The Week of Nov. 12-17, 2018

St. Josaphat, Bishop & Martyr
Titus 1:1-9  +  Luke 17:1-6
November 12, 2018

Such is the race that seeks for Him, that seeks the Face of the God of Jacob.

The refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm is a good one to memorize and use throughout the day for repeated recitation and reflection.  “Lord, this is the people that longs to see your Face.”  This refrain has many words that one might focus upon in meditation.  But consider just the final phrase:  “…that longs to see your Face.”  There are two verbs here, and one noun.

What type of seeing is the Psalmist referring to, and exactly what Face is he referring to?  He’s referring to the Face of the Lord, clearly, but how can one see His Face?  Since God is purely spiritual, how can He have a Face?  Throughout the Old Testament, especially in regard to Moses, we hear that man cannot bear a “face-to-face” encounter with God.  In some sense, the term “Face” must be metaphorical when speaking of God.  At least, this is so in regard to the Old Testament.

With the Incarnation, the holy Face of Jesus becomes our means of gazing upon the Face of God.  St. Thérèse the Little Flower helps us to do so.  Not only can man bear this gaze, but this gaze invites us into a relationship with Him that offers salvation.  We experience this salvation even upon earth, in the midst of living as members of the Church Militant.  This salvation comes to fulfillment in Heaven, with what theologians call the “beatific vision”.  Seeing the Lord on earth comes through faith in Jesus as the Son of God.  Living in relationship with Him unto death leads to an everlasting vision of the Lord’s glory, which is to say, His Face.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin
Titus 2:1-8,11-14  +  Luke 17:7-10
November 13, 2018

The just shall possess the land / and dwell in it forever.

During the last weeks of the Church year—which more or less correspond with the month of November—the Church asks us to turn our attention to what she calls the “Last Things”.  Each Christian needs to focus his or her attention upon Heaven and Hell, death and judgment.

A lot of people like to think, and lead their lives, believing that only one of these four things even exists.  Of course there is a Heaven.  Heaven is the place where everyone goes when they die:  this is what some people believe.  This is what some people teach.  But this is not what Jesus taught.

Jesus taught that people, if they do not follow Him, will go—not to Heaven, but to that other place, called Hell.  King David, in composing today’s psalm, puts it this way:  “The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.”  Salvation—being saved, which is another way of saying, “getting to Heaven”—does not come from ourselves, but only from the Lord.  If we try to get to Heaven by ourselves, or if we try to make our own Heaven, we will fail, and end up forever without God.  We are responsible for doing many things, and at the end of our lives, we should be able to give an account of what we have done.  Still, none of those things are what get us into Heaven.

Wednesday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Titus 3:1-7  +  Luke 17:11-19
November 14, 2018

“Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

We may not feel inclined to think of ourselves as lepers.  It’s not an appealing image.  But that’s the plain meaning of these ten persons in today’s Gospel passage.  The ten lepers represent us.

In fact, we’re much worse off than lepers.  Leprosy ends with earthly death.  But the effects of sin—alienation and estrangement from God and neighbor—are unending, ever-lasting, without end if we die in mortal sin.  Without a Redeemer to save us from sin, our suffering will not end with earthly death, but only begin in earnest.

Jesus saves the ten from leprosy with little more than a few words, such is His divine power.  But Jesus saves all of mankind from the far greater penalty of eternal death.  Jesus offers salvation to you not by speaking a few words, but by sacrificing up His complete self—Body, Blood, soul and divinity—to a Passion and Death on the Cross that He suffered out of love.  He suffered this not out of compulsion, or to get something back in return, or to impress anyone, but simply and completely out of love for us.  If this doesn’t inspire gratitude in each of us, it’s hard to imagine what might.

Thursday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Philemon 7-20  +  Luke 17:20-25
November 15, 2018

“For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus describes the phrases “the Kingdom of God” and “the Son of Man”.  The meanings of both are elusive, and that’s Jesus’ point.

In the Pharisees, who ask “when the Kingdom of God would come”, we can see many in our own day who exert great effort in predicting and spreading news of the time of this coming.  Jesus splashes cold water on them all:  this coming “‘cannot be observed, and no one will announce, “Look, here it is”’”.  Along the same line, Jesus soberly explains to the Pharisees that while they “‘will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man,’” they “‘will not see it.’”

However, in the midst of this sobering up, Jesus declares something provocative, if not confusing.  “‘For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.’”  So while the coming of the Kingdom “‘cannot be observed,’” it already “‘is among you.’”  How are we to understand what seems on the surface like a contradiction?  Perhaps such understanding ought only be sought by the Pharisees of old.  Perhaps our part is simply to live within the Kingdom of God, under the shepherding of the Son of Man.

Friday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time [II]
2 John 4-9  +  Luke 17:26-37
November 16, 2018

“Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.”

To His disciples, Jesus speaks of “the Son of Man”.  Regarding the Son of Man, Jesus explains that His presence is elusive, like lightning that “flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other”.  Jesus downplays the desire somehow to “pin down” the Son of Man.

At the end of yesterday’s Gospel passage, Jesus spoke about this Son of Man suffering greatly and being rejected by this generation.  Here Jesus is making clear how much His hearers’ expectations will be shattered.  What we hope for is often not what God has in store for us.  In today’s Gospel passage, we hear some of the context of “the days of the Son of Man”.  The context is dire, which shouldn’t surprise us given what the Son of Man Himself suffers.

Jesus’ final words today do not seem hopeful:  “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.”  Yet Jesus is hopeful, of course.  He is simply not hopeful for the fate of this world.  Everything in this world must finally decay, so we must not be attached to such things.  Our hope must be for God alone, who draws us through this world, not to it.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious
3 John 5-8  +  Luke 18:1-8
November 17, 2018

“But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”

In the first verse of today’s Gospel passage, St. Luke the Evangelist is unusually direct in explaining the exact meaning of Jesus’ parable.  “Jesus told His disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.”  It is important to note that this parable is about one specific type of prayer to God:  prayer of petition.

Sometimes prayer is defined as “a conversation with God”.  That’s unfair to God for two reasons.  First, conversations normally take place between two persons of more or less equal standing.  While it’s true that prayer involves a dialogue with God, we have to keep in mind that what He has to say to each of us is far more important than what any of us might wish to say to Him.  In prayer, it’s far more important to listen to God than to speak to Him.

Second, prayer at its summit transcends what could be termed a conversation.  The form of prayer in which the believer and God dialogue is meant to be surpassed.  Dialogue is meant to lead to a loving silence, a form of prayer in which God and the believer rest in the goodness of His presence.  Dialogue or conversation gets us there, where God gives us the gift of contemplation.

Nonetheless, in today’s Gospel passage Jesus teaches us about prayers of petition.  Petition is one specific form that prayer takes during the “conversational” stages of prayer.  In this stage, however, we pray not only with God’s almighty Power in mind (because He can get us what we want), but also with His providential Love in mind.  That is to say, God answers our prayers of petition not only for our own good, but for His goodness as well, so as to lead us into that goodness.