The Week of Oct. 29—Nov. 3, 2018

Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Ephesians 4:32—5:8  +  Luke 13:10-17
October 29, 2018

Blessed the man who… meditates on His law day and night.

In today’s Responsorial Psalm, we hear the first psalm of the Psalter, and it helps bring focus to our spiritual life.  If you were to ask one hundred Christians whether they knew any of the psalms by heart, you’d probably not garner many “Yes”es.  Among those “Yes”es, most probably have memorized Psalm 23.  But those looking for one of the psalms to memorize ought to consider Psalm 1.

Consider just the first sentence of Psalm 1.  It makes up the first “verse”, or “strophe”, of today’s Responsorial Psalm.  This psalm might at first glance seem merely to describe two type of men:  the just and the wicked.  But it’s not enough not to act like the wicked.  We need to look more closely at the Psalmist’s descriptions of the just.

In the first sentence of Psalm 1, we hear a “Beatitude”:  a description of the man who is blessed.  This single sentence offers five descriptions of the blessed, just man.  Three of them have negative forms, describing what the blessed, just man does not do.  But consider the latter two descriptions, and focus on them as you memorize this psalm.  The blessed, just man “delights in the Law of the Lord, and meditates on His Law day and night.”


Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Ephesians 5:21-33  +  Luke 13:18-21
October 30, 2018

“To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God?”

Today’s Gospel passage presents two brief parables in which Jesus specifically focuses our attention on “the Kingdom of God”.  It might seem a simple question, but what exactly is this Kingdom?

Is the Church the Kingdom of God?  If so, and if the mission of the Church is to proclaim the Kingdom of God, then the mission of the Church would seem to consist in nothing other than the Church proclaiming itself.

Certainly there is an intimate relationship between the Church and the Kingdom of God.  In fact, it is a relationship of service, articulated by the Second Vatican Council in this manner:  “While helping the world and receiving many benefits from it, the church has a single intention:  That God’s Kingdom may come, and that salvation of the whole human race may come to pass.”

The sacrifice that Christ makes of His Body for the sake of the Church is the paradigm for understanding the sacrifice that the Church makes for the sake of the Kingdom.  This mission of the Church is inherently future-oriented, calling from Christians the virtue of hope, as they look forward to the Church’s fulfillment through the Lord’s Second Coming.


Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Ephesians 6:1-9  +  Luke 13:22-30
October 31, 2018

“‘Depart from me, all you evildoers!’”

Christ in today’s Gospel touches upon one of the great temptations faced by those who serve Him.  Repeatedly He tells us that our motivations are as important as our words and actions.  Indeed, bad motives can cancel the “good” we think do and say.

There should be only one motive for serving God in Christ, and that is the sincere desire to return the love He pours out on us and to do His will out of that love, not just for our good but also for the good of others.  God is interested in the condition of our hearts, not just an impressive list of our deeds.

Sin enters into the serving of Christ when it is used as a means of self-aggrandizement or to line pockets with “green.”  While such people may perform well their hearts remain focused on themselves.  They dazzle audiences with their cleverness and charisma and say only what pleases the listeners—denying or downplaying sin, rationalizing wrongdoings, emphasizing God’s love while failing to mention God’s irrevocable truths and the justice by which we must live.  Theirs is the “wide door” against which Christ speaks.


The Solemnity of All Saints
Revelation 7:2-4,9-14  +  1 John 3:1-3  +  Matthew 5:1-12
November 1, 2018

See what love the Father has bestowed on us, in letting us be called children of God!

          “Children of God.”  That’s what it means to be saints:  to be children of God.

We all know that a child resembles his or her parents, for good and for ill.  So in telling us that we can be called “children of God”, St. John the Beloved Disciple is telling us that there’s something in us that resembles God, that is inherently good, since of course there is nothing bad in God.  Only from Adam and Eve do we inherit Original Sin and its consequences.

As we celebrate the feast of All Saints with the Church throughout the world, we ask:  “What does it mean to be a saint?”  “What is that something in us that resembles God?”

At the moment that each of us was conceived, as our parents shared in the power of God the Creator, that very God called each one of us into existence, and gave us life.

But it’s not the fact that we are alive that makes us children of God, for God could have given each of us any form of life He wanted.  He could have made each of us a plant, or a lower form of animal on the ladder of created things.  All these things have life, but they are not children of God.

We’re tempted to think that it’s our gifts of personality, intelligence, social status, our salaries, or the size of our homes that makes us who we are.  Sad to say, in the eyes of other people that may be true:  other people may rate us as persons according to these things.  But God’s ways are not our ways.

In the eyes of God, what makes you human is your capacity to be transformed:  your capacity to be transformed into something other than what you began life as.  This doesn’t simply mean the ability to change form:  all animals change shape and size from being an embryo, to an infant, to a youngster, to an adult.  Each of us is a human being throughout, and is the same person throughout.

But to put this in a single word, human life is marked by the possibility of “transcendence”.  As humans, God has given us the power to change our position on that ladder:  we can climb that ladder, and reach for Heaven.  We can approach God and become like Him.  As children of God, we resemble God to the extent that we are holy.


The Commemoration of All Souls
Wisdom 3:1-9  +  Romans 5:5-11  +  John 6:37-40
November 2, 2018

The souls of the just are in the hand of God.

The belief the Church celebrates today is part of the “communion of saints”.  That’s a familiar phrase—we recite it in the Apostles’ Creed—but the “communion of saints” isn’t just those who are canonized saints in Heaven, but also the members of the Church who are in Purgatory, as well as those on earth.  Today we who are members of that third group pray for those in the second, so that joined through prayer, we all may become members of the first.

Sometimes we feel torn like Saint Paul.  While it’s better to be in heaven, God wants us here on earth for His purposes.  Those purposes call each of us to help others in many ways.  One of the most important of these is prayer for others, which is formally called “intercession”.

Even in heaven, saints are given missions by God.  Saints are not simply fixed on God, without regard for others.  Saints in heaven pray for the rest of the “communion of saints”.

We on earth are like the saints in Heaven in this regard.  While we might want to fix our attention on God alone, God wants us to offer our lives for others, because this is often where we find God revealed in our lives.  So it is through our prayers of intercession, both for fellow pilgrims on earth, and for those in Purgatory.

Does this take away from God?  No.  God wants us to turn to each other.  Intercessory prayer is a form of Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself”.  If it’s valid in God’s eyes to pray for oneself, why wouldn’t it be to pray for others?  When a family suffers a tragedy, they draw closer together.  Part of this occurs through prayer, and they all are stronger afterwards, and more closely knit together.

Our prayer for others draws us closer to those we pray for.  Those in Heaven, in Purgatory, and on earth are drawn closer together through intercession.  When we intercede for another—or ask someone’s intercession—we don’t believe that that person is God.  We ask another to take our prayers to God.  When we call our mother and ask her to pray for us, we’re doing the same as when we kneel and pray a rosary:  we are asking our mother to pray to God for us.

Through all prayers of devout intercession, the Body of Christ grows stronger.  In the person of Christ, God and man are united.  Within Christ, we live as members of his Body.  Within Christ, we build others up, and so find God’s love for us.


Saturday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Philippians 1:18-26  +  Luke 14:1,7-11
November 3, 2018

“…do not recline at table in the place of honor.”

The virtue of humility is a thread that runs through today’s Scriptures.  Jesus weaves this thread through the parable that He tells after He notices that His fellow dinner guests were choosing the places of honor at the table.  They were not content to receive a sumptuous meal.  They wanted also to receive honor.

These dinner guests were looking only to receive gifts.  They were not thinking of giving.  This is natural, on the one hand, since when you accept a dinner invitation, you’re accepting a gift.  On the other hand, when you go to a dinner party, you might take a token gift such as a bottle of wine.  But your token gift would seem out of place if it were greater than the banquet itself.

But here is the metanoia—the change of heart and mind—which Jesus effects in His disciples through His saving words and deeds.  He wants His disciples—including us—to recognize every gift, every invitation to receive, as an opportunity to give:  to be as loving to our neighbor and to love God in His Providential Will as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are fully loving in their communion of divine love in the Godhead.