St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest & Doctor of the Church
Hebrews 9:15,24-28 + Mark 3:22-30
January 28, 2019
“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, defining someone or something by what he, she or it is not, rather than what he, she or it is. Jesus today shapes our understanding of 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. Sadly, we can see very clearly the sins of members of the Church, including our own. 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.
Tuesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Hebrews 10:1-10 + Mark 3:31-35
January 29, 2019
Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
At weekdays Masses in Ordinary Time, it’s rare for the First Reading and Gospel passage to correspond closely in theme. But today these two readings link closely not only with each other, but also with the Responsorial. Our First Reading quotes from today’s Responsorial. The common link among all three is “the will of God”.
Jesus explains in today’s Gospel passage that doing the will of God is what forms the bonds of kinship within God’s family. In saying this, Jesus is not downplaying the significance of His Blessed Mother or any other blood- or legal relatives. After all, why did God the Father choose the young Mary to be the Mother of God if not because her response at the Annunciation—”Let it be done unto me according to thy word”—is the perfect embodiment of the refrain of today’s Responsorial: “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.”
When you pray the rosary today and meditate on the Sorrowful Mysteries, ask our Lady for an outpouring of grace from her Son. Ask her to use this strength not for your own desires, but only to accomplish what the Lord deems necessary in your life to draw you and those you love closer to Him.
Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Hebrews 10:11-18 + Mark 4:1-20
January 30, 2019
“The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you.”
Given that Saint Mark’s Gospel account—the shortest of the four—focuses more on Jesus’ actions than His preaching, we ought to take special note of the preaching that Mark does include in his Gospel account. We might, then, consider the parables Mark includes as his “best of…” list.
Today’s Gospel passage has three parts. The first and the last are Jesus’ proclamation of a parable, and the parable’s explanation. In between, Jesus briefly explains His general purpose in preaching through parables. Most of the fourth chapter of Mark consists of parables, and today’s Gospel passage consists of the first twenty verses of Mark 4, so today’s parable is of primary importance.
The Parable of the Sower, Mark’s telling of which is a mere six verses, has inspired dissertations hundreds of pages long. Like the mustard seed (to allude to a different parable), this parable’s size belies its potency. To choose one simple facet of today’s parable: who is the sower? There are at least two answers. We can consider the sower to be either God the Father, or you as an individual. Consider the former possibility.
The sower is God the Father. He sows His Word (God the Son) prodigally. What seems like foolishness or imprudence in His manner of sowing is in fact a measure of His love’s depth. He offers His Word even to those of us whose souls are rocky or otherwise inhospitable. The challenge here is for each individual to till the soil of the soul, or otherwise tend it as needed to allow the word to take root there.
St. John Bosco, Priest
Hebrews 10:19-25 + Mark 4:21-25
January 31, 2019
“The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you….”
Jesus proclaims two truths for reflection today. Both might at first hearing seem to discourage the virtue of humility. But each prepares us for greater service.
When Jesus in today’s Gospel passage notes that a lamp is meant to be “placed on a lampstand”, He does not specifically refer to His disciples here as “the light of the world”, as He does in Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:14-16]. Nonetheless, Mark’s text makes the inference clear. Disciples are not meant to hide themselves, their belief, or Christ from others in the world. On the contrary, they are called to share the Good News! This clearly stands in conflict with a culture dominated by moral and religious relativism.
Also, when Jesus in today’s Gospel passage notes that to “the one who has, more will be given” and “from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away”, some might accuse Jesus of being unfair. But what God gives, He gives for others: if He gives me a grace or charism, it is for others. Only in being faithful to serving others with what I have may I hope someday to reach Heaven. So in someone being given more, he is commanded to greater service of God and His people.
Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Hebrews 10:32-39 + Mark 4:26-34
February 1, 2019
With many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Jesus today proclaims two parables about the Kingdom of God. In wanting to understand these parables, we might wonder what exactly the Kingdom of God is. Is the Kingdom of God the realm of Heaven, or is it the Church, some measure of both, or something else entirely such as the individual Christian’s soul?
Jesus never directly addresses this question. But even without defining “the Kingdom of God”, we can say that the kernel of each “Kingdom parable” describes in some way the reality of Heaven, and/or the Church, and/or the Christian’s soul.
Take Jesus’ second parable in today’s Gospel passage. The change from the “smallest of all the seeds” to “the largest of plants” seems more easily applied to the Church and the Christian soul than to Heaven. Tertullian wrote that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”, a phrase through which we can see how this parable applies to the Church. With God, all things are possible: from a natural death, springs supernatural life. Or as the Church prays to the Father in one of the prefaces for martyrs at Holy Mass: by “your marvelous works” “in our weakness you perfect your power / and on the feeble bestow strength to bear you witness….”
The Presentation of the Lord
Malachi 3:1-4 + Hebrews 2:14-18 + Luke 2:22-40 [or Lk 2:22-32]
February 2, 2019
“…for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples….”
Today’s feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple is a little off kilter. After all, the Church’s season of Christmas ended some weeks ago, but today we celebrate another mystery of Jesus’ early life. February 2nd falls forty days after Christmas Day, creating an obvious parallel to the Resurrection and Ascension. Nonetheless, no matter how long Christmas lasts, today’s feast points our attention towards the giving of presents.
Just as the name of today’s feast is the “presentation” of the Lord, the meaning of the feast shows that the Lord is a present to be given to others. On the one hand, God the Father gave His only Son as a present to the human family. But on this feast of the Presentation, we see humans giving this present of Jesus to others, both back to God and to other humans.
For Joseph and Mary this presentation was what we in our day might call a supreme act of stewardship: they recognized that not only were their time, talent, and treasure from God, but their first-born son as well. The gift of human life, like a marriage between a man and a woman, only exists through the grace of God. As an act of stewardship, then, Mary and Joseph present their new-born son back to God, recognizing that God is the ultimate Father of Jesus.
Joseph and Mary’s presentation of Jesus to God the Father was a sacrifice not offered only once. Joseph and Mary continually offered this sacrifice as Jesus continued to grow. When Jesus was twelve and Joseph and Mary lost and then found Jesus in the Temple teaching the scribes, Jesus expressed little concern about their worry. He asked them, “Did you not know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” This was not callousness on the part of Jesus, but a call for Mary and Joseph to recognize that as parents, they were not the ultimate meaning of their child’s life.
But even that event of the Finding of Jesus in the Temple, as much as it may have initially shaken Mary and Joseph, was almost nothing in comparison to the event that would take place on the Cross on Calvary some twenty years later. It is there, on Calvary, that the greatest presentation took place.