St. Agnes, Virgin & Martyr
Hebrews 5:1-10 + Mark 2:18-22
January 21, 2019
“Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with 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 and power 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 refer to Good Friday, when Jesus offered His life.
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. Although through Baptism and the other sacraments we worthily receive Christ so that He dwells in our souls, 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.
Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children
Hebrews 6:10-20 + Mark 2:23-28
January 22, 2019
“That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
This year, in these first weeks in Ordinary Time, we are hearing at weekday Mass from the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews. This letter is unique in the whole of the Bible in how it bridges the two Testaments. Early in the history of the Church a heresy existed called Marcionism, whose believers rejected the entire Old Testament. They did not believe the Old Testament books to be inspired by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes Christians even today reject every aspect of Jewish belief and thought. The Letter to the Hebrews beautifully helps us to appreciate our Jewish heritage as members of Christ’s Body.
One of the more common themes of Hebrews is Jesus as our great High Priest. Many Christians reject the belief that Jesus means for there to be an ordained priesthood within His Church. Hebrews helps us to see how and why men are called by ordination to share in Jesus’ priesthood.
In today’s First Reading we hear about Abraham, who himself foreshadows the priesthood of Jesus Christ. The reading specifically mentions the virtues of faith and patience by which Abraham carried out the priesthood he had received from God. The sacrifice called for from priests—whether those who live out the baptismal priesthood or the ordained priesthood—seems taxing at times. Yet priestly sacrifice always need to be carried out in light of “the promise” of which we hear in today’s passage. “And so, after patient waiting, Abraham obtained the promise.” Keeping in mind God’s promise to us not only gives us hope in the midst of sacrifice. It helps us offer sacrifice rightly.
Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Hebrews 7:1-3,15-17 + Mark 3:1-6
January 23, 2019
But they remained silent.
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. In this we see that the Cross was Jesus’ vocation.
St. Francis de Sales, Bishop & Doctor of the Church
Hebrews 7:25—8:6 + Mark 3:7-12
January 24, 2019
He warned them sternly not to make Him known.
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 fact He commands others—both friend and foe—not to reveal. This warning/command comes from the nature of Jesus’ mission on earth. How is this so?
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 folly of the Cross turned away many whom Jesus came to save.
If Jesus revealed His identity, it was only to advance His mission. If Jesus was to advance His mission, He must 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 whom He wished to save. The purpose of the “Messianic Secret”, then, is the prudential progression of His self-revelation. That is, the purpose seeks 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.
The Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle
Acts 22:3-16 [or Acts 9:1-22] + Mark 16:15-18
January 25, 2019
“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.
Sts. Timothy & Titus, Bishops
2 Timothy 1:1-8 [or Titus 1:1-5] + Mark 3:20-21
January 26, 2019
“He is out of His mind.”
Today’s Gospel passage is only two verses long. But what it lacks in length, it makes up for with punch! Jesus’ relatives “set out to seize Him, for they said, ‘He is out of His mind.’”
What were these relatives thinking, and who exactly were they? We cannot imagine the Blessed Virgin Mary doing and saying such things. But Jesus of course was from a large extended family, a fact made clear by the Gospel narrative of the finding of the boy Jesus in the Temple [Luke 2:41-52]. Being related by blood to Jesus clearly was no guarantee of understanding His full identity.
Then again, most of those whom Jesus chose to be His Apostles abandoned Jesus in disbelief during Holy Week, despite having followed Jesus for three years, witnessing His miracles and hearing His preaching of the Gospel. So perhaps we need to cut His relatives some slack. We might, then, realize that while you and I may not exactly be in “good” company when we ignore Jesus’ Lordship over our lives, we at least can point to a biblical precedent, and give thanks for Jesus’ patience with our moral and spiritual failures.