is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith”.

This power for salvation implies that there are those who are not saved:  those who do not receive righteousness.  St. Paul explains plainly that God handed “those who suppress the truth by their wickedness” over “to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies.”  He expands on this by noting that they “exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator”.

Idolatry is St. Paul’s first point of contention, against which he opposes the life of faith.  Those against whom he preaches, he notes, “became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes.”

St. Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Jesus (St. Teresa of Avila), Virgin & Doctor of the Church

Monday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Monday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Romans 1:1-7  +  Luke 11:29-32
October 14, 2019

   Through Him we have received the grace of apostleship….   

Romans is the longest of St. Paul’s letters:  that’s one reason why you find it first among all the apostolic letters, immediately following Acts of the Apostles.  But Romans is also the most profound of St. Paul’s letters.  St. Paul explores for the Romans every important theme of the Gospel.  This week—perhaps in an hour of Adoration, or in your prayer corner at home—take your study bible and read the introduction to this great letter of St. Paul.

Given its importance, our First Reading at weekday Mass comes from Romans for the next four weeks.  Within today’s passage is a brief phrase that sounds innocent enough, but is full of matter for spiritual reflection.  Saint Paul points out to the Romans that they are “called to be holy”.  The same, of course, is true of each of us Christians.  One could say that the whole of Romans is an unpacking of this call.

The word “called” is used three times in today’s First Reading.  Reflect on how these three instances fit together.  The first is in the first sentence of Romans, where Paul describes himself as “called to be an Apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God”.  The second is where Paul, fulfilling his own calling, describes the Roman Christians as “called to belong to Jesus Christ”.  The third is Paul’s concluding phrase in describing those to whom he’s writing:  “called to be holy”.  We can say that the last phrase describes all Christians, who through baptism begin to “belong to Jesus Christ”:  that is, His Mystical Body which is the Church.  Within this Church each member has his or her particular role, so that all the members of the body might work together.  For Paul, this particular vocation was apostleship.  For yourself, pray for an increase of grace today either to discern or to live out this vocation, so that through it you may grow in that holiness which is participation in Jesus Christ.

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